TDK Looking to Double Hard Drive Capacity

Storage, both HDD and SSD, is growing in capacity and shrinking in price all of the time.  With hard drives currently as large as 2 TB available, and promises of even bigger ones coming it seems there is almost more storage already than anyone of needs.  Plus, for those willing to pay a premium, there are SSD’s, which are smaller in capacity, but much faster in read time.  Plus, we have even heard vague rumors of holographic storage coming in the future.

Now, from the future technologies department comes some news that TDK, the once famous cassette tape maker, has a technology that could double the storage capacity of a hard drive by using laser heaters to write the data.  TDK calls the technology HAMR – heat-assisted magnetic recording.  The laser needs to be combined with a new way of making the drive platters.  Supposedly TDK has used the technology with platters that would normally have held 1 TB of data and successfully stored 2 TB on them.

It sounds very futuristic, and honestly it is.  There is no release date for the technology, no idea of how such drives would be priced in comparison to a standard drive, and no real idea if this technology will ever even hit the market.  Frankly, beyond this one report from the Register, there is really no concrete evidence of this technology existing.  But the science of storage is always moving ahead at a fast pace, so it’s likely that such things as this are at least being tested.

Freecom iPad 2 Competition

Just a quickie….if you liked the sound of the Freecom Mobile Drive Mg that I reviewed recently and you need a further incentive to buy one, from 1 August to 31 October 2011, every 100th customer to buy and register a Mobile Drive Mg from either an Apple Store, an Apple Premium Reseller, the Apple Online Store or from the Freecom webshop will win an iPad 2. Freecom has created a registration page with details of how to get involved and the terms and conditions of the promotion.

LaCie External Hard Disk Review

LaCie’s Hard Disk is a USB2 3.5″ external hard drive unit. Designed by Neil Poulton, it definitely comes from the minimalist school of design as it’s a shiny black box with a blue LED. The exterior is marred only by a discrete LaCie logo on one side; USB connector, power socket and on/off switch at the back. You don’t even see the LED itself, only the blue light reflecting off the desk.

And sometimes a box is just what’s needed, if you want stack or store the drives. All too often stylish designs prevent two units from being placed on top of each, taking up more space. This LaCie unit manages to be stylish and functional at the same time, though it’s a bit of a dust magnet at times.

I have two of the 1 TB drives and they form the heart of my backup strategy. Once a month, they get retrieved from storage, plugged in and the files synced with my NAS. Touch wood, I’ve not had any drive failures.

Performance-wise, it’s always hard to test reliably and consistently.  I’m on Linux, so I’ve a range of tools including dd, hdparm and bonnie++.

– hdparm gave 32 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
– dd gave write speeds around 43 MB/s, with reading closer to 50 MB/s.
– bonnie++ gave 34 MB/s for writes and 36 MB/s for reads.

Given that the maximum theoretical speed for USB 2 is 60 MB/s, these figures are pretty good. For comparison, bonnie++ gives figures around 100 MB/s for my main SATA drive.

Currently, the LaCie Hard Disk comes in 1 TB, 1.5 TB and 2 TB versions and if you look hard, the 1 TB unit can be picked up for around £50. Recommended.

Buffalo March Madness

Buffalo Technology has had a busy month with updates to the TeraStation, LinkStation, DriveStation and MiniStation ranges.

Starting out at the beginning of the month, the new TeraStation NAS range was announced consisting of the Duo, 4 bay, 6 bay and 8 bay versions, all now powered by Intel’s Atom D510 processor.  The new models also come with two USB 3.0 ports (and two USB 2.0) to connect additional storage or to act as a print server. Aimed squarely at the business market, the TeraStations have Active Directory support, RAID 0/1/5/6/10 and come in both desktop and rackmount variants. Available from April 2011.

Mid-March, Buffalo announced the LinkStation Quad Pro, a 4 TB and 8 TB NAS aimed at the home prosumer. It can stream music and film to popular consoles such as the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, and also to any DLNA or uPNP media player. A new feature is support for the Logitech Squezebox which will please music lovers. For photographers, the “DirectCopy” feature uploads pictures from digital still or video cameras direct to the LinkStation. And finally, the new Android version of Buffalo’s WebAccess i app gives access to the multimedia from anywhere in the world. (When’s the WebOS version coming?)

Last week, it was the turn of the external drives, with the MiniStations and DriveStations getting the upgrade treatment. The MiniStation gets a capacity bump to 1 TB and now comes in a glossy black finish. The DriveStation also gets the piano treatment but now comes in two variants: for the price conscious, there’s a USB 2 version in 1 TB and 2 TB capacities but for the speed freaks, a USB 3 version (1, 2 & 3 TB) will satisfy their needs. Available now from all good retailers.

A busy month for Buffalo with something for everyone – I quite fancy upgrading to the LinkStation Quad Pro.


DataLocker Protecting Your Data

the DLS3 by DatalockerTodd Cochrane and Tom Newman spoke to Peter Whitman Director of Operations for DataLocker, about the importance of encrypting your data, especially when traveling. Peter Whitman talked about DataLocker newest product the DLS3. The DLS3 is an encrypted portable hard drive. It connects to your computer by USB 3.0 technology (it will work on USB 2.0) It use military grade 256 bit AES XTA mode encryption.

The DLS3 drive uses two factors of authentication a RFD card and a pass code. If someone tries to guess the code and enters the wrong code nine times the system will wipe the data. There is rapid secure wipe. It also uses keypad randomization so you can not figure out the code by lifting the fingerprints. It is platform independent so you can use with a Mac or PC. You can use is as a bootable drive and even partition it. It should be shipping in March.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central. and Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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Other World Computing SSDs

Solid-State Drives (SSDs) haven’t ousted spinning hard drives from the average PC, but they have made significant inroads in the netbook market where the performance of the SSD compensates for the weaker performance of the CPU. Andy McCaskey talks to Larry O’Connor, founder and CEO of Other World Computing (OWC) on how OWC got started, what makes OWC special and why OWC SSDs are the best in class.

If you’re not familiar with SSDs and their features, such as wear-levelling, this video covers much of the technology behind the devices and gives some insight into what to look for when choosing an SSD.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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OWC — Other World Computing — High Performance Aftermarket SSD Drives

Grant Dahlke from Other World Computing aka introduces Sandforce processor-based high capacity, high-performance SSD (solid state drive) hard drives for computers such as Apple’s Macbook Air that are up to three times larger and up to 22% faster than the drive than Apple’s OEM drive. They also have a line of drives for older IDE and ATA machines, which enables much better performance from older computing hardware due to the much faster read/write times of solid state drives as opposed to the performance of conventional spinning hard drives.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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Victorinox USB Swiss Army Knife

CES 2011 has been taking place this week in LAS Vegas, NV. This is the show where anybody who is anybody in consumer electronics is. That includes everyone from those who sell giant plasma TVs like Sony down to those who sell usb drives like Victorinox. At one time everyone carried a Swiss Army knife with them at all times. Now a days though because of airport security, you can’t carry one. This was hurting Victorinox the maker of Swiss Army knife business , so now they offer a USB Swiss Army knife.

The airport safe version has USB keys only, there is also one that comes with a blade, nail file, LED light, pen and scissor. Like any Victorinox product it is highly durable and waterproof. You can remove the drives from the knife and swap them out for a higher capacity drive. The USB drives can carry up to 64 GB and there is a Duo which carries up to 128GB. Victorinox is also introducing a SSD model, which has a dual USB/eSATA interface and an e-ink display with drive detail. It is expected there will be a 128GB and 256GB version at launch in March and a 512GB later in the year. It has 3x the speed of a standard USB drive. This means that later this year a device which is the size of a Swiss Army knife will have the same storage capability that my mac mini has. It offer secure data encryption and high read and write speed. It has dynamic power management and 32 bit high-speed processor. The USB version is available now, the SSD model should be available later this spring. I love the idea of this product, especially the SSD drive. It is amazing how something so small has so much storage capacity. I look forward to getting my hand on one.

Kingston’s MobiSX

Ipads and Iphones are cool but no matter how much storage they have there is never enough storage. You could of course carry an extra hard drive with you, but that sort of misses the point of the Ipad. Kingston has solution that doesn’t require you to carry an extra drive with you. Kingston which is known for memory products, is introducing a new wireless storage device at CES 2011, called the MobiSX The MobiSX is basically a flash storage drive with Wifi built-in. It’s available with 16GB or 32GB drive. You get about 4 hours of battery life out of it if you are streaming and 6 hours in stand by. It uses a lithium ion battery. It looks about the size of an Iphone only thicker. The device is assigned an Ipad address. On your Ipad and Iphone you then go to the Safari browser enter in the IP address and you can then access any file that is on the MobiSX no matter the type of file or where you are. You can stream to up to three devices from it at one time. If this works as good as advertised, this will be a great way to double your Ipad or Iphone storage.

Only a few people saw this device being demonstrated and I don’t think anyone has gotten their hands on it, so the information about it is limited. I am wondering if you can access the information is you don’t have wi-fi available, which could be a draw back for some people. Right now they expect it to be available sometime this year and start at a price of $99.00 for the 16GB version.

Buffalo MicroStation SSD Review

Buffalo LogoIf you’re the kind of person who has to have the fastest processor, the quickest memory and the nippiest hard drive, then you might as well stop reading this review and simply go out and buy a Buffalo MicroStation SSD. Because it’s fast. Probably not the fastest SSD out there, but in comparison to a spinning hard disk drive, it’s like a Formula 1 car racing a family runabout – no contest.

So what are we actually talking about here? The Buffalo MicroStation SSD is a 2.5″ form factor internal SATA solid state drive aimed squarely at the laptop upgrade market.  With an additional mini-USB port on the SSD and Acronis True Image software, it makes swapping the hard drive for the SSD as easy as possible.

Box contentsIn the box, you get the MicroStation SSD, a quick setup manual, the True Image DVD and a USB cable.  In your hand though, the SSD is a pretty boring lump of plastic.  An HDD is much more solid and satisfying but that’s progress for you. The model reviewed here is the SHD-NSUH256G-EU.

Let’s say you want to convert your laptop from an HDD to an SSD.  You’ve two choices.  Option 1 – rip out the HDD, stuff in the SSD and re-install Windows and all your software, then somehow copy your personal files off your old disk.  Not a great option.  Option 2.  Connect the SSD via USB, boot from the Acronis True Image DVD, clone the HDD to the SSD, swap the disks over and boot the laptop.  Job done.  It really is that simple.

You do need to set aside an hour or two to clone a 256 GB HDD and if you want more control, e.g. changing partition sizes, then you have to install the full version from the DVD.  However, it’s all straightforward.

USB PortOnce you’ve fired up the laptop, you’ll be totally amazed at how much faster it’s become.  It’s like buying a new computer!  In my thoroughly unscientific testing, with the HDD installed my laptop took about 50 seconds to get to the Windows 7 login screen from power on, of which about 10 seconds was the BIOS checks.  On logging in, it took 20 seconds to show the desktop background and a further 40-odd seconds to show the Windows Sidebar.  Basically from pressing the power button to having a working laptop takes 2 minutes.

After installing the SSD, it took just 28 seconds to get to the Windows 7 login screen, 8 seconds to show the background and only another 20 seconds to show the Sidebar.  Total time about a minute.

Launching applications was amazingly fast.  Word took about 2 seconds from clicking in the Start menu to a blank document appearing.  Sun’s VirtualBox started in a similar time. Even iTunes started in about 6 seconds. That normally takes about 18 seconds from the hard drive. It’s just stonkingly quick.

In slightly more scientific testing, hdparm -t consistently gave disk reads of 234 MB/s. By comparison, the fastest disk drive I tested performed at 98 MB/s.  On disk writes, the peak was about 140 MB/s with the average not far below that. The full technical specs for the SSD are available from Buffalo.

It may seem blindingly obvious but the other surprise was the SSD’s silence. I could only tell that the laptop was doing anything by the flickering of the disk activity light.

But easy as it is to change the hard drive for the SSD, it can be hard on the pocket. The MicroStations come in a range of sizes from 32 GB to 256 GB, with former costing £110. However, the 256 GB MicroStation SSD costs a whopping £500, so if you want speed and silence, you pay for it.

Overall, this is a great upgrade for any laptop and Buffalo make it as easy as possible to transfer your data.  But you’ll need big pockets for the big capacities.

Thanks to Buffalo Technology for the loan of the MicroStation SSD.