Monday, November 26, 2007

On good design, and good hard drives.

Maybe I'm a dork, but the instruction manual for Seagate's excellent 500 GB "FreeAgent" external hard drive is a hoot.

I originally bought one over the summer - $100 for 500 GB is a heckuva deal - because my former external hard drive was a piece of crap. It had Firewire, but that's about all it had going for it. The Seagate's hefty 500 gigs would be more than enough space to back up all of my Macs, with room to spare, and the plug-and-play USB is a cinch to use.

So when our network drive at work (the one that held every file ever created by our marketing department) took a dump, our IT department suggested we get an external drive to back up our M:Drive.

Previously, I had been backing up our files on to CD-ROMs, but that's a slow process, and you can't fit much into the 700 MB on the disc. When our network drive crashed, we had to recover files from individual CDs, and my co-workers couldn't all use the same CD at the same time. It was a hassle.

Enter the Seagate. I recommended it after having such a good time with mine: its throbbing orange light mimicking my own sleeping iBook's, its sleek form factor, the way I keep it plugged into my Airport wireless network at all times, accessible from any room in the apartment - plus you can't beat the cost.

Smart people backup their computers, as my experience at work showed. I've been lucky at home: I haven't had to recover any files from my backup plan. No lightning, no acts of god, no thefts - but that doesn't mean I don't backup on a regular basis. Carbon Copy Cloner makes a full, bootable copy of my hard drive, and Apple's own Backup application makes incremental backups of my music, documents, and personal settings. If - Don forbid - something were to happen, I could make a full restore of my entire system.

It's not Time Machine, but it'll do.

When I got the Seagate, I couldn't help but giggle over the design choices the manufacturers made. A little sticker that says "hello" keeps the little cord baggies closed, and when you first open the box a message tells you "If only this box held as much content as your FreeAgent desktop drive." It's the little things.

But the manual is my favorite. It tells you, confidently, that "This won't take long," then keeps track of how many seconds it takes to set the components up. Taking everything out of the box and packages? Thirty-nine seconds. Plug the thing in? A minute. Plug the USB cable into your computer? A minute eleven. The entire thing, according to Seagate, shoudl take 1:36, and its pretty accurate. "Please enjoy" the manual concludes.

How fun!

Good design is not only a joy to behold, but communicates effectively - and, if we're lucky, with humor. The manual does both.

Now I get a spanking-new FreeAgent to play with at work. I'm going to name it "M:Drive 2.0" because I'm a dork like that, and one teammate suggested we burn incense and say prayers to it, just for security's sake. I think it's a great idea.

All hail FreeAgent.

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