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SSD drives - any comments?

 
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This is a question (or questions) for any hardware/firmware nuts out there.

I have an old Dell upright that finally gave up the ghost after 7 years of continuous (and heavy) use - around 40,000 hours or so; so I can't complain. I've sent it in for a good old clean (40 Euros), which I hope will solve the immediate problems; but I suspect it's getting close to end-of-life, so I'm looking for a replacement.

Luckily, I've come into a bit of dosh recently, so I'll be able to spend a few shekels; but it's not a vast amount and I want to stick to a budget. Hence this question about SSDs. I should add that I'm quite happy twiddling around "under the cover", replacing cards and hdds and the like - I even have my own anti-stat wrist band - but I'm not a computer engineer.

Recently, I've heard a lot about SSD drives; and in the smaller sizes (<= 250Gb) they don't seem to be vastly more expensive than a regular HDD, while offering long life and good performance (boot time HAS been a problem for my Dell - although I solved that for the most part by wiping Windows and installing Linux Mint).

So, these are my questions:

1. SSDs seem to offer better performance and power consumption, but limited space (at least at current prices). My old setup was a dual disk Raid-1 (mirrored) system, which worked just fine. Is there an equivalent for SSD drives? It seems to me that the cheapest option might be to mirror an SSD drive with a magnetic one, let the SSD drive do most of the work, and simply "write-protect" it - but I honestly don't know.

2. How are SSDs as a caching option? Again, performance suggests that they should be superb, but I know rewrites are limited, and they are essential for a good cache. I already store the vast majority of my data on external (USB) drives, so I'm not worried about having a "minimalist" setup (system and commonly used programs internal; data external).

3. Does anyone have any experience of "retrofitting" SSD drives? My Dell is SATA-compliant, so I suspect I might be able to boost it with an internal SSD drive, but I also have a Mac (about 3 years old, but "as new"), which I'm thinking of making my #1 system now; and it occurred to me that I might be able to turn it into a very fast box for not too much money (not that it's particularly sluggish now).

I guess it boils down to this - Assuming you're like me, and happy to spend a weekend swapping a few bits and pieces in and out of existing boxes, and you have a few hundred bucks (or Euros, or quid) - let's say 5-600 - to spend, what would YOU do?

Winston
 
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You have a similar hardware set to the one I have just now. Just to be sure I have it right, you have:
- 1 clunky old desktop machine that a bit too tired for normal use
- 1 reasonably decent Mac

Here's a suggestion based on what I've done. Beef up the Mac machine by bumping the memory and fitting an SSD if it currently has a mechanical HDD. This could probably be achieved for about 100 euro of parts but depending on what Mac it is you might need to pay someone to do the work, say if it's an iMac that requires entry through the display glass. Then turn your old desktop machine into a NAS using something like NAS4Free who maintain a fork of an old freeNAS product version (current freeNAS versions are better performing but require very high spec machines). In my setup I have a pair of 1TB mechanical disks configured as Mirror RAID in the NAS serving up NFS shares.

This will give you a decent responsive daily use machine and a high capacity data store with redundancy against mechanical failure. If you were really worried about losing your data then you could take another step to periodically sync your data to a portable drive and keep that at your friends house. Just in case the whole NAS/house goes up in flames, say.

I think you could do this well within budget.
 
Winston Gutkowski
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Tim Cooke wrote:You have a similar hardware set to the one I have just now. Just to be sure I have it right, you have:
- 1 clunky old desktop machine that a bit too tired for normal use
- 1 reasonably decent Mac


Thanks for replying Tim.

Yes, you're pretty much correct:
- 1 clunky old desktop machine (currently getting a "clean").
- 1 reasonably decent Mac - actually, pretty much an "out of the box" iMac; except it's 3 years old. Keyboard (AFAICS) has never been used; and the monitor (of course) is superb. Also, all the "Maccie" bits and pieces, including wi-fi "zapper".

I'd like to use the Mac, simply because of that darn monitor (spectacular, and BIG), but I'm worried about getting out of my "comfort zone".
I know PC's - I've delved inside; added memory; swapped out bits that needed to be swapped; RAIDed, etc ... but the iMac is a new world to me (albeit with that amazing screen), and I don't really know where to go to get software like Eclipse without paying for it.

Memory (in the iMac) is 3Gb, which seems to run the unit just fine (it boots very quickly compared to the other stuff I own); and if I'm going to have to take it in to get the drive changed, it makes sense to "beef it up" as you say. Again, my worry is that all these things are going to involve more cost than a "normal" box, despite the fact (I suspect) that components are basically the same. A disk drive is a disk drive, surely?

That said: once I have a config I can live with, the other four terabytes of films, TV series and the like should be a doddle. Becuase it's DATA.

But thanks very much for your reply. You've given me a lot to think about.

Winston
 
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:but the iMac is a new world to me (albeit with that amazing screen), and I don't really know where to go to get software like Eclipse without paying for it.



There's tons of OSS available for Mac, including Eclipse. About the only thing I use that I haven't found is Oracle server. I'm surprised we don't have a sticky in the Mac OS forum for this subject...
 
Tim Cooke
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To be honest Winston, if your iMac is just 3 years old then it's probably just fine the way it is now and it might even already have an SSD in it or some hybrid drive which I know Apple used for a while too (hybrid meaning that it was part SSD, part mechanical). If it were me I wouldn't be in that much of a hurry to upgrade it at all. I have an iMac too, the original 2009 27" version, and I know that the only way in is though the glass screen on the front. I'm not brave enough to do that myself. If I broke it I would actually cry.

So if your iMac turns out to be just fine already then your only worry now is having somewhere to safely put those media files. Turning your other deskop into a NAS might just be the answer for that. Now that I have my NAS box set up and running I have it stashed under my study desk with just power and network attached to it, no monitor, keyboard, or mouse required. It's a tidy solution and makes good use of an otherwise useless machine.

As far as software goes, Joe is right, you can get anything you need. Eclipse is available, as is IntelliJ. A few "what's the Mac equivalent of x, y, and z software?" questions in the Mac OS forum will have you up and running in no time at all.
 
Winston Gutkowski
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Tim Cooke wrote:As far as software goes, Joe is right, you can get anything you need. Eclipse is available, as is IntelliJ. A few "what's the Mac equivalent of x, y, and z software?" questions in the Mac OS forum will have you up and running in no time at all.


Great. Nice to know. I guess part of it is that I've already gone through that process with Linux (I'm a big Mint fan).

So I'm going to take your advice: leave my iMac be and test-drive it a bit; and maybe get a laptop and worry about SSD etc with that

Not even sure that I'll need to set up the old girl as a NAS (although it's an interesting idea), since all may data is currently on big external USB drives, and a decent powered USB 3.0 hub costs what - 40 bucks - these days?

Little update: Just bought a WD 2Tb portable drive for less than my old Iomega 500 (smaller, too; although it doesn't feel as robust). At these prices I can afford to buy two and "mirror" the darn things. Sheesh, I'm feeling old.

And thanks to both you and Joe (I thought you died )

Winston
 
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:
Little update: Just bought a WD 2Tb portable drive for less than my old Iomega 500 (smaller, too; although it doesn't feel as robust). At these prices I can afford to buy two and "mirror" the darn things. Sheesh, I'm feeling old.


Okay, let's all take a stroll down memory lane now. My first "big" drive was 40 megs. Not gigs, megs. It was Seagate ST-251 and cost $235. And at that time, DOS couldn't even see that much drive space; it had to be partitioned into two logical drives. A few weeks ago I bough a 1 terabyte for less than $100. It's amazing how far we've come in 30 years.

I had systems with 10 meg and 20 meg drives before that, but the 40 meg was considered a monster for it's time. You just knew you'd never run out of drive space with that thing.
 
Winston Gutkowski
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J. Kevin Robbins wrote:I had systems with 10 meg and 20 meg drives before that, but the 40 meg was considered a monster for it's time. You just knew you'd never run out of drive space with that thing.


Welcome to streaming video and gaming.

Having been in the biz since 1976, I might be able to top that - I had an original IBM 64 (64Mb of RAM, you understand) as my first "desktop". Only companies could afford them in those days. Hardly ever used it, because there wasn't that much you could do on it...

I should add that I wasn't even interested in a "home computer" until 1995. My philosophy (at the time): I do it for work; why should I take it home?

Winston
 
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:
Having been in the biz since 1976, I might be able to top that - I had an original IBM 64 (64Mb of RAM, you understand) as my first "desktop". Only companies could afford them in those days. Hardly ever used it, because there wasn't that much you could do on it...


Yep, had one of those, too. Model 5160 I think it was. Two floppy drives. The ten meg hard drive was an option that came later. I upgraded the memory with an add-in card that added 256k for a whopping 384k of memory. Then to really make it scream I replaced the 8088 chip with a V-20. Smokin'!

The only monitor available was monochrome until the lovely CGA came out with 16 colors. Unlike you, I was obsessed with them and played text games until I eventually upgraded to EGA graphics and a 80286 processor so I could play Leisure Suit Larry. Then I discovered Bulletin Boards and Fidonet, but that's another story.
 
Winston Gutkowski
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J. Kevin Robbins wrote:..until I eventually upgraded to EGA graphics and a 80286 processor so I could play Leisure Suit Larry. Then I discovered Bulletin Boards and Fidonet, but that's another story.


Hey, I still reckon 'adventure' was the best game I ever played. Never did work out how to get that final point though. Floating-point truncation I suspect....

Winston
 
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:
Hey, I still reckon 'adventure' was the best game I ever played.


I'm wandering off-topic here, but I wanted to mention that someone bought the rights to the Sierra games and Leisure Suit Larry has been re-written and released for the Android platform. I'm not sure if it's available on iPad. I tried out the free version which limits you to Lefty's Bar, but somehow it just wasn't the same so I didn't buy the full version. Just as well, my Android tablet went toes up a couple of weeks ago. I probably won't buy another one.
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