SSD versus 7200rpm Disk Drive

By , May 31, 2009 12:32 pm

This is a continuation of my previous post regarding my experiences with the 256GB SSD drive my Dell laptop entitled “Are Solid State Drives Worth the Money?”. The installation was easy enought, now we get to the business of making it perform.

Optimizing the Drive
Without getting into too much gory details, the basic premise in optimizing a SSD is that you do NOT want to have unnecessary disk operations. Since reads are so fast and instantaneous almost anywhere on the disk, things like file fragmentation do not matter. So you start to tweak anything that writes to the disk. Here’s a quick list of things to look at when using XP.

  • Turn off automatic disk defrag.
  • Eliminate the pagefile operations.
  • Set up a RAM Disk for temp files.

The last tip works no matter what drive you are using. If you have lots of memory (3-4G) I would recommend that you set this up anyway.

The Results
So I ran an harddisk performance testing tool, first against my 7,200rpm 250GB laptop drive and got this graph.

7,200rpm 256GB Mechanical Drive test results

7,200rpm 256GB Mechanical Drive test results

This would become our baseline for the comparison. After installing the 256GB SSD I ran the exact same test and got these results.

G.SKILL 256GB SSD Drive results

G.SKILL 256GB SSD Drive results

So taking a closer look, there’s not a humongous difference in the two. In fact the SSD writes small files a little faster (.641 secs compared to 1.063 seconds) and file delete and directory lookup speeds are faster by a good margin. Upon close inspection, I am surprised that a lot of other items are not that different! In fact, the large file write speed is worse!

We could go on doing a big analysis on all these numbers, but in the end I wasn’t ecstatic. Coupled with the fact that my battery life actually dropped by 30 minutes (SSD is always on whereas mechanical drive can spin down and other power saving tricks), this wasn’t turning out to be worth the 6X investment. You see, you can get a 250GB mechanical drive for $100, but this 256GB SSD was close to $600 used on eBay!

Perhaps I need to try another brand of SSD. I hear good things about the Samsung, but it costs $800. I’ll wait until they drop down in to the $600 range and perhaps I’ll try again. For now, I’ll have to live with the sounds of a mechanical drive. The best thing about the SSD? It was silent and I love my quiet office.

What a Drip – Exercise in Futility

By , May 30, 2009 6:30 pm

So today I decided to tackle the myriad of water leaks that seemed to have cropped up all over my house. The first item was the main valve for our main bathroom’s showwer/tub. Usually drips are just a simple replacement of a few O-rings right? How hard could that be.

Uh Oh, Not a Simple Valve

The first clue that I was in trouble was when I took off the handle and valve cover and exposed the actual valve. Now this valve mixes the hot and cold water and also has the tub/shower control all in one big unit. Here’s what it looked like after I got the “beauty” cover off.

This valve looks a little more complicated than I expected

This valve looks a little more complicated than I expected

Three Trips to the Hardware Store

So first set of O-rings was for the obvious one that shot out when the whole assembly rocketed out because of water pressure. OK, replace the two spring loaded rubber things and also the big O-ring around the entire assemble. I put it together and it was still leaking.

So I took it apart, had the water rocket the valve out again and then started to take apart more pieces. That’s when I discovered still another pair of O-rings around the central armature. Here’s that piece and some of the other rubber parts I replaced.

Hidden in the main armature was 2 more little valves.

Hidden in the main armature was 2 more little rings.

OK, out on the silicon grease, re-seat and let’s try it again. You guessed it, still no love. What else was there? Although I don’t see how, I guess the tub/shower selector could have something to do with the leak? So I took that apart, went to the store and got the 2 more rings and a spring loaded rubber thing for it.

I cleaned all of it up with Lime-away and then used chrome polish to make it all look so shiny. The action was very smooth and it felt like new!

At Least it’s Pretty and Smooth

To make a long story short, it still leaks although a tiny bit now instead of a lot. I can’t for the life of me figure out what else to replace in this assembly. Anyone have an idea? The brass looks to be in good shape. I don’t see any gouges or other damage. Maybe there’s more rings? Who knows. At least it looks good.

It sure looks pretty and is smooth as when it was new.

It sure looks pretty and is smooth as when it was new.

So, after burning almost 3 hours of my day on this, my problem is still not solved. Normally I am really handy with these things. I have re-modeled my kitchen, installed extensive new plumbing, gas lines, tiled my bath, even assisted in the expansion of my house. This dumb leak has done me in. Perhaps I’ll have to call a plumber next time because goodness knows I haven’t saved any money in this exercise. Well, in the words of Fernando (Billy Crystal) – “It looks fabulous.”

Sinister Robot Eyes

By , May 22, 2009 8:47 am

OK, I was looking at a picture of the robot in Terminator Salvation and someting was just not right. Then as I was surfing the web, it struck me. Why would anyone design a robots eyes to light up red?

Making eyes that light up is totally pointless.

Making eyes that light up is totally pointless.

Think about the reasoning behind this and you’ll see how ridiculous this is on many fronts.

First, if you are trying to be stealthy in a dark environment, why would you want to give every sniper within 500 feet an easy target? Just aim between the two red markers out there and you’re golden. This would be way too easy of a target.

Second, “eyes” would technically be for light gathering. Every CCD sensor I have ever seen likes a nice dark environment so that it can capture light and transform that into an image. Why the heck would you flood it with light internally? That’s like putting a red light into the body of a digital camera. Every picture would be ruined.

Third, is it a power indicator? Perhaps the fact that a hellish robot coming at you at breakneck speed with its automatic weapon firing is not enough to make you realize that it’s currently turned “on” and operational? The designers needed a glowing red light to indicate that the unit has power. Haven’t you noticed that if the light goes out the robot stops working?

Oh well, this is a movie and visuals are the key. When you goto a movie, you need a “Willing suspension of disbelief” in order to enjoy and get into the plot. This is another example of this concept in action. Alternatively I could patent a weapon that would home in on red lights at eye level and then our futures would be secured! So much for the startup idea. I can save the future world, but knowing my luck, they’ll change the lights to blue and then I’ll be out of luck.

Have fun at the movies!

Silicon Sheet Keyboard Condom

By , May 19, 2009 7:52 am

Here’s something a bit weird and wonderful. I saw these keyboard protectors for sale. They protect your laptop from food, spills, and dust. Since it was so cheap at $7, I thought I would give it a go.

This label has sime odd translations on it.

This label has sime odd translations on it.

I prepped it by dusting off the keyboard and then I just laid it on top. It’s not the most attractive thing, but we’ll see if it’s a keeper. I’m usually pretty careful not to eat or drink directly over my laptop, but you never know.

Also notice the funny benefits that are on the package. It’s another case of something being slightly lost in translation.

  • Made the best Japanese Silicon, soft touch
  • It is flexible, easily fixed and helps muffle typing noises.
  • Make you enjoy foods while operating your PC
  • It is washable and Make virus away from your fingers.

So how does it all work out in the end? Not so sure. It fits well enough, but the plastic isn’t exactly clear so it picks up a lot of reflections in overhead lights. I have a backlit keyboard, so the reflection is less of a problem when it’s dim and the backlight comes on. Also, it’s kinda stick and makes the typing experience very odd. My fingers don’t glide from key to key as easily when typing quickly.

Although it protects, it also makes it harder to see your keys.

Although it protects, it also makes it harder to see your keys.

I first saw these when a friend of mine from Singapore was using it on her Toshiba. It seemed a good idea at the time. it does protect from spills and dust. Somehow, it reminds me of the plastic that comes on some car seats or furniture. It may be functional, but I think you should take it of before you actually use it. So overall, I think this classifies as a “FAIL” for me. It’s coming off soon.

Are Solid State Drives Worth the Money?

By , May 18, 2009 9:38 am

Solid State Drives (SSD) are said to be the future of storage. They are mostly in premium laptops and servers and can cost quite a bundle. Samsung seems to lead the pack with their 256GB SSD drives for roughly $800-1000. Now with Tera-byte hard drives running less than $100 these days, can an SSD be worth the premium? How fast are they really? This is part 1 of a series where I’ll try it out on my laptop and report the results. I wasn’t willing to pay $1000 for a SSD, but a new entry in to the 256GB fray appeared and caught my interest. It was about half the price of the Samsung and seemed to have avoided a lot of the issues that had been reported regarding the “lower” priced drives. You see, a drive controller from JMicron seems to be very common in value priced SSD drives and has various issues with “stuttering”. Basically the data bus of the controller is overwhelmed and everything will freeze for a moment. This can become very annoying. Along comes G.Skill. G.SKILL 256GB SSD A Taiwanese company claimed to have solved the stuttering issue with a drive which utilized 2 drive controllers running in a RAID configuration with two 128GB SSD drives. Combining them together gave 256GB. I did some digging and came up with a drive for well under $500, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Amazing small form factor and light as a feather

Amazing small form factor and light as a feather

The drive arrived very well packaged and looking tiny and discrete. It’s a 2.5″ drive and weighs so little that you wonder if there’s anything in it. Installation on my DELL laptop was a snap. It was literally 3 screws. Two screws to unfasten the the drive from the laptop. Then another screw to fasten the holder onto the drive so that I could slide it into the laptop. DELL get high marks for easy accessibility with their E6400 series. But we are getting ahead of ourselves here. I had to prepare the drive before putting it into the laptop. Again, that was remarkable easy. I bought an external USB enclosure for the drive. Then using a free program called XXClone I made a bootable image of my notebook drive. Commercial break here, XXClone is wonderful. I’ve paid for Norton Ghost and and Acronis, etc. and none of them workes as well as this FREE program. Highly recommended.

So it basically took me three hours to backup my laptop drive, clone it onto the SSD, and then install the SSD into the laptop and reboot. The longest part was backing up my entire drive to another USB drive.  It was actually a pretty painless process. It was as easy as upgrading my MacBook Pro to a faster and larger drive, but that’s a story for another day. OK, Part 2 of this series will be all about optimizing your system for an SSD. There are quite a few steps here. Check back in a few days.

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