Using a DVD writer

Before you can start using your DVD writer with a Linux operating system, there are a couple of installation steps to be performed. If you are using an internal DVD writer, then you will need to make a small modification to the boot configuration of your system, described immediately below. If you are using an external USB or FireWire DVD writer, skip this installation process and proceed to the end of this section.


Once you have physically installed the DVD writer into your computer, switch on the PC. Type dmesg and a lot of information will appear on the screen. Scroll back through this information until you find the line identifying your DVD writer — it will look similar to the following:

hdc: Hewlett-Packard DVD Writer 300, ATAPI CD/DVD-ROM drive

This line identifies your DVD writer as well as the device it is located on, in this case hdc. Next, if your system boots with Grub, open /boot/grub/grub.conf using a text editor. Modify the line prefixed with “kernel” to include “hdc=ide-scsi” at the end. For example:

kernel /vmlinuz-2.4.20-20.9 ro root=LABEL=/ hdc=ide-scsi

If your system boots with LILO, open /etc/lilo.conf using a text editor and modify the line prefixed with “append” to include “hdc=ide-scsi” as below:

append=”root=LABEL=/ hdc=ide-scsi”

Run /sbin/lilo to make the changes to LILO permanent. Reboot your computer once you have modified Grub or LILO. If you have an external USB or FireWire DVD writer there is no need to make any changes to your system configuration; simply plug in the drive and turn it on. Typing dmesg in a shell should return some information that indicates the writer has been detected, similar to this:

scsi0: SCSI emulation for USB Mass Storage devices
Vendor: PIONEER Model: DVD-RW DVR-106D Rev: 1.05
Type: CD-ROM ANSI SCSI revision: 02

To use a DVD writer with Linux you must install the cdrecord-ProDVD tool. You can download the latest version from Make sure you download the file with the highest version number that ends in “i586-pc-linux-gnu”. Also download To install cdrecord-ProDVD, type the following in a shell while logged in as root:

$ chmod 755
$ mv /usr/bin/cdrecord-ProDVD
$ mv /usr/bin

Replace with the name of the file you downloaded. To test cdrecord-ProDVD and receive a report on your DVD writer’s capabilities, type the following in a shell:

$ -prcap dev=/dev/sg0

Burning and copying DVDs

To back up a directory on your hard disk to DVD, type the following two lines in a shell:

$ mkisofs -R -J -split-output -o imagefile .
$ dev=/dev/sg0 speed= -v imagefile*

The first line creates an image containing all of the files and directories in the current directory and stores it in a file named imagefile. The second line calls cdrecord-ProDVD and writes the image file to the blank DVD. Set the value of max_writer_speed to your DVD writer’s maximum speed. If you want to back up a number of directories located in different parts of your hard disk to a single DVD, create a temporary directory and build a collection of symbolic links to each directory you wish to include. For example:

$ mkdir cdlayout
$ cd cdlayout
$ ln -s /some/where/dir1 dir1
$ ln -s /else/where/dir2 dir2

Burning the DVD from the ‘cdlayout’ directory will now include the directories dir1 and dir2, located on different parts of your hard drive. Copying a DVD (or CD) is almost as easy. You will need to download the readcd tool from the cdrecord-ProDVD ftp site. Once downloaded, install it by typing in a shell as root:

$ chmod 755
$ mv /usr/bin/readcd

Once readcd is installed, you can use it to make an image of the DVD in your drive by typing:

$ readcd dev=/dev/sg0 f=imagefile

The image, stored in imagefile, can then be burned to DVD by typing:

$ dev=/dev/sg0 speed= -v imagefile

This command is almost identical to the previous command used to burn a directory tree to DVD.

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Alastair Cousins

PC World
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