Q: Vista, shmista, let's talk about family history here. I dubbed all my old home videos onto DVDs and am constantly shooting new videos of my cute children. I have been hesitant to label each DVD with a permanent marker because I heard that eventually the ink will seep in and corrupt the data. Is this true? If so, how do I label these disks?

- David Gore

A: Some experts do believe the ink spreads into the plastic and can eventually ruin a CD or DVD. After all, the data are read by a beam of laser light that reflects off the disc's surface. So ink in the plastic changes what the laser sees. The operating theory is that even pens made especially for marking on CDs and DVDs can cause the problem.

I avoid using any type of marker on DVDs and CDs and put the label on the jewel box carrier or flexible plastic jacket. However, that can create problems if a person isn't careful. There are programs that print labels to stick onto the center (hub) part of the disc. However, it seems to me that adhesive from the label could eventually create problems, too.

For family photos that exist only in digital form, it pays to be safe. I recommend:

_ Keep the photos on your hard disk, even after you create CDs or DVDs.

_ Copy all CDs and DVDs about once a year. Homemade discs don't last as long as commercial ones.

_ Consider storing another copy of the photos online at a photo-sharing site.

Q: There is a lot of talk about how much safer Apple computers are from hackers, viruses, etc. Do you recommend different anti-virus software and firewalls for Apple machines than Windows machines?

- Greg Milford, Marietta, Ga.

A: Apple machines are safer from viruses. Some people think that the operating system is inherently safer. Others say there aren't as many Apple machines, so the hackers go after the big target - Windows. I think both are correct.

Even so, it's a good idea to protect your computer. Near as I can tell, there are more viruses targeting Macintoshes these days. Norton makes a good anti-virus program for Macs. Firewalls also are important. Macs have one built into the OS X software. To make sure it is turned on, go to Apple, System Preferences, Sharing, Firewall, then click Start. *

Send e-mail to bhusted@ajc.com.