Seagate GoFlex Review – Screwage

Today I bought a Seagate GoFlex 500 GB USB drive.

That was a mistake.

One I’ll not make again.

The Mac

First off, it claims to work on a Macintosh. It doesn’t. At least not on MY Macintosh. There is a bundle of backup software on the disk that is in a disk image inside the actual disk. This does mount, but when I click on the MacInstall, nothing happens. OK, I’ve double checked the release level of the OS and every thing matches what is on the wrapper as requirements. It says 10.4.11 and I’m running 10.4.11 so it ought to run.

So I drop down into a command line interface (where Unix guys like me like to live) and migrate into the appropriate directory in the disk and try running the scrip directly, rather than via a click on a pretty picture.

Now, at least, I get the diagnostic message that I have the “wrong processor sub type”.

OK, can’t change the CPU, so I guess I’m just screwed on running their software. But at least I have a 500 GB disk and I can just drag and drop what I want to put on it.



The disk is mounted ‘read only’ and will only mount read only. Perhaps with enough effort I could find a way to mount it read/write, but frankly putting $400 of time into fixing a $70 disk is a fools errand.

So, as far as the Mac is concerned, this disk is a worthless piece of brown smelly fertilizer.

The PC

So off to the PC. (No, I’ve not tried it on the Linux box. Frankly, I don’t see any reason to even try…)

I plug it in and… up pops a “Registration” window.

No, there is no ‘exit’ or ‘register later’ or anything other than REGISTER NOW (or the brown shirts will come and…).

I’m not connected to the internet at the time, so I can’t do anything.

Time passes…. and I get the internet connection up.

Now it wants to know all about my bodily functions and political life. (Well, almost…)

You MUST tell it your name, location, serial number, where you bought the device, email address, and a few dozen other things. All this to use the product you have already bought.

I don’t particularly like having Marketing stick their tongue so far down my throat that they can wipe the anal sphincter with it, AND I’ve been at enough remote sites trying to bring up connectivity that does not work and NEEDING the thing I bought to ‘just go’ so I can complete the contract, AND it’s just offensive to buy something only to find out that all I’ve bought is a good financial hole in the ground; that I’m a little bit peeved by now… So Seagate now has a customer registered with “” (well, not really, but close) as the email address and with the name of “No F..riendly Way” as the name and “Never Buying Seagate Ever Again” as the address.

Eventually It Works

After a good 15 minutes or so of screwing around, I get the thing to start installing the “software”. At this point I discover that my 500 GB drive is really a 460 (ish) GB drive. OK, 10% of the capacity (more or less) is vanishing in a cloud of “sellers puff”… Next it proceeds to install a few hundred MB of software. Never mind that the disk might, just might have been bought by someone because they were OUT OF SPACE and needed to have the space before they could use another 350 MB of it… Visual C++ and .NET get installed (why? don’t ask why…) and eventually a backup package.

OK, what next?

I run the package.

The Backup Software

This is a damned near trivial bit of software. It will make a copy of your “C” drive onto the USB drive. Future changes will be copied over too.

What about your other drives? So sorry… Not a configurable choice as near as I can tell. Just one, and only THAT one, and must be named “C”.

OK, that’s about 3 lines of Unix / Linux scripting. So why the F…rustrated do you need to suck up 360 MB for that? I can put a whole tiny linux on a bootable business card in less than that…

But ok, it’s bloated beyond belief, but it does run.

So I explore the options. You get one. You can encrypt the backup copy (with the admonition that it can never be read again if you forget the password) or not. That’s pretty much IT. No exclusion of executables or selection of directories or selection of time to run or…

For this it takes 1/3 of a GB? What a load of crap.

But it did run to completion in several hours. Yes, several hours. I think I had about 20 GB all told to ‘backup’ and it started about 1 pm and finished near 4 pm ( I think, by then I was off to the Brandy bottle as it was not making my day…)

So now I have a disk that was intended to be for 2 or 3 machines, that I can sort of run on one machine, and that has bloated crappy software on it. Software that will automatically track any changes made to files and copy them over to the disk for me and that will do restores (or at least has a button that claims to do that). AND I have a very nicely polished sphincter.

The Good

Well, it’s cheap.

At $70 (got it at Costco – which, BTW, you MUST tell the registration software or it wont let you use the product. If you say ‘bought at retail’ it demands that you pick a store from a dropdown to continue) it’s not very pricey. It rings up at $90, then they apply a $20 “coupon” that I never saw (nor was it listed on the price at the rack). So it’s cheap. That’s a good point isn’t it?

Slow. Painful to install. Full of bloated backup software with limited abilities. Only usable on a PC (at leat in my experience on my Mac) processor and demanding that you “drop trousers” for a good tonging before you can use the product you bought.

Yeah, that’s the way to make the customer love you… sarcoff>

Did I mention that it’s cheap?

Made In China

And it is made in China. One can only hope that it isn’t leaking toxic whatever, will last more than a month, and / or is not pre-installed with virus software.

(No, that’s not prejudice. There have been ‘electronic picture frames’ found to have been pre-installed with a virus in China such that when you downloaded a picture it put the virus on your PC, then opened your machine to Chinese intelligence agencies. There have been dozens of cases of chemical toxins, from toys with lead paint to food with poisons in it. And I’ve had several things made in China that just died way too soon, including some CFL bulbs that were supposed to be good for 5 years that lasted more like 5 minutes. Actual experiences is NOT prejudice, though it can be prejudicial…)

In Conclusion

So I had bought a Western Digital USB drive a couple of years ago at Costco (and like it… still working fine with no issues). So I guess I’ve learned my lesson. Next time I’ll get the WD again. They were one shelf over at Costco.

For folks not familiar with it, Costco is a ‘big box’ retailer with a discount warehouse atmosphere.

I’m still trying to decide if I want to spend $200 of time to return this (after scrubbing my data off of it) or just want to put it on the PC and forget about it…. I’ll probably just put it on the PC and archive old copies of GHCN and USHCN data sets onto it. A match made in heaven…

Some History

Back about 1990, I bought and installed a 1 TB storage device from STK on a Cray supercomputer. It cost $500,000 and used about 4000 IBM tape cartridges, IIRC. The transfer rate was 4 MB / second / drive and I think we had 2 drives to start. (Though you did get a few seconds of latency as it found and loaded the tape).

Now, 20 years later more or less, you can get a Western Digital USB drive at COSTCO for $119 for 1 TB. I’m not sure exactly what the transfer rate is, but I’m willing to speculate that it will be competitive…

So I guess the good news is that instead of spending $250,000 for my storage, it was cheaper than the coffee bill for the negotiations on the tape robot… but at least the old one worked well, constantly, and with simple reliable software.

About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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32 Responses to Seagate GoFlex Review – Screwage

  1. David says:

    ” Actual experiences is NOT prejudice, though it can be prejudicial…) ”

    Or maybe postjudicial, judgment made from past experience.

  2. Ursus says:

    “wrong processor sub type”

    Ah, so you’re running Tiger on a G5? Me too. I had the misfortune of buying an iMac a few months before Apple switched to Intel processors, now there is almost no new software that I can put on this computer. Too bad, because it is still quite zippy 5 years later.
    That’s the last Mac for me though. I run Ubuntu on my laptop, and various other portable linux-based distributions on another laptop, and love it.
    Love your blog Chief.

  3. j ferguson says:

    The inevitable accumulation of useless knowledge.

    I’m reminded of the Toshiba I bought a few years back which came with Wista. After a few hours of faking folders to make old software run, I decided I’d be better off with XP.

    XP system disk didn’t have SATA drivers and accordingly couldn’t recognize SATA drive on Toshiba. So having other machines on board, I copied the system disk to another machine’s drive, added as many of the Toshiba drivers as I could find, reassembled and “printed” a new system disk, and after a week of screwing with it, got Toshiba up and running.

    And hopefully I will never do it again, just as I can imagine you will never go through that mess again.

    I suppose your drive wasn’t susceptible to a low-level reformat? Maybe none of is now. I suppose format routines no longer have “unknown” as a choice where you can specify disks, cylinders,etc. Must be in firmware.

    I would have hated their inquisition, though – don’t know if I’d have made it past that.

    Thanks for sharing the details of this experience. It’s always nice to know that I’m not the only one.

  4. j ferguson says:

    I see if you mess up the e-mail address on a message, you become immoderate.

  5. RuhRoh says:

    So, you’ve self-identified as a person who can’t appreciate ‘value-added’ content;

    Probably you also denigrate (can we say that anymore?) the efforts of those who eradicate unenlightened ‘spurious’ low temperature data points that stand in denial of inexorable warmness.

    There’s a reason ‘we’ keep track of ‘people’ like you.
    So, do you also collect those mattress/pillow labels, the removal of which is criminal?
    I thought so…

    It’s Luddites like you that resist the siren song of a new machine to go with the free software on the product that will make your life good, that are holding back the economic recovery…

    Luckily for all of us, you also aren’t buying solar panels, which activity might cause you to delineate the number of years of actual deployment that are required to payback the initial expenditure (investment?) of (chinese) non-clean-coal-fired electricity to make the silicon, not to mention the rosy estimates of efficiency that go into DOE calculations…

    To you I say,
    Good Day!

  6. RuhRoh says:

    My local scratch/dent store gets most of their stuff from Costco, and sometimes the ‘return tag’ is still attached.
    Frequently there’s fine ironic humor thereupon;

    I got a nice 100′ garden hose, for which the Costco return tag said ‘too long’…

    How hard it is to return something stinko to them?
    You could just printout this fine rant and staple it the form.
    You might win a prize for the most original contribution.


  7. Chuckles says:


    On the big USB drives I’ve always been very careful to give the two-fingered (ctl-C) salute to any ’embedded’ software that tries to install on first connection.
    Several reasons – If it needs special drivers, I’m not interested, back it goes to the supplier. I cannot imagine that any modern opsys doesn’t have a native driver to drive a USB hard drive? The software supplied on the drive is usually brain-dead or crippleware, and life is too short. Most of it is reminiscent of Jerry Pournelles comment on the infamous dos editor ‘edlin’. ‘It’s free, and it’s overpriced.’
    Use the native operating system stuff, or buy a decent uncrippled backup package would be my choice.
    And I wouldn’t trust the encryption stuff further than I could throw a whale. Excellent way to lose your data all at once rather than bit by bit? Still, I suppose it would be a good way to free up disk space periodically. Good, albeit not painless.
    Regarding the transfer rate, are both PC and drive USB 2? I’ve had the pleasure of using a USB 2 drive on a USB1.1 port. Glacial.

    I loved the big robotic tape libraries, mesmerising. I never tired of watching them in action.

  8. Gnomish says:

    (System drive images are special. Use an archiver for data.)

    I use Ghost, which I used to keep on a boot floppy with DOS. Now it’s on a DOS bootable stick with a drive image. (I have a couple different images so I can back all the way down to a bare install when apps get outdated) I bought it from them back when they made the floppy on demand and wrote the serial on it with magic marker.
    Ghost has 3 choices: make an image, write an image, verify an image. There is no need for anything else.

    (And never install any software that you didn’t decide you wanted for a reason. You have to learn to say ‘no’ or you’ll be trodden thoroughly.)

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    @Ursus: On my perpetual never gotten to list is to pick an Intel laptop and put a recent Linux on it.

    I keep thinking Someday I’ll spend the time on the linux laptops site to make the shopping list, then hit Craigslist and find someone dumping a Wintel laptop because it “only” has 1/2 Gig of memory and 250 GB of disk…

    So: If you’ve already done that work, what’s the box to look for? I used to keep on on it and have linux running on several very old laptops. One, and old Compaq (Armada?) has about 32 MB of memory and was my workhorse for years. (Computed Golomb Rulers on it out to about 24? length when it wasn’t doing anything else…) Still has a load of my old stuff on it. But it’s just not up to what I need now. (Way to heavy, and too small a disk. Oh, and no wireless since the PCMCIA Card died).

    My major worry is wireless, as getting the old PCMCIA cards to work was a pain. Now, with built ins, I have no idea which ones work and which don’t.

    So if you have a suggestion for a low cost PC laptop where a decent Linux will support the chips in it, please let me know!

    While I’ve not used Ubuntu, I’ve heard good things about it. Mostly I”ve used RedHat (having collected a long set of releases as various clients upgraded and were tossing the old ones…) and the occasional Suse. My favorite releases have tended to fade from the scene, though.

    FWIW, the Mac is an old iBook with a G3 in it I think… From time to time I’ve ‘got root’ on it. Then it had hardware die and went in for repair. Each time it comes back with root disabled again. Sigh. I’ve given up. Yeah, I could go through the magic incantation to get root again so I could do all the good Linux/Unix stuff directly (like format disks and configure backups and…) but between the hardware dying too often (3rd time for the Airport, and second disk and keyboard) and the software “protecting” me too much, I’ve decided to suck it up and get a real linux laptop. Usually employers gave them to me, but then took them back at the end of employment… so I’m used to ‘dual boot’ boxes, but just need to get my own.

    @J ferguson: Yeah, the “free pass” settings are based on your identity. Change identity and I get to ‘reapprove’ before it goes…. But the good news is that now you can misspell your email the same way and still work ;-)

    I could always use Linux and do whatever I want to the drive format. I was mostly just interested in a big cheap easy storage spot. I got big and cheap….

    I’ll do some other solution for the Macs.

    FWIW, I thought about just erasing the drive and starting over, but part of what suckered me in was the automatic backup tease. (I’ve written many backups and configured dozens more…) Most likely I’ll just leave it as dedicated to the PC and forget about it.

    @RuhRoh: How did you know about the pillow label collection? Are you spying on me in hotels? ;-)

    Returning is technically easy. It’s the hour or so of my time that makes it not worth it. That time is better spent staring at stock charts and making MORE than the cost of the device from the time… Sad, but true.

    @Chuckles: I *think* they are both USB 2.0. At any rate, I’ve pretty much decided to just let it be a semi-crippleware backup server AND shove some selected “crap” onto it from the Mac and Linux box (mostly giant archives of various dates of GHCN…). Then, when I find a TB drive I DO like, copy all the stuff to it. At that point I’ll do the ‘wipe and remake’ on the Seagate dingus and turn it into a generic USB drive.

    Oh, one thing I forgot to mention: It nags you when the backup is running that there are 3 or 4 add-ons you could buy buy have not yet. No, not with ‘popups’, just with a ‘buy now’ banner on the bottom of the “Seagate Control Panel”…

    I figure about a year and I’ll have a nice HP or Dell or Toyshiba laptop with Linux on it and a 1 TB outboard USB drive with no ‘crap’ in the way for archival. Then the Seagate will be re-fried to pristine… ;-) Until then, for $70, it can hold old tarballs of GHCN… and free up the disks I care about.

  10. Former STK-er says:

    Fun read. The last section (“Some History”) was an unexpected nostalgic bonus.

    I worked at Storage Technology Corporation (STC) (stock symbol STK) — later StorageTek — straight out of college for 17 years until 1996. Those robotic tape libraries kept the company afloat for many years. As Chuckles said, they were amazing devices at the time and loads of fun to watch in operation. StorageTek never could build a disk drive that worked, except maybe when they started making big RAID arrays. There was a period of time in the early-mid 80’s when they were taking so many disk drives (model 8380 IIRC) back that they filled up a huge building in Longmont, Colorado with them and were shipping truckloads of them daily out to be crushed. (That was building 10 which was built specifically to manufacture optical disks — which never happened.) I always thought it was funny that StorageTek marketed the RAID arrays as “Redundant Arrays of Independent Disks”, rather than as what everyone else had always called them before: “Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks”. I guess you couldn’t get away with calling them “Inexpensive” and still charge the big bucks for them. ;-)

    StorageTek was a great, exciting place to work until the first layoff on Halloween day 1984. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy early that morning before the IRS could get there to padlock all the buildings shut (about eight of them at the time). IIRC, about 5,000 people (out of about 15,000) were laid off that day with absolutely no warning. From that day until (and beyond) I was laid off at the end of 1995, the company endured at least two layoffs each year. Once a company pulls that trigger, they do it again and again, and the place becomes a miserable place to work. Since I left, StorageTek was taken over by Sun, and now by Oracle. The former StorageTek campus consisting of about eight large buildings, including a world-class recreation center, has now been completely razed as if it never existed. The property is now owned by Conoco-Phillips.

  11. Chuckles says:

    NAS drives may be a good solution for your current setup E.M., and the Ethernet transfer rates might be slightly faster. Mind you on your Arcnet setup, who knows :)

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    @Gnomish: I had / have ghost somewhere… unless it was on a box that got ‘returned’ to the employer… I liked it. Pretty nice stuff. What I really want is the granularity of the various Unix tools I’ve used to make archive sets over the years. So that’s where I’ll be heading next.

    FWIW, I *did* want the software installed. At least, up until I tried it…. It’s a pain being a SysProg kind of guy trying to let go and become a normal ‘user’… I think I’m failing at it…. I’m used to doing the low level format on disks longhand even under the level of the command line interface that pulls it together for you. And those GUI sys admin things they keep layering on top of Linux just drive me nuts. Every one different, and every one only giving you what they think is valuable. Sigh.

    I’ve got a very nice suite of backup scripts (in various choices from dump to cpio to…) that let me backup and verify various subsets of the data on Linux / Unix boxes. All hand crafted over years of work and run on everything from AIX, AUX, BSD, UniCOS, Linux, SunOS, etc. Was going to put them on the Mach under MacOS until the repeated loss of root convinced me that Mac was not going to be my “unix like and friendly” platform.

    FWIW, the stuff I really care about gets written to 2 CDs and stored in different locations. “Air gap security” is a good thing, and very hard to defeat. If someone ‘hacks my box’ they are mostly going to get a load of GHCN data, some SPAM archives, and a collection of photographs of bunnies and pavement ;-)

    Not real worried about it.

    My big archive of interesting stuff is on a Linux box that is left powered down and unplugged almost all the time. Oh, and it has metal skins too… It does not get connected to the LAN when the LAN is talking to the WAN… The “power off” button on the router is your friend.

    But I think it’s time to move that onto a new Linux Laptop and consolidate. 2 Linux boxes, the Mac, and some of the PC stuff. We’ll see. If the market keeps going up and treats me nicely it’s not that long until Christmas ;-)

    (Oh, and I’ve got about a dozen 2 GB chips that go in the camera OR the USB adapter, along with an 8 GB ‘Compact Flash hard disk’ that I thought was a fun gizmo as it really is a hard disk inside a C.F. form factor(!), and 3 or 4 Compact Flash ‘few GB’ cards that will fit in either a USB adapter or a PCMCIA adapter that I use for “interesting things” and a 4 GB ‘thumb drive’ that lives in my coin purse and… So I’m not adverse to ‘the stick’, but it’s just one of several things…)

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    @Chuckles: Part of the idea was to find a cheap box I could stick on one of my existing boxes and make my own NAS out of it…

    After this was a NOGO I stopped by Fry’s to see about just buying a big disk to put in the Linux box. $59/ TB. But all they had was SATA and the Linux box doesn’t do that…

    So yeah, NAS is good. But it looks like “roll your own” on old hardware is not…

  14. RuhRoh says:

    Earthquake in NZ?

  15. Earle Williams says:


    A couple of years ago I bought a gaming laptop from If you are ever of a mind to buy one new I definitely recommend them as the first place to go. The machines they sell are first-quality from second-tier manufacturers. Of course the actual manufacturing is done by one or two outfits in Asia that badge the machines according to whichever the contract requires.

    Anyhoo, the underlying model for my Sager brand laptop is a HEL80 built by Compal. With built-in 3D graphics card it may be more than you are looking for, but perfmormance-wise it might be a good model to look for in the Craigslist market. It is the only machine in my house that boots into Windows, but I have it dual booting Ubuntu Linux 8.10 too. I’m at work so can’t recall the exact Intel chipset that does the wireless, but Ubuntu has no problem recognizing it and connecting to my wireless network at home.

    Cost for a laptop (new or used) isn’t as much of an issue for me as is its shelf life. If you’re running Windows, how long down the road will there be updates to drivers? It seems to me that many second-tier models are sold under a lot of brands so you can get updated drivers years down the road. Compare that to a cheap HP laptop I bought several years ago. Within two years HP had dropped all support for it.

    Sorry this isn’t a map on where to go for the laptop/Linux purchase you’re perhaps considering. More like a couple of signposts to keep an eye out for. And thanks for the Seagate rant.

  16. j ferguson says:

    I run Ubuntu (10.4) Linux on Armada M300 500 mHz P3, w/130 gig drive, and 320 meg ram. BIG improvement in performance going from 192 megs – must have passed point where it swaps itself to death – likely at say 190 megs for this capacious somewhat overblown flavor of Linux – but it does everything i want and seems quite stable.

    m300 is very thin, has magnesium case, 11″ 768/1024 screen, uses a latch-on added chassis for dvd drive, etc. and can often be found on Ebay for less than $50. Easily repaired and parts are cheap if you do hardware- and it’s a bit like a Benz inside – no crummy parts.

    It was originally a DEC 286 design that evolved and then went to Compaq and they kept making them. There are lots of them out there – it was a corporate prestige item for a while.

    I have two. Not being a senior exec at my last employer, I actually had to get the President’s permission (3500 head firm) to get one. I simply asked if they wanted me to work while I was flying the pond. Bigger machine wouldn’t open on little tables in steerage.

    Careful with Satellite series Toshibas. They had a problem with some of them arising out of bad rinsing post-soldering and the connections of the hotter running components go bad in about 18 months. The fix is resoldering surface mount voltage regulators – which I was very lucky to both find and fix on mine when it died.

    The construction of the Toshiba 7345 I have is inelegant – looks like the sort of thing where someone xeroxed the schematic and sent it straight to manufacturing.

    btw, “pixel envy” was a stellar term. nice going.

  17. Earle Williams says:


    BTW, I have a spare 1 GB DDR2 SODIMM new in box. I ended up with an extra one after a shipping glitch. Will gladly pay it forward if you end up getting a machine of recent-enough vintage that the memory works for you. It drops into the HEL80 nicely, and I’d use it if it had another slot.

  18. Sean Peake says:

    As a mac user, I would have thought you could have installed the disc, gone Disk Utility, and formatted the new drive. There shouldn’t be any software etc to install.

  19. BDAABAT says:

    Couple comments and suggestions:

    Sorry to hear about your issues with the drive. I hear what you’re saying about wanting to try the software, but I guess I’d rather go with something more, ummm, intentional. I look at the backup software included with portable drives as unintentional… it comes along for the ride. I think most folks really want the storage capacity and will roll their own backup tools if needed.

    In that case, would suggest re-formatting the drive, then adding whatever backup tools you’d like to best suit your needs.

    RE: Drives… Newegg has a lovely Western Digital 1.5 TB drive for <$100 (if you would like that much capacity!)

    My experience with the relatively recent (2007 – present) versions Western Digital portable drives has been extremely positive.

    BTW: Pretty amazing to see that type of capacity available for < $100!

    RE: Imaging software… I really like Acronis TrueImage for Windows machines. The current flavor of TrueImage is TrueImage Home 2011.

    Provides excellent control over what you want to image-recover and just works. Caveat: I haven't played with the current release, but previous iterations worked extremely well.

    Haven't played around with Linux much, but here's a link to several open source Linux backup products:

    Finally, would it be worthwhile to consider a netbook as your linux laptop?

    A machine like this Acer Aspire One for < $300 seems like it would be a very useful and quite portable Linux box. Haven't looked for other netbook options… this was just a quick look at a trusted site.

    Documentation for making this model a Redhat Linux box:

    User comments seem positive using Redhat + Acer Aspire One:

    Good luck!

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    @all: Thanks for the laptop advice. It’s likely a several month process as I slowly work up to actually getting one. With the market now moving, I’m thinking cash will be here ‘soon’. Then again, every time I do that someone shows up with a few kilobuck had out…

    @Sean Peake: On little thumb drive type things I’ve noticed that they work on both Mac and Windoz, but they argue over block allocation. Each thinking they are in charge. Sometimes on allocates a block that the other already allocated to a different file… So part of the ‘feature’ of this disk was that it included software that calimed to let the Mac to NTFS file system (and the backup software). So I was hoping to use in on both machines. If it’s just going to be ‘dedicated’ I’ll dedicate it to the PC. If someday that role is done, then I’ll format the sucker and kiss off the software.

    @J ferguson: Glad you liked pixel envy ;-)

    @Ruhroh: I’ll take a look at the last quake post. With the market jumping I’ve been focused there (and not sleeping much for other reasons involving start of school year). But it’s a weekend now and I can maybe catch up…

  21. Jeff Alberts says:

    So, the Mac ads that were running, which didn’t tell you anything about a Mac but DID tell you how crappy a PC was, which said “everything just kinda runs on a Mac” were, *gasp*, lies? Or did they REALLY mean “kinda”?

    Interesting experience, though.

    I remember back in the early 90’s, buying a 1gb drive to run my BBS. $2500 Seagate. The following year I bought an identical one, $1500.

  22. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jeff Alberts: Frankly, everything on the Mac does just kinda run… Least trouble I’ve ever had from a computer of any stripe.

    What has failed has been hardware failures for this laptop. Then again, I’ve only dropped it a few hundred times and it’s about a decade old with constant daily use… The keyboard was replaced as I’d worn the writing off the keys and the “E” was starting to stick. I’ve had a half dozen other computers come and go during it’s lifetime. The software that Apple makes is generally problem free and I get no viruses. I’ve had to replace the powersupply connector twice due to tripping over the cord and pulling it off the table a few too many times, and one disk (probably from head crash while dropped / running). It was the box we used when the kids were little and they didn’t always watch out for stuff or wires…

    The software that doesn’t work is generally stuff written only for the PC or Intel chipset (as I’ve got the older non-Intel). The issue is NOT that the software does not work on a PowerPC chip, but that the maker didn’t bother to put on the LABEL the truth: They only support Intel chip sets.

    My complaint about the maintenance guys taking back root ever time I get a bit of work done on it is not the fault of Apple, but of over zealous systems maintenance guys who feel compelled to reset the software to the “safe” settings.

    So I’d be happy to continue using a Mac for the rest of my life. Both kids have newer laptops and have used them for about 4 years with zero problems. I have a desktop iMac that is going to stay in service for years. Then there are the 3 or 4 ‘antique’ Macs that will stay – including my original Mac Plus with 128 K of memory and a floppy drive… But basically I’ve worn out the iBook.

    Like I said, near constant daily use. I used it today to post 2 of 3 postings. It was in the car vibrating around town for a couple of hours and joined me at Starbucks for coffee and a couple of hours of WUWT.

    And I find that given a choice at home, that is the machine I tend to use, precisely because everything just kinda works.

    But I’m a Unix guy at heart. I WANT root and I NEED root to be happy. I like to play with the hardware too. And I’ve got a selection of things I need to do that are best done with Linux (like, oh, that POS that needs two Fortran compilers to run and starts with GI… ) Now my preferred solution would be a new Intel Mac and just make it a tripple boot with Windoz and Linux. (Windoz for when folks insist I use MS only stuff against my will). But I’m not flush with a couple of grand to spare right now… And I’m a cheap SOB. So if I’m going to be in the couple of hundred dollar used hardware arena, I expect the best I can wangle is a dual boot laptop. And the pain and suffering of keeping a Linux all tuned up and un-hacked along with the pain and suffering of Windoz (well documented everwhere…)

    But note: I’ve felt this way for the last 2 years and I’m still using the iBook….

    If I’m really really lucky, one of the kids will buy a new machine and I can inherit their ‘obsolete’ one ;-)

    But at the end of the day, I’m really already well supplied with computers and I’m just suffering envy. I’ve got an XP box that seems to do the ‘MS only stuff” well enough. I’ve got an HP Vectra with Linux on it (and it could be made a better newer Linux if I was willing to risk breaking GIStemp and needing to report it and / or installing the F90 compiler again).

    The only place where things are ‘dodgy’ is that I’m using a very old well loved but dropped way too often laptop Mac when I’m on the road. I’m planning some more “road time” and I’d like to not need to take 3 machines with me… so the choices are either put a vpn spigot on the network once the upgrade is done (most likely solution) and log into them remotely; or get a mobile Linux solution.

    (Though I’m also kind of partial to the idea of putting a giant disk in the old Compaq Armada laptop and using it as my Linux on the go box… It DOES work, just mostly ran out of disk and it’s kinda way heavy… I’ve got a wireless card for it that works and had even gotten it to work with my old Motorola Startac as a modem long before the modern age began… It was kinda fun, half a decade to a decade ago, to be stopped at a rest stop on the New Mexico / Texas border with nothing but nothing for 300 miles in all directions and set it up and check email. Folks were very surprised then… Cell phones didn’t do data then… It would be fun to see folks look at it now and explain that it was still in use ;-) Somehow I never dropped it. Must have been afraid it would break my foot 8-)

    One last parting shot at Microsoft: Back “in the day” of NT, I had a contract at a major telco company. One of our “standard procedures” was that every Friday at close of business ALL the various NT servers distributed to offices world wide were to be rebooted. NT had a memory leak problem and the boxes would crash, hard, and sometimes with catastrophic impacts, at about 1.5 weeks of operation. Being a workgroup environment, this meant that no work could be done (no one logged onto the ‘network’) during this process. Yup, the whole company had to do a Friday Reboot to run… At the same time I had a contract at a small software developer. I had to shut down one of their BSD (on white box PC) servers as the fan in the powersupply was making odd sounds and slowing down. The logs showed it had been “up” well over a year continuous. The fan had just gotten clogged with dust and crap… Macs run non-stop for years too. (In fairness, with XP and newer, MS seems to have fixed many of their stability problems; though with the addition of astounding code bloat.)

    So between the incessant need to fight off the Virus du jour (and all the past “jours” that keep coming around again) and the tendency to stop working after a while, and the tendency to just crash sometimes, and the tendency to … Lets just say I’m not a big fan of the PC / MS combo. Were it not for folks requiring me to use the MS software via docs I can’t use elsewhere, I’d much rather be on a Unix / Linux of some sort. For any “mission critical” server, i’d always rather have a BSD box. And for shear comfort of use and smooth integration, a Mac is unbeatable. But the Mac laptops only last 2 or 3 time longer than the PC laptops. Eventually they do wear out. And the thin elegant design does not take a punch as well as the old iron bricks from Compaq… then again, neither do the new PC laptops…

  23. Jeff Alberts says:

    I hear ya, and I have no problem with Macs, except that when I sit down at one it doesn’t do anything the way I expect or want it to. But that’s because I’ve been a PC guy all my life. Someone has to force me to use a Mac, I just don’t like them.

    My mini-rant was about ads who only attack the competition, instead of telling me what IT can do. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    The main reason I haven’t gotten involved in Linux is because most of what I do involves software that is only available for PC and Mac (3d rendering). And from what I understand, getting hardware to run on Linux boxes can be daunting.

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    Hardware on Linux is a very mixed bag. Old hardware usually works better than new stuff as there has been time for someone to write a driver. Some vendors now offer Linux drivers, so that stuff works well. The good news is that once a driver is written, it tends to work forever. Further good news is that with an ever growing international user base (such as German police and municipal users) there is ever more pressure to make a driver.

    FWIW, we did 3D Rendering on the Cray as one of it’s major uses. Unix / Linux were doing 3D rendering back when it was just a distant dream for PCs. You ought to be able to get much more and much better graphics / rendering software on Linux and Unix boxes than anywhere else (though probably not cheap…). FWIW, Silicon GRAPHICS “made their bones” based on their ability to do rendering with built in rendering hardware and loads of software. Yeah, you would probably need to learn new / different tools though. A load of rendering software is built in to Linux.

    a google of “linux 3D rendering software” gives 1.6 Million results…

    and I know that the 3D stuff works on a Beowulf cluster (that was one of the first things done with them…)

    But yes, I understand the pain of swapping platforms. There are things I can do on one that I’m sure can be done on the others, but I’m just not interested in taking the mental ‘re-tread’. So I keep all three platforms running in the office. (My “envy” is about putting all three on one box, or maybe two, for laptop easy mobility… not a desire to dump any of them. Well, I’d like to dump Windoz, but folks keep forcing me to use it against.)

    But back on Linux hardware: It is in some ways a feature. Any hardware that’s too old and “slow” for MS turns out to be old enough to be well supported under Linux and way faster than most folks could ever need. So next time you are forced into a gratuitous hardware upgrade by more MS code bloat and lousy programming practices; just move that box over to Linux and start playing with it. Software downloads are free, so at most you are out some play time.

    You can even choose a Windoz look alike skin for the ‘look and feel’ (named Redmond, IIRC) that has the same click behavior and color scheme as MS.

    At any rate, I was looking at some notebook machines the other day at about $300 and starting to think maybe one of them would be best for travel. Verizon has a $99 deal as long as you buy data service from them. Since I’m thinking of being on the road for a couple of months, that would likely be a good thing to have. (“Bucket List” includes watching a shuttle launch and there are not many of those left… nor is the timing “determinant”. Never got to watch a Saturn V in person, and Obama has made us a parasite for travel on the Russian or Chinese launch vehicles by canceling Orion; so I’m going to “say farewell” to the US as a Space Faring Nation. And that will mean a month or two “on the road”. During that time I suspect folks would like me to continue working and I know my family would like me to continue making trade income…)

    Still need to sort out things like ‘linux dual boot’ and outboard disk size you can glue onto it… But a dinky light weight notebook with decent screen and keyboard, 1 TB disk, and decent internet access has it’s charms… And would solve the “find a hotel or Starbucks to connect” problem.

    Though most likely I’ll just toss the mac in the mac sack and hit the road with it. With the old Armada in case I need some Linux thing that Mach won’t do (like install a compiler of my choice and let me diddle the settings of things…)

    Ah, the joys of being “on the cusp” with a bit of money still in the pocket and no decision to buy yet… Much more fun than the land of “Buyers Remorse” ;-)

  25. Jeff Alberts says:

    Money is a luxury I don’t have any more. I was laid off from my IT job over a year ago and haven’t looked back. Though I’m now making less than half what I used to.

    I’m currently running only one machine under Vista 64, and I like it. Sure there are a few minor annoying things about the interface, but the platform has been very solid for me. I don’t have virus issues (mainly because I use Firefox and and not IE), and because I practice basic responsible file practices.

    I do have an HP widescreen laptop that I’m not currently using. I might see if I can load up some flavor of Linux onto it. I’ve heard a lot about Ubuntu, but have never experienced it. Is there something you’d recommend?

  26. Jeff Alberts says:

    Forgot to mention, the rendering apps I use (Poser and Vue for the most part) don’t seem to run under Wine (which I assume is a Win emulator). No way I could afford all new rendering apps AND all new objects (I’ve got about 200 gig worth of Poser and related objects, and they aren’t compatible with much else). So, even if I became hooked on Linux, I’d still need my Vista 64 machine…

  27. j ferguson says:

    I have a somewhat different need set than E.M. but I do run Ubuntu 10.04 on 4 of the 5 machines we have on the boat. they are all dual boot and otherwise run XP. 10.04 is far more stable and capable than the 8.04 I started with a couple of years ago.

    I’m an old Unix hand and wanted the ability to open a root session and fix or change anything I didn’t like in the OS.

    10.04 seems to be be able to recognize anything I’ve plugged in, so far, cameras, drives, mp3 players, etc. there is also a lot of free software out there which runs on it, and to my recent surprise a very competent photo stitching program for making a wide photo out of a bunch of narrow ones.

    There are also free compilers for almost everything, Fortran, Perl, R, C lookalikes, Basic, etc. FREE and legal too.

    We back the notebooks up to a biog drive on a server-like machine we have and I like doing that with Linux more than ‘Doz.

    I do like Word better than Sun’s work-alike which I find unstable on really big files – may be my Linux setup – insufficient swap or some other anomaly, but I suspect that if I fixed it, i still wouldn’t like it.

    If you know your way around Unix, you’ll like it, too.

    I don’t proselytize Ubuntu or Linux because although I like it for some things, it isn’t for everyone.

    good luck with this, john

  28. Jeff Alberts says:

    Thanks for the reply, John.

    I don’t know that I would say I know my way around Unix. I know some commands, can usually get to where I need to go, but do it so rarely I tend to forget what I learned.

    But I am a bit of a tinkerer, so maybe I’ll give Ubuntu a try. I guess I should look to see if there are Linux drivers for my HP graphics card first…

  29. Chuckles says:

    Jeff A,

    Ubuntu will do a Live CD boot off the installation CD or a USB key, to give you a desktop environment to play with without installing anything to the hard drive. Fairly painless and lets you see what works ‘out the box’ and what will need some work. It won’t win any world records for speed of course, but that’s not the issue.
    I’d recommend one of the LTS – long term support releases like 10.4, as the bi-annual releases can be a bit bleeding edge at times. They also have quite a few custom versions drifting around e.g. Ubuntu Studio for multimedia work, and there’s a ‘Windows Replacement’ version I saw a month or two back, where all the ‘best of breed’ in that field are included on the install CD.
    That said, if you use a specific package of set of packages that are strictly Windows based, I wouldn’t switch just to be an Ubuntu user. Running a 3d renderer under an emulator is not my idea of smart. Gigabit ethernet or fibre and one of E.M.’s Beowulf clusters would be much more exciting.

  30. Jeff Alberts says:

    I would be trying it on an un-used laptop, and only attempt the rendering stuff if I could get it to work. But thanks for the info, that’s helpful.

  31. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jeff Alberts: I found Suse to be pretty good about not screwing up Windows in a dual boot install. It nicely shrank the partition for Windows and had a nice dual boot interface at boot time. I’ve also had reliable performance from Red Hat. Suse is a bit more “my way or the highway” (in the typical German way of doing what’s probably right and if you don’t like it, too bad…) and Red Hat was the Unix guys swiss army knife in the early years, then got more corporate with more licensing issues and more “pay up for the better copy”. Probably what gave Ubuntu the go ahead… While I’ve not used it, Ubuntu has “the buzz” these days so it’s next on my interest list.

    Per apps: The Windows compatibility of Suse is quite good. One of there goals… and WINE improves over time. Yes, it is a WINdows Emulator.

  32. JC Designer says:

    Wish I’d found your blog and this post before I bought my 1 tb Goflex Free Agent desk. I’m looking for an external drive to back up my laptop running Ubuntu – and this one surely doesn’t do what I expected it would. My better half, who set up my Gateway with Ubuntu about a year and a half ago, suggested I might be able to find software that would make this thing run anyway – I seem to have inadvertently deleted all the installation software that came on it, but from what you’ve said it wouldn’t have run on my old Mac G3 either! I think I’m off to return it to Staples.

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