January 22, 2013
Update May 2014: We’ve ceased our development efforts of integrating Seagate’s line of wireless portable hard drives natively with Photosmith. Despite many attempts, we have been unable to interface with the drives in a way that we can guarantee reliability. We have talked to Seagate about these issues, and they assure us the drives work as designed, as a media consumption device. However, the use of the Wireless Plus and GoFlex devices as a backup device through its wireless interface has sadly not proven to be dependable enough for us to support it natively within Photosmith.
About a year ago, we announced that we were including support for the Seagate GoFlex drive into Photosmith. The idea is very appealing for those of us who shoot and manage while on the go – the original GoFlex drive could store 500Gb of data, perfect for photographers looking for a mobile storage solution.
But it was not to be – after a round of testing with users, we decided to pull support at the last minute. We just couldn’t make things work like expected. We were able to get in touch with Seagate, signed some paperwork, and started talking to the drive’s engineers. In short, the hardware itself was designed for data consumption, not data creation. Seagate intended the drive to be used primarily as a media device, where you could load up videos or pictures and then look at them while on the go. An internal indexing process scans the drive upon startup, cataloging all the files on disk; files added to the drive after it was running wouldn’t show up until the index process ran again. For a data-critical backup device, this just wasn’t acceptable. Photosmith needs to be sure that when your images and XMP files are saved to the drive that they’re actually there; a backup device is only good if you can read back the data. We tried several work arounds, including even delaying the verification until the drive had rebooted, but still couldn’t produce reliable results. So… we had no choice but to pull support within the app.
Fast forward a few months. Seagate is already working on the next iteration of their wireless drive. Completely new hardware. Completely new firmware. And a chance to change things so that we can reliably upload to the drive. Seagate graciously included us in some of the design and features of the drive. We also were able to get a pre-production drive to start testing and developing against, and did so through November and December.
Why didn’t we say anything until now? We have a non-disclosure agreement with Seagate. It’s the condition of having pre-release knowledge and input. Seagate announced their new drive, the Seagate Wireless Plus at CES a couple weeks ago, and the drives are hitting shelves now.
OK – so what about my original GoFlex drive?
Well, there’s really no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it: we won’t be able to provide support for the original GoFlex drive. The internal design simply won’t accommodate Photosmith’s needs, and we’re not going to release support for the drive if it doesn’t provide what you need.
We understand that there will be some unhappy users who bought the GoFlex drive for this reason, and we’re sympathetic – heck, we bought several for testing and personal use. If you’d like, you can talk to Seagate about the situation by contacting them here.
Enough already! What’s the plan?
I’m glad you asked. We finished up development of the new Wireless Plus drive in December. Everything works well, and we’ve added some additional options, such as byte-by-byte read back verification and uploading / updating XMP files. There’s only one problem – up until now, we’ve only had one drive to test against. And we’re not about to release this into the wild with a sample test size of one.
However, if you’ve been reading our blog, you know that we’re currently in the middle of a really big update to the app. An update that is proving to be the best thing we’ve ever done with regards to stability and performance. Given the feedback from many, many users, stability and performance are our top priority right now, so the Wireless Plus testing and support will need to wait until the next release. However, given that it’s working here on my desk, I’m 99% confident that we can deliver on it “very soon”.
I don’t want to leave you with empty promises, so here’s a screenshot of the development version of the app (note the new Import Photos button and rearranged menus). This is all live and working – no smoke and mirrors:
The plan is to get v2.3 with the updated architecture out the door as soon as possible, and then we’ll focus on getting the new drive fully tested and out as well.