WiebeTech UltraDock v5 Review

Over the years I have owned a number of devices that allowed me to connect a bare drive to a computer. I have box full of these types of devices as they where always one off solutions. This past week I have had been reviewing the WiebeTech UltraDock v5.

This dock is incredible! I can connect to bare 3.5 & 2.5 Sata Drives, 3.5 IDE drives, 2.5 Notebook drives, 3.5 & 2.5 Sata, 1.8 Toshiba Drives, 1.8 Zif Drives, USB Drives and the best part is I can connect it to my PC or Mac via Serial ATA, Firewire 400/800, USB 2.0 or 3.0 . But this dock is what I would call “smart” it has a LCD display that gives you details about the drive you are connected to, capacity, error, warning messages and other relevant drive info.

The LCD screen was invaluable to me as I had a box of drives of various types and I was able to connect to drives that I had failed to be able to do so in the past with other docks. This allowed me to clean up some drives that I had not been able to do so in the past.

Wiebetech has stated the the v5 version of the dock is substantially improved over the v4 version. They say that it has an upgraded chipset and faster host connections (USB 3.0, eSATA, and FireWire 800), and is 24% faster than its predecessor with benchmark speeds of up 211.9 MB/s

A cool feature is that if you have drives with a Host Protected Areas (HPA’s) or Device Configuration Overlays (DCO) you can now create, modify or remove the areas. Programmers may want to modify or upload their very own builds.

This dock is priced at $249.00 but I found the price to be justified as they have developed this into a docking solution that works both on the Mac and Windows operating systems. The LCD screen in my opinion is one of the best features. Being the dock is compact and versatile in being able to connect to nearly every format it is worth every penny. Do not forget the speed factor with data transfer clocking in at 211 Mbps this bad boy screams.

LaCie Thunderbolt at CES Unveiled

LaCie LogoMike Mihalik from LaCie shows off their new Thunderbolt-connected hard drives for the Apple Macs, including the previously announced Little Big Disk and the new 2big, which has two internal 3.5″ drives. Also announced was the eSata Dock, a docking station that connects legacy SATA devices via Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt offers seriously quick data transfer speeds with write speeds of 252 Mb/s and read speeds of 459 Mb/s shown in the video.

The Little Big Disk is available now, but the 2big and eSata Dock units won’t be available until later in the quarter, with pricing to be announced.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast network.

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Buffalo DriveStation Quad Review

To describe the Buffalo DriveStation Quad as merely an external hard drive would be doing it a considerable injustice and likely to miss the point.  This is an external drive on steroids and with attitude.

To start with, you’d be hard pushed to call it portable.  It’s 14.9 cm wide, 15.4 high, 23.3 cm deep and weighs somewhere in the region of 5.5 kg, so you won’t be just slipping this in your coat pocket to nip round to your friend’s house.  This is no weedy 500 GB unit for some MP3s and photos from a couple of holidays either.  This monster packs four 1 TB Seagate drives – yes, four – giving a total of 4 TB.  And to top it off, there’s an integrated RAID controller to keep your data safe.

On the front there are four LEDs in the centre that indicate the status of each of the internal drives.  There’s also a single power LED on the right.  Round the back there’s both USB2 and eSATA ports.  The USB2 can be used for both data and configuration of the device, whereas the eSATA connection can only be used for data.  If you’re missing an eSATA port, don’t worry, there’s an eSATA bracket in the box that will convert a free internal connection to an external one.  There’s also a simple auto/off switch.

So what’s it like in action?  Let’s take a look.

Installing the DriveStation Quad software was simple.  The main element is the RAID configuration tool which allows you to configure the array in five different ways, including four independent disks, one big disk, RAID 0, RAID 10 and RAID 5.  It’s all very straightforward and the disk(s) are reformatted after array changes.  Frankly, once you’ve decided what kind of array you want and have configured the Quad, you’re done.  Just get on and use it.

The configuration software also allows you to configure email alerts for a variety of conditions, such as out of space or disk failure.

In addition, there’s a bit of extra software including various drivers to “speed up” your PC, a backup utility and a RAM Disk utility.

After playing with Quad under Windows 7 for awhile, I transferred the Quad to my Ubuntu Linux PC and connected it up with eSATA.  There is no RAID configuration utility for Linux, but as it was already configured as a RAID 5 array, I had no difficulty re-formatting it to one of the Linux formats (ext3) before mounting it.

Running a couple of speed tests, I was able to get an average read rate of just under 260 MB/s, which is actually better than spec (235 MB/s).  To test the RAID capability, I removed one of the disks from the array and then copied some files to the remaining disks.  On restoring the disk to the array, a red flashing light appeared on the front indicating the affected disk.  The other three green LEDs flickered away while the array was rebuilt.  Now, it did take a good few hours rebuild the array but I was still able to read and write to the unit during this time.  Brilliant.

When I first got the Quad out of the box, I have to say that I was a bit unsure of its target market.  It’s too big to be portable.  It’s not a NAS for central storage.  It’s a bit much for just backup.  So what’s it for?  In my opinion, this is a additional hard drive for data hungry users.  Remember when articles said you should store your OS on one partition (or drive) and your data on another? Well, this is how you do it – you have your main disk for your OS, you plug this in via eSATA and you’ve got your data on a rock solid RAID5 array.  Would I want one?  Definitely.

Alternatively, you could plug the Quad into a server and boost the storage space available – it’s fully compatible with Microsoft’s Windows Storage Server 2003/2008 – so this would be an attractive way for a small business to easily and quickly upgrade a server with extra disk space.

The full specs on the DriveStation Quad are available from Buffalo’s website and it should be available shortly.  An RRP hadn’t been set at time of writing but I imagine it will be around £400 inc VAT.

Thanks to Buffalo for the loan of the review unit.

Changing Out to a New Computer

I told myself a long time ago that I would only upgrade my main computer if a new one could triple the performance. It would be so I don’t sit and waste money every year just to buy a machine that was a few MHz faster than the previous one. I know I can get by with an increase in RAM, an updated hard drive or new video card.

This machine was 6 times better.

The kicker was that I was trying to do video on the old machine and it would take forever. I was sitting there waiting for items to load…. and load…. and zzzzzzzzzz… huh? oh. It’s still loading.

WARNING – GEEKY STUFF AHEAD: The new machine is an AMD Phenom II 945 with DDR3 support. The processor is a Quad-core – 3.0 GHz processor. It has a 6 MB L3 Cache. With the AM3+ board (The M4A78T-E from ASUS), this machine  will power through what I need. With the 2 PCIx slots (yes, I said 2) for the connection of ATI’s CrossFireX technology, along with the build in dual video support and HDMI support, this could easily become a fully functional home theater.  I even have a USB. Firewire AND eSata port on the back, so it can connect to my favorite storage drive and back up data.

WARNING – ENVIRONMENTAL STUFF AHEAD: The best part about this proc / board combo is that it runs at 140W. Add a hard drive and DVD RW: You are looking at 190 Watts to run this computer. My other machine took almost twice as much to run. I have a 450 W power supply which will be perfect for this.

I am also not a high – end gamer, so those of you looking for better frame rates and overclocking will probably be laughing at this.  Still, if I want to change out the heatsinks, double the power supply and put in 2 high end dual graphics cards to build a computer video wall, then at least I have the computer to do it.

The best part is I might be able to knock 3 computers down to 1 (if I wanted). I will most likely have 2 in the end, though.

Being that I have had the previous machine for 3 years now, it has complied with the George Carlin comedy skit and accumulated a lot of “Stuff”. Even half-way through it’s use I reloaded XP because of a hardware crash – yet there still seems to be a lot of data I have to account for.

Therefore it’s a slow process of loading and configuring, then bringing over the large amount of data. The last machine was still running all EIDE drives; 2 of them were on a EIDE controller in which I striped the data amongst the two disks. The 320 GB was perfect for 2006, not so much for 2009. Therefore, 4 – 500 GB SATA drives are in order.

Yes, I said 500 GB drives. Why? Well simply put, even though I read that Terrabyte drives are reliable, tech friends say they see too many RMA’s on the drives. While I do not have to worry about petabytes of data just yet, I want to make sure my machine will survive for a while. When I see the repair requests go down, I’ll get a TB for an external drive.

Once I have all programs loaded, then I will set aside time to bring over the big programs. Changing data. My websites – for example. That way I don’t have mismatched data across 2 computers.

I still have a long ways to go before I am done swapping out the machine. I might even have a hard time trying to find the software and reg keys I used so long ago. By the end of the week, though, the switch should be complete. Then comes the fun chore of….

Backing Up:  I did it before I started moving data around and I will do it when it’s all complete. Acronis will get the task of imaging the drive. I will also use an external to back up all data on a regular basis. That way, if any major failure occurs, I can restore ASAP.

Operating Systems: Right now, it’s XP. Windows 7 will have it’s own partition, as well as Ubuntu. The system comes with ExpressGate – a quick loading OS for easy Skype, web browsing or media playing. But will I Hackintosh the system? Well, the board comes with ATI graphics. There is a version out there that does let you use ATI, so I’ll have to see about that.

So not only could this replace 3 of my computers, it could also replace my TV. It’s really interesting to see how far we’ve come with technology. Yet the real question is: “Where will computers be when they triple this new system?” One can only drool right now….