Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?

IBM Increases HD Density with "Pixie Dust" 126

jeffsenter writes "CNET and the AP have stories on IBM's latest major advance of HD density. "Technically called antiferromagnetically-coupled (AFC) media and informally referred to as "pixie dust" at IBM, the innovation introduces a thin layer of the element ruthenium onto the disks inside hard drives where data is stored."" I knew it. Everyone told me through was no pixie dust in computers - but The Truth shall set you free!
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

IBM Increases HD Density with "Pixie Dust"

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Speaking of disk drives and (some sort of) dust: My dad used to work for the only IBM dealership in my hometown back in the 80s for about 7 years. He said in the early 80s there was a lot of people with systems (like those sweet sweet 8088s) that would be scammed by people claiming to do strange regular maintenance. One of my favorite stories was when he said some lady came in and brought in her box and asked him if he could do the regular maintenance of vacuuming up electrons that had fallen off her disks and were filling up her case and making it slower. Apparently this lady had been conned into some expensive cleaning job by someone who pretended to do just such a task and thought that it was a required maintenance. At least the con artist was wise enough to know that disks have something to do with electrons and magnetetic fields. I wonder how much money he made scamming people that way. -tmh
  • Ruthenium is a hard, white metal and has four crystal modifications. It does not tarnish at room temperatures, but oxidizes explosively.

    That sounds promising, you won't need to a thermite charge sitting above your hard drive when it might decide to melt of its own accord when its gets a little to warm. ;]
  • I would imagine they are already since theres a couple of IBM e-server's in the server room next to me with those things installed.
  • This is true; people are trying to develop, for example, cat converter material that uses only common metals; this usually isn't a problem for catalytic material. The concern I'd have here is that we're looking at pure atomic Ru, and it's very hard to mimic the purely atomic properties by using other elements. Maybe alloys or the like, which have the same amount of atoms, but only a fraction of them being Ru, will have the same effect.
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @05:18AM (#208752)
    Ruthenium is an extremely rare element, moreso than platinum. It's not valued as expensively as platinum only because it lacks a lot of the useful properties that platinum does have (eg very high melting temperature, chemical resistence), and is usually a byproduct of platinum mining in the first place. I've heard through word of mouth that there is probably no more than ~ 1,000 gallons worth of pure atomic ruthenium known in the world and not currently in use. (Fortunately for us, Ru was considered at one point as a major component in the catalytic converter for cars, but other, more abundent but more expensive materials were found instead.) While each drive that might use Ru in this way would only use a tiny tiny fraction of that 1,000 gallons, a run of drives in the millions could easy make a marked depletion in the supply.
  • And once the smoke has escaped, it becomes a
    DED (Dark Emitting Diode)
  • by R. Paul McCarty ( 3571 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @10:35AM (#208754) Homepage

    Found a good page on Ruthenium, for those curious about it's uses, who discovered it, etc. 8-)

    And it's only $30/g. :-)

  • How could this be? That is a quote from the article!!! How can it be offtopic?
  • Because everyone knows that open source is not magic pixie dust.

  • If Ru is just $30 a gram, and there really is only 1000 gallons of the stuff in the world, it shouldn't be too hard to get all your friends together and buy all of it. Voila! You've cornered the market. Sell it back to them at $100,000 a gram.

    So, something doesn't make sense. If Ru was really that rare, wouldn't someone have played that trick on us already?
  • A friend of mine told a customer at an oil change place that her blinkers didn't work, and that she needed to go to KMart and get some more blinkerfluid.

  • by RayChuang ( 10181 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @05:57AM (#208759)
    Given that IBM is a big seller of hard drives with extremely fast interfaces, I'm sure the first drives that use this new coating material technology on the drive platters will be 15,000 RPM drives with LVD Ultra160 SCSI or FibreChannel interfaces and 4-8 MB drive memory buffers. It'll be quite a while before we see this on ATA-100 IDE drives, though.
  • Drives with densities of 100 gigabits per square inch will enable desktop drives to reach 400GB storage levels, notebooks 200GB, and one-inch Microdrives 6GB.
    It's all fine and well, but how do you back-up such an animal???


  • The silver-dollar size 6MB disks can hold 6000
    minutes of music, 2000 photographs, six hours
    of video, and so on.
  • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @04:40AM (#208762)
    It's not that programmers are getting sloppy, it's that the designers are getting more ambitious.

    The core code of most games probably doesn't take up much more than a few megabytes (I'm at work, so I can't check :-) ). What takes up all the space is all the graphics, sound and fmv. Now that we have large drives, lots of memory and fast processors and graphics cards, the designers and graphic and sound artists can really let themselves go and create visually and aurally rich games.

    The reason that games need more and more disk space is that people like me demand ever larger, prettier and better sounding games. It has nothing to do with programmers not bothering to space-optimise their code. (Indeed, you often have a choice between optimising for speed or space usage; given that choice, I know which will be done)


  • We are eventually going to reach a point where we cannot store any more data per unit area of disk, and we are also going to reach the stage where reading these units of data will be unfeasibly slow using magnetic heads attached to a moving arm. This time is likely to come sooner rather than later, and the problem needs to be addressed.

    Well, as you increase storage density on rotating media, your sequential read speed also increases.
  • What exactly would be the motivation, though? I can see the performance being a big plus, but let's say you bought a 15gig solid state drive.

    Then dropped it about 3 feet.

    I've seen normal hard disks go wacko over this.

    My point being is that mechanical things wear out. I notice over time that the hard disk in my IBM Thinkpad gets louder. There's definitely wear going on, and after a drive dies, we buy another.

    Just because a hard disk manufacturer gets 100$ from you for that 40gig drive doesn't mean they wouldn't like another 100$ in 2-3 years.
  • Y'know what makes me happy about this? No mention of patents anywhere.

    This is a real advance, they know their competitors can rip their drives apart to find out what they've done and I'm sure they could have found a way to patent it to stop them using that knowledge. But they haven't - they even admit that they expect their competitors to produce drives with this shortly.

    Well done, IBM. Patents have their place but you've chosen not to take one out and use it as a weapon - even though it would give you market control. That's good for us all and I thank you.
  • Thanks.

    Sounds like a defensive patent to me :-)

    Anyway. The thrust of my point stands. They know their competitors are going to copy this new development of their and they don't mind. In fact, they're expecting it and not taking any steps to block it. A new player gaining a foothold in a market I don't mind using patents on this sort of thing, but IBM are in a position where, if they felt like it, they could crush their competitors with this sort of thing. But they're not going to.

    That is a shining example and good for us all. I don't care if they're doing it to stop another antitrust trial against them, it's the right way to play ball.

    Congratulations IBM.
  • I'd want to see exactly what IBM Research are doing here, but no.

    IBM are a company who are well used to the power a monopoly gives. They've had one and created another. They know they could crush a market with this.

    But they're being friendly. They'll still get their payback, it'll be some time before the rest of the world figures out how to make drives this way and equips for it. While that's happening, they have a lead.

    Crushing markets harms competition and harms the economy as a whole. By forcing up prices (inevitable result of the damaged market) they'd reduce computer sales as a whole which doesn't help them at all. Plus, they saw what happened to them last time they got too big and don't want that again.

    Patent rules sort of fall down with large entities like IBM. If Greg's HDs limited (for example ;-) had developed this, I'd have no problem with them using it to get a serious advantage. It'd be one thing they'd be able to use to establish themselves in a market, as with Dyson and the vacuum cleaners.

    IBM are already well established and could do serious harm by enforcing licensing on this sort of patent. Well done to them for recognising this, accepting the short-term advantage is actually what's best and only taking that.
  • Actually, that's not being lazy that is programming for lower machines. Uncompressing video on the fly takes a fair number of CPUY cycles, maybe not on your GHz Atlon but on Billy-Bob's PII-300 those cycles saved can let him actually see the video full screen.

    It's the same reason CD's contain uncompressed data. At the point of conception, it was cheaper to use the space than to use the processing horse power.

  • But I can see how having a big chunck of ram disk space could speed a system up.

    Like caching, or different? Sounds like the system you describe is just persistent caching that restores upon login. And if it has to restore, then you're hitting the disk upon login, and all you're doing is trading login time for cache loading time later. Interesting idea, though.
  • Well I know I've got a huge handful of old 30 and 72 pin memory simms...Does this sound feasible???

    Sure, if you don't mind losing all your data when the power goes out. Me, personally, that's not my cup of cake, though. Besides, your huge handful of simms adds up to what, 256mb? You could get a 256mb ram chip for $50. The price of the IDE bay with simm slots would cost at least that much, and you'd still end up with a bunch of old ram chips in a drive you couldn't upgrade.

    I'm guessing not feasible.
  • The sad part of this new technology is that it's going to allow game programmers to be even more sloppy. Back in my day (I'm not that old) I had a 128mb hard drive. Games had to be small.

    What?!? So, back in the day, did your game have full-motion video clips? Support for 1600x1200 resolution? Speech clips? Support for force-feedback joysticks and mice? Oh, it didn't? Gee, I wonder why the game sizes are so much bigger these days. Hmmm. Must be because of those sloppy game programmers.

    So help me, if somebody mods that post up as insightful, I'll...I'll...

  • to: International Buisness Machines
    cc: Slashdot
    cc: CNET
    cc: AP

    To whom it may regard.

    Please cease and desist using the term 'pixie dust' in any further documents, communications, and product endorsements.

    The term 'pixie dust' is trademarked (TM) by the Disney Inc.

    This is your only warning as further infringments on our intellectual property will cause us to sic our fleets of lawyers and Tinker Bell on you. (Boy does she get mad - don't say we didn't warn you)

  • How old is this press release?

    "Today, many PCs come with hard drives ranging from 10 gigabytes to 20 gigabytes." - the AP article.

    20 gig is the smallest size of hard drive you can buy! at least, not used! Just on Saturday, I needed to replace a 2 gig on an old server, and I had to go with a 20 gig as that is the only one with an over 1 year warranty. *sigh* old data is so sad...

    Gonzo Granzeau

  • Whilst I don't know exactly what system this uses, my PhD is in magnetic intereactions in systems of reduced dimensionality, so this will work, and wont be far off.

    The problem with increasing data density is that neighbouring bits get closer together. There is an interaction between the bits, and the closer they get, the stronger it is.

    The antiferromagnetic coupling introduced by the ruthenium (as metalic layer, btw, not as dust), make it more difficult for a bit to be flipped by a neighbour. This allows neigbouring bits to be place closer together, because they can now withstand higher field while maintaining data integrety.
  • No, the first drives with this technology are already on the market. In fact, I have two of them sitting next to eachother in the waterproof, ruggedized,solar-powered Webplayer I'm building. They're IBM Travelstar 20GB 2.5"/9.5mm drives. Nice, quiet, and reasonably fast, but at a mere 4200 RPM they're not what I'd call 'extremely fast'. The magic is used to put 20GB in a small package (there's also a 30GB version, but that one was more than double the price of the 20GB).
  • by acidrain ( 35064 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @04:29AM (#208776)
    Police arrested Edward Peel at 4:30 PM yesterday for grinding up all the harddrives in the data center where he worked. He was found with a metal grinder, and a bucket of ground harddrive chassis, sitting on top of the largest rack. "But I will be able to fly" he told police before being taken away. The remote backup storage firm that employed him has not been available for comment.
  • I think you're thinking about the new multilayer flourecent optical tech. It has an extremely high data density and you can stack layers and read from them simultanously, allowing such high bandwidth. But its primarly a read medium. You'd never get anywhere near that speed writing to them, assuming writable media was available to consumers at all.
  • Not necessarily. Bit density will rise from 20 to 25 Gbit/in^2. Not only does this mean that each track will have more bits but it also means they can squeeze the width of each track. Thinner tracks == shorter distance == shorter seek time.

    But, the cool part of this tech is that they are overcoming what was thought to be a limitation in magnetic film technology: the minimum grain size of the media. AFC reduces the grain size lower than was previously thought possible, extending the life of magnetic film hard drives. Before too much longer, we'll be out of headroom and have to develop new storage technologies to get more dense and faster data storage.
  • Y'know what makes me happy about this? No mention of patents anywhere.

    I disagree. This is exactly what patents are designed to protect. This technology isn't "one-click buying" nor "hyperlink page transition." Significant work was required to develop the technology. IBM hires some of the brightest scientists in the world and pumps billions into blue sky research. Many technologies go nowhere, and the money is shot. Others can be productized and make enough money to allow the research arm to operate at a profit. Let's be honest: IBM isn't NASA. If research stopped driving a profit to IBM's bottom line, they'd shut it down.

    they even admit that they expect their competitors to produce drives with this shortly

    This is because IBM Research operates as a seperate entity from IBM Storage. I'm sure they will license the technology to all of the platter manufacturers to maximize the profit to the company. Although keeping it proprietary would no doubt help Storage, Research has no charter to help them out. They'll probably make more money licensing it anyway.

    IBM is a business. For-profit businesses are supposed to make money. What differentiates some businesses from others is how they play the game. I happen to think IBM is a Good Thing (tm). They make money (for the most part now) responsibly and fairly and give back to the community. They took the risk when they funded the resereach-- they should definitely reap the rewards.
  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @04:40AM (#208780) Journal
    Of balding Dilbert types in tie-dye suits. Time to up the medication, I guess.
  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @04:42AM (#208781) Journal
    Oh, about N years.
  • What?!? So, back in the day, did your game have full-motion video clips? Support for 1600x1200 resolution? Speech clips? Support for force-feedback joysticks and mice?

    Do you need those capabilities for Tetris, Lode Runner, or Arkanoid? :-) There's more to gaming than the flavor-of-the-month FPS.

    (FWIW, the game I play most anymore is a Tetris clone called Block Party on my Palm III, and that's only to kill time. I have too much other stuff going on to waste time shooting at computer images; if I want to shoot things, I'll grab my Glock and go to the nearest target range.)

  • Yeah, it wouldn't be very useful for storage. But I can see how having a big chunck of ram disk space could speed a system up.

    For instance. How about we take this guys idea, and write an algorithem to check which commands and apps a person runs. Each of them is given a priority, based on how often they are executed. Copy those commands onto the ram disk, and let the user execute them faster from there, without the need for disk i/o. Save the settings in a simple file, and upon log in, the user's frequenty loaded commands are quietly loaded into the ram disk.

    I'd be pretty easy to make it work for multi user systems I would think. I guess mounting the ramdisk on like /ram, and making sure /ram/bin is first in your $PATH would do the trick. Could do this with main memory too, but it would be nice if we could use old simms and save ourselves that precious ram for running applications.

    Okay, so I have 384 megs of ram in this box and I don't need it all, but like hell am I gonna share it!
  • Sort of, but no trade off on the login time. The restoration at login would be run at a low priority so that it wouldn't be noticeable. Plus, on a multiuser system, stuff that is used by multiple users could be shared, and even, if used by enough users, or some other criteria, it could be left in this space indefinately.
  • Well..... there's something about taking main system memory and using it for swap.... it seems.... silly. Since swap is virtual ram that the memory management sub system sees as just more ram with a lower priority (not quite, but basically). So, taking ram, and telling the copmputer to pretend its ram.... seems a little silly.

    And that's not exactly what I wanna do anyways. Ya close a program, it leaves memory. Open it again, it has to load from the disk. That's slow. So, why not, load it the first time from the disk, and while I am running the program, it copies in the background to this "buffer" level between the disk and ram. So, when I close the app, it leaves memory, but opening it again later results in it being loaded from this weird ram disk array of simms.

    I dunno, with today's computers, it might be almost unoticable. Closest I have done to this way using a small ramdisk in a similer way (that required a lot of micromanagement, but it did make stuff faster). Most of my interest in this idea is due to a love of putting old hardware to use, and just to see if it can be done.
  • "Technically called antiferromagnetically-coupled (AFC) media and informally referred to as "pixie dust" at IBM...

    Uh-oh, this could get into big trouble. Pixie Dust is a schedule II controlled substance - why do you think it makes you fly? Tink is doing hard time for posession, and the Supreme Court just said "no" to medical use of Mary Jane. You think they're going to allow 'dust in hard drives? No way that's going to fly.

    So to speak.
  • Okay, that makes more sense. I appreciate it.

  • by devphil ( 51341 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @04:26AM (#208788) Homepage

    The only clue as to what this stuff does is this tidbit in the AP article:

    It addresses the problem of a so-called ``superparamagnetic effect,'' in which data gets lost when the magnetic regions of a disk get too small.
    I guess that sortof helps. A little.

    So, I take it that antiferromagnetically-coupled dust mites increase the blargle factor of a magnetic region? (For some suitable meaning/value of blargle.)

  • I'm not too surprised that they found a new way to increase data density. IBM has a great research department and they sell a lot of hard drives. I am curious to see if my computer can handle a 300 gig hard drive. And it will be cool to see their microdrive benifit from this also.

    All I really want to know is WHEN? When do they expect these new drives to hit the market? How much testing do they have to do until they tool up for mass production?
  • Ever hear of MRAM []? Or how about MRAM []? Oh, and don't forget MRAM?
  • Why make it that difficult for yourself or the hapless developer? Just use this 384meg ramdrive as your swapdisk.. I don't know how useful it would be for Linux, but for someone running a windows based system, having 384 megabytes of rather fast, non-hdd swap space would be A Good Thing, especially for those doing desktop publishing or graphic manipulation where it is very likely that there will be things being paged in and out all the time..

    The volatility of the ram wouldn't be a problem; a swapfile isn't really very useful after the system has shutdown. And, you wouldn't have to worry about having incriminating stuff or passwords left in the swapspace for some nosy Hacker, bent on destruction (as we well know they all are), to go peeking through :)

    The only real possible problem is that the datarate could be somewhat slow. But, the benefit of the extremely fast seek time (plus having the swapfile be on a different drive than the actual application/data) i suppose would make up for the slower overall throughput.

    Just an idea... (it's probably redundant by now, too... oh well)
  • I'm going to be the incurable optimist here -- once someone discovers a way to do the job with a very rare (hence very expensive when there's a big demand for it) element, the materials science folk seem to find other ways to do the same job with more readily available elements.
  • The MRAM sounds really cool. I buy the arguments about low-power and high-density, since it looks like it's just two layers of metal and a hunk of magnetic stuff for each bit -- doesn't draw power except during read/write, doesn't need the four/six transisters of a static RAM cell, doesn't need the big ol' capacitor of a DRAM cell. Write time much faster than FLASH since you don't have to wait around for all those electrons to do quantum tunneling.

    I'll also buy that this would be really helpful for situations like a notebook where the computer it's used in is frequently shut down in a controlled fashion. Does it buy you any quicker boot in the case of a power failure? My PC running Linux is a complex system in which the processor (registers and pipeline), the cache controller, the cache, the main memory, and the disk (virtual memory) all have to be in a coherent state. Does the non-volatile nature of MRAM really make it possible to recover that complete state, or do I still need to go through something like a reboot? Commercial power failure is far and away the most common cause of a "shutdown" on my desktop system...

  • by smirkleton ( 69652 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @06:13AM (#208794)
    I know that Slashdot doesn't employ reporters, like CNN and AP. Nevertheless, in claiming to be "News for Nerds. Stuff that matters", and considering the respect Slashdot has earned as a source of editorialized news filtering, doesn't it seem about time for Slashdot to be a source of direct dissemination of this sort of news concerning technological breakthroughs?

    Right now, Slashdot in some ways resembles The Drudge Report []. Drudge himself is hardly even a hack in the news space. He is, at best, a right-leaning news filtration system, with a taste for lurid sensationalism (hence his willingness to constantly link to stories which many in the right-wing would call immoral, perverse, and/or otherwise not worth calling news...). He is, at worst, a launderer of political gossip for extreme wings of either political party, most especially the right. (Again, his love of the lurid will often lead him to be used as a tool for spreading gossip for the left-wing, normally against political opponents on the right... But such is the lot of a tool and slave of scandal and gossip.)

    Point being: Drudge barely participates in traditional journalism (and thank the heavens for that, considering his absolutely cringe-inducing grandstanding). His existence is truly parasitical. He depends solely on real journalists working for other news organizations, magazines, etc. to create his own brand of "news".

    Slashdot differs from Drudge Report in many ways obvious to any reader of this message board. The very fact that there is a "community" component to Slashdot, with peer-review of comments, and further reviews of those reviews, is substantially more engaging to the news reader than Drudge's gossip post. Yet the two news sites share a common trait- namely, that they fashion their own "source" of news that is itself simply a filtered bias towards other news, administered dutifully every day by human decision-makers who understand the values / interests / worldviews of the demographic they are serving.

    Now, fast-forward to my point about "Pixie Dust", so I can tie this sprawling mess into one universal point and walk to my fridge and grab myself a Bawls or two...

    It seems to me that there would be an incentive for companies like IBM to cultivate a direct relationship with top-tier tech-news outlets like Slashdot, so that they could break news of their own breakthroughs even faster than they currently do. (Just as political operatives have incentives to break news on DrudgeReport, for instant penetration of the radars of the community...) It seems a marginal effort would be required to get releases about such breakthroughs DIRECTLY to slashdot, so that we would be able to see it here FIRST, rather than see it first on CNN, then a couple of other sites, and FINALLY breaking on Slashdot (the "news for nerds, stuff that matters" network) after it is already soon to be pulled from front page rotation on CNN, etc. I'd prefer that my specialized news sources, like Slashdot, were breaking stories about their field of specialty (technogeek news, in this case) rather than rehashing the geek ephemera that generalized news powerhouses like CNN are producing.

    I want to see Slashdot evolve so that it doesn't continue to subsist in the purely parasitical manner that Drudge does.

    I want to see whatever clout you've created as a news brand parlayed into better access to breaking news, right from the source.

    I want to see some evidence that the successes you've had are leading to growth not only in awareness about you but in your power and sophistication as a news site.

    Most importantly, after saying all this, please consider my last request as carefully as anything else you've seen in this entreaty, should the fates smile on me and moderate me upward into your scrutiny.

    As you grow more and more like a news organization, gaining in power and might, for the love of all that is good to us your readers, please oh please don't put another Jon Katz on your payroll.

    That is all.
  • Blah, I should know better than to do this so early in the morning. Make that 25.7 Gb/in^2. Sheesh. Gotta get used to these marketing units when talking publicly.
  • We've already announced the first product to use this technology: the new Travelstars use it to get 25.7 GB/cm^2. Check out the annoucement here [] or off the IBM home page.
  • What about the current "solid state arrays" that are currently used on mid-range systems (such as Sun Enterprise UNIX machines)?
  • Let's hope that they don't figure out some way of embedding CPRM into the hard disk surface, too.

    Yes, I am joking. I hope...
  • by selectspec ( 74651 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @04:49AM (#208799)
    The problem IBM is solving is a general distorted magnetic irregularity in the medium surface. This irregulatirty limits the area dedicated to a bit to a certain minimum size, otherwise the bit would "blend" in with the background noise of the medium. I imagine that this new pixie-dust vastly reduces the magnetic variance/distortion. Thus, allowing for finer resolution of the bit area.
  • I will only be impressed when mass storage devices stop being spinny bloody wheels inside my otherwise solid state computer...
  • What I want to see is "Install data files...60gb to go, 30 SECONDS REMAINING... Accessing 400gb of data without faster interfaces is going to be painful.
  • Ok, so my system DID go down yesterday when the snowstorm caused a power outage. BUT... how about powering it up and loading your entire Linux system on it? Take a minute or two to suck the entire system off the hard drive and load it onto the RAM device, then when you go to start Netscape, Emacs or X (Probably the three biggest offenders on my system) instead of them taking 10 seconds to load, it'd happen instantly.
  • maybe hard drives this size will be a first real step towards computers that *snap* on like lights...

    just keep that pixie dust away from microsoft's code!!!

  • Get it right, Hemos - The Truth shall make ye fret!

  • Actually your network goes down because you run a token ring lan. If somone unplugs the cable, the token will fall out and the network will go down. you have to find the token and put it back in the cable in order to bring the network back up ;-)

  • The explosion isn't really caused by the ruthenium, it's the chlorate anion. Chlorate is an extremely strong oxidizer - damn near anything that isn't already at its highest oxidation state will explode with chlorate.

    From the Merck Index

    7600. Potassium Chlorate

    Keep out of contact with organic matter or other oxidizable substances. Caution: Explodes with sulfuric acid, inflames with explosion if triturated with any organic substances, sulfur, phosphorus, sulfite, hypophosphite, and other oxidizable substances.
  • While ruthenium is relatively rare (0.0004 ppm in the Earth's crust), it is an article of commerce used in many different applications: thick film resistors, hardening alloys for pen nibs and electrical contacts, catalysts for many industrial chemical processes, colored ceramic's a long list.

    The small amount used in the IBM drives will have essentially no effect on availability.

  • "That's being lazy."

    The game programmer has a finite ammount of time to spend on a project before the deadline hits. He can spend that time optimizing HD space usage _or_ he can spend that time making the enemy AI smarter and the game faster. In the best of worlds he could do both, but in this reality he has to chose. What do you prefer this programmer choses?


  • by The_Messenger ( 110966 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @04:31AM (#208809) Homepage Journal
    I had a chance to visit IBM's facilities in Research Triangle recently, and I can vouch for the fact that this "pixie dust" is pretty amazing. It's applied to the disk in units called HITS, or "Hyper-Inductive Transfer Systems". I didn't pick up much of what the engineers were saying, however, because after three or four HITS of dust the damned winged blue monkeys became too distracting.

    The monkeys appear to be related to this dust, but the exact nature of the relationship lies just beyond my grasp. Perhaps they have something to do with the genetic experiments conducted by one IBM's former business associates, Germans I believe.

    Hopefully these HITS of dust will be available to the mass market soon!


  • by Fesh ( 112953 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @05:31AM (#208810) Homepage Journal
    Heh. And to think that the Carpatho-Rusyn people were up to now only known to historians as "those guys who were oppressed by the Czechoslovakians in the 1930s". Well guess what, world? We've made it! Ruthenia forever!

    This message brought to you by the Carpatho-Rusyn Liberation Front. Accept no substitutes.


  • Does anybody know about the intelligence of Linux disk caching routines? Are there patches out there that will adapt themselves over time to minimise hard disk usage (like noflushd but cleverer) and thus make my system quieter?

  • Jesus dude, just use a RAM disk.
  • Well, the idea is that the programmers can say `who cares how big my game is - it doesnt matter! storage is cheaper than ever, the main loop of the game is fast enough, and if its not, get a better 3d card/faster cpu/more ram - its cheap. This allows me to concentrate on good gameplay!".

    Thats the idea. Unfortunately, this idea is not backed up by any games i`ve seen in the last few years.
  • High resolution and full-motion video clips do increase dramatically the size of games. However, there are many games that store those clips in uncompressed AVI files. That's being lazy. No matter how big storage capacity is, an efficient programmer must make the best possible use of it, if only to have space for even more video clips.
  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @05:23AM (#208816)
    About 20 years ago, chip manufacturers started making "bubble memories", which were magnetic solid state devices with no moving parts, intended to replace disks. But the mechanical manufacturing of hard disks evolved much faster than magnetic bubble technology. Later came flash memories that took away the only remaining market niche for bubbles.

    Today, an entirely solid state computer seems to be still very far in the future. They are even making PCMCIA hard disks for cameras and PDAs, so the trend seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

  • You kids and your 150 MB hard drives. I remember having to uninstall Windows 3.1 so I would have space to put King's Quest 5 (which took up ~18 MB) on my IBM PS2 Model 30 with a 20 MB disk.
    And I won't even bring up my Apple ][.
  • by jedwards ( 135260 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @06:15AM (#208818) Homepage Journal
    How about 6197439 []? Just because they chose not to mention them in a press release doesn't mean they haven't protected their IP.
  • This little article has some good comparisons: Relax, we're still paying our taxes and obeying traffic regulations. But IBM continues to defy various "laws" that limit the power and capacity of information technology -- now we've eluded physical limits that seemed to put a cap on disk storage. Using a three- atom thick layer of the element ruthenium to discipline otherwise unruly microscopic magnetic domains, we've made a breakthrough that will permit disks to hold 100 billion bits (gigabits) of data per square inch by 2003. That's four times denser than anyone had previously thought possible. Researchers whimsically call the new technique "pixie dust" (actual name: antiferromagnetically-coupled (AFC) media) for its magic-like ability to stabilize thin magnetic layers. And we've already started shipping AFC drives: the recently announced Travelstar 48GH, 30GN and 15GN reach their 48, 30 and 15 gigabyte (billion byte) capacities thanks to the breakthrough technology. Travelstar 48GH, just for starters, 48 billion bytes But this is only a start: here's how some other IBM products will look after we repopulate our entire disk storage line: Desktop drive -- 400 gigabytes -- the information in 400,000 books; Notebook drives -- 200 GB, equivalent to 42 DVDs or more than 300 CDs; IBM's one-inch Microdrive -- 6 GB or 13 hours of MPEG-4 compressed digital video (about eight complete movies) for handheld devices. This development gives us an added boost in the OEM HDD (hard disk drive) industry where we play against fierce and technically formidable competitors such as Seagate and Maxtor, and another technical edge in the storage marketplace, where we're battling industry leader EMC. But it's hard to overestimate the impact on pervasive and wireless devices (see related story, top left), which will be propelled into regimes of storage heretofore only possible with desktop and "big box" technology. At six gigabytes, for example, IBM's Microdrive will be able to function as part of a device -- digital camera, portable data network management terminal, movie player -- that can provide industrial-strength function, yet be easily carried or even worn. IBM's disk technology has previously distinguished itself in other acts of "lawlessness" -- notably for evading Moore's Law. We've also managed to radically undermine the rules of random access memory, with a new technology called Memory eXpansion (MXT) that doubles system memory with a clever chip algorithm. Perhaps our habitual disregard of limits can be explained by the fact that we developed the first commercial hard-disk drive in 1956 -- and never looked back. Creativity does have its privileges.
  • ...because in Chinese "Pixie" means leather shoes. Go figure...
  • What exactly is ruthenium? []

    Make sure to keep all potassium chlorate away from these drives!! "The metal is not attacked by hot or cold acids or aqua regia, but when potassium chlorate is added to the solution, it oxidises explosively. "

  • they fashion their own "source" of news that is itself simply a filtered bias towards other news, administered dutifully every day by human decision-makers who understand the values / interests / worldviews of the demographic they are serving.
    If done well, this is a very valuable service, and in fact is a large part of what traditional media does. No one has the time to sift through all the raw material out there, and verify its truth, so we generally delegate this task to newspapers/magazines.

    Of course, I'm not saying that slashdot does it well -- but I think it's more useful to complain about how slashdot does what it does, rather than what they do...

  • you poor slobs... i can't hear either fans nor HD's (i do use ONLY IBM HD's)... of course, i use Mac minitowers (G3, G4)... heh heh... and yes, my hearing is quite unimpaired.
  • Windows PCs Require Fans, So Apple Is Best Bet for Quiet May 24 - 08:46 ET: In his latest column, Walter Mossberg discusses the noise -- or in this case, lack thereof -- of PCs. "Apple's iMac and G4 Cube were specifically designed without a fan and are much quieter than any Windows machine I've used," says Mossberg in the article. "...I'd strongly suggest you buy one of these Macs, even though you might have to replace some of your peripheral hardware." BITE ME, peecee y00zerz
  • Not only does the technology exist, but according to arstechnica [] theyre already for sale. Thats a first hype a technology AFTER its been released instead of three years down the road.
  • Only problem is that all of the SSD's I know of are drive backed up with a spinning disk. In the event of power, etc. loss they start destageing all their information to spinning disk. When they get turned backon it takes 20 minutes or so to get fully back off of the drive.
  • To get back to the warning that I've received. You may take it with however many grains of salt you wish. That the brown pixie dust that's been circulating around us is not specifically too good. It's suggested that you do stay away from that. Of course it's your own trip so be my guest. But please be advised there is a warning on that one.
  • by Nuncio ( 179612 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @04:39AM (#208828)
    I've always known they put Magic Blue Smoke into computer components. It's undetectable, but you can definitely prove it's there. When you let the Magic Blue Smoke out of the device, the device doesn't work anymore. This goes for anything that uses electricity. :-)
  • So everyone wants to give the little hampsters inside our hard drives (or pixies-WHAATEVER...) and many people are whining about "Solid state drives would be Soooooo Coooooolll!"... was I...Well I know I've got a huge handful of old 30 and 72 pin memory simms...No, they aren't as fast as a new DIMM @PC133, but I'll but they're a Helluva lot faster than any old spinning hard-drive...and if I'VE got a couple o handfuls...I can only imagine what some other people have, let alone anyone who has been specifically collecting this stuff....

    So what I'm thinking about is like an external drive bay that has NOTHING but SIMM slots in it-and a LOT of em....capable of maybe 20 gigs...okay-maybe 5 gigs...Connect up through a PCI card or even an existing ide cable or something...

    Does this sound feasible???
  • I just got to thinking about the feasibility of using solid state memory instead of hard disk drives.

    Seams to me that Kingston (and probably others) sell flash memory modules up to 512MB. With a little bit of hardware know-how, I think it would be possible to finagle an array of a few of these (let's say, oh, I dunno, 8 should do it) for a grand total of 4.096 GB. Expensive? Yes. At current prices, ( says $600 per 256 MB) this is... um... $4800. Yikes!

    Anyhow, that's about $1.17 per megabyte. Cnet says I can get a 4.3 gig HD for $91. This is about $.02 per megabyte.

    Just from a quick google search, I found out that generically, 512 Mb flash mem supports a r/w speed of 3.0/1.5 Mb/s. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that "seek time" would be something like 200 nanosecs. Our 4.3 gigger, on the other hand, maxes out at around 12/6 Mb/s, but only an "average" seek time of 9.5 milisecs. Comparatively speaking, the flash memory wins the seek time test (almost 50 times as fast) while the hard drive is four times as fast reading and writing. Tortoise and the hare, anyone?

    The only other thing I can think of is to some how support an array of standard, EDO or SDRAM memory with a keep-alive voltage with a hard disk only for backup. I mean, I certainly wouldn't want to store any important data on volatile memory, but for Quake and the like, you probably couldn't beat it.

    Just another random thought: I wonder how fast a computer would be able to boot up using pure solid state? I don't have one of those palm-thingies yet...

    Please feel free to correct my math or my (ahem) facts, this was just a quick search during one of my numerous "email catch-up breaks". Thanks.

  • Thought I would see the day that "Tinkerbell" was a viable name for a line of hard drives...
  • It is too that programmers are getting sloppy. Take Playstation save files, for instance: The original Playstation had a 128kB memory card divided into 8kB blocks, and the majority of games used just 1 block (some used 2), for a save file size of 8-16kB. Now we come to the Playstation 2, with an 8MB memory card, and all of a sudden save file sizes have jumped to 100kB or more. You'll never convince me that's not sloppy programming (or over-design, which is the same thing), at least in the cases I've seen.

    Though I won't dispute the argument that game engines don't grow to 60GB... (:


  • by micromoog ( 206608 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @09:24AM (#208838)
    Don't forget to put a bit bucket under the open cable when you go looking for the token. That way, you can catch any data that falls out, and pour it back in the cable before reattaching it.
  • I thought I saw a IBM-Employee Clan of Dwarves splat'n Pixies for their dust in greater Faydark! Or did they buy it over on eBay?? along with their BloodForge armor??
  • by proletariat ( 208581 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @12:49PM (#208840)
    The density of Ruthenium is 12.45 grams/cc. If Ru is $30/gm then 1000 gallons would cost $1.4 billion (if you could somehow hold the price at $30 even as it becomes more and more scarce).

    At this density and with a molecular weight of 101.07 grams/mole then a 3.5 inch disk 3 atoms thick would require 0.0000552 grams of Ruthenium. IBM could make a million disks for $1700 worth of Ruthenium

  • When IBM released their 25Gb per platter drives.

    Geek dating! []
  • Not per platter, but per ^2cm.

    Geek dating! []
  • by hillct ( 230132 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @04:59AM (#208848) Homepage Journal
    And if you really want to dive deep, here's the scary level of detail"> you're looking for... []

  • The Required posting of theory behind antiferromagnetically-coupled media ml []. Interesting Stuff...

  • by OpCode42 ( 253084 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @04:18AM (#208852) Homepage
    "Peace, love and Linux"

    "Our new hard drives have pixie dust in them!"

    Whats next? IBM OpenAcidTab 1.0? :)
  • I've long believed that when our network goes down its because the elves have tripped over their shoes laces.
  • by Si_Druid ( 318772 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @06:41AM (#208863)
    Yo, so a few more related IBM links from this late reporter...

    IBM Research's announcement w/ a link to the whitepaper on the new tech: 8_pixie_dust.shtml []

    IBM Think Research article on Solid-State RAM (eventually storage, too?): 01/20010202_mram.shtml []

  • Does this mean I'll be able to hold more Bondage Faries stuff on my HD?
  • For significant applications, single hard drives don't cut it. The seek times involved for ongoing reads and writes make them inefficient. This can be corrected somewhat using non-fragmenting file systems but even so, as I understand, if there's a bunch of little files continuously being modified (like journal files on a DB) the head's going to be jumping around too much and the app is going to be waiting on it. If they're going to pack this much data on a drive, they'd better speed it up.

  • IBM is great. Lately they seem to always be on the forefront of Hard Drive Technology. Although I do have to agree with an earlier posting about Solid State Hard Drives. Heck, if I had the money I would definately invest in about a dozen of those 3Gig Solid State drives. Of course at something like $5,000 a pop I do not believe that I will be running those in my PC anytime soon.

  • by Greg's Trolling Acct ( 452430 ) on Monday May 21, 2001 @04:54AM (#208871)
    The only possible use for a drive this big is making illegal copies of DVDs and CDs. IBM should know better.
  • by D Anderson n'Swaart ( 453234 ) <> on Monday May 21, 2001 @04:59AM (#208872) Homepage
    I am wondering if IBM is also conducting as much research into solid-state storage solutions as they are into disk-based ones. We are eventually going to reach a point where we cannot store any more data per unit area of disk, and we are also going to reach the stage where reading these units of data will be unfeasibly slow using magnetic heads attached to a moving arm. This time is likely to come sooner rather than later, and the problem needs to be addressed. When one has a 500 TB hardrive, but the disk IO is only 500 MBps, it will start to become problematic, and at the moment the fact that a hardrive requires a spinning disk is also limiting computer design in terms of both data buses and case appearance. A laptop must have a certain amount of space for a hardrive (although it is debatable whether solid-state drives would be any smaller, one must assume they would surely become so), and those motors take a lot more power than a solid-state media is likely to consume. So, while advances like pixie-dust are great in the short term, what is being done in the long term to create a fully CMOS-based computer, where the only mechanical movement is the fans?

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard