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Apr 012010
 

Apologies to those arriving here looking for information relating to U***tu and the use of this ExpressCard SSD. There is nothing relating to it here – Google has taken you on a wrong turn.

So after a false start with the wrong product I end up with a Wintec Filemate SolidGo 48GB ExpressCard 34 Ultra SSD (which is specifically a PCI-based ExpressCard rather than a USB-based one which tend to be a lot slower). The specs on this thing claim 115MB/s read and 65MB/s write which compares to my hard disk with tested scores of 80MB/s read and 78MB/s write – so a lot quicker for reads and marginally slower for writes.

How does this translate into how quickly the Macbook operates ?

Well after quickly duplicating my “OSXBOOT” partition onto the new “disk” using carbon copy cloner onto the new disk (“SSDBOOT”) I can run a few benchmarks :-

Test Result for SSD Result for Spinning Metal
Menu -> Login 31s 27s
Word startup 5s 16s
du of MacPorts 34s 109s

Well apart from the slightly surprising result of the time taken to get from the Refit menu until the login screen being actually quicker for the spinning metal disk, the SSD is approximately 3.2 times quicker! Certainly a worthwhile performance boost … and presumably a suitably chosen SATA SSD would be quicker again.

Jan 072007
 

I recently replaced an elderly SGI Octane2 workstation which had 2 CPUs (400MHz MIPS-based), 1.5Gbytes of memory, and 3 elderly SCSI disks with a nice new Sun Ultra40 … 2 AMD Opteron 248s, 2Gbytes memory, and 2 mirrored SATA drives. It is interesting to compare the difference between an old-fashioned workstation originally designed in the middle to late 1990s with a 21st century PC. Not that I’m going to produce hard numbers from useful benchmarks … that is just too much work, and in some ways it is the feel of the differences that are important.

Of course this is not really a fair comparison. Whilst the SGI Octane is now very elderly and due to SGI managerial incompetence has not kept pace with PC performance as it should have done, it is after all a machine that originally cost 10-20 times the cost of the PC I am comparing it to. In car terms, I’m comparing a 20-year old Mercedes with a new and cheap Ford. I should point out that much of the software I am using is very much the same on both machines … the Enlightenment window manager, Sylpheed Claws as the mail client, Firefox as the browser, LyX as the word processor, and a text terminal for much of the remainder.

The PC is considerably quicker than the SGI of course. The graphic user interface is a good deal snappier, and most of the applications offer very welcome improvements in performance. With the exception of GIMP however, none of this performance increase is really essential; my old SGI ran pretty much everything my PC does, fast enough to get the job done. GIMP performance is the reason I upgraded, and here the difference is quite dramatic … filters that previous required patience now run almost instantly; when you are repeatedly trying things out in GIMP on quite large images this performance increase makes some things feasible that simply were not before.

There is one area where the SGI does offer some advantage over the PC; something I was expecting. The PCs disks are overall somewhat faster the the disks in the SGI (and of course I don’t have to pay to mirror my disks!), but the SGI tends to work more smoothly under high load. I’ve noticed before with the ‘low end’ on disks in PCs, that if you start to drive your disks very hard, the computer will sometimes stutter. Essentially the SGI was slower, but smoother under high disk load than the PC.

If was not for the need to run GIMP extensively (and the appeal of more standard add-on hardware like USB hard disks), there is no reason why I could not continue with the SGI. The tendency we have in the computing arena of replacing computers every few years is not a healthy one.

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