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NeroLinux revisited: No better than the alternatives

By Bruce Byfield on July 26, 2006 (8:00:00 AM)

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For several years, Nero has manufactured one of the most popular CD/DVD burning suites for Windows. Now at version 2.1.0.1, NeroLINUX is the GNU/Linux equivalent of Nero Burning ROM, one of the main programs in the Nero suite. Like its Windows counterpart, NeroLINUX combines an easy-to-use interface with a variety of options. However, unlike the Windows version, it offers little, if anything, that is not available in comparable free software.

We last reviewed NeroLINUX in April 2005, when the current version was 2.0. The reviewer found a number of major problems, including a complicated setup for 2.4 kernels, and reported errors for device permissions and conflicts with GNOME's magicdev. Even more seriously, the review reported problems with dragging and dropping file names with dashes and with actual burning.

Not having a 2.4 kernel installed on any machine, I was unable to see how NeroLINUX performed with one, but I can report that it is trouble-free with a variety of 2.6 kernels. Nor does version 2.1.0.1 suffer from most of the problems reported in the last review. Although conflicts with magicdev may still be possible, since they are mentioned in the help file, the sole exception that I encountered is an insistence on reporting a read-only CD drive as inaccessible when the program starts -- and that can be suppressed by setting NeroLINUX not to scan for drives on startup. Otherwise, NeroLINUX offers adequate, if slightly sluggish, performance and features comparable to those in K3b and GnomeBaker.

The interface

Unlike some proprietary software, NeroLINUX relies on free software packages, such as mpg123 and the Open Sound System (OSS), for much of its functionality, rather than installing its own proprietary equivalents. In fact, many of the settings for NeroLINUX, such as those for handling different audio formats, are concerned chiefly with how the program interacts with these other programs. In short, like K3b and GnomeBaker, NeroLINUX offers a front end for using other programs as much as any unique functionality.

NeroLINUX
NeroLINUX - click to enlarge

Nero's front end is designed to be powerful yet simple. Like K3b and GnomeBaker, NeroLinux opens in a window with three panes for burning data and audio CDs/DVDs: a tree view of system directories on the top left, a view of the current directory on the top right, and the CD contents on the bottom. You can drag and drop files between the panes. Four buttons on the left side of the bottom pane toggle between compilation contents, the name of the disk to be burned, burn options, and a programs log. To burn an .iso image, you select Recorder -> Burn Image to open a separate dialog window, just as you do in K3b and GnomeBaker.

Most of the quirks in this interface are minor, and center on the tree view, which does not display hidden directories by default, and displays the entire directory structure under the Windows-centric name of My Computer, rather than just the user's home directory.

The only serious weakness is that some dialog windows are slow to close. After canceling a burn, I waited 30 seconds for a response from NeroLINUX. I never did manage to close the About window without restarting the program. Otherwise, NeroLinux's interface is highly effective -- all the more so because its basic assumptions should be instantly recognizable to most users.

Functionality

NeroLINUX offers almost identical functionality to either K3b or GnomeBaker. Like these free equivalents, NeroLINUX handles data or music CDs/DVDs, .iso images, and mixed compilations. On audio compilations, tracks can be rearranged and previewed. Burns can be simulated, verified, finalized, protected from buffer underuns, and, in general, carried out with almost all of the options that experienced burners might expect.

This functionality is supported by an online help window that is limited to two tabs. One tab gives an overview of configuring IDE drives with a 2.6 kernel, and the other an explanation of how to change drive permissions so that NeroLINUX can access them. Both seem written with the assumption that users already know their way around GNU/Linux, and are incomplete enough that they might as well not have been provided at all.

A separate PDF help file that can be downloaded with the NeroLINUX package is more thorough. In addition to describing basic tasks, the help file explains potential difficulties with system configuration, as well as potential conflicts with software that continually interacts with CD/DVD drives, such as the GNOME CD Player applet or SUSE Watcher. Although users of up-to-date systems should not need most of this information, those who do should find it reasonably complete. The only drawbacks to the help file are some awkward page breaks and a lack of complete accord with the interface, since it misnames several items, once or twice in ways that are not immediately obvious.

The main gap in functionality is that track tags (or CD text, as NeroLINUX calls them) cannot be edited. The function is listed in the dialog for burning options, but grayed out. Even enabling when Disk-At-Once (DAO) burning, which the manual insists will enable the feature, does not make it available.

In addition, NeroLINUX is also noticeably slower than either K3b or GnomeBaker. On one machine, both K3b and GnomeBaker took just over five minutes to write an .iso image to CD with verification turned on. On the same machine, with the same settings, NeroLINUX took more than 6.5 minutes to burn the same image. The functionality is all there, but basic responsiveness could be improved.

To buy or not to buy

NeroLINUX is available online in a 30-day trial version as either a .deb. or .rpm package, and currently sells for €20 (about $25.30). By contrast, the previous version sold for $69. However, despite this substantial saving and the improvement in performance over the last version, NeroLINUX offers few reasons to buy.

For one thing, NeroLINUX fails the first requirement of proprietary software for GNU/Linux: it equals, but in no way exceeds, its free software equivalents. Although the arrangements of features in the different interfaces make comparisons difficult, so far as I can tell, it offers no major features that are not matched by K3b or GnomeBaker, and has slightly fewer options than K3b. Nor does it offer a GUI as simple as KDE's arson or GNOME's Nautilus CD Burner for users who don't care about options.

Just as importantly, NeroLINUX represents a poor value compared to Nero 7 Premium, the latest offering for Windows. Currently available for €60, Nero 7 Premium offers not only CD/DVD burning, but also Nero StartSmart, a simplified GUI, and an array of other tools, including Nero Scout, a database that indexes system files for improved performance, Nero Vision, a tool for recording videos, and half a dozen other tools. NeroLINUX users do not even get the benefits of a cross-platform application that users can be comfortable with regardless of the operating system, since Nero Burning ROM, NeroLINUX's equivalent in Nero 7 Premium, has an entirely different interface.

Seven years ago, when free burning software was less mature and had poorer interfaces, NeroLINUX might have been a welcome addition to the GNU/Linux desktop. Now, its only market would seem to be those who have just switched from Windows and still find an illusion of comfort in proprietary software. For others, NeroLINUX has no serious problems -- but neither does it have any compelling reasons to buy.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for Linux.com.

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on NeroLinux revisited: No better than the alternatives

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Anonymous Reader

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 27, 2006 04:01 AM
I like better k3b, but yesterday I had a problem with some new DVD discs from sony, My DVD player doesn't recognized, but the same ISO burned with nero, same disc brand, same speed, and my player recognized right away!!! I try a copuple of time with k3b and no go! but only wiht this new sony disc.

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Re:Anonymous Reader

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 28, 2006 06:55 AM
Interesting. Might not be k3b. In the past I had problems like this normally a cdrtools update makes it disappear.

I had old versions of Nero give me the same problem on CD's. Ie I could burn then and have them work with k3b but if I burt with nero they would not. Disk companys sometimes change the infomation that is stored to the disk giving burning programs problems. The identifaction infomation is used to set all important lazer settings. If these are different between programs disk has different read abiltys. Or the disk is completely useless.

Sony must have done it this time. Please bug report it with as much infomation about the disks that you have. Because it will be fixed.

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I had bought this

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 27, 2006 04:19 AM
A year ago I bought a copy of nero as it was the only software that would work with my usb-cased dvd burner. At the time GnomeBaker was lacking in many basic functions, at at $35 it was reasonably priced.

A year latter Nero doesn't work for some reason, and I have little insentive to find out why. Since kernel improvments have made my burner fully compatible.

More over there were no improvements to Nero in the last year. The interface and features are identical! What was a nice program one year ago, is a waste of money today. Open Source apps moved ahead, but nero invested no real effort in improving their product (beyond fixing bugs, which is nice of them).

Seems it's more a case of abandonware.

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Re:I had bought this

Posted by: trentg on July 27, 2006 08:26 AM
I don't know if this will help you at all but I had the same problem. It turns out Nero doesn't like it when you have SELinux enabled but there is a workaround. The commands:
chcon -t texrel_shlib_t<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/share/nero/*.so
setsebool -P allow_execmod=1
Fixed it for me.

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A happy customer

Posted by: trentg on July 27, 2006 07:42 AM
I bought this program and I'm quite happy with it. K3B crashes on startup for me and I can't even get GnomeBaker installed on my old Fedora Core 4 machine. Not even with some RPM's I've found. If you've got another program that works well use that but if you're like me and you couldn't find anything else, Nero is worth the money.

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Re:A happy customer

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 27, 2006 02:47 PM
just do:
#yum -y install gnomebaker
and it'll do the job
or to get both "k3b and gnomebaker" working you'd better update your system
#yum -y update

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Re:A happy customer

Posted by: trentg on July 28, 2006 07:54 AM
Ok it worked. I haven't tested it yet. Hopefully it allows me to add and remove files from an existing disk, as the version I used to have didn't. Thanks for the info.

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Look...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 27, 2006 08:33 PM
It's simple. really. You either use K3b (if you like Qt-based apps) or Bonfire (if you like GTK+-based apps). Then you have a whole lot of other smaller projects like Arson, Graveman etc. I mean, why the hell use a fucking closed source program when the Open Source ones do an even better job? That's just beyond me...<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-/

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Re:Look...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 28, 2006 10:01 AM
Agreed. I don't quite see the point of NeroLinux. Should the folks at Ahead even bother anymore?

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Monkey see

Posted by: Stumbles on July 27, 2006 09:58 PM
NeroLINUX offers almost identical functionality to either K3b or GnomeBaker.



I've never used NeroLINUX and will take that statement at it's face value. And have to ask... why would I ever buy such a thing when K3B does the job? There is nothing in this review that could convince me to do otherwise.



I find it quite humorous in the past proprietary folks have decried the open source folks for doing nothing but copy things they have already done. Well, it seems the shoe is now on the other foot.

I give them an attaboy for trying but they will have to go beyond "nearly identical functionality" to get my interest.... even then I will probably hesitate and stay with k3b. The reason for that hesitation is the simple fact I have become fed up with the proprietary ways.

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Lightscribe support missing...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 27, 2006 10:15 PM
The *one* feature missing from all current Linux CD/DVD burning tools (free or commercial) is Lightscribe support. Nero on Windows has had support for this for a while (since Nero 6 I believe) - it seems an *obvious* feature to add to the Linux version of Nero, but it isn't in there!

If Ahead added Lightscribe support to Nero for Linux, I'm sure they'd see an upsurge in sales. As it is, we're stuck waiting to see if k3b will ever add support for Lightscribe (it's been promised for a while, but hasn't turned up) and having to boot into Windows and run Nero there to be able to burn Lightscribe discs....arrgh!

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Re:Lightscribe support missing...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 27, 2006 10:40 PM
There's no need for that ugly amateur crap when you can buy disc labeling hardware for ~$120.

<a href="http://www.discmakers.com/shop/ItemDetails.aspx?ItemID=PRT510-10002" title="discmakers.com">http://www.discmakers.com/shop/ItemDetails.aspx?I<nobr>t<wbr></nobr> emID=PRT510-10002</a discmakers.com>

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Re:Lightscribe support missing...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 28, 2006 06:41 AM
there are Lightscribe disks around (rather expensive though) and a lot of people owe the hardware. So why to not support this feature, especially when there is no opensource competition around there yet. IMHO it would be a nice boost for buying their software.

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Dual-layer?

Posted by: Morten Juhl Johansen on July 30, 2006 07:46 PM
I remember that when NeroLinux came, the others did not support writing to dual-layer DVDs, and Nero did. Do they support this now?

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Re:Lightscribe support missing...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 07, 2006 04:20 AM
My understanding is that HP will not release the information necessary to support lightscribe.

I believe Nero for windows needs the lightscribe system support software in order to Label a Lightscribe disk. In other words, Neros lightscribe capabilities are dependent on closed source binary bits that nero does not control. So unless HP releases the information necessary to control the lightscribe feature, there will be no lightscribe in linux, open source or closed.

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GNOMEFiles

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 28, 2006 04:50 PM
It really makes me cringe when I browse around www.gnomefiles.org and i see NeroLinux as by far the most popular program (at the time of writing 13879 compared to WiFi Radar in second place with 8721. What are these numbers exactly?)
It makes me cringe since it is obviously very poor at it's job. Not only is it useless for the light to average user, but in the high-end features department it can't compete with FLOSS (which is rare outside of system administration tools [the line here is fine, but I count it outside of that catagory]). It's high ranking, however, boosts it's popularity and maintains it's position, thus coaxing more users (usually new GNOME users) into getting it. I am not against sites like GNOMEFiles linking commercial programs (that's how I found Moho) but it seems extremely disproportionate for a proprietary application that is by far in the minority to have a score of more than 150% of the next-most-popular.
This is probably due to package management, something which Nero can't take advantage of, but this argument seems a little unstable when more low-level dependecies like PyGTK seem popular (I feel I have to explain what I mean quite delicately: a) PyGTK doesn't have a GUI interface that bears no similarity to the data files it creates, and b) It is not completely independant from it's medium [computing] compared to, say, the GIMP, which is an alternative method for a practice dating back thousands of years)
This seems a bit long-winded for a minor website criticism, but it is, in fact, a (rather pathetic) attempt at sociology<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-)

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Re:GNOMEFiles

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 01, 2006 11:49 PM
I think you hate anything big or successful. If it were K3B at the top of the list by some sort of "sociological glitch", you wouldn't even blink, would you?

It's okay. I love you.

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