Saturday, 5 October 2013


The second part of this post is rather “computer geeky” so feel free to stop when you reach it.

The rain hammered down during the night but by dawn the rain had departed leaving everything rather damp and the sky grey.  It looked like we might receive a repeat performance later and elected to go for a walk around the local retail park before morning tea.  We’re getting good at this non-shopping business walking around with hands firmly stuffed in pockets and wallet/purse suffering from asphyxiation!  Jan managed to visually feast herself on the Arts & Crafts shop whilst I drooled over the carpet in Curry’s PC World.

We were back on Waiouru by 10.30am when the heavens opened again.  Jan spent the day knitting a fair isle jersey whilst I rubbed down some of the paint in the cratch and then attempted to repaint the area.  With a little luck my painting might be improving as the latest paintwork only has slight brush marks.  I’m aiming for no brush marks but have yet to reach that standard.  I think I’m too impatient and moving the brush too hard and fast.

As it’s getting close to winter we’ve decided to ‘winterize’ the Kipor generator.  This winter we’ll be on shore power and it won’t (I hope) be required.  It’s running as I type this doing the final absorption and float charge on the domestic battery bank.  If; as planned; it runs out of petrol I’ll do an oil change tomorrow and prepare it for storage.

Now the ‘geeky’ part.  The laptop is starting to show it’s age with the fan making some terrible grinding sounds and the odd hard drive error appearing.  It has had a significant amount of use over the last five years, initially as my business computer and now on the boat.  I started off thinking about an immediate replacement and my policy with computers is always to look two levels below the current “top line” machines where the price is usually very high.  My initial thoughts were to replace the laptop before it failed.  After considering two factors I reconsidered my approach!  First, we are in the early years of our retirement and need to manage the money. Second, if the laptop failed it would be the data we missed the most.  So a cheaper option would be to have a backup of the data on the laptop which could be transferred to it’s eventual successor. 

With all this free time to research I’ve been looking at the specification of the more modern laptops and ultrabooks.  The latter are smaller and probably more appropriate for life in a confined space.  Some of the cheaper Ultrabooks have small capacity Solid State Drives (SSD’s).  This is the emerging technology replacing the hard disk drives (HDD) which have been around since the 1950’s.  They are very small, no moving parts, run cooler, have very high speed data transfer rates, and use less power.  My current thoughts are that we should copy the data from the laptop to a SSD which could subsequently be fitted into the replacement computer.  It would need to be an external SSD.  The SSD’s come in two formats, SATA and mSATA.  The latter is a small printed circuit board that can plug directly into a socket on the laptop whilst the form usually replaces the old HDD.  Cheap Ultrabooks have a large HDD and a small mSATA SSD to supplement the work done by the HDD.  Obviously we will buy a cheap machine so I need to consider an mSATA format SDD which can be fitted into an external enclosure. 

This afternoon I let my fingers do the walking around the internet.  The following table shows the result of my research into mSATA SSD’s.

A 256GB drive is about the right size for the laptop data.  The four manufacturers quote different read and write speeds (speed of data transfer).  After tabulating the data it was apparent the Mushkin had the best read/write speed.  Fortunately the supplier was also the cheapest.

The SSD will need to be fitted into a small enclosure (case) which can be plugged into the laptop using one of the USB ports.  I could only find two suppliers of suitable enclosures.

The preferred option would be to selected the UK supplier.

in summary, the mSATA SSD could be fitted into the enclosure and connected to our existing laptop via a USB port.  This would enable the data on the laptop to be copied across the the SSD.  When the laptop needs to be replaced the SSD could be removed from the enclosure and replace the smaller SSD in the new laptop/ultrabook.  By doing this we would defer the need to replace the current laptop until it failed but retain the data on the SSD which could then be fitted into the new machine.  Well that’s the theory!


Peter and Margaret said...

I have a better solution. Number 2 child, son, who like one of yours is employed in IT, gets bored with the 'latest' technology after about 12 months, spends more of his hard earned on the latest, and gives me his cast offs free to his old dad. This has just recently occurred, and I am now the proud owner of a quite acceptable, (to me), 2012 notebook.

nb AmyJo said...

Try this. It sounds a ridiculous thing to do but it worked for me.

Shut down the laptop completely. remove all sources of power, e.g. mains cable.

Locate the fan outlet grill, usually somewhere on the side of the laptop case.

Either blow very hard into it or use canned air if you prefer.

Repeat as necessary.

You will be amazed at the amount of dust that may be expelled and how much less the fan will run as a result afterwards.

James and Debbie said...

Or you could just go to Argos and get a 500gb external HDD for less than fifty quid :-)

Tom and Jan said...

What is the asking price and make model? :-)

Tom and Jan said...

Sounds like there is a trip to Maplin for an aerosol of compress air in the wind!

Tom and Jan said...

Hi James,

True, but then I'd have old technology to go with the new laptop. My idea was to insert the SSD into the new machine but purchase it first thereby deferring the need to purchase a new machine before the existing one fails.

Geoff and Mags said...

Tom, does the SSD in these new ultrabooks not have a boot sector? Just swapping the SSD will be only installing a data "disk", not a bootable drive, won't it?
I'm not sure, I'm a bit out of touch with all this new-fangled stuff....

Tom and Jan said...

Most of the cheaper ultrabooks have a very small SSD (about 25GB) which is used as a cache to the HDD. It's not used to store the OS. However if I replace it with a larger capacity SSD then it can be configured to be the OS & Boot drive leaving the HDD for storage.

clint said...

just keep in mind that moving a hard drive from one machine to another can be problematic as the drive will have chipset, motherboard and hardware drivers for the original machine. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it isn't.
my preferred solution would be to backup to an external drive and use the new machine's builtin drives and drivers.
just a thought.

Halfie said...

What's so special about the carpet in Curry's PC World?

Tom and Jan said...

Hi Clint,
I've replaced drives on many occasions and just gone into the bios to ensure the settings are correct. By replacing the HDD with SSD the machine achieves a very significant increase in speed and uses much less battery power.

Tom and Jan said...

Hi Halfie,

I think the carpet was substandard because it's worn out around the laptop area!