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What's New and Hot in Removable Technology

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by Kass Johns (for Digital Creativity Magazine August/September 1996
--this is the original unedited version written in July 96)

We all know what removable drives are... a SyQuest 44 or 88. Some of us even think Bernoulli. Well, not anymore! The removable market has become an oasis for those wishing a choice--a nightmare for those who have to support clients who each use different devices.

The last year has seen an explosion of new removable devices. The old standbys, the Bernoullis and the original SyQuest drives, have been swept into the closet in favor of these faster, less expensive and quieter drives. We also have a more affordable technology entering the removable arena--CD-R (writable CDs). There is also the new phase-change, dual-function (PD) drives, but little information was available at the time of this writing. For the sake of space, we will mention that these write 650MB optical disks and read CD-ROM in the same drive for $650 with cartridges at around $50.

Let's first break the playing field into the three target audience/purchasers...

  • Entry level brings us the Zip from Iomega and the EZ from SyQuest. Both are in the 100MB per cartridge range.

  • Mid-range users have the original SyQuest cartridges (the 5.25" and the 3.5" size) and the Bernoullis from Iomega. The capacities here range in the 40MB to 200MB range.

  • The new hi-end category allows us to have 1GB or more in a small 3.5" cartridge at a reasonable price of around $100 per cartridge! This is also where I would categorize the CD-R devices.

As a user, we see these new choices as heaven. As someone who would have to collaborate with us (and all our peers), this means they need to buy one of each of these new drives to support each client's media choice! (Aren't you glad you are not a service provider?)

Quantity discounts on most cartridges in this article are available. These products are sold through many mail order and dealer/consumer channels. All prices indicated are approximate street prices in US dollars (as of September 1996).

Entry-Level devices

Iomega offers the 100MB Zip drive. The available interfaces are SCSI (Mac or PC) and parallel for PC. They go for around $199 for the drive and $19 per cartridge.

From SyQuest, we get the EZ135 (and its new big brother, the 230MB, EZFlyer). The EZ135 comes in SCSI for Mac and PC, external parallel or an internal ATA/IDE for PCs. The price has recently been reduced (June 96) for the EZ135 (135MB) drive. It's now $119. Cartridges are in the same $19 range as the Zip. The new (June 96) EZFlyer has 230MB cartridges. The EZFlyer reads and writes EZ135 cartridges as well as its own 230MB cartridges. The drive is being sold for $299 and the cartridges are $30.

The Zip is not as fast as the EZ line due to the fact that it is not Winchester technology for the platter. The case is very lightweight and a great choice for people who need the portability of mobile computing. To save on weight and costs, some cutbacks were made in the areas of SCSI, IDs and power. The SCSI ports are the smaller 25-pin (for size), the ID range is limited, and the power supply is housed in a brick on the end of the cord.

I posed an inquiry about removable technology to members of CompuServe's Desktop Publishing Forum. Everyone who has owns or uses Zip drives are very happy with their choice. A couple were even "ecstatically happy!" (Therefore I reason: the price of ecstasy is $199--not a bad deal!)

Those who owned an EZ drive were also very happy with their choices. When asked, most said that support and service were not anything they had tried out as both vendor's products installed simply and they had no problems. Both camps of users used their media and sometimes the same drive to go between Mac and PC platforms with no problem. (The devices are the same, only drivers that can recognize the other platform, as part of the OS or a third party solution, are necessary.)

The EZ135 cartridges have more capacity, for around the same cost as the Zip 100 cartridges. The new pricing of the EZ135 drive drops well below the Zip and the new EZFlyer more than doubles Zip capacity for only a 50% price jump. The EZ line from SyQuest is faster (than the Zips) due to use of Winchester technology.

I am sure that Iomega is not far behind in their follow-up for a higher capacity Zip unit. One user, Mac Townsend of Adcom Graphics in Vacaville, California, commented that "...at the Iomega annual meeting, it was predicted that within a year or so, Zip drives will be in the $100 range and Jaz in the $200 range."

Mid-Range devices

These are the older standard Bernoulli and the SyQuest 5.25" and 3.5" drives and cartridges. They are neither "hot" nor "new" for this article.

Hi-End devices

Iomega gives us the much-anticipated, Jaz. The Jaz is a 1GB removable cartridge using true Winchester technology. The drives are available with the Fast SCSI II interface for Mac or PC. These sell for around $599 or $499 for the internal version. Cartridge blanks are going for around $100.

From SyQuest, comes the 1.3GB SyJet (due summer of 96). They are a completely new redesign for SyQuest. This twin-platter drive system will come in SCSI (for Mac or PC), parallel or IDE. These will sell for $650 external or $499 for the internal version. With cartridges in the same $100 range as the Jaz.

The Jaz drive is just coming into stock readily at this writing, so there were many more Zip users than Jaz users to talk with. Those that do have the Jaz, love it. Mac Townsend owns a service bureau and has an EZ, a Zip, and a Jaz amongst his accepted media. He is quite happy with the Jaz and the Zip. He only uses the EZ for one customer who desired that device. The first job paid for the device, so it is not a big impact on his business to have it sit idle.

Many users are waiting for their budgets to allow them to capitalize on a Jaz drive. And now that the stock is beginning to move a little within the market, it may be easier to find and/or buy one. The Jaz drive is also available from a few OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers), other than Iomega. I use one in a combination unit with a CD-R (CD-ROM writer). Because it is based on Winchester technology, it is fast. In fact, it is faster than many fixed capacity drives! I was shocked when I copied a 60MB QuickTime movie from my internal Conner 1GB drive to the Jaz in less than two minutes. I guessed I must have accidently copied another file. My thought was, "It couldn't have been that fast!" But it was.

I can only assume that the future of both the Jaz and the SyJet product lines will give us read and write backwards compatible media with higher and higher capacities. Both vendors learned the lesson years ago about backwards compatibility and their installed user base! Remember when we all thought 40MB was a huge drive--all we could ever want?

Writable CD and the Jaz & CD-R combos

CD-R. Inexpensive. Accessible. Hot. 650MB for $7.50. No magnetic concerns in transporting, cheap backup, archive and transport. These are attractive to multimedia professionals as well as print media pros who wish to send their jobs via CD to the service bureau.

Edith Bennett of Bennett Prepress Design & Production in Colorado Springs bought the Jaz/CD-R combo unit from ProMAX Technology (800-XPROMAX or www.scsidisk.com on the web). She produces a large catalog for a pet supply firm. For a year or more, she has been having another firm burn a CD of her files to send to the output printers in Denver. In acquiring her own device, she will bring the control back in-house. Before that, she was sending a fixed 1-2GB drive to the output printers. The Jaz and CD-R unit covers her either way. Edith was quick to point out, "I have all kinds of benefits this way... no special carrier needed, less than $10 if it gets lost, I can mail it cheaper and provide a complete copy of all the needed parts for the project. Not only that, they cannot (accidentally) change any of my original files."

Matt Navarre of OCP Publications in Portland, Oregon loves his CD-R and Jaz combo unit from ProMAX. Matt comments that "The main value of the Jaz is convenience. There is no real price advantage. [Fixed capacity] drives are coming down faster than cartridges in cost." He uses the Jaz/CD-R combo unit for multimedia production in video as well as audio. Matt likes the fact that he can take their entire web site home on a Jaz (over 450 files) and work locally rather than log onto the net and work on them.

The software that comes with the Mac version of the ProMAX CD-R (and ships with most OEM models) is Toast CD-ROM Pro from Astarte. Professional audio creators find substandard popping when using the bundled software. An upgrade to an advanced package from Astarte solved the problem.

Navarre is a big fan of ProMAX. He tried devices from other OEMs in his multimedia workflow and had big problems. He turned to ProMAX for their expertise as well as product. As Matt states, "ProMAX products are now, clearly, the only part of the digital video workflow that doesn't need support." The people at ProMAX are well versed in SCSI and drive technology. They do extensive benchmark tests on new technology and were one of the first vendors creating array drives using Jaz technology. ProMAX has more Jaz experience than most OEMS. They have been shipping product since November 1995, months before anyone else was. See their benchmark tests and tech specs on their web site at www.scsidisk.com.

I spoke with René Kropf, senior sales executive at ProMAX, about their products. He explained how their use of their own custom drivers make the Jaz run even faster than the default from Iomega--fast enough to do full motion video on Jaz arrays. They have taken their standard driver software, Lido 7 from Surf City software, and "tweaked" it. They adjusted the default idle of 30 minutes (yes, the Jaz goes to sleep in 30 minutes) to be set at up to 4 hours--very necessary in video work. They also adjusted the read/write/verify checks from the default of 27 passes to 2 passes. They found on extensive tests that the media is so reliable that any more than 2 passes is redundant. And a possible loss of one pixel in a 30 frames per second video is not noticeable to human perception.

ProMax also added the extra benefit of selling their stand alone and the combo units of the Jaz drives in a heavier metal (zero footprint) case (sturdier for hi-production workflows) with an internal power supply & fan and standard twin 50-pin SCSI ports. The Jaz drive from Iomega comes in a plastic case, with the cord-end power brick and twin Fast SCSI II ports (expensive/hard to find cables).

As far as CD-R goes, you need to know that there are basically two popular mechanisms. A 2x4 is a 2-speed writer that can read at 4-speed CD-ROM speeds. The most popular is the Phillips CDD2000 model. Many prepress operations consider the 2-speed not fast enough for their writing needs. For them, they want the 4x4 mechanism with a 4-speed writer as offered by Yamaha .These units as stand-alones are going for around $900 (2x4) and $1200 (4x4). The Jaz/CD-R combo (with a 2x4 CD-R) from ProMAX is $1500.

Blank, writable CDs come in 63 minutes (553MB) and 74 minutes (650MB). The blanks are less than $8 in bulk for the 553MB and less than $9 in bulk for the 650MB. ProMAX sells their 650MBs for less than $8.

But, here is the downside of this entire CD-R wave of popularity, the blank media is becoming scarce. Some speculate it's a polycarbonate shortage worldwide, some say its some political problem. Whatever it is, they are getting harder to find... anywhere in the world. I know that mail order vendor, MacWarehouse, has been out of CD-R blanks for weeks. They don't know when they will get them in (any brand). And, will this shortage get worse as more and more users discover the ease of writing their own CDs?

I am absolutely infatuated with the ProMAX Jaz/CD-R unit. I have compiled all of my font disks onto one CD master and moved all of my QuickTime movies onto one CD. I plan to put my clip art diskette collection onto CD next. You can set Toast to make the CD bootable if desired. So. I made a bootable mirrored copy of each Macintosh system on my network. I wrote my fonts CD as multisession to add more later if needed. All of these at less than $8 each.

The manual warns you of slow writing, but I was quite pleased. I wrote my fonts CD (119MB) in less than 19 minutes. Many users may not realize that the CD-R software cannot "burn" a copy of a selected folder or folders on your desktop or hard disk. It requires that a whole volume be written. This is easily solved with the Jaz unit attached and keeping one cartridge as a blank holding place to generate your volume for burning. The Toast software also allows you to temporarily partition a segment of your hard disk just for the burn. You cannot (of course) burn a copy of a volume that is currently being used as the boot volume on a Mac (it's busy being the boot, so it cannot be copied entirely).

Now that the price is dropping, I predict that everyone with a system in a professional publishing (print, multimedia, web, whatever) environment will have one of the CD-R combo units on their desk within the next two years.

Ok, I'll start the (one-ups-man) game off... I remember when I paid $800 for my original SyQuest 44MB drive with one cartridge (and I still have and use it!). Your turn...

Note to readers 2/97: ProMAX no longer sells Jaz drives.

Vendor Contacts:

SyQuest Technology, Inc.
47071 Bayside Parkway
Fremont, CA 94538 USA
In the US...
800-249-2440 tech support & FaxBack
510-226-4102 fax
510-656-0473 BBS (up to 28.8)
In Europe...
Voice: 32-11-673140
Fax: 32-11-683525
BBS: 32-11-683525
In Asia...
Voice: 65-294-8484
Fax: 65-294-7277
FTP site: ftp.syquest.com
E-mail: support@syquest.com or sales@syquest.com
WWWeb: http://www.syquest.com/

Iomega, Corporation
1821 West Iomega Way
Roy, Utah 84067 USA
In the US...
801-778-3450 fax
800-456-5522 (tech support)
801-778-3000 (tech support)
801-392-9819 BBS (avail 24 hours, 1200-14.4 baud)
801-778-5763 FaxBack
In Europe...
BBS 49-0-761-4504444 (avail 24 hours)
E-mail: info@iomega.com, AOL: Iomega, CompuServe: Go MACCVEN
WWWeb: http://www.iomega.com/

ProMAX Technology
16 Technology Drive #106
Irvine, CA 92718
800-XPROMAX (977-6629)
714-727-3546 fax
Email: support@scsidisk.com, AOL: promax tec@aol.com
WWWeb: http://www.scsidisk.com/

© Copyright 1996-2001 by Kass Johns, all rights reserved world wide.
The opinions and recommendations stated here are solely those of the author and are not the responsibility of anyone else. This is an independent publication not affiliated or otherwise associated with, sponsored by, or sanctioned by any vendor. We state here that we have used trademark names in this publication for editorial purposes only, with no intent to infringe on those trademarks. Permission is granted to copy this document for personal use only for *non-commercial* purposes, in electronic or printed form, provided that this copyright notice is not removed. This work may not be used on another Web site or online service, sold for profit, included within commercial works, or altered or changed in any way without the express written permission of the author.



© Copyright 1996-2001 v.7.5.00
Kass Johns
Technical Writer & Consultant to the Publishing & Telecommunications Industries
Colorado Springs, CO • www.kassj.com • 719/635-1306 (vc)
kass at kassj dot com

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