July 30, 2022

Hills of Silver Ruins (4/2)

I've posted chapter 2 (book 4) of Hills of Silver Ruins, a Pitch Black Moon.

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July 23, 2022

Hills of Silver Ruins (4/1)

Here is a guide to making rope out of tree bark. A rattler geode is a hollow geode in which loose quartz crystals or other minerals have broken off inside so it rattles when shaken.

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July 20, 2022

New and improved benchmarks

While replacing the system battery in my HP Slimline 290, I added a 4 GB stick of Crucial DDR4 2400 MHz RAM and a 500 GB Samsung 980 NVMe SSD. The whole thing, including a CR2032 battery, an M.2 screw kit, and a Torx driver cost a little over $100 from Amazon (and Home Depot).

With 8 GB of RAM installed, memory usage while running all of my basic programs (Chrome, Word, Notepad++ and JWPce) fell in half to around 40 percent. More importantly, thanks to the dual-channel architecture, filling both banks of DDR4 RAM doubled memory throughput.
4 GB DDR4 RAM (2400 MHz CL17)
Novabench         13015 MB/s
WinSat            13313 MB/s

8 GB DDR4 RAM (2400 MHz CL17)
Novabench         24106 MB/s
WinSat            26737 MB/s
I cloned the HDD drive using the Samsung Data Migration tool. After taking the recommended precautions—running chkdsk, deleting temporary files, and shutting down extraneous programs—it completed without a hitch. All I had to do was select the new boot drive in BIOS and I was ready to go.

Doubling the RAM noticeably improved the overall performance of the system. But switching to an SSD is like upgrading from floppy disks to a HDD back in the day. Over ten times faster right off the bat.
500 GB Toshiba DT01ACA HDD (SATA 7200)
                Write          Read
Novabench     128 MB/s       133 MB/s
WinSat                       115 MB/s

500 GB Samsung 980 SSD (PCIe 3.0 NVMe)
                Write          Read
Novabench    1467 MB/s      1047 MB/s 
WinSat                      1499 MB/s 
The benchmarking provided by the Samsung Magician app is no less dramatic. (IOPS is short for Input/Output Operations Per Second.)
500 GB Toshiba DT01ACA HDD (SATA 7200)
                Write          Read
Sequential    158 MB/s       158 MB/s
Random        216 IOPS       179 IOPS

500 GB Samsung 980 SSD (PCIe 3.0 NVMe)
                Write          Read
Sequential   1564 MB/s      1651 MB/s
Random     100341 IOPS    147705 IOPS
From a cold boot to launching Chrome, the current configuration cuts the startup time by 80 percent. Shutting down now takes a few seconds. The time to complete a routine Windows Update decreased an order of magnitude. And that's with a lowly Celeron CPU.

Related posts

From XP to X
Speeding up the Slimline
The state of the solid state

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July 13, 2022

Speeding up the Slimline

My main machine is a bargain basement HP Slimline 290 with 4 GB RAM and a Celeron G4900 CPU. Less than $300 at Walmart. Thanks to the UEFI BIOS, GPT, and a dual-core CPU, it actually qualifies to run Windows 11! But I'll put that off until Windows 10 reaches end-of-life in another three years.

Doubling the RAM to 8 GB and adding a 500 GB SSD costs less than $100. Budget-wise, it's a no-brainer. Except I mostly run Chrome, Word, Notepad++, and JWPce (a Japanese text editor). With the unnecessary screen effects and background apps turned off, Windows 10 is surprisingly snappy.

(The first half of this video explains how to lighten the load with the standard Windows settings. The second half using the recommended utility didn't make as big a difference, perhaps because I'd already disabled many of the startup processes.)

The computer only bogs down noticeable when editing high-resolution cover art in Paint Shop Pro 2019. I don't do that very often so I wasn't in a hurry.

But then the system battery on the motherboard died, which resulted in a Groundhog Day moment. One day when booting up, I glanced at the login screen and said to myself, "Huh. I thought today was Friday." A minute later, the OS pinged the timeserver and it was indeed Friday.
When the battery dies, the CMOS stores the last logout date. The documentation gives the battery a lifespan of three years, so it failed right on schedule. Upgrading the RAM and installing an NVMe M.2 SDD is no more difficult than replacing the battery. This was as good an excuse as any.

YouTube comes in handy for jobs like this. HP has a how-to guide and David Noble did a how-to on the same model as mine. The one major obstacle, the drives cage, has to be removed to access the battery, RAM, and M.2 slots. The only unexpected variable here turned out to be the three Torx 15 screws.
I could have wrestled them off with a pair of pliers, but at times like this, the Tim "The Toolman" Taylor gene kicks in. Home Depot has a Klein 4-in-1 Torx screwdriver for ten bucks. Who knows, it may come in handy again one day.

As it turns out, Torx screws actually are easier to work with than Phillips ("plus") screwheads. Though I'd recommend adding a little piece of tape to the Klein driver to keep the bit from falling out of the holder.

Not counting dropping stuff (I forgot about the WiFi keyboard dongle and it popped off too), the whole job took less than 20 minutes. Honestly, the hardest part was replacing the battery. The RAM snapped right in as did the SSD. I did need this M.2 screw kit as one doesn't come pre-installed.
I put everything back together, crossed my fingers, and booted to BIOS. The BIOS reported 4 GB of RAM in both banks for a total of 8 GB and the 500 GB Samsung 980 SSD in the PCIe M.2 slot. Much easier than I expected.

Related posts

From XP to X
The state of the solid state
New and improved benchmarks

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July 11, 2022

Hills of Silver Ruins III

July 10, 2022

Hills of Silver Ruins III (notes)

July 09, 2022

Hills of Silver Ruins (3/33)

I've posted chapter 33 (book 3) of Hills of Silver Ruins, a Pitch Black Moon.

This is the last chapter of book 3. I'll post the cover art for book 4 next week.

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July 06, 2022

The state of the solid state

Since the dawn of the PC era, the easiest way to give a consumer PC a boost (short of swapping in a clock-doubled CPU, as I did with my old Windows 95 machine) has been to add more RAM and a hard disk drive (HDD).

Though the technological world has completely changed in the past 40 years, that is still the case, except that HDD upgrade is now a solid-state drive (SSD).

The first IBM PC shipped with 64K of RAM and two full-height floppy disk drives, which ran at the blazing speed of "slow as mud." When buffering a print job, the floppy drives in my Kaypro II sounded like a washing machine in spin cycle.
The IBM XT released in 1983 was equipped with 128K of RAM and a 10 MB HDD. The 4.77 MHz 8088 CPU was the same, but the hard drive made a big difference. You could upgrade to 640KB of RAM but there weren't many options if you wanted a bigger HDD.

Unless you were willing to spend several boatloads of money. The 18 September 1984 issue of PC Magazine featured a 350 MB external hard disk system that could be yours for a mere $14,900 or approximately $50/MB.

That was actually a good deal. Two years earlier, Corona advertised a 10 MB HDD for $2495. By the end of the 1980s, the typical consumer HDD was 30 MB and prices had fallen to $10/MB, a respectable though linear decline in costs.

But in the decade that followed, something astounding happened. The capacity of the typical consumer hard disk drive rose to 20 GB while the cost fell a full three orders of magnitude to $.01/MB. That's a factor of 1000.

And then it happened again! A decade after that, 1 TB consumer hard drives were commonplace at $.0001/MB, two more orders of magnitude.

What happened was the discovery of giant magnetoresistance (GMR) in 1988 by Albert Fert and Peter Grunberg, for which they won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics. Their work led to the application of what became known as spintronics to HDD technology.

IBM began manufacturing MR HDD read/write heads in 1990 and GMR read/write heads in 1997.

As with CPU clock speeds, the "spinning rust" of the HDD is reaching its practical limits as a low-cost consumer technology. Over the last ten years, HDD prices have fallen only half an order of magnitude, stabilizing at about $.04/GB. About the cost of assembly.
I imagine that without the GMR revolution, the SSD would have evolved much faster. Like the internal combustion engine and the cathode ray tube, the amazing thing about the HDD is that it works at all, let alone as well as it does.

Even so, next-generation heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) and microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR) hard drive technologies are being rolled out, guaranteeing the HDD will live on in data centers and the cloud.

As Jeffrey Burt puts it, the hard drive is the Mark Twain of technology. "Reports of its death are greatly exaggerated."

A comparable SSD costs around $.08/GB, about twice that of a HDD but still dirt cheap. So while the SSD is standard in portable devices, slapping a 500 GB HDD into a low-end PC like mine is still an easy way to increase the profit margin.

Then again, I recall the day I walked into Walmart and all the tube TVs were gone. Microsoft reportedly wants to hurry the process along and is pushing manufacturers to install an SSD as the boot drive in all PCs starting in 2023.

The day soon will come when, aside from the fan, the only moving parts left in the humble PC will be the DVD or Blu-Ray drive, until they too are relegated to the same niche as turntables and vacuum tube electronics.

Related posts

From XP to X
Speeding up the Slimline
New and improved benchmarks
Back to the digital future
The last picture tube show

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July 02, 2022

Hills of Silver Ruins (3/32)

Since gaining prominence in the mid-20th century (bolstered by the rise of nihonjinron), hon'ne (本音) and tatemae (建前) have evolved as key concepts in explaining Japanese sociology and psychology.

A person's hon'ne [true feelings and desires] may be contrary to what is expected by society or what is required according to one's position and circumstances, and they are often kept hidden, except with one's closest friends. Tatemae [façade] is what is expected by society and required according to one's position and circumstances, and these may or may not match one's hon'ne.

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