Archive for April, 2009

Investing in Tech to Spur the Economy

It’s finally a good thing that a US administration believes in a strong technology infrastructure. As part of the economic stimulus package $500 million is being spent on building a new high tech data center to replace the aging social security system. Yes, your data is important and not just the trivial stuff such as pictures and music. I’m talking about protecting you from identity theft, fraud, however the main reason is simply to update archaic government red tape. Slowly moving government offices from paper to electronic processing. Updating process and technology is only part of the process. A much more difficult task will be re-training staff to understand and be able to put the technology to good use. Could this be the cusp of a new hiring phase? Possibly followed by mass retirements and layoffs of senior back office staff? It would be a good thing to inject youth and productivity into the the traditional “slow and steady” government infrastructure. How does one go about starting up a new data center?

*phone call to local computer store
“I need 100,000 two terabyte hard drives … do you take American Express?”

Disaster Proof Backup

For many companies struggling to keep up with user demands a data disaster is just a few hours away. Business demands are relying heavily on information management and protection. Backup technology has moved up the ladder of importance as well as practices to limit data loss and data recovery scenarios. The focus has been on fortifying data centers with multiple and redundancy checks. Better to be over-cautious then explaining to the boss why the company servers are down. However the costs are often enough to force small and midsized companies down the riskier road. Backup systems are getting expensive and complex to manage and often get outsourced. Off-site backups still leaves room for downtime but paying someone else to do the job is usually cheaper than investing in an entire department of your own.

A few companies have come out with their own black box built to withstand all kinds of data disasters. The unit uses solid state drives raided together to provide the ultimate backup system. Remote access, full encryption, and software to help you manage your data.

Shanzhai phones cheap, even cheaper to make

Ok, so I do own a SciPhone. And I thought I got a bargain at $87 off eBay. However it probably only cost $30 – 40 to make. Wha?! Yes, people over in China are churning out fake phones from their basements and selling them for big profits to us bargain hunting North Americans. What did you expect? I mean they are finally starting to crack down on counterfeit DVDs, I mean they gotta eat right? Move on to the next pirate commodity, cell phones. Nokia, Apple, Samsung, Motorola all have their counterfeit brands in China. When fake stuff accounts for such a big portion of a country’s GDP (20%) how much policing do you expect the corrupt government officials to do? You can bet they are getting a cut of the action.

Although shanzhai phones have only been around a few years, they already account for more than 20 percent of sales in China. (link)

Extreme temperatures not good for hard drives

I noticed this interesting post on Gizmodo with a picture of a hard drive. Cover off, and tiny shiny pieces of what was left of a platter. Reading through the comments I was surprised that very few people actually knew what the platters are made of. Glass. Plain and simple. Platters are made out of glass and coated in metal. The metal surface of course maintains the magnetic signal of all your important data. Not aluminum, not steel or any other metal. Hopefully more people realize just how fragile hard drives are. So you “only” dropped your hard drive on to carpet and it was “only” 1 foot while the drive was on, is like a death sentence to a hard drive.

Now by all accounts a shattered hard drive is an extremely rare occurrence. It takes a combination of temperature, spinning frequency, and physical shock at the right time for this to occur. It’s generally a good idea to wait for electronic equipment to reach room temperature before turning it on. Especially if it has been sitting in a courier’s truck overnight. The sudden surge of electricity pulsing through cold wires can make for interesting outcomes. Admittedly it is hard to resist playing with new gadget as soon as they arrive.

Botnets take control of Macs

Did you happen to download that pirated copy of iWork ’09? No? Then why are you spamming me with your ads for viagra and cialis? A couple of malware programs, OSX.Iservice and OSX.Iservice.B, have proven successful in obtaining passwords to take control of seemingly innocent Macs. Welcome to the party. Reportedly its the first serious attempt at creating an Apple-centric botnet and it’s picking up steam. It’s still early but the code appears to be fairly flexible for future modifications. I guess this won’t be the end of virus and malware programs for Macs. In the meantime, stop downloading torrents and just buy legit software already! (link)

Bell Sympatico aims to squeeze out wholesalers

Usage based billing will be the end of Internet DSL wholesale companies in Canada. Bell raised the idea last year in a response to a CRTC ruling forcing them to allow their wholesalers the same service offering they had. UBB is the end of unlimited flat rate Internet plans for many smaller companies. Bell plans to implement the billing system at the end May this year. So much for competition.

So not only do Bell Sympatico customers have to deal with unnecessary slow Internet due to throttling but monthly access fees will also rise. Oops you went over your monthly cap, that will be an extra $20. Will it be any surprise when BCE’s profit results are up by the end of the year? If only there were another service provider. In Canada there is Rogers and Bell, both which suck balls. (link)

MLC NAND technology to put SSDs in every household

MLC (multiple level cell) NAND technology allows for higher density of data storage capacity. This could greatly lower costs for data centers by up to 4 times. There are still some performance, reliability, and endurance issues to work out but the technology looks to make solid state drives a household product.

SLC (single level cell) NAND memory can store 1 bit per cell. This allows for higher read/write speeds and up to 100,000 write cycles. MLC NAND memory is capable of 2,000 to 10,000 write cycles but can store multiple bits per cell meaning more storage capacity. As well in order for MLC to function properly complicated firmware is required to handle data allocation and organization. (link)

The main problem with SSDs has been write performance. The fixed block sizes forces inefficient handling of data storage. Data is spread out evenly across the flash memory but slows access time and increases wear and tear. Adding RAM buffers can speed up read/write times.

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