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Apple looks towards flash-enabled notebooks

post #1 of 75
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Intel Corp's plan to incorporate NAND flash memory into its next-generation notebook platform will enable PC manufacturers such as Apple Computer to develop systems that are twice as fast in some operations yet sustain longer battery life.

Already a fixture in Apple's most popular iPod digital music players, NAND flash is a type of memory that contains no moving parts and retains data even without a power supply.

During a developer forum this past March, Intel revealed plans to add the technology as a feature of its Santa Rosa notebook platform due out in the first half of next year, saying it would offer the main benefit of almost instantaneous PC boot times.

At the forum, Intel mobility chief Sean Maloney conducted a demonstration in which he booted two PCs, one with 256MB of flash memory, and the other without. The PC with flash booted in about half the time.

Maloney said the technology can scale way beyond a 256MB flash buffer, potentially running a PC's entire operating system from flash instead of from the hard drive. "It just comes down to what's the cost curve on NAND," he said.

While Apple is not listed amongst the PC manufacturers who have committed to the Santa Rosa platform, people familiar with the Mac maker say it has been working closely with Intel engineers to implement NAND flash into a future-generation of its MacBook notebook lines.

Those same people say that Apple is amongst the best positioned in the PC industry to adopt the technology broadly due, in part, to its existing supplier arrangements with the world's five-largest NAND suppliers.

Apple's top selling notebook line: the 13-inch MacBook

At Intel's fall developer forum this week, Intel chief executive Paul Otellini spoke at length about Santa Rosa and offered some early benchmarks for NAND-enabled notebook PCs. He said users could expect faster boot times, 2X faster application load times, and a 2X reduction in the time need wake a system from hibernation.

"The platform that launches next year will have NAND on the motherboard for the first time that we know of out there," said Otellini. "[It] significantly improves notebook performance and battery life."

Essentially, Otellini said, the NAND flash will act as a buffer cache so that frequently accessed data can be stored on the NAND flash rather than the hard drive.

"This means it is more available to the main memory and the microprocessor," he said. "It doesnt have to go out to the drive. Since it doesnt have to go out to the drive as often, it consumes less battery life under notebook mode."

Before embarking on its next-generation notebooks in 2007, Apple later this year will refresh both its MacBook and MacBook Pro lines with Intel's new Core 2 Duo mobile processors.
post #2 of 75
so it acts like a buffer..

if someone finds a way to do this for the current notebooks, it'd sell.
post #3 of 75
I think that this is a great item for Microsoft, since they have to reboot so often. For me, I reboot when a new security fix requires it. Otherwise, my iBook (my MBP arrives tomorrow) just shuttles from home to work with the lid closed.

Perhaps I am missing a key value to this. Anyone else think that improving the boot time of a MB or MBP is not much of an issue for OSX users? Perhaps Bootcamp users want this!
post #4 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by cwoloszynski

I think that this is a great item for Microsoft, since they have to reboot so often. For me, I reboot when a new security fix requires it. Otherwise, my iBook (my MBP arrives tomorrow) just shuttles from home to work with the lid closed.

Perhaps I am missing a key value to this. Anyone else think that improving the boot time of a MB or MBP is not much of an issue for OSX users? Perhaps Bootcamp users want this!

It will be extremely awesome for use with Boot Camp, making OS switching much less onerous. However, if you read the article carefully, it points out that programs will be able to boot faster as well if recently used programs are left stored in the NAND memory. Think about the boot times for some Adobe products for example, and you'll see that this innovation could be a big deal to just about every computer user.
post #5 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by cwoloszynski

I think that this is a great item for Microsoft, since they have to reboot so often. For me, I reboot when a new security fix requires it. Otherwise, my iBook (my MBP arrives tomorrow) just shuttles from home to work with the lid closed.

Perhaps I am missing a key value to this. Anyone else think that improving the boot time of a MB or MBP is not much of an issue for OSX users? Perhaps Bootcamp users want this!

...
Battery Life. Anything that keeps a hard drive spun down for as long as possible can really save battery life. Speed + Battery Life. Also, there are plenty of consumers that just can't get behind the sleep thing. They feel they must shutdown their computers when they are not using them. Even if they do put them to sleep, this should help with the wake-up speed as well.

IQ78
post #6 of 75
It's gonna be a while until this trickles down in the consumer space.

Probably only a high end macbook pro will have this within the next 2-3 years. And that's assuming intel has the formula right, right now. It could take intel another 1-2 years easy to perfect it.
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post #7 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by ecking

It's gonna be a while until this trickles down in the consumer space.

Probably only a high end macbook pro will have this within the next 2-3 years. And that's assuming intel has the formula right, right now. It could take intel another 1-2 years easy to perfect it.

but won't it be in the santa rosa?
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post #8 of 75
Woo hoo... slowly going back to hard programming.
I will always stand on my position that the Commodore 64 was the best personal computer ever.
I used one for 11 years and NEVER lost work to a crash, or 'Application suddenly quit'.

Eventually, we will have computers with no moving parts at all.
post #9 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by rain

Eventually, we will have computers with no moving parts at all.

Well that part I can agree with.*

Flash is so where it's at, only not quite today.* I'm totally getting a 16gb compact flash card to put in an IDE adapter for my PowerBook, whose hard drive has seen better days anyway.* Currently there's just not enough capacity in flash, but 16 gigs should handle Tiger / Leopard and my apps with some room for swap.* FireWire for the rest.* I'm a finnicky bugger for silence and fancy the experiment.* I dub thee "FlashBook".

Um but yes, the extended hard drive buffer idea of Intel's is sound.* The platforms for future generations of MacBook±Pro should be pretty interesting.
post #10 of 75
if NAND can boot programs faster than that is a huge plus, even now the new MBP takes some time to boot certain programs.

i like the idea of NAND being used in laptops a lot, it just seems better overall.

is there any downside to using JUST nand in the future?
post #11 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by rain

Eventually, we will have computers with no moving parts at all.

I'd say the fans will be moving for some time to come, seen as laptops are only getting hotter!
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #12 of 75
If nand on the motherboard makes things faster, then why wouldn't they be interested in doing it with the desktops too?
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post #13 of 75
Slapping in another DRAM slot on a desktop is easier than on a notebook. DRAM is cheaper than NAND flash. If you're just going to be using it for a cache, then on a desktop, RAM is the way to go.
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post #14 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elixir

i like the idea of NAND being used in laptops a lot, it just seems better overall.

is there any downside to using JUST nand in the future?

Ummm, I can think of one... CO$T
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post #15 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland

I'd say the fans will be moving for some time to come, seen as laptops are only getting hotter!

Hmm, how about those ion cooler things? I can't remember exactly what they're called. I saw them on www.slashdot.org not too long ago. Seemed pretty cool.
post #16 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bageljoey

Ummm, I can think of one... CO$T

Yeah that, and with Nand there's a limited amount of times you can read/write to it.
/but they're working on that.
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post #17 of 75
AFAIK it's already part of Vista so...

So we get Nand on the board and Nand on the hard drive. 2007 is year of the Nand!
post #18 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland

with Nand there's a limited amount of times you can read/write to it.
/but they're working on that.

interesting, is it a big enough number to the point where it almost doesn't matter?
post #19 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveGTA

interesting, is it a big enough number to the point where it almost doesn't matter?

The math has been done for this *many* times. According to *their* math, it should last for quite some time. Much longer than you will probably retain the notebook. So I wouldn't worry too much.
post #20 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by ecking

It's gonna be a while until this trickles down in the consumer space.

Probably only a high end macbook pro will have this within the next 2-3 years. And that's assuming intel has the formula right, right now. It could take intel another 1-2 years easy to perfect it.

Don't count on it taking that long. I"ve been reading about this tech for around a year now. Not only is Intel working on it. So is every major HD manufacturer. Sansung, WD, ect, are all working on flash inbeded HDs. While intel is looking at putting the flash on the MB. I've read about prototype drives with a gig of flash on them already. The only drawback is it will require at the very minimum bios updates to existing MB's (even in the case of flash inbeded HDs to my knowledge), or possibly in some cases a new MB altogether. It is likely that we will see both, Flash inbeded MB's running Flash inbeded drives. The only question is which is faster, and how does the system decide where to store critical, heavy access files. I have read that with the larger flash drives, they will be able to almost double the battery life on some if not all portables (which will also decrease wear and improve their longevity), but also decrease power consumption on desktops (something that the corperate customers would love). This tech will be available alot sooner than 2-3 years. You'll see it in 2007.
post #21 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland

If nand on the motherboard makes things faster, then why wouldn't they be interested in doing it with the desktops too?


They will have it for desktops, I don't know if they will inbed it on the MB in a desktop though. But the Flash inbedded HDs will be available for desktops. We are not just talking about faster boot times, we are talking about less spin up (less noise, les drive failure), faster seek times and better/faster throughput. This stuff will speed up computing across the board. One of the big selling points for laptops though is the much improved battery life, not to mention the fact that they can charge portable customers a premium and they know we'll pay it. Can you imagine laptop with 8-10 hours on a single charge, they are not all that far off.
post #22 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha

Slapping in another DRAM slot on a desktop is easier than on a notebook. DRAM is cheaper than NAND flash. If you're just going to be using it for a cache, then on a desktop, RAM is the way to go.


Yes, but Ram drives are not convenient and just adding ram will not give you the same effect. You can install just about anything to a ram drive, even operating systems, but as soon as you reboot, you have to install everything all over again. I dont know if people still do it, but it used to be fairly common among hardcore PC users to install GLQuake to a ram drive for better frame rates, benchmarks ect... It seems to me like a few years ago there was talk of creating ram drives that would remain powered up even when the PC (we are talking PCs here) were turned off. I don't know what ever became of that idea. My guess is one of two things; either the drives were to volatile and easily corrupted, or the cost was too high for any real market viability. There are raid controllers that allow for copious amounts of ram installed directly on the controller board itself though.
post #23 of 75
umm, how about Apple just worries about catching up to the competition and getting a notebook out the door with a Core2 Duo.
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post #24 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha

Slapping in another DRAM slot on a desktop is easier than on a notebook. DRAM is cheaper than NAND flash. If you're just going to be using it for a cache, then on a desktop, RAM is the way to go.

RAM would require battery backup.

Steve
post #25 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by fuyutsuki

Well that part I can agree with.*

Flash is so where it's at, only not quite today.* I'm totally getting a 16gb compact flash card to put in an IDE adapter for my PowerBook, whose hard drive has seen better days anyway.* Currently there's just not enough capacity in flash, but 16 gigs should handle Tiger / Leopard and my apps with some room for swap.* FireWire for the rest.* I'm a finnicky bugger for silence and fancy the experiment.* I dub thee "FlashBook".

Um but yes, the extended hard drive buffer idea of Intel's is sound.* The platforms for future generations of MacBook±Pro should be pretty interesting.

You don't want to swap with flash, that's what's going to kill it with limited write cycles unless the OS regularly moves the swap file location every time it writes, but if you have limited space, that wears it out much quicker. You'll want to max out the RAM to minimize swapping.

My Application directory is 9GB. I suppose I can cull it of lesser-used programs, but it's not going to carry a lot of media or working files for portable use.

I really don't have a noisy notebook drive (I can't even hear it clicking), so the reduced noise is not much benefit to me. Most of the faint noise that my notebook makes is the fan for cooling the hot CPU.
post #26 of 75
The use of flash memory as cache doesn't make a lot of sense. Its use as a replacement for rotating disk platters sounds good until you do a little math. It is the technology of the future and probably always will be. Compared to conventional hard drives, flash memory is very expensive and very slow. Then there is the issue of read/write cycles. Virtual memory OSes access the hard drive a lot. When will the flash memory be able to handle the read/write cycles required of MacOS X?
post #27 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha

DRAM is cheaper than NAND flash.

What type do USB pocket flash drives use? Those things can fit 4GB in a package the size of a small pack of gum and only cost $100. I have a hard time finding 1GB RAM sticks for much less than $100.
post #28 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by AaronHarmon

Yes, but Ram drives are not convenient and just adding ram will not give you the same effect. You can install just about anything to a ram drive, even operating systems, but as soon as you reboot, you have to install everything all over again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by demenas

RAM would require battery backup.

Steve

Yes, which is why I said specifically...

Quote:
If you're just going to be using it for a cache,

... to qualify it if it being used for cache only. Obviously it has other applicability for persistent storage.
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post #29 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland

Yeah that, and with Nand there's a limited amount of times you can read/write to it.
/but they're working on that.

Yeah, I was going to post that as well. I haven't heard much talk about that aspect.

One can write about 100 thousand times to this, but can read more than a million times.

So, while I can see this used for information that won't be changed much, there are newer technologirs for FLASH that will be out that will solve the write problem.

Without that being solved, there is no way that it could be used for a HD replacement.

Check this out.

http://samsung.com/PressCenter/Press...911_0000286481

With Apple being such a big customer of Samsung FLASH, they might be working with them on this already. Let's hope!
post #30 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveGTA

interesting, is it a big enough number to the point where it almost doesn't matter?

Nope. See my post above this one.
post #31 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lust

The math has been done for this *many* times. According to *their* math, it should last for quite some time. Much longer than you will probably retain the notebook. So I wouldn't worry too much.

100 thousand writes can be completed in a few months.
post #32 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross

One can write about 100 thousand times to this, but can read more than a million times.

The read cycles of NAND Flash aren't limited; only the write cycles are, and they're a lot higher these days than the often-cited 100,000 times.

That said:

Quote:
Without that being solved, there is no way that it could be used for a HD replacement.

Very true.
post #33 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chucker

The read cycles of NAND Flash aren't limited; only the write cycles are, and they're a lot higher these days than the often-cited 100,000 times.

That said:



Very true.

Read cycles are limited. Both might be a bit higher than I mentioned, but not much. Those figures are from earlier this year.
post #34 of 75
I remembr you could create a ram disk on the Amiga...many years a go.

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post #35 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross

Read cycles are limited. Both might be a bit higher than I mentioned, but not much. Those figures are from earlier this year.

I'm genuinely curious; please find me a source that states that NAND flash read cycles are limited.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimbo123

I remembr you could create a ram disk on the Amiga...many years a go.

You can still create a RAM disk in OS X, but since OS X aggressively caches frequently-accessed data in RAM anyway, it's not as useful any more.
post #36 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by cwoloszynski

I think that this is a great item for Microsoft, since they have to reboot so often. For me, I reboot when a new security fix requires it. Otherwise, my iBook (my MBP arrives tomorrow) just shuttles from home to work with the lid closed.

Perhaps I am missing a key value to this. Anyone else think that improving the boot time of a MB or MBP is not much of an issue for OSX users? Perhaps Bootcamp users want this!

Well regarding MS, I thought I saw a demo of a laptop running Vista where Vista allowed pda-like operations to take place in a small window on the lid of the laptop. This ran some palm-like apps that could be accessible without even having to open or awaken the computer itself.

I have thought for a while that Apple should be making their laptops more instant on, but they don't need to do it for everything. I don't care that Photoshop takes 5 minutes to load b/c after I start it up, I keep it going for quite a while and over the course of the day the boot time is insignificant. However the fact that iCal takes almost as long to load as Photoshop is exxasperating!!! I want to know within 5 seconds whether I'm late or not.

I think Apple's productivity iApps are perfect to be sitting in a NAND memory buffer so that iCal, AddressBook, Mail, Stickies and Widgets are absolutely available with no waiting. That would make the OS as a whole seem instantaneous. Who cares if Illustrator takes a while, it is an excuse to get another coffee.
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post #37 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chucker

I'm genuinely curious; please find me a source that states that NAND flash read cycles are limited.

This is one. I'll quote from it, as well as give the link, as it's a long scroll 'till you get to this. It's interesting though, so you might want to read the whole thing. Where he says 1m read/writes, he really means 1m reads.

"But besides cost, there are other obstacles for Flash memory replacing hard drives. Flash memory is typically guaranteed for around 1m read/write cycles, which sounds a lot, but in the context of the working life of a PC (which is continually writing, erasing or rewriting data) is not. So designers have to use techniques known as wear-levelling to shift data around the Flash memory block to reduce the risk of data error. "We can design around the problem," says Walsh."

http://technology.guardian.co.uk/wee...856508,00.html

Wiki has this, which is, surprisingly correct, but as usual, not totally complete. Look down to where it says EPROM etc. lifetime.

The write life is complete. The read life is correct as far as it goes, in that they do say that it is limited, but they don't say that that limitation is considered to be about 1 million cycles. It isn't cycle limited, it's true, but the charge leakage gets worse with time, just as it does in most capacitors, and that charge drop ends up in a life limitation which usually comes out to 1 million cycles.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Read-only_memory
post #38 of 75
I don't think a random newspaper that doesn't even focus on technology is a particularly good source. As for Wikipedia, it is self-contradictory, as it also states:
Quote:
When compared to a hard disk drive, a further limitation is the fact that flash memory has a finite number of erase-write cycles (most commercially available flash products are guaranteed to withstand 1 million programming cycles) so that care has to be taken when moving hard-drive based applications, such as operating systems, to flash-memory based devices such as CompactFlash.

This implies that the limitation only applies to write cycles.
post #39 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chucker

I don't think a random newspaper that doesn't even focus on technology is a particularly good source. As for Wikipedia, it is self-contradictory, as it also states:


This implies that the limitation only applies to write cycles.

There are quite a few other sources.

You can go and look if you want to see this that badly. They all say about the same thing.

In fact, most Flash cards have only about 10,000 write cycles.

Most information is concerned with writes, because it is so poor.

Leveling does help. But mostly for static data, such as pictures.
post #40 of 75
The best would be to replace the harddrive completely with.. say, 8x8GB flash memories connected to act like one volume. And then you could have a free slot around the battery or something for insertion of secondary flash drive.
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