A few days ago I got a phone call from my BFF Jay Pechek at Buffalo Technology, apologizing profusely for not responding immediately to my initial queries about Raid Troubles in Europe and his DriveStation. It turns out Jay was on vacation in Colombia and completely without Internet access for a few weeks. But no sooner had he landed in New York than he was off on a product launch tour and headed, in fact, for San Francisco.
So on August 27th I found myself back in the Market Bar with Jay and his boss Oliver Kaven, drinking artisanal diet cola, admiring the new toys, and dropping broad hints about my availability to do freelance writing.
Prior to yesterday, I had three Buffalo drives, two of which I acquired during my last meeting with Jay, in May of 2008. They are all solid, well-made drives that don’t give me any trouble. (Well, I seem to remember that Lachesis, the baby NAS drive, wanted to speak Japanese to me after a power outage once.) Lachesis could properly be described as “cute,” in the same way that my netbook is cute: she’s a miniature but fully-functioning version of something larger. But this is still a long way from “sleek” or “sexy.”
The words “solid” and “workmanlike” are far more apt to come to mind. The Quattro frankly looks like a safe, and as for Vesta, the little DataVault, she looks downright virginal. Heck, she looks armored and virginal. Maybe I should have called her “Minerva,” but I already had an M drive.
But this year, in addition to upgrading its technical specs, Buffalo has recognized that electronics consumers care about aesthetics. As Engadget recognized in January, 2009 has been the Japanese storage maker’s year to get colorful. First there was the Cobalt (which Jay somehow never mentioned to me), and now there’s the Metro. Both are 2.5-inch drives. Both come with hardware disk encryption, Turbo USB, and Memeo backup or sync software. But the Cobalt is noticeably skinnier than the Metro or the DataVault, because it lacks the extra layers of cushioning that protect those drives from the hazards of portability.
Buffalo expected the Cobalt to be more popular than it was. After all, competitors Seagate and Western Digital have slim, colorful 2.5-inch drives. But Buffalo’s customers wanted security. They wanted to know that if someone knocked their drive off the edge of a table, it would still work. So the Metro was born, and it manages quite well to be tough and sexy at the same time.
First, it’s voluptuously red. A deep, rich, glossy, metallic, fingerprint-attracting shade. (All right, so it does clash with my hair. So what? I’m not wearing it as an accessory.) Second, the Flex Connect USB cable fits so neatly around the outside edge that it could almost be decorative flashing. In fact, it’s a good thing that the quick start guide provides instructions on removing the Flex Connect cable from its pocket. It’s also a good thing that Buffalo provides a matching extension cable, because that is one short USB connector. (You can remove the Flex Connect cable entirely and replace it with an ordinary USB mini cable, but that does expose the interior of the drive to dust.
The drive’s serial number is tucked neatly under the cable. The back of the drive is outlined in red anti-skid treads.
Naturally, I was eager to get this sweet piece of equipment home and check it out, especially since I need a replacement for Freya, my FreeAgent Go drive. Freya is the only hard drive in my collection that I actually paid money for, and she’s getting wonky on me. Fortunately, she has a 5-year warranty, so I just need to dig up my receipt and get the data off her. (The Metro only has a 1-year warranty, but does promise 24/7 tech support.)
Most of the data on Freya is backed up to Lachesis anyway, but I think that Ruby, the new Metro (unoriginal, I know), will probably replace her as my main backup drive anyway. Not only does Ruby have greater capacity (250 GB vs 160, though actually the encryption and other software take up about 20 GB), but she only needs one cable. Seagate’s portable hard drives have an unfortunate requirement for two USB ports, one to provide power and one for transferring data, and ever since one of my USB hubs died a couple of months ago, USB ports are at a premium. (And the problem with Freya is precisely that of getting enough power, whether she’s connected to a hub or directly to my laptop.)
So I plugged Ruby into my USB hub and got the Drive Navigator prompt, which offered to set up my password, install Turbo USB, and install Picasa. (I didn’t bother with that last.)
And here I ran into a little glitch. Not just the frequently-encountered glitch wherein Buffa
lo has failed to hire a proofreader to go over the user interface (ahem, HINT), but a more serious problem with the password setup.
If you make a mistake, you get an appropriate error message. For instance, the first password I entered contained non-alphanumeric characters, and I got an error message to that effect (except longer, and in poorer English, HINT). Then I chose a long password, and mistyped it the second time I entered it.
The third time, I typed everything correctly, clicked “OK”—and got a message that said “Failed.” So I did it all over again. Same message: “Failed.” So I clicked “Cancel” and went on to the next step, installing Turbo USB. That required disconnecting and re-connecting the drive. When I re-connected the drive, I was prompted to enter my password.
The password worked, but I was decidedly puzzled. I took a look in the manual (included in PDF form on the disk) and checked out the program called, I kid you not, “SecureLockManagerEasy.” (I ask you. How about “Easy Secure Lock Manager”? Or even “Secure Lock Easy Manager”? It’s bad enough calling a pocket-sized drive a “Station” when it’s not meant to be stationary and doesn’t broadcast, but “SecureLockManagerEasy” has a sort of Third World warez sound to it.) This is what you use to change your password, and also to tell the Metro to log on automatically if it recognizes your computer. And it’s where you reset the drive to factory settings if you can’t remember your password, but you’d better remember it, because that reset wipes all the data off the drive.
I went through the password reset process just to see whether it would actually work if I did it there, but no. Or rather, it did work, but instead of a confirmation, I just got that “Failed” message. I turned on the automatic authentication, so now when I connect the drive, I get a notice saying the drive has authenticated. There’s a little white light under the red panel on top the Metro to indicate that encryption is on, just under the lock-and-key symbol (which is almost too small to identify). There’s also a little blue light across from it to indicate activity on the drive. It looks slightly purple through the red, just as the white looks slightly pink.
I also ran into some hangups when trying to copy files directly from Freya to Ruby. I’m not sure why this happened, but I ended up having to reboot my machine. I ended up reformatting Ruby as NTFS and plugging her directly into the laptop, and I’ve been copying files from Lachesis. So far there have been no more problems, so the root issue may have been with Freya, or it may have been with the FAT32 format the drive came in. (What is it with FAT32? Does anyone with Windows actually use it? Don’t Mac users have to reformat the disk anyway?)
Since the folks over at Memeo are pestering me to review their latest full version software when it’s ready (it’s in beta right now), I didn’t install that. Once I’ve finished the file transfer, I’ll revise my settings in Karen’s Replicator so that my on-startup backups go over to Ruby. I’ll probably move her back over to the USB hub, as well.
Now, to dig up that receipt for Freya…