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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 sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:20AM (#29242531) Journal

    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?

    No, its not any first major step. HDD makers already went there years ago, its established and people know better what it means. And even if I'm quite a nerd myself, I never think that 1 terabytes = 1 048 576 megabytes. Yeah it would be great if I remembered that or as many decimals in PI as possible, but no one really cares. It's a lot easier to remember and think that 1 terabyte is 1 000 000 megabytes, even if its not technically so because of binary system and even if I know that - I still think so just for the easy of it.

    And its a mac. What did you think? It's as far from a nerdy computer as possible. Obviously they are going to use terms and units that non-geeky people understand.

    • by schmidt349 (690948) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:27AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:33AM (#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 sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:37AM (#29242715) Journal

        Your example is bad because its the default one. 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? Its just a lot easier to think 405GB = 405 000MB than start calculating it, while its kinda close anyway.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          > 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

          • by mftb (1522365) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:12AM (#29243103) Homepage

            Because as far as disk space occupation goes, that file may as well be 16KB.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by falconwolf (725481)

              Because as far as disk space occupation goes, that file may as well be 16KB.

              OS X reports disk space better than Windows, Finder reports a 2.5MB file as taking 2,572,834 bytes of disk space. And it depends on what file system the disk uses and the size of the clusters. The smaller cluster, the minimum file sizes can be, the less space is wasted.

              At least OS X used to report disk space better, but with this change to Snow Leopard it's no longer true.

              Falcon

              • by Lorkki (863577) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:03PM (#29244799)

                OS X reports disk space better than Windows, Finder reports a 2.5MB file as taking 2,572,834 bytes of disk space.

                Which version of Windows are you talking about? There would seem to be a "Size on disk" field in the properties dialog of at least XP and 7, and I'm pretty sure it's been there in several older versions.

          • by mokus000 (1491841) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:13AM (#29243109)

            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!!

            Well, given an 8k or 16k block size, a 12k file *DOES* consume 16k of usable disk space. Plus 600-700 bytes for the inode and directory entry. Plus more if there's any magic Apple-y metadata associated with the file.

            For what reason do you expect any filesystem browser to report the exact number of bytes in a file? I'm almost always more interested in knowing how much disk space is used by the file - 16k in your example. In a filesystem like JFS that dynamically allocates inodes, I might even expect it to report the space used by the inode. FWIW, 'du' will report 16k in your example as well. Is 'du' wrong too?

            Also, what should it report for directories? Taking a directory of the source of GHC 6.10.4 on my computer as an example (lots and lots of smallish source code files):

            $ find . -type f -exec cat {} \; | wc -c
              29776950
            $ du -sk .
            35036 .

            Those numbers don't match (taking into account the conversion between bytes in the first case and kb in the second), but I can't see a reason ever to care about the first one. It's not even a very good indicator of what size an uncompressed tar file would be.

            Finally, I just went and took a look at a small file on the desktop of my mac. "Get Info" tells me:

            Size: 8 KB on disk (782 bytes)

            So it *does* report the number of bytes in the file, as well as the disk usage, clearly labeled. Now I really don't exactly know what you're whining about.

            • by SirCowMan (1309199) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:38AM (#29243369)
              'du', disk use, obviously should describe the actual used space on the drive, as that is the name of the program. I, however, would rather any other form of file management to note the physical size of the data in the file. Checking file sizes against, say, a website you just uploaded is a quick and easy way to ensure it all transferred for example.
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by DragonWriter (970822)

                'du', disk use, obviously should describe the actual used space on the drive, as that is the name of the program. I, however, would rather any other form of file management to note the physical size of the data in the file. Checking file sizes against, say, a website you just uploaded is a quick and easy way to ensure it all transferred for example.

                Isn't the physical size what it takes up on the physical media it is stored on (i.e., the same as "disk use"); I think what you mean is the logical size.

        • by Kokuyo (549451) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:48AM (#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 mwvdlee (775178) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:08AM (#29243065) Homepage

            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.

            Personally I'd vote for 1000, since it's just easier for most people. That way they could easily know that 1001 1MB files do not fit on a 1GB USB stick and all the world would be consistent.

            • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:44AM (#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 @11:21AM (#29243195)

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

            Yes. Yes they should all switch to metric.

          • by Anonymous Coward

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

            Actually, according to this [wikipedia.org], the US is one of three backwards countries that are not using the metric system.

            According to the US CIA World Factbook in 2006, the International System of Units is the official system of measurement for all nations except for Burma, Liberia, and the United States.

            I hate our system and I use metric on my own. My car is all metric. I just have to go back to the old system when communicating with others.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            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?

            The "right" solution is that things dependent on the number of address lines (cache size, RAM size) are in units measured in 2^10, and things not dependent on the number address lines (network bandwidth, HDD/SSD size) are in units measured in 10^3. Files are interesting in that the base unit is a 512 byte sector but they don't depend on address lines, so they should be measured like floppy disks where 1kB is 1024 bytes, 1MB is 1000kB ,and 1GB is 1000MB etc -- but this is confusing, so they'll probably just

          • by norton_I (64015) <hobbes@utrek.dhs.org> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:02PM (#29243603)

            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?

            This is revisionist at best and really just wrong. Despite all "wisdom" to the contrary, there has never been a universal acceptance of 1 MB = 2^20 bytes on computers. For instance, all of IBMs mainframe hard drives from the 60s and 70s were sold using base-10 prefixes. Early desktop hard drives from the 80s used both. I think the ST506 used base-2, but some other models used base-10. All networking and communications standards (ethernet, modems, PCI, SATA...) use base 10 prefixes for MB/s and Mbit/s. 3.5" floppy disks used NASA-style units where 1 MB = 10^3*2^10. Even while RAM is still almost always measured in base-2 units (due to manufacturing issues making it much easier to produce in power-of-2 sizes -- something which is not true for hard drives) the speed of the memory bus on your CPU is still measured in base-10 units.

            It is a *good* idea to have K and M mean the same thing everywhere. A system where a 1 GB/s link transfers 0.93 GB every second is stupid. This is especially important as computers are being used in more and more environments. Should a 1 megapixel camera mean 2^20 pixels? What about CDs with a 44.1 KHz sampling rate?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Amiga Lover (708890)

            > 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 far back as I know, and this goes back before the 1970s, C.Sci boffins picked up a defined pseudostandard (that 1024 was close though to 1000 to use K, etc) for concepts that required *only* direct binary addressibility like RAM and CPU registers/cache

      • by hedwards (940851) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:38AM (#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.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Score Whore (32328)

          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 t

    • by Enry (630)

      I think the problem is going to get worse over time, as small differences in KB/KiB and MB/MiB get compounded.

      I recently purchased a 1TB drive. After making one large partition and formatting it, df tells me the size is 917G (aka GiB). In my mind, that's a loss of 83 GiB, which is larger than hard drives I got just 7 years ago.

      Yes, the normal home user won't notice the difference, but it's still there. I think drive manufacturers are doing a disservice to their customers, but at least they're correct in

      • 5% of 917 is 45.85. You seem to have calculated 0.5%. So it is actually a lot more than you said.

    • by RedK (112790)

      And its a mac. What did you think? It's as far from a nerdy computer as possible.

      Ah.. ignorance.. I've always found computers that provides mystical commands to find out if your EFI is 32 or 64 bit to be nerdy :

      $ ioreg -l -p IODeviceTree | grep -A 7 "o efi"
      +-o efi <class IOService, !registered, !matched, active, busy 0, retain 7>
      | | {
      | | "firmware-revision" = <0a000100>
      | | "device-properties" = <f80a00000100000002000000ad0900002d00000002010c00d0410$
      | | "name" = <"efi">
      | | "firmware-vendor" = <4100700070006c0065000000>
      | | "firmware-abi" = <"E

  • by MeNeXT (200840) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:24AM (#29242557)

    snow leopard frees 7gigs? Because it can't do the math? #8^)

    • by mgkimsal2 (200677)
      That was my first thought too. I did get back something closer to 11 gig, not the 7 some others reported (and what Apple says on their website).
    • Re:Is that why (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:46AM (#29242833) Journal
      The Darwin versions of utilities like du and df have had the -h and -H (human readable numbers with either binary or decimal prefixes) the opposite way around to FreeBSD since 10.5. They made the existing switches, that had always reported the power-of-two sizes, display the power-of-ten ones and moved the old behaviour to the new option. In FreeBSD, they added new options for the power-of-ten versions. I wondered why my files suddenly became smaller after copying them to a FreeBSD machine for a while before I noticed this.
      • Re:Is that why (Score:5, Informative)

        by ljaguar (245365) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:04PM (#29248145) Homepage Journal

        how did this get modded up? this is misinformation.

        du(1) man page (snow leopard):
                  -H Symbolic links on the command line are followed, symbolic links
                                  in file hierarchies are not followed.

                  -h "Human-readable" output. Use unit suffixes: Byte, Kilobyte,
                                  Megabyte, Gigabyte, Terabyte and Petabyte.

        df(1) man page (snow leopard):
                  -H "Human-readable" output. Use unit suffixes: Byte, Kilobyte,
                                  Megabyte, Gigabyte, Terabyte and Petabyte in order to reduce the
                                  number of digits to three or less using base 10 for sizes.

                  -h "Human-readable" output. Use unit suffixes: Byte, Kilobyte,
                                  Megabyte, Gigabyte, Terabyte and Petabyte in order to reduce the
                                  number of digits to three or less using base 2 for sizes.

        this is exactly same output as man pages fro those two in FreeBSD 6.1

        this is man page from debian linux:
                      -h, --human-readable
                                    print sizes in human readable format (e.g., 1K 234M 2G)

                      -H, --si
                                    likewise, but use powers of 1000 not 1024

        so it seems to me that behavior of darwin is exactly same as gnu tools.

    • Re:Is that why (Score:4, Informative)

      by RedK (112790) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:52AM (#29242903)
      No, you still get around 6-7 Gigs back by installing Snow Leopard, but it's reported as higher than that. When we installed it on a Macbook Pro 13" at work, we actually got 15 gigs back. Which was puzzling until we learned that everything was counted in base 10 now, so it makes sense and it is as Apple advertised.
  • Tilting at windmills (Score:5, Informative)

    by Melkhior (169823) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:33AM (#29242677)

    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?

    Giga is 10^9. It has been 10^9 since it was created. It was never, ever meant to be anything but 10^9.

    If you want to talk about 1024^3, then it's Gibi. Gibi is 2^30 since it was created. It was never, ever meant to be anything but 2^30.

    Get over it.

    (and yes, I try to always use GiB whenever it's appropriate).

    • 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 Minisc

  • by Speare (84249) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:34AM (#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.

    • Because they make the disk with a sector size of 512 bytes (likely 4096 bytes inside the drive)

      With modern drives and most especially flash drives, the CHS values normally are physically meaningless.

      Except, with a flash drive the erase block size is likely to be 2^19 or 2^20 bytes. It's easy to set the drive so that the cylinders are 1048576 bytes, just set the heads to 64 and the sectors to 32. Each cylinder is then 1Mbyte, one real megabyte and one or two erase blocks.

      Then 2^20 bytes is a reasonabl

  • by moon3 (1530265) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:36AM (#29242707)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_1541 [wikipedia.org]

    These IEEE recomendations seam like common sense to me.

    1 KB = 1,000 bytes
    1 MB = 1,000,000 bytes
    1 GB = 1,000,000,000 bytes


    And for you droids and androids out there:

    1 KiB = 1,024 bytes
    1 MiB = 1,048,576 bytes
    1 GiB = 1,073,741,824 bytes
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      1 KB = 0x3E8 bytes
      1 MB = 0xF4240 bytes
      1 GB = 0x3B9ACA00 bytes

      I might be able to remember 0x3E8 but the rest would difficult.

      1 KiB = 0x400 bytes
      1 MiB = 0x10000 bytes
      1 GiB = 0x40000000 bytes

      Nice and clean.

  • 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 t

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AdamHaun (43173)

      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: (Score:3, Funny)

        by zippthorne (748122)

        Wait.. organic table salt??? That doesn't even make sense from the new-agery definition. What do they do, extract it from the sweat of organically fed livestock?

    • by zzatz (965857) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:07PM (#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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by xigxag (167441)

      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

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by owlstead (636356)

      "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.

  • Benchmarks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheCount22 (952106) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:37AM (#29242719)
    This mean the downloads will seem faster on a Mac. What about benchmarks? Does this mean we are going to see tons of amateur reviews with inaccurate results? I hope Apple gives us a way to switch back to GiB mode in any case.
  • This is going to be extremely annoying when downloading files on the internets. They'll be larger than they appear.
  • by gcnaddict (841664) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:39AM (#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 TheCount22 (952106) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:47AM (#29242849)
      Kilo = 1<<10
      Mega = 1<<20
      Giga = 1<<30
      Tera = 1<<40

      Goes by ten!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Sxerks (310435)

      The prefixes are different already, there is no centibyte for millibyte, it's not really a scientific measurement to begin with.

      So there is no problem with using them in the original context (2^10....)

      And no logical reason whatsoever for the terms (KiB,MiB,GiB) to have been created in the first place

  • ... truth is BASE 10 should have never been used for computers from the start. The storage hardware manufacturers just wanted to lie to make their products look better then they are (as per usual in business).

    Hardware manufacturers being close to computer sciences really should have known better. By keeping the standard and just publishing both BASE2 and BASE10 just like how where I live we have english AND french words on packaging.

  • Debate? (Score:3, Informative)

    by chill (34294) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:39AM (#29242747) Journal

    I always thought it was just clueless marketing morons who couldn't do math. The same group of people responsible for marketing CRT-based monitor sizes (the TUBE is 17", including behind the 2" bezel), tape drive storage capacities (assuming 2:1 compression ratio!) and all electronics battery life measurements (examples too numerous to list).

    I can't count the number of times I had to explain to people who bought an extra hard drive where 3% of it disappeared when they checked the size in Windows Explorer.

    While Apple is certainly rules by the marketing drones, they aren't morons by any stretch of the imagination. I think the engineering people finally just gave in when their grandmother called and asked why her new 500 GB drive was only showing 482 GB when installed. I can hear them crying with frustration all the way over on the other coast.

  • by Ant P. (974313) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:40AM (#29242759) Homepage

    For 1KB the difference is 24 bytes.
    For 1MB, 2**20 - 10**6 = 48576, 48KB difference or 4.6% less than the larger of the two.
    For 1GB, 2**30 - 10**9 = 73741824 (73MB), 6.9%.

    For a 1TB hard disk you're being short-changed by 9%: 94 gigabytes!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ruiner13 (527499)
      What exactly is your point? If someone went into the store to buy a 2TB disk, only to format it and see that it is only 1.8TB, do you think they are going to call the drive maker, or the OS maker to figure out why it won't format the whole drive? I think Apple just is attempting to make it easier for non-computer folks to understand, and less calls for them.

      Personally, it would be nice if this was configurable (it may very well be in some config file somewhere). Geeks in the know would set it to binary
  • Wait 8 weeks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nickovs (115935) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:41AM (#29242773)

    The difference between 2^30 and 10^9 is about 7.4%. Disc drive capacity has been growing at least as fast as CPU power, doubling every 18 month, for as long as I can remember. This means that it takes about 8 weeks for drive capacity to grow by 7.4%. This should mean that by the time the marketing literature has made it through the bureaucratic process of being reviewed for release it will probably be correct!

  • Are memory manufacturers following the same practice? Or do hard drive manufacturers and memory manufactures use the same unit of measurement differently in their two products?
  • by cheebie (459397) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:50AM (#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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Khyber (864651)

      "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.

  • The desktop support dude knows what's going on. He knows that GB values, as printed on the box, is always optimistic from the marketers vantage point.

    The computer science dude already thinks in hexadecimal, so the casual mention of a number like 12 GB is intrinsically confusing. Is the "12" base-10? Is the "10" in "base-10" decimal? Or is it "base 0F+1"?

    Everyone else just gives $127.39 to the GeekSquad weenie for installation. They think in dollars, and want to know how many pictures will fit.

  • by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash@nOSPaM.omnifarious.org> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:56AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pizzach (1011925)

      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 p

  • by eddy (18759) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:02AM (#29243013) Homepage Journal

    I guess their marketing will now talk about the MacBook Pro with 3.75GB memory?

  • by Sububer (887134) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:05AM (#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.
  • Silly names (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AdamHaun (43173) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:07AM (#29243057) Journal

    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

    Nobody's going to use an annoyingly cutesy word like "gibibyte", which seems just as silly now as it did ten years ago [slashdot.org]. Using the abbreviated prefixes might be a good idea, though.

    Just for reference (since some people are freaking out about how much space they're "losing") here's the percentage difference between the SI and binary sizes:

    Kilobyte: 2.3%
    Megabyte: 4.6%
    Gigabyte: 6.9%
    Terabyte: 9.1%
    Petabyte: 11.2%
    Exabyte: 13.3%

    So for the foreseeable future your hard drive will be about 10% smaller than advertised. Not a big deal, IMHO (it's not like you're paying for the missing bits), but still worth pointing out.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jonner (189691)

      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.

  • No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by loshwomp (468955) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:42AM (#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.

In any formula, constants (especially those obtained from handbooks) are to be treated as variables.

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