Hard Drives Still Expensive After Flooding

From Ars:

The impact of that disaster has passed, and supply levels are back to near where they were before last October’s disaster. But while the flood waters have long since receded, drive prices haven’t fallen nearly as much—as InfoWorld’s Woody Leonhard reports, retail hard drive prices are still about 75 percent higher than they were before the flood and show no signs of coming down. And the manufacturers are posting healthy profits as a result.

Nobody is shocked by this right?

Unfortunately for them, this will be short lived. The major HDD manufacturers don’t really have great penetration in the SSD market, which is growing at an amazing rate due to dropping prices and people wanting faster boot times.

Hiking pricing, unwillingness to adapt product lineup to meet demand. I think we know where this business strategy leads.

SSD Price Wars

There’s now talk of an SSD price war brewing. This is great as the price for SSD’s are still pretty high.

Unfortunately they still have a way to drop. Especially in recent years people have tons of video and photos, more than they can upload due to asymmetrical broadband. Most people only have one computer, meaning a 128 GB drive isn’t going to get them very far. Especially true for people who are big movie downloaders (legal or licensed via iTunes). Most people don’t have several computers and USB drives hanging about for bulk storage. What’s on their laptop is what they have.

Even when I went with an SSD in my desktop, I put a RAID 0 HDD array in. Just a game or two can occupy half that SSD. It’s more cost-effective to have this gigantic complicated setup than to get an SSD, and truthfully most of what’s on that HDD array is fast enough at RAID 0 speed. So yes, I split things up, but it performs fast and is substantially cheaper. I got the best of both worlds. I can’t wait until this isn’t necessary.

Indispensable Tools

Beyond the screwdriver, knife, scissors, everyone has one or two things in their toolbox that keeps saving the day, or at least greatly simplifying things. Mine lately has been one of these SATA/IDE to USB cables [NewEgg, Amazon].

Perfect for quickly moving data between hard drives/computers. No need to open/close enclosures which aren’t meant to be opened 100 times. No need to open up your computer, or keep a HD dock on your desk. Just plug in and go. Only the most power-hungry (mostly older IDE) drives are occasionally problematic.

They seem to almost all be based on the JMicron JM20337 chip so the only difference between brands is likely the bundled power supply and quality of plastic. My advice is get whatever is on sale.

For those of us who deal with hardware fairly often, these things are pretty awesome, and totally underrated. It saves a lot of time/effort.

In Search Of Fireproof/Waterproof Backup

Every year or two, I like to audit how I backup and store my data. I’ve got a pretty good routine of backing up my hard drive for my primary and secondary computers. It’s part of my weekly routine. I also remotely backup some files just in case of a site compromising situation (fire, flood, theft). I’d like to continue that process to move my primary backups to something more secure for site compromising situations. Remote backups either need physical transportation, or adequate bandwidth, both of which are limiting and not exactly cost efficient. I’d like to bypass that.

I’m aware of but not really fond of iosafe’s line of fire/water proof hard drives because it’s a high investment in 1 drive. This doesn’t seem very practical to me in the long run as data storage needs change and drives get bigger/faster. I also don’t need that level of simplicity. I just want someplace safe to store backups.

What I’m really looking for is a lockbox style safe that meets the following requirements:

  • Just large enough to hold 1-2 3.5″ hard drive enclosures.
  • Fireproof and Waterproof
  • UL 125 rated for 1 hr or more.
  • Solid locking mechanism and hinges that can handle many cycles. Combo is preferred since keys either get lost, or leaving them in the lock results in them getting bent.

There doesn’t seem to be anything on the market that meets these seemingly simple requirements. Almost everything in this size range (which isn’t much) is UL 125 for 30 minutes at best. Reviews for everything in this class is very mixed regarding the quality of the hinges and locking mechanism. Truthfully I’d rather no lock and reliable opening/closing than a failed lock. Unless all computers are physically secured in a safe, it’s false security anyway. USB pass-through isn’t ideal either since who wants to keep something like this that close to their desk and not in a closet or someplace more convenient?

Oh yea, I’d also like to keep this somewhat economical. Truthfully a safe/lockbox of this size generally is, though they don’t meet the other two requirements. I’d be curious if anyone has found something that meets all my requirements. I can’t be the first to go down this path. Maybe I’m just the first who wants to do it right and doesn’t want a 300 lb walk-in safe.

New Home Server

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in the process of setting up a new home server. The previous one was an old Beige G3 (266MHz) running Mac OS X 10.2 that was starting to show it’s age. The new system is a much more capable B&W G3 (400MHz) running Mac OS X 10.4. Despite only a slight increase in clock speed, the B&W G3 has much more modern hardware (USB, Firewire) not to mention more room for more storage. The opportunities are endless.

Decided to go with a multi-drive setup considering the extra bays. The system had a still usable 40GB Seagate Barracuda IV drive which would make a perfect system disk for OS/Software. Installed via a ACard ATA/66 controller it’s no speed daemon, but for the purpose it’s fine. For the data drive I decided to get a SIIG SATA card and a pair of Seagate SATA drives I found a good deal on at BestBuy. The drives were Seagate ST303204N1A1AS, which corresponds to 320GB. Inside the boxes as expected were (the newer and better) ST3320620AS, which is a Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 with firmware 3.AAE (not the AAK people have had in the past). Perfect.

Next I wanted to replicate data across the drives on a cron. Initially I was thinking rsync, since as of 10.4, it’s resource-fork aware. It turns out that’s not really true. I ended up going back to SuperDuper to copy between the drives. It only copies changed files, and once a week will delete removed files (so if you accidentally delete something, there’s still a chance to recover, unless you do it at the wrong time). Not a bad solution IMHO. Still would prefer rsync more. Initial backup took less than 1/2 hour. Just a few minutes should be enough to keep the disks in sync. I briefly considered setting up RAID, but decided against it since RAID is not backup. It doesn’t protect against things like corruption.

Apple needs to kill off resource forks ASAP. They should have done so when moving to Mac OS X several years ago.

Next up, I tried putting a copy of TechTools Pro I no longer use on my Mac Mini since upgrading to Leopard on the system, but that resulted in some drive problems that I couldn’t resolve without uninstalling. They seem to know about the problem, but haven’t fixed it. You see the following error repeatedly in the system.log file until you reboot:

kernel[0]: IOATAController device blocking bus.


Also updated mrtg, and this time compiled GD, libpng, libjpeg, etc. all by hand, rather than use fink. Last time I went with fink, which saved me a few keystrokes, but when fink no longer updated packages for 10.2, left me high and dry. This time I think I’ll avoid it when possible. I need to try getting RRDtool setup at some point, since it’s so much better.

I use a few php scripts for easy admin of the box, and decided PHP 4 wasn’t adequate since it’s pretty much discontinued. So I upgraded to php 5.2, and all seems good so far. I think Apache 1.3.33 will serve me just fine for the moment, so not upgrading that.

I might give setting up BIND a try, since local DNS would be pretty handy for easily accessing the server without modifying the host file on computers.

I also disabled things like spotlight, which have absolutely no purpose on this box.

On another note, glib for some reason won’t compile for me. No clue what’s going on. Overall it’s looking pretty good. Should be about ready for real use. Just want to make sure the backups work as expected.

Even MORE Hard Drive fun

Still having problems with my laptop. I don’t think it’s went more than an hour without a restart in June (though to be fair I haven’t used it to much this summer either). I put my old hard drive back in, and am zeroing it again. The new hard drive did the same as the old one, making me think the HD is no longer the culprit (I could have sworn I diagnosed it right). So the next bet may be the Motherboard. That’s pretty bad considering school starts soon.

Looks like I may be spending many a late night in the computer labs.

Hard Drive Fun

I got my new 100 GB Seagate 5200RPM drive Wednesday. Spent from about 6:00 PM – 2:00 AM trying to get it to work. IBM’s (normally) wonderful Product Recovery system left me with a 9 GB partition for Windows, immediately after the service partition, and a ton of wasted disk. Multiple attempts failed to work. Thanks in part to SystemRescueCd I got it working now (spent most of today working on it, and got it working 2:00 AM Friday morning).

IBM is sending me some new disks, which hopefully are a newer version and work better.

Needless to say I’m a bit ticked off, but relieved that it’s finally working. Recovery CD’s were a massive headache. I wish they would just give a Windows OEM CD, and a 2nd CD with their modifications and installer. Would make everyone’s life easier.

I’ll be spending most of Friday, and perhaps part of Saturday reinstalling everything (and taking a break to workout for the first time in 2 weeks). So I’ll be pretty quiet.

Off to bed now.