Archive for July, 2008

the perception of quality


I have a Western Digital external hard drive with a USB interface and it was behaving unreliably on my laptop running Ubuntu 6 and my desknote running Ubuntu 7. It did work reliably, however, on my tower that runs gentoo linux. Unreliably, in this case, means that in the middle of trying to copy data to or from the drive, it would unmount and spontaneously remount and the file io operation would fail. I thought this meant either Ubuntu sucked or my drive was broken but worked intermittently or that Western Digital drives sucked intermittently.

Turns out it wasn’t any of those. The laptop and the desknote both provide just a little bit more current to USB devices than the tower does, so if you plug in the hard drive to the tower using just one of the two USB connectors on the split end of the cable, it doesn’t spin up and you need to plug the other one in to a second USB port for extra current. On both the laptop and desknote, the drive spins up with just the single cable plugged in (but while being used, the drive draws more power than it took to just spin the drive up and then spins itself down for lack of power and generates an error on the bus). I only realized this was the problem today when I was holding the drive when it came up with one of its buffer io errors: The drive was spinning down and back up as if it didn’t have enough juice. It’s been working reliably since I noticed this and plugged in the other part of the Y-cable.

I was ready to ship the drive back to Western Digital and uninstall Ubuntu. The FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that proprietary software companies (and their minions) have spread about linux being unreliable works on an unconscious level.