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back to article It's time to end the Windows Wait

Flash memory is going to turn back time - in a good way. Once upon a time in a galaxy far away, PCs started up instantly: lean operating systems leapt from chips in machines that were not saddled with obese software and weighed down with bloatware. We've all got so used to drumming our fingers on desks, waiting for the computer …

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I'm curious to know

How paper tape and punch cards made it into the "magnetic media afterlife"

/pedant

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Optional

If you are still using the OS that requires a reboot virtually every time the mouse is moved then this might be an issue.

For the rest of us it isn't.

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Perhaps

If people didn't write crappy slow software, hard disks would still be perfectly adequate....

Then imagine how fast it would be when you do go to SSD

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Bronze badge

I almost agree

Only that it is a bad design no to have to save the documents... any autosave will either not work as expected (fail) or consume lots of resources.

As for constantly writing SSD disks.. bad idea.

Another thing is to change the way a computer works, and have RAM, non volatile RAM and SSD (either NAND or Memristors). THAT way you could have the document cached y non volatile ram, and from time to time save it to SSD. In case of a crash, the system would copy the last coherent copy to SSD on boot.

As for SSDs replacing rotating disks, I totally agree with you, it is absurd to have disks today,., but many companies insist TODAY on using them for databases!!

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Facepalm

Flash in the pan..

Flash is still expensive and the £/Gigabyte cost makes it unrealistic for most home and corporate desktop and portable users

Also, the capacities just aren't there yet and most home desktop systems hoard tons of data on the disk/s in the form of movies, music, photos and apps.

What was overlooked is those transitional products like the Seagate Momentus which is in essence a rotating hard disk with 4GB of Flash to speed things up

Not as slow as a plattered disk, not as fast as a flash disk but it does make a very noticeable difference on boot up performance

Until flash disks are as cheap as chips and offer massive capacity, this article is a mere flash in the pan..

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WTF?

Non-volatile?

"Flash storage in notebooks and desktops basically pretends to be disk. It isn't. It's non-volatile for a start."

As opposed to disks, which lose their data when the power is disconnected?

Seriously, does the author know what "non-volatile" means, or did he just grab the nearest buzzword from apple.com?

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Happy

Yes, that's what I thought too.

Also, the author seems to suggest that saving is no longer necessary. Saving will always be appropriate for two reasons:

1. Running programs and data are stored in RAM, which IS volatile.

2. Unless you want to make one hell of a mess and have to deal with lots of versions of everything, the user needs to decide when to save. It is not desirable nor effective to save every single change, especially not accidental deletion of content or the cat walking across the keyboard.

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That's what undo is for.

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Go

Flash Memory will loose their data after aboue 10 years without power. Magnetic disks (if stored appropriately) are a lot less volatile than that!

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Flame

SSD's are not engough by a long shot

Actually the article is pretty off-base. Its true that SSD's are a lot faster than mechanical drives but its not true that mechanical drives are the main bottleneck in day-to-day use.

SSD's sure as hell don't cure that damnable spinning hourglass, for anyone.

I'm something of a speed freak, used to have 10rpm UW SCSI disks as my boot drive before SATA came along, then I switched to raptors, Raptor-X and finally Velociraptor drives.

By that time mechanical disks were fast enough that they were no longer the main bottleneck except for start-up of OS/applications.

When I upgraded to a Vertex 2 and recently an Intel 510, I noted speed increases but they were not nearly so impressive.

Sure the OS starts much faster, so what? I reboot once day at most, once a week if I can. Windows 7 x64 is very stable and has great uptime. Sleep/standby works great.

But I still spend an unnaceptable amount of time looking a the spinning hourglass whenever Windows decides this is a complex task and needs to think about it.

This is infuriating on a Quad Core 3GHz machine with 4GB fast RAM and a cutting edge SSD as well as a couple of other marginally slower systems/laptops. I'm not talking about CPU intensive tasks either - I never see the CPU go above 15%.

As far as I can tell, this is a combination of crappy software code combined with poor chipset design creating the bottlenecks.

The trouble is that IT software/hardware companies (other than Apple) don't do any real life testing of their products with an eye to the user experience. Let's fix that and we worry about exotic components later.

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Anonymous Coward

Yep

"We've all got so used to drumming our fingers on desks, waiting for the computer to start, that we no longer dismiss Windows as bloatware, even though it is."

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No real advantage

I start my desktop PC when I get up in the morning, if it hasn't been running all night. Occasionally I have to reboot during the day. Flash based storage isn't going to do a lot for me until I can afford to replace the 3Tb of data drives as well as the boot disk.

The situation may be different on a notebook PC but I don't use one.

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Or you could just drop in a SSD for your OS and keep the spinny drives to hold your 3TB of data. It works very well for me.

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CM
WTF?

SSD destroyer?

Our Sales chum(p)s all have fancy smancy SSDs but the co. inflicts a disk encryption on laptops. Result is a write-everywhere layer of bad software which dramatically reduces the lifespan of SSDs.

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SSDs are the only game in town, and this COULD have been a good article...

... only to be ruined by all the unnecessary and cringeworthy crAppl€ love. Next he'll be telling us that crAppl€ invented SSDs :-/

This idea of not saving documents is only going to cause problems - the novelty just seems not to have worn off for our iDrone here, who hasn't used it long enough for the widely criticised nuances to come and slap him in the face yet.

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FAIL

Inconsistency in your argument

"We feel we have to constantly save to disk, to preserve our hard work, because magnetic media and its associated software can't be trusted, which is another way of saying it's crap and fundamentally broken."

This argument is totally broken. why would constantly save to a "untrusted" media? We did this because it worked, but OS'es and applications wasnt stable. Being away from Windows for a long time, (Linux, OS X), I do not constantly save.

However I can totally agree on SSD rocks. Got my first yesterday. Starting a heavy loaded developer machine (OS X) took 30-60 seconds, lots of application not responding at first. it's less than 10 now.

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Less drugs for the article author

Starts off about NAND memory which, yes, may transform operating systems when it arrives.

Sadly then the halluciogenics kick in and Mellor turns into an imbecile. Clue : spinning disks are non volatile too. Applications save to them because the rest of the hardware is deemed to be less reliable than the storage. From what I can see after wading through the marketing guff, the Macbook Air does *not* have NAND memory. Programs don't run from it, and it attaches to the SATA port - it's storage, not memory.

Then there's the guff about resume. It's no surprise that laptops resume faster than desktops as they have a UPS build into them.. This is a deliberate design decision.

SSDs will be lovely at some point, but you can't buy 2TB of SSD for 80 quid.

Frankly disks aren't that slow in any case. I'm not so desperate that I can't wait 5-10s for Windows 7 to resume from suspend.. (it takes longer for my CRT monitor to warm up than the hardware to respond, and no - I don't want to buy a particularly expensive TFT when my existing monitors are working fine)

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Go

Price is relevant? Really?

Mmm - price is relevant for your needs? Really, really - think about this instead of parroting "disk is cheaper than SSD". Tape is cheaper than disk, but for most people, so what?

Yes it is, but for most people, not for what they want to do:

Even 128 GB SSD is ~£100, and makes more difference than any other processor or memory enhancement you can make. If you are price-constrained, buy the cheapest CPU & mobo you can, and have SSD.

"But my pictures / video take loads more than 128GB". Yes, but not on every mouse-click. Have an external 2 TB drive for very little money. Connect it wireless if you feel like & stash it on a shelf. That way, you save 30 seconds on every boot, 2 seconds on every mouse-click. And lose maybe 10 seconds once every hour when you want to watch a movie on the big drive, or the photo collection.

Sure, store 2 TB of data. But don't suffer a speed penalty that hobbles every other system, for a photo collection you look at twice a day!

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Flame

what drivel was that about non-volatile

'ssd's pretending to be a disk, they arent, they are non-volatile for a start' ???

err harddrives are non volatile too...

last i checked its ram thats volatile, and its ram that stores your precious waffle before you hit the save button, just swapping in a ssd doesn't mean you can pull the plug on your pc and get your typing back. changing autosave to every single second would do about that. whether that works with an ssd, idk, surely seems like a way to burn through your precious cell writes.

In fact i'd of been more interested in hearing about why the stats on these ssd's seem to have ever shrinking process size for their chips and that seems to have ever shrinking writes before failure count. maybe i'm reading it wrong, but I saw this in a recent spec browsing adventure. ie this from Kingstons site on their new HyperX;

'Intel® 25nm Compute-Quality MLC NAND (5k P/E Cycles)'

thats 5,000 program/erase cycles, and thats bad, surely.

I'm sure when the drives first came out they had 100,000 writes per cell, and I thought that'd be dandy for my system disk.

it seems to be based on the move from SLC to MLC, I don't know a lot about it but I see it as a problem, talking about that and what to do about it would of been far more interesting than this.

I'm pretty sure 4 ssd's in raid0 would make a single ssd look a bit silly, but just as moving hdd to ssd, its all about money. helping people learn about what is a good investment would of been meaningful, compared to the drivel that boils down to computers with more expensive components are better. (you may as well of said everyone should have 128gb of ram so you can load your entire environment to ram, and i guess your logic will be use ssds so you don't need to save anything either, just pull the plug, right?)

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FAIL

As much as I'd love an SSD, I tend to prefer storage capacity over speed. I very rarely shutdown or reboot my laptop, most of the time I bung it on standby mode when I'm not using it so it resumes in a couple of seconds.

On my Nettop which I use for media playback on the TV, I just turn it on and wander off and do something else for a minute, and eventually that too will be left on all the time (it's running a secondary MythTV backend and frontend so when I finally get some time to sit and play I'll probably leave it running all the time since it's pretty much silent).

When SSD capacities rise and prices come down (or a combination of the two) I'll pick one up. I know I can get a 64GB SSD for around the £70 mark at the moment but my laptop is a 12.1" machine with only space for one hard drive. I guess if I had a 17" beast with two drive bays then an SSD for booting and a HDD for little used data storage would be an option.

Rob

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15 seconds! You mean hibernate, surely?

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Hybrids, almost awesome.

with hybrid drives the firmware uses the 8GB or so of SSD as a cache, so it learns what is the most popular files and moves those to the SSD part of the storage. It's not that successful.

Better would be to lose the software and to be able to partition the drive so I could have 8GB of SSD to install my OS and other bits n bobs then use the rest of the regular storage to put everything else. This way I could have a laptop that boots up quickly but still gives me 750GB of space without having to remove the dvd drive so that I can install a 2nd hard drive.

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WTF?

What the hell?

>> This is just the beginning. Flash storage in notebooks and desktops basically pretends to be disk. It isn't. It's non-volatile for a start. There is no need to constantly save Word documents or spreadsheets to disk because they're not being written to a platter revolving 250 times a second; they're stored in non-volatile silicon and clever operating system software can save every change you make.

Erm - what? You still need to save from the RAM (which is volatile) being used by the Application to the non-volatile storage (which is either flash or HDD). Both flash and HDD are non-volatile, and even flash reads/writes are much slower than RAM access speeds, so we're not going to replace that with flash any time soon. So yes, you do still need to save your documents. The fact that Lion hides this from the user seems to be entirely irrelevant here (it could do it whether you've got a spinning media or flash-based drive)

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Stop

Windows Shindoze

I can boot my dual-core, SATA 150, DDR machines in 20 secs now, tomorrow and in 6 month's time. How? GNU/Linux. No registry, no lousy file system, few crap drivers. Want speed without the shelling out go GNU/Linux you will not look back.

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Facepalm

Words almost fail me

"It's unnerving at first; closing a document or edited file without explicitly saving it, ... but that's how it should be. We feel we have to constantly save to disk, to preserve our hard work, because magnetic media and its associated software can't be trusted..."

Except the same thing can (and is) done with software running on spining media - the two are not mutually exclusive, and the problems aren't either. An SSD based system can suffer the same issues as a spinning media based system - power it off before data is written (whether the data is being written automatically or manually) and the data is gone. And if the disk fails, it hardly matters whether your data was written minutes or microseconds before, the hardware still failed making it difficult to retrieve your data.

Finally, does the fact that the software is constantly saving to disk instead of you doing it manually actually change whether or not the hardware or software can be trusted? I think not...

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FAIL

"We feel we have to constantly save to disk, to preserve our hard work, because magnetic media and its associated software can't be trusted,"

When you save to disk, you *ARE* trusting magnetic media and the associated software! It's the in-memory storage which is prone to crashing (hence frequent auto-saves).

SSD may be fast - at least for read access - but it certainly isn't comparable to RAM yet - and the explicit serialisation step involved in "saving" a file, at least in programming terms, can act as an effective barrier to bugs and in-memory corruption. Yes, Word can and will crash, but when it does you can roll back to the last pre-crash autosave and carry on without losing much.

In terms of the user interface, though, I agree the new Lion approach seems much better. Behind the scenes, the files are actually still getting saved to disk - but that detail is all taken care of for you, as it generally should be. Just a shame about the bizarre reversal in this article, that you save your data to magnetic disk because it can't be trusted!

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Rant and grumble. My iPhone still takes longer to boot up than my Windows PC. It's just that portable devices and macbooks use suspend/sleep a lot more than desktop PCs.

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Silver badge

Flash

Depends on price. My nearly 10 year old Laptop running XP (120G HDD replaced original 30G about 3 years ago) boots about the same time as many cheaper Flash based Linux running Netbooks.

You need big money for fast Flash. My CP/M system is faster as it doesn't have to load much.

ROM booted non-PCs back in mid 80s were impressive boot time. But not so useful as CP/M or MS/DOS.

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Mushroom

My laptop runs Windows 7 and uses Hybrid Sleep. The first time I use it it takes about ten seconds to come ready. From then on as long as I use it again within three hours it takes about 5 seconds.

You don't need SSD to speed up boot times - you just need to understand what the functions and features available to you and use them properly.

Windows has deeper issues causing the hourglass. My office machine (XP) some times takes nearly half a dozen seconds to open a text file (my TODO list) stored on its local hard disk - WTF is that about? Then there's the Explorer context menu. Why does Windows have to wait until every last time has been chosen before displaying it? Some things are fixed and it ought to show those first then populate the rest over time. But I think mostly it's the network stack and/or the way Windows uses it.

Whatever the cause it /is/ bloody annoying and I wish MS could sort it out. To hell with speeding up boot times - that's something most people only do once or twice a day. What MS need to sort out is why nearly every god-damn thing I do with a computer these days seems to trigger the hourglass.

Windows has provided me with a career for nigh-on a quarter of a century but bloody hell it's become irritating of late.

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FAIL

Silver bullet - for now...

Just give it some time and the bloatware will make flash as slow as spinning rust.

The cause of sloppy programming isn't solved.

What would solve it, would be something along the lines of how the Formula 1 teams have a weight and engine capacity limit.

If all software (especially OS's) were developed on a standardised machine with the following limited specs - say: a P2 300MHz, with 256Mb of RAM and 5GB of Storage.

It would be good for consumers, but bad for the business models.

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JC_
Bronze badge
FAIL

The 2 year old SSD kicks off my Dell desktop instantly, but reading this article you'd think that only Apple-users have access to such futuristic technology... And since when did HDDs become volatile? The data's still there after a power-cycle. Baaaad article.

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Facepalm

But this isn't new....

i remember by trusty Acorn Archimedes flashing into life with the RiscOS in an EPROM (ok, not quite the same as CMOS or flash) and this loaded instantly from power on. The HDD was still spinning up and I could already acces the machine.

At the time I could never understand why people wanted to load an OS from a floppy disk which took ages with its little tunk tunk tunk noise as it stepped through the tracks.

As OS loads moved from floppy to HDD installs they bloated massively clearly attempting to fill all the space available with features and apps that would more than likely never get executed in the entire life of the device. Even with Internet access we still fill our local storage with unused bloat.

I still regret ever getting rid of my Acorn - Still one of the best machines I have ever used and programmed.

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Trollface

"the magnetic media afterlife"

There is no silicone heaven

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Bronze badge
FAIL

"We feel we have to constantly save to disk, to preserve our hard work, because magnetic media and its associated software can't be trusted,"

No, it's because the magnetic media /can/ be trusted, it's the program/data memory that /can't/ be trusted, which is why you regularly save your data /from/ memory /to/ disk.

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Stop

Do not buy *a* drive

"get a solid-state drive for your system instead"

For the love of god buy two and raid mirror them, because they will fail at some point (or more specifically, before a hard drive generally would). They're essentially consumables.

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Anonymous Coward

Flash is fast, yeah, but no but, yeah, but whatever

"Flash is fast and disk is slow, and that's all you need to know"

calls for a paraphrase:

"Disk is cheap, flash is not, and that's all you need to know".

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Anonymous Coward

Can you replace the "get more from this author" with a "never show anything from this author ever again" link please? I don't know where to begin, aside from to ascribe this article to a fiendish trolling attempt, and not rise to the bait...

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Sil
Bronze badge
FAIL

Wakeup

This would perhaps have been an insightful piece of journalism three years ago.

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Anonymous Coward

You, sir, are NAND idiot...

... for the whole "hard drives are volatile but flash is not" nonsense.

>"Flash is fast and disk is slow, and that's all you need to know."

Oh yes? I do not think this policy of ignorance has served you well today.

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Are we there yet?

Well, no - not yet anyhow. Although a 32gb or 64gb SSD is in the affordable range, a reasonably sized one (read as, for Windows OS) isn't. A Windows 7 disc will take up a fair amount of room just for the OS, not to mention any games/programs installed. It's not unreasonable to see 50gb+ on an average user's Windows 7.

Add to that the fact that you cannot get Windows (anything) to install on drive C but install other things (like for example, games and such) on a separate drive, without the game going "No no, we won't work unless we put a few things over here on C...like a gig or two of data..."

So, until someone comes out with a MINIMUM of 128gb SSD at a reasonable (Under $100US) we're not going to see them anywhere except in high end (read as expensive) laptops, where longevity and speed are critical.

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Linux

Hmmm

And here is me grumbling away to myself about how my desktop Linux OS/apps partition has to be 8G (8G!!) these days. Any bigger and I won't be able to back it up to a single DVD-R! :-)

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here's an idea...

just leave the laptop on sleep when u go to work (plug it into the wall if you have too) and then wake from sleep when you get home! takes all of...ooo 1 second!

why are people still shutting down and booting up every day!!!!???

my laptop (new toshiba satelite r830-143 will happily last nearly all week in sleep mode and is always on the coffee table when i come home to use it.... and guess what it's a 5400 spinning disk... (640gb to add, like to see ur SSD do that!!)

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Bronze badge

So let me get this straight...

The author's answer to badly written and over-bloated code is to.... buy faster hardware.

Riiiight...

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WTF?

The author seems to be in a reality distortion field

Yes, flash can be faster for _offline_ storage. No, you still have to save your RAM data to Flash drive/chips, it isn't magically on Flash. Tablets are much faster to load because an App has and uses so little RAM, so saves to Flash seem much faster, however it has to keep more data on Flash, so can be slow during use! Windows and other full OSs like OS-X and Linux generally keep a much more data in RAM, so loads and saves often take longer than for a tablet, however program execution is usually less bogged down by disk access during use.

Price example:

* Flash disk 120GB for cheapest offer price for slowest model over £100

* Rotary magnetic disk 2TB (16 times the size) for pre-flood offer price £57, so over. 27 times cheaper

* Rotary magnetic disk 1TB (8 times the size!) for post-flood offer price £70, so over 11 times cheaper

Anyhow there have also been well published issues over fatal data loss of a whole Flash disk, far worse than for rotary magnetic disks, so is no way in hell that I'll buy and have a Flash disk as a boot disk until they are solid reliable and more competitive in price!

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WTF?

"disk based" OS?

I love my MacBook Air and the speed the SSD provides - but all OSs are "disk based".

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