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Imation Disc Stakka
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Date 7th February 2005
Author James "Agg" Rolfe
Manufacturer Imation Australia/New Zealand

Innards, Further Thoughts, Conclusions

Ejecting disks is pretty simple. Find the disk you want, by searching or browsing the database, then rightclick and choose Eject. If the disk won't be coming back, choose Eject and Remove. If you're lending the disk to someone, you can make a note of who the borrower is in the disk's database entry, which pops up when the CD is ejected. Can't remember who you loaned DOOM 3 to? Now you can, by referring to the CD's entry in the database.

The search facility even spans Stakka units and will tell you which one to connect to find the disk you're after. In a corporate recordkeeping environment you could have quite a few of these Stakkas organised on shelves. After searching go get the particular one you want, hot plug it into your PC and retrieve the disk you need.

One obvious question (to me) is: does it support 80mm disks? These smaller CDs are sometimes used when there's not much data to be stored, or when the novelty or easier packaging of a small CD is useful. You might also have seen "credit card CD's" which are almost rectangular in shape, like a normal CD with two edges cut flat. The short answer is: no. The Stakka only supports normal, full-size, 120mm, circular disks. I discovered this by inserting an 80mm disk, which the Stakka dutifully ate, but then made a worrying clunk sound as the disk fell to the bottom of the unit and rattled around. This is where I pretend this was a deliberate tactic and work out how to pull the cover off the Stakka.

Click to Enlarge

In fact, four screws and some determined tugging later we're shown it's quite a simple device from a mechanical perspective. Two grippy rotating columns move the CD during loading or ejecting - from the outside it behaves just like any slot-load CD/DVD player. The CD drops into a slot in the carousel, which can rotate to align any of its 100 slots with the load/eject mechanism. When ejecting, a small arm lifts the CD within the grasp of the grippers, now turning the other way, and they smoothly eject the disk from the unit. A small electric motor drives the whole thing via rubber belts and is powered from the USB port. Presumably on the same PCB as the USB chip are the brains which keep track of which slot is currently facing the ejector.

Click to Enlarge   Click to Enlarge

Some disk silos are incredibly clunky in their operation, but the Stakka is fairly quiet - the loudest noise is from the cd falling a few millimetres after the grippers release it into the internal carousel. It takes only a few seconds to locate a disk and eject it.

Now what?
Some brainstorming: OK, it's AUD $200. Make one for $250 and include a DVD drive in it. Sure, it'll need mains power and a USB-IDE converter - oh, alright, make it $300 then. I'd buy one for $300 if I could put 100 DVD's or CD's into it and then read their contents directly from the unit. I'm pretty sure, given an afternoon and a roll of duct tape, I could attach a slot-load DVD drive to the front of the Stakka and have them happily handing disks to each other - although adding new disks to the system would be a challenge. OEM DVD drives are dirt cheap nowdays and there's a zillion external hard drive enclosures with USB-to-IDE converters, so maybe Imation will consider a "Pro" version which CAN read the disks inside itself. Without duct tape.

Another idea: wireless connection, so you don't have to be on a specific PC to get disks from the Stakka, and it doesn't have to be within USB-cable length of your PC. It takes up a lot of desk space, so having it on a bookshelf behind me would be much better. I know, it's already USB so you can unplug it and plug it back in whenever you need a disk from it, but still. How about a tiny onboard webserver and web interface, with the database stored in a flash drive on the unit, so you can access it from ANY web-capable device? Ok, I'm getting ahead of myself here. But it'd be neat.

If you're a clutter-magnet like me, the Imation Disc Stakka could be a lifesaver - for your data, anyway. Some people will say it's pricey for what it is, but it's how elegantly that simple idea is implemented that makes it worthwhile. At last, I always know where Disk 1 of Far Cry is, and where my WinXP SP2 CD is, and where my most recent backup is. They're over there, in the Stakka, not buried under the rubble on my desk, waiting to be scratched.

Thanks to Imation Australia for providing the review sample. The Disc Stakka has a RRP of $199 AUD and can presumably be found at your local PC shop. See the Disc Stakka's product page for more info.


All original content copyright James Rolfe.
All rights reserved. No reproduction allowed without written permission.
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