Sneakernet 2003

Don’t underestimate the bandwidth of a UPS truck filled with 200GB hard disks:

“I’ve been working with a bunch of astronomers lately and we need to send around huge databases. I started writing my databases to disk and mailing the disks. At first, I was extremely cautious because everybody said I couldn’t do that?that the disks are too fragile. I started out by putting the disks in foam. After mailing about 20 of them, I tried just putting them in bubble wrap in a FedEx envelope. Well, so far so good. I have not had any disk failures of mailed disks.

“… lately I’m sending complete computers. We’re now into the 2-terabyte realm, so we can’t actually send a single disk; we need to send a bunch of disks. It’s convenient to send them packaged inside a metal box that just happens to have a processor in it. I know this sounds crazy?but you get an NFS or CIFS server and most people can just plug the thing into the wall and into the network and then copy the data.”

(From an ACM Queue interview with Jim Gray, head of Microsoft’s Bay Area Research Center.)

I’ve just tried out this technique myself. I’ve got about 15GB of MP3s kicking around at home and at work. Rather than use CD-Rs or network transfers to keep them synchronised, I’ve now got an 80 Gig external hard disk that I shuttle back and forth.

I suppose you could look at it as a primitive iPod…that doesn’t actually play music on its own…and that’s about twenty times as heavy and ten times as big… Come to think of it, it’s a bit crap.

Oh, iPod. Some day you’ll be mine. Oh yes, you will be….