dcomic a04a


I hate mechanical hard drives.

Fine, that’s a bad generalization.

I hate using mechanical hard drives as boot devices.

I think I’ve definitely caught the SSD bug. For reasons that’ll soon be clear, I’ve been using a 120GB, 7200RPM hard drive in my E6400 for the past week… and it sucks. It’s not that the drive’s slow or anything – the throughput and IO figures are fairly respectable for such a small laptop drive – it’s just slower – much slower – than the Samsung SSD I had previously been using.

From a completely objective standpoint, it shouldn’t be that bad; it’s really only a few moments here and there. Sometimes Firefox even loads as soon as I click my Firefox icon, but most of the time I click the icon and hear that spinner tick tick tick tick tick for a couple seconds. I really don’t like that tick tick tick tick tick anymore. It’s exacerbated by the fact that I have to wait for and listen to tens of iMacs tick tick tick tick tick at work. It makes me cringe. If going from HDD to SSD doesn’t feel that much different, just try going back.

And don’t get me started on noise and power consumption…

So what happened to my Samsung MCCOE64G5MPP? The one that I bought for $110?

Well, I sold it for $349.

… and bought this:

Enter the Intel X25-M:

Back when I bought my Samsung, the X25-M was the undisputed king of solid state, boasting the highest I/O throughput of any 2.5″ device. Almost a year down the line, and it is still just about the fastest storage device you can put in a laptop, bested only by the SLC-based Intel X25-E. Intel recently released a refresh of the X25-M, rather mundanely referred to as the X25-M “G2”, which simply tweaks the original X25-M controller and pairs it with some cheaper flash memory. The result is a drive of similar I/O capabilities, but – I really don’t know a better way to phrase this – it doesn’t slow down as much over time.

Originally I planned to sell my Samsung and buy one of these G2 drives. Intel was shipping ’em at just $229 a pop, but that doesn’t reflect the current street price at all. Availability of these drives has been so scarce after launch that retailers like Newegg have jacked up the price by more than $100. For a very brief period of time, the price was up to $500. That’s twice what Intel was initially offering (but still less than what the originaly X25-M sold for at launch a year ago – in fact, when my Samsung drive originally hit the non-OEM market, I think it was selling up near $1000).

By the time this pricing fiasco rolled around, I’d already sold my Samsung, so it was time to look for a different solution. I figure I wanted to have an SSD before school started again, so it was probably a bad idea to wait for the G2. It might as well be the Wii of the storage world; I bet we won’t see it available en masse for at least another three to six months. There are perfectly respectable drives out there with the Indilinx Barefoot controller (whose performance lies somewhere between that of my Samsung and the X25-M), but I went ahead and decided to shoot for the real deal. I trolled eBay for a bit got a lightly used first-generation X25-M for $180.

Wait. That’s right, do the math. -110 + 349 -180 and the ultimate cost of my X25-M is negative $59. Of course, with the eBay and Paypal fees, that figure is gonna be about $20 less, but you get the idea. I wasn’t kidding when I said buying the Samsung was a really good deal.

Ok, let’s look at some more numbers.

These are copypastas, figures of my original E6400 drive (similar to those of the Fujitsu I was referring to earlier) and and of my MCCOE64G5MPP, respectvely, courtesy of CrystalDiskMark:

Sequential Read : 51.705 MB/s
Sequential Write : 51.001 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 22.201 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 25.963 MB/s
Random Read 4KB : 0.297 MB/s
Random Write 4KB : 0.948 MB/s

Test Size : 100 MB

Sequential Read : 94.794 MB/s
Sequential Write : 86.774 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 92.378 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 68.579 MB/s
Random Read 4KB : 15.583 MB/s
Random Write 4KB : 5.387 MB/s

Test Size : 100 MB

The X25-M gets its own picture:

Yeah, ok. You see that 241MB/s sequential read? That’s the effective ceiling of the SATA 3.0Gb/s bus. You see that 35MB/s random write? That’s 35 times the 4k random write throughput of the Toshiba HDD. Compared the Samsung, the results aren’t quite as impressive – in fact the X25-M trails a little bit in some categories – but what we really need is some IOMeter love. Sadly, while that program is probably the best storage benchmark there is, I can’t figure out how to work it at all. Just go search for X25-M benchmarks on Google and everyone’ll say the same thing. It’s just the fastest damn thing out there.

Okay, so for a light user like me, it ain’t gonna be much different from my Samsung, but hey, I made some money and I get some e-peen points.

My point is that you need an SSD. If you’re planning on upgrading your computer – hell, even if you aren’t planning on upgrading your computer – an SSD is the absolute best upgrade you can make right now; I can almost guarantee it’ll much, much improve your overall computing experience (assuming you get a good SSD of course). Hard drives have always been the bottleneck of modern systems and this is the first time in computing history that it’s been practical to replace this archaic technology.

And it doesn’t cost a fortune either. A P8400 CPU, more or less the low-end/mid-range of Intel’s current mobile CPU lineup, costs $220 on Newegg. It’ll be maybe one and half times as fast as that T2300 you’re packing from 2006 (although it’ll run significantly cooler). A cheap 64GB MLC SSD with an Indilinx controller will run you a touch over $200 as well, but it’ll blow your crappy notebook HDD away in everything but capacity (and it will also run significantly cooler!). The main thing is you probably won’t notice the performance difference between the T2300 and the P8400 (well, of course, it depends on what you do), but you WILL feel the performance difference between your HDD and that SSD. especially if you’ve got a lot of shit at boot on your computer.

A few more sets of numbers here.

The first set is that of a Western Digital WD5000AAJS. This is fairly fast as far as hard drives go (being a 500GB desktop HDD and all), but this is one of the drives I’m using for storage (at $50, 500GB desktop drives are a STEAL). But LOOK, the Samsung MMCRE64G5MPP (this is not the Samsung drive I was mentioning earlier, this is the significantly cheaper ~$120 – you really gotta haggle for that price though – MLC version which I’m using in Motoko and Colette), one of the slowest SSDs out there (that don’t suck at least) is twice as fast at 512k reads and THIRTY times as fast at 4k reads. It’s four times as fast at 4k writes too. The cost of this drive is six times as much as a 60GB, 5400RPM SATA drive, but it’s thirty times faster where it counts! In fact, this isn’t even a totally accurate representation of said SSD, because we’re maxing out the effective bandwidth of the PATA bus up there at 76MB/s…

A 64GB Indilinx drive (and these are what I’d recommend if you can’t get Intel) might cost ten times as much as a typical 60GB SATA drive, but it’ll be sixty times as fast in 4k reads, ten times as fast in 4k writes, and maybe two to three times as fast everywhere else… and that’s compared to that 500GB desktop drive.

Anyway, this is getting a bit long. Go buy an SSD. I’ll write up one more SSD advertisement next week.

dcomic 511


J’s got his Eila, so let’s talk computers again this time around. The last time I “inventoried” the fleet was back in d212. Not much has changed this time; the fleet has actually retained the same members for almost a year now, which is probably a record since I started to care. This is, for the record, probably the first picture I’ve taken of the fleet in its entirety, too. At any rate, I’m just going to put out an abridged version of the inventory:

DL004 Colette

Amd Athlon XP 2500+ (1.83GHz, 1.38v)
1536MB, DDR 333MHz
Nvidia Quadro NV18
Samsung 64GB RBX MLC
Windows XP Corp SP3

DL012 Motoko

Intel Pentium Dual Core E2140 (2.66GHz, stock)
2048MB, DDR2 800MHz
Nvidia Quadro NV34
Samsung 64GB RBX MLC
Windows XP Corp SP3

DL013 TC4200

Intel Pentium M 740 (800 – 1733MHz, 0.7 – 1.0v)
2048MB, DDR2 533MHz
Intel GMA950
Transcend 4GB 300X SLC
12″ XGA 1024 x 768

DL014 E6400

Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 (800 – 2233MHz, 0.875 – 0.9v)
2048MB, DDR2 800MHz
Intel GMAX4500
Samsung 64GB RBX SLC
14.1″ WSXGA+ 1440 x 900

On Friday the fleet finally went completely solid-state. This has been a long time in the making, though it ultimately happened sooner than I thought. The TC4200 got its CFSSD way back in 2008, the E6400 got one near Christmas, Motoko got hers in March, and Colette finally got her 80GB, 7200RPM notebook drive replaced with this last upgrade. I hadn’t been planning on moving Colette to SSD until the price of the said Samsung drive dropped a bit further, as I don’t really use her as a day to day driver, but since I’ve got a fair amount of income at the moment, I figured why not.

So obviously all my files don’t fit onto three 64GB SSDs and a 4GB CF. Storage space has, for the past year and a half now, largely been provided by 500GB desktop drives, the first of which I purchased in late 2007. Currently, there are three such drives; the total capacity of which is maybe 1/3 to 1/2 filled. A lot of people seem to like to cram everything they own into a single 500GB notebook drive or whatnot, but I like to keep my boot drives clean. Even with the 64GB SSDs on Motoko and the E6400, I don’t use up much more than 30-40GB at a time.

A couple smaller updates: all the fleet members now have 2GB of memory (save for Colette, who’s got 1536MB). I don’t like running page files on the SSDs (though it really shouldn’t be too bad for the true SSDs; I dunno about the CFSSD though), so the working set has to go entirely on memory. I initially thought 1GB would suffice for my usage, but I hit this 1GB limit at least a few times with the TC4200, so I decided to give everyone 2GB. Haven’t ever hit that limit yet. Colette and Motoko now have these Quadro graphics cards. I don’t remember why I did this anymore, but it obviously must have been due to the fact that I don’t need much graphical power.

Ok, something different now:

That’s an Inspiron 910 on the left and an aforementioned D610 on the right. The Mini 9 proves that Dell’s pricing is retarded. Back in May, we upgraded my mom to an E6400. Playing with the configuration doodads on Dell’s site gave us two identically specced E6400’s at the same price… except that one came with a Mini 9. Since this price was essentially on par with the lowest priced E6400 of the same configuration, I could say we got this for free.

The D610 is indeed loading OSX. A friend of mine was considering hackintoshing his E1505 so that he could try his hand at the iPhone SDK. That piqued my curiosity so I decided to give it a go. At this point, after much hassle, I’ve gotten the whole shebang to work, albeit not very well. At the very least, there’s sound and wifi. I can also dual-boot Windows XP using the XP bootloader to boot (NPI!!!). The biggest problem at the moment seems to be that none of the power-saving features, especially of the GPU, seem to work. The thing’s constantly pulling 27W at the plug (whereas it should be doing like 11W at idle) and the fan’s just churning away full speed all the time. Can’t sleep or standby either.

I’m fairly confident that I can get the mess running on the E1505, but we’ll have to see how that goes.

I’ve so far maintained a policy in which I don’t name laptops, only desktops. At least for me, I feel like if you didn’t go and choose and buy all the parts for your computer and put it together (as easy as that is these days), it isn’t really name worthy. I mean, this isn’t really set in stone; the Dell Dimension v333c that’s still chugging away in my dad’s office is named Flonne (honorary member of the fleet, I suppose). It’s a pre-built machine, but there’s nothing left of the original machine save for the power supply and motherboard. Processor has gone from some Celeron to a Pentium III. Memory is like 384MB of SDRAM, up from 128. Hard drive definitely isn’t the original 10GB mess. Video is a PCI Quadro over the original IGP. I suppose if you’ve owned the machine for a while and used it and tweaked it some, it can, you know, come to deserve a name, but so far I haven’t given any of my laptops names.

If I had to choose, the HP would probably be Minatsu (DCII). The E6400 is a bit tougher. I’d really want to use Nagato, but I don’t think it’s in good taste to use what I generally consider a pretty popular character in a fairly well-read series, but after Nagato, the choices really broaden out. Looking at some of the more obscure series at the top of my rank list, I could go with Aika (Aria), Fate (Nanoha; again, though, kinda falls in the same pitfall as Nagato), Suigintou (Rozen Maiden; doesn’t really roll off the tongue), Triela (Gunslinger Girl; again, doesn’t really roll off the tongue), etc.

Having some sort of theme (which I don’t), would probably help.

Alright, this one actually took a while to write. I think I’m off for now.

EDIT: I nearly forgot – I don’t really consider myself much of a photographer, but I found this in my archives and I thought it was a really nice shot:

dcomic 485


So I’m up to 508 now. Hope to get maybe 10-15 more done over the break.

I was going to write one last entry on buying and selling stuff (this is, ultimately, somewhat related, though), but on Wednesday afternoon, I chanced upon a really good deal on the NBR forums – and I mean like a once or twice in a few years really good deal. It was a SAMSUNG MCCOE64G5MPP-0VA00 2.5″ 64GB SATA II SSD. As you can see this is a very expensive piece of hardware, almost $100 more than my HP and just about half the price of my ’64. Why I nearly shit in my pants was because I bought one for $110, shipped to boot.

Initially I feared this guy might have ripped me since this really does fall into the realm of “too good to be true”, but my fears were quelled when this thing arrived in my mailbox today in perfect working condition. I mean, this isn’t the biggest or fastest SSD out on the market anymore, but it’s still 64GB of SLC with a good controller (as opposed to the jmicron crap you might find in cheaper SSDs) and solid IO speeds; I honestly couldn’t believe my luck – it’s usually quite bad.

And of course I took some time to put the Samsung through its paces; I pulled out the 80GB, 5400RPM Toshiba in my ’64 and loaded up XP (in 15 minutes!) on the Samsung.

As you all know, I’ve got this thing for quiet computing and this solid state business doesn’t disappoint. I’ve played with a Lenovo X300 and while it comes with a (slower – AH HA HA HA) Samsung SSD, the small form factor gives it a somewhat weaker thermal solution coupled to a whiny-ass fan – which makes it less than quiet. Despite the LV processor, that whiny-ass fan comes on even if the machine is idling.

I’m pleased to say that my ’64 with an SSD (and a smattering of AS5) is completely silent at idle and a light load. It’s not as good as my HP, but the fuckers at Intel won’t let me push the P8400 below 0.9250 volts – and the fuckers at the nVidia don’t let me touch the Quadro’s VIDs at all (or at least no one has figured out how to?). Nonetheless, it’s all very good; a definite improvement over the spinner.

Sadly, bootup times don’t really improve that much (though they did significantly on my HP when I went to CF), but the machine was definitely faster overall in loading drivers, installing/loading programs, etc. While the raw performance numbers aren’t as amazing as the $600, 80GB Intel X25-M, they are, as I’ve said, nothing to sneeze at.


So the first graph is for the stock Toshiba MK8052GSX in my ’64; this is generally representative of the speed “curve” you get for most mechanical HDDs (the spikes are cuz I’m reading from the disk with WMP whilst doing the test). I mean this ain’t too bad; the access times are a bit slower, but the average throughput the is actually on par with the 2003-2004 era 7200RPM desktop drives I have in Colette and Motoko.

The Transcend 300x CF card I have in the HP has a slower average throughput, but due to the nature of SSD, the throughput is consistent across the entire drive. And of course, due to the nature of SSD, the access times are through the floor. 0.3ms is a full 62 times faster than the MK8052 (and it might actually be faster – I’m not sure what’s the smallest access time HDTune can accurate detect).

Of course, the Samsung has a similar throughput curve – effectively a straight line – save that’s twice as fast, averaging 85MB/s. Access times are similar to the other solid state solution, but the increased burst rate indicates that there’s probably a small cache on the Samsung drive – though I’m not quite sure of the specifics here.

But HDTune isn’t that good an indicator of overall drive performance as it only measures sequential read speeds and access times, and this is really less than half the story. The Jmicron MLCs I pointed out earlier are very good at these sequential and reading things – they just happen to fail at writing. So I’m going to introduce another set of numbers provided by a utility I recently discovered: crystaldiskmark

Sequential Read : 51.705 MB/s
Sequential Write : 51.001 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 22.201 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 25.963 MB/s
Random Read 4KB : 0.297 MB/s
Random Write 4KB : 0.948 MB/s

Test Size : 100 MB

Sequential Read : 94.794 MB/s
Sequential Write : 86.774 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 92.378 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 68.579 MB/s
Random Read 4KB : 15.583 MB/s
Random Write 4KB : 5.387 MB/s

Test Size : 100 MB

The first set of numbers for the MK8052, the second set for the Samsung. Sequential reads and writes for both drives are pretty much right on the average throughput as depicted by HDTune, 51MB/s & 51MB/s for the Toshiba and a whopping 94MB/s & 86MB/s for the Samsung. The gap really starts to widen as the SSDs negligible access time comes into play on the random reads and writes. From reads sequential to 512KB to 4KB, the Samsung goes from being about twice as fast to 4 times as fast to fifty times as fast. From writes of sequential to 512KB to 4KB, the gains are less impressive, but still in the range of 2-5 times as fast.

There you go, SSD performance in a nutshell. Til next time then.

dupdate 081105


Well, in general I apologize for the consistent lack of comic, but it just ain’t happening these days. Like the comic isn’t happening. Like I’m not drawing and don’t feel like drawing it. Yes, there’s a backlog, but when i don’t draw, I don’t feel like using the backlog unless I have to. So yes, this is another round of doodles.

(3) is actually (4) from last week, finally complete. I think this is one of the best of the lot. (4) just attempts to do the same sort of thing art wise though it kinda falls short. (5) goes for a less zoomed in view with the same sort of thing again. Overall, not bad I’d say.

I was talking to J about drawing bigger and I’m trying to follow through here. All three here are scaled down, but originally about half a sheet of paper in size on paper. So yes, they’ve been kinda copypasted around; you can’t fit 3 halves of paper on one piece.(6) actually looks a bit better scanned; I actually busted out a regular HB pencil for this one o_O.

These are parts of a paintchat done on the 4th. I cropped out my parts in case J wants to use his part as an update at a later point in time. The theme is like “epic everyday activities” or something. Mine are “epic shit” (not so epic), “epic homework” (works a bit better), and “epic rolling eyes” (doesn’t really look it). So this whole thing is kinda fail, sadly, not of the epic variety.

Well this next one is a bit different. That’s a 4GB, 300x Compact Flash card with a CF/Ultra IDE adapter. Yes, CF is the kinda stuff you put in some digital cameras (but not mine; mine is Sony) and on which you can store your blurry twenty megapixel photos that’ll you’ll never look at again (cuz they’re blurry. Cuz camera makers need to focus on taking better pictures, not more megapixels). The thing is, Compact Flash has become pretty fast and pretty cheap lately… not to mention this one is SLC.

When I say fast, I mean fast enough to run Windows. Yeah, the size is kinda limiting, but my dad’s desktop(s) were 8GB and 10GB respectively right up through 2007; there are applications in which you don’t need that much space. Anyways, under there is my upside down TC4200. So you can kinda see where this is going. XP Tablet boots in something like 15 seconds; maybe half the time it took on my 5400RPM mechanical drive.

With a 2GB SD Card, this machine now has a grand total of… 6GB of “disk” space. With XP Tablet and programs taking up 2.5, that’s effectively 3.5. In this day and age, that’s… something like 16 episodes of anime. AKA nothing. It’s pretty nippy though. Effective 40MB/s read and maybe three quarters of that write. Negligible seeks compared to standard spinners (the biggest benefit of SSDs and the like in my opinion).

And I honestly don’t need the space here. All I do with this comp is browse and take occasional notes. And I draw. And sometimes watch anime in bed. My “working set” of files are stored on my E6400 and my extra media is stored on a small external drive. I had basically all of the old 40GB drive free. It’s a bit annoying loading anime to SD or USB before watching, but hey, this is an experiment.

The great Generalachoo has been using one of these for months.

This storage setup is actually a lot like what you get in an early EEE PC (EEEK PC) save that the Pentium M 745 rapes the relevant Atom and Celeron. Running without a page file seems to be fine, even with a “Scant” 1GB of memory. It’s also completely silent which is insane. Battery life has yet to be fully tested, but this is roadtesting week for this thing.

Ok that’s it. I’m tired. It’s 2:30.