Recent adventures with writing technologies
I've seldom done posts on computer issues, but, well, we're way past the time when computer technologies entered the territory of writing, so I'm going to do one today, as part of my farewell to 2009. Here's hoping that in the coming year none of us encounters drive crashes, bad operating systems ... oh, well, what are the chances of that?
Getting my special award as Most Horrible Product of the year: the Seagate FreeAgent Xtreme 1.5T external drive, pictured above. It has great specs, multiple interfaces (USB/Firewire/e-SATA), and is fast, featuring a 7200 rpm spindle speed. What's so horrible, you might ask? Alas, my personal experience with them (and I say "them" because I went through three of them in a matter of only five months) is that they crash and burn all too easily. They seem prone to hardware failures that leave the drive performing the sort of endless whiny seek operation that means your data has been irretrievably eaten, is lost, gone, and never to be seen again. A big thumbs down.
Seagate has made drives for years, and, as far as I know, other drives in their catalog may work great. Indeed, some of the most reliable drives I've ever used were Seagates. But I'll never own another FreeAgent Xtreme external, at least until I know the drive has gone through a thorough redesign.
I finally replaced the third Seagate with a Western Digital My Book. I've got the "Home Edition", but the WD website doesn't list that as a current option; the drive with comparable features is the "Studio Edition II", which seems targeted at Mac users. It's slower than the Seagate (5400 rpm spindle speed), and Windows Vista occasionally won't find it on boot - but the Seagate had the same problem, which means it may have more to do with Vista than with the drive; more about Vista in a moment. But (knock on wood) the WD drive has outlasted any of the 1.5T Seagate drives (not a major achievement, I know) it replaced, and seems way less neurasthenic.
(Hmm, if it's being discontinued, maybe I'll try to track another one down on sale as a closeout... )
And what can I say about Windows Vista, I ask myself, that hasn't already been said. As you've probably heard, it's annoying in the extreme; it's UAC "feature", meant to improve system security, makes users click through multiple permission windows to run simple applications. Like another Windows horror, Windows ME (glad I never installed that one; sometimes the computer gods are kind), it has "driver issues" - many things will not work, or work well, with it, even after three years in release. On top of that, it seems extremely fragile; I'd not had my new Dell notebook much over a month before I had to completely re-install the operating system. That was fun! But even more basically, it's a dog (no offense to dogs, who are, after all, our best friends), make that an egg-sucking dog, at simple file operations, and sometimes seems to go into a coma when I try to copy files, say, from one drive to another. It doesn't seem to matter whether the files/directories/drives are indexed or not. Early on, I'd wonder if I'd accidentally sent my computer into sleep mode, but eventually came to realize that it was just Vista's way of doing things.
Windows 7 may have some of the same flaws, but I'll be upgrading early in the new year.
No doubt we have to use these fine new machines (how blog otherwise, eh?), but I think my favorite writing technology for 2009, and going into 2010, is still the trusty Waterman fountain pen I got 20+ years ago. It's got a few scratches, but it's never crashed once.