Some FAQs about PCs you wish you knew before you bought it!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Q: I plan to buy a solid state drive (SSD), which is basically flash memory packed into a hard drive case and accessed like a hard drive (through SATA, IDE, whatever). I have heard that it is bad to defrag a SSD. Is that true, and why is that so?

The "random access time" of an SSD is so fast that "defrag" it is pointless.

On a regular HD, the head have to move from track to track. On an SSD it's instantaneous (well, just about). Thus, defrag is pointless. If there is no appreciable "gap" between blocks of data, then defrag is not necessary. After all the idea of defrag is to move the data so it can be read as a contiguous segment as possible, so the read head doesn't have to jump around to get the data.

Also, on flash memory, each cell can only be read and written X number of times. (that X is actually in the millions) In order to improve reliability, flash drives (and SSDs) have what's called "load levellers" that purposefully SPREAD OUT the data so each cell is used equally as much as possible. This actually fragments the data. However, such is NOT a concern on SSD, as stated before.

Thus, if you defrag an SSD, not only you will NOT see any gains, you will actually defeat the load levelling feature, increasing those frequently used cell's chance of failure, and thus, decrease reliability of the entire drive. Of course, you may be shaving off only fraction of a percent in reliability, but why borrow trouble?

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Q: Is it possible to run 64-bit OS, such as Vista 64-bit, on a 32-bit CPU? I don't care how slowly it runs, if it runs at all.

No, it would not be possible. 64-bit OS would issue 64-bit commands to the CPU, and 32-bit CPU would not understand those commands at all, and will crash (for the geeks, it would be "invalid opcode" error).

I suppose you *could* write a virtual machine that emulates a 64-bit CPU, and run the OS within that, but then you have to intercept very single call an OS can make... pass-thru if necessary... Why? When 64-bit CPUs are readily available?

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Q: Is there such thing as an external video card? So I can get better video for my laptop / notebook? Something that I can play a DECENT game with? The built-in Intel GMA is pure ****, if you know what I mean.

Brother, I share your pain. I have a Sony VAIO laptop that has the Intel 965 and no decent action game will run on it. However, there are no such thing on the market.

A prototype was demonstrated in Taiwan last year, and two companies have announced products. However, neither have reached market a year later. Looks like it's pretty dead.

I can see why too. The device itself will cost like $200, NOT COUNTING cost of the video card that you plan to use. And even then, the ExpressPort's bandwidth does not come CLOSE to PCI-E x 16 port that the video card really needs. So the video card will really be running at half-speed or worse. They'd be better off designing ExpressPort video card instead, if there aren't so many variants on the market...

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Q: I used _________ to convert some AVI files to a Video DVD format folder. However, I was browsing it when I noticed that while the VIDEO_TS folder has a whole bunch of files, AUDIO_TS folder is empty! Does that mean the conversion failed?

No. Video DVD does NOT require the existence of the AUDIO_TS folder. The VOB files in VIDEO_TS folder contains video, audio, AND subtitle data (if any), even multiple sound tracks. Some conversion programs like to put that folder there, just for completeness' sake. Don't worry about it.

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Q: What is a .LIT file? It seems to be an e-book but I don't know how to open it.

It's Microsoft Reader. You can download it free at