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back to article It's time to end the Windows Wait

Flash memory is going to turn back time - in a good way. Once upon a time in a galaxy far away, PCs started up instantly: lean operating systems leapt from chips in machines that were not saddled with obese software and weighed down with bloatware. We've all got so used to drumming our fingers on desks, waiting for the computer …

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Facepalm

ZZZZZZzzzzzzz

Yes, I think we've all gathered that SSD is faster by now. As soon as I can get a 1TB drive for my main PC for £40, I'll jump on board.

Until then, I'll wait the 15 seconds it takes my PC to resume from sleep.

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I agree

I agree, the only thing holding me back are decently priced high capacity SSDs.

Does anyone actually shut down their computer? I only ever sleep/hibernate mine these days.

And really, what does this story have to do with Windows? Isn't what it's really saying is that SSDs are faster, and your OS - whatever it is - will boot faster from it?

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Boffin

RE: ZZZZZZzzzzzzz

I have one "media server" PC still running a five-year-old Gigabyte i-RAM, loaded with junk PC133 modules that would have been on eBay otherwise. It has served as the boot disk for those six years without a fault (apart from the time wifey disconnected the mains plug so should could plug in the vaccum cleaner, and the built-in backup battery drained over the weekend, clearing the i-RAM's boot image!). True, the capacity is not 1TB, it's actually only running 4GB, but that's more than enough for a boot image. I've seen clearance stock of i-RAMs on places like eBay going for $50..... If the battery dies on the current i-RAM I'll probably go look for an i-RAM Box (instead of a PCI slot it uses standard 5.25in disk slots) and use up some of the junk DDR400 modules I have spare. They seem a lot more reliable than the current crop of cheaper SSDs.

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£40?

You'll be lucky right now. eBuyer currently has 1TB spinning magnetic media at £100 and up.

But still, yes.

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Bronze badge
Facepalm

Yeah, surprisingly prices went up when 50% of the world's hard drive production capacity was destroyed in a flood.

Trolling or ignorant?

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FAIL

yup

Yeah, that article was a gigantic waste of space. I particularly like how it finishes with "Flash is fast and disk is slow, and that's all you need to know." - but the author made sure to write the other few hundred words anyway. I guess you don't get paid for one line of forehead-slappingly-obvious information but you *do* get paid for five paragraphs of it?

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Holmes

I got an SSD last year as a boot disk and I will NEVER go back. The best thing that happened to my PC in years. W7 boots up in just 7 seconds. PCs should come standard now with SSD boot disks IMHO, it just makes the whole "computer" experience so much better for all users.

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Bronze badge

Yes, pity the poor user who has to wait several seconds for gratification.

Clearly less latency is the key to improving my computer experience. Not, say, software that's far less bloated with idiotic, annoying features, and riddled with bugs. Not improving half-assed hardware designs and poorly-written drivers. Not getting UIs designed by actual user-experience experts who do actual research.

Yes, it'll be the same sorry crap, but it'll be FASTER. Hurrah!

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Stop

That's the problem

"get a solid-state drive for your system instead - a good one, mind, not just any bunch of crap chips from a fresh-out-of-the-box SSD that runs out of oomph as soon as every cell is written"

...see, that's the problem, for me at least.

There are so many failures and probelms with chipsets and the underlying flash memory itself (though it seems more to do with chipsets right now) that I have absolutely no idea which type to buy for the best. If they were hard disk prices, I'd be happy to take a flier and just buy with my gut, but they're not, and so what I am waiting for is for someone respected (do you hear me, Reg, I mean you - yes you are respected by many of us!) to do a round up on the current state of the art and tell us the truth about what chipsets and vendors to buy and which to avoid.

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FAIL

You can of course get a Dell PC with flash storage that would be just a quick as your Mac Book... I've been solid state on a PC for quite some time...

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Anonymous Coward

SSDs not necessarily the answer.

I am running the Windows 8 Dev. Preview on a VERY old Dell Inspiorn 600m, that I purchased in January 2005, and it boots up & is ready to go in under 15 seconds.

In this case...it's all about the OS.

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Hybrids

Are these a good price compromise?

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Yes! the day to day running of my hybrid is excellent, the machine resumes from sleep in 5-6 seconds, resumes from hibernate in about 10 seconds, the OS is very responsive nad I have acres of space for storage....

I have trialed an OCZ SSD in this machine and it was faster, no question, but its a trade off between things happening faster than instant for the SSD and instantly for the way I use the hybrid... the hybrid won due to my wasteful use of storage - leaving VHD's and old zip files, gigs in the recycle bin, that sort of thing! the SSD was then just demoted to netbook duties...

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FAIL

Not really

Reviews all say they're a great compromise, then you look at the stats - not a great deal faster than regular drive.

I had high hopes for one manufacture (can't remember whic), who released a card that allowed regular and SSD to appear as one drive. Turns out to not be that clever at all.

For the time being, how much is it worth to shave 8 seconds off boot time and 2 seconds off an application starting?

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a hell of a lot

the article is stunningly obvious and a bit pointless, but it really *is* amazing to use an SSD, and I gladly forked out for one in my desktop after getting one in a laptop. Eight seconds off boot, two seconds off application startup, 30 minutes off a kernel compile, twice the speed on system updates and live image composes, adds up pretty damn fast, let me tell you.

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SJ
Thumb Up

But where are the SSD based Windows desktops for corporate use

Nice article, but from my checks there don't appear to be *corporate* windows 7 desktop PCs that are based on SSD, unless someone else can put some names in the hat.

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Boffin

I'll tell you where they are.

My previous contract was at Intel and the whole place is run on SSD laptops (with Linux server farms for the real work). There did not appear to be any desktop machines. Unsurprisingly the SSDs are all Intel.

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Dell OptiPlex 790 or 990

Dell will happily sell you a top-end 790 or 990 with a 128GB SSD in. They'll charge you through the nose for the privilege, of course.

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Cos corporate machines really need 128GB drives

NOT!!!

I'd be happy to buy desktops with 30GB SSDs, if I could get them. They shouldn't cost much more than the 250GB or 320GB HDs that are more or less standard now, and that contain a standard OS image and no user data (it's all on the network).

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Silver badge

Yawn! We've had fast-starting O/Ss for years.

> PCs started up instantly

My PDA (Dell x50v) is like that. Just press the button and the screen pops on instantly - ready for work. It's hardly noteworthy and it's definitely not new or novel.

In fact, if memory serves, the old CP/M systems I was working with in the early 80's would boot up about as fast as a modern day windows box. Though I did have to go to the trouble of swapping floppies during the startup.

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Happy

BBC Model B

Beep-Barp and off you went. None of this boot nonsense.

You could get solid state storage too, and applications in EPROM launched instantly too.

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Anonymous Coward

Swapping floppies?

That doesn't match my experience. The system needed to boot took some 10kB (out of 400kB on the DSDD disk) on our kaypro. Booting up was lots faster than a modern day windows system. Though writing the current work took longer; spinning up floppy disks takes a while. And swapping floppies auto-set the r/o flag. I've lost work to that quirk, yes. But turn off the (already quiet) keyboard beep and enjoy utterly silent code writing in the middle of the night. Good times.

But the point stands: There's really no reason why we wait for machines booting up. Sub-second linux booting has been demonstrated. My irex bookreader takes well over a minute to boot their linux, though; probably one reason why they failed. Not to forget the old RISCOS, small enough to sit on flash-rom, lightning quick to boot. Flash for a boot drive is pretty nice, but it's still needlessly sloppy and slow software. Me, I use a free unix and while it certainly could boot faster (booting off usb, meaning in 1.0 mode, is a bit of a bottleneck), I tend to not turn it off, for it doesn't need rebooting.

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Pint

I Have Lighting Fixtures That...

...take longer to start up.

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rubbish article

Look, here's a £100K car, it goes much faster than that £20K car. Let's write an article about how everyone MUST buy a £100K car.

Is that it. Yawn.

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Unhappy

and the style of prose was rather purple of hue.

And I can bet that MS et.al. wlll manage to cram enough bloat into the next few versions to bring even a ram-disk back down to tape-drive speeds, once flash-boot-drives are common (MacOS and Linux are certainly an improvement, but I wouldn't quite let them off the tubby-list either).

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The 100K car is still hobbled by the 20mph speed limit. And loses some of its trimmings trying to get over a speed bump / sleeping policeman. The article's point about speed is anyway trite.

What I fell over was "Flash storage in notebooks and desktops basically pretends to be disk. It isn't. It's non-volatile for a start." That's certainly the first time I've heard a HD called volatile -- normally that's RAM and other stuff that loses its contents after powering down. Or I completely miss the point.

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Anonymous Coward

Well, he's right. Not his problem thatnot everyone can afford one.

Small flaw in your analogy: there are no speed limits on hard disks, so you'd be able to max the expensive car..

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You can max out the expensive car.

However, you can only carry yourself and 1 item of hand-luggage.

Your family etc. and your possessions must travel in a large van behind.

Also, your expensive car stops working if you use the vehicle controls 100,000 times.

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Thumb Down

Where's the "Rate this atticle" button

when we need one ?

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Yeah my new PC (1 year old now) came with a 60GB SSD and on that of course I just store the OS and various programs while the 1 TB drive holds all the games and such.

My PC boots from off to usable in 20 seconds or so and that includes lots of programs which launch on Startup.

A SSD OS is one of the most obvious and measurable upgrades you can make to a PC.

Sleep to active again: 5 seconds including the password screen.

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Silver badge
Linux

Oh, right.

I haven't used Windows in years so I'll have to take your word for it that PCs loaded with Microsoft's finest are slow and full of bloat.

As Andrew Baines has said once the price of SSD comes down to within touching distance of a HDD then I'll think about jumping ship, until then I'll just have to put up with my Linux boxes booting in about 30 seconds or so.

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Silver badge

Microsoft grrrrrrrr

Actually it's a software problem, not hardware at all. I have an 8-core PC with 6GB of RAM, an SSD for my C partition and two Velociraptors for my data and other stuff. Yet it still sometimes responds like a slug swimming through a sea of frozen treacle. And other times it just goes out to lunch for up to 10-20 seconds.

To be honest, the response time I get is no faster than I got from my (vastly less powerful) VAXstation in 1990. And the funny thing is that, whereas VMS was designed as a general purpose operating system, Windows is supposed to be heavily user-oriented.

Here's an interesting question. Given 8 cores, and far more RAM than it will ever need, how come Windows seems incapable of prioritising my needs first? Surely it could dedicate one or two cores to making sure that keyboard and mouse interrupts are serviced and the resulting routines executed immediately, while everything else cruises on in the background? (Indeed, that could be done even with a single core). Yet it sometimes seems that Windows puts the user last - way behind, for instance, the important system routines that are analyzing the performance logs to find out if performance is inadequate and, if so, why.

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Thumb Down

You're not seeing a Windows problem, you're seeing a driver problem. Some driver's got stuff tied up, and there's nothing Windows can do about it. Update your drivers, hopefully that'll fix it.

As to the article's claim that working on flash-based systems eliminates the need to constantly save your work, that's complete and utter rubbish. There's still a difference between volatile RAM and nonvolatile FLASH, and if your software (yes, software, not OS) wrote your work to nonvolatile storage every time you typed a character, you'd use up your available write cycles startlingly fast. Ironically, spinning disk would be just fine with this.

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Silver badge

"the important system routines that are analyzing..........."

That had a certain 'Hitchhikers" feel to it.

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"Flash storage in notebooks and desktops basically pretends to be disk. It isn't. It's non-volatile for a start."

So is disk - that's rather the point.

"There is no need to constantly save Word documents or spreadsheets to disk because they're not being written to a platter revolving 250 times a second; "

No indeed they're not - they're being saved constantly from volatile DRAM to NVRAM in the solid state disk (at least if you want any protection).

"they're stored in non-volatile silicon and clever operating system software can save every change you make."

Exactly - it's not magic. To protect your incremental changes something _has_ to be placed in non-volatile storage. All you've done is swap comparatively slow platter-based magnetic storage for faster solid state storage.

The details of how the various operating systems buffer, cache or otherwise manipulate the changes is another (quite interesting, if you like that sort of thing) matter - but hardly germane to the inference that you've suddenly done away with having to transfer data from volatile to non-volatile storage.

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Glad I wasn't the only one to spot this bizarre assertion. I assumed I was going mad and had missed some fundamental point, but evidently not.

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JDX
Gold badge

Bleh

Did they let the work experience kid write something or is El Reg publishing reader letters now?

And when was this true: "Once upon a time in a galaxy far away, PCs started up instantly: lean operating systems leapt from chips in machines that were not saddled with obese software and weighed down with bloatware."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bleh

"And when was this true: "Once upon a time in a galaxy far away, PCs started up instantly: lean operating systems leapt from chips in machines that were not saddled with obese software and weighed down with bloatware.""

Before you were born, maybe? I suppose you have to classify 1980s microcomputers as "PCs" which doesn't exactly sit well with the introduction of the term - meaning something very tightly connected to IBM - but they were still personal computers.

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Anonymous Coward

SSD

I've just changed to an SSD for my boot disk (60 gig SATA3) Its a full SATA 3 motherboard too and the difference in application load times is quite startling. Firefox for example took maybe 10 seconds to load before and is now instant. Same for all the other apps so it is a worthwhile upgrade apart from the one big drawback and that is price. Just compare £80 for 60 gig as opposed to <£40 for a 1 Terabyte WD Green disk. (Before the Thai floods of course).

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Sure, I'll run out and buy a load now!

Lets see, I need around 10TB for the server array and 500GB x 150 for the desktops.

...

Oh.

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Chris Mellor, meet reality

"There is no need to constantly save Word documents or spreadsheets to disk because they're not being written to a platter revolving 250 times a second; they're stored in non-volatile silicon and clever operating system software can save every change you make."

There's a need to constantly save documents because PROGRAMS CRASH!

And then there's "can save every change you make". Well yes, in theory every keystroke could be instantly saved to the SSD. An SSD has a finite number of write operations on each cell. Any guesses on what writing a new copy of the file every character, or even every word, is going to do to the SSD? If it lasts a year I'd be pretty damn surprised.

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Windows

Well, maybe on Windows ....

Have a look at Apple's OSX Lion. YOU don't need to save to disk, that's done automatically. You can save "versions" of a document that you can revert to after thoroughly screwing everything up yourself.

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Stop

True...

... but it's fundamentally an extension of their earlier "Time Machine" backup technology under the hood. Think of it as having a built-in, OS-level, Git-style versioning system sitting on top of the filesystem. It's nice, but it can take some getting used to.

I agree with other commenters here that the original article is a rambling, incoherent mess. Yes, SSDs are fast—I just replaced my laptop's crappy old 5400 rpm hard disk with a Crucial 512GB model and the speed difference is in the "Holy f*cking SH*T!" category. But these drives have been stuck at the same price:GB ratio for some time now, with little sign of imminent improvement. (Incidentally, it's a little cheaper to buy these from the US if you're an EU citizen.)

However, the article's author clearly doesn't understand why computers save to non-volatile backing storage: it's because volatile DDR-type RAM is still quite a bit faster than the tastest flash RAM, but also highly volatile, so computers use the former as a temporary workbench before storing the results on a non-volatile backing store.

As for fast startup times: yes, those early IBM PCs, ZX Spectrums, BBC Micros, Atari STs, Commodore Amigas and Acorn Archimedes started up very quickly, but a lot of that is because they had almost f*ck all in the way of RAM. On my old ZX Spectrum 128K, even the slowest of third party floppy drives loaded files near-instantaneously compared to the more common backing storage known as "cassette tape"! In the US, floppy drives became cheaper and more widespread much more quickly than overseas, so most Brits had to suffer with cassettes instead, where loading a 32KB game file could easily take 3-5 _minutes_.

Once you got computers like the Atari STFM and Commodore A500, hard drives began to make more sense (although the latter reserved so much damned RAM for its filesystem, it effectively required a memory upgrade to use one). Even so, I could load a game off a floppy in about 30 seconds. Not instant, but, compared to those earlier 8-bit computers and their cassette-based storage, still pretty damned fast. And boot-up on my Atari STFM never went above 10 seconds, when booting off a floppy. (It was actually slower if you had to boot solely from ROM as it kept trying to find disks to boot from first, before eventually giving up after about 30 seconds.)

On the IBM PCs of the '80s and early '90s, boot times off hard disks were pretty quick. Even Windows 95 loaded up pretty fast. The reason? PCs of the day still had RAM measured in a handful of megabytes—until around 1995, 4MB was perfectly normal for an IBM PC running Windows 3.11 or Windows 95. And that takes seconds to fill even using the hard drives of the day. It's only now that we have RAM measured in gigabytes that the hard drive has reached its limits: the fastest HDDs today will only transfer data at about 60MB/sec or so—and are usually noticeably slower at writing than reading.

But, when the market demands computers that can be used for producing music, editing and grading videos, rendering 3D animations, and playing games with what would have been cinema-grade CGI in the 1990s, that increasing RAM is unavoidable. It's just that hard drives have never been able to keep up.

Whether flash storage will remain a discrete medium like mechanical hard disks, or become more tightly integrated with the computer's working RAM is open to debate. We're already seeing an integrated design approach in smartphones and tablets, with users no longer having to even think about concepts of "saving" documents—Apple's iOS lacks the concept of "saving" entirely. (OS X Lion's similar interface changes are clearly part of a longer transition; OS X 10.8 should be interesting.)

One argument in this thread I do disagree with is using mechanical drives in a compromised setup with a small SSD "boot" drive, which feels like a false economy to me. Once you've worked with an all-SSD system, you'll never want to use applications like Aperture or Final Cut Pro with media stored on a mechanical drive ever again. It's those media files that really benefit the most from the speed, not the application's source code.

SSDs _are_ the future, and I doubt anyone seriously disagrees with that. It's certainly likely they'll get a lot cheaper over time, but they're still an expensive option for most. The rise of cloud storage could help increase the adoption rate as smaller drives make sense in that context. (This is the design rationale for Apple's MacBook Air range, for example.)

But many power users will need drives in the 515GB - 2TB range, and there really isn't anything suitable, or affordable. Yet.

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Flame

Saving

The save button isn't just there purely because of untrustworthy hard-drives, it's there because of untrustworthy operators too. Who hasn't worked on something and then decided further down the line that it's junk and easier to restart from the last save than push on.

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Silver badge
Meh

The author of the article apparently!

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flash is great, yes we know that, but it is just a succeptable to damage as spinning media, often with worse results... i just had one of my SSD machines loose power, the end result - toasted SSD - no boot, nothing showing in the bios, totally corrupted... much the same a pulling a USB flash drive mid write...

And I am a flash fanboi - having used SSD's since the slow, low capacity drives in my UX1-NX

oh and as for apple fanaticisim, the 6 seconds it takes my bloaty Win7 Dell laptop to recover from sleep is a price im willing to pay for having 500gb of hybrid storage..........

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Go

@SJ - Corporate Win7...

My latest work laptop came with a 256GB SSD - now that my job doesn't involve having to run 8 different VMs on one PC that's LOADS of space - and it boots and resumes like magic (well, at least as fast as the DR DOS 5 based 386 SX-25 I had in 1994!)

Dell 6420, i7, 8GB RAM. no idea what it cost mind...

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Silver badge

Indeed.

I must go out and replace my hard disc immediately.

Oh, wait. I don't save my documents every ten minutes because the disc drive is slow or unreliable. I save them because it *is* reliable and I've reached a point in my work I'd like to save, and I reckon I can take a breath for the space of typing a few characters. A disc susbsytem moving data in excess of 20MB a second isn't going to produce a noticeable delay on anything other than large audio or video files - hundreds of megs. I'd hazard a guess that most of the delay on save is the serialisation from the user program.

And as Andrew said - a TB for forty quid sounds a good deal. I'll have one. But not until then.

p.s. what's this 'windows boot' of which you speak?

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Silver badge

This article is so pointless, even by tabloid standards.

The OS is irrelevant. Our magnetic media iMacs and Macbooks are no better than our similarly equipped PCs, and our SSD PCs are no worse than our SSD equipped Macs.

Are you perchance regretting the money you spent on your toy?

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Unhappy

Train Crash

So what happens when your computer inexplicably dies and you can't get to all your data on the deeply embedded flash chips?

Eggs & baskets anyone?

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