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Optical Drives + Media FAQ. Critique please?

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Optical Drives + Media FAQ. Critique please?

Postby Bhairav on Wed Aug 13, 2003 7:43 am

Optical Drives + Media FAQ. Critique please?
Hi. I've been invited to write an optical drive FAQ for hardforum.com, the forum @ HardOCP. It's given below, tell me what you guys think!

****************************************************
Optical Drive Flashing + Media FAQ
Flashing your optical drive

Nearly all computers in the world have an optical drive. These are the bog-standard CD-ROM drives, as well as the slightly more exotic CD-RW and DVD+-R/RW drives. There are also the esoteric MO and DAT drives, but they are outside the scope of this discussion.
Here,I'll run through the features of CD-R/RW and DVD-+R/RW drive firmware.

Just like a motherboard BIOS, there is a flashable memory section on all optical drives. This flash memory performs a variety of functions:

a) Includes the firmware of the drive, which itself specifies the capabilities of the drive,including:

- Media lookup table, for specifying reading and burning strategies with various recordable media.

- Specifying which hardware features of the drive to enable, eg. Mt Rainier and Smart-Burn.

- Specifies the maximum reading and writing speed of the drive.

b)The flash memory also has some unused space, which can be used to add further features to the drive as and when they are developed.

Why flash your drive?

Once an optical drive is developed, the drive manufacturer may add new features to the drive, such as Mount Rainier compatibility and additional media compatibility. At this time, they will release a new version of the drive firmware,along with a short explanation of what the new firmware will do. If this explanation seems to be solving a problem you are experiencing, it is recommended that you FLASH your drive with this firmware.

Also, in a few cases, most famously with Lite-On, you can flash your drive to a higher maximum write speed. This occurs, because for economies of scale, Lite-On manufactures ONE series of drives, and differentiates them into different write speeds just by applying different firmware! So it becomes easy for us to increase the writing speed of the drive (if possible), just by flashing the firmware.

For a list of upgradeable Lite-On drives, go to:

http://club.cdfreaks.com/showthread...;threadid=42344

For a list of Lite-On firmwares in the binary format, go to:

http://karr.myweb.hinet.net

http://dhc014.rpc1.org

http://www.alexander-noe.de/Firmwares/


How to Flash Your Drive:

Normally, whenever the drive manufacturer updates the firmware for a particular drive, they release a self-executable file on their website, along with a short description of the updates this gives. Then, if these updates are said to resolve any problems you might be having, you should download the flasher, execute it in Windows, and reboot the computer.

However, flashing in Windows can sometimes lead to errors, due to the fact that at any given time, there will be a multitude of other processes in the background, which may cause an error during the flash. This can lead to your drive being trashed. While this is an absolute worst case scenario, it has been known to happen!

The good news is that there is another program, called MTKFlash, which can be used to flash your drive in pure DOS mode. This works only with the binary (.bin) version of your firmware. These binaries are available at various sites, including:


http://karr.myweb.hinet.net

http://dhc014.rpc1.org

http://www.alexander-noe.de/Firmwares/

http://liteon.notrix.net

An excellent guide to using and downloading MTKFlash:

http://dhc014.rpc1.org/mtkflash.htm

Beware that MTKFlash only works with drives that have MediaTek chipsets.The following link will tell you which drives use Mediatek chipsets:

http://club.cdfreaks.com/showthread...;threadid=58518


Similar to MTKFLash is a useful program called MTKWinflash, which,along with a description and usage guide is available from:

http://digi.rpc1.org/mwf.htm

This can be used in Windows, and in the Direct IDE mode can even recover dead (badly flashed) drives!
Higly recommended!


The Lite-On drive owners can also use an excellent new program called LTNFlash. There is an entire page dedicated to it :

http://www.firmware-flash.com/~dhc014/indexLTN.htm

Basically, it can do the following:

LtnFlash lets owners of Lite-ON made optical drives (except the LTD-163 and their CD-ROM drives) backup or flash their firmware right from Windows. It is the first tool able to create firmware backups from Windows. It is also the only way to make backups of the firmwares in external Lite-ON drives. It is not a complete replacement for mtkflash though since LtnFlash doesn't work for drives that weren't made by Lite-ON. Since version 1.1.0, LtnFlash is also able to Enable/Disable/Reset the region counter on Lite-ON DVD Drives.

Media:

Often one of the most overlooked facets of CD/DVD burning is the media in use. People often go and buy generic 0.1c media, and then complain of data corruption and loss! The truth of the matter is that media DOES matter, and can often make the difference between your data lasting for 5 years and 5 days!

By popular agreement, the best CD-R media was made by Kodak. But this was before they announced that they were leaving the market in March 2001. As a result, they are really difficult to obtain, and really expensive too.
But Japanese manufacturer, Taiyo Yuden, has stepped up to the plate, and they make excellent CDRs. The error rates on these discs from just about any burner are very low.Other well regarded manufacturers include Ritek, Mitsui, Moser Baer India and Mitsubishi/Verbatim.


Errors on CDR/RW discs are measured in terms of C1 and C2 errors. For a detailed explanation of what they are and how they are measured:

http://www.roxio.com/en/support/cdr/cderrors.html

http://club.cdfreaks.com/showthread/t-70201.html

We can measure errors on the drive using Nero CDSpeed,which comes along with the Nero Burning ROM suite.
Lite-On users can use KProbe, which is available at:

http://karr.myweb.hinet.net

Discussion about KProbe:
http://www.cdrlabs.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=10234

Another error measurement software app: CDDoctor
Download/discussion :
http://www.cdrlabs.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=8095

Media compatibility threads:

http://www.cdrlabs.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=6005

http://club.cdfreaks.com/showthread...t+Media+Opinion



Sites to visit:

www.cdrlabs.com

www.cdfreaks.com

club.cdfreaks.com

www.firmware-flash.com (best place for hacked RPC-1 DVD-ROM/R/RW firmware, and custom firmwares!)

http://www.cdpage.com (Excellent tutorials and articles.Highly recommended.)
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Postby cfitz on Wed Aug 13, 2003 12:18 pm

It seems to be heavily weighted towards fimware flashing. And within that area it seems to be heavily weighted toward MediaTek in general and LiteOn specifically. There is nothing wrong with that, if that is your focus, but if you intended a more general FAQ you might want to expand to other areas.

It also isn't in the form of a FAQ (list of common questions with corresponding answers), but more of an overview with links to other resources. This is partly semantics, but what you wrote might not be what people are looking for when they want a FAQ. Again, there is nothing wrong with an overview or introduction if that is what you intended, but if you really wanted to write a FAQ you should probably reformat it.

Any FAQ on CDs ought to include a link to Andy McFadden's seminal FAQ www.cdrfaq.org . You might want to include a link to Jim Taylor's DVD FAQ as well www.dvddemystified.com/dvdfaq.html . And don't forget www.dvdrhelp.com for questions on burning video onto various optical discs.

I posted a message with a bunch of links to C1/C2 explanations here:

http://www.cdrlabs.com/phpBB/viewtopic. ... 9056#59056

You might want to use some of those.

And here are some other links regarding CD technology in no particular order or organization (but then, I guess creating order and organization is your job, as author of the FAQ/overview :wink: ):

http://www.computermusic.co.uk/tutorial/cds/cdmain.asp
http://www.dalmedia.com/recording_modes.htm
http://www.burnworld.com/cdr/primer/FORMATS.HTM
http://www.osta.org/technology/cdqa2.htm
http://www.plextor.com/english/news/new ... rsity.html
http://www.srtl.co.uk/srtl/technology.html
http://www.ee.washington.edu/conselec/C ... 2/95x7.htm
http://www.opticaldisc-systems.com/July ... ring50.htm
http://www.disctronics.co.uk/technology ... _intro.htm

There is lots of other stuff out there as well. These are just a sampling I had handy.

cfitz
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Postby Bhairav on Wed Aug 13, 2003 12:52 pm

Heh,thanks cfitz :)
Yep, I know it was too biased toward Lite-On/Mediatek: I didn't know too much about any other chipsets,thus the bias, because that's what most people at cdrlabs and cdfreaks talk about anyway!

Thanks a bunch for the links! I didn't know about cdrfaq.org. Just went and checked it out, they are awesome. CDRFAQ.org, really good site, covers quite a lot of stuff!

I've added your links to the FAQ (overview :wink: ), and I'm going to try reorganising it a bit along the lines you mentioned.
Thanks a bunch for taking the time out to read it.

Bhairav.
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Postby cfitz on Wed Aug 13, 2003 1:54 pm

You're welcome.

Allow me to add a couple of more points specifically about your media section. You state, "By popular agreement, the best CD-R media was made by Kodak." The "popular agreement" phrase is a bit bold for my tastes, but that is just personal preference. And remember that Kodak media was made using phthalocyanine technology developed by and licensed from Mitsui. Kodak is also from a different era in CD burning. Things have changed a lot since then, and if Kodak was still around making high-speed discs the situation might be different. Again, this isn't particularly important since you are just relating some history, so I don't really have any problem with this. What I do object to is "...Taiyo Yuden, has stepped up to the plate." They didn't step up to the plate after Kodak exited the business. Taiyo Yuden was around from the start. In fact, they invented recordable CD media:

http://www.oto-online.com/sept98/history.html

As for Mitsui being a top-tier maker, well, I would object to that as well. They had big problems at first, and then got their act together and made some media that developed a very good reputation (again, in a different era), but now are exiting the business just like Kodak. I don't know how long their European operations will last, but they have already given up on the American market and will be closing their facilities. They also haven't kept up with the times, only this year announcing media rated for burning at speeds higher than 24x (which never showed up for actual purchase in America anywhere I could find). Finally, in my personal experience burning their 24x media in LiteOn and Yamaha drives, it gave poor quality burns with C2 errors at the outer edges of the disc. Not to mention that it is grossly overpriced.

You might want to clarify that while Verbatim is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Chemicals, Verbatim also sells rebranded CMC discs, which most people would agree are not the same quality as Mitsubishi Chemical's own discs. (Not to mention that even some of Mitsubishi Chemical's discs are made in CMC factories using Mitsubishi Chemical's processes and materials - that is another complex story of its own.)

Finally it looks like I forgot to include the link to the famous Media Sciences FAQs:

http://www.mscience.com/faq.html

No doubt there are others I've forgotten to include as well.

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Postby cfitz on Wed Aug 13, 2003 2:06 pm

Oh and this pretty well know too:

http://www.pctechguide.com/09cdr-rw.htm

And an all-in-one PDF version of Disctronics guide I linked earlier:

http://www.disctronics.co.uk/downloads/ ... on2003.pdf

Some bits about the varous "colors" of CD formats:

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan98/a ... ormats.htm

Mike Richter's primer (parts of it a bit dated but still useful):

http://www.mrichter.com/cdr/primer.pdf

One of these days I need to organize my bookmarks so I don't have to search through them all the time. :(

I know there are more I've missed.

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Re: Optical Drives + Media FAQ. Critique please?

Postby Inertia on Wed Aug 13, 2003 4:47 pm

cfitz has made his usual comprehensive contribution, so there is little to add. :) My only minor objection would be to the following statement:

bhairavp wrote:Just like a motherboard BIOS, there is a flashable memory section on all optical drives.


This generalization isn't strictly true, although most optical drives have flashable memory. Some CD-ROM drives (especially older ones) may not have flashable memory. As an example, the Afreey CD-ROM drives come to mind. They were high speed high performance drives, but not flashable. A new drive would have to be purchased for a change in firmware.
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Re: Optical Drives + Media FAQ. Critique please?

Postby dodecahedron on Wed Aug 13, 2003 7:10 pm

Inertia wrote:Some CD-ROM drives (especially older ones) may not have flashable memory. As an example, the Afreey CD-ROM drives come to mind. They were high speed high performance drives, but not flashable. A new drive would have to be purchased for a change in firmware.

not only old ones.
the Asus CD-S520 52x CD-ROM drive, arguably the best one to be got even today, does not have a flashable firmware.
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Postby CDRecorder on Wed Aug 13, 2003 10:54 pm

Very good, especially the firmware section. I would agree, though, that it would be good to change "there is a flashable memory section on all optical drives" to "there is a flashable memory section on most optical drives".

Also, I am not sure this statement is necessary or true:
By popular agreement, the best CD-R media was made by Kodak. But this was before they announced that they were leaving the market in March 2001. As a result, they are really difficult to obtain, and really expensive too.


Minor objections aside, I think that you have done a great job! Keep up the good work! :D
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Postby Bhairav on Thu Aug 14, 2003 12:32 am

Thanks for the replies guys. Cfitz, I didn't remember that TY had invented the CD-R,even though I had read it somewhere. Thanks for the heads-up.
Out of curiosity, what do you guys think Kodak's future would have been like, assuming that they had stayed around in the CD-R market?

I'll update the Overview with the TY info. Also, thanks for the info about the relationship between Kodak and Mitsui, regarding the phthalocyanine dye. I'll change that too :wink:

The Verbatim/Mistusbishi deal... yeesh, how could I forget? I remember the thread you guys had on here, discussing the various packages the media came in!

And I'll change the part about ALL drives having flashable firmware, thanks for pointing it out.

Thanks again guys, keep the bouquets and/or brickbats coming :lol:
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Postby MediumRare on Thu Aug 14, 2003 3:23 am

A couple of quibbles:
- a DAT is not an optical drive- it's tape (which is one reason it's dying out)
- Karr's site no longer lists or offers firmware but just has links to Dave's and Dimitri/Digi/Mango's site. You already have a link to the latter (http://digi.rpc1.org/) further down.
- Since you're using the sub-domain links for Dave's main site, you might as well use http://dhc014.rpc1.org/indexLTN.htm for his LTNFlash page too.

Don't let my nitpicking discourage you- and give us the link to your overview when it's ready.

Incidentally- the Beer Garden is probably not the right place for this (which is why I missed it to now).

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Postby Inertia on Thu Aug 14, 2003 1:21 pm

bhairavp wrote:I didn't remember that TY had invented the CD-R,even though I had read it somewhere.


Taiyo Yuden holds basic patents on CD-R, but so do Philips and Sony. Although TY conceptualized and did the actual work to physically invent CD-R, Philips and Sony may be credited as well in its final development.

See Patent History CD-R disc

Taiyo Yuden was the first to set standards and manufacture CD-R, and quickly became the standard by which others were measured. There is an old but still relevant article related to this at The Rest of the Rest of the Story: Shedding Some Coherent Light on CD-R.
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Postby Bhairav on Fri Aug 15, 2003 12:25 am

Thanks, MediumRare and Inertia. I thought it was not fitting into any particular category, so I placed it in the Beer Garden. Less chance of people getting angry at me that way!

Thanks for the heads-up, both of you. I'm working on version 2.0 of the overview, I'll update this thread when it is done with a proper link.

Thanks again :)
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Postby Bhairav on Sat Aug 16, 2003 2:47 am

K. Here it goes:

http://www.hardforum.com/showthread.php ... 1025157141

Hope you all like it. Keep the b&bs coming!

ps:b&bs=bouquets and brickbats :wink:
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Postby CDRecorder on Sat Aug 16, 2003 4:17 am

Good job! I especially like how you have provided many relevant links about the topics you discussed! :D
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Postby MediumRare on Sat Aug 16, 2003 9:17 am

bhairavp- I think it won a lot from the first draft. I'll second CDRecorder that the links really help to make a compilation like this more valuable. Share your sources!!!

Maybe you could add your own assessment to the links cfitz passed on when you've evaluated them more closley (I know that I'm going to spend some time scanning them).

Also, you could mention that Plextor Premium owners can use PlexTools to measure errors (just to look past LiteOn a bit :wink: ).

I think your comments on Verbatim are a bit too long. It would scare me off from using them. Also, the "Made in Japan/Taiwan" just isn't so- I've had Verbatim/CMCs made in Mexico and Mitsubishis made in Taiwan, Singapore, India, EU, Mexico. The only Verbatims made in Japan I've found (in Germany) were TY's!!! You just have to look for "Azo" in some form on the label to avoid the CMCs.

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Postby Bhairav on Sun Aug 17, 2003 1:51 am

MediumRare wrote:bhairavp- I think it won a lot from the first draft. I'll second CDRecorder that the links really help to make a compilation like this more valuable. Share your sources!!!

Maybe you could add your own assessment to the links cfitz passed on when you've evaluated them more closley (I know that I'm going to spend some time scanning them).

Also, you could mention that Plextor Premium owners can use PlexTools to measure errors (just to look past LiteOn a bit :wink: ).

I think your comments on Verbatim are a bit too long. It would scare me off from using them. Also, the "Made in Japan/Taiwan" just isn't so- I've had Verbatim/CMCs made in Mexico and Mitsubishis made in Taiwan, Singapore, India, EU, Mexico. The only Verbatims made in Japan I've found (in Germany) were TY's!!! You just have to look for "Azo" in some form on the label to avoid the CMCs.

G


Ouch, thanks for the heads-up about the Verbatim DLP cds.I have some made in Singapore.. forgot about them!
I'll change that right away, and also add stuff about Plextools (never purchased a Plex in my life.. FORGIVE ME AVIATIONWIZ :wink: ).

Thanks for the comments, both of you. You guys have provided the links, I just added them to the overview :)
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