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Data Storage Portables Hardware Technology

Flash Memory HDD for Notebooks Launched 277

Posted by Zonk
from the now-put-them-in-ipods-please dept.
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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Flash Memory HDD for Notebooks Launched

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  • by BWJones (18351) * on Thursday January 04, 2007 @02:56PM (#17462232) Homepage Journal
    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.

  • HD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by El Lobo (994537) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @03:01PM (#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.

  • by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @03:04PM (#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$.
  • by LehiNephi (695428) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @03:05PM (#17462408) Journal
    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)?
  • by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @03:05PM (#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:HD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @03:10PM (#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?


  • by BenJeremy (181303) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @03:19PM (#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.
  • Re:An extra $600? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by imsabbel (611519) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @03:20PM (#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.
  • Re:HD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 04, 2007 @03:22PM (#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).
  • by BWJones (18351) * on Thursday January 04, 2007 @03:23PM (#17462734) Homepage Journal
    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).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 04, 2007 @03:28PM (#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:HD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by labreuer (950633) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @05:41PM (#17465188) Homepage
    Actually, the number of writes on flash memory tends to be in the millions these days. Combine this with wear levelling [wikipedia.org] and Windows should run just fine on it.
  • by creamandchives (654511) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @06:12PM (#17465644)
    Just as well you didnt have a WMD in there, it could have exploded/leaked/bled all over everyone at the airport...
  • by profplump (309017) <zach-slashjunk@kotlarek.com> on Thursday January 04, 2007 @06:49PM (#17466244)
    Even with gigs of RAM it's still useful to have some swap space. You won't use it all the time, but it's still handy to have.

    The obvious example is transient large memory use. I've got all my usual apps open. Now I want to play WoW on my lunch break. Rather than quitting everything I can just let the system swap out my apps when WoW loads and swap them back in when I quit. Maybe your laptop holds enough RAM that you don't care, but mine only holds 2 GB, and I can easily use more than that, particularly when you throw something like WoW into the mix.

    I'd also consider things like an automounter -- in my use, the automounter gets called maybe 2 times a day, but it has to be running all the time to be effective. I'd rather wait for it to swap-in and run than have it taking up real memory on my system all day long. Sure, the automounter by itself isn't big, but combined with the other 25 trivial programs that are always running you can see non-trivial memory savings.

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