Silicon is cheaper than iron; From Hume to Hopper; Praetorians?

View 765 Monday, March 04, 2013


Silicon is cheaper than iron:

Seagate to stop production of 7200RPM laptop drives –

Hi Jerry,

Here’s a break from politics, and back to technology.

I’m not sure I agree with their reasoning, but I did switch to Western Digital a while ago – their 7200 RPM Scorpio Black 750 GB laptop drive is my standard. I’ve dropped those into a dozen or so Mac, without a single issue or failure.

I’d had a number of Seagate drives fail outright, and then tried two of the Momentus XT’s, but my experience was rather poor they are incompatible with many whole-disk encryption solutions, and both the ones I tried were bad out of the box or failed shortly after install. Many folks at my company have had the same issue – particularly with Mac’s. It’s the wrong time of the year, but I’d award the Momentus XT a half-orchid/half-onion. Great idea, poor execution.

Still, it shows the impact of falling SSD prices. Eventually spinning disks may head the way of the dodo for laptops (but for desktop storage, magnetic is still king).



Way back in S-100 Bus days I said that “Silicon is cheaper than iron,” and predicted that the future of spinning metal as mass storage was limited; it would be taken over by chip-based drives. That turned out to be true, but it took a long time for it to happen. What I had not factored in was that the new computing power – faster CPU’s, faster and cheaper memory – would influence the efficiency of hard drives. Once I saw that new software making use of the new computer power was being used to guide greater accuracy in machining spinning metal, and even more to the point to make for better data separation thus increasing dramatically the amount to be stored on a hard drive, it was clear that spinning metal had a longer future than I had thought.

Moore’s Law is inexorable, though. Exponentials generally are. Of course this is not a true exponential, is an S-curve or ogive, and at some point it will level off – exactly as the hard drive technology was on an S-curve with ever rapid improvements in speed and data storage eventually levels off. We discussed S-curves in The Strategy of Technology, a book which still holds up and is still used in some military planning circles. Although the examples were all drawn from the Cold War and need to be updated, the principles remain true.

My prediction that silicon drives would obsolete spinning metal drives took a long time to come true, but it seems finally to be coming to pass.

Silicon is cheaper than iron. And that has consequences.


What is truth?

Friscos for Scientists I: “Correlation Does Not Imply Causation”

Interesting article on overuse of statistical terminology.


It is a well done article which points to another on Slate that I have not read. Of course correlation implies causation. It does not prove causation. It does suggest hypotheses. Hypotheses which can be falsified can make theories increasingly likely to contain truth. That’s the way science works. Of course some correlations generate theories that can’t be tested.


Obama DHS Purchases 2,700 Light-Armored Tanks to Go With Their 1.6 Billion Bullet Stockpile

Posted by Jim Hoft on Sunday, March 3, 2013, 9:55 PM


Which raises the question of why?  Has the Congress gone mad, or does it not know of these expenditures? Given the cuts due to sequestration, it would seem to me that equipping a Praetorian Guard capable of governing without the consent of the governed might not be so urgent as, say, Air Traffic Controllers or even TSA airport safety officers. According to this article – and I am not at all familiar with the web site –  this is a force more suitable to suppression and intimidation of popular resistance than one designed to overcome any easily foreseen terrorist threat.  Perhaps someone knows more about this?


If you haven’t seen these, they are worth looking at. We don’t know as much about the Earth/space environment as we thought we did.


"A student used food to make an inappropriate gesture."


Roland Dobbins

You just can’t make this stuff up. Meanwhile, the Secretary of Homeland Security confirms that TSA agent have been cut back because of the sequester. I have not heard whether any bunny inspectors are at risk. 



Sifting through the wave of nonsense on the internet regarding the DHS/ICE MRAP vehicles, I found a few things.

First, the original photos of those seem to date back to 2009.

Second, the MRAP in the photos does not seem to match the exact type of the 2700+ MRAP refurbishment contract Third, there is some stuff about the DHS getting about 60 surplus MRAPs following a source selection contract, and those 60 appear to match the ones seen in the photos.

Fourth, the 2700+ refurb contract was about a year ago and was supposedly for the Army.

Of course, that’s just the result of an hour of insomniac web browsing. There may be more, but don’t believe anything that doesn’t have a better source then another alarmist "news" site. From what I could tell, this report was a nearly word for word cut-paste from a wave of identical "news" reports from mid-2012. None of which changes the fact that DHS appears to be operating at least 2 mine resistant armored personnel assault vehicles within the united states…

Still, I think people are putting 2 and 2 together and getting impending urban warfare as the sum. I personally don’t see why the DHS/ICE ought to be operating 60 or even 2 of these things, and writing "rescue" on the side is big brother doublespeak straight from Orwell’s 1984. Given the utter absence of land mines and IEDs in the 48 contiguous states and given the current "budget crisis", I figure these things ought to be sold on ebay or at the very least sold for scrap. We don’t need them and they’re expensive to run/maintain. If anyone seriously tells you that we DO need them, look closely for the jackboots and subdued swastika because they’re not in the game for our interests.

Serving officer

I suspected the story was more complicated that that web site said.  Still, it is well to stay informed in matters such as this.  As you say there is no need for security forces to have that sort of gear.  At Waco the Attorney General had to lie to the Army in order to get tanks, and the Army is not at all happy about the outcome. 





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