Hard bargain

I turned to the net’s user forums as a last resort to solve a frustrating computer problem. Next time I’ll go there first.



I had some video files of my daughter that I wanted to back up from my home desktop computer, small snippets from when she was a baby. I decided to turn the pieces into a DVD, my wife could play on the TV, and dutifully purchased a spindle of DVDs when I was shopping at Safeway on the weekend.


I bought a spindle of 25 for $20, because the price was cheap. Or so I thought.


When I got home, I set up the DVD using Nero 6, and let it run for the four hours it was going to take to burn about an hour of video. Later that day I came back to my computer and found the burn process had failed. I read the log file, but it was meaningless to me. Taking the reasonable option, I then let set it up to run again. Same result. Damn.


It then occurred to me that on the odd occasion that I use the DVD burner, it had failed, but I could never be bothered figuring out why. This time I thought I would get to the bottom of it. So I took it into work and tried again and again and again, altering all the settings. It failed every time.


I consulted with others at the office; it failed for them to. I then tried different types of disks, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW. No go. I am now down about 12 disks, $20 and 12 hours of my time.


I then used a Nero 6 tool to interrogate the DVD drive, and it appeared everything was working OK.


My next thought was that maybe the DVD burner (an external LaCie drive) needed its firmware upgraded. Firmware is the software that lives on the burner, and can be upgraded by a process called “flashing”. So off to the LaCie website. But my DVD burner isn’t listed. Damn again. However, when I interrogated the DVD drive using Nero, it called it a NEC2500A. So I tried searching for this instead.


Turns out that my LaCie DVD burner is actually an NEC DVD drive inside a LaCie cover. Searching the NEC website I discovered that there are firmware upgrades, but apparently they can only be applied by OEM manufacturers. Too bad there are none in Australia.

The website also informed me that my DVD burner would be destroyed and I would be smoted with lightning by the gods if I applied a firmware upgrade that did not come from an authorised channel.


It wasn’t working anyway, so I thought ‘bugger it’, searched for a so-called illegal firmware upgrade and applied it. No change. Damn again.


However, while looking at the firmware upgrade, I noticed it came with a small read me file, which listed all the new DVD disk brands that the burner would now recognise, and that the one I was using was not among them.


Time to try a new tactic; maybe it’s not the DVD burner.


So I did a Google search on this brand, where I found a number of user forums in which people described that brand of disk as good for nothing but drink coasters. Most users are sticking to name brands such as TDK and Sony.


So I go down the street a buy a Sony DVD-R disk. The movies of my daughter burn first time. So the cheap disks ended up costing me about 20 hours of my time and $25 worth of wasted disks. I binned the remaining disks.


Moral of the story: Do a search of user comments on the brand of product you are using when problem-solving. If you find lots of bad commentary, you can save lots of time by simply switching products.



To read more Brendan Lewis blogs, click here.


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