Silent but deadly


It’s been in the pipe for a while, but it appears that Samsung has finally done it – created a flash-memory chip with an amazing 32 GB of storage.

With memory capacity seeming to double every six months it was only a matter of time, but last week Samsung confirmed it had created a working 32 Gigabyte solid state disk. No word yet on price or compatibility, but it will probably be a while before it’s something you can slide in and out of your digital camera, PDA or cell phone. The version they’ve created is about a third as big as a conventional hard drive, and weighs half as much.

In terms of performance, the drive reads data about three times quicker, writes it 1.5 times faster, uses about five per cent as much energy as a hard disk, and is absolutely quiet – there’s no motor, and no need for a fan to cool the motor. They also don’t skip, which makes them ideal for portable devices of any kind.

The benefits of this kind of technology are huge.

First of all, flash disks are portable, which greatly increases the amount of data people can transport from place to place. They’re also small enough you can put them in cell phones, personal data assistants, portable game players, digital cameras, MP3 players and just about any other tech gadget out there.

Because of flash technology’s low power demands, flash disks can also increase the battery life of laptops significantly. Gone will be the days of executives wandering airports and hanging out in washrooms, looking for power outlets to bring their computers back to life.

You can put flash disks in other applications as well. Televisions could come with built-in recorders, game consoles like Xbox 360, PS3 and Nintendo Revolution can skip plans for external or internal hard drives, cars could have built-in drives to remember GPS routes, record voice messages while you drive, store music and make detailed reports on vehicle performance.

In many applications Samsung’s 32 GB disks will completely replace the need for hard drives.

And if Samsung can build a 32 GB flash disk a 64 GB drive may be right around the corner. Put three together and you’ll have more disk space than most desktop computers come with these days.

No Vista in sight for Windows

In Microsoft’s defence, the Vista next generation operating system is not just an upgrade of XP but a completely new platform that promises to be secure, powerful, scalable and eminently capable – purpose-built to welcome, and in a sense create, the next generation of computing.

But it is late. Very late. Vista started out as an upgrade to Windows XP and was expected to be launched in 2003. Realizing that things had changed and that people wanted and needed something more than an update, Microsoft decided to go back to the drawing board. Vista, which was originally named Longhorn after the pub in Whistler, was supposed to be released in early 2005, but was pushed back to early 2006 and then to November of 2006, in time for Christmas.

Last week Microsoft nudged Vista’s launch date back even further, to January of 2007, missing the Christmas shopping window that PC manufacturers needed to increase their own flagging sales.

Each delay is a result of a combination of factors, not the least of which is the difficulty inherent in creating a powerful new platform to service more than 90 per cent of the world’s PCs. Then there’s the fact that Microsoft keeps adding features to Vista to keep pace with what’s going on with Apple, Linux, Google and technology in general.

Some experts also point to lingering anti-trust suits in the U.S. and Europe, which they believe distracted Microsoft and forced them to re-evaluate plans for Vista.

According to Microsoft, the latest delay stems from the need to further test and prepare their systems, with an emphasis on security. With six different versions of Vista planned for launch, from home to small business to professional, that’s a lot of quality control.

Judging by the number of calls for resignations in Microsoft, people are taking the Vista launch very seriously. While XP was widely appreciated, the number of flaws and security holes uncovered have attracted more attention than the software itself. It’s safe to say that Microsoft is betting its reputation on Vista, if not the future of the company itself, so it has to be perfect.

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