What about Sony?

Yesterday I purchased an 8 GB Sony Micro Vault USB drive.

USB drive

I’m sure it’s a fine device, though it’s far too early at this point to comment on its functionality. What I found immediately noteworthy was the packaging.

The drive came encased in a hard plastic tomb roughly ten times its size.

Front of package

Why such a large package for such a small item? The answer lies on the back.

Front of package

Not an inch to spare! Clearly, the size of the package was justified by the need for operating instructions on the back. Or important warnings before use. Or something? Actually, it’s not clear at all, because the font is ridiculously tiny.

If we take a close-up, we can see that the text does indeed provide us with instructions and warnings…

Front of package

…for opening the package. In seven languages, no less. And what do those instructions tell us?

Use scissors.


Postscript: You would think that finding the right storage size for your needs would be easy. The Finder told me that the files I wanted to put on the USB drive were 7.1 GB. Thus, an 8 GB drive should be plenty big. Right? Right?

For some reason that escapes me and that has somehow, astonishingly, escaped class action lawsuits, the drive manufacturers and the operating system manufacturers count GB differently. The capacity of my Micro Vault is 8,019,509,248 bytes, which according to Sony is 8 GB but according to Apple is 7.5 GB. Well, ok, so I lost half a gig right out the box, but I still have more than I need. Right? Right?

The USB drive came with a Master Boot Record partition scheme for Windows machines. This was no good for my purpose, because I was going to boot Intel Macs from the drive. Thus, I repartitioned in Disk Utility with a GUID Partition Table scheme, which is used by Intel Macs. When I was done, I was shocked to discover that the drive now contained less free space than I need for my files! What happened?

The answer can be found at Secrets of the GPT. Apple considers my USB drive to be a “big disk”. (Have they seen the photo above?) As a consequence, they ignored my choice of one partition in Disk Utility and added a second, 200 MB partition on the drive for EFI device drivers, although Apple does not currently use it for anything. Moreover, they added 128 MB of empty space after my main partition to make it easier for future system software to manipulate the partition map in ways that we can’t anticipate currently. That’s great for my great-grandchildren, but at present, I want that space.

My workaround for the problem was to reformat the drive using an Apple Partition Map scheme. This takes up less space on my “big disk”. Although APM is used by PowerPC Macs, it turns out that Intel Macs can boot from an APM drive too.

If APM didn’t work, I was going to use scissors.

5 Responses to “What about Sony?”

  1. Ölbaum says:

    Computers count a kilobyte as 1024 bytes. It’s convenient since they use powers of two. But legally, a kilo is 1000. So 8 GB is 8 x 10^9 bytes, but the computer will see it as 7.45 x 1024 x 1024 x 1024 bytes.

    Recently, new units were introduced to try and lift this confusion. The kibibyte (kiB, 1024 bytes), mebibyte (MiB, 1024 x 1024 bytes) and gibibyte (GiB, 1024 x 1024 x 1024 bytes). So drive manufacturers use Gigabytes because it makes the number bigger and OSes use Gibibytes, but display them as GB instead of GiB because it’s what people have been using for years.

  2. Ölbaum says:

    And about the packaging: they’re a PITA and a SPOC. From now on, whenever I buy something in such a package, I will ask the cashier or at the customer support desk that they open it for me (less injuries and less trash for me).

  3. scott says:

    I’m assuming the stuff on the back is there because of the size of the package, rather than causing it. All this could have easily been printed on a piece of very thin, folded paper stuck in with the device.

    I’d guess that this is more a theft prevention issue, as well as a way to get more visual presence on the shelf. These were the two issues initially with CD long-boxes I believe.

  4. Jean-Daniel says:

    I think you can workaround this problem using the gpt terminal command top manually create your partition table.
    I didn’t try as the last time I decided to format a drive using GPT, it was for my linux box and I did it using gnu parted.

  5. Ned Holbrook says:

    FWIW, the CD “longbox” was originally designed so retailers could repurpose their existing record bins by simply adding a divider, in which case a row of record storage could become two rows of CDs. It’s the same idea as making DVD cases the same height as VHS cassettes.