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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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  • USB pen drives (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tumbleweed (3706) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @02:58PM (#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"! :)
  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CaptainBaz (621098) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:00PM (#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!
  • Re:About Time. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cesman (74566) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:02PM (#5233580) Homepage
    You're not kidding... I seems the quality of drives and media has gone down. I remember being in high school ('86-'90), I'd carry about floppies with me all year around (blistering heat of summer and bone chilling cold of winter in Chicago). I'd never have a problem with them, I'd hope from one computer to another with the media. Try that now days... The floppy will work in one drive but not the next... WTF?!
  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chris09876 (643289) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:02PM (#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:Woo - Hoo (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NivenHuH (579871) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:02PM (#5233592) Homepage
    I'd like to see SuperDrives as standard equipment on PC's.. either that or find some way to incorporate MiniDisc technology... (Hey.. maybe Sony will replace floppies w/ MD on the Vaio line..)
  • Re:About Time. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Oculus Habent (562837) <oculus.habent@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:04PM (#5233608) Journal
    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.

    Don't believe me? Share your A: drive, open an FPS or MMPORG and have someone access your A: drive.

    Of course, you may have that motherboard with the Manufactured By God label on it, so...
  • by Masem (1171) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:06PM (#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.

  • 15 years? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tbmaddux (145207) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:12PM (#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 @03:13PM (#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

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

    by Auckerman (223266) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:14PM (#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.
  • A USB Pen Drive? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wo-Fat (197418) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:16PM (#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 @03:16PM (#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.
  • Re:About Time. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AngryPuppy (595294) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:19PM (#5233862) Journal
    From what I understand, this is often a difference in the drives rather than the media itself. Using preformatted media reduces the problem, but if you format a floppy on one machine, the alignment of its heads can impact the ability of another machine to read it.
  • Re:I want my floppy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Overt Coward (19347) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:23PM (#5233910) Homepage
    There's nothing stopping you from adding a floppy to a Dell system that comes without one, is there? What's wrong with Dell removing a device from their standard configuration if most people (in Dell's opinion) don't want or need it? If you are in the minority of people who still need floppies (and BTW, I'm in that minority), just install your own.
  • Good Luck! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SteveHeadroom (13143) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:25PM (#5233946) Homepage
    I have no problem with the idea of abandoning the floppy disk, but good luck getting manufacturers to supply all their drivers on CD. I bought a USB2 card for my PowerMac last week and the driver still came on a floppy! Luckily I was able to copy the file from my PC over the network.
  • by prockcore (543967) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:29PM (#5233991)
    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.
  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:30PM (#5234004)

    Damn, they'd better leave them on the server class boxes. I want my serial console!

  • by Zathrus (232140) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:31PM (#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.
  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LordSah (185088) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:31PM (#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.
  • by ThousandStars (556222) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:34PM (#5234043) Homepage
    because they probably aren't making any money on the drives, or selling the disks. Meanwhile, they probably are making money by selling USB keys. And I bet they can also make more money by offering an ad-on USB floppy drive than they can with an internal drive.

    But I wouldn't want a machine without a floppy. They're cheap, easy to replace, and versatile; I can transfer data to and from a 10 year old machine without a hassle. True, such a situation doesn't occur often, but when it does I'm glad to have the floppy's versatility. Much of my file movement involves relatively small text files, for which floppies are optimal.

    I want the floppy available when I need it, rather than buying external drives or following around with USB devices.

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

    by Malc (1751) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:34PM (#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 @03:37PM (#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.
  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Feyr (449684) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:39PM (#5234097) Journal
    yeah, bummer. try that spiffy usb-crap to serial converter with old DOS applications.

    the programming applications for HVAC (heating, ventilation and A/C) systems are often still DOS, and when they do have windows version they're half bugged and don't support nearly all the functionalities of the DOS ones. i've bought a few laptops for contracts, and had to return them due to no serial port!

    say no to usb
  • Re:Woo - Hoo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pla (258480) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:40PM (#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.
  • Back in the day? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AriesGeek (593959) <aries AT ariesgeek DOT com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:46PM (#5234145) Homepage Journal
    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. :)

  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:47PM (#5234147) Journal
    >> 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.

    You dont, especially if you have a proprietary machine like a Dell, Compaq or a Mac.

    >> On MacOS, Firmware upgrades can be done straight from the OS.

    Same with PCs, though it will depend on the motherboard vendor. Welcome to the world of commodity hardware. Granted, if you lock yourself into a proprietary solution (Compaq, Dell, Macs), this is a non issue. It's wise not to flash your BIOS from a multitasking OS (not even from linux) because flash timing can be fairly precise, and you're pooched if something goes wrong.

    >> 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.

    Not necessary, PCs made past 1998 can boot from CD (it actually puts a session on disc to emulate a floppy or hard drive). Floppies are just easier to create and manage.

    I have a couple other uses that I absolutely rely on floppies for.

    my router [coyotelinux.com] and my SNES backup device [superufo.com]

    Neither of which your average turnkey customer would care about.

    The floppy will continue to be what it is. A tool for geeks.
  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Twirlip of the Mists (615030) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @03:48PM (#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 Blkdeath (530393) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:06PM (#5234291) Homepage
    True, but it's the most reliable way I can move stuff back and forth from work to home. I don't have a CD burner at home. I do have Zip drives both places.

    You should probably consider preparing for the future. If one of your ZIP drives starts failing (in any of the ways in which they fail, including "My drive won't read this disk, but that one will", which is what caused a friend of mine to switch to CD-R at a time when the least expensive drive was ~$350), you're screwed. Besides, CD-R drives have so much more utility than ZIP drives. When I want to transport, ie, Windows 2000 SP3 to my parents' house, along with updated 30MB printer drivers, a Word Perfect Office service pack (@~80MB), along with about 200MB worth of additional drivers and updates, I hauled out a single 650MB CD-RW disk and burned the files in 5 minutes. I didn't have to pack an external ZIP disk, a floppy with drivers, and two-three ZIP disks to do it, either. Same goes for any of my customers' locations; they all have CD-ROM drives, but barely 1% of them have ZIP drives.

    For the cost of a single ZIP drive, you could purchase two CD burners and a box of 5 CD-RWs

    As for the ports being kludgy and slow, why on earth do you need your keyboard or mouse to be fast? It's not like you're going to overflow the port or something.

    It's not that their send-to-device speed is slow, it's that the entire bus is slow. They require special host bridges to keep them from bogging the entire system down. That costs lots of resources to implement, and at this point in time with the present market saturation of USB devices and converters, there's no need to fumble with kludges anymore.

    As for USB not being trustworthy, I have never cared for it. It's never struck be as being that great of a replacement for perfectly decent technology. You can use it all you want. I would like the choice at least.

    Why have you never cared for it? What on Earth is wrong with it? One plug type for ten thousand peripheral types, all with a unified interface reducing code overhead, physical space and confusion. Not to mention the need for stores to have a plethora of male-female, male-male, or female-female cables of a thousand different types on hand with customer service help required to figure out what cable you need to do what, often resulting in two adapters and a cable just to connect a device to a PC. When I'm working in the field, I frequently find myself having to run back to one of my suppliers to pick up a legacy cable that I seldom use, which costs time, gas money, and wear on my vehicle. Instead, I could carry a box of five or ten cables and be guaranteed that one of them will work with the peripherals they have on site. Otherwise, I could just borrow a cable from another of their USB/FireWire devices until I could get them a new cable.

    You want choice? Do you still demand that software be ported to the Commodore 64 because it's such a tried and tested hardware platform? Do you want to go back to the days of an incompetent bus where you had to take half the cards out of your system and write down a map of IRQs and I/O addresses, then tweak half of them in order to install a sound card?

    Back to floppy drives; I keep them in my systems because I need to support the lowest common denominator in my line of work, so I'll keep a floppy drive and disks around until less than 5% of my client base still have them. They're slow and unreliable, their bytes/square-inch ratio is horrible, and the media is far too succeptable to outside forces (moisture, sun/heat, magnetic forces, etc.) to make them a practical storage solution. One client recently got the idea in her head to back up their accounting workstation - on 800 floppy disks. It would have taken two (2) CD-Rs and perhaps an hour. She spent two days backing everything up. The lost wages alone would have covered the cost of a CD-RW drive, a field installation of same, and a spindle of CD-R discs. Then there's the lost productivity of having an employee and the accounting machine out of service for a day. Then there's the fact that if any of those disks fried, most of the backup would be useless (100MB+ datafiles spread across ~80 floppies = bad news).

    When I need to use rescue tools on a workstation or server, sure, I could boot floppy disks. The first disk boots the system, the second disk contains mouse and additional low-level drivers, the third contains a partition management software package (stripped down to its bare essentials), the fourth package contains a (stripped down) copy of Ghost; a filesystem replication and backup utility, the fifth contains a small subset of hardware diagnostic tools, the sixth contains ...

    Instead, I carry a single CD-R disc labelled "rescue" with all that and more, including some 200MB of the more common hardware drivers I require in the field. It boots in less than 1/10th the time it would take a floppy to boot, and I can be instantly productive. Not in the case with floppy disks. Swap disks, wait, wait, run program, wait, wait, use program, close program, swap disks, wait, wait, etc. ad nauseum (and believe me, sitting staring at a blinking cursor for 60% of the time it takes me to complete an otherwise 15 minute operation is nauseating). I also have to keep second copies of each of my disks, which means carring around two disk boxes with me - just in case one of their floppy drives is damaged, won't read my first disk, or eats my first disk. So now with twice the space of a single 24-CD wallet, I've got less than 5% of the capacity of a single CD-R disc.

    Back to USB; a unified interface for peripherals that can operate at high speeds is the way of the future, and I for one am glad to see legacy devices going out the window. There's no technical or practical reason for the industry not to take the step forward. Quite frankly, the people who want to use legacy hardware probably shouldn't be concerned with this anyways, since they're obviously more concerned with keeping their 386s up and running than with purchasing modern hardware anyways.

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

    by arkanes (521690) <arkanes@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @04:34PM (#5234533) Homepage
    No, it's "Lets not deprecate a working technology until it's replacement is stable and in wide use". Since USB is good for lots of things besides mice and keyboards, there's no chicken/egg problem here. And you did read the part where I said common, right? Of the dozen or so machines I work with regularly, all of which are standardized, common components (several of them are Dells, in fact), every one has had USB problems on occasion. In many cases this is related to crappy drivers, but, again, until hardware manufacturers can consistently write stable USB drivers, lets not deprecate something that works. It's really hard to force a reload of your USB port drivers when your keyboard and mouse don't work.

    Okay, daisy chaining. I do the same thing with my KVM, but thats not an option for everyone. Not having PS/2 ports is not an advantage, so I'll just ignore that one.

    Disadvantages? Stupid implementations of USB means that your usb keyboard will cut the bandwidth to your devices that actually need it, like your camera and MP3 player and DSL modem. Thats something that can be fixed, but again, it's waiting for more robust USB implementations. Next, any motherboard thats going to remove PS/2 needs to have USB support in the BIOS as well as support flashing from a CD-ROM - and you'll need a boot CD-ROM, too, not just those recovery things, because your keyboard won't work in dos. Ever try to get a machine with a borked MBR back up and running on a machine without PS/2?

    These are not unsurmountable, but I'm not trading in my PS/2 peripherals until the solutions are all in place. On top of that, since the only advantage is a (potential, and minor) decrease in the number of cables, I don't see this as an urgent issue. It's not like PS/2 is preventing Firewire and USB 2.0 and all that other jazz from being developed. It's not "holding us back" from better technologies - there's no group of geeks out there ranting about how they have this great new keyboard design but it needs more bandwidth than PS/2 provides.

  • Re:Woo - Hoo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JimRay (6620) <jimray@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:05PM (#5234947) Homepage
    Firewire? Big whoop. Sure, Apple had it first, but was it a big advance over a lot of other similar technologies? Nope.

    I'll save the flaming of the rest of that rant for the other "macolytes" and just focus on this one.

    Firewire is brilliant. The "standard" it replaced (if you can call the myriad forms of SCSI a standard) sucked balls in comparrison. It's powered from the bus, it's intelligent (if I unplug my firewire drive mid-transer for some reason, I get an error message, plug the thing back in, and it WORKS!), and it's easy as hell to use. Just plug it in. No configuring jumpers or dealing with compatibility issues. Not to mention that firewire has almost single handedly contributed to the surge of low budget DV.

    Ok, one more point. Apple not only pioneered WiFi in personal computers, they co-invented it with Lucent. How's that for "technical innovation"?

    "Boutique" computing aside, there's a lot of innovation that the PC industry owes Apple. Just look at the R&D budgets of PC manufacturers -- Dell spends 1% on R&D, and it's mostly geared towards figuring out how to make computer cases with less solder. It's fine that Dell and even Compaq just want to repackage commodity parts and slap an Intel inside sticker front, but don't claim that the PC industry doesn't owe Apple for pushing the boundaries of innovation.
  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Twirlip of the Mists (615030) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:13PM (#5235028)
    Dell servers have USB as well, but I've not see much pressure to use USB in the server environment.

    Just to be perfectly clear-- I should have been more specific about this in my first post-- the USB console ports on SGI servers aren't just regular serial ports. Every SGI server comes with an embedded computer called the system controller; it controls things like the fans and the power supplies, but it's completely unrelated to the CPU's and whatnot. The USB (and legacy RS-232) console port talks directly to the system controller. So you can, for example, send commands directly to the power supplies via the console connection, to power up or down any part of the system. I'm not sure if Dell's servers have that same level of integration or not. I just wanted to clarify.

    Firewire is irrelevant when you have a large network connection.

    Oh, god, no. FireWire is isochronous, meaning you can use it for guaranteed-rate real-time operations, like video playback. You can't do that reliably with something like TCP/IP. Not everybody needs that capability, but I think it'll become more and more common as desktop video evolves in the same way that desktop publishing did back in the 80's.

    Perhaps we'll have a 'computer' with power in and video out and nothing else, as far as external connectors go.

    Well, you can kind of do that now, with Bluetooth and AirPort. The computer chassis itself is connected only to the wall socket and the monitor; everything else is wireless. And while that's neat and all, I'm a little skeptical of the much-lauded wireless revolution. For example, my computer is wired up like this: the mouse is plugged into the keyboard via USB. The keyboard is plugged into the monitor via USB. The monitor is plugged into the computer via ADC. The computer is plugged into the wall for power. That's is; there are no more cables. The monitor gets digital video, power, and USB from the computer over the ADC cable, and feeds the keyboard and mouse and whatever else I decide to plug into it via USB. This arrangement accomplishes the same ends as wireless desktop peripherals, but with less cost and complexity, and greater reliability.

    Bluetooth is great for some things. Wireless cell-phone headsets are just about the coolest things going right now. But for keyboards and mice... I'm just not sure it's that big a deal.
  • Big rebuttal. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by danshapiro (529921) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:42PM (#5235300) Homepage
    I worked for MS for 5 years, and pushed Dell to do this for a part of those 5 years. Good to see they're getting around to it. Mind you, I will always personally use a floppy drive, since I'm a hardware tinkerer. But I don't see why the rest of the world should have to pay the $10 floppy tax. So let's take some arguments one by one.

    by ct

    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.
    No, you boot from CD. If you need to build a recovery boot disk, you burn an El Torito CD-R. Learn about it here [cdpage.com]. There are some great web tutorials on how to take a floppy image and make a bootable CD-R from them using free (beer) software on either Windows or *nix. USB is for sneakernet purposes, though, not booting.

    Don't limit my options - period.
    USB and aftermarket floppies are always available. They're just not going to be standard any more.

    by afidel

    Will they allow things like BIOS flash updates to run from El Torito cdroms?
    Last I checked, Dell's do.

    by Masem

    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.

    I pay ~$0.10 per CDR, or $1.00 for a CD-RW. How much are you paying for your floppies? And you say "most drivers can fit on to one floppy"... you can fit ALL your drivers on one CD if you burn at once, or burn one-at-a-time about a dozen times (1MB for the driver + 50MB overhead per session). And if you're using CD-RW, this is a total nonissue. Either way, I don't see why this is worse than a floppy.

    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.

    Well, it's the almost perfect media. The perfect media would be just like that, except 451 times as large.

    Plus, it's what, all of $10 to add a floppy?

    Do you have any idea what the margins are on a PC? OEMs like Dell literally agonize over pennies, I've watched it.

    by The Bungi

    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.

    CDRs are now standard, on the front of the case no less.

    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).

    What's UDF got to do with it? WinXP has CD-R(W) support built in, which masters Joliet CDs that can be read on Win95. And I know Dell includes the rest of Roxio's solution.

    by Auckerman

    On MacOS, Firmware upgrades can be done straight from the OS.

    Ditto for XP using the recovery CD. And note that in the scenario you described, it wasn't "from the OS" on the PC, because it was a new PC in pieces (try building a Mac from pieces and see how the experience compares!).

    by BWJones

    Dell is finally catching up to changes Apple made 5 years ago!

    The PC world in general has to wait much longer and be much more careful about dropping legacy support. The expectations and market are just different. This was being pushed by MS when I started working there in '97, and the market is just now ready for it (apparantly).

    --dan

  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Osty (16825) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @05:52PM (#5235398)

    Daisy-chaining devices went out of style with Token-Ring networks (: Additionally, why get a hub when you can have the ports built into the computer? That's just more power plugs you have to use up, and more crap you have to have piled around

    Why waste space on your PC that could be used for other things (ie, wasting an expansion slot with a USB extension plate, where you could instead have an mpeg2 decoder installed or whatever)? Or, why mar the external styling of a case with extra nasty ports sticking out the front, side, and back? I don't want ports on the front of my machine, because I like a nice, sleek profile. Give me two ports on the back, and I'll plug in a hub or two and hide those in my work area as appropriate.


    As for daisy-chaining, it never really went out of style (SCSI), and is coming back with a vengeance (USB, Firewire). Embrace it! :).


    I've not had the opportunity to use USB audio - I assumed it was of some respectable quality if Apple had begun using it (they seem to be picky about their products).

    The one major win with USB audio is that it's an all-digital path (well, depending on the speakers, but any D/A conversion will be done at the receiver, and not in the PC). I guess another win would be that it minimizes the amount of extra hardware you need. However, that's also a major problem, IMHO. USB audio uses the CPU to do all of the DSP work for the audio. There is no dedicated chip or chips for audio functions, and I don't like that. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't like this type of convergence. I don't like winmodems, I don't like on-board video that shares system RAM, and I don't like USB audio. It's a foible of mine, and it's not based on the quality of the audio at all. Give me a good sound card that can do hardware DD5.1 with optical or digital coax output, and I'm happy (well, actually, I don't have a set of speakers that accepts digital inputs at the moment, but if I did, that's what I'd want :)

  • by phillymjs (234426) <slashdot&stango,org> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:21PM (#5235732) Homepage Journal
    Actually, this is the second time Dell has tried to do away with the floppy. The first time was back in December of 1999, with their floppy-less WebPC-- their "me too" attempt at creating an iMac (though it was not an all-in-one form factor). It was a miserable failure, I don't think it lasted very long into 2000 before Dell pulled the plug on it.

    Here is a blurb from the WebPC FAQ that used to be on their site:

    "Does webpc include a floppy drive?"

    "Good question.

    First, every Dell webpc comes with either a CD-ROM or a DVD-ROM drive, both of which are faster, more efficient, and can store a lot more storage than floppy drives.

    And, since webpc allows you to e-mail important files to other people via the Internet quickly, why transfer files using a floppy drive?

    Without a floppy drive, the webpc is smaller and frees up space for more cool features. However, if you'd still like a floppy drive, and optional, external 120 MB floppy storage drive is available."


    ~Philly
  • by barrye (473062) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @06:32PM (#5235850)
    Dell blasted Apple for dropping the floppy as an option on the Mac's, I guess now it's ok since...

    1) It's the size stupid, when it's not large enough to hold the DOS help file!

    2) Dell and other users finally realized that Microsoft is NOT going to let them make their own boot disk, have XP?, just try!

    3) Dell needs the space to power Intels CPU, while Microsoft OS drains every milliamp of current with XP hard drive memory paging and other intersting OS background task.
    My real comment is why it takes the PC world soooo long on things that are sooooo obvious. Next Dell will add slot load CD/DVD/RW/DVD-RW-R drives, gigabit Ethernet, 802.11g, Bluetooth connectivity, all without pulling your arm out of socket.......No really this story is silly.

    Barry

  • by Vandil X (636030) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:13PM (#5236216)
    Legacy technology in general:
    Rather than tying up modern systems with legacy technology such as floppy drives and Serial, PS/2, and Parallel Ports, I think it's good that OEMs like DELL are making them non-standard. Odds are, if you need those ports/drives, you will buy the appropriate expansion card/drive to add the ports/drives to your system.

    USB:
    Modern commercial OSes like MacOS X and Windows XP have no problems with modern USB devices, thanks to better driver signing and more experience on the part of hardware makers with learning all the inner workings USB's specs (both 1.0 and 2.0). It took a while for USB to mature, and it will continue to do so.

    Odds are, if you're experiencing a problem with USB, it's either the device or your OS is not modern enough.

    Floppy Drives:
    No Windows XP user needs a boot floppy when they can easily boot with their XP CD-ROM and run diagnostics, etc. from the Recovery Console.

    Even the MacOS X CD has bootable recovery utilities on it.

    All I use my floppy drive for is for the rare time I get paranoid enough to update my machine's ERD. But usually when my system volume goes bad, I just reinstall the OS from scratch.
  • Re:LS-120/240 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pHsHsTK (251616) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:20PM (#5236289) Homepage
    I've still got one running in my dads old win98 machine. He has no idea why its "different", he uses floppys all the time, while I use the 120meg disks to backup his work once and a while.
    It WAS slow for large files, Imation released a firmware fix for this, which was only available if you bought new 120 disks for it, never did get them myself.
    If only the drive was a little cheaper..... who knows.....
  • Re:Blasphemy! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wheany (460585) <wheany+sd@iki.fi> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @07:24PM (#5236318) Homepage Journal
    So keep an old laptop around for when you need a serial port. It's not like you need that 2.5GHz P4 processor and 1GB memory to run DOS.
  • Cheap, good storage. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Decimal (154606) on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @10:02PM (#5237411) Homepage Journal
    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.


    It's a real pity that LS-120 drives never caught on. These drives could read floppy disks (Unlike ZIP) in addition to their own 120 MB magneto-optical disks.

    You know what I want? Cheap, reliable 8 MB disks. I don't need any more than that to carry my work and class documents on. Most of the hype today is on cramming as much information onto the smallest space possible and then charging $40+ *PER CARD*. Disks that pop in and out quickly, won't scratch, that will fit in a pocket and cost 50 cents to replace. It could be done and I believe that there is a large market for it. The people with the patents and the money to do it, however, don't seem to have the vision.
  • Re:About Time. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jdeking1 (309579) <jdeking1@yahoo.com> on Wednesday February 05, 2003 @11:07PM (#5237822) Homepage Journal
    I don't want anybody accessing my floppy drive except me. You're talking crazy talk. You're crazy!

    Of course, I wouldn't buy a Dell anyway. They are badly overpriced. At least once a year at work we get an offer for "a great deal from Dell, at the company rate," that's still way over market value for an equivalent machine, same components, from any other reputable manufacturer.

    And I've heard the "but the support!" line, too - that doesn't wash. If you know nothing about computers and need help making it work at all, OK. Pay the money. But if you think you need to pay Dell prices in order to have hardware support, then the hardware had better fail a lot. In which case you should choose a different brand.

    Here's a fine example: our (big, major, worldwide) company has a contract with Dell. Lots and lots of money for Dell. A 20 gig drive (where did they even find drives that small in 2002?) went bad within 6 months of installation; Dell didn't want to believe it, and our IT department (or at least Lt. Nimrod, the MSCE dingus) said "it's probably just a software problem." OK; so MSCE school teaches you that "no boot device" is a software problem. In an indirect way, I suppose; the hard disk failed, so the BIOS could not find the boot software; yep, that's sort of a software problem. Can't find the freakin' software! That's why I call him Nimrod. Couldn't even script his way out of a paper bag, and the bugger ain't smart enough to carry a knife either. Prepubescent scum.

    So Dell and Nimrod insisted that we run ScanDisk. We did this several times over the span of one and a half weeks; every time it took hours, finding countless lost fragments and bad sectors. We lost over a thousand dollars of one man's work (in man-hours; data corrupted when the disk crashed without warning), we fell behind schedule - on a government contract, mind you - all for a measly 20 gig hard drive that must have been worth less than $50 US. Finally, Dell agreed to replace it, but only AFTER we sent the DEAD DRIVE to them!

    At knifepoint, Nimrod agreed to take a new 40 gig drive from one of the dozens that had been sitting unused on pallets this whole time, and put it in my employee's machine so we could get on with supplying our government with the things it needs.

    Oh, how I hate self-important Nimrods and the companies they let badger them. Obviously, I feel somewhat differently about being the badger. Rrrrr.

    The nice thing about the Nimrods is, if you see them in person, there is the potential for intimidation. You can forget that with Dell Hell. This is not Nice Mike Dell in his dorm room anymore.

    Oh yes, that service. Well worth the extra $$$$$.

Business is a good game -- lots of competition and minimum of rules. You keep score with money. -- Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari

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