Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Flash Drives (10/2006)

Q: I'm a writer, working on a lengthy project that will take months to complete. I just bought a newer computer that has a DVD/CD writer drive, which is misnamed if you ask me because I can't "write" anything on a CD. I move files back and forth from the CD to my desktop when I work, but this is an aggravation. Surely this is not the most efficient way for writers to work their projects. Should I just work from my computer and periodically "write" the file to CD? Also, how can I get to information that I stored on 3.5-inch floppies? Can I have a floppy drive installed? Why did they stop putting a floppy drive on new computers, anyway?

A: You should always work from the computer's hard drive and periodically make back-ups of your work using the CD ROM drive or other backup media.

As you discovered, you can’t simply save your work directly to a CD ROM drive the same as you do with your hard drive. While you can purchase a special CD that allows you to read from and write to CD just as you would a hard drive, the CD burner is really geared more for making backups of data or transporting large data files from one computer to another. You also discovered that it's too aggravating to actually work from a CD. Besides that, CD's scratch easily so if you use one as a primary means of storing your data, you may pull it out of your purse some day and find it suddenly unreadable. That would stink, huh?

By the way, using a floppy as your primary means of storing your data is a very bad idea. Floppy discs are notorious for suddenly becoming unreadable. I wish I had a dollar for every UNA student that has come into the shop begging us to recue their term paper. The only reason I don’t have a dollar is because I feel so bad for them that I can’t charge the. So, whatever you end up doing, it's always a good idea to have a current copy of your data in two places.

The reason computer's don’t come with a floppy drive anymore is because floppy's are so yesterday! The latest fashion trend are "flash drives" (aka, "jump drive," "thumb drive," or memory stick). Where a floppy disc can hold only 1.44 megabytes of data, a flash drive can hold at least 128mb with one or two gigabytes becoming the norm.

When I write my silly little column, I save it to a "current columns" folder on my hard drive. When I leave the office, I drag that column to my thumb drive I carry on my key ring. When I take my boy to soccer practice or go on a road trip, I take a laptop with me and work on my column directly off the thumb drive. When I get back to the office, I drag the column from my thumb drive back to my column's folder.

If you do a lot of work away form the office, I would again remind you that it's never a good idea to have your data in only one place. While working from the flash drive, periodically copy it to something else (hard drive, CD, whatever) as a backup.

If you have an MP3 music player, you can use it as a flash drive. That is because most MP3 players are simply a flash drive that can play music. You can store your data on it just as easily as you can store music. There are a few exceptions to this (some mobile phones require extra software to be used as storage devices) but most MP3 players will work exactly like a thumb drive.

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