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Data Storage Apple

Apple Kicks HDD Marketing Debate Into High Gear 711

Posted by Soulskill
from the foot-pounds-per-league dept.
quacking duck writes "With the release of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Apple has updated a support document describing how their new operating system reports capacities of hard drives and other media. It has sided with hard drive makers, who for years have advertised capacities as '1 GB = 1,000,000,000 bytes' instead of the traditional computer science definition, and in so doing has kicked the debate between marketing and computer science into high gear. Binary prefixes for binary units (e.g. GiB for 'gibibyte') have been promoted by the International Electrotechnical Commission and endorsed by IEEE and other standards organizations, but to date there's been limited acceptance (though manufacturers have wholeheartedly accepted the 'new' definitions for GB and TB). Is Apple's move the first major step in forcing computer science to adopt the more awkward binary prefixes, breaking decades of accepted (if technically inaccurate) usage of SI prefixes?"
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Apple Kicks HDD Marketing Debate Into High Gear

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  • by schmidt349 (690948) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:27AM (#29242587)

    What's more, Apple's been sued a couple of times over the definition of a gigabyte by angry idiots who didn't understand that 10^9 != 2^30. Possibly they're doing this in part to minimize their future liability.

  • by Daimanta (1140543) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:29AM (#29242631) Journal

    And people who manufacture things for computers should adhere to that standard.

    Next up: Astronomists convert to the 100-day year.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:31AM (#29242653)

    I have always hated conventional electric polarity. The + of a battery or circuit is always the one supplying the electrons and confuses anyone who understands something about electron flow. This needs to change first, then we can worry about prefixes.

  • makes sense to me (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:32AM (#29242669)
    This makes perfect sense to me. We're getting to the point where the OS reports filesizes back to the user as 17MB or 1.3GB or whatever. It makes sense that they would settle on one easy to remember method of expressing those values. Sure, the geeks among us understand the difference between a GiB and a GB, but we shouldn't expect the average layperson to have to know that 1GiB really is 1,073,741,824 bytes. Let the basic Explorer or Finder views report the filesize back in simplistic, rounded values that most people will understand, so long as the actual real filesize values are available in the Get Info windows, Explorer properties, command line or wherever.
  • People use base 10 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aaronrp (773980) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:32AM (#29242673) Homepage Journal
    And people who manufacture things for people should adhere to that standard. Computers are the means, not the end.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:33AM (#29242679)

    I'm quite a nerd myself, I never think that 1 terabytes = 1 048 576 megabytes

    Well of course not; why the fuck would you want to? That's like wondering how many hours there are in a week - who cares? 1 terabyte is 1024 gigbytes. Converting it into megabytes is pointless for the purposes of most people.

    Hey let's have a 10 bit byte as well to make conversions that nobody ever does, easier.

  • by Speare (84249) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:34AM (#29242691) Homepage Journal

    For things where there's a clear "address bus" that consists of all possible permutations of a binary bit field, it makes sense to use the powers of two. The 2^10 kilo-, 2^20- mega, 2^30 giga- is just a convenience in terminology due to their approximate equivalence to 10^3, 10^6, 10^9, respectively; however, the bigger you go, obviously they diverge quite a bit.

    For things addressed by a system of arbitrary track/cylinder numbers, say, 336 tracks or 1435 tracks, and arbitrary platter/head numbers, it's ridiculous to say that they should follow the "convenience" of the powers of two scheme.

    So, how should flash drives be measured and marketed? While the components are physically based on an address bus, they present themselves to the host with sector numbers just like the spinning drives do. They can also reserve some "spare" cells in their internal mapping, for wear-leveling or error correction. I'd say they could easily make the case for marketing under SI/IEEE powers of ten.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:36AM (#29242711) Homepage

    If it were a debate, there would be discussion and consensus building. This is a case of marketing trumping computer science.

    We see it all over. When facts, figures or even units of measure are are hard to adjust to, just spin it into something that makes more sense.

    I wonder, though. If they decided to call these "metric memory units" would I feel any better about it? Perhaps I would. But the fact remains that there is still 8 bits to a byte and not 10. That's where the problem starts and addressing things further down the pipe makes the solution inconsistent. Perhaps the best solution is to take everyone off of the decimal counting system and either cut a finger off of the hands and a toe off of the feet of every newborn or bio-engineer everyone to have 8 fingers and toes on each hand and foot would reduce confusion a bit.

    Let's be clear on this situation: HDD makers, instead of making larger HDDs would rather spin the numbers to make them appear larger instead of actually being larger. And to do this, they have changed a standard unit of measure. But the same thing is happening with milk and other food producers seeking to change the definition of "organic" so they can sell more food without actually being organic. The same thing is happening in other computer hardware makers where laptop battery life is exaggerated. (Yeah, I can get two weeks of batter life out of my laptop ... if I don't use it!) It is past time that consumer advocacy and government agencies step in to regulate the false advertising.

  • by hedwards (940851) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:38AM (#29242723)
    Not really, how many hours in a week is a lot easier to do in your head than how many bites in a terabyte. Additionally, the computer scientists shouldn't have been using prefixes that already had a meaning.

    And BTW, the answer is 168.
  • by gcnaddict (841664) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:39AM (#29242737)
    the prefixes "kilo," "mega," "giga," "tera," etc. all go by tens.
    Kilo = 10^3
    Mega = 10^6
    Giga = 10^9
    Tera = 10^12
    and so forth.

    Rewriting these to go by the tens digit in the exponent attached to 2 (2^10 = 1024, 2^20 = 1048576, etc.) is kinda... stupid, actually, since it strips the meaning of the prefixes. I know that hardware manufacturers heart binary, but this is one of those cases where doing so would be defacing the English language and all languages which use these prefixes.
  • by neokushan (932374) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:41AM (#29242781)

    Does it make a difference though?
    To the end user, it doesn't matter how many bytes are in a MB or a GB, be it 1000000 or 56125142, the end result is all they'll ever see. So the difference is going to be if they see 17MB or 16.2MB. To them, its just a number, they don't care where that number came from, all they know is that 17Mb is going to take up a certain percentage of the hard drive.
    The only people it actually poses a problem for are those that actually do know the difference, the ones that prefer to adhere to one standard and have been using that standard for years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:41AM (#29242783)

    > 1 terabyte to 1024 gigabytes is easy. How quickly you calculate that to 4TB? 15TB? 492TB? Or for more better example, 405GB to MB's?

    It's a COMPUTER, why not let it do the calculation for you? This is why we use the machines in the first place.

    The interface should give you the option of reporting bytes in SI or traditional CS units.

    A bigger issue, for me, is why the stupid Finder reports file sizes based on blocks! This makes no sense. I can plug in a flash drive, and the Finder will report that a 12KB file, copied to the desktop, is now a 16KB file. This isn't rocket science, FIX IT already, Apple!!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:46AM (#29242835)

    You mean by redefining it to mean something different from what it had normally meant during the previous four to five decades, a meaning that had been used in untold thousands of books, scientific papers and Slashdot postings?

    Must be some strange new meaning of 'common sense' that I wasn't previously aware of.

  • by Kokuyo (549451) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:48AM (#29242861) Journal

    Seriously, did you ever need to? I've been in IT since 1998 and I cannot remember ONE situation where I thought "This is so inconvenient, I need a calculator for this shit. Couldn't they just make a Gigabyte 1000'000'000 Bytes?"

    So we've had a defined standard that was, arguably, not the easiest to understand. THEN harddrive manufacturers started their fraud. And THEN people started complaining. So what, and please think about this, would be the right decision here?

    As to being complicated: If that is your argument, then all the English speaking countries should switch to metric according to your logic. Obviously, a lot of people don't like that. So why is it okay here and not okay there?

  • by hoarier (1545701) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:49AM (#29242873)

    The SI prefixes have been around for nearly 5 decades, and have a specific meaning used by everybody. Every scientist uses them in one way or another, and for every last one of of them, they have the same meaning.

    Why can't we, the C.S. people, accept that?

    The lasting ambiguity for hard drives has perhaps been less a matter of computer science than one of marketing. (The pervasiveness of inch measurements is a heavy hint at uninterest in SI.)

    It used to be that companies were happy if there was a general impression that the drives were bigger than they actually were, because hard drive storage costs weren't negligible and people actually risked running out of space. What incentive would Northgate and Zeos have had for prominently pointing out that their Miniscribe and Micropolis (?) 65MB drives really were what they said they were, rather than what customers optimistically presumed they'd be?

    Now, by contrast, even my laptop has 500 gig-somethings -- I never bothered to see which, as I don't suppose I'll ever use more than one fifth of the space; and if by chance I ever do come close to filling it up I'll replace it with a 4TB drive or whatever's the ludicrous norm by that time.

  • by cheebie (459397) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:50AM (#29242881)

    As much as techies complain about people using technical terms inaccurately, we should use the SI prefixes in ways that mean what they mean. The fact that 2^10 is close to 1000 doesn't mean we get to hijack K/M/G to mean 2^10/2^20/2^30.

    And mentally we're using them to mean powers of 1000 anyway. How often do you _really_ mean 1024 when you say 1K? Personally, I'm always thinking 1000-ish.

  • by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash@omnifar i o u s.org> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:56AM (#29242947) Homepage Journal

    I'm happy Apple is doing this. The use of SI unit names for base 2 values was convenient and gave relatively small errors for low numbers. But up above a gigabyte, and certainly in the terabyte range it's just plain wrong. And certainly nobody who's not a CS person is going to think "Oh, yeah, I divide the base 10 exponent by 3 and multiply by 10 to get the base 2 exponent because this is a piece of computer equipment!".

    The binary SI prefixes aren't that hard to use when they really make sense. Computer science should get with the rest of the world in how things are measured and quanitifed and stop doing so with its own special language understood by those well versed in the field unless that language uses words and terms clearly different from the standard ones.

  • Re:bug (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RedK (112790) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:57AM (#29242951)
    Yeah, but the alternative Mebi and Gibi sounds like something out yaoi. So I'd rather stick with 1 Gigabyte = 1024 Megabytes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:00AM (#29242983)

    For things where there's a clear "address bus" that consists of all possible permutations of a binary bit field, it makes sense to use the powers of two. The 2^10 kilo-, 2^20- mega, 2^30 giga- is just a convenience in terminology due to their approximate equivalence to 10^3, 10^6, 10^9, respectively; however, the bigger you go, obviously they diverge quite a bit.

    For things addressed by a system of arbitrary track/cylinder numbers, say, 336 tracks or 1435 tracks, and arbitrary platter/head numbers, it's ridiculous to say that they should follow the "convenience" of the powers of two scheme.

    So, how should flash drives be measured and marketed? While the components are physically based on an address bus, they present themselves to the host with sector numbers just like the spinning drives do. They can also reserve some "spare" cells in their internal mapping, for wear-leveling or error correction. I'd say they could easily make the case for marketing under SI/IEEE powers of ten.

    Disk geometry hasn't been used for many years. LBAs are how modern disks are addressed. The number of logical blocks is some arbitrary number based on geometry, density, number of spare blocks, etc. However, those blocks hold a power-of-2 worth of user data, plus ECC, EDC, and/or DIF metadata. Since the raw, user-accessible unit is binary and the user data is measured in binary units, there is a good argument for the total capacity to be measured in binary units as well. This would apply to FLASH devices as well.

    If the storage devices weren't block oriented, like streaming or byte-level devices, then abandoning the power-of-2 would b more reasonable.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:03AM (#29243017)
    And for a thousand years "sinister" meant "left" (as in the opposite of right). Things change, get over it.
  • by Sububer (887134) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:05AM (#29243045)
    Seriously? These sound like next generation Valley Girl names, not self-respecting geek prefixes.

    When using prefixes that end in 'a' or 'o', I feel macho. Megabyes! Teraflops! Yottapwnage! Yeah, baby!

    From my cold, dead hands, Apple.

    BTW, who thought of the cutsey name "Apple" anyway? Nice name. Pfft.
  • by poopdeville (841677) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:11AM (#29243095)

    SI units have been in use since the nineteenth century. The uses of binary mathematics and exponents in computer science is well understood, and has always been known as an approximate measure. It's called the kilobyte BECAUSE there are about 1000 of them. It is in analogy to (surprise) the SI prefix k-, which denotes 1000. But somehow you expect this to be the only "k-" to stand for 1024. That makes a lot of sense...

    I can understand the computer scientist's reasons for coining the term, but it must fall by the wayside. It is literally wrong, despite being useful in some contexts. In most contexts, it doesn't matter one way or the other. That's more support that the notion of k- as 1024 should be dropped. The only contexts in which 1024 makes any sense at all is when dealing with powers of two. And analytically, it makes MUCH MORE sense to just deal with the powers of two. So k- as 1024 is only marginally useful even when it is useful at all.

  • by AdamHaun (43173) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:12AM (#29243107) Journal

    But the same thing is happening with milk and other food producers seeking to change the definition of "organic" so they can sell more food without actually being organic.

    That's probably not the best example given that "organic" has several much older definitions [reference.com] which happen to include almost all food, while the newer marketing term has given us such gross violations of language as "organic table salt".

  • Re:bug (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mfnickster (182520) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:14AM (#29243129)

    Yeah, but the alternative Mebi and Gibi sounds like something out yaoi. So I'd rather stick with 1 Gigabyte = 1024 Megabytes

    I think that's a big reason why people have a problem with "KiBi," "MeBi," "GiBi" etc. - they just sound silly.

    Since "bit" is a contraction of "binary digit" anyway, I would prefer something like "bi-kilobyte," "bi-megabyte," etc., written "KB(sub)2"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:21AM (#29243195)

    then all the English speaking countries should switch to metric according to your logic.

    Yes. Yes they should all switch to metric.

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:21AM (#29243205) Homepage

    Well it makes a difference to anyone who cares about how much their hard drive can hold. If you buy a terabyte drive expecting it to have about 1,099,511,627,776 bytes and you get 1 trillion bytes, then you're going to come up 99,511,627,776 bytes short.

    Now you're right, most of the people who care very much are also people who understand what the issue is and can calculate what they're actually getting. However, it's still sort of needlessly complicated and disconcerting for users. If you buy a 1TB hard drive (not that rare these days for general consumers) and plug it into your computer, you'll be told that the drive has a .9 TB capacity. So to a large degree, that's the issue. Why should hard drive vendors be using one standard while software vendors use the other? Why should Apple sell you a drive saying it's 160 GB and then have their own OS tell you the drive holds 149 GB?

    I think it makes sense to get the terminology in line.

  • by mfnickster (182520) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:39AM (#29243387)

    >> Now I really don't exactly know what you're whining about.

    > Because it's Apple. Are you new here?

    Actually, you're kind of right there. Apple was at the forefront of making computers usable for the average person, and their Human Interface Guidelines specifically recommend that the computer be made to work the way people do, rather than making people work the way the computer does! :)

  • by pizzach (1011925) <pizzachNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:39AM (#29243393) Homepage

    And certainly nobody who's not a CS person is going to think "Oh, yeah, I divide the base 10 exponent by 3 and multiply by 10 to get the base 2 exponent because this is a piece of computer equipment!".

    Computer science people use the current units because they fit cleanly together and they do not have a direct relation to other normal SI units. It's not like you are going to be trying to divide a gigabyte by a kilogram. It also not like the bits can be made a different size as are bolts to fit into the SI units more naturally.

    "Oh, yeah, I divide the base 10 exponent by 3 and multiply by 10 to get the base 2 exponent because this is a piece of computer equipment!

    So you think programmers are going to be such much happier thinking that their program will run in 1.048576MB instead of 1MB (Mibibyte for you). How are things going to get when people start rounding because of the long decimals?

  • No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by loshwomp (468955) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:42AM (#29243415)

    Is Apple's move the first major step in forcing computer science to adopt [...]

    No, it's not. Disc drive makers have been doing it for years, and it's the right thing to do for a multitude of human factors reasons. Humans use base ten innately, and it is easier to rationalize disc space in base ten units. (The same goes for file sizes, by the way.)

    The fact that computers use binary deep down inside them is a pretty flimsy argument for insisting that we do the same, merely because some peripheral device is attached to said computer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:43AM (#29243425)

    It is common sense that everyone understands what a prefix likes "Giga" means - no matter what it's context, and not to have exceptions which have arisen through incorrect, even if common usage.

    The role of the IEEE is to resolve conflicts just like this. There are many unit systems, naming conventions etc throughout science and engineering which have been replaced or redefined so that they consistent with the rest of science and engineering.

    Why should "Giga" mean one thing for a computer and another for everything else?

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:44AM (#29243431)

    The problem isn't the definition, it's that OS's and hardware manufacturers have been using different definitions. If both of them would stick to factors of 1000, there would be no problem. If they all stick to 1024, there would be no problem. The problem is that both definitions are used.

    The problem is precisely the definition, or rather that computer people think messing with "mega", "kilo", etc is okay because it's their own niche. Mega is understood as 1,000,000 and kilo as 1,000. I got a CS degree, and I always thought it was stupid how we subverted the meaning. 2^10 aka 1,024 is arbitrary, is in no way 1000 and was chosen purely because it was the closest power of 2 close to 1,000. What if every niche started subverting commonly understood scientific measurements for their own convenience?

    We defined bit and byte and the like. Great. We could do that. But we should have left mega and all the prefixes alone. If we weren't happy wit that, go with our own, like 'mebi' series of prefixes has attempted.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:46AM (#29243461)

    And how many MB can you address with a 32-bit pointer under the IEEE recommendations? I bet you can't work it out in your head.

    I don't know the IEEE recommendations, but it's obviously 2^32 / (2^10) (2^IEEE), where IEEE is some exponent representing the overhead of implementing IEEE recommendations.

    For addressable spaces, indexed by binary values, a binary-deriverd system makes more sense. If I have a 16-bit pointer, then I know I can address 2^6 KB of data, and 2^6 is 64, so that gives a 64KB address space.

    Why are you doing this to yourself? There's a reason the kilobyte was introduced, and it wasn't to make computation easy. It was just to give the user a sensible idea of how many characters would fit in a certain amount of addressable space. If you want to compute with address space, just use powers of two.

    A 16 bit pointer can have one of 2^16 possible values. Divide by that IEEE exponent, and you have your addressable space.

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:05AM (#29243625) Homepage Journal

    Computers have used base 2 since the 40s/50s, therefore base 2 is the standard.

    You design a computer that works entirely in base 10 and you can define the standard. In this case, due to the nature of computers, they use base 2. If people can't deal with that, they probably shouldn't be using a computer in the first place.

  • by zzatz (965857) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:07AM (#29243651)

    "This is a case of marketing trumping computer science."

    No, this is a case of standards trumping common (mis)usage. Metric prefixes have been in use for centuries, and they are powers of ten. That's how the national and international standards have ALWAYS used them.

    Those prefixes are convenient, and have been used for powers of two in casual, informal usage. But powers of two were never part of any official standard until recently, when NEW and DIFFERENT prefixes were added.

    Scientists and engineers have always used powers of ten. Manufacturers used to be careful to distinguish between the formal definition (powers of ten) and the casual usage (powers of two). For example, Intel lists the exact number of bytes in parentheses whenever they use the casual meaning of the prefixes, showing that they were aware of the potential for confusion.

    But many reporters and hobbyists were not trained in engineering or science, and missed the distinction. So you ended up with what I think of as "AOL prefixes". Microsoft ignored the standards, as they so often do. They may have been confused by earlier systems, such as UNIX and RT-11, which reported space in numbers of disk blocks, rather than bytes. In early UNIX, the ls command lists the number of bytes without prefixes, and the du and df commands list the number of disk blocks, not the number of bytes.

    I don't expect hobbyists or journalists to get the prefixes right. I can live with the misuse of the prefixes. But it really bothers me when someone complains when the prefixes are used correctly, in compliance to published international standards.

  • by smoot123 (1027084) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:08AM (#29243661)

    Let's be clear on this situation: HDD makers, instead of making larger HDDs would rather spin the numbers to make them appear larger instead of actually being larger.

    I don't think disk drive makers are avoiding making larger disks, they just want to promote the disks in the best light possible. And when it comes down to it, changing units doesn't change the number of sectors on the platter.

    So long as we're all clear on which units are being used, either one is fine. Since most humans don't know the binary units, and there's no natural reason why the number of sectors on a disk should match power of two boundaries, I'm find with using the more common decimal prefixes.

  • by mfnickster (182520) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:08AM (#29243667)

    > 1024 is NOT arbitrary.
    > ...
    > Because computers work in powers of 2.

    What he means is, it's an arbitrary choice of *grouping* - there's nothing in the base 2 or base 10 systems that puts 1024 on a digit boundary.

    1024 is 2^10 - to be self-consistent, they should have chosen 2^8 or 2^16 for grouping, since 8 = 2^3 and 16 = 2^4, but they chose 2^10 because it happened to be "close to 1000"

    They took the "kilo" prefix out of convenience and wedged it into a system not suited for it.

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:16AM (#29243741) Homepage Journal

    "How often do you _really_ mean 1024 when you say 1K?"

    Every day. But then again I've been at this for over two decades, so it's rather hard-wired into my brain.

  • by Score Whore (32328) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:21AM (#29243809)

    Not really, how many hours in a week is a lot easier to do in your head than how many bites in a terabyte.

    I don't know about that. Cause in my nerd world, this is how many bytes are in a terabyte:

    0x10000000000, or
    020000000000000, or
    10000000000000000000000000000000000000000b

    Hmm, that wasn't very hard at all! Maybe there is a reason computer science types use powers of two...

    It appears that the difficulty people are encountering is that they don't actually know why kilobytes, megabytes, etc. have the values they have.

    Consider this:

    10 = 0xA = 012 = 1010b
    100 = 0x64 = 0144 = 1100100b
    1000 = 0x3e8 = 01750 = 1111101000b

    No thanks. I'll stick with powers of two.

  • by smaddox (928261) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:26AM (#29243869)

    If it is more convenient to use KiB, MiB, and GiB, then use them. Just don't call them KB, MB, and GB.

    I don't understand why the hell this is so difficult.

  • by xigxag (167441) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:29AM (#29243893)

    Let's be clear on this situation: HDD makers, instead of making larger HDDs would rather spin the numbers to make them appear larger instead of actually being larger.

    No that's not clear at all. All the facts say otherwise. HDD makers have consistently made their disks larger and larger in capacity every year, more quickly than any other consumer device ever made, while the price has stayed the same or dropped.

    Let me be clear on the situation: HDD manufacturers use round decimal SI-prefix numbers first and foremost for convenience because that is how people count and think, in decimal. It's a minor secondary consideration that the decimal "looks" larger than the binary. The largest drive in wide consumer release now is 2Tb, roughly 10% short of some imaginary 2^41 drive that you seem to think consumers are getting cheated out of. Manufacturers could certainly, unquestionably market a 2.2TB drive/2TiB drive if they wanted to. But nothing is free in this world. Even naively assuming the price would stay the same, it would take them an additional few weeks of development time to put the increased areal density on the platters. Which means the higher capacity drives would be released a little bit later. Higher capacity drives being released over time at the same price point. Hmm, sound familiar? It should -- that's the situation as it currently exists.

    Hence, my contention is that after all the sturm und drang of it all, switching to TiB would in fact be a complete wash.

  • by owlstead (636356) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:37AM (#29243985)

    "And to do this, they have changed a standard unit of measure."

    Bullocks. What they did was *revert back* to the standard unit of measure. What when bytes where 7 or 9 bits? Were you complaining back then? Shouldn't we be calling it an octet?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byte [wikipedia.org]

    Yeah, sure, maybe they did it because it was commercially advantageous. But this really makes more sense.

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:37AM (#29243987)

    The ALU in a computer uses base 2, but that's IRRELEVANT.

    Do all your spreadsheets show their answers in hexadecimal? No, because that would be moronic. I/O operations convert data into *human readable* format.

    There is nothing about hard drive capacity that has anything to do with powers of 2. The number of cylinders, sectors and heads have never been constrained to a power of two. As soon as a single factor of the size is not a power of 2, it blows away any inkling of utility in using powers of two for hard drive capacities. 512-byte sectors don't help one bit. The sizes of files, partitions and other structures on a hard disk have nothing to do with powers of 2 either. Whoever started this trend of showing users invalid SI prefixes was an idiot.

    The only thing that makes any sense to report in MiB and GiB is computer memory, which is about the only quantity in a computer that is typically constrained to a power of 2. Even there, the prefixes should always include the 'i' to remove the ambiguity.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:55AM (#29244147) Homepage

    Because computers work in powers of 2.

    Except when they don't, like floppies, CDs, DVDs, BluRays, HDDs, dial-ups speeds, networks or any of the many other places where they don't. Eventually you run into issues where there's a GigE (1,000,000,000) network adapter running a 3GHz (3,000,000) processor which is processed in 512 MB (512*1024*1024) RAM before being stored over a 3 Gbit (3,000,000,000) SATAII connection to a 1TB (1,000,000,000,000) hard disk. Every time you run into other sciences like "we need to process 1000 samples/second at 16 bits, that's 16 kbits right?" you run into trouble.

    On the other hand, I can go into the details and say that in order to fit the CPU L1 cache it's 64 kB (64*1024) and textures can be maximum 2048*2048 pixels and there are exactly 512 stream processors to work with, you can handle 2^32 bits in an integer and so on and so forth. We're never going to get to where we can ditch base 2 sizes either, they're vital on almost every level once you get into the details.

    Everytime you say "this is not a problem, because computers don't interact with the rest of the world and/or it's always trivial to tell" you are seriously deluding yourself. All the people saying "you should all use kB = 1000 and forget the rest" or "you should all use kB = 1024 and forget the rest" are both deluding themselves. We need both and we need clearly defined units for both. That's why I now say use kB = 1000 where it's correct. "Losing" the battle over kB is the only way we'll have kB and KiB, because clearly it's impossible to change the meaning of kilo = 1000 in everything else.

  • by ezzzD55J (697465) <slashdot5@scum.org> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:00PM (#29244211) Homepage

    1024 is 2^10 - to be self-consistent, they should have chosen 2^8 or 2^16 for grouping, since 8 = 2^3 and 16 = 2^4, but they chose 2^10 because it happened to be "close to 1000"

    Why is it significant what size the bit grouping is w.r.t. the base?

    Why would it not be OK to have a grouping of 10 bits, but would it be OK to take a grouping size 2^3? 3 isn't a power of 2. The decimal system (base 10) is grouped in 3 digits, and 3 is nothing significant base 10. To make it self-consisteny by your logic, it should be grouped in 10 or 100 digits. 3 is just to make it easy to read by humans; it's a good number of significant digits most of the time, when writing down numbers in decimal, and has little to do with the underlying system.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:03PM (#29244247)

    Information about REAL file size is important. I do not care about those extra 1-63?KiB it may occupy on my disk. You may say "if you have 10000 of small files it makes a difference". I say "I can use a proper tool for that". But sometimes I care, how big this text file is. Is it 12 or 23 bytes.

  • by aaronrp (773980) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:08PM (#29244309) Homepage Journal

    ...due to the nature of computers, they use base 2. If people can't deal with that, they probably shouldn't be using a computer in the first place.

    Because using an iPod, or Microsoft Word, or Facebook requires mathematical literacy?

  • by subble (963142) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:50PM (#29244701)
    I have no problem with Apple changing the units in Snow Leopard, so long as they are consistent with the abbreviations. On Leopard, the "About this Mac" window shows memory on my system as "2 GB". If Apple is going to switch to have GB mean 1,000,000,000, then they should express the memory size in the about box using "GiB" for the units, not "GB". It's pretty screwed up to use "GB" to mean one thing in a particular context and to mean another thing in a different context.
  • Re:No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by owlstead (636356) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:50PM (#29244709)

    First of all, a byte has never been inherently 8 bits (and thus never has been inherently base 2), see for instance the *first* line on Wikipedia. It's just a convention that got adopted. But generally, no matter which base, a computer will always understand and calculate sizes, no matter if they are base 2 or base 10. How many people can really calculate in base 2? And why should we?

    Hey, lets invent a machine, decide that base 2 is easiest to implement and hey, just let the entire human race try to do calculations base 2. This for a machine that was calculated to do the fucking calculations FOR US. How is that for stupid?

  • Re:Silly names (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jonner (189691) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @01:01PM (#29244781)

    I don't see what's inherently sillier about "gibibyte" than "gigabyte." If you are complaining about being cutesy, why not complain about "byte" [wikipedia.org] which was derived from "bite." BTW, "byte" doesn't even have a standard definition (though I've never encountered a confusing usage), so to most correct and precise, you'd have to say "gibioctet."

    If "gibibyte" sounds sillier to you than "gigabyte," just give it some time. Many words sound silly when they're first introduced.

  • You lose. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by msauve (701917) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @01:43PM (#29245225)
    It's entirely arbitrary. If you would take the time to understand what is written, you'd see that he's not claiming that 2^10=1024 is arbitrary, but that choosing to inappropriately apply an SI prefix to that value is. It could have been called 1 kibibyte from the start, or the choice could have been made to base multiples on some power which makes more sense in a binary system, such as calling 2^8=256 by some suitably created name (bioct?) and the next multiple (2^16=65536) by some other (bihexd?), etc.

    The SI prefixes have well defined meanings, based on powers of 10, and these existed long before computers. This discussion wouldn't exist if those prefixes hadn't been inappropriately usurped for a different purpose.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @03:11PM (#29246067)

    > 1024 = 1K = 1 Kilo within a base 2 system.

    You're begging the question. This is exactly the point being contested - the prefix "kilo" ALWAYS meant 1000 until it was applied to computer memory, there was no other base 2 system that used "kilo" before that. Even the CS guys only picked it because 1024 was CLOSE to 1000.

    Look, I don't care what you call it. Call 1024 bytes a "SUSHIBYTE" for all I care, just stop calling it "KILO"!

    THAT's where the lie is, not in hard drive ads.

  • by Kumiorava (95318) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @03:27PM (#29246211)

    There is, each power of 10 has it's own name. Kilo just happens to be one of the names that gets more used because it's convenient.

    10^1 = deca-
    10^2 = hecto-
    10^3 = kilo-

    After that naming is in steps of power of 3 to make things easier. Now if 2^ system had special naming scheme it would be fine to use whatever power of 2 that is appropriate, but unfortunately it has mixed up commonly used prefixes with totally new meanings. Using kilobytes meaning 1024 bytes makes as much sense as having megafeet to mean a mile and not 10^6 feet.

  • by xigxag (167441) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @03:48PM (#29246345)

    No, you missed my point, which is that the MB/MiB controversy is irrelevant.

    Imagine that in two adjacent countries, two electronics industries with the same exact level of expertise both produce HDDs. Country A mandates the use of MB and country B mandates MiB.

    In Country A the 1 TB drives comes out as soon as the first manufacturer is able to bring them to market. In Country B, the technology is not *quite* ready yet for the slightly increased density of TiB drives, so they come out a month later. A month thereafter, 1.25 TB drives come out in Country A. A month later, 1,25(lol) TiB drives come out in Country B. And so on. Thanks to technological advances, all of these drives come out at the same price point as the original 1 TB drive.

    Over time you plot out the GB per unit currency in each country and you get the same exact smooth curve. Nobody saved any money, nobody got ripped off by using one designation over another. Even the loss of capacity is offset by the fact that the next level upgrade comes sooner.

    Drive capacity is not like gold coinage where the company can make money by sneakily shaving off bits and bytes. The only advantage to the companies in Country A is being able to release earlier at a certain size point, which, since consumer HDDs are a commodity item and generally not a fashion accessory, counts for very little.

  • by PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @04:22PM (#29246659) Journal
    Agreed. You need no intelligence to use a mac. Whether that's a good thing, or a bad thing, I don't know.

    I do know that I'd prefer to be Patrick Warburton over Justin Long any day.
  • by Skreems (598317) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @05:59PM (#29247403) Homepage

    Now granted, the actual disk capacity hasn't changed by a single bit as a result of changing the notation from a mislabeled TiB to actual base-10 TB, but it at least makes buying the biggest, most expensive drives a little less painful since they don't appear 10% smaller right out of the box.

    I've got bad news for you... while your drives no longer appear 10% smaller, all your files are now 10% larger.

  • by pz (113803) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:21PM (#29248531) Journal

    My car is all metric. I just have to go back to the old system when communicating with others.

    I have and use both imperial English and metric and don't have a problem with either. I've even used 16p and 8p but no metric nails.

    Falcon

    Call me biased. Even call me bigoted, but I will stand by this assertion: American, UK, Oz, and Kiwi scientists and engineers, who have grown up around TWO systems of measurement, Imperial and Metric, are far more adept at scale conversion and at thinking in arbitrary units than European scientists who have been coddled into laziness and complacency because they only have one.

    Remember this, people: the metric system, while reasonably well thought-out, is just an arbitrary set of scales. Totally, completely arbitrary. While it might be easier to reason about 10mm vs 13mm than about 25/64" vs 1/2", there is nothing, nothing inherently superior to basing distance scales on 1cm vs 1in. It's just a scale. Degrees F is just as easy to reason about as degrees C. It's just an arbitrary scale. The more people, scientists and engineers in particular, have an ability to reason fluently in both systems, the better off we will be as a race.

    Look at this this way: two engineers could just as easily have exactly the same conversation in metric as in Imperial or Sumarian units. It would be the same conversation modulo a conversion for scaling. Two GOOD engineers should be able to shift units as fluidly as two musicians shift scales.

  • by farmerj (566229) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @07:19PM (#29255815)

    Call me biased. Even call me bigoted, but I will stand by this assertion: American, UK, Oz, and Kiwi scientists and engineers, who have grown up around TWO systems of measurement, Imperial and Metric, are far more adept at scale conversion and at thinking in arbitrary units than European scientists who have been coddled into laziness and complacency because they only have one.

    I'm not too sure where you are getting your information there. All of the countries, apart from the USA, that you mention are metric countries for just about everything, especially Australia and New Zealand. I've lived with people from Oz and NZ and most of them have no concept of any imperial measurement.

    The UK and Ireland (I'm Irish) are slightly different. Most people would have grown up with metric and imperial measurements. The older the person the more imperial units they would have grown up with.
    In Ireland just about all measurements in daily use are in the metric system now. Diesel and petrol are sold by the litre, speed limits and distances are in km (changed over from miles in 2005). The only things that are commonly referred to in imperial units are a pint of beer or a pound of butter (454 g on the label) and people's height and weight. Height and weight is usually refereed to in feet and stone (strangely enough very few people know their weight in pounds). The only notable difference between Ireland and the UK in this regard would be that the UK still uses miles on road signs.

    With regards to scientists and engineers, no scientist or engineer in any of those countries (apart from the US maybe), would use imperial units (unless for a very specific or unusual purpose). The very idea of using any imperial units would be laughed out of the room so there is no conversion going on. Where there are two units of measurement being used side by side (example of height and weight in the UK and Ireland) they tend to be used independently. For example most people I know in Ireland would tell you their weight and height in stone and feet respectively, but not that many would be able to tell you their weight and height in kg and metres (though more people would know their weight in kg) even though they now use kg and metres for everything else.

    As to your comments on European scientists and engineers it would seem to reinforce the first two sentences of your post.

    The advantage of the SI system is not in a single measurement like metres or kg but the fact that they all integrate together with grace and simplicity and most importantly consistently. You say we would be better off with more people having an ability to reason fluently in both systems but you give no good reason why this would be so.

    Personally I can see no advantage to an engineer working in two units consecutively, in fact I can only see problems. The potential for miscommunication, errors in assumptions and just plain awkwardness would be very high indeed.

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