Freecom Mobile Drive CLS Review

Freecom LogoFreecom announced the Mobile Drive CLS concept back in July as a new way of storing and organising the vast amounts of data that all of us now seem to collect through our daily digital lives.  The CLS stands for Collect, Label and Store and fundamentally it’s about using 2.5″ portable drives to store data according to type or use.  One Mobile Drive could have photos, another video.  Or they could be arranged by topic with one Mobile Drive storing all the photos and videos from a trip to Europe and another holding the material from a new house you built last year.  I’m sure you can grasp the possibilities.

It all reminds me a little bit of the SyQuest EZDrive and the Iomega Zip drive, and the drive even comes with a translucent plastic case with a paper insert where you can write the contents of the hard drive for future reference. It’s so old skool….

But enough reminiscing.  If you buy into the concept, what do you actually get?  There’s two parts, the first being the Mobile Drive CLS, a 2.5″ hard drive enclosed in a black soft-touch rubberised case and with a label strip down the side.  The second is the CLS Dock, a docking station that takes three of the Mobile Drives.

Mobile Drive CLS

As the Mobile Drives come with standard mini-SD connectors, you can just use the drives with a cable if you want.  Power is supplied via the USB cable.

Alternatively, the Dock makes using them much more convenient. You simply slot the Drive onto the Dock, which can take up to three of the CLS Mobile Drives.  Cleverly, the mini-SD connector is slightly offset from the centre so it’s obvious which way round the drive has to go.  There’s also an additional standard USB port on the Dock for a memory stick.

The Mobile Drive seemed to fit snugly into the Dock and obviously the review unit was new but I’d be fairly confident you wouldn’t need to worry about wear on the connectors anymore than you’d worry about any external unit.

There’s been a bit of care here too with the USB leads.  The supplied leads are a cut above the average USB cable and there’s a short one supplied in the storage case, keeping drive and lead together.

Performance-wise, the disks were pretty much as you’d expect from an external USB2 drive.  Using hdparm -Tt, I got around 1640 MB/s for cached reads and 30 MB/s for buffered disk reads.

Cost-wise, the Mobile Drives come in four sizes from 250 GB (£60) up to 640 GB (£85).  The CLS Dock costs £16.  Comparing the price for the Mobile Drives against similar units, there’s a price premium of £10 at the smallest capacity which gradually reduces as the capacities increase.

I liked this product as it’s well designed and convenient.  I think this product will appeal to the “laptop generation” – those people who live in lofts and apartments and use technology primarily for their own entertainment. Eventually the laptop hard drive fills up with photos, music or films and this is a clever and attractive way to keep files without cluttering up the internal disk.

It might also appeal to people who just want a convenient way to transfer data between home, work and school.  Use the dock at home and the cable while on the road.  And the label strip on the side of the Mobile Drive can easily take a name and mobile phone number in case of loss.

Frankly, I’m surprised it doesn’t come in white…

Thanks to Freecom for the review unit.

Updated Western Digital DVR Expander

For those of you with a cable or satellite DVR or TiVo, Western Digital has updated their My Book AV DVR Expander hard drives.  Among other things, is the addition of a USB port, to the already existing eSATA port.  That means the drives are now compatible with the Sony PS3 and other media devices such as camcorders.

This is TiVo’s one and only “official” method of hard drive expansion.

The capacity has not changed – it’s still 1TB, but I think we can expect that to be expanded on in the near future.  Although, 1TB is an awful lot of HDTV recording.  I never came close to filling the 500GB drive in my DirecTV HR23.

One thing to watch out for, at least for DirecTV users (and I have no idea if this applies to other DVR’s) is that this drive replaces the internal drive.  The good news is that it replaces, but doesn’t overwrite.  In other words unplug this drive and reboot to the original internal drive and all of your previous recordings are still there.  It would be nice if it added to, instead of replacing, but beggars can’t be choosers.  And, since most cable DVR’s have ridiculously small drives, this is a no-brainer of an upgrade.

So, what do you pay for this convenience?  It retails for $149.99, but Amazon already has it for $119.00.  This is what we should have from our TV providers to begin with, but, for now, we  have to pay extra for.  And this is, by far, the best extra you can add to your DVR.

How I’m installing Windows 7

I have been really pondering this issue since the beginning. I have a relatively new machine that I installed less than 2 months ago: It’s working pretty nice in Windows XP land. However, it was a futile effort, because it was going to be assimilated to the new version once it came out. So the preparations were taking place since day 1.

The biggest thing was to back up the system. Now the old machine was cleaned up, and now it serves as part of the backup process. I also use an online service to backup important files off-site. It does the backup in the background and like I said – It’s off-site, so if the drive dies, or anything happens in the home, I can restore that data.

Finally, I used an Imaging program to make a duplicate copy of the C: drive as it is. The C: drive is only the Operating system. The data is on the D: drive, which is backed up via the off-site and old machine. This will just allow me to bring the computer back to the last thing I did on XP.

However, there is one more step here: I will switch out my C: drive with a fully blank hard drive. A SATA 80 GB drive is where the OS gets housed. By swapping the drive, I will have a clean drive separate from the XP partition. Further, I don’t want Windows7 to do anything to the XP side just yet – therefore I will be disconnecting that hard drive completely.

There is another partition I have, and that is a Ubuntu setup. Next week, the newest version of Ubuntu will be coming out, therefore I will be creating a new partition at that time. 3 separate hard drives for 3 Operating systems.

Now you might have a different setup, or don’t care to do 3 Operating systems, but I would highly suggest that if anything – get another drive to replace the one in your computer. It’s a great way to keep your old OS intact and when it’s all done, it can be added to another machine as a spare hard drive.

There is one more thing about this install – 32 bit or 64 OS. The new version of Windows7 comes with both. I got a computer that will work in 64 bit mode, the reality will boil down to whether the programs and hardware I run will work in the 64 bit OS. I will be starting with the 64 bit version and make the assessment to whether it will satisfy my need. Further, if I put on the Virtual XP mode, I should be able to run the programs that don’t work right in Windows7.

This process will be happening in the next 24-48 hours, once all the scheduled events will be taken care of. I don’t foresee any problems, but if I do have them, I have a full backup system in place. I also have a way to get back to normalcy if I need to.

Disk Inventory X

After we use our computers for awhile the hard drive starts filling up with all sorts of files and application. The problems is trying to figure what files are filling up the hard drive. Until you know what you have it is hard to organize and delete those you don’t need. If you have a Mac, there is a program that is called Disk Inventory X that gives a great visual representation of what is on your computer or any hard drive on the network. You can have it scan your whole hard drive or a specific folder. It is a free download although they do ask for donations.

Disk Inventory X.png

As you can tell from this picture it is really easy to read. Each color represents a type of file and the bigger the block the bigger the file.  On the right side it shows the size of folder and the number of files. It also tells you where the files are located.  If you click on desktop on the list on the left side. There appears a yellow highlight around the files that are on the desktop.   If you find something you don’t need you can delete directly from Disk Inventory X.   For example, I have a Imovie project that I no longer need.  I simply click on the purple color, it confirms the file. I hit command delete and its sent to my trash.  This is all that Disk Inventory X does, it just shows what’s on your computer or hard drive, but it does it very well.   It is one of those applications that I don’t use very often, but when I need it I am glad its there.