Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


Virtual CD Management
by Alan German

 

In order to be able to load topographical maps from a tablet computer onto a hand-held GPS unit, I needed to install Garmin's MapSource program, and the associated maps, onto the tablet. However, while the tablet had a USB port, it didn't have an optical drive and, of course, the software was available as a set of CD's.

Installing the mapping program, and some of the maps, was mostly straightforward. I simply copied the relevant CD's to a USB flash drive and installed the software directly from the USB. However, the Canadian topographical maps proved to be a challenge. The relevant installation program ran fine from the USB, but then insisted on me inserting the appropriately numbered CD!

A Google search identified many users who had experienced the same issue, and one of the suggested workarounds was to create ISO files of the CD's, use software to load these files into a virtual CD drive, and then use this as the installation medium.

The next trick was to find a freeware package to accomplish this. My initial attempts weren't too fruitful. My favourite CD burner (on a desktop computer running Windows 7 and having a "real" CD drive) didn't want to create ISO files of the map CD's. Then, a program that would create the necessary ISO files on the Windows 7 machine, wouldn't run under Windows 8 so that the ISO files couldn't be mounted on its virtual CD drive on the tablet.

Eventually, I tracked down Gizmo Central which includes the ability to create ISO files from CD's, and to mount the resulting images on a virtual CD drive. Since I only needed these two features of the program, I opted to only install the core Gizmo Central utility and the companion Gizmo Drive module.
Although nominally having been written for Windows 7, the package also installed and ran flawlessly under Windows 8.

The utility offers several additional functions, including the ability to customize the program's user interface (the Gizmo Toolbar). Without doing any customization, the user interface is a little strange. A window pops-up in the lower-right corner of the display and provides the option to run Gizmo Manager. The resulting Start Screen includes the options to "Create ISO from disk" and "Mount ISO, BIN, VHD to virtual drive". These two options satisfied my requirements and so I opted to simply run these and not bother customizing the user interface.

Using the program in this way is extremely simple. Choosing to create an ISO file, pops up a dialogue box which selects the available optical drive by default, and provides the option to browse for, and name, the resulting ISO file. Similarly, when mounting an existing ISO file, the program has ten pre-defined virtual drives (Device 1 through Device 10) and so it is simply a matter of selecting one of these drives, pressing the "Mount Image" button, and browsing for the required ISO file.

The drive letter (e.g. drive F:) to be used for the virtual CD can be selected from a drop-down menu of available options. Another control allows selection of the action to be taken once the virtual CD is mounted, such as running the AutoPlay file, launching Windows Explorer, or doing nothing.

So, the beauty of this system is that the ISO file can be created on a machine equipped with an optical drive, copied to a USB flash drive, and mounted on a tablet computer as a virtual drive with a specific drive letter. In my case, I could then run the setup program to install the topo. maps from this virtual drive. The installation process runs normally since, instead of a series of CD's (Disk 1 through Disk 4) being loaded into a physical drive, the associated ISO image files are mounted sequentially as the assigned virtual drive.

Gizmo Central is a useful utility for machines that don't have a physical optical drive. Create an ISO file of any CD on a machine equipped with an optical drive and then mount the resulting image as a virtual CD drive on a netbook or tablet computer. The contents of the CD can be displayed, individual file and folders copied, and executable programs run - all from a virtual copy of the physical disk!


Bottom Line:

Gizmo Central (Freeware)
Version 2.7
Arainia Solutions LLC
http://arainia.com/software/gizmo/


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Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

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