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Disclaimer: The entries you find in these pages are based on my individual opinions and thoughts. Some of the entries may be just plain wrong, and others harmful. Should you choose to act on, or try, anything you find on this site, you assume any and all risks associated with your actions. So there.


More Drobo Feedback

February 10, 2011


Believe it or not, this is actually going to be a POSITIVE post about Drobo. Bear with me. After my last Drobo post, if you read to the end, you will know that I think this technology is incredible, and I am really mainly disappointed in their lack of attention to customer details. I hold that same opinion, for the most part. However, I think the Drobo product is outstanding.

I have three complaints:

1) See this post regarding formatting Drobo on older Macs. Sadly, as of this date, this has not been fixed. I realize that Drobo can't go back and support every Mac -- but the 32/64 bit issue is one that should be addressed.

2) Drobo's warranty and return policy is lacking. I had a client's Drobo Pro die from a power supply failure at roughly 5 months of age. Because we had not purchased Drobo Care, our only return option was to ship the drive back, then wait for the return. The basic 1-year warranty only covers the hardware, and not shipping, etc. You get 90 days of shipping returns and premium support, but not for the remaining 9 months of warranty.

It's not that you need to buy Drobo Care to extend your warranty after the first year. I would be fine if that were the case. It is that you have to buy Drobo Care to get the SAME service during the first full year — this I object to. It changes after 90 days. Come on — give us the first year. Or, make the warranty only 90 days — I would find that more acceptable than having my warranty tarnish after 90 days.

3) Hard drives in the drive bays of a Drobo unseat too easily. I have a few clients who use pairs of Drobos as network backup. One is kept off-site, while the other is in use, and they are swapped weekly. When you pick up and move a Drobo, the drives can unseat quite easily — while seemingly still in place (ie: they all appear to be seated correctly on close inspection). This can happen even when the drive is handled with kid-glove care. I think the weight of the drives is too much for the design of the latches that hold them in place.

If this happens, when you next plug-in the Drobo, it will report one or more of the drives as missing. Firmly pushing the drive(s) back in corrects the problem — but the Drobo then needs to rebuild for many hours (as many as 40+). This is a vexing problem for one of my clients. So much so that now part of their routine is to re-seat each drive every time they have to change them out.

Now, on balance, I still love the Drobo product. There is room for improvement, but the technology is impressive. For example, despite having drives unseat, my clients have never lost data, nor had to erase and start over with a Drobo.

Now, on to my positive testimonial. For you tech people, this will be a little scary.

One of the cool things about the Drobo is that you can pop-out any drive at any time (assuming the system is working correctly, meaning that your drive status lights are all green). The Drobo will quietly go about rebuilding your data protection and you can go on using it as if nothing happened. I related this fact to client when making the recommendation to him for his backup.

My client purchased a Drobo S and five 2Tb hard drives. The Drobo and three drives arrived almost right away, while two of the drives were delayed a week. We decided to go ahead and deploy, because we had over-speced the storage needs by more than triple in order to provide room to grow. A week later, when the drives arrived, I advised my client that he could simply pop-in the new drives in the empty bays. As it turned out, the top bay of the Drobo wasn't working. Without going into detail, we carefully swaped the two new drives around to demonstrate that it was the Drobo bay, and not the drives, that was the problem. Data Robotics agreed to send out a new Drobo. It got interesting when the new Drobo arrive.

My client, taking me at my word (that you can pop-out any drive at any time), took it upon himself to pull out all four working drives from the old Drobo — without first shutting it down. HE then disconnect the old Drobo, connected the new one, put in the four drives and powered it up. It started blinking Red after it came online, but it came online and all of the data was intact. The red lights worried him, so he called me. I almost had a heart-attack when he told me what he had done. But before I completely panicked, he told me that it mounted and came up just fine. I advised him to wait a few hours to see if it would rebuild and the lights turn green. They did, so he inserted the last drive, it rebuilt itself again, and now his Drobo is fully populated and running like a well-oiled clock.

So, there you have it. This one Drobo recovered from a seemingly impossible event — losing EVERY drive. Granted, there was no data being moved to/from the drive at the time this was happening; plus, I seriously doubt that repeating this "experiment" would result in success; but, my confidence in their technology is high. Any other RAID system I know of, upon losing more than the requisite "safe" number of drives would be a total loss — or, at best, a nightmare to recover.

Old-School Troubleshooting

February 10, 2011

If you have ever had to call a tech-support person, such as one of us, then you have been told to reboot your computer:

Macs: Apple Menu—>Restart
Windows: Start Menu—>Shutdown

This may seem like you are being told to click your heels, or jump though a hoop. But, trust me, the next time you need to call for help, save yourself some time and reboot your computer first. I can tell you, from more than 25 years of experience, this fixes almost half of the problems I am asked about.

In this day of very robust computer systems, rebooting seems optional. But if you are leaving your computer on most of the time (for backups, etc.), reboot it once a week. And if you are having a problem, whether it is trouble accessing the internet, not printing, or system slowness, reboot before calling for help. You might just find out that all of those little problems, that you try to ignore, go away with regular rebootings.

iPhone/iPad Text Editing Tip

February 10, 2011

If you have had an iPhone/iPad for a while, this may be obvious to you. But since I have had both since each first came out, and only recently discovered this time-saving tip, it may help someone else out there.

When you are editing text, and you would like to move the insertion point to the beginning or end of a word, tap the word (not the space between words). No need to use the magnifying glass, just tap. Tap the beginning of a word if you want to move the insertion point in front of the word. Tap the end of a word if you want to move the insertion point to the end of the word. iOS will NOT put your insertion point within the word; rather, it will put it before or after the word based on where you tap the word.

If you want to put the insertion point within the word, you must tap and hold until the magnifying glass appears, then move your insertion point where you wish.

Migrating Old Data

February 10, 2011

Or, why we tech-geeks keep a bunch of old crap around even though our wives plead with us to dump it.

Ah, old hardware. <sarcasm>Fun Stuff</sarcasm>. You know that thing you threw away two months ago, the one you suddenly found you needed? I have a room full of stuff that would be like that — only I don't throw it away. 300 BAUD modem: got that; Newton battery charger: check; old SCSI enclosures: you bet; Mac OS 9 computers: yep. I even have an original floppy for Mac OS 1.0 — no joke, 1.0 was shipped for about 15 minutes before Finder 1.1 came out.

As an aside, if you want to be brought to tears, find an old Mac 128k (the original) and boot it up off of floppy: 10 seconds, I kid you not. Steve Jobs was said to scream at an engineer that he HAD to shave off 5 seconds from the boot time because lives were at stake. Because, with millions of reboots by millions of people per day, 5 seconds literally adds up to entire lifetimes. Oh, if only Apple cared that much about lifetimes now-a-days. Ok, I guess you could argue this to make a case that every Mac should have a solid state drive. But I digress. Back to (Ok, on to) migrating old data.

A client I hadn't heard from in OVER a decade called me the other day. He has a Mac G3, Beige, running Mac OS 8.1. He has upgraded to a new iMac with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and needs to migrate his data. Thinking I would be dealing with an old SCSI drive, I got out one of my PowerMac G4s, with SCSI, IDE and USB. I was actually getting excited about firing up an old SCSI drive and jury-rigging a way to migrate the data to 10.6.

Turns out that the Beige G3 had and IDE drive in it — a 4Gb one. So, I didn't need anything but an external case. Only, for whatever reason, the drive did NOT want to function in either one of two cases. So, we popped the drive into the G4 anyway, into one of the open IDE spots. Because the old G4 had only USB 1.1, we realized that it would take forever to migrate all of the data to an new drive via USB. Instead of using USB, we pushed the data over the network over to the new drive connected to another computer which had USB 2. Done in 14 minutes.

As my client put it, that's a year a minute (14 years worth of his data).