On USB stick usability
Let’s face it – floppy disks are a thing of the past. Though they still come with many new computers (PCs at least – Apple got rid of them in 1998 with the iMac), their actual use is limited. With todays megapixel cameras and multimedia presentations, you can barely fit two pictures on them. For business use it’s the same kind of problem: I can remember having to ZIP stuff to fit on a disk years ago.
Some time ago, USB sticks came to help. I carry a 256 MB one, and that really helps things a lot. You can even use it as a backup device.
Yesterday, I talked with a (non-IT) friend, who uses USB sticks in his company to transfer files between co-workers or to customers and partners. He complained when when he unplugged the stick, data would be lost depending on the type of notebook he used it on. Being the knowledgeable IT guy that I am, I carefully explained about unmounting external drives, how the operarting system works, caching stuff and similar things.
About 30 seconds into this it appeared to me how stupid I must have been sounding: USB sticks *are* the replacement for floppies, so why are users expected to treat them differently? On a normal PC, I don’t have to unmount a floppy before taking it out, so why do I have to do it with a USB stick? Surely today’s operating systems can be expected to be intelligent enough to differentiate between USB sticks and hard drives, so allowing them to be removed without unmounting should be very easy. After all, hot plugging was the promise of USB, why should hot-unplugging be different?
Way to go, IT industry…