Don’t Get a Drobo

Since I have a massive amount of data on hand I’ve been spending a lot of time looking for an external multi-drive enclosure that either had RAID capabilities or something similar. Due to reading enough positive recommendations that had the Drobo been a person it would be nominated for sainthood I decided to go with one. A bit before Christmast I ordered a standard FireWire 800 four-bay Drobo using a $100.00 discount. I was going to run it for six months and determine whether or not I could recommend the Drobo has a solid backup device. The damned thing didn’t even make it two entire months and I’m going to advice anybody looking for a solid backup device look elsewhere.

For those of you who don’t know a Drobo is nothing more than a fancy four-drive enclosure that loads all of the contained drives into a common pool with redundancy. This means all of the drives are seen as one to any computer you attach the Drobo to. Having redundancy means you can lose any single drive without losing the data on the Drobo, at least in theory. This is similar to RAID although unlike RAID the Drobo doens’t require each drive to be the same capacity in order to work. This sounded ideal to me since I could simply drop in larger drives as they were needed instead of dropping in four new drives every time I wanted to add space.

I had problems right from the start, namely with the included software called Drobo Dashboard. What’s the problem? The software won’t install on my Mac Pro. Why? I haven’t a clue. When I try to install the software I’m informed at the end that the software couldn’t be installed but am given no error message and no entries are made in the system logs that could inform me of what’s going on. Basically I haven’t a Thor damned clue what’s going on and no message is ever displayed that could clarify the problem. This means I had to setup my Drobo on my laptop where the software installed without any trouble.

Setup is easy enough and once the Drobo was initialized it was detected by my Mac Pro without any trouble. From there I started using the Drobo as a Time Machine backup destination and it worked OK until an undetermined time when it failed. Why do I said an undetermined time? Because it was completely undetermined.

The problem with my Drobo is the fact it’s been stuck in a state where it claims everything is running correctly but my computers can’t mount the Drobo. The drive lights on the Drobo are all green indicating everything is working as expected. According to the Drobo Dashboard software my Drobo’s data is great and everything is running in tip-top shape. The problem is when I plug it into any computer it will not mount. Yes Disk Utility can see it will not mount the infernal device.

I’ve tried everything recommended by Data Robotics Inc. (the makers of this piece of shit) including unplugging the Drobo, shutting down the computer, letting them sit for a while (overnight in my case), replugging in the Drobo to the computer, and starting the computer back up. Nothing works. Basically I’ve got a several hundred dollar paperweight that serves no purpose other than to piss me off by it’s existence.

When looking for a backup device the first and foremost thing the device must be is reliable. The Drobo is not reliable and from doing searches online I’ve found I’m not the only person who’s ran into this exact problem. I share with each person who has written about this problem something else, nobody has managed to get the damned thing working again without doing a full reset which includes erasing all the data on the Drobo. My advice is to stay clear of Drobo and any Data Robotics Inc. products. Their software is shit and doesn’t even tell you why it can’t install, their device is shit and reports itself as working perfectly even though it’s in paperweight mode, and the only way to get the device out of paperweight mode is apparently resetting the device which destroys the data and defeats the purpose of a backup device.

If anybody has any recommendations for a good multi-drive (four or more) enclosure that does redundancy (RAID is find by me) I’d love to hear them. At this point I’m looking around again for a proper solution but just wanted to inform everybody to steer clear of Drobo devices. They’re headaches and not at all reliable.

Real Operators Dual Wield

Are you a real operator? Can you operate the in most extreme conditions this side of the Mall of America? Have you performed a HALO jump through the skylight, rappelled down to the ground, and uses your SCAR 17 to take on dozens of evil terrorists? If you’ve answered yes to these questions you may be ready for the dual Glock machine pistol because handguns are only effective if you dual wield them and nobody would carry a non-automatic handgun into their zone of operations.

Thunderbolt I/O

I’m kind of a gadget whore. I love new and shiny devices and honestly the MacBook Pro line hasn’t really had anything shiny added in a few years. This year Apple finally lifted a few fingers and added something new, Thunderbolt. I should first note that Thunderbolt is the new marketing name for Intel’s LightPeak technology which doesn’t actually run on anything fiber (hence the need for a name change).

I want to talk a bit about Thunderbolt because it looks fucking awesome. Apple’s implementation uses the mini DisplayPort connector which I find a bit odd but at the same thing it’s a pretty nice sized connector so I’m not going to argue (unlike the giant plug for FireWire 800). I would say Thunderbolt is Intel’s answer to USB 3.0 but it’s really not. Thunderbolt has a maximum read and write speed of 10Gbps which is pretty damned impressive. Currently it’s only used to connect to monitors but any peripheral should be capable of plugging into a Thunderbolt port including USB 3.0 hubs and even graphics cards. How? Well underneath everything Thunderbolt uses good old PCI Express as it’s transport mechanism. This is what makes Thunderbolt more than a simple USB competitor, it can act like a faster PCI Express slot on any laptop built by somebody besides Apple.

The other nice feature of Thunderbolt is the fact devices can be plugged in sequence. This means even through this is only a single Thunderbolt port you can plug in another Thunderbolt device to the primary one much like SCSI or FireWire. This means you could have a Thunderbolt capable monitor at home with an external Thunderbolt hard drive plugged in. When you plug in the monitor both the monitor and the hard drive will start up and connect to your laptop.

Honestly Thunderbolt is pretty impressive technology to say the least. I can’t wait to have a computer with it equipped in a few years (as that’s how long it will take before any peripherals come out that use Thunderbolt anyways).

Dead and Back

Good news ladies and gentlemen I’m finally back. Thursday my little friend the mystery disease decided to push and I finally called for a doctor’s appointment. What the doctor told me was basically it was not pneumonia… unless it was. It was almost certainly a bacterial infection… unless it was viral. Basically he had no fucking clue what it was and didn’t want to admit it. Luckily he prescribed me azithromycin, an amazing antibiotic from Croatia (I had to look it up). Within several hours of taking the first dose I started feeling more human and things improved quickly leading me to believe whatever I had was bacterial.

With that said I’ll stop my whining and start posting things that are at least of interest to the rest of the world.

Bath Salts are Now Illegal in Alabama

I’m not sure what bath salts are but apparently they can be used to make illegal narcotics and thus the state of Alabama has banned them [PDF]. You know, because banning anything that can be used to manufacture illegal drugs makes total sense.

That was sarcasm in case you didn’t catch it.

Back in Limited Capacity

I’m still feeling like death rolled over me but I’m going to try to get some things posted on here for you guys to read. First let me talk about my wonderful cold. I’m an idiot you see, when I’m told to try something I always research it instead of just doing it. This means I lose out on the placebo effect. You know what a common remedy for the cold is that hasn’t been shown to actually work? Vitamin C.

My friend send me an interesting link through that talks about the link between vitamin D and influenza (and general repository infections). Vitamin D is produced when we expose ourselves to sunlight which explains the seasonal rise and fall of influenza cases (less exposure to sunlight in the winter lowers vitamin D levels and all that).