BitDepth 658 - December 16

The 2008 Gift Guide emphasises storage...
The BitDepth Gift Guide, 2008

GoldenDisk: LaCie's Golden Disk is part of the company's line of dramatically designed boxes for hard drives. Photo courtesy LaCie.

Whenever this column has ventured into gift giving ideas in the past, the tendency has been toward clever, hopefully witty ideas for the computer user of your heart.
This year, things are much simpler. Let's stick with storage, space for your loved one to park downloads, files and all the cool detritus that piles up during a day of work and play in the digital world.

Far too many folks compute on a highwire, placing their faith in a single copy of their data on a single disk. So do your sweetie a favour. When you give them the gift of more data space, write a little note on the card, "for you to backup."
The easiest storage option to giftwrap is a flash drive, those tiny, keylike devices that hardcore computer users wear around their necks. In just a few years, their capacity has grown from a utilitarian 256MB to 16GB, making them a realistic way of keeping a duplicate copy of essential data.

Backup in a flash
For a while, it seemed that these ubiquitous storage devices would find a new life as a way to speed up Windows Vista. Microsoft's new operating system offers a feature called ReadyBoost, which allows the OS to use a flash drive as additional memory.
Stick a new flash drive into a computer running Vista and it will ask whether you want to use it as a way to store files or to speed up the system.

Unfortunately, user experience and PC World testing suggest that the feature delivers incremental increases at best. PC World's tests align with professional photographer experience, the faster flash drives tend to come from manufacturers who push the envelope for read/write speeds for digital cameras, specifically SanDisk and Lexar.
At any rate, ReadyBoost works best with a 2GB drive and that's kind of a joke these days. Don't gift anything smaller than an 8GB drive to a serious computer user and if you can afford it, stretch for a 16GB unit like SanDisk's Contour (US$99).

Big storage boxes
Flash drives are cute, but they aren't a solution for someone battling serious data overload. Folks wrestling with large media files or with a download monkey on their back are probably generating 16GB in a week, and they will appreciate a hard disk solution with real space to fill.
For the computer user who appreciates style, storage vendor LaCie offers a range of stylish cases created by designers like Neil Poulton and Porsche.
Their slickest hard drive case is the one terabyte Golden Disk (US$329), designed by Ora-Ito, a slab of storage goodness crafted to look like a melting block of gold.

According to LaCie's press releases on the product, there is a tiny amount of actual gold in the finish of this drive. As a happy (though likely unfortunate) by-product using this device, a thief is more likely to leave your computer and make off with the external drive.
If your intended recipient hews more in the direction of the practical, with wires dangling everywhere and bare drives stacked on a desk, then skip the pretty box and get them the NewerTech Voyager (US$99, no drive), also available in slightly different trim as the Vantech NexStar. This unassuming box is the answer to a committed tech head's dreams.
Plug the box into the computer (using Firewire, USB 2 or eSATA connections, Mac or PC) and stick any SATA drive into the slots on top and it appears on the desktop just as if it were in a pretty case. Absolutely indispensable for the serious packrat.

Cruzer Contour
Lexar Jumpdrive
Newertech Voyager
Vantech NexStar
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