Solid state drives – a geekout

by Jane on November 7, 2011

Today I’m going to geek out about solid-state drives.

I recently purchased a 120 GB solid-state drive for a desktop.  It doesn’t hold my data; just the operating system and frequently-used programs.  It cost about $200.

The speed difference is striking.  The computer boots in only a few seconds, but the biggest difference is the time to start large programs like Firefox, Safari, and the bloatiest of bloatware: Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.  Even PP the water buffalo starts in barely enough time to read the splash screen.  As Julie Comerford pointed out to me, an SSD makes your computer feel much faster than an incremental gain in processor speed or a fractional amount more memory.I suppose, in the big scheme of things, this isn’t much gain.  Two minutes per day of not waiting for programs to load (figuring 6 sec/doc, 20 docs/day.)  At a typical postdoc salary, that’s $4 of extra work per day.  So in extra brainpower, the productivity gain should pay for itself in half a year.

(I’m being a bit loose here with numbers.  I’m assuming posdocs work only 8 hr/day, because otherwise the hourly rate is just too depressing.  And I’m assuming that those 5 minutes gained per day are re-invested making plots and writing papers and other figuring-out-the-universe tasks, rather than obsessing over the job rumor page and whether your paper comes out second or tenth on astro-ph.)

But still, a few minutes per day regained.  I’ll take that.  And what’s more, I’ll take the continuity of thought: that I can check a website, or a spreadsheet, and still remember what I needed to look up by the time the program loads.

PS — Remember that Apple overcharges for SSDs, like they do for memory.  (Why, Apple, why?)  I don’t have a lot of experience, but I have an SSD from OWC and it’s great.  No issues whatsoever.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John November 7, 2011 at 8:11 am

Macbook owners who would like to add a (small, fast) SSD to their laptop without sacrificing their (big, slow) magnetic disk and who don’t make much use of their (obsolescent, clunky) optical drive may wish to look into the OptiBay:

I’ve not used one myself (yet), but I’ve heard good things…


2 saurav November 7, 2011 at 8:56 am

Replacing a MBP’s optical drive with a SSD works like a charm. There should be no problems whatsoever.

3 David W. Hogg November 7, 2011 at 9:12 am

Actually, the relevant hourly rate to apply is not your mean hourly rate, but your marginal hourly rate, which is something like “the amount I need to get paid per minute to stare at the PP splash screen instead of go home and play with my kids/cat/spouse and/or write thoughtful and beautiful things about the Universe”. For most people, marginal rate is much higher than mean rate.


4 Sarah November 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Not to get all nit-picky, but $2/minute means a postdoc would be making $960/day, or nearly $250k a year. I think someone’s got a math error!


5 Ali November 7, 2011 at 1:36 pm

I cant wait to be a postdoc and I wanna remain a postdoc forever with that salary!


6 Jane Rigby November 9, 2011 at 8:51 am

Oh goodness, what a math gaff. That’s what I get for writing posts on the redeye back to DC. Thanks, Sarah.

Hogg’s point about marginal rate is well-taken. Although given the number of badly-run meetings many of us suffer through (3 hr faculty meeting, anyone?), I suspect our marginal rates are pretty darn low.


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