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Mandrake Linux ate my CD drive

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Mandrake has warned users of its Mandrake Linux 9.2 to beware of a "severe problem" which totally trashes CD drives by overwriting their firmware.

The issue is caused when the kernel that ships with Mandrake Linux 9.2 and early updates sends a FLUSH_CACHE command to the CD drive. For "certain" CD drives manufactured by LG, this command overwrites the firmware and renders the drive useless.

MandrakeSoft said that many Dell and HP/Compaq computers of all types and "possibly others" ship with these CD-ROM drives: "We are currently working with HP to determine which systems are affected by this. Dell is potentially providing LG-based CD-ROMs since the beginning of May 2002 in laptop, desktop, workstation, and server-class machines. HP and Compaq have been installing LG-based CD-ROM devices for three years, and Compaq have also re-branded some."

Currently, according to MandrakeSoft, the problem is not believed to affect LG DVD-ROM/R/RW drives and some CD-RW drives; but the company adds somewhat ominously that "this all depends entirely upon the firmware on the device".

Mandrakesoft lays the blame for the issue firmly at the door of LG, because the drives in question are not compliant with the ATAPI bus protocol specification. This standard does not require an implementation of the FLUSH_CACHE command in the driver so compliant devices would return an error to the command or do nothing.

However, LG has apparently re-used the FLUSH_CACHE command to modify the firmware of the drive, so when the drives receive the instruction they execute UPLOAD_FIRMWARE instead; this leaves the unit as a useful paperweight which only LG will be able to fix.

"A new kernel (2.4.22-21mdk) has been released that fixes this problem in the kernel, although the CD-ROM devices are still not up to specification. New CDs and ISOs will be available shortly to correct these problems; they will come with the new kernel," MandrakeSoft said.

To determine the make and model of a CD-ROM MandrakeSoft advises users to run dmesg to view the information. For instance, if a CD-ROM is /dev/hdc, it is possible to use "dmesg|grep hdc" to see the make and model of CD-ROM.

Full details of MandrakeSoft's advisory can be found: here . ®

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