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Request for help

July 13th, 2006

I know there’s a word for this, but I’m still holding out against it. I’m hoping someone will be able to help me with a computing problem.

My approach to security is to keep three copies of my Documents folder (about 20GB) synchronized twice daily (often about 500Mb of changed files). One copy is on the home computer, one at work, and the third is on my 40Gb iPod. My problem is that the iPod is filling up, and it doesn’t look as if Apple has any plans to bring out a substantially larger one with Firewire, as I had hoped. One possibility is to find one of the 60Gb models, but it struck me that if Apple can fit a Firewire drive into a lightweight package and make it play music as well, someone must have produced a FireWire equivalent of the ubiquitous USB memory stick. I don’t need something that big, but I’d like something that can be powered from the Firewire drive rather than external power and is small enough to fit into a shirt pocket, with capacity, say 80Gb. Oh, and a frickin’ laser beam attached to the front panel. Is that too much to ask?

Other suggestions gratefully received. My feeling is that synchronizing over USB or an Internet connection is going to be too slow, but maybe there are some clever strategies for increasing efficiency here.

Thanks in advance

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  1. Terje (say TAY-A)
    July 13th, 2006 at 14:18 | #1

    The following might help.

    http://www.barefeats.com/usb2.html

    It compares Firewire to USB2 (much, much faster than USB1) and has some links to technology that might do the trick.

    See also:-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB#USB_2.0_Hi-Speed_vs_FireWire

  2. July 13th, 2006 at 14:34 | #2

    Hmmm – a google turned up this:
    Kanguru drive 4Gb thumb drive here
    This discussion could be useful, too.
    On the larger capacity, LaCie (remeber their monitors?) make a USB2 / firewire HDD case that is bus powered for 2.5″ drives – example here.

    A USB 2 interface should be at least almost as fast as a firewire 400 one, so a good USB 2 HDD should work: it will also be cheaper.

    I can’t find one that has a laser pointer, though.

  3. jquiggin
    July 13th, 2006 at 15:03 | #3

    The laser bit was a joke, maybe not a very good one.

    Thanks for info so far.

  4. Tom Davies
    July 13th, 2006 at 15:12 | #4

    This one isn’t cheap, but looks like a good solution. It’s 7200rpm so it will be a bit faster than many other laptop based drive solutions. Or they also sell a cheaper 120MB 5400rpm version.

  5. Terje (say TAY-A)
    July 13th, 2006 at 15:13 | #5

    I thought the joke was funny.

    One of Dr. Evil’s greatest desires is to have sharks with “frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads,” and is disappointed when he can’t have the sharks due to laws on endangered species.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Evil

  6. July 13th, 2006 at 15:41 | #6

    What software environment are you using? If Windows, it is more convenient if you can format your portable drive using NTFS rather than than FAT. NTFS does a much better job of handling time stamps on files – which helps if you just want to copy updated files. (FAT gets confused with the start and finish of daylight saving and times are only accurate to +/- 2 seconds).

  7. Peter Evans
    July 13th, 2006 at 17:14 | #7

    Another thing to be wary of with portable bus powered USB drives (can’t speak for firewire). 2.5″ hard disks require 5 volts at about 500 milliamps current (some newer ones use a little less, faster 7200 rpm models may require more current). The USB port (1.0, 1.1, and 2.0) specification calls for the ability to supply 500mA and 5V. BUT, a lot of USB chips don’t quite meet this spec, and so cannot power and external 2.5″ drive (more likely on laptops).

    This is really annoying – a drive might work with one of you computers, but not another. The probability of success goes with motherboard quality (where the USB chipset is), and therefore cost. I’ve never known an Apple machine to fail spec, or any decent independent motherboard manufacturer. The big offenders are name-brand PCs (Dell, etc) where every possible corner is cut.

    -peter

  8. Bill Cushing
    July 13th, 2006 at 19:21 | #8

    Go to:

    zytech.com.au

    Click on ‘Backup external drives’.

    Get a FireStar 2.5 inch 7200rpm 100gb bus-powered portable.

    Cheers

    Bill C

  9. July 13th, 2006 at 20:21 | #9

    A fellow mac-head… goodoh. I have a very nice 60GB mobile lacie hard drive with both firewire & USB 2. It goes at 5400rpm, has an 8mb cache and requires no external power source (ie it’s bus powered). It’s slightly larger than the new 60GB ipod but a bit thinner & lighter. It comes with a very nice padded black drawstring bag, and I store it in my pocket. Highly recommended.

  10. July 13th, 2006 at 22:27 | #10

    I bought a 2.5″ 5400 rpm 60 GB drive that I use as my transit drive, which lives in an external case that has both USB 2 and Firewire 400. Works fine with my Powerbook(s). I have my iTunes library on it so I can free up that space on my internal drive (about 35 GB). The case is barely bigger than the drive. Probably cost about 250 bucks all up. Maybe less.

  11. July 13th, 2006 at 22:28 | #11

    Oh yeah I should point out that the case is bus powered. Maybe hunt round your local Chinese run computer stores to pick up the bits you need (as there are here in Sydney).

  12. July 13th, 2006 at 23:02 | #12

    john – i’m not clear if it’s security or backup / redundancy or synchronization or universal availability you are concerned about? In my book they are all different things.

  13. CJ
    July 14th, 2006 at 00:38 | #13

    John,

    Have you considered using rsync? (http://rsync.samba.org/)

    This implements an algorithm to send only the changes across an internet link. To know whether it’s going to work for you, you need to also know how similar the start and end files are. If they are quite similar, with data inserted/tacked onto the end, then this will do it for you easily.

    Cheers,

    CJ

  14. July 14th, 2006 at 08:40 | #14

    JQ – http://www.auspcmarket.com.au/index.php?redir=http://www.auspcmarket.com.au/show_image_products.php?inputcategory_id=247
    Blue Eye external 2.5″ drive case – USB2 is almost as fast as firewire.

    http://www.auspcmarket.com.au/index.php?redir=http://www.auspcmarket.com.au/show_image_products.php?inputcategory_id=247
    120GB 2.5″ laptop drive 5400rpm.

    It is really easy to insert the drive into the drive box. I use one extensively to back up my wife’s 60GB iPod.

  15. July 14th, 2006 at 12:12 | #15

    John, I also recommend rsync for speedy synchronization of multiple copies of a file system.

    I use it myself to keep my laptop and desktop computers in sync.

  16. Jim Birch
    July 14th, 2006 at 14:11 | #16

    I’d also recommend rsync. Typically the changed file volume is quite small even on substantial office file systems – databases are another matter – and it can run in the background while you’re amusing yourself elsewhere. Not sure how often – or even how – you manage to change 500 mb of documents in a day unless you’re a graphic designer but if it’s an occasional mega-edit event you could augment rsync with a tangible storage device.

    There are commercial software systems that provide remote synching and browser-based access to server file systems but I don’t know of anything that provides this cheaply from a pc. Maybe some ISPs might do something along these lines.

    I also noticed this article on Google’s GDrive the other day:

    http://blogs.zdnet.com/Google/index.php?p=258

    Looks like the answer to quite a few prayers. I’d love to use gdrive, and I’d be willing to pay something like the equivalent wholesale cost in hard disk Gb for the privilege of ubiquitous access, sharing capabilities, and yes, someone else handling my backups. No ETA at present…

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