My SSD experiment, coming soon

SSDs are the first technology to excite me in a very long time. Next-generation drives with ultralow seek times and transfer rates around 100mb/s are finally available from Crucial and OCZ, but at a price of $600-$700 for a 32gb drive.

I’m going to wait for prices to come down and experiment with a cheaper alternative.Intel and Toshiba are promising 120mb/s rates later this year, and analysts are expecting prices to drop as manufacturing capacity increases. Competition can’t hurt either.

What I’m going to do in the meantime is use the old compact flash trick. The key is to get an adapter and a card that are both capable of UDMA. Addonics is the manufacturer of the best adapters. For cards, get something at least rated at 233X. A 300X card would be better. A 233X card will give transfer rates of 30-35mb/s, which is unspectacular but reasonable.

My goal is twofold. One, I want quiet. Two, it’ll reduce power consumption by about 20 watts. The you’ll-burn-the-drive-up-in-a-week myth is pretty well disproven now, so I’m not worried about that. Eliminating the possibility of a head crash means flash will be more reliable than a conventional drive, not less. For some of what I do, the low seek times will make a flash drive faster, rather than slower.

I have a couple of adapters on order. I haven’t ordered cards yet but that’s next. I need to decide what size I need first. With 233X 4gb cards selling for $25 at Newegg, I can get in the SSD game really cheaply, assuming I can live with 4 gigs (which is a possibility). Initially I’ll mess with this 128mb card I picked up at a yard sale for $2. I can’t do much with 128 megs anymore but I can build a Linux server in less than 100, just to prove the concept.

I think the CF trick is a good way to get in the game while waiting for prices to come down. And if you’re fixing up an old system for someone, a 4-8gb card may well give performance comparable to what was in the computer to begin with, and provides enough capacity for Windows 2000 or XP, office software, and a web browser, while eliminating the danger of a disk crash. In that situation, the compact flash is a viable permanent replacement.

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