Dec 10

Thrifty technology buyer’s bane

8GB RAM in my trusty thinkpad X200 laptop has been a desire / occasional-need for quite some time. As a point of perspective, since the 8GB DDR3 “kit” (2 chips by 4GB each) cost well over $300. When I finally bit the bullet, patience on a potential deal expired, the kit had been hovering around $110 shipped for a few weeks.

Today, no more than seven days after purchase and a day after installing, a comparable kit can be procured for ~$66. Color me irritated.

On the upside, the brand I bought is the same price and arguably of superior quality to the slickdeal PNY brand.

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.

Continue reading →

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

Hot water heaters

Our house’s hot water is generated by a 30+ year old gas water heater tank, strapped to a wall in the garage and wrapped with a layer of insulation.  It’s not very efficient, but it’s nearly as good as it is going to get.   A supreme pain in arse is the pilot lite to get relit.  And it takes a long time, about 2-4 gallons of water in 30-45 seconds time, to get the shower hot in the morning.  And while we do our best to reuse that water, it’s largely an unnecessary use of resources.

To shore up these inefficiencies, we’ve been considering retrofitting the old tank with a brand spankin’ new high tech tank-less water heater.  The concept of on-demand hot water is such a cool one.  But as our cost-benefits research/analysis has shown, it’s simply not worth it.

Primarily because the current installation cost somewhere in the $1000-$1500 range.  And that’s being generous – I’m assuming slick deals can be had on the device itself and on the install going smoothly.  And while I’d like to think I could install it myself, in reality, that’s a challenge I don’t have time to take on or one to experiment with.  Not having hot water is practically impossible to live with.

So, we’re stuck with the tank.  Likely even when this one dies, we’ll just buy a new tank-style water heater.  In doing so we’ll nearly eke out the same efficiency bang we’d get with a tank-less for a lot less buck.  And certainly spend a lot less in the short term.

The interweb consensus is that tank-less water heaters are best suited to new construction, not existing homes.  Tanks may be out of style, but they’re certainly not out of time.