Big Tin

Big tin: IT infrastructure used by organisations to run their businesses. And other stuff too when I feel like it…

Lessons from Murdoch’s News Corp

There’s a number of depressing conclusions to be drawn, even at this early stage of affairs from the revelations about News Corp’s activities.

The first is that people — from individuals rightly sickened at the thought of News of the World journalists poring over Milly Dowler’s voicemails to politicians who should have known better — only seem to have voiced concerns when it involved a little girl. ‘It could have been us’, runs the thought.

And yet, the hacking — if it deserves that description as it only seems to have involved dialling into publicly available numbers and trying passwords until they found one that worked — had not only been going on for years but was known about for years. Few seem to have cared much about it when it involved people seen as disposable — actors, sportspeople, Z-list celebrities and the like.

It’s much the same when you discuss the issue of whether the UK should retain the monarchy. The two most common responses I’ve encountered concern the individuals — the Queen’s doing a good job and I wouldn’t want Blair — or the tourist money they supposedly bring in. Whether or not a country that describes itself as a modern democracy can continue to do so while it has an unelected head of state seems to be irrelevant: it’s simply not part of the discussion.

In both cases — Murdoch or royalty — the principal of whether it;s correct per se to hack into phones or to maintain an unelected head of state is not an argument it’s possible to have, or that people raise with themselves. Issues seem only to matter if they has a directly personal relevance. How we are governed seems not to fall into that category.

The second issue is that the ones truly responsible for this dismal state of affairs — the politicians who have been kowtowing to News Corp all these years — seem likely to be the ones who will be let off lightly. Cameron will be dented and might, in the most optimistic of scenarios, resign. But the rest of them will get away with it.

This is a direct consequence of the feeble level of political debate in this country, as I’ve already noted. It seems we get the politicians we deserve. If we continue to buy the News of the World — or Sun on Sunday as it will morph — then nothing will have fundamentally changed.

Yet the third issue is one that can be easily fixed: the low level of priority assigned by mobile operators to security compared to convenience. Voicemails seem to have been ridiculously easy to break into because passwords weren’t changed from their defaults; subscribers are unlikely even to have known their voicemails had a password let alone that they needed to change them because the operators didn’t tell them about it.

Britain prides itself on being a stable democracy with traditions many of which have changed little over the last 500 years. Consequently, people are not encouraged to think about issues of governance or principal involving public life. Maybe it’s time we did.

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Filed under: Current affairs, , , , , ,

Review of new WD 3TB WD30EZRX disk drive

Quiet and huge describes this new 3TB Western Digital disk drive pretty well. It contains enough data that, if printed out on paper would probably cover the whole of Wales or several elephants, but who’s counting? You could certainly fit well over 500 standard DVDs onto it.

The WD30EZRZ updates the previous model, the WD30EZRSDTL, by upgrading to the latest 6Gbps SATA interface, which won’t make much difference to most people as it will take several drives to fill that data pipe. In other words, the update is largely academic for most users, and the drive is mechanically identical to its 3Gbps predecessor.

What this drive promises is an ability to fit into a range of environments without disruption. If you sit next to your PC all day, you’ll know that the disk drive is one of its noisiest components. And if you have a PC in the living room, you’ll know that when it wakes up and does its stuff, you can hear the drive start rotating and then make a rattling sound when it’s working.

All drive makers have gone some way to making disk drives much quieter than before, with WD’s range of domestically-oriented devices dubbed ‘cool, quiet, eco-friendly’ by the manufacturer. #

So in addition to being quieter, this drive is claimed also to use less power. Fortunately for disk drive makers, the main users of power and generators of noise are the same: the motor that spins the disk and the actuator that moves the drive head — that’s the component that ‘rattles’. So by reducing the power to both of these they can achieve their objectives at the cost of performance. WD doesn’t reveal the speeds its ‘green’ disks spin but one enterprising reviewer calculated it from the sound of the disk at between 5400 and 7200 rpm.

The drive is quiet when idle — within a metre of it, it’s barely audible even while out of the PC case — and you can barely hear the drive rattle when seeking. A sound meter sited the standard distance of a metre away didn’t register the sound in a normal office environment.

But what does that quietness cost in speed? I tested the WD30EZRX using an Intel motherboard housing Intel’s four-core i7-2600K CPU clocked at 3.40GHz and with 8GB RAM. Running the SiSoft Sandra disk benchmark against the drive revealed a data transfer rate, at 100MBps, unchanged from its predecessor’s results. This isn’t the fastest transfer rate there, nor is the drive’s access time of nine milliseconds the lowest, but for most purposes the trade-off is probably good enough.

So if you need a drive to store your DVDs or CDs on, this is close to ideal. But watch out: 512GB solid state disks (SSDs), which are silent and hugely faster than mechanical devices, are commonplace if expensive. And while SSDs will always cost more than rotating media, they’re now approaching the point when you might consider abandoning spinning drives altogether.

In the meantime, the WD is at least as good as its rivals in the places where it matters.

Filed under: Review, , , , , ,

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