Why You Need a Terabyte Hard Drive

C|Net reports that terabyte (that’s 1,000 gigabytes) hard drives will likely be available by the end of the year.

The article goes on to say:

Granted, few people really need 1 terabyte of storage. But it sounds cool–sort of like you could be running a ballistic missile tracking site in your den. Besides, humans continue to show that they can come up with ways to gobble up hard drive space.

I can think of a lot of people who need that much storage, even if they don’t know it.

1) People (like me) who have years of raw and edited video footage they want to keep accessible for later use. I eventually burn my home video onto a DVD, but I like the redundancy of having it on my computer as well. Plus, having it on my computer allows me to more easily grab clips for later projects.

2) People (like me) who make music. I have tons of music tracks and many versions of a lot of my songs. Sure I could put them on DVDs and lose them, but why do that when storage is so cheap.

3) People who use their computers to record television shows and movies.

4) Families (like mine) who aspire to have central data storage for security and backup purposes. Everyone needs at least 250 gigabytes of storage and 1,000 divided by 4 is 250.

And most importantly…

5) People who want to create and administer a backup system that works. Every single one of the backup products out there is at least three times more complicated than it needs to be- which is why most people do not back up their data sufficiently. I decided a long time ago to forgo the brain damage of trying to create backup sets (and then to have to access and install them after a drive failure). Backups are like parachutes- there’s no way to test them until its too late.

It is much easier to have an extra hard drive, either in your computer or on your network, and simply copy all of your data to that drive, in its natural, uncompressed form. In fact, it is easier to clone your entire hard drive than it is to set up most backup programs. And if you have a drive failure, all you have to do is replace the bad drive with the backup drive and you’re off to the races.

I have over a terabyte of storage on the computer I am using right now- in a RAID array and in 2 other permanent and 2 other removable drives. It’s not easy to get that many drives to co-exist peacefully in one machine.

If I could have one terabyte drive in my computer and another on my network for backup, I would be in hard drive heaven.

So would you, even if you don’t know it yet.

UPDATE: Mike Miller points out in a Comment that Best Buy is selling a terabyte external hard drive right now. It’s not clear to me if that enclosure contains a single drive or multiple ones. My hunch is that is contains multiple drives, and thus the RAID configuration reference in the specifications.

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Dell's Dilemma

I can’t argue too much with Nick Carr’s take on Dell’s problems. I think Nick is correct that the support side of the business is dragging Dell, and its profits, down.

But I think there’s even more to it. Part of it isn’t Dell’s fault and part of it is.

The part that isn’t Dell’s fault is the fact that Intel and Microsoft aren’t doing their part to get new technology out the door that will spur lots of users into computer buying action.

The part that is Dell’s fault is the fact that Dell has become one of the giant companies it was created to slay and its regrettable decision to try to go cheap and off-shore where support is concerned. Most of the people who buy Dells are not computer geeks- at most they have read in the trades that Dells have traditionally been reliable and well-supported. These people have trusted the Dell brand, not so much for the cutting edge technology as for the reputation for reliability and good support. For Dell to take the cheap route where support is concerned is, to put it mildly, not taking care of the goose.

Adding to the problem is that Dell’s notebook line is faltering at a time when more and more businesses are moving to laptops. My firm just replaced our Dell desktops with HP laptops. From what I hear and read, I suspect some other large companies have done so as well.

Back in the day, buying a Dell and not a Compaq or an IBM was a little bit of a rebel move- and Lord knows the establishment-hating computerites of the world are always willing to take a shot at the man. Unfortunately for Dell, it has moved from the right side of the table to the wrong side. Now, along with Microsoft and Intel, Dell is the man. Its former place is now occupied by a new generation of small shops, who take their own shots at the man by building generic (but, generally speaking, quality) machines with AMD chips and Linux operating systems.

Making matters worse is that all of this is happening at the same time the desktop computer market matures, making computers less about tech and more about commodity.

Given that, Dell has to figure out how to make the transition from tech company to commodity company. In 2006, Dell has more in common with Ford or GM than it does with a tech company.

Making money in commodities is almost entirely a contracts and cost business. I think that explains, but does not excuse, the failed attempt to cut support costs.

It’s going to be a tough ride for Dell, but Dell is not without some advantages.

The advantages in the direct sale approach are still there. It costs money to operate and maintain retail distribution channels. Plus, Dell is expanding its services into storage and IT services. Its experience in building quality equipment cheaply will serve it well in those areas too. And there is still growth to be had overseas.

I still recommend Dells to my friends who ask. But I have to admit that, other than one trusty Latitude I keep around for guests, none of my current computers are Dells.

DISCLAIMER: I am a long-time Dell shareholder.

Dell Blowing Up in Japan

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When I saw the headline, I was happy. I am a shareholder and thought it meant blow up as in take off. You know, similar to bad like Shaft and all that.

As it turns out, it really blew up- as in exploded.

It seems that at some conference in Japan a Dell laptop suddenly exploded into flames. Granted, my Dell laptop sometimes feels like its on fire when sitting on my lap, but thus far I haven’t been able to cook over it.

I suspect a faulty battery was to blame.

This is not the first time Dells began to spontaneously combust.

But don’t look for another fire sale.

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Dell Holds the Junkware

Before I starting building my own, I was a big fan of Dell computers. I bought 4-5 computers and a laptop from Dell over the years. When I am asked (as I am often) by friends for computer recommendations, I still suggest Dell desktops (and Thinkpad laptops).

bloatwareOne annoyance with any new computer is all of the junkware they pre-install on it, likely in exchange for payment from the vendor who hopes against hope you will buy the full version of the crippled junkware version that comes pre-installed.

Dwight Silverman reports today that Dell has added an option to dispense with the junkware. This is great news, and if you buy a computer you should always select the “no preinstalled software” option, if available.

Windows, an anti-virus program and any Office products you buy will still be installed. But you won’t get a bunch of crippled bloatware and offers for ISP services you don’t want.

Kudos to Dell for doing this.

Dave Wallace on Tablet PC's

Dave Wallace (Dave the Lifekludger) takes a detailed look at a Sahara Tablet PC and details how it can be configured for use by people with disabilities. Dave is an IT Coordinator, podcaster and blogger, who happens to be a C4 quadriplegic.

Dave was able to configure his tablet to put a lot of computing power in a small space, as the photos comparing his regular computer and his Tablet PC will attest.

The handwriting (Dave uses a mouthstick) recognition application seems to work well for Dave. Actually, it works better for him that it does for me. He had less success with the voice recognition application- I’ve never had any success with voice recognition software and gave up trying a year or so ago. Voice recognition sounds great in theory. But I’ve never been able to make it work reliably.

All in all, the Tablet PC worked pretty well for Dave. As with anything, there are compromises to make (size vs screen space, etc.), but the Tablet PC was much more configurable disability-wise than I would have predicted.

In a Comment to Dave’s post, mobile guru James Kendrick mentions that there is a Sahara Tablet with a touch screen. That might be an even better solution.

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UMPC/Origami: Tablet PC Killer or Turbo-PDA?

Actually, neither. It proposes to fill the huge and likely profitable space between the two.

Rob Bushway has a interesting post today that raises questions, both about Tablet PCs as well as the effect of the forthcoming UMPC/Origami on the love affair between mobile technology users and their Tablet PCs.

A UMPC/Origami is an “ultra mobile PC” (thus the name UMPC) that is significantly smaller than a Tablet PC. It has a 7″ screen. Here is an FAQ with a little more information about them.

Rob points out that even though Tablet PCs are designed to be mobile and easy to take with you, a lot of people don’t carry them around any more than a traditional notebook. They are too big to be unobtrusive and some people have found the notetaking features less productive than they hoped.

I agree with both of those concerns. I use my Thinkpad X41 Tablet PC all the time, but as a laptop replacement, not something to carry around with me like a super-charged PDA. Sure, I use it around the house a little, when I want to be outside, but need to stay connected for some reason. But mostly I use it on business trips in lieu of a traditional laptop.

We have an old Fujitsu tablet (no keyboard) that we keep downstairs for people to check weather, email, etc. My wife loved the idea in concept and she used it a bit when I first set it up, but now it gathers dust as she thinks it’s too big and too slow (I agree with the first part, but I think she’s making the slow part up).

But the fact remains that there is a big space between the current Tablet PCs and a PDA. Tablets are too big to carry around unobtrusively and PDAs (sorry, even Treos) are too small to use regularly for computing and internet functions.

So what do I think about the UMPC/Origami? I think the devil will be in the details, but if it does what reports claim it will application and internet wise, I agree with Rob that the future of mobile computing may very well include a UMPC/Origami along with a traditional laptop or tablet PC.

I’m not so sure that I wouldn’t still have a Tablet PC, since I continue to believe that a Tablet PC will do everything a traditional laptop will do and more. But I can certainly envision UMPC/Origami taking a big role in the mobile technology space.

Fellow Houstonian James Kendrick provides a preview of how a UMPC/Origami might fit into your mobile technology plans (interestingly enough by looking back at his prior discussion of how to use a Sony U71).

I’ll certainly want to take a long, hard look at a UMPC/Origami when they become widely available, but based on what I know so far, I expect one will end up in my briefcase.

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