Marx train sizes

Over the years, Marx made electric and clockwork trains in no fewer than seven sizes and two gauges. Depending on how you count Marx train sizes, you can say it was more than that. Here’s an overview of what they made.

If you go to sell Marx trains, correctly identifying the size definitely makes them attract more bids.

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Advantages of Windows 10

Now that Windows 10 is out, the questions I see most frequently are why someone should upgrade, or what benefits they get if they upgrade, or if there indeed is such thing as advantages to Windows 10.

While I understand the skepticism, and I think most people probably should wait a few months before upgrading a Windows 7 machine that’s working well, there are a number of compelling things Windows 10 has to offer.

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Philips’ new LED bulbs are cheap but have caveats

Later this week, Philips will be releasing a new, cheap LED bulb at an introductory rate of $5 for a pack of two. They are 800 lumen bulbs, equivalent to a 60w incandescent in light output, use 8.5 watts to give off an impressive 94 lumens per watt, and have a color temperature of 2700K that’s comparable to a soft white incandescent.

Sound good? It ought to, but there’s a catch. Often there is.

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Hard drive longevity and you (or your business)

I can’t believe I’ve never written about the Backblaze hard drive longevity study, but apparently I haven’t. At work we’re running up against the limitations of hard drives, so it’s good to know this kind of stuff.

Here’s what you need to know: Hard drives fail very early or very late. If a drive lasts more than a few days–which is why burning in new equipment is important–only 5% of them fail in their first 18 months. Then, for the next 18 months, only 1.5% fail. Golden years! At age 3, though, failure rates jump to 11.8% and stay there. So keeping hard drives much longer than 4 years is generally asking for trouble. 78% of drives live to age 4, but at that age the annual failure rate is very high.

This is Backblaze’s experience under specific and somewhat peculiar conditions, but it’s not far off at all from what I’ve observed.

Keep in mind this is the average. Every maker has made incredibly bad drives, and all of them who are left have made drives better than the average too. I don’t know why they go on hot and cold streaks, but they do, and they always have. That’s why some people think any given brand of drives are the best and others think the same brand are junk. With a little luck, you can buy one brand of drive and have all of them be spectacular, or with a little bad luck, buy different models of the same brand and have them all fail a day after the warranty expires. Read more

What happens when you write a petabyte of data to an SSD

If you’re concerned about SSD reliability, Tech Report has good news for you: They attempted to write a petabyte of data to six SSDs, and three of them survived. Considering the drives were rated for a 200 TB life expectancy, that’s impressive. In fact, even the worst drives outlived their 200 TB life expectancy. And all started behaving oddly long before their demise, giving you ample warning to do something in advance–something you can’t say about evil nasty platters of spinning rust–perhaps better known as traditional hard drives.

The first drive to fail, if you’re wondering, was the Samsung 840, which uses cheaper TLC memory. But even the Samsung 840 outlived its projected life expectancy. Since other companies are undercutting the 840’s price even with MLC memory these days, I’m not sure what Samsung’s plans for the 840 are. For the time being, I doubt you’ll be buying one. One of the drives that’s still going after a petabyte of writes is a costlier Samsung MLC drive.

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CFL bulbs burn out quickly? Here’s what to do.

I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints about CFL bulbs lately. I’ve written about how to address premature CFL burnout before, but I guess it bears repeating. It’s a five-minute fix, usually, to get the bulbs to last a while. So here’s what to do if your CFL bulbs burn out quickly. Read more

How long does a hard drive last?

If you’re asking how long does a hard drive last, I found this study on hard drive longevity last week.

I take issue with the opening paragraph but the rest of the article is very good. The opening paragraph is a bit deceptive—hard drives were anything but common 30 years ago. Even 25 years ago, they were a serious status symbol. I remember in 1988, a classmate told me his dad had just bought a computer with a hard drive, and swore me to secrecy. Why? Because in today’s dollars, a computer with a hard drive in 1988 cost around $2,000, minimum, and given that his dad was working towards his master’s degree at the time, he probably had a really hard time affording that. If you had a hard drive even in the late 1980s, you were either very rich, or you took your computing very seriously and were willing to make some serious sacrifices somewhere else.

But, like I said, the rest of the article is very good. I’m being a curmudgeon. Read more

Notes on the Compaq Presario SR2011WM

I’ve been working on a Compaq Presario SR2011WM. It’s a basic, low-end, single-core Celeron D system from 2006 or so. It can take up to 2 GB of RAM, runs Windows XP adequately, and has SATA ports, so you can put an SSD in it if you want. But don’t be fooled by the name–the Celeron in this machine is single core, and has a Prescott-era Pentium 4 core in it at that, not a low-TDP, Pentium D-style core.

In case you’re wondering, the easiest way to get it to boot from USB is to plug in a USB drive, hit ESC as the system runs POST, then select your USB drive from the menu.

Now let’s talk about options for upgrades. Read more

SSD write endurance (aka longevity) vindicated

I found this chart earlier this week regarding SSD write endurance. Basically, it plots out how long an SSD would last if you set out to deliberately destroy it by writing to it continuously.

You could expect a mainstream 128-GB drive to last 4.7 years under those conditions, which is longer than a platter hard drive would last if subjected to the same kind of abuse. Other studies have similar results.

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