World’s Smallest Storage Unit Consists of 12 Atoms, Stores One Bit of Information

Nowadays, gadgets have been storing information in smaller spaces and condensing the information to compensate for a lack of circuit board space. Now, we finally have a solution that might make even the smallest smartphone store very huge volumes of data in a space as tiny as your fingernail. I’m not talking about something like a 16 GB microSD card. I’m talking about the potential for a 256 GB storage capacity in roughly the same space as the aforementioned card.Currently, the smallest storage units measure around 32 nanometers, sometimes less. Still, that’s enormous compared to what I’m about to present to you: A transistor/storage unit that takes up a maximum of 3 by 1 nanometers, or the area occupied by 12 measly atoms. To get an idea of how small 32 nanometers is, have a look at a single hair. That, in itself, measures approximately 10 thousand nanometers. Now, imagine something several thousand times smaller than this. There’s your atomic transistor!

This magnetic data storage unit can inflate hard drive capacity significantly. The only problem is cost. As the hard drives become more mainstream, they will be easier to manufacture, driving the price down. Note that the unit can store one bit. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this. This means that one byte would occupy 96 atoms, or roughly 48 square nanometers, of space – a tiny speck compared to the gigantic blobs we currently use to store our information.

Just how reliable is it? I suppose that having smaller storage units would make a drive a bit more delicate, but that can be compensated with certain measures. First of all, the drive would have to be a perfect vacuum, so that no other matter can interfere with the I/O process. To understand what a drive needs, you really need to read up on how it works.

We can thank IBM Research for coming up with this little nut. Now, let’s hope that we can get smaller data storage onto a full-fledged hard drive.

 

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)

What Is The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)?

First, there was SOPA and PIPA, two devastating pieces of legislation from hell. Then, we had ACTA, which made a craptastic move in a global scale. Even while ACTA is being debated, other “trade agreements” are taking the scene behind our backs, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, TPPA in short. TPPA is a trade agreement that attempts to address the same issues addressed in ACTA. It simply reinforces the older trade agreement by placing “emphasis” on counterfeiting and intellectual property protection. However, it goes much, much further than that.

The TPPA is a sort of concept that will undo everything that other copyright protection measures have worked hard to achieve. The older DMCA act allowed companies to protect their intellectual property without destroying basic liberties that everyone had [citation needed]. In fact, the FBI has already taken out sites like Megaupload just fine without the help of destructive trade practices like TPPA. Keep in mind that Megaupload was owned by a bunch of people in New Zealand, outside US jurisdiction. Imagine what regimes could do under TPPA, which provides many more freedoms than they actually need to counteract copyright infringement. It seems as if though this was not their intention when forming such a trade agreement.

TPPA’s intention is to subjugate the freedom of expression that users have across the Internet. Even though it doesn’t mean that governments will immediately hop onto this, it does mean that they’ll have the capability whenever they want. Part of the reason the United States Constitution was written was to prevent people from possessing powers they can abuse. You can’t abuse a power you don’t have.

Internet Censorship Just Started: Google & Twitter Are In

If you don’t know what Google is yet, you’re really lost. The two Internet giants – Google & Twitter – have both decided to pick up the pace on censorship and collaborate with certain nations that want certain pieces of their content blotted out, according to a Wired News article. I never thought this kind of craptastic catastrophe would ever ensue, because I thought that, well, people had brains, but it’s coming and it won’t stop. First it was the whole SOPA & PIPA debacle, then it was the craze about ACTA, and just a few days later, I find out that Google and Twitter are going to whip out some big-ass whiteout markers.

It seems that Google updated the policy on Blogger to allow countries to tell Google what they want blocked out. I had to do a double-take, because that shit’s just incredible! I understand that companies are under pressure. I mean, if ACTA passes everywhere, there will be no need for this stuff, but I suppose getting the cooperation of companies will help stop things like ACTA from passing, although it defeats the purpose of not having ACTA. It might as well have been signed by every single nation in the world, and it wouldn’t make a difference in comparison to what Google and Twitter agreed to do.

Of course, Twitter updated its policy a while back, but it surprised me to know that Google also followed suit. Who’s next? I think the next target might be Coca Cola, since some countries don’t have it and don’t want their users to know that there’s a better drink out there than their knock-off version.

There’s a lot of reasons why people are against this, and not all of them are against censorship because “OMG, they’re f**kin’ pirates!” That’s just a load of propaganda used to make people who aren’t pirates (pseh, right…) think that censorship is legitimate and protects their rights. Whenever I see people who believe this stuff, I see flag-waving, chest-beating, die-hard “freedom fighters” who believe that freedom has nothing to do with being free to do what you wish as long as you don’t step on someone’s toes.

Some of you might believe that the last thing I said on that paragraph relates to you, and offends you in some way. I understand that, as I am regularly offended by certain things as well. But, would you be promoting freedom by asking me to take that statement down? That’s merely my opinion and, just like you have the freedom to attack it, I have the freedom to keep it present. That’s what the Internet is about: Free expression. Let’s not forget the principle of being a global community. The Internet is the last place we can still express ourselves in. Let’s not lose that final hope.

HOW COMPUTERS WORK – PART 11 – USB [MEGA SERIES]

The universal serial bus (USB) is the best thing that ever happened to computers since power buttons. If you take a moment to think about how your life would be like without USB ports on your computer, you’d quickly find yourself hugging that little box of integrated circuits without question. Believe it or not, there was a bygone era when USB didn’t exist, which makes you think about how little compassion for end users PC manufacturers must have had back in the day. Almost everyone today wouldn’t buy a computer without at least 2 USB ports.

Before USB

Back in the day, when people used to tell you they were going to prepare food with an axe and a chicken in their hands, everyone was using either serial or parallel connectors on the computer. They looked like this:

So let’s say you’re back in the 90s with a PDA. You connect that sucker to the serial port. Computers usually have two of these, so that leaves room for a modem to connect to the web or something, right? And you don’t even sweat over adding a printer, since the parallel port is free. 20 years pass, and you have the iPod, wireless mice and keyboards, gaming pads, and tons of other devices. Where are you going to make room for all that without disconnecting something already on your PC? Things like these made IT guys panic and run around in circles back in the 90s.

The New Player in the Ballpark

USB was designed with the scope of saying “Why bother with all these different connectors that can only connect one device?” Seven companies sat in think tanks to come up with the design in 1994: Microsoft, Compaq (ugh…), DEC, IBM, Nortel, Intel, and NEC. Are you noticing a difference between banks and tech companies? Think “banks invented derivatives, and tech companies invented USB.”

What they came up with was much more elegant than anything developed before that day:

Everything in its design says “You’re a winner.” The best part of USB is that you can connect up to 127 devices to each port. You also might be enticed by the fact that the majority of devices available that interact with computers support USB, making the feature extraordinarily convenient.

Types of Connectors

The following is a brief list of the types of USB conectors:

  • Type A 
  • Type B 
  • Mini USB 
  • Micro USB 

Hubs

If you want to know how you’d ever been able to connect 127 devices to your computer through USB, look no further than the “hub.”

This device contains different ports for peripheral connections and one USB port for connection to your computer. The device gets is power from the cable connecting to the computer, although it can sometimes get some of its juice from a wall adapter. Best of all, you can connect multiple USB hubs to each other, further extending the number of USB devices you can add to one single port on the computer.

Finally, Some Geek Talk!

The computer doesn’t just magically welcome every device and starts the USB party. Each device has to be queried while the computer is booting and running. When it’s done, each device receives a number – a process better known as enumeration. During this process, the computer also “talks” to the device, trying to find out everything about it much like how that guy in the bar wants to know your number.

While chatting it up with the allegedly innocent little device, the computer negotiates how it will communicate with it, using either of three modes:

  • Interrupt – For keyboards, mice, etc. This type of communication simply halts everything else for signals to pass. When you press a key on the keyboard, I think you’d prefer not to wait for a page to finish printing before the computer responds to your requests, right?
  • Bulk – The computer sends data in 64-byte segments to a device that communicates in this fashion and verifies each segment for errors. Printers most commonly use this mode of communication.
  • Isochronous – This is pronounced “I suck-erroneous.” Basically, the computer sends a streaming signal to the device and doesn’t even look twice at it. It comes useful in the case of speakers, which don’t need error correction and require a steady, timely stream of data.

The computer’s USB bus often has a maximum capacity of 480 Megabits (Mb) per second in bandwidth available. USB 3.0 raises the bar to 10 times as much. Nevertheless, if your isochronous and interrupt devices use 90% of that bandwidth, the computer will not respond to requests from other devices. This means that your ideal dream of having 126 speakers and one keyboard/mouse connected to your computer might not work so well. The other 10% of the bandwidth is reserved for bulk communication devices.

Remember when I mentioned that the computer queries devices during and even after its boot process? What I meant is that you can connect any USB device to your computer and disconnect it as you please. The computer will detect it and, in most cases, install its software. This is known as “hot swapping.”

USB 3.0

The advantages of USB 3.0 over the run-of-the-mill USB 2.0 aren’t astronomical, but significant enough to be worth an upgrade.

For one, your devices receive almost twice as much power (900mA/5V) in comparison to USB 2.0 (500mA/5V). This jump up in power allows you to connect more non-powered devices to the USB ports and demand more from them.

USB 2.0 also has another flaw corrected in the 3.0 release: The cable only has 2 wires for communication. 3.0 implements six wires, allowing it to transmit and receive at the same time instead of waiting for either. Note that while these differences exist, all USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices & computers are compatible with each other. If you plug a USB 2.0 cable between two USB 3.0 ports, though, you’re not going to reap the benefits I just mentioned. The cable, the computer’s ports, and the device all have to match up.

 

HOW COMPUTERS WORK – PART 10 – OPTICAL DRIVES [MEGA SERIES]

From a Quarter to a Roll of Duct Tape

There’s a ton of different optical discs out there, ranging from the size of a quarter to the size of an average roll of your friendly neighborhood duct tape:

  •  DataPlay Discs (500 MB Capacity – Tiny)
  •   MiniCD/DVD (185 MB – 1.4 GB Capacity – Small, about 7 cm in diameter)
  •  CD/DVD/Blu-Ray (700 MB – 25 GB Capacity – Large)

In this whole diverse world of optical discs, I assure you that all of the drives work in relatively the same way.

How Optical Drives Work

Each disc holds data within its plastic exterior. The shiny layer of aluminum below all the polycarbonate plastic contains fluctuations in the surface, which are then read by the drive using a laser and an optoelectronic sensor. Considering that discs spin at rates of up to 30000 RPM, the implications of this are enough to make anyone’s constipation disappear. By the way, did you notice how we are so capable of making such advances in technology and, at the same time, we can’t make a headache pill worth a damn?

Before we go further, here’s an optical drive’s guts. Enjoy:

The optoelectronic sensor is within the laser assembly, and I’m too lazy to photoshop that much. You get the point.

As mentioned earlier, a disc has fluctuations on its aluminum surface. The bumps on the surface are known as “pits” and the flat areas are known as “lands.” These fluctuations are so tiny, you literally need a very strong electron microscope to view them:

While the disc is spinning, a laser hits it and the light reflects from the disc either onto the optoelectronic sensor – when it hits a “pit” – or back onto the laser – when it hits a “land.” The disc drive assembly takes care of where the laser has to travel to hit its target. The pit represents a value of 1 and the land represents a value of 0. Sound familiar?

All those zeros and ones construct a file, and that concludes the “Optical Drives 101″ lesson. Congratulations!