Category Archives: Jeremy

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.

Hey! I Made a Table!

We picked out living room furniture for our new house a few weeks ago. We have the usual couch, love seat and recliner setup. Our living room is wider than deep so we want the love seat and recliner to be at 45 angles from the couch so that each of them are facing towards the tv. We want two end tables to go in between the three pieces, but square ones won’t really work out because no matter how you turn them, one of the seats have a corner of the table pointing at them. We didn’t really want a round table either, so we decided to go with an octagon.

Octagon tables are pretty hard to find, and it wasn’t looking likely that we’d be able to find one that matched anything else in the house so I decided to try to make them. I’ve never attempted anything like this before so I was pretty nervous. I drew it up first on Google Sketchup to figure out the sizes for everything and went to buy the wood. I had originally planned on just cutting everything with a handsaw and miter box, but very quickly realized that wasn’t going to be practical.

Fortunately, my dad has a table saw that can do the angled cuts so I went over there to cut all the pieces. Actually, he ended up cutting most of them for me. The assembly wasn’t too bad other than trying to figure out how to get it to stay together long enough to get enough pieces assembled for it to support itself.

The tile and stain match the floor and cabinets in our new house and were a bit of hassle to track down. I borrowed a wet saw from my step-father to cut the tile. This was my second time tiling, I put down tile in the master bath of our current house shortly after moving in. It was much easier than I remembered this time.

Thankfully all the trim pieces fit together nicely around the tile in the end. The only part I’m not real happy about is the stain. I had a hard time getting it consistent across the whole table, but all in all, not too bad for an amateur. I’m going to finish up the second table and if I’m not too burned out afterward, work up a design for a coffee table.

Edit: Crud, just realized we changed our tile selection in the house and I used the original tile on the tables. Oh well, they’re pretty close to each other.

Redneck Engineering

I didn’t get much done with the home repairs this week.  There has been a single project that consumed the majority of my time.  When we moved in there was a good size bird feeder in the back yard.  During the ice storms last winter a tree limb fell on it and snapped it in half, leaving a broken 4×4 sticking out of the ground and a cement base.

There is also cable box in our backyard behind a bush and I wanted to just move this cement platform 15 feet or so to be next to it.  There are already smaller stepping stones leading to it, so it would have looked ok there and stopped grass and weeds from growing up around the cable box.  Now I knew this thing would be heavy, but I wasn’t sure how heavy.  My plan was to dig up around it, use a shovel to tip it on it’s side, roll it over to the cable box and cut off the 4×4 sticking out of it.  Figured it would take an hour or so.

After digging up the dirt around it, I discovered it was a lot thicker than I expected.  I thought it was about a 1″ thick prefabricated disk.  Turned out it’s poured concrete, 5″ thick.  I tried to pry it up with the shovel anyways but it was clear the shovel was going to loose that battle.

I had to come up with another plan now, so I got to wondering, “Exactly how heavy is this thing?”  I first looked up how much concrete weighs and it varies base on the mix, but it’s roughly 2,700 lbs per cubic yard.  There are 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard, so about 100 lbs per cubic foot.

I went outside and measured it.  It’s 5″ thick and has a 5′ diameter. I had to look up the formula for calculating square feet in a circle.  It’s:

A=19.63 square feet.

Then multiple that by 5/12 of a foot for the thickness and I came up with 8.18 cubic feet.  So this sucker is about 818 lbs.  Seems a little overkill for holding up a bird feeder if you ask me..   Anyways, at this point I’m thinking forget it, I’ll just break it up and throw it away.  But.. I’m guessing that’s not quite as easy as it sounds either and I doubt the garbage man was going to take 800 lbs of concrete.

I wasn’t ready to give up yet.  I figured I just need to tip this thing on it’s side and I can probably roll it from there.  High school physics, don’t fail me now! 🙂  I tried a lever already and that didn’t work out too well.  I didn’t have anything tougher than the shovel to try again with.  I thought about a car jack, but I couldn’t get it under the block to start with and I figured it would just sink in to the mud.  The only other two options I could remember were a pulley and an Archimedes’ screw.  It didn’t look like Archimedes was going to be any help so I figured a pulley was my last hope.  I didn’t have anything over this block to hang a pulley from, but there was a tree to the side of it, so I figured I could turn the whole thing sideways and use a pulley to get this block tipped onto it’s side.  I went down to Wal-Mart to go pulley shopping.

Once I got there I quickly discovered the best pulleys and ropes money can buy (at Wal-Mart) were only rated up to 500-600 pounds.  There went that option.  I found a towing chain rated up to 5,000 pounds though so I grabbed it and it gave me the idea to head over to automotive to see if they had any better options there.  I found a winch! Perfect! Only $30 too!  It’s really designed for pulling your boat onto a trailer, but I’ll make due.  It was rated to 1500 lbs, so I found some hooks that were also rated for that so I could attach the winch to the chain and wrap the chain around the tree.  The plan was coming together.

I went home and got the whole contraption set up and started cranking.  Everything I had was rated for 1,500 lbs or more which should be more than enough, but it dawned on me, I’m not really sure what the tree I was hooking this all up to was rated for.  I was somewhat concerned about bringing the rest of the tree down on top of me, but figured the 4″ thick wood post should break before the foot thick tree did.

Even with the winch it was proving to be quite difficult to crank and the belt started showing some signs of wear.  A crank or two later, the fastener that was holding the whole thing together broke.  The threads stripped free and it bent itself open, more accurately.  I started questioning exactly how much this concrete pad really weighed again.  I also started having serious doubts that I would be able to roll this thing even if I did get it on it’s side.

Frustrated and tired, I thought to myself “You know what would look good there?  A bird bath!”.  I somehow managed to get Jeanette to go along and we spent the remainder of the week looking for a normal concrete or stone looking bird bath.  Apparently bright red and blue ceramic is the style now and that’s all stores carry.  We tried Garden Ridge, Hobby Lobby, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Old Time Pottery and Atwoods and none of them had normal bird baths.  We finally found one at Lowes.

I sawed off the wood post to be even with the concrete base and put the bird bath out there.  I added some concreate glue to keep the dog from knocking it over on herself.  Finally that project is done!  Although, I may plant some flowers around the base.  After feeling how heavy that bird bath was, I’m really glad I didn’t get any further in my attempts to move the base.

Getting the House Ready for Sale

The past week or two I’ve been doing all the home maintenance items I’ve been putting off for years in order to get the house ready for sale.  So far I have:

  • Cut down all tree branches that were damaged by the ice storms.
  • Replaced a sink
  • Clean paint and grout off baseboards
  • Cut and bundled probably 100 unwanted baby trees
  • Removed some mold that was growing in one of the sinks

Cutting down the broken tree limbs was pretty fun.  My grandpa passed away last December and I ‘inherited’ a pole saw along with some of his other tools.  That made the job SO much easier.  Jeanette wasn’t thrilled about me using a “chainsaw on a stick” given my track record, but I still have all my limbs and managed to not get hit on the head with a branch.

Fixing the leaking sink was the part I dreaded the most.  I swore off ever doing plumbing work again a few years ago.  I never can seem to get everything hooked back up without it leaking.  After my dad pointed out I could just replace the sink cheaply instead of trying to repair it, I decided to give it one last shot.  Turned out to be a piece of cake.  Only took about an hour and $30 for a new sink and hoses, and it works great.

When we first moved in, our master bathroom had carpet.  After the first time the toilet overflowed, we decided carpet was a REALLY bad idea and installed tile instead.  We also repainted the walls a few months later.  Being the first time for both, it didn’t dawn on us to tape off the baseboards before starting, so we ended up with quite a mess.  We figured we’d have to replace the baseboards to fix it, but we found a paint thinner and grout remover at Wal-Mart that did a pretty good job.  It took a LOT of scrubbing and didn’t get rid of everything, but it looks MUCH better than it did.  The camera flash makes it look worse than it really was/is.

Chopping down and bundling the baby trees has been the biggest project so far.  I spent about 15-20 hours working on it.  Much longer than I thought it would take.  It’s finally done now and the yard looks much better.  I put out 6 bundles of wood for the garbage men last week, fortunately they took them.  I have another 5 bundles sitting out there today.

There are still quite a few more projects to do..

A Nerd Walks Into a Bar…

Ok this is about a year old, but I have a somewhat funny story I never got to tell.  Around this time last year I went to the Affiliate Summit West in Las Vegas.  It’s basically an event for other self employed computer geeks like me to get together and pretend we have real jobs.  It was around the time I was selling one of my websites and several potential buyers were there that I needed to meet with.

In addition to the conference, a few of the sponsors were hosting some events.  One of the events I was looking forward to, was a party as the TAO night club at the Venetian hotel.  They had reserved the upstairs for people from the summit and had hired Blue Man Group to do a private show there. I’d never seen Blue Man Group, but wanted to so this sounded awesome!

The party started at 7pm, so like all the other nerds I lined up promptly at 6:45. 🙂  I didn’t know this at the time, but apparently this is one of those fancy clubs where the bouncers decide who gets in and who doesn’t.  So there’s one line with all the hot people, and then, well, there’s us.

I finally get in around 7:15 and it’s kind of cool at first.  About what you’d expect, dim lights, loud music, free drinks, a beautiful view of the strip and balconies overlooking the pond at the Venetian and about 100 people standing around in clicks talking about pay per click, conversion rates, SEO and analytics.  You know, the typical club scene.  They also have the stage set up already it looks awesome, I’ll be able to watch the show from 15 feet away.

I had met a few people while at the conference, but I didn’t see any of them there.  I came alone and it just seemed a little to awkward to me to try to go find a group and jump into their conversation.  Plus I could barely hear over the music.  So I’m standing around like a wallflower waiting for Blue Man Group to show up so I can see them and leave.

After about 15 minutes of this, I’m feeling real uncomfortable and think to myself.  “If I had a drink to hold I’d look like I was just chillin’ here instead of standing around.”  Now I really don’t drink much and hate the taste of beer so this left me not really knowing what to order.  I heard someone else order a rum and coke, which I’ve tried before, so I got that.

I hadn’t had anything to drink since leaving the conference about 3 hours earlier so I drank that down pretty quick.  Thankfully it was more Coke than Rum.  That put me back where I started though.  I couldn’t order the same thing again, but I needed something to hold.  I was thinking “I don’t want to order something girly.  Oh man, what do I do!?”  Just then I remembered I had an iPhone! 🙂

I pull it out and spend about 15 minutes Googling “manly drinks” which really ended up being no help at all because I had virtually no reception.  Just then I remembered, Martini!  I mean James Bond drinks those, they’ve gotta be manly right?  I walked up to the bar with confidence.  “I’ll have a martini!”.  That confidence quickly went away when I was hit with the response “What kind?”.  I stood there with a blank stare like Napoleon Dynamite for about 5 seconds before he finally asked me “Gin or Vodka”.  Phew!  Multiple choice.  “Vodka!” I said with confidence once again.  “Clean or dirty?”  I panic again.  I don’t even want to know what goes into a dirty martini!  “CLEAN!!” I said.  Final question, “Do you want olive juice in it”.  I love olives so I say “Sure!”.  (I just now looked it up and found out that’s what makes it dirty, so now I feel even more stupid.)

Now I don’t know how martinis are normally made, but he pulls out a bottle of Absolute Vodka and fills the cup 75% of the way with it, then fills the remaining 25% with olive juice.  I took the first sip of it and it was extremely nasty.  I’m guessing he made it “special” just for me after our ordeal, but if that’s the way they’re normally made, James Bond is a sicko!  But now I’m stuck with this thing.  I hold it for about a half an hour and slowly take sips from it as much as I can stomach.  By this time it’s about 8:30 and I’m beginning to wonder when Blue Man Group is going to show up.  I pull out the paper and it says the party is from 7:00pm to ???. Great!  They may not show up until midnight.  A slot opens up on the balcony so I go out there for another 30 minutes and finish the drink while waiting.  Blue Man still isn’t there and I’m not feeling so great after finishing that drink so I decide to give up and leave.  I left the drink on the balcony so I wouldn’t have to face the bartender again.

I called Jeanette to tell her how lame it was and end up talking to her on the phone for the next 2 hours while walking around the Vegas strip in a half-drunken stuper.  Around 11pm I finally finish walking the strip, am worn out and starving because I never ate dinner.  I was under the impression there would be food at the club.  I’m ready to go to bed, but I’m at Luxor and I’m staying at Ceasers which is surprisingly far away dispite the fact it looks close.  I grab a midnight pizza from the Pizza Hut at Excallibur (also a bad idea) and walk back to the hotel and finally go to bed around 1:30 am.  I have to get up at 5am to make it to the airport in time to leave.  It wasn’t a good night.  I decided not to go back this year.

New Blog

We decide to ditch the old blog with the videos that creeped everyone out and put up a standard WordPress blog instead (I’m being lazy).  We’ll eventually get the old posts moved over..

Another Year, Another Blog Post

Wow, I just got back on here and realized I hadn’t updated this thing in almost a year.  A ton has happened in the past year.  I know Jeanette has already covered most of it, but I have to say the biggest change for me is being self-employed.

I quit my job at Winnercomm on July 31st of 2007, which will be six months at the end of January.  It doesn’t seem nearly that long.  I have to say I am absolutely loving it still.  People kept telling me I’d get bored and be wanting to come back.  You always hear about people doing that, but I have to say, I think there’s something wrong with those people. 😉

I am absolutely loving being self-employed and I can’t see ever going back to a normal job by choice.  There’s some added stress in trying to keep everything moving forward and not blowing the whole thing, but that’s also off-set by the sense of freedom of being able to take off a day when I need to, not having to worry about making it to work on time, having unreasonable time lines and having to balance everything to keep half a dozen different project managers satisfied.

I miss the social aspects of it sometimes, but there’s other ways to get social time besides going to work.  All in all I feel very blessed to have this opportunity and wouldn’t dream of trading it.

As for how all this self employment work has been going… so far excellent! has continued to grow by leaps and bounds since July.  I also launched last year that is slowly gaining traction.  I’ve been working on for about two years now with minimal success, but a few months ago I did away with the whimsical design in exchange for something more serious, and things have started picking up with it.

Domo Arigato, Ado.Net 2.O?

Jeanette IMed me at work today to let me know I had a package sitting on the porch. I told her to open it and inside was three copies of a Japanese (could be Chinese, one of those “ese”es) version of the ADO.NET 2.0 book I wrote part of. It’s kind of funny because most of the text is in Japanese, but every 10th word or so is in English and all the code is in English. It must be really hard being a programmer in a country where they don’t speak English.

Hopefully I won’t start getting hundreds of 12 cent royalty checks I have to sign. 🙂 Is there anything Seinfeld didn’t cover?

Twin Sister?

Remember that episode of Seinfeld where George was dating the female version of Jerry? While working on the Dirt Motorsports website last week I discovered the female version of myself. Some coworkers of mine pointed her out to me and I was all prepared to argue she looked nothing like me until I saw the picture. That’s just creepy.