SDD vs HDD Recoverability

The new solid state drives are currently be lauded as better than the traditional hard drives. In plain English, here is what the consumer should be looking for.

For the non-technical people, HDD is Hard Disk Drive, and has been used in computers for decades. It has a spinning platter and needle arm much like that of an old record player except all the information is written magnetically. Like any electronic instrument, if you drop this device, it is likely to break, skip data, scratch the platter, or something unsavory of this sort. There is nothing particularly technical about that.

An SDD is Solid Disk Drive and works much the same way as these new flash or thumb drive keys work. There are no moving parts. Instead, data is stored in tiny electronic switches that remember their position even when there is no power to the device. SDDs are both faster and generally more expensive than traditional HDDs. They may be ideal for certain applications that require higher speeds and robustness from vibration or drops. They are not however good for all applications.

The biggest concern we have with SDDs here at B.A. C.S. is their inability to recover from disk faults. The nature of an SDD’s method of storage makes them much more susceptible to immediate and unrecoverable loss of data and performance issues over time. We have done some research and are including a few quotes from engineers around the world:

[D]espite their performance advantages, SSDs only have a 10% market share compared to HDDs for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, they’re expensive. HDDs today average around 3-4 cents per GB, compared to 25-30 cents for SSDs. Dec 7, 2018

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/data-recovered-failed-ssd/ June 2019

… SSDs are quirky little devices that get slower as they fill up. And eventually, the flash cells reach a state where they can no longer complete write operations at all.

https://www.networkworld.com/article/3326058/what-is-an-ssd.html June 2019

SDDs have a different and bigger problem – SSDs can only write to empty blocks. That’s okay when the SSD is new and all the blocks are empty. But over time, as blocks get filled up, overwriting data becomes an issue, because the only way an SSD can update an existing page is to copy the contents of the entire block into memory, erase the block and then write the contents of the old block in addition to the new data. If there are no empty blocks available, the SSD must scan for blocks marked for deletion, but not yet deleted, erase them, and then write the data to the now-erased page. Over time, as the SSD fills up, writing to the drive becomes more complicated and slower.

https://www.networkworld.com/article/3326058/what-is-an-ssd.html June 2019

At B.A.C.S. we are of the opinion traditional HDDs are safer for data storage in the long run than SDDs and that safe data is the highest priority. However as with any storage device, we strongly recommend full backup of your data to another device. ANY single storage device can be corrupted and the best way to avoid total data loss is to duplicate the disk to a second or third device designed for long-term storage. B.A. C.S. offers the unique option of completely imaging your disk to another disk so that if you do lose your drive for whatever reason, an exact duplicate of the drive can be recovered to a brand new drive. The new drive will boot and act exactly like the old one: absolutely nothing lost (except whatever you added since last duplicating the drive). This method is also very private as it keeps all data in your possession alone. Cost is merely that of the new drive and the duplication effort (which requires special attention and drive removal in many cases.)

Church Overhead Methodology

Making a smooth worship experience for congregations is an art unique in its own right. The entertainment industry perfects certain aspects, but in a congregation of worship, entertainment is not the goal at all. In fact, the best worship teams seek to fade entirely from the platform as they lead the  people to enter into the high praises of God themselves.

The primary idea behind worship is that the congregation itself is able to make the words and music that are being sung their own expression of praise. For most congregations, this has led leadership into installing overhead projection and a dedicated computer near the sound booth. Unfortunately these devices do not run themselves, and as with any tool, if not used properly, they may distract from worship more than they aid it. Even if an old-style projector is employed, the methodology for employing words on screen must be carefully learned and coordinated with the lead musicians so as not to detract from worship:

  • Are the words in print in the same order as those being sung?
  • Are the slides for repeated phrases easily accessible so that they may be revisited when the music repeats a chorus?
  • Are the words in a font and color than can be read easily?
  • Are the phrases in the song written in a poetic logical order in the same manner that the song is sung?
  • Are there cues in the printed song that aids the congregation in knowing what phrase will come next, or how to sing a particular phrase?
  • Does the person changing the slides know the song well enough to change the slide in a timely manner, preferably, before the last word on the current slide is sung.

When using a particular software for projection purposes, the projection artist (e.g. lead musician or sound man) must create an organization structure for the library of overheads that will be used in any given worship set. Some congregations prefer to be rigid in their songs sets allowing for pre-ordering of the songs to be sung, but in more contemporary services, songs must be easily searchable so that if an impromptu song is selected, the operator can quickly find it in a few measures of the song and display it for the congregation. Even within a given song, it must be written in a way that allows for verses and chorus to be interchanged and quickly displayed in the same rapidness that a lead musician may opt to repeat a particular portion. All these details take some thought, technical experience, and practice to solidify the art of creating a non-distracting worship environment for people.

B.A. Computer Services is trained in this particular art. (903) 243-9588

To Pad or Not to Pad

A plethora of devices on the market make even those of us who have had a smart phone for several years uncertain whether to invest into something different. Here at B.A. Computer Services we endeavor to research everyday technical solutions and provide very practical advice (albeit not purely scientific) about our findings.

Clearly dissatisfaction or breakage of a current device is the impetus for shopping for another device. Modern communication, namely, texting, has not, and likely will never fully trump basic verbal communication–frequently over a phone device of some sort. Thus priority #1–Buy a PHONE. If you end up with a device that has great color, bells, whistles, and dances on the table, that cannot be easily picked up to make or take a phone call, you have been misled. Look first at your primary communication need–choose a device that you can answer easily, hear clearly, and that has a good microphone so the other party can hear you clearly as well.

Smart phones are a hybrid between a computer and a phone, er, camera, er, clock, er, stereo, er…pad. In other words, smart phones have become so ubiquitous and versatile it is unlikely they will fade anytime soon. The trouble is, any one device is still physically limited to time and space, so Dad’s phone just won’t suit being used as Mom’s ebook, Johnnie’s gamebox, and Suzie’s music all at the same time. Not only that, but Dad wants to be able to answer his calls and check stock quotes at the same time–that is a neat trick that technically is possible if you can tolerate hearing voices over a cellular speaker phone along with the dog barking, outdoor road noise, and kids arguing in the other room.

…the most subtle disadvantage to tablets is the difficulty to hold them without accidentally touching a part of the screen…

This, then, is where a search for a secondary device leads toward the possibility of purchasing a pad or an ipad if you are an Apple lover. Before you do, here are some gotchas you might consider. First, any secondary device means one more thing to tote around, charge, and remember to have on hand at the moment you need it. Having two devices can be twice the hassle as having one. Trying to fit a tablet into your back pocket simply doesn’t quite do the trick, and is a sure way to break the screen.

Yet, perhaps the most subtle disadvantage to tablets is the difficulty to hold them without accidentally touching a part of the screen. Holding a 6×8″ pad up to one’s ear is simply quite awkward. The truth about tablets is, they are not convenient as phones. The truth about smart phones is, they are trying to be too much to too many people. The best thing to do with these devices is to primarily designate them for limited use. Park your pad in one place and use it for a specific purpose. (Your electronic tablet I mean:-) Keep your smart phone in its usual pocket and avoid using it for other non-essentials. An old phone can of course be designated for children or an alarm clock, or whatever app you desire to install on it over WiFi. (In the case of a clock, plug it in permanently, prop at just the right angle, and leave it alone.)

The decision to purchase a pad, in lieu of or in addition to your phone, is yours and yours alone. While B.A.’s repairs these devices, we do not currently sell any of them. We are more interested in helping our customers with making smart purchases. Unfortunately, the old adage, “You get what you pay for,” can be misleading in the purchase of phones. Many higher-end devices are more expensive because of branding more than because of improved quality. Truly, any device with glass on its face that is carried around will eventually break. Buy what you really need, and when you need service, we are here to help. We can also install those perfect apps to recommission your old phone into something useful.

You may find these reviews helpful in choosing an electronic device:

https://www.cnet.com/reviews/

https://www.tomsguide.com/t/tablets/

See also http://www.bacomputer.net/new-material/why-must-i-buy-a-new-cell-phone-to-switch-carriers/,
http://www.bacomputer.net/new-material/poor-country-cellular-service-lake-fork-lake-tawakoni/

Why Slow Internet Hangs Your Computer

In sequel to Byte Size Matters article, a frequent occurrence of Microsoft computers on slow network connections in rural areas is the partial updates that attempt to download (unsuccessfully), eventually resulting in a frustrating slow or corrupt computer system.

There may be a number of good reasons your computer has deteriorated.  A virus sweep is always warranted, but this isn’t viral-related at all.   The problem has more to do with the behemoth operating system updates Microsoft sends out, and its policy to automatically set updates to auto-download.  While that policy might be effective for a company with computers on a fast Internet connection, on a slow connection, it is a terrible policy.

The scale of fast versus slow is not easily recognized with smaller downloads of say under 100Mb.  A connection that allows “Up to 3Mb per second” may run an average of 1-2 Mbs.  If on a good day it runs 2Mbs, theoretically, a 100Mb file downloads in 50 seconds.   In reality, several seconds are taken to begin the download, and it may temporarily stall, so realistically it is still a reasonable 1-3 minute download.  But lets talk about a bigger chunk of data – a movie for example, or an entire Microsoft operating system update, of a sum of about 1 Gb (over 1000 Mb).  So basically 1-3 minutes turns into 10 to 30 minutes over a slow connection!

YOUR Internet speed isn’t the only factor.    Even if YOUR Internet speed is ultra-high speed, if the website from which you wish to receive data is slow, you will see slow downloads. In the case of Microsoft, it is reasonable to expect sufficient bandwidth from their update servers at non-peak times.  So a difference in Internet speed from 1-3 Mbs to a faster 25 Mbs could be very significant.  If it takes 100 minutes at 1 Mbs, then at 25Mbs it should only take a very reasonable wait of 4 minutes or so.  Thus it is all about scale.  As humans we often encounter situations where a 10-20 minutes waits is acceptable, but much longer sends us walking elsewhere.  In fact, doing Microsoft updates over a slow Internet connection is much like wading through metroplex traffic during rush hour(s).  The chances of vehicle breakdown is extremely high–just as high as the chances your update will not succeed and your computer will choke on the unsuccessful attempts.

Our recommendation:  Let a computer shop do the updates for you. A good shop will have the updates already downloaded, or will have a high speed connection where they can get them many times faster than you can.

Poor Cellular Service Solutions (Lake Fork, Lake Tawakoni)

Its Simple

GSM works far better than CDMA for one simple reason — the broadcast band it uses is more reliable. Nonetheless, among those that tout they use GSM, AT&T (prepaid counterpart Cricket) and T-Mobile (prepaid counterpart MetroPCS), T-Mobile/MetroPCS dropped service repeatedly in recent tests.   MetroPCS uses IP6 addressing over T-Mobile’s network. Verizon, despite their use of CDMA,  works well in most areas.

It would be hard to generalize, but in actual tests around the East Texas Lake Areas, MetroPCS phones dropped everything from cell service, to texts, to data during cloudy days.  Sprint phones and its counterpart Boost Mobile are expected to perform equally poorly in outlying East Texas areas.  While AT&T and Cricket might be better alternatives in some cases, there is always an expense trade-off.  Data plans vary between these companies but the main advantage any company will have over another is, up-time percentage:  Weather sometimes interrupts service–but a few clouds should not drop service entirely for any noticeable length of time.

A Little More

A feature of some cellular services is the routing of calls and texts over the same bandwidth as its data stream.  This means very annoyingly–no data access also means no texting.   GSM uses two different bandwidths, one for calls and texts, and the other for data.  This means you might temporarily hit a spot where you are without data (maps, music, web browsing), but your phone and texts will still generally work.  Photos sent via text do not actually go via text–because by definition texting is, well, text.  Thus, pictures always use data as multimedia or email messages, and may not go out at all in areas with poor service.

Here is a table extracted from https://techspirited.com/gsm-vs-cdma comparing GSM and CDMA technology. I have added a column to weight for usefulness in sparsely populated Rains County and adjacent rural areas.

TopicGSM
CDMA
Rains County
CompaniesATT,T-Mobile,Cricket,Boost, EuropeSprint,Verizon,US CellularGSM more available in rural areas
% Use
50%, 3.7 billion5%, 350 millionRoughly as of 2016; others LTE 12%, HSPA 29%
Call QualityGoodBetterInsignificant differences overall
CarriersFlexibleHardwired
GSM users may switch SIMS
CDMA users must switch phones
US CoverageGoodGoodGSM better in rural areas
Emergency112Varies
GSM 112 is recognized as emergency help number worldwide
BatteryBetterGoodCDMA uses more energy
SpeedVaries
VariesBoth technologies run neck and neck as far as real-user experience is concerned. Speed is not a significant factor for calls and texts–only affects data such as downloads and sending pictures.
RoamingFree$$$GSM is more widely used, and usually free
Inside Buildings
GoodGoodMetallic buildings often interrupt all sorts of wireless communications.

MetroPCS, AT&T, Cricket, Verizon, T-Mobile, Boost, and Sprint are trademarks of their respective companies.

Why Can’t I Bring My Phone to a New Carrier?

The cellular carriers are competing by using different technologies to market their version of the cellular services.  For example, AT&T  uses a protocol called GSM, while Sprint uses CDMA.  Technology is quickly changing, but for the most part, CDMA phones are permanently tied to the carrier from which they were purchased.  GSM phones however, are the type that have a removable card that can be swapped out to switch carriers to another GSM compatible carrier.  A few carriers are crossover carriers, meaning they support to some extent both GSM and CDMA phones.

The reason a company is offering you a free phone to switch from your existing carrier is that they know that the phone you have is likely not compatible with their network, and that the free phone you are about to receive from them is not compatible with your current carrier either.  Thus the free phone will be permanently tied to their service, a strong incentive for you to remain loyal to them.  This may not however be a big issue for a prepaid service. The phone was free and thus effectively dispensable. The data on the phone can be backed up (synced) to an Internet-based email account before you disconnect it, and when you get a new phone on a new carrier, you simply reconnect to that same email account and presto, all your apps and contacts are back.

Another common error in shopping for a phone, is that the marketeers are not just trying to sell you a phone, they are pushing camera sales.  A smart phone is not in the same paradigm as a traditional landline phone, which only permitted talking to people.  Smart phones are camera-video_recorder-stereo-phone-and-more all built into one small device.  Some of the features are incidental to the device (a speaker phone for example), while many features being pushed are non-essential (a camera isn’t needed to talk on a phone).  Thus the difference in price is all about the non-essential features you may or may not need.  If it is a phone at all, it will do the basic–it will allow you to make and receive calls.

So the next time you buy a phone with a carrier, just remember, you are effectively buying a disposable device that is locked to that carrier.  If you buy a more expensive smart phone with spicy features, realize you bought a camera more than you bought a phone and someday you may want to switch phone carriers and find out that your smart camera is not compatible with the phone carrier you want.  And yes, you can continue to use your smart camera without phone service, if that is what you want to do, but you willneed to periodically connect your device to a computer to extract the images since it will no longer be automatically backing all that stuff up to the Internet via a cellular connection.

Byte Size Matters

How much drive space a computer needs is relative to one’s lifestyle practices. For most people, a few hundred Gigabytes of storage will last the life of the computer, which is about 10 years.  (If you hear about Gibibytes, it is technically a more accurate measure of drive size because it is based on the binary that computers actually use rather that the Gigabyte which is equal to exactly 1,000,000,000 bytes.)  So how big is a Gig or Gib?  Well that would be one thousand millions.  Now a million dollars might last 10 years if you were conservative with it in today’s economy, but a thousand millions would certainly tide you and your grandchildren over into the next centuries.

A typical digital photograph runs around 1 megabyte = 1000 KB.   Now suppose you took 100 pictures a day and stored them on your computer. How long before you used up a 500 Gigabyte drive?   Well first, lets subtract about 100 Gigabytes for the operating system and other stuff you already have on the drive.  So now we are down to 400 GB free. Converted, that equals about 400, 000 MB.  So if each picture is 1 MB, and you take 100 a day, that would be 100 MB a day. Dividing 400,000 MB by 100 MB/day gives 4,000 days, or further divided by 365 days/year gives almost 11 years of use.  Now, what are the chances you are actually going to store 100 pictures every-single day for the next 11 years?

How about videos?  The standard 4.7 GB DVD on which many movies still come today store about 2 hours of movie plus a few previews and trailers.  For ease of computation we will round up to 5 GB and say 5 GB equals about 2 hours video.  How many hours video will 400 GB hold?  400/5 = 80 x 2 hours = 160 hours or about a week’s worth of video if you wanted to watch videos 24 hours a day for a solid week.  Our previous daily picture example yielded about 11 years of use, while storing one video each day will allow about 80 days of watching or almost 3 months of videos every-single day.  In all likelihood, the average person would only watch one or two full-length movies each week or less on average.  Thus the storage space would be sufficient for a number of years of use.

Conclusion

For most people today 500 GB of drive space is more than enough.  Like a large filing cabinet, oversizing it will just leave room for clutter that gets forever lost and forgotten.  A professional cinematographer may desire a larger drive, such as the Tera-byte drive = 1,000 Gigabytes, which is twice the size of a 500 GB drive.  Larger drives may be more prone to failure, primarily because more platters must be squeezed into a small space, and thus more heat is generated, more mechanics for failure, and so on. Bigger simply isn’t always better when it comes to drive sizes.  A good average size is best, with redundancy of drives.

B.A. Computer Services can assist you in drive replacements, drive arrays, and other disk storage needs.  Call us now at 903-243-9588.

Yikes! Drive Failed Options

There are several basic scenarios when evaluating your drive problem.
Under normal operating conditions, it is rare that a drive’s physical mechanisms fail so badly the data cannot be recovered. Before assuming drive is physically bad, use the operating system drive tool to see whether the drive is still recognized. If it is, then likely, it is a file system corruption problem rather than a hardware failure. BACS can assist you with both types of problems.

When System Will Not Boot.

1. One check to see whether your drive is still physically operational is to view whether it appears in the system BIOS startup screen before the operating system attempts to boot. You may need to press F2, F10, ESC, or some other key combination unique to your computer model at the very moment it powers up to access the BIOS screens.  If you do succeed in accessing data through use of a rescue startup disk or other method, immediately transfer your data to a backup medium such as an external USB drive before further failure prevents data recovery.

2. In the event of a drive hardware failure, two basic repair scenarios exist:

2a. The drive controller electronics have gone bad. This might be electrical surge burnout or other failure. It also may not be the drive at all, but the disk controller on your motherboard. One way to check is to plug in a different drive and see if it is recognized in the bios screen. If you are not familiar with computer repair, we highly recommend bringing it in for basic service. Drive controller boards (PCBs) can be replaced without breaking the drive seals, but some PCBs have memory chips that must match the drive serial data and may need to be physically transplanted from the old board.

2b. The drive heads or motor have gone bad, or have frozen to plate. Bad heads can cause further damage to the disc plate. If drive spins up, but data cannot be read, turn computer off immediately and have it serviced. This would especially be true if drive or computer has been dropped or otherwise impacted suddenly. If drive fails to spin at all, the motor may be bad. In either case in 2b, the seal on the drive itself must be broken for repairs, and doing so requires special equipment to prevent damage to the sensitive drive platters. Data recovery on this type of repair is best submitted to a data recovery professional.  Expect to pay $500 or more for this type of data recovery.

In all of these scenarios, drive error failure means it is time to replace the hard drive.  That process involves multiple time-consuming steps.  In some cases it is both logically and legally possible to move everything to a new drive including the operating system and all of your data files.  If drive has failed miserably however, a rescue of only your data may be your best option, while the new drive is freshly installed with a complete new copy of an operating system of your choice.  Depending on the licenses that came with your computer, if you desire to use Microsoft Windows it may require purchase of a new operating system license .  Other operating systems are possible that do not require license purchase. The cost for replacing a hard drive that is still readily accessible can be as low as $89 plus cost of the new drive itself, not including re-installation of additional programs that were installed after you purchased the computer.

Why DVDs Won’t Play

In short, DVD movies are encrypted by the movie-makers such that special software is required to decipher them.  Older copies of Microsoft Windows® were automatically able to decipher the movies because Microsoft automatically included the software with the operating system licenses. Windows® 8, and 10, and current releases of Linux do not natively have the software necessary to decipher the movies.  What is more, there are now laws that forbid programmers from writing software to decipher or crack the cryptography.  Such software does exist, and its use has not yet been challenged in U.S. courts, but nonetheless, is technically illegal. Cracking encryption is now deemed similar to breaking a lock on a car or house. the end-purpose of the laws being to prevent duplication of the DVDs. (One must be aware that purchase of a DVD movie is not purchase of the entire movie itself, but only a limited license to view the movie on that particular DVD.)

Solutions include:

  1. Buy software that specifically licenses the right to decipher the encryption (around $20);
  2. Use an external DVD or DVD/Blu-ray combo player (which again has been specifically licensed by the manufacturer to decipher the encryption);
  3. Downgrade to Windows® 7 or prior versions (works for most older movie releases, but may fail going forward with newer releases);
  4. A few other odd-ball solutions exist that cannot be recommended with integrity by this author, and can be quite technically difficult to accomplish.

Reference these articles:

http://www.dummies.com/computers/operating-systems/windows-8/how-to-play-dvds-in-windows-8/

https://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-watch-dvds-for-free-in-windows-10/

https://help.ubuntu.com/stable/ubuntu-help/video-dvd-restricted.html

The Future of Bluetooth

Personal experience with bluetooth technology has been less than satisfying for many.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.  When it works, it works well. When it doesn’t work, well, it can be real frustrating.  Try out this recent article on one of the major phone manufacturers to see how they may be improving the technology soon.

https://www.cnet.com/news/samsung-galaxy-s8-begins-era-of-better-bluetooth/

For the newbies: What is bluetooth?  It is a technology that allows a device such as a mobile phone to be paired with a separate nearby device, usually a speaker or other sound system, to project the audio from your phone to the larger system (or a wire-free headphone set).  Projecting an MP3 collection downloaded to a cell phone, for instance, into an automobile’s speaker systems is one such use.  Hands-free telephone use is another application. For a more technical description,  try this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluetooth