Archive for January, 2009

Maybe it’s time to buy that 1 TB now …

Can you hear that? It’s opportunity knocking. Seagate is dealing with it’s firmware disaster bricking their hard drives and a sever distrust has been building for awhile against their brand. I’m sure many consumers are switching to Western Digital because of the negative PR. Here’s another reason to switch. 2 terabytes of storage goodness. No, not 2 hard drives in a raid enclosure. A single 3.5″ drive and 4 platters with 400Gb per square inch in storage density. 32 MB cache and did I mention that it’s green technology? MRSP $299US.

Hmm, maybe it’s time to buy a new drive. Are there any cheap non bricked Seagate 1 TB’s for sale?

Free hard drive recovery*

*only if you have a Seagate ST31000340AS 1TB hard drive
Apparently these bad boys are failing left and right. (epic thread) It was brought to the attention of Seagate when users began flooding the user forum with complaints with the 1TB units failing just after a few months of use. To quiet the issue threads were deleted which only made the problem worse. Even more attention was shone on the faulty drives and now everybody knew about it.

Instead of the hard stance Seagate took, they did a 180 and offered free data recovery for those bad hard drives and a fresh firmware update to fix the problem. (Tech Report) Happy now? Are you starting to wonder about your hard drive?

Look, the fact is that hard drives fail. Yes, they shouldn’t be failing after a few months, however it can happen. Good on Seagate to offer the free service to the affected drives. It’s just keeping good public relations. I’m glad I didn’t rush out and buy one when they came out. Just remember to keep a good backup.

Bell Sympatico Internet: the fine print

Thinking of signing up with Bell for you Internet service? Make sure you read the fine print. There are several tiers of service you can get. Essential 0.5 Mbit line, Essential Plus 2Mbit, Performance 7Mbit, Max10 10Mbit, Max16 which is 16Mbit. However you may have missed the part about “within acceptable speed range”. WHA? Yeah, they key thing about those packages is that you can get UP TO X Mbps speeds. Just because you’re subscribed to a 16Mbps package doesn’t mean you will actually receive those kinds of speeds, nor anything approaching those speeds.

According to the techs performance will vary depending on your location and distance from the Bell office. So long as you’re within the “acceptable performance range” no tech will come out to upgrade the physical line to your home. For the 10Mbps package that means 1.5Mbps to 10Mbps. So even if you’re on the most expensive package but far away from the Bell office, you will get crappy download speeds. You will get the exact same speeds if you were on a cheaper package. I don’t know about you but paying $52.95 for “up to 10Mbps” and getting a 5Mbps performance is simply unacceptable. So what are you paying for? Essentially a bigger download cap and that’s it.

I don’t mind paying more so long as the service I receive is “as advertised” or is an improvement on my previous service. This tiered system by Bell is just a scam, fooling people into believing they will receive “faster downloads” on a more expensive plan. Simply put, it’s false advertising.

Also the whole “live chat” with a Bell representative is irritating. I’ve chatted with several reps this past week and all of them do not know the meaning of customer service. I’ve had chat sessions closed while in mid chat by the rep and then when reconnecting and attempting to reconnect with the previous rep only to be told “that rep is currently busy”. Nice way to avoid the issue. Not only are they uninformed but they also gave quite a bit of attitude, like I should be “thankful” that I’m getting the speeds that I currently get with the impression that many other customers experience worse speeds than I do. This is not the right approach to customer service. If you’re a Bell Sympatico customer I urge you to switch services. Send a message to Bell that this is simply unacceptable.

Destroying data by destroying old hard drives

When I read this article I asked myself, “Is it worth it? Am I really willing to go to this length to destroy my old hard drives?” Of course not. Don’t get me wrong, identity theft is always in the back of my mind. I shred old credit card bills and any junk mail with my name and address on it, but when it comes to hard drives, I don’t think I’m willing to take a hammer to it. It got me thinking of ways to render a drive useless without going to that length. Here are a few ideas I came up with.

Drop the drive while it’s powered on. Do this a few times and it should do the trick. Do the physical damage without the trouble of a hammer or drill.

Remove the PCB. Now a trained data recovery engineer could still recover data, assuming the drive is an older model. With the proper equipment and know how you could reprogram the firmware on a matching pcb, configure it to work with your drive, and use some software to extract the data. However I’m guessing that most run-of-the-mill thieves are this technically capable. Most modern drives come programmed from the factory to work uniquely with each batch of hard drives. In order to do a straight swap and get it working the thief would have to have a hard drive from the same batch, same model, and of course the knowledge.

Format it … and do other stuff. A quick format, chkdsk, defrag might do the trick. As well a low level format or even software that zeroes out the data. Depending on the size of the drive it might take a while. Delete the partition, create a new partition with a different size, copy junk data to the drive, format it again. This just complicates a software recovery and even corrupts some of the data by overwriting portions of old data.

Do a system restore. This is just another way to over write data. You can play around with installing other operating systems as well. Linux, Ubuntu, OSX, Windows 98, go nuts.

Open the drive and scratch up the platters. Most modern drives will require a special torx (or star) tool to remove the screws. Essentially you can do the same by physically dropping the drive while it’s power on. The heads will come in contact with the platters while spinning at 5400 rpm (or 7200).

$1 annual salary

Plus expenses (up to $1 million), plus other perks (private jet, home security, chauffeur, etc.), oh and don’t forget stock options. Do Apple shareholders really care about Steve Jobs’ total compensation package? Probably not because he’s Steve Jobs. He’s THE man. What if it was someone else? I’m pretty sure they would care. The whole “$1” is kind of silly. We all know he’s getting paid in other ways but it sure sounds good on paper. However it is important to note that Jobs portfolio lost more than a billion dollars in value during the economic downturn. That’s right, “a billion”. So how much do you make?

Seagate ups the ante, 500GB per platter

1 platter or 2? Is less platters better? 1 less spinning surface, more room (relatively) inside of that 3.5″ hard drive? Less debris to be collected over a few years of use? Seagate has announced that platter density just got even more crowded. Move over boot sector, and make room for more storage. Pushing the density from 300GBs (roughly) per platter to 500GBs. So instead of a 2 platter 750 GB drive you’ll have a 2 platter 1 TB drive. Yay! All I gotta say is “Mo’ data, mo’ problems.”

Western Digital, your move.

SanDisk flash USB backup drives

Such a hassle to have to plug a thumb drive in and copy stuff over. Well SanDisk is taking “all” of the work out of the backup process. Enter SanDisk Ultra Backup. A simple button does the trick by backing up your data up to 64GB. As well the little unit supports AES hardware encryption for all of that porn you don’t want the airport guy to see. Should be out first quarter of 2009.

However despite the new product line demand for NAND memory chips is expected to fall. SanDisk and Toshiba temporarily shut down their facilities for 2 weeks during the holidays and planned to run their facilities at 70% capacity until the economic situation improved. So far no announcements from the other NAND producer Samsung. Expect memory prices to go up this year.


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