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February 2000, Week 1 -- Zip It Up

 

 Iomega Clik! PC Card Drive

   You'll seldom see anything as slick as "Clik!" The laptop version of this miniature removeable disk drive from Iomega looks like it was designed for James Bond. Both drive and disk fit easily into a silver cigarette case that can be casually dropped into a pocket without arousing a second's suspicion.

   "Clik!" is for Windows. A PCMCIA card -- the kind used to connect modems and other accessories to laptop computers, is both connector and drive. It's the same size as a credit card but slightly thicker. The card plugs into the laptop and a thin two-inch disk slides inside the card. Viola, as they say in factured French, that's it.

 

   The tiny disk holds 40 megabytes (MB). Very high tech. Forty megabytes is enough storage for plenty of data files and a couple of programs to boot, if you'll excuse the expression. If you want to go bigger there are several choices, and it raises the whole issue of just how much removable storage is sensible.

 

 Iomega Zip 250 MB

   Iomega also has a new "Zip 250," a 250 MB (megabyte) cartridge drive that plugs into a USB port on either Windows or Macintosh computers. They've had a drive this size before, but this latest is very compact. only a little larger than one of the ubiquitous Zip disks themselves. It can read and write to both the new 250 MB disks and the older 100 MB disks.

   This last matters a great deal. Because while other companies make similar removable cartridge drives, none has the installed base of the Zip. About 30 million Zip drives have been shipped worldwide, dwarfing the numbers from the nearest competitor. There are an estimated 150 million Zip disks sitting around crammed with data, and few would give those up.

 

Other Roads to Safe Storage

   The whole question of just how much capacity is needed is an open one. As hard disk drives get bigger (new computers are now routinely shipping with 16 gigabyte (GB) drives -- and a gigabyte is a thousand megabytes!) backing up a big drive becomes a big problem. The only reasonable way to back up a 16 GB drive is with another 16 GB drive. Price goes up with size. IBM has a new 10GB portable drive for $550. It's small (1x4x7 inches) and weighs only 12 ounces. That's pretty portable, but do you need it?

   As a practical matter, you would only back up a whole drive for emergency restoration in case the original failed. For carrying programs and files around, for storing jobs in progress, smaller disks can handle almost any situation. The tiny 40 megabyte Clik! can hold all the columns I've written for 20 years, plus my word processor, and more than half the disk would be empty.

 

   For big storage, safe from stray magnetic fields, people are turning more and more to CD-RW -- usually called CD rewritables. They cost anywhere from $200, to $450 and up for something nice from TEAC or Plextor. The higher prices are for faster speeds, important when copying large amounts of data. The CDs hold 650 megabytes and that figures to double when they introduce disks and drives that can record on both sides.

 

   There's no question we're also coming up fast on DVD rewritables. Those are just like the DVD disks you rent in video stores only you can record your own. The disks hold 5.2 gigabytes, enough for a movie and then some, or 10 hours of MP3 music files. DVD rewritable drive prices run around $500-$800 and will be dropping like a rock as the year winds on. Hitachi has recently started shipping drives in quantity to computer manufacturers and prices are said to be below $300. By mid year DVD rewritable drives should be commonplace. CD and DVD disks have another advantage: They are unaffected by magnetic fields and have a shelf life of 30 years or more.

 

   Still, I can't quite get over that silver cigarette case with its miniature Clik drive and two-inch disk; 40 MB will handle anything I want to carry around and I can hide it in a watch pocket.

 

   For more info on Iomega drives, call 800-697-8833; web: www.iomegadirect.com or www.iomega.com. For price checks and specs on any drive, go to a large portal site like Yahoo, and select the computer shopping category. Type your drive wants in the "search" field.

 

Internuts

 

-- www.org  The store of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, usually referred to simply as MOMA. That's moma, not momma. Lots of edgy art and design pieces at very high prices. Site is slow.

-- www.ziplip.com  A free e-mail service that scrambles your e-mail and then shreds it after it's been delivered and read.

-- www.mountvernon.org  Visit George Washington's home and gardens without having to spend the air fare.

-- www.vanity-plates.com  A site devoted to vanity license plates and telling you what many of them mean. Illinois license plate "ORD ONE" belongs to the head of the O'Hare Airport control tower, the world's busiest.

 

-- www.nationallampoon.com  Games and gags from the makers of strange comic books and movies.

-- www.lonelyplanet.com  The home site for the best travel guide books I've ever found.

-- www.speedtrap.org    Information on speed traps in North America. You know, the places where police lie in wait to nail you for going five miles over the limit.

   Readers can search more than three years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.