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One of the big challenges of digital photography is space. Perhaps this is what they meant by “space – the final frontier.” Actually, as we all know, hardware drives this business, so software has to return the favor by eating more space and using faster cpu’s. As a good friend and former colleague at Netscape AIMed to me – removable media just has not kept pace. It is a good thing that hard disk space is relatively cheap.

This afternoon I installed another external hard drive. Well, perhaps “installed” is too strong a term. The installation was the simplest of any hard drive installation I have ever performed.

The hard drive is a LaCie d2 Quadra Hard Drive 500 GB with a 4 1/2-mouse rating (out of 5) on Macworld’s site. The price range at the time that I looked was $179 – 290. The drive has 4 interfaces (FireWire 400, FireWire 800 (2 ports), USB 2.0, and eSATA) and it comes with 4 cables, an optional stand and allen wrench (I opted for a “horizontal” stance, remembering the earthquake on the Calaveras Fault and thinking “Why stand a drive vertically in a meta-stable position in an earthquake-prone region?” :-) ), Storage Utility disk, LaCie “Shortcut Button” and EMC backup software disk, and a 3-year limited warranty. The drive has a 16-MB cache and good transfer rates. I saw the drive on Amazon for $184.99. After the (standard) shipping, the total was $194.11.

Now the cool part – I ordered it on Monday night, and it shipped from somewhere in the U.S. that is at least 2 hours “ahead” of me, on Tuesday evening after 8 PM. It went out for delivery today (Wednesday morning) in the Bay Area, and I received it this afternoon.

Well, a friend of mine (and former colleague at Sun) got a 500GB drive from a competing company for his Mac because of a slightly lower price and a longer warranty. I used to support the competing company when I was at Netscape, and I would never buy anything from them. (I will keep in contact with my friend to see if I change my mind.) I have an old LaCie FireWire drive (160GB) that is still going strong, knock wood. I also have a triple-interface Iomega “Black” series 250GB drive that is quite speedy and has given me great service – picked up at Frye’s for $170-something plus tax (8.75% in Alameda County, the highest tax rate in the state of California).

Now for the cool part #2 – the drive came pre-formatted in Apple’s HFS+ format. If I were recommending a drive to someone who is not very computer savvy (like my 85-year-old father, perhaps your grandparents, or most corporate middle management :-) ), this would be it.

Here are the (summarized by me) installation instructions for Mac:

1) Connect the power supply.
2) Turn on the drive by flipping the power switch to ON or AUTO (automatic hibernation with USB and FireWire).
3) Connect the interface cable of your choice to the drive and to your computer.
4) Mac users: After a few seconds your drive will mount on your desktop.

OK, I skipped installing the LaCie Shortcut Button software. I mean, I did not install it. In addition, I went into Apple’s disk utility and partitioned the disk the way I wanted it. The disk was perfectly usable after just connecting two cables, however. While I was in Disk Utility, I checked out the health of the other logical partitions of drives on my system. Hey, but that’s just me!

The task list for installation on Windows® is longer, including reformatting the disk.

I started moving photos to the new drive this evening, to free up disk space on other volumes and increase system performance. I will let you know how the drive works out, but as Maverick said in Top Gun, “It’s looking good so far.”

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo

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