Scattering MegaSystem to Ubuntu/XP – Part 2

Lots of particular lessons learned.

Here’s the latest:

If Ubuntu’s System Monitor program and the Linux “top” program are to be believed about CPU and RAM usage, then modern computers are not memory or CPU bound.

They are disk bound.

After 30+ years of being RAM bound.

Now, spring is a modern, dual core Intel with 8 gig of memory. The CPU is rarely busy to any extent. Memory use doesn’t go above 3 or 4 gig after running for a couple weeks – with the XP VM running, remember. And lots of other things running (including throwing away those 20-30k emails every day).


But, the cursor freezes – especially in the VM. And there are long delays in routine operations while the disk drive is busy, chattering to itself.

Test it yourself: rsync a 400 gig drive’s contents to your main drive. Don’t expect things to work well while this is going on. Programs will spend a lot of time in hourglass mode, whether they show the 11th century timepiece of not. It’s bizarre how the VM’s XP’s cursor goes in to mondo-lag mode, too. Huh? What’s going on? Is the cursor location cached to disk in a blocking thread?

This is interesting because of the current transition in mass storage.

Let’s review.

1) The optical guys muffed the transition up from DVD. Yeah, you can’t beat the media price of optical. 10x under hard disk. But that boat left the dock and they missed it futzing around with Blu-Ray/HDVD/whatever wars. It’s over. The gamers and Hollywood might use these things to pack better quality stuff and more content on ’em. But the computer world simply doesn’t have any need for cheap storage in the 10-100 gig range. Maybe not even in the 100-1000 gig range! Hard drives are too cheap and they don’t have the insert-the-11-teenth CD problem. Hard drives provide the bottomless bucket in which to put stuff now. Thumb drives and CDs satisfy the sneaker-net need.

2) NAND flash has plummeted in price. It’s possible to get a working drive for a couple hundred bucks and that will drop in a year.

The latter, I figure, is the reason why the drive manufacturers’ stock prices look like buggy whip companies. The Wall Street guys may all be running flash drives in their laptops already.

I have also figured a couple of things:

1) You can’t have too much storage. You’ll fill it with video and the like. And dupes. And backups. And history of everything ever done on your system, or seen or heard by your system, or whatever.

2) Hard drives are still staying 10x cheaper than flash.

And wondered, can a hard drive with some brains and a few gig of cache look like a terabyte flash drive?

The predicted death of disk drives (caused by bubble memory) was my key, early lesson to ignore hysteria-hype. Since learning that lesson I’ve only bought in to two hysteria-hyped things (with, by definition, no false negatives):

  1. The internet.
  2. Leave #2 for another time.

Heck, I even backed off predicting the death of CRT tubes for all these years. By the time it finally happened, it had been hashed over so many times that it was, “Uh. Yeah. Finally. … So, how ’bout them Ducks?”.

So, that’s it. Time for a fast hard drive.

1 thought on “Scattering MegaSystem to Ubuntu/XP – Part 2

  1. Disk bound?

    Never mind.

    I appears that some caching is off the books, so to speak. A simple program to grab a few gig of RAM causes the XP VM to go in to thrashing mode for a long while. No disk activity needed.

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