I am getting quite tired of Mac OS X locking itself into the spinning beach ball of death due to failing hardware. In the last year or so I’ve had two LaCie hard drives go out on me, and a third seems to be going now. In each case, the Mac got thrown into a completely confused funk because the drive didn’t respond quickly enough or at all. Note that these drives were used strictly used as external backup device. They didn’t hold any operating system or application files.
Haven’t we learned by now that I/O is an unreliable operation, and that you should never assume that any read call will succeed, or will return data in the format you want? That’s true whether you’re talking about files or FireWire packets. Furthermore, critical components like the Finder should not block on synchronous I/O. Any I/O needs they have should be serviced asynchronously.
It’s hard to take the Mac seriously as a reliable server platform when it’s so easily brought to its knees by one misbehaving hard drive.
On the plus side, I just ordered two new 500 GB drives to replace the failing and failed 250 GB drives.* Two 500 GB drives cost almost exactly the same as one 250 GB drive did three years ago. Also, each 500 GB drive is about half the size of the old 250GB drive. That’s progress.
One downside: the USB drives only have one port so I can’t daisy chain them like I did my FireWire drives.
Second downside: the data transfer rate on these drives seems to be roughly half what it was on the FireWire drives. Those could back up about half a gigabyte a minute. This one is only doing a quarter gigabyte per minute.
The new drives are USB 2.0 instead of FireWire. Maybe the Mac is a little less trustful of data coming in over the USB port. We shall see.
Actually the 500 GB drives are really 465.8 GB and the 250 GB drives are really 232.9 GB. LaCie lies about the capacity of both, but it’s a systematic error so the relative improvement is the same.