July 10, 2011

The Porters


After a historical Friday and an ordinary Sunday, I have finally gotten down to writing a post. You might be asking, why was Friday historic? Well, the Obama Administration have cut NASAs funding, so they have to cancel the Space Shuttle program, as detailed in my “The Ongoing Pinnacle of Human Achievement” post. As you may know, I am highly pissed over this (sounding like a pompous twat!), as the Space Shuttle was very useful for ferrying objects up and down from the ISS, Mir station and other places in low Earth orbit. Friday was the final launch of a Space Shuttle, this specific one being Atlantis. It will bring vital supplies to the ISS (The Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module) so it can go on for a year, following the discontinuation of the Space Shuttle. When Atlantis lands at Edwards Air force Base on the 20/1 of July, it will have signed off to a 30 year long program that has greatly helped our everyday lives in ways we do not even think about. These spacecraft were designed for 300 flights; they have done a maximum of 40 so far. Kind of a shame.

Anyway, now we have that moment of reflection and feeling sorry for the ignorant cuts to the space program, let me explain the title of this post. The porters are the guys who carry things around a building, be it mail, information, or a package, right? The rant above links in with the title, and the next bit, even more.

So, while I was pondering over which post to write from my long list of ideas (yes, I know I promised a Microsoft one, but I need a better internet connection for that one; lots of embedding to do) I saw a seemingly boring and insignificant post title. As you may have gathered, this post is that seemingly boring and insignificant post. Its about ports.

How can I possibly make a post about computer connections interesting? Well, ladies and gentlemen, watch me [hopefully] succeed in doing the impossible: I shall educate you on USB, FireWire and Thunderbolt, a HIGHLY mundane and useless topic, in an interesting and captivating way. Want to know how I will do it? Through the world-famous (yes, even in South Korea) style of ranting that TheCompBlog is based on!


We all know USB; it has become a widely accepted standard in the industry worldwide. All peripherals use it, and all computers have it. There is only one, minor fault with it: ITS SO DAMN SLOW! The current version of USB 2.0, has a transfer speed of 480 megabits per second (Mbps). That will do fine for small files but takes a few minuets for a HD movie, lets say. In actual fact 480Mbps is not that slow, the issue comes in when you start to look at the architecture of the connection. The computer handles everything, while the peripheral sits there as a 'dumb machine': its told everything, it does not even want to think for itself!

When we look at Firewire, it’s slower on paper to USB 2.0, but its architecture allows for both devices to work in harmony with each other, where the peripheral is actually made to work! See what I am getting at here? The only reason why it never took off, was due to the fact that it was far too expensive and updated too quickly, which is always a sign of a failing product, just look at Guitar Hero.

Now we have the boring bit out the way, lets look at where they came from. Apple. Yes, that’s right, Apple was a huge advocate for the USB standard, the mac was the first computer with USB, and when they had realized what a monstrosity they had made, they came up with Firewire. That failed, only being used in the professional industry nowadays. Fast forward to February of this year, Apple released a new MacBook Pro line that had one extra little thing with it, the Thunderbolt port. Codenamed LightPeak by Intel, this little thing of magic can transfer data at 13 gigabits per second. That’s 27 times faster than USB! So now, I can transfer my whole HD movie library to an external hard drive in under a minute! It is multi-channeled, meaning 2 or more streams of information can flow through one cable. USB cannot do that.

One of the other reasons I am a strong advocate for Thunderbolt, is the fact that it can support displays. Those damn VGA and DVI cables look so ugly and like they came straight from a 80s mainframe, you know, those big, big, big computers that have less power than my phone. Apple has been using a more sensible connector, the Mini Display-Port, which can carry audio and video, but the market has been “slow” to adopt it. By the quotes, I mean, no one but Apple has adopted it! It makes sense for Apple to make the Thunderbolt form factor their own connector, as it can multi-task between video, audio, Internet, data and every other thing in between, as shown below.


See, good stuff! USB or Firewire would never be able to do that on a single connection. Now imagine what you can do with 4 connections! Most computers come with 4 USB connections and that can never ever do as much as 1 Thunderbolt connection!

As he said, other guys have pledged support, even Sony! Sony, the people who hate new technologies! They could be slightly problematic though. They may want to use the technology but in a different form factor, trying to impose their own technologies on the market, which ultimately fails. Cough, Cough….BetaMax….UMD….MagicGate. Remember those? Betamax vs VHR, UMD vs digital download, MagicGate vs SD cards...

For Thunderbolt to succeed, it needs to be supported by all manufacturers, peripheral makers and not succumb to the issue of fragmentation, which Sony will most defiantly bring up.

Thunderbolt is the way forward! 13Gbps is ridiculously fast and it can be used with any type of peripheral. It just remains to be seen what the market decides. I welcome your opinions and suggestions on this, or any other topic, for that matter. Lets see who disagrees with me after that very "interesting" post!