Over the past couple of days there has been a lot of discussion regarding some new, higher density flash memory devices. While I don’t think adoubling of density is all that remarkable or technologyshifting (flash is still quite slow compared to a modern harddrive. This isn’t to discount it, and there are atremendous number of very valuable uses for such asolid-state, low-power technology, but just wanted to mentionthat it isn’t a panacea and there are compromises), what fascinatesme most about these sorts of discussions is the metrics articlesuse to help people understand capacity. The article linked abovestates that “By combining 16 of these, manufacturers get 32Gb[GB – sic] of flash memory that can storemore than 32 hours of HD video files, 8,000 digital music files(670 hours), or 200 years of daily papers.”. Woo, 200 years ofdaily papers (all papers One paper?). Remember when the standardmetric was the number of copies of the King James Bible I neverknew how much space the Bible would actually require, but itsounded like a lot when something could hold multiple copies ofit. [UPDATE: Looks like it’s about 4.8MB uncompressed,so a 32GB flash card could hold 6,826 copies. Sounds impressive.But how many “Libraries of Congress” could it hold?].
As flash memory starts to compete with hard drives, operatingsystems will need to mildly adapt. For instance, flashhas a limitedlifespan, with localized degradation each time you erase ablock: The common behaviour for operating systems to page outblocks of memory to the storage system unnecessarily, such thatWindows does regularly, and to endlessly create and destroy smalltemporary files on the filesystem. Either wouldn’t be a wise thingto do with flash. It will be a good thing as operating systemsadapt, as I’d love for my hard drive to actually power down whenI’m not doing something that actually requires its involvement.