Friday, August 31, 2012

Top five external drives for hard-core users

Generally, the term "hard-core" and external hard drives don't go together. This is because external/portable hard drives are probably the most popular and casual types of consumer storage.

But some of them can get really serious, too.

These are external storage devices that are not just fast or rugged, but also are likely to make you think before purchasing due to their cost. In other words, they are not for everyone, but only those who have the need for them and can appreciate their value.

If you are one of these people, the following five drives are totally worth the investment.

WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo
The My Book VelociRaptor Duo is the second Thunderbolt drive from Western Digital, the first being the WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo. Unlike the Thunderbolt Duo, which uses energy-efficient WD Green hard drives, the new My Book uses two of the latest 1TB VelociRaptor hard drives in RAID 0 as its storage. In case you don't know, WD VelociRaptor internal hard drives are arguably the fastest and most reliable on the market. The result: the My Book VelociRaptor Duo is by far the fastest dual-bay Thunderbolt drive I've tested. This, plus the fact that a Thunderbolt cable is included, makes the My Book VelociRaptor totally worth its $900 suggested price tag in my opinion.

And since the drive can only offer top performance when its two internal drives are set up in RAID 0, you should get two of them, daisy-chained together, for backup purposes. Read the full review of the WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo.

Promise Pegasus R4
The Promise Pegasus R4 is the next step from the WD VelociRaptor Duo in terms of storage space. The drive can host up to four internal hard drives to offer either 4TB or 8TB of storage space for $1,000 or $1,500, respectively. Read the full review of the Promise Pegasus R4.

LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt SSD
The LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt SSD is the first Thunderbolt external drive that's based on a solid-state drive (SSD) and is currently probably the most expensive external storage device in terms of cost per gigabyte. The drive costs about $800 for just 240GB of storage space. To make up for that, it's rugged and portable, and it's very fast, too. Read the full review of the LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt SSD.

IoSafe Solo G3
Speaking of rugged, no other drive can beat the IoSafe Solo G3 there. Supporting USB 3.0 and costing about $390 for 3TB, the drive was fast enough in my testing, and is relatively normal in terms of pricing. However, it's made this list thanks to its ability to withstand disasters. It's the only USB 3.0 external hard drive I've seen that can handle heat up to thousands of degrees, being submerged in water tens of feet in depth, and being crushed by tens of thousands of pounds, and still keep the data on the inside safe.

For the drive to have those crazy protective attributes, it comes with a very large chassis that weighs about 15 pounds. If you're really serious about keeping your important data safe, the IoSafe Solo G3 is for you. Read the full review of the IoSafe Solo G3.

Promise Pegasus R6
The Promise Pegasus R6 is the first Thunderbolt drive and has remained the thoroughbred of the Thunderbolt standard, in terms of storage. Up to now, it's still the fastest of its type and offers the most storage space, up to 12TB. This workhorse storage product houses six hot-swappable hard drives that can be set up in many different RAID configurations. The downsides of the drive include its enormous cost (about $2,000 for 12TB) and the noise and vibration it generates during operation. If you edits lots of movies using Final Cut Pro, this is the ideal drive for you. Read the full review of the Promise Pegasus R6.


Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

Question: apsd firewall error in OS X
MacFixIt reader Clem asks:

When I log into my system I get a Firewall warning (from Norton Firewall) that states: "The computer '' is attempting to access apsd on your computer. Do you want to allow this connection?" Should I be concerned? Apple Support was not familiar with this warning.

The apsd background process is a push notification manager for many of Apple's services including Mail, calendars, contacts, and chat messages, and the server attempting the connection is one of Apple's push servers. I would not be concerned at all about this connection attempt. In fairness to them, it is a warning from a third-party firewall you have installed on your system so it is unlikely Apple's support personnel would be familiar with this specific warning message.

Question: The utility and risk of having Java Runtimes installed
MacFixIt reader Chris asks:

I appreciate your recent article on Java 7 Exploit, August 28, 2012 9:04 AM PDT. I am interested in knowing is having Java SE 6 installed a good idea or not, and does it do anything that my system does already?

The Java runtime on your system allows programs written in the Java programming language to run on your system, similar to how having Flash Player installed allows you to view Flash content in Web pages. If you do not ever use Java-based programs, then you do not need to keep an active Java runtime on your computer and can uncheck those options to disable the Runtimes.

If you are unsure whether or not you use Java programs, then uncheck the Runtimes listed and try using your computer normally. If you run into a program that requires Java, then you will be prompted with a warning that states you need to install a Java runtime to use it, in which case you can re-enable the Java Runtimes and continue using the program.

As for whether or not simply having Java enabled is a good idea, these days a number of security vulnerabilities have been found in the software, and as with any runtime (a collection of support software that allows specific code to run) it is best to keep it disabled unless you specifically use it.

Question: Maintaining Mountain Lion in corporate networks
MacFixIt reader Perry asks:

I'd like to hear your thoughts on how to maintain Mountain Lion updates in the corporate world, multiple users with individual App Store accounts? There's got to be a better way, right?

Often corporate network admins will bind Mac systems to an Active Directory or Open Directory service and manage them from there using their own software update servers; however, often this is a bit of a burden to set up and maintain, especially for smaller businesses. Therefore, network admins often set up each system with its own administrative account that can be used to access the Mac App Store with the same Apple ID (i.e., that for the corporation) and get updates to the OS and other software that is installed on the systems.

Question: Running MacBooks on a dead battery
MacFixIt reader Arturo asks:

If my MacBook's battery dies, can't I just plug it into an AC outlet and power it there when using the computer? I know this defeats the portability issue but it is still possible to use the Macbook Pro with a dead battery just plugging it into an AC outlet, isn't it?

This is definitely possible, though in some instances the system requires a small amount of charge in the battery to boot the system, even when connected to wall power. This is especially true if you are using a mismatched power supply such as Apple's 60-watt power supply in a system that requires the 85-watt supply. Therefore the MacBook will run when connected to the AC adapter even if the battery is not able to hold a charge for very long; however, it may depend on the battery being able to hold at least some charge. Additionally, it will take a very long time of use for the battery to deplete to this state (perhaps a decade or even longer for most uses).