OK, I said screw it and went for it, you just gotta do it sumtimes ya know? I used dvrupdate to flash to the piodata 1.10 kernel and fw (I don't have a kernel for the 1.18fw, so I have to start with 1.10 to first make the drive piodata). It worked and force flashed it.
Then I found the 1.18 piodata fw from gradius's site (with the rpc1 and riplock removed). Now that the drive was piodata, I used dvrflash this time to flash it to the piodata 1.18 fw from gradius.
Seems to have worked like a charm. Drive info now says region free. So I first ripped a dual layer DVD, it took about 14min and reached almost 10x, yippie! bye bye riplock
Then I burned a DVD at 8x on some crappy CMC media I have, worked fine. Got a beautiful scan on kprobe (using liteon 1633s for scanning at 4x), and reports as DVD-ROM for media type now. The drive also has no problems reading and copying from a CD, the only thing I haven't done is to burn a CD yet. If that works OK, then I guess the drive is fully functional.
@Las Vegas- Yes it seems to work just fine. One thing though, in your post, you talk of flashing a 108 to a 108xl, only thing is, I'm doing the exact opposite. So for 108xl to a piodata 108dx, ya it seems to work, but other way around I don't know. Maybe you can go down but not up? I will burn a CD and couple more DVD's to make sure this sucka is workin right and report back.
I was still wondering about the functionality though, is this quietdrive crap the only thing I'll miss out on here?? I just want to know that I'm not limiting the drive in some other way. Also I don't want to give the drive back to my friend, then have it crap out on him. Anyone who has information on this matter please post.