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My 2nd Batch of Used BDXL discs

My 2nd Batch of Used BDXL discs

On the past days, I wrote about having purchased an used spindle of 10 Verbatim BDXL discs. I mentioned that I had also ordered the same item again, but the used condition mentioned was “Like New”. Today, we’ll see my experience this time, which may or may not surprise you.

The first thing is I received this item on an “Amazon Renewed” bag. The sticker is different from the “Amazon Inspected” one from my previous order:

"Verbatim" BDXL Used Discs 1

Visually looking, we can see that the spindle looks fine itself:

"Verbatim" BDXL Used Discs 2

Taking the spindle out of the packaging also doesn’t bring any serious alarm, except that the Verbatim label is broken:

"Verbatim" BDXL Used Discs 3

Now, after opening it, is where I noticed something weird. Looking at the data side, it looks more “purple”:

"Verbatim" BDXL Used Discs 6

Indeed, inserting this on one of my Blu-Ray drives indicates these are regular 25GB discs. It also has another media code unrelated to Verbatim itself: UMEBDR-016-000

"Verbatim" BDXL Used Discs 8

The real Verbatim BDXL discs have a Media ID of VERBAT-IMk-000:

ImgBurn Panasonic UJ260 1

This is how a Verbatim BDXL disc should look:

"Verbatim" BDXL Used Discs 7

And here they are side by side. See the difference?

"Verbatim" BDXL Used Discs 5

The fact that the label was broken is also sketchy. Here are both spindles closed side by side:

"Verbatim" BDXL Used Discs 4

My theory is that the previous owner kept the 100GB discs and exchanged them with regular 25GB printable discs and returned them. I went ahead and started the return process, stating this fact, and returned this item to my nearest UPS Store. At this time, all I can say is be careful when purchasing used discs. My previous experience was positive, but not this one.

The “Used” Verbatim BDXL discs

The “Used” Verbatim BDXL discs

Hi everyone,

Yesterday afternoon, I received the “Used – Good” Verbatim BDXL discs that I purchased last week. Today, we’ll see exactly what these discs really mean and if they are really used.

First, we see the item arrived on a bag. Visually inspecting it from the bag it seems the packaging itself looks good.

Verbatim BDXL Used-Good 1

Indeed, it all looks good, except it isn’t really wrapped like new items are, so the spindle was actually opened already.

Verbatim BDXL Used-Good 2

The spindle package looks so good that there are not even damages to it, which contradicts Amazon’s description of “Used – Good” items since it claimed that there were some damages.

Verbatim BDXL Used-Good 3

Taking a look at the discs itself, they also look good. There are no imperfections on it, which also contradicts their definition of the “Used – Good” condition.

Verbatim BDXL Used-Good 4

Even the data side looks fine. No disc have been burned either, so they are “brand new”.

Verbatim BDXL Used-Good 5

What I did notice, however, was a bit of dust in them, but that was it. No scratches or imperfections were found in them. As of now, I’m currently burning these discs, gently cleaning them before attempting to burn them to clear any dust they may have. Last night, the first 2 discs burned successfully. I’m burning my 3rd one as of this writing, and it’s going good so far, using my Panasonic UJ-260 ABPU-B.

For the price, this was a really good deal!

Get this item on Amazon below:

Buying Used BDXL discs. What to expect?

Buying Used BDXL discs. What to expect?

On the past few days, I ordered several quantities of BDXL discs to backup my recorded videos from the past years. These projects have varying sizes and some goes up to 1TB. This means I need several of these BDXL discs to back them up.

When looking at the BDXL media on Amazon, I noticed they can be purchased “Used” straight from the Amazon Warehouse seller. A spindle of 10 discs cost $41.88, while the Used condition was at $36.85.

It’s going to be interesting to see the definition of “Used” for these discs. The description says the packaging is damaged, and Amazon’s definition for “Used – Good” items say that they may be missing items. The order description talks about some “imperfections”, which will be interesting to see exactly what it means. While the price certainly is lower, maybe it may have 8 or 9 out of 10 discs, or maybe it’s just the packaging that’s bad and that’s it. In either way, tomorrow I’ll get to know for sure once it is delivered to me.

Today, before writing this post, I noticed Amazon Warehouse had the same product, this time listed as “Used – Like New”. The price was $39.79, which is $2 and some cents off the original new price. The description says that just the packaging is damaged, which is manageable if that’s the case. The most important part for me is that the discs are fine by themselves. This item will arrive on February 6 or sooner.

While I wait for these items to arrive, I’m compressing and splitting my projects into 23.3GB parts. This allows me to store 4 of those on a single BDXL disc. I’m burning these using my old Panasonic UJ-260 slim Blu-Ray writer since my LG WH14NS40 seems to have failures sometimes. I’ve wasted some discs already due to issues with that drive, while my Panasonic drive burns them flawlessly, although at just 2x, taking about 3 hours to burn and 2 hours to verify. While the burning time is long, the important part is that these discs are burning fine and can be read back correctly. I’m burning these discs with Nero 2017 using the SecurDisc compilation option.

The Avantree DG80 USB Bluetooth Audio Transmitter

The Avantree DG80 USB Bluetooth Audio Transmitter

Hi everyone,

Today, I’ll show you the Avantree DG80 Bluetooth USB Audio Transmitter:

Avantree DG80 - 1

This is a Bluetooth adapter that works as a PC audio card. It transmits audio via Bluetooth using the SBC, FastStream, aptX, or aptX Low Latency codec, depending on which codecc your headphone or adapter supports. Having the aptX codec provides us with a better audio experience.

The aptX Low Latency codec allows us to watch movies and videos without any audio delay. Most Bluetooth receivers today support this codec and having a transmitter with it makes us take advantage of this.

Avantree DG80 - 2

Unboxing

The DG80 packaging is small and simple.

Avantree DG80 - 3

We can see the adapter along with its manual and documentation behind.

We can see the transmitter is really small.

Finally, we have the included documentation.

Avantree DG80 - 9

Package content:

Avantree DG80 - 10

Using the transmitter

Using this transmitter is as simple as plugging it into a USB port and going into pairing mode.

Avantree DG80 - 11

We can see Windows detects it as Avantree DG80.

Avantree DG80 Settings 2

The transmitter has a bit depth and sample rate of 16bit/48khz, which is common with these adapters.

Avantree DG80 Settings 3

I paired it with my Fiio BTR5 and we can see it is using the aptX Low Latency codec.

Avantree DG80 - 12

Here’s a video of the pairing process of the adapter:

Audio Quality

Becuase this transmitter uses a Qualcomm chipset, the sound quality is realy great, thanks to its support of the aptX and aptX Low Latency codecs.

Signal strength

Avantree claims the adapter will work up to 30 meters or 100 feet. This may be true unless there are some obstacles in the way. In my tests with the Whooshi adapter, known to have signal issues, I was able to listen to music while I was in the same room. However, going away I could hear the audio getting cut. If you’re looking for the best signal range, the Avantree DG60 is a better choice.

Conclusion

If you still do not have a USB Bluetooth audio transmitter, the Avantree DG80 is a good start. It’s small, portable, and cheap. It also supports the aptX and aptX Low Latency codecs to provide excellent audio quality.

Embalses de Puerto Rico v1.9 introduces new Dark Mode

Embalses de Puerto Rico v1.9 introduces new Dark Mode

Hi everyone

Yesterday, I published the version 1.9 of Embalses de Puerto Rico, which adds support for Dark Mode:

Now, the app will use Dark mode if your device is set to that mode.

If you want to force the app to use Light or Dark mode, regardless of the system setting, you can do that by using the all-new Theme setting:

This will override the system setting unless the System default option is selected.

Light mode is unmodified for those who would like to continue using it:

Embalses PR Light Theme Reservoir Page - Spanish

You can download or update this app in the Google Play Store, here.

With this mode, I hope your experience using the app is improved and allows you to continue monitoring the reservoir levels during these times of drought.

The OWC Mercury Pro 5.25″ External Optical Drive Enclosure

The OWC Mercury Pro 5.25″ External Optical Drive Enclosure

Hi everyone,

Today, I’ll show you the OWC Mercury Pro 5.25″ External Optical Drive Enclosure:

OWC Mercury Pro 1

This is an enclosure designed for Internal 5.25″ CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray drives. It uses a USB 3.1 Gen 1 connection to transfer files faster than when using USB 2.0. This mainly applies to Blu-Ray discs since they can have a very high transfer rate when compared to CD or DVD, hence having a USB 3.1 Gen 1 connection allows us to benefit by having faster transfer speeds.

Unboxing

The enclosure comes in a simple box where when opened, we see a box that contains the power and USB cable as well as the screws needed to mount the drive:

We then see the enclosure below:

OWC Mercury Pro 6

It comes protected inside a plastic bag:

Once we take it out of the bag, we can see the shiny metal enclosure:

Inside, we can see the board and SATA cables:

OWC Mercury Pro 12

Installation

I took out my LG WH14NS40 Blu-Ray drive from my desktop so I can use in the enclosure on all of my computers:

Installation was very easy. The drive was inserted and the screws were installed on the sides and bottom. The result is very nice looking portable desktop drive:

OWC Mercury Pro 19

Windows 10 detects it as Mercury Pro Optical and lets us know that it is connected via USB 3.0:

OWC Mercury Pro 20

So far, the enclosure has been working very great.

Now, I need another enclosure for my LiteOn iHAS524 drive, which is still my preferred drive to read and write CD and DVD.

Changing the LiteOn iHAS524 Optical Pickup Unit, again

Changing the LiteOn iHAS524 Optical Pickup Unit, again

Hi everyone,

Remember my previous post where I was talking about the LiteOn iHAS524 C and mentioned the different optical pickup units this model use across its different revisions? Turns out that the SF-DS1XD OPU used in the iHAS524 B was having trouble burning DVD+R DL, so I began my search for a used iHASx24 drive from the A revision.

On Friday, I got a used LiteOn iHAS124 A delivered. This model use the SF-DS19L OPU that all LiteOn iHASx24 use (x being a number from 1 to 6).

LiteOn iHAS124 - 524 1

The LiteOn iHASx24 series are all the same, except that the iHAS224, iHAS424 and iHAS624 has the hardware for LightScribe burning, while the iHAS124, iHAS324 and iHAS524 doesn’t. Other than that, the hardware is identical but they have different firmwares. The capabilities between models are the following:

  • LiteOn iHAS124: Base model.
  • LiteOn iHAS224: LightScribe.
  • LiteOn iHAS324: SmartErase.
  • LiteOn iHAS424: LightScribe and SmartErase.
  • LiteOn iHAS524: LabelTag and SmartErase.
  • LiteOn iHAS624: LightScribe, LabelTag and SmartErase.

Basically they have a different firmware enabling LightScribe, LabelTag and SmartErase depending on the model you have. Even if you have a different model, the firmware can be crossflashed by using some tools and firmware. I will not be covering that here, but it’s good to know if you’d like to add some features to your drives. The only feature that depends on hardware is LightScribe.

My LiteOn iHAS524 has been with me since 2010, and it’s probably the best CD and DVD burner available given its ability to overspeed 16x media to 20x. It also has HyperTuning, Online HyperTuning and SmartBurn, which are essential features to burn media with great quality. This is why I still count on this drive as sometimes I like to store data on optical media.

The drive had its optical pickup unit changed to the SF-DS1XD some years ago because one CD broke inside the unit, damaging the original SF-DS19L. I also didn’t use DVD+R DL media, so everything was fine, until last week. It turns out that the OPU had problems burning the discs. Specifically, it had problems focusing on the second DVD layer, failing at 50%. This is why I brought the used LiteOn iHAS124 A drive.

LiteOn iHAS124 - 524 3
LiteOn iHAS124 - 524 4

Because this unit is an A revision unit, the hardware between the iHAS124 and iHAS514 is the same. I did changed the iHAS524 disc mechanism to the one from the iHAS524 C revision, with the exception of the OPU:

LiteOn iHAS124 - 524 5
LiteOn iHAS124 - 524 6

On both photos, the iHAS524 is on the left while the iHAS124 is on the right.

Here we can see the disc mechanism from the iHAS124 unmounted:

LiteOn iHAS124 - 524 7
LiteOn iHAS124 - 524 8

And the Optical Pickup Unit taken out of it:

LiteOn iHAS124 - 524 9

I’ll be using this OPU in the original iHAS524 mount, so I placed it there:

LiteOn iHAS124 - 524 10

And finally, here’s the disc mechanism attached to the iHAS524:

LiteOn iHAS124 - 524 11

The OPU started working immediately. It is now loading discs faster and wasn’t making weird noises. I was also able to burn some DVD+R DL media without issues. I’ll be talking about that on another post, but for now, this is it.

Collaborating in the exhale project – Part 2

Collaborating in the exhale project – Part 2

Hi everyone,

Yesterday, I began working on my second collaboration for the exhale xHE-AAC USAC encoder. This time, I worked on adding an argument to print the software version on the console.

exhale-V-argument-main-software

The above is the main software, printing its information as well as how to use it.

There was no option to print the version only. Ideally, I just wanted a way to print something like exhale version 1.0.3 .....so that I can easily parse it as I do with other tools like Opusenc and Flac. Because of this, I began working on adding this functionality.

The code that performs this will check if there is just one argument (actually 2, since the first one is the executable filename). It also checks if the argument is either -v or -V. If this is true, we print the software information to the user:

This is the result:

A very simple and minimalistic output. Thanks to this, I can parse it and use on tools like my upcoming exchale GUI:

This Merge Request was approved and merged and is ready to use for everyone. As for the GUI, expect it in the next couple of days!

Click here to see the Merge Request on GitLab.

My first GitLab contribution: exhale encoder

My first GitLab contribution: exhale encoder

Hi everyone,

Yesterday, I collaborated on the exhale xHE-AAC Audio Encoder to add compatibility to compile the project on MinGW on Windows.

The exhale project is an Open-Source xHE-AAC USAC encoder. It allows you to encode wave (WAV) files to M4A using this specific codec.

Originally, compilation on Windows was done using Visual Studio, and this worked fine, but when compiling it on MSYS2/MinGW, it gave some issues, specifically:

H:/repos/media-autobuild_suite/build/exhale-git/src/app/../../src/app/exhaleApp.cpp: In function 'int main(int, char**)':
H:/repos/media-autobuild_suite/build/exhale-git/src/app/../../src/app/exhaleApp.cpp:246:85: error: '_SH_DENYWR' was not declared in this scope
  246 |     if (_sopen_s (&inFileHandle, inFileName, _O_RDONLY | _O_SEQUENTIAL | _O_BINARY, _SH_DENYWR, _S_IREAD) != 0)
      |                                                                                     ^~~~~~~~~~
H:/repos/media-autobuild_suite/build/exhale-git/src/app/../../src/app/exhaleApp.cpp:320:100: error: '_SH_DENYRD' was not declared in this scope
  320 |     if (_sopen_s (&outFileHandle, outFileName, i | _O_SEQUENTIAL | _O_CREAT | _O_EXCL | _O_BINARY, _SH_DENYRD, _S_IWRITE) != 0)
      |                                                                                                    ^~~~~~~~~~
make[1]: *** [../makefile.base:112: ../../build/exhaleApp.d.o] Error 1
make[1]: Leaving directory '/build/exhale-git/src/app'
make: *** [makefile:18: all] Error 2

It also complained about fprintf_s, so some changes needed to be done on the code.

To solve the _SH_DENYRD not declared issue, we had to include the share.h header:

Next, to solve the fprintf_s issue, I surrounded this on an #if !defined block to check if we were compiling on MinGW. If we are, we simply skip this declaration:

After these changes were done, the software compiled successfully.

Next, I did some additional changes to the makefile.base file to allow the Media Autobuild Suite project to pass its CXXFLAGS and LDFLAGS variable to exhale:

These changes got merged into the project.

My inspiration to add this tool to the Media Autobuild Suite came as a user requested this tool to be added to it. So, I worked on it and submitted a Pull Request, where I refined it further to apply some recommendations.

The Pull Request was merged into the suite and is now available for everyone to build and use.

Contributions

Verbatim 4x BDXL 100GB Blank Media

Verbatim 4x BDXL 100GB Blank Media

Hi everyone,

Yesterday, I received my very first BDXL media. These are way more expensive than BD-R and about twice the cost of BD-R DL media.

For my first BDXL recordable media, I decided to get the Verbatim 10-pack spindle. These seem to be one of the lowest-priced media when compared to 3-packs or 5-packs variants of other manufacturers.

These BDXL discs are rated at 4x, but my LG WH14NS40 crossflashed to the WH16NS60 firmware detects them as having a write speed of up to 8x.

The Media ID is VERBAT-IMk-000.

On my Panasonic UJ260, these have a maximum write speed of just 2x.

I added files to burn using ImgBurn, and made sure to use the most space possible. I then started the burning process on my WH14NS14 at the maximum supported speed of 8x.

Añadí archivos a ImgBurn y me aseguré de llenar el disco lo más posible. Luego, comencé a quemarlos con mi LG WH14NS14 a la velocidad máxima de 8x.

It seems the drive use a Z-CLV (Zoned Constant Linear Velocity) strategy to burn these discs. The write pattern was as follows:

  • Layer 0: 4x -> 6x -> 8x
  • Layer 1: 8x -> 6x -> 4x
  • Layer 2: 4x -> 6x -> 8x

We can see the pattern below:

Some times, when the writing was at 4x, the drive would go down to 3.3x for about 1 second or 2:

The same happened when the drive was recording at 6x, going down to 5x for a second or 2:

The drive successfully burned this media, having an average speed of 5.7x:

Burning VERBAT-IMk-000 Average speed 5.7

Verification was slower than the writing itself, as it limited the read speed to 6x:

The verification was successful and no errors were reported:

The average read speed was 4.3x, slower than the 5.7x average when writing to it. It also seems that while ImgBurn set a read speed of up to 6x, the drive went all the way to 9x, according to the Maximum Verify Rate.

Here, we can see the written disc with its Z-CLV zones:

Conclusion

These discs seem to be compatible with the LG WH14NS40 Blu-Ray writer. They also burn at a faster 8x speed which is more than its rated speed of 4x. The drive was able to successfully burn them and read them. These discs, while expensive, allow us to write up to 100GB (about 93GB of actual storage) on a single medium. It would have taken us 4 25GB BD-R or 2 50GB BD-R DL media to write an equivalent amount of data.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any BDXL scanner I can use to test the quality, but the media can be read back on the LG drive as well as on my Panasonic UJ260. The latter seems to read the disc in Z-CLV too, but it was able to read the data back successfully too. It is just slower than the LG drive.

If we compare the price of having 10x 100GB Blu-Ray discs to owning a 1TB Hard Disk Drive, we can see that the BDXL media is a couple dollars more:

The BDXL media on eBay (It was at $53.15 at the time of puchase):

On Amazon. They seem to have lowered the price to $49.99 at the time I took this screenshot:

The price of 1TB Hard Disk Drives on Amazon:

Ultimately, it all would depend on your needs. Personally, I like to write data that will not be used frequently on optical media, while having frequently-changing data on the discs. I’ve also had a bad experience of having Hard Drives fail, and while I’ve had optical media fail too (Some bad Blu-Ray batches that deteriorated in a couple of years), the data loss is not as much as losing a whole hard drive. Remember to back-up your data!