End User Manual:Using common mass storage peripherals

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Besides the main components which make up the modern PC, there are many optional peripherals which can be attached to it and when these are properly utilised they can contribute to make the computing environment and experience more convenient, productive and pleasant. The more common peripherals include:

  • printer
  • scanner
  • mass storage devices

In this chapter we shall be looking at how to access and use the common peripheral mass storage devices,

  • floppy disk drive
  • CD-ROM drive
  • USB mass storage device
  • CD-RW drive

Setting up and using a printer and scanner is covered in Using the Printer and Scanner.

Note: The method for accessing the mass storage peripherals described below are based on GNOME version 2.4. A new version of GNOME, version 2.6, came out while this guide is being written. In GNOME 2.6 the right-clicking on the Desktop and selecting Disks method has been deprecated. The new method is to use the Computer icon located on the Desktop. Double-click on the Computer icon, and it will display all the system devices as well as the filesystem.

The Floppy Disk Drive

While most of the work is done using the hard disk or drive and system and user data are stored on the hard drive, sometimes you may want to transfer or copy files to another PC. One convenient way to perform this provided that the file sizes are not too large is to use a floppy disk or diskette. Diskettes are very useful as a portable storage medium for small files.

Mounting and Using the Diskette

Before a diskette can be used, you have to perform an operation called “mounting” the diskette. This is to let the system know that you are going to use and access the diskette in the floppy drive.

To mount a diskette, move the mouse to an empty area on the Desktop and right-click it. From the pop-up menu select,

Disks --> Floppy

(Under the new version of GNOME, disk access is done by right-clicking on the Computer icon on the desktop and selecting Floppy. See the Note at the top of this article.)

This will mount the floppy and add a floppy icon on the desktop. Double-clicking on this will list out the files and folders in the floppy under the File Manager.

Once you have successfully mounted the diskette and listed out its directory contents under the File Manager, you can treat it like another folder to read and write files and folders. However, you have to bear in mind some differences between the floppy diskette folder and the normal folder you have been working with.

The diskette has a very low storage capacity compared with the hard disk; a floppy diskette typically will have about 1.44 MB (megabytes) of storage capacity only. A hard drive typically has some hundred Gigabytes.

If the write-protect tab on the diskette is enabled, then the diskette can be used for reading only, i.e. you can read the contents of the files on it only. You cannot write to the files, and so you cannot modify and/or create new files or folders.

After using the diskette, you will need to unmount it before you take off the diskette from the floppy drive. To unmount the diskette, right-click on the floppy icon on the desktop and select “Eject”. This will unmount the diskette and the floppy icon will disappear from the Desktop. Once this has happened, you can safely remove the diskette from the floppy drive.

Note

It is important that you unmount the diskette before removing it from the floppy drive, especially if it has been mounted for writing. Failure to do so may result in incomplete data being written to the diskette and corruption of the file system on the diskette.

Formatting the Diskette

Before a diskette can be used it has to be “formatted” first. This will create the directory structures and other information needed for the system to keep track of where the data is stored on the diskette. You need to format a diskette once only. You can subsequently format it again after using it for some time but re-formating will result in the loss of the original contents of the diskette.

To format a diskette, you can use the floppy formatter selection from the Main Menu.

Main Menu --> System Tools --> Floppy Formatter

Choose the default floppy density of 1.44 MB and the DOS (FAT) file system type. This will enable the diskette to be read on almost all commonly used operating systems including Microsoft Windows.


Exercises

1.Format a floppy diskette, mount it for read-write and copy the following files/folders found in the /etc directory to it: hosts, termcap, motd and rc.d.

2.Unmount the diskette, mount it again and copy its entire contents to the folder tmp in your home directory (create this folder if it is not there). Unmount the diskette after the copying.

The CD-ROM Drive

Nowadays the CD-ROM is widely used as a means to store and distribute data and information. A typical 5.25” CD-ROM can store up to 700 MB of data. It is thus ideal as a medium for distributing large files, multimedia games and software packages.

By default when a CD-ROM is placed in the drive it is automatically mounted and the File Manager will open it to display its directory contents. If it is not automounted, then it can be mounted by moving the mouse to an empty area on the Desktop and right-click it. From the pop-up menu select,

Disks --> CD-ROM

(Under the new version of GNOME, disk access is done by right-clicking on the Computer icon on the desktop and selecting CD-ROM. See the Note at the top of this chapter.)

This will mount the CD and add a CD icon on the desktop. Double-clicking on this will list out the files and folders in the CD-ROM under the File Manager. The File Manager can then be used to access the files and folders on the CD. Since the CD-ROM is a read-only medium, you can only read the contents of the CD and not write to it.

After using the CD, you will need to unmount it before you take it off the CD-ROM drive. To unmount the CD, right-click on the CD icon on the desktop and select “Eject”. This will unmount the CD and the CD icon will disappear from the desktop.

The USB Mass Storage Device

Another popular portable storage medium is the USB mass storage device (sometimes also known as a thumb drive). Like the floppy diskette you can read and write to a thumb drive but it has the advantage of storing much more data than a diskette.

To access the thumb drive, place it in the USB slot (port) provided and move the mouse to an empty area on the desktop and right-click it. From the pop-up menu select,

Disks --> usb

Note: This assumes that the system you are using has been set up with the name of “usb” for the thumb drive; it can be another name (customizable).

Under GNOME 2.6 (see the Note at the beginning of this chapter) the thumb drive is accessed by double-clicking on the Computer icon on the Desktop, and is refered to by the name “Flash”,

Computer --> Flash

This will mount the USB thumb drive and add a thumb drive icon on the desktop. Double-clicking on this will list out the files and folders in the thumb drive under the File Manager. You can then treat it like another folder to read and write files and folders.

After finishing with the thumb drive, you will need to unmount it by right-clicking on the thumb drive icon on the desktop and selecting “Unmount Volume”, before removing it from the USB port.

The CD-RW Drive

While the CD-ROM drive is very useful as a portable storage medium due to its high capacity and low cost, it suffers from the disadvantage that it is a read-only medium.

To overcome this, many PCs are sold nowadays with drives which enable you to record data onto CD-R (CD recordable) and CD-RW (CD rewritable) disks. The former refers to a CD medium which allows you to record to it only once, while with a CD-RW disk it is possible to rewrite data to it multiple times.

Note: While a CD-RW drive supports both CR-R and CD-RW functionalities, the CD medium that you utilize determines whether you can write data to it only once (CR-R) or multiple times (CD-RW). So it is important that you buy the correct medium type for the function that you want.

CD-Creator

The File Manager has a facility which enables a user to copy files and folders very easily to a CD-RW drive. To use this feature, start the File Manager and from the menu bar at the top select,

Go --> CD Creator

and the CD Creator window will be displayed. The files and folders which are to be copied (burned) onto the CD-R(W) disk are to be placed here in this window. To do this, open up another window on the File Manager,

File --> Open New Window

In the new File Manager window, select the files and folders you want and drag and drop them into the CD Creator window. After you have finished selecting and dropping all the files and folders you want, go to the Cd Creator window and click on the "Write to CD" button at the top. A dialog box will open up and from here you can choose the writing speed, the CD name and other options. The default settings may be used if you do not know what to fill in here. To start the burning, click on the "Write files to CD" button in the dialog box. A status window showing the status of the CD burning will be displayed.


CD burning tool

While the CD Creator application described above is very convenient and easy to use, its functionality is mainly limited to the copying of files/folders to a CD-R(W). A more versatile CD burning application is k3b. To start it type ALT_F2 and enter k3b.



This article is part of the End User Manual, which is based, in whole or in part, on "User Guide to Using the Linux Desktop", by Nah Soo Hoe and Colin Charles. It was released by the copyright holders, the United Nations Development Programme’s Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme (UNDP-APDIP), under the terms of the Creative Commons (attribution variant) license. The original can be found here: http://www.iosn.net/training/end-user-manual/ .

The End User Manual is intended for the use of users without prior Linux or PC experience who wish to learn how to use linux. The original authors intended for the User Guide to be as generic as possible, but in some cases, this was not possible. In these cases, Fedora was used as a baseline. All desktop directions use refer to the Gnome desktop. These choices are not intended as an endorsement of these programs.