The day of "never enough storage" is here. Like a pernicious virus created by an evil hacker, data has mushroomed out of control. Ordinary document files now bulge with graphics and fancy fonts, while sound infiltrates everything from online services to PC-based voice mail. E-mail, faxes by modem, and scanned pages turn everyone into a document archiver. And the sizes of applications surge with every revision, especially now that 32-bit Windows 95 versions have arrived. Have you ever dabbled in video? Suddenly that new gigabyte hard disk may not seem so vast after all.
The removable cartridge drive is an idea whose time has come. Like an overgrown floppy drive, it promises unlimited, transportable storage using cartridges that hold hundreds of megabytes. Once intended for those who need to put their data under lock and key, removable cartridge drives are now attracting the multitudes who find their hard disks cramped. Why? A sudden plunge in price and a big jump in performance.
I've been using the Plasmon Data PD2000e drive for a few weeks now. In one version the company throws in the Adaptec SlimSCSI PC card so that you can use the drive with your laptop. I found this to be indispensable, because it gave my laptop immediate access to 650Mb of archival storage, and a CD-ROM drive for installing software to boot.
The PD2000e normally comes with its own SCSI card - in this case an Adaptec AHA 1510, which Windows 95 supports. (For earlier Windows versions, you run Adaptec's EZ SCSI utility.) Once installed, the PD2000e appears as two drives on your PC, the first for phase-change cartridges and the second for CD-ROMs.
Installation was a piece of cake. The drive comes with Corel SCSI drivers for the various flavours of Windows. If you get the SlimSCSI with your Plasmon, I recommend using the Corel drivers rather than the ones that come with the Adaptec card. In my case, the Corel drivers configured themselves, but I had a number of minor but frustrating problems getting the Adaptec drivers to work on the laptop.
Plasmon gives you OS/2 drivers, but I found I could use my existing optical disk driver. All I had to do was add "/ET" to the line in CONFIG.SYS that loads the Adaptec driver. This enables the driver to recognise multiple logical unit numbers for a single SCSI ID. That's the only way OS/2 can see both the CD-ROM and optical storage as separate drives.
Phase change is relatively new to the removable storage market and currently lacks the popularity of magneto-optical. The drive itself has a low mean-time-between-failures rating, so there's some element of risk in buying into this technology. If you want to add both a quad-speed CD-ROM drive and the ultimate archive machine to your PC in one shot, then the PD2000e is your best bet.
Estimated street price is $910 and the media is $82.
AustStor Pty Ltd
(contact Lachie Macdonald)
Tel: (02) 417 2244ÊFax: (02) 417 3881
2.6-gig optical drive
Plasmon's new Cheetah Plus 2.6-gigabyte drive is compatible with earlier 1.3Gb and 650Mb magneto-optical drives. It comes with installation drivers for all flavours of Microsoft Windows and Mac. The media can be swapped between platforms. At around $6,000 RRP, it isn't cheap, but has a good niche in areas such as document imaging/retrieval. There is also a slower version for around $4,400 (internal version).