For a variety of reasons, I recently found myself in need of a DVD burner for work. One of which is that I needed to have a large number of RealVideo files available to both WaYfm and myself. There’s an old saying that goes “Never underestimate the bandwidth of a stationwagon full of backup tapes.” These days I’ll go with DVDs.
DVD burners are expensive, so I figured I’d shoot for as much flexibility as possible, making it as useful as possible to other people in my workplace. This made it a little more expensive, but not a ton, and made it much more useful all around.
My goals were: DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, external, and compatable with USB 1 and 2.
I did a little research, and decided I liked the LaCie d2 DVD+/-RW. I wanted it fast, so I did a little research and found that CompUSA had it in the store, and off I went.
When I got there, I found that they only had one left, in the back. The guy said that they didn’t sell well, and that I might be happier with a Sony. Sony’s a good name, and it offered CD-RW in addition to DVD-R stuff. Since I was going for flixibility, and the price fit, so I went for it.
I picked up the DRX510UL. It does the DVD formats I wanted, plus does CD-R and CD-RW. It has USB 1 and 2, plus something called iLink that I’m not familiar with.
I took it to work, and the nightmare began. There was VERY little documentation. There was one of those big glossy fold-out sheets with large pictures of USB plugs doing their thing, and power plugs doing their thing. That was pretty much it. No manual, no docs.
I plugged in the drive, and win2k saw it just fine. Then I installed the software. One set was just for viewing DVD’s, one for backup utilities, and one for normal burning. Again, no docs.
I fired up the burning software, and was greeted with a wizard. I was kinda happy about that, since I didn’t know how to use it. I picked “Make a data disc”, dragged a directory full of RealVideo files into the file area and pressed go. It started up, doing it’s thing, and I turned back to my real computer to get some work done. A few minutes later I glanced over and saw an error message. It said there had been an error, and that I should put in another disc and try again. There was also an “Explain” button, so I pushed it. It popped up my web browser with some tips on smoothing the process.
Long story short(er), I tried all of the applicable suggestions to no avail. I had started with 8 DVD-R’s, at $3 each. I destroyed 5 on the first day. Then I thought maybe it was the format, and got some DVD+Rs. I only destroyed one of those before deciding it wasn’t going to work any better.
Time to look up support. sony.storagesupport.com is their web support site. The docs there weren’t any better, but there was a link for “live support”. It turned out to be a java applet, which was alright. I logged in, and about 20 seconds later I was chatting with a real person. That was cool. We went over some stuff, and when she found out I was using media not on the approved list, I was told I needed to get some, and the conversation was over.
Off to CompUSA again, I picked up a 3-pack of Sony DVD-Rs. After destroying 1 of those, I logged back into their little chat thing, and got a real person right away again. We went over all the same stuff (do I sense a check-list on the other end?), and when we got to the end, she said “I think you should call tech support”.
The phone menu wasn’t that bad, and I got someone after about a 3 minute wait. It should be noted that I was happy with how easy it was to get a real person throughout this process. The guy listened to the story, and then said “The wizard is probably trying to verify the DVD after burning, and often verification will make it fail”. I think that’s dumb, but if it fixed it, I’m happy. It didn’t. Only one Sony DVD left.
I called them back, had to go through the whole story again, and this time, I stumped the hippie. They have a pretty good diagnostics tool that said the drive was working fine, which means that it was a software issue. The guy suggested that I re-install the burning software, and then he was done with me.
Re-installing didn’t do the trick, so I boxed it up and took it back to CompUSA.
At this point, I’d like to extol the virtues of the CompUSA on 28th street. I’m sure there have been atrocities, but they rocked for me. When I bought the thing, they suggested I buy a “return policy” for $35. That makes it so I can return it any time in the next year, as opposed to anytime in the next 2 weeks. I’ve always thought those things were kind of a scam, so I passed.
Long story short, I didn’t pay attention, and took it back on the 15th day. But the nice lady took it back anyway. Then she got a guy to help me pick out a new one. This time I bought the take-back policy. It actually made a lot of sense for an external DVD burner. I expect any number of people to be carrying the thing around the radio station in the next year, and it will surely get dropped at some point.
So what did I get? The LaCie d2 DVD+/-R W. And it rocks. You can even spend a few extra bucks to get tabs so it can be rack mounted. It installed flawlessly, the docs rocked, and it worked on the first try. Something odd is that the docs walk you through browsing the cd and installing things one at a time, instead of using the auto-start wonder widget that comes up when you put it in. I thought that was odd, but everything worked well.
All-in-all, the LaCie does the same stuff as the Sony, it’s cheaper, and it works.