Motherboard RAID or Linux mdadm: Which is Faster?

πŸ“… May 24, 2016
mobo-mdadm-raid1-2-100x10MMost SATA motherboards today feature a “RAID Mode” in BIOS. Does it really make a difference compared to mdadm?

I got my hands on a consumer-grade desktop motherboard: MSI Z87-G45 Gaming. Like many other motherboards that contain SATA ports for connecting hard drives, it supports RAID.

I have been using RAID in Linux for many years using mdadm, which is available for free from the Ubuntu repository. This dandy little program allows you to configure various RAID arrays in software whether or not the motherboard supports RAID. It’s reliable, and it works well.

Is there any performance increase from using the RAID supported by the motherboard? What are the differences?

I performed my own simple tests with Linux Mint 17.3 to see if the motherboard RAID offered any advantages over mdadm. Here are the results…

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The Weme External USB 3.0 Enclosure vs. the Sabrent

πŸ“… May 12, 2016
weme01Does the type of USB 3.0 enclosure affect speed?

I really liked the Sabrent USB 3.0 external enclosure. Simply insert a 2.5″ SATA drive, screw it together, and plug it in any USB port. Presto! You have recycled a SATA drive into a portable USB drive!

The Sabrent cases have worked well for me, but I wantedΒ to try a different brand to see if it made any difference in data transfer rates.

After running some benchmarks, it turns out that there is definitely a difference in speed between the two enclosures.

Here are my results with CrystalDiskMark and Disks in Linux Mint 17.3.

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Speed Up Your Hard Drive with Flashcache

πŸ“… May 9, 2016
comparisonDo you have a spare SSD? You can use it as a dedicated hard drive caching device using Flashcache.

Flashcache is software that allows you to use a block device, such as a solid state drive (SSD), to cache the most frequently accessed data from a slow, mechanical drive. It runs on Linux, and it is free.

Most hard drives possess built-in cache memory, but it is usually small — about 64 MB or so. SSDs can hold gigabytes of data, and you can use the entire drive to act as a cache. For example, if you have a 120G SSD, then you can have 120G of dedicated hard drive cache.

Of course, SSDs are not as fast as RAM, so you will be limited to the SSD read and write speeds. However, an SSD is much faster than any mechanical hard drive, so the speed increase is noticeable.

Here are my Flashcache results with 7200RPM hard drives, a Samsung 840 SSD, and Linux Mint 17.3.

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How to Play YouTube Videos in VLC

πŸ“… April 28, 2016
yt03Are you having trouble playing YouTube videos in VLC?

Whether it be the Flash Player or the HTML5 player, there are times when YouTube’s browser player is less than adequate, such as no full screen or excessive stuttering. An external player usually plays videos instantly and with improved motion smoothness.

Also, maybe it is just me, but something seems broken or unreliable lately when attempting to play YouTube videos in VLC (VideoLAN Client).

It used to be that you could simply copy and paste the YouTube video URL into VLC or almost any other media player, and the player would play the video without hassle. There were even browser plugins facilitating the process. Now, VLC is giving me MRL errors.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Regardless, there are times when an external player, such as VLC, may be preferred. Can we still use VLC for YouTube videos?

Yes!

While this how-to uses Firefox and VLC on Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon as an example, it should work with other browsers and Linux distributions.

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Ubuntu 16.04, Xubuntu 16.04, and the Samsung 950 Pro 256G M.2

πŸ“… April 21, 2016
xub1604gUbuntu 16.04 was released earlier today (April 21, 2016), and it feels like Christmas!

This also means that the Ubuntu derivatives, such as Xubuntu 16.04, will also be available. In fact, Xubuntu 16.04 is also available for download today. Plus, 16.04 is the Long Term Support version (LTS), making it a replacement for the venerable and reliable 14.04.

With two new operating systems available, how will they handle the Samsung 950 Pro M.2 NVMe 256G SSD? Will Ubuntu/Xubuntu 16.04 install? What will boot times be like?

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The Samsung 950 Pro 256G and Linux. Does it Work?

πŸ“… April 20, 2016
950boxWhat? You say your 6Gbps SATA SSD is too slow? You have to wait an extra second or two?

Good news! M.2 solid state drives (SSDs) offer faster I/O speeds than SATA, and the fastest of these (at the moment) is the Samsung 950 Pro.

This little wonder opens up a new realm of speed reaching or exceeding multi-gigabyte per second transfers — far faster than existing SATA SSDs.

But the real question is, “Will the Samsung 950 Pro work with Linux?” Information about Linux compatibility is scarce as of the time of this writing, so I decided to perform my own tests that answer questions such as,

“Will Linux Mint recognize the NVMe SSD?”

“Will it work with older motherboards and chipsets, such as the Z87 and Z97?”

“What are the Linux benchmarks like?”

“Can I install and boot Linux from the 950 Pro?”

Here are the details…
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The PNY CS1311 240G SSD and Linux

πŸ“… April 19, 2016
cs1311aSolid State Drives (SSDs) have improved greatly in their speeds and lifetimes during the past few years, so most SSDs today will offer fairly excellent performance for the price.

The PNY CS1311 240G SSD was purchased solely upon its glowing reviews. And it deserves the praise considering that it exceeds the read/write claims on the box. I was impressed with this much performance for such a low price. Performance was slightly better than an older (and more expensive) Samsung 840 EVO SSD, and it is plug-and-play compatible with Linux.

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