USD. I feel the pain.

Filed in Current Affairs, General, Hong Kong

我地今早喺邊? Where are we this morning?

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USD. I feel the pain.

Filed in Current Affairs, General, Hong Kong

I have a 200GB external hard disk which has developed serious media problems. A surface scan of the disk produced more than 900 bad blocks with 2 million blocks remaining to be scanned. After three days of scanning, I cancelled the scan. The Maxtor Diamond Plus is less than 2 years old but because it's an OEM, the warranty is only 1 year. Consider carefully before you purchase an expensive OEM external drive. It might be cheaper to buy a lower capacity drive and swap the bare drive for a full-warranty high capacity drive yourself.

Anyway, I had a quandary. The 200GB drive contains full resolution film scans of many of my photographs. The thing which many people tend to forget these days is that digital media can evaporate before your eyes and there's no way to get the material back, whether it be Word files, your favourite music (Apple iTunes music store) or your memories. A lot of people are backing up to CD or DVD believing the hype that the media will last for 10 to 20 years not realising that there are different grades of media, that CDs don't last as long as DVDs, that DVD+RWs don't last as long as DVD+Rs and that with temperature changes and exposure to light, NONE of these are certain to last over time.

The solution for me was to purchase a hard drive unit with RAID 5 capabilities. For those of you not in the computer business, such a unit is made up of 4 or more individual hard drives with the data shared among all four of them. If one of the drives dies, the unit keeps working and supplying your data. You can often switch the dead drive out without even turning off the unit and the unit will automatically rebuild the new drive with the data that would have been on the old drive. These units used to be very expensive but prices have come down a long way.

After some research, I decided on the "Lacie 800 Bigger Drive with RAID". A 1TB (ie, 1000 GB) unit would cost me around USD1,500 which is not too bad for that much storage and for the peace of mind it would give me. In addition, it sports FireWire 400, 800 and USB 2 connections so it would serve me well for many years to come.

I asked my friendly local Hong Kong reseller for a quote. The unit is not due for release until the middle of February so the price could not be finalised but he estimated about HKD16,000; ie, USD2,000! Why the price discrepancy? The Hong Kong government has decreed that all imported electronics must be grounded. The power plugs must have three prongs. Unfortunately, the USA is not as stringent so many appliances there are supplied without the grounding prong. The same apparently is true for the Lacie 800 Bigger Drive. Consequently, my reseller who happens to be the Hong Kong Lacie distributor has to get the drive from the Lacie head office in France.

The Euro is EXPENSIVE! Remember that the Hong Kong dollar is currently pegged to the US dollar. If the US dollar depreciates, so does the Hong Kong dollar. So if European product is expensive for US citizens, you can be sure that it's expensive for us in Hong Kong too.

So what to do. At USD2,000, I feel the unit's a little too expensive for this at-home user. I'll probably just swap out the faulty Maxtor drive for a better and larger Seagate Barracuda (with 5 years warranty ;-) and make regular backups to DVD+RW. Did I mention that DVD+RW is not absolutely reliable?

I wonder which lawyers will be getting filthy rich in a few years time when multiple class-action suits are brought against the CD-R manufactures for false promises of 10 to 20 years shelf life?