Bob and Joy Schwabach
 

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June 2008, Week 3  

dog


HARD DRIVEN

We started up a two terabyte external hard drive from Western Digital last week. Yes, we know that hard disk drives are going to become extinct and be replaced by flash memory chips, but until then – what a deal this is!


This drive is one in a series called “MyBook,” by Western Digital. We have the “Studio Edition II” version, which comes with either one or two terabytes ofWestern Digital Mybook capacity. A terabyte is a thousand gigabytes; a gigabyte is a thousand megabytes. Two terabytes is enough storage to hold more than 400 standard DVDs. That’s a pretty big film library that could sit there in one brushed aluminum case.

It will take years for flash memory drives to match this kind of capacity, and longer still before they match it for the price. We used to be in awe of reaching a benchmark of paying one dollar for a gigabyte of storage. That was pretty impressive; it meant you could store 200 million words for a dollar. But we found the drive for $500 at NewEgg.com. This works out to just 25 cents a gigabyte. Now, that’s cheap.

Aside from its huge storage capacity, we liked three more things about this drive:

One was the heavy duty case, and another was that it required no drivers. Just plug it into a Mac or Windows computer and the drive was recognized and ready to go. The third good thing was that the back of the drive had four connection ports, two for fire-wire, one for USB and one for eSATA. This last would take some lengthy explanations, which we’re not going to go into here. Suffice it to say that it works with computers that have special eSATA sockets and permits several disk drives to be chained in series and yet still provide nearly instant access to each.

This is a Raid

It’s not the kind of raid where the police come in to break up some illegal activity. In computer use, it’s written in capital letters, and RAID refers to “Redundant Array of Independent Disks” (originally “Inexpensive Disks”). You see the acronym often in ads for new drives and computers. It’s a way of linking hard disk drives together that is important for businesses and anyone else concerned about saving their data.

There are 10 levels of RAID use, but only levels zero, one and five are commonly used. At level zero, the drives linked together operate simply as individual drives. Level one is the most important for many users because it creates a mirror image of the contents of one drive onto another drive. That means that if one of the disk drives should fail, the other contains the same information. (It is highly unlikely that both drives would fail at the same time.) And finally, level five duplicates your data over several drives and cross checks the pieces to make sure they all match.

Hardware and software have to be RAID compatible but this is becoming fairly common. The MyBook drive we plugged in has software that lets you choose whether to run it as RAID level zero or one. At level zero, it acts as just a big two-terabyte drive. At level one, the storage is split in half and one half mirrors the contents of the other.

The MyBook was our second RAID drive to come in recently, by the way. The first one was from CRU-Dataport, a company that makes what are called cartridge drives. These have a docking bay and you can pull a drive out and take it over to any other computer that has the same kind of docking bay and plug it in. This can be pretty handy sometimes, but unfortunately the drive rattled when we took it out of the box. Our advice: don’t use disk drives that have pieces rattling around inside.

Google Maps

We’ve written about Google maps before, but a new addition gives you the power to customize your own. You can select a city or a neighborhood, for example, and mark the sights, inns and restaurants you think others might like to visit. These maps can be sent to friends and colleagues or posted to the web for anyone to browse. You get them by clicking the “my maps” tab at http://maps.google.com.

Google recently added “public transit” to their maps. You can click on “get directions” for getting from point to point and if there are public transit connections, they will show you how to get there the easy way. They have Google Mapsintegrated transit maps for over 40 cities in the USA and 17 others around the world, and you can view them on most cell phones. They even include schedules. We looked for an easy way downtown without having to drive, and the map showed us where we could get an express bus. It also informed us the next bus was leaving in two minutes. (Oops, gotta run.)

Finally, a few words about people who aren’t happy about Google’s street views: Google provides hundreds of thousands of photos and videos that show what many addresses and landmarks look like when seen from street level. This is both useful and interesting but some individuals, and even a whole town in Minnesota, have sued Google for invasion of privacy because they did not give their permission to be in the photos. Tough bananas as we used to say in school. There are video cameras mounted all over cities and towns these days and they film traffic, potential crime scenes, weather and news events. No one gave permission for these videos and anyone might be in them at any time. We don’t see these complaints winning any court judgments.


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