Last March, he called the makers of SUSE Linux "morons" because of the way they handled security on the OS. This summer, he flipped the bird at Nvidia, calling the graphics hardware maker "the single worst company" the Linux community has ever dealt with. And now, the man has aimed his venom at the hard drive.
In a chat with tech lovers at Slashdot on Thursday, Torvalds compared the hard drive to Satan. Yes, Satan — as in "Get thee behind me, Satan."
He says he only uses desktops and laptops that store data and applications on flash memory, the same stuff that holds information on your smartphone. Whereas hard drives store data on spinning platters, flash is a solid-state technology that can read and write information at significantly higher speeds.
"Rotating storage is going the way of the dodo," Torvalds wrote. "How do I hate thee, let me count the ways. The latencies of rotational storage are horrendous, and I personally refuse to use a machine that has those nasty platters of spinning rust in them."
He said hard drives still have a role to play inside big "network-attached storage," or NAS, devices that handle massive amounts of information inside the world's data centers. But desktops and laptops are another matter. "Sure, maybe those rotating platters are OK in some NAS box that you keep your big media files on (or in that cloud storage cluster you use, and where the network latencies make the disk latencies be secondary)," he said. "But in an actual computer? Ugh. Get thee behind me, Satan."
Torvalds is not alone. Hardcore software developers have long preferred flash solid state drives, or SSDs, on the machines where they're building stuff, and in recent months, these drives have even spilled into the mainstream, by way of laptops from the likes of Apple and Google. Flash has even made significant headway inside the data center. All the leading web companies — including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon — now use flash technology to drive portions of the enormous computing facilities that underpin their online empires.
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Yes, flash is still more expensive than hard disk tech. But prices have dropped to the point where it makes perfect economic sense. Inside the data center, for instance, flash is ideal for databases where you're reading and writing massive amounts of information.
As it turns out, many software developers push just as hard for flash in the data center as they do for flash in their laptops. After all, so much software development now involves the net. If you're an online company, you can develop faster if your service runs on flash. Traditionally, you had to optimize your code for use on hard drives. With flash, that's not an issue.
"Things are heating up in terms of how fast you have to move as a company," Kevin Modzelewski, a software engineer at online storage outfit Dropbox told us this spring. "SSDs let you do that. Because they're faster, to get the same user experience, you don't have to hyper-optimize code just to get products written and features built in."
It's no surprise, then, that Linus codes on machines equipped with flash drives. But he wants more than speed. He wants peace. "My primary requirement — since CPUs are fast enough — has been that the system be really really quiet, and that it has a good SSD in it. If our cat deigns to jump into my lap while I'm working, the loudest noise in the room should be the purring of the cat, not the computer," he told his Slashdot audience.
He says that the computer he uses to marshal the Linux army from his home office is nothing special.
"The most unusual part of the machine is probably just the fact that it has a good case (I forget the exact case name now) which avoids rattling, etc. And one of the bigger Intel SSDs."
And he's had this machine for a good two years. Satan is well and truly behind him.
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