It turns out that there is a Gentoo bug report over a year old about USB DVD devices not working with k3b version 1. This probably is the bug I’ve been dealing with for the last day plus, most of that time thinking it was either that the (Sony) DVD burner didn’t like TDK DVD-R disks, or that there was a driver (Linux kernel) problem – especially since I had read someone’s comment about having to downgrade his Linux kernel. What’s more, I couldn’t get the Nero software that came with the drive installed in XP without driving myself so nuts wondering what the hell the installer was doing that I had to kill the processes. Fortunately, I had the Nero software that came with the computer already installed (which might be what drove the Nero installer nuts), and so I could do a test burn in Windows, which worked fine. Then, fiddling with Linux kernel settings, I found a setting comment that emphasised the dependence for control of a CD/DVD-burner on application support, because the kernel does little – I said to myself, yes, that’s probably so – so I started researching the applications and that’s where I found two reports of similar experiences, which were sitting around unresolved. So I installed gnomebaker and it worked. (I don’t know whether it can create an ISO image on the fly as k3b can, which is kind of important for making DVDs, though I did have enough hard disk space to pre-make a DVD image for my tests.)
In other news, XP seems not to like to boot if the USB DVD drive is attached. Perhaps that is a BIOS problem, though the freeze up (or big slowdown that drives me nuts so that I press ctrl-alt-delete rather than tear my remaining hairs out) is during Windows boot and not during BIOS shenanigans. Plus Windows has no problem if you attach the drive later. I don’t want to upgrade my BIOS needlessly (the last BIOS upgrade that I applied to this computer having a bug so that I had to power cycle the CMOS by taking the computer apart to pull out and put back in the battery, according to instructions Kristy found with Google), so it may be simply that I have to detach or turn off this drive to boot into Windows.
Fortunately I use Windows so rarely that I don’t even bother keeping my HW clock set for local time (instead of the preferable UTC), so that when I do log into Windows I am transported into the future.