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Death to the 3.5" Floppy? 1449

Posted by michael
from the ad-te-omnis-caro-veniet dept.
BawbBitchen writes "PC World in NZ is running this story about PC makers struggling to try to kill the floppy as a standard PC part. Gateway has started to take $10 off the price of a PC if you order the PC without the floppy. Hum, well my Mac does not have a floppy and I do not miss it & my Linux Server has one that I have never used. Does anyone out there still use their floppy?"
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Death to the 3.5" Floppy?

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  • 3.5" Floppy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:22PM (#3981215)
    I use them to back up my 5.25" inch diskettes.
  • BOOT DISK (Score:5, Informative)

    by shaldannon (752) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:22PM (#3981217) Homepage
    Maybe I'm the only one left, but I find my floppy drive real handy for booting the computer still; particularly for installing operating systems...

    This is particularly true since I still have to boot off a floppy to install Linux (something about autoboot and my scsi CD-ROM)...
    • Re:BOOT DISK (Score:2, Informative)

      by MattCohn.com (555899)
      Please mod parent up.

      This is one of the few times I would think I ever realy used a floppy. While I still use them ocasionaly to transfer files instead of FTP, when needing a boot disk these solutions don't work.

      And am I the only one with about 120 floppies sitting in my computer room in boxes? Including the boot disks for Windows versions 95 - XP?
      • Re:BOOT DISK (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nos. (179609)
        I have my original Windows 3.1 and 3.11 disks on floppy as well as MSDos 5.0 through 6.22. Not sure WHY I still have them, but I do. I think there's an old version of PowerBuilder around, as well as the original Doom, and if I looked hard enough, I could probably find some others.
    • Re:BOOT DISK (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheMatt (541854)
      YES! You and I are kindred, shaldannon. My Linux box also will not boot a bootable CD-ROM no matter what the BIOS or SCSI BIOS setup. The main ones I deal with are RH update ISOs for which I must dd a boot disk.
    • by cosmosis (221542) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:28PM (#3981347) Homepage
      There is not a de-facto standard for anything else. If we get rid of the floppy, what is to replace its easy re-write characteristics? Zip Drive failed to do it. The CD-RW haven't done it. And as the previous poster mentioned what else can you use for BOOT? The floppy has been such a de-facto standard, that no drivers are ever necessary to make it work. The same cannot be said about the Zip or CD-RW, or any of its equivalents.

      Until a new, better, higher capacity equivalent comes along, I can see no sound reason to get rid of the floppy drive.

      • by kiwimate (458274) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @06:24PM (#3982019) Journal
        Couldn't agree more. It's a standard bootable, writable device. It's quick and convenient.

        And if you're on the train with your colleague on the way to a meeting and you need to share a file*, how else are you going to do it? Yes, I know there are other ways, theoretically. Spare me -- I'm not going to burn a CD while juggling my laptop just to hand over a 300K document. For sheer convenience, I love the floppy.

        * And if you tell me you should be prepared, consider yourself knocked with the clue stick! We're geeks, and we don't prepare.
      • While I agree, I think that this is the way to go. We're FORCING a change this way, so the easy, new, better, higher capacity drive can come along. If you insist on clinging to floppies, even on newer machines, things will never change. T'be sure, on older machines, they're the only game in town, but they have no business being on newer boxes.
        • It didn't take any forcing to go through the transitions from the 360KB 5" to the 1.4MB 3" floppy. If somebody had come up with a good alternative (which also means open and inexpensive) to the 1.4MB floppy at any point in the last fifteen years, we'd have them by now. Backwards compatibility wouldn't have been important; we'd have had dual drives during the transition period, just like in the 5-3 transition.
    • The floppy drive is an awesome 'back door' to any system. All you need is access to the machine and a set of brass cajones and you can use your |337 skillz to haxor your way.... sorry...

      yeah these are cool things these floppys MuLinux and Tom's very handy and I think especially Tom's Root Boot is a good addition to a sys admins tool bag.

      ALSO MACs dont have floppies but from what i have seen TONS of mac users use Zip drives... besides size.. what's the differance? Not much Really.

      Floppy brought you into this world son... Do not scorn the floppy.
    • Re:BOOT DISK (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Enonu (129798) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:48PM (#3981649)
      This isn't a movement to remove floppy drives from your system, it's a movement to remove floppy drives from new systems.

      I'm fully confident that I will never need to boot from a floppy simply because I own a CDRW. To boot (har har!), it has Mt. Rainer support.

      I'm quite certain that floppy disk support won't die out for the useful life of your machine.
    • Exactly. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @06:03PM (#3981821) Homepage
      There's nothing as convenient or as likely to -just work- as a floppy. I consider it the "low tech" option, when all else fails. Or for bios flashes...

      Anyway, though I do want one, I use it so infrequently that I only have 1 floppy between my 3 machines. For those rare times I need it, I just move it around. :)

  • PC Bios updates... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmacy (40101) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:22PM (#3981218) Homepage
    I don't own a PC that will "officially" allow me to to flash the BIOS from anything but a DOS boot floppy.

    Brian Macy
    • This is key (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JamesKPolk (13313)
      Lots of hardware updates want to run from DOS to get that unfettered hardware access.

      FreeDOS forever!

      • Re:This is key (Score:5, Insightful)

        by twilightzero (244291) <.mrolfs. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @06:08PM (#3981872) Homepage Journal
        Absolutely, the only problem here is that it's the PC makers that want to get rid of the floppy, not the hardware manufacturers. As you pointed out, many hardware updates (BIOS update for mobo and video/ide/scsi controllers mainly) require DOS for direct hardware access - these kinds of things won't work at all from newer OS'es like XP because they specifically prohibit direct hardware access.

        However, the PC makers generally don't want to worry about hardware updates. Call Compaq about an older system that needs an update - first thing you're suggested is buying a new Compaq. Trying to install a new, gigantic hard drive on an older computer? Depending on your OS and system config, your main options probably include using a DDO provided by the drive maker on a floppy or getting a BIOS update, which has already been discussed. But after you've done hardware upgrades on your system, many PC makers will not support the system any more due to the fact that it's not in its original configuration any more.

        Personally, I'm constantly amazed that Iomega or Imation didn't apply for standardization of the Zip or LS120 (respectively). I realize that they want to jealously guard their IP, but if they standardized it, there would be even MORE orders for the darn things. They would still have the benifit of the name brand to aid their selling, and generally name brand and the original manufacturers (in my experience) produce a better quality product than hardware clone makers. Just about every newer BIOS can boot from LS120 or Zip, so to me it would be logical evolution...but they didn't ask me :(
    • I don't own a PC that will "officially" allow me to to flash the BIOS from anything but a DOS boot floppy.

      I think the issue here is removing the devices where they are not needed. I wouldn't think older hardware / hardware with specific needs would be affected. Where did you get a machine like this anyway? Is it really old?

      Right now, I've got one floppy drive I keep around for my 3 machines, just in case. And though it occupies a drive bay it's not currently plugged in to anything. In a busy year, it gets used maybe 2-3 times. Of course for me, everything gets transfered over the network or over the internet. Your average home user doesn't always have these easy options.

      The evil admin in me says floppies are bad anyway since it's probably the easiest route for sensitive information to leave the corp network.
  • by lordpixel (22352) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:22PM (#3981220) Homepage
    I do.

    The noise!
    The fury!
    The whining!

    It'll never sell, they said. What will people do without their floppy drive!
    Hell, I hardly even use the Zip drive on my G4 for anything anymore.
    • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @06:07PM (#3981868) Homepage
      Remember slashdot when the iMac first came out? ...

      Better than you. :)

      ... What will people do without their floppy drive!

      You misrepresent the issue. The problem was not the floppy, the problem was no removable writable media. The floppy was merely the most common and inexpensive of such media. If Apple had included a zip or a CD-RW as they do today there would not have been much controversy. The controversy was all about Apple's assertion that all you need is ethernet. Note that Apple eventually backed away from this rediculous assertion and provided removable media, CD-RW.

      Apple floats cover stories to the faithful to gloss over shortcomings. The all you need is ethernet crud was cover for iMacs with CD-RW being too expensive at the time. All those dual CPUs a couple of years ago were cover for embarassing processor speeds. Etc...

      Don't get me wrong. I like Apple products. I have owned my share of Macs and I will purchase more in the future. But I will believe little of the PR bull that comes out of Apple Computer Inc. and Steve Jobs.
      • Nah, it was too soon when Steve did it at NeXT with the NeXT cube.

        As for misreprenting the issue. This is 1998 we're talking about. CD-R maybe, CD-RW? Not on many of the PCs I saw. Hell, even today, what % is CD-RW?

        That said, Apple were late to the party shipping CDRW in a machine, something Steve said on stage. You can pull him on all sorts of bullshit, but that's not one of them.

        Arguably they were busy being early(ish) to the party with DVD as standard. Choice would have been nice though...
      • by MonkeyBoy (4760) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @08:16PM (#3982803)
        No, Apple did not "back down" from this issue. Even today you can get a low-end Mac (eMac) without a floppy and without a CD-RW.

        Like it or not, Ethernet IS "good enough" for sharing files. Barring incompetant wiring, it's faster and more reliable.

        If you absolutely need a floppy, external USB floppies are cheap and plentiful. And I say this as someone who bought one three years ago and has used it twice - both times for writing a set of DOS 6.22 floppies (disk images are fun). Bootable CDs are not difficult to make (on the Mac you would have to be brain-dead not to be able to make one) and are simple to maintain.

        On the PC side the only thing I do with floppies is to make network boot disks. That's it. Once the system is on the network I can perform a variety of tasks, from prepping for OS installs, HD imaging, driver updates - plenty of annoying required PC maintenance.

        Frankly at this point I'm getting ready to start making network boot CDs instead - every system I work with can boot off CD, and floppies develop bad sectors when I look at them funny (necessitating a reformatting & recreating the floppy). Though I have noticed plenty of floppy imaging software will happily ignore the bad sectors (as in fail to write but not modify the structure to avoid that sector), providing me with a disk of dubious usefulness.

        This isn't to say that I don't know people who don't use floppy for file storage and transfers. They knock on my door every week or two, bearing a floppy that has developed bad sectors, all confused as to where their file has gone. I sigh heavily, take the floppy, explain how floppies are not reliable for storage, then try my damndest to recover the data. (almost always in succeeding recovering some to all of it)
        • Like it or not, Ethernet IS "good enough" for sharing files. Barring incompetant wiring, it's faster and more reliable.

          Unless, for a great variety of possible reasons, the source machine and the destination machine are not both connected to an ethernet network. Sheesh. That would include everyone I know personally -- none of whom have, like me, a home LAN -- and, for that matter, my not-entirely-supported-by-Linux laptop and its entirely-unsupported-by-Linux PCMCIA Ethernet card, as well as standalone machines in schools and small businesses.

          Snob.

  • Floppyfw (Score:2, Informative)

    by Atzanteol (99067)
    I have a HDDless P120 running Linux off a floppy disk as a firewall thanks to Floppyfw!
  • by PissingInTheWind (573929) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:24PM (#3981251)
    ...is as a boot disk.

    Anyone conserving important data on one of those is stupid.
    Unless they wrap them in aluminium to protect them from solar flares...

    • Here's the BOFH story about the aluminium foil: The Real Bastard [ntk.net] (Story #6)

      "But remember what I said, solar flares are bad for disks and machines. Protect your disks from solar activity to prevent them losing their data"

      "How do I do that? Wrap them in tin-foil?"

      "NO! TIN FOIL'S THE WORST THING! YOU KNOW WHAT TIN FOIL DOES IN A MICROWAVE DON'T YOU?!"

      "Yes.."

      "Then don't use it. There's only one thing that protects disks from solar activity.."

      "What's that?"

      "MAGNETS! Wrap your disks up in a pillow case with lots of magnets - Solar Flares hate that"

      "Wow! Thanks"

      "No worries at all..."

  • I need to install the NIC drivers, so I copy them from the network to a floppy, take the floppy to the PC and install the drivers.

    I need to do a BIOS update, so I download the new bios to a floppy, put it in the drive and boot the machine.

    Out of the hundreds of floppies that I have gone through, I have only had a few go bad, unlike CD's which I have had several turn into coasters while writing, and almost the same amount get scratched.

  • Floppies aren't evil. They are rarly in use, but then again; the cpu isn't either. You don't see PC makers trying to kill them off.
  • I used mine last night at a lan party. Had to re-install Windows, went to install the drivers for my nic, realized the disk was at home, had someone download them and put it on a floppy. Not really worth wasting a cd for a 500k .zip is it? Of course, Winzip is almost 1.44 megs exactly, so I had to use the disk twice.
  • Yeah (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jonny Ringo (444580) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:24PM (#3981264)
    I using mine as an apache web server.

    I would post the link but I really think it deserves its own /. article :-)
  • I don't really use any removeable media anymore (with the exception of cd's, but only for installing software).

    Everywhere I go has an internet connection, so I simply scp/ftp my files around whenever and wherever I need them.

    This is really convenient, since I no longer lose important documents to bad floppies, or bad lab floppy drives (people are such slobs! Food + floppy drive == bad!).

    Doug
  • by matticus (93537) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:25PM (#3981276) Homepage
    Murphy's law of floppy drives-
    Once you get rid of your floppy drive, within three days you will have dire need of it.
  • Not that I wouldn't want to rid myself of it, but for some reason, my Linux box will not boot to the CD-ROM drive at all. This is no matter what the BIOS or SCSI BIOS settings are (really). So, the only way to boot to a CD (say, a new Redhat ISO) is to use a boot floppy.

    Strangely, my XP box has a floppy drive that hasn't ever been used. I haven't found a need since CD-Rs are so cheap (for floppy-like usage, the cheap spindles are great).
  • The only uses I've gotten out of them for a long while have been boot disks and flashing the bios. However, if you have a fairly new system, odds are that it can boot off a cdrom and install the OS from there and now you can even flash your BIOS from your OS. Unless you have a digital camera that uses one I see no real reason for them anymore.
  • Along with it... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chill (34294) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:25PM (#3981288) Journal
    I'd like to see the serial port, parallel port, PS/2 mouse & keyboard port all go away.

    Firewire and USB can replace that and more. IDE and SCSI could also go away and be replaced by a Firewire or USB 2.0 bus.

    Worst comes to worst, use and adaptor for the USB port to make that must-have serial/parallel device work.

    For an interim, an IDE superfloppy, like the LS-120 is a nice way to wean off.
    • I think a good successor to the floppy would be one of the USB storage devices [dansdata.com].

      It's got greater capacity, can be used as a boot device and uses that one USB interface that can also be used for mouse, keyboard, etc.

      I think the only thing holding this back is that there are so many older PCs and older OS versions out there that don't have good USB support built-in. But that will change in the next year or two.

    • by blamanj (253811) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @06:07PM (#3981867)
      I'd like to see the serial port, parallel port, PS/2 mouse & keyboard port all go away. Firewire and USB can replace that and more.

      It's called a Mac. Mouse/KB/Printer are USB. Even the speakers and microphone are USB. Other ports or Firewire and Ether.
  • Compact Flash (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yohahn (8680) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:25PM (#3981289) Homepage
    I would be VERY happy if they would replace the floppy with a compact flash receptical.

    Same idea as floppy... Probably same lifespan...
    Easy.. small.. not as fragile (in my experience)

    Yes.. compact flash should be the replacement.

    (and how about booting off of USB 2.0 hard drives and cdroms) :)

    • 128 MB compact flash card: about $85, $0.66/MB

      10 pack of Fuji floppy disks from Best Buy (.com, no less): $4.99, $0.35/MB

      Now, consider the fact that nobody actually pays for 3.5" floppies anymore. Bang for buck is clearly with the floppy disk.
    • Really, something like SmartMedia would probably be even better. It's got no controller onboard so it's cheaper per unit, and the spec is open, unlike SD or memory stick.

      It's still not as cheap as a floppy, though. And I never will get rid of my floppy drive until there's a widely accepted standard for some medium that'll let me give a few megs to a friend for 25 cents, and let me carry it in my pocket without risking destruction from scratches.
  • Debian Net Install (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Evanrude (21624) <david@fa t t y c o . org> on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:25PM (#3981294) Homepage Journal
    I find that 2 floppy disks work great for installing Debian over the 'net.
  • Actually, I would find it almost impossible to live without my floppy drive, which seems absolutely crazy. Most (if not all) vendor provided hard drive diagnostic tools run ONLY from DOS, and the same appears to be true for most BIOS upgrade tools as well. Some vendors have begun to provide Windows based BIOS reflashing tools, but they don't work under WINE, and it seems easier to keep a floppy drive around rather than a Windows partition.

    Hint to vendors: Provide tools that run under Linux, or provide bootable CD images PLEASE!

  • when i was a kid at the lawyer's office w/ my mom during my parent's divorce, the secretary was putting files on these tiny little hard plastic disks. I hadn't seen anything like that available for my C64 (I was around 8 at the time) and wound up begging my mom to get me one for Xmas.

    Now I spend my day ranting about how floppies need to go. Seriously, if it's that freaking small, just EMAIL IT TO YOURSELF PEOPLE!
  • I take them out when I need to install a system that the BIOS does not support boot from CD, otherwise they are there in case of an emergency (Do not ask...I know the day I throw them out is the day I'll need them.)

  • On my old main system (an Athlon 700) the FDC controller died on the third day after I built it. I never even had occasion to use it after that anyway.

    Most of my document can be throw on the net in one way or another, and I have no problem with UL/DL a 5K+ file to print it. It's just not a big deal anymore.

    My current system does have a working floppy, but I still have only found maybe one/two occasions to use it. In those circumstances, as well, it wouldn't have been a big deal to just use the net or a Zip drive, or a CD-RW.
  • by pangloss (25315) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:29PM (#3981358) Journal
    for the past hour i've been sitting here with this windows laptop at work that has a hard disk image file on a backup partition (Drive Image .pqi file). the laptop lacks a floppy drive but does have a built-in cd burner. so a) if i only i could get drive image to split the existing 1+ gb file across 2 cds (seems like drive image only splits on the creation of the files) and b) i could get drive image to make a bootable restore cd. drive image only makes boot floppies.

    so maybe we can really kill the floppy drive when software companies stop making floppy disks the only way to perform certain tasks.
  • There are several highly useful distributions of Linux that are small enough that they can be loaded from a single floppy. Among my favorites are Tom's RTBT [toms.net] (outstanding emergency boot floppy), Trinux [sourceforge.net] (a set of freeware security tools), and Freesco [freesco.org] (my favorite Linux firewall/router combo). These make older hardware reasonably useful. I will admit though that I tend to build new x86 boxen without a floppy drive, as USB keychain storage and bootable CDs, and networked file transfer protocols tend to be much more reasonable.
  • Sony Mavica (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kraegar (565221)
    I use a Sony Mavica digital camera - it saves all its pictures directly to 3.5" floppy in JPEG format. Floppies are great for storing pictures, because they're so damned cheap. Sure, I can only get between 4 and 8 pictures of decent resolution (1024x768 or above). But when you can drive over to the nearest best buy and get a package of 100 floppies for $2.50 after rebate, it's worth it.

    Now instead of needing a special cable (usb or otherwise), special software, special drivers, or certain proprietary operating systems, all I need to be able to view the images is a machine with a floppy drive... so my NeXT cube or my new Dell, it doesn't matter. I can still see the pictures, email them, whatever.

  • by ninewands (105734) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:32PM (#3981397)
    It's nice to be able to pop a floppy in and reboot when you do something like misconfigure a kernel or (OOPS!) forget to edit /etc/lilo.conf after installing a correctly configured kernel.
  • I think the floppy could die, but needs to be replaced with something like the LS-120. Too many of us out there still need floppies for nework drivers, boot disks, bios flashes, diag utilities that don't like mem managers and so on.

    While CD's are cheap, it sure is a waste to only have 300k or so on something that can hold 650mb. Not to mention if I drop it on the floor, theres a good chance it will get scratched.

    Yes, something needs to replace the floppy, it needs to be re-writable, same size as a floppy disk or a tad smaller and hold 2mb or better.

    Mac's can get away with it since most of them are so proprietary that everything is the same so everything should work the same. PC's are like people, every one is a little different and they all have different needs
  • My home firewall uses one of the floppy-based firewall solutions, running off a $99 surplus office PC I originally bought for parts.

    The CD-ROM and hard drive go unused.

    So there! : )

    Jon Acheson
  • I've replaced my floppies with internal (IDE) ZIP drives on almost all of my systems. They can fit into the same bay, but instead of booting a "rescue" disk they allow you to boot a fairly complete Linux installation with any modern BIOS. (Any that create a menu box when it sees multiple drives with "active" partitions would work.)

    The main downsides are that some "artsy" cases only have a cutout large enough for a floppy, not a ZIP disk, and some tools really insist on using a floppy. That's why I'll usually keep the floppy drive around, but have it mounted internally. I rarely need to pop the case - less than once a year - so this isn't a burden.
  • I like them for digital cameras. Sure you could use any of the other media to store a lot more pics, but floppies are cheap and don't require any hardware that most people don't already have (card readers).

    I am determined to never let floppies die. I even put an old 5 1/4" drive in my computer. Live on!
  • What are the alternatives when a network is not readily available?

    Zip disks? Media too expensive, not common enough (networking effect).

    CDR's? Too slow on many machines to set up, not common enough, and may waste a disk if the machine does not have re-write abilities.

    Flash cards? Not common enough.
  • The only reason to really have a floppy drive anymore, for me, is when I want to play around with the Menuet OS [menuetos.org], which is designed to fit onto a floppy.

    Sayeth the website:
    "Menuet is a fully 32 bit assembly written, graphical OS for asm
    programming, distributed under General Public License.

    - Graphical UI with 16 M colours up to 1280x1024
    - Pre-emptive multitasking, multithreading
    - Ide: editor/compiler for applications and _kernel_
    - application and kernel sources included (GPL)
    - Ethernet; tftp (& music stream)
    - Free-form application windows
    - Hard real-time data fetch
    - All this in a single floppy !

    Since Menuet fits to a single floppy, you only need one blank 1.44 M diskette.
    Your hard disks are not affected in any way. Assembly programmers unite!
  • I'll advocate getting rid of floppy drives when, instead of simply crying for the removal of a standard, they come up with a replacement.

    Compact flash is probably the closest thing, but it's very expensive for media.

    CDs are out of the question. CD-RW drives are expensive, and you need complex drivers in order to write to it. Writing to it randomly (like it was a hard drive or, hey, a floppy drive) is even worse.

    CD-R media is cheap, but CD-RW media is not.

    So. Get them to sell compact flash at less of a premium (say, either make 64M cost ten bucks or something), or sell 10M versions for a few bucks.

    Whatever media they decide on, the consumer should have no qualms about just giving away some media. If they can't do that, it's not a replacement for a floppy.
  • Since CD-writing drives are widely available, it's time for the little floppy to go.

    It's important, though, that external drives remain available, so that old media can be read when necessary.

  • I just got done setting up a couple of laptops recently: a Toshiba 2100 CDT and a Dell Inspiron 5000e. I needed my floppy for both, and here's why:

    On the Toshiba, only one distro out of the three I tried (plus BSD) would boot from the CD rom. (You go Slackware), the other three that would not were RedHat, Mandrake and Suse. BSD wouldn't boot either.

    On top of that, I was forced to move the PCMCIA core from my home desktop to my both of the laptops and rebuild because of the following problems: On all distros on the Toshiba except for Slackware the kernel was enabled with the PCMCIA code but it had the 32 bit CardBus support enabled, which locks up the kernel on 16 bit only CardBus cards. I had to boot the kernel in rescue mode and disable the automatic loading of the PCMCIA module. Once that was disabled I was, of course, without networking. I had one of two options: burn a cd for the 1.2 MB PCMCIA source or copy it to a floppy. A floppy it was.

    On the Dell, RedHat was assuming my Dell 1150 card was a PRISM2 card, when in fact it was an Orinoco and would not work with the wvlan_cs drivers. I had to manually force the PCMCIA core to rebuild the orinoco_cs (and hermes and orinoco as well btw) .so files. Of course, as long as I had PCMCIA down on the inspiron I also didn't have network access and hense the need for the floppy.

    Without the floppy I can almost bet I'll be getting a nullmodem going on my older machines, wasting CDs or doing some other backflips.
  • by scott1853 (194884) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:37PM (#3981481)
    My floppy died a couple years ago after an unfortunate incident involving my 2 year old son and his recent discovery of coins. The next week my VCR also suffered the same fate.

    I thought I had lost a CD-drive after he discovered CDs and a slight opening above the closed CD tray that allowed him to cram 3 CDs into the top of the drive. Later on he discoved a small opening above a drive bay cover and managed to get about a dozen CDs into the inside of my case before he was caught.
  • In a house like mine, with two machines that so rarely need to interact that it's not worth spending any of my scarce (daylight) free time to run Cat5 between them, they're useful. Interaction is rare, but it *does* happen, and I don't want to have to burn a CD-ROM every time I want to use Sneakernet.

    It's also very useful to keep a boot disk with some basic recovery tools on it for those occasions when my wife does a FORMAT C:, or we have a hard drive go bad, or other similar situation. (She's only done that once, but it makes a good story. Good thing there's UNFORMAT.)

  • Most of the stupid motherboard manufacturers (no doubt in cahoots with the BIOS authors) only offer their BIOS images in formats that can be loaded under DOS or Windows. So from time to time I'm glad I still have one dusty DOS boot floppy around.

    Seems really brain-damaged, though. Who really wants to write and maintain stupid 16-bit code nowadays, and then have to depend on the user to track down a bootable disk to actually run your code. Hardly seems like rocket science to write linux userspace code to do the same job and then they'd be able to give away bootable floppies that run their code automatically.

  • by Bonker (243350) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:40PM (#3981533)
    As has been said before, real security comes from when your access to something comes from two of the three:

    1. Something you know
    2. Something you have
    3. Something you are

    For example, passwords can be brute forced relatively easy, but if your password has to be accompanied by a retina scan, then your password protected data is significantly more secure.

    By the same token, if you have a password, but your PGP key is on your HDD, then your data is only as secure as your password to someone who has your PC. If, however, you keep your PGP on an external disk of some kind, then you go quite a bit further towards making your data secure to someone who has stolen or confiscated your PC. A floppy is pretty good for this purpose for the following reasons:

    It's fairly portable. You can reasonably carry a floppy disk in your wallet and pull it out when you need it without fear of destroying it.

    It's small enough and durable enough to manipulate. You can hide a floppy in a safe deposit box or ship it overseas if need be.

    Despite it's relative durability, it's also easily destroyed. CD's need to be dissolved in acid to be truly unrecoverable and Zip disks are relatively difficult to break into. Floppies, on the other hand, can be broken into and once you've eaten the plastic disk, you're data is forever encrypted.
  • by dwheeler (321049) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:44PM (#3981600) Homepage Journal
    Yes! There are lots of things that 3.5" floppies are still good for.

    First, it's a great transfer mechanism for "small" files (e.g., most documents), because it IS so widely available. Most other media don't interchange well BECAUSE not everyone else has one. Not every machine has a working Internet connection - they don't have a connector, it's broken, you can't plug in right now, or they're forbidden (!). I often use 3.5" floppies to exchange files with a laptop... there are other ways, but this one's quick. And if someone says they'll email or post the file, I'm at their mercy... but if they hand me the data on a floppy, I now really have it. Many machines ONLY provide data on 3.5" floppies (e.g., some synthesizers and lab data recorders); if you want to get their data, you need a floppy.

    Backup for critical files, esp. from laptops. If you're using a borrowed laptop, perhaps you don't care about anything except 1-3 documents - a floppy backs them up very nicely.

    They're wonderful for keys (e.g., PGP keyrings). Yeah, smartcards could be nice, but not every machine has a smartcard connector or its software... but the 3.5" disk is ubiquitous.

    Floppies are cheap, and one of the very few ubiquitous standard ways of exchanging data. They're quite cheap, too. It sounds like customers have already decided they don't want to give them up; why should manufacturers force them to?

    It'd be easier if there were a nonproprietary standard alternative, but there really isn't one. Iomega isn't even compatible with itself, and it's quite proprietary. Physical media has some advantages over the internet as a media, and both will continue. Before scrapping the floppy, let's see a nonproprietary alternative!

  • by foo fighter (151863) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:52PM (#3981693) Homepage
    CD-RW won't replace the floppy until it is unecessary to use a 3rd party utility to write and delete from it.

    Maybe it's changed in Windows XP or MacOS X. But for Windows 2000 and Redhat Linux 7.2 I have to install and run a separate program and laboriously pick out which files I want to burn and finally say "go".

    I don't care if it's the OS writer's fault, the BIOS writer's fault, or whose fault it is. It's ludicrous that I can't simply type "copy foo.txt d:" the way I can type "copy foo.txt a:"! CD-RW drives have been out for years, get your shit together people.

    I've been trying to convert my company over to strictly CD-RW since we've had several disastors where the only copy of important data was on a floppy. (I know, I know, but users are users.) It's been completely unsuccesful because the burning programs aren't integrated with the OS the way floppy drivers are. Don't get me started on the burning program's horrible interfaces if you have anything else you want to do today.

    Until I can pop in my cd-rw, click-and-drag my files onto it, and pop it out to be used anywhere a cd can be -- without having to go through a 3rd program -- I and everyone else will still have a use for floppies.
  • by rossz (67331) <ogre@@@geekbiker...net> on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:54PM (#3981733) Homepage Journal
    An actual situation. I needed a nic driver on a system. Without it, no net access. The only way to get the driver onto the box was via floppy. There are alternate methods, e.g. serial port, zip drive, etc., but nothing beats the ease and convenience of a floppy drive. I'd rather spend the $10 for a floppy drive than have to hassle with the other methods.
  • by no_such_user (196771) < ... 002-todhsals-dj>> on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:56PM (#3981744)
    I've got two big problems with floppies:

    1. Speed. Why are these still SO SLOW?! Sony has put accelerated floppy drives in their Mavica cameras. Is such a drive available for the PC?

    2. Reliability. Just yesterday I successfully transferred data from 18-year old 5.25" 140k disks (Apple //c!) without a hitch. But 3.5" 1.44MB disks are notoriously error-prone. Why didn't anyone employ an error-correction protocol when writing to floppies? Maintain backwards compatibility by writing the EC data to the "extended" tracks outside the 80-track (do I have that right?) spec.
  • by CleverNickName (129189) <wilNO@SPAMwilwheaton.net> on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @05:59PM (#3981782) Homepage Journal
    This page [rinkworks.com] is full of anecdotes of stupid things people did with their floppy drives.

  • USB 'Memeory Key' (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ikekrull (59661) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @06:05PM (#3981843) Homepage
    The only thing i have that i seen that would truly replace floppies are the 'memory cards' or flash-based USB Mass Storage devices, but there really needs to be a method to boot off these things.

    Imagine, your next linux distro comes with a cute little 'tux' figure with a USB connector poking out his ass.

    Plug this in to your machine, and reboot, the little LEDs in tux's eyes flash to indicate activity, and the installer runs (Tux has 8-256MB of flash on board, giving you all the modules to support your hardware, along with everything you need to rescue/recover/setup your new Linux box.

    My 8MB USB key has saved me several times, since it allows me to transfer files from Windows to my Mac to my Linux boxes without the need for a network or any common hardware (except working USB) among them. The drivers are supported by the Linux kernel, WinME/2K/XP and OS X natively, so no drivers to load.

    These things are still a little expensive (my 8MB cost me $NZ100 about a year ago), but i imagine these devices would be dirt-cheap in volume.

  • I have not used a floppy disk in nearly 6 years -- I haven't had one in my computer since my 486 66 died. But on several occasions, I've wished I had one.

    Most recently, I could have used one yesterday. I found myself on a state university campus with my mac laptop. The one wireless network doesn't allow open wireless, and don't "support" macintoshes so they wouldn't give me a wireless password. Their wired network is set to boot off a Novell network and won't give out ips unless the OS was downloaded from the server. Furthermore, the only mac they had was not networked.

    The presentation I was about to give was stuck in that macintosh due to the archaic, bigotted network. I had to read from the opened laptop, with lights blaring down on the screen. I did not look poised and lost my place every time I scrolled.

    What I wouldn't have given for a simple, archaic floppy drive...or even a slow, snail's pace serial card to null the file over to an nt box.

    Floppies are good for one thing: last resort. They're airbags on the info highway.
  • by sunset (182117) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @06:18PM (#3981962) Homepage
    ... a universally accepted, cross-platform, dirt-cheap, pocket-sized, rewritable storage medium? Beats me.
  • by twoslice (457793) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @06:24PM (#3982016)
    1. It makes you look so knowledgeable to end-lusers when you miraculously get their system to boot by ejecting the non-system boot floppy that was left in their drive.

    2. When you want to boot a mini-Linux kernel on your Windoze system to see what a real operating systems can do

    3. How in the world would I restore my multiple zip disk backup that I did in the 80's when it was all the rage?

    4. When you want to upgrade your systems BIOS and it requires a Floppy to do it.

    5. What in the world would I do with the +1200 AOL floppy disks that I have collected?

    6. Making duplicate boot floppy for my dufus co-worker who, if I gave him my original, I would never see it again?

    7. Microsoft's certificate authority which tells you to use a Floppy disk to store the key on? (now that is just whack!)

    8. You take away the ability to recover your forgotten admin password easily!

    9. When you want to send a pron image to your buddy and don't want that snoopy sysadmin telling the boss.

    10. When you HDD goes kablouie you can still recover with a boot floppy and FDISK
  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @06:29PM (#3982066) Homepage Journal
    This is an effort to make CD's usable as an 'optical floppy'. You need new drives to write them, but only new drivers to read them. Here's just one FAQ [softarch.com] that fell out of Google.
  • by ry4an (1568) <ry4an-slashdot.ry4an@org> on Tuesday July 30, 2002 @07:13PM (#3982415) Homepage
    I keep my gpg private key on a floppy. My ~/.gnupg/secring.gpg file is a symlink to /mnt/floppy/secring.gpg. When I need to sign or decrypt something I push the floppy in, mount it, use the key, unmount, and eject.

    My box has been hacked a few times, but I like knowing for certain that the key wasn't taken.

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

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