Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Thumb drives: did you get less than you paid for?

I received in my e-mail a question from a very upset reader yesterday. The reader wanted to let me know about a company that makes thumb drives (and other products, too) and told me I should warn you folks about how that company had ripped them off.

Now, I want you to rest assured, Dear Reader, and take joy and comfort in, that if and when I run across “bad things” in the world of tech– I let you know about them. (I think we can all agree that a rip-off qualifies as a “bad thing”.)

The writer named names and pointed fingers unabashedly.. and I suspect, had to go back and clean up their language before hitting Send. They were.. um.. passionate in their outrage.
What had caught my eye, however, was the perpertrating  company’s name — it was a (brand) name I think highly of; and frankly, so does rest of the industry.

What had our e-mail writer so irked? The company had ripped them off over a Gigabyte. They had paid for 16 GB’s, and actually gotten just under 15. (14.9, to be exact.)
They felt short-changed, flim-flammed, and lied to… and as I may have mentioned, they did not like the feeling.
My letter writer’s angst was natural, but misplaced.

When is a Gigabyte not a Gigabyte?
* Ever since the neolithic era of personal computers, way, way, way, back in the Early Days (circa 1984), when dinosaurs still roamed, and “kilo” was king (I’m talking before “mega”, and well before “giga”) the men who produced hard drives (aka “storage devices”) described the size of their products using numbers other humans could understand. That is: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. of the good-old “Base 10” system [ten fingers and ten toes=20].
So to those guys, a “Giga” is 1,000,000,000… just like it is to you and me.
* Computers, in their relentless and perverse desire to frustrate, confuse, and generally annoy humans, decided not to speak in Base 10. Computers invented their own numbering system and named it “binary”.
In this sick, twisted, and baffling numbering system, a one is still “1” (to sucker us, no doubt), but two is “10”. And “3” (to us) is “11” (to them). Want a real kick in the head? Four is “100”. And if you expect 5 to be “1,000”, you’re wrong– it’s 101.
A “Gigabyte” to a computer is 1,073,741,824 bytes.

Let’s see if I have done a good job and you’ve followed along: to the guy who is making the storage device, if he makes it big enough to hold 1,000,000,000 bytes of information, he calls it a “Gigabyte storage device” (always has and always will).
When you plug it into your computer, your machine will see 73,741,824 bytes less than what it thinks of as a Gigabyte, and it tells you that you you have “.93 GB’s of available space”.
In the case of my writer, we multiply the difference by 16… which equals 14.9 GB’s of available space.

Let me be clear, the manufacturer did indeed provide a storage device that can hold 16,000,000,000 bytes of data– 16 GB’s. And machines “see” that as 14.9 GB’s. So they’re both right.. and my writer wasn’t a victim of a scam, flim-flam, nor fraud.
It’s just Base 10 vs. Base 2.

Yes. I understand.
And despite that, I actually like computers!

[For those of you who would like more of a description of “Gigabyte” than my attempt, click here; and for more on binary, here.]

Today’s free link: FreeRip 3, a C/Net Editor’s 5-star CD application. Description: FreeRip is an easy to use application that can record digital audio tracks directly from compact discs to PC files. You can save CD audio tracks to CD-quality WAV files or encode them to OGG Vorbis, WMA, MP3 or Flac compressed audio formats. It can also convert/encode audio files from WMA/WAV/MP3/Vorbis/FLAC. FreeRip also lets you adjust track volume and it supports ID3 tagging and CD-Text. Includes MP3 ID3 Tagger.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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May 16, 2008 - Posted by | computers, file system, hardware, PC, storage, tech, thumb drives, USB storage devices | , , , , , , , ,

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