Explainers

SSD and HDD: What’s the difference?

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For the past few years, solid-state drives (SSDs) have become quite popular in the computing world, mostly because of how fast they are compared to hard disk drives (HDDs). So, what exactly sets an SSD apart from an HDD?

Nowadays, computers use non-volatile medium for storage, which means data that’s stored in it doesn’t get lost once the computer shuts down. Storage for modern-day computers and notebooks have been handled by hard disk drives for the longest time and it’s only now, with SSDs becoming more affordable, that consumers are seeing a different storage medium in their computers.

Hard disk drives have mechanical parts

If you aren’t familiar, hard disk drives store data on circular disks made up of aluminum, glass, or ceramic that are coated with a magnetic layer, often called platters. Since these platters are responsible for holding the data, the storage capacity of an HDD is dependent on how many platters it has.

The big disks are the platters and the arm hovering above is the actuator arm.

When the computer’s processor sends out instructions to read and write data, the motor on the drive moves the actuator arm across the platter. At the end of the actuator arm are the read/write heads which are made up of tiny magnets responsible for reading data already stored on the platter or writing new data on the empty spaces on the platter. The combined movement of the actuator arm and the rotation of the platter allows the computer to read and write data, which is kind of like the arm of a record player touching a vinyl record to play music.

Having all these moving parts means an HDD’s read and write speed is dependent on how fast the platters can rotate and how fast the actuator arm can track locations on the platter. These parts can only move up to a certain speed or else they’ll break down, and nobody wants a broken storage device. As with all mechanical parts, heat and noise are by-products of their movements, which is why an HDD can become hot and/or noisy during operation.

Solid-state drives have no moving parts

From its name, an SSD is a drive that uses a type of solid-state storage called flash memory, which is also a non-volatile storage medium, to store and retrieve data. Each flash memory chip found in the circuit board of an SSD contains memory cells that are made up of floating-gate transistors, which are a special type of transistor that can store or discharge an electrical charge in its cage-like part called the floating gate. The storing capability of these transistors is what allows the data to remain, even when there’s no electricity flowing through them.

Inside an SSD is a circuit board with a bunch of embedded chips, including the flash memory, controller, and cache.

As mentioned, an SSD doesn’t have moving parts like the actuator arm and motors of an HDD. Instead, it has an embedded processor called a controller. Much like the computer’s processor, the controller does all the heavy lifting, as it’s the one responsible for locating the blocks of memory where data can be read or written to.

This is also the reason why SSDs perform faster than HDDs; since they don’t need to wait for any moving parts to read or write data, the controller just needs to receive the instructions from the computer’s processor and it can start reading or writing data.

SSDs may not suffer from a mechanical breakdown, but they’re far from faultless. Flash memory can only have data written and erased a finite number of times before its cells degrade and become unreliable. This means an SSD can only write a certain amount of data before it fails, which is why SSD specification sheets typically include Terabytes Written (TBW), so consumers know how much data can be written into the drive before it eventually fails. However, SSDs these days can last more than ten years in typical day-to-day usage.

Both storage mediums have pros and cons

So, is a solid-state drive better than a hard disk drive, or vice-versa? Sadly, there’s no simple answer to this question, as it all depends on the needs of the consumer, which usually involves speed and storage capacity.

On one hand, if a person wants faster read/write times, an SSD is the clear winner, but you’ll lose out on storage capacity, since most SSDs today start from 120GB and can only go up to 1TB or 2TB. Mind you, those high-capacity SSDs will surely burn a big hole in your wallet.

On the other hand, if a person values capacity more, an HDD is the better option, with drives typically ranging from 500GB to 6TB of storage capacity for mainstream HDDs. Also, HDDs don’t cost an arm and a leg compared to SSDs if you want to get large-capacity ones.

With these in mind, there’s no stopping consumers from having both an SSD and an HDD in the same system. Setting up an SSD as your main drive with the operating system and other important software, while having a secondary HDD to store all your media and personal files, would net you the best of both worlds: a speedy system boot up without sacrificing storage space.

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Explainers

DITO is all-in for the next generation of mobile connectivity

But what do they mean by this, exactly?

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For as long as most Filipinos can remember, the Philippines has always had only two major mobile networks that they could choose from. This made the choice of network provider a bit simple but very limited for consumers. Recently, however, an actual third player came into the picture in the form of DITO Telecommunity.

While availability started back in March, DITO is making strides in terms of the services it’s offering. Currently, they are available in over 650 cities and municipalities across the country. Also, for the most part, these offers consist of high-speed data plans at an affordable rate. Where they want you to shift your attention to, however, is that their network also supports 5G connectivity. In their words, it’s the “next-gen technology” they want their consumers to experience.

So, what is this “next-gen technology” that they’re going on about?

Let’s review: the essence of 5G

The biggest thing about DITO’s new network service is their claim to bring “the real 5G” to the Philippines, at least according to DITO CTO Retired Major General Rodolfo Santiago. We had already talked about the whole 5G experience and what it brings to the table, so let’s not get into it too much. Basically, 5G serves as the next big thing in mobile connectivity, promising faster connections and wider coverage.

As such, telecommunication companies are opting-in to provide just that to its consumer base. However, like most new technologies, there are obstacles in the way that makes fast mobile data a little impossible to achieve. Well, DITO pretty much has that covered with what they call their world-class digital infrastructure.

Standing alone, or not standing alone?

While competitors began to introduce 5G to its consumers earlier, what they initially deployed was 5G non-standalone (NSA) network. This means that their 5G architecture is assisted by their existing 4G infrastructure. DITO, on the other hand, began developing their 5G standalone (SA) network since their rollout in 2019. 

In theory, 5G standalone networks like DITO provides super-fast transmission speeds with ultra-low latency, which is suitable for most enterprises. Per its namesake, it relies heavily on its own 5G infrastructure instead of using its legacy 4G infrastructure as a jump-off point. In turn, DITO users will experience true 5G speeds every time they connect to the internet through mobile data. In other words, 5G standalone is “true 5G”.

With 5G standalone, DITO unlocks the “true 5G” in accommodating what 4G networks previously couldn’t. While it is building on what 4G connectivity initially offered, over time, it will eventually solidify itself as the standard for mobile connectivity.

The true goal for DITO

“Our goal has been to allow Filipinos to experience next-generation technology and we in DITO are excited to bring 5G to more areas in the country to truly transform digital connectivity and online interactions,” added DITO Chief Technology Officer Rodolfo Santiago.

For DITO, this is the “breakthrough connectivity” they want to bring to the general public. Apart from achieving greater mobile data speeds, each DITO SIM gives users access to more enhanced versions of innovations that are already widely available since the introduction of 4G. Two of which are VoLTE and ViLTE, the latter of which is something DITO proudly boasts.

Their next-gen offer: VoLTE and ViLTE

What exactly are these two innovations they’re enhancing with their services? Let’s start with VoLTE, mostly because this isn’t necessarily something new for most people. Simply put, Voice over LTE or VoLTE allows users to make voice calls without compromising mobile data speed. Normally, it’s an either-neither thing, wherein one use case will be a priority.

What is new is ViLTE, or as DITO calls it: Video over LTE, which works the same way as VoLTE but for video calls. In essence, users can make video calls from your device without the need for a video calling app. Also, these video calls are charged with the same rates as a normal voice call. However, this feature is currently limited to video calls between DITO subscribers.

Bringing it all together, DITO offers a package with faster connections and greater savings considering the innovations. It’s not something that a lot of other telcos are offering; for DITO, however, the experience doesn’t stop there.

Any phone will do, but what exactly do you need?

Upon its early availability, DITO released a list of compatible phones that supposedly bring out the telco’s best features. Like most providers, the DITO SIM works with any smartphone, 5G or not, for the bare minimum features like calling, texting, and mobile data. To experience “the real 5G,” however, they want a 5G device with a more standalone architecture.

For context, the 5G smartphones on this list come with either 5G NSA or 5G SA. The main difference between the two is, well, non-standalone architecture isn’t necessarily true 5G; rather, it is applying 5G to a 4G network. Meanwhile, 5G SA is its own 5G network, built and connected to 5G network bases to deliver higher speeds with lower latency than 4G.

In DITO’s case, only a handful of smartphones actually support the 5G SA architecture, which is where their 5G capabilities are built on. Currently, they are continuously exploring avenues to expand their network in order to bring “the real 5G” to more Filipinos, provided they have a supported smartphone. Again, these kinds of smartphones are a bit pricey, but to experience “the real 5G,” it’s not a bad trade-off.

The future is DITO (here)?

DITO enters the scene with the goal of bringing the next big thing in telecommunications, and their offer hinges on it. In their eyes, the promise of faster internet and wider coverage is already here, and it’s just a matter of getting people to opt-in. With its latest innovations, DITO provides a more enhanced mobile data experience.

To fully experience the next generation of technology, users must be properly equipped to wield such power. There’s a reason that DITO put out a device compatibility list upon initial launch: to provide users the best possible experience with all the features they have. Sure, any device will work with the DITO SIM, but certain devices give you that best experience.

Is it time to make the switch to the next-gen? In DITO’s eyes, the answer is simple and they’re waiting for people to join them.


This feature is a collaboration between GadgetMatch and DITO Philippines.

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Explainers

The secrets behind iPhone 13’s Cinematic Mode

Together with Apple’s VP for iPhone Product Marketing as well as their Human Interface Designer

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For the first time ever, we had a three-way interview with Apple’s VP for iPhone Product Marketing, Kaiann Drance as well as one of their leading Human Interface Designers, Johnnie Manzari. If you’re not starstruck enough, both of them appeared in Apple’s September 2021 Keynote event!

Other than new camera sensors, newer camera features are also found on the new iPhone 13 Series. One of those is the new Cinematic Mode.

If you’ve watched some of our latest iPhone videos including the Sierra Blue iPhone 12 Pro Max unboxing, we’ve let you take a sneak peek on that new video mode.

We’re not gonna lie, it’s one amazing camera feature Apple has managed to deliver.

But what are the secrets behind it? And are you curious how technicalities work?

Watch our 16-minute interview with the Apple executives explaining why Cinematic Mode is the next big thing in mobile videography.

 

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How Google alerted the Philippines during the July earthquake

Crowd-sourcing data

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Illustrations by Kris Blanco

Back in July, an earthquake rocked Metro Manila. Unbeknownst to most but noticed by some, a globally renowned company was helping everyone through the natural incident: Google. In the few minutes leading up to and during the 6.7 magnitude earthquake, Android users received important alerts warning them of the ongoing tremors. Though it wasn’t the dreaded Big One, the alert afforded attentive users a few precious seconds to either seek appropriate cover or stop doing dangerous tasks.

Incidentally, the tech surrounding Google’s earthquake alert system wasn’t just hastily built on ongoing databases or social media. Google actually packed in a fully responsive earthquake sensor for Android phones.

Faster than an earthquake

The forever-increasing speed of technology has always been a contentious element since the rise of smartphones. Developers and users alike have wondered how accurate or quick our favorite devices can warn us of things happening around us. There’s even an XKCD comic about how Twitter can warn us of an earthquake minutes before it reaches the reader.

Over the years, technology has developed new ways to deliver alerts. From simple weather apps to city-wide messaging systems, users can receive warnings in a timely fashion. Practically nothing is a surprise anymore with the right technology.

That said, Google has successfully developed a new system that can rely on other Android smartphones to accurately tell whether or not an earthquake is happening.

A quake detector in your pocket

Speaking to Android Police, the feature’s lead engineer Marc Stogaitis described how Google’s earthquake sensor leveraged other devices to tell users about the quake. It all revolves around the different sensors built inside your phone.

As it is, every smartphone comes with a host of sensors to support its different functions. A light detector can seamlessly adjust brightness and camera settings, and a gyroscope can support compasses, for example. With earthquakes, the biggest element to ponder on is a smartphone’s movement and vibrations during an earthquake.

According to the lead engineer, figuring out the metrics for detecting an earthquake wasn’t a problem. After decades of accurate seismograph technology, developers already have an idea on what they need to measure.

However, the technology does not stop there. Naturally, there are hiccups to relying on just a single (or even every) phone’s data. For one, a city-wide messaging system can set off everyone’s phone in a single area, potentially causing false positives. Plus, relying on a single phone is definitely tricky. There are multiple actions which can cause vibrations akin to an earthquake.

Crowdsourcing a quake

The feature doesn’t rely on just one phone. It doesn’t tap into every Android phone in an area either. Instead, it collates data from phones plugged into a charger. Naturally, a plugged-in phone is the most reliable barometer in terms of battery reliability. They won’t die out in the middle of an earthquake and ruin a source of data. Additionally, charging phones are often stationary. They won’t be affected by motions that mimic earthquakes.

Google “listens” to charging devices in an area. If the subset meets the criteria for an earthquake, the company quickly determines the earthquake’s epicenter (based on approximate location) and magnitude. Once the system declares that a quake is indeed happening, it sends out an alert to nearby devices and gives them the time needed to seek shelter.

The alerts naturally prioritize people nearer to the epicenter. But, of course, the speed will ultimately depend on the phone’s connectivity. A phone hooked up to a building’s fast Wi-Fi connection will receive alerts faster than a commuter’s phone on data while going through a tunnel.

Still, the short time that the alerts give users is enough to save themselves from a precarious situation. Though the feature can potentially warn users of quakes minutes in advance, Stogaitis says that it will more realistically push alerts five to ten seconds before the incident. However, five seconds is enough to go under a table and have some sort of protection against falling debris.

Still keeping things private

For anyone worrying about how Google is handling their data, Stogaitis says that the company removes all identifiers from the data except for approximate location. And, despite that, Google still maintains that the feature will be the most accurate that it can be. Either way, the feature will be useful for any earthquakes in the future.

The earthquake sensor is available for any Android phone running Lollipop and above. Naturally, the feature still necessitates that users turn on emergency alerts on their phone.

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