There's a blue light in my future


One of the dirty little secrets of Time Machine is that it takes forever to do its first run if your Mac has anything resembling a decent amount of data inside. I got a 1TB hard disk last Tuesday, and since I absolutely refuse to leave my Mac powered on overnight, Time Machine has yet to finish its first snapshot onto it (besides three hours every evening, it’s been running for ten hours straight today and has yet to finish).

The previous disk I had been using (a 320GB one clad in steel plating) is destined to become my off-site backup, but I still find it hard to trust the vagaries of hard disks, especially when Google’s recent paper on the topic shows that the average failure rate tends to peak at 2-3 years regardless of usage pattern, temperature and whatnot.

So I keep looking for a decent backup and mid-to-long term archival solution, and (preferably) an optical one.

This weekend I bought my very first case of blank double-layer DVD+R discs, since one of my backup sets is now somewhere above 5.1GB – an amount of data that you cannot squeeze into a standard single-layer DVD and a single CD-R.

I found it preposterous to have it on two different kinds of media, keep adding CDs or waste two thirds of another DVD, so given that my black MacBook takes dual-layer DVD+R media, I went out and scoured the shelves for it.

As it happens, it was also the first time I came across recordable media for both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray (here’s a shot of the latter, a re-writable one):

Although a single re-writable disc is around Eur 20 (the same as 10 dual-layer DVD+R discs), it is immediately apparent to the average consumer that if you want a single disc with lots of storage, Blu-Ray is the way to go, since a single-layer disc takes 25GB whereas the only HD-DVD blanks I found barely surpassed half that1 and were around 25% more expensive.

It is also immediately apparent that the terminology on these things is hopelessly confusing, since manufacturers bandy about seemingly random two-letter acronyms like “BD”, “RE”, “RW” and whatnot without any real sense. And no, I couldn’t find any BD-R discs, which was odd…

And yes, since I’m holding 85GB of storage in standard DVD media along with those 25GB, it’s also obvious that dual-layer DVD+Rs are nearly three and a half times cheaper per GB2.

But I have relatively modest backup needs, and after perusing my hard disks and measuring a few folders here and there, I think that a couple of Blu-Ray discs would hold pretty much all I could possibly want to back up right now (although that irritating waste of two thirds of the second disc would be back with a vengeance).

But it’s nice to see that things are shaping up, and with all the hoopla about HD-DVD falling out of favor with the movie studios, etc. (plus my already owning a PS3), I think that it now makes a lot of sense to start keeping track of Blu-Ray writers and prices (I’ve even added that to my Wishlist already).

Plus, of course, I expect Apple to revise their MacBook line-up to include Blu-Ray writers. With luck, dual-layer ones will have gone mainstream when I need a new laptop two or three years from now.

1 For those of you not keeping track, here’s a little table with nominal capacity (subject to variations depending on whether the media is (re)writable, Marketing spin, etc., etc., etc.):

Media Single-Layer Dual-Layer
DVD 4.7GB 8.5GB
Blu-Ray 25GB 50GB
HD-DVD 15GB 30GB

2 Yes, I know I’m comparing BD-RE media with DVD+R. But I couldn’t find any BD-R discs, and the comparison with those is only likely to be more favorable (let’s guesstimate a value of Eur 15 or so).


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