Mobile technology should not be about cramming the office into your pocket but a way to enjoy your everyday life.

The Acrylic Cowboy


It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The Acrylic Cowboy (DC-ACSP1), made by the Japanese company Digital Cowboy, is a 4 in 1 external hard drive case that takes IDE (PATA) drives and connects to the computer using either USB or FireWire.

It's a box made out of transparent acrylic. You put one to four hard drives in it and connect it to the computer. The drives will then show up as individual external drives or concatenated, using the co called JBOD (just a bunch of disks) method. If you put four 250 GB drives into it, it will look as one 1 TB drive to your computer.

The Buffalo TeraStation does the same, but also includes sophisticated RAID modes for data integrity in case one drive fails and connects using gigabit Ethernet to all computers in a network.

The Acrylic Cowboy, however, is a LOT cheaper, only 80 Euros without a power supply and disks. This is an interesting alternative for the do-it-yourself (DIY) enthusiasts out there.

You just add your own standard ATX power supply, a 120mm fan and one to four ordinary 3.5 inch IDE hard drives. Or so I thought.

I found it in a DIY shop in Akihabara, Tokyo, and because of the price it was something I could buy without getting in trouble with the customs back in Finland. It also came unassembled in a very small box like IKEA furniture so it would easily fit in my suitcase. And since Japan uses 100V, it was just as well that it came without a power supply - this way I could make sure I got a 220V/50Hz PSU suitable for Finland.

The 120 mm fan at the back of the case, which is mounted to take in air and blow it straight on the hard drives, is not included in the package either so I went looking for a suitable fan in Akihibara. I found one for only 10 Euros called S-FLEX made by Scytche that uses Fluid Dynamic Bearings made by Sony. This particular model was an 800 rpm one as well and the noise level is supposedly less than 9 dB - this has got to be some sort of record. Because the fan is mounted only 1 cm from the hard drives and blows strait on them, they stay cool even under full load despite the fan being a mere 800 rpm model.

There is really only one problem with the Acrylic Cowboy: once you add a modern ATX PSU and the IDE cables for four drives, even this fairly large box is simply a bit too small. With SATA drives and cables it would have been a bit easier.

But it works. I know have a 1.2 terabyte external hard drive for a total of 300 euros and two old hard drives that I moved to this case. Perhaps not worth the trouble - I'm getting too old for this DIY stuff - but now that I have it, I'm quite happy with it.