A Year with a SSD 2

Posted by jcnnghm Wed, 02 Mar 2011 21:35:00 GMT

A little more than one year ago I purchased a 256GB Crucial SSD drive, the CT256M225, from Newegg for $639.

Setting the drive up initially was a snap. I installed Windows 7 on the drive, which automatically detected it and enabled TRIM support. Not really knowing much about SSD drives, I did some research into the optimal settings, and at every turn, found that Windows had automatically detected and enabled the correct setting. There was literally zero configuration required on my end.

Obviously, $639 at nearly $2.50/gigabyte is a rather steep price to pay, so my chief concern was reliability. After a year of 24-7 uptime and heavy usage seven days a week, logging 8,768 hours powered on and just 6 reboots, I can safely say that concerns about modern SSD reliability are unfounded. The excellent CrystalDiskInfo reports that the drive is still 67% healthy.

Crystal Disk Info

Everything I've learned about SSD's suggest that their failure modes are not catastrophic like spinning-disk drives, but that blocks will transition to read only. Given the time I've been running the drive, I suspect it will last another two years without serious issue. Economically, this means the drive will cost me just a bit over $200/year.

From a performance standpoint, transitioning to a SSD drive has yielded the single greatest performance improvement I've experienced for any hardware upgrade, ever. I think that the upgrade was worth every cent, and was happy with it immediately, though I was somewhat concerned that the drive would only last a year. Now knowing that it will almost certainly last three years, I feel that it was a bargain.

If you don't have a SSD yet, you should seriously consider one. I was looking to get a second CT256M225 for my development virtual machine, but found that it's since been discontinued. Fortunately, it's been replaced by the C300 series which sports 355MB/215MB read/write performance compared to the 250MB/200MB offered by the CT256M225, at a reduced price of about $475. That's $165 less than I paid a year ago, about $1.85/gigabyte. Crucial is also offering 128GB drives, and 64GB drives for about $240 and $140 respectively.

If this trend continues, in another year the price per gigabyte could be as low as $1.20, yielding a $300 256GB drive, or a 512GB drive for right around $600.

I've had a great experience running my entire system, operating system and software off the 256GB drive, with a 2TB spinning disk used for large file and virtual machine image storage. If you're budget constrained, I think it would be well worth the $140 to pick up a 64GB SSD for your operating system and critical applications. I think even this usage would provide substantial, noticeable performance improvements.

Pantone Huey

Posted by jcnnghm Tue, 16 Feb 2010 08:15:00 GMT

Pantone Huey

Huey on my desk
Pantone Huey

Huey Software

I bought a 30" LG Monitor a bit ago, and out of the box the color was not very good. I was researching a fix when I came across the Pantone huey, a hardware-software combination that will calibrate the color of LCD screens. Since it was less than $60, I decided to buy it and try it out.

The installation process was very simple, after the software is installed, it walks you through the process. The Huey is positioned in front of your monitors, where it measures the light levels. After the light is measured, it's suction cupped to the monitor, where the software flashes different colors on the screen which are measured by the device. The process only took a couple of minutes, and on the LG monitor, the results were stunning, presumably because the color was so far off to begin with.

The device can measure light levels continuously and adjust the monitor colors as the ambient light levels change. I'm not currently using this feature, so I can't comment on it, but I would assume it works as well as the rest of the package. I also found out that there is a pro version available, and that the regular version can be upgraded to the pro version with a $39 software upgrade direct from Pantone. I intend to purchase the upgrade because the results are so good, and the upgrade will let me use the device with all my monitors at once, and will also automatically change the colors with the light levels on all four monitors. Very slick package and very slick presentation.

If you need accurate colors, or just want to maximize the attractiveness of your display, I would definitely recommend this product.

Getting Receipts and Mail Off My Desk

Posted by jcnnghm Mon, 15 Feb 2010 08:35:00 GMT

Change Jar

Change Jar

NeatReceipts Scanner

Receipt Scanner

Receipt Scan

Scanned Receipt



Years ago I had a serious problem with change piling up all over the place. I'd come home and empty my pockets and the change would stay wherever that happened to be. Eventually, I got tired of change being everywhere, so I bought a jar and started throwing change in there. The problem has been solved ever since.

I was walking through Office Depot a few weeks ago and saw the NeatDesk Scanner. I wasn't sure how well it actually worked, if it worked at all, so I went online and read some reviews. They were mixed, as is often the case with tech products, especially when those not-so-technically-inclined have difficulty figuring out how to use a product.

I decided to take a shot and buy the scanner, and I'm happy I did. I had about a years worth of receipts, mail, and business cards piled up on my desk, inches thick. I knew I was going to need somewhere to put all that stuff after I scanned it, so I also ordered a heavy duty cross-cut shredder, the Fellowes PS-79Ci Shredder. The shredder comes with some lubricant, but I also ordered a supply of Shredder Lubricant Sheets so I can keep the machine in good working order without much effort.

I was able to get everything scanned into the NeatWorks software and categorized in about a day. The scanner works very quickly, and can scan both sides of a page in either color or black and white. The really great part about the NeatDesk package is the software. The software automatically performs text recognition on scanned receipts, and is usually very accurate. This makes your scanned receipts searchable, and it also makes it very easily to categorize receipts and make notes for tax purposes. If you don't want to categorize a document right away, you can scan it and categorize it later. It will stay in your NeatWorks inbox waiting for you to place it in the appropriate folders. I usually scan stuff in as soon as it hits my desk, and categorize everything once a week or so, primarily because starting the categorization application is kind of slow.

The Fellowes Shredder is also quite good. It was able to rapidly destroy boxes of documents that I wanted to get rid of, and everything that was on my desk very quickly. It is on casters, so I keep it under my desk and roll it out only when I need it. There are two downsides to this unit. First, it has a very bright blue LCD that drives me nuts. I keep it off most of the time because of this, so it's not a big deal. It also has a poorly designed waste receptacle that tends to rip bags. Neither of these are deal-breakers as they can both be easily worked around, but they are both annoying. The lubricant sheets seemed to work well, and are very easy to use.

All said, I spent about $575 on this endeavor, and I couldn't be happier. My desk is clear of stuff today, and it's been clear for the last month. Presumably, it will continue to stay clear in the future. I know that clutter slows me down, so this upgrade should be well worth the money. If you're self employed and looking for a fast, easy way to stay organized, this is definitely a viable solution that I would recommend.

My Power Duster

Posted by jcnnghm Wed, 10 Feb 2010 12:40:00 GMT

Power Duster Compressor Close
Roomba Red Roomba Red
Power Duster Compressor and Hose

My workspace has been getting dustier and dustier, so I have been wanting to do something about it. I've used canned air in the past, and that seems to work pretty well for clearing my electronics of dust. Unfortunately, the canned air pressure seems to rapidly decrease while it's being used, and the bottles don't last very long at all.

I started investigating the use of an air compressor for cleaning electronics, and a big concern was water condensing in the air lines and shooting onto the electronics that are being cleaned. I learned with some additional research that this problem also occurs when painting with compressed air, so there are a number of techniques for dealing with liquid in the air. Satisfied that I could deal with the water issue, I started looking for a compressor.

I settled on a DEWALT D55140 Heavy-Duty 1-Gallon 135 PSI Compressor. I selected this particular compressor because of the relatively low price and positive reviews. In particular, this model is supposed to be quieter than others, and I've had positive experiences with DeWalt tools in the past.

I also decided to buy an accessory set with a gun attachment and a 25' coil airhose. To deal with the water issue, I purchased an Air Dryer Kit. I placed one of the desiccant dryers at the compressor, and the other at the end of the hose just before the air gun. The desiccant balls turn from blue to pink as they absorb water so it's easy to see that they're working, and the state of each filter.

With this combination of compressor and accessories, I'm able to maintain 80psi bursts of dry air to knock the dust off of my electronics. It does a very, very good job of quickly knocking the dust off of my stuff, and onto the floor.

From there, I use my old Roomba to pick the dust off the floor, and move it out of my office. If you've never used a Roomba before, it's worth checking out. I have both a Scooba and a Roomba, which I run every day. They do a great job of keeping stuff clean.

The total cost for the compressor and the related parts was about $240. I'm pretty happy with the setup so far. It's definitely resulted in less dust being in my office.

How I Learned to Love Monitor Arms

Posted by jcnnghm Sun, 07 Feb 2010 17:08:00 GMT


My Desk


Moved out of the way


Pushed Away from the side


The Arm Structure


Sleek Appearance


Beefy MX Arm


All the stuff that's not on my desk anymore


Windows Monitor Settings

I recently added a 30" LG Monitor to my 3-monitor setup. Originally, I had intended to replace my 24" Viewsonic widescreen, but when I started considering it seriously, I began to see the utility in having a forth monitor, instead of just a larger third.

I was initially unsure of how I would accomplish this, but I had seen a 3M Monitor Arm in Office Depot, so I thought I'd buy it and try it out. Unfortunately, the 3M arm didn't have the lift that I really wanted, so I returned that arm and started searching online for other options. I came across the Ergotron Single Desk Mount Arm and the Ergotron Dual LX Monitor Arm. My thought was that I'd be able to purchase a dual arm, and mount both monitors on the left side of my desk on the arms, one above the other.

Once the dual arm arrived, I was able to get it setup in about 30 minutes. I was somewhat surprised at the ease of the setup. I had to unmount the other monitors from their stands, attach the monitor arms, secure the base to my desk with the desk clamp, and route the wires through the arms. The hardest part was removing the stands from the existing arms, and that wasn't very difficult. I did have to adjust the tension of each arm because of the weight of the monitors. All in all, I was very impressed with the ease of the setup process.

After a day of using the arms, I was so impressed that I ordered a second set for the monitor on the right side of my desk, and the Mx Desk Mount LCD Arm for the center 30" panel. The setup of the 30" monitor was a little more difficult than the smaller panels, but that's largely a function of the size and weight of the display. The desk clamp for the MX arm is larger than the other, and seemed very secure to me. The MX Arm is very solidly constructed, and has no problems whatsoever keeping the large display in place. I wouldn't attempt to use it with a smaller display, it really is designed for heavy displays, and the smaller arms do a fine job.

The cable management system of the arms is very well designed, and actually seems to work. I upgraded all of my DVI cables and power cables during this process to either 10 or 15ft so that the monitors positions could be easily adjusted, so the cables are rather large and inflexible, yet the cable management system still worked fine.

While I originally wanted the arms only to allow the two displays to be elevated, as soon as I got them installed I realized that I had needed these arms for some time, I just didn't know I needed them. For starters, they make dusting my desk significantly easier, as the monitors can be easily repositioned out of the way. Additionally, the appearance of my desk is cleaner than it was before, with the arms really improving the visual aesthetics of my work area; it looks much cooler and more high-tech now, and that counts for something. The arms have also made it easier to reconfigure the display configuration for specific situations. I'll occasionally shift one of the monitors to landscape view, and the arms allow any of the monitors, even the 30" display, to be transitioned.

From a productivity standpoint, I've got 4,096,000 reasons to be happy with this upgrade. The 2560x1600 resolution of the large display allows me to display either 2 or 4 files, plus the filesystem tree, in my IDE simultaneously. This has greatly enhanced my coding productivity. WIth the other three display, two 1600x1200, and a 1680x1050 display, I have a total of 9.7 million pixels to work with. In the upper left I usually keep my email, iTunes, and my project management software open. On the right hand side I usually have a web browser open with the stuff I'm working on. In the lower left I usually have a bunch of SSH windows open, tailing files, running irb, cucumber and autospec. In the center I'll keep my IDE or anything I'm actively working on. This allows me to keep everything I'm currently working on open and on top, so that I can reference things without having to move or change any windows. In particular, it's nice having autospec always running on my project so I can glance over and see any regressions.

All in all, I'm extremely happy with the monitor arms. I estimate the upgrade cost about $600, and my only regret is that I didn't make the investment sooner.

Three Years of Liberty

Posted by jcnnghm Sat, 06 Feb 2010 23:21:00 GMT


Liberty Chair

Worn Out Seat

At My Desk

About three years ago I purchased a Liberty Chair by Humanscale. The chair hasn't held up as well as I would like. With the Vellum cover and the Gel seat, the seat cover has started to tear. This chair was very expensive, about $1,000, and I would not have expected the seat cover to deteriorate.

All in all, I still think it's a comfortable chair, and it's definitely allowed me to log lots of hours in relative comfort. If you're in the market for one of these chairs, you may want to get this chair with leather instead of vellum, since that will hold up better. It's probably also worth considering another brand.

I think the Aeron chairs are probably just as comfortable, and more durable.