Prediction: SSD-based flash drives

I can see it now. I predict that by the end of 2014, we will see flash drives with the performance characteristics closer to SSDs.

Having used a Thinkpad workstation with an SSD at work, I knew I was never going back to a spinning disk. The first thing I did after I bought my personal Thinkpad was install the excellent SanDisk Extreme 240GB SSD. Needing extra space for all my VMs (Win 8, Win 7, Ubuntu, etc), I recently gave this to my dad and upgraded to a 480GB Seagate SSD, also very nice.

Let’s talk numbers:

Seagate 600 480 GB SSD Specs
Seagate 600 480 GB SSD

This clearly blows HDDs out of the water. But when it comes to flash drives, they are still quite slow:

Sandisk Ultra SDXC 64GB Flash Drive
Sandisk Ultra SDXC 64GB Flash Drive

The interesting part is that the new SSDs (Samsung 840) are based on the same TLC NAND technology as regular flash drives but offer much faster speeds. Most of this is due to the superior controllers and parallelization used by the SSDs. As miniaturization in silicon/electronics continues, I believe it will only be a matter of time when flash drives finally catch up to SSDs in performance. Of course, this will depend on pricing levels as well.

As the storage pyramid continually changes on the 3 factors (price, size, performance), there is a disconnect right now with fast internal storage and slow external transfers. With the higher adoption of USB3 (finally), fast flash drives is what we need to restore balance to the world. No more waiting 1 hour to copy all my DLSR photos to my eagerly waiting SSD!

Update: according to reviews, the SanDisk Extreme flash drive seems to be using an SSD-based controller!

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Won Intel CodeFest with Intelinote

What a crazy Saturday. I just won first place for Best New App at Intel CodeFest for Android, my first solo win!

There were more than 3 or 4 hackathons taking place this past weekend and I was trying to decide which one to attend. Too many to choose! In the end, I decided to check out the Intel hack. I knew that Intel over the past few years has been getting big into software. I had heard about the Intel XDK mobile app development framework at an earlier conference and wanted to see what Intel had in store.

My own hacker office!
My own hacker office!


Intel was the only sponsor of this codefest, which was a very short 12 hour hack. There were 2 tracks, the first was to create a New Mobile App using Intel XDK, and the second was to Port/Create an App using the Intel optimized NDK. There were plenty of new Samsung Galaxy 3 tablets powered by Intel Atom for testing our hacks. And there were tons of KitKat bars to fuel us up.

Playing with brand new Galaxy Tab 3 powered by Intel
Playing with brand new Galaxy Tab 3 powered by Intel

I didn’t come in knowing which track I was going to tackle. Having been mostly working on mobile and web apps for the past few years, I thought it might be fun to try something different and hack with the Android NDK and Intel SDK. The Android NDK knowledge will be useful for me developing mobile apps that require low-level performance. One idea I got was to create a very fast file locker app. Encryption can be slow using straight Java so the Intel optimized NDK would be key to making the app fast to use. I started out setting up my dev environment. But soon I ran into some weird issues with Eclipse that was preventing my NDK code from compiling properly.

With only 3 hours left, I knew I wouldn’t’ be able to finish. And not finishing was not an option. I make it a rule to ALWAYS finish and ALWAYS demo at hackathons. It was time for a backup plan. I started to parallel install the Intel XDK, which was pretty much a breeze. I made the switch.

Intel XDK was very easy to use. It’s a mobile HTML5 dev environment that comes with a very nice WebKit-based emulator built into the IDE. This makes the code, launch, test cycle far less time consuming. The best part is you can even use their cloud build solution to upload your code and get back an APK file! This makes it painless to deploy your app on an Android device and to publish on the Play store.

My quickly thought up hack idea was InteliNote, an easy note taking app that automatically organizes your notes by location. It is a cross-platform app that works on all devices and all browsers. I was inspired to this idea after my experience with Evernote. While I think Evernote is great and does a lot, I feel it can be sometimes too bloated, slow, and cluttered for quick note taking. Sometimes all I want to do is store and see all my notes easily, not be forced to store my notes in Notebooks and hierarchy. When you store a note, InteliNote automatically reverse-codes the GPS location to a street address using Google Maps SDK and groups all your notes by location. To give the user an extra visual cue, the app also shows a background image of the city, state, or location where the note was last edited. As a bonus, with a single button click, you can email or text yourself the note. This can be useful if you want to forward the note to someone else quickly.

My tech stack for InteliNote: Bootstrap 3 and JQuery for HTML5 frontend, Firebase DB for backend, Twilio for SMS, Gmail SMTP for email sending

App screenshots:

Splash screen while geo-locating
Splash screen while geo-locating
Add Note in Santa Clara
Add Note in Santa Clara
View Note from New York
View Note from New York

Pitch and Awards

With all the last minute hacking, I had no time to prepare a pitch. I just wrote and rehearsed my 2 sentence elevator pitch and that was it: InteliNote is a mobile app that lets you create notes easily and automatically organizes them by location, helping you remember what happened where.

All the hackerz
All the hackerz
Pitching up close
Pitching up close
Beautiful app got projected in Black & White!
Beautiful app got projected in Black & White!

In the end, InteliNote won first place for Best New App! I talked to the judges afterward and they said they liked the app design and were impressed that I was able to finish a polished app so quickly. I really couldn’t have done it without the great frameworks available today for mobile. No way could I have done it in native Android in 3 hours!

InteliNote is an app that I can really use for quick note taking. I look forward to adding more features to the app and releasing it as a Pivotle product. Stay tuned…

Update 2/13/14: Intelinote has been featured on Intel Developer Zone!

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This is my first post in more than 6 months! Wow, what a crazy year.

I finally decided to dive in full time to try my hand at entrepreneurship. Got tons of ideas but really need to dedicate my time to try the lean startup approach and finish some prototypes and get some feedback.

Wish me luck!

(I am starting my journey with a trip New Orleans and Texas with my friend! Traveling never fails to inspire me)

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Firefox 11

Noticed that Mozilla decided to change how a single image is shown in the browser.

For example, here is how CNN’s header image looks like now:

The old way was to show the image at the top left with the default white background. My issue with this is that users are used to thinking that empty white space is default and any color or customization (like centering) is done by the webpage (and not the browser). But in this case, we are not looking at a webpage, but rather just an image downloaded via HTTP. Also some websites tend to use this new type of view to display albums of pictures (in modals). I just think this can be confusing to users and makes for a poorer user experience.

What would happen if your image happened to be a black/grey dot? You can’t see it!

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End to flash drives

I have never been much of a fan of flash drives. Sure, once they became cheap enough to buy (back around 2004), I loved their obvious improvement over CD/CD-RW, but I always found them too easy to lose and too hard to manage. Not to mention losing the caps.

Now that USB thumb drives have gotten to the point where 4GB ones are essentially being given away at conference and the like, I have several of these, but they stay unused. Why? THE CLOUD. First off, since I have my own home server running at home, I can access all my files from anywhere, as well as share files with others using temp, unique links. If I am uncomfortable with sharing my home ip, I can just use dropbox/box/[put file sharing service here] to share/transfer files. Nowadays, with good enough upload bandwidth, this applies also to large files. Not to mention, cloud allow parallel downloads, versus the physical, queued nature of passing flash drives around.

Another rant. Flash drives are too hard to manage. I’m sure all of you have several each. How do you keep track of what files are on what and where the damn thing is right now? It’s very dangerous to store the only copy of a file on a flash drive. I would suggest using it only to transfer at best.

Hmmm..would be interesting if SanDisk and co start a flash drive in the cloud idea 🙂 The difference compared to file hosts being, use it to transfer files with minimal hassle. No permanent storage.

PS: My mom sometimes still uses her flash drive, but I’m trying to get her out of it 🙂



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