The drive in my work laptop gave a S.M.A.R.T. error over the weekend. I never have had much luck with Hitachi laptop drives. Micron sent a replacement drive–an IBM, thankfully–and, doubly thankfully, the Hitachi hung on until today. So I whipped out Bart’s magic network boot disk–to which I’d added the 3c556 module necessary to get this Micron Transport LT on the network–and ran my copy of Ghost from a network drive. (It won’t fit on that disk, no way, no how. Not with all the other stuff crammed onto it.)
Depending on how far gone the drive is, Ghost can cope with failing hard drives, because you can use the -FRO switch to make it work around bad clusters to the best of its ability. So I initiated Ghost with ghost -z9 -fro (the -z9 tells it to use maximum compression, since the network is the bottleneck here) and made a copy of my disk to a network drive. An hour and a half later (ugh–do I ever miss Token Ring) I had a backup. So I swapped in the IBM drive and repeated the process in reverse. An hour and a half up, an hour and a half down. The data compression wasn’t the bottleneck.
And in the end, I had a healthy laptop again. The IBM drive is quieter and seems faster. I noticed it wasn’t the nice new 5400 RPM model (it’s a 4200 rpm drive) but it’s not a slouch. And it definitely doesn’t clunk as much as the Hitachi always did. I love Hitachi’s video equipment, but their hard drives have always given me trouble. IBM’s laptop drives have always been fine for me. And I know IBM took a lot of black eyes over the GXP desktop series, but think about the things that are known to cause problems with IDE drives:
PCI bus overclocked beyond 33 MHz
Cables longer than 18 inches (the length of the wire–not the cable itself)
Certain VIA chipsets in conjunction with Sound Blaster Live! sound cards
IBM 75GXP and 60GXP drives were typically bought by people seeking performance. People seeking performance often do at least one of the above, intentionally or unintentionally. During the 75GXP’s heyday, the hottest chipsets on the block were made by VIA (Intel was still embroiled in the whole Rambus fiasco), and the sound card everyone had to have was the SB Live. I suspect the GXPs were more sensitive to these factors than some other drives and they really weren’t as bad as their reputation.
While rounded cables are good for airflow, they’re bad for signal integrity. Rounded SCSI cables are common, especially in servers, and have been for years, but SCSI takes precautions with its signals–most notably, termination–that IDE doesn’t. That’s part of the reason why IDE is cheaper. So yes, though ribbon cables do look really retro, replacing them with fancy rounded cables isn’t a good idea unless you like replacing hard drives. Get Serial ATA adapters and run your drives serial if you don’t think retro is cool. I’ve been conspiring for the last couple of years to get something semi-modern into my vintage IBM AT case, so I happen to like retro.
But I digress. I hope when the merger between Hitachi’s and IBM’s storage divisions happens, we get the best aspects of both rather than the worst.