Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Solid-State External Hard-Drives are the Best!

When it comes to backing up all my files, I've got two Cavalry Pelican Solid State external hard-drives  (a 128 GB and a 64 GB), and they both work excellent. I bought them a while back after honestly having terrible luck with regular portable external hard-drives. I had two of them crash on me for no reason, and one was a Western Digital, which is supposedly an excellent brand. At the time, I had to pay someone to try and salvage whatever files they could off of them, and I lost many of my files in the process. That is why I eventually "converted" to "Solid-State" portable external hard-drives. They don't have any moving parts, making them much more reliable than regular portable hard-drives. That little tidbit was serious music to my ears and what ultimately won me over. According to wikipedia, solid state drives are "less fragile, silent, have faster start-up, have lower power consumption, have high mechanical reliability, and they have the ability to endure extreme shock, high altitude, vibration, and extremes of temperature." This is especially important to think about if you travel alot, because things inside your vehicle can go from being really hot to really cold, and they can also be exposed to all sorts of different elevations and vibrations. For these reasons (among others), storing your electronics inside a vehicle just puts them at a higher risk of mechanical failure.

Solid-state drives are still fairly new, so the price hasn't come down that much yet, but I personally think they are still worth it. The sound of a spinning external hard-drive just freaks me out. Through my past experiences, spinning = crashing. I'm never going back to an external hard-drive with moving parts. I've got too many files that I care about, which reminds me - Next I want to look into making some Faraday Cages for my electronic devices. Virus protection, EMP protection.... there is so much to be prepared for.


Duane said...

I'm glad to read that your computer is back in the land of the living.

Why don't you put both Avast and AVG on your computer? On all of my Windows computers I use three virus scanners (Microsoft Security Essentals, AVG Free, and ClamWin). I also keep a copy of ClamWin on a thumb drive just in case.

I will be another voice for putting Ubuntu on your computer (pros: tends to run faster than WinXP, doesn't have the problems with viruses that more popular OSs have, tons of free software (games for me) Cons: While easy to use and setup, it's scary to do so the first time, and it's handy to have someone around to give a hand the first few times you use it).

Luke said...

Hey, I just now read the follow ups to your last post...

About the administrator / limited user question ... you don't really need to set a password on the administrator account. What I would do is set up another totally new user via the "User Accounts" control panel and make it an admin user. You should be able to assign a password to that user at that time as well.

Some Windows versions have the "real" Administrator account totally disabled ... which version are you using?

erowe3 said...

Hey Sonja :) Welcome back to the digital world once again. It may be that I'm hopelessly hooked on computers, but I know I feel pretty detached without my PC. I sent you an email with my contact info this morning, so if you ever need anything, you can call me any time.

I also have a program I'm looking into that would be like I am sitting right next to you and be able to offer help desk-like support. If we ever cross paths I'll hook you up with all sorts of PC goodies :)

Those are indeed the correct sites. They don't offer realtime scanning like Avast (great program), AVG, or Norton (BOOOO!!) but they are great to have on hand if you sense the presence of nasty malware.

You should be able to download and run SuperAntiSpyware while infected, but a lot of viruses block the MalwareBytes program from running (very sneaky).If you run SUPER first, then it should remove enough of the virus to allow MalwareBytes to install. It's good practice to always have a copy of the programs on a flash drive, just in case the virus prevents you from downloading antivirus programs.

Even if the programs are on the local drive and not a flash drive, you will still be able to run them whether you are in safe mode or not. Safe Mode is just an extra only-if-necessary technique.

Ubuntu and Windows are both very different yet very similar worlds. With Ubuntu, it is highly unlikely you will ever have to worry about a virus again. I know you are kind of hesitant to move to Ubuntu due to familiarity, and I don't want to get all preacher on you, but it's always good to get exposed to the tools and make the decision for yourself. Once you get your larger hard drive, check out Wubi:

It will install a program inside windows to emulate Ubuntu, this giving you the ability to test it out without wiping anything.If you like it, I'll help you do everything you need to do. If you don't like it, uninstall it and curse it to it's shallow grave!!

I'm here for ya, just give me a call if you need anything :)

twotechs said...

Very nice explanation and justifcation for needing the SSD drives. It totally makes sense in your situation...even as spendy as they are. I hope you can replace the current laptop drive with an SSD one in the near future.

If I were in your shoes, I'd split the local laptop drive into a system partition and a data partition. I'd keep the system partition as small as possible, maybe 20 to 30gb or less depending on how many apps installed, but keep enough space for updates and new installs. Then I'd get an Acronis boot cd and do full image backups of each partition once a month and incremental backups once a week. I'd store the images on both external drives with a 1 month retention (last months images on one external drive and this months on the other drive). Then delete last months images and start over with next months images on that drive and just keep repeating. Then I'd get a sandbox'd web browser (IE8 or Firefox or both) for surfing and checking Internet email. I'd use a trial version of VMware Thinapp and a Windows XP virtual appliance running in VMware player to make the virtualized apps. I might make virtualized versions of any blogging apps too like a comment reader or RSS reader. After making them, I'd duplicate them and only use a copy of each. That way if something nasty came through the Internet and messed everything up, I'd just delete the app and go make a new copy from the duplicate. The virtualized apps are running in their own operating system and are contained...separate from your current operating system so if you got a virus/malware/nuissanceware attack, it would be isolated from the rest of your laptop. They are .exe files, but can be a little large depending on the app. I would use the freebie AV type apps because no matter what happened, I could easily revert to the previous backup if needed. All of this can be done without spending any money.

As for the Linux, I Would start by getting some livecd's and taking a look. I'd look at Xubuntu/Lubuntu and Linux Mint for the Ubuntu flavors and also Mepis. PCLinuxOS is slick and pretty easy, but doesn't have the application support like the Ubuntu flavors. Even though you can compile your own apps in Linux, I like to be able to install them from repositories with the bugs already worked out. distrowatch.com is a good place to see the many different Linux flavors with their respective homepages for more info and downloading. If you were wired to the Internet, I'd recommend using a virtual machine to play around and learn Linux. But wireless NICs and virtual machines don't play well together yet. Dual booting with the Windows is also an option. If you have enough physical RAM, you can use the livecd's and download and install apps right into memory, but it will be lost when you reboot.

Check into using an old freebie microwave oven for EMP protection.

The Traveler said...

Duane - Hm, is it ok to put both of them on my computer? It was my understanding that you really only want one main anti-virus program running all the time b/c one will try to cancel out the other in certain areas? I really have no idea about that so I just opted for the one. I just picked Avast, like drawing straws, even though AVG and Microsoft Security Essentials sound just as good, if not better. What is ClamWin? I'll have to read up on that! Wow, Ubuntu must be the cat's meow. Everybody likes it! I will really have to get someone to help me figure it out.

Luke - ok, that is exactly what I did. I now have a new user account set up as an admin account. My "real" Admin account isn't listed under my Control Panel User accounts, but I figured out how to log in and mess with the main Admin account by going to Start, Run, and typing "control userpasswords2". I was able to sign in with the main Admin but everything looked totally different, so I logged back out of it and went back to my normal New-User Admin account. I'm using Windows XP. Just for kicks and to try it, I enabled the "Guest" account option, too, BUT for some reason, i couldn't get my "Fast User Switching" to work. And every time I turned on my computer the logon prompt came up as the "Classic Version." (with drop down menu). I wanted the "Welcome Screen" way of logging in, with little icons showing each user account. There was no way for me to get it to switch from Classic logon prompt to the Welcome Screen logon prompt. Any idea what is wrong with it? In other words, my "Wecome Screen" logon and "Fast User Switching" doesn't work/is disabled for some reason. SO for now I disabled the logon prompt al-together and have automatic logon for my new-user admin account every time I turn on my computer. Did that make any sense? lol.

erowe3 - you sound like a good friend to have. lol. Is SuperAntiSpyware about the same as MalwareBytes? I downloaded MalwareBytes to my laptop but am wondering if I should get that one too. also, just curious, how do you put your laptop into safe mode? Do you hit F8 when it is booting up? and Sweet! Wubi sounds perfect. Thank you!

twotechs - Well, they don't currently make a Solid State internal drive for my laptop, which is the only reason I'm not getting one... The biggest one they make is a 64 GB, and that is the same as my current hard-drive (a little smaller actually). My laptop, although not very old, is old enough to require a Pata (Ata-100) connection instead of a Sata. The bigger capacity SSDrives (like I would need) all seem to be Sata... I would get a new laptop so that I could have a Solid State internal drive, but I really don't need one. Honestly my Sony Vaio is in excellent shape, and I think I paid around 2 grand for it back 4 years ago. Also Thanks for your recommendation on what you would do and all the info.. maybe a little complicated for me at this time, but really good stuff... Also, microwave ovens protect electronics from EMPs?

Wally & Sue's 1975 GMC Glenbrook said...

Glad your computing again. Install Ubuntu and you won't have windoz virus battles any more. Once you get the hang of it you will wonder why people don't switch. Not any more difficult than getting used to a new windoz edition in my opinion. Linux will save you some grief over time.
Thanks for bogging!

The Traveler said...

Wally & Sue - hey there! I'm so curious about Ubuntu that I'm going to try erowe3's recommendation and download Wubi to "test" it out first. thx for the comment!

Nomad said...

I would go with the dual boot, with Ubuntu. That's what I did with my Mac. At first I spent most of my time in Mac, then slowly started spending more time in Ubuntu. Now I hardly ever use Mac.

When you get your new hard drive, you could just create about a ten Gb partition for Ubuntu. That would give you plenty to play with. If you get a live CD (you can download it) it gives a step by step instruction when installing on how to do the partitioning.

SSD's are certainly a wonderful advancement in technology. A word of caution though, make sure they are shut down when driving. Though they are very robust with shocks when they are not being used, they are prone to serious damage if they recieve a shock when in use. They also have a limit to the number of times data can be re-recorded. But over all I think they are a better technology for traveling than traditional hard drives.

erowe3 said...

Did I miss the EMP memo? The only EMP signal I have heard of is in war of the worlds when a blast was sent to the earth to destroy all electronic devices... Is this what the Farraday cages and microwaves are being used for? I know static can damage PC components when exposed, but has anyone had problems with static destroying the components of their enclosed PCs?

Also, not sure if you plan supports it, but I think this may change your internet life :)


P.S. Tethering means using your iPhone to get internet signal on your computer anywhere you get 3g coverage!


Jarrad said...

I like Lacie drives. I have big 1TB one but it has to be plugged in which is a pain. I want a smaller one that is armored as I am one clumsy guy and well I like semi tactical looking stuff.

The Traveler said...

Nomad - ah, I appreciate the info about partitioning and also about the SSDrives. Really, they have a limit to the number of times that data can be re-recorded? Hmm I wonder what that limit is. It will be good once I have a bigger hard-drive on my laptop.. then i won't be plugging in and using my external solid-state drives so much.

erowe3 - I just like to be prepared... an EMP is a possibility that could happen, as awful or unlikely as that may be.. thankfully no I haven't had any issues with static, but I'm sure some people have. When there is alot of static I honestly have gotten into the habit of touching something other than my electronics. Hey, guess what? :) As un-tech-savvy as I can be, I actually did used to have my iPhone tethered to my laptop! http://www.faliaphotography.com/2009/03/getting-spoiled.html (see paragraph 2) My iphone un-jailbroke itself though and went back to normal when I upgraded my iPhone to the newer version (I needed to upgrade b/c I kept getting errors). I then upgraded my ITunes and there wasn't a current jailbreak for the version at the time. I really want to do it again though, I'm sure my version has been hacked by now. It was SO convenient to get wifi on my laptop in the middle of the Everglades....

Jarrad - wow isn't a terabyte around 1000 GB? that is huge. Amazing how fast technology advances.

bigtroutz said...

Hi There

All this virus fixing etc after the fact is just a waste of time and effort.

Instead make a disk image of your lappy hard disk either on your external storage or dvd//cd with something free like http://www.runtime.org/driveimage-xml.htm and then overwrite the infected boot drive with the image -- takes less then 10 minutes and you are good to go.

easy fast foolproof

Leif said...

You only want one virus protection at a time on your computer. Best virus protection to use is Microsoft Security Essentials. Not McAfee or Norton or Avast or AVG. Then install a free version of ZONE ALARM firewall protection. This is your first line of defense for your computer.

If looking for a HDD to store your data on I am still not certain on digital drives if you really understand how they are constructed you will understand. Western Digital Black is the HDD of choice. Read up on this Hard Drive. It is designed to take abuse and shock that other drives can't handle. I have an external that is an experiment drive and it survived through college going for a IT degree. It has been dropped multiple times. Sometimes for demonstration. Why? It you asked me what my opinion is and how I test different gear. I can honestly say I put hardware through its paces. Just my opinion.

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