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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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  • not really a dupe (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:55PM (#5233456)
    but this is old news. no floppy has been the default for some time now.

    could just be the hied site i use tho
  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:59PM (#5233528)
    Actually serial ports are already extinct. I have seen Toshiba notebooks without an on board serial port. A USB-Serial port converter (about $30 retail) is required to get a 9 pin serial port.
  • by 90XDoubleSide (522791) <ninetyxdoublesid ... l.net minus poet> 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.
  • 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 gamgee5273 (410326) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:09PM (#5233701) Homepage Journal
    Someone was first, with an item called the "iMac" 4.5 years ago...
  • Boo-Hoo (Score:3, Informative)

    by waldoj (8229) <waldo@nosPaM.jaquith.org> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:10PM (#5233705) Homepage Journal
    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
  • by Eccles (932) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:10PM (#5233707) Journal
    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"?
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by Blkdeath (530393) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:18PM (#5233845) Homepage
    PS/2: Tried, true, and works with my old IBM clicky-clacky keyboard. I love that keyboard, and it's waaay more durable than any newer keyboard. I've spilled beer on it and it continues clacking away.

    PS/2 <-> USB converter.

    Parallel Port: I'd like to keep using my older printers and my old parallel Zip Drive. It's slow, but handy sometimes.

    Get a print server for your old printers (two-ports can be had for under $100, and networking them is a snap), and buy a CD-RW drive. ZIP drives are slow, kludgy, low-capacity, and have a tendency to click your media (and drive) to death at a seemingly random time (usually disk 13 of 26 is the victim). Moreover, probably 95% or more of home and office computers have CD-ROM drives of some form or another, which makes CD-R/RW discs far more portable than the very, very slim market share of ZIP drives. CD-RW drives can be had brand-new for about $75CDN and can burn 900MB worth of data to a disc in approximately 1 minute 30 seconds. 900MB discs can be had for about $0.50CDN, 800MB CD-RW discs can be had for about $3CDN or less. How much does a 100 or 250MB ZIP disk cost, again?

    Serial Ports: How else are you supposed to hook up a dumb terminal to your computer. USB?

    Will the 0.02% of the population using dumb-terminals on their home PCs please stand up?

    Seriously, there's no reason to drop these devices. Why not include them with the newer stuff.

    Becauses the busses are slow, kludgy, and cost sillicon and valuable board real-estate that could be used for UATA133 or additional USB 2.0 (450+ MB/Sec) or IEEE1394 / FireWire (400+ MB/Sec) connectors, or to make motherboards smaller and/or less expensive.

    Besides, USB is not to be trusted.

    I'll assume you've got some figures to support this otherwise baseless claim?

  • Re:About Time. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zathrus (232140) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:22PM (#5233903) Homepage
    The big problem I have with floppies (really the only since I hardly ever use them) is the way they essentially tie up a computer. They bring your system to a grinding halt while they are accessing.

    That's an artifact of your OS.

    Back in the early 90's OS/2 had no problems multitasking floopy I/O - I recall formating a few hundred floppies while doing other stuff, with absolutely no degredation in performance of other tasks.

    I've only formatted a floppy once under XP, so I don't recall how it handled it. Win9x did not handle it well though, which is an artifact of still being built off of DOS.

    I don't believe Linux or other Unix-based systems have issues multitasking the floppy.
  • by Squarewav (241189) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:31PM (#5234016)
    the thing is that when apple droped the floppy, was that they dint replace it with anything, no cdrw no zip nothing so that, if you wanted to transfer files, your forced to ether buy a floppy drive, or an external cdrw, now that cdrw drives are installed in almost all new computers, its about time to start getting rid of floppies.
  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:3, Informative)

    by sweetooth (21075) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:32PM (#5234031) Homepage
    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.
  • by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:35PM (#5234062) Journal
    Try Part #CL0014 [l3sys.com] I think Microcenter sells a similar device-- probably stocked in the Mac section. I haven't used such devices, so I have no idea if they work well.

  • by ZZane (144066) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:36PM (#5234070)
    Last time I tried to install XP without a floppy drive in the system it would hang during the hardware detection (the quick one at the very begging of every NT/XP boot up sequence). The odd thing was it would boot/detect just fine if I enabled floppy support in the bios without attaching the floppy drive.
  • by Gogo Dodo (129808) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:39PM (#5234096)
    Bootable CDs will flash BIOS just fine (it's how I flashed my BIOS). Motherboard manufacturers are also allowing BIOS flash in Windows.
  • Re:OK with me (Score:3, Informative)

    by Gogo Dodo (129808) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:52PM (#5234177)
    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.

  • Re:OK with me (Score:2, Informative)

    by Twirlip of the Mists (615030) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:05PM (#5234284)
    place an easily accessible USB or FireWire port on the front of the chassis.

    Front of the... wtf?

    Look, when I want to attach a peripheral (temporarily) to my computer, I don't want to go crawling around under my desk or, as in my house, in the closet. USB ports, which are used to attach things like cameras and these little storage gizmos, belong on the keyboard.

    I'm gonna ask a serious question now, because I haven't used anything other than my various Macs in nearly six months. Don't all keyboards come with USB ports on them? Serious question, I'm not kidding. Every Mac keyboard for... oh, god, since the first USB Mac keyboard, I think, has come with two USB ports on it. One for the mouse, and one for whatever. Doesn't everybody do it this way?

    Now that we live in a post-iPod world, I wouldn't be too surprised if ADC 2.0 carried FireWire 800 as well as USB, video, and power. It's only nine conductors, for cryin' out loud, and a FireWire port embedded discreetly in my monitor would be a nice thing to have.
  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Type-R (8130) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:09PM (#5234305) Homepage
    There are a few that I've seen, for example, ABIT's MAX series of boards [abit.com.tw].
  • by Valdrax (32670) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:13PM (#5234326)
    "On MacOS, Firmware upgrades can be done straight from the OS." In a word, bullshit. You can do upgrades IF you are connected to the Internet. Straight from the OS??? Smoking ganja again?

    Sorry, but you're insulting someone over a topic you clearly have no experience with. Here's how you update Open Firmware under the Mac OS:

    You run a little program (usually downloaded from Apple) that loads the new firmware into a small buffer of NVRAM and then reboots the machine. As soon as the machine powers up, you hold down the "programmer" button until you hear a long beep which indicates that it's done flashing the firmware. In that time period, Open Firmware reads the little buffer in NVRAM and replaces appropriate parts of itself. You let go of the button, and the computer reboots itself as normal with the new firmware in place. That's it. It's just that simple.

    (What's this "connected to the Internet" nonsense you're going on about anyway?)
  • Re:About Time. (Score:2, Informative)

    by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:26PM (#5234409) Journal
    For the record, NT, 2k and XP have no issues multitasking with a floppy either.
  • Re:About Time. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rary (566291) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:39PM (#5234585)
    I rarely use a floppy drive, but for those odd occasions where I do need one, there's no better technology available (yet). And considering they're dirt-cheap anyways, why would I not want to have one around, just in case.

    I just don't understand this mentality of "let's get rid of it because it's old". Come on people, the keyboard is much older technology than the floppy drive. I don't hear anyone bitching about how we need to scrap that "ancient" technology.

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and sure as hell don't throw it away!

  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:41PM (#5234612)
    That trust is completely misguided. Floppies sucked even when they were expensive (the drives and the disks), but now they are on the verge of being so unreliable that they are completely useless. Anyone who trusts data to this technology should not be allowed to handle modern equipment or relevant data.
  • by EEgopher (527984) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:48PM (#5234687) Homepage
    I've posted this before, but people need to realize how incredibly useful and necessary floppies are for quick lab data-transfers; especially you engineering college students! Capturing plots on oscilloscopes and running down the hall to examine them in the computer lab can only be done with:

    a) DVD or other type of compact disc? (No)
    b) Network Cable? (don't bet your life)
    c) Printer/Scanner? (as if!!!)
    d) Draw by Hand? (obviously no)

    Thus the obvious necessity here is the FLOPPY! The oscilloscopes don't handle DVD-type things yet, and network cables are available only on the newest oscilloscopes, and require a computer in the lab, which is not always available in under-funded, over-filled undergraduate laboratories.
    I understand if everyone wants to run to Best Buy with their hard-earned (or otherwise) dollars and buy up the latest in data-transfer, and I understand if you don't want to pay for an A: drive on your new Dell, but when commodities become non-standard, they soon become non-existent. I hope Dell keeps floppy drives around for some time. Their age has nothing to do with it: we've been running computers on 60 Hz from the wall for 15 years, too. Shall we switch to a different frequency? Use caution jumping into everything that's new and advanced. (Thanks, Tenille, for a great post.)
  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:2, Informative)

    by dynayellow (106690) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:51PM (#5234747)
    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.

    Yahoo Briefcase [yahoo.com].
  • Re:About Time. (Score:3, Informative)

    by archen (447353) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:49PM (#5235371)
    A Win9x trick.

    Format the floppy in a DOS prompt, and you can still multitask fine.
  • by La Temperanza (638530) <temperanza@s[ ]home.net ['oft' in gap]> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:04PM (#5235540)
    Because you haven't searched on Google for "LinuxBIOS".
  • by yerricde (125198) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:12PM (#5235618) Homepage Journal

    There is nothing you can do with a floppy disk that you can't theoretically do with a cd

    How about writing to them on the cheapest computers? The most inexpensive PCs still come with CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drives, not CD-RW drives.

    How about writing to them while listening to an audio disc? Most computers have only one CD drive.

    How about booting from them on old computers? Many old computers' BIOS don't support booting from a CD-ROM drive.

    How about making a bootable CD at all? When Roxio Easy CD Creator 4 makes an El Torito boot image, it does the equivalent of a 1440 KB 'dd' from drive A:. I don't know how other tools for Windows work because I haven't bought them.

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

    by DunbarTheInept (764) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:32PM (#5235855) Homepage

    There is nothing you can do with a floppy disk that you can't theoretically do with a cd

    Yes there is. You have a disk with ten text files on it. You want to edit one of them, andding one paragraph to it, then save it. With a floppy, you can do just that - it behaves like a small filesystem. If those ten files are in an ISO 9660 image on a CD, you'll have to recreate the whole image to get the one change to the one file onto the disk.

    Then add on top of that the fact that while both floppies and CD-RW's allow re-writes, CD-RW's can't handle nearly as many rewrites as a floppy can.

  • Sneakernet (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @08:51PM (#5236499)
    Several times I have been forced to resort to the "sneakernet" when the network connection wherever I was went down. The one thing I've been able to rely on is that, if all else fails, you can still get your files to the other computer on a floppy drive. Not all computers have CD burners or zip disks, but they all have floppy drives. And if you write a floppy in DOS format, you can generally read it on just about everything else too - including *NIX (mtools) and Mac (OSX and several generations back).
  • Re:About Time. (Score:3, Informative)

    by vadim_t (324782) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @10:36PM (#5237219) Homepage
    that's customizable, in /etc/fstab

    Like in DOS/Windows:
    /dev/floppy/0 /floppy auto user,noauto,sync 0 0
    Buffered:
    /dev/floppy/0 /floppy auto user,noauto 0 0
    I prefer the buffered variant. You still have to unmount it in any case, and when you do things like customizing floppy distributions being able to add/delete files, some of which might not fit, without a delay can be very nice.
  • Alternatives (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 06, 2003 @07:01AM (#5239297)
    There are very split views here if this is a good thing or not - technically it is very good, but habits, and the fact that a floppy drive is very handy for reasons you've all repeated endlessly, cause some to desperately try to keep it.

    However, this is how the market works(based on very loose facts)
    100% of home users use computers
    20% of home computers will ever be upgraded bios-wise etc. These could potentially use a floppy, but Dell has already saved $20*80% on the rest of the users, without someone ever complaining.

    And some of you complain about USB unreliability. There is such a wonderous thing called a USB FLOPPY DRIVE, which is supported in the BIOS. No flaky drivers, no overhead or extra features that cause stuff to not work. It just works, like your ps2 keyboard or similar.

    Plug that in, boot the machine with the floppy disk to upgrade your bios or copy your files, and bring the entire USB device home with you if you have to move files. Plug it in at home, and there you go. It is a bit bigger than just the floppy, but if that is an issue, get two drives.

    Third: Office users cannot bring malicious stuff into their work computers without being allowed so. And if the sysadmins have to upgrade firmwares, they either do it from the OS(many BIOS upgrades now come with windows based software, OR via some corporate management utility(I know atleast Dell's OpenManage software can remote-upgrade the BIOS), or by taking their usb floppy drive, walking from machine to machine plugging in, pressing the power button, wait a few minutes, switch off and unplug the drive. It's BIOS supported with these machines, so no worries.

    It's quite simple. Problem is my insightful log is so late in the posting it's gonna be ignored by most of you. ;-)

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