This text describes how to set up a qemu virtual machine so that xorriso on its guest GNU/Linux can operate a CD, DVD or BD recorder of the host system.

The options follow proposals of Paolo Bonzini on qemu-devel mailing list. My compliments for his patient guidance.

Basic knowledge about Debian and qemu was learned from  GNU Hurd qemu page.

This start command works with with qemu-1.0-rc3:

  $ qemu \
    -enable-kvm \
    -nographic \
    -m 512 \
    -net nic,model=ne2k_pci \
    -net user,hostfwd=tcp::5557-:22 \
    -hda /dvdbuffer/i386-install.qemu \
    -drive file=/dev/sr2,if=none,id=scsicd,format=raw \
    -device virtio-blk-pci,drive=scsicd,logical_block_size=2048,physical_block_size=2048 \
    -cdrom .../some_image.iso

With this setup of -drive and -device it is necessary to have a medium in the drive, when qemu gets started. Else it will refuse.

The guest system is accessible via ssh and scp at port 5557 of the host system.

/dev/sr2 is the address of the DVD drive which is handed over to the guest system.

.../some_image.iso may be any readable file which shall serve as virtual DVD-ROM. qemu is not happy without such a thing.

/dvdbuffer/i386-install.qemu is the disk image, where the guest operating system was installed by:

  $ qemu-img create /dvdbuffer/i386-install.qemu 8G
  $ qemu \
    -enable-kvm \
    -m 512 \
    -net nic,model=ne2k_pci \
    -hda /dvdbuffer/i386-install.qemu \
    -cdrom debian-6.0.3-i386-netinst.iso \
    -boot d

Host system of my test is Debian GNU/Linux 6.0.2 amd64, which had access to the Internet when the guest was installed.

Preparations on guest system Debian GNU/Linux 6.0.3 i386

There appears no /dev/sr for the passthrough drive. Thus libburn will not list it by its drive search function. One may use it nevertheless. But xorriso will only do so if prefix "mmc:" is used with the address:

  -dev mmc:/dev/vda

The drive will be listed by libburn if there is a symbolic link /dev/sr* pointing to it. On Debian 6, this link persists only if it is created by an udev rule.

In /lib/udev/rules.d/50-udev-default.rules:

    KERNEL=="vda", SYMLINK+="sr1"

libburn on Linux needs rw-permission for the drive's device node. The virtual device /dev/vda is in group "disk". Usual for CD drives is group "cdrom", to which i (or the Debian installer ?) have added my normal user when i installed the guest system. Like with the symbolic link, such a change persists on Debian 6 only as udev rule.

In /lib/udev/rules.d/91-permissions.rules:

    KERNEL=="vda", GROUP="cdrom"

This should yield

  lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root       3 Nov  8 11:19 /dev/sr1 -> vda
  brw-rw---- 1 root cdrom 254, 0 Nov  8 11:19 /dev/vda

xorriso version must be >= 1.1.8

  $ xorriso -version

tells the versions of its components on stdout:

  xorriso version   :  1.1.8

If your distro's xorriso is too old, consider to get and build GNU xorriso.


  $ tar xzf xorriso-1.1.8.tar.gz
  $ cd xorriso-1.1.8
  $ ./configure && make

Either do as superuser

  # make install

or execute it where it was built as

  $ ./xorriso/xorriso ...arguments...

After compilation, this binary does not depend on files in the build directory. You may move it to any other location.

For details about the following xorriso commands, read

  man xorriso
  man ./xorriso/xorriso.1

or with the same content

  info xorriso
  info ./xorriso/

Or read the  online man page of xorriso.

Note that the sequence of xorriso arguments matters. They are commands which get performed one after the other. This differs from the behavior of mkisofs, cdrecord,, which parse all arguments and then perform actions in a hardcoded sequence.

Writing happens automatically if ISO filetree changes are pending at the end of the program run. This is like with other burn tools. (There is a command -commit for intermediate writing e.g. in dialog mode.)

Listing accessible drives:

  $ xorriso -devices

shows on stdout:

  0  -dev '/dev/sr0' rwrw-- :  'QEMU    ' 'QEMU DVD-ROM' 
  1  -dev '/dev/sr1' rwrw-- :  'Optiarc ' 'BD RW BD-5300S' 

The burn tests are presented here for unformatted DVD-RW media. The xorriso commands apply also to other types of optical media. See "Other applicable media types:" further below.

Inspecting drive and medium:

  $ xorriso -outdev /dev/sr1 -toc

should show on stdout something like

  Drive current: -dev '/dev/sr1'
  Drive type   : vendor 'Optiarc' product 'BD RW BD-5300S' revision '1.04'
  Media current: DVD-RW sequential recording
  Media product: RITEKW04 , Ritek Corp
  Media status : is written , is closed
  Media blocks : 306592 readable , 0 writable , 2298496 overall
  TOC layout   : Idx ,  sbsector ,       Size , Volume Id
  ISO session  :   1 ,         0 ,    106696s , ISOIMAGE
  ISO session  :   2 ,    135536 ,    108385s , ISOIMAGE
  ISO session  :   3 ,    250240 ,     56202s , ISOIMAGE
  Media summary: 3 sessions, 271744 data blocks,  531m data,     0 free

Blanking to single session capability:

This medium has to be blanked before further writing. For the DAO test, one can save time by fast blanking, which xorriso normally dislikes because the result is not capable of multi-session:

   $ xorriso -outdev /dev/sr1 -blank deformat_quickest

should report on stderr

   xorriso : UPDATE : Blanking  ( 1.0% done in 2 seconds )
   xorriso : UPDATE : Blanking  ( 95.4% done in 36 seconds )
   xorriso : UPDATE : Blanking  ( 99.0% done in 37 seconds )
   Media current: DVD-RW sequential recording
   Media status : is blank
   Media summary: 0 sessions, 0 data blocks, 0 data, 4489m free

Do not worry if the pacifier messages show no neat percentage progress. Some drives report "1.0%" until they are done. Some report "1.0%" after "99%".

Writing a DAO session:

Use one or more moderately sized directories as input. Here: /usr/bin. Terminate the list of -add arguments by argument "--". It is important to have command -close "on" among the arguments.

  $ xorriso -md5 on -outdev /dev/sr1 -close on -add /usr/bin --

should report on stderr

  xorriso : UPDATE : 594 files added in 1 seconds
  xorriso : UPDATE : Thank you for being patient. Working since 2 seconds.
  xorriso : UPDATE : Writing:       32s    0.1%   fifo 100%  buf   0%  0.1xD
  xorriso : UPDATE : Writing:     2704s    5.1%   fifo  11%  buf   0%  3.9xD
  xorriso : UPDATE : Writing:    20208s   38.2%   fifo  52%  buf  99%  4.0xD
  xorriso : UPDATE : Writing:    52885s  100.0%   fifo   0%  buf  99%  0.0xD
  ISO image produced: 52735 sectors
  Written to media  : 52885 sectors at LBA 0
  Writing to '/dev/sr1' completed successfully.

Do not worry if there is no progress to see for a few dozen seconds at the beginning. The run will last at least as long as writing of 1 GB would need. If you write less data, then there will be a lot of zero progress messages at the end of writing.

Checkreading the result:

  $ xorriso -md5 on -indev /dev/sr1 -check_md5_r sorry / --

The word "sorry" sets the severity class of the event message, which is emitted in case of MD5 mismatch. (See man xorriso, "Exception processing".)

This should report on stderr

  Drive current: -indev '/dev/sr1'
  Media current: DVD-RW sequential recording
  Media status : is written , is closed
  Media summary: 1 session, 52885 data blocks,  103m data,     0 free
  Volume id    : 'ISOIMAGE'
  xorriso : UPDATE : 568079 content bytes read in 5 seconds
  xorriso : UPDATE :  17074k content bytes read in 10 seconds
  xorriso : UPDATE :  103.7m content bytes read in 35 seconds
  File contents and their MD5 checksums match.

and the exit value should be 0, if no mismatch was reported.

A mismatch message would look like

  MD5 MISMATCH: '/usr/bin/ncursesw5-config'
  Mismatch detected between file contents and MD5 checksums.
  xorriso : SORRY : Event triggered by MD5 comparison mismatch
  xorriso : NOTE : Tolerated problem event of severity 'SORRY'
  xorriso : NOTE : -return_with SORRY 32 triggered by problem severity SORRY

and the exit value would be non-zero.

Blanking to multi-session capability:

  $ xorriso -outdev /dev/sr1 -blank as_needed

This will need as long as writing the DVD-RW up to its end. Blanking option "as_needed" lets xorriso decide what to do in order to make the medium writable from scratch. With DVD-RW it will decide for -blank "all".

The report on stderr should end by

  xorriso : UPDATE : Blanking  ( 98.9% done in 902 seconds )
  xorriso : UPDATE : Blanking  ( 99.0% done in 903 seconds )
  xorriso : UPDATE : Blanking  ( 99.0% done in 904 seconds )
  Blanking done
  xorriso : NOTE : Re-assessing -outdev '/dev/sr1'
  Drive current: -outdev '/dev/sr1'
  Media current: DVD-RW sequential recording
  Media status : is blank
  Media summary: 0 sessions, 0 data blocks, 0 data, 4489m free

Writing multiple sessions (DVD-RW write type Incremental):

This time do not perform command -close "on", so that the medium stays writable:

  $ xorriso -md5 on -dev /dev/sr1 -add /usr/lib --
  xorriso : UPDATE : Writing:   105280s   98.6%   fifo   0%  buf  77%  3.5xD
  xorriso : UPDATE : Writing:   106796s  100.0%   fifo   0%  buf  62%  2.2xD
  xorriso : UPDATE : Closing track/session. Working since 44 seconds
  xorriso : UPDATE : Closing track/session. Working since 77 seconds
  ISO image produced: 106646 sectors
  Written to media  : 106800 sectors at LBA 0
  Writing to '/dev/sr1' completed successfully.

Checkread like after the DAO test:

  $ xorriso -md5 on -indev /dev/sr1 -check_md5_r sorry / --
  xorriso : UPDATE :  204.0m content bytes read in 63 seconds
  File contents and their MD5 checksums match.

Writing the second session looks like the first one. Just use another set of input files to get a visible change in the ISO 9660 file tree:

  $ xorriso -md5 on -dev /dev/sr1 -add /usr/bin --
  Written to media  : 53408 sectors at LBA 135488
  Writing to '/dev/sr1' completed successfully.

And checkread the whole tree of files (i.e. both sessions):

  $ xorriso -md5 on -indev /dev/sr1 -check_md5_r sorry / --
  xorriso : UPDATE :  307.8m content bytes read in 89 seconds
  File contents and their MD5 checksums match.

At the end of writing a final session, the medium can be closed. It will not take more writing unless it gets blanked or formatted. So use command -close "on" to demand closing after writing.

  $ xorriso -md5 on -dev /dev/sr1 -close on -add /usr/sbin --
  Written to media  : 16160 sectors at LBA 195056
  Writing to '/dev/sr1' completed successfully.


  $ xorriso -md5 on -indev /dev/sr1 -check_md5_r sorry / --
  Media current: DVD-RW sequential recording
  Media status : is written , is closed
  Media summary: 3 sessions, 176368 data blocks,  344m data, 4064m free
  xorriso : UPDATE :  337.7m content bytes read in 97 seconds
  File contents and their MD5 checksums match.

If the drive tray can move by itself, you may now eject the medium:

  $ xorriso -outdev /dev/sr1 -eject all

Other applicable media types:

These test runs for sequential DVD-RW may be performed on CD-RW with the same xorriso arguments. Be aware that /usr/lib will hardly fit on a CD. So choose smaller directories for CD.

-blank "deformat_quickest" addresses a peculiarity of DVD-RW. It will work on other media like -blank "fast".

Except the blanking runs, the tests may also be performed on BD-R, DVD-R, DVD+R, and CD-R. But you would waste two media by this.

The first session on CD will always be written with write type SAO, further sessions will be written with TAO.

CD-R and DVD-R have a simulation mode. It can be enabled by xorriso command -dummy "on", but of course it will not produce readable results. So this simulation is usable only for first sessions on blank media.

Now for formatted overwritable media:

All blank, write and check runs of above tests "Writing multiple sessions" may also be performed with DVD+RW, DVD-RAM, formatted DVD-RW, and BD-RE. There is no way to close formatted media. The command -close "on" gets silently ignored.

The write methods and states of formatted media differ from those of sequential media. But xorriso presents to the user a unified multi-session usage model, under the assumption that all emulated sessions contain ISO 9660 filesystem images, which successively build on each other.

So from the view of xorriso commands, the only task which makes them differ from sequential media, is to apply optional formatting or re-formatting. A special case are BD-R, which xorriso may format but will not bring into (pseudo-) overwritable state. Formatted BD-R perform Defect Management by default, which checkreads during writing and replaces bad block.

The mandatory formatting of unused DVD+RW and BD-RE is done by xorriso automatically. Just start a normal write run. DVD-RAM are sold formatted.

xorriso treats overwritable media with a valid ISO 9660 filesystem as appendable media. To make then writable from scratch, apply -blank "as_needed", which will actually write a few bytes into the PVD (superblock) of the ISO filesystem to invalidate it.

De-formatting is only possible with DVD-RW. E.g. by -blank "deformat".

Format DVD-RW for overwriting without intermediate blanking, or format BD-R for Defect Management:

  $ xorriso -outdev /dev/sr1 -format as_needed 

should report on stderr

  xorriso : UPDATE : Formatting  ( 99.0% done in 912 seconds )
  Formatting done
  xorriso : NOTE : Re-assessing -outdev '/dev/sr1'
  Drive current: -outdev '/dev/sr1'
  Media current: DVD-RW restricted overwrite
  Media status : is blank
  Media summary: 0 sessions, 0 data blocks, 0 data, 4488m free

As with blanking, one should not worry if the progress messages show unplausible percentages. Some drives are more equal than others.

Formatting is said to be much stress to the medium. -format option "as_needed" applies it only to yet unformatted media.

When performing above write tests, take care to use -blank "as_needed" rather than -blank "deformat_quickest". Else you will get a sequential unformatted DVD-RW rather than a formatted DVD-RW which xorriso is willing to write from scratch. There is no use in a separate "DAO" test on overwritable media anyway.

Change the formatted size of a BD-RE:

First learn about formatted size and proposals of other sizes. (One can issue own wishes, too. See in man xorriso, command -format.)

  $ xorriso -outdev /dev/sr1 -list_formats

should tell on stdout

  Format status: formatted, with 23610.0 MiB
  BD Spare Area: 0 blocks consumed, 131072 blocks available
  Format idx 0 : 00h , 11826176s , 23098.0 MiB
  Format idx 1 : 01h , 11564032s , 22586.0 MiB
  Format idx 2 : 30h , 11826176s , 23098.0 MiB
  Format idx 3 : 30h , 11564032s , 22586.0 MiB
  Format idx 4 : 30h , 12088320s , 23610.0 MiB
  Format idx 5 : 31h , 12219392s , 23866.0 MiB

So lets go back from 23610.0 MiB to the default size of 23098.0 MiB

  $ xorriso -outdev /dev/sr1 -format by_index_2 -blank as_needed
  Media summary: 2 sessions, 105470 data blocks,  206m data, 22.4g free

Although the heads of the old sessions might remain readable after -format, better do not rely on this and a append -blank "as_needed" to avoid any data corruption. If you want to keep the data, then make at least a checkread run.

Check whether the size has changed:

  $ xorriso -outdev /dev/sr1 -list_formats

should tell on stdout

  Format status: formatted, with 23098.0 MiB
  BD Spare Area: 0 blocks consumed, 393216 blocks available