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Wednesday, 24 October 2012

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May I point you to Anandtech's review of the Electra Max. There is a reason why this is the only 960GB SSD on the market.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/6200/owc-mercury-electra-3g-max-960gb-review-cramming-1tb-of-nand-inside-25-chassis

I would suggest that removing the optical drive and having a pair of SSDs running RAID would have provided a cheaper, higher performing solution. The Seagate Momentus XT is a slow baseline comparison for current SSDs.

The OWC's are pretty durable too. I have had their enterprise class in my system for @3 years, and in that time I killed 2 mac pro towers due to heavy workload. Meanwhile, the OWC SSD is just fine.

Dear Andrew,

Thanks, that's a very nice technical article.

Going the two-drive route is what I suggest in the paragraph where I talk about the 120 GB drive.

I could not do that for this test, because then I wouldn't have a system configured exactly the same way, and that can produce all sorts of unexpected timing results. To be able to clone my existing drive AND have enough space left for scratch, I needed at least a 512GB drive.

And, just to clarify, the Momentus XT is NOT an SSD, it's a rotating drive with a really huge cache (Seagate calls it a "hybrid") which makes it a very snappy performer as HDs go, but that's all.

pax / Ctein

"the RAW software that Fuji ships with the X Pro camera requires Rosetta to run"

Thanks for that! I'm considering the purchase of a Fuji and that's very good to know.

Ctein,

For those who are less familiar with the ins and outs of computers, could you explain briefly how you port the contents of your old disk to a new one? Do you run something like SuperDuper to make an exact copy? Will that preserve, among other things, the licenses for software?

Thanks,

Adrian

One thing before going down the SSD route (which is for sure a good investment) is optimising a HFS volume. I know Apple says (as do a lot of websites) that HFS doesn't fragment, but this simply isn't true. On top of this, in terms of random disk access (especially if you do have a traditional hard drive), you can optimise the folder structure to increase read performance as well as defragment free space and files to improve contiguous file read and write.

iDefrag is the name of the tool I use -- it works pretty well. On large Virtual Machines, I was seeing improvements of 20-50%. You need to reboot into single user mode on OS X and let it run all night, but the results are worthwhile.

http://www.coriolis-systems.com/iDefrag.php

Pak

I was also going to add going down the SSD route also complicates my backup strategy where I use a cold-spare identical hard drive which is cloned from my boot partition. (In my case, if the hard drive dies, you swap it out). You can't buy a cheap alternative which stores 960Gb in 2.5"... so it would be working on an external drive until a replacement comes in.

Don't count on any SSD degrading elegantly -- one of my SSDs died in 16 days! And when they go, it's like an on/off switch, it's immediate, not like a normal hard drive which makes noises and works intermittently. So in my experience, a good backup strategy is a must.

Pak

More parrot stories, please.

Dear Adrien,

I can't speak to the Windows side of things, as all my Windows installations have been virtual ones for some years. On the Mac side, there are two simple ways to do it:

1) Use Carbon Copy Cloner to duplicate your existing system drive. The duplicate will be bootable; just swap the new drive for the old. Or, swap drives first, put the old drive in an external case, boot off of it, and clone back to your new internal drive.

2) Under Snow Leopard, you can use Time Machine to do a full restore of your backed-up system so long as you have the SL installation disks for your machine. You replace the drive, boot off the installer and choose the restore option from the utilities instead of the new install. Under Leopard and later, there are some new OS bells and whistles that let you dispense with the installation disks, as I recall.

Either way gets you from your old drive to your new.

pax / Ctein
==========================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com
==========================================

You may wanna update this post, the XPro1 software does not require Rosetta to run. It runs fine on OSX 10.8.2 which has no Rosetta support.

Cheers
Jonathan

Hmmm - I think the idea of having everything plus the kitchen sink in just one machine is about as outdated as the idea of an all-purpose camera would be. For me: I'm running free stuff only (think Linux and a free and open source but very fine raw converter and such), and my 1TB internal hard drive is about 70% full now. But since this isn't the only computer in the house (my wife, and at some point in time our kid also have some), I bought a RAID1 NAS drive and set up automated backups of the most "important" folders and stuff. Seen that way, internal drives don't have to be that big anymore. Photoshop is an interactive program, you really don't need it for storing or just viewing your photos (if not, it's programmed really badly, but as I know nothing of that stuff, I'd better shut up). For us, and in a smallish laptop, a 120 Gig SSD would have more than enough storage. As prices for in-camera cards also go down (a D800 really welcomes a 64G card, so demand is there, and these are getting cheaper), even that 120G SSD seems like overkill.

Funny that you bring this up. I'm just received and am about to make the upgrade. Moving my current 320gb hd to the optical bay (with an adapter) and putting in a 240gb ssd hd in the boot drive. (Are DVD's dead yet? I'm putting the superdrive in an external enclosure.)

Also, Ctein, you said that you max out at 6gb of ram on your computer. Mine is a 2011, but even though it says you max out at 8gb, it works fine with 2x8GB ram chips.

I did the same SSD updates to various Windows machines and found that Windows 7 Professional booted and ran benchmarks and programs much faster with an SSD than the same systems and programs when various 32 and 64 bit versions of earlier Windows operating systems were installed. If you plan to install an SSD on a Windows computer, be sure to also install 64-bit Win7 Pro or better.

Aside from the OS issues, an SSD is an excellent upgrade for any stock Windows notebook computer, almost all of which rely upon slow 5400rpm mechanical hard disks. The raw speed of an SSD is helpful here, even without the further boost that you will obtain from using a faster 64 bit Win 7 OS.

I tend to feel that replacing the system disk is such an effort with software reinstalls and all that I want to do a larger number of upgrades when I do it. That said, a modern SSD is a nice thing to have.

Were you able to separata how much performance increase came from having the files to edit on the SSD vs. just having the programs on the SSD? My system disk is currently SSD, but I'm thinking of an SSD for photos to speed up the processing of my currently rather large files...

Yep, I agree SSD drives are a great thing for updating older MacBooks, I'm using a pair of Crucial 256GB SSD in my Mid 2010 13" MBP. 1 in place of the original HD and one in place of the optical drive which now lives in an external USB case).

Now, regarding the Fuji X-Pro 1 software, the current version works just fine without Rosetta, I am running it on Mountain Lion 10.8.2.

Ctein,

The version of Raw file converter EX for the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 I am using is 3.2.9.1 and it does work on Mac OSX 10.8.2 (which has no Rosetta)

You can download it from http://www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/software/myfinepix_studio/rfc/v3291/index.html

If you had a no-name PC, you could continue to rebuild your system every few years by putting in a new motherboard, cpu and memory for a fraction of the cost of an iMac. Just sayin'.

On old stuff and new machines or programs. A friend brought over 122 Kodak Photo CD's for me to open and change to TIFF images for him. He has Photoshop CS5 - which won't read the Kodak format. I still have CS4 on one machine and it will read them.
Per Adobe he has to buy an aftermarket program to open them. He, and I both think this is asinine. Why not be able to open and view everything you could with the older version? All the Kodak Photo CD's open and read just fine. About half of the "Gold CD" he burned during and just after that time won't open. None of the Zip disks will open any longer.
A good reason to check everything fairly often - and maybe keeping an older machine around.

Upgrading most 2-4 year old computers with a SSD is almost certainly one of the best upgrades you can do assuming you have already maxed out your core memory. But for Mac's, it's time to upgrade if you shoot a lot on site and need to quickly review images before you leave the site. With the last round of upgrades before yesterday, they finally included USB 3 and that makes a world of difference since no one seems to have produced a Thunderbolt card reader yet - why?

But with a USB 3 and the firmware updated CF and SD card reader from Lexus I can dump a full 16 gig 1000x card in about 2 minutes, yes that's not a typo. USB 3 is even faster than that, it's the card speed that's the current limit. And Thunderbolt is even faster, but no where in sight yet for a card reader :(

Cheers,

Robert

Fuji's RAW converter runs just fine under Mountain Lion. It sucks but runs nonetheless. No Rosetta required.

Dear Jonathan et al,

You're right, the RAW converter is a universal app. I don't know how it got into my head that it was Rosetta. Apologies to Fuji!

~~~~~~

Dear Eli,

The late 2007 MacBook Pros can only run 6 GB of RAM. Officially, they're limited to 4, but OWC found them stable with 6GB. For some reason 8GB (2 4GB modules) wasn't stable.

Later models can run more, up to 16GB with the latest.

~~~~~~

Dear Oskar,

Can't speak to the recent versions of Windows, but when you copy/clone a Mac system, as per my post to Adrian, all permissions, etc., are also cloned, so the software runs just fine. No new reinstalls or activations needed.

There's no need for your image files to be on the SSD. They're only read once, when you open the photograph. Ditto, when you save it. In between, all the disk activity is either the OS, Photoshop or writing the scratch file, so only your OS, your apps, and your scratch need be on the SSD. That's why I said a 120 GB would be fine. Many folks could probably get away with 64 GB. On my system, that'd be cutting it a bit tight, as I have about 32GB of applications, but that's me.

If I wanted to dispense with my optical drive, that's the route I'd take.

~~~~~~

Dear Huw,

I don't think you read the article very carefully, since it's not about upgrading iMacs at all.

Just sayin'.

~~~~~~

Dear Andrew,

Elmo thanks you!

pax / Ctein
==========================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com
==========================================

EDITOR'S NOTE: I've removed a sentence about Fuji's X-Pro1 software only running under Rosetta from the post. Apologies to those whose comments about this are thereby "orphaned," but I figured it's better not to perpetuate mistakes.

--Mike the Ed.

Personally, my system is run from a fast SSD, but my photos are stored on two `green' (read: slower) spinning disks in RAID 1. For most purposes this is a nice combination, but when I'm working on a large set of photos, the load times can be the bottleneck.

What I do then is start a RAM disk and copy the files there. I then do all work on the RAM disk, and when I'm done, move them back to the `real' disks.

For individual files in Photoshop, this won't gain you much (if anything), but when you're working on multiple images at the same time and frequently switching (think ACDSee or Lightroom), it really speeds up the switch times.

For the more timid or frugal (who use Windows 7) may I suggest the OCZ Synapse w/Dataplex. Less than 5 minutes to install (assuming you have the spare SATA data cable which it doesn't come with, I didn't) and a noticable increase in Photoshop performance (though I have not run benchmarks).

It runs as a hidden cache drive rather than as a system drive. After you access a file 2-3 times, from that point forward it will be accessed from the SSD cache instead of the HD.

I didn't get the 4x bootup and program start speeds expected, but it did cut those in half. And it feels just a little safer to me, since it has 50% memory redundancy for future-protection and could completely fail and not interfere with normal functioning (the computer would just go back to its old slower speed, though you would have to physically unplug the drive).

I'm about to upgrade to the new Mac Mini, and I'm considering getting the new fusion drive. However, I have concerns about that, as I often open a Windows virtual machine that's about 50 GB, and I wonder if every time I do that it means the system has to push 50 GB of stuff out of the SSD part into the HDD in order to accomodate the virtual machine. Since the thing is so new, I don't imagine anyone has an answer to that yet.

But here's an easy one: how does one know if one's system is ready for a 6G SSD?

Ed: the Fusion drive is not a cache, so items are not repeatedly moved in and out of the SSD. Assuming sufficient free space, if the OS decides your Windows VM is "frequently" accessed (for some unknown definition of "frequent") it will move it into the SSD and leave it there. The only reason it would move back is if you stopped using it often.

Ctein, if some of your apps need Rosetta, you might try virtualizing e.g. 10.6/Snow Leopard and its Rosetta on those newer platforms like the Retina MBP that require at least 10.8/Mountain Lion.

Dear Joe,

Thanks for your comments. They include many of the possibilities I'd been thinking of. The thing is, this was a perfect Murphy's Law situation. AFTER I turned in my review, I got on a plane for a week's vacation in Minneapolis. Within a minute after I woke it up on the airplane, I got a perpetual spinning beach ball. This was the first time I'd run the machine on battery power. I tried restarting several times and it always rapidly went into that hung state. So I booted into my second boot partition on the drive to run disk utility and check out the first. After a minute or so, I got the beach ball there.

After a bit more trial and error and some sheer guesswork, I got into the power management settings in both partitions before the machine could hang and switched off “sleep drive whenever possible.” I was then able to boot successfully and stay running, but disk utility said there was irrepairable damage to my primary boot partition.

So, yeah, given that this drive draws unusually large amounts of power I'm thinking a thermal issue or something hinky that happens due to the sleep setting. I e-mailed OWC the next day and within HOURS, their gurus had managed to set up an exact duplicate of my machine (both hardware and OS) in their lab, and it did not show the same immediate failure mode. I'm not entirely convinced they duplicated my power settings exactly, but the benefit of the doubt was on the drive's side and I thought it likely I had just experienced one of those random glitches in life. Which, of course, always happen when one is beginning a trip. Given that, I had no reason to alter my review.

I flew home the same day the review appeared. It took a full day of testing for me to become absolutely convinced that there was a real drive problem going on, at which point I wrote the addendum and Mike got it up ASAP. The great thing about online publishing is nothing is cast in paper and ink.

OWC isn't letting this one slide. I offered to run some more tests on the drive here; they requested I send it back as soon as possible so they can dissect it. They're right; I should leave all the digital evidence in place; they might learn something from the pattern of corruption on the last failed clone attempt.

Purely on a logical basis, I am convinced this has to be an anomaly. OWC has an excellent reputation for product quality, and this is their most noticeable, high-end drive. It would not be on the market if they had any reason to doubt it. But, I can only report on what I can report on and clearly something odd has gone wrong. They and I both want to get to the bottom of it.


pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
======================================

Ctein,

Had two of the same drives, about 400+ gigs, both died the same way yours did, one just refused to come back to life. Vendor replaced both, have not used much since, just don't trust 'em.

Respectfully, is anyone really surprised when a new, expensive, ssd fails on old hardware with an old OS? It might work. Maybe it should work. But really, is it worth the risk to your data? $1000 is a good chunk of money towards a new mac.

Dear Mark,

I don't see the logic behind your comment.

Not so incidentally, the drive ran fine for a good three weeks in the laptop before I even started the review, or took off on that ill-fated trip.

C'mon, you know me-- do you really think I'd unreasonably risk my primary computer or rely on an untested system on the road?

It's not just that I have 35 years experience with this, it's that I'm not that brave!

My standard procedure on any kind of a major drive change is to have duplicate backups of all my data, created two different ways, and to keep the old drive, unaltered, for at least 3-4 months (sometimes a lot longer) until I'm positive I trust the new configuration. It's insurance.

99% of the time in life, you don't need insurance. This time it paid off.

pax,

prudent/cowardly Ctein

Good post. Ive been in IT for 25 years and would really liked to have seen the original post include some of the words above - risk, backup, insurance, prudent - to temper the "wow" of the new drive.
Still dont think its worth putting a grand into a mac that old :-)
Regards

On the spinning beach ball issue -- if you open up Console and look in kernel.log or one of the other archived kernel.logs are you seeing any I/O errors? Generally when drives go (even if they are SMART enabled), OS X will log any I/O errors here. It's the first place I look when a hard drive starts going funky.

BTW: I'm all with you for an $1000 drive upgrade on an old machine. If you're doing IO intensive tasks and you don't think a CPU upgrade will help you, it's very much so a worthwhile upgrade.

Pak

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