Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Magic Firmware

My computer's DVD burner (a NEC-2500a) has been a problem child since virtually the day we bought it. First, it was mysteriously disappearing as far as the OS was concerned. Then it was refusing to burn anything but data CDs in Windows Media Player 9. When I upgraded to WMP 10, it stopped offering to burn any kind of CDs at all (inside WMP), even after I changed registry settings.

At that point I had basically declared a truce with the thing after that, as long as it would continue to work with Nero. But then several montsh ago I noticed another problem as it was burning valid DVD data discs that couldn't be re-read. That was strange, since the discs would burn without errors, and could be read fine on other systems (XBox, Dad's computer, etc), but trying to read them on my computer consistently gave CRC errors.

I put up with that problem for a while, mainly by just not burning any data DVDs. But my hard drive that is solely used for storing TV shows started filling up. Actually it wasn't so much filling up as it was completely and totally out of space. That forced me into moving some shows off to DVD and brought the whole 'unable to burn easily readable DVD data discs' problem to the fore-front.

I started looking at dual-layer burners and resigned myself to having to buy a new DVD burner, preferably something a little more reliable. Since the 2500A had aggravated me for the last time, I decided I might as well upgrade the firmware with a warranty-violating hacked firmware from Herrie.

Specifically the firmwares will turn some (most, depending on the particular model) NEC single-layer burners into dual-layer burners. The dual-layer speed isn't particularly good even if the upgrade works, but I figured what the hell. I mean, the drive wasn't any good anyways, so even if it totally ruins the drive (by screwing with the optic settings) I wouldn't be any worse off. After flashing the drive (and making a backup copy of the firmware for, no particular reason), everything looked successful.

After a quick reboot, Windows re-detected the drive. And not only detected the drive, but detected it as a CD-burner! That meant that Windows Media Player 10 would finally deign to acknowledge the existence of the drive and offer to let me burn both data and music CDs with it. That in itself made me (and Linzy for that matter) very happy.

Almost as cool was the fact that Nero detected that the drive now sported Dual-Layer burning capabilities. I haven't actually tried burning a dual-layer disc (I don't have any media), but hopefully it will work.

The drive still wouldn't read the CRC-erroring DVDs it had burned before, but after burning half a dozen DVDs worth of TV series it hasn't burned a single DVD that can't be verified after writing. So that problem seems to have gone away too.

Thus one firmware upgrade fixed both of my drive's problems, and threw in dual-layer capability to boot. The aggravating thing is that I had to go through all this hassle just to get the drive working, including installing hacked firmware. I would have been perfectly happy to install regular NEC firmware for the drive, if they would just offer it (as far as I can tell they don't on the website).

Still, I'm pretty happy that the drive is working again.

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