Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 17th Apr 2007 21:59 UTC, submitted by bornagainenguin
Hardware, Embedded Systems "Those flash-based laptops we're all dreaming about may be a lot cheaper than we expected. Asus just announced their plans to make five budget, solid state laptops this year priced from USD 199 to USD 549. Each machine will have a 7-inch display, and depending on the model it'll have a flash drive ranging from 1GB to 40GB. The lappies are expected later this year."
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How many writes/reads?
by Shannara on Tue 17th Apr 2007 22:14 UTC
Shannara
Member since:
2005-07-06

How many writes/reads does this flash drive support? Is it more or less then current IDE/SATA drives?

Reply Score: 2

RE: How many writes/reads?
by butters on Tue 17th Apr 2007 22:25 UTC in reply to "How many writes/reads?"
butters Member since:
2005-07-08

Given the statistically calculated mean write cycles before failure for modern flash and the upper bounds for real-world cycle rate (using flash as paging space on a heavily loaded system), one can expect flash media to last at least 2-3 years. Not great, but reasonable, and not too far from the empirical MTBF for hard disks.

It's all fuzzy and statistical math, but suffice it to say that flash is a bit more robust than some have been led to believe. I've had plenty of hard disks fail, especially laptop hard disks.

Edited 2007-04-17 22:27

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: How many writes/reads?
by mmu_man on Tue 17th Apr 2007 22:28 UTC in reply to "RE: How many writes/reads?"
mmu_man Member since:
2006-09-30

but suffice it to say that flash is a bit more robust than some have been led to believe.

That's because they cheat. HDDs don't move sectors around to lower the stress on the surface.

Also note while USB keys have the remapping logic transparently working, things like SD/pcmcia cards or so require proprietary drivers with patented algorithms that require signing NDAs to get the drivers for Linux, when they exist. Not even speaking about Linux-not-x86 or BeOS or whichever. Some alternative REd driver are floating around, still it's not as transparent of use as hdds.

Edited 2007-04-17 22:30

Reply Score: 2

Earl Colby pottinger Member since:
2005-07-06

I don't know about Linux, but it is possible to run BeOS/Haiku without a swap area.

This of-course limits you to the amount of real memory that can be installed in your computer, but on the other-hand that can be into the GBytes range now-a-days.

Plus lighter OSes like BeOS, Linux-Lite (right name?), and most hobby OSes run fine in 256 MBytes of ram and rarely need more than 1-2 GBytes of hard drive space to install everything but user data.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: How many writes/reads?
by Almafeta on Wed 18th Apr 2007 01:25 UTC in reply to "RE: How many writes/reads?"
Almafeta Member since:
2007-02-22

But then again, which is improving faster -- Flash drive maximum reads, or hard drive MTBFs?

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: How many writes/reads?
by Lobotomik on Wed 18th Apr 2007 06:46 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: How many writes/reads?"
Lobotomik Member since:
2006-01-03

I would say, flash max rewrites: they have gone up by a factor of 100 in the last 10 years (10K rewrites was what we had in mid 90s), while it seems to me that HD MTBFs "feel" like they've even gone down.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: How many writes/reads?
by Lobotomik on Wed 18th Apr 2007 06:59 UTC in reply to "RE: How many writes/reads?"
Lobotomik Member since:
2006-01-03

Because flash has finite erasability, it is very unwise to use a flash drive for paging, especially on a heavily loaded system.

Other than paging in stressed systems, 1M rewrite cycles per sector plus simple wear leveling algorithms make a flash drive a lot more durable than the fragile mechanics of a hard drive.

Its a bit more complicated than this, but to give a simple example, let's say you write a 1M file every minute to a 1G flash drive. With wear leveling, every time it will be written to a different place, spread around the drive, so flash won't be overwritten until the 1000th time, which gives you 1.000.000.000 file write ops before flash wears out, which at that rate allows 1900 years operation.

Of course, usage patterns are more complex than this, and your mileage may vary, but flash drives can be very, very, very hardy -- unlike many hard drives I've had, from names like IBM and Seagate.

Reply Score: 3

Earl Colby pottinger Member since:
2005-07-06

But not all OSes need a paging area to work.

And except for Windows that hits the paging area for reasons I don't understand, most OSes will rarely write to the paging area if there is more ram installed than needed by all the code running.

Reply Score: 1

RE: How many writes/reads?
by mmu_man on Tue 17th Apr 2007 22:26 UTC in reply to "How many writes/reads?"
mmu_man Member since:
2006-09-30

Last I remember reading about Flash it was from 100000 to 1M write cycles (no limit on read cycles as it's not destructive) before the cell dies.
Current devices have embedded logic to remap sectors to spread the load around and avoid premature use of very often used sectors (like the superblock and usage bitmaps for an fs...).
Maybe current flash perfs are better and maybe on par with IDE drives... still I wouldn't even try swapping on those.

Reply Score: 1

geee... more throwable hardware :)
by mmu_man on Tue 17th Apr 2007 22:20 UTC
mmu_man
Member since:
2006-09-30

Before you would only throw your usb key away, now you'll throw the whole thing away when the flash goes past its 1M write cycles.
Nice.
I just hope they use a less buggy chipset than the ATI IXP I have in mine here... (found a bug when trying to get Zeta to boot... seems they couldn't imagine anyone would like to run the timer in mode 0...)

Reply Score: 1

flanque Member since:
2005-12-15

Ideally you'd want to hope that it's swappable so one can simply buy a new set and the laptop keeps going. In fact it'd be good if it were swappable so one could upgrade the amount of storage too.

I wonder if you can stripe it..? Anyone know?

Reply Score: 2

riha Member since:
2006-01-24

would be great if it were accessible easy with an external port (like PC-card/PCMCIA), then it would be easy to have an load of different installations in hand on diff. hdd:s, or there could be two slots for "hdd:s".

Reply Score: 1

v Yes, but...
by twenex on Tue 17th Apr 2007 22:35 UTC
Too small screen
by unoengborg on Tue 17th Apr 2007 22:37 UTC
unoengborg
Member since:
2005-07-06

Seven inch screen is far too little. To use modern software you need at least 1024x768 to work efficiently. Even on a 12" screen such as on the Lenovo Thinkpad X series, the text and icons becomes quite small.

Another thing, isn't 1GB a bit too small, there are cell phones that have more memory than that. If the screen had been larger, they could have had a use as portable workstations in office environments where they could act as wireless thin clients.

In this setting it could even be an advantage to have little memory as the information would be safe on company servers, and the risk of information going astray if the laptop was stolen would be lessened.
Employees could still work from home or when visiting customers over a secure VPN connection that perhaps could be protected by some password or biometric authentication method.

I would not mind a 32GB flash drive as a replacement for my hard drive, though.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Too small screen
by vegai on Wed 18th Apr 2007 04:18 UTC in reply to "Too small screen"
vegai Member since:
2005-12-25

Then don't use modern software. Most of it is crap, anyway.

http://www.suckless.org

Reply Score: 1

RE: Too small screen
by pepa on Wed 18th Apr 2007 16:45 UTC in reply to "Too small screen"
pepa Member since:
2005-07-08

Yes, even with a 640x480 resolution, the dots-per-inch on a 7 inch (5.6"x4.2") screen would be more packed than 1024x768 on a 12 inch (9.6"x7.2") screen.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Too small screen
by Kancept on Wed 18th Apr 2007 17:22 UTC in reply to "Too small screen"
Kancept Member since:
2006-01-09

I miss my Sony VAIO that had a 10", 1024x768, all real hardware, and ran BeOS without a problem (yes, modem worked too). Had my wireless card in it and it's all I needed. It didn't have a CD drive, I transferred files wirelessly, or with hardwire LAN if it was available. I got about 10 hours of battery life out of it, and had 3 batteries. :-)

I don't think the screen is too small. I think it's just right, especially at it's price point.

Reply Score: 1

Hmm...
by Finalzone on Tue 17th Apr 2007 23:00 UTC
Finalzone
Member since:
2005-07-06

It looks like Asus got inspiration from OLPC project.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Hmm...
by Flatland_Spider on Wed 18th Apr 2007 15:13 UTC in reply to "Hmm..."
Flatland_Spider Member since:
2006-09-01

Probably. They might have just scaled up a PDA rather then scale down a laptop.

There are three options with this,
1) Low power x86 hardware from AMD or Intel (Pentium M or Geode)
2) Via EPIA
3) Arm processor
(They could have also gone with a PowerPC chip but I really doubt that, as cool at that would be.)

Until we have spec it will be hard to tell what route they took. I have a feeling that this isn't a clean sheet design, but rather they are utilizing existing hardware they have a surplus of.

Reply Score: 1

gaming opps?
by bnolsen on Tue 17th Apr 2007 23:17 UTC
bnolsen
Member since:
2006-01-06

Seriously, for $199 I'm guessing this thing will have specs to blow a nintendo DS out of the water.

Question is, will these have some sort of touch screen or just be a laptop with a really small screen? And what sorta horsepower will they have under the hood?

Reply Score: 1

bornagainenguin
Member since:
2005-08-07

Asus result in a much faster race to the bottom as manufacturing capacity manages to drive down prices. If the two companies manage to feed off each other it could result in much more efficient portable machines at a price point everyone can afford. Not to mention that if Microsoft keeps its word and tries to develop a special distribution of its embedded WinCe.net OS we could see some competition there as well and the trend could lead to less bloat over time...

What? A man can dream, can't he?

--bornagainpenguin

Reply Score: 1

199!?
by hobgoblin on Wed 18th Apr 2007 01:31 UTC
hobgoblin
Member since:
2005-07-06

Sign me up:)
Sure the rez may be a problem. But for mail and web it should do nicely:)

Browser: Opera/8.01 (J2ME/MIDP; Opera Mini/3.1.7139/1662; nb; U; ssr)

Reply Score: 3

$199 laptops? New?
by Almafeta on Wed 18th Apr 2007 01:42 UTC
Almafeta
Member since:
2007-02-22

Lesigh. One thing I'd love to learn while I'm still in school is how you go about doing something like this. Just what do you need to do to bring something like this toghether? How can you possibly get the parts cheap enough -- where can you get them -- or is there no chance for anyone but the already rich to pull this sort of thing off?

Reply Score: 1

Dont swap at all
by Johnbon on Wed 18th Apr 2007 05:48 UTC
Johnbon
Member since:
2007-04-14

With the large amounts of memory we can put into computers today .. why swap at all .. linux can run without enabling a swap partition ... so this could increase the lifetime of a flash harddrive even more ..
windows on the other hand has always been a sucker for swap ... ;) .. well these are great things asus is doing ... looking forward to having one ... i wont use swap on it thats for sure ..

Cheers

Johnbon

Reply Score: 2

A $199 laptop with flash drive? :)
by WereCatf on Wed 18th Apr 2007 08:33 UTC
WereCatf
Member since:
2006-02-15

I wouldn't mind having one, even with just a 7" display. It most likely will not have much memory, the graphics card will suck and the processor will be slow.. But it'd be small, weigh less than most laptops, and wouldn't produce nearly as much heat or noise since it uses a flash drive. Oh, and I imagine the battery would last longer. The hdd on laptops is the one part that consumes the most amount of power, so a flash drive will significantly boost the operating time... With low specs I imagine it would still run Gentoo + XFCE quite nicely, I could browse the web, chat, do programming and play some simple games, not forgetting watching movies ;) Not bad, not bad at all ;)

Reply Score: 2

Moochman Member since:
2005-07-06

Yes. If this thing turns out to be light and have great battery life, it might just be the ticket. Then the only thing it would be missing is a touchscreen, for it to be the perfect portable computer!

Edited 2007-04-18 16:49

Reply Score: 2

Seven inch?
by Andrej on Wed 18th Apr 2007 08:53 UTC
Andrej
Member since:
2006-11-03

Draw 7 inch line and imagine it's diameter of screen. Try to draw rectangle with this diameter. Using more than 800x600 pixels on this smaller-than-postcard screen won't be very healthy...

Reply Score: 1

give me 2
by viton on Wed 18th Apr 2007 09:17 UTC
viton
Member since:
2005-08-09

I looked at 7"/10" Sony PCs, but they are all over $2k.
A little expensive =)

7" + SSD + cheap price
Probably this is what i want.

Reply Score: 2

Picture?
by FunkyELF on Wed 18th Apr 2007 14:31 UTC
FunkyELF
Member since:
2006-07-26

Is the picture on the page the laptop? Looks like bigger than a 7" display.

If it isn't the laptop, any word on whether it is widescreen or not?

Reply Score: 1

RE: Picture?
by Flatland_Spider on Wed 18th Apr 2007 15:25 UTC in reply to "Picture?"
Flatland_Spider Member since:
2006-09-01

That's not a picture of the laptop. It would be nice to pick up a 15" laptop with a SSD for $199 though. ;)

Reply Score: 1

Neat...
by Flatland_Spider on Wed 18th Apr 2007 15:31 UTC
Flatland_Spider
Member since:
2006-09-01

This is cool. I've been wanting something like this for a long time. 12" please. ;)

Reply Score: 1

RE: Neat...
by Cass on Wed 18th Apr 2007 22:07 UTC in reply to "Neat..."
Cass Member since:
2006-03-17

Yeah 12" is the sweet spot ..

Reply Score: 1

Hmm
by Xaero_Vincent on Wed 18th Apr 2007 16:59 UTC
Xaero_Vincent
Member since:
2006-08-18

Todays laptops are still a better deal IMHO.

I bought my Compaq Presario C303NR for $299 ($99 if I were to accept a Vonage subscription--which I didn't).

It came with a 15.4" Brightview LCD, Celeron M 420 1.6 GHz, 512 MB DDR memory (now upgraded to 1.25 GB), 60 GB SATA HDD, Conexent High Definition Stereo, and 128 MB Intel 945GM graphics controller.

I'm assuming the $199 Asus laptop only comes with the 1 GB Flash HD? What a joke, especially since it will die after little more than a million write operations.

$549 for the 40 GB one still isn't a great deal with a 7" screen.

For those who buy this... hopefully it comes with a USB 2.0 or IEEE 1394 port so that they can use an external hard drive when their flash drive dies.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Hmm
by bornagainenguin on Wed 18th Apr 2007 23:40 UTC in reply to "Hmm"
bornagainenguin Member since:
2005-08-07

...and a battery life of maybe one hour...

--bornagainpenguin (who wonders if this will lead to a resurgence of the 'Jupiter class device' only at prices more people can afford without feeling cheated)

Reply Score: 2

A little more info
by Ravyne on Wed 18th Apr 2007 18:36 UTC
Ravyne
Member since:
2006-01-08

Asus gives no specs directly, but the article does say that its based on Intel's ClassmatePC architiecture. The ClassmatePC page indicates specs as a 900mhz Pentium M with 400fsb and no L2 cache (seems to be a "Shelton" core), a 915 chipset, 256mb RAM, and a screen resolution of 800x480.

If the Asus kit meets this, its not too shabby. Its not directly comparable to a cheap-o laptop since its smaller and seems to meant for a more rough-and-tumble lifestyle.

7" is a bit small, it would be nice to have a 10" screen on the more expensive models. But the cost of LCDs has more to do with surface area than any other factor. The 915 IGP is nice though, since the drivers are open and its well supported under linux with, AFAIK, hardware acceleration of OpenGL.

Reply Score: 1

Is this connected?
by james_parker on Wed 18th Apr 2007 20:10 UTC
james_parker
Member since:
2005-06-29

I wonder if this has any connection to the UMPC talk that Intel gave today:

http://www.trustedreviews.com/cpu-memory/news/2007/04/18/IDF-Spring...

From that article:

"Vendors selling them will be from [...] Asus [and others ...], and will be available over the summer. The UMPC that was demoed featured a cool thumbnail based interface called Glide, and there will be version running on Windows and Linux."

Reply Score: 1

Sure!
by yakirz on Wed 18th Apr 2007 20:17 UTC
yakirz
Member since:
2006-05-11

I'll take one... just throw on something like Xubuntu, keep it simple.

Edited 2007-04-18 20:18

Reply Score: 1

This would be it
by oelewapperke on Wed 18th Apr 2007 20:54 UTC
oelewapperke
Member since:
2006-10-16

http://www.engadget.com/2006/05/04/intels-eduwise-low-cost-pc-revea...

I just hope they do make a tablet out of it. If it will run a snes emulator, I'll probably buy one.

Reply Score: 1