First, thanks for the welcome! Been a while since I've been around, very busy elsewhere instead of on my PC, alas....
The drive: HL-DT-ST DVD+-RW GWA4164B, which I believe has been discussed here in the past(found one thread on it, anyway). Don't know about firmware, this is how ignorant I am of such things... :doh:
Early on, I used Maxell and Imation; no apparent problems, but as time went on, glitches began to appear. I moved on to Memorex(white label), and while some burned Ok, others did not. Worse, at some point in the burning process the burner would change its 'tone' and sound as if it were moving at a different speed, and a clicking sound could be heard. Even then, a few of these discs played fine, but most either wouldn't play after burning, or didn't finish burning at all. Some would burn for anywhere from 15-20-30 minutes, then start to pixilate and break down.
If this were just an issue of crappy blanks, I'd be happy and take any recommendations for the best blanks to use, but it may be more than that.