A Hard Disk Designed to Last Millions of Years

Traditional hard drives can last anywhere from a few months to a few years, with the latter being more likely.  SSD’s can last longer thanks to their lack of moving parts, but they still probably aren’t something you would want to include in a time capsule.  Now researchers in France are working on a drive that they hope will last as much as 10 million years.

The sapphire “hard disk” prototype has been created by ANDRA, the French nuclear waste management agency.  The disk, which is one of a kind, cost $25,000 to make, and stores information with platinum-based etchings.  The reason for this?  To warn future generations of nuclear waste buried in the ground.

The data stored on the sapphire disk contains 40,000 miniaturized (not digital) pages, and the only thing future archaeologists will need to read them will be a microscope.  ANDRA researchers tested the disk’s durability by immersing it in acid to simulate the ageing process.  The disk should last at least 1 million years, the researchers stated.  In fact, they hope to prove a durability of 10 million years very soon.

Source: Science Now

Image: Hard Drive by BigStock

Upgrading My NAS…Yawn

Hard DriveLast weekend, I upgraded my NAS from 2 TB to 4 TB and it was all too easy. The NAS is a Buffalo LinkStation Duo but as the drives are mirrored, I only get half the total 2 TB capacity, i.e. 1 TB. I was getting pretty close to having the full terabyte of data on the unit, so I decided it was time for a storage upgrade. However, the last time I upgraded another model of NAS, it involved much chicanery and re-installing of firmwire via USB, so I proceed with trepidation.

Not so this time. It was mostly lots of waiting interspersed with a few minutes of activity, followed by first time success. Disappointingly little geekery was required.

Step 1. Buy a pair of SATA 2 TB hard-drive. The LinkStation already had Seagate drives installed, so I played it safe and bought some Seagate Barracuda drives. Wait a couple of days for drives to arrive in post…

Step 2. Backup the data from the NAS to an external USB drive. My favourite tool for this is rsync because it simply copies files (no archives or zip files) and you can stop and start the backup as you like. You can even keep using the NAS up until the last minute before running one final rsync to copy the latest changes over. Leave the backup to run overnight…

Step 3. Shutdown the LinkStation via the web interface.

Step 4. Remove hard drives, insert new ones.

Step 5. Power up the Linkstation and log on via the web interface.

Step 6. Format drives in turn. Configure as RAID 1. Wait for best part of a day while array synchronises….

Step 7. Restore data from external USB hard drive. Leave to run overnight….

Step 8. Job done!

It was pleasantly straightforward to upgrade the NAS and a big change from the last occasion I had to swap a disk. For sure it takes a couple of days to do the swap, but the time is spent shuffling data around, not actually working on the unit. Definitely a recommended upgrade.

[Disclosure: this is my personal NAS and not a review unit.]

Freecom Mobile Drive CLS Review

Freecom LogoFreecom announced the Mobile Drive CLS concept back in July as a new way of storing and organising the vast amounts of data that all of us now seem to collect through our daily digital lives.  The CLS stands for Collect, Label and Store and fundamentally it’s about using 2.5″ portable drives to store data according to type or use.  One Mobile Drive could have photos, another video.  Or they could be arranged by topic with one Mobile Drive storing all the photos and videos from a trip to Europe and another holding the material from a new house you built last year.  I’m sure you can grasp the possibilities.

It all reminds me a little bit of the SyQuest EZDrive and the Iomega Zip drive, and the drive even comes with a translucent plastic case with a paper insert where you can write the contents of the hard drive for future reference. It’s so old skool….

But enough reminiscing.  If you buy into the concept, what do you actually get?  There’s two parts, the first being the Mobile Drive CLS, a 2.5″ hard drive enclosed in a black soft-touch rubberised case and with a label strip down the side.  The second is the CLS Dock, a docking station that takes three of the Mobile Drives.

Mobile Drive CLS

As the Mobile Drives come with standard mini-SD connectors, you can just use the drives with a cable if you want.  Power is supplied via the USB cable.

Alternatively, the Dock makes using them much more convenient. You simply slot the Drive onto the Dock, which can take up to three of the CLS Mobile Drives.  Cleverly, the mini-SD connector is slightly offset from the centre so it’s obvious which way round the drive has to go.  There’s also an additional standard USB port on the Dock for a memory stick.

The Mobile Drive seemed to fit snugly into the Dock and obviously the review unit was new but I’d be fairly confident you wouldn’t need to worry about wear on the connectors anymore than you’d worry about any external unit.

There’s been a bit of care here too with the USB leads.  The supplied leads are a cut above the average USB cable and there’s a short one supplied in the storage case, keeping drive and lead together.

Performance-wise, the disks were pretty much as you’d expect from an external USB2 drive.  Using hdparm -Tt, I got around 1640 MB/s for cached reads and 30 MB/s for buffered disk reads.

Cost-wise, the Mobile Drives come in four sizes from 250 GB (£60) up to 640 GB (£85).  The CLS Dock costs £16.  Comparing the price for the Mobile Drives against similar units, there’s a price premium of £10 at the smallest capacity which gradually reduces as the capacities increase.

I liked this product as it’s well designed and convenient.  I think this product will appeal to the “laptop generation” – those people who live in lofts and apartments and use technology primarily for their own entertainment. Eventually the laptop hard drive fills up with photos, music or films and this is a clever and attractive way to keep files without cluttering up the internal disk.

It might also appeal to people who just want a convenient way to transfer data between home, work and school.  Use the dock at home and the cable while on the road.  And the label strip on the side of the Mobile Drive can easily take a name and mobile phone number in case of loss.

Frankly, I’m surprised it doesn’t come in white…

Thanks to Freecom for the review unit.

Samsung Announces 16GB Flash Memory Module

Seoul-based Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. announced that it has developed a Solid State Disk (SSD) with a capacity of up to 16GB. Using two NAND-based modules, the SSD is a low power, lightweight storage media for notebook PCs and, eventually, consumer electronic devices.

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