Since 2001 Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell has been compulsively tracking every bit of personal data that he generates in his daily life, in the interest of finding out just how much digital storage it would take to contain it.
Bell, who works at the Microsoft Silicon Valley Research Group and is calling his project MyLifeBits, has stated that “The problem isn't putting it all in. The problem is getting it out. When I started, I couldn't find anything!” Currently Bell has been able to track all the web sites that he’s visited (221,173), photos he’s taken (56,282), emails he’s sent and received (156,041), documents written and read (18,883), phone conversations had (2,000), photos snapped by a SenseCam hanging around his neck (66,000), songs he’s listened to (7,139), and videos taken by him (2,164). In order to collect all this information he users a desktop scanner, a digicam, a heart rate monitor, voice recorder, GPS logger, pedometer, smartphone and an e-reader.
He does suspect that there’s some need to forget though. Being able to wipe clean difficult memories of the past could be some evolutionary trick. “If you think you should forget, you should,” states Bell. “But for God's sake, keep all the papers you've written and the photos you take. Sometime down the road you might be looking for something and you won't even give yourself the chance of finding it.”
We've seen a plethora of new SSDs come to market this past year, some of which have been geared towards upping the performance ante while others have attempted to make the price-per-GB ratio a bit more appealing. Corsair's new Extreme Series X256 focuses solely on the former and turns a blind eye towards the latter.
"The new 256GB Extreme Series X256 is a response to the growing popularity of high-capacity SSDs, and it joins our Performance Series P256 at the top of its range, for enthusiasts who want the fastest speeds and plenty of space available for their pictures, music, and videos."
The new drive combines the Indilinx Barefoot controller with Samsung MLC NAND flash memory and is aimed at "enthusiasts who don't want to compromise on speed or capacity." To that end, the 256GB drive boasts read speeds of up to 240MB/s and write speeds of up to 170MBs, 64MB of cache to help prevent stuttering, and user-upgradeable firmware.
Last week, Corsair announced its new 128GB Voyager flash drive, a super-capacious thumb drive with a super-high price tag ($400). At the exact opposite end of the spectrum, OCZ today announced a new line of USB flash drives, dubbed Zee, aimed at users on a tight budget.
"Designed for the consumer on the go, the compact Zee is an economical USB drive that makes it easy to transfer images, multimedia, and essential data between multiple computers," commented Alex Mei, CMO of OCZ. "The Zee is designed to be affordable to the complete range of consumers, and is available in large capacities up to 16GB yet is both lightweight and compact so that it is highly portable."
In addition to 16GB, the Zee is also offered in 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB capacities. Other details remain sparse, including rated transfer speeds, price, or availability.
All of a sudden we feel woefully inadequate waving around our 16GB and 32GB thumb drives. That's because Corsair on Thursday launched what it claims is the the world's fastest high capacity USB flash drive, the 128GB Flash Voyager GT.
"High performance is a key requirement for super-high capacity flash drives, such as the 128GB Voyager GT, simply because it is able to store such a large volume of data," said John Beekley, the VP of Applications at Corsair. "The 128GB Voyager GT is nearly twice as fast as other high-capacity flash drives, which means less time waiting for your music, video, or office files to copy to and from the drive."
According to Corsair, the MLC-based drive can hit read speeds of up to 32MB/s and write speeds of up to 25.6MB/s thanks to the Voyager's dual-controller architecture. The company also says you're more likely to run into bottlenecks with your USB 2.0 bus or OS system overhead before the drive loses its pep.
All that speed and capacity doesn't come cheap, however. The 128GB Voyager GT is available now with a street price of around $400.
A password bug forced Intel to halt shipments of its new 34nm X25-M G2 SSDs after some customers -- including OEM builder Puget Systems -- complained of data corruption if a password is set on the drive in the system BIOS and then is changed or disabled later. Intel was able to hammer out a firmware update that squashes the bug and resume shipments of the new drives.
For those who purchased one of the potentially faulty drives before they were pulled, Intel has posted the firmware update to its website. The firmware applies to both the X25-M and X18-M SSDs on 50nm (black case, G1) and 34nm (silver case, G2), however there are some issues with the latest firmware.
According to Intel, some Nvidia chipset-based systems, including Macs, will not recognize an Intel SSD. The solution? Install the SSD in a different system to update the firmware and then reinstall in the Nvidia rig. Other potential roadblocks include a "known website compatibility" issue with Apple Safari (Intel recommends running Firefox to download the update), and the Firmware update Tool does not support updating SSDs in systems running RAID.
Intel and Micron have developed a new 34nm NAND flash memory technology that is capable of 3 bits per cell, which allows for greater density than the standard 2 bits per cell technology currently in use, the two companies announced this week.. According to Micron, this will pave the way for high-capacity USB flash drives.
Micron also said the technology isn't yet as reliable as flash memory based on 2 bits per cell technology. Because of this, the 3 bits per cell chips will only be used in the manufacturer of flash drives that don't require the data storage reliability of an SSD.
"The chip is not for all markets," claims Jim Handy of semiconductor market researcher Objective Analysis. "The companies explained that they need more experience in production volumes before they will be confident to position it as a chip suitable for the high-write environment of the SSD."
Micron said the chips will be in mass production in the fourth quarter.
We've longed bemoaned the real-world write performance of most SSDs, which often falls short of the much speedier read speeds. Even worse, surmises HotHardware, is the potential for an SSD's write performance to degrade over time.
"The flash memory used on today's SSDs is comprised of cells that usually contain 4KB pages that are arranged in blocks of 512KB," writes HotHardware. "When a cell is unused, data can be written to it relatively quickly. But if a cell already contains some data -- no matter how little, even if it fills only a single page in the block -- the entire block must be re-written. That means, whatever data is already present in the block must be read, then it must be combined or replaced, etc., with the new additional data, and the entire block is then re-written."
The good news is most manufacturers are attacking the problem head on via firmware. One such example is OCZ's implementation of the Indilinx firmware, which the company plans to include on all Vertex series drives. When the drives are idle, Indilinx and other similar SSD firmware sweep through an SSD's cells looking for and removing so-called "garbage data."
HotHardware got its hands on one of OCZ's new Vertex drives outfitted with the Indilinx firmware and the results are pretty surprising. After "dirtying" the drive with chunks of data, performance degradation became apparent while running the ATTO Disk Benchmark. But after letting the drive sit idle for 5 minutes, performance numbers were nearly restored to new condition.
It’s been a long time since TDK had bragging rights in the storage wars, but a new breakthrough promises to put them back on top. According to the companies recently released roadmap, a 3.5 inch 2.5TB drive design is currently being tested which will feature a new 640GB platter. This would allow TDK to leapfrog Seagate, Hitachi and even Western Digital who are still working with 500GB platters.
Mass production is currently planned for November of this year and will most likely result in drives hitting the street on or around late January or early February 2010. TDK is also investing heavily in the production and testing of a new 320GB platter for 2.5 inch drives which will result in low power, high performance 640GB notebook drives around the same period next year.
Sure this is a far cry from the 5TB Hitachi was promising for 2010, but TDK can still be king for a day right?
Hitachi can't lay claim as the first manufacturer to develop a 2TB hard drive -- that distinction belongs to Western Digital -- but it is the first one to do so with a 7200RPM spindle speed, besting the spindle speeds found on 2TB drives from both WD and Seagate.
"The new Deskstar 7K2000 reflects our ongoing commitment to provide customer, channel partners, and OEMs with proven, reliable solutions for enabling desktop computers, gaming systems, workstations, and desktop RAID arrays," said Brendan Collins, vice president of marketing, Hitachi GST.
Hitachi's fourth generation Deskstar crams 2TB onto a five-platter design "with relaxed bit density" and perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) technology. As would be expected in a modern, high performance drive, the 7K2000 boasts 32MB of cache and a 3Gb/s SATA interface.
Active Media Products, makers of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Penguin and Panda USB drives, has added to its Penguin line with a bootable Linux USB (BLU) drive that the company says is compatible with Windows 7.
"These bootable Linux USB drives are handy for users who need flexibility in an OS, and will be an invaluable tool for disaster recovery and system maintenance," Active Media stated in a press release.
Designed in the likeness of an emperor penguin with "exacting detail," the new drives come in 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB capacities, each one pre-loaded with the full installation of Ubuntu Linux 9.0.4., which occupies about 700MB of space.
The drives are available now ranging in price from $13 (1GB) to $44 (16GB), with 5 percent of the retail price donated to World Wildlife Fund.