Friday, November 19, 2010

Calling all the engineers

I was going to write another post in the "english-is-fun" category, but decided we need to discuss more computer science around these here parts.

So, I have Very Important Question for all the engineers out there:
If memory is so cheap and advancing so quickly, why can one not buy one of those cute MacBook Airs with half a terabyte of solid state disk? 
What's up with this 64G stuff? That's barely a few days of photographs from my fancy camera. I prefer not to have to carry around an external HD, because the entire point of a MacBook Air is to reduce weight. That's mostly why I'm trying so hard to turn my iPad into a computer. (Other than I think it's fun).

I asked someone this question, and they said, "Who needs local memory? You can just store everything in The Cloud!" This is not a practical solution. To upload 10GB of photographs would take weeks, and surely requires more bandwidth than the average cafe provides when traveling.

More importantly than photos, I run several things for my research that hog an awful lot of disk space, such as my "special" collection of virtual windows machines. (You know, there's some silly demo that only works under this particular configuration with this particular library under this particular version of the OS). If you have just 3 virtual Windows machines, that 64GB is gone.

So, I'd love to hear from the peanut gallery - what's the hold up on solid state memory? Why isn't it as cheap and easy to get as volatile memory? Where are my flying cars?!?



  1. PS - I should probably mention that I have no intention of launching an OS war here, really I'm just curious about memory. The fact is, for my work I probably use 3-4 different OSes per month. But on a day-to-day basis, I enjoy using OS X the most. Just my personal preference.

  2. I really want a flying car, too... but I don't want everybody else to have them. Most people can't be trusted to drive safely in TWO dimensions.

    Also, I don't want most of the people I've seen on the roads driving over my house. What if they run out of gas?

  3. Disclaimer: I'm not a physicist nor a computer engineer (although I was an electrical engineer in a former life). My understanding is that the underlying technology is more expensive, so it's not cost-effective to have very large solid-state least not yet. Also, with volatile memory, you can read and write in any location as many times as you want (it just doesn't "stick"). With solid-state memory you have to spread out your reads and writes, because you can only write to a given location a set number of times. So this adds to the cost.

  4. Ah, I see. Thanks for the explanation and for stopping by, acdalal! (I came across your blog awhile ago and have enjoyed reading it).

  5. I agree it's incredibly frustrating. And I can't go dropping work stuff on "the cloud" or models or drawings which tend to be pretty sizeable. I'd think the transfer is the biggest problem as my iPhone can't download a podcast that's more than 30 minutes long without being on wireless. And I'm only on wireless when I'm home, and if I'm home, I don't need to download a podcast to listen to!

  6. Agreed -- the iPhone/iPad download restrictions are ridiculous! What's the point of having 3G if it's not useful for anything?

  7. So a guy in my group (I'm a physicist at a large research university) *just* bought a Macbook Air with a 250 GB hard drive. I know that he had it custom built, but I do not know by whom (Apple or a 3rd party company?).

    Also, as I assume you would want to do, he uses it as his primary computer. At work he has the 27" LED screen to plug it into and on the road, he just suffers with the tiny screen.

    Anyways, it can be done, but I suspect that due to costs, it's not offered as a standard option.