Posts Tagged ‘SSD’

About Netbooks

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009
Nicholas Aylsworth
Submitted on 2009/12/29 at 5:27pm
I bought this netbook about two months ago to replace my old Dell Inspiron which had begun having the “white screen” problem . There were several reasons I went with this netbook:

1. 93% keyboard is a absolute must
2. 160 GB (more like a 142 GB) of memory
3. Integrated Bluetooth work great with my Phone, which also happens to be a SamSung
4. Battery life is amazing, 6-10 hours depending on what you’re doing
5. This thing is lighting fast compared to my old Dell laptop

I use it daily to surf the web, check e-mail, watch movies, and talk via the webcam. I installed Word, Excel, and Powerpoint and have yet to experiencing any slow downs. The only program that I use regularly that I have NOT install onto my netbook has been Photoshop. Though I haven’t, I have heard that a massive program like CS4 has been know to work very sluggishly on netbooks. Not a real problem for me because I still have my Dell laptop with the Photoshop loaded onto it.

This is easily the best purchase I have made in a long, LONG time. And for under $400 dollars, it is definitely worth the money.

That comment was spam, but it sounded like something a real person would say. So I figure I’ll reply to the things they said.

1. 93% keyboard is a absolute must
The keyboards on netbooks are fun, but I’ve found that it’s easy to get used to the size. Besides, people work with Blackberrys on a daily basis. The most important thing is the keyboard layout, variations of which you’ll also find on full-size USB keyboards. Some have an Enter key that spans two rows, and the ” key is placed somewhere else. The ‘Delete’ key might also be in a very strange spot. As a programmer (and one who needs to use the backslash frequently), I couldn’t stand that setup.
When you’re dealing with a non-standard keyboard, you have to re-learn the layout. If you spent a lot of time on that machine and then switch to another you’ll notice that you keep pressing the wrong keys because you’ve gotten so used to doing it that other way.
So, ignore the size, but make sure it’s a keyboard layout you can live with.

2. 160 GB (more like a 142 GB) of memory
A netbook isn’t meant to be your main machine, and I’d urge you to at least get a $500 laptop before the netbook. A netbook is made to be a fast, light, cheap, weak computer with tremendous mobility, which is kind of dulled-down with the bigger screens and the heavier, slower, break-it-if-you-shake-it hard-disk drives.
Most of the drive space on your main machine will be taken up with movies, music, and games (or other installed programs). You really shouldn’t have a lot of movies on a netbook, because it’s just a little thing you grab with you when you go somewhere. If you’re on a trip that’s long enough to need movies, you might as well bring your big laptop with an expansive drive. You can also get a small external drive, and maybe an MP3 player for music.

In other words, get a 16GB SSD (or higher, if you can afford it; they go up to 80GB for a couple hundred dollars) with your netbook. They can be tremendously fast (booting in ten seconds or less), and you don’t have to worry about losing data if you drop the netbook. They don’t hold nearly as much, but you’ll still have gigs and gigs of space. You can also get a 64GB SD card if you need it.
My core files (all the archives of my past, et-cetera) fit into an 8GB flash drive.
(And, considering you can have your main drive, an SD card, a flash drive, and an external hard-drive, there are a lot of memory options.)

3. Integrated Bluetooth work great with my Phone, which also happens to be a SamSung
Okay. I’ve not used Bluetooth at all, myself, and I have no idea if netbooks really do come with built-in bluetooth, but I assume you’d then be able to connect a bluetooth keyboard/mouse to it.

4. Battery life is amazing, 6-10 hours depending on what you’re doing
Battery life is a sticking point. Keep the brightness low (unless you’re in the sunlight), keep always-on peripherals, such as mobile modems, out of the USB ports when you don’t need them, and solid-state drives will take less power than hard-disk drives.
Different netbooks have different battery lives. Because they’re so mobile, you really do need a good battery in your netbook. Look for something with more than three hours, if you want more.

5. This thing is lighting fast compared to my old Dell laptop
These last few points may have been spammy lies to make a long list of great-sounding stuff; I have no access to benchmarks, and the spammer didn’t leave a link to the netbook in question (instead, they left a link to a review for a 15.4″ laptop backpack).

If a laptop is getting very old, the operating system will become bogged down with all sorts of stuff. You’ll find that the drive is constantly being used by one service or another, and it’ll take forever to load programs. Something as simple as opening a menu can trigger a search through the registry, which might take a few seconds to complete if things are accessing the drive.
A new netbook (or laptop, or desktop, or even just a fresh install of Windows on your old computer) will be faster, but only for a couple years. Try not to install too many things, and have someone reinstall windows for you every couple of years. A refresh is always good, and might help you clean up old files, too.

In closing: Netbooks are secondary computers, for when you need to grab something light to use around town, and when you need more power than a smart-phone can give. They’ll be fast and responsive with a good SSD, but you should make sure the keyboard layout suits your needs. A long battery life is good to look for.

And for under $400 dollars, it is definitely worth the money.
You can find them for $200. In fact, you can get one for $50 on a two-year contract with a mobile internet provider. Keep an eye out!

What Makes a Fast Computer?

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

I’m sure you’ve all looked at computers or laptops, at some point, and wondered just what made one faster than the other. What are all those numbers? Why is the salesperson spewing gobbledygook at me?

For the past number of years, CPU (the processor) has been touted as the way to measure the power of a machine. The Intel really pushed this for its Pentium IV, which rated at speed of 3 GHz and beyond.
So, what is the processor? Simply put, it does the math needed to calculate where things go, what a program is supposed to do, and what should come out of a program’s operations. It is the part of the computer that Does the Stuff.
Here’s the kicker: Most of the time, the CPU isn’t actually doing anything. Unless you’re playing a new video game, or rendering fractals, or participating in protein-folding experiments, or otherwise doing things involving large amounts of operations, your CPU isn’t all that important. It just needs some overhead for when things do need to be processed, such as when you move windows around or open a new program. I’ve found that 1.6 GHz is perfectly fine for daily use, and doesn’t usually max out.

What do the other things do, then?

RAM is the computer’s short-term memory, which can be likened to a desk it uses to spread out its papers and work on things. When you open a file, the computer will put that file in RAM so that you can change bits of that file without having to wait for the hard-drive.
Your computer doesn’t actually use much RAM. If you have a lot of programs in the background (such as email, instant messengers, and various option panels), it can load up almost 1 GB of RAM. Windows XP and Windows 7 need about 1GB to function well, and 2GB is about all you’ll really need, if you open a lot of images or programs or internet tabs.

In case you’re wondering, DDR3 is faster than DDR2, and uses less power (a plus for laptops), but isn’t strictly necessary for you.

Hard-Disk Drives (HDDs) hold your data. HDDs today hold anywhere from 160GB to 2000GB (2TB). The biggest users of disk space are movies, some of which are so big they won’t even fit on two DVDs. Music takes less, but even a small library of music can take up 5GB of room. If you have a tremendous music collection, or have a handful of TV shows or movies, you’ll need a large hard-drive. If you don’t keep many videos and only have a small collection of music, you’ll be perfectly fine with 160GB. I’d recommend an external hard-drive for those sharable movies, music, and pictures.

The main bottle-neck on your system, though, is probably your hard-drive. The newer hard-drives can handle 80 MB of data every second, which means it takes over ten seconds to fill up 1GB of RAM with data from the hard-drive. If you’ve got an older computer, it could take ten times that length of time, and you’ll be waiting a few minutes for your computer to come out of Hibernation mode.
Worse yet, because disks have to spin around to find bits of data, trying to find two things at once ruins the speed of the disk. Considering that the computer writes little bits of data every few seconds, you almost never get the full speed of the drive.

So how do I speed this up?

The answer is Solid-State Drives (SSDs). These drives hold a lot less for their price, but they’ll give you a fantastic experience. They are:

  • Up to four times faster
  • A lot quicker at finding data
  • Shake-proof
  • More power-efficient
  • Lighter (for you laptop owners out there)
  • A few other things you won’t find interesting

An SSD will completely take away those little starts and stops you get with HDDs, because it doesn’t have to move an arm across a spinning disk to find data. Because there are no magnets or spinning plates of metal in an SSD, it’s not as heavy and uses less power. It’s got chips, instead, which can get data from different places a lot easier, and is limited by the speed of electrons instead of the speed of a metal arm.

SSDs are only just reaching maturity. The new Intel SSDs are 80GB for $250, but that’s the top quality. Kingston has an easy kit for only a little more than a hundred dollars. It doesn’t have the sheer speed, but it still beats any hard-disk.

Expect the pricing to come down over the next year. Let the old stock quietly file out of the retailer’s shelves, and the other brands pick up the newest technologies, and we’ll see some wide-spread use in the next little while.

USB 3.0 and Flash Drives

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Today, I remembered some ill-fated folder-based scheme I had made when I was 14 or so. I made a bunch of folders, named through 0-9, and then copied those into themselves five levels deep. I also put a little “this is a dead end” word document at the end of each of those. In the end, it took up a couple hundred megabytes and slowed the system down, so my older brother deleted it. It’s kind of embarrassing, because I could have used .txt files to make them smaller, and the entire thing was a bit cumbersome and didn’t quite work the way I wanted it to.

Anyway, I thought about the final size of that, today, and and realized that we were working from an 8GB hard disk. When I’m managing my files on my 8GB flash drive, today, I’m actually working with the same amount of space — more, because I don’t have an operating system on there to worry about. It puts things into perspective.

Also, I want one of these. An external USB/e-SATA SSD. 32GB is only $156, and it would allow me transfer speeds of 90MB/50MB, which is on par with a hard-drive. I could literally put a copy of windows on there, along with all the things I need to work, and then carry it around with me. Just attach it to someone’s computer, boot into my hard-drive instead of theirs, and away I go!
My current USB flash drive works at about 16MB/s read and 8MB/s write. The maximum for USB is about 30MB/s. The theoretical maximum is a lot higher, but it’s unlikely we’ll anything more than low 30s.

USB 3.0 is coming out very soon (the technology should be seen later this year, with widespread support sometime in 2011). This would allow devices to reach at least four hundred megabytes per second, which would mean you could run a hard-drive straight from USB.
By that time, though, SSDs will be about $1/GB, and would run at least twice as fast as a hard-drive. You could replace your hard-drive for only a few hundred dollars (or maybe just a hundred, for something like 128GB).
We’ll see what the future has in store.