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2x DVD-R Firmware for Matshita UJ-815Return to News Page

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Firmware Flasher for 2x DVD-R Support for 1x rated
Matshita UJ-815 Slotted Superdrives

Posted: 8/12/2003
Updated: 8/15/2003 more reader feedback

(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 superdrive.
The results are that it upgraded the drive to OEM capabilities.
The information is outlined on http://superdrive.cynikal.net/
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.)

(added 8/15/2003)
"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. "

(added 8/15/2003)
"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.
Jason "

(added 8/15/2003)
" 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 UJ-815A.

DVD-RWs (which were spit out instantly in the past) now mount and play successfully.

2x DVD burning shows up in Toast, but I've only got 1x DVD-R blanks presently.
Cheers, Bruce
Information Technology Consultant "

(added 8/15/2003)
"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 I'm thrilled.
-David B. "

(added 8/14/2003)
"Dear XLR8yourmac.com,
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 "

(added 8/14/2003)
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!!!!
Regards, John "

(added 8/14/2003)
"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.
Graham W. "

(added 8/14/2003)
" 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.
Mike F. "

(added 8/14/2003)
"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 speed set.
Another added bonus is the drive now recognises DVD+RW disks. (No, it won't burn them, but it just spat them before.)
P. "

(added 8/14/2003)
"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)
Joe "

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.
JAustin "

" 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.
-Roland G "

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.
Fingers crossed.
Paul "

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.

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