(From the August 12th, 2003 www.xlr8yourmac.com news page)
Note: Read the warnings, etc. in the readme first (there's no guarantees on this - use at your own risk). Alex later wrote he's updated his page at
http://superdrive.cynikal.net/ for more details and a way to restore older firmware (DCOB, the same version as Dantz's posted firmware for the UJ-815 noted here on July 17th, 2003, but reportedly their UJ-815 DCOB firmware flasher does not work for restoring after this update, so Alex's patched flasher restore is the only option to date.)
Hi, I recently was playing around with a firmware flasher written for a PC
to be used on the UJ-815-B, the 2nd revision of the superdrive that
came with my Powerbook. I spliced it into an existing OS X UJ-815
firmware patcher using a hex editor and flashed my firmware for my
The results are that it upgraded the drive to OEM capabilities.
The information is outlined on
I've been testing it over the last week and a few days ago released to
a small group of people for testing. Here are some results:
I thought maybe your readers would find this interesting, but I
understand if you feel this isn't newsworthy information as it has
risks involved. Or maybe you may want to wait a few days and watch the above thread for any horror stories.
In any event, if you decide to post this on your site, please include a
disclaimer (there's one on my page, the first link). If you feel it's
too soon to post this, i'll understand.
It's the least I could do for the Mac community, hopefully it will save
some fellow mac people some $$ who may have been desperate to purchase
a 2x drive to replace their 1x drive from MCE/MacResQ. (MacResq currently doesn't sell the 2x DVD-R/DVD-RAM drive, only MCE.-Mike)
And thank you for your great source of mac news :)
Best Regards, Alex
Hopefully there are no downsides but for those that are not willing to risk it, wait awhile to see if there are any negative reports.
After reading the linked page, reports, etc (and readme) - I took the plunge and flashed the UJ-815 (1x DVD-R model, with DWDB firrmware as noted in my recent review. It already supported DVD-RWs and allowed 16x CDR speeds, but was limited to 1x DVD-R writes, verified by Toast 5.x.).
After the reboot it's now reported as a "UJ-815A" (was just "UJ-815" previously) and the firmware (device revision) is now listed as "D101". After the reboot I ran Toast 5.2.1 and inserted a 2x rated DVD-R and it does allow selecting 2x as the write speed - although I have not yet burned at that rate. I always wondered if Apple (and pre-UJ-815-B models) limited DVD-R burns to 1x for heat reasons, but that remains to be seen.
I'll post back if I see any problems with 2x DVD-R burns. (But if the higher heat from 2x burns shortens the life only time will tell that.)
I tested for DVD-RAM support, not there, but the 2x option for DVD-Rs is welcome.
Also as a FYI - I've always had 8x (max) CDRW support with this (retail) drive and high-speed rated CDRW discs (i.e. with discs rated up to 10x). I wrote Alex to ask if the 4x CDRW max noted at his page is correct. (The 2x DVD-R/DVD-RAM rated UJ-185-B model notes 8x CDRW max per their PDF specs doc but I can't find any specs on the original UJ-815 model at Panasonic's site now)
Reader Feedback on the Firmware: - most recent first.
(The UJ-815 drive is also sold as a G4 Cube upgrade, although all the feedback so far has been from PB G4 owners.)
"I have a PB G4 15" 1 GHz with a stock drive.
Toast reports increased maximum burn speeds, as others have already mentioned.
(although my retail UJ-815 already supported 16x max CDR rates, some
PB G4 owners reported only 8x max CDR rates before the firmware update.
Ditto for DVD-RW support, my drive already had it although some
Apple shipped drives didn't before this firmware.-Mike)
I have not tried a DVD-R in Toast, but I can confirm that both Toast
and the Finder can now burn a DVD-RW. However, Toast (5.2.1) hangs
when writing the lead-out. After some 5 minutes, I decided to abort
and then had to force quit Toast. The DVD was readable nonetheless.
iDVD works, though it seems to have got pickier about the media it
accepts. Verbatim 2x was fine, Mitsubishi 2x was rejected ("power
calibration area error").
Retrospect Express has shown an impressive improvement in backup and
read speeds on DVD-R:
- before: Performance: 54.3 MB/minute (48.0 copy, 62.6 compare)
- after: Performance: 82.1 MB/minute (65.5 copy, 109.9 compare)
The backup sets were *not* identical--the "before" backup was much
larger than the "after"--so this is indicative only (and I do not
understand why the read speed went up). Still, I am pleased.
So far: Three cheers to Alex!
All the best, Michael W.
"I too decided to take the plunge (after holding on to the updater for a day
and a half) with my 15" PB. My first test was to burn a Memorex DVD-RW
(3.4GB of data) in Toast. I received all sorts of Hardware and Media
errors... my heart sunk. After a reboot, I was able to eject the disk and
decided to burn a CD. That worked flawlessly at 16X (under Toast).
I then attempted to record to the DVD-RW again. I did a quick erase in
Toast and filled it with the same 3.4GB of data. I had positive results.
If I run into problems again, I will send an update. Now it is time to send
Cynikal a well deserved donation. I also thank you for all the great information.
Hi Mike -Top-notch site, been reading since 1997!
Applied the firmware update Weds night on a 12" PB G4 and immediately burned
a 16x CDR in Toast in under 5 minutes! Toast reports the CDR/DVD-R as an
DVD-RWs (which were spit out instantly in the past) now mount and play
2x DVD burning shows up in Toast, but I've only got 1x DVD-R blanks
Information Technology Consultant
"Since you took the risk with this firmware, I thought I would as well.
I just burned a 78:35 audio CD on my 1Ghz 15" PB with Apple Superdrive.
I'm running OS X 10.2.6 and Toast 5.2.1 and used Disc-at-once. Here
are my results:
Lead-in : 35 seconds
Audio tracks : 6 minutes, 32 seconds
Lead-out : 12 seconds
Total : 7 minutes, 19 seconds
Rate for whole CD with leads: 10x
Rate for just audio tracks: 12x
At the early stages of burning, it was burning at about 8x (i.e. each
second in Toast was really two seconds). However, soon I could hear
that drive speed up and the time started counting down faster. Perhaps
it was an outer/inner layer thing, or a media issue, or just a quirk
with the drive. Anyway, it is clearly faster than the stock drive, and
Good news -- The firmware updated loaded smoothly... *whew*... I guess I came out lucky this time.
16x CDR - Burns 700mb CDs in 4.5 minutes in the 16x mode in Toast(for X).
(that's a lot faster than my 16x CDR burns in either Toast (thousands of files)
or Audio CDs in iTunes at 16x on my PB G4/800 - 270 sec for 700MB of data is appx 2.6MB/sec which is a higher rate than 16x (x = 150KB/sec.), not including time to close the disc and the fact the max 16x rate is only seen on the outer tracks of the disc. Avg burn rate for a full CD is less than the rated max of 16x.)
2x DVD-R - Haven't tried yet.
1x DVD-RW - Haven't tried yet.
I'm going to try my Maxell DVD-R's tonight as well. I'm going to buy some DVD-RW's as well. I'll keep you posted.
Just wanted to say thanks for sharing the link!!
Best Regards, Jeff
As I write this letter, I am burning in the background onto a Memorex
DVD-RW......YES RW at 1X speed.... (My UJ-815 from Macresq supported
DVD-RW before this firmware, but some models of OEM drives in some PB G4
models from apple didn't-Mike)
Patch went as advertised. THIS is what I bought my 15in. Tibook for in
the first place!!!!
"Mike, Taking a big leap of faith, I applied the firmware patch to my PB 15" 1Ghz
with superdrive. So far so good. Apple system profiler shows the drive now
to be Matshita DVD-R UJ 815A like you noted. I burned 2 audio CDs and 1 data
CD at 16X and both worked flawlessly with Toast 5.2.1 under OS 10.2.6. I
haven't tried burning to DVD-R or DVD-RW yet but will take other's advice
and use branded media.
CD burning cranked on both fans about 3/4 through the burns but I didn't
think my PB got warmer than usual. One note: I seem to recall that Toast
offered to verify audio CD burning after it finished writing the disc
lead-out; this option is not available after the firmware update (Dialog box
simply says "your disc is ready" and ejects it after you click "OK"). .
Disc verification is still an available option after the data CD burn, so it
could be that I'm just wrong about Toast offering audio CD disc verification
(since I usually burn audio CD's directly from iTunes and haven't used Toast
for that function in quite awhile).
Keeping my fingers crossed. Keep up the great work Mike.
Installed last night on a Powerbook G4 17 1GHZ/1GB/60GB. Tested 2X burn
of a 4GB DVD movie with Toast 5.21. Burned in at 2X or a little over 20
minutes. previously all DVD's burned at 1X or 40-60 minutes depending
on size. ASP reported the drive as a UJ-815 before the update and as a
UJ-815A after. (same thing as I saw here on a retail UJ-815 1x drive-Mike)
I had 16X CD-R support before and this is unchanged. (Ditto here-Mike)
I have had no noticeable increased heat or battery drain issues. The
author of this should be made Time magazine's Man of the Year.
XLR8YOURMAC deserves a sweet pat on the back for posting this as
otherwise I might have never been aware.
"Just to update you, burned a 4 gig DVD-R this morning in 30 mins. That's 2x
speed if you ask me. The difference? (he had previously reported 2x selection
but 1x actual burn time in a prev. report below.) Media. This time I used a 2x rated
Verbatim blank, not the generics I've been using in my pioneer A03 drive.
The 815 seems to step down when it sees inferior media - irrespective of
Another added bonus is the drive now recognises DVD+RW disks. (No, it won't
burn them, but it just spat them before.)
"Wanted to note that I applied the firmware updater to a 15" PB G4
(stock Superdrive) with positive initial results. First thing I did
was burn a DVD-RW, which worked just fine. (Toast 5.21, Pioneer
branded 1x-2x DVD-RW media)
Reports from Aug. 13th follow:
Total success in the Superdrive Firmware upgrade. I have a PB 1ghz Ti with Superdrive. iToast reports 16x cd-r, and 2x on DVD-R. This
fireware update is great!!!! Saved a bundle and made something I
already own much faster.
Throwing caution to the wind (because I miss DVD-RW functionality) I applied the firmware update to a 15" PB from Dec 2002.
16x CDR - yes! this is nice
2x DVD-R - haven't tried it yet
1x DVD-RW - does not work with OptoDisc brand, but it doesn't eject it
instead Toast gives first Hardware Error and then Media Error and stops. I
think all that is missing here is the "right brand". The OptoDisc media
works fine in my old Pioneer 104 and 105 drives. I almost always pre-flight
my DVD projects on DVD-RW before committing them to DVD-R so RW support is sorely missed on the PB.
I'm eager to hear if anyone has good results with DVD-RW and which brand they used.
I have had success with Maxell 1x DVD-RW discs here with my UJ-815 (from macresq) as noted in the review. I'm going to burn a DVD-RW later today to make sure it still works after the firmware update.
Try burning at 2x before you get too excited - I did, toast reported 2x
speeds and finish time, but the burn was at 1x according to the clock... I
will test again with branded media ASAP, but even so, another upside for me
(15in Ti, 2002 apple supplied drive) is 16x CD burning which is good, and
DVD-RW support, again seems good.
I timed my DVD-R 2x burn in Toast with a stopwatch - it was literally half the time of previous tests at 1x, so 2x seems to be working fine on this drive so far.
I welcome other reports from reader that have applied the firmware. (See the warnings/disclaimers in the readme file with the download - and test some burns before sending a report to ensure all is well. Include your mac model/drive info in reports - i.e. if it's an apple shipped drive or retail bought. Thanks!)
For other PowerBook related articles/reviews, see the Systems page, PowerBook section. For other PB storage related topics, see the IDE or Firewire topics pages.