A big (vendor-neutral) thing Larry points out is that just because you have a Terabyte drive in your computer now doesn't mean you need a Terabyte SSD, which can easily cost $500. Rather, he says, all you need is a large enough SSD to contain your OS and software and whatever data you're working with at the moment, so you might be able to get by with a 120 GB SSD that costs well under $100. Clone your current main drive, stick in the new SSD, and if your need more storage, get another hard drive (or use your old one). Simple. Efficient. And a lot cheaper than buying a new computer, whether we're talking about home, business or even enterprise use. (Alternate video link.)
Robin:I am Robin Miller from Slashdot. This is Larry O’Connor from Other World Computing and we are talking about why you don’t need to buy a new computer, something I harp on sometimes. Larry, what can we do to make the computers we already own faster?
Larry:You’ve already upgraded the memory which is really the easiest upgrade you can do but also something that a very small portion of actual system owners ever do statistically. The SSD is the next big step—replacing a platter based drive with a solid state drive. It can make an unbelievable difference even to a system that is as much as a decade old.
Robin:Okay. How much does an SSD cost?
Larry:Today, a solid state drive starts at only fifty bucks.
Larry:Yes siree.When you especially take a look at a system that is six or seven years old, that is doing everything you need it to do, there is always a point where you want something newer, and as you get past a few years old, you may not be able to run the latest OS and maybe the application, but you have everything you already need, want and wish to have. I mean, there is every benefit even in a system that is again, a decade plus old, taking out that platter drive and dropping an SSD inside, so you kick it up, it can really be quite impressive.
Robin:Looking off at the side, there is this funny 08 MacBook Pro I have, now it has got the latest operating system in it, and as I said, the video works—we are doing it now—I have the latest video software, so I can, well, video SSD should I, I also have a full bunch of external hard drives. I assume that SSD would be pretty small, wouldn’t it, at fifty bucks?
Larry:In terms of capacity or?
Larry:Really, the SSD is best served for active work, I mean things that are actively going on. You don’t need a giant SSD beyond quite frankly what you need for your daily processing. As long as you can offload platter drives you are plenty fast for completed data. It is when you are actually working on a project, when you are actually creating new content and we are getting – the OS, I mean things that are happening actively where drive idled is a huge bottleneck with that SSD is just night and day.Even when you have things that need more memory than you have, an SSD can make everything faster just by the nature of that high speed IO.
Robin:And then a little polish to shine it up and we are good to go? And you just saved me a thousand dollars, thank you.
Larry:Fantastic. Now let us say, if you are looking at something, actually even a 2006 MacBook, the very first MacBook that Apple shipped now eight years ago, can be with an SSD can actually boot faster and feel faster for a lot of common day applications than something that is brand new with a hard drive today. We have long been IO bound versus truly processor bound.There are things where a new GPU do make a big difference. There is no argument that things have gotten faster in other spaces. The problem when you think your computer is down, if you have not put an SSD in there and certainly if you haven’t upgraded the memory to the max, the best the system can support, you have no idea of what’s sitting in front of you.If you think you need an upgrade or need something faster and you have not taken advantage of what’s in front of you, you can save a whole heck of a lot and probably be happy for six months, twelve months or even longer with a relatively low investment in that current system.And the best part, I am sorry to be long winded about this but
Robin:It is okay.
Larry:It just gets better and better to me.In addition to being happy with what you already have, and saving all that cash upfront versus buying something new. When it is time to buy something new, because you just bought that time, whatever you buy is probably going to be faster and even cheaper than what you would have bought today new and you would be happier yet. Plus you are going to know what an SSD does. Make sure whatever you are buying new has got that SSD inside.
Robin:Let’s stop talking about personal stuff; commercial, the last one I was talking to before you is a sysadmin who runs a pretty huge data farm, data center outside of Chicago. And I knew that the computers that were put in that is a whole rack of Dell midline one use servers, about 2007 originally, something like that. What is a disk I’d be looking at?
Larry:You know, in an enterprise space, in data farming, there are other considerations with age, because the systems run a bigger load, there are higher probabilities of failure, so in an enterprise space, upgrading versus replacing, it has a whole other set of financial ramifications. That being said, depending upon the nature of what they are doing, a simple upgrade to the boot, I mean just the boot time, I mean what the system operates and pages to and what it logs to can make a night and day difference.Anytime you can remove an IO bottleneck We see sys a lot of the stuff that goes in today, and obviously this is not always the case, but the majority of the work is IO the processors spend there is always, again I don’t want to say this is absolutely 100 percent but processors spend a lot of their lives being barely utilized compared to other bottlenecks in the system, or the IO is such where the processors just kind of sit there, almost idle, and there is plenty of capability in the processor and it’s everything else has to wait.
Robin:I suspected this. And also something else I want your opinion on—we’ve been for a long time, Moore’s Law, every 18 months everything got twice as faster and wonderfuller and all of that. But for the last couple of years, now I mean I track this stuff fairly well, I write about it, and I look at it and say, “Wow! actual net usage, this new thingy in 2014, isn’t really going to do me any good or any better than the 2011 one”, because the software—what is the biggest software change, Windows 8? Oh please, oh please, I went through Windows 8 and then I upgraded to Windows 7 again. And I am not alone.So nothing has changed.
Larry:I think that has really happened is because there is so much processor power available over the last, really the last decade, and software has become less efficient and more bloated. And that goes right back to, there is so much processor capability available versus the IO capability, so now like I said you drop an SSD, since the bottleneck has long been not so much processor based but other bottlenecks, and we will put the GPU off to the side,and the graphic side and push that into its own quadrant, but for most things, that’s why again you can take a computer from seven or eight years ago, easily drop an SSD inside because those are SADIS systems and everything is SADIS supported, SSDs are SADIS today, they are backwards compatible, there is no adapters, there is no real trick here, there is nothing complicated to making one of these latest and greatest drives to drop into those systems, that’s where you can take a system, drop in the SSD, and you have memory limitation, and you have other limitations, but suddenly that system is transformed.
And to your point, really more to your point, in the Apple space, the new Mac Pro 2013 just came out, it is a fantastic machine it is loaded with GPU capability, but with a couple of simple upgrades, the Mac Pro from 2009 with Nehalem processors actually can beat the base and even may be a little bit up from base on a new Mac Pro for a fraction of that new Mac Pro cost. And that is just a video card upgrade, and an SSD, and of course memory equivalent to the new sys, but you put a 128 gigs into the 2009 Mac Pro, you can put a 128 gigs, actually just as of very recently because Apple ran64 gigs.
But we are not talking about us right now, the bottom line is you can put the memory you need in a system from four or five years ago, no problem. And with a simple SSD and a GPU upgrade, it actually for PhotoShop beats the new Mac Pro with certain functions and other functions, we are talking fractions of a second behind as opposed to when a machine that is stocked with a hard drive and with this original video card, a new Mac Pro today would be five, six, or seven times faster. But it is not that the processor architecture has suddenly evolved, like you said, Moore’s Law and just amazingly new frontiers have been conquered here. There are other bottlenecks to the new 2013, it has an SSD built into it, and it has the GPUs, but they built a fantastic machine five years ago.And with very little effort, that machine is still amazingly fantastic today.
Robin:And I noticed something else. For the longest time, I run Linux for everything except video editing. And for a long time, Linux desktops have gotten heavier and more bloated, and yet the latest ones and the basic X desktops which I am running now—they are faster, they are easier. You just take it and you run your latest Linux Mint, whatever and you stick it into the computer and you say, “Oh my goodness! It is much faster than it was with this three-year-old one—amazing! So is there a reason other than reliability? I mean like this keyboard it needs to be replaced, I have worn off the letters, but other than pure physical breakdowns, and the power supplies are getting old, that sort of thing.Why would we buy a new computer?
Larry:The only gating factors in terms of upgrading versus new come down to systems where the GPU is not upgradable. I mean if there is a GPU limitation, when you need a faster GPU that is not available as an upgrade, or maybe its memory. There is a lot to be gained by having more memory, but otherwise, these systems are certainly solid, and by and large, I can speak for the Mac side, I have less experience on the PC side, I would strongly argue that systems built, the older systems I think of all brands I think are built better than most by and large, there is exceptions, but there is a consistency, but I would say that stuff has been around is number one, has proven most failures happen sooner than later after use and by and large, these things are built to last. They are amazingly built to last, so there is very little reason.
Again, if it is already working for you, unless you have an absolute software requirement that has to have newer hardware and it just will not run on what you’ve got, there is no reason whatsoever, in my opinion, not to go down the upgrade space, as long as it is possible to upgrade, very few systems limit you in that way, just drop in a drive, add in memory, are very easy things but a huge reward.
Robin:So even I computed less time, I bought a computer I was desperate, it was because my one good big desktop broke, and I had added some videos that day, so I went up to Tiger Direct because they are local to me in Florida. And I went up there, and I bought an HP for 400 bucks. I handed out a piece of plastic, they hand me the computer and I was back home, and in action in 45 minutes. And then later I spent a couple of hours cursing and pulling out the bloatware of course. You know how that goes, you save that one you don’t buy a new computer, but if I’d had a little more time, I could have looked at craigslist or eBay for used stuff, couldn’t I? And then upgraded it to need?
Larry:I agree a 100 percent. In truth, we see more second hand owners that do things with their systems than the initial, I mean, a lot of buyers, they buy the system however it comes, it’s how it goes I mean, we’ve seen Mac Pros, I mean lots of Mac Pros that come off corporate leases, it’s like they spent all this money to get Mac Pro and it is still a base with the base memory and the base hard drive and the base, I mean they have this machine, they spent all that money to get all that potential and never did anything. It is shocking, be it a school, a business or individuals how little is done with that, and that’s why if you look at what Apple has done, I mean Apple recognized this, and it is an unfortunate recognition , but they’ve started soldering things that they used to have slots for.
Robin:So what you are saying, is they want to make it harder for us to do well?
Larry:It is not even that. I am not going to – the result is an affirmative to that, but they recognize that the vast majority of users, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. And most people in sales anybody selling computers doesn’t want to say about you can upgrade it to make it better; they want to sell you a new computer.
Robin:Really? The guys at Tiger are pretty good hobbyist guys, they say oh and this thing has 84 slots, you can upgrade it, that’s actually how they sell it, but those are like the commercial people and hobbyists, the average guy who walks in that store, and I don’t know, a Fry’s store in Northern California probably does ask of users how many USB ports has this sucker got?
Larry:Sure. But I mean that is still the minority. And the other side, the claim there is, it is easy to sell a system on a feature that it is upgradable but then you come back in and it’s like, well you know, you are going to spend $200 to upgrade this and for $400 we can sell you this. Again, it is to their most benefit – and a lot ask the other thing, when it is not you that is doing the, I am not sure, when you are talking to somebody for advice, I mean I have been involved in upgrading systems for ever, and one of the biggest arguments for us was why would you want to upgrade that? I mean for not that much more you can just get a brand new and it is going to have – right, it is always going to be all this much better.
Number one, you do have a savings upgrading. Number two, the other big saving is guess what, my system works just fine right now, I’ve got the software the way I want, I can get everything working the way I want it, whether it is driving a processor upgrade, putting in some more memory, or putting in a solid state drive, I can transfer what I have in the case of a drive upgrade to the new drive and it is all, everything looks good.I buy a new system, I got to transfer my data, and then I have to sell the used one. It sounds great in theory, but you end up, it is not just a $200 difference to upgrade, there are other costs involved, and some of the costs, especially in newer systems, in fact you can’t even run some of the software you may already have on your current hardware.
It means you need to buy an upgrade for it, because the newest hardware will only run the new OS and the new OS or the software you want to run only works with the X version and later in that new OS. Now they are reaching into your pocket for something else.
Robin:If anybody from Apple or HP or Dell or Lenovo is watching this and listening to us, should we be worried about assassinations?
Larry:Absolutely positive now. At the corner of their heart, they want to see every user happy and getting the most from their technology and what they do in it, and by and large, not always but a lot of what they do is really geared to how they see people using their products. So I can’t fault any of these guys too much for some of the things that they do.
Robin:I am going with that. Of course, watching this and listening to this, we’ve put some thoughts into, I don’t care where they are buying it, or they are already buying from Other Word, they buy it from New Egg, they are buying it from monoprice, the end result is by looking carefully and just having this thought—whether it is commercial or personal—so people can save and will save if they listen to what you just said, so people are going to save a lot of money, aren’t they?
Larry:Absolutely. To the benefit of all of these brands, they end up with greater satisfaction because they are seeing what that system can do, now they are happy with their brand, and honestly I think they are more likely to feel good when it is time to buy an upgrade. When you feel you are forced, because this thing is not fast enough, I need something better, I am not satisfied, maybe you won’t even buy the same brand again.
So this is an opportunity to get more from that existing hardware, have a better experience with it, and well move on happy, and you are going to the bottom line is you are going to buy another system at some point, it is certainly better that you get the most you can and to be happy with whichever brand, product etc., because they all want that.