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Flash Memory HDD for Notebooks Launched

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the now-put-them-in-ipods-please dept.

Data Storage 277

ukhackster writes "Traditional magnetic hard drive platters could be on the way out, thanks to SanDisk's launch today of a hard drive based on flash memory chips. The device can store 32GB of data and is meant for notebooks . SanDisk claims that using flash chips means faster access and better reliability, so less danger of a serious system crash wiping out all your valuable data if you drop your laptop. The downside, though, is price. At an extra $600 dollars, are price-conscious consumers going to be interested?"

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277 comments

Just in time for Macworld? (3, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462232)

Hrmmmm..... just in time for Macworld? Oh please, oh please, oh please.....

I've written about this before in a number of places, but most recently here [utah.edu] on my last trip to Argentina, but I am hoping that we will see a revised 12in Powerbook nee MacBook Pro (or smaller) in the next Macworld because I really do miss the smaller form factor. It would be tremendously useful for travelers and photographers as well as giving us better battery life.

I am currently using a 15in Powerbook that I traded up from when the 12in Powerbook was cancelled, but a smaller footprint would help tremendously with travel. With the 15in Powerbook/Macbook Pro, I love the illuminated keyboard and the performance, but would be willing to pay a premium to carry a smaller laptop, subnotebook or tablet running OS X. It does not even have to have an optical drive as I rip movies I purchase or rent to the hard drive for long airline flights and in fact, if we could get flash drives down a bit in price (or get a sweet deal on bulk purchases for the manufacturer), it would be possible to even get rid of the hard drive provided we could still pack 30-40 GBs of storage space in the device. Battery life would be improved and if you combine it with a 10in diagonal new technology LED display (or OLED), we may even be able to get away with seven or eight hours of honest full on battery life. So Steve, come on dude. We've talked about this before several times. The technology currently exists or is damn close and I am sure there is a market for such a device, so please, please, please.

Re:Just in time for Macworld? (5, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462352)

Yup, people eager to line up to pay over the odds for flashy underpowered trinkets are the ideal market for the initial release of this technology.

Re:Just in time for Macworld? (4, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462734)

Yup, people eager to line up to pay over the odds for flashy underpowered trinkets are the ideal market for the initial release of this technology.

Ha ha ha. Seriously though, the ideal market for this technology has been defense related work for a number of years now. However, costs are decreasing to a point where we can now start putting these drives in Toughbooks (to make 'em even tougher), or portable devices that do tend to get bumped and thrown around a fair bit more. Just witness my last passage through customs here in the US where a "Homeland Security" officer inverted my laptop bag, dumping out the contents onto a desk from over a foot high. Laptop, point and shoot camera, cell phone and a portable hard drive loaded with photos all came crashing down. If there were flash discs instead of hard drives, I would have been perhaps less pissed off.

The other category where flash drives are absolutely critical is for lots of remotely control data gathering devices. One of my friends who has been working on remotely piloted vehicles has been clamoring for just this sort of technology as it is much more rugged than hard drives for their applications (hard landings).

Re:Just in time for Macworld? (2, Funny)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463436)

Yup, people eager to line up to pay over the odds for flashy underpowered trinkets are the ideal market for the initial release of this technology.
You mean Mac users right?

Re:Just in time for Macworld? (1)

kitman420 (864936) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462736)

There's no mention about the maximum number of read/writes to Nand flash. According to Sandisk themselves at best you will get 2,000,000 erase cycles per sector. That's why you don't put a journalled OS on a CF card. Unless this new flash does a lot of smart data placement (which would probably cause a lot of data fragmentation) or OS in these new laptops is designed for flash memory use, I wouldn't buy one anytime soon.

Re:Just in time for Macworld? (1)

BWJones (18351) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462848)

According to Sandisk themselves at best you will get 2,000,000 erase cycles per sector.

Is that substantially different from magnetic media? This is not my area of expertise, but I seem to remember reading that magnetic media (hard drives) has similar duty cycles.

Re:Just in time for Macworld? (1)

mikeisme77 (938209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463058)

Data fragmentation isn't an issue with flash memory--they don't need to spin up to the point where the data is located, they can simply access it right away. However, the limited number of erase cycles can be a problem. It all depends on how the file system/you are going to use the drive. If you're going to be moving data, replacing data, etc. often and don't need the benefits of speed and durability then this isn't for you yet. However, if you're primary concerns are durability (as mentioned in the posts about why this would be important to defense contractors) then this would be extremely useful. Likewise, if you don't have a file system that is constantly moving files around on the hard drive (to prevent fragmentation) and you don't really delete your files/programs all that often then the speed and durability might be what you're looking for (although the $600 price point is rather hefty... so you better REALLY need the speed...) At the moment, I would assume that durability is the greatest pro that might be the clincher for those who need hard drives that can sustain a considerable amount of abuse (e.g. remote air crafts and such).

Re:Just in time for Macworld? (1)

IMarvinTPA (104941) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463064)

What does fragmentation have to do with anything on a flash device? There is no head to move to anywhere to get the data.

IMarv

Re:Just in time for Macworld? (2, Funny)

locokamil (850008) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463238)

Awesome. A story about a platform neutral technology is hijacked and converted into a MacWorld rumor mill.

Am I flaming? Assuredly.

It's a corporate tool (1)

Brickwall (985910) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462276)

But price-conscious consumers won't be the initial market; it will be security conscious businesses that don't want to risk losing valuable data worth much than $600. They will buy enough of them for the price to move down the demand curve, and into the consumer market. Look for them to be standard issue in 3-5 years.

Re:It's a corporate tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17462764)

it will be security conscious businesses that don't want to risk losing valuable data

... that's what backups are for. Its not just mechanical hard drive failures you have to worry about ...

Back up - snapshots of drives to dvd, work in svn, snapshots of svn, copy on separate server at separate location, and daily changes on usb keychain + separate server at separate location. Anything less is just stupid if your data is really worth anything.

Re:It's a corporate tool (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463034)

Ok. How about for field engineers who are already hard on equipment? I'd bet that the hard drive is one of the more common failure of Toughbooks. Take that out of the equation, and you can keep your guys in the field working longer, without the downtime of repairs. Backups are good, but they don't solve every problem.

No. (4, Informative)

geekboybt (866398) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462292)

By definition, a person who is "price conscious" will most likely not spring for the +$600 pricetag. The cost/GB is way too high. I see it being introduced just as any other technology - early adopters will get half-baked, Rev. A quality devices and pay a large premium for them. Once adoption becomes more widespread, prices will come down, and the "price conscious" (read: patient) folk will reap the benefits of the early adopters' beta testing.

An extra $600? (4, Insightful)

8127972 (73495) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462324)

" At an extra $600 dollars, are price-conscious consumers going to be interested?"

Economy of scale will ensure that it's not $600 for long.

Re:An extra $600? (4, Interesting)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462684)

Sorry, you dont really get more economy of scale than flash already has.

There are improvements ahead with further process shrinks, but to get the same storage than a decent big HD has, you need roughly all chips of a 20cm wafer.

And creating 100s of cm^2 of memory-quality dice isnt cheap.

HD (5, Interesting)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462326)

What a wonderful life will be when a computer will contain NO MOVABLE mechanical components. This is actually the real bottleneck in modern machines and not processor power as many people think.

Those things are ineffective , slow, power hungry,relative unreliable, etc. I wonder how they dis last so long.

Oh well, we are still using wheels in our cars so... maybe it's not so surprising after all.

Re:HD (3, Interesting)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462498)

Do CF/SD cards/chips suffer the same multiple write problem that USB keys do? (my assumption is yes)

Specifically, can they handle *thousands/tens of thousands* of writes as Windows (or whatever OS) does it's behind the scenes busy work?


Re:HD (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17462714)

I had no end of problems with CF cards while doing some embedded systems work. Surprisingly, the limited write cycle was the least of the problems; mostly the cards tended to die due to improper powerup/power down where, presumably, transient currents would somehow fry the card. It happened to several brands and I never understood why they didn't have integrated protections from this sort of thing. A second, more sinister type of failure was due to mechanical shock; it seems the wires within the chips (those gold ones connecting the silicon to the pins) would break. Found this out the hard way after moving a chip to a working card. (soldering was most likely not the cause, since the card started working again with the original chip put back into place).

We won't be getting rid of mechanical parts... (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462560)

So long as we need fans to manage temperature. Those are much, much cheaper to replace, though.

Re:We won't be getting rid of mechanical parts... (1)

BluhDeBluh (805090) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462644)

Not all computers have fans... there's loads of examples of passively cooled computers

Re:HD (1)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462660)

The transfer rate on most flash memory is slower than hard drives (sometimes much slower). Their only speed advantage is no seek time for random access.

Re:HD (3, Insightful)

mean pun (717227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463002)

The transfer rate on most flash memory is slower than hard drives (sometimes much slower). Their only speed advantage is no seek time for random access.

For this particular application that might not be a problem, since a lot of memory chips will be needed, and you can access them in parallel.

Re:HD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17462790)

Oh well, we are still using wheels in our cars so... maybe it's not so surprising after all.
What the hell else would you put between your car and the road? Greased skis?

Re:HD (1)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463056)

A cushion of air. Duh.

Re:HD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17463306)

Yeah, because you wouldn't use any moving parts to generate a cushion of air.

How did those Star Wars speeders work? They hovered even while parked.

Re:HD (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463532)

Frankly, hard drives fail so rarely that it's not really a problem in my opinion. I really don't think flash "drive" is as fast as a hard drive of the same price, there's really no point. The problem with flash is that for each bit, you have to architect tiny wires, with a drive, it's just a two-state point in a magnetic medium, for the near term, cost effectiveness, speed and density of hard drives simply win out. If you are so worried about reliability, for $500 you can RAID-mirror two 200GB drives in a notebook and have 6x more storage than this flash drive.

Maybe next year.

The question on every /.er's mind: (2, Funny)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462338)

When can we get flash memory for strippers? We're already paying out the ass to see their tits. I'd like to remember the experience a little longer.

Re:The question on every /.er's mind: (1)

geekboybt (866398) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462378)

You know, there is a reason those places are mostly dark. And it's not just because of the looks of the clientèle...

Re:The question on every /.er's mind: (1)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462430)

Are you trying to tell me strippers are vampires who would go up in flames were they to be exposed to UV radiation?

You might be on to something.

It's not aimed at price-conscious consumers (3, Insightful)

PatHMV (701344) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462360)

Such a system is obviously not aimed at those for whom price is the main consideration. For those interested in performance, however, an extra $600 may well be worth it. I paid more than that to upgrade my laptop screen to a very high resolution, because it was worth it to me. I could definitely see myself paying an extra $600 for a system with this, though it would also need to have an actual, larger capacity harddrive, too, for my data.

iPod Fanboys Start Talking About This..... (2, Funny)

8127972 (73495) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462362)

.... Being in the next iPod in 5 - 4 - 3 - 2.....

Re:iPod Fanboys Start Talking About This..... (1)

3.14159265 (644043) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462614)

I was thinking... wouldn't it be great to have one of these in an iPod??

Nah... Sansa... (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462670)

I'm listening to a Sansa right now with 8 GB flash. These things are great. As far as I'm concerned, they ARE the "ipod killer". I actually got a 2 GB iPod Nano for XMas, but my GF said that it was so pathetic, she went out and bought me a top of the line Sansa (cheaper, too).

Here is a small, clueless suggestion (4, Interesting)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462386)

Since flash is so great for laptop HDs, why not get a small flash memory card to serve as the HD instead of that whole shebang? For example, why not mount the root and user partition on a small 2GB flash card, which in eBay goes for less than 40$, and then mount the /home partition on a regular HD? Possibly I'm missing something important here but as far as I see it, 40$ are a whole lot less than 500$.

Re:Here is a small, clueless suggestion (1)

abradsn (542213) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462634)

I think that's the basic idea that windows vista is adopting with using the hybrid drives.

Re:Here is a small, clueless suggestion (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462638)

16*40 = $640, more than the $500 32 gig hard drive that is proposed. So your solution is more expensive, per megabyte, on the flash partition. This has been done before (see: the iOpener computer). The reason why a true road warrior would not want to do this is because you are generally using flash in (1) low power and (2) high vibration environments where you don't want a hard drive, period.

Re:Here is a small, clueless suggestion (1, Insightful)

tgd (2822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462680)

Yes, you're missing something. And yes, $40 is less than $500.

Re:Here is a small, clueless suggestion (1)

tef (1042040) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462682)

Umm.. if a 2gb flash drive = $40... that's $20/gb and a 32gb flash hd = $600.. that's $18.75/gb Looks like the price isn't far off from the current costs.

Yup (1)

zlogic (892404) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462698)

Yup, I had a simular idea in mind - buying a Cardbus/CompactFlash adapter (cause CF cards are the cheapest) and plugging it in the Cardbus slot (that's not used anyway). After that I'd leave about 10% space for backups and use the rest for ReadyBoost (which seems to be intelligent enough to cache stuff).

Re:Here is a small, clueless suggestion (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462740)

A similar concept is on the way: drives with a few gigs of non-volatile flash on top of their usual magnetic medium. But there is a downside: while using flash for a write cache or boot cache or whatever else means lots of good things, it also means most of your data is still on spinning discs. Drop that thing once or twice and the only thing left might be that 2G. This drive will probably find first use in rugged devices, where they've already been looking for various methods of getting laptops that can survive being air dropped while running, etc. They'll be willing to throw down the cash because its one of the few options they have in the area.

In the consumer area, the price is probably too high currently to justify the benefits of faster shut down and hibernate times (no need to worry about flushing the on disk cache anymore), and lower average power usage (your solution might cut down on time spent with the HDD moving, but this one cuts the moving parts out entirely). I'd imagine in four years you'll be able to afford it. That should be long enough that drive capacity catches up, read/write speeds improve (I doubt they'll catch up), and the necessary manufacturing capacity increases to come online.

Re:Here is a small, clueless suggestion (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463118)

Flash filesystems avoid writes to reduce wear on the flash, so there should be more dirty data in memory at shutdown time, not less. And since writing to flash is slower than writing to disk, hibernate should take longer.

Re:Here is a small, clueless suggestion (1)

archen (447353) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462934)

because var and swap will destroy a CF card? The idea behind using a CF card is to save power, when you are still using a HD you are using MORE power (HD + CF). You could use a CF card and run var/swap off of a memory filesystem via PCMCIA adapter, but you've been able to do that for years.

Re:Here is a small, clueless suggestion (1)

businessnerd (1009815) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463232)

If we're talking the security of your data, and if we are also talking about having both a built in flash drive and a standard spinning hard drive, then I'd rather put the OS on the spinner and put my valuable data on the flasher. The OS is easy to restore. The OS is generally unchanging from when you first set it up, and if you require a highly customized OS setup, you can always take a once time backup image once you get it just the way you want it. You're valuable data, on the other hand, isn't so easy to restore unless you have been making backups. Making frequent backups also becomes more difficult on a laptop, where the machine may be disconnected from its backup storage for extended periods of time.

Ideally, though, going all flash is the way to go. It's expensive now, but the price will come down. It always does. And the fewer moving parts directly affecting your data on a machine that is very prone to bumps and falls the better.

Re:Here is a small, clueless suggestion (2, Insightful)

llZENll (545605) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463278)

Even if it were cost feasible your drive would die in a matter of months or years because flash, especially cheap flash has a limited number of write and read cycles, very small actually, 1000-10000 on some. If windows is churning at your swap file it would only take a day or so to do that many writes. Also the bandwidth of normal cheap flash drives is pretty crappy. The SSDs have special write algorithms in them which spread the writes out around the disk evenly, this extends the life of the memory gates much beyond normal flash memory.

Re:Here is a small, clueless suggestion (1)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463318)

It's doable, and there's even a product to enable it:

http://www.addonics.com/products/flash_memory_read er/ad44midecf.asp [addonics.com]

I picked up a 4GB CF card a while back to do backups on (both a 20GB and 30GB HD started erroring out in my pen slate due to excess heat, so I'm back to the original 4GB HD) and intend to try this out as well.

Downside is that apparently having swap space on the card will exceed its read / write cycle capacity fairly quickly (anyone know what the symptoms of that are? Or if there's a way to check on the remaining lifetime?)

William

Effect on Battery life? (5, Interesting)

LehiNephi (695428) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462408)

Any modern CPU is fast enough for me these days, and I don't need a real big screen on a laptop. What I want is good, solid construction, and long battery life. How much of a laptop's power use is due to the hard drive? And how much of that is saved by using a flash-based disk?

Speaking of which, can someone show me how power consumption is divided among the parts of a laptop (CPU, chipset, wireless, drives, graphics card if applicable, LCD, backlight, etc)?

Re:Effect on Battery life? (5, Informative)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462830)

The power distribution in a modern notebook is EXTREMELY dependent on usage and the special model you look at.

Averaged, the biggest power-draw of a modern notebook is the display, followed by the cpu. (this may of course vary if the notebook has a very small display. With equal brightness, power-draw of course increases with display size, until it dominates everything else with those 17" 200cm/m^2 display). After that is chipset and GPU (of course depending on with model you use).

2.5" HDs are actually not very power-hungry. Typical power-draw figures are 5W during spinup, and about 2W while in use (dropping to 0.5W or so during spindown).

The FLASH drive mentioned draws about 0.6W in use, so in average you might gain 1.5W thats about 3-5% of the average power-draw of a modern notebook, and should give you about 10-15 minutes or so more.

Cringley's metal film disks (4, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462414)

Where's cringley's metal film disks? He said they were going to be in produciton soon and would cost less, use less power and have lower latency to flash even when spun down. They also work at elevated temperatures (suited for cars and embeddeds) and are insanley shock resistant. They could even be spun up to 30,000 rpms making them have higher data rates and lower latency. And they were lower profile than conventional disks. They sound a lot better than these flash compromises since there's no compromise. It's just an ultra-low power hard disk.

Re:Cringley's metal film disks (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17462856)

The downside of his metal film disks is that they're powered exclusively by hype.

Do you really trust the guy who falsely claimed to have a Stanford PhD [wikipedia.org]?

Re:Cringley's metal film disks (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462890)

Please forget them. They are shit, will never work, and every argument he made in his blog-post was unscientific bullshit aimed into collecting disposable venture capital.

If the product will ever be released (i dont think so), it will be at a point of time when the stated specs (if reached at all) will be laughably outdated. And even then its much likely to be another click-of-death fiasco, because the whole technology is DOA.

ATTN: SanDisk Execs (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17462444)

I will only pay $600 for a 32GB HD if that includings getting to fuck your teenage daughters. If that is not acceptable, lower the damn price.

Also, is this an actual 32GB drive as in 34,359,738,368 bytes? Or is it another lie and only 32,000,000,000 bytes (29.802~ GB)?

My recent purchase of a "320" GB drive is actually only about 298 GB. What a scam.

Re:ATTN: SanDisk Execs (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463294)

The metric system was devised in the 18th century with the prefixes kilo, mega and giga. Just because some lazy asshat decided that 1024 was "close enough" to 1000 when talking about computer memory doesn't mean everyone else has to follow suit. Hard disks have been using K = 1000 since before processors standardized on binary arithmetic.

Limited write cycles? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17462452)

Doesn't flash memory have a limitation on the number of writes
that can be done before the memory becomes unable to store data?

I acknowledge my familiarity with flash memory is at best cursory.

Re:Limited write cycles? (1)

Undertaker43017 (586306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462832)

I have read this as well, and was my first reaction when I read this. I heard this is a particular problem with FAT file systems, since every file write requires a master record update, which causes that place on the flash to "wear out".

Re:Limited write cycles? (1)

jrwr00 (1035020) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462978)

well, sandisk could make a new file system, and add the drivers to winblows, (better make is OSS or linux geeks will go nuts)

Re:Limited write cycles? (1)

ScriptMonkey (660975) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462854)

The manufacturer rates the mean time between failure (MTBF) at 2 million hours (or about 220 years), which seems pretty darn good. This drive presumably uses a wear leveling scheme to evenly spread writes over different erase blocks, which dramatically decreases a flash device's MTBF.

Who ever mind? (1)

michelcultivo (524114) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462476)

Who ever mind this flash device when it only can carry 32GB if today we have notebooks that has 160GB.

Re:Who ever mind? (1)

D4rk Fx (862399) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462652)

This Flash disk is a 1.8" form factor device. Toshiba just recently announced a 100GB Version that was slated to be out this month some time. Currently the largest Hard Disk in 1.8" form factor is only 80GB. This drive is not that much smaller in capacity, and has enormous advantages in seek time performance.

nomenclature (5, Informative)

tonigonenstein (912347) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462494)

Can you stop calling them "flash hard drives"? They are precisely not hard drives, but flash drives. It is like saying "liquid crystal cathode ray tube" or "electric internal combustion engine".

electronic internal combustion engines are called (1)

1800maxim (702377) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462880)

Hybrids ;)

or, combustion engines are electronically controlled... which is true of modern engines, as they're controlled via ECM (throttle-by-wire).

Re:nomenclature (4, Insightful)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462964)

Can you stop calling them "flash hard drives"? They are precisely not hard drives, but flash drives. It is like saying "liquid crystal cathode ray tube" or "electric internal combustion engine".
What's wrong with flash hard drives? They're flash, they're hard (I've yet to see a flash drive that was spongy), and they're drives. This is nothing like your other two examples because this one is still accurate. Now, if they'd called them "flash hard disks" or "flash magnetic disk" or something ridiculous you'd have a point. As it is, flash hard drive is both accurate and useful since by using the same terminology as current hard drives makes it easier for the average user to get their head around it's purpose.

Re:nomenclature (1)

LMacG (118321) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463018)

I'm having a little trouble with "drive" for something that doesn't move at all. Let's fall back to old-school IBM nomenclature and call them Flash DASD.

Re:nomenclature (1)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463148)

Sure, and I've known people who called 3.5" floppies "hard disks" too, because they're hard and they're disks. That doesn't mean those people weren't idiots.

Re:nomenclature (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463274)

Sure, and I've known people who called 3.5" floppies "hard disks" too, because they're hard and they're disks.


The hard part of a 3.5" floppy is not a disk, the part that is a disk is not hard.

Re:nomenclature (1)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463304)

The disks themselves aren't hard (hence "floppy"). More importantly though is that "hard drive" has a specific purpose terminology-wise that a floppy disk doesn't fulfill, but this current technology does. I'd rather have a slightly dubious name for this technology that didn't require me to explain to everyone what it does and that just might help the uptake of these things. This has been a long time coming and if a practical flash-based alternative to traditional HDDs is in sight then I'll gladly call them "iPokemo-flash" if that's what it takes to get these things mass market acceptance (and lower prices) quickly.

Re:nomenclature (1)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463222)

Now, if they'd called them "flash hard disks" or "flash magnetic disk" or something ridiculous you'd have a point.

The correct term of art is SSD - solid state disk.

Re:nomenclature (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463094)

Actually, shouldn't it be something like "Flash RAM"? A drive refers to a moving part, while the storage is, well, random access memory. I know it would confuse the hell out of the poor bastards who buy computers at Wal-Mart (PIII with 50 GB of RAM!!! Only 99.99!!!), but it seems to me that that would be the most accurate name...

Is the limited write still a conern? (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462562)

I have a 7 year-old laptop with a similarly aged drive and the whole thing still works. Will the flash drive last that long given normal to heavy usage?

Re:Is the limited write still a conern? (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463408)

Heavy I/O = writing 100 blocks/sec * 512 bytes * 7 years * 365.25 days * 24 hours * 3600 seconds / 32e9 = 353 complete writes (assuming load leveling). Allowed number of writes = 100,000 or 1,000,000 so I think you are safe.

Any mention of performance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17462612)

Don't SSD drives smoke the pants off of conventional hard drives? Does anyone have details?

Re:Any mention of performance? (1)

djh101010 (656795) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463220)

Don't SSD drives smoke the pants off of conventional hard drives? Does anyone have details?

Oddly enough, TFA addresses this, and even gives details, yes.

Top 10 Data Loss Disasters (1)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462632)

I can't imagine my laptop being the only source of my "valuable data". Admittedly, it's a bit of work, but I'm constantly synchronizing files back and forth between desktop and laptop. So I did a quick Google search to see how many cases of laptops containing valuable data there were. This article [reseller.co.nz] has some fun anecdotes about dropping laptops.

Seriously, though, there's some kind of marketing idea that dropping laptops is a huge problem. Apple's solution [apple.com] was one of the biggest gimmicks I've ever heard of. Do people constantly drop their cell phones, Blackberrys, PDAs, etc.? Do they not back up the "valuable data" to another location in case it's stolen?

I'm not going to pay an extra $600 simply for the extra reliability. Surely there's better advantages to publicize?

mandelbr0t

Re:Top 10 Data Loss Disasters (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462712)

I'm starting to buy these things for my business desktops. There's nothing more frustating and time consuming then when a hard drive fails.

where's the stats? (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462642)

They don't have a single actual read/write speed rating given in the whole article and you know what that means. It's not as fast as they say cuz they tested it in unfair circumstances or something. But still, it'd be sweet to have a solid state hard drive, especially in iPods since they break A LOT with their current storage technology.

$600 for 60GB is a bargain (3, Interesting)

BenJeremy (181303) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462678)

Why all the complaints about the price? This is about more than security, too... it's about power consumption and speed, too.

My thoughts?

Price:

$10/GB is not out of scale with current flash pricing, but nonetheless, the pricing will continue to fall. Initial release of "new" technologies like this inevitably start off pricey, usually dipping 50% after a year. I see this type of product falling even faster.

Advantages:

Forget security. The name of the game is power consumption. Hard drives (and DVD-ROM drives, too) suck a LOT of power on a laptop. Flash-based HDDs should offer a considerable improvement in battery life, and for many people, this is the "killer app" that will move this product from bleeding edge to consumer-level.

Power? Nah (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462762)

Nah, I don't think it'll be power. Honestly, where do you go in the modern world that doesn't have power? In fact, when I get a new laptop, the first thing that I do is get rid of the battery. They're heavy, hot, and they're rarely useful.

I'm buying flash drives for reliability in my business computers.

Someone fails at math.. (1)

D4rk Fx (862399) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462746)

In its own tests, SanDisk says its flash drive can boot up Windows Vista -- the next version of the Windows operating system -- in 35 seconds, 28 seconds faster than the 55-second boot-up time required with a conventional drive.
55 - 35 = .... 28? What the hell?

Re:Someone fails at math.. (1)

tpjunkie (911544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462912)

In its own tests, ....

The lesson here is take any company's product description (especially before its released) with a grain of salt.

flash memory limited rewrites (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462782)

Flash memory has (depending on which technology) a limited life of 10^5 or 10^6 write operations. Now imagine your swap space being on flash.

Get used to the notion that this will mean you have to buy a new drive as these wear out now too. and older drives will start developing mysterious read errors, so will also need additional space-consuming data-redundancy for an error recovery strategy.

What about lifespan? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 7 years ago | (#17462800)

Conventional wisdom / rumor is that these non-volatile memories have a limited number of write cycles before they fail. I still haven't heard anyone explain why that wouldn't be a problem for these drives. Anyone?

Re:What about lifespan? (2, Informative)

mean pun (717227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463256)

Conventional wisdom / rumor is that these non-volatile memories have a limited number of write cycles before they fail. I still haven't heard anyone explain why that wouldn't be a problem for these drives. Anyone?

A mixture of:

  • Because the limit is actually fairly high.
  • Because wear leveling over such a large number of bits makes the problem less serious.
  • Because in practice many people don't actually write that much to a disk.
  • Because if you buy one of these things you accept that as part of the trade-off.

Re:What about lifespan? (1)

IMustBeNewHere (899319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463504)

Ok, I'll give it a try.

These drives will probably use wear levelling. That means that (ideally) all sectors on the drive must be written to once, before any sector is written to a second time - and so on.

So, with 2 million writes per sector, you have to write 3200 MB * 2E6 = 6.4E9 MB before the drive fails.

If the average write speed over a 24h period is, say, 1 MB/s the drive will fail in 6.4E9 seconds, or about 200 years. Still, I don't think you will want to put your swap partition on one of these ...

Big deal -- you too can boot off flash! (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463062)

If anyone cares to google for "compact flash ide" you see a number of devices $20 that will allow you to use a compact flash card as an IDE hard disk. (desktop or laptop)

You can get an 8G compact flash card for about $160. Sure it isn't 32G, but it is enough to put a full install (Windows or Linux) and have some space for your stuff. Your music collection and pictures will probably have to live on the USB drive you already have because laptop dis drives usually die after a year or two anyway. (Usually from the abuse)

1,000,000,000 bytes does not equal a GB (4, Insightful)

llZENll (545605) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463162)

With these new disks would be a great time for manufactures to align their specs with the consumers mind. i.e. 1,000,000,000 bytes does not equal a GB. For once I would like to buy a drive and actually be able to use 34,359,738,368 bytes and not the crummy 32,000,000,000 they are selling.

Re:1,000,000,000 bytes does not equal a GB (1)

Buelldozer (713671) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463484)

Maybe the consumer mind should stop doing Fisher-Price mathematics and realize that not everything needs to end in a nice round number.

8 or 16GB (1)

sottitron (923868) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463166)

Does anyone else think 32GB might be bigger than they need? I wouldn't spend $600 more, but I would spend $150 more for an 8GB version and just leave my MP3s at home. I realize Vista won't install on 8GB (then again, maybe its close), but OS X (without GarageBand and iMovie) or XP should fit on there just fine.

Off-topic (2, Insightful)

subl33t (739983) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463384)

I can't take it anymore!

Attention taggers: "no" is not a tag, it's an opinion. Same goes for "yes" and "maybe". Submit it in a post or STFU.

Re:Off-topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17463448)

I just tagged it with all three. You're welcome.

FTA 128GB SSD just around the corner (1)

llZENll (545605) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463444)

"The NAND flash contained in the SanDisk drive, in fact, only contains one bit of data per memory cell. SanDisk makes NAND flash that can hold two bits of data per cell and, through Msystems, has technology for expanding that to 4 bits of memory in a cell. Increasing the capacity can thus be accomplished without massive technological breakthroughs."

Hrrrrm. (1)

LikeTheSearchEngine (995759) | more than 7 years ago | (#17463528)

A more reliable laptop, which is lighter, less prone to failure from abuse, and may even last longer on a charge, at the price of not much storage space and ... the price.

Seems like the target market should be the military.

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