Posts Tagged ‘Intel’

RAM Disk vs SSD vs Hard Disk – The Photoshop Test

A few weeks ago I posted the Macintosh version of ‘rdmanage’, my super-simple Unix RAM disk creation tool, as well as stacking the volatile disks up against fixed hard drives in a Linux I/O benchmark shootout. One thing which has always bothered me about synthetic benchmarking, however, is how far removed it is from most real-life computing contexts.

In order to realistically demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of the three main types of disk – RAM drive, hard drive and solid state – I’ve prepared a short video of a basic Photoshop loading test, embedded after the break.

I’m a huge fan of solid state disks (the X25-M is one of my all time favourite pieces of computer hardware), but due to their high price and limited capacity they aren’t a complete no-brainer just yet. Using something like ‘rdmanage’ to easily create RAM disks, users of machines with hard disk drives can get a serious boost in application load time (as demonstrated in this Photoshop loading test) without having to spend a dime extra on hardware. The SSD is still the winner in my book, but if you can spare a couple of hundred meg of RAM you can get some of the perks with zero additional cost.

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RAM Disk vs Hard Disk

A couple of days ago I posted a small program that I created to facilitate easy creation and management of RAM disks on a Linux system. At the time, I missed a prime opportunity to do some benchmarking:

Using a RAM disk, you gain a working folder with speed way far in excess of any hard disk or even solid state drive

Just how ‘way far in excess’ is the speed of a RAM disk than a traditional hard drive? Way far indeed, and here comes the proof:

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Welcome to Lumpy Gravy


Welcome to Lumpy Gravy indeed. The site appears no different today than yesterday, but behind the scenes it’s a whole different story.

After 6+ months of good service, Uncle Meat, the HP DL380 which has hosted this site since October of 2010, has been replaced. Running a system which was designed to (and formerly did) occupy a corporate datacenter in your home sadly proved impossibly noisy, and Uncle Meat was moved to the garden shed shortly after coming online.

This was actually a pretty decent (if hacky) solution – the shed was freezing cold all winter and noone went outside because of the unfriendly weather. However, things in Sussex have taken a turn for the lovely, and with temperatures outside approaching 30 degrees, Uncle Meat has met a couple of issues which have precluded its continued employment.

This DL380 sports a pair of 2.80GHz Xeons, which are great for number crunching but, because of their NetBurst architecture, kick out a phenomenal amount of heat. Because of this, running 24/7 in 30 degree plus heat (even with the window open) is not the most reliable environment, and a far cry from the air conditioned datacenter it formerly called home. The noise of the cooling array is what evicted it from the house originally, and with more time being spent in the garden it’s no longer an okay place for Uncle Meat to be.

It’s been great fun learning the ropes on this machine, but life must continue and this site now has a newer, quieter and faster home – introducing Lumpy Gravy.

Lumpy Gravy is a decent step up in specification despite coming into existence on a shoestring budget, and it’s been designed with practicality in mind from the outset. Specs are as follows:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.40GHz, 4MB L2)
  • ASUS P5KPL-AM
  • 2GB Corsair XMS2 DDR2
  • 500GB Western Digital Caviar Green HDD
  • Ubuntu 10.10 64-bit

The Core 2 CPU is a decent amount quicker than the pair of Xeons it replaces, and has much better energy saving features. It’s running at a cool 30 degrees using only the stock Intel cooler, spinning at just 850rpm (= quiet!).

Even though this is definitely a system on a budget, I went for decent quality RAM – Corsair XMS is designed for overclockers and both DIMMs have heatsinks on either side. Because I’m not overclocking, this should be a really stable solution (it’s always very reassuring to be working with components well within their tolerances). I’ve been building with ASUS boards since the late 90s and they’ve never given me any reason to change allegiance. This one has really nice square VRMs which are designed to fit perfectly with the outer fins of the CPU cooler – a neat touch which helps with heat dissipation and should keep this rig stable. It’s running a G31 chipset, with a minimal 8MB RAM shared with the integrated GMA 3100.

Western Digital is another brand I’ve used almost exclusively for over a decade now, and their current range of Caviar drives is very well thought out, providing clear options depending on the system builder’s priorities. In this case, my priorities were minimal power consumption, quiet operation and long term reliability. The Caviar Green was the obvious choice for me – it spins at 5400RPM (quieter, longer life) but has 32MB of cache memory, ideal for a web server.

I’ve also taken this opportunity to upgrade Ubuntu to the latest and greatest – 10.10 in 64-bit. Yes, I’m only running 2GB RAM, but this gives the opportunity to upgrade past 4GB in the future, as well as the (occasionally noticeable) performance benefits of running 64-bit software.

So that’s Lumpy Gravy, the new home of zebpedersen.co.uk and my associated ‘cloudy’ bits and pieces. I’m currently working on a handy guide for anyone porting a WordPress site from one machine to another, and there’s some exciting new configurations I’m working on with Apache 2 which will be written about shortly as well.