Apr 10

A Windows-centric Migration Path to a new Solid State Drive

As a fan of Windows 7, and of new hardware technology in general, I took the train to SSD-land some two months ago.  Presented here is some of what I learned whilst accomplishing the migration. The specifics apply to Windows 7 based PCs, but the concepts could be adapted for other OSs.

Do you need to read all this?  You may need to completely reinstall Windows to take full advantage of the SSD. For instance, if you installed Windows 7 using any SATA mode (as set in your PC’s BIOS) other than AHCI, you will probably need to reinstall, though this workaround may work for you.

Not migrating to an Intel SSD? Rumor has it this SATA mode (AHCI) is not necessarily required. OCZ drives may function normally under IDE mode.

Regardless, I recommend that you read on, SSD adopting reader, for tips and insight in the great migration to a speedier computing experience.

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Feb 10

Aboard the SuperSpeedDrive train

Alright, this isn’t really about a train, at least not the one that transports people and things from here to there. This “train” is more like a train-station; as in, one that stores and transports people to and from itself. The faster the station can process each person, or transaction, the quicker trains can come and go.

Until the past couple years, in a computer system, this station/storage-engine has been the slowest element. The SSD (Solid State Drive) is a new generation of hard drive that is really fast. Speed that is leaps and bounds above the current mainstream technology. It just can’t be stated enough, SSDs positively bring an entirely new level of performance to the slowest component in a modern computer. In order of magnitude, lets go back to that train metaphor:

The Traditional Hard Disk Drive

Speed of a new SSD

One primary source of speedup is the demise of the last truly mechanical internal computer component – not counting fans.  These mechanical hard drives are literally a spinning disk with a small arm that reads from them. The very nature of this interaction has physical limitations that electrons moving across silcon chips do not.  This fact alone gives these SSD drives speed potential far beyond their mechanical ancestors.

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Jan 10

Considering the usefulness of computer lights

Are computer hardware activity indicators (in the form of flashing LEDs) an antiquated level of abstraction? Notifying the user ought to be left up to the software layer, i.e. the OS.  It is the best position to relay relevant information as directed by the level of user knowledge and interest.

Modern Apple computers got rid of nearly all the external LEDs.  But they didn’t go far enough for all users, as I have oft missed the flashy hardware-is-busy indicators.  Especially when the system is loaded-down and unresponsive; wtf’s going on? Hard disk activity lights are fairly good for this; oh, it’s caching to disk-hell.  MacBook’s have none and that swirling beach ball [of death] definitely doesn’t cut it.

IBM/Lenovo machines, namely the ThinkPad line, excel at these, possibly to the point of excess.  On my X200, there are sleep, A/C, power-on, battery, hard drive, caps lock, num lock, WAN, bluetooth, wireless, SD card, and ethernet LEDs.  They can be a bit distracting.  But my main quip is that even with all the lights, there’s much to be desired in terms of system-to-user info transfer.  As a computer hardware aficionado, I need to know what my system is doing.

many green lights

many green lights

Something in the system tray would serve just as well as all these LEDs; I don’t always want to see them.  Process Explorer, for Windows, is the best I know of.  It lives in the sys-tray and is an indicator light, of sorts, for processor/system load.  That little app’s feed back in tandem with the hardware lights provides a quick overview of my machine.  process_explorer
(For Linux, top and system-monitor serve nicely.)

If the little chart isn’t peaking and the hard drive light is flashing a bunch, the bottleneck is in the I/O layer, and vice versa.  While this is a rather simple generalization, it usually serves well enough to answer the wtf’s.

All things considered I rather have em than not. Also, the blinky lights provide some nostalgic value, like being on the bridge in the enterprise. Nostalgia sorta explains why that ridiculous *bong* Mac start up sound still lives on.

Dec 09

V8 benchmark suite v5 – my numbers

Google has this benchmark suite thing you’ve probably heard about. Here are my numbers for the browsers I use most often on my machines. First and only run results below:

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit, 4GB DDR3 1033MHz, Intel 2.4GHz C2D P8600 Linux Ubuntu 8.10 32-bit, 2GB DDR2 800MHz, Intel 2.2GHz C2D T7500
Opera 10.10
Score: 199
Richards: 151
DeltaBlue: 177
Crypto: 126
RayTrace: 338
EarleyBoyer: 622
RegExp: 86.4
Splay: 203
Opera 10.00
Score: 125
Richards: 87.3
DeltaBlue: 103
Crypto: 69.3
RayTrace: 235
EarleyBoyer: 378
RegExp: 62.9
Splay: 137
Firefox 3.5.6
Score: 383
Richards: 1239
DeltaBlue: 106
Crypto: 746
RayTrace: 261
EarleyBoyer: 355
RegExp: 242
Splay: 554
Firefox 3.0.15
Score: 120
Richards: 90.7
DeltaBlue: 92.2
Crypto: 132
RayTrace: 105
EarleyBoyer: 117
RegExp: 129
Splay: 200
IE 8.0.7600.16385
Score: 98.7
Richards: 50.9
DeltaBlue: 56.3
Crypto: 69.6
RayTrace: 102
EarleyBoyer: 170
RegExp: 124
Splay: 213
IE 6 (Windows XP VM)

Richards: 8.7
DeltaBlue: 3.27
Crypto: 6.69
RayTrace: 16.2
EarleyBoyer: 8.64
RegExp: …
Could not get past 89% completed… ran “forever” on RegExp test
Score: 3754
Richards: 3837
DeltaBlue: 3918
Crypto: 3062
RayTrace: 5351
EarleyBoyer: 6212
RegExp: 1066
Splay: 6445
Score: 3455
Richards: 3272
DeltaBlue: 3523
Crypto: 2863
RayTrace: 4938
EarleyBoyer: 6373
RegExp: 1061
Splay: 5335

No doubt Chrome blows these #’s away update – big time confirmed. What company would release a benchmark suite that didn’t favor its own browser? Benchmarks are an engineers marketing.  My hunch is that Safari would fare well on these as well.