My new drive arrived on Monday and it was touch & go there for a while. After the 3500a arrived I got my comp tore down and the drive was installed in under 15 minutes. I re-installed Nero and prepared to do a burn test. I had a pack of 2x tkd dvd-r left over from an archiving project last winter, so i decided these would be suitable for my needs and proceeded to burn an iso dvd image in Nero. It never got passed the first 2 minutes, as Nero errored right before the lead-in. Not wanting to waste another disc on Nero, I did a little research and decided to try dvd decrypt. to burn the image. The test went fine but the burn had an I/O error about 2 minutes in. So I went back and checked everything, including spending about 5 hours reading through this forum. I checked and double checked everything (dma enabled, running amd proc., so I checked ide drivers, upgraded to 2.17 fw, then to 2.18 fw, updated Nero, changed out 40 pin/80 conductor ide cable, and changed jumper setting several times. I prob. would have done a clean install of xp but it had been done the previous day. All these different configurations and it kept erroring in the same spot, every time. I worked on it for 2 days, still convinced it couldn't be the media but I decided to stop at best buy on the way home and picked up a 25 pack of Sony dvd-r for $10.
Well, it was the media. I couldn't understand how 7 discs could all error like that, then after trying 3 different kinds of media with great success I decided that it was the media. If I could offer advice to anyone, it would be to hang in there and troubleshoot. My problem was that I was trapped in my thinking of what I know about other types of drives and recordable media. It would have saved me much troubleshooting to just buy more discs but I wanted to completely eliminate the possibility of a hardware problem/conflict. Also, I am pretty proud that I didn't have to post here to solve my problem. Thanks to all the great info