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: Identity-based encryption

Public-key cryptography offers very strong protection for electronic communications. Much of its strength comes from the use of paired keys, which are separate (but mathematically related) codes that encrypt and decrypt a message; one key is public and one is known only to the recipient.

QuickStudy: Global positioning systems

Like many people, I've come to take for granted the availability of navigation systems in cars and handheld devices based on the Global Positioning System. But it was all abstract until I recently acquired a modern GPS myself. My reaction reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

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: 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: 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.

Here comes Python

Python is an object-oriented, open-source programming language often used for rapid application development. Python's simple syntax emphasizes readability, reducing the cost of program maintenance, while its large library of functions and calls encourages reuse and extensibility.

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