Disk Preparation
DVD Burning
Disk Preparation

I feel like it's 1995 all over again. Ah, the nervous anticipation of it all. Just when you thought the trick of burning data to little plastic discs had evolved enough from being a black art to a point and click no-brainer, a new medium comes along. Now it's back to the eye of newt, toe of frog, approach. At least this time I've got a rewritable, heh-heh..

I am of course referring to the recent appearance of recordable DVD in our homes and orifices. We were definitely due for something bigger, I mean seven hundred megs just ain't what it used to be, but we could definitely do without this current standards war going on between the various DVD burner manufacturers [see below]. Now I'm conscious of the fact that as I sit here and write this, my current woes will probably seem redundant in say, six months time when everybody has hopefully agreed on the one standard for DVD. But at the moment the home user market is being put off purchasing a DVD burner or rewriter 'cos nobody wants to end up with a Betamax.

However I am fortunate to have friends in the right places here at TAFE Tasmania. Sitting on my desk is a shiny new Sony DRX500 UL DVD writer care of my great chum, the eloquent Mr. Tony Nunn from Design & Multimedia. Splendid!

The D&MM has not only performed the great service of directing some of its departmental funds to the procurement of this fine piece of technology, but they also made sure to get a rewritable model which covers several of the current DVD standards. In fact this model covers DVD+/-RW +/-R. Splendid indeed.

The drive supports USB2 and Firewire, which is great because I can't imagine what it would be like having to wait for all that data to crawl along a slower wire. To take advantage of all this speed on my Aopen AK73 Athlon 1.2GHz system [running 1GB of RAM just to be sure], I invested in a 4-port USB2 card, care of those fine fellows at Jtek Computers. Windows 2000 Server was a bit weird about the USB2 serial root bus and popped an exclamation mark into Device Manager, but the card seemed to work anyway. This happened whether I had the on-board USB1.1 enabled or disabled, so I left it enabled in the end.

The Sony comes bundled with Veritas burning software, which has its own little quirks. The first problem I encountered was that Veritas kept picking up the internal Mitsubishi CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive and wouldn't let me use the Sony in preference. Although I had the Sony selected as the drive of choice, I kept getting the drag and drop CD-RW interface, with a maximum of 700MB with which to burn. The only thing which worked was to disable the Mitsubishi drive before starting the software.

The Imation DVD-RW discs come with a table indicating the various supported DVD formats [RAM is on the way out].

If I was buying a DVD burner right now, I'd be looking for some good multi- format compatibility.
DVD Formats

Another downer is that the Veritas seems to be very prone to buffer underrun; my first few burns failed, presumably because I was surfing the net and typing up this report during the burning process [sacrilege!]. Although the software [sometimes] warns you not to open new programs during a burn, this is a huge pain in the arse and definitely a step backwards from current CD-RW standards, where software like Nero's Burn Proof has pretty much ended the old coaster production of yore. Veritas doesn't even have a buffer flow indicator, so it's not possible to gauge the degree of multitasking possible during a burn. Very disappointing, especially when you've only got a single workstation and each burn takes around 80 minutes.

Numbers, numbers..

A further gripe is that I was unable to get more than 4.2GB of files onto a DVD-RW disc, despite the indicated 4.7GB on the label. The Veritas drag and drop screen file indicator implies the potential maximum of 4.7, but I got repeated 'not enough room' errors until I reduced my file collection to 4.2, apparently wasting 500MB of potential disc space. Still, 6 CDs worth of data for the price of 1 DVD isn't too bad I suppose. Like hard drives, 1 GB on a DVD recordable disc equals 1 000 000 000 (109) bytes. In contrast, a computer considers 1 GB to be 1 073 741 824 (230) bytes. Thus, a 4.7 GB disc is seen by a computer as having approximately 4.37 GB. Ever noticed that floppy boxes are labelled as 2.0MB capacity? As ever, beware the marketing hype.

Here are some more numbers, this time relating to transfer rates. USB 1.1 runs at 12mbps [1.5MB/sec] and USB2 runs at 480mbps [60MB/sec]. Depending on who you ask, DVD single speed [1X] burns at approximately 1.35MB/sec [close to CD's 8X equivalent]. So if we take the above DVD capacity of around 4200MB and divide by 1.35, we should expect a full DVD to burn in approximately 52 minutes. Note that single speed DVD is still slightly slower at 1.35MB/sec than USB1.1's transfer rate of 1.5MB/sec, so you will only see the benefits of USB2 at faster DVD burn speeds. Mine took 90 minutes per disk.

And in conclusion

Most people will make the jump from CD to DVD burning with little difficulty, as long as a bit of research is undertaken first. DVD burning is a happening thing and with drives decreasing in price almost weekly, it won't be long before DVD becomes the mainstream portable storage medium which replaces CDs.

DVD in the news

Microsoft chooses sides in DVD war
DVD groups hold their ground
How Standards Wars Are Won
New drives add DVD-RAM to the mix
DVD in the news
- A.

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