Poor man’s SSD: Of course, you know, this means war …

It’s been a month now since I swapped out the hard drive in my 14-year-old Pentium for a commonplace 8Gb CF card and connector. And to be honest, I’m almost disappointed.

Because nothing has happened. Everything works just the same as a conventional hard drive, only lighter, faster, cleaner, cooler and with less stress.

I really wish there was something to report, but the whole experience started out perfectly and hasn’t skipped a beat. I regularly power on the machine, boot, sometimes disk check, continue on with the events of the day, and power off.

I read, write, save files and images. I compile new software, make updates, build kernels, troubleshoot configurations and experiment same as ever — all the while writing and reading the entire system to the card.

And there have been no problems. No hiccups, no disk errors, no transfer issues, no evident size reduction, no measurable space constriction, no mistakes, glitches, bumps, kerfuffles or rigmaroles. It’s been smooth sailing since the first power-on.

So what can I say? It’s lasted longer than I expected, and shows no signs of breaking or quitting. The rumor is false. CF cards aren’t any less or more reliable than conventional drives — and I feel qualified to make that statement, considering I’ve lost two standard drives to hardware faults in as many years. 👿

In fact, the entire experience only makes me want to really kick one in the shins — really put it through the wringer, and see what happens to it. Something beyond day-to-day use, and more in the realm of intense, sustained abuse.

So I’ve ordered another one, as well as another adapter, and I’m going to hunt down something that is designed to kill hard drives — some application that will simply thrash away at disk space and force the darned thing to quit.

I’m going to start the thing and let it run until it freezes, catches fire or collapses in a puddle of tears, begging for mercy.

It’s all purely in the name of science, of course. I’ve already exploded the myth sufficiently to prove in my mind that any computer I salvage or keep in the next decade will be fitted with similar connectors and cards.

But this is no longer about just using an unconventional solution for an everyday tool, or about saving a little power and perhaps gaining a tiny sliver of speed. It’s not a gimmick or a stunt now. This is a mission. This is war. This is … SCIENCE! 😈 🙄


15 thoughts on “Poor man’s SSD: Of course, you know, this means war …

  1. Tom D.

    Haha, I’m interested to see the results of your future tests. I’ve meant to try a CF-SSD for a long time now.

  2. Zoev

    Science, that’s a term the new-age-techies haven’t heard in a long time. I’m glad you’re willing to put time and resources into these sort of projects Kmandla.

  3. bpalone

    I to am interested in your results. I just bought a couple of adapters to have on hand when some old ide drives croak around here.

    I recall someone put up a streaming video of a flash drive crash test on slashdot.org here a month or so ago. I can’t remember much about it, but they had exceeded the purported writes limit by a fair amount when I looked at it. So, keep us all posted on the test.

  4. steve

    Great stuff….I suggest a few Gutmann writes with DBaN to really put it to the test, remember to include the verify phase for quality control. AGree with Zoev, a lot of techies these days seem to forget that the whole tech enterprise has it’s roots in science, which makes the whole thing a scientific endeavour, so chalk me up as another keen bean to see what type of test you settle on and the outcome.

  5. totalizator

    Why CF?
    I’ve tried it with CF once but it has ended with failure – laptop didn’t want to boot with it and I’ve lost a lot of nerves. After that I don’t care about “…SCIENCE!” anymore ;).
    If you want something reliable then you should try real SSD. It’s quite cheap now. I mean – I’ve bought used 8GB SSD (from Acer Aspire)+zif data cable+ZIF to 2,5″IDE converter for less than $20. My 10 year old Vaio has revived!

  6. ajlec2000

    My experiences with hardrives has been an average of five years before failure. So, 69 months to go.

    Actually, I’ve heard enough to encourage me to order an adapter and CF card as a backup. Maybe two. I have on occasion seen good deals on laptops with bad drives.

  7. imgx64

    I found this article today, and thought it might be relevant.

    It’s a bit long, but the important paragraph is:

    Most manufacturers take a very closed approach to SSD firmware development – it’s the secret sauce that turns cheap commodity flash with very low margins into extremely expensive, reliable, high-performance storage devices with high margins.

    In short, SSDs have internal “log-structured file systems” to improve performance and decrease the wear over time. “Bare flash” devices (including CF cards) don’t. If you feel adventurous, you could try a log-structured file system at the operating system level instead, such as JFFS2, NILFS, or LogFS.

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  9. IsaacG

    Someone in my lab was doing research on SSDs. He bought some SSDs, ripped out the memory cells, built his own controller and … burnt some cells. There’s a number of people that did just that to explore how SSDs behave and wear out. The controller is set up to wear the memory equally to delay the wear out.

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  11. JakeT

    Oh man. This makes me want to find a T60 thinkpad in a bad way. I had one a while back, but got rid of it b/c I couldn’t see myself using it.

    But w/ something light/fun and an SSD….

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