Just Because You Didn't Think of It First Doesn't Mean It's a Bad IdeaA good idea is a good idea even if someone, or many people, came up with it first. How many times have you gone from a sudden high brought on by a brilliant thought to an embarrassing low after learning it was common knowledge? Do not despair. It happens to all of us — at least those of us who try to be creative. Unique good ideas come from somewhere, so do not give up innovating simply because someone always seems to scoop you. Maybe one day you will invent a winner.

I had a good idea yesterday. It was sort of shot down today, but in a nice way. Like all good ideas, mine came on suddenly in a momentary flash rather than developing over days or weeks. If happened while I was changing the SD card in my camera. This camera is several years old and takes the full size SD configuration, but it had an adapter to allow me to use the micro sized version. If it had not been for that adapter, I might not have had a breaking-down-the-mental walls experience. Four separate background thoughts combined with the movement of my hands to make the breakthrough: (1) I have a USB stick configured to boot a computer to Linux; (2) several members of our local PC club have converted their laptops to SSD drives with rave reviews; (3) I was enchanted by the Raspberry pi ($25 — check it out) computer which uses an SD card for storage; (4) and I found a use for that lonely built-in SD slot on my main computer — I put an old unused SD card in it and use it for occasional storage.

So my big flash of an idea was why not put a bunch of the SDIO-style cards in an adapter and use them as a re-configurable SSD? The price of both SSDs and SD cards continues to fall, but at this time, the SDs are significantly less expensive per gigabyte. Of course they are not the same at all. An SSD equivalent built of SD cards would be slower, maybe 3-4 times slower, but still have respectable performance. And then there is the issue of lifetime. SSDs are specially designed to be able to handle more transitions than SD cards do before failing. Power might be a concern, but likely not a big one.

What to do about the lifetime issue? Assume the adapter could be configured such that one SD held the operating system and seldom needed to be changed. That would address the lifetime issue for the operating system. Then the other cards would be devoted to application and data storage, and if any failed, they could be replaced cheaply without replacing the whole device or recovering the operating system.

Full of excitement, I checked Wikipedia for the specs on both memory types. Things were looking good. There appeared to be no hurdles to building such a device, and a few years ago I might have jumped in and done it with nothing further ado. But wisdom prevailed. Before leaving my desk, I Googled on “sd to ssd adapter” more or less at random. Oops. My idea was not alone in the universe. Many implementations of similar things exist and are being offered for sale. The small consolation for having my idea far too late is seeing the number of manufacturers who also thought it a good enough idea to invest in bringing it to market. That is small comfort. It would have been nicer if my idea had led to a patent and royalty income, but such is life.

While the search did turn up several models of adapters, none of them had the additional feature of removable multiple chips with defined purposes such as I envisioned. Of course, my search was not in depth and maybe there is such a thing, but I have simply not found it yet.

It does not matter. From my point of view, it is gratifying to have an idea that has merit even if it is not original.

Since this series of articles is nominally on decision theory and how to make good decisions, this piece should have some connection between giving birth to an idea that is not new and making decisions. In fact, there is a direct correlation. Consider that I started with a storage device on my camera while thinking about issues of storage on computers. This overlapping of thoughts led to a new concept which needed to be verified. That was done by the simple review of the operating characteristics of several solid state storage devices. The idea passed this first test. It could have been blown out of the water at that point, but it passed. Then as a further test of whether to decide to implement the idea, I checked to see if anyone else had done it. Several organizations do have similar products. Upon learning that, I have followed a logical decision tree to a node where I must decide whether to explore further, to purchase an existing device to play with, or to press on to other things. I am stymied.

The obvious thing to do to help me decide which path to take is to seek help from a community. I will mention the concept at a PC club meeting, and write about it here. Maybe some tinkerers will have either purchased and installed some of the similar devices or made their own to experiment with. Feedback from such pioneers will help me advance from the decision node where I am now stuck. Which way will I go? It depends.

Whatever happens, it was a good idea, and that is fun. I encourage every LockerGnome reader who has gotten this far to follow your ideas — one might just pay off.