Dirty Tricks of Computer Hardware: What You Don't Know Will (Probably Not) Kill You

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 from 1:30 – 2:15pm in B202/203


Ever wonder what you don't know about how your computer hardware really works? Do you tire of lying to your relatives that "gremlins" are the cause of intermittent data loss and blue screens, and not just a car from the 1970s? Let's take a journey into the wonderful world of wonky hardware and find out what can be done about it!


Software programming presents this wonderful abstraction of hardware — signals are strictly digital, logic circuits conform perfectly to exacting specifications and datasheets, and everything is just peachy. Right?

Nooo. In this talk, I will dive into common aberrant behaviors of storage hardware — how most people think they can fail, subtle ways in which they can also go haywire, and most importantly, how the operating system tries to work around all those bugs to ensure that you don’t lose your mind in the first fifteen minutes. I’ll also discuss how your application programs can make the world a safer place for computing.

If we’re really lucky, I’ll have enough time left over to talk about other kinds of hardware failures. But most people consider their data to be paramount, so we’ll start with that.

Speaking experience

I spoke at last year's OSBridge. I've previously given talks about (dry Linux kernel stuff) at the Ottawa Linux Symposium, the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit(s), the Linux Plumbers' Conference, and emceed dance balls.


  • Head


    Darrick has been cranking out patches to the Linux kernel for the past twelve years. In that time he has worked on many areas of the kernel, most notably ext4, storage drivers, energy management, firmware hacking, and environmental sensors. He is now attempting to bring about the future of data storage, whether that means adapting existing filesystems to new kinds of storage, making versioning cheap, or teaching the computer how to automatically repair damage.

    Before that, Darrick mostly wrote software toys (compilers, interpreters, even operating systems) for fun, and nosed around inside a computer more than he admits. He has yet to find a computer that he can’t crash.

    Off-line, Darrick enjoys dancing, exploring exotic back-country with a camera, and belting out songs.