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Topic: Flash Disks anyone?

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  1. #1

    Flash Disks anyone?

    Hi,

    I was looking for a solution to a common problem which is a tipical limitation of current systems that many of you are experiencing.

    The problem:
    I've loaded my Quad core P35 computer with 4 GB ram, but still I'm unable to load all the libraries that I regulary use, even with the /3gb switch. Not enought ram available.

    I'm using middle Kontakt DFD settings. If I change those settings, loading less parts of the sounds in ram, I can reserve that ram for loading more sounds, but there's a lot more disk streaming going on, so sometimes the disks can not keep up.
    I have 3 sata II disks and the libraries are scatered over the disks to soften the burden.
    Even so, the system can not keep up with the heavy load I'm demanding.
    Untill the arrival of the quad core, I was limited for the CPU, but now, the problem is ram.

    I'm using a second computer as a slave, but the convenience of having all in one box in unbeatable.

    So I wonder: what happens if I use flash disks instead of regular HDs? They are smaller than the 320-500 GB that we use today, but 32 GB x3 would be enought to host the most demanding sounds and the rest would remain in regular HDs..
    I noticed that these new drives are low in the thruput department, but the main problem with sample disk streaming is seek time, right? As they are solid state, the seek time sould be better that a regular HD, allowing the retrival of many small parts with ease.

    What do you think? Any comments are welcome. Is there anybody using them?

    Ric

  2. #2

    Re: Flash Disks anyone?

    The faster flash disks would help with polyphony, but not with the number of libs you can load.

    ... unless, you can configure your sampler to use shorter sample heads. The latency of a flash disk is 100 times faster than that of a mechanical/magnetic HDD, so the length of the sounds stored in RAM could be 100 times shorter - in theory.

    But if the sampler doesn't let you shorten the sample head length, Flash won't help you load more sounds.

  3. #3

    Re: Flash Disks anyone?

    Well there is a problem with flash disks...shorter life-time, compared with traditional magnetic HDD. Ever wondered why solid state technology hasn't yet been substantialy used in HDD, as opposed to magnetic technology? A HDD must handle with massive amounts of data running in and out of disk all the time (specially when sampling is involved), at great speeds, and it must resist to everything you 'hit' at it (so to speak). Magnetic technology is still the best for this. You can format a GOOD quality magnetic disk as many times as you like, it will keep up with no bad sectors. Try to do the same with a flash disk (even brand marks), and by the 10th time you do it it will give problems (believe me, I know...3 times). It's not without reason that flash disk manufacturers only give a ten year warranty for data kept within them. The fact is that a flash disk must be seen as a cd-rw or dvd-rw: it can only be used a limited number of times (although for diferent reasons). And each time you're reading or writing to it you're shortening its life-time. Now imagine doing that with sampling. Your flash disk would be dead in no time...

  4. #4

    Re: Flash Disks anyone?

    Good point. It's one thing to use FLASH for capturing video - capture once, copy to hard drive, and then do it again a day, week or month later.

    A sampler is easy on the writes, but hard on the reads.

    Someday, we'll get there.

    How about this optical solution? http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post...s-of-data.html

    With 200 layers, the data rate at normal spin velocities could be amazing - 200 times as fast as current optical discs. Whether the sensor can read that fast is another story though...

  5. #5

    Re: Flash Disks anyone?

    About the short amount of circles in flash memory issue:

    What I read is that there's a short quantity of write circles allowed. But I didn't know that there's also a short limit of read circles. Is that right?

    Asuming that only write circles are limited,( let's say to 10 circles) that would be enought for a sample based instrument where you basically are reading, not writing. I was thinking in flash memory as a substitute of ROM, not RAM.
    If you think about it, the tipical user will only edit or program patches, And that information can remain in regular HDs, reserving the flash memory for data intensive reads of the samples that need to be retrived real fast.

    cheers

    Ric

  6. #6

    Re: Flash Disks anyone?

    I knew there was a limit to the writes, but I didn't know there was one for the reads. Are people sure about this?

    I always thought there should be a product that's like an external harddrive but packed with RAM (battery backed up only if you want to retain it on power down or transfer files to another computer). Zero seek time and throughput only limited by the interface (firewire, SCSI ?) would make it great for applications like this.

    -Elhardt

  7. #7

    Re: Flash Disks anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by khiun
    Well there is a problem with flash disks...shorter life-time, compared with traditional magnetic HDD. Ever wondered why solid state technology hasn't yet been substantialy used in HDD, as opposed to magnetic technology?
    Actually Flash-Memory-Cells do have a limited amount of write/erase
    cycles. But this is just a limit for writing. The data can easily be read
    from the device a billion times without any danger...

    The reason why solid-state stuff is not so widespread in use is just price.
    HDD storage is so much more cheap than flash-based memory. But
    flash-prices are going down in a much more steep curve than HDDs,
    so I guess we will see more flash-adaption in the future.



    Quote Originally Posted by khiun
    and by the 10th time you do it it will give problems (believe me, I know...3 times).
    Well - absolutely not true - I do have several compact-flash, usb, SD-cards
    etc working well for years. The flash-type predominantly used in large disks
    is of "NAND-type" This kind of technology has between 100.000 and
    1.000.000 write/erase-cycles before a cell is damaged.

    The controllers on the compact-flash, usb & SD-devices have a builtin
    mechanism that is called "wear-levelling". They don't use the same
    cell over & over again to write changes, but spread those write-accesses
    to the hardware over the complete range of cells available.

    Let's do a calculation: you have one of those newer 30GB SS flash-disks.
    This disk has a max-write-performance of 50MB/s - This means that if
    you want to write to change every single memory-cell in the device, you
    need 600 seconds. This means that you can change all memory-cells
    of this device 144 times a day. Now just take the lowest amount of
    10.000 write/erase cycles that would mean that you have 1.9 years
    until the drive is dead (if you continually just write on it every single
    second of this time!) - if you take the higher count of 1.000.000 cyles
    this would amount to 19 years. Actually I doubt that most people have
    their drive written on more than 1/4 of the time in use, so you would get
    a lifetime of 7.6 - 76 years... go figure...

    As write-performance of an SSD disk is not so great yet, one would
    probably use it more as a storage for seldom changing content
    (like sample-libraries) - having pretty good read-performance and
    lowest available seek-times will be a pretty good basis for such use...

    Best regards,
    Tobias

  8. #8

    Re: Flash Disks anyone?

    "The data can easily be read from the device a billion times without any danger..."

    Actually most flash disk manufacturers specifically say that they only warrant data written on the flash disk for as much as 10 years, even if only used once. They must know why they say that. My last 4Gb flash disk lasted 4 months, with some intense use (still in warranty, so I'm gonna change it at the shop). Another 2Gb lasted 1year and 2 months. The same with a 1Gb pen disk. My old 128Mb is still up, fortunatelly.

    As for the solid state memory technology itself, it has been around for quite some time now, only with other kind of chips, the EEPROMs of m.b.'s BIOS. From those early times until now, technology evolved to the point of NAND-chips used today. But still, I think they're a long way from getting into HD's, not only because of price.

    All those maths you did are absolutely correct, in theory... But you're forgetting that a flash disk isn't only the memory chip. It packs a whole banch of other tiny electronic components. If some of these fail, it's as good as if the memory chip itself failed. They also render the flash disk useless...

    Ok, when I said formatting for the 10th time...I ways being hyperbolic. But still they aren't as resistant as normal HD's. As for the writing/reading question. Well, definitely writing is the hard part for flash disks, but reading isn't as soft as it seems. Once again, because of all other electronic components involved in the process within flash disks. Let me give you an example: that 4Gb I was told you about, I was reading it on a computer (only reading, really) and suddenly it went off. No more reading, still the computer recognised it as an USB device. Tried it once again, then one two other computers and the same result....still trying now...same result...no more memory chip access. Same thing happened with the 2Gb disk, it 'died' while reading, not writing... I definitely wouldn't like seeing this happening while doing sampling work...

  9. #9

    Re: Flash Disks anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobias Erichsen
    Actually Flash-Memory-Cells do have a limited amount of write/erase
    cycles. But this is just a limit for writing. The data can easily be read
    from the device a billion times without any danger..
    As write-performance of an SSD disk is not so great yet, one would
    probably use it more as a storage for seldom changing content
    (like sample-libraries)

    Best regards,
    Tobias
    Perfect. So the next move would be to buy a flash drive, let's say a 32 GB device and move the most accesed and problematic parts of the libraries to it.
    Perhaps a piano that get uses often and the basic percussion sets.
    I'll be easy with isolated instruments, but the big consolidated libraries like Colossus and similar ones present a problem.

    THe price of this 16GB Flash HD is advertised at U$ 492
    http://www.etech4sale.com/Super_Tale...id-301510.html

    A Samsung 32 GB model for U$ 495
    http://www.4allmemory.com/index.cfm?...237801&pid=157
    Sequential Read Sector : Up to 58MB
    <1ms Read latency



    or I could try (crazy idea?) this guy:
    http://www.supermediastore.com/pqi-i...MEYME-007-9984
    For U$ 63 each I coud attach 4 to the back USB ports and get 32 GB of solid state for U$ 250. I'll have to check speed performance on those.But it could be an incremental aproach, just buy one, test and keep adding.

    Of course the price of these devices will plummet in the near future, but what can I say, I have the need to produce music now and my system can not stream from HD fast enought.
    Did you see that these devices are PATA? Curious. Many modern motherboards have just one PATA connector.

    cheers

    Ric

  10. #10

    Re: Flash Disks anyone?

    khiun,

    I've also had as many flash cards die as live - and I hardly used the things. Maybe my camera had an unstable power supply or something...

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