What is Cantonese for “sucks”?
A piece in the UK web site The Register, says of some recent Mac drives:
According to Retrodata, its customers have sent in a much higher number of failed Seagate 2.5in SATA drives made in China and loaded with firmware version 7.01 than of any other current hard drive model.
“We’re getting 20-30 times more failed drives of this kind than others,” Retrodata chief Duncan Clarke told Register Hardware. . . .
Clarke blamed the problem what he described as “poor quality control in Chinese hard drive factories” – an issue he maintained affects other hard drive makers in addition to Seagate. He also warned all hard drive buyers to avoid HDDs manufactured in China.
The fact is that the Chinese already make hard drives and their quality, as as far as I can tell, is fine. Mr Clarke just got lucky with some PR on a slow news day.
Two data points don’t make a trend
And yet just a few weeks ago Seagate CEO Bill Watkins was raising security concerns about Chinese ownership of Seagate. No bid surfaced, leaving me to wonder what game Mr. Watkins was really playing.
Are the security concerns real?
The NYTimes reported that
“Seagate would be extremely sensitive,” said an industry executive who participates in classified government advisory groups. “I do not think anyone in the U.S. wants the Chinese to have access to the controller chips for a disk drive. One never knows what the Chinese could do to instrument the drive.”
Given that the Chinese already build disk drives – Excelstor was the only drive company with no online complaints the last time I looked – and that Seagate already has two large plants on China’s southeast coast in the cities of Wuxi and Suzhou, near Shanghai, I’m not getting the concern. What, exactly, do the Chinese not have access today that buying Seagate would give them?
Of course, we know all about planting logic bombs
The US used software against the Russians in the 1980s.
But disk drives?
Disks aren’t free-standing network connected devices. They communicate to the world through drivers and HBAs and controller chips. Even if you wanted to it isn’t clear to me how disks could become a serious security threat. If they could, why would you start with disks? There are better targets.
Now let’s take a look at routers
A router would seem like a much more likely device to use for spying. Network connected, all the data passing through it, millions of lines of code in high-end routers.
Cisco already does R&D in China. Should we worry about that? Where are the unnamed “security experts” opining about that?
The StorageMojo take
The military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about is bigger, badder and dumber than ever. If the clown in the White House actually cared about US security he’d have avoided selling hundreds of billions in T-bills to the Chinese in the first place. But that would have required discipline and accountability instead of strutting around in a flight suit. Where’s the photo op in a balanced budget?
The China bashing should stop. Like it or not, the world’s largest country and the world’s largest economy are now locked in a long term dance. We need them to finance deficits as far as the eye can see and they need us to keep their economy growing at a breakneck pace.
By wrapping Seagate in a “national security” banner, Watkins has done the US and his shareholders a grave disservice. We need closer economic ties to China and turning $30 billion or so of T-bills into cash for Seagate stockholders and a Chinese stake in the health of the US economy would help both countries better enjoy the long dance we’ll have in the 21st century.
Comments welcome, of course. How would you instrument a disk drive for nefarious purposes?
“… he’d have avoided selling hundreds of billions in T-bills to the Chinese in the first place.”
Please tell me how we’d prevent a country or institutions in it from buying those T-bills, short of starting a new Cold War.
And while the long term is a grave concern, at the moment, the PRC has a lot of IOUs, and we have a lot of tasty stuff, like the Seagate SATA drives I have in my filesever. At the moment, we are far ahead in the game…. (At the moment.)
“Like it or not, the world’s largest country and the world’s largest economy are now locked in a long term dance.”
While I agree in general, I can’t help but notice that much the same thing was said prior to WWI. Look up how long it took for world trade to return to the levels then (it was a LONG time as I remember, long past WWII).
Me, I’m concerned about the PRC’s designs on the ROC. They have their own internal reasons for driving that to a tragic conclusion, we refuse to sell the ROC the weapons they really need … and the PRC keeps adding 50? 100? IRBMs across the Taiwan Straits each year. Far too much high end stuff like foundry chips and the best motherboards are still made there. Not sure about storage components, but those aren’t very useful without the computers that contain them….
Balance the budget? If we weren’t running huge deficits we wouldn’t be selling all those T-bills.
The impact of WWI suggests what happens when relations are poorly handled. European leaders were living in a fantasy land, much like out current leadership, and failed to appreciate the downside of war and, once in the war, the need to change tactics.
Can we figure out how to dance with out stepping on each other’s feet? Taiwan is part of the dance. While we can influence events, the PRC has to decide how much destruction it is willing to inflict on Taiwan in order to take control. Rational leadership wouldn’t want much, since China needs Taiwan’s economic viability. But as we’ve seen too often, rational leadership is sometimes in short supply.
Getting a bit off topic, but intelligent replies deserve serious answers—and given the prominence of the PRC and SE Asia in storage component production, it’s hardly entirely off topic.
“Balance the budget? If we weren’t running huge deficits we wouldn’t be selling all those T-bills.”
I’m not sanguine here, especially since we’ve never seen a denouncement of this sort of mess when the vast majority of a nation’s wealth is in financial instruments—but I don’t see a pre-crisis solution to what is a problem of human nature. In the US, this problem goes back to our original system of government, which was brought down largely because of fiscal mismanagement. And it got this sort and style of bad with FDR; asking our current ruling class to overturn 7 decades of fiscal policy absent a triggering crisis is unrealistic. Expecting the Republican Party to return to being the tax collectors for the welfare state simply isn’t going to happen—been there, done that.
This sort of problem goes back way further, to the clipping of coins, or say one thing I asked my professor about in a history seminar after he told us about Renaissance Florence’s not exactly voluntary bond deficit funding system; I don’t have to tell you that the bonds became worthless after the government was changed (by an invasion).
“The impact of WWI suggests what happens when relations are poorly handled. European leaders were living in a fantasy land, much like out current leadership, and failed to appreciate the downside of war and, once in the war, the need to change tactics.”
Perhaps. Or perhaps you’re not talking a long enough view. My opinion here is two fold:
a) What we’re trying in Iraq is pragmatic in that we’re captured the best base for doing anything in the region (e.g. only Arab country with both oil and water, central location, most secular population, Kurdish wild card, etc. etc.).
b) Our classically crazy crusade in the American tradition of Neo-Wilsonianism to bring “democracy” to Iraq if not the region is a necessary precursor to what I feel is the most likely denouncement of the longer than a millennia war between Islam and the West:
We HAVE to try b) VERY HARD to have the moral standing to then implement a nuclear “Final Solution to the Muslim Problem” after our 3rd or 4th major city gets nuked. It’s fairly likely the latter will happen, my question is will it destroy us like the 3rd Punic War (the destruction of Carthage) did the Roman Republic?
I wouldn’t assume that our current leadership is living in a fantasy land, especially since they’ve made it clear they’re cognizant of many of these issues (others simply cannot be publicly discussed), and that they’re explicitly playing a long game.
“Can we figure out how to dance with out stepping on each other’s feet? Taiwan is part of the dance. While we can influence events, the PRC has to decide how much destruction it is willing to inflict on Taiwan in order to take control. Rational leadership wouldn’t want much, since China needs Taiwan’s economic viability. But as we’ve seen too often, rational leadership is sometimes in short supply.”
That’s exactly the problem. Except it’s worse, since it can be entirely rational once you pick the right frame of reference. E.g. internal politics often trump external issues and long term consequences. The PRC seems to be VERY determined to bring the ROC under their thumb, and counterwise the very existence of a prosperous high and improving human rights democratic Chinese society right off their shore is an existential threat to the PRC leadership. If they don’t crush the ROC they stand a good chance of losing their power and very possibly their lives, especially if a recession (local or global) brings their economic progress to a screeching halt if not sharp reversal.
Which brings us full circle to the balance of trade with the PRC: their current partly export lead economic development is a known path to success (e.g. we did it), but it’s financed by outside capital, e.g. those T-bills they’re trading for all the stuff they sell to us.
Do we *really* want to rebalance our fiscal policy so that we aren’t buying any more stuff from the PRC than we’re selling to them? The price of that could be quite high….
Yes… the sale of T-bills is a mistake.
It is like someone in China holding a partial mortgage over your house.
Mind you, this money could have been spent within their rural economy, which is still in shambles. Instead, I suspect, it was spent to reinforce their future bargaining position … money talks, again. This dance is just starting.
Right… nothing to do with espionage. There is a more practical reason… pls see
Here China aims to minimize purchases of foreign (i.e. mainly US) IT products, with obvious impact on their balance of payments…. perhaps enabling them to buy more T-bills ?
The first step is to get rid of WinTel …. use locally produced RISC chip plus OSS to build computers for the internal market …. and this will consume a lot of disks.
The MIPS RISC processor will do a good job and the silicon can be made in China, right now. The OSS software is ‘free’. I suspect that they need to complete the picture with the ability to control disk technology. … which, like the MIPS processors, will also be sold back to the West.
I enjoy reading your blogs, both Mojo and Bits, but I come here to gain computer knowledge not to read your political opinions. In my personal opinion, the only people that can cast stones would be the “third party” supporters (Libertarians and the like). Maybe that includes you?
The current “clown” may have sold the Chinese T-Bills, but don’t forget that the clown before him told / sold them technology that significantly advanced their space / missile program. Also, that clown’s wife is currently entangled in a little fund raiser debacle with some Chinese donors. I do realize that these donors aren’t necessarily the government, but something is fishy there if you oppose that particular candidate.
The one thing you are correct about is that the US and China are going to be “dancing” for a long time. I think the current struggle is about who’s going to lead and who’s getting their feet stepped on.
Thanks for the chance to vent a little.
Brian, sometimes the world of data storage intersects with the larger world of politics, finance and economics. Bill’s fear-mongering over a Chinese purchase of Seagate is a case in point. Economic security underlies military security. If that isn’t job 1 then we are, over time, hosed.
Richard, the loss of US fiscal discipline which led to the deficits is the root cause. The Chinese, and the rest of the 3rd world, would be foolish to not build their own commodity-based computing infrastructure. One of our main chances to move up the value chain is to be the best at building those infrastructures ourselves.
Harold, this concept of a “war” between Islam and the west is bunk. What we have is a traditional conflict between atavistic religious and social groups and the proponents of a modern, data-driven world view. The West took a couple of hundred years to make that transition, and as Kansas school boards regularly demonstrate, not everyone in the west is over the hump yet. Terrorism is warfare by the weak and by refusing to recognize that we damage ourselves. (See Colbert’s “Live free or do what you have to keep me alive” commentary.) My father was at Pearl Harbor – that was war. People need to be able to tell the difference.
Hmmm. Since I refused to buy into the ‘lesser of two evils’ philosophy in 2004 and voted for Nader (not that doing so seems to have given the Democratic party any more of a clue than it had before – too bad more people didn’t elect to try to do so), perhaps Brian won’t be too upset if I chime in here:
While you and I seem to be on radically different wavelengths on the political questions here, I do wish to commend you for suggesting that we hold off on implementing any “Final Solution to the Muslim Problem” until “our 3rd or 4th major city gets nuked”.
Since our ‘pragmatic’ invasion of Iraq has already led to the deaths of 2% – 4% of their population, nuking one (or even two, if the nukes aren’t very large) American cities in return would not be a disproportionate response at all (I’d certainly vote for Washington, D.C., as the first choice, but recognize that sometimes practical considerations require picking targets of opportunity rather than being picky).
One might *hope* that this would be sufficient to bring us to our senses in terms of how we deal with the rest of the world, in which case no further education would be necessary; of course, if that was not the case, I don’t agree that the resulting and entirely appropriate application of additional lessons of that nature would in any way give us “the moral standing” for the kind of “final solution” (good choice, those words) that you envision, though I suspect we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that point.
Selling off properties like seagate or any other large/multi-national company to foreign governments puts yours and everone else’s finacial future at risk. Today, oil companies are threatening to move US “investments” (like fixing damaged oil refineries) in to other parts of the world leaving the US without enough fuel to drive the economy, if they are taxed on their $36billion windfall profit. Large companies can move billions of dollars to offshore economies and continue the decline of the dollar. None of this is good for us or our families.
The oil companies who are the worst perpetrators of this practice are not american companies any longer, they are multinationals, they are not our friends, they exploit the US economy on a regular basis, they are the devil that we have to deal with. Our government sends our children to die for them, get maimed for them and all the do is screw us. Why does our government do this ? First, big oil families are in key areas of government representing their own interests before ours. Second, because our legislators are weak and want to keep their jobs they try to keep most of us supplied with oil. They are afraid big oil will shut off our oil and sell it to the India or the Chinese. Why do they still sell it to us ?? Because, the dollar is the stronger currency and the oil companies have large reserves of capital in dollars. On the global market, commodities are priced world wide. The value of the dollar directly effects the price of wheat, oil, gold and other resources. We’ve seen a rise in the price of oil in the range of 168 percent since 2000. We have also seen an increase for gold – 169 percent and copper – 373 percent. It’s the value of the dollar that determines the price of oil per barrel. Give companies and foreign governments control over large sums of dollars, they will ruin our economy by sucking it dry and then abandoning it.
And your right, the war in Iraq is not about religion, it’s about power, control and money. It’s about trading oil for dollars vs euros, something that sadam’s oil minister was selling to OPEC with the French, German’s & Russian’s backing.
It’s about options to control governments with money. It’s easier to hide corruption, bribes (sorry, campaign contributions) and favors in multimember governments than it is with a single dictator. The dictator gets mad at you, your out in the cold. In multimember governments, there is always someone that can be motivated with money. The larger the government, the more opportunity there is to influence it.
It’s about power, the old leaders v.s. the new leaders. Traditional leaders in the middle east are trying holding on to their power and their lives. Religion is a tool used to control people, money, justify horrific acts and spread fear. The west is not guiltless in this area, remember the crusades and the Inquisitions ? Yes, it’s still going on in the bible belt. To preserve their power structure (aka “way of life”), leaders in the middle east, will kill us all, our wives, our parents, our children, our grand children, our unborn children and grand children for generations, to keep their power. Why ? Their power preserves their families, it allows them to survive. There, like anywhere else, if the survival of your family depends on the your power, you can be assured it’s an “us or them” existence. Look at Africa if you need proof. I spent years helping friends and friends families get out of civil war areas in Africa – while they were still alive, half the time we were not successful.
Iraq is also about China, keeping oil pipelines stretching from Iraq across Iran into China. More power and money.
No, it’s not a secret society or a conspiracy. Well, maybe the World bank and monetary fund is. Generally, it’s a den of thieves, loose alliances with some common goals between them. Just don’t turn you back on any of them.
Should we support the third world in building an economies to put us out of work, obviously not. Our experimental intellecual property/ service based ecomony will only continue to stratify economic classes. The top 1% will have it all and the rest, well will starve in a service based economy. Let say we need 20 people for logistics for each of the 1%. That 20% of the society working for the haves. What does the other 80% do with no manufacturing, automated mega farms, no one to afford the services. It will be another third world country.
All those who fought and gave their lives in the last century of war, they are probably spinning in their graves about these crap head government leaders. We need campaign contribution reform in the worst way.
The fact is that the Chinese already make hard drives and their quality, as as far as I can tell, is fine.
Well I can’t speak to Chinese disk drive manufacturing, but I know how it is with machine tools and other similar goods made in China.
Very simply: You get the quality you demand. If you demand a high quality product, test rigorously, and refuse to accept sub-standard material, you can get a pretty good product out of China. If you don’t, you’ll get anything from problems to absolute junk. Demand quality, enforce quality and you’ll get quality.
This doesn’t seem to be so much a matter of the Chinese trying to cheat their customers as a cultural difference. The Chinese don’t invest in quality for quality’s sake. This is rather like the Japanese in the period before World War II. The Japanese saw the error of their ways and went on to define world-class manufacturing. The Chinese are still stuck in the low-price model.
I suspect what happened was that someone took their eye off the ball at the Seagate plant and the quality, and hence reliability, of the drives went to hell. I’ve seen that happen a number of times in other fields.