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Upgrades... Never Ending?

I am in the process of upgrading my MacBook Pro to a 500GB hard drive. (Let's not get too technical, since I know it's not "really" 500GB.) The one thing digital media do well is consume hard drive space.
This is the third or fourth time I have updated a PowerBook or MacBook hard drive. As with all new laptops, you wonder, "How will I ever use so much space?" The excitement of having twice or three times whatever you last had soon fades as iTunes, GarageBand, and iMovie eat the bytes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. InDesign, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and Flash are there to help, too.

A colleague said, "Why not just store it all on the campus servers or on Google Docs?"

Okay, this entire cloud thing is nice -- for sharing some files and for backups -- but I am not about to put my projects out in the cloud. I'd never upload confidential files, and I certainly don't want some company to have my student projects. No way.

Plus, I'm not always online. I actually do use my laptop away from the Internet. Shocking, but there really are places without wireless signals. And I'm not about to pay for a 3G account just to always have a connection to my files.

Someday, instead of moving platters, we'll probably have monstrous amounts of solid-state drives. Maybe even in a RAID-like configuration for truly blazing speed. As it stands, platters are still necessary for what I do.

My students complain about the size of media files. It seems netbooks have small drives, regardless of the technology used. Those little Atom-powered toys are cute, but they aren't meant to edit audio or video. The drives fill up, the RAM is too limited, and processors are about power consumption (long, long battery life) instead of computing power. I'm not even sure if there are netbooks with dedicated video.

The reality is that data will keep growing. I'll update to HD quality video, better sound, and suddenly my screencasts and video presentations will double or triple in size. Technology moves ahead, and I'll end up with yet another upgrade.

On the positive side, updating the hard drive is a cinch with the Macs. Sure, it's a pain to remove a dozen screws, but it's about 20 minutes from start to finish. With a FireWire case, you can clone the drive or migrate the data in an hour or so. If you simply copy the data, eSATA rocks in even less time.

Upgrades are part of being digital. Beats buying a new computer every two years.


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