SMART Utility was mentioned in episode 5 of Hypercritical, and excellent podcast about Apple and related technologies with Dan Benjamin and John Siracusa. Its one of many great podcasts on Dan’s network, 5by5. I’ve been a fan of Dan’s since Gruber and his podcast The Talk Show. I used to listen to The Conversation until he canceled it, but then he started a whole slew of new podcasts, of which Hypercritical and Boom, Outta Here are two of my new favorites. Of course, I’ve followed John since early 2001 on Ars Technica, where he had some great reviews of every OS X version.
Anyway, enough butt kissing. I thought John and Dan did an excellent job of describing SMART and SMART Utility (except for calling it creepy! Haha!). However, I did want to followup with some more information about what they said.
John mentioned the algorithm SMART Utility uses, which calls a drive FAILING before SMART itself will say FAILED. He was correct in that its a judgement call, and it can be a little confusing in that regard. When SMART Utility finds something that could potential cause a drive to fail in the future, it does label it FAILING. Now, it could be failing now- ie soon the drive will fail completely. It could also be overly cautious and the drive will be fine. The algorithm was designed this way because when dealing with data, its better to be safe than sorry. So false positives are much better than false negatives.
This is also based on 10 years of dealing with hard drives, as well Google’s study(PDF) on hard drives (as John did mention). However there are preferences to “correct” the algorithm (as John also mentioned). I’m always verifying the algorithm is correct, and if improvements are needed, they will be made. For instance, version 3.1 will change the way errors that occurred many power on hours ago are dealt with.
Dan and John made comments that its not for your mom, and though I will sort of agree with that, I still believe they can use it. For instance, they can understand green, yellow and red. Also, the menu icon that is coming in version 3.0 will be great for them. Of course, its best if they have a family member or friend who knows a little more to help them out, or they can always contact me.
I hope that clears up any confusion, and thanks to John and Dan for the discussion. Now go listen to their podcasts!