Good dialog between Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales and Encyclopedia Britannica’s Dale Hoiberg in today’s Wall Street Journal (free version, I think). They dance around the subject of massive storage and cheap internet publishing – both of which enable – while shadow boxing each other.

The EB is struggling to maintain its economic model – even as a non-profit – against a similarly enabled Wikipedia. Hoiberg appeals to authority, specifically the authority of its 4,000 scholarly and 100 Nobel Prize winning authors. Wales notes that Wikipedia has a lot more authors and a lot more reviewers.

This is not about the wisdom of crowds or wresting keyboards from the dead hands of self-appointed elites. It is simply economics: Wikipedia has enlisted tens of thousands of volunteers to work for free. These volunteers self-select themselves for their contributions (disclosure: I’ve added content to a couple of Wikipedia articles where I have specific knowledge). Wikipedia is about the statistical distribution of knowledge, the simple fact that when millions of people compare notes, there are likely to be a few who know as much as the scholars do.

Hollywood Wants To Outlaw Caching
According to an article in ZDnet Hollywood is well on its way to getting the US Congress (immortalized by Mark Twain as “America’s only native criminal class”) to require licenses for copyrighted works even when the copies exists in a server’s buffer. See more from the EFF’s website. What about the copies inflight across the network? While I believe the RIAA, MPAA and the never-ending copyright lobby are cretins, I do appreciate the wider awareness of storage their work is engendering.

The take: when caching is outlawed, only outlaws will have cache.

Tape Encryption: Write-Only Media?
IBM has announced a new, encrypting tape drive. The problem with encryption is what happens if you lose the key? It is like bulk erasing the tapes. Not to fear, IBM has an Encryption Key Manager component for the Java platform. Other than the fact that I can’t find any documentation for it on the IBM website, it looks wonderful. They spend much more time talking about key management on their mainframes, and even have a webpage for it. If security is supposed to make you feel more secure, why does this announcement make me feel less secure?

Samsung Declares Flashtopia
I think I’m more allergic to marketing hype than most, but I love what Samsung is doing with flash. To wit:

  • 40 nanometer 32 Gb NAND flash chip. That’s right, Intel is still switching its factories over to 65 nm feature sizes, and Samsung is working with 40 nm to get even higher density – and cheaper – flash. And they are looking ahead to doing it at 20 nm. 64GB SSDs and memory cards aren’t far away now. Very cool
  • System-on-chip (SoC) for hybrid disk drives that supports 4 GB of flash. It will be interesting to see how much flash the disk vendors decide to support.
  • A new technology – PRAM – that may replace flash because it offers 30x higher speed than flash and 10x the lifespan. The downside: the density is a lot lower – max of 512 Mb device.

Samsung is kicking butt with these announcements. Lets hope they deliver all of them as planned.