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StarTech Clones Hard Disks – TomTom Clones the Clone Wars

By Jim Bray
May 13, 2010

If you or your company need to make multiple copies of a hard disk quickly and easily, StarTech's SATDOCK22R may be just the tool you need.

On the other hand, if you tend to rely on The Force to get where you're going, TomTom can cure that disturbing lack of faith in your sense of direction.

StarTech's SATDOCK22R is a standalone USB to SATA hard drive duplicator that handles 2.5 and 3.5 inch drives and which doesn't need to be patched into a computer to do its dastardly deeds. That means you can use it practically anywhere, any time.

Why would you care? Well, many organizations have an abundance of PC's that need hard drives containing all the same info – applications, files, whatever. You can either send an IT guy around to install each application onto each computer individually – which is how I'd want to do it if I were the IT guy and were paid by the hour – or you can mass produce them, kind of. And that's what this StarTech doohickey is all about.

This isn't something I'd use in my home office so, as happens when my tech skills run up against a brick wall, I again enlisted the help of my IT professional son, Chris, who does this kind of thing all the time. He reports that the SATDOCK22R (and isn't that an elegant name?) works as advertised, describing it as kind of like "Ghost in a can."

He says the thing works very well, as either a single or dual-disk, external dock and it sits very nicely on the desk (though in that way it's like most of the other "docks" you can find). But the hard drives slide in nicely, perch contentedly, and there's a handy eject lever to get them back out again once you've wreaked your digital havoc onto them.

There are two basic functions: "Copy" and "Use." Copy is like the "Ghost in a can" mentioned above, and copies the contents of one disk straight over to another. The modes are "separated" by a manual switch, which may sound a tad low tech but which is actually a pretty good failsafe to help ensure you don't scrub the wrong disk by mistake.

The "Use" function is just what it says – you can park a hard disk in it and use it on a PC just as if it were an external drive, which in fact it is under those circumstances.

The device is "platform independent," too, which means you can copy Mac, Windows, or Linux, as long as the destination disk is the same size or bigger than the source.

Chris reports that the SATDOCK22R seems to always copy in "raw" mode (which means it copies every sector on the disk, not just all the files on there)  and that setting up an 80 gigabyte disk with a single gig of data took about half an hour. Call it "coffee break time."

A potential shortcoming is that you can't resize the destination disk's partition(s) with the StarTech. This means that you have to do the copy first, then re-partition using something else, perhaps an app like Partition Magic.

SATDOCK22ROne  handy feature is that you can connect the SATDOCK22R to your computer via USB, which means you can get at the contents of the computer's hard drive without having to pull the disc from it. On the other hand, if you just bought a bunch of hard disks bulk to install them into PC's, you can clone them first with the SATDOCK22R, then install them.

My son wrapped up his comments by saying the product is easy enough for home or small business use, and is a quick way of making backups of entire PC's without having to buy separate software such as Ghost. He says that, overall, the system isn't as powerful or flexible as Ghost, but, unlike Ghost, you don't need to have a PC around it for it to work.

So there.

The Dark Side of GPS

Portable and/or car-based GPS systems are getting more popular all the time, and I can see why. Even though I'm pretty good at finding my way around, there are times when such navigation systems can come in really handy, especially when I'm away from my home area. They can even be nifty tools when you're close to home, for example if you're trying to find your way around a new subdivision.

I've always bemoaned the fact that the voices these systems use don't have any kind of personality. I mean, if you're going to be nagged by a virtual voice, why not put some pizzazz into it. Heck, I sometimes try to mess up the little droid's virtual head on purpose, ignoring its advice and forcing it to recalculate the route over and over again, hoping that, just once, it'll show some frustration.

I know; I should get out more. But imagine if the droid were anything like C3PO, the whiny golden robot from the Star Wars movies; its voice would probably get shriller and shriller with each ignoring of its commands.

Or imagine a GPS device that actually throws up its virtual hands in disgust and says something like "Fine. If you aren't going to listen to me, you can damn well find your own way," and then shuts down.

Actually, I already have a system like that. She's my dear wife. And I dearly hope she doesn't read this.

Or how about a German car's system that orders you around, with a German accent: "You vill turn left and you vill do it now!"? I don't mean to stereotype, of course…

Anyway,, in partnership with TomTom, Lucasfilm and the Rebel Alliance, has come up with an entertaining wrinkle on these voices. It's a downloadable Darth Vader voice you can use in your TomTom, with the voices of Yoda (which would be great in a Toyota!), Han Solo and C3PO coming over the summer of this year.

Darth-baby's menacing voice and signature breathing effect, according to the media blurb, gives such instructions such as: "In 100 yards, take the exit left and do not fail me this time!", "After 800 yards, turn to the left...then... make a U-turn - Obi Wan has taught you well," and "Bear left, to the Dark Side. Then in 200 yards you have reached your destination. The Force is with you, but you are not a Jedi yet".

As if the voice weren't enough, the Vader vocals come accompanied by original sound effects from the films, including light saber sounds and TIE fighter flybys. John Williams’ fabulous Imperial March is embedded into certain sections as well. Heck, that would be worth the price of admission on its own, though I suppose you could always just get an MP3 of the music and play it in your car's audio system.

Fans can also download free, extra content, including Star Wars start-up screen wallpaper, a Darth Vader map icon (as if he isn't iconic enough already!) and various official warning alerts in Vader's voice.

Luke and Leia's Daddy's voice can be downloaded for any TomTom navigation system, apparently, for $12.95.  

Now if only TomTom would change its name to Tauntaun, the journey to the dark side would be complete.

Copyright 2010 Jim Bray

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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