Three Mac questions
April 23, 2007 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Dead hard drive in PowerBook; multiple backups; colour lasers

  1. I have a 12-inch PowerBook whose hard drive died (amusingly, while at a client’s office trying to load their Web site). The system does not recognize the existence of the hard drive even when booted from system CDs (which the machine often will not even do). Do I have to get an entirely new hard drive, or does DiskWarrior really fix problems like these, in your direct experience?
  2. Multiple backups: I have two 300GB external hard drives for two computers (formerly three, obviously). I have less than 600GB of data, but it is segmented into inconvenient lumps from current and former hard drives. Ideally I would like a rotating set of backups (not CDs or DVDs created by Retrospect, a failed option I already tried) on different physical media and, if at all practicable, online. (I’m the kind of person who worries about infopocalypse.) Malarkey is happy with his RAID setup; is that what I need, or do I need two 500GB portable hard drives, or what?
  3. Colour laser printers: Although the price drops are not as shocking as those of inkjets, colour lasers now cost a couple of hundred bucks. I remember when they were $6,000, weighed a hundred pounds, and required gelatinous inks you had to insert and melt.
    1. But under OS X, I am not clear on how important PostScript is anymore. Does one really need PostScript in a colour laser? That feature (plus, maddeningly, Ethernet) seems to drive up the price substantially. Anyone have buying advice?
    2. I’m also interested in the fumes or exhaust from these machines, as I already live in a neighbourhood with air quality so poor it may be taking years off my life. I remember sitting next to an oldskool colour laser and nearly expiring. Do they produce worse fumes than monochrome lasers?
posted by joeclark to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1. DiskWarrior probably cannot help with that drive if the machine can't even see it. If you've got another mac somewhere you can use, try booting your PB in Firewire Target Disk Mode (Google it), and try to access the drive that way.

2. You could span or stripe the two drives you have to access all 600 GB as one volume. For something that you backup to, though, I highly discourage this. If one of the drives suffers a physical failure, you will lose all the data. Is there no way you can easily partition the data you need to back up?

3. Inexpensive color laser printers will bankrupt you in the long run. You generally have an expensive cartridge for each color and you also have to replace the drum ever so many pages. Be certain that you research the cost per page from an independent source. Postscript is not essential anymore, but it sure is nice not having to worry about drivers or which OS you're printing from. Everything just works. Ditto for Ethernet. No clue about the fumes.
posted by AaRdVarK at 1:13 PM on April 23, 2007

Response by poster: Wait, even the colour lasers have high operating costs? I knew inkjets did.
posted by joeclark at 1:15 PM on April 23, 2007

1. No, if you cannot see the drive, odds are neither can Diskwarrior. And even if it managed to fix it I would not trust the drive. I'd say you are looking at buying a new HD soon.

2. I would go for two external Firewire drives and do a RAID-1 (mirror) setup on it. The larger raids are nice, but for just backups I think they are overkill.

3.1 Sorry here, I don't do much printing anymore, but from past experiences I would only worry about postscript if you do graphic design that is meant to be printed out. The only time I ran afoul of it was when printing out EPS's embedded in a PageMaker document back in the pre OSX days.

3.2 The ones that I have been around lately have been pretty much oderless. Not sure if that means I just can't smell them though.
posted by cftarnas at 1:19 PM on April 23, 2007

That's how they get the price down to the hundreds from the thousands. They are heavily subsidizing them, and losing money on every printer they sell. Oftentimes, it is cheaper to buy a new printer and take out it's cartridges and drum rather than going out and buying the consumables each time. What printer model were you looking at in particular?
posted by AaRdVarK at 1:20 PM on April 23, 2007

I am researching colour printing at the moment.

The "melty inks" you mentioned are still around - bought out by Xerox and called "Solid Ink" - another name for thermal wax transfer.

Thermal wax printers provide amazing colour reproduction on normal paper - however: the wax can peel or be scratched off and can fade over time.

Lasers are actually cheaper to operate than thermal wax devices - however they have their faults as well: colour banding while printing, printed colours do not seem to match what was selected onscreen (faded, washed out, etc.)

However in terms of operating costs the progression from most expensive to least expensive is: ink jet, solid ink/thermal wax and then laser.

But as others mentioned - getting the cheapest laser/thermal wax will mean higher operating costs.

Personally - I am looking in the $1000-1200 range.

I calculated about 13-14c per page for thermal wax and 9-10c per page for laser.
posted by jkaczor at 1:30 PM on April 23, 2007

This is for a SOHO (w/kids) printing situation - and ink jet costs are just outrageous.

Even though both I and my wife can expense the cartridge costs, it is a hastle. I also find consumer-grade drivers suck and are updated infrequently. Heck, my HP Officejet 7310ca drivers have not been updated since 2005 - it has no future under Vista (yes, I'm a Windows guy).

Whereas Xerox seems to have much better quality drivers.

One of my stipulations is that the printer have a built-in ethernet port so I don't have to run a print server and can share it amongst all of my machines.
posted by jkaczor at 1:37 PM on April 23, 2007

1. No. If the system can't see the drive at all (did you check Apple System Profiler), then it's dead, Jim. If you have backups of everything that's on there, I'd just chuck it (smash it with a hammer or something if you're worried about someone dumpster-diving and resurrecting it long enough to pull sensitive data from). I'd just replace the drive and move on -- hard drives are inexpensive enough these days to make tools like Disk Warrior rarely worth their cost (and your time) if you have backups. Plus, if it does fix it, the drive may still flake out later and really eat your data. Not good.

2. RAID-5 sounds like it might be a good solution for you, in order to give you enough usable storage to do good backups ... but there have been a lot of horror stories about RAID-5 as it's pushed out into the consumer world. You have to make sure that you are monitoring it, so that if a drive goes down, you know about and replace/rebuild it immediately ... because if two drives die, you're hosed. It's not a "fire and forget" solution, by any means; it demands even more vigilance than regular non-RAIDed drives, because you won't know if just one drive goes down, if you're not careful. (This is more a problem with internal setups than external RAID enclosures like Lacie's.)

3. Can't really say. Although I think the solid-ink printers you were thinking about weren't really "laser" printers at all, I think they were a special Xerox thing. I remember them, and yeah they stank like hell. We have a color laser in the office and it's not nearly as bad -- it does smell "hot" sometimes, but I don't think it's hugely offensive. Only thing I'd say you should consider is, if Ethernet and Postscript are giving you big price premiums, see if it has Linux drivers (Brother is generally good, Samsung okay, HP sucks at the low end) and think about using some old spare box to make a print server. That'll give you networked printing and postscript if you need it, now or in the future. But if you really just want to use it with your Mac, just check for Mac drivers. Postscript doesn't really matter if you have good-quality native Mac drivers, IMO.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:15 PM on April 23, 2007

I'm going to disagree with everyone on point 1. In my personal exprience, Diskwarrior can (and has) revived an otherwise unmountable hard drive on multiple occasions. It's also worth having just to run regularly -- it will pre-empt all sorts of problems.
posted by churl at 4:39 PM on April 23, 2007

You still need Postscript support for macs, unless the person has a full set of OpenType fonts.
posted by amberglow at 5:08 PM on April 23, 2007

A lot of PDFs use postscript fonts as well, and they're very common nowadays--it's not just EPSs that can cause problems.
posted by amberglow at 5:09 PM on April 23, 2007

Everyone is obsessing about PS too much. If you want a printer, pick one out and see if it's on the supported printers list (Intel, PPC). If it's not there, then go to the manufacturers website and checkout the driver downloads for the model.

And if you strike out at both places, just give up and choose another printer.
posted by sbutler at 5:45 PM on April 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

The WD MyBook drives in large sizes, eg: 1TB and above, are 2 HDs inside. I've read that you can set them to mirror instead of striping (the default).

I'm partial to using Carbon Copy Cloner to do a nightly sync to my external drive, and using .Mac Backup once a week to make incremental DVDs. Once a month, I start a new set of DVDs.

That way, if a nuke goes off close enough to wipe the drives, I still have my DVDs, once I get a working computer again. :-p
posted by frijole at 6:22 PM on April 23, 2007

frijole writes "The WD MyBook drives in large sizes, eg: 1TB and above, are 2 HDs inside. I've read that you can set them to mirror instead of striping (the default)."

I can confirm this - I've got a 1TB WD MyBook set up in what is effectively RAID1. They're also meant to be user-serviceable - the cases are apparently easy to get into to replace drives though I haven't tried this. The only problem is that the internal fan is surprisingly loud.
posted by blag at 7:02 PM on April 23, 2007

posted by IndigoRain at 7:06 AM on April 24, 2007

What I'm doing for multiple backups: two external drives, one with the same capacity as my internal drive, the other double that, partitioned into two drives. Every Friday morning in the wee hours my iMac wakes and SuperDuper makes a bootable mirror image onto one of the drives. On Wednesday it wakes and makes a bootable mirror onto a partition on the other drive. Any morning that a mirror isn't being made, SuperDuper does what amounts to a nondestructive rsync of my User files to a partion on the Big drive (files are added or replaced, but never deleted). I like having staggered mirrors so that if I do something really stupid, I have a week to figure out that I did it, and a bootable restore option from pre-stupid. For ordinary restoring of this or that file, I usually fetch it off the daily User files backup.

I have a Samsung color laser that I'm happy with for office-type color stuff (no photos). It's somewhat noisy in operation though, so I use a Brother duplexing laser for 95% of output. Fast and quiet.
posted by cairnish at 9:57 AM on April 24, 2007

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