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08.07.10

Western Digital is Bad for Freedom (and for GNU/Linux)

Posted in DRM, GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft, Windows at 8:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Western Digital logo

Summary: Two reasons not to buy products from Western Digital, as means of making a statement to the company

SEVERAL HARD-DRIVE manufacturers are fairly friendly towards Linux (not Seagate, that’s for sure). One particular brand which we knew was serving the MPAA|RIAA is Western Digital, but now we discover that it also serves Microsoft, just like Seagate, which preinstalls Windows file systems on its products (and offers no other option on the face of it). The Register has this new story about Western Digital supporting no platforms other than Microsoft Windows (at the software side):

A Windows host must be used to run Western Digital disk drive diagnostic software, forcing Linux, Unix and other O/S users to buy a Windows system if they want to use it.

A few years ago (2007) we also found The Register (and other publications) reporting that Western Digital takes orders from Hollywood when it implements a “DRM-crippled” device which refuses to do what its owner tells it to do:

Western Digital’s 1TB My Book World Edition external hard drive has been crippled by DRM for your safety.

A kindly Reg reader tipped us off that the remote-access HDD won’t share media files over network connections. Which is, as you can see here, the entire stinking point of it.

It’s a scary world full of potentially unlicensed media. We’re fortunate there’s a hard drive vendor willing to step forward and do some indiscriminate policing for us.

From the WD site:

“Due to unverifiable media license authentication, the most common audio and video file types cannot be shared with different users using WD Anywhere Access.”

Unless or until Western Digital resolves this issue, Free software supporters are encouraged to avoid Western Digital and tell others to do the same. It’s the only effective way to defend one’s freedom — voting with the wallet. This can help raise awareness deter other companies from doing the same thing. The customers come first, not Hollywood.

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7 Comments

  1. dyfet said,

    August 7, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Gravatar

    I have one “current” western digital SATA drive. It is really a crappy drive, as when it benchmarks (Ubuntu disk utilities) there are places where performance drops to the floor faster than a stock market decline, and sure enough during booting, if some unfortunate file happened to be in one of those spots, it’s slow. I retired the drive quickly as I had no tools to do a true low level format. It is not the first time I have had problems with quality with their products, either, though at least in older generation drives you could force such a media reformat. So it may not just be DRM, but also poor quality products, that may plague this company and offer reasons to avoid it.

  2. williami said,

    August 7, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Gravatar

    Damn, I was using Western Digital for my past few hard drive purchases… They made some pretty decent drives, but after hearing this, I think I’ll go with Samsung for my hard drive needs, they have affordable hard drives and they work very well in RAID setups.

    By the way, I’ve always avoided Seagate, after my first hard drive with them killed my old Emachine, and nearly killed my machine.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Samsung sold Linux down the river though. It’s one of the few companies which we boycott to defend the freedom of Linux (the whole ‘patent issue’).

    williami Reply:

    Well, other than Samsung, there’s a Hitachi drive that looks very good:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822145287

    It seems pretty good because of the price and generally good reviews…

    dyfet Reply:

    I currently have a Hitachi drive I am very happy with. It replaced that wd one I noted earlier :).

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I had an Hitachi HDD in my laptop and it didn’t last.

  3. twitter said,

    August 7, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Gravatar

    These issues mostly apply to Wester Digital’s non free software which they must provide to Windows users because Windows lacks sharing and diagnostic tools. I have bought, for lack of options, several WD external drives and have happily formatted them with ext3 and used them to share files across networks with them. I’m not aware of WD’s level of cooperation when it comes to releasing specs or following standards. These are the things needed to make WD drives work with the free software tools that come with every GNU/Linux distribution. I’m also not aware of how badly they are extorted by Microsoft to cripple their drives with FAT and NTFS. More troubling would be DRM and data retention baked into the controller, issues I’m not aware of. People worried about that should run whole drive encryption, to feed it garbage, and should never use non free software like WD’s tools.

    These are issues that The Register should have followed up with but did not. The most harmful thing WD or any other drive maker is to deviate from published specs in a way that would break GNU/Linux systems. It is bad that they did not say that free software tools would do the job just as well as their own, but we can’t judge them by what Microsoft friendlies at The Register have to say. The Register should have tried out the monitoring tools themselves. I’ve never bothered because I’m not so picky and have not had any real problems.

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