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IBM Increases HD Density with "Pixie Dust"

Hemos posted more than 13 years ago | from the i-knew-it dept.

Hardware 126

jeffsenter writes "CNET and the AP have stories on IBM's latest major advance of HD density. "Technically called antiferromagnetically-coupled (AFC) media and informally referred to as "pixie dust" at IBM, the innovation introduces a thin layer of the element ruthenium onto the disks inside hard drives where data is stored."" I knew it. Everyone told me through was no pixie dust in computers - but The Truth shall set you free!

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electron dust (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#208748)

Speaking of disk drives and (some sort of) dust: My dad used to work for the only IBM dealership in my hometown back in the 80s for about 7 years. He said in the early 80s there was a lot of people with systems (like those sweet sweet 8088s) that would be scammed by people claiming to do strange regular maintenance. One of my favorite stories was when he said some lady came in and brought in her box and asked him if he could do the regular maintenance of vacuuming up electrons that had fallen off her disks and were filling up her case and making it slower. Apparently this lady had been conned into some expensive cleaning job by someone who pretended to do just such a task and thought that it was a required maintenance. At least the con artist was wise enough to know that disks have something to do with electrons and magnetetic fields. I wonder how much money he made scamming people that way. -tmh

Re:Don't expect large numbers of these (2)

Masem (1171) | more than 13 years ago | (#208751)

This is true; people are trying to develop, for example, cat converter material that uses only common metals; this usually isn't a problem for catalytic material. The concern I'd have here is that we're looking at pure atomic Ru, and it's very hard to mimic the purely atomic properties by using other elements. Maybe alloys or the like, which have the same amount of atoms, but only a fraction of them being Ru, will have the same effect.

Don't expect large numbers of these (4)

Masem (1171) | more than 13 years ago | (#208752)

Ruthenium is an extremely rare element, moreso than platinum. It's not valued as expensively as platinum only because it lacks a lot of the useful properties that platinum does have (eg very high melting temperature, chemical resistence), and is usually a byproduct of platinum mining in the first place. I've heard through word of mouth that there is probably no more than ~ 1,000 gallons worth of pure atomic ruthenium known in the world and not currently in use. (Fortunately for us, Ru was considered at one point as a major component in the catalytic converter for cars, but other, more abundent but more expensive materials were found instead.) While each drive that might use Ru in this way would only use a tiny tiny fraction of that 1,000 gallons, a run of drives in the millions could easy make a marked depletion in the supply.

More info on Ruthenium (3)

R. Paul McCarty (3571) | more than 13 years ago | (#208754)

Found a good page on Ruthenium, for those curious about it's uses, who discovered it, etc. 8-)

And it's only $30/g. :-)

I guess they won't be open sourcing this (2)

enterfornone (7400) | more than 13 years ago | (#208756)

Because everyone knows that open source is not magic pixie dust.


How to get rich (2)

PD (9577) | more than 13 years ago | (#208757)

If Ru is just $30 a gram, and there really is only 1000 gallons of the stuff in the world, it shouldn't be too hard to get all your friends together and buy all of it. Voila! You've cornered the market. Sell it back to them at $100,000 a gram.

So, something doesn't make sense. If Ru was really that rare, wouldn't someone have played that trick on us already?

Re:electron dust (2)

PD (9577) | more than 13 years ago | (#208758)

A friend of mine told a customer at an oil change place that her blinkers didn't work, and that she needed to go to KMart and get some more blinkerfluid.

Re:I wonder how fast they're going to be (3)

RayChuang (10181) | more than 13 years ago | (#208759)

Given that IBM is a big seller of hard drives with extremely fast interfaces, I'm sure the first drives that use this new coating material technology on the drive platters will be 15,000 RPM drives with LVD Ultra160 SCSI or FibreChannel interfaces and 4-8 MB drive memory buffers. It'll be quite a while before we see this on ATA-100 IDE drives, though.

It's all fine and well, but... (2)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 13 years ago | (#208760)

Drives with densities of 100 gigabits per square inch will enable desktop drives to reach 400GB storage levels, notebooks 200GB, and one-inch Microdrives 6GB.
It's all fine and well, but how do you back-up such an animal???


100 hour portable mp3 players (2)

peter303 (12292) | more than 13 years ago | (#208761)

The silver-dollar size 6MB disks can hold 6000
minutes of music, 2000 photographs, six hours
of video, and so on.

Re:The only sad thing is... (5)

Tim C (15259) | more than 13 years ago | (#208762)

It's not that programmers are getting sloppy, it's that the designers are getting more ambitious.

The core code of most games probably doesn't take up much more than a few megabytes (I'm at work, so I can't check :-) ). What takes up all the space is all the graphics, sound and fmv. Now that we have large drives, lots of memory and fast processors and graphics cards, the designers and graphic and sound artists can really let themselves go and create visually and aurally rich games.

The reason that games need more and more disk space is that people like me demand ever larger, prettier and better sounding games. It has nothing to do with programmers not bothering to space-optimise their code. (Indeed, you often have a choice between optimising for speed or space usage; given that choice, I know which will be done)



Re:Size to speed (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 13 years ago | (#208763)

We are eventually going to reach a point where we cannot store any more data per unit area of disk, and we are also going to reach the stage where reading these units of data will be unfeasibly slow using magnetic heads attached to a moving arm. This time is likely to come sooner rather than later, and the problem needs to be addressed.

Well, as you increase storage density on rotating media, your sequential read speed also increases.

Re:You won't be impressed so soon (2)

karnal (22275) | more than 13 years ago | (#208764)

What exactly would be the motivation, though? I can see the performance being a big plus, but let's say you bought a 15gig solid state drive.

Then dropped it about 3 feet.

I've seen normal hard disks go wacko over this.

My point being is that mechanical things wear out. I notice over time that the hard disk in my IBM Thinkpad gets louder. There's definitely wear going on, and after a drive dies, we buy another.

Just because a hard disk manufacturer gets 100$ from you for that 40gig drive doesn't mean they wouldn't like another 100$ in 2-3 years.

Patents? (2)

GregWebb (26123) | more than 13 years ago | (#208765)

Y'know what makes me happy about this? No mention of patents anywhere.

This is a real advance, they know their competitors can rip their drives apart to find out what they've done and I'm sure they could have found a way to patent it to stop them using that knowledge. But they haven't - they even admit that they expect their competitors to produce drives with this shortly.

Well done, IBM. Patents have their place but you've chosen not to take one out and use it as a weapon - even though it would give you market control. That's good for us all and I thank you.

Re:Patents? (2)

GregWebb (26123) | more than 13 years ago | (#208766)


Sounds like a defensive patent to me :-)

Anyway. The thrust of my point stands. They know their competitors are going to copy this new development of their and they don't mind. In fact, they're expecting it and not taking any steps to block it. A new player gaining a foothold in a market I don't mind using patents on this sort of thing, but IBM are in a position where, if they felt like it, they could crush their competitors with this sort of thing. But they're not going to.

That is a shining example and good for us all. I don't care if they're doing it to stop another antitrust trial against them, it's the right way to play ball.

Congratulations IBM.

Re:You are both right (2)

deander2 (26173) | more than 13 years ago | (#208768)

Actually, that's not being lazy that is programming for lower machines. Uncompressing video on the fly takes a fair number of CPUY cycles, maybe not on your GHz Atlon but on Billy-Bob's PII-300 those cycles saved can let him actually see the video full screen.

It's the same reason CD's contain uncompressed data. At the point of conception, it was cheaper to use the space than to use the processing horse power.

Re:Solid State Recycling! (1)

Brento (26177) | more than 13 years ago | (#208769)

But I can see how having a big chunck of ram disk space could speed a system up.

Like caching, or different? Sounds like the system you describe is just persistent caching that restores upon login. And if it has to restore, then you're hitting the disk upon login, and all you're doing is trading login time for cache loading time later. Interesting idea, though.

Re:Solid State Recycling! (2)

Brento (26177) | more than 13 years ago | (#208770)

Well I know I've got a huge handful of old 30 and 72 pin memory simms...Does this sound feasible???

Sure, if you don't mind losing all your data when the power goes out. Me, personally, that's not my cup of cake, though. Besides, your huge handful of simms adds up to what, 256mb? You could get a 256mb ram chip for $50. The price of the IDE bay with simm slots would cost at least that much, and you'd still end up with a bunch of old ram chips in a drive you couldn't upgrade.

I'm guessing not feasible.

Re:The only sad thing is... SAD?!? As if. (3)

Brento (26177) | more than 13 years ago | (#208771)

The sad part of this new technology is that it's going to allow game programmers to be even more sloppy. Back in my day (I'm not that old) I had a 128mb hard drive. Games had to be small.

What?!? So, back in the day, did your game have full-motion video clips? Support for 1600x1200 resolution? Speech clips? Support for force-feedback joysticks and mice? Oh, it didn't? Gee, I wonder why the game sizes are so much bigger these days. Hmmm. Must be because of those sloppy game programmers.

So help me, if somebody mods that post up as insightful, I'll...I'll...

Cease and Desist (2)

WyldOne (29955) | more than 13 years ago | (#208772)

to: International Buisness Machines
cc: Slashdot
cc: CNET
cc: AP

To whom it may regard.

Please cease and desist using the term 'pixie dust' in any further documents, communications, and product endorsements.

The term 'pixie dust' is trademarked (TM) by the Disney Inc.

This is your only warning as further infringments on our intellectual property will cause us to sic our fleets of lawyers and Tinker Bell on you. (Boy does she get mad - don't say we didn't warn you)

Dear god... (2)

GoNINzo (32266) | more than 13 years ago | (#208773)

How old is this press release?

"Today, many PCs come with hard drives ranging from 10 gigabytes to 20 gigabytes." - the AP article.

20 gig is the smallest size of hard drive you can buy! at least, not used! Just on Saturday, I needed to replace a 2 gig on an old server, and I had to go with a 20 gig as that is the only one with an over 1 year warranty. *sigh* old data is so sad...

Gonzo Granzeau

Re:I wonder how fast they're going to be (2)

knarf (34928) | more than 13 years ago | (#208775)

No, the first drives with this technology are already on the market. In fact, I have two of them sitting next to eachother in the waterproof, ruggedized,solar-powered Webplayer I'm building. They're IBM Travelstar 20GB 2.5"/9.5mm drives. Nice, quiet, and reasonably fast, but at a mere 4200 RPM they're not what I'd call 'extremely fast'. The magic is used to put 20GB in a small package (there's also a 30GB version, but that one was more than double the price of the 20GB).

Just an idea (4)

acidrain (35064) | more than 13 years ago | (#208776)

Police arrested Edward Peel at 4:30 PM yesterday for grinding up all the harddrives in the data center where he worked. He was found with a metal grinder, and a bucket of ground harddrive chassis, sitting on top of the largest rack. "But I will be able to fly" he told police before being taken away. The remote backup storage firm that employed him has not been available for comment.

Re:I wonder how fast they're going to be (1)

mgoff (40215) | more than 13 years ago | (#208778)

Not necessarily. Bit density will rise from 20 to 25 Gbit/in^2. Not only does this mean that each track will have more bits but it also means they can squeeze the width of each track. Thinner tracks == shorter distance == shorter seek time.

But, the cool part of this tech is that they are overcoming what was thought to be a limitation in magnetic film technology: the minimum grain size of the media. AFC reduces the grain size lower than was previously thought possible, extending the life of magnetic film hard drives. Before too much longer, we'll be out of headroom and have to develop new storage technologies to get more dense and faster data storage.

Re:Patents? (2)

mgoff (40215) | more than 13 years ago | (#208779)

Y'know what makes me happy about this? No mention of patents anywhere.

I disagree. This is exactly what patents are designed to protect. This technology isn't "one-click buying" nor "hyperlink page transition." Significant work was required to develop the technology. IBM hires some of the brightest scientists in the world and pumps billions into blue sky research. Many technologies go nowhere, and the money is shot. Others can be productized and make enough money to allow the research arm to operate at a profit. Let's be honest: IBM isn't NASA. If research stopped driving a profit to IBM's bottom line, they'd shut it down.

they even admit that they expect their competitors to produce drives with this shortly

This is because IBM Research operates as a seperate entity from IBM Storage. I'm sure they will license the technology to all of the platter manufacturers to maximize the profit to the company. Although keeping it proprietary would no doubt help Storage, Research has no charter to help them out. They'll probably make more money licensing it anyway.

IBM is a business. For-profit businesses are supposed to make money. What differentiates some businesses from others is how they play the game. I happen to think IBM is a Good Thing (tm). They make money (for the most part now) responsibly and fairly and give back to the community. They took the risk when they funded the resereach-- they should definitely reap the rewards.

I have this vision (3)

wiredog (43288) | more than 13 years ago | (#208780)

Of balding Dilbert types in tie-dye suits. Time to up the medication, I guess.

How soon? (3)

wiredog (43288) | more than 13 years ago | (#208781)

Oh, about N years.

Re:The only sad thing is... SAD?!? As if. (2)

ncc74656 (45571) | more than 13 years ago | (#208782)

What?!? So, back in the day, did your game have full-motion video clips? Support for 1600x1200 resolution? Speech clips? Support for force-feedback joysticks and mice?

Do you need those capabilities for Tetris, Lode Runner, or Arkanoid? :-) There's more to gaming than the flavor-of-the-month FPS.

(FWIW, the game I play most anymore is a Tetris clone called Block Party on my Palm III, and that's only to kill time. I have too much other stuff going on to waste time shooting at computer images; if I want to shoot things, I'll grab my Glock and go to the nearest target range.)

Re:Solid State Recycling! (2)

nuintari (47926) | more than 13 years ago | (#208783)

Yeah, it wouldn't be very useful for storage. But I can see how having a big chunck of ram disk space could speed a system up.

For instance. How about we take this guys idea, and write an algorithem to check which commands and apps a person runs. Each of them is given a priority, based on how often they are executed. Copy those commands onto the ram disk, and let the user execute them faster from there, without the need for disk i/o. Save the settings in a simple file, and upon log in, the user's frequenty loaded commands are quietly loaded into the ram disk.

I'd be pretty easy to make it work for multi user systems I would think. I guess mounting the ramdisk on like /ram, and making sure /ram/bin is first in your $PATH would do the trick. Could do this with main memory too, but it would be nice if we could use old simms and save ourselves that precious ram for running applications.

Okay, so I have 384 megs of ram in this box and I don't need it all, but like hell am I gonna share it!

Zero Tolerance (1)

Monte (48723) | more than 13 years ago | (#208786)

"Technically called antiferromagnetically-coupled (AFC) media and informally referred to as "pixie dust" at IBM...

Uh-oh, this could get into big trouble. Pixie Dust is a schedule II controlled substance - why do you think it makes you fly? Tink is doing hard time for posession, and the Supreme Court just said "no" to medical use of Mary Jane. You think they're going to allow 'dust in hard drives? No way that's going to fly.

So to speak.

Thanks! (1)

devphil (51341) | more than 13 years ago | (#208787)

Okay, that makes more sense. I appreciate it.

Cute name... how the heck does it work? (5)

devphil (51341) | more than 13 years ago | (#208788)

The only clue as to what this stuff does is this tidbit in the AP article:

It addresses the problem of a so-called ``superparamagnetic effect,'' in which data gets lost when the magnetic regions of a disk get too small.
I guess that sortof helps. A little.

So, I take it that antiferromagnetically-coupled dust mites increase the blargle factor of a magnetic region? (For some suitable meaning/value of blargle.)

Ok, so.... (2)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 13 years ago | (#208789)

I'm not too surprised that they found a new way to increase data density. IBM has a great research department and they sell a lot of hard drives. I am curious to see if my computer can handle a 300 gig hard drive. And it will be cool to see their microdrive benifit from this also.

All I really want to know is WHEN? When do they expect these new drives to hit the market? How much testing do they have to do until they tool up for mass production?

Re:IBM strikes again (2)

tak amalak (55584) | more than 13 years ago | (#208790)

Ever hear of MRAM [] ? Or how about MRAM [] ? Oh, and don't forget MRAM?

Hell, why not swapfiles? (1)

White Shade (57215) | more than 13 years ago | (#208791)

Why make it that difficult for yourself or the hapless developer? Just use this 384meg ramdrive as your swapdisk.. I don't know how useful it would be for Linux, but for someone running a windows based system, having 384 megabytes of rather fast, non-hdd swap space would be A Good Thing, especially for those doing desktop publishing or graphic manipulation where it is very likely that there will be things being paged in and out all the time..

The volatility of the ram wouldn't be a problem; a swapfile isn't really very useful after the system has shutdown. And, you wouldn't have to worry about having incriminating stuff or passwords left in the swapspace for some nosy Hacker, bent on destruction (as we well know they all are), to go peeking through :)

The only real possible problem is that the datarate could be somewhat slow. But, the benefit of the extremely fast seek time (plus having the swapfile be on a different drive than the actual application/data) i suppose would make up for the slower overall throughput.

Just an idea... (it's probably redundant by now, too... oh well)

Re:Don't expect large numbers of these (1)

michael_cain (66650) | more than 13 years ago | (#208792)

I'm going to be the incurable optimist here -- once someone discovers a way to do the job with a very rare (hence very expensive when there's a big demand for it) element, the materials science folk seem to find other ways to do the same job with more readily available elements.

Re: Question about that MRAM stuff (2)

michael_cain (66650) | more than 13 years ago | (#208793)

The MRAM sounds really cool. I buy the arguments about low-power and high-density, since it looks like it's just two layers of metal and a hunk of magnetic stuff for each bit -- doesn't draw power except during read/write, doesn't need the four/six transisters of a static RAM cell, doesn't need the big ol' capacitor of a DRAM cell. Write time much faster than FLASH since you don't have to wait around for all those electrons to do quantum tunneling.

I'll also buy that this would be really helpful for situations like a notebook where the computer it's used in is frequently shut down in a controlled fashion. Does it buy you any quicker boot in the case of a power failure? My PC running Linux is a complex system in which the processor (registers and pipeline), the cache controller, the cache, the main memory, and the disk (virtual memory) all have to be in a coherent state. Does the non-volatile nature of MRAM really make it possible to recover that complete state, or do I still need to go through something like a reboot? Commercial power failure is far and away the most common cause of a "shutdown" on my desktop system...

Shouldn't /. BREAK these kind of stories? (3)

smirkleton (69652) | more than 13 years ago | (#208794)

I know that Slashdot doesn't employ reporters, like CNN and AP. Nevertheless, in claiming to be "News for Nerds. Stuff that matters", and considering the respect Slashdot has earned as a source of editorialized news filtering, doesn't it seem about time for Slashdot to be a source of direct dissemination of this sort of news concerning technological breakthroughs?

Right now, Slashdot in some ways resembles The Drudge Report [] . Drudge himself is hardly even a hack in the news space. He is, at best, a right-leaning news filtration system, with a taste for lurid sensationalism (hence his willingness to constantly link to stories which many in the right-wing would call immoral, perverse, and/or otherwise not worth calling news...). He is, at worst, a launderer of political gossip for extreme wings of either political party, most especially the right. (Again, his love of the lurid will often lead him to be used as a tool for spreading gossip for the left-wing, normally against political opponents on the right... But such is the lot of a tool and slave of scandal and gossip.)

Point being: Drudge barely participates in traditional journalism (and thank the heavens for that, considering his absolutely cringe-inducing grandstanding). His existence is truly parasitical. He depends solely on real journalists working for other news organizations, magazines, etc. to create his own brand of "news".

Slashdot differs from Drudge Report in many ways obvious to any reader of this message board. The very fact that there is a "community" component to Slashdot, with peer-review of comments, and further reviews of those reviews, is substantially more engaging to the news reader than Drudge's gossip post. Yet the two news sites share a common trait- namely, that they fashion their own "source" of news that is itself simply a filtered bias towards other news, administered dutifully every day by human decision-makers who understand the values / interests / worldviews of the demographic they are serving.

Now, fast-forward to my point about "Pixie Dust", so I can tie this sprawling mess into one universal point and walk to my fridge and grab myself a Bawls or two...

It seems to me that there would be an incentive for companies like IBM to cultivate a direct relationship with top-tier tech-news outlets like Slashdot, so that they could break news of their own breakthroughs even faster than they currently do. (Just as political operatives have incentives to break news on DrudgeReport, for instant penetration of the radars of the community...) It seems a marginal effort would be required to get releases about such breakthroughs DIRECTLY to slashdot, so that we would be able to see it here FIRST, rather than see it first on CNN, then a couple of other sites, and FINALLY breaking on Slashdot (the "news for nerds, stuff that matters" network) after it is already soon to be pulled from front page rotation on CNN, etc. I'd prefer that my specialized news sources, like Slashdot, were breaking stories about their field of specialty (technogeek news, in this case) rather than rehashing the geek ephemera that generalized news powerhouses like CNN are producing.

I want to see Slashdot evolve so that it doesn't continue to subsist in the purely parasitical manner that Drudge does.

I want to see whatever clout you've created as a news brand parlayed into better access to breaking news, right from the source.

I want to see some evidence that the successes you've had are leading to growth not only in awareness about you but in your power and sophistication as a news site.

Most importantly, after saying all this, please consider my last request as carefully as anything else you've seen in this entreaty, should the fates smile on me and moderate me upward into your scrutiny.

As you grow more and more like a news organization, gaining in power and might, for the love of all that is good to us your readers, please oh please don't put another Jon Katz on your payroll.

That is all.

Re:Ok, so.... (1)

nerdbert (71656) | more than 13 years ago | (#208795)

Blah, I should know better than to do this so early in the morning. Make that 25.7 Gb/in^2. Sheesh. Gotta get used to these marketing units when talking publicly.

Re:Ok, so.... (2)

nerdbert (71656) | more than 13 years ago | (#208796)

We've already announced the first product to use this technology: the new Travelstars use it to get 25.7 GB/cm^2. Check out the annoucement here [] or off the IBM home page.

Re:You won't be impressed so soon (1)

timcuth (73315) | more than 13 years ago | (#208797)

What about the current "solid state arrays" that are currently used on mid-range systems (such as Sun Enterprise UNIX machines)?

As long as it isn't CPRM enabled (2)

Tony Hammitt (73675) | more than 13 years ago | (#208798)

Let's hope that they don't figure out some way of embedding CPRM into the hard disk surface, too.

Yes, I am joking. I hope...

Re:Cute name... how the heck does it work? (5)

selectspec (74651) | more than 13 years ago | (#208799)

The problem IBM is solving is a general distorted magnetic irregularity in the medium surface. This irregulatirty limits the area dedicated to a bit to a certain minimum size, otherwise the bit would "blend" in with the background noise of the medium. I imagine that this new pixie-dust vastly reduces the magnetic variance/distortion. Thus, allowing for finer resolution of the bit area.

when will they stop bloody spinning (1)

jackherer (82221) | more than 13 years ago | (#208800)

I will only be impressed when mass storage devices stop being spinny bloody wheels inside my otherwise solid state computer...

Re:The only sad thing is... (1)

pcmills (83944) | more than 13 years ago | (#208801)

What I want to see is "Install data files...60gb to go, 30 SECONDS REMAINING... Accessing 400gb of data without faster interfaces is going to be painful.

Power Off? What's That? (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 13 years ago | (#208802)

Ok, so my system DID go down yesterday when the snowstorm caused a power outage. BUT... how about powering it up and loading your entire Linux system on it? Take a minute or two to suck the entire system off the hard drive and load it onto the RAM device, then when you go to start Netscape, Emacs or X (Probably the three biggest offenders on my system) instead of them taking 10 seconds to load, it'd happen instantly.

*instant-on* computers (1)

blackholebrain (90909) | more than 13 years ago | (#208803)

maybe hard drives this size will be a first real step towards computers that *snap* on like lights...

just keep that pixie dust away from microsoft's code!!!

Set you free? (2)

Ravagin (100668) | more than 13 years ago | (#208804)

Get it right, Hemos - The Truth shall make ye fret!


Re:Network Elves (2)

cybercuzco (100904) | more than 13 years ago | (#208805)

Actually your network goes down because you run a token ring lan. If somone unplugs the cable, the token will fall out and the network will go down. you have to find the token and put it back in the cable in order to bring the network back up ;-)

Re:Ruthenium (1)

dwhitman (105201) | more than 13 years ago | (#208806)

The explosion isn't really caused by the ruthenium, it's the chlorate anion. Chlorate is an extremely strong oxidizer - damn near anything that isn't already at its highest oxidation state will explode with chlorate.

From the Merck Index

7600. Potassium Chlorate

Keep out of contact with organic matter or other oxidizable substances. Caution: Explodes with sulfuric acid, inflames with explosion if triturated with any organic substances, sulfur, phosphorus, sulfite, hypophosphite, and other oxidizable substances.

Re:Don't expect large numbers of these (2)

dwhitman (105201) | more than 13 years ago | (#208807)

While ruthenium is relatively rare (0.0004 ppm in the Earth's crust), it is an article of commerce used in many different applications: thick film resistors, hardening alloys for pen nibs and electrical contacts, catalysts for many industrial chemical processes, colored ceramic's a long list.

The small amount used in the IBM drives will have essentially no effect on availability.

Re:You are both right (1)

vague (107055) | more than 13 years ago | (#208808)

"That's being lazy."

The game programmer has a finite ammount of time to spend on a project before the deadline hits. He can spend that time optimizing HD space usage _or_ he can spend that time making the enemy AI smarter and the game faster. In the best of worlds he could do both, but in this reality he has to chose. What do you prefer this programmer choses?


Wonderful stuff, that dust! (5)

The_Messenger (110966) | more than 13 years ago | (#208809)

I had a chance to visit IBM's facilities in Research Triangle recently, and I can vouch for the fact that this "pixie dust" is pretty amazing. It's applied to the disk in units called HITS, or "Hyper-Inductive Transfer Systems". I didn't pick up much of what the engineers were saying, however, because after three or four HITS of dust the damned winged blue monkeys became too distracting.

The monkeys appear to be related to this dust, but the exact nature of the relationship lies just beyond my grasp. Perhaps they have something to do with the genetic experiments conducted by one IBM's former business associates, Germans I believe.

Hopefully these HITS of dust will be available to the mass market soon!


Ruthenium (3)

Fesh (112953) | more than 13 years ago | (#208810)

Heh. And to think that the Carpatho-Rusyn people were up to now only known to historians as "those guys who were oppressed by the Czechoslovakians in the 1930s". Well guess what, world? We've made it! Ruthenia forever!

This message brought to you by the Carpatho-Rusyn Liberation Front. Accept no substitutes.


Re:Solid State Recycling! (1)

commanderfoxtrot (115784) | more than 13 years ago | (#208811)

Does anybody know about the intelligence of Linux disk caching routines? Are there patches out there that will adapt themselves over time to minimise hard disk usage (like noflushd but cleverer) and thus make my system quieter?

Re:It's all fine and well, but... (1)

commanderfoxtrot (115784) | more than 13 years ago | (#208812)

Get two.

Re:Flash Memory Storage? (1)

donglekey (124433) | more than 13 years ago | (#208813)

Jesus dude, just use a RAM disk.

Re:The only sad thing is... (1)

pallex (126468) | more than 13 years ago | (#208814)

Well, the idea is that the programmers can say `who cares how big my game is - it doesnt matter! storage is cheaper than ever, the main loop of the game is fast enough, and if its not, get a better 3d card/faster cpu/more ram - its cheap. This allows me to concentrate on good gameplay!".

Thats the idea. Unfortunately, this idea is not backed up by any games i`ve seen in the last few years.

You are both right (2)

mangu (126918) | more than 13 years ago | (#208815)

High resolution and full-motion video clips do increase dramatically the size of games. However, there are many games that store those clips in uncompressed AVI files. That's being lazy. No matter how big storage capacity is, an efficient programmer must make the best possible use of it, if only to have space for even more video clips.

You won't be impressed so soon (3)

mangu (126918) | more than 13 years ago | (#208816)

About 20 years ago, chip manufacturers started making "bubble memories", which were magnetic solid state devices with no moving parts, intended to replace disks. But the mechanical manufacturing of hard disks evolved much faster than magnetic bubble technology. Later came flash memories that took away the only remaining market niche for bubbles.

Today, an entirely solid state computer seems to be still very far in the future. They are even making PCMCIA hard disks for cameras and PDAs, so the trend seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

Re:The only sad thing is... (1)

AngrySpud (134678) | more than 13 years ago | (#208817)

You kids and your 150 MB hard drives. I remember having to uninstall Windows 3.1 so I would have space to put King's Quest 5 (which took up ~18 MB) on my IBM PS2 Model 30 with a 20 MB disk.
And I won't even bring up my Apple ][.

Re:Patents? (3)

jedwards (135260) | more than 13 years ago | (#208818)

How about 6197439 [] ? Just because they chose not to mention them in a press release doesn't mean they haven't protected their IP.

Definitely won't sell well in China (1)

AlienWorker (144927) | more than 13 years ago | (#208820)

...because in Chinese "Pixie" means leather shoes. Go figure...

Re:Ruthenium (1)

Lizard_King (149713) | more than 13 years ago | (#208821)

What exactly is ruthenium? []

Make sure to keep all potassium chlorate away from these drives!! "The metal is not attacked by hot or cold acids or aqua regia, but when potassium chlorate is added to the solution, it oxidises explosively. "

Re:IBM strikes again (1)

nycdewd (160297) | more than 13 years ago | (#208823)

you poor slobs... i can't hear either fans nor HD's (i do use ONLY IBM HD's)... of course, i use Mac minitowers (G3, G4)... heh heh... and yes, my hearing is quite unimpaired.

You can buy one (1)

Snuffub (173401) | more than 13 years ago | (#208825)

Not only does the technology exist, but according to arstechnica [] theyre already for sale. Thats a first hype a technology AFTER its been released instead of three years down the road.

Re:IBM strikes again (1)

InsaneGeek (175763) | more than 13 years ago | (#208826)

Only problem is that all of the SSD's I know of are drive backed up with a spinning disk. In the event of power, etc. loss they start destageing all their information to spinning disk. When they get turned backon it takes 20 minutes or so to get fully back off of the drive.

Goes with the Magic Blue Smoke (4)

Nuncio (179612) | more than 13 years ago | (#208828)

I've always known they put Magic Blue Smoke into computer components. It's undetectable, but you can definitely prove it's there. When you let the Magic Blue Smoke out of the device, the device doesn't work anymore. This goes for anything that uses electricity. :-)

Solid State Recycling! (2)

Zzootnik (179922) | more than 13 years ago | (#208829)

So everyone wants to give the little hampsters inside our hard drives (or pixies-WHAATEVER...) and many people are whining about "Solid state drives would be Soooooo Coooooolll!"... was I...Well I know I've got a huge handful of old 30 and 72 pin memory simms...No, they aren't as fast as a new DIMM @PC133, but I'll but they're a Helluva lot faster than any old spinning hard-drive...and if I'VE got a couple o handfuls...I can only imagine what some other people have, let alone anyone who has been specifically collecting this stuff....

So what I'm thinking about is like an external drive bay that has NOTHING but SIMM slots in it-and a LOT of em....capable of maybe 20 gigs...okay-maybe 5 gigs...Connect up through a PCI card or even an existing ide cable or something...

Does this sound feasible???

Re:kill your mp3's! (1)

fireweaver (182346) | more than 13 years ago | (#208830)

This is nothing but marketing hype. Direct Sound Digital is nothing more than Pulse Width Modulation, which has been used for years in everything from power supplies to -ta da!- audio amplifiers. Nothing new here.

Flash Memory Storage? (2)

xx01dk (191137) | more than 13 years ago | (#208833)

I just got to thinking about the feasibility of using solid state memory instead of hard disk drives.

Seams to me that Kingston (and probably others) sell flash memory modules up to 512MB. With a little bit of hardware know-how, I think it would be possible to finagle an array of a few of these (let's say, oh, I dunno, 8 should do it) for a grand total of 4.096 GB. Expensive? Yes. At current prices, ( says $600 per 256 MB) this is... um... $4800. Yikes!

Anyhow, that's about $1.17 per megabyte. Cnet says I can get a 4.3 gig HD for $91. This is about $.02 per megabyte.

Just from a quick google search, I found out that generically, 512 Mb flash mem supports a r/w speed of 3.0/1.5 Mb/s. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that "seek time" would be something like 200 nanosecs. Our 4.3 gigger, on the other hand, maxes out at around 12/6 Mb/s, but only an "average" seek time of 9.5 milisecs. Comparatively speaking, the flash memory wins the seek time test (almost 50 times as fast) while the hard drive is four times as fast reading and writing. Tortoise and the hare, anyone?

The only other thing I can think of is to some how support an array of standard, EDO or SDRAM memory with a keep-alive voltage with a hard disk only for backup. I mean, I certainly wouldn't want to store any important data on volatile memory, but for Quake and the like, you probably couldn't beat it.

Just another random thought: I wonder how fast a computer would be able to boot up using pure solid state? I don't have one of those palm-thingies yet...

Please feel free to correct my math or my (ahem) facts, this was just a quick search during one of my numerous "email catch-up breaks". Thanks.

Well I never! (2)

Papa Legba (192550) | more than 13 years ago | (#208834)

Thought I would see the day that "Tinkerbell" was a viable name for a line of hard drives...

Re:Network Elves (4)

micromoog (206608) | more than 13 years ago | (#208838)

Don't forget to put a bit bucket under the open cable when you go looking for the token. That way, you can catch any data that falls out, and pour it back in the cable before reattaching it.

They get it from EverQuest? (2)

QwkHyenA (207573) | more than 13 years ago | (#208839)

I thought I saw a IBM-Employee Clan of Dwarves splat'n Pixies for their dust in greater Faydark! Or did they buy it over on eBay?? along with their BloodForge armor??

Re:The only sad thing is... (1)

GunFodder (208805) | more than 13 years ago | (#208841)

No one is twisting your arm to play newer games. Why don't you get some compilation discs of Space Quest and Might and Magic and stop complaining?

Three weeks ago... (2)

2nd Post! (213333) | more than 13 years ago | (#208842)

When IBM released their 25Gb per platter drives.

Geek dating! []

Oops (2)

2nd Post! (213333) | more than 13 years ago | (#208843)

Not per platter, but per ^2cm.

Geek dating! []

News at Eleven.... (1)

The Ape With No Name (213531) | more than 13 years ago | (#208844)

Some kid will crack that drive open, get a big whiff and then have all of LA chasing him down the Ventura freeway, shooting sparks off the rims and mowing down concrete barricades.

We don't need a war on drugs, we need a war on dumbasses.

Re:Don't expect large numbers of these (1)

Hieronymus Howard (215725) | more than 13 years ago | (#208845)

It's only a 3-atom thick layer of Ruthenium. 1000 gallons should last a very, very long time.


Re:IMB Always has been doing great things (5)

hillct (230132) | more than 13 years ago | (#208849)

The Required posting of theory behind antiferromagnetically-coupled media ml [] . Interesting Stuff...


I guess this means no solid state solutions ? (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 13 years ago | (#208850)

So for another two or so years Harddrives, with their fragile and moving parts will dominate the scene.

While I like the idea of bigger drives, I really want to see a non-volatile storage solution that does not have any moving parts come along.

Why should the industry invest in them if harddrives just become bigger and cheaper?

About the only need would be for space agencies and military organizations - and with cutbacks in most countries even they come to rely on cheap and easy.

Hopefully there a few IBM'ers or others out there snorting some other dust and inventing that storage solution.

IMB Always has been doing great things (1)

Rosonowski (250492) | more than 13 years ago | (#208851)

IBM has always made great harddrives. They were the first to use glass substrates, and their drives are the only ones I trust. They're not too exspensive, and they hold up to anything. I've dropped one a few times with no ill effects.

However, with 'pixie dust', I can imagine that there is a small chance that the 'pixie dust just might fall off in on of these situations. Better be careful.

What is going on at IBM? (5)

OpCode42 (253084) | more than 13 years ago | (#208852)

"Peace, love and Linux"

"Our new hard drives have pixie dust in them!"

Whats next? IBM OpenAcidTab 1.0? :)

Re:You won't be impressed so soon, unfortunately (1)

booser108 (302999) | more than 13 years ago | (#208853)

Solid state HDs would be much faster. With the size of modern day HDs, I'm willing to buy a smaller HD(say 20 gigs) if it is 20 or more times faster then a 1 TB hd(Maybe not but I would like to think I would.)

Re:You won't be impressed so soon, unfortunately (1)

Bobo the Space Chimp (304349) | more than 13 years ago | (#208854)

Would be good for compiles, but if you have cash to burn, you might as well get 2gig of ram and just use giant ram disks. For that matter, I know there is hardware out there that plugs in as if it were a HD but is actually a huge box or RAM.

Re:IMB? (1)

Bobo the Space Chimp (304349) | more than 13 years ago | (#208855)

> You have misspelled MIB

I don't want that Noisy Cricket(TM) Pixie Dust(TM) hard drive from IBM(TM). I want a hard drive using that big honkin' platter hanging on the wall behind the receptionist in the main lobby. That's gotta store WAY more info, right?

Re:The only sad thing is... (1)

Bobo the Space Chimp (304349) | more than 13 years ago | (#208856)

> You kids and your 150 MB hard drives. I remember
> having to uninstall Windows 3.1 so I would have
> space to put King's Quest 5 (which took up ~18 MB)

Bah! What's a hard drive? I remember laughing at DOS guys because my Mac had 2 floppies (and 1 MB of RAM! Hehe, 640k losers!)

See, before that, we had TRS-80's (no model number) and we typed in long games from magazine printouts, and even if we didn't make a typo, the games didn't work anyway, and we saved it on tape because that's what you did, and we liked it!

And before that, we had an Atari game (no model numbers) and we programmed the Atari Basic cartridge, which had room for 11 lines of code in its RAM. And we programmed it in our minds because we couldn't actually afford such a thing, and we liked it! You imagined yourself using the optional numeric keypad to clumsily edit lines, then you imagined yourself executing the code.

And before that, my buddy had a Bally's Whateverthehellitwas, and it had a drawing cartridge where you could tell the cartridge to repeat a drawing sequence in pixels larger than Julia Roberts' lip fat injections. One day I "programmed" it with a sequence that, when repeated, drew a guy walking up a stairs, complete with stairs. We couldn't even save it, because that's the way it was, and you liked it!

Re:Wonder Woman and Feminum (1)

Bobo the Space Chimp (304349) | more than 13 years ago | (#208857)

Lotta good feminium does if they don't have enough to make magic bracelets for all to keep the Nazi's from shooting the residents. The driving force behind technological advancement is materials science, after all...

Re:Ok, so.... (1)

Bobo the Space Chimp (304349) | more than 13 years ago | (#208858)

Notice from the article this piece of meaningless marketting poop way near the top in only the 3rd paragraph:

For consumers, increased data density will hasten
the transition in home entertainment from passive
analog technologies to interactive digital formats.

I wanna invest if it is needed for the Internet! Now I can store 4x the already massive numbers of DVD's I can copy to my hard drive!

Network Elves (2)

jperrin (307897) | more than 13 years ago | (#208859)

I've long believed that when our network goes down its because the elves have tripped over their shoes laces.

Re:The only sad thing is... (1)

Targetman (308365) | more than 13 years ago | (#208860)

2 things:
4K memory
that's what REAL programmers do.

Solid State and the Pixie Dust Whitepaper (4)

Si_Druid (318772) | more than 13 years ago | (#208863)

Yo, so a few more related IBM links from this late reporter...

IBM Research's announcement w/ a link to the whitepaper on the new tech: 8_pixie_dust.shtml []

IBM Think Research article on Solid-State RAM (eventually storage, too?): 01/20010202_mram.shtml []


I wonder how fast they're going to be (2)

MatthewNYC (413607) | more than 13 years ago | (#208866)

For significant applications, single hard drives don't cut it. The seek times involved for ongoing reads and writes make them inefficient. This can be corrected somewhat using non-fragmenting file systems but even so, as I understand, if there's a bunch of little files continuously being modified (like journal files on a DB) the head's going to be jumping around too much and the app is going to be waiting on it. If they're going to pack this much data on a drive, they'd better speed it up.

Re:They get it from EverQuest? (1)

Genyin (415163) | more than 13 years ago | (#208867)

Those IBM Bastages KSed my pixie trickster! garrgh!

Re:Solid State Recycling! (1)

pytheron (443963) | more than 13 years ago | (#208868)

Don't be a fool ! What happens when you power off ? Oh yeah.. Memory is non-retentive of data...

The only sad thing is... (1)

cuyler (444961) | more than 13 years ago | (#208869)

The sad part of this new technology is that it's going to allow game programmers to be even more sloppy. Back in my day (I'm not that old) I had a 128mb hard drive. Games had to be small. Then came along CDRoms, the pentium and 1gb drives and we got games like Lords of the Realm, don't get me wrong I love that game but it did have a huge install base for it's time (~150mb).

Right now, it's not uncommon for a game to require 1/2 gb for install and some are even coming out to require more then that. Imagine what will happen when a 400gb drive is standard -- 75gb installs? Instead of the "Installing data files, this make take a couple of minutes..." are we to see "Install data files...60gb to go, you might as well go have supper then see a short movie." because DVDroms aren't going to be that fast in the near future.


Leading the pack once again (2)

cnelzie (451984) | more than 13 years ago | (#208870)

IBM is great. Lately they seem to always be on the forefront of Hard Drive Technology. Although I do have to agree with an earlier posting about Solid State Hard Drives. Heck, if I had the money I would definately invest in about a dozen of those 3Gig Solid State drives. Of course at something like $5,000 a pop I do not believe that I will be running those in my PC anytime soon.

This is a Bad Thing (3)

Greg's Trolling Acct (452430) | more than 13 years ago | (#208871)

The only possible use for a drive this big is making illegal copies of DVDs and CDs. IBM should know better.

Size to speed (3)

D Anderson n'Swaart (453234) | more than 13 years ago | (#208872)

I am wondering if IBM is also conducting as much research into solid-state storage solutions as they are into disk-based ones. We are eventually going to reach a point where we cannot store any more data per unit area of disk, and we are also going to reach the stage where reading these units of data will be unfeasibly slow using magnetic heads attached to a moving arm. This time is likely to come sooner rather than later, and the problem needs to be addressed. When one has a 500 TB hardrive, but the disk IO is only 500 MBps, it will start to become problematic, and at the moment the fact that a hardrive requires a spinning disk is also limiting computer design in terms of both data buses and case appearance. A laptop must have a certain amount of space for a hardrive (although it is debatable whether solid-state drives would be any smaller, one must assume they would surely become so), and those motors take a lot more power than a solid-state media is likely to consume. So, while advances like pixie-dust are great in the short term, what is being done in the long term to create a fully CMOS-based computer, where the only mechanical movement is the fans?
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