Multi SATA support on Banana Pi

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HTPC Guides has a fun post detailing how you can make the Banana Pi (and presumably the Banana Pro) work with multiple SATA drives. Using a SATA multiplier from AliExpress and a 2.5″ HDD enclosure with separate SATA ports more drives can be hooked up.

At the time of writing, a minor change and recompile of the kernel is required. However, if this catches on, it is sure to be supported out of the box.

Debian 7 – netinst

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In search of a small simple GNU/Linux server setup, I started with a Debian 7 installation through a network based install – netinst. Using that image is simple, either by writing to a CD, or simply to a USB drive or memory card:
(Replace X with your flash drive, but be careful; everything will be overwritten, without any recovery option).

sudo dd if=debian-7.8.0-i386-netinst.iso.torrent of=/dev/sdX
The installation was straight forward, but it has to be hand-held since there are multiple prompts from various parts of the installation throughout. Unfortunately, the final step of writing out the GRUB configuration failed, since the install medium, the USB flash reader, was included in the GRUB device map. Removing it from /boot/grub/device.map fixed that, and a little rescue operation resolve the rest.

Once booted, there was a problem with the start-stop-daemon; for some reason, it was set to a fake mock implementation. That caused all services to not start. Swapping in with the real implementation took care of that:

mv /sbin/start-stop-daemon /sbin/start-stop-daemon.FAKE
ln -s /sbin/start-stop-daemon.REAL /sbin/start-stop-daemon

Finally, some essentials are always missing:

apt-get install emacs atop htop iftop iotop tree git tig sudo autossh iptables-persistent wpasupplicant cryptsetup smartmontools

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Thirty years of GNU

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In a brief and accurate article, The New Yorker commemorates Richard Stallman’s work on the GNU project, and the history of the GPL. It was thirty years ago this month that Stallman published the GNU Manifesto, where he outlined the goal to create a free operating system. This was followed a few years later, in February 1989, by the first free software license, the GNU General Public License.

As is pointed out in the article, the world might have looked very different were it not for these documents. Today, some of the biggest technology companies are built on the basis of free software, and specifically the GNU/Linux operating system at its core. This includes Google’s, Amazon’s and Facebook’s server farms; the majority of web sites are served by Apache, running on a GNU/Linux distribution; Android, which has the biggest market share, is based on the Linux kernel (but without GNU tools).

Free software, with the right to inspect, change and distribute the source, is critical to a free society, as Stallman tirelessly points out in his writing and speeches. A good collection of his essays can be found in the book “Free Software Free Society”, itself available for free download. With NSA and other’s intrusive mass surveillance, Stallman’s message is as relevant as ever. He has been called paranoid and crazy over and over again, but in the end, he has been proven right in even the most extreme scenarios. If we want to live in a free society, we cannot afford to ignore his message.

So instead of downloading the book, buy it for $20, and support the Free Software Foundation or its sister organization Free Software Foundation Europe. Even better, become a member of either organization, to support the ongoing work of teaching politicians and policy-makers about the necessity of free software; supporting free software alternatives; and guarding the freedom of users. Today makes an excellent day to put your money on something which matters!

 

Free Software Foundation           Free Software Foundation Europe

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Banana Pro

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The Banana Pro from Lemaker is another credit card sized Single Board Computer. The Raspberry Pi is still leading that space with more than five million units sold, but it’s starting to get crowded. Banana Pro is probably one of the boards which comes closest to the Raspberry Pi, and indeed, their first version was called Banana Pi. This is from China, where imitating is a compliment.

However, except for its size, the Banana Pro is a very different computer. It has 1 GHz dual core Cortex ARM 7 CPU and comes with 1 GB of DD3 RAM, embedded Wifi, IR receiver, and maybe the best, a full speed SATA 2.0 connector. The price is similar though, at about €45 from Reichelt in Germany.

Compared to the original Raspberry Pi, it’s actually a very usable computer for day-to-day use. However, the Pi 2 probably evens that out, with a similar CPU and RAM. Just like the Pi, it has a 40 pin header, with 28 GPIO pins. It also has a camera interface, but also a display interface connector.

The distribution Lubuntu comes with Firefox, which runs quite OK. However, graphics acceleration is missing, and that is noticeable. The Lubuntu install detected and used the Wifi and IR receiver out of the box. It so happened that the volume button on my stereo remote was mapped to “CALC”, so the calculator application pops up. Should be great for XBMC / Kodi. An XBMC Debian based distribution is available, called LeMedia. It claims to support hardware graphics acceleration.

There are many distributions available. Another interesting and obvious one would be the Open Media Vault, which makes it into a Debian based NAS with a good web UI. Here the SATA port comes in handy.

Below are front and back pictures, which should be pretty self explanatory (if you click to get a large picture and zoom). All connectors are described. Also notice the Wifi antenna to the left on the last picture, below the micro SD card.

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Storage prices

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Since last September, there have been only minor changes in most storage prices. Some have actually gone up, and most price changes are due to currency exchange rates.

For spinning disks, 3 TB still gives most bytes per coin, and the 1 TB disks are now rather poor options. I will probably remove them in the next iteration, as it makes little sense to buy these models.

On SSD, bigger is also cheaper, and 512 GB models possibly the best for a laptop drive now. For a OS drive in a desktop with an extra disk, 256 should be fine.

Finally, on flash cards, some older versions have been removed. The remaining are fast and competitively priced.

Media Type Product Capacity Price CHF Price Euros Euros / GB GBs / Euro
HDD Western Digital Green 3TB 3000 GB 109.00 107.92 0.04 27.80
HDD Western Digital Purple 3TB 3000 GB 110.00 108.91 0.04 27.55
External 3.5 Western Digital Elements Desktop 3TB, USB3 3000 GB 110.00 108.91 0.04 27.55
External 3.5 Western Digital My Book 3TB, USB3 3000 GB 117.00 115.84 0.04 25.90
HDD Western Digital Purple 4TB 4000 GB 158.00 156.44 0.04 25.57
HDD Western Digital Red 3TB 3000 GB 120.00 118.81 0.04 25.25
HDD Western Digital Green 4TB 4000 GB 165.00 163.37 0.04 24.48
HDD Seagate Desktop 4TB 4000 GB 165.00 163.37 0.04 24.48
External 3.5 Western Digital My Book 4TB, USB3 4000 GB 169.00 167.33 0.04 23.91
HDD Western Digital Purple 2TB 2000 GB 85.30 84.46 0.04 23.68
HDD Western Digital Red 4TB 4000 GB 172.00 170.30 0.04 23.49
HDD Western Digital Red 6TB 6000 GB 269.00 266.34 0.04 22.53
External 3.5 Western Digital Elements Desktop 4TB, USB3 4000 GB 180.00 178.22 0.04 22.44
HDD Western Digital Green 6TB 6000 GB 277.00 274.26 0.05 21.88
HDD Western Digital Green 2TB 2000 GB 93.10 92.18 0.05 21.70
HDD Hitachi Deskstar 7K4000, 4TB 4000 GB 187.00 185.15 0.05 21.60
HDD Western Digital Red 2TB 2000 GB 99.00 98.02 0.05 20.40
HDD Western Digital Red 5TB 5000 GB 249.00 246.53 0.05 20.28
External 2.5 Western Digital Elements Portable 2TB, USB3 2000 GB 109.00 107.92 0.05 18.53
External 2.5 Western Digital My Passport Ultra 2TB, USB3 2000 GB 115.00 113.86 0.06 17.57
HDD Western Digital Purple 1TB 1000 GB 62.70 62.08 0.06 16.11
HDD Western Digital Green 1TB 1000 GB 66.30 65.64 0.07 15.23
HDD Western Digital Red 1TB 1000 GB 69.00 68.32 0.07 14.64
External 2.5 Western Digital Elements Portable 1TB, USB3 1000 GB 69.00 68.32 0.07 14.64
DVD-R Verbatim 16x DVD-R 100 @ 4,7GB 470 GB 34.80 34.46 0.07 13.64
External 2.5 Western Digital My Passport Ultra 1TB, USB3 1000 GB 75.00 74.26 0.07 13.47
Blu-ray Verbatim BD-R SL 10 @ 25GB 250 GB 25.10 24.85 0.10 10.06
Blu-ray Verbatim BD-R DL 10 @ 50GB 500 GB 57.40 56.83 0.11 8.80
DVD+R DL Verbatim 8x DVD+R DL 50 @ 8,5GB 425 GB 57.20 56.63 0.13 7.50
DVD+R DL Verbatim 8x DVD+R DL 25 @ 8,5GB 213 GB 35.70 35.35 0.17 6.01
SSD Crucial M500 SSD, MLC, 960GB 960 GB 357.00 353.47 0.37 2.72
SSD Crucial M550 SSD, MLC, 1024GB 1024 GB 385.00 381.19 0.37 2.69
SSD Samsung SSD 840 EVO Basic, TLC, 1TB 1000 GB 379.00 375.25 0.38 2.66
SSD Crucial MX100 SSD, MLC, 512GB 512 GB 199.00 197.03 0.38 2.60
SSD Crucial M550 SSD, MLC, 512GB 512 GB 199.00 197.03 0.38 2.60
SSD Samsung SSD 840 EVO Basic, TLC, 500GB 500 GB 198.00 196.04 0.39 2.55
SSD Crucial M500 SSD, MLC, 480GB 480 GB 191.00 189.11 0.39 2.54
SSD Samsung SSD 840 EVO Basic, TLC, 250GB 250 GB 120.00 118.81 0.48 2.10
USB Flash Sandisk Cruzer Edge Flash Drive 64GB 64 GB 32.80 32.48 0.51 1.97
CD-R Verbatim CD-R 100 @ 700MB 70 GB 37.30 36.93 0.53 1.90
SSD Samsung SSD 840 Pro Basic, MLC, 256GB 256 GB 142.00 140.59 0.55 1.82
SSD Samsung SSD 850 Pro, MLC, 1024GB 1024 GB 579.00 573.27 0.56 1.79
SSD Samsung SSD 850 Pro, MLC, 256GB 256 GB 147.00 145.54 0.57 1.76
SSD Samsung SSD 840 EVO Basic, TLC, 120GB 120 GB 69.60 68.91 0.57 1.74
USB Flash Sandisk Cruzer Edge Flash Drive 32GB 32 GB 20.40 20.20 0.63 1.58
SSD Samsung SSD 850 Pro, MLC, 512GB 512 GB 333.00 329.70 0.64 1.55
SSD Samsung SSD 840 Pro Basic, MLC, 128GB 128 GB 92.70 91.78 0.72 1.39
USB Flash Sandisk Extreme Pro, USB 3.0, 128GB 128 GB 95.00 94.06 0.73 1.36
USB Flash Sandisk Cruzer Edge Flash Drive 16GB 16 GB 13.00 12.87 0.80 1.24
SSD Samsung SSD 850 Pro, MLC, 128GB 128 GB 131.00 129.70 1.01 0.99
SDXC Sandisk Extreme Plus SDXC, 80/60MB/s, 128GB 128 GB 157.00 155.45 1.21 0.82
USB Flash Sandisk Cruzer Edge Flash Drive 8GB 8 GB 11.10 10.99 1.37 0.73
SDXC Sandisk Extreme Plus SDXC, 80/60MB/s, 64GB 64 GB 89.00 88.12 1.38 0.73
SDXC Sandisk Extreme Pro SDXC, 90/95MB/s, 64GB 64 GB 95.00 94.06 1.47 0.68
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme 120MB/s, 128GB 128 GB 217.00 214.85 1.68 0.60
SDHC Sandisk Extreme Pro, Class UHS-I, 90/95MB/s, 32GB 32 GB 59.30 58.71 1.83 0.55
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme 120MB/s, UDMA 7, 64GB 64 GB 127.00 125.74 1.96 0.51
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme Pro 160MB/s, UDMA 7, 256GB 256 GB 695.00 688.12 2.69 0.37
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme 120MB/s, UDMA 7, 32GB 32 GB 91.30 90.40 2.82 0.35
SDHC Sandisk Extreme Pro, Class UHS-I, 90/95MB/s, 16GB 16 GB 45.70 45.25 2.83 0.35
SDXC Sandisk Extreme Plus SDXC, 80/30MB/s, 8GB 8 GB 24.90 24.65 3.08 0.32
Compact Flash SanDisk Extreme 120MB/s, UDMA 7, 16GB 16 GB 51.00 50.50 3.16 0.32
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme Pro 160MB/s, UDMA 7, 64GB 64 GB 204.00 201.98 3.16 0.32
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme Pro 160MB/s, UDMA 7, 128GB 128 GB 408.00 403.96 3.16 0.32
SDXC Sandisk Extreme Pro SDXC, UHS-II, 280/250MB/s, 64GB 64 GB 219.00 216.83 3.39 0.30
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme Pro 160MB/s, UDMA 7, 32GB 32 GB 124.00 122.77 3.84 0.26

Exchange rate: 1 Euro = 1.010000 CHF.

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100TB HDD by 2025?

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ComputerWorld is reporting on a roadmap from the industry consortium ASTC where they predict magnetic hard drives will reach 100 TB by 2025. This is based on the figure below, where they project data areal density will increase a ten-fold from today’s 1 Tbit per square inch.

The technology to make this work, is Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR), which integrates a laser into the hard disk read/write head. Bit patterned magnetic recording (BPMR) will take this further by isolating the bits into smaller “islands”. Finally, Heated-Dot magnetic recording (HDMR) combines the two technologies to reach 10 Tbit / square inch.

However, it is unclear if these technologies will be compatible with the helium filled drives HGST released earlier this year. From the chart, it seems the new technologies are partly based on Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR). If this is not compatible with seven platter helium drives, we are stuck at only five platters. The biggest of this kind right now is Seagate’s 8 TB disk, but that is already at about 2 Tbit / inch. Therefore, the increase will “only” be five-fold, starting at 8 TB, for at total of 40 TB in a 3.5″ drive. A four times increase of today’s biggest drive in ten years would not be very impressive.

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Review: No Place to Hide, Glenn Greenwald

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In his latest book, No Place to Hide, Glenn Greenwald gives a brief summary of the events since Edwards Snowden first contacted him 1 December 2012, up until UK government’s harassment of David Miranda at London Heathrow airport on 18 August 2014. He gives an overview of some of the released NSA documents, showing the scope and detail of the illegal surveillance.

It is however the last two chapters of the book which makes this a must-read. Here, Greenwald examines why ubiquitous surveillance is so dangerous and damaging to all of society, and why the “nothing to hide – nothing to fear” argument is misguided and naive.

In the final chapter, Greenwald describes the toxic climate of modern journalisms, and how challenging state power is the exception rather than the norm in many newspapers.

Besieged by state surveillance

Glenn Greenwald’s examination of the harms of mass state surveillance is an indispensable read for anybody debating the topic. He explains why privacy is essential to all humans, on an individual level, as well as for society as a whole. Without privacy, we automatically conform to written and unwritten rules and expectations of behaviour and and thought.

Surveillance stifles self-expression, creativity and experimentation. On a state level, its very purpose is to hinder deviant and radical thought and action. As such, surveillance and lack of privacy is an obstacle to political and cultural progress. The goal is to freeze the status quo with its current power structure and current authority.

Herein lies the rebut of the “nothing to hide – nothing to fear” argument. Rather than grasping for fringe groups and special circumstances, Greenwald shows that this argument is narrow minded, egoistical and hypocritical. Given that mass state surveillance harms us all, our individual relation with the state authority is nonessential to the debate. It is irrelevant if you yourself is involved in politics, opposition groups, and protests. In many ways, surveillance harms everybody, depriving us of freedom, and hindering political, cultural, and human progress. It makes us complacent, unable or unwilling to question authority.

Furthermore, Greenwald points out that state surveillance is masked in secrecy, often with little oversight. It makes the surveillance a one-way mirror: They can see you, but you cannot see them. This is by design, and Greenwald examines multiple examples of why this works so well in controlling the population. He shows why it is important to break this one-way mirror; to shine light on government activities so its power cannot be used for harassment and control.

News as state propaganda

In the last chapter, Greenwald gives an introspective look into the failures of US media. Journalists and newspapers are nicknamed the Fourth Estate, because they were supposed to challenge the other three branches of government. However, many have become mere propaganda outlets for those in power.

What’s worse, Greenwald was attacked by fellow journalists across the political spectrum for publishing his stories based on the NSA documents. UK in particular has gone very far in attacking anybody working with these documents. There is no Forth Amendment or similar law protecting free speech in the UK. As a result, the Guardian was threatened with lawsuits and shutdown by GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) agents. Through an ultimatum, they destroyed the computers belonging to the newspaper which they believed contained copies the NSA documents.

Later, Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was detained using an anti-terrorist law while in transit through London Heathrow airport. As Greenwald put it, UK agents grabbed him out of non-British neutral territory. Lacking anything to charge him with, the UK police later acknowledged that this was an harassment tactic, to send a message to anybody working with Snowden or Greenwald.

Read it now!

If you haven’t kept an eye on the Snowden and NSA story, Gleen Greenwald’s latest book is an excellent and brief overview of the important events and facts. Still, even if you have followed the details of the NSA documents, the last half of the book is refreshing and worth the read.

State propaganda with its excuses to justify surveillance is as prevalent as ever. It is essential that we all know how to refute those arguments. Also, putting an end to the “nothing to hide & fear” argument will be important if we want to repel mass state surveillance.

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anonabox : a Tor hardware router

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Update: This project turned out to be too good too be true, at least for now. Wired has a brief article on the problems of the project, and why it was canceled by Kickstarter.

However, as the developer Germar says: “This would have been a success even if we’d raised $10,000. – This is a place to start.” (The project went above $600.000 before it was canceled).

 
 
I just backed the KickStarter project “anonabox”. It’s a drop-in Tor hardware router, which makes all outgoing traffic anonymous without any user configuration. As seen in the picture, it connects between your incoming ISP point, and your laptop. Or, the other way around, where the box itself pickup up a foreign Wifi signal, and give you a wired hotspot. Or where the laptop in the picture is connected over wifi instead of wired.

At the price of $50, I ordered two, to be delivered beginning of next year. The Kickstarter has already gone almost 100x above their set goal of $7500, so they might have some extra work to backfill orders. The project looks promising though, with the device to be shipped already in its fourth generation of development.

Order yours now! There’s still 26 days to go.

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SSDs last a long time

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At 24 GB/day, or 8.8 TB/year, it would take 114 years to reach 1 PB.
Several SSDs have gone past that point, and still work fine.

Last year, I wrote about estimates for durability of SSD drives. Looking at how long it would take to exhaust the theoretical limit of the storage cells, based on different write speeds and quantities. The assertion was: It would take a very long time, and other technical failures were more likely to render the drive useless long before all cells were used up. In fact, the owner is not likely to outlive full cell exhaustion. This has now been confirmed through an experiment.

Over at Tech Report, they have done an endurance experiment lasting more than a year, with several consumer drives. For months, they have been writing data to the drives, while monitoring drive health, and verifying correctness. Some of the drives were rated for 20 GB / day for three days, which means about 22 TB. However, several of them made it past the 1000 TB, or 1 PB, mark. That’s about 50 times the advertised endurance rating. And two of the drives, a Samsung 840 Pro 256GB, and a Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB, have made to past 1.5 PB. It’s not all clear from the article exactly when they started, or how much they write per day. However, assuming a year to get to 1.5 PB, that’s 4.1 TB / day, or 47 MByte/s. The actual write speed is probably higher, but this leaves time for verification as well.

To put these numbers into perspective, I’ve extended the table from last time, and added a line for the speed of the Tech Report endurance test, as well as extra columns for multiple years total. As can be seen, the endurance test is running at 171 the write speed of what was identified as “heavy use”. Furthermore, the heavy use scenario is within what the typical consumer drives are rated for, i.e. about 20 GB/day.

MBit/s MByte/s MByte/hour GByte/day GByte/year TByte 3 years TByte 5 years
SATA3 max speed 6000 750 2700000 64800 23652000 70956 118260
Stress test 2000 250 900000 21600 7884000 23652 39420
Endurance test 376 47 171000 4109 1500000 4500 7500
Heavy use 2.2222 0.2778 1000 24 8760 26.280 43.800
Low/Medium use 0.0926 0.0116 41.67 1 365 1.095 1.825

What about the time to failure estimates; how do they compare to the empirical evidence? Last year, I noted that a 256 GB drive with cells of 10k write cycle life span (typical MLC memory), would take 256 years to reach 10% of failed cells, and about 350 years for full exhaustion, assuming 24 GB/day written. It turns out that was a bit optimistic. At 24 GB/day, or 8.76 TB/year, it would take “only” 172 years to reach 1.5 PB (where the Tech Report drives are now). If we go by 1 PB, it would take 114 years.

This is all for MLC memory. If we look at TLC, typically rated for 1000 write cycles, the endurance numbers are also a tenth. I.e. they would fail between 11 to 17 years of sustained 24 GB/day writes, again assuming a 256 GB drive.

If larger drives are used, the time to failure also increases. This is because there are more total space to level the writes across. In fact, doubling the size of the drive, will in theory double its lifespan. So an MLC 512 GB drive would last some 228 years, and a 1 TB drive 456 years. For TLC, the numbers are again a tenth, so 22 and 45 years respectively.

This is all well and good, and should at least put the final nail in the coffin regarding worries for SSD reliability. The only concern which the Tech Report experiment raises, is the way the drives fail when they do reach end of life. Of course there are plenty of relocated sector warnings in the SMART data beforehand. However, once they are past the point of no recovery, all data is lost. Several of them cannot be accessed at all. This is of course a bit different from spinning disks, which usually keep on reading some of the tracks, even if other parts are broken.

It highlights the fact that monitoring SMART data should be a standard procedure, and part of good data hygiene. Of course, a good backup strategy is required, regardless of drive type or usage pattern.

PC build: Silent yet powerful

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It’s been a long time since I’ve had the chance to put together a machine. The one I’m typing on right now has a more than five years old AMD Athlon 64 X2 5050e, and one of its HDDs report 47220 Power_On_Hours, or 5.4 years. It was fun to look at some new hardware.

This build is not for me, though. My father’s current machine is from 2005, and the AMD Sempron 2600 1.6GHz has kept up well, however would not be a good fit for the new requirements: A silent build which can handle a modern Ubuntu distribution plus Windows 7 in a VM. After good advice from Redditors on r/buildapc, I got the following components.

Main

Storage

The rest

 
 

Requirements and reasoning

At € 1055 (in June 2014), it’s not a cheap build, and I could definitely have saved a bit here and there. However, that was not my main concern – my father deserved something top-notch. I wanted something powerful enough so that it would last many years to come without upgrading, yet silent for the living room. That’s why some of the components are somewhat over-provisioned: the fanless 460W PSU, while I expect the peak draw to be less than 150W; 16 GB RAM, 256 SDD, 4 TB HDD.

For the CPU, I went for the four core Intel Core i5 4570 (LGA 1150, 3.20GHz), based on redMarllboro’s advice. It is indeed more powerful than the AMD A10-6700 I had originally planned for, and furthermore, the virtual cores would not benefit the VM much.

With the CPU fixed, I narrowed down my search for an Asus motherboard to the ASUS Maximus VII Ranger (Z97). That was based on the following criteria: more than 4 SATA ports, Intel Ethernet controller (I try to keep away from Realtek based on this issue, even if that was WiFi related), 4 DIMM slots, an onboard DVI and/or VGA port. Turns out, that really narrows it down, and about the only contender was the ASUS Sabertooth Z97 Mark 2, however that only has HDMI and Displayport embedded.

Now, one could argue that both of those MBs are overkill for what I’m building. However, most of the boards I’d be looking at would be in the €100-150 range anyway, and as price was really not a main issue here, why not go for the latest chipset? Furthermore, the “Republic of Gamers (ROG)” marketing from Asus I find somewhat misleading. The Maximus board looks aggressive in black and red, but surely it is the hardware specifications which matter. For example, the 10K Black Metallic Capacitors are welcome when cooling is an issue. Also, some of the ROG “features” in the form of software are dubious at best: How is a RAM disk a feature of the MB? On most GNU/Linux distributions, it’s there by default under /dev/shm.

For storage, an SSD is a no-brainer these days, and the only questions are: How large? And is additional storage required? 128 GB might have been just enough, but with ~50 GB for the Ubuntu host OS, ~40 GB for the VM, and ~30 GB for swap it would have been very tight. (In fact, post install, only 70 GB is left on a 256 GB disk). Doubling to 256 GB is less than double the price. I will require more storage space, so added the 4 TB spinning disk. When it comes to WD Red over Green, it’s only about €10 difference, so another no-brainer.

As the VM will be running Windows, my plan is to back it up frequently, in the hope of recovering from certain problems of that OS. Now, several people on r/buildapc thread advised against this. I suppose they are mostly right; it might be possible to lock down a Windows installation to the point where malware and adware is not a problem. The first and second issues with that are I’d have to spend a lot of time learning about it, and I would not be very interested. And why should I? A restricted install with no direct user access to system binaries and most applications delivered from a trusted cryptographically signed source has been the norm on most GNU/Linux distributions for more than a decade. It takes no effort at all, so why go with something inferior? If this machine and setup can avoid my father spending hundreds of bucks at PC Repair shops every year, it will pay itself back quickly and be a success.

 

Silent and cool

The most important requirement for this build was to make it silent. The fanless Seasonic P-460 achieves that without breaking a sweat. At normal load, which is 35 to 50 W at the power socket (220 V; in EU), I’ve measured its temperature of the PSU at 31 C. Also, the modular cable system is very nice, as it means no lose cables hanging around. In fact, there are no cables crossing the motherboard at all, as seen in this picture.

For the CPU, I had wished for passive water cooling, however most solutions on the market today are downright ugly. If the Zalman Reserator tower was still around, I would have gotten that. The compromise was therefore the over-sized Noctua NH-U14S. Again it is probably a bit of an overkill, however the benefit is that it’s not pushing the limit of the cooling, so it remains silent and cold. CPU temperatures at load is around 30 C, and at peak 45 C when the case fans kick in. The part which gets warmest is the Z97 chipset heat-sink, at around 36 C.

One of the features I appreciated most with the ASUS Maximus VII Ranger motherboard was the fan-control. Five fans can be controlled individually based on temperature. Both PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) and DC (voltage) regulation is possible, based on fan type. As seen in the pictures below, the two case fans are off when they are not needed, and kick in slowly when it gets hot. On low to normal load the CPU fan spins at 350 RPM, and can barely be heard if you put your ear right next to the case.

Finally, the only other moving part in the machine is the Western Digital 4 TB Red HDD. At a maximum rotation speed of 5400 RPM it is not dead silent, but quiet enough.

 

Building

Building this machine came with a lot of fun! The Fractal Design case was pure joy to work with. All aspects were well thought out: Easy access to left and right side (back of MB), excellent cable management, easy disk mounting slots, two large (and quiet) fans. Gone are the days of scratched and bleeding hands because of sharp edges around the case. And the fact that there are no cables criss-crossing the motherboard not only looks good, but also makes for good airflow. If I were to say anything against the case, it would have to be that it is big heavy beast.

The other components were also top notch, and caused no problems. In particular the modular Seasonic PSU and cable system is very welcome. You only have to plug in the cables you actually need, so no lose ends hanging around. The fact that the PSU comes in a pouch which competes with expensive cologne is also a nice touch.

The Noctua NH-U14S is a massive cooler. And it was another reason why I ended up with the Define R4 case; it was one of the few cases which had enough clearing for the cooling block. With a 14 cm fan it keeps the CPU nice and cool. The initial boot was without the fan, and temperatures went up to about 45 C in the BIOS. With the fan at lowest speed (about 350 RPM), it sits at around 35 C (still without having applied thermal paste; will wait till it’s shipped). The only concern I had was with fan direction. Its default orientation was to blow air from the RAM side backwards over the cooler. Currently, I’ve put it on the other side, so it sucks air over the block, and blows it right out at the rear fan. I might experiment with the difference of direction and position.

Here are a few pictures while building, followed by a couple of BIOS screen shots.

(Click for larger images.)


(Click for larger images.)

 
 

Software

As mentioned above, the goal was to have an Ubuntu installation, with Windows 7 in a VM. I chose Ubuntu 14.04 (aka “Trusty Tahr”), since it is a Long Term Support (LTS) release, and figured this would be the right balance between stability, supported hardware and packages. Other distributions I am currently using include Fedora and Debian, but for this build I figured hitting the middle-ground would be OK, thus Ubuntu. Since my father is used to Windows, I went for the simple Xfce 4 desktop, with a familiar taskbar, window icons and SHIFT+TAB application switching. As seen in the screen-shots below, it blends nicely with the seamless VirtualBox integration.

I tried and installed both the alternative Xubuntu ISO and the main Ubuntu ISO. The main difference is the default desktop, which is Xfce in the former. However, that had boot problems with Secure Boot, even after I enabled “Other OS” in the BIOS. It would install fine, but not find the boot image afterwards. It was possible to repair that by refreshing Grub, however it gave me a bad feeling at the start. The main Ubuntu ISO had now boot issues, and changing the desktop is just a matter of installing a package and selecting a different option at log-in. (The Ubuntu variations are really a bit redundant in that regard. Especially when other basic functionality, like boot, fails).

Apart from the default ISO packages, I added the following. There you can see xfce4, the VirtualBox packages, various utilities, and a few benchmarking tools. Nothing much came out of the later. Instead, see the CPU graphs below, which shows calm and moderate load while running Windows in the VM.

apt-get install autossh bonnie++ conky cpuburn dbus dos2unix elementary-icon-theme emacs evince fancontrol feh geeqie gimp git gitk gnome-icon-theme-extras gnome-icon-theme-full gnome-icon-theme-symbolic gnome-terminal gnupg gparted gthumb htop iftop imagemagick iotop k3b kdiff3 libnss-myhostname lmbench mencoder mplayer mtr nmap openssh-server parcellite policykit-1 policykit-1-gnome policykit-desktop-privileges screen smart-notifier sysbench sysstat tango-icon-theme tor tree usbutils virtualbox virtualbox-guest-additions-iso vlc wireshark xfce4 xsensors xubuntu-icon-theme

The installation of Windows in the VM is very simple. One important option to notice, is the Intel Virtualization Technology (VT-x) setting in the BIOS, as seen here. Once that is enabled, the rest is a breeze. VirtualBox comes with a brief but useful “wizard” which guides you through creating the image. I opted for a 40 GB, 2 CPU cores, 8 GB setup. After that, add the install medium (physical CD or ISO), and boot. Windows 7 will reboot about ten times, just as in the old days, but eventually will leave you with a full fledged install. Right after installation, it’s useful to add the VirtualBox Guest Additions, which amongst other things enables the seamless mode. Also, a shared mount-point is useful, and can be easily enabled through the VirtualBox settings. It automatically appears in Windows.

The CD/DVD drives are passed through, and the physical drives were mapped to similar drives in the VM. For shared directories / drives, I wanted to makes sure the they were mounted to the same Windows drive all the time, regardless of other mount points. Thus, the VirtualBox setting does not use auto-mount, and instead the directory was manually mounted as seen in the Dropbox example below.

Installing Dropbox was a matter of downloading and installing this package, and start it as an unprivileged user. Then, in order to make that available in the Windows image as well, the top Dropbox directory was shared as a drive. (Note: The Windows VM is intentionally not connected to the network). Finally, a requirement was to have that fixed on C:\Dropbox, which was achieved with a symbolic link in Windows. The following lines has to be executed in a shell run “as Administrator”:

net use x: \\vboxsvr\Dropbox
mklink /d x:\ c:\Dropbox

One of the few special applications which requires Windows, was Corel Paint Shop Pro (PSP). The usage pattern for this is typically to download something from the web, and the process it. To make this easy and seamless, I added a Firefox plug-in so every image gets an extra right-click menu item which opens the image in PSP inside the VM. Details for this is explained here.

Finally, another special Windows only application was the genealogy program Aldfaer. The requirement here was that it could be updated, over the web. To make this work, the main install is on Ubuntu, with an option to run and update from Wine. However, it runs better inside the VM, so the application folder is mapped to Windows through another shared folder in VirtualBox. I will go into detail regarding this setup in a later post.

Writing this a few months after the machine was delivered, I’ll declare it a success. Raw performance is at a very different level from what my father was used to. The machine is silent, and in fact is turned on most of the time (as opposed to the old which he never used because of fan-noise). The split Ubuntu / VM setup is slightly complicated, but seems to work out well. As expected, the Windows install has already regressed, but it is easy to go back to a previous Snapshot, instead of re-installing everything again. This machine will definitely last a long time.


(Click for larger images.)

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Storage prices

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If you need massive storage, 6 TB disks are already very competitively priced. However, the 3 TB WD Green still gives the most GB per coin. Amongst SSD, several 1 TB disks rank towards the top, but still at ten times more than magnetic. Finally, USB flash drives and SD cards are coming down in price, with a large 64 GB option at the top.

Details of updates

There has been several announcements of products you cannot buy yet lately. On the following list, all are for sale and immediate delivery.

The list has seen significant updates since last time, in product ranges, prices: Western Digital now has five colour codes for their desktop disks, three of which are included here. There is the inexpensive large but slow Green, the Red for NAS and RAID with extra warranty, and the Purple in between. Also new since February are the 5 and 6 TB disks.

At 92 Euros, the 3 TB Green is at the top of the list at 32.4 GB per Euro. It is interesting to note that the 6 TB version is already towards the top, at just a bit more than double the price; €202, or 29.6 GB/€. For external disks, the 4 TB Elements Desktop is at the top, for €135, or 29 GB/€.

Amongst the SSD disks, the largest are now at the top, with Crucial 1 TB, 512 GB, and Samsung 1 TB all around 3 GB/€. Most interesting, is the fact that the Crucial claim to be MLC while the Samsung SSD 840 EVO Basic is a TLC based disk. The Samsung MLC disk are far more expensive, starting below 2 GB/€. It a sign of a very competitive market, and further decrease in prices ahead.

Finally, lower solid state prices also benefit memory cards and USB sticks. The Sandisk Cruzer Edge 64 GB drive now gives most storage for money. A bit further down, the Sandisk Ultra 64 GB and 128 GB SD cards are good large capacity options, although with slow 30 Mb/s read and write speeds. For top write speed, at an impressive 280/250 Mb/s read/write, see the new UHS-II based 64 GB SDXC card.

The List

Media Type Product Capacity Price CHF Price Euros Euros / GB GBs / Euro
HDD Western Digital Green 3TB 3000 GB 112.00 92.56 0.03 32.41
HDD Seagate Desktop 4TB 4000 GB 159.00 131.40 0.03 30.44
HDD Western Digital Green 4TB 4000 GB 161.00 133.06 0.03 30.06
HDD Western Digital Green 6TB 6000 GB 245.00 202.48 0.03 29.63
External 3.5 Western Digital Elements Desktop 4TB, USB3 4000 GB 164.00 135.54 0.03 29.51
HDD Western Digital Purple 3TB 3000 GB 125.00 103.31 0.03 29.04
HDD Western Digital Green 2TB 2000 GB 85.00 70.25 0.04 28.47
HDD Western Digital Red 3TB 3000 GB 130.00 107.44 0.04 27.92
External 3.5 Western Digital Elements Desktop 3TB, USB3 3000 GB 130.00 107.44 0.04 27.92
HDD Western Digital Purple 4TB 4000 GB 175.00 144.63 0.04 27.66
HDD Western Digital Red 4TB 4000 GB 177.00 146.28 0.04 27.34
External 3.5 Western Digital My Book 3TB, USB3 3000 GB 135.00 111.57 0.04 26.89
HDD Western Digital Red 5TB 5000 GB 226.00 186.78 0.04 26.77
External 3.5 Western Digital My Book 4TB, USB3 4000 GB 182.00 150.41 0.04 26.59
HDD Hitachi Deskstar 7K4000, 4TB 4000 GB 184.00 152.07 0.04 26.30
HDD Western Digital Red 6TB 6000 GB 279.00 230.58 0.04 26.02
HDD Western Digital Purple 2TB 2000 GB 95.40 78.84 0.04 25.37
HDD Western Digital Red 2TB 2000 GB 104.00 85.95 0.04 23.27
External 2.5 Western Digital Elements Portable 2TB, USB3 2000 GB 109.00 90.08 0.05 22.20
HDD Western Digital Green 1TB 1000 GB 62.20 51.40 0.05 19.45
External 2.5 Western Digital My Passport Ultra 2TB, USB3 2000 GB 127.00 104.96 0.05 19.06
HDD Western Digital Purple 1TB 1000 GB 69.60 57.52 0.06 17.39
HDD Western Digital Red 1TB 1000 GB 70.50 58.26 0.06 17.16
External 2.5 Western Digital My Passport Ultra 1TB, USB3 1000 GB 75.90 62.73 0.06 15.94
External 2.5 Western Digital Elements Portable 1TB, USB3 1000 GB 77.90 64.38 0.06 15.53
DVD-R Verbatim 16x DVD-R 100 @ 4,7GB 470 GB 40.40 33.39 0.07 14.08
Blu-ray Verbatim BD-R SL 10 @ 25GB 250 GB 25.00 20.66 0.08 12.10
Blu-ray Verbatim BD-R DL 10 @ 50GB 500 GB 57.30 47.36 0.09 10.56
DVD+R DL Verbatim 8x DVD+R DL 50 @ 8,5GB 425 GB 69.10 57.11 0.13 7.44
DVD+R DL Verbatim 8x DVD+R DL 25 @ 8,5GB 213 GB 36.40 30.08 0.14 7.06
SSD Crucial MX100 SSD, MLC, 512GB 512 GB 199.00 164.46 0.32 3.11
SSD Samsung SSD 840 EVO Basic, TLC, 1TB 1000 GB 399.00 329.75 0.33 3.03
SSD Crucial M550 SSD, MLC, 1024GB 1024 GB 424.00 350.41 0.34 2.92
SSD Crucial M550 SSD, MLC, 512GB 512 GB 224.00 185.12 0.36 2.77
SSD Samsung SSD 840 EVO Basic, TLC, 500GB 500 GB 226.00 186.78 0.37 2.68
SSD Crucial M500 SSD, MLC, 960GB 960 GB 445.00 367.77 0.38 2.61
SSD Crucial M500 SSD, MLC, 480GB 480 GB 237.00 195.87 0.41 2.45
USB Flash Sandisk Cruzer Edge Flash Drive 64GB 64 GB 33.50 27.69 0.43 2.31
CD-R Verbatim CD-R 100 @ 700MB 70 GB 36.80 30.41 0.43 2.30
SSD Samsung SSD 840 EVO Basic, TLC, 750GB 750 GB 404.00 333.88 0.45 2.25
SSD Samsung SSD 840 EVO Basic, TLC, 250GB 250 GB 137.00 113.22 0.45 2.21
SSD Samsung SSD 850 Pro, MLC, 1024GB 1024 GB 635.00 524.79 0.51 1.95
SSD Samsung SSD 840 Pro Basic, MLC, 512GB 512 GB 333.00 275.21 0.54 1.86
SSD Samsung SSD 840 Pro Basic, MLC, 256GB 256 GB 167.00 138.02 0.54 1.85
USB Flash Sandisk Cruzer Edge Flash Drive 32GB 32 GB 21.00 17.36 0.54 1.84
SSD Samsung SSD 850 Pro, MLC, 256GB 256 GB 179.00 147.93 0.58 1.73
SSD Samsung SSD 840 EVO Basic, TLC, 120GB 120 GB 84.20 69.59 0.58 1.72
SSD Samsung SSD 850 Pro, MLC, 512GB 512 GB 378.00 312.40 0.61 1.64
SDXC Sandisk Ultra, SDXC, 30MB/s, 64GB 64 GB 52.00 42.98 0.67 1.49
SDXC Sandisk Ultra, SDXC, 30MB/s, 128GB 128 GB 105.00 86.78 0.68 1.48
USB Flash Sandisk Cruzer Edge Flash Drive 16GB 16 GB 13.30 10.99 0.69 1.46
SSD Samsung SSD 840 Pro Basic, MLC, 128GB 128 GB 112.00 92.56 0.72 1.38
SSD Samsung SSD 850 Pro, MLC, 128GB 128 GB 128.00 105.79 0.83 1.21
SDXC Sandisk Extreme, SDXC, 45MB/s, 64GB 64 GB 65.10 53.80 0.84 1.19
USB Flash Sandisk Extreme Pro, USB 3.0, 128GB 128 GB 135.00 111.57 0.87 1.15
SDHC Sandisk Ultra, Class 10, 30MB/s, 32GB 32 GB 35.00 28.93 0.90 1.11
USB Flash Sandisk Cruzer Edge Flash Drive 8GB 8 GB 8.95 7.40 0.92 1.08
SDHC Sandisk Ultra, Class 10, 30MB/s, 16GB 16 GB 18.80 15.54 0.97 1.03
SDXC Sandisk Extreme SDXC, 80/60MB/s, 128GB 128 GB 162.00 133.88 1.05 0.96
SDXC Sandisk Extreme SDXC, 80/60MB/s, 64GB 64 GB 89.00 73.55 1.15 0.87
SDHC Sandisk Ultra, Class 10, 30MB/s, 8GB 8 GB 12.30 10.17 1.27 0.79
SDXC Sandisk Extreme Pro SDXC, 90/95MB/s, 64GB 64 GB 117.00 96.69 1.51 0.66
SDHC Sandisk Extreme Pro, Class UHS-I, 90/95MB/s, 32GB 32 GB 78.00 64.46 2.01 0.50
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme 120MB/s, UDMA 7, 64GB 64 GB 167.00 138.02 2.16 0.46
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme Pro 160MB/s, UDMA 7, 256GB 256 GB 709.00 585.95 2.29 0.44
SDHC Sandisk Extreme Pro, Class UHS-I, 90/95MB/s, 16GB 16 GB 46.10 38.10 2.38 0.42
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme 120MB/s, 128GB 128 GB 384.00 317.36 2.48 0.40
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme 60MB/s, 64GB 64 GB 228.00 188.43 2.94 0.34
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme 120MB/s, UDMA 7, 32GB 32 GB 116.00 95.87 3.00 0.33
Compact Flash SanDisk Ultra 30MB/s, 16GB 16 GB 58.50 48.35 3.02 0.33
SDXC Sandisk Extreme SDXC, 80/30MB/s, 8GB 8 GB 29.30 24.21 3.03 0.33
SDHC Sandisk Extreme Pro, Class UHS-I, 90/95MB/s, 8GB 8 GB 30.30 25.04 3.13 0.32
SDXC Sandisk Extreme Pro SDXC, UHS-II, 280/250MB/s, 64GB 64 GB 247.00 204.13 3.19 0.31
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme Pro 160MB/s, UDMA 7, 32GB 32 GB 149.00 123.14 3.85 0.26
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme Pro 160MB/s, UDMA 7, 64GB 64 GB 333.00 275.21 4.30 0.23
Compact Flash SanDisk Extreme 60MB/s, 16GB 16 GB 84.30 69.67 4.35 0.23
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme Pro 160MB/s, UDMA 7, 128GB 128 GB 708.00 585.12 4.57 0.22
Compact Flash SanDisk Extreme 120MB/s, UDMA 7, 16GB 16 GB 91.00 75.21 4.70 0.21
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme Pro 100MB/s, 128GB 128 GB 776.00 641.32 5.01 0.20
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme Pro 90MB/s, UDMA 6, 32GB 32 GB 224.00 185.12 5.79 0.17
Compact Flash Sandisk Extreme Pro 90MB/s, UDMA 6, 64GB 64 GB 452.00 373.55 5.84 0.17

Exchange rate: 1 Euro = 1.210000 CHF.

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Why 10TB drives could be bad news

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In this week’s news, Hitachi GST (HGST) announced a 10 TB HDD. It ups the earlier announcement by Seagate of a 8 TB disk. Although both companies claim the disks are “shipped”, they are nowhere near consumers yet. Both are shipping samples to a select few partners. Tech writers are ecstatic, though, and are happily re-publishing most of the official press release.

10 TB in a 3.5″ HDD is an impressive feat in itself, however the technology used to achieve it might mark the end of general purpose magnetic disks: First, this is another helium based disk from HGST, which stacks seven platters. It remains to be seen how long the helium can be contained within the disk, but is probably a lot shorter than the shelf-life of an air-based magnetic disk. Regardless of lifespan, what makes the 10 TB milestone less impressive, and even slightly worrisome, is the seven platters. That is a one-time trick. We cannot expect disks with even more platters stacked on top of each other in the future, so growth will not continue that route. It has to come from increased areal density of the bits per platter.

The brings me to the second issue with this disk: Areal density is achieved by so called Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR). As explained by Seagate, it means that each data track is stacked slightly above the other, just like shingles on a roof. To make this work, existing data has to be re-written if something is changed in neighboring tracks. This could result in delays when writing data on an almost full disk. Furthermore, it will require special handling by the OS (in case of the “host managed” 10 TB HGST disk). Implementing that right might not be trivial. SMR based disks are in other words not drop-in replacements for all applications. Although, for scenarios which are write once (or infrequently), and read often, this is not a problem.

Combined, these two technologies will most likely take us to 20 TB and beyond. Assuming the 8 TB Seagate disk used five 1.6 TB platters, a seven platter disk would give 11.2 TB. That is of course the advantage of more platters, it amplifies any advance in areal density. Between five and seven platters, the factor is 1.4, and between four and seven it’s 1.75.

The trend of ever decreasing HDD prices will continue, even though the products might not be for everyone.

Open a Firefox image in a VirtualBox guest OS

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In my recent Ubuntu and Windows install for my father, a requirement was to open images shown in Firefox (which runs on the host Ubuntu OS) in Corel Paint Shop Pro which runs in the VirtualBox guest Windows 7 OS.

The command to execute an application from the host in the guest is vboxmanage guestcontrol [...] exec, documented here. It also needs the (guest OS) user credentials, the application to run and its arguments. Also note, that back-slashes have to be escaped, and since the path contains spaces it has to be in quotes.

The following assumes that the name of the VirtualBox machine is called “win7″, and application to run is PSP, and shows example values for username, password and filename.

Note that it also assumes that the Windows drive S:\ is a shared mount point between the host and guest OS, and that downloaded images is saved to that location.

vboxmanage guestcontrol win7 exec --image "C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Corel\\Corel PaintShop Pro X5\\Corel PaintShop Pro.exe" --username my_guest_user --password my_guest_password -- "s:\\image_file.png"

So far so good. However, to execute this for any image in Firefox proved a bit tricky. It does not seem to be possible to associate an Open action from the right-click menu with a given application in Firefox. The plugin “Open With Photoshop” came to the rescue. It gives an extra menu item when right-clicking on any image, and what most useful, it let’s you choose the executable to run.

I took the command above, and created my own script, e.g. “corel_psh.sh”, which looks like this:

#!/bin/bash
 
WINUSER=my_win_user
PASSWORD=my_win_password
 
f=$1
b=`basename $f`
 
vboxmanage guestcontrol win7 exec --image "C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Corel\\Corel PaintShop Pro X5\\Corel PaintShop Pro.exe" --username $WINUSER --password $PASSWORD -- "s:\\$b" &> /tmp/open_with.log

I suppose a valuable addition would be to move the downloaded file to the correct location if necessary.

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Seagate brags about 8 TB disks

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It was only a few days ago I mentioned Western Digital’s new 6 TB disks. It seems Seagate got nervous, and are now claiming to “ship” 8 TB disks. However, it is a misleading headline at best: The drives in question are not on sale anywhere, and only special “pre-production prototypes” have been given to few select partners. Furthermore, the initial batches will be aimed at enterprise customers who can afford them. As an early-adopter strategy, that makes sense, but it means you will not get your hands on one any time soon. So, the prediction from a few days ago holds: 8.4 TB is already within reach, with 7 platters * 1.2 TB, but needs special technology like helium filled drives. We will probably not have 8 TB drives before 2015.

The bit-tech article is also very light on technical detail, presumably because Seagate holds their cards close. There is no mentioned on how they have gotten to 8 TB, only that 10 TB might also be within reach soon. The later would be very interesting, since even with 7 platters it means an increase in areal density to 1.4 TB per platter. Or if we assume 5 platters, an impressive 2 TB. That will probably not reach the market before end of 2015, possibly 2016.

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6 TB disks, 1.2 TB platters finally here

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Earlier this week, Anandtech could report that Wester Digital has finally taken the next incremental step in spinning HDD size. The WD Red series will now come in sizes of 5 and 6 TB, as will the Green series. 6 TB is accomplished using 5 platters, which is a new trend for Western Digital. As mentioned earlier, the five-platter technology was acquired from Hitachi, and we now start seeing them in NAS type WD drives. With five platters, it means each has 1.2 TB, which is shy of the 1.25 TB expected this year. It is important, since it means the 5 TB version also contains five platters, of 1 TB each, rather than 4 * 1.25 TB.

As the AnandTech article points out, WD is still using Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) technology, as in previous drives. It means that the 1.2 TB areal density should be easily compatible with the HGST seven platters helium drives. That should make 7 * 1.2 = 8.4 TB drives immediately possible. However, as marketing seems to be focused on whole integer increments only, expect 7 and 8 TB drives in this combination. That would be in line with the predictions seen here last year.

As for price, the WD Green is not yet announced. For the Red series, 5 TB will be $250, and 6 TB $300, which puts both in at 5 cents per GB. That is 39% more expensive than the cheapest Seagate 3 TB disk in the storage graphs. However, the newest and biggest drives always start at a premium for the early adopters. These new drives will probably mean that the previous step, 4 TB, will rise to the top as the best GB per buck.