Dinner was delicious (including a choco-banana flavoured icecream!), so we got off to a good start. But when I ran DriveInfo, all it could tell me was that it was an IDE DVD-ROM (no shit, Sherlock!), 16-speed, that the firmware had revision 7.50, and that it was a region-protected firmware.
Equipped with this information, I drove home to download some stuff that I would need.
You see, four years ago, DVD-ROM players didn't have region-codes on them. That was all left to the DVD player software. But because that was software, it could be tweaked, with programs like DVD Genie, which was not to the liking of the MPAA, I guess. So they ordained that the drives themselves should have region protection too -- you could tweak all you want with the software, it wouldn't work anyway.
This went well for some time, until someone remembered that most devices are actually small computers, controlled by a microcontroller programmed with firmware. Firmwares get updated all the time, and presumably the region-code checking algorithms were present in the firmware. Then, if one could download the original firmware, tweak that so that it was regionfree and then flash that tweaked firmware into the DVD-ROM again, all would be well in the world once more.
And so it was done: a whole network of firmware programmers was set up, so that many a computer owner would have the benefit of a region-free DVD drive.
However, you can't flash the firmware of one type of drive into any other drive: it might break things. So, you need to know the exact make and model of the drive to be able to find the right firmware.
In other words, I was in a bit of a bind: the only piece of information I had to go on, was the 7.50 revision of the firmware. Some Googling gave me this page which directed me to some make and model that is used in cheap OEM drives -- that sure fit the description of the drive!
I downloaded the firmware, which was in two parts of 64K each, along with the flashing software and a small tutorial. I first downloaded the original firmware, which resulted into a 128K file -- so far, so good. But when I tried to flash the drive, apparently only the first file was flashed, but I didn't notice that at the time.
I have a reboot, and the drive was not recognised. Even the DVD-burner, which was the secondary master and thus on the same bus, was not recognised. For a moment, I feared that I had fucked up exar's drives...
So I tried something else: I concatenated the two firmware halves with the copy /b-command and tried flashing that. Now I saw something about banks being flashed on the screen, and that gave me hope. A quick reboot, and... success!
I had a shitty day at work, but that just made my day. I love it when current technological tools allow me to circumvent the restrictive limits imposed on the hardware by the manufacturers, so that I can use it in the way I want. I really do.
I also gave him the K Lite Codec Pack and the aforementioned DVD Genie -- so now he can watch DVDs of any region and fansubs on his machine! I lent him my copy of Shaolin Soccer and Mospeada DVDs, as well as a DVD with all of Wolf's Rain, that should keep him occupied during those rainy spring days!
Yes, I am a geek. I wear my badge with pride! 8D