Okay everyone ...
I picked up my Transcend 266X 8GB CF card this morning and threw XP Pro on the machine. I think I've probably done at least 10+ XP installs within the past week because of this "project"!
Hard number specs are a good thing (thanks to DVormann and Tekkaman_Slade for some great numbers and other info, which collectively obliged me to not give up, and keep trying different solutions until something worked acceptably or better). At the same time, I also feel that real-world performance is just as important to consider. So here's what I found.
Sugo posted a little too late about the pitfalls of not only the 266X Transcend card, but also CF cards in general:
Most flash can write sequential files close to their advertised speed, which is the way pro digital camera write files. With random write of small files, the performance can take a big hit.
I couldn't find the benchmark site anymore but ... Transcend 266x 2GB came out with around 18MB/s for sequential write but 0.7MB/s for random read+write.
Ouch, on the random read/write blurb. I can see first-hand now how that must be true. The Lexar (and SanDisk) cards seemed better for random writes, but of course they don't work "stock" with Windows. Maybe later I'll tinker and get the Lexar working (I think I'm just going to keep it, if nothing else just to tinker with Linux ... since swapping out my OS drive is now going to be EXTREMELY easy
In practice, the XP install did drag a little bit, and operation is still quite sluggish. I think the Windows installation took less than an hour, or maybe about an hour, to install. Now that the system is up, it's not setting any speed records, but it is at least a little more usable than with the 133X card. When I tried copying 65MB worth of data from a USB key to the 266X card, it took about 10 seconds (6656K/sec.), though that performance figure *may* be skewed by the fact I've set the system memory usage to prefer system cache (effectively enlarging the disk cache size); I can further the "that figure is skewed because of the cache" theory, because in larger write operations it still drags its' feet somewhat, and the writing continues (disk light stays lit solid) after the operation supposedly completed.
I'm still going to map my My Documents directory to the really slow 133X card for both performance (or lack of need thereof on a documents directory) and data safety reasons (keeping data on a drive than gets written less often and thus will last longer), as well as space reasons (I'm going to load up the My Music directory with about 12.5GB of music; later when I get another 16GB card in the PCMCIA slot I'll make that into a dedicated My Music directory and thus gain a full 16GB for non-music data). I've also started looking into various tweaks to improve performance in a Windows environment. What I've found so far is as follows (think of this as a "checklist to perform when setting up Windows on a CF-based SSD):
1. Disable the Windows paging file on all CF drives (you should have a MINIMUM of 1GB RAM to even think of doing this with anything Windows 2000 or later).
2. Use NTFS and compress all CF drives you are using (less physical data to write to CF). Some have suggested use FAT32, but I feel the compression ability, plus keeping the security features of NTFS are worth it. Also, when you go to compress the drives, disable indexing service for the drive at the same time.
3. Disable NTFS access time logging with the following registry key:
HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem\NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate = 1
4. Turn off Windows System Restore for all CF drives
5. Set the system "memory usage" under system properties to "system cache" to increase the size of the disk cache.
6. Go to the following URL and follow the directions to force UDMA-6 or "next best" mode: http://neodon.blogspot.com/2006/07/litt ... drive.html
Interestingly enough, after installing Windows, the 266X card was reported by Windows to be running in PIO mode, until I followed step #6 above, which yielded the card going into UDMA-4 mode. But, it's still pretty slow, if minimally acceptably useable, even with shutting down/restarting, or hibernating. Yes, as bad as it sounds, I may need to enable hibernation, at least on the X40. My system came with the 8-cell battery, but I promptly purchased a 4-cell battery for size and weight reasons (I'm trying to go ULTRA portable here). This weekend while I was away I didn't really use the system much except turning it on to show it off to someone, and it had a full charge. I left it suspended. Then last night, while riding the train home I wanted to go online and look up something, and when I turned the system on, SURPRISE!, I had 9% of battery left. Interestingly enough, it stayed on 9% for a while (maybe 10 minutes), and then started creeping down. I got about 20-25 minutes total out of the remaining battery.
That now brings up Martini82's question about battery life:
I am interested what about power consumption when running on CF?
While I haven't tested full battery runtime yet, I did notice, last week, that while running on battery doing some Internet-based software installs, that battery life wasn't incredibly better than using an actual mechanical hard drive. Of course, this is with the card doing constant read/write operations. A bit surprising, but that was by no means a formal test, just an observation of the "battery time remaining" indicator. I would imagine (but haven't yet tested the theory) that under more normal operation, one would see the real battery savings, because while a mechanical hard drive needs to keep those platters spinning all the time regardless of drive use (gone are the DOS days where the drive would be "idle enough" to actually spin down completely--despite the presence of the spin-down setting in Windows I have yet to ever see a system drive power down, even while "idle"), when a CF card is idle, it's really, genuinely, "idle". On that note, during "idle time" last week using various CF cards, the full battery charge "time remaining" indicator was showing a full hour more than when a mechanical hard drive had been installed. If that holds true in practice it would be a very nice thing indeed.
I just now thought up an idea about getting the Lexar 300X card to work that I think I'll try later on when I'm home and have access to the software CD ... I'm going to try using PartitionMagic 7 to clone the Transcend 266X card onto the Lexar 300X card, INCLUDING setting the partition active and bootable. Perhaps this is the same little tweak that BootPrep for DOS does (overriding any Windows limitations/"safety mechanisms"), and might work to get things running on the Lexar card, which from its' being a name-brand card and the speed ratings I've read might mean far nicer performance. I've historically had pretty good luck using PartitionMagic for various tasks. If that "near last" option fails (other than using DOS/BootPrep), I'm not sure where I'll go from there.
More to come later. If I get this computer to an "acceptably usable" state and actually phase it in as my ultra-mobile travel computer, I've still got a few other things to do including getting the Delkin adapter and another big CF card (speed not as important), and picking up a 4GB SD card and trying that out as well.