Stories by Russell Kay

  • A Flash Memory primer: the basics explained

    Flash memory is inside your smartphone, GPS, MP3 player, digital camera, PC and the USB drive on your key chain. Solid-state drives (SSD) using flash memory are replacing hard drives in netbooks and PCs and even some server installations. Needing no batteries or other power to retain data, flash is convenient and relatively foolproof.

  • High-Density Storage

    The first storage media -- paper tape and punched cards -- were inefficient, slow and bulky. These gave way to magnetic storage: core memory, drums and, finally, hard drives. For backup, there were removable media: magnetic tape reels and cartridges, floppy disks and removable hard drives. Then optics (CD-ROM and DVD drives) supplanted magnetism for archival uses. Today's computers need to store more data than ever. The most recent storage generation replaces moving parts with solid-state electronics.

  • QuickStudy: Transactional Memory

    With the increasing use of multicore CPUs in computers, programmers have to learn new techniques for parallel processing. One very promising approach is transactional memory.

  • QuickStudy: High-definition TV

    In any newspaper ad for television sets, you'll see the term high-definition used with abandon, accompanied by numbers, letters and language designed to convince you that a particular item is the one you want. Let's decipher the HD marketing-speak one factor at a time.

  • QuickStudy: Storage virtualization

    Managing disk storage was once simple: If we needed more space, we got a bigger disk drive. But data storage needs grew, so we started adding multiple disk drives. Finding and managing these became harder and took more time, so we developed RAID, network-attached storage and storage-area networks. Still, managing and maintaining thousands of disk drives became an ever more onerous task.

  • QuickStudy: Cloud computing

    Ask any five IT specialists what cloud computing is, and you're likely to get five different answers. That's partly because cloud computing is merely the latest, broadest development in a trend that's been growing for years.

  • It's all in the Evidence

    The television series, CSI, has given millions of viewers an appreciation of the role and importance of physical evidence in conducting criminal investigations. Each week, we see the confluence of fingerprints, DNA tests, autopsies, microscopic examinations and ballistic evidence used to solve a murder or explain the circumstances surrounding an unusual death. The drama lies less in the events that are portrayed than in the thinking that lies behind the collection, preservation and interpretation of the evidence needed to solve the case and support prosecution.

  • Explainer: Serial vs. parallel storage

    Data stored on disk is made up of long strings (called tracks and sectors) of ones and zeroes. Disk heads read these strings one bit at a time until the drive accumulates the desired quantity of data and then sends it to the processor, memory or other storage devices. How the drive sends that data affects overall performance.

  • And then there was WiMax

    Since the turn of the millennium, wireless networks have proliferated. Wi-Fi, the popular term for the capabilities created by a group of standards from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), has freed us to move around our offices and many public places with our laptops and handhelds, yet still have instant, unencumbered access to our companies’ intranets and the Internet.

  • Tape types

    For almost as long as computers have existed, magnetic tape has been the backup medium of choice. Tape is inexpensive, well understood and easy to remove and replace.

  • Tablets on trial

    Microsoft's long-promised Windows XP Tablet PC Edition has officially been launched. More than a dozen computer makers are producing tablet PCs, including several Taiwan-based OEMs. Major tablet PC vendors will include Toshiba, ViewSonic, Compaq, Acer and NEC. Noticeably absent from the list, so far, are Dell and IBM.

  • Supply chain management

    In the simplest terms, supply chain management (SCM) lets an organisation get the right goods and services to the place they're needed at the right time, in the proper quantity and at an acceptable cost. Efficiently managing this process involves overseeing relationships with suppliers and customers, controlling inventory, forecasting demand and getting constant feedback on what's happening at every link in the chain.