David Madore's WebLog: DVD±R[W]—and Linux

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DVD±R[W]—and Linux

Acting upon a sudden uncontrolled impulse, because I had some time and some money to waste this afternoon and since I was walking through the 12th arrondissement of Paris (where all the Chinese computer hardware retailers are located), I bought myself a DVD±R[W] drive (burner, I mean). A Plextor PX-708A, to be precise (whose maximal burning speeds are: 8× for DVD+R, 4× for DVD+RW, 4× for DVD−R, 2× for DVD−RW, 40× for CD-R and 12× for CD-RW; reading speeds are 12× for DVD-ROM and 40× for CD-ROM); I've always bought Plextor burners previously and I've been quite satisfied, so I think I can recommend them.

The difference between ‘+’ and ‘−’ was completely unintelligible to me, and still isn't perfectly clear, but here is a (partial) explanation. (Unfortunately, Google isn't of much help here, since it doesn't distinguish "dvd+r" from "dvd-r", say.) Basically, ‘+’ is less compatible with existing DVD-ROM drives, but in counterpart can be written incrementally and without risk of buffer underrun or such annoyances, whereas ‘−’ is much closer to CD-R[W]. Incidentally, ‘−’ is supported by the people who came up with the DVD (same DVD logo), whereas ‘+’ is sponsored by a different group (and the logo on disks is different). Apart from that, the disks have the same size and—except for an explicit marking—are not recognizable (both have the same purplish hue, for example, for Verbatim disks with AZO-based dyes; strangely enough, their DVD−R are made in Taiwan whereas their DVD+R are made in India). Their capacity is the same (around 4.4 gigabytes—meaning around 4.7 billion bytes—for single-sided single-layer disks) and the price also seems to be precisely the same.

To burn DVDs under Linux, I've tried DVD+RW-tools, and they seem to work (although I've had some strange symptoms here or there); despite the name, they will also work with DVD−R[W], not just ‘+’. And the name (growisofs) is also ridiculously unintuitive, but the program in question is also able to, say, record a cramfs image on the medium, not just grow an ISO9660 filesystem. Plain old cdrecord won't work; and although there is a special different version (cdrecord-prodvd) which will, I don't recommend using it, were it only for the fact that it has a highly obnoxious (and non-free) license—you need a “key” of some sort to do the writing, and you don't get access to the source code, and you might not even be able to use it commercially. There is also a free fork of cdrtools (the kit which includes cdrecord) called dvdrtools which might be useful, but I haven't tried it yet.

Anyhow, it seems to work. Well, the DVDs I've recorded (whether ‘+’ or ‘−’) weren't readable by my DVD-ROM drive, but it's very old and mostly broken anyway, so I'm not really surprised. The burner itself is able to read the disks it wrote (I checked them thoroughly), which is what I mostly care about because I intend to use DVDs for backups.

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