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RME Babyface Pro in Linux
An exercise in patience

After years of saying I’d do it, I'm finally moving my ecosystem from Windows to Linux. After some experimenting and soul searching, I've decided to go with Linux Mint, as it's not exactly Ubuntu with their atrociously horrible decisions, but it provides stability, ease of setup, and a similar enough interface to Windows so as to not lower my productivity.

Getting all of my legacy hardware working, including my 6-monitor setup, was mostly painless, but my beloved Babyface Pro (external professional audio mixer hardware) has been absolute hell to get working. It only natively supports Windows, OSX, and iOS for the “PC” (USB audio passthrough) mode, and the CC mode (class compliant) does not offer my custom waveform transforms. So, my only real option was to use the other analog input interfaces on the Babyface (XLR, SPDIF, or quarter inch audio).

The first hurdle was the power. Normally the device is powered through USB, however if I was going to be using the other audio inputs, I didn't want to leave the USB plugged in all the time, and the Babyface doesn't come with a power adapter. Fortunately, I had a 12V 1A+ power adapter in my big box of random power adapters. The second hurdle was when I discovered that the Babyface does not store the mixer settings when it's powered off. So, every time it gets powered on, it needs to be hooked to another (Windows) machine that can push the mixer settings to it. This also isn't too big a deal as I keep it on a UPS so it generally won't lose power, and if it does, I can use a VM to push the settings.

The next problem was deciding what interface to go through. I was really hoping to use SPDIF/optical since it is a digital signal that does not suffer from interference and degradation, but all the SPDIF interfaces I tried (4 in total) all sounded like garbage. I guess the SPDIF interface on the Babyface is a piece of Junk, which was very disheartening.

My only remaining option was using the analog inputs. I decided to use a mini (3.5mm; 1/8") stereo to quarter inch (6.35mm) mono splitter cord to run into “IN 3/4” and this worked perfectly. However, if the USB interface is plugged in at the same time then this actually creates very audible line noise on the analog inputs within the Babyface itself! This is a horrible design flaw of the device that I was shocked to run into. Fortunately, as mentioned in step 1, I already planned on having the USB cord unplugged, so not a deal breaker.

I first tried the headphone and line out jacks on my motherboard, but the audio quality was only at about 90%. I next tried the line out on my Creative Sound Blaster Audigy from 2014 and the audio was at about 95% quality. It also felt like a cardinal sin to plug in a PCIE 1.0 1x device (0.250 GB/s) into a PCIE 5.0 16x slot (63 GB/s) - lol. So, I bought a Sound Blaster Play 3! USB to mini audio adapter and the audio was perfect! I finally had my setup figured out.

As a fun note, I went to an audiologist a few days ago to have my hearing tested, and the waveform I had devised (through brute force testing) that I had been using through the Babyface for the last 7 years was the exact inverse of the results on the hearing loss frequency chart.

Hardware performance speed tests

So I got a new computer back in April and have finally gotten around to doing some speed tests to see how different applications and settings affect performance/harddrive read speed.

The following is the (relevant) computer hardware configuration:
  • Motherboard: MSI Z87-GD65
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K Haswell 3.5GHz
  • GPU: GIGABYTE GV-N770OC-4GD GeForce GTX 770 4GB
  • RAM: Crucial Ballistix Tactical 2*8GB
  • 2*Solid state hard drives (SDD): Crucial M500 480GB SATA 2.5" 7mm
  • 7200RPM hard drive (HDD): Seagate Barracuda 3TB ST3000DM001
  • Power Supply: RAIDMAX HYBRID 2 RX-730SS 730W
  • CPU Water Cooler: CORSAIR H100i
  • Case Fans: 2*Cooler Master MegaFlow 200, 200mm case fan

Test setup:

I started with a completely clean install of Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 to gather these numbers.

The first column is the boot time, from the time the start of the "Starting Windows" animation shows to when the user login screen shows up, so the BIOS is not included. I used a stopwatch to get these boot numbers (in seconds), so they are not particularly accurate.

The second and third columns are the time (in seconds) to run a "time md5sum" on cygwin64 on a 1.39GB file (1,503,196,839 bytes), on the solid state (SDD) and 7200RPM (HDD) drives respectively. They are taken immediately after boot so caching and other applications using resources are not variables. I generally did not worry about running the tests multiple times and taking lowest case numbers. The shown milliseconds fluctuations are within margin of error for software measurements due to context switches.


Boot times are affected between multiple steps, as seen below, but not too bad. The only thing that affected the MD5sum was adding the hardware mirror raid on the SSDs, which dropped the time of the md5 by half. So overall, antivirus and system encryption did not have any noticeable affect on the computer's performance (at least regarding IO on a single file and number crunching).

What was added Boot SSD HDD Notes
Initial installation 4 - -
NIC Drivers and Cygwin 7 4.664 8.393 I'm not sure why the boot time jump so much at this point. The initial number might have been a fluke.
All Windows updates + drivers + 6 monitors 14 4.618 8.393 The boot time jumped up a lot due to having to load all the monitors
Raid 1 mirror[Windows] on SSDs + no page file 17 4.618 8.393 This was removed once I realized Truecrypt could not be used on a dynamic disk (Windows software) RAID
Raid 1 mirror[hardware] on SSDs + no page file 17 2.246 8.408
Truecrypt System Volume Encryption (SSD Raid Only) 17-18 2.278 8.424
Antivirus 18 2.324 8.408 Kaspersky 2014
Laptop Reviews
I will be having nightmares about faulty laptop hardware for years to come

So for all of June and half of July this year I was in Canada for a really big contract. It was a very intense and taxing (though rewarding!) project that basically tied me up 24/7 for the whole duration, minus the little sleep I could afford, and acquiring food. Unfortunately, during this time, during a very hectic and somewhat dangerous part of the job, my Dell XPS M1730 laptop took a grand fall and cracked open. To its credit, it lasted for 10 more days, which completely saved my butt. During that time it only had minor touchpad problems which required a reboot when they started happening, but then it completely bit the dust on the final day of the project (I coped) due to, I believe, an electrical short somewhere on the motherboard.

The previous laptop I had the pleasure of using for 3 years was a Dell XPS M1710, which I absolutely loved in every way, besides the constant hardware failures and having to get replacement parts sent out each time they occurred. It conveniently bit the dust just before its warranty was up, so I was sent the previously mentioned M1730 by Dell as a replacement, which was unfortunately a refurb[ished], and never worked very well. Because of this it had no warranty, and coupled with the sub-par performance, I decided it was time to consider it totaled when it stopped working, retire it, and get a new laptop.

The new laptop process however ended up taking about 6 weeks to complete due to horrible hardware failures and service. My requirements for a laptop were very specific and there were only about 5 laptops on the market I could find that even fit my specs, which was very disappointing. Within those 6 weeks, I have had the chance to use and review 3 separate laptops, each from different companies, and will be including my positive and negative points about them below (in regard to the many other laptops I’ve used over the years). It can be assumed that anything that is not mentioned is as expected.

Toshiba Qosmio X505-Q888 TruBrite 18.4-Inch Laptop
  • Supplier: Bought from Amazon for ~$1,600. A full refund was issued upon confirmed hardware failure by Amazon (otherwise a restocking fee is applied). It was sent out immediately and received within 1 day.
  • Pros:
    • Huge 18.4” monitor
  • Cons:
    • The reason I was forced to return it was the monitor went bad in less than a week. The monitor would sometimes turn on after boot or a resolution change, but would always turn back off within 5 seconds. During the short spurts it was on, the colors were way off on half the screen. I did a lot of tests using an external monitor to try and fix the problem, but determined it was an unfixable hardware issue.
    • Media/control buttons were located on the left side of the keyboard. They were touch sensitive buttons that were way too easy to trigger accidentally. Simply relaxing my left hand usually caused it to brush and trigger one of the pseudo-buttons. I had been planning on writing a little utility that required either a double tap, or a prolonged hold, to trigger the keys, but ended up not needing to due to having to return the laptop.
    • The power cord disconnected way too easily. It probably averaged coming out of the power slot about 3 times an hour with little movement of the laptop.
    • It had very bad overheating problems consistently, but especially when playing games. I believe this might have caused the failure of the monitor.
    • The speakers would cause the volume to fluctuate very randomly so music was always distorted as it increased and decreased in volume every few second or so.
Dell Studio 17
  • Supplier: Bought from Dell for ~$1,800 including extended 3 year mid-tier warranty and a few hardware upgrades. A full refund was issued upon return. Dell originally lied to me about the amount of time it would take to arrive and I almost canceled the order before it was sent out because of this.
  • Pros:
    • The media buttons were in a very unobtrusive place (the best of any laptop I’ve ever had).
    • The laptop was probably half the weight of any other laptop I’ve had of its size, and the power supply was probably about a sixteenth the size of any power supply for same said previous laptops.
  • Cons:
    • It’s Dell...
      • Dell has absolutely ABYSMAL phone support. It’s outsourced to India and the “representatives” are completely unknowledgeable and virtually unintelligible. The representatives and managers have absolutely no power to get anything done, and even the managers are now Indian so you can’t even escalate to a comprehensible conversation. The representatives do virtually nothing but read prompts from screens, and for knowledgeable computer users, it’s painful to explain to them you don’t need them to try and diagnose the problem as you already have, but they want to guide you through their script via the phone anyways. During the calls for this laptop I was even told at one point I would have a 2 hour wait time to talk to a manager, and I experienced so many dropped calls I stopped counting. Dell support was the worst in the industry 2 years ago. Since then, it’s gotten twice as bad. I will never use or recommend Dell again to anyone for this reason.
      • Before I gave Dell my credit card number and committed my order, I had been told by the website the laptop would ship immediately and I would have it within 2 days. Immediately after I committed to buying it, the website suddenly told me it would instead take OVER 3 WEEKS for me to receive it. I was flabbergasted, and this was the reason I spent hours with phone support over many days trying to get this fixed. I finally decided to cancel the order and get another laptop on the 6th day, but I guess due to my demands, they actually shipped it right before I was about to call, aborting my attempt. It arrived 8 days after I made the order, which still caused me major problems.
    • The hard drive had major freezing problems, which is what eventually made me return the laptop, as I did not want to have them send me a completely new Chinese assembled one, as it would take forever and most definitely be a refurb. The freezing even occurred during BIOS, and it often took up to 4 minutes to resume from hibernation.
    • The ATI video card was less than optimal compared to the nVidia cards on my other recent laptops. It just wasn’t performing in games.
    • The power cord was ridiculously short, was prone to falling out (not nearly as much as the Toshiba), and had a power led on it that was much too bright (it actually kept me up at night if left on).
    • The speakers were in a horrible spot on the palm rests. Having my wrists in the proper and comfortable position for the keyboard covered them up causing bad distortion and dampening.
    • The touchpad was far too big and had no dead zones in the touchpad driver properties. Because of this and the horrible over sensitivity of the pad, it was very hard to use as it often stopped working when it detected “multiple touches”. Even an apple charger cord barely touching it made it stop working.
    • There was no property key or pause break key (Even via a “Fn” key combo).
    • There was no indicator light for the caps and num locks.
    • Many of the keys started squeaking after a few days.
MacBook Pro 17-inch
  • Tired of horrible hardware from other companies, I decided to give in and get a MacBook Pro against my better judgment. It has turned out to be the keeper simply because I’m tired of dealing with finding a laptop and I hear they have spectacular technical support including (supposedly) often receiving your laptop back within 3 days of sending it in for hardware replacement!
  • Supplier: Bought from Apple for ~$3,100 including extended warranty and a few hardware upgrades whole sale (RIDICULOUSLY expensive). However, I had a 15% friends and family discount through a friend who is an employee of Apple bringing the total down to ~$2,600. There is no way I would have gotten it without the discount, but even with, it was still hideously expensive for what you actually get. I received it within 7 days as I was told.
  • Pros:
    • It actually has a 1920x1200 (WUXGA) resolution! Both of my previous Dell’s had this, but the only 2 computers I could find on the market currently with this that fit my specs were the MacBook Pro and an Alienware (which is Dell and also ludicrously expensive). The next step down I was forced to accept on other computers was 1920x1080 (Full HD/FHD/1080p).
    • The magnetic power connector is WONDERFUL. It never falls out!
    • The visible battery meter on the side of the computer is kind of nice, but I doubt I’ll ever use it.
    • I was able to get a matte screen for an extra $50. I HATE (but have always had to deal with) glossy screens because you often can’t see them if the sun is shining on your screen, and they are fingerprint magnets.
    • The time the computer can run off of battery seems pretty amazing. Windows is reporting almost double the amount of battery time as normal laptops, which seems to be accurate, though I have not fully tested this.
  • Cons:
    (Most all regarding running in Windows on the MacBook Pro, which is what I pretty much only use it for)
    • The touchpad has virtually no settings and works absolutely horribly in Windows.
      • Some example settings most all other touchpads have, some of which are available for this touchpad in OSX include: sensitivity, dead zones, and scroll zones.
      • The available settings in Windows are: Tap to click, dragging, drag lock, which bottom corner is considered a secondary click, two fingers resemble a secondary tap.
      • The multi-touch nature mixed with the absolute farce that is the Windows drivers for the device is what causes the main problem. There are no separate mouse buttons, and it’s basically unusable to utilize the bottom left and right sides as buttons with all the glitches. I think I might end up trying to write my own drivers for it for Windows soon, and if that doesn’t work, I will attempt finding a mouse buttons peripheral I can plug into via USB.
      • The touchpad will not allow a right (secondary) click while another finger is also touching it, and the secondary click via 2 tapped fingers is very unstable. It also seems right clicking sends a left mouse down event (but not a left mouse up event), which often cancels context menus.
      • For the touchpad to be usable I have to make sure to keep only one finger on it at a time or it gets buggy.
      • I did research on the Apple multitouch touchpad a few nights ago and apparently Apple didn’t really support using the touchpad at all in windows until like 2009, and that was only a token gesture as they just don’t give a shit about the drivers, only making them barely usable to allow advertising Windows compatibility.
    • The keyboard key set is only a subset of a normal keyboard and missing a ton of keys:
      • No number pad (though many laptops do not have one)
      • A few of the missing keys are: Page up, page down, home, end, print screen, insert, delete (only has a backspace labeled as delete). Missing keys are mostly all replaced by “FN” key combos via Boot Camp, though not all of them are listed in the Boot Camp help file.
      • Due to the missing keys and the non standard layout of the Mac keyboard, I used KeyTweak to remap a good number of keys for my purposes. There is also a program available in the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools that accomplishes the same task, though with a worse GUI, called Remapkey.exe. Both of these programs just modify a registry value that has windows natively remap the keys. I also had to use a modification of my HalfKey Project for some other key remappings.
      • The “Fn” and “Eject CD” keys are hard wired and can’t be remapped through the above method. This has caused me a lot of annoyance so far as “Fn” and the left “Control” keys are swapped from standard layouts.
    • There is no way in Windows to disable/mute the startup sound when the laptop is turned on (which I find incredibly annoying and embarrassing in public venues). Fortunately, this can be fixed by running the 3rd party StartupSound.prefPane configuration dialog in OSX just once.
    • EFI adds another layer that can be used as a security weak point, invalidating my last security scheme. It didn’t work off the bat anyways as the EFI wouldn’t boot to the USB running GRUB, as I believe GRUB for EFI is required.
    • The keyboard backlight doesn’t work until the OS has loaded making the keyboard unviewable in dark situations. The monitor brightness is also unadjustable until Windows loads, and uses the last brightness set by OSX.
    • There are no drivers for the light sensor in Windows (though I personally don’t care about that).
Computers are Evil
Setting up new computers can be quite the hassle

The new home server for the new entertainment center I recently set up has made itself out to be quite a nuisance. I am unsure as to whether I will keep using it or not, but fortunately, I have not yet taken down my old home server, as I wanted to do some break in testing on the new one first.

Setting up new computers is almost always a pain in the ass, what with installing and configuring all the software from scratch (which always includes a format and new OS), and making sure all the hardware works properly and finding drivers for it (sometimes when you don’t even have the proper information on what that hardware is). But sometimes, computers can go above and beyond the normal setup nuances and annoyances and be downright evil. I have long proclaimed to people that computers have personalities and minds of their own and they decide when and where they want to be accommodating or uncooperative. Besides all the normal computer setup problems (including not knowing what the hardware was and having to figure that out), this one also had a few more doozies.

The first big problem started with the fact that I wanted to use this computer for video output, and it does not have an AGP slot. As I contemplated in the previous post on this topic, I went ahead and bought a PCI Geforce 5200 for $27.79 including shipping. The card did not fit properly in the new case, so I had to unscrew a few things, which were fortunately designed for just that reason. Then the big problem came up in that video outputted from the s-video port on the card showed up on the TV at a 50% over zoom, so I couldn’t see half the screen. I couldn’t test the monitor output port either because it is DVI, and I have no DVI monitors, alas. After 2 or 3 hours of tinkering with it and throwing everything plus the kitchen sink at the problem, including trying a different s-video cable, I finally stumbled on the solution and got it working, yay. That is... until after I rebooted and it wasn’t working again x.x;. Another 20 or so more minutes of tinkering got it fixed again, and I was able to quickly hone down on a procedure to fix the problem on the next reboot, optimizing it with each successive reboot over the next few days. The procedure is as follows: (The TV over s-video starts as the primary monitor, and I have a second monitor connected to the VGA port to the onboard graphics card)

  • Open “Display Properties” [Right click Desktop > Properties] > Settings
  • Attach second monitor so I can see what I’m doing
  • Open NVidia Control Panel
  • Rotate screen to 90 degrees. It only wants to rotate the screen at 1024x768, which is too high a resolution for the TV, so it kicks the resolution down to 640x480 while rotating
  • Keep setting the screen to no rotation (0 degrees) until the scaling is correct [usually twice]. The NVidia control panel doesn’t want to allow going back to normal rotation now due to the 1024x768 required resolution thing, and will keep the setting set as 90 degrees, so the process can easily be repeated until it works.
  • Now that the screen is at the correct scale (at 640x480), all that’s left is to get the rotation back to normal. To do this, immediately after accepting the rotation process in the NVidia Control Panel, it has to be closed out (alt+f4) so that it saves the rotation setting at 0 degrees but doesn’t try to set it back after all the resolution changes.
  • Raise the resolution back to 800x600
  • Detach secondary monitor now that it is no longer needed

The screen still unfortunately has about 100-200 “pixels” (monitors don’t have pixels, technically) on the top and bottom of the screen that are unused, but eh, NBD. At least this graphics card lets me properly pan and scan (zoom/scale and move) the s-video output around unlike my Geforce4 Ti 4600! The next problem with the video card is that some video outputted from it is just too slow. Though most content is watchable, the choppiness makes it unbearable. The problem with this might just be that the PCI bus doesn’t have the required throughput, which is why most video cards are used over AGP (or nowadays PCI express).

There are even two more final problems with it, one a possible deal killer, the other rather insignificant. The unimportant problem is that XP refuses to install updates. I believe this to be a problem with SP3. The final problem is that the computer seems to randomly compltely freeze up every now and then for no particular reason, requiring a reboot. This has happened 2 or 3 times so far, so I’m waiting to see how often it happens, if anymore. I know it’s not overheating as I currently have the case open; and I see no blown capacitors... hmmmm...

Always Confirm Potentially Hazardous Actions
Also treat what others tell you with discretion

So I have been having major speed issues with one of our servers. After countless hours of diagnoses, I determined the bottle neck was always I/O (input/output, accessing the hard drive). For example, when running an MD5 hash on a 600MB file load would jump up to 31 with 4 logical CPUs and it would take 5-10 minutes to complete. When performing the same test on the same machine on a second drive it finished within seconds.

Replacing the hard drive itself is a last resort for a live production server, and a friend suggested the drive controller could be the problem, so I confirmed that the drive controller for our server was not on-board (on its own card), and I attempted to convince the company hosting our server of the problem so they would replace the drive controller. I ran my own tests first with an iostat check while doing a read of the main hard drive (cat /etc/sda > /dev/null). This produced steadily worsening results the longer the test went on, and always much worse than our secondary drive. I passed these results on to the hosting company, and they replied that a “badblocks –vv” produced results that showed things looked fine.

So I was about to go run his test to confirm his findings, but decided to check parameters first, as I always like to do before running new Linux commands. Thank Thor I did. The admin had meant to write “badblocks –v” (verbose) and typoed with a double key stroke. The two v’s looked like a w due to the font, and had I ran a “badblocks –w” (write-mode test), I would have wiped out the entire hard drive.

Anyways, the test outputted the same basic results as my iostat test with throughput results very quickly decreasing from a remotely acceptable level to almost nil. Of course, the admin only took the best results of the test, ignoring the rest.

I had them swap out the drive controller anyways, and it hasn’t fixed things, so a hard drive replace will probably be needed soon. This kind of problem would be trivial if I had access to the server and could just test the hardware myself, but that is a price to pay for proper security at a server farm.

Text Message Storage Limits
We need open source cell phones

So I’ve been rather perturbed for a very long time at the 50/50 inbox/outbox limit of stored SMS text messages in all LG cell phones.  Other phones have similar limits, like a Samsung I have is limited to 100/50, and it just erases messages when an overflow occurs, as opposed to the nice prompts on my LG VX9800, with its QWERTY keyboard, which I love.

I have done some minor hacking on cell phones and tinkered with the firmware, but without a proper emulator, I would never be able to find out where the 50 cap is set and be able to make a hack for phones could store more.

So today, I was at a Verizon store [unimportant ordeal here] because I got a little bit of water on my LG phone and it was having issues.  Immediately after the spill, it had a bunch of problems including the battery thinking it was always charging, buttons on the front side sending two different buttons when pressed, and some other buttons not working.  I immediately set to shaking it out at all angles to get most of the water out (which there wasn’t much to begin with...), and then I thoroughly blow dried every opening into the inside circuitry.  This fixed everything but the worst problem, signal dropping.  Basically, the phone would lose any connection it made after about 5 seconds, so I couldn’t really answer or makes calls.  Fortunately I was still able to send and receive SMS messages, but received ones didn’t signal the server they were received, and I kept receiving them over and over and over until a connection finally stayed open long enough to tell the server I got it.
So I took it back to the store to see if they could fix it, and all they tried was updating the firmware... but they said I could trade it in for another phone for $50, which I figured from the beginning is what I would have to do, and was a good idea anyways because of this [temporarily down].
So they realized they had no replacements in stock... or at the warehouse... for the VX9800 OR the VX9900, which they said they’d upgrade me too if they couldn’t find and VX9800, and I wanted (yay).  So I was told to call back tomorrow and try again.  Bleh. Anyways, I was at the store
where I found out why this was.  Apparently, cell phones start slowing down considerably with too many stored SMSs.  I was told of a lady that had come in the previous week with 600+ stored messages and the phone took very long intervals to do anything, and clearing it fixed it.

I know that, on my phone at least, each SMS message is stored as a separate file, so my best guess as to the reason for this problem is that this creates too many entries in the file system for the phone to handle.  This seems like a rather silly and trivial problem to work around, but the cell phone manufactures can get away with it, as they have no good competitors that fix problems like this.

This is why we really need open source cell phones.  There have been word of open source phones in the works for years... but nothing too solid yet :-\.

So ANYWAYS, I had already started taking a different approach in early January to fix the problem of backing up SMS messages without having to sync them to your computer, which is a rather obnoxious work around.  I had been researching and planning to write a BREW application that extracts all SMS messages into a text file on your phone so that you don’t have to worry about the limits, and could download them to your computer whenever you wanted, with theoretically thousands of SMS messages archived on your phone.  Unfortunately, as usual, other things took over my time and the project was halted, but I will probably be getting back to it soon.

Video driver woes
TV output issues

So I’ve recently switched over to an old Geforce4 Ti 4600 for TV output on my home server/TV station. Unfortunately, my TV needs output resizing (underscan) due to being dropped a long ways back during transport from a Halo game, and the CRT output is misaligned.

If I recall, old Nvidia drivers allowed output resizing, but the latest available ones (which are rather old themselves, as NVidia stops supporting old cards with newer driver sets that have more options) that work for my card only allow repositioning of the output signal, so part of the screen is cut off.

The final solution was to tell VLC media player to output videos at 400:318 aspect ratio when in full screen to force a smaller width that I could then reposition to properly fit the screen. A rather inelegant solution, but it works. One of these days I’ll get myself a new TV :-).

Seagate dropped the bomb
When a long trusted company fails you

I’ve been a long time fan and user of Seagate hard drives, as they are the only brand that have consistently not failed me, like Maxtor, Western Digital, and others.  The first Seagate drive that I ever had die on me was almost 10 years after its first use.  This trend seems to however not follow to its FreeAgent external USB drive line.  I was a bit iffy on trying them out, as I had read online before buying that they had a seemingly high failure rate on arrival.  Low and behold, I ended up buying one from Office Depot around Thanksgiving, as $100 for 500 gigs seemed well worth it, and it was dead on arrival.  I think it ended up passing maybe 1 out of 5 trial formats.  So I swapped it out, tried another, and it was DOA too, passing its format and scandisk, but then failing out on multiple sectors when I tried to use it (I am super obsessive about data integrity).  So I gave up on those.  My fears since I had heard that Seagate bought out Maxtor, the probably lowest quality hard drives on market, had been confirmed, though probably for different reasons.  I did however recently buy a new SATA Seagate 500 gigger @ ~$100 and it seems to be working fine ^_^.

Random Trivia: Gigabyte is actually technically supposed to be pronounced “jigga-byte” as in jiggawatt from the Back to the Future movie(s).  The suffix has just been mispronounced for so long, no one seems to know that Back to the Future actually had it right :-).  I found this out after watching a video from the early 80s on hard drives, and then confirming from multiple dictionaries and sources.