Time to Upgrade Your Hard Drive?

Two storage technologies compete in the hard drive market; one dates back to 1956, the other became widely available to consumers less than a decade ago. As you might expect, the latter is vastly superior in performance. Today, the price difference between them is still significant but narrowing rapidly. Let’s take a look at the venerable Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and its blazing-fast successor, the Solid State Disk (SSD)…

SSD vs. HDD: Battle for the Bits

Open the shiny steel case of a conventional HDD and you will find anostalgic array of parts that strongly resemble a vinyl record turntable. There are stacked platters of rigid substrate coated with magnetic particles; the magnetic state of each tiny spot on these disks determines whether it is recognized as a 1 or 0 for data processing purposes.

There is also an armature that moves back and forth across the disk, and at its tip is a sensor called a read-write head, analogous to the needle in a phonograph’s armature. There is an armature for each stacked disk, giving the overall armature the appearance of a comb.

The phonograph’s needle reads the tiny back-and-forth jiggles of a groove cut into a vinyl record to reproduce the sounds that made groove. As it flies over the surface of the spinning disk, the HDD’s read-write head can both read the magnetic state of spots on the disk and change that state to write data to them.

Spinning vinyl records topped out at 78 rpm. The disks in a HDD spin at 5,400 to 7,200 rpm typically; some high-performance HDDs may reach 10,000 rpm. This rotation speed largely determines how fast data can be read and written on the HDD. How much data can be stored on a standard-sized HDD is called its “data density” and is largely a function of the read-write head’s precision plus the speed at which the disk spins.

Electric motors drive all the moving parts of a HDD. The bearings in those motors are the HDD’s Achilles heel, the typical point of failure. When your HDD starts making rumbling noises it’s a sign that its bearings are starting to wear out; when the sound changes to “grinding” disaster is imminent and you had better have a current backup of your data.

It’s All About the Donuts

By contrast a solid-state drive (SSD) contains no moving parts. Instead, it is filled with flash memory, the same stuff found in USB flash drives. Think of flash memory as a densely-woven 3-D fabric of crisscrossing wires. At the junction of two wires, electrical current can change the state of a tiny donut-shaped bit of metal; these metal donuts (also called gates) are arranged in a 3-D array.

The electrical state of a gate determines whether it is counted as a 1 or 0. (Each gate can have other states as well, which increases potential data density.) The state of a gate is retained even when electricity is turned off.

Electrons move at nearly the speed of light, so flipping a gate’s state is nearly instantaneous. So is reading the state of any gate given its x-y-z coordinates in the array. So an SSD is silent and supremely fast.

The silence is a blessing and a drawback; there is no early-warning rumbling to let you know your SSD will soon fail. On the other hand, an SSD is nearly immune to damage by dropping or jostling, whereas such shocks can knock the read-write head of an HDD into a magnetic disk to scratch and destroy it. An SSD does not suffer mechanical wear due to friction, so it should last much longer than an HDD.

A Windows 10 PC with an HDD may take tens of seconds to boot up. The same machine equipped with an SSD will boot in the blink of an eye. Additionally, applications that read and write large quantities of data on mass storage work much faster with an SSD than with an HDD. Such applications include gaming, video editing, working with large databases or spreadsheets, and more. But every app that uses mass storage benefits from an SSD. That time saving alone is enough to justify the extra cost of an SSD in many people’s minds.

SSDs come in the same form factors as HDDs, including standard SATA interfaces, so they can be plug-and-play replacements for HDDs. SSDs come in other form factors too: SD cards, memory sticks, and more. Solid state memory is a versatile medium.

Storage Prices Continue to Drop

Price per gigabyte is one way to measure the value of mass storage, the HDD still reigns supreme. Back in 1981 when the IBM PC debuted, HDD prices were in the range of $300,000 per gigabyte. In 1995, when the Web was young, prices had dropped to $750 per gigabyte. Today, you can buy HDD storage for about three cents per gig. By contrast, SSDs cost about 10 times more per gigabyte.

Gartner Research predicts HDD storage will cost as little as $0.001 (one-tenth of a cent!) per gigabyte in 2021. Will SSD prices continue to drop at the same rate? Time will tell.

Capacities of HDD and SSD drives will continue to grow as greater data density becomes feasible. I can’t imagine needing 15 TB of storage but those who do will be able to get it in SSD or HDD, according to Gartner.

SSD drives do wear out. There is a limit to the number of times the state of one of those “donuts” can be flipped before it simply stops working. Circuitry within an SSD keeps track of the number of times every donut has been flipped, and retires those that are too near their expected life’s end. Over time, less space is available on an SSD due to these retirements. But in practical terms, your computer will probably be obsolete before that happens.

HDDs will always have a place in data processing, the place where low cost per gigabyte is most important. When it comes to performance, shock-resistance, and overall longevity, the future seems to belong to SSD.

When I bought my Dell Alienware computer about a year ago, I ordered a 1TB SSD drive to accommodate (main drive) 3TB hard drive that shipped with it. The Samsung SSD came with software called Samsung Data Migration, which made it super-easy to transfer everything from my existing hard drive, and make the new SSD my primary C: drive. I run Second life firestorm viewer from the SDD and its screams at startup.

The result was pretty dramatic. Startup time was slashed, programs open quicker, and everything just works faster. At current prices and capacities, I would recommend a solid-state drive as an excellent investment for any PC or Mac owner.

Have you moved from HDD to SDD in your computer?

Have a great week

Zi Staff

Do I Get October Windows 10 Update Now Or Wait?

The October 2018 Windows 10 Update (to version 1809) is rolling out now. Should you grab it, wait for it, or dodge it as long as possible? Here’s what you need to know… Whats this have to do with your Second Life Experience? Well as I always point out if your machine is not running up to date then YOU WILL have issues with second life viewer!

Should You Postpone the October Windows 10 Update?

It seems like we return to this question about every six months. That’s because we do face two annual major updates to Windows 10. These major updates are different from the monthly Patch Tuesday bug fixes and security patches.

Major updates add features to an already complex piece of software. They also update the list of hardware platforms that Windows 10 will run on. You didn’t really think that 20-year-old PC sporting a Pentium-III processor was going to last forever, did you?

One thing that never changes is the price spectrum of hardware. For just under $500 you can have a machine that runs Windows, barely; it will be a serviceable but painfully slow ride. Between $501 and $1000 is the “respectable” neighborhood. $1001 to $2000 will get you envious looks. Anything over $2000 and you’re either a hardcore gamer or an Apple fan.

It’s funny how that works out every time, isn’t it? But no so much when you consider how closely Microsoft works with Intel, AMD, and the major PC OEMs.Another thing that never changes is the “early reports of problems when the latest update is installed.” Yes, twice a year the folks who get the major update earliest run an increased risk of data loss or system failure, the kind that only a full backup can repair. That leads to the question, “Should I grab the update now or wait until the bugs are ironed out?”

An article in ZDNet warns that some users have experienced the loss of documents, photos and music after being updated to Windows 10 version 1809. It also advises that you should abort the update if you get a warning about Intel drivers.

Microsoft is trying hard to make that choice for you, by rolling out the latest updates in stages that may span two or three months. At each stage, the company collects feedback and fixes bugs before rolling out the next stage. The most modern hardware gets the updates first, while older, more fragile systems get it last. So if you have an old machine that is compatible with the latest Windows version, your safest bet is to wait for the update to come to you via Windows Update.

What’s in the October Windows 10 Update?

If you see something in the list of new features that you just cannot wait a few weeks to have, you can get it now simply by running Windows Update and telling it to check for updates.

Hmmm, there’s the “Your Phone” app, which gives you “instant access to your Android’s most recent photos on your PC,” and the ability to tweak the settings for your “wireless projection experience.” They tossed in some security and registry editor improvements, and some stuff for business customers. Personally, I am not in dire need of any of the new features; they are “nice to have” but not “must have right now” features for me.

Some people do manual updates to control when Windows installs a major update. One’s system is always unusable for a significant amount of time during an update, and that drives some people crazy. Microsoft has made meaningful strides in reducing update downtime, cutting it by 31% versus the April update, the company says. But if you want the update now instead of when you are doing something important, then check for updates via Windows Update.

Even the automatic update is less likely to interrupt your work this time. Machine learning enables Windows to better recognize patterns in your use of your PC, and choose a time slot in which to update when it will be least intrusive.

Windows S and Windows Home edition users cannot postpone installation of feature updates. If you have the Pro or Enterprise edition, you can postpone such updates for up to six months by configuring the delay in Windows Update.

So those are your options. As for me, I intend to just let nature (and Windows) take their own courses. I’ve got multiple redundant backups, do you?

Have a great week

ZI Staff

Black Dragon Second Life Viewer Adds Full Animesh Support With Custom Animation Control – Great Tool For Machinima, Group Shots


Trouble Seeing Your Screen? Here’s Help

Aging eyesight afflicts everyone eventually, diminishing the pleasure and productivity of computing and gaming. Various adaptive technologies are available to compensate for loss of visual acuity. Some are built into Windows. But these options all have limitations, and using them in certain combinations can actually make it more difficult to make sense of what’s before your eyes. Read on for a look at Windows’ display settings and how to use them to best advantage.

Getting Windows Display Settings Right

Before trying to improve the display it’s best to reset it to default values so you know how the manufacturer intended things to look. Defaults also provide a baseline against which tweaks can be compared.

Open the “Change Display Settings” desktop app by right-clicking anywhere on the desktop and selecting “Display settings” from the drop down menu, or by typing “display” in the search box and double-clicking on the app in the results. On Windows 10, you will see a page like the one below. (For Windows 7 display settings, see below.)

Set the following items to the values indicated to restore your display to its defaults:

  • Brightness: 50 or as close as you can get it with the finicky slide control
  • Night Light: Off
  • Size of text, apps, and other…: 100%
  • Resolution: “recommended,” the highest your display supports
  • Orientation: Landscape

If any advanced display settings are in effect you will see a red notice to that effect. If you do, follow the instructions to disable them. You will be logged out and will need to sign in again to see the default settings take effect.

On a Windows 7 system, there are fewer controls. Click Start, enter “display settings” and then click the item “Change display settings”. Set your screen resolution to the highest your display supports, then click Apply. Next, click the “Make text and other items larger or smaller” link. Choose the “Smaller – 100%” option. Finally, click “Adjust ClearType text” and follow the instructions to get the sharpest-looking text on your display.

Some monitors have a physical menu button on the front, side or underneath, that lets you fine tune the brightness, hue, scaling, and other aspects of the display. If yours does, check those settings and set them to default values as well.

Moving Beyond Default Display Settings

Most likely, things will look smaller, crisper, and move faster. Using default display settings has a positive effect on overall system performance because few resources are diverted to accommodating custom display settings.

But default display settings may be hard on your unique eyesight. So now let’s see what we can tweak to make the screen easier to view and navigate.

One of my favorite tweaks is very easy. Hold down the Ctrl key while rolling the mouse wheel forward, away from you. All text in browsers, word processors, PDF readers, and other document display apps gets bigger! Reverse the wheel’s motion and everything gets smaller. A page’s left and right edges will expand or contract accordingly. This trick gives you pretty fine control over text size, and text size can be different from one window to another.

If you don’t have a mouse with a wheel, you can do the same thing by pressing Ctrl and the “+” or “-” keys. I prefer this method, because I can quickly return to the default magnification setting by pressing Ctrl and “0” (zero).

But you will notice that parts of the screen do not change size. Menu bars and other fixed objects that surround text remain the same size. In some apps, the window that confines text will not change size and enlarged text overflows the edges of the window, getting lost from sight.

More Tweaking the Windows Display Settings

To avoid this problem, return to the Windows 10 “Change Display Settings” app. (For Windows 7, use the “Make text and other items larger or smaller” option described above.) In the “Scale and Layout” section you will find the option to “Change the size of text, apps, and other items.” The dropdown menu allows settings of 100% of the default (recommended), 125%,and 150%. Play with those, logging out and back in after each change.

Notice that as you enlarge things they may no longer fit on your screen entirely. The bottom of the display settings page drops down out of sight beneath the edge of the screen. You will need to PgDn to see what you are missing, which may include important options for the app you are using.

The menu bars and text on them still remain at their tiny default sizes. In early versions of Windows 10, there was an “advanced sizing of text and other items” option that allowed you to change the size of the menu bars, text in title bars, icons and other fine tunings. That option was removed in the April 2017 Creators Update. I’ve read that if you start your computer in Safe Mode this option becomes available, and any changes you make will still be in effect when you exit Safe Mode. I’ve not tried that, so I can’t verify that it works.

The brightness and “night light” options on the display settings page change the hue of light, mostly by adding or removing some of the blue spectrum. A warmer, less-blue hue is often easier on the eyes and can help prepare your body for sleep, so try the “night light” toggle switch. Click on “Night light settings” to see how finely you can control the warmth of light.

Back up under “Scale and Layout” you see “Advanced scaling settings”. Toggle on the switch that promises to “Fix scaling for apps”. It can make text look less blurry when it’s enlarged or shrunk. Custom scaling percentages can also be set on this page; they will be indicated back on the main page when they are in effect. Don’t neglect to click on the “Apply” button at the very bottom of this page or your custom settings will not take effect.

The resolution of your display should be left at its recommended maximum. If it’s changed, there will be fewer pixels available and everything will look less sharp, blurry. The advantage of using a coarser resolution is that those tiny border items will look bigger, but blurrier. Leave “orientation” alone unless you switch to a monitor that is taller than it is wide.

The multiple displays section is mainly for gamers who keep a general-purpose monitor and a high-performance graphics monitor. You can control the settings of both types, and even specify an app to be used to test graphics settings.

I want to mention one more option that can help if you are visually impaired. The Magnifier (on Windows 7/8/10) can make any part of the screen larger. Press and hold the Start key and the plus (+) sign to activate the Magnifier. Move the mouse to the portion of the screen you want to magnify. You can adjust the magnification level if desired.

These are the basics of Windows display settings. Things get more complicated when you begin using display settings built into apps such as Chrome, in addition to the Windows settings. I recommend avoiding that. Do the best you can using Windows display settings alone.

Have a great week

Zi Staff

SL Photography Tricks and Tips, AnyPose, LeLutka Axis & Windlight List

Sept 17th! Building Class @ ZoHa Islands Sandbox – hosted by DanelleDee and BlueVioletVixen Lorefield

DanelleDee Art By DanelleDee Presents:

Making A Scrying Bowl


Halloween is coming up, and spirits from the great beyond are attempting to communicate with us!  Here’s how you can learn how to make a beautiful scrying bowl with animated water, and when touched, gives random words of wisdom from the great beyond!


We will be meeting in Zamargad…http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Zamargad/143/108/21

There will be a TPer with instructions here, as we will be taking a field trip to the exclusive ZoHa Islands Sandbox…

You will need to IM ℳαʝɨҟᐺɨӽڠɳ (bluevioletvixen.lorefield) to get a ZoHa Islands Sandbox group tag for entry

Once you are wearing your ZoHa Islands Sandbox tag, then you can walk into the TPer (remember to accept “Lochme” experiences), and you will be teleported to the classroom at ZoHa Islands

When you are done building, you may walk into the TPer to go back to Zamargad and explore our sim!

Monday, September 17th:

1st class is at 11AM SLT

2nd class is at 5PM SLT

DanelleDee is an artist with graphic design schooling.  She has formal training in both print and web design.  DanelleDee has been interested in the building menu and how things work in Second Life since she first joined in November 2014.  She is able to make complex builds with the Second Life building menu, and some simple things in Blender.

When she’s not teaching, she’s taking classes from other great teachers and working on her own builds.  She has been playing video games since the Atari and the Apple II.  She grew up with all the classics, and Second Life is the next interactive platform to master.

DanelleDee has been a Second Life building teacher since November 2015.  She teaches classes at every level.  You never know what you’ll learn in her classes.

Some of the classes she has taught in the past are framing pictures, clothing attachment points, flapping prim wings, tree hideaways, and blinking caution signs.

To Visit Zamargad’s website with upcoming classes and information click here!