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Dell Dropping The Floppy 1515

Posted by timothy
from the drop-away dept.
adambwells writes "Dell wants to stop including floppy drives as standard hardware on its Dimension line of desktops, and will start this practice later this quarter, as reported in this Yahoo article. Says Dell's product marketing: We would like to see customers migrate away from floppies as quickly as possible, because there are better alternative technologies out there ... it's an antique technology. At some point, you've got to draw the line. You wouldn't think of using a processor from 15 years ago." They plan to educate their customers about recordable CDs and USB pen drives as replacements."
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Dell Dropping The Floppy

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  • Blasphemy! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Captain Tenille (250795) <jeremyNO@SPAMsatanosphere.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:55PM (#5233448) Homepage
    I mean, floppies aren't useful for much, but when you need one, you really need one.

    Next thing you know, they're going to take away our serial ports and PS/2 ports. Bastards.

    • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CaptainBaz (621098) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:00PM (#5233546) Homepage Journal
      This has already happened. The other day, a vendor tried to sell me a motherboard with no FDD controller, no serial/parallel ports, and no PS/2 ports. Needless to say, I went elsewhere.

      Yes, these features are old technology. But they're also mature technology - they work fine, now leave them alone!
      • What vendor? Where? I wouldn't mind a legacy-free system.

        Hey, we'll almost all be there at some point.
      • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by timmyf2371 (586051) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:56PM (#5234201)
        The floppy drive is quite possibly the one component inside a computer that most users trust the most.

        They've been around for many a year, and imho, many people would be reluctant to see them go - three months ago I wired my mum's computer onto Tim-Net (my home network and information control system) and she still believes in sneakernet as opposed to drag and drop through shared directories.

        Yes, the floppy drive is obsolete, however - it's not ready to give up the ghost yet simply because there is no replacement for it yet. (Boot disk when the system fails, transferring files to and from work/college).

        Just my thoughts,
        Tim

        • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by EpsCylonB (307640) <eps@NOsPAm.epscylonb.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:35PM (#5234537) Homepage
          The floppy drive is quite possibly the one component inside a computer that most users trust the most.

          I don't know about that, I have found that floppy disks these days tend to be a lot less reliable than they used to be, prolly cause they have got so cheap. Optical media is a better because once its burned you don't have to worry so much about the quality of the disk and the data degrading.

          There is nothing you can do with a floppy disk that you can't theoretically do with a cd, it's just a case of getting mobo manafacturers to to add the support.
      • Oh, you were the one storming out of the Apple Store ;)
    • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by chris09876 (643289) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:02PM (#5233584)
      I haven't had a floppy for the last two years, and I've been able to work without any problems. There *have* been some occasions where I needed to get some information off of a floppy disk. When a situation like this arises, I do need to borrow someone elses computer. Originally I just uploaded the files to my server, but more recently I've been using my USB keychain. I can't see Serial ports or PS/2 disappearing as quickly. Serial is still used for some things (like configuring network switches, etc). Granted it's not a common use at all, but it's harder to find a solution to those issues than it is to just put files on a USB keychain :) PS/2 is still fairly common..., but I could see that disappearing eventually.
    • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Auckerman (223266) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:14PM (#5233763)
      "I mean, floppies aren't useful for much, but when you need one, you really need one."

      WinTEL PCs have always puzzled me in this respect. Being a long time Mac user (7.5.x->10.2), I've never understood why someone NEEDS a floppy. I remember many years ago (about the 7.6 days) a friend called me up late at night on a weekend and asked me "how do you make a boot floppy for MacOS?". I had no idea what he was talking about. I told him just insert the boot CD that came with the machine and hold down the "C" key. You can do a reinstall then update extensions either 1. By hand (drag from old folder) or 2. by reinstalling all apps. MacOS has come a long way since those days, but in terms of doing restore operations, Macs in the old System 7.X days were still ahead of what most PCs can do now (I'm not talking about businesses that have drive cloning and the like, I'm talking about the PCs home users purchase).

      Then I built a WinTEL PC. On the surface, it was quite a simple thing to do. Put the stuff in the case, the connectors obviously fit in only one place, power up, install Windows. Little did I know I had to update the BIOS to make the second, non-boot, hard drive work (too large at the time) and that was done with, a floppy. I was stunned. On MacOS, Firmware upgrades can be done straight from the OS.

      Where I work now, we have a few Linux machines as workstations (and a Beowolf cluster). Our programmer, who assembles and maintains them, uses floppies all the time to boot them when they die. In his world, floppies are a necissary item for PC maintainance. I don't understand, since as far as I knew, PCs have gone a long way since the days I made my 300Mhz machine.
      • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by LordSah (185088) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:31PM (#5234013)
        Your programmer could probably configure them to boot off the network. I imagine that he probably thinks that running around with a boot disk is easier though.

        You're right though...PC's don't need floppies nowadays.
      • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Malc (1751) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:34PM (#5234049)
        I built a WinTEL PC. On the surface, it was quite a simple thing to do. [...] Little did I know I had to update the BIOS to make the second, non-boot, hard drive work (too large at the time) and that was done with, a floppy. I was stunned. On MacOS, Firmware upgrades can be done straight from the OS.

        This really bugs me. The assumption in most cases is that as a PC owner you have access to Win9x or lower. Seeing as all I've has possession of is Win NT4/2K or Linux since about 1996, this has been a problem for me. Win2K gained a recovery console, but I have no idea if the BIOS can be flashed from it - many of them try to detect the environment and refuse to run from within Windows.

        Where I work now, we have a few Linux machines as workstations (and a Beowolf cluster). Our programmer, who assembles and maintains them, uses floppies all the time to boot them when they die. In his world, floppies are a necissary item for PC maintainance. I don't understand, since as far as I knew, PCs have gone a long way since the days I made my 300Mhz machine.

        I guess boot floppies are easy to make and are guaranteed to contain the necessary kernel modules to access the filesystem. Personally, I've never had a problem with the CD that I installed from when I've lost the ability to boot in to Linux (last time was after a kernel upgrade which didn't load the ReiserFS module on boot).
      • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by prockcore (543967) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:37PM (#5234080)
        Our programmer, who assembles and maintains them, uses floppies all the time to boot them when they die. In his world, floppies are a necissary item for PC maintainance

        That's because he's stubborn.

        http://lbt.linuxcare.com/

        a linux rescue CD like that one is far more useful than any boot floppy. It even fits on one of those creditcard CDRs.. making it smaller than a boot floppy.
      • Back in the day? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AriesGeek (593959)
        PCs have gone a long way since the days I made my 300Mhz machine

        You mean both years since then? Wow, dude, that was a long time. :)

        No, not trolling, just pointing how with every passing year, "the good old days" of computing get closer and closer to the present. Think about it, this comment makes sense. :)

      • by Bastian (66383) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:50PM (#5234163)
        On the PC world, having BIOS updates run from the OS translates into BIOS update utilities that only run on Windows.

        I don't use Windows.

        This does not bode well for the altOS community.
      • Wintel? (Score:5, Funny)

        by asv108 (141455) <{alex} {at} {phataudio.org}> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:00PM (#5234889) Homepage Journal
        Then I built a WinTEL PC

        There is no such thing as "building a wintel pc", you build a PC, if you make the mistake of installing windows on it, well then you have a wintel pc, but it term does not refer to commodity hardware. Its just PC, thank you. We do not need to start changing names of our hardware because of the OS installed. Then I would have to call my machine a LinAMD machine, and then next thing you know RMS would send me an e-mail and tell me to call my pc GNU/LinAMD.

    • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by LoudMusic (199347) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:14PM (#5233771)
      I see nothing wrong with this - at the desktop level. I use USB for my keyboard and mouse (is PS2 used for anything else?) and I don't know that I have ever used a serial port on a workstation / desktop. Dell's computers are now shipping with four or even SIX USB ports. That's enough to take care of all my peripherals and then some.

      Servers, however, are different. Console ports are pretty important. I suppose they could use USB, but it hasn't become as reliable as serial/console yet. And the idea of USB on a server just makes me nervous (:

      But again, I see no problem with this at the desktop level. Really all a desktop needs is USB, some kind of video (DVI?), and a network jack. Everything else, even optical, is worthless as far as I'm concerned. The network is where everything belongs.
      • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Twirlip of the Mists (615030) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:48PM (#5234151)
        Servers, however, are different. Console ports are pretty important. I suppose they could use USB, but it hasn't become as reliable as serial/console yet.

        SGI has been shipping USB console ports on their servers for a long time now, ever since the Origin 3000 and Origin 300 came out. Works fine. The machines also have a DB-9 RS-232 port for legacy applications, but the primary console port is the USB port. I've had no problems with them whatsoever.

        Pretty much the only disadvantage I can think of, and this is really just a matter of early adoption, is that it's not as easy to build USB cables, or USB-to-RJ-45 adapters, as it is to build DB-9 cables and adapters. So wiring up the data center is slightly more trouble, but it's no big deal. And not having to carry around a USB-to-DB-9 adapter for your laptop is a nice plus as well.

        Really all a desktop needs is USB, some kind of video (DVI?), and a network jack.

        Don't forget FireWire. USB is too slow for bulk data operations like external hard drives, CD/DVD writers, and video gear, and USB 2.0 is too flaky. I don't think a personal computer, desktop or laptop, really needs any ports other than USB (low-speed data), FireWire (high-speed data), gigabit Ethernet (or whatever the current state of the art is), and a power plug. And once we get wireless electricity sorted out, we can drop the power plug. ;-)
    • by Interrobang (245315) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:15PM (#5233780) Journal
      I routinely carry work back and forth from work to home and vice versa. I'm usually working with text or Word documents, so they're not worth burning onto a CD-ROM. Besides which, just last week, I had to make a trip to work during a snowstorm to get floppy copies of stuff I burned onto a CD-ROM while at work only to find that my home computer's CD-ROM drive thought it was a beer coaster. (I tested it at work, honest!) I won't be doing that again.

      Why do I suddenly smell the appearance of a lucrative market for used floppy drives and manuals on DIY hardware mods?

      Nobody would dream of using hardware from 15 years ago, eh? Tell that to my fiance, who has a closet full of 286 mobos and a PDP-8 in the basement!
    • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Billly Gates (198444) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:17PM (#5233825) Journal
      Actually if you want one, you can buy a USB floppy drive for like $25.

      Imac users use them and its pc compatible and yes bootable if you have an updated bios from the last 2 years.

      I have a broken floppy drive that i have not bothered to replace for years. I have a cd-rw and a dvd-rw as well as a second hard drive for my storage needs.

      The only downside is I can not boot Linux on my Windows2k box with NTFS without a floppy drive. I would like to be able to "dd" my bzImage and store it on my ntfs partition but the kernel does not support ntfs and I need it since I do apache development.

      Microsoft loves ntfs because it prevents people like myself from using Linux or FreeBSD without a second system. I have my old pentium -III that I plan to vnc into if I ever have the time to install BSD on it. WIth kde being more vnc friendly I might just use it.

      • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:3, Informative)

        by sweetooth (21075)
        Uhm... If you use lilo or grub as your boot loader you will have no problems dual booting a Win2k system using NTFS and your Linux box. I do that both at work and at home. The home system uses grub and boots WinXP and Linux. The work system uses lilo and boots both WinXP and Linux. Both WinXP setups are installed using NTFS. If you still can't get that to work you could always buy Boot Magic/Partition Magic which works just fine for this task as well.
    • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by GreyPoopon (411036) <gpoopon@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:28PM (#5233971)
      I mean, floppies aren't useful for much, but when you need one, you really need one.

      It's not so much that you need a floppy drive, as you need something STANDARD with relatively inexpensive media.

      One more interesting quote:

      Getting people to part with floppy drives will take some work, Vena admits. "Customers still have an emotional tie to floppies," he said.
      It's not so much an emotional attachment as a practical one. A floppy drive is flexible and integrated. The floppy disk can be used over and over -- I think more so than a CD (somebody correct me if I'm wrong). The floppy disk was the perfect size for carrying a few documents from one computer to another, whereas a CD seems to be sized more for archiving. Most importantly, a floppy disk would pretty much work on any PC. The same cannot be said for CD-RW. If you want to replace the floppy, you need a STANDARD device that you can boot off of, has cheap, reasonably reliable "perfect size" media, and can be found on most modern computers.

      The USB Flash devices sound like a great idea, and if they are small enough could eliminate the need to have one on every computer, provided you can carry the "drive" in your pocket. If they can get 16MB cards down to about $5, I see it as the perfect replacement. Furthermore, if they build the device so it can handle much larger flash cards (archival size), they'll really take the industry by storm.

    • "Hey, my Windows machine is messed up, can you help me?"
      "Sure"

      dd if=/redhat/linux/8.0/en/os/i386/images/bootnet.img of=/dev/fd0

      "Here, lemme give you a hand with that."
    • Wot??!! (Score:3, Funny)

      No floppy? No serial port? No PS/2??!!

      Sounds like my Mac.
    • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by starX (306011) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:57PM (#5234212) Homepage
      Funny that I was having a conversation along these lines with a professor at my university. The ultimate catch behind the floppy drive is tht it costs 20$... how many removeable usb devices or cd burners cost 20$? And besides, how many library computers commonly have cdburners or USB ports? Most libraries can't afford anything much past used 98 machines, and even then they get them subsidized. The vfact of the matter is that a floppy drive is almost certain to appear on a machine where you might possibly have need of one.

      Now if you go to your local public library, you won't be able to bring a copy of a web page home with you... you won't have a floppy drive, and they won't have a cd burner.

      I will grant that it's a stretch to think you have a computer but not an internet connection, but not everything you get at a public terminal is available online. Plenty of libraries subscribe to online journals that can only be accessed from within the library itself.

      Don't have a cd or usb disk, but need to transfer something, and you say I should use ftp? Sorry, I'm a generally clueless user who barely knows how to check my email and save things in M$ word... file transfer via a network connection is WAY over my head.

      And if course there is the boot disk issue, but do the advantages of that really need discussing?

      If dell is dropping floppies and NOT including a cd burner for 20$, then dude, who the heck wants a dell?
  • Woo - Hoo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dhovis (303725) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:55PM (#5233451)
    Dell is finally catching up to changes Apple made 5 years ago!

    I say good riddance to the floppy. I've had more of them go bad on me than I care to count.

    • by alaric187 (633477) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:58PM (#5233499)
      Hopefully they get rid of all of the "extra" stupid buttons on the mouse too...
      • Re:Woo - Hoo (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jtdubs (61885) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:56PM (#5236079)
        Funny, but raises an interesting point.

        I have a Mac and a PC. I have an Apple mouse (1-button) and a Logitech USB mouse (6-button if you count the wheel as three (up, down, click)).

        As the Mac is my primary machine, my first instinct was the Logitech on the Mac and the Apple on the PC. Hated it. It's a pain in the butt to use Windows with only one button. So many things scream at you to be right-clicked on, not out of necessity, but out of efficiency.

        Want to get to network preferences? You can go through the amazing jouney of Start -> Settings -> Control Panels -> Network -> Local Area Network 1 -> Properties -> TCP/IP -> Properties, or you can go the comparatively easy route of Network Neighborhood -> Properties -> Local Area Connection 1 -> ....

        On my Mac I click on System Preferences -> Network and I'm there. No need for a right-click. It would barely save me anything.

        This is true of most actions on PC's vs Mac's. So, I've switched. Apple mouse on the Mac, and Logitech on the PC. My PC thanks me for giving it the right-mouse button it craves, and my Mac barely notices.

        Once a day or so I'll realize I only have one-button, chuckle, and then move along with my life, happy in the knowledge that one is enough for OS X. I do wish it had a wheel though; I miss that sometimes. I'm sure I'll spring for an extra Logitech at somepoint.

        BTW, the Logitech Cordless MouseMan Optical is the best mouse I've ever used. Accuracy is great. Batteries last forever. And the mouse just feels so good in my hand. It's amazingly ergonomic (unless you're a lefty).

        Justin Dubs
    • Re:Woo - Hoo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BWJones (18351) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:00PM (#5233536) Homepage Journal
      Dell is finally catching up to changes Apple made 5 years ago!

      Most of the personal computer industry is catching up to the changes Apple made 5 years ago, and they have been since the Apple ][.
      • Re:Woo - Hoo (Score:5, Interesting)

        by pla (258480) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:40PM (#5234107) Journal
        Most of the personal computer industry is catching up to the changes Apple made 5 years ago, and they have been since the Apple ][.

        Five(ish) years ago, Apple decided to allow 3rd party manufacturers of Mac hardware to bring down costs (much like the PC industry had done 15 years earlier). It almost killed them, and they stopped allowing this practice (well, very tightly clamped down on it) only a few months later.

        Funny how one person's 5-years-too-soon may equal another person's 15-years-too-late, and what makes one can break the other.
    • Re:Woo - Hoo (Score:4, Insightful)

      by g4dget (579145) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:04PM (#5233619)
      Dell couldn't just have dropped it five years ago: too many people were relying on it for too many things (BIOS updates, software distribution, digital cameras, operating system installs, SmartMedia access, etc.). In fact, many vendors have tried to drop floppy drives many times from their machines over many years and customers would always order them anyway.

      Apple is one company, controlling both hardware and software. Of course, they can change course whenever they like and impose whatever corporate strategy they want. That's both a blessing and a curse. Fortunately, we have a choice: an all-Apple world would be just as horrible as an all-PC world.

    • Re:Woo - Hoo (Score:4, Informative)

      by LoudMusic (199347) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:09PM (#5233691)
      I believe that statement is a bit aggressive. I think it was only three years ago that Apple dropped the floppy drive for the New Bondi iMac. This is according to Apple-History.com [apple-history.com] anyway ... I fully agree with the move but the consumers seemed to be upset - especially in the business world. Zip is not a viable alternative and SuperDisk wasn't marketted well enough.

      It hasn't been until recently that CD-R / RW was streamlined enough for the 'common user', and the prices were affordable. I like the idea of USB "keychain storage", but those devices are still rather expensive.

      Everything I do is on CD or on a network share these days anyway. I believe there will soon come a time that removable media is irrelivant. I would like to see hardware manufacturers and distributers put together a system where the bios gives you options for a TCP/IP stack and netbooting and there are Internet based boot servers. From there you could do anything you needed across a network.
  • by TerryAtWork (598364) <research@aceretail.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:56PM (#5233460)
    I remember when they ADDED the new-fangled 3 1/4 inch floppy drive to machines.

    Back before there was dirt, and a computer weighed 6,000 tons!

    And we programmed with ones and with zeros - and sometimes we ran out of ones!

  • 'bout time. (Score:5, Funny)

    by p_rotator (617988) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:56PM (#5233462)
    GOOD! I hate the floppy. I can't even use it when I have a drink in the Sony cup-holder below it.
  • OK with me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:56PM (#5233472) Homepage
    As long as they *provide* the pen drive or similar device, *and* place an easily accessible USB or FireWire port on the front of the chassis. If they're going to remove the floppy and force me to reach around the damn box then it probably won't work.

    And I really don't think a CDR/CDRW is yet the answer to storage, unless UDF is standardized enough (as in supported at the OS level).

    • Re:OK with me (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hether (101201) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:09PM (#5233696)
      Easily accessible USB ports is my main gripe about this idea. I love the USB key that the college I work at provides students for use with their laptops. Since I wanted one too they gave me one. But what a pain when your box is under your desk, or otherwise out of reach! Not to mention confusing trying to explain to some non-techie person where to plug it in (especially if they're already using their slots). If the Dimension line plans to have ports on the front, then this could be promoted a lot more easily.

      Even though CDs are cheap, I don't think that the technology is as affordable as it needs to be for most people to adopt it yet.
      • Re:OK with me (Score:3, Informative)

        by Gogo Dodo (129808)
        The Dimension line already has front USB ports. They're not obvious because they're hidden under a door with the Dell logo on it.

        They're not exactly easily accessible as they are at an angle (dunno why) and slightly recessed, but they are there. If you stuff your PC under the desk, I suggest keeping a USB extension cable plugged into one of the ports and plugging your USB key into the cable.

  • they may be old... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ubugly2 (454850) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:57PM (#5233491) Homepage
    but they're handy when needed,why waste a cd for a file smaller than 1.44 megs?
    • by Eccles (932)
      why waste a cd for a file smaller than 1.44 megs?

      Cheapest 50 pack of 3.5" floppies on pricewatch: $11 shipped.

      Cheapest 50 pack of CD-Rs on pricewatch: $11 shipped.

      What exactly are you wasting? "It just seems wrong somehow"?
  • USB pen drives (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tumbleweed (3706) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:58PM (#5233498)
    I love the idea of these things, but I wonder - can you boot off a USB device yet?

    What would be neat is booting off a bootable CD-R/W, and being able to use it in R/W mode. *That's* a floppy replacement.

    Now if you could just put it in a square black plastic sleeve, you could boot it "old school"! :)
  • by levik (52444) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:58PM (#5233514) Homepage
    ... but in a pinch, a floppy is pretty much the only assured way you have of easily bringing small files across machines.

    Unless one of them is a Mac.

    Not everyone has a CDRW, and not everyone has USB key-drives. But ALL PCs have floppies.

  • dropping? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lxy (80823) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:59PM (#5233533) Journal
    usually dropping floppies isn't something that's desired. I remember the days before CDs, carrying all 27 floppies needed to install WIndows 95, you drop the stack, and, well, you'll never install off that set again.

    Oh, you mean... I see.
  • Floppy uses (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wattsman (75726) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:00PM (#5233539)
    Can I boot from a USB drive? And what about all of those install disks I still get? Hard Drive manufacturers still have their disk setup programs based on a floppy disk install.
    Also, I can't use USB drives at the machines at work (due to security risks of removing sensitive data). Sure, you can remove data on a floppy, but try doing that with a 50+ MB compressed file.
    • Re:Floppy uses (Score:3, Insightful)

      by prockcore (543967)
      Can I boot from a USB drive?

      Yup.

      And what about all of those install disks I still get?

      What install disks?

      Hard Drive manufacturers still have their disk setup programs based on a floppy disk install.

      Those programs are only used for ancient bioses.. the bios in Dells "floppy-less" PC won't require the use of hard drive bootloaders. I haven't needed one in nearly 10 years.
    • Boo-Hoo (Score:3, Informative)

      by waldoj (8229)
      Can I boot from a USB drive? And what about all of those install disks I still get? Hard Drive manufacturers still have their disk setup programs based on a floppy disk install.

      The same line of questioning was levelled at Apple back in '98 when they dropped the floppy. That nincompoop Dvorak insisted (and still insists, last I checked) that losing the floppy drive would be the death of Apple.

      If Dell drops the floppy, manufacturers of hardware will stop providing install disks on floppies. They will ensure that their BIOS supports booting from a USB drive. I know this to be true because Dell didn't get to be a big successful company by being stupid, and because we done already did this with Apple.

      -Waldo Jaquith
    • Re:Floppy uses (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jeffrey Baker (6191) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:10PM (#5233706)
      But these things are all obnoxious PC-isms. Why should you need a setup disk for your hard drive? Just attach it. Why shouldn't you be able to boot a USB storage device? The firmware should be able to boot any attached storage device, or from the network.
  • by NineNine (235196) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:00PM (#5233552)
    "You wouldn't think of using a processor from 15 years ago."

    And why not? If it does the job, why should I care when the processor was made? Dell's trying hard to sell new products, and that's understandable, but it's ridiculous to think that everybody buys stuff just because it's "new". Heck, I'm still using hardware from the early 90's (10 years old), and it works fine. I'm not gonna blow money on something just because it's "new".

    And as far as alternative technologies, they're still not good enough. I've never heard of a "USB Pen", and I'm sure as hell not going to waste money on some cutting edge technology that nobody's using yet. CD-R's are either very slow, one time burns, or very slow, very incompatible CD-RW's. Neither is good if I need to sneakernet a bit of data.

    But then again, I'm not a Dell customer. I use a computer until it literally falls apart, and then I buy a closeout or used computer at great prices when I need a "new" one. No point in spending top dollar for a computer these days unless you're into games, or you have some big server needs.
  • USB Key Drives? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by szquirrel (140575) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:02PM (#5233582) Homepage
    I dunno, the USB key/pen/stick/whatever drives aren't anywhere near as convenient as floppies yet. There are still lots of old PCs out there that don't have USB. Lots more do have it, but the ports are in back and a pain to get to.

    CDRs on the other hand have been around a lot longer and work on more platforms. Now that new CD burners don't make coasters nearly as often, just give us small cheap 80mm CDRs with thin jewelboxes to carry them in and you have a great floppy replacement.
  • by BlueUnderwear (73957) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:04PM (#5233618)
    Well, at least this avoids mistakes during flashing, as now you can no longer flash...
  • by Masem (1171) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:06PM (#5233643)
    There's still plenty of good reasons for floppies. Most device drivers can still fit onto one floppy disk, and thus the comparitive cost of CD vs floppy media would make it stupid to burn 1M of data onto a 650M CD. Secondly, floppies are still perfect rescue disk media: you can usually get any hard drive and optical media controllers onto one, such that you can delete nasty files or run checkdisk to make sure things are ok.

    However, both of these purposes have been "surplanted" by Microsoft's OS tools and monolithic device driver packages (read: Creative Labs). If your MS OS goes bad, you're supposed to plug in the CD Rom and use their tools to fix the problem, but this is sometimes not enough, or not advanced enough (eg , you're left with the extreme ends of choices of just doing a scandisk, or doing a complete reformat/reinstall of Windows). Advanced users know what programs to run and what specific files to tackle if something goes wrong. And because all Dell machines are Windows based, they don't consider the Linux users, where floppy rescue disks are still the norm.

    Plus there's still the fact that floppies are good for the transferring of some media types, like short word processing documents and pictures. Particularly if we're talking parents and grandparents that have that donated pre-Pentium computer without a CD rom or the like, the floppy is an excellent way to get those types of things to them.

    Plus, it's what, all of $10 to add a floppy? I'd rather see the choice of a floppy as an option to add on, rather that remove it all together or keeping it as a standard feature, but there's still plenty of reasons for floppy use.

    • Most device drivers can still fit onto one floppy disk, and thus the comparitive cost of CD vs floppy media would make it stupid to burn 1M of data onto a 650M CD.

      You've got it backwards. CDs are much cheaper than floppies... making it stupid to spend more money for 1M versus less money for 650M. Who cares if you only use 1% of the CD, it's still cheaper.

      Secondly, floppies are still perfect rescue disk media:

      Wrong. They're horrible rescue media because they're LESS reliable than harddrives. How many people have corrupted rescue disks? I bet most of the people here. Why not get a rescue CD instead? It even has room for tons of rescue tools.
    • by Zathrus (232140) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:31PM (#5234011) Homepage
      Most device drivers can still fit onto one floppy disk, and thus the comparitive cost of CD vs floppy media would make it stupid to burn 1M of data onto a 650M CD

      Agreed. It's much cheaper to press the CD.

      You realize, don't you, that you can't press a floppy, right? You have to actually encode the data into it, which means actually inserting the floppy into a drive, writing to it, and removing it. Even done by machine this takes more time than pressing a CD. CD pressing costs are around $.20 in volume, and it doesn't matter if you have 1 byte or 700 MB on the disk - it's the same amount of time (although obviously defect rates can go up with more data).

      Besides, if I'm supplying a driver, then nowadays I'll probably do things like supply the documentation electronically as well. And a viewer for the doc unless it's HTML or text.

      Rescue disks can be put on CD nearly as easily as on floppy - and you can put more stuff on the disk for disaster recovery.

      And yes, it's only $10 for the floppy hardware. But cut that out, along with the labor in attaching it and testing it, and you may save $15-30 total. When you're selling a $500 PC, upping your profit by 3-6% isn't a bad proposition.
    • There's still plenty of good reasons for floppies. Most device drivers can still fit onto one floppy disk,

      Yes, but a rescue CD is better, because you can fit more diagnostic software and whatnot on it.

      and thus the comparitive cost of CD vs floppy media would make it stupid to burn 1M of data onto a 650M CD.

      You can get 50 CD-Rs for $30, and that's already expensive. A manufactured rescue CD would cost less than $1.

      Plus there's still the fact that floppies are good for the transferring of some media types, like short word processing documents and pictures.

      Yes, but a CD-R or USB keychain or iPod is better, because they can also transfer bigger stuff like MP3s.

      Particularly if we're talking parents and grandparents that have that donated pre-Pentium computer without a CD rom

      A CD-ROM drive upgrade for those 8-year old PCs is only slightly more expensive, but vastly more useful, than a floppy drive.

      there's still plenty of reasons for floppy use.

      But it's redundant now, even if it costs only $10. Redundancy is not a good thing on commodity products.

  • by 90XDoubleSide (522791) <.ninetyxdoubleside. .at. .hailmail.net.> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:06PM (#5233652)
    One of the main reasons for doing this is support: floppy drives result in people having broken machines and lost data. Back in 1996-7 when I helped support a high school's computers, 75% of the hardware problems on the Dells and 100% of the hardware problems on the Macs were with floppy drives, and most of the other problems we had to deal with were people who had lost their paper by trying to rewrite a floppy disc too many times (people still think a floppy disc can last for a whole semester!). The next year when Apple dropped the floppy disc, we never had a hardware problem with the new Macs; it's easy to see why Dell wants to do the same: you can instantly cut support costs drastically and increase customer satisfaction.
  • by afidel (530433) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:07PM (#5233660)
    Will they allow things like BIOS flash updates to run from El Torito cdroms? I mean last time I checked most low level utilities will check to make sure they aren't running out of a virtual floppy because when the BIOS is being overwritten etc the virtualization tech might break and leave the system in an unrecoverable state.
  • Academic Enivronment (Score:3, Informative)

    by OcabJ (13938) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:11PM (#5233726) Homepage
    I do the systems adminstration for the public computer labs at UC Riverside and I'll tell you right now, floppy disks are not dead here. Students still use them to keep papers, spreadsheets, etc.

    Each student has 25megs of space on a NetApp file server and it is automapped when they login to a workstation in any of our computer labs. They can also access it via FTP or SSH/SCP.

    But alas, most students go clueless when you tell them how they can use networked resources and even email to send stuff back and forth between home and campus (or even store files using webmail inboxes).

    It think that the only group of students that consistently do not use floppy disks are the Art dept students who work on huge graphics and movie files that they are forced to use DVD-R, CDR, or zip disks to transport stuff around.

    CompSci and engineering students understand the bane of floppy disks and actually know how to use the alternatives.

    I've seen a few students use USB disks in our computer labs. The number of laptop users is starting to increase slowly but steadily (our campus does not require the ownership of a computer, much less a laptop; I'd like to see this changed, though since our facilities are being maxed out by the influx of students every year).

    I think floppy disks will be around for awhile. For the average user (non-slashdot type people), floppy disks offer the cheapest, simplest, and most convenient method of storing small files on the go.
  • 15 years? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tbmaddux (145207) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:12PM (#5233734) Homepage Journal
    From the article:
    For nearly 16 years, one piece of personal computer technology has remained the same: the floppy disk drive.
    The 128k Macintosh [everymac.com] came out in 1984, 19 years ago, and introduced the 3.5" floppy drive... but "the floppy disk drive" itself has been around PCs even longer than that.

    Ironic that Apple introduced the drive to the consumer masses and then was the first to abandon it with the iMac, [everymac.com] (about 5 years ago as others have noted). Probably speaks more to the inertia of the masses w.r.t. personal computers than any particular sophistication on Apple's part.

    Even when I was still stuck using Windows PCs at work, I bailed from floppies around 5 years ago as well. We had a cabinet with raw laser-Doppler velocimeter data "backed up" to about 1000 floppies and it took a student the better part of a month (he didn't work that hard) to copy them over. All the data we could recover fit on one CD-R -- we could only get about half of it.

  • by Sam Nitzberg (242911) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:13PM (#5233748)
    For small files, configuration, or raw data files among a great many older or mixed platforms (even at home), and when working with PCs, floppies are basic, very convenient, and generally, reliable.

    They do have a downside apparently - they don't provide a big markup on a new system, and apparently, the providers would rather use a slot or port for a much more expensive device, and start migration away from these. I'm all for USB-pen drives to carry around powerpoint presentations, but I see memory sticks / usb memory sticks / pen drives as supplemental, and NOT for replacing the floppy drives.

    Just my .02 cents, or 10 binary cents.

    Sam Nitzberg
    sam@iamsam.com
    http://www.iamsam.com

  • by ct (85606) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:15PM (#5233799) Homepage
    Now I'll be honest that I haven't looked into whether or not USB solid state storage is standard across the board, but if they're doing away with floppies then I had better be able to boot from my USB pen/key/dongle storage device if & when needed by simply changing the boot order.

    If I want/need to run some low level hardware diagnostics (IBM's Drive Fitness Test tool anyone?) or flash to a new BIOS revision or update the firmware on a SCSI controller - a floppy is basically the only way to go - especially with downloadable updates that REQUIRE you to create a floppy from them.

    If the only way I can update these parts is by disassembling the now crippled machines & putting their components into a machine that does have a floppy to update them, then replace (x 250 machines...) - Dell can count on number of enterprise customers nixing them from the list of potential hardware vendors. Don't limit my options - period.

    But that's just my opinion.

    //ct
  • A USB Pen Drive? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wo-Fat (197418) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:16PM (#5233802)
    Can you boot off a pen drive?

    I think this is the main point of a floppy these days isn't it? A backup boot method... Sure you can use bootable CD-roms, but what if your CD-writer is on the machine that got toasted?

    Floppies and the drives that run them are simple, cheap, abundant, and effective for what they do. Until there is a replacement that is standard on all PC's, these should always be available.
  • Replacements? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jugalator (259273) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:16PM (#5233814) Journal
    Then I need another fairly common media you can use to bootup an OS with in cases of catastrophic failures. The retail CD? Yeah, works good as long as it solves my problem. When I need a custom CD, I'll then need to burn a bootable CD-R (actually, preferrably a CD-RW for these purposes) in a special program made to burn CD's. And I can't even write on it at boot time if I'd need to, since the BIOS doesn't contain CD-RW drivers.

    What's the best cheap, boot-time writeable, removable, non-floppy media out there on the market anyway? A bonus if it's common, since that would make it easier to get.
  • by phr2 (545169) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:44PM (#5234132)
    In other news, HP will follow Dell's lead--it wants to stop including printers in its product line, and will start this practice later this quarter, as reported in this Yahoo article. Says HP's product marketing: We would like to see customers migrate away from paper as quickly as possible, because there are better alternative technologies out there ... it's an antique technology. At some point, you've got to draw the line. You wouldn't think of using a table or chair from 15 years ago." They plan to educate their customers about DRM-equipped e-books with floating licenses as replacements.

    There seems to be some industry rule, that anything that works must be improved til it doesn't work any more!

  • by t0qer (230538) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:47PM (#5234150) Homepage Journal
    Think about it..

    Floppies retail cost anywhere from 15-20 bucks. So you're looking at about an extra $800 bucks in parts for all your PC's.

    For $800 these days you can add a nice bit of hard disk space to your 40 clients. Prices have dropped around a dollar a gigabyte. You can also buy a decent backup system for around that price too to back them all up. Hell you can even get a pretty decent networked laserjet for that price.

    Personally, I would much rather have more hard disk space or backup for the network than a floppy. I agree with Dell %100 on this issue.
  • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:14PM (#5234335)

    If this goes down, the Business Software Alliance will have to change their catch-phrase!

    I have to admit, "Don't Copy That USB Keychain Flash Media Device" doesn't have the same ring as "Don't Copy That Floppy"...
  • by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3&phroggy,com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:45PM (#5234652) Homepage
    ...or at least that's what everybody said about the iMac four and a half years ago.

    The only reason most people use floppy drives is A) because a driver or something comes on floppy, or B) an emergency boot disk for when the OS is hosed, C) making one of the above to be used in another machine, or D) transporting small files (Word documents) between computers.

    A) is easily solved: the companies who currently ship floppies need to ship CDs instead. CDs are pretty cheap; this is not unreasonable. But, there's no motivation to do it as long as everyone has a floppy drive. Dell removing floppies (and others following suit) is a good motivator.

    B) isn't an issue on new versions of Windows since it won't boot from a floppy anyway. PC users tend to forget that OS CDs are bootable!

    C) is an issue for those of us with a 486 in the corner. Yes, I need a floppy drive in that machine, since it won't boot from CD. That's my only floppy drive, though.

    D) can be done just as well (better!) with a USB keychain. Bigger capacity, and they work on nearly any computer. As far as I know, they're even bootable.
  • by Millennium (2451) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @09:07PM (#5236619) Homepage
    Apple dropped the floppy five years ago. The whole industry predicted that either it would kill Apple, or they'd have floppy drives back in the very next generation of machines.

    Neither happened. Life went on, because the floppy really was archaic and outdated; alternatives really did exist.

    Now, granted, these were Macs, which have just about always had much better hardware/software integration than five years previous. As a Mac user myself, this argument of "but what about machines which don't boot off of USB or Firewire?" looks utterly absurd, because, well, why the hell aren't these machines capable of booting off of it? Or this bit about "How can the average user make bootable CD's?"; why the hell should making bootable CD's be so difficult that the average user can't do it?

    Maybe it's just that I come from a Mac background, where things Just Work. But honestly, it sounds like the only reasons to keep the floppy around on the PC would be dealing with fundamental flaws in the PC's architecture. Then again, it's rather ironic that Dell uses a "you wouldn't use a processor that was 15 years old" when they use an outdated architecture that's even older, so maybe there's something to that. A blind insistence on pack-ratting old technologies, maybe, at the expense of advancement?

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