Archive for September 17th, 2010

The answer is more RAM

September 17, 2010

Its been a tough couple of weeks. Kathy and co have kept things ticking over. While I have been coping with a attack of funk and a bit of depression and actually have not been worth very much this week. I had a machine die on the operating table.. the first time that has ever happened to me. And it was a decent machine too. I have no idea what happened.. I had only covers off the machine and no way that I can see that it shorted anything.. but it has broken at some very very subtle level, with no sign of damage. It shook my faith in myself… very upsetting.

I asked in a lot of places for advice.. and got.. “change the board”; ” change the board”, “If I was you I would change the board” and similar stuff… not one person gave an actually useful response. At least I know I am one of the better techs out there.. at least I know how to solder and drive a multi meter. Unfortunately changing the board is not an option. Long term I might be able to sort it.. but ended up talking to the client. Not a profit maker but what can you do? Saved her data and shall buy her a slightly better lappy or contribute to a new one with the option being hers. All you can do is the best you can for the client.. and while we value all of them this one is very good value. Hopefully this only ever happens once.. its the first one I have lost in nearly 20 years of doing this stuff.. but hey… Lappys are always trouble. There is a lot in a very small space. And it was a Sony. So nice of Sony to have no manuals. Doesn’t help.. thats for sure.

I have always believe that its how you fix the things you do wrong that really matters. Have not had to put it into practice very often.. if at all. The client was just great.

Have another lappy here. Needs an update. Is about 7 years old.. but uses DDR 1 RAM. WIthout going into too much history DDR 1 is the first of the really modern RAM. Before that we had SD RAM. Synchronous Delivery or something. RAM is the work bench of the computer. Data gets written from the hard drive to RAM.. gets worked on and then gets written back. The bigger and faster your RAM the better. But its limited by the size of the data bus.. the paths into which the RAM is plugged. Its also limited by the design of the Operating System.. XP for example really only recognises 3 Gb of RAM.. on some computers you can put more.. the machine will not run any faster. And so on.

SD RAM can do reads and writes of course. But not at the same time ( ok its actually slightly more complicated than that….depends a bit on what you mean by time.. but its close enough) DDR RAM.. double data rate can essentially do them at the same time. DDR RAM is similar to the better than system RAM that high end video cards used to use which shared the same capability. Anyway DDR RAM was much faster and a big step up. I figured it would be easy to get for this machine. Well I can get it. Not easily.

We are up to DDR3 now… DDR4 is on the way. Older RAM no longer made and especially no longer made in the increasingly larger sizes.. if it ever was. And as the sizes get better and the cost gets cheaper modern RAM becomes increasingly huger than was possible say 7 years ago. Its important to remember that that 7 year old laptop is still perfectly capable of most things the average person wants. Increasingly software needs more RAM as programmers can be less careful of the amount of resources their software runs just because RAM is more plentiful and cheaper all the time. But generally speaking that computer can still do word processing, and internet browsing just fine. But more RAM would be nice. Its just not available or its hugely more expensive than increasingly cheaper modern RAM.

So people buy a new machine.. cos they can get more RAM with it. Interesting yeah? OK this 7 yo machine has XP pro and office and is about a 1.4. Its fine for word processing and internet browsing. Except that its got 256 Mb of RAM and no one has DDR1 for sale. And XP and firefox like more than that to run at more than a crawl. But I found a source with some 1Gb sticks. And suddenly this machine is useful again. THe cheapest and best upgrade possible. Was not easy finding it.. and er.. not all that cheap. When they stopped making DDR1 this must have been hugely expensive RAM. Now being sold probably for less than the production cost.

The lesson… As soon as you can put as much RAM in your box as you can afford and it will take. It wil maybe let you hang on to this machine for a couple of years longer. It will absolutely make it worth more. And just before they change the RAM spec again it will be a dirt cheap upgrade. That will only get more expensive in the future.