Almond Brothers / Matthias & Linux / SSD

Almond Brothers Band It’s not Mother Teresa, Jesus, or even Elvis — but the “Almond Brothers” revealed themselves my dad as he was preparing to use them in a salad. It’s unclear whether he followed through on his intention to eat them. I hope so — they look pretty unhappy about the toasting they received. Best to put them out of their misery.

I spent a few hours fooling around with Kubuntu 7.04 with Matthias, and we actually got Kubuntu installed and running on his FSC Celsius model notebook computer. Getting Kubuntu on a laptop is not that big of a deal in and of itself (I’m writing this one on right now), but the last time we tried (last year), Matthias’ snazzy hardware (it even has a fingerprint reader built into its touchpad) was just too modern and fancy for shabby old cheapo Linux (just kidding, Linus). By now it appears to have caught up; at least partially. Also, this was the first time I’d ever tried or witnessed an installation of any kind of linux onto a computer with another operating system on it already (namely, windows). The Live/Installation CD thinger was smart though and put Linux onto exactly the partitions we told it to and left other stuff alone. That was a big relief. The only thing we couldn’t get 100% up-to-snuff was the video resolution. There were plenty of video drivers available – including one auto-detected by the OS itself and a generic one, and neither one seemed capable of allowing 1280×800 resolution or higher (and we know his monitor and video card can go much higher, at least with drivers in Windows). Might just be a case of waiting Linux out another release or two until more drivers are available and Matthias’ hardware stops being quite so bleeding edge.

But he’d been asking about external hard drives to supplement his storage capacity, and then a little later I noticed that the founder of WordPress has something I’d heard of, but not yet ever seen or known anyone to own: an SSD, or solid state {disk|drive} — a good-sized one, too.

A 32GB storage device based on flash memory…hmm…that’s bigger than a lot of hard drives still in use today. It’s almost as big as the one from which I am writing to you now. I imagine not too far in the future mechanical hard drives with spinning disks of magnetically stored zeroes and ones will be replaced by flash memory. No moving parts could mean greater reliability and less heat generation, smaller energy demands, less noise…that all sounds really neat. I’m not sure about write speeds though – from what I’ve read (ok, skimmed, really), conventional hard drives write data faster than these flash devices. Maybe a hybrid solution is the best way to go in the short term:

  • Data your computer needs to access frequently but change only rarely (perhaps operating system stuff?) could be stored in a flash drive
  • Data your computer needs to write quickly but only read rarely could remain on conventional hard disks (logging functions?)

It sounds like the trick is going to be either getting flash memory’s write performance up to the level of conventional hard drives, or writing management algorithms to strike the optimum balance between reading and writing performance for individual applications and usage patterns. Yikes — that sounds complicated.