Sunday, October 20, 2013

New disk for an old eee-pc

Our trusty eee-pc 901 was getting slower and slower. The 16G SSD in it was not very fast to begin with, but has definitely become slower over time. To keep the otherwise nice laptop running for a few more years, I decided to upgrade the SSD. The drive I ended up buying a 64G Super Talent FPM64GLSE. RunCore disks have a reputation for being faster, but they were also more expensive and hard to obtain. The eee-pc requires a PCI-E disk. There are also newer mSata disks available. These use a physically similar connector as PCI-E, but are not compatible.

A quick test of the Super Talent with iozone yielded the following results, in KB/s. The same settings were the same as when measuring SD card performance on the raspberry Pi earlier,
./iozone -e -I -a -s 50M -r 4k -r 512k -r 16M -i 0 -i 1 -i 2

                                   random random
reclen write rewrite   read reread   read  write
     4 17258   20110  12626  12623  12528   1457
   512 74590   41339 127710 127909 121887  74354
 16384 40403   75312 129705 129748 130483  40077

As with SD cards, the speeds that the manufacturers specify is the rate of sequential reading or writing of large contiguous blocks (Reading max 150 MB/s, writing max 100 MB/s is what they specify). Randomly writing small blocks of data is a much slower. Still, I am pleased with this result. Also in practice the upgrade had a large effect, the laptop feels much more responsive.

An annoyance with this drive is that it is configured as a slave. When booting the eee, it complains that no master disk is present and demands to press F1. When F1 is pressed, the boot proceeds normally, the unnecessary message just prevents the machine from booting unsupervised.

I installed Linux Mint Debian Edition on the new drive. I had Ubuntu 11.10 before, which started to show its age. I decided not to upgrade it, after experiencing Ubuntu 12.04 on another machine - I felt that the upgrade to 12.04 broke the user interface.

I am happy with Linux Mint. However, I came across a couple of problems during the installation. One that looked serious was that GParted reported errors about a recursive partition on the newly installed disk. I could not get rid of this message but decided to continue the installation anyway, and it turned out fine. To reduce the disk writes and the wear, I added noatime to the mount options for the disk in /etc/fstab.
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