Monday, November 30, 2009

The Big Storage Lie

What's This About?

Long story, but I just bought a new 1.5 Terabyte drive for my server.   Once it was formatted, how big does it say in Windows?  1.32 TB.  So, what happened to 180 Gigabytes of space?

In fact, this phenomenon is rampant now throughout the computer industry.  And remember, everything is a computer - from your cell phone (no matter how simple it is, it is still a computer with its own Operating System, CPU, and memory) to media players (MP3, video, etc.), to USB jump drives, to flash memory sticks (SD, MicroSD, CompactFlash, Sony Media Stick, etc.), car stereos, GPS devices, and to, of course, hard  drives.

I traced this discrepancy down once, to a white paper by James Wiebe, in which he explains exactly why we have this discrepancy.  It basically boils down to the fact that the hard drive / memory manufacturers use a different standard to compute the size, than the standard that computers use to report the size.  What!?!?  That's right.  Somewhere, someone decided they would redefine what has been in place some 60 years, and arbitrarily say that a 1 GB hard drive means 1,000 MB, which by the way each mean 1,000 KB, each of which is 1,000 Bytes.  You may know that electronic computers since their inception have used a binary  system to compute storage size instead of a decimal system, therefore using powers of 2, 1KB is 1,024 Bytes, 1 MB is 1,024 KB, and 1 GB is 1,024 MB, and so on.

Somehow, all of the manufacturers started following suit - probably as storage capacities became so large they figured no one would care.  So, basically we are all being cheated!  That's right, I paid $105.95 for 1.5 TB, but I only got 1.32 TB.  They stole 180 Gigabytes from me - by the way, my roommate in college had a 5 Megabyte hard drive, so that would be, oh, some almost 37,000 hard drives from college they stole from me!  Or would it be only 36,000 because you multiply by 1000 instead of 1024?  Oh, to heck with it!

A Call To Action

Sometime in 2003, some of the hard drive manufacturers were sued, successfully, on this point.  However, in a settlement, it turns out the end result is this stupid statement on the bottom of my Seagate box:

When referring to hard drive capactity, one gigabyte, or GB, equals one billion bytes and one terabyte, or TB, equals one thousand billion bytes.  Your computer's operating system may use a different standard of measurement and report a lower capacity.  In addition, some of the listed capacity is used for formatting and other functions and will not be available for data storage.

Hooey!  Horse hockey!  Is anyone else mad as hell about this?  First of all, your computer's operating system may use a different standard???  There is not a single operating system in the world that doe NOT use a different standard - the original power-of-2 standard.  All flavors of UNIX, Windows, Mac, you name it.  Second of all, I mean really, what would it be like if the US gas stations started listing prices in Liters, without labeling it as Liters?  That's right, now it's $2.59.  Times 3.8 liters per gallon, oh, but we didn't tell
you.  If you wonder why your gas fillup now costs you $120 instead of $35, it's just because some cars made for the US market may report a different capacity!  Yeah, that's exactly what they said on the bottom of my Seagate box.

I say enough of this lie - if it is 1.3 TB capacity, call it that.  Fine, I'll pay the $105.95 (did I multiply by 1,000 or 1,024???).  But call it like it is - don't lie and say it is 1.5 TB, because it isn't.

We tried the legal route - it's either way too limited (suing a company or several companies), or just forget about the mountain to climb (getting Congress to pass a law - besides, do you really want Congress passing a law regulating technology?).

Contact your manufacturers and complain.  Have them spend the time to explain it to you - hopefully as well as James Wiebe did (did you follow the IBM/Hitachi computation?).  If they find they are spending so much time answering complaints, and explaining, maybe that will hit thim in their profitability, and they will begin listing the TRUE capacity.

That's my 2 cents worth.

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