Category Archives: Letters from the Ed

Great Product for Recycling 2.5″ Notebook Drives

In the past quarter, I’ve replaced the boot drives on my three primary notebook PCs with el-cheapo ($149) OCZ-3 Agility 120 GB SSD drives. In turn, that has left me with three 500 GB 2.5″ drives that I can still use, but no longer want for primary notebook HDs. That left me casting about for a solution to put these babies back to work at minimal expense with maximum results. Here’s what I found to meet my needs: a 5.25″ drive bay that accommodates four 2.5″ drives in the standard form factor, and supports both SAS (Serial-Attached SCSI) and SATA drives in a single, heavy-duty brushed aluminum enclosure. It’s available on Newegg for a modest $55, and on Amazon for $60. Here’s an introductory photo of the device, straight from the manufacturer’s Website:

Each of the drive sleds holds a standard 11mm 2.5" HD, or larger if you remove the sled top
Each of the drive sleds holds a standard 11mm 2.5" HD, or larger if you remove the sled top

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A Tale of Three Notebook SSD Upgrades

OK, so I finally got my three production notebooks upgraded from conventional spinning hard disks to SSDs. All three of the source drives were 7,200 RPM SATA II drives: two from Seagate (one a Momentus plain-vanilla, the other a Momentus XT), along with a Hitachi 7K500 model. Of the three, the Momentus XT was far and away the fastest, but it couldn’t begin to match the OCZ Agility 3 SATA III 120GB drive that replaced it. I took advantage of a special sale to pick mine up for about $150 each on Newegg. Right now they’re priced at $155 with a $30 rebate to bring the price down to $125.

It took me a while to whittle these machines’ drives down to an acceptable level of disk space for the transfer. I recount this exercise in a couple of upcoming articles (one for InformIT.com, the other for InputCreatesOutput.com; no links yet but I’ll plug them in as they become available). Here’s a quick before-and-after snapshot:

Table 1: Notebook System Disk Holdings (Before & After)
Laptop Before Clean-up After Clean-up
HP dv6t 72.9 GB 52.8 GB
Dell M11X 48.2 GB 33.1 GB
Dell D620 35.4 GB 27.7 GB

I used the “Clone Disk” tool in Acronis True Image Home 2012 to transfer the contents of each conventional HD to its SSD replacement. Although the HP dv6t has the faster processor, the Dell M11X supports SATA 3 and outperforms the HP on I/O. All in all, the real proof for the value of the exercise comes from some before and after system timings, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Notebook System Timings (Before & After)
Timing Point Dell D620
(Before/After)
Dell M11X
(Before/After)
HP dv6t
(Before/After)
BIOS alert 00:03 / 00:03 00:03 / 00:03 00:08 / 00:07
Windows 7 Starting 00:11 / 00:07 00:32 / 00:19 00:12 / 00:09
Login Prompt 00:53 / 00:23 01:07 / 00:32 00:40 / 00:12
Desktop appears 01:20 / 00:35 01:44 / 00:42 01:13 / 00:19
Soluto value 01:49 / 00:42 02:26 / 00:42 02:22 / 01:02
Shutdown 00:20 / 00:07 00:18 / 00:06 00:22 / 00:10

Here’s what I take away from this recent adventure. First and foremost, you get the biggest win in performance after Windows starts loading and the systems start banging their drives for all they’re worth. Second, there’s a clear correlation between the I/O interface hardware and overall disk subsystem performance: the Dell D620 which has the oldest SATA controller, saw a jump from 5.9 to 6.9 in the Windows Experience value for the disk data transfer rate. The HP dv6t has a faster SATA II controller and leaped from 5.9 to 7.4, but the MX11 with its SATA III support surged from 5.9 to 7.9 (which is as high as Windows Experience values currently go). Third, some of the best benefits from SSD use come after the OS has booted: applications open and close much more quickly, and shutdown takes no more than half as long as it once did. I like it!

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LensPen LapTop Pro Ultra Cleaning Kit

Every now and then I’ll get a request from a vendor to take a look at their products and report on my experiences. Over three weeks ago, a package from Canada showed up at my door, including the LensPen LapTop Pro Ultra Notebook Cleaning Kit. As the following photo from Amazon (where you can pick this item up for $9.95 plus S&H) shows, it includes a microfiber cleaning cloth, 10 moist wipes for cleaning an LCD screen, a big multi-brush and screen cleaner holder, and an itty-bitty screen cleaner for cellphones (lower right in photo).

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Interesting tips and tweaks for PST file cleanup & optimization

OK, I admit it. I’m a little bit obsessive about maintaining maximum free space on the 80 GB putative (74.5 GB actual size) Intel X25-M SSD I use as the system drive for my production PC. In my never-ending quest to keep things pared down to the absolute minimum, I will occasionally resort to cleaning up and compressing the PST files associated with Outlook on that machine. To that end, I’ve already moved my Archive.pst file to another drive. But today, I got into compacting my PST files (and completely cleared out the default Archive.pst that Outlook manages to create on my C: system drive, whether I want it to or not), and learned some interesting stuff along the way.

Continue reading Interesting tips and tweaks for PST file cleanup & optimization

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Sometimes, When Things Look Broken, They’re Merely Discombobulated

If you read my last blog post “Booted Off Twitter! No Due Process, Either…” you’ll get a chance to review my recent tale of woe that recounts how, upon having my @EdTittel twitter account suspended, I initially begged and pleaded to have that suspension reversed, to no avail. This morning, while I was chatting on the phone with social media maven Allen Mireles (@allenmireles), when we reviewed the situation once again, she volunteered to contact the leader of the Twitter Safety & Trust team, Del Harvey (@delbius) to see if she could look into matters and consider some kind of possible account restoration maneuver.

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Growing and Returning Interest in IT Certification

It’s often said that everything in the IT industry comes and goes in cycles. I have to agree with this notion: after working in the industry for over 30 years now, I’ve seen several waves of client/server, thin client/fat client, remote, and distributed technologies and APIs come and go (remember “diskless workstations?” “set-top boxes?” “videotex?”).

The same ebb and flow also applies to IT certification, which I got involved with initially as a temporary member of the training department at Excelan back in 1988, and then again almost ten years later in 1996 as the Windows NT 4.0 wave crested and ran. In the heady days from 1997 to 2000, it seemed like certification was an unbeatable and guaranteed ticket to IT success. But I was also there when the bottom fell out after 9/11 and have watched that same wave pull back further and further until IT certification seemed no more important or relevant to finding work than any other checkbox sorts of attributes (degree, experience, and technical expertise).

In the last year, however, I’ve noticed that the wave seems to have hit its trough, and is now starting to come back in. What makes me say this? Several things:

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New Site, New Look, Same Mission!

Dear Readers:

This weekend, my Webmaster (Rebekkah Hilgraves, the lovely and talented proprietress of SheTech) and I decided to make the switch from the old EdTittel.com Website to the new site you’re looking at right now. Along the way, we made lots of interesting platform changes and design decisions. What you’re looking at right now is a WordPress-based Website, but one that uses a customized design with heavily customized CSS to present just the kind of look and feel that I thought long and hard about, and that Rebekkah’s superior design sense and skills implemented for me as you see here. Rebekkah started with the standard WordPress Graphene theme, then customized appearance and functionality via CSS to give me just the kind of site functions I really wanted. I hope you’ll enjoy the new look and feel, but that you’ll also provide us with feedback if you see anything that needs work, deserves fixing, or requires correction (contact me or Rebekkah with your input, please).

Continue reading New Site, New Look, Same Mission!

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The importance of “opportunity cost” in troubleshooting

In trying to get one of my SSD-based test systems to work properly, I decided to upgrade from x86 Windows 7 Ultimate to x64 Windows Professional. And alas, I thereby willingly threw myself into the slough of despond. Even though I swapped out the SSD for a conventional HD, when I tried to run the Windows 7 64-bit installer, it would hang every time the program got to the “Expanding Windows Files” stage, usually somewhere between 52 and 62 percent of the way through that part of the process. Continue reading The importance of “opportunity cost” in troubleshooting

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