Don't worry I'm about two steps up from 'newbie' level...Hurrah!
I've got an assorted 'suite' of software to rip, edit and (well in the near future) burn (InCD is good for the time being using the +RW and -RW)
You're indeed right about slow -RW media. It HATED it! Using the drag and drop utility was a pain (it would continue on writing and writing and writing...it'd be fine on read back in the MSI ROM but some of them weren't copied across properly; notbaly a few avi (Xvid) files wouldn't decode! They'd been "Sent to..." the drive. Pasting them meant they were properly wirtten.)
Below is a DVDInfo PIE/F test on a InCD formatted +RW. IT was filled with about 2.6GB of actual data and the rest must have been empty but written as 'full'. It stopped at 91%...
It doens't look TOO healthy, though it reads back OK (again has Xvid files and some random document files) on the laptops D56A (which is what I tested it on). Though, weirdly, the last file copied, an Xvid file, again seems to lack any MIME type (g-Spot codec info tool) thus refusing to play. Which is odd.
Media: Phillips 4x +RW
[PS also enclosed is a scan from another Phillips but this time written with VOBs from the SOny DVD home recorder; Seems better butnot by the hugest of margins! They both have problems round the 1.8GB mark. I apologise for fucked up graph scales! Oh and again the SOny drive nearly wouldn't finish the test. Kept respinning for a wee while]
Also you can't just move the boot drive across to the SATA channel...you DO need to reformat?
Finally I'm going to get rid of the MSI ROM since, with all 3(!) the 5V line was down to 4.91 and the 12V line down to 11.91. With only the NEC and BenQ it's 4.97 and 11.97. Much healthier!