Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kauai Floo Fighter

Yesterday I popped into the Kauai coffee bar at my local gym, and tried their "floo fighter" hot beverage. It consists of Twinings Peppermint tea, fresh ginger, fresh lemon juice, Cayenne pepper and honey.
Quite a mixture, and strong too! It's definitely one of those anti-flu remedies that feels like its working, without tasting particularly vile. In fact, it was just the thing for a cold winter's day after a tiring swim. (It's nearly winter in the southern hemisphere, particularly on the highveld.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

UltimateDefrag 2008 Debate: I

Regular readers of this blog already know that I had an unfortunate spat with DiskTrix over their marketing emails. Since it was a genuine mistake I have removed the article. In the meantime I have had an interesting conversation with Robert Ferraro about UltimateDefrag, file placement, benchmarks and the like. I will include some extracts here, and hope to add some more soon. He writes:
"I just read your quick spiel on Defraggler before. You said that you’ve never come across a program that could analyze any faster than Defraggler.
"I am sorry but this is highly untrue….
"On a 500 Gb drive with 348 Gb and 405,001 files this is the result of my analyze:
Defraggler: 160 seconds
UltimateDefrag: 37 seconds
"We analyze a drive 432% faster than defraggler or in other words in 23% of the time – less than a quarter. When you minimize our display – we actually analyze that same drive in 33 seconds.
"I can assure you that with 3 years of perfecting our analysis routine – it’s as overhead free as you could get by all coding standards.
"Please note also that with UltimateDefrag – Fragmented Files Only (FFO) …. We can get you from program start to completely defragged much faster than Defraggler since we save all that time on analysis and you don’t need to select files manually. Of course one feature of UltimateDefrag is that we can defrag individual files or just all files in a folder for that matter. So while we have all of our advanced features – the most simple of all defrags – Fragmented Files Only – is there too.
"One “secret” about our Fragmented Files Only routine is that for this most basic of all defrag routines, our algorithm functions in the favor of promoting consolidation of free space. In FFO mode we defrag files in LCN order – meaning it finds the first fragmented file towards the outer tracks and puts it in the nearest available free space. If the space is now cleared then the next fragmented file, if it fits will be placed in an earlier space – so it’s always, where it can, tending towards the outer tracks and filling free space from outer to inner.
"There’s not much we haven’t thought about with our product – any true purist will see that our product does much much more than initially meets the eye and for defragging is as close to the holy grail for defragging as you can get. Our list of to-be-included features stands at around 86 more features to be added at this point."
In fairness to Defraggler, it is the quickest utility currently installed on my laptop, and I only have two 30GB partitions. I have noticed that it is slower on other drives. However my experience of UltimateDefrag 1.52 in June last year was not good: it took over 14 minutes to analyse my drive, because there was a large (>4GB) compressed file on the drive. I wrote to Robert about this, and was told to try various options, but he was unwilling to admit that this might be a problem. I plan to do some tests to see if the problem has been fixed.

Update: I obtained a license for UltimateDefrag 2008, and tried a quick test (see comment #1) on my Iomega 500GB external USB drive: I timed the "analyse" times (I ran each one twice, and used the second result) for the defrag programs currently installed on my laptop:
Windows Disk Defragmenter (WDD) for XP SP3
Defraggler 1.01.068 beta23.1736.50
UltimateDefrag 2008 ver 26.53 176.56
PerfectDisk 2008 build 5244.8134.68
JKDefrag 3.3447.3147.28
PC Magazine Defrag-A-File 1.153.5649.09
UltraDefrag gave an error, and PuranDefrag doesn't have a separate "Analyse" option.
Column "A" refers to the analyse times (in seconds) of the drive with a several large files, including a 9GB data file. Column "B" refer to the analyse times with the same files, but an additional copy of the 9GB data file, this time stored as a compressed file, containing 123235 fragments.
This confirms the behaviour mentioned in the UD1.52 review, but not nearly as bad as before: 3 minutes compared to 14 minutes.

Update 2: I noticed during the tests above that some programs took longer to load than others, so I did some timing (see comment 1).
Programload time (sec)
Windows Disk Defragmenter (WDD) for XP SP3
Defraggler 1.01.068 beta<3
UltimateDefrag 2008 ver
PerfectDisk 2008 build 529
JKDefrag 3.34N/A
PC Magazine Defrag-A-File 1.1<3
Paint Shop Pro 8.108
Microsoft Word 20023
Microsoft Access 975
Microsoft Excel 20024
Microsoft Visual Basic Professional 69
These numbers are not particularly scientific, since it isn't easy to measure with any degree of accuracy, but it does confirm my feeling that UD2008 and PD2008 are larger, slower apps than the other smaller ones listed. Bigger is not always better.

Update 3: Rob (see comments) asked me to do the fragmented file test on my laptop drive. I couldn't manage the 9GB file because of space limitations, but did manage to create a 6GB file that was compressed, with 476,192 fragments. My timing results (not scientific) are shown here:
Program Analyse Timesmins:secs
PerfectDisk 2008 build 521:01
JkDefrag 3.342:00
Defraggler 1.01.073 BETA7:53
UltimateDefrag 2008 ver

This is not a typo: UD2008 took nearly 22 minutes to analyse the drive. It takes 20 seconds to load the program on my machine, partly because it takes time to draw a picture of the drive.
As soon as I deleted the 6GB file, UD2008's load time dropped to 8 seconds, and the analyse speed dropped to 18 seconds.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Government Dithers Over Racist Attacks

Political correctness has now gone too far: it's all very well talking about Xenophobia and anarchy, but why is the government so scared of calling the rioting what it is: racism!?
These people are being killed because they are "foreigners", and therefore we call it Xenophobia, only because it is politically incorrect to call it racism. Normally Mr Mbeki is quick to use the race card, but I suppose because there are no whites involved he can't see it for what it is. What an idiot! People are suffering and dying while the leadership dithers and keeps silent.
If they do nothing for much longer then we can refer to the process as "ethnic cleansing", another traditional SA sport.
Update: On Wednesday 21rd May, nearly 2 weeks after the attacks started (they haven't finised) the President called in the troops, before leaving the country.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

XP Service Pack 3 can free up disk space

I have been watching the size of my Windows folder growing over time, and Service Pack 3 is a perfect opportunity to sort the matter out. Yesterday I managed to free up nearly 1GB of disk space by installing SP3.
First of all, open the c:\windows folder, and then look for the $hf_mig$ folder, and delete the hundred or so folders it contains. Do the same with the ie7updates and SoftwareDistribution\Download folders. If there are folders beginning with names like $NT* then delete those as well.
Next, download and install SP3. If you only need to update a single computer, the Microsoft Update site is the best place to get it. There is also an ISO file (544MB) that you can turn into an install CD.
The installation process creates a $NtServicePackUninstall$ folder in the Windows directory, and also subfolders in the ServicePackFiles folder. If you're feeling brave, you can delete the $NtServicePackUninstall$ folder once you've tested that everything is working.
Once the service pack is installed, change the ServicePackFiles folder into a compressed folder. This will reduce its size from 564MB to 371MB, but 2399 of those files will be fragmented in 61641 fragments, so a defrag is then in order.
In any case, emptying the recycle bin will free up around 788MB, maybe more. On one laptop that had just been installed with XPSP1 and was in the process of downloading a gazillion updates, I freed up nearly 2GB of space in this way. Since the new (patched) system files are now distributed all over the drive, a good defrag program will help gather those files and position them where they are needed.
Normally the files stored in the $hf_mig$ folder are placed there by the Microsoft Update service, and they are necessary in case you need to "roll back" a hotfix, or if one hotfix needs another one to work correctly. It can be a real pain of those files are missing, which is why they are allowed to accumulate. But a full service pack reinstalls all those files, after testing that they all work together correctly, so the "safety" copies are no longer needed.
As a general rule I use CCleaner to keep my system from becoming too gunked up, but the file deletions described here are not covered by utilities such as this. In any case, you'll need to make a complete system backup before installing SP3, for your own sanity and peace of mind. What do you mean you never make backups???
Update: If you're running an AMD processor, read this first.