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Old June 23rd, 2006, 08:09 AM   #1
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Confusion over hard drive capacity ends in lawsuit

From time to time we have questions here along the lines of "how come my 80GB hard drive only shows up as 74.4GB?" The answer (generally) relates to the definition of a gigabyte, which has to do with binary numbers. Well enough people got upset about this practice to file a class action lawsuit against Western Digital: http://www.westerndigital.com/settle...s/longform.htm

Quote:
Plaintiff alleges that in the sale and marketing of its hard disk drives, Defendant overstates the useable storage capacity by approximately 7%. According to Plaintiff, when attached to most personal computers, a hard disk drive advertised by Defendant as having “80GB” will only show an available capacity of “74.4GB.” Plaintiff alleges that one reason for this disparity is the use of two different measurements of a “GB.” Plaintiff alleges that computer operating systems compute 1 GB as 1,073,741,824 bytes (the “Binary Definition”), but Defendant and other hard disk drive manufacturers compute 1 GB as 1,000,000,000 bytes (the “Decimal Definition”). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant’s conduct constituted false advertising, unfair business practices, breach of contract, fraud, and violations of the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act.
So if you feel you have been "harmed" by Western Digital's practice, you may be eligible for this exciting settlement!

Quote:
Because it is not technologically possible, the proposed Settlement does not call for capacity to be added to Class Member’s hard disk drives. But the proposed settlement will provide each Class Member with free backup and recovery software that can be used in conjunction with his/her hard disk drive. Based on Class Counsel’s investigation of the retail market for backup and recovery software, Class Counsel believes that this software is comparable to products that retail for $30 or more
More info here: http://www.westerndigital.com/settlement/faqs.asp
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Old June 23rd, 2006, 08:53 AM   #2
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Show me the money!

I have like 10 drives connected to two computers. Hehe.
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Old June 23rd, 2006, 08:54 AM   #3
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This marketing practice actually started with IBM in the 90s. Before then a MB was indeed 1048576 bytes.
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Old June 23rd, 2006, 08:56 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Steven Davis
I have like 10 drives connected to two computers. Hehe.
Well if they're made by Western Digital then you could be the proud recipient of 10 copies of some great backup software!
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Old June 23rd, 2006, 08:57 AM   #5
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Well we believe in redundancy in this business. Drat, I thought I was going to get 10 30 dollar checks.
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Old June 23rd, 2006, 09:01 AM   #6
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One needs to read further into this:
Defendant denies Plaintiff’s allegations, any wrongdoing, and any liability whatsoever and believes it has many legal defenses to all of the claims asserted by Plaintiff. Defendant believes that its marketing and advertising complied and continues to comply in all respects with the law and that no Class Member, including the Plaintiff, has sustained any damages or injuries related to its actions or omissions. Nonetheless, Defendant has concluded that further conduct of the Litigation would be protracted and expensive, and that it is desirable that the Litigation be fully and finally settled in the manner and upon the terms and conditions of the proposed settlement. (Source: http://www.wdc.com/settlement/docs/longform.htm)
Some of the recent class actions like the iPod battery case make perfect sense, but others, like this one, are getting out of hand, the only people who make real money on them are the law firms that mount them. It puts an incredible drain on the industry. It's legalized extortion. Many drive manufacturers have done what WD has done, why go after Western Digital? Electronic device manufacturers have always documented how they calculate a Gigabyte. This is not an attept at misleading users in any way shape or form. It's simply easier to say "80" than 74.6" or whatever. I've been working around computers since 1976 and it's common knowledge in the industry that quoted hard drive capacity will always be higher than the actual space available for three reasons: formatting overhead, file system overhead, and the way GB are calculated as the quote above. To mount an entire class action over 7% discrepancy is ridiculous, while other real, pressing problems should be catching the attention of class action law firms, like predatory business practices, illegal monopolies, defective products, false claims, etc. I'd be the first to support a legitimate case... this one over hard drive capacity is dubious at best.

You can read more about the case here: http://www.wdc.com/settlement/faqs.asp
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Old June 23rd, 2006, 09:08 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Tames
One needs to read further into this:

It's simply easier to say "80" than 74.6" or whatever.
Wouldn't it be just as easy and upfront, to make the drives 84 gig, and sell them as 80gig?
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Old June 23rd, 2006, 09:12 AM   #8
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Well stated, David. This is what happens when technology filters down to the least common denominator in society (a polite way to say idiots).

I really wish the judge had summarlly dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous so that WD could file a claim against plaintiff for expenses of defending themselves.

-gb-
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Old June 23rd, 2006, 09:31 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Greg Boston
I really wish the judge had summarlly dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous so that WD could file a claim against plaintiff for expenses of defending themselves.
Really: the whole thing is outrageous and yet another sad sign of the times. But instead of recovering their own legal costs, WD is going to provide a half million dollar payday for the law firm:

Quote:
If the Court approves the proposed settlement, Plaintiff’s Counsel will ask the Court to award, and Defendant has agreed to pay, and will not contest the reasonableness of, an award of attorneys’ fees of up to $485,000 and expenses up to $15,000.
And guess who really pays? We will, when WD raises the cost of their products to compensate for this nonsense...
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Old June 23rd, 2006, 09:34 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith Forman
Wouldn't it be just as easy and upfront, to make the drives 84 gig, and sell them as 80gig?
Well score another victory for the poor consumer:

Quote:
If the settlement is finally approved by the Court, WDC will include language substantially similar to the following on its website and, as soon as its current packaging supply is depleted, but no later than six (6) months following the Effective Date, on its product packaging:

“1 gigabyte (GB) = 1 billion bytes. Total accessible capacity varies depending on operating environment.”
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Old June 23rd, 2006, 09:39 AM   #11
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Next step: Sue Microsoft, Apple and all OS vendors for not clearly divulging the real life storage capacity being even lower due to the cluster sizing. The default cluster size for a >2GB NTFS partition (that's 2,048MB = 2,097,152 bytes before I get sued!) is 4,096 bytes. So even if you create a file that is only 1 byte is size, it will occupy 4,096 bytes of the available space. Imagine a 300Gig (sorry, 300,000,000,000 bytes) drive with all the files being 1 byte. You could only store 73,242,187 such files - an effective storage capacity of 69.8MB!!!!

On the other hand, you could hold one 274GB video file (about 23 hours of DV).

Now, if you partitioned the original 300Gig drive into multiple 0.5GB partitions, the cluster size is 512 bytes. For the 1 byte file scenario, the whole drive could now contain 8 times as many.

This is why it is wise to put the OS and applications on the smallest partition possible and dedicate a huge partition for huge files....

Kudos to WD for coming up with a settlement that won't really cost them anything!
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Old June 23rd, 2006, 10:44 AM   #12
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I want to sue Id games, because Duke Nukem won't run right on Windows XP.
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Old June 23rd, 2006, 11:38 AM   #13
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This lawsuit is ridiculous because (a) anyone who needs to care should have known by now what's going on; and (b) the whole issue has been addressed by standards committees and a new set of terminology developed to resolve the problem. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mebibyte.) In fact I thought all this was settled long ago and clarified in marketing literature, so I'm surprised to hear it cropping up again.

If you really care about how much capacity your media holds, learn how to do your own calculations between decimal and binary figures. For video in particular it's important to understand the difference between bits and bytes and how that fits with decimal-stated capacity figures. For those who don't have it down yet, here's the bottom line:

One "bit" is the most basic unit of computerdom and is simply the choice between "0" or "1", so there are two possible values.

1 byte = 8 bits, with 256 total possible values. This came about because it was the smallest computer unit which can represent all the letters and characters needed for typical written English and programming code.

Early computer designers defined one kilobyte as 1024 bytes, because that's the closest a computer comes to having an internal unit equal to 1000. But that doesn't fit well with the use of the prefix "kilo" for other things people do, where kilo simply means 1000. Similarly, one megabyte was defined as 1024x1024 bytes, but again that's not a standard use of the "mega" prefix. This whole mess started by trying to match binary values to prefixes we're used to using in base 10, and defining them accordingly. This made sense to computer nerds who were trained this way but not to anyone else, hence the confusion.

Computer media capacities can just as easily be defined in decimal terms, and that's effectively how they're defined today. (See link above.) If we all agree that a gigabyte is exactly one billion bytes then there's no problem, and the lawyers can all go look for something else to do. But yes, marketing literature should be clear on this point so we don't confuse any computer types who are still used to thinking in base 2.

The problem now becomes, should calculations relating to computer capacities be done decimally, or in base 2? So long as you're consitent it doesn't matter, but if you mix them then your calculations will be off. If I say 1 GB = one billion bytes and hence a 4.7 GB DVD holds 4,700,000,000 bytes then everything's fine. But if you put a file with one billion bytes on a DVD and look at the file properties on a computer you'll see the capacity expressed in binary terms, which yields a number lower than 1 GB. If anything, we should sue computer software makers to stop using binary values to measure file sizes, so we can all get on the same page using decimal figures. Good luck getting Microsoft to make that change...
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Old June 23rd, 2006, 01:27 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Shaw
This lawsuit is ridiculous because (a) anyone who needs to care should have known by now what's going on;
I think so too, but the question of "where did my hard drive space go" comes up around here as regular as clockwork ;-)
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Old June 23rd, 2006, 01:29 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff
I think so too, but the question of "where did my hard drive space go" comes up around here as regular as clockwork ;-)

A better question for some of us would be, 'where did my waist line go?' :}


Hey I just realized this month is my anniversary.
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