Category Archives: technology

Partitioning with an SSD

I have a new laptop (“ultrabook”) with, as appears to be the norm these days, both a regular hard disc and an SSD device.  The latter should be fast and efficient, but needs to be carefully managed due to the limited number of writes it’ll accept.  Hence anything like a big build with the GNU toolchain has to use the regular hard drive.

I’m thinking through how to partition it.  I presume putting the root of the filesystem on SSD will benefit performance, and the core stuff like /etc, /bin, /sbin and /lib.  And /boot, though I expect rebooting to be a rare thing unless I have trouble with ACPI.  I can tune that to avoid writes with noatime and no journaling.  I expect /var and /home and a swap partition to be kept on the regular hard drive, and /tmp to cohabit with swap, without any need for customisation.

What about /usr?  Development work involves a lot of writes to /usr/local on “make install”.  It’s an order of magnitude less than will be happening on /home, but perhaps I should nevertheless ensure at least /usr/local is on the regular disc?

And what about /dev, /proc, /mnt?  Do any of these filesystem entries map to hard disc activity I need to consider?

I understand hibernate-to-disc is one of the biggest gains of having an SSD.  Can I hibernate to SSD without having a regular swap partition there?  How much does it really gain, and can it be tuned to minimise SSD wear?

e-books

Lots of people I know like books.  But many – including me – lack the space to keep as many as they’d like.  E-books offer a solution to that, accommodating a large library in less space than a single bookcase.

This year I’ve taken the plunge, and bought some, and given them as presents to my, erm, nearest and dearest.  Specifically, one to the girlfriend, and one to the parents.  The latter just got it yesterday evening, as I’m visiting for the weekend.

I was a little unsure about the parents: my dad is a bit of a technophobe, and could’ve turned his nose up at it.  But he’s also a huge bibliophile and laments bitterly the lack of space for a proper library.  The mother is happy with technology, but though she enjoys a good read she’s not such a bookworm as to suffer from only having a few hundred in the house.

Turns out I needn’t have worried: both parents love it, and I’m going to have to get them another, or they’ll be fighting over it!  Interestingly, they’ve previously seen and disliked an e-book reader: the one marketed by Waterstones, which I believe is by Sony.  So it’s just as well I’d selected the BeBook, though my choice was governed more by an evidently-enlightened attitude to Freedom, with a wide range of formats supported rather than a tie-in to someone’s restrictions.

The BeBook is indeed a nice product for its intended purpose.  For the size and weight of a slim paperback, you can carry a library of thousands.  It has a tiny battery with a long life.  It is indeed easy to use and comfortable to read, and offers some additional goodies like audio book support.  150 titles – works out of copyright, being mostly but not exclusively books – are bundled, and the BeBook website claims to offer another 20000 for free download.  Plus of course a rapidly-growing number of titles available for purchase, in both DRM-encumbered and unencumbered formats.

At the same time, this is clearly an emerging technology with a way to go.  Navigation is rather slow, and will doubtless be more smoothly and elegantly presented in future devices, though at the same time has some excellent features like well-designed automatic bookmarking of your place in a book.  There are quite a few mild to moderate glitches in the 150 free titles bundled with it, though nothing that’s a showstopper (so far as I’ve seen).  And it can’t download books directly: it relies on a USB connection to a computer to do the work.   Oh, and this is a device crying out for a touchscreen, though I’ve a suspicion that would require a much bigger battery or kill the battery life.

Still, a nice little device, and everyone likes it :-)

netbooks to run cool!

The agreement between Canonical and ARM to support Linux on ARM is one of the most exciting in the tech industry.  Canonical is the company behind Ubuntu, the Linux distro providing the best out-of-the-box desktop experience, and clearly has expertise in that classic geek blind spot: providing for the resolutely dumb consumer.  And ARM has the processor with the single most important advantage today: power consumption an order of magnitude better than Intel and other rivals.

Supported Ubuntu on ARM is, I understand, aimed at ARM’s existing market in ultra-portable devices.  But in principle it could also pave the way for a laptop and even a desktop that’ll run cool.  And in the laptop’s case, the choice of much-improved battery life or a significant weight-saving.  Amongst existing netbook devices, the ARM-driven Nokia N810, at less than half the weight of an Intel-powered Eee PC or its imitators, could be a forerunner of a whole family of better things.

For myself, I’ve long looked for lower power consumption in all my computing.  A big thank you to ARM and Canonical for bringing the prospect closer!

p.s. Yes, I know linux is already supported on ARM, but I understand it’s something quite limited.  And it hasn’t caught the market the way the Eee-family has, and that the Canonical deal may lead to.

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