Monthly Archives: October 2011

Hard drive prices skyrocket

In the past few days, the price of big-name hard drives – Seagate, Western Digital, Hitachi, Samsung has shot up 40 to 90 percent.


Whether the profiteering can be attributed to manufacturers, distributors, or retailers is unclear — the middlemen don’t post their prices — but consumers, businesses, and IT companies are getting gouged.


Why is this happening? It all started with the flooding in central Thailand. Western Digital’s main plant in Bang-Pa industrial park was inundated with almost two meters of water (you can see pictures on Scan Computers International’s Facebook page). Toshiba had a hard drive plant in the same industrial park. Nidec and Hutchinson Technologies both had plants that make hard drive parts, taken out in the same flood. Nidec has an alternate plant outside the flood zone. Hutchinson has said it will shift production to the United States and fill orders from existing inventory.


The brunt of the flood has since flowed south. Bangkok saw horrendous flooding over the weekend, with more than 2.4 million people affected. But deep water remains in central Thailand, and it will take weeks just to get the water out. Repairing the facilities and replacing the equipment will take months.


The flooding took out approximately 25 percent of the world’s hard drive manufacturing capacity — but that isn’t the whole story.


Western Digital has a second large plant in Malaysia. Seagate doesn’t have any manufacturing in the flooded areas. Toshiba makes hard drives in several locations, not just Bang-Pa. All of the major manufacturers rely on parts supplied by companies that were hit by the floods, but there are alternate suppliers in different locations.


After the flood hit, hard drive prices remained static. But then the flooding story expanded, first in the technical press, then to the mainstream press. Two weeks ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about the Thailand floods and called an industry wide hard drive shortage “likely.” Western Digitalannounced that they believe the industry will be supply constrained due to the flooding in Thailand” and projected a net operating loss for the fourth quarter of the year. Then the financial analysts started predicting shortages. When Wall Street starts moaning – we all suffer.


What’s the reality? Hardware manufacturers typically keep four to eight weeks’ inventory on premises or in the immediate supply chain, but with an expected softening in fourth-quarter PC sales, some of them had let their stocks slip. They’re now in the process of locking in hard drive shipments for late this year and early next year.


Where are prices headed? In the short term, almost certainly up. That isn’t because of supply: With Western Digital shifted to Malaysian production and Seagate plants running full tilt, the number of hard drives being produced right now is likely very close to the number that came off the assembly line before the flood.


When it comes to manufacturing hard drives, the sky isn’t falling. Not even close. There’s no doubt that the price increase is in response to demand and how long the irrational demand will last is anybody’s guess.

Let’s see how PC prices and sales fare over the next few months. If PC builders end up with an overstock of hard drives due to today’s irrational buying, perhaps PC prices will actually go down.

Slow PC Getting You Down

5 easy ways to fix a slow Windows PC. It happens to almost every Windows user over time: You buy a new desktop or laptop PC. It runs fast. But a few months later, you’re sure it’s slower than it used to be. Ask for help on the Internet or in real life, and you usually get one of two answers: you must have downloaded a virus, or you need to defragment your hard drive. This is usually NOT the answer. Unless you are experiencing virus like activity, you probably don’t have a virus, and Windows doesn’t need you to run the defragmenting tool yourself these days. Your problems most likely lie elsewhere.


Microsoft offers some basic help on how to solve the problem with five suggestions for getting a Windows machine back up to speed.


Check for viruses — This usually isn’t the problem, despite what your friendly, neighborhood geek told you, but it’s worth a look. If you haven’t got antivirus software running already, download the free Microsoft Security Essentials software.


Run Windows Update — If you haven’t updated your Windows operating system in a while, there may be speed fixes that Microsoft has published since you bought it. Of course, that doesn’t explain why your PC would have actually become slower, but it might improve the problem. Microsoft recommends that you turn on automatic updating, but many computer users hate automatic updates — they always seem to insist on installing themselves in the middle of a deadline or an important chat session. It’s easy to make Windows wait until you tell it to update – just remember to do it regularly.


Reduce your Web page history — This little nugget works. Internet Explorer stores a historical archive of Web sites you have visited. If it gets too big, managing it slows the browser. Microsoft recommends keeping no more than a week’s worth of Web history. The company has instructions for how to reduce the size of your history.


Disable add-ons — Browser add-ons can slow down browsing tremendously, especially if you install several of them. To disable add-ons, go to the Internet Explorer option Tools -> Manage Add-ons. Other browsers have similar configuration controls and suffer the same hit on performance. Use a few add-ons as possible.


Free up some disk space — A disk that’s running out of space can slow Windows performance down a lot, as it juggles data that it would normally just write out to the disk. To reclaim space, run the Disk Cleanup tool (bring up the Start menu and type “disk cleanup tool” into the search box) to remove Internet cache files, clear the Recycling Bin and delete installed programs that you never use.


Still too slow? Here’s a fast and easy way to get some help from the people who make Windows: Log in to Twitter and post a tweet with @MicrosoftHelps in it to get attention from the Microsoft customer support team. The team is available weekdays 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Pacific time. Microsoft has plenty of online documentation, but having a human being help you navigate the software is much quicker—especially if your system is already crawling. One-Ups Apple’s iCloud with 50GB of Free Storage is thumbing its nose at Apples  iCloud and turning up the iCloud competition by offering 50 GB of free cloud storage for anyone who uses a Box Personal account on an iPhone or iPad.

The Box offer of free cloud storage on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch comes as Apple officially launched iCloud, its cloud storage platform for iOS devices, this week. Box’s 50 GB of free cloud storage trumps the 5 GB free on iCloud. 50 GB of storage on iCloud would run about $100 per year.

“That’s right, it’s 50 GB in the cloud completely free, forever,” says Box Social Media Manager Mark Saldana in a blog post. “Your 50 GB of storage isn’t just limited to your mobile device — you get it anywhere you use your Box account, like on your laptop at home or your desktop at the office.”

According to Box, which has become a cloud storage, file sharing and content management darling, users have to visit the Apple App Store and download the newest Box app for their iPhone, iPad and iPod touch; log into the account or register for a new one from the app; start using Box for file sharing and storage.

If you already have a account, you’ll need to update to the newest Box for iPhone and iPad app, version 2.4.3, then log into Box in order to get 50 GB. An is that wasn’t enough, your new account will have an increased file size upload limit of 100 MB instead of the usual 25 MB.”

It has also updated its app with new features. It can leverage AirPlay for wireless streaming of Box content to Apple TV, meaning photos, videos and presentations can be shown.

The 50GB free cloud storage deal comes three years after Box launched its iPhone app and just days after Apple released their new iOS with iCloud included. has made great strides in the cloud storage world of late, breaking onto the scene offering 50 GB of free storage to buyers of the HP TouchPad, the short-lived HP tablet; and free storage to users of HTC smartphones. Those moves have made a cloud storage, file sharing and content management sensation.

The company also recently added new syncing capabilities and security to its offerings, which it unveiled at its first-ever BoxWorks customer conference last month. Box also reportedly also recently deflected a potential acquisition from Citrix for an estimated $600 million and just weeks later announced raising $81 million in funding.

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