Improve response in Ubuntu Desktop

I came across recently, as you do, an option to maximise the performance of my lowly OCZ Core V2 SSD in Ubuntu. Apparently the kernel goes to quite extreme lengths (in terms of using CPU cycles) to avoid doing seeks. With a “standard” hard drive this is desirable because the time it takes the head to move to the correct location is more costly. Seeking is irrelevant as far as an SSD is concerned and using extra CPU time only serves to reduce I/O performance. Happily there is an option to tell the kernel that you are using a non-rotational media for a specific drive designation i.e. sda, sdb, etc. and therefore maximise SSD performance.

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Converting to GPT in Ubuntu

GPT stands for “GUID Partition Table” and it refers to a relatively new format for disk partition tables. It was designed to get around the limitations of the MBR format, namely that you can have more than 4 primary partitions and partitions can be more than 2.2 terabytes in size. GPT is part of the EFI standard but it can also be used on standard BIOS only machines i.e. most non-MAC PCs. Converting to GPT will allow you to future proof your partitions. 2 TB disks are becoming common and it won’t be long before the 2.2TB limit of MBR will stop people using all their disk space in one partition, so in the name of usability and flexibility GPT is the way forward.

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Partition alignment largely a moot point now

To summarise. It is very important for recent disk performance that partitions are aligned on a 1MB/2048 sector boundary. This stops data from sitting astride blocks and killing disk performance. It is especially important with first generation SSDs, as they have poor write performance anyway, and will save your SSD from an early demise (flash memory has limited write cycles).

Windows Vista and above will use the 2048 sector alignment as will Ubuntu, so it isn’t necessary to worry about this issue any more, unless you are installing Windows XP. MAC OS X is the big loser in all of this as it doesn’t care about alignment beyond 4k which may or may not work well depending on the specific block size of your HD/SSD.

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Remotely upgrading a server from 32 to 64 bit linux

This post isn’t designed to be a “how to” merely an overview of how I achieved the subject. It is possible to do this without any physical intervention but in practice I have had to visit site at least once to fix a boot error on every one I have done.

Disclaimer:- When attempting this having some sort of remote access solution that will give access to the server even when it won’t boot is desirable i.e. BMC, DRAC or KVM over IP. Obviously resizing and deleting partitions and file systems is very dangerous so you need to be ultra careful and ultra sure you understand the process and exactly what you are doing at each step. It may also be helpful to draw the partition layout at each stage so you have a clear view of what is happening. Don’t come crying to me when it all blows up in your face. You have been warned!

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Recover a failing Windows hard disk using only free software and your Windows CD.

Scenario.

You have a Windows machine which will not boot up but you can still access the disk, even though it makes various clunking and thunking noises.

Solution.

Install a new hard disk and Partedmagicos on a USB stick or CD and run either “ntfsclone” (the easiest and quickest option) or “dd_rescue”. If the NTFS structure is damaged and you cannot repair it fully using the windows recovery console the latter option is the one you want. Of course you may have Windows installed on a FAT32 partition in which case use dd_rescue.

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