Linux

Open source gets the snub from Seagate


The headline says it all.

Seagate comes out with some new drives (320s and 500s - both USB2 drives) that are serious power savers formatted in the NTFS file system that will NOT work with the flagship open source operating system Linux.

Wait a second - these are hard drives. Plain and simple hard drives. How could they not work with an operating system? Well it seems that when the hard drives go into shutdown mode they drop the USB2 connection. When the drives come back from shutdown they reconnect with USB1. Hmmm - interesting. Why would they do this? Why not have the drive come back in the same manner it went down? And why switch from USB2 to USB1? When USB1 tops out at 12Mb/s and USB2 tops out at 400Mb/s, it should (the emphasis is on SHOULD) be a no-brainer. But Seagate opted to make the switch when the drive comes back. Why is this an issue? Well, Windows can handle the switch. Neither Linux or even OS X can.

But what's better - the people at Seagate have no idea how to get around the issue. Good going Seagate. You think you just made some friends? If so, think again.

This is 2007 (almost 2008) right? The whole Linux having trouble with hardware is awfully '90s I would say. That being the case, why in the name of Gates would Seagate do this? Gates...Gates...hmm...could it be? Nah, I won't go there this time.

But seriously - with a serious migration in many countries (and even beginning in the states now) to Linux it would only make sense that hardware makers would open their eyes and see that Linux is indeed a viable market now. The open source flagship is no longer isolated to basements, labs, and hardware too weak to power Windows Servers. Linux is a powerhouse in many forms. And when companies like Seagate pull little snubs like this they are only hurting themselves. Why? Because even though the "World Domination" war cry has been muffled, the opinions and ideals haven't. Linux users see this as a threat and, in many cases, simply stop buying hardware from the company.

Just like me and my family do not buy products from companies that practice animal testing, I don't buy hardware from companies that shun Linux. I don't own Microsoft products (not even an XBox) and now I won't own Seagate hard drives.

And I'm sure there are many others like me out there. No matter what side of the fence you are on, you're a geek and you stand by the tech that stands by you.

Of course it will only be a matter of time before some kernel hacker breaks this flaw in the Seagate drive. And when they do Seagate will roll their eyes and say something like, "Oh, we were about to implement that patch...but our hands were tied."

Ah yes, the old "tied hands" routine. It's pretty played out. But that's okay, while your hands are tied the Linux developers are leaping over your hurdles and winning the race. Slowly but surely. The tortoise and the hare. And even though I am confident Linux will hop right over this lil' setback, I am ashamed at a company like Seagate for putting something like this on the shelves.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

43 comments
normhaga
normhaga

I have been having a few problems getting micro drive to boot and what I had noticed is that it seems that in order to boot a device has to boot from USB 1.0 or 1.1. Maybe that is what is occurring here. Sorry about the inappropriate late response. Now go ahead and chew my head off.

cathar.gnostic
cathar.gnostic

Well WD maybe has shot itself in the food with DRM and I thought, well Seagate is my pick now. Think again! This is what happens with big companies, go stale, no real vision of the future. Stick with Bill, we aren't.

Absolutely
Absolutely

[i]Well WD maybe has shot itself in the food with DRM and I thought, well Seagate is my pick now. Think again! This is what happens with big companies, go stale, no real vision of the future.[/i] It isn't the companies who are stale, it's the market for commodity/appliance electronics, built from computer parts. Most of the market won't be affected at all by this error because of their choice of proprietary OS, the one for which this device evidently was designed. Those that are in the market for such devices and want their backup drives to work with other OSes are also more likely to buy an external enclosure and "internal" hard drive separately. For me, the main reason to do so is to pre-emptively eschew any bundled "features" whose drawbacks tend, in my experience, not to be adequately described prior to the opportunity to view the binding agreement relieving the manufacturers of all damages directly caused by their own errors. I don't recall the catchy euphemism for such agreements, but I do remember the important fact about them -- how to avoid them. Most of the market doesn't care about entering into such agreements sight unseen or about providing beta testing services to manufacturers free of charge. Big companies are attuned to most of the market, not to you and me. It is not that they "go stale," it is much worse than that.

djmalster2
djmalster2

you have highlighted a serious flaw in the marketing of these drives in as much as they can be seen to breach trade description laws in some countries like New Zealand where the product and its suitability for use must be FULLY DESCRIBED upon the packaging. Now this issue is compounded by John van Bronkhorst ??? Seagate in a podcast he made regarding this product where he gives clear impression that this product can be used with any computer irrespective of system Quote "Well, it???s all very true. Today people are taking those pictures and putting them on their PCs, which could be generic PCs, they don???t know what???s inside and they???re trusting that. The scary thing is they don???t even know they are trusting it and they won???t know they have a problem until they loose something. So, there is a lot of work that has to be done to message this and to educate people as to the value of the content on their computers. Those who are knowledgeable for the first time this last year finally valued the content on their computers as priceless because the stuff can???t be recreated. I can???t go back five years and take another picture of grandma with my child when she was an infant. I can???t do that and if I loose that, I???ve lost something that has tremendous sentimental value. So, we???ll do a lot of work in educating people as to the importance of their personal content that they???ve created and that we want to make sure they never loose. So, with the Seagate brand, you???ve number one, you???ve got the largest disk drive manufacturer in the world. We have a very long history of data integrity and data protection and security and now we are bringing the five year warranty to that as well. In order to give people the comfort and confidence that we know what???s your stuff and we know it???s important to you and we will do everything to protect that, that we possibly can." It seems that Seagate have tried to be too clever here and not thought about the possibility of the power saving switch shutting down the drive without shutting down the USB connection itself, this to my mind should be a relatively simple task IE close the drive from behind the USB connection rather than shut down the whole connection. Its about time that Seagate use some of that expertise that they trumpet so loudly. Maybe everyone on this planet that found this problem should return the goods under their 5 year guarantee and ask for their money back, this should make them realise in short order just how much of the market they are missing. Dave Malster

Gone Fishing
Gone Fishing

Is to do backups Cd and Dvd writers/recorders are not just for playing music or movies Stop trusting your computer with things that are important It?s not ?If it fails? It?s ?When it fails?

mail
mail

From what I've read Seagate's external hard drives are pretty much crap. Their internal HDDs, however, are excellent and I will continue to purchase them. This sounds, as mentioned above, like simply a bad design that was rushed into production. Seagate hasn't "shunned" us before, and I don't think this is the start of a Linux-less Seagate mentality. And I voted "No way."

Gone Fishing
Gone Fishing

If they cant cope with usb 2 Maybe is to much cost cutting and now their stuff is crap

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

I do not believe that this is a snub. I believe that this is simple incompetence.

Absolutely
Absolutely

[i] This is simply a bad design I do not believe that this is a snub. I believe that this is simple incompetence.[/i] They don't care enough to do their work effectively but have the audacity to require payment and provide only incompetence in exchange. I consider "snub" an accurate word for such scenarios. It may be too mild, but it's essentially correct.

SysAdminII
SysAdminII

Almost sounds like Bill and Seagate are bed partners or could it be sexual connotation that Bill likes a 'hard drive' from Seagate.

rhomp2002
rhomp2002

I am in the market for just this kind of device and I use Linux. I guess this makes my choice of drives a little easier. Now I can just forget Seagate. Any idea on who does make the good ones at a low price? and should I go for Firewire or USB or eSata devices? I want something robust that will hold backups for my 250GB internal hard drive with the family info and movies and songs. I spent a lot of time putting them out there and I don't want to lose them now. I use a couple of different Linux distros as I narrow it down to my final choice and use dual booting. Any help appreciated.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

e-sata in a custom enclosure such as from Ultra or PCP&C, add your own hard drive, and voila, instant external drive. It sometimes costs a tad more upfront, but you know what type and quality of drive you have in the enclosure, and you can get an aluminum enclosure with cooling fans as opposed to foil covered plastic and passive cooling. E-sata is much faster then USB2, but not available on many computers yet, though pcx adapters are arround now.

Tig2
Tig2

A Western Digital "My Book" USB device on my MacBook Pro. So far it does what I want it to. I would avoid the WD My Book World. Has native DRM that you likely don't want to deal with.

josepht
josepht

They will get burnt from a high rate of returns when people see that the drives wont work with the USB ports on routers that provice NAS service. These routers typically run Linux or other minimalistic operating systems that won't be able to deal with a USB version switch. This affects consumer devices and as a result, it will affect them more than any boycott that you would attempt. On the other hand, it should not be too difficult to modify the Linux USB driver module to deal with this switch, so I would expect that future versions of the Linux kernel won't have a problem with this.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

AS I read your post, it sounds like there is a design flaw in the hardware which causes the drive to resume from hibernation with degraded performance. And as it turns out, the Windows drivers are (either intentionally or accidentally) robust enough to compensate for Seagate's bad engineering, whereas the Linux drivers currently are not (yet, but presumably a fairly easy fix). Did I totally misunderstand? P.S. I can't imagine anyone wanting to buy a drive with this particular performance degrading flaw. So still good to bring that to light.

Tig2
Tig2

Well then I just won't buy Seagate. Western Digital is working for me. This is about as short-sighted as it can get. Fix the flaw or don't release the product. People want agnostic hardware. They don't want to have a mass of configurations to support, they want one that will do everything they need. Seagate missed the bus on this. Plain and simple.

markinct
markinct

...but why would Seagate go this route? Why step down from the higher through-put of USB2 under any circumstances? And as a consumer, would I want to own a drive that went from fast to slow throughput? Not so much... Actually, not at all.

Gone Fishing
Gone Fishing

Means longer on times so the green argument becomes stupid

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

"(320s and 500s - both USB2 drives) that are serious power savers formatted in the NTFS file system " These are low power usage, well less power usage, drives. Part of the whole "Green Computing" movement. That clearly states the reason to "step down" to USB1, less current == less cost. It is a completely idiotic idea, as the amount of energy saved by this tactic is at best, tiny. Dropping power hungry processors in favor of lower power and energy usage processors can save 10000x this cheep trick. (Energy conscious Intel Dual core Processor at idle, about 60 watts, Via c7 at idle 12 watts.)

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

anything at all if its in the current Fad. I had a girlfriend that got crazy on this low fat kick. She was buying low fat totillas, they had half the fat of a normal one, and were half the size of a normal tortilla =\ Oh, and the low-sodium salt... cut with silicon dioxide... sand for gods sake, she paid 50 cents more for sand... The green phenome is no different, and thats what Seagate knows and is betting on. If this project is even marginally successfull, we will see more from all the vendors. And total power savings to the end user may approach $5 US per year as a result.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

People will buy anything "green" these days or buy any excuse. I actually had to do a study (per management) that compared powersaving of unplugging a pc versus leaving it off because "someone" read "somewhere" that a pc actually draws a small bit of current while turned off. This "green" person on management was ready to approve purchase of hundeds of power adapters with inline switches or actually cut breakers afterhours. That is until I showed mathmatically that you would have to have something on the order of 100,000 units running in this state to even approach the $10.00 mark...plus it would costs thousands of dollars for surge protectors with accessable rocker switches.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

its just a marketing gimmick to sell "Green" to morons with more money then sense.

jlwallen
jlwallen

so you drop to a lower power setting (USB1) but then it takes longer to transfer data. what if you are transferring a LOT of data? kinda nullifies that savings from dropping to USB1 don't ya think?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I agree a lack of Linux compatibility is a poor design decision on Seagate's part, but why do you view it as a snub? The word implies a conscious decision on Seagate's part, as if the design team sat around discussing the best way to insult the open source world. So they chose to make a piece of hardware only compatible with Windows systems. It's not like they're unique in this misguided approach. But if I choose to make tires to maximize automobile performance, it doesn't mean I'm snubbing motorcycle riders. It does mean I'm missing a marketing opportunity, but are you seeing an insult where none is intended?

jdclyde
jdclyde

comparing a chevy to a toyota. both are cars that drive down the same road, but a tire manufacturer decides to make an off-standard size that will only fit one brand and not the other. Was there just MAYBE a payoff by a business partner to make the product intentionally incompatible with the competition? We don't know any predatory companies that would ever try something like that, do we?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Even if MS did pay or lean on Seagate to do this, it's not like Seagate's the only drive manufacturer. It's also not they did this to every model of drive they make, just selected external USB drives. Jack doesn't say, but I assume (yeah, there's that word) internal drives aren't affected.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Makes for issues about the legality of the deal in the first place. and because the article does say it is because the drive comes back as USB1, it would only be external USB drives, for now. Getting into crap like this is exactly why Mac never became more than a novelty, because who in their right mind (besides Tig of course) would buy ANYTHING that is proprietary in nature? It is what hurt Big Blue for decades.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

External USB drives, and not even all of them, just the "power saving" versions, hence the coming back up in USB1, less power draw. Personally I do not see this as a Snub of OSS either Palm, but a poor design choice by Seagate. It?s a poor choice because it cuts out all *nix OSs, including OSX, thus loosing possible revenue from 5% of the population. Its a good design in that it will appeal to the "Green Conscious" Urbanites that drive big Sport Utilities, shop at Whole Foods, and whine about how as a society not recycle enough. Just my 2cents but I would have guessed that anyone really concerned about low power would already be running Linux on a via c7 with either flash or notebook drives for storage, not USB externals. My opinion is that this is not a snub, but a poorly informed and implemented marketing tactic to get some "Green" money from consumers.

Neil Higgins
Neil Higgins

So Seagate are "pulling the wool" over prospective customers eyes,and claim they do not know how to "get around the issue?" Rubbish.They will soon change tactics when their sales start falling.No Seagate employee uses Linux then.Duh.

j-mart
j-mart

As Segate manufactures hardware you would think they would want their products able to be used easily with all of the choices that are available.

votary.of.truth
votary.of.truth

Why would nebody want their product to not be compatible with Open Source OSes? and then why is that stupid USB switch even coming into picture ? Well then if they want us to not use their drives ... we wont ! simple!

QC8S8sTK
QC8S8sTK

It's probably just a bug in the implementation of the USB protocol. There are many so bugs to choose from, both in the host software and the devices. Vendors have as many as 5 completely parallel protocol implementation choices for mass storage, and they generally implement only their favorite 20% of the protocol, so if your OS's 20% doesn't overlap with the gadget's 20%, your device will not interoperate. I have a USB2 MP3 player that has a similar problem to these Seagate drives--I have to completely disable USB 1 support on the USB port to get the device to work in USB2 mode. Normally the device connects, runs in USB2 for about 200ms, then switches down to USB1. If the battery in the player is nearly dead then it never connects at all, and after a few minutes will permanently disable USB storage on the Linux side (running 2.6.22.14, your version may vary) requiring a reboot to fix. USB continues to amaze me as year after year nobody seems to be able to get it to work properly. Linux USB support has greatly improved over the years (3 years ago I would expect that connecting this USB MP3 player to a Linux machine would instantly crash the Linux machine), but it still has significant problems. Not that Windows is much (or any) better--but vendors tend to be motivated to debug their implementations when they don't interoperate with Windows. ...and anyway, isn't a very simple workaround to just disable USB suspend on Linux? Or is that a workaround that eliminates the whole point of buying a green drive?

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

More conspiracy theories about how Microsoft is paying people to bash\hinder\or stomp out Linux...how original. Personaly I think all of these new green pc's are poor performers and no enthusiast would really be interested. The only time they would make an actually noticeable difference in actual energy savings is en mass, like a corporation. A company such as Seagate would have the common sense to release a product like this now, and release a fix or wait for this vast online Linux user base to come up with a work around. I will not be boycotting any company for something as frivalous as this. I'm not a Linux or a Microsoft fanboy, I personally use both at work/home. Limiting yourself to one or the other is just bad business. I'm always up for whatever puts money in my pocket, it's a computer...nothing more nothing less. It's not a statement of freedom or ownership, it's a tool to get a job done.

jlwallen
jlwallen

i can't understand how you would saying choosing one or the other is not a statement? i chose Linux a long, long to escape microsoft. and i know people who deploy Linux in company settings for the same reason. you can make statements with just about anything...computers included.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

Maybe it's because I've developed a bad impression. I've worked with people who were strictly Microsoft and people that were strictly Linux. I just don't see any rationality or business sense in limiting yourself on a software purchase based on personal beleifs and then taking those beleifs into the workplace. In my current position I deal with alot of EMS/911 operations and quite frankly I don't give a rat's patooty who sells me the software so long as it does it's job. I've seen people in this arena fight tooth and nail to keep a poor performing poduct alive because "it works with their platform better." This particular venture was convincing an organization to ditch a setup that was pretty much SuSE on the desktop and RedHat/oracle on the backend. They were complaining that alot of geo spatial "off the shelf" products wouldn't mix with their system well. They didn't play well together because most people use a Windows/CAD system that works flawlessly (for the most part), so that's what they best applications are designed to run on. If industry standards don't work with your platform, well get another platform. If Linux works better for me this week I'll use it...same goes for Microsoft products. I'll use whichever product gets the job done most efficently, I just don't get how some people can be so closed minded as to not consider both sides.

Jaqui
Jaqui

from open source users. do not buy anything from seagate, until they stop making hardware windows only, and pay a huge donation to some of the open source projects.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"...and pay a huge donation to some of the open source projects." Why should Seagate pay a donation? Lots of hardware vendors crank out equipment that isn't compatible with all OSs, not just Seagate. If Fujitsu suddenly decided they wanted to make new products compatible with IBM mainframe operating systems, would you expect them to cut a check to Big Blue?

Gone Fishing
Gone Fishing

By the way what the hell are you lot arguing about? Re read your posts and get back on track Some of you need help from a quack

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

"What's my motivation to change my ways to benefit 5% of the market?" I do know that the external hard drive market is not as large as the internal market by far.. but that is 5% of amarket going to someone else. Nationwide, that may only add up to a million or so over christmas, but thats a million seagate threw away for no reason. Oh... and for those planning to boycote Seagate, remember they own Maxtor as well. That leaves you WD and Hitachi oon the consumer end.

Larry the Security Guy
Larry the Security Guy

"if Fujitsu did the same thing as seagate, but used a unix filesystem" It's not the filesystem that's the problem. Filesystems can be changed. The problem is that the controller switches to USB1, which only Windows apparently can tolerate. I also don't see the motivation or the need for Seagate to pay some donation.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"they pay a donation to support an open source project, or 10, they lose money as well, it makes them think twice about going proprietary." So I'm Seagate. I can lose money by ignoring Linux, or lose even more in start-up costs by resuming manufacturing hardware that supports it? What's my motivation to change my ways to benefit 5% of the market?

Jaqui
Jaqui

if seagate loses sales by not having anyone using open source buying their products, they don't make as much. they pay a donation to support an open source project, or 10, they lose money as well, it makes them think twice about going proprietary. Mainframe hardware not generally being even slightly compatible with pcs, that is comparing apples and oranges. if Fujitsu did the same thing as seagate, but used a unix filesystem, which windows can't read without extra software*, I would expect the MS "fanbois" would be screaming about it in much the same fashion. * the drivers that enable windows to read unix file systems ae out there, fujitsu could include them on cd for those using windows.