Quote of the day: "The failure rate of hard drives is 100%…"

Quote of the day: “The failure rate of hard drives is 100% so it’s not if your hard drive will fail, but when.”
from www.logmein.com encouraging people to use their backup service.

If that fact doesn’t scare you into making regular backups I don’t know what will. Of course, ‘when’ your hard drive fails could be many many many years away but all mechanical things have a limited life and will wear out. MTBF is often given on hard disks and that acronym is “Mean Time Between Failure”. I’m sure you all know that “Mean” is a mathematical term for a type of average. You can see more how it’s calculated courtesy of Samsung. So, how long is the typical hard drive expected to last? One of samsung’s models give 500,000 hours which is equal to 57 years of continuous use. Some will last less time than that, some will last longer. Somehow, I think the ‘mean’ drive will be obsolete even to a hoarder and computer recycler like myself.

Just for interest, I’ve had 4 hard disks fail since my first PC in 1994. One was brand new (first PC, just my luck!), one was a laptop drive and two were from different servers (both part of a RAID array which meant no data was lost – phew!). In the distant past I used to backup all our computers to tape drives. Today I send backups automatically every night to an off site server full of hard disks. Occasionally I restore some files and check they are still working. If you haven’t backed up for a while – how confident are you your disk will last another 50something years…

PS – I chose Samsung as the example MTBF simply because their site came up first on a Google search, here at work we have a number of different manufacturers hard disks in our machines and I have no preference between any of the disk manufacturers.

The Last Kingdom (Bernard Cornwell) and The Pale Horseman (Bernard Cornwell)

Two books this time. I bought them as a pair for 3.73 in a supermarket just before we went on holiday. Other than the price and the fear of having nothing to read whilst away, I chose these because I recognised the authors name. He wrote the Sharpe series of novels which have been turned into Television shows staring Sean Bean. I’ve seen lots of the sharpe books in the second hand shops but had always avoided buying them. However, since reading these two books I’ve already bought one sharpe book and expect to be getting more.

The “Saxon” Series is currently only 3 books (more being written) that begin in “The Last Kingdom” with man called Uhtred speaking of his life. He’s not yet an old man, he still has the goal of recovering his rightful lands. The style of writing is beautiful, you can imagine a Saxon man speaking that way. I think it’s the detail that makes it so effective. An enormous amount of research must have been done before the series came into being. The author has discovered old town names, fortifications, even life styles – at one point Uhtred bemoans the war as it is allowing foxes to survive when they would normally be culled, which will lead to more lambs being lost and less food for people. The story is accurately placed in history to match up with real events and battles of the time (Uhtred was a Lord and Warrior).

In a strange way, I also love the way Uhtred is not quite like able. Yes, he is the hero of the story but it is not an easy role. In the “Pale Horseman” he returns to his hall and discovers one of his servants stealing a tree. His reaction is to cut off the mans head with his sword! He is a warrior and one you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of.

Bernard Cornwell has finished each book with some historical notes that help differentiate between fiction and fact. In the Pale Horseman King Alfred burns some oatcakes which is a story we all know from school. Yet from his research he says this was not likely a real event as the sources for the story are very late in our history and not from that period of time.

These stories are simply wonderful to read.

Prelude to Foundation (Isaac Asimov)

A book has a beginning and and end. A story is infinite. When a book begins certain things are accepted as happening before the part you read and as you close the last page of a book you know that as time is ever lasting the story could continue had the author so wished.

So it is with Prelude to Foundation. I thought the Foundation series was a series of three books whose prehistory and future would never be known. It is in fact a series of many. With Prelude to Foundation I got to read about what happened before Foundation and how circumstances conspired for Hari Seldon to develop his theory and start to make it practical. A thoroughly good read.

There was another surprise but first, these are all the books in the Foundation Series (according to the authors introduction to Prelude to Foundation).

Prelude to Foundation
Foundation and Empire
Second Foundation
Foundations Edge
Foundation and Earth

Hooray! now I get to read two more foundation books. I said a “series of many” books, rather than the six listed here. That’s because many of Issac Asimov’s books are set in the same universe and actually tie together, so rather than be limited to 6 books of the foundation series, the prehistory of Foundation is covered in the “Empire” series of novels and before that the “Robot” series of novels. Indeed, one of the characters from “The Naked Sun” which I read a month or so ago appears in “Prelude to Foundation”! The books before the foundation series are:

The Complete Robot (collection of robot short stories, including the original “I, Robot” short stories from 1950)
The Caves of Steel
The Naked Sun
The Robots of Dawn
Robots and Empire (Last of the Robots Series)
The Currents of Space (First of the Empire Series)
The Stars, Like Dust
Pebble in the Sky (last of the Empire Series)
(foundation series starts)

I can’t wait to find the other novels in the second hand bookshops – I think I have an Asimov addiction!