A Song of Opposites
This time of year is always a bit Keatsian. No more the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, or at least not in the southeastern corner of the UK. Our gourds have swollen, and we have drunk the oozings from the cider press, just as John Keats wrote in the 1800s. He was possibly the first Macintosh fan as well, penning his poem on hot-desking, “Sharing Eve’s Apple.” We do still have tomatoes growing outdoors, but our apples are long since eaten, and the plums and pears have already turned into jam and chutney. That is, those pears the darned gray squirrels didn’t get their teeth into. These North American immigrants decimated our conference pears this year but were too scared to tackle the tree of unknown variety overhanging the pond.
We head towards gaining an extra hour in bed at the end of the month when the U.K. returns to GMT, a strange custom of playing with time. It was first mooted by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, largely as a joke, and 200 years later adopted around the world for some arcane reason ostensibly to do with giving longer hours of sunlight in the evenings. So why do we lose them in winter when we need them the most? The one hour of extra time is a poor substitute for dismal dusk starting halfway through the working afternoon. One year, the UK tried remaining on summer time, which I thought was brilliant, but apparently the Scots had different ideas—but then the men do wear skirts, so should we trust them entirely?
That’s just what I feel about my new hard disk, a Western Digital MyBook Pro 500 GB.
Western Digital MyBook Pro external hard disk.
I bought it following glowing reviews in the computer press and mainly because it has USB and FireWire 400 and 800 sockets. My G5 has a front FireWire socket to spare, so it seemed time to start filling the unused 800 sockets at the rear. And all was well in the beginning. The drive, looking a little like a metallic dictionary in size and shape, is extremely rapid and comes complete with a full set of cables. The installation booklet is mainly for PC users with page after page of advice about connecting to Windows. The Mac section, one sentence or so, says “Bung it on and plug it in,” or words to that effect.
After a few days, one becomes aware of an irritating hum coming from the drive that even now, propped on two thick pads of sponge, still manages to transmit to the sounding board of my desk. Not a big problem, but it adds to the humming, whirring, clicking cacophony of the office.
Then there are the enormous lights on the front, twin circles of tasteless design that must have seemed a good idea at the time but, like the new Honda Civic, the verisimilitude is flawed in reality.
Honda Civic’s new design, a matter of bling over taste.
The final straw came when, after installing Mac OS X 10.4.8, the drive no longer functioned properly on the FireWire 800 circuit. If the Mac goes to sleep when the drive is mounted, it won’t be there when the Mac wakes up, requiring either a reboot or yanking the leads on the drive. It works fine under FireWire 400, though I haven’t tested the USB operation (having no spare port).
Western Digital has told me: “There is no workaround. This is a known issue. We are aware of the problem and working on the solution.” But as it also said, “We do not provide firmware updates.” It will be interesting to see how Western Digital solves this one. Consequently, I cannot recommend the drive. Unlike the Honda Civic—which goes like a rocket on rails—if only Honda would redesign the rear end and dump the excess chrome, which, I understand, is considered de rigueur for the North American market. You can have your squirrels back, too.
Also in This Series
- What Trick, What Device, What Starting-Hole… · May 2012
- Do Androids Dream? · April 2012
- Our Macs Are Under Attack · March 2012
- The Best and Worst Christmas Presents · February 2012
- The Best Use for a Kindle · January 2012
- It’s Got No Blinking Light · January 2012
- Box-Shifting Causes Migration · December 2011
- The Best Thing About the iPhone 4S and How to Cope in Clink · December 2011
- Death of a Salesman · November 2011
- Complete Archive