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Monday
Mar222010

Dual MacBook Pro SSDs in RAID 0

Recently, I turned my two external drives into a Striped RAID Set. This means that I keep the cumulative size of them, as well as increasing the bandwidth throughput of the devices. I regularly do backups, so the horror stories of one drive dying doesn't bother me too much. I did notice however, that transferring files was much faster.

One other issue I was having was that I kept my music on external hard drives. This meant that if I travelled with my MacBook Pro, I would be left with the musical offerings of my iPhone and Spotify—both of which can be extremely lacking. My current SSD wasn't large enough to store my music library on, and therefore I couldn't carry it with me.

This got me thinking: What would two SSDs be like in RAID? Would this mean I'd be able to carry my music with me as well as have an altogether faster machine?

The first issue was that I needed a second SSD. I had an 80 GB Intel X-25M G1, and so focused on a second Intel SSD. For this, I settled on an 80 GB Intel X-25M G2 which is very similar to the prior generation.

The second problem was that I'd need to put this SSD in my MacBook Pro. Luckily, there have been several people who have done this before, and a friend suggested the iFixit.com Optical Bay SATA Hard Drive Enclosure.

I ordered both and fitted them myself. Setting up the RAID was easy using Disk Utility from a bootable pen drive. After using Time Machine to restore my entire previous system onto the RAID, it booted fine.

A thing to note is that Mac OS X can boot from RAID (I wasn't worried, honest).

So how was the performance?

The boot time seems very similar to previously. This could be due to the need to load the RAID information first, or could even be due to the fact I've now got VMWare Fusion installed. VMWare Fusion loves loading at startup: if you care to look at your Console after booting, you'll find many lovely notes from it. 

Read and write performance doesn't seem to have changed much, while copying large files does seem a little faster. I decided that a totally scientific and infallible experiment should be done using XBench. The results are shown below, as you can see the overall improvements are minor.

However, I do now have 160 GB worth of storage in my MacBook Pro which means I can carry my music around with me. 

Overall, while this may not make sense logically (or financially), it makes me really happy.

Thursday
Mar182010

Twitterfall Settings Usage

Recently on Twitterfall, we've been removing certain settings due to lack of use or their expendability. Removing settings also means that we don't have to test as many options as well as support different features. Often when we do this, we get several complaints that someone's favourite feature is missing.

In the next series of updates, more settings have been removed. However, this time we're going to show you numbers to at least give a good idea as to why these specific settings had been removed. These results are based off random sampling and the sample size is 6 figures.

Animation

The animation setting has been completely removed. The setting had turned into a boolean field (containing only two options) and we found that very few people actually used the non-default setting, as shown below.

You may notice that the setting pertaining to the showing of retweets is also a boolean field, and you may ask "Why has that not been removed?". The usage of the retweet setting is very similar to that of the animation setting as seen below. However, we believe that this is a piece of core functionality and therefore should remain.

Speed

In the following chart, smaller numbers refer to a faster speed. We've decided to remove the 3000 option, and have renamed the other options to Default, Fast, and Faster. 3000 refers to a tweet being shown every 3 seconds, therefore it may be more beneficial to use the hover-pause system,

Text Size 

Text size is a setting that requires a lot of testing, due to the layout change when it is reset. Therefore, removing any of the following settings would give us less work to do.

Therefore, we've decided to remove the Small setting, which is only used in 1% of cases. The new settings are Default, Large, Larger, and Largest. 

Fall Size

The fall size setting has been cut down to the following three options: Default, Large, and Larger. If you look at this chart, you'll see the use of different sizes as they're currently distributed:

As you can see, the majority of use is in the default value of 20. The second largest distribution is for 200 and the third seems to be a tie between 50 and 100. The new settings are 20, 75, and 200. While the usage of 75 isn't that high, we believe that 75 offers something to both the users using 50 and users using 100. 

 

In conclusion, it's plain to see that many of the options we provide aren't greatly used and hence are expendable. This allows us to concentrate on new features without being bogged down in tests and support.

Just a bonus - this is the distribution of languages as used in our sample.

 

Thursday
Mar182010

Additional Functionality

Recently, we've been giving presentations regarding our dissertations. For the most part, this involves writing slides to show what you need them to show.

A friend was trying to highlight some text within OpenOffice Impress but in the Mac version of this software it would appear that this feature has been removed. The slides were originally created in Google Docs and featured the highlighted text. Exporting the slides as a PDF lead to complications with typefaces and exporting as a PowerPoint file meant that highlighted text was no longer highlighted. 

So we tried Keynote

In Keynote, you are incapable of highlighting text, the text Inspector shows this:

However, I was sure that this functionality was available in Pages. I opened Pages and wrote some dummy text, selected it and opened the Inspector. This extra functionality was available:

 So the feature exists in Pages but not Keynote. If you then copy the highlighted text into Keynote it remains highlighted, with no way to change the highlight.

 

It would seem that people don't need to highlight text in presentations.

 

Thursday
Mar042010

TWiT Live without cooking your Mac

I regularly listen to the TWiT podcasting network, including MacBreak Weekly, Windows Weekly and This Week In Tech. When I have free time, I watch the live video feed on TWiT Live

However, there is one problem with watching this on the web. Flash.

 This constant use of processor can often lead to the temperature of your Mac quickly increasing, as you might expect from Flash. 

There is a simple solution: using the iPhone simulator that comes as part of the iPhone SDK

By opening the SDK and going to http://live.twit.tv in Safari, you can load the video stream that's usually only available to iPhones and iPod Touches.

The iPhone stream is an mp4-encoded stream, which means it can be decoded on the graphics card. This means that you get really low CPU usage.

 

 

The only downside I've been able to find is that the stream can sometimes be a few minutes behind, which isn't critical.