Author Archives: Jeremy Zongker

Phoenix Vacation Pics

It was 109° when we visited Phoenix and it felt like it, so don’t give me that dry heat nonsense. 🙂 We visited the science center and Chase Field while we were there which were across the street from each other downtown. We figured parking would be an issue as well as traffic after the game, so we parked near our hotel and road the commuter train in to town. Worked great for the trip in, but the ride back felt like a NYC subway at rush hour.

The science center itself was pretty neat, but there seemed to be one adult for every 6-10 kids and they tended to shove themselves in front of us at every exhibit which really sucked the fun out of it. The baseball game was great! I found a tip on foursquare that if you stand by the organ during the 7th inning stretch they’ll put you on the jumbotron. Sure enough it worked, Katrina and I made it on there, but unfortunately we didn’t get any pics of it.

Here are the pics and videos. Sorry about the blurry/shaky videos, I’m still getting the hang of using the zoom and focus rings at the same time while holding the camera steady.


Albuquerque Vacation Pics

We had a great time on our trip.  We took nearly 2,000 pictures, so I figured I would do a couple of posts showing some of the highlights of each location rather than posting them all at once.

The first leg of our trip was Albuquerque, NM.  We only stayed one day there and visited the zoo, aquarium, botanical garden and Sandia Peak.  Dinner on top of the peak was the girls Father’s Day present to me. Here are the photos and videos from that day.  There are two pages of photos so click next. Double click the videos to watch full screen.


New Computer Time – Solving Hard Drive Problems

Jeanette’s computer is pretty old now and we decided in the summer we’d end up getting her a new one once Windows 7 came out.  About 3 weeks ago her hard drive died, but fortunately I was able to get it working again for now by turning it upside down and shaking it (this has actually fixed quite a few hard drives for me).   I don’t trust it to last much longer though so it’s time to get her a new machine.

There are two big problems that have plagued me with every computer I’ve had for the past 7 years or so.  One is that hard drives keep going out.   They never use to, but I’ve had probably 5 failures in the past 7 years.   It feels like overkill but I want a RAID setup this time to avoid that headache.    The other is there have been so many times that I’ve been waiting on the computer to do something, yet neither CPU, RAM or Disk Usage have been spiked so I never knew what it was I was waiting on.  I finally discovered a few weeks ago that it has been disk seeks all along and I was just missing it by looking at the read/writes.  I’ve never put much thought into hard drive speed before, but now want that bottleneck to go away.  So I’ve been looking into the best way to get better hard drive performance and have redundancy.  There are a lot of options now days, but I *think* I found a good solution.  Here’s what I looked at.

Flash Drives

Since seeks are my main problem the first thing I looked at was a solid state drive since those use flash memory and have virtually no access time at all.  They are quite pricey though and the one down side is they are slightly slower at reading large blocks of data and much slower writing.  They also wear out much quicker.   There are ways to get better performance out of traditional hard drives for a lot less money.

The second option I looked at was taking a normal USB flash drive and just storing the page file on it.  This is do-able, but the slowness of reading large chuncks outweighs the benefits of no seek time.

The third option is something new in Vista/Windows 7 called ReadyBoost.  It lets you use a flash drive just for page file operations it Windows determines it would be faster for.  Sounds ideal, but all the benchmarks I could find show it making no significant difference unless you’re critically low on ram.  For $10, I think I’ll do it anyways though.  The other benefit is it’ll use that space to cache program files, so the second time you open Firefox for example it’ll read from the flash drive and be much quicker.

Lowering Access Time

The next option is to buy a 15k rpm drive instead of the typical 7200 rpm.  There are 2 components that make up access time, the seek time which is how long it takes the needle to move towards in the inside or outside of the disk on average and there’s rotational latency which is how long on average it takes to spin the disk around to the data you need.  You add those two together to get the total access time.  All 7200 rpm drives have a latency of of 4.17 ms.  The seek time varies by drive, but the ones I’m looking at have a 4.33 ms seek time for a total of 8.5ms access time.  By going with a 15k rpm drive you can cut the latency down to 2 ms, which would lower the total access time to 6.33 ms (25% faster).

These drives are pricey in the larger sizes though.  It turns out there’s an option call “Short Stroking” (yes, that really is the name, here is an explanation) that will let you get better performance from the much cheaper 7200 rpm drive.  The way it works is by reducing the seek time instead of the latency.  Instead of buying a 250GB drive at 15k rpm, you buy a 1TB drive at 7200rm instead (which is cheaper).  You then create a partition using only 1/4th the drive leaving you with the same 250GB.  Since you’re only using 1/4th of the drive for the partition, the needle only ever has to travel 1/4th the distance and average seek times drop to 1/4th of what they use to be.  This leaves you with the 4.17ms latency + 1.08 ms seek time for 5.25 ms total access time.  Better than the 15k rpm drive and cheaper PLUS you can still use the extra 750gb on another partition where you’re not as concerned about performance.

The downside is when it comes to reading large chunks, the 7200rpm drive is spinning slower than the 15k rpm so it would be slower.  But wait..  The whole disk spins at the same 7200 RPM, but the outer rings of the disk contain much more data than the inner rings, so in a single rotation the drive can read much faster on the outer edges.  For example 1/2″ from the center of the disk one rotation covers 1.57″ of surface space, but 3.5″ from the center, it covers 11″ of surface.  So reading on the outer edges is 7x faster than the inner edges.  We’re only using the outer 1/4″ of the disk which significantly increases the AVERAGE read/write speed.  I couldn’t find the exact numbers online, but I believe it’s 1.875x faster than using the whole disk which would be 90% of the the average read time of using an entire 15k rpm disk.  Still an overall gain I think.


The final factor was setting up the RAID to have redundancy.  I was planning on just doing a mirrored drive at first, but remembered that a RAID 5 setup (3 drives, using 1/3 the storage for parity bits) lets you cut the load to each drive in half, allowing you to essentially double the hard drive performance.  I saw something new of RAID 10 or 1+0 when looking into this again though.  It’s basically using 4 drives to create 2 mirrors and then striping across them.  It essentially has the same performance as RAID 5, but a little more redundancy.  You have to buy an extra hard drive, but sadly that’s cheaper than getting a controller that can handle RAID 5, so that’s the route I’m going with.


In the end I’m going with 4, 500GB drives at $59 each for a total of $240 to get 1TB of usable HD space that’s mirrored.   There is a way to squeeze a little more performance out of it though. For the page file and other temp data, there’s no reason to mirror it, it can be stripped across all 4 drives instead so the partitions I plan to set up are:

E: Temp drive, 32GB – This will be on the outer most edge for best performance.  Since it’s not mirrored it’ll only take up 16GB of the usable space and performance will be twice as fast as the other drives since it can spread the load across all 4.

C: System Drive, 250GB – This will be the next outer most section, but mirrored.

D: Data Drive, 734GB – This will be the inner most section and have the poorest performance.

Here’s where I think the numbers should end up vs buying a single 1TB 7200 RPM drive.

Drive Access Time (% Improved) Read Rate (% Improved)
C: 2.63ms (223%) 324MBps (224%)
D: 3.71ms (129%) 173MBps (100%)
E: 1.31ms (548%) 648MBps (548%)

The numbers seem too good to be true, but I’ve checked several times and they seem to be right.  Plus you have to consider there are 4 drives doing the work now.  Let me know if I messed up somewhere, otherwise I guess we’ll see.

Katrina Lost a Tooth at School

Katrina came home yesterday and told us she had really exciting news.  Her bottom tooth came out at lunch in a piece of bread she was eating.  We didn’t even know that one was loose, but sure enough it was out.  Apparently she was unable to find it so she wrote this note for the tooth fairy.toothfairy

A Day in the Woods

I decided a few weeks ago that once we got a nice day I wanted to go on a hike and take some pictures so that’s what I did today. I got up a seven this morning and was able to watch the sunrise from our backyard and then headed out to Sequoyah State Park for a couple of hours first. I saw quite a few deer out there, but unfortunately they saw me too and wasn’t quick enough to get any pics.

Next I drove to the J. T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve which is just off the Illinois River by Tahlequah (right by all the float trip places). It was my first time out there and it’s basically just 26 square miles of land that has never been developed apart from a road through it and some hiking trails. It’s partially hills, partially plains with a few springs and streams. I spent most of the day out there. Below are some pics.

Unfortunately on the way home I had a tire blow out on the highway. It pretty much shredded it before I could come to a stop and I think it may have bent them rim. Other than that it was a great day out though.

Gotta Love IKEA

We bought a three shelf paper holder for the new house last time we were at IKEA and Jeanette put it together tonight. Here are the (full) instructions that came with it. Easy as ABC. Sort of..

A. Screwdriver!

B. Huh? Call!

C. Step 1 – Assemble it!

The other side just has a picture of the holder. No step 2.

Katrina Loses a Tooth

Katrina pulled her first tooth yesterday. The first one to come out naturally at least, she had to have her two front bottom teeth removed by the dentist several months ago and wasn’t awake for it. She had been wiggling this one for about a month now and it was ready to come out.

I told her the night before while putting her to bed that her tooth has been ready to come out for a while now and she could probably pull it out tomorrow if she really tried. The next day while I was working she came back and asked me if I really thought she could pull it out today. I told her, “yes” and asked if she wanted me to help. She said, “yes”.

We went back to her room and I let her work on it at first and alternated turns. She was excited but also pretty scared so after about a minute of trying each time she’d start getting nervous giggles and tearing up, so we’d take 5 minutes for her to calm down. During each one she asked me “What if a new tooth doesn’t come in!?”, “What if I swallow the tooth when it comes out!?”, “What if my mouth doesn’t stop bleeding!?”, “Does it hurt when the new tooth comes in!?” and about every other potential problem she could dream up. She also made up a complex set of hand gestures to indicate when it was and wasn’t ok to proceed with various tasks.

I tried to answer all her questions and explained to her that Dad is a pro at this and has done this 20 times before. Then showed her all of my teeth and explained I had to pull out a baby tooth for each one to come in. She was really brave and wanted to press on even though she was clearly scared.

With all the breaks it took us about an hour and a half to pull the thing out, but we finally got it. She was SO excited when it finally came out. Probably more so relieved. She wanted to rush out and tell mom, but I made her hold some tissue on her gums until it stopped bleeding first. I was so proud of her for sticking it out. She kept thanking me for helping her every 10 minutes.

Afterwards we showed mom and celebrated with some soup for dinner and ice cream later. That night the Tooth Fairy brought her $1 and Junie B. Jones: Toothless Wonder. Notice the similarity on the cover picture. That wasn’t intentional.

Katrina Missing a Tooth