Can’t afford a new notebook? Pimp your old one with flash
A couple of folks sent me this link to the $30 Addonics CF drive adapter.
Plug in a couple of 8 GB CF cards, or better yet, 16 GB cards and you have an upgradeable flash drive whose components you can re-use. What’s not to like?
Here’s a picture from the Addonics website:
Cute, eh? And I love their recommendation to tape it into your notebook drive bay. Harks back to the early days of personal computing.
The StorageMojo take
I haven’t tried the product – hey Addonics, how about a review unit, SATA version please – but I really like the concept. The flash cards all seem to have solid interfaces and high volume production, so why not use them for disk storage?
I even saw a wireless print server designed to fit in a CF slot. CF seems to have a lot of life in it.
My MacBook uses a SATA drive, and the current Addonics CF to SATA adapter only holds a single CF card, so it isn’t yet practical for me. But if flash prices drop another 70% this year then by early 2008 a 16 GB CF card will cost less than $100 online. That will be mighty attractive.
Or will it?
Learn more about flash drives next week
I’m working on an article about flash drive performance for Monday. I think you’ll like it.
Comments welcome, especially if you’ve tried one of these beasts. Moderation is a virtue, except in the defense of liberty.
I haven’t tried that particular adapter yet, but I’ve got a couple of compactflash-to-IDE interfaces that work just fine. When installed in a regular desktop PC, it shows up an IDE hard drive with the capacity of whatever size CF is plugged in. I’m using an old 32 megabyte CF as a hard drive in a small-form-factor mini-ITX PC to use as a firewall, running the PC version of m0n0wall. With this for a drive, it will be a PC with no moving parts whatsoever inside the case. It runs at at least as fast as an IDE hard drive (faster when you eliminate seek times).
The only thing you have to watch out for is the limited write capability of flash memory. Even with the 300,000+ write limit of today’s flash technology, it wouldn’t take a program too long to write that many times (think constantly updating a browser cache).
Thanks for the report from the front lines. 32 MB. My first home hard drive was 30 MB, so I guess you could run a computer on that.
The wear-leveling algorithms on all flash drives help ensure that you don’t just write to one place 300,000 times. So you should see good longevity from the CF if it is Single Level.
as I wrote in a comment before – it revolves around these things:
a.) it must be possible to easily install a standard os on it.
You can safely assume that this WAS already possible.
(namely by ide-cf adapters)
(( and it did not take off ))
b.) The capacity must allow to install a usefull generic-purpose os
Was possible for linux – not possible for windows.
(( this is one of the reasons it does not take off ))
c.) The ABSOLUTE price must be below 50,- USD !
This IS the killer – as 2/4 GB flash +adapter costs more.
(the adapter-card costs more than a 1GB flash CF)
(( so these adapters are already DEAD ))
d.) if you know something about spinning disks – forget it.
Start learning new things about flash:
– “industrial grade” ? :-)))
– “commercial grade” ?
– “multi/single level cells” ?
– “NOR/NAND ?”
e.) the potential solutions will NOT come from spinning disk vendors. – yeah – that should be a quite obvious one.
So in sum – the current capacity and price levels motivate enthusiasts to try it, but they do not motivate (yet) a wide user adoption.
Wear leveling and commerical-grade flash are issues, which will create a quite bad experience for non-linux setups 😉
USB-stick prices currently are at 15,- Euros for 2GB.
with most modern BIOSes you can boot from them.
Currently we’re in the phase, where the price-levels kick/ignite a lot of developer/enthusiast-activity … – just wait and see 😉
I still don’t expect a revolution yet – because for a windows-install it’s not really usable (NTFS is not a flash-FS)
But for linux (and maybe os-X) – things WILL start to change.
For Linux there is already “DSL” (damn small linux), which is targeted for memory-sticks …
So the development has just started…
Yeah, Compact Flash is nice and cheap. I don’t understand why those 2,5″ replacement solid state disks are so expensive. CF is just that–simple PATA SSD– but in smaller form factor.
Of course, compared to rotating rust, the price per GB is high — but hey, we could do business a few years ago just fine with some 10-30 GB of disk. (If you are a mac user, just uninstall all those huge printer drivers you never need, and those Dutch language localizations (keep the Finnish ones to learn a great language.)
Check out the newest fast CF cards like Sandisk Extreme IV, which transfer as fast as good laptop disks (40 MB/s), and there is no seek time to worry about, which is something you really can’t appreciate enough until you try it.
And please everybody stop worrying too much about the limited times to write one cell block, Wear Leveling takes care of it. It’s a solved problem and a good flash memory will serve you years in typical laptop use. It’s not you would use your mechacial disk for decades, right?
Here’s an interesting whitepaper on wear levelling: http://www.sandisk.com/Assets/File/OEM/WhitePapersAndBrochures/RS-MMC/WPaperWearLevelv1.0.pdf
Apparently Sandisk has an applications engineering group that is available to calculate mtbf for applications that do not fit the cookie-cutter equation they’ve presented.
I recently bought Addonics CF-SATA adapter
and installed it in my 2.16GHz Macbook. Initially I planned to use it with a Sandisk 16GB Extreme III CompactFlash, but my macbook refused to recognize the CF card. Same problem with a 1GB Extreme II card. The only cards that worked for me are old 128MB card and the new Sandisk 8GB Extreme IV, which I’m currently using and, apart from the very limited space, enjoy very much. My working time on the Macbook on battery is now well over 4 hours.
I read somewhere on the web about compatibility issue with the Intel SATA chipset. I have a request open with Addonics about it.
BTW the 16GB card works fine in Addonics PATA-CF adapter you mentioned in this article.
Well, I realize it’s been over 5 years since this conversation, but I’m curious about hirni’s comment that “NTFS is not a flash-FS”. Why would NTFS be any more or any less suited to flash media than any other filesystem that uses ordered, logical journaling ?