Storing data for 1000 years

So we all know that books last a long while right?  How about its modern equivalent the CD, DVD or Hard disc?  Most of us commit a larg part of our life to digital storage these days and don't even spare a thought for how long this digital memory will last.  In the case of hard discs, 5 years might be your limit.

This then is the classic problem with digital storage – longevity.  All other problems vanish into insignificance when considering the persistence of storage. 

Our current best hope is optical media, the best of which are believed to be good for around 50 years. (interesting to think that our CD and DVD collections are more temporary than we are!)

Recently, a team from University of California Santa Cruz have come up with a system called Pergamum which uses regular hard drives to store data for a projected 1000 years.  The system, called Pergamum, uses a large number of inexpensive discs, most of which are spun down.  Persistence is created by using multiple slow sync mirrors & stripes. 

Clever caching and an even cleverer data distribution protocol ensures that data reads, writes, rebuilds and other operations make the least demand possible on the hardware whilst continuing to be power efficient.

As an example, it's estimated that a 10Petabyte system would consume only around £20 of power per year including HVAC requirements and would be capcble of maintaining that 10PB for arount 1000 years before a data loss occurred.  Pretty good methinks!

More on the announcement in this tgdaily article.

Painless Phone Call Recording

Have you ever had to make one of those calls that you wish you could record but locating the voice recording feature on your mobile or answering machine is too hard or you can’t then get the finished recording into a useable format?  This seems to happen to me about once a month.

Recently I discovered a service which makes the process of call recording extremely painless.  After registering you are given a phone number, access code and a pin. After dialling these in easy succession, you get…. A dial tone.  Any subsequent calls you make are recorded and the subsequent call recording is either emailed to you or is available for collection at the portal site.  Making multiple calls is easy as the ‘#’ acts as a break-in code to tell the system you want  to  make another call.

In pay-as-you go mode the process uses a premium rate access number and you simply pay by the minute for the call to the access number.  The onward part of the call is not charged back to you.

The service has other offerings suitable for more regular users and also features ideal for small businesses who need to regularly record outgoing calls to customers.

Additionally, it’s possible to have your own phone number for the service which then does not require the use of the access code and pin.  This also allows you to record incoming calls as you can set the service up to call you on receipt of a call.

All in all, this is a really nifty service.  Check it out at

Harbin Snow and Ice Fair 2005

ImageThe air is so cold it freezes your stinging tears to your face; the sun
is so low it escapes to leave you in darkness by mid-afternoon; the
trees are so gray, barren, and hard they could be concrete; the river
ice is so thick it actually supports entire buildings.  This is
Harbin, China’s northernmost (and easternmost) metropolis. Over 17
years, as this eight-meter-high horse sculpture indicated, the festival
has grown in size, complexity, and elaborateness; where the snow
festival had a single massive sculpture before, a handful of these now
appeared.  This year’s snow festival was officially called “The
17th Annual China Harbin Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art
Fair.” more

Full Brain Simulation Courtesey of IBM

An effort to create the first computer simulation of the entire human
brain, right down to the molecular level has just been launched. The
“Blue Brain” project, a collaboration between IBM and a Swiss
university team, will involve building a custom-made supercomputer
based on IBM’s Blue Gene design. The hope is that the virtual brain
will help shed light on some aspects of human cognition, such as
perception, memory and perhaps even consciousness. more

Diamonds in double quick time

Researchers at the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory have
learned to produce 10-carat, half-inch thick single-crystal diamonds at
rapid growth rates (100 micrometers per hour) using a chemical vapor
deposition (CVD) process. This size is approximately five times that of
commercially available diamonds produced by the standard
high-pressure/high-temperature (HPHT) method and other CVD techniques.
In addition, the team has made colorless single-crystal diamonds,
transparent from the ultraviolet to infrared wavelengths with their
process. more

Honda ASIMO can run now!

I love this video of Honda’s new-and-improved Asimo robot running. From
the press release:
"The combination of newly developed high-response hardware and the new
Posture Control technology enables ASIMO to proactively bend or twist
its torso to maintain its balance and prevent the problems of foot
slippage and spinning in the air, which accompany movement at higher
speeds. ASIMO is now capable of running at a speed of 3km/hour. more

Fibre reinforced bendable concrete

A new type of fiber-reinforced bendable concrete will be used for the
first time in Michigan this summer- and University of Michigan
scientists hope that their new material will find widespread use across
the country. The new concrete looks like regular concrete, but is 500
times more resistant to cracking and 40 percent lighter in weight. Tiny
fibers that comprise about 2 percent of the mixture’s volume partly
account for its performance. more

Wire in the Blood!

A Japanese research team has developed a fuel cell that runs on blood
without using toxic substances, opening the way for use in artificial
hearts and other organs. The biological fuel cell uses glucose, a sugar
in blood, with a non-toxic substance used to draw electrons from
glucose.“Since the electron mediator is based on Vitamin K3, which exists in
human bodies, it excels in safety and could in the future generate
power from blood as an implant-type fuel cell,” the group said in a

Most other bio-fuel cells under study use a metal complex, spawning concern about harm if used for implants.

The newly developed cell in the size of a tiny coin is able to
generate 0,2 milliwatts of electricity, enough to power a device that
measures blood sugar level and transmits data elsewhere, the group said.

Two Wheeled Transport with an Axle?

With an 12mph top speed, the Segway could not be said to be fast. It is surely set to turn heads though.
The design is a cross between a child’s scooter and a pogo stick. The rider stands aboard a small platform between the two wheels. From the platform extends a long shaft with handlebars at the top.
To operate the device the rider simply tilts and the Segway tilt sensors detects what the rider intends and reacts accordingly. Steering is effected with a handlebar control.With a 15 mile range under ideal conditions, the Segway is obviously not for long journeys, but the device could easily find a niche.
The legal position is still to be sorted out for the UK, but most US states allow the use of the Segway.
Perhaps the biggest stumbling block though is the price: with £65M in development costs to recoup, the £3000 price tag is understandable but will limit the market considerably.