Welcome to the forums Jack Johnson
I am presuming this is an external device as you mention USB
USB1 is way to slow for burning a DVD with, you will need to obtain a USB2 card (either PCI if its a desktop or PCMCIA if its a laptop). I dont think your friend has USB2 setup on his PC (XP needs SP1 to use USB2 & it must have a highspeed / Enhanced host listed under USB in device manager)
16x DVD needs a bandwidth of about 220Mbps, USB1 only gives a practical 6Mbps, Even I cant burn at 16x using USB2 due to the overheads in USB2 but some people can, best is 12x. 1x DVD recording needs 13Mb/s which as you can see is way more than USB1 can provide, also when the buffer underrun kicks in the drive will pause while the buffer fills, align itself & then write the buffer out which introduces yet more delay.
Also, what media are you using? Can you use a program to check the media code (e.g. CD Speed from Nero & choose disc info) and report back the code & the make printed on the disc
It is possible as mentioned above that the drive has the wrong firmware on it, although I have yet to come across a failure like this casued by firmware as it usually wont do anything if its flashed incorrectly.
I would like to know what CPU, RAM, Operating System you have to see if it is worth upgrading to get the thing to work.