Lacie 80 GB USB 2.0 Portable Hard Drive

Updated 11/13/2011: I noticed a sudden interest in this post, which seems odd considering it mentions an older and fairly uninteresting hard drive from 2006. Some of the search keywords that may be bringing visitors here include “lacie” and “anykey”. I’m guessing that the “anykey” part is keying on the name of my blog.

My best guess is that some visitors are looking for information on the LaCie iamaKey. Unfortunately, I have never used this product so there isn’t any relevant information here. Amazon reviews may be a good source for additional information. Having looked into this product has peaked my interest – I may go ahead and order one.

The Lacie drive is one of the most useful computer purchases I’ve made this year. It was certainly an impulse buy. At the time I was looking for a faster USB drive to run portable apps on, but I hadn’t planned on buying a hard drive based device. I picked it up at Best Buy for about $150, the same time I bought my mini-DV camcorder. Though it’s much larger than a standard flash drive and less durable it has a greater capacity and better access time. Portable apps load quickly.

From the manufacturer the drive came with a single, unusually large FAT32 partition. Not long after I bought the drive I needed to move a large video file. FAT32 partitions only support files of about 2 GB. If you attempt to place a file larger than the support size on a FAT32 partition, it simply dissappears. I converted the drive to a single NTFS partition, but experienced another problem. OS X (and many Linux distributions) can only read an NTFS partition, they cannot write to them. So I partitioned in a manner that would give me the best of both worlds. I created a FAT32 partition of 32 GB (the maximum for FAT32) and used the rest as an NTFS partition. Generally, I store data on the FAT32 partition.

Using these two partition types allows me to move large files (using NTFS) or move data to and from OS X (using FAT32). You may have noticed that I mentioned the drive came formatted as FAT32 from the manufacturer. All of the drive was used. Apparently, they use some special tricks to format the entire drive that way (I don’t remember seeing multiple partitions) but they don’t offer the tools to format the drive back to the same configuration.

The drive comes with two cables (and connections). One is a standard USB cable/connection. The other plugs into a USB port on a computer but is converted to a power port on the drive enclosure, to provide additional power if a computer system does not provide enough power over USB on a single port. On my work Thinkpad the standard cable works properly, but I have had to use the power-only connector on other systems.

It’s a simple device that I’ve found to be well worth the expense.

Pentax Optio E10 Digital Camera (6 MP)

I purchased a new digital camera. It was an impulse buy in the sense that I hadn’t planned to purchase a digital camera that day, but I did plan to buy one soon. Last May I decided to take my primary digital camera at that time, a Kodak EasyShare CX4230 (2 MP), and modify it to capture infrared. I achieved my goal but in the process the camera was damaged slightly and doesn’t focus as well as it used to. Since it allows infrared to pass to the sensor it no longer produces “normal” photos. I needed a camera for regular use and found the E10 at Walmart for about $160, the same price that I paid for the Kodak a few years ago.

Photo quality is good, though 6 MP shots when zoomed into 100% display artifacts that indicate the photos were taken with a digital camera. Rescaling the photos to a smaller seems to reduce these characteristics. It only has 10 MB of storage built-in (which equals about three 6 PM photos), but it supports Secure Digital cards (I usually use the camera with a 1 GB SD card).

One feature I didn’t realize it had until I brought it home is the ability to act as a Web camera. Oddly enough, it requires special Windows only drivers to work as a Web cam. This feature also requires that it be enabled in the camera’s configuration menu and once enabled the camera can only be connected to a PC to act as a Web cam. In order to download images directly from the camera the Web cam function must be disabled. This is not a major inconvenience for me as I can use my iSight or mini-DV camera as Web cams, both of which deliver much better quality.

So far, I’ve found the Pentax Optio E10 digital camera to be a good purchase if one is looking for an inexpensive, low-end digital camera for every-day use.

NSLU2 and ADS USB 2.0 External Drive Chasis

Linksys NSLU2

I recently hooked up my NSLU2 to an external hard drive. A 1 GB USB drive is connected in the back.

The hard drive is housed in an ADS USB 2.0 External Drive chasis, which I had for several years. I originally used it with a different hard drive to add storage to my iSeries 1400 Thinkpad, back when it was the only computer system that I had. This chasis works with most IDE devices, including CD and DVD drives/burners. It’s functioned well, but the fan in the back sounds like it’s failing so I’ll probably replace it with a 3.5″ hard drive-only chasis (which will take up less space).

Cleaning House – OS X Maintenance Utilities

This weekend I spent several hours focusing on my G4. I work on the system every day, generally at night. However, it’s been several months since I last cleaned up old files and checked the general “health” of the system. Currently, I have two 160 GB drives installed (one drive is used to mirror/backup the other) and I noticed the availabled space had dropped to less than 90 GBs. Though I’m certainly not running short on storage space, I had consumed more space than I realized. I set out to reclaim as much free space as possible. The majority of “wasted” space is probably taken up by duplicate files and other files that I’ll need to manually sort through, but I decided to find and install utilities that would help me identify space that might be taken up by the system unnecessarily.

Disk Inventory X

Disk Inventory X is a handy open source utility that represents file sizes graphically. Instead of listing files by size (as Spotlight does) this program displays individual files as color coded blocks. A large block represents a larger file. By using this utility I was able to easily identify files that I did not need any more.

http://www.derlien.com/

Warning: Since I posted this entry my father downloaded and ran Monolingual on two of his Intel Macs. It removed the Universal Binaries and hosed all of his applications. Also, I recommend not removing Universal Binaries from a PPC system if you ever plan to migrate your applications to an Intel Mac.

Monolingual

This utility can be used to strip out unused language files and universal binaries. It’s simple and effective. However, read the FAQ before using this program as you could cause major problems with your installation of OS X if the program is not configured properly (for example, you would not want to uninstall the English language pack if that’s your primary language).

http://monolingual.sourceforge.net/

Cache Out X

A utility for clearing OS X system and application caches that may be taking up unnecessary disk space. Note that in order to download Cache Out X you will need to register for the forums at the developer’s Web site.

http://www.nonamescriptware.com/

Retro Gaming on the Mac

I’ve toyed with console emulation many times over the past decade. This weekend I decided to give it another run, this time on my Mac.

For reference, I’m running a Dual Processor G4 system with a 20″ Cinema Display. A while back, after I upgraded to Tiger, I experimented with a shareware X-Box HID Driver to use an X-Box controller with OS X. I registered the program (only $5) but I had a problem getting it to work properly. Tiger was still new and not officially supported by the driver software. I contacted the author, sent him some debug info, and forgot about it. I don’t know if he fixed the problem in later releases, or if I simply built my adapter better this time, but it works perfectly.

To construct the USB adapter I simply cut and stripped the wires from the end of the X-Box controller cable that plugs into the console and also cut and stripped the end of a USB cable that plugs into a standard USB port. I then wrapped the same colored wires around each other and seperated and insulated them using electrical tape (I have a soldering gun, but didn’t feel like breaking it out at the time).

I won’t bother going into the details of finding and using ROMs.

So far, I’ve used two emulators and they both work perfectly with the X-Box controller and driver.

SNES9X – A Super Nintendo emulator that has been around for many years and generally considered to be the best. A port for OS X is available.

Genesis Plus – An excellent Sega Genesis emulator. In order to use a controller you’ll also need to download and install Emulator Enhancer (shareware, it’s available on the same page).

Peter Maurer's Butler

I’ve been searching for an OS X utility to create program menus (similar to the Windows Start menu) so I could remove several Dock icons that I use infrequently. Granted, I could have simply removed them from the Dock and dug through the hard drive whenever I needed them, but I wanted something more elegant. This weekend I discovered Butler.

Butler is another OS X multi-use tool. I started using it to build a custom menu last night and so far it has worked great. I disabled the option to automatically search the Applications folder; I only wanted certain programs listed.

If you’re looking for a program to supplement the OS X Dock, then I highly recommend giving Butler a try.

http://www.petermaurer.de/nasi.php?section=butler&id=butlerabout