News Column

Researchers Submit Patent Application, "Safe Command Execution and Error Recovery for Storage Devices", for Approval

February 26, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Electronics Newsweekly -- From Washington, D.C., VerticalNews journalists report that a patent application by the inventors Aciicmez, Onur (San Jose, CA); Zhang, Xinwen (San Ramon, CA), filed on October 3, 2013, was made available online on February 13, 2014.

The patent's assignee is Samsung Electronics Company, Ltd.

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Conceptually, a computing device (e.g., a computer) can accept content (or information) and manipulate it to obtain or determine a result based on a sequence of instructions (or computer program) that effectively describes how to process the information. Typically, the information is stored in a digital or binary form in a computer readable memory. More complex computers can store content including the computer program itself. A computer program may be invariable and/or built into the computer device as logic circuitry provided, for example, on microprocessors or computer chips. Today, general purpose computers can have both kinds of programming. Given the prevalence of computing devices in modern society, computer storage (or computer memory) used to store content, is often casually referred to as 'memory.' Storing content (or information retention) is of one the core functions of computing devices. As such, memory is one of the fundamental components of all modern computers and is often coupled with a Central Processing Unit (CPU) to implement the basic Von Neumann computer model which has been used since the 1940s.

"Today, numerous types of computing devices are available. These computing devices widely range with respect to size, cost, amount of storage and processing power, from the expensive and powerful servers, relatively cheaper Personal Computers (PC's) and laptops, to more inexpensive microprocessors or computer chips provided in automobiles and household electronic appliances.

"In recent years, computing systems and devices have become more portable and mobile. Today, various mobile and handheld computing devices including wireless phones, media players, Personal Digital Assistants (PDA's) are widely available. Generally, a handheld device (also known as handheld computer or simply handheld) can be a pocket-sized computing device, typically utilizing a small visual display screen for user output and a miniaturized keyboard for user input. In the case of a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), the input and output can be combined into a touch-screen interface. Along with mobile computing devices (e.g., laptops, smartphones), PDAs and media players are becoming increasingly popular.

"As suggested above, memory and memory devices are an important part of the computing environments. Disk storage is a general category of computer storage mechanism, in which data is recorded on planar, round and rotating surfaces (disks, discs, or platters). A disk drive is a peripheral device used to read from and write to a disk. Implementations of disk drives include hard disks, floppy disks and optical discs. Today, the term disk storage often refers to hard disk storage. A hard disk drive (HOD), which is commonly referred to as a hard drive, hard disk or fixed disk drive, is typically a non-volatile storage device which stores digitally encoded data on rapidly rotating platters with magnetic surfaces. Strictly speaking, 'drive' can refer to a device distinct from its medium, such as a tape drive and its tape, or a floppy disk drive and its floppy disk. Early HODs had removable media. However, an HOD today is typically a sealed unit with fixed media. HODs were originally developed for use with more traditional computing systems or computers. However, applications for HODs have expanded to also include digital video recorders, digital audio players, personal digital assistants, digital cameras, and video game consoles.

"FIG. 1 depicts a hard disk drive 1 that can store information on one or more rigid, flat, disks. The disks are mounted on a spindle 2, with spaces in between, and a motor on the bottom end of the spindle. To read and write to the surface of the disks, the drive uses a small electro-magnet assembly, referred to as a head 3, located on the end of an actuator arm 4. There is one head for each platter surface on the spindle 2. The disks are spun at a very high speed to allow the head 3 to move quickly over the surface of the disk. Towards the other end of the actuator arm 4 is a pivot point, and at the end is a voice coil, which moves the head 3. Above and below each voice coil is a rare earth magnet. This allows the head to move towards the center of the disk or towards the outside, in a radial pattern.

"A disk controller can use a digital-to-analog converter to control the flow of electricity through the voice coil(s) located on the actuator arm 4. The voice coil acts as an electromagnet producing a magnetic field that interacts with magnetic fields of the magnet located above and below the voice coil, which causes the voice coil to move the actuator arm 4, and in turn the head located on the opposite end of the actuator arm. So as the voice coil is pushed towards one end, the assembly moves the head towards the center, and when the voice coil is pushed towards the other end, the heads move towards the outside edge of the disk, or the heads are parked. The digital-to-analog converter allows the disk controller to move the head in tiny steps in either direction. The disks are made of a non-magnetic material, usually aluminum or glass, and are coated with a very thin layer of magnetic material. Older disks used iron (lll) oxide as the magnetic material, but current disks use a cobalt-based alloy.

"Hard disk drives can be sealed to prevent dust and other sources of contamination from interfering with the operation of the hard disks heads. The hard drives are not air tight, but rather utilize an extremely fine air filter, to allow for air inside the hard drive enclosure. The spinning of the disks causes the air to circulate forcing any particulates to become trapped on the filter. The spinning of the disks, also allows the hard disk heads to float above the surface of the disk surface using the same air currents. Using rigid disks and sealing the unit allows much tighter tolerances than in a floppy disk drive. Consequently, hard disk drives can store much more data than floppy disk drives and access and transmit it faster

"Today, relatively large amount of content can be stored in a portable and easy to access devices such as USB flash drives (or USB flash devices). The content stored on USB flash drive can be easily carried and copied on various computing devices. By way of example, data stored on server computer can be copied on a USB flash drive and taken home and loaded (or copied) on a Personal Computer (PC) and used. The data can be modified on the PC and stored back on the USB flash drive. The USB flash drive can be taken back to work to be used by a computer provided at work or carried to a different city and used by another computer or laptop. The USB flash drive is especially popular today and represents an exemplary advancement in storage technology which has effectively improved portability and mobility of computing systems. As such, USB flash drives will be discussed below.

"USB flash drives are generally NAND-type flash memory data storage devices integrated with a USB (universal serial bus) interface. NAND flash architecture was introduced by Toshiba in 1989. NAND flash memories are typically accessed much like block devices such as hard disks or memory cards. The pages are typically 512 or 2,048 bytes in size. Associated with each pag are a few bytes (typically 12-16 bytes) that should be used for storage of an error detection and correction checksum. USB flash drives are typically small, lightweight, removable and rewritable. Memory capacities for USB flash Drives currently can range from 32 megabytes up to 64 gigabytes. Capacity is limited only by current flash memory densities, although cost per megabyte may increase rapidly at higher capacities due to the expensive components. USB flash drives offer potential advantages over other portable storage devices, particularly the floppy disk. They are more compact, generally faster, hold more data, and are more reliable (due to both their lack of moving parts, and their more durable design) than floppy disks. These types of drives use the USB mass storage standard, supported natively by modern operating systems such as Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and Unix.

"Generally, a flash drive has a small printed circuit board typically in a plastic or metal casing, making the drive sturdy enough to be carried about in a pocket, as a key fob, or on a lanyard. The USB connector protrudes from the casing, and is usually covered by a removable cap. Most flash drives use a standard type-A USB connection allowing them to be connected directly to a port on a personal computer.

"To access the data stored in a flash drive, the drive is typically connected to a computer, either by plugging it into a USB host controller built into the computer, or into a USB hub. Typically, flash drives are active only when plugged into a USB connection and draw all necessary power from the supply provided by that connection. However, some flash drives, especially high-speed drives, may require more power than the limited amount provided by a bus-powered USB hub, such as those built into some computer keyboards or monitors. These drives will not work unless plugged directly into a host controller (i.e., the ports found on the computer itself) or a self-powered hub.

"Computing systems and storage devices have improved in recent years. However, security of conventional environments and devices is a major concern. Storage devices are an important component of computing systems. Accordingly, techniques that can improve the security of storage devices would be highly useful."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "Broadly speaking, the invention provides secure storage devices and techniques for execution of commands securely within various storage devices. It will be appreciated that the techniques can safeguard against various threats including, for example, malicious attacks, unintentional errors and defects that can adversely affect stored content and execution. The invention also provides techniques for recovery from corrupted code which can, for example, be caused by a malicious attack, unintentional error or defect.

"In accordance with one aspect of the invention, a controller can be provided for a storage device to control the execution of commands within the storage device. In one embodiment, the controller checks the integrity of a command interpreter and only allows the command interpreter to execute commands if it can verify the integrity of the command interpreter. If the integrity of the command controller can be verified, the controller and/or command interpreter can check the integrity of the commands before executing the commands to ensure that the commands have maintained their integrity (i.e., commands have not been corrupted). The controller can also be configured to attempt to reconstruct the command interpreter using error recovery techniques and/or obtain the command from an external source (e.g., a website associated with a trusted manufacturer). In addition, the controller and/or command interpreter can be configured to attempt to reconstruct commands using error recovery techniques and/or obtain the command from an external source.

"The invention can be implemented in numerous ways, including, for example, a method, an apparatus, a computer readable medium, and a storage device. Several embodiments of the invention are discussed below.

"Other aspects and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, illustrating by way of example the principles of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"The present invention will be readily understood by the following detailed description in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein like reference numerals designate like structural elements, and in which:

"FIG. 1 depicts a conventional storage device (Prior Art).

"FIG. 2 depicts a storage device in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 3 depicts a method for controlling execution of commands by a storage device in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 4 depicts a method for executing one or more commands by a storage device in accordance with another embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 5A depicts a method for executing one or more commands by a storage device in accordance with yet another embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 5B depicts another error recovery method in accordance with another embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 6A depicts a method for providing executable content (e.g., a command interpreter, one or more internal command devices) by a storage device in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

"FIG. 6B depicts a method for executing executable content by a storage device in accordance one embodiment of the invention."

For additional information on this patent application, see: Aciicmez, Onur; Zhang, Xinwen. Safe Command Execution and Error Recovery for Storage Devices. Filed October 3, 2013 and posted February 13, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=64&p=2&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140206.PD.&OS=PD/20140206&RS=PD/20140206

Keywords for this news article include: Microprocessors, Digital To Analog, Samsung Electronics Company Ltd.

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Source: Electronics Newsweekly


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