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Data storage affects every aspect of modern life, but it turns out the technology developed for Blu-ray data storage can also have other uses. Solar cells work by trapping light, and it turns out that the same patterns used on the surface of Blu-Ray disks can absorb 21.8% more light than other textures. Solar cell efficiency is measured by how many photons they can absorb, and current designs utilize quasi-random nanostructures to boost efficiency. The pits and grooves present on a Blu-ray are between 150 and 525 nanometers, which is coincidentally the perfect size for trapping photons.
Researchers at Northwestern University began by testing with the patterns from a blank Blu-ray, but interestingly enough they found that greater efficiency is achieved when data is present. Researchers tested with different types of video on the Blu-ray, such as Jackie Chan's "Supercop", episodes of "Family Guy", and black and white movies. The efficiency of the solar cells increased no matter what type of video was present. The 21.8% increase in efficiency equates to a 12% improvement in conversion efficiency, which will result in more efficient solar panels and other applications.
Starting on Black Friday, and only available while supplies last, Samsung is offering a free Far Cry 4 download with any purchase of an 840 EVO SSD. The offer is only available from participating retailers, most notably Best Buy, Amazon, Newegg, Microcenter, Fry's, and Tiger Direct. Users will be able to download the game at a Samsung-hosted web address (Samsung.com/fc4) until September 1.
The 840 EVO is a value SSD that delivers tremendous performance. Our resident SSD expert, Chris Ramseyer, recently took a look at the 840 EVO in his Samsung 840 EVO 500GB SSD Review - An SSD with a Good Price and Performance article. Chris found the 840 EVO to offer a great mixture of price and performance, and the EVO won the TweakTown Editor's Choice award. The 840 EVO is currently selling at roughly 45 cents per gigabyte, and adding in the free Far Cry 4 game is the cherry on top.
The floods in Thailand in 2011 sent a tidal wave of high prices through the HDD market. The ripples of the flood are just receding and HDD prices are finally rebounding. Black Friday sales are going to feature HDDs for roughly $25 a terabyte, and expect many of these great deals to come without the normal mail in rebate programs. External drives are also going to be exceptionally low priced and feature speedy USB 3.0 interfaces.
After years of declining sales the PC market is also finally improving. Storage devices are somewhat of a litmus test for the PC market. When sales of PC are bad the HDD market declines. Users seem to be turning back to their home computers. Sales of tablets, which helped eviscerate the PC space, are also starting to decline. The personal storage category has rebounded with a 4.8% increase in overall units shipped last quarter, according to IDC.
As according to their press release sent out a mere 9 hours ago, Patriot have just announced they are increasing the sizing of their LX series of SDXC and microSDXC flash memory storage models.
These come in the form of a 256GB UHS-I class 10 SDXC Flash Card and a 128GB UHS-I Class 10 microSDXC Flash Card and are said to be available very soon for a MSRP of $129.99 from major American retailers such as Fry Electronics, Newegg and Amazon.
In an earnings call today for investors, Robert Crooke, VP and GM NVM Solutions Group, publicly announced Intel's 3D NAND. The new 3D structure will use lithography larger than 20nm but Intel didn't disclose anything further. The new 3D NAND will be produced in Utah, a IMFT factory, Intel's joint venture with Micron Technology.
Robert Crooke holding an Intel 3D NAND package.
Intel stressed the disruptive nature of the new 3D structure. The company plans to release products in the second half of 2015 with the new flash and plans to use the technology to disrupt SSD prices.
Apple recently upset their users by removing support for third-party software that enables TRIM functionality. Perhaps most distressing was the fact the change went unannounced. Many Apple users with Trim Enabler, a third party app that enables TRIM functionality, unfortunately bricked their installs when they updated to OS X 10.10 Yosemite. There is a method for enabling TRIM with third-party SSDs, but it involves creating a massive security vulnerability. SSDs can work without TRIM but speed is reduced and endurance also takes a hit. TRIM works by complimenting the Garbage Collection routines inside the SSD, which allows the early removal of previously deleted data.
After the news was released we were contacted by several third-party SSD vendors about the impact of removing TRIM functionality. From our conversations it was revealed that only one manufacturer currently has native TRIM support for Apple products. Angelbird has supported native Apple TRIM support for two years, and the Angelbird wrk for Mac is the only SSD right now that circumvents the issue. Chris, our consumer SSD guru, recently took an in-depth look at the SSD in the Angelbird SSD wrk 512GB SSD Review. The wrk leverages a Silicon Motion SM2246EN controller, but we aren't sure if that specific controller is the key to native Apple TRIM support. We contacted Angelbird representatives and they confirmed native TRIM support, but could not share specifics on exactly how they enable it. Angelbird representatives also confirmed they have external USB 3.0 devices that support TRIM through their proprietary software.
BadUSB was developed by a team of researchers to highlight the inherently flawed design of the USB specification. Once injected, this exploit allows full control to the users computer. The worst aspect of this vulnerability lies in the nature of the hack, it actually resides in the firmware of USB devices. Erasing or wiping a USB stick is the most common method of removing malware, but since this exploit resides in the firmware of the device, it renders traditional virus removal techniques useless. The hack goes far beyond just flash memory sticks and includes USB hubs, SD card adapters, SATA adapters, all USB input devices, webcams, and storage devices.
The concept of attacking a computer through USB devices certainly isn't new, the NSA has been known to utilize similar tactics via the Cottonmouth device leaked by Edward Snowden. A recent update on the severity of the issue was released at the PacSec security conference. Researchers tested eight USB controllers from leading manufacturers and determined that only half of them were safe from the attack. This is a better outlook than previous research that indicated all USB devices are vulnerable, but is a hollow comfort because users have no method of determining which devices are exposed to the nefarious firmware hacks. There is no known method for the common user to even detect an infection, let alone remove it.
The original researchers refused to publish the BadUSB code, but some other friendly sorts have published their own BadUSB code, purportedly for studying the problem and providing incentive for companies to fix the issue. The bad news? The code is now available to the public. The only recourse for end users is to simply not trust any USB device.
Apple and Samsung have had a contentious history, but business makes for strange bedfellows. Apple and Samsung curtailed their supplier agreements as they broadsided each other with full-on legal attacks over the last few years, but Samsung resumed supplying Apple earlier this year. This alliance has been fruitful for both participants as they continue to enjoy favorable operating profits. Samsung's 10 percent volume growth for NAND last quarter is likely due to Apple demand. This couldn't come at a better time for Samsung, whose own mobile unit is experiencing some turbulence. Apple continues its meteoric rise with record performance.
Much of Samsung's growth is spurred by increases in eMMC, eMCP, and SSD shipments. eMMC enjoys broad use in mobile applications, and Samsung is already transitioning to new UFS 2.0 (Universal Flash Storage) designs. These designs quadruple eMMC's performance, jumping from a top speed of 400MB/s with eMMC 5.0 to 1.45GB/s with UFS 2.0. UFS 2.0 allows for command queuing and simultaneous read/write operations, which lead to the big boost in performance. UFS 2.0 will provide enough throughput for next-gen cameras and multimedia applications.
Apple is likely including the new UFS 2.0 devices into their next generation of devices, and several NAND fabricators are also producing UFS 2.0 designs, which are slated to debut in 2015. Samsung has already announced their intention to leverage UFS 2.0 into new designs from their struggling smartphone unit.
Cindori Software provides the Trim Enabler program that allows Apple users to use third-party SSDs and still have TRIM functionality. An SSD has no idea what data is erased by the filesystem, but TRIM marks data for deletion that has been removed at the filesystem level. This allows the SSD to clean itself up during a routine task called garbage collection. TRIM is important for SSDs, without it they will eventually slow down and become less responsive. Without notice Apple has blocked third-party applications, such as Trim Enabler, from working unless users institute a workaround that creates a security risk with OS X 10.10 Yosemite. Unfortunately, users are finding this out after the upgrade has already taken place.
A summary of the issue from Cindori Software:
In OS X 10.10 (Yosemite), Apple has introduced a new security requirement called kext signing. (A kext is a kernel extension, or a driver, in Mac OS X)
Kext signing basically works by checking if all the drivers in the system are unaltered by a third party, or approved by Apple. If they have been modified, Yosemite will no longer load the driver. This is a means of enforcing security, but also a way for Apple to control what hardware that third party developers can release OS X support for.
Since Trim Enabler works by unlocking the Trim driver for 3rd party SSD's, this security setting prevents Trim Enabler to enable Trim on Yosemite. To continue to use Trim Enabler and continue to get Trim for your third party SSD, you first need to disable the kext signing security setting.
It is important to note that the kext-signing setting is global, if you disable it you should be careful to only install system drivers from sources that you trust.
From an OEM perspective it makes good sense for Apple to restrict third-party TRIM applications, it forces their customers to only use Apple SSDs. There is an ecosystem of third-party SSD suppliers for Apple products that might feel otherwise, and customers certainly aren't going to be happy with this move.
NVMe is a radically efficient and powerful protocol that reduces latency, increases performance, and reduces CPU load. The Intel DC P-Series are the first branded NVMe SSDs on the market, and as indicated in our Intel SSD DC P3700 1.6TB PCIe NVMe Enterprise Review, it delivers on the promises of NVMe. The Intel PCIe SSD family is broken down into three segments that feature different levels of endurance and performance. The DC P3700, DC P3600, and DC P3500 are designed for the datacenter, but enthusiasts have shown incredible interest in the DC P3500.
The Intel NVMe SSDs are very competitive in prices, and the 0.3 DWPD (Drive Writes Per Day) for the the DC P3500 brings its pricing within striking distance of other enthusiast PCIe SSDs, which are nowhere close in performance. The relatively low endurance is more than suitable for the desktop environment, and the DC P3500 features an amazing 450,000/35,000 4k random read/write speed, and 2.5/1.7 GB/s of sequential speed. Most importantly, it delivers amazing speed at lower queue depths, which offers the best performance for workstation/desktop workloads. The 400GB DC P3500 has begun to pop up on retailers for pre-order for around $600.00. This works out to roughly $1.50 per GB, which will have them flying off the shelves soon.