EZFlyer 230

Abstract

This document gives views, opinions, and other information concerning the SyQuest EZFlyer 230 external removable media drive.

This document is in no way a specification endorsed by SyQuest. The views contained therein are purely the opinions of the author.

Overview

The SyQuest EZFlyer 240 is a high-speed, medium capacity, removable media drive. The version I own is an external SCSI drive connected to a PowerComputing PPC 604 computer running MacOS8 and BeOS.

The EZFlyer competes more or less directly with Iomega's Zip drive, a similar external removable media drive. The Zip drive I own is also an external SCSI drive connected to the same Mac/BeOS machine.

While this document will often compare the two drives, it is not intended to be so much an objective comparison of the two drives, but rather a very subjective review of the EZFlyer; hence the title of the document.

Review

My one-word review of the drive is: "Bugger!"

The drive comes nicely packaged and is easy to install. As has been pointed out, the one external design flaw is the fact that setting the SCSI IDs can be cryptic; through a combination of pressing the eject button, the power button, and using the number of times the various lights blink as feedback, you are supposed to be able to set the SCSI ID to any 0-7 number. This is a bit more flexible than the Zip's "5 or 6" option, and luckily the drive comes shipped with a SCSI ID of 4, so I didn't have to mess with changing the ID.

The drive is certainly more audibly interesting than the Zip. It whistles and peeps, albeit only when it is loading or ejecting a cassette. During normal operation, it not surprisingly sounds like a normal hard drive.

What I personally don't like about the drive is how cassettes are inserted. First, it takes two hands: one to hold the door open, and one to insert the cassette. Second, you must fiddle a little with the cassette to get it to seat properly. The cassette goes in , and then down , much like an audio cassette in a car stereo. This means that you can't just slide the thing in with your thumb; you have to use your index finger so that you can press down on the cassette.

I'm a little afraid of the drive. Half of the documentation was cautionary information about what not to do to your drive, and how to take care of the cassettes. Syquest recommends that the drive be operated in the "all four feet on the floor" orientation, but if it must be used vertically, that you make sure the thing is properly braced so that it doesn't fall over. All this together gives me the impression that the drive is rather flimsy. This in spite of seemingly sound construction. The plastic casing seems more brittle than the Zip drive, and overall less rugged. I can't tell how much of it is really the drive, and how much my perception after having read the documentation.

The cassettes themselves have a very flimsy feel. You don't want to drop one of these on the floor. Made of hard plastic, and very "rattly," the feel of the EZFlyer cassette is much less sturdy than that of the Zip disks. I'm hoping that other cassettes that I buy will come in less bulky containers, or storing these things is going to be a pain.

The EZFlyer is fast. Now, I can play games from a Zip drive, and store data on it without really noticing that it is slower than the harddrive, an I can play QuickTime videos directly from the disk (as long as I don't do anything else) without any lag... but the EZFlyer is indistinguishable from the harddrive. It would take a real AV banger to notice a difference in harddrive speed.

The size of the EZFlyer cassettes is double the size of the Iomega disks, and it shows. One of the reasons why I purchased the EZFlyer was that everything that I really needed to store on external media was just a little too large to fit on a single Zip disk. The EZFlyer is also more versitile than the Zip, taking both 230MB and 135MB cassettes.

Ejecting cassettes from an EZFlyer is a religious experience. No wimpy Zip-drive "pop" here: with a loud "kerchunk!", the cassettes are ejected nearly halfway out of the drive. I'm still having visions of somehow rigging up some sort of booby-trap powered by the ejection of a cassette.

The software that controls the behavior of the drive is provided by a third-party company, LaCie, and is called "SilverLining." This software provides several options for controlling behavior of the drive; in general, more than you get for the Zip drive. I'm not sure that most of these options are very useful, but they are nice to have. The software that controls write protection on the drive is a separate utility, which is a mixed blessing.

The behavior of the drive is confusing, and isn't made any better by the sparse documentation. In fact, there is almost no documentation. I've had several problems, all within the first few hours of owning it. I'm not sure how much of this is the drive, and how much the software, but it is frustrating nontheless. First, turning the drive on without a cassette in the drive causes one of the lights to blink red. The drive refuses to function, and the software refuses to recognize the drive. To get the drive to function, it must be turned off, a cassette must be inserted, and then the drive turned on again. Once this occurs, the drive is recognized normally. Secondly, booting MacOS with the drive on but no cassette inserted (EG: cassette is out, reboot) causes the driver software to crash the MacOS when the driver is loaded in the startup sequence. To remedy, the drive must be either turned off, or a cassette must be inserted and the Mac rebooted. All of this is rather annoying and confusing, and constitutes my primary complaint about the drive.

One thing you may notice about the drive is that it takes significantly longer for the driver software to recognize when a cassette has been inserted an place an icon on the desktop.

Summary

I'm having mixed feelings about the drive, and am not so sure I'm going to up and sell my Zip drive now that I have the EZFlyer. The speed, capacity, flexability, and smaller cost-per-MB of the drive will keep me using it, I'm sure; but if it turns out to be as difficult to work with as my initial experience has hinted at, I will probably not be using it as a general-purpose, something that the Zip drive has excelled at.

Oh, and one final word: I don't know how or why, but when backing up the contents of the included cassette (containing the driver software, among other things), I managed to destroy the format of the cassette, and was required to reformat the disk. I'm hoping this doesn't happen again with more important data.