Last week I decided to start playing around with Windows 7 on my laptop … just to see how it’s going to work.
Luckily I have a spare SATA hard drive, so there was no risk that I would damage anything permanently. If the Windows 7 install went bad, I could simply switch back to XP on the original hard drive.
Well, it’s been a little more than a week with Windows 7 and I’m quite impressed.
One thing I noticed is that the hard drive controller wasn’t for the AHCI I thought was configured. Then I remembered, when I had the motherboard replaced due to the video problems, the default hard drive controller settings would be in place … and the default is to use ATA instead of AHCI.
Theoretically, AHCI should give me better performance than standard ATA.
For quite some time I haven’t been happy with the level of data protection on my servers … a while ago I ran mirrored (RAID 1) IDE (PATA) drives on my system using a Arco Duplidisk adapter. It seemed adequate, but after I upgraded my servers to the Dell PowerEdge systems, it didn’t seem to work quite right. It was reporting failed drives when there were none.
So, after a fair bit of research, I decided to get a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device. My criteria were a) had to support various RAID levels (1 & 5 at least), have hot swappable drives, and support NFS (the linux network file system).
The device I decided on is a Netgear ReadyNAS NV+. The model I got came with 2 x 500gb drives, with bays for two more. It wasn’t cheap, but I think it will be worth it in the long run.
It supports various RAID levels … RAID 1 (mirroring, where the data on one drive is completely duplicated on the other), RAID 5 (where data is stored on two drives with a parity bit on the 3rd … if any one of the drives fails, the data can be reconstructed on the fly using two of the drives), and it’s own RAID X … which is an eXpandable and adaptive RAID variation … which will use RAID 1 if you only have two drives, and RAID 5 when you add more.
Although there were a few hiccups, I’m not displeased.
I was just looking at my laptop (Dell Latitude D620) and wondered about a few things …
Why do they bother putting RS-232 ports on laptops anymore? I haven’t seen a device that connects via RS-232 in years. The only devices I can actually think of that used a RS-232 port was an external modem … and most laptops have modems built in (not that they’re used much anyways).
Ditto with a parallel printer port. Most printers that I’ve seen in the last few years have been connected by USB (‘course my laptop doesn’t have a parallel port, but Ginny’s does).
Why bother with a DB15 video connector? Wouldn’t it be better to just go with DVI? If you need a DB15 video connector, you can use an adapter.
The hard drive on my laptop uses SATA … I really wish there was an eSATA connector. I tried putting an eSATA card in the PCI slot of the D/DOCK port replicator, but the BIOS wouldn’t recognize it (which is fairly logical, considering there’s no guarantee that the card would be there all the time).
On a somewhat different, although related, topic … I really wish someone would make an inexpensive tablet computer. I have an idea for a nice little appliance application that would be perfectly suited to a tablet computer. All it would need is a 12″ display, 512mb of ram, 4gb to 8gb of flash disk, wifi, and Linux.
I’ve noticed something … in recent memory, I have not suffered one single hard drive failure.
I’ve only suffered multiple hard drive failures … all my drive failures seem to happen in batches.
Last weekend the refurbished Seagate hard drive in my laptop (Rohan) started generating errors. About the same time, the main drive in Gondor started to flake out.
My laptop had been recently backed up with ghost, so getting it restored , to a spare 100gb hard drive I had, wasn’t a problem. I did struggle a bit because there was a Linux partition on the replacement drive … that Ghost didn’t know how to delete.
The drive in Gondor was a bit more problematical … although Linux was reporting problems with the drive, the Dell hard drive diagnostics reported problems with the drive, when I ran Spinrite over it, no problems were reported.
I decided to let the drive sit and see if the problems came back.
Obviously they did … this time, however, when I ran Spinrite on the drive it found a bad cluster. Luckily it was able to recover the cluster. After Spinrite was done, I copied the old drive to a new 300gb drive. Now I just have to get Dell to send me a new drive. Not sure what I’m going to do with a spare 80gb SATA drive.
Of course, all these hard drive problems got me to thinking … why the heck don’t operating systems raise serious alerts when a drive failure is detected?
On Windows XP, the drive problem was silently being logged to the “System Event Log”. I think it should have popped up a warning message telling me that something was wrong.
On Linux, the drive problems were also being logged to syslog … but if you aren’t actively monitoring the systems logs, it’s easy to miss something like that. I’m going to investigate some system monitoring software (something like Nagios) to keep an eye on problems of this nature.