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New computer, ram, ssd... some thoughts

Buying or building computers for Hauptwerk, recommendations, troubleshooting computer hardware issues.

New computer, ram, ssd... some thoughts

Postby micdev » Wed Aug 15, 2012 1:58 pm

Dear all,

Every once in a while we want to replace our HW computer for a newer one, more powerful one to use newer, larger sample sets. When replacing it, we usually want to select some of the newest technology as they are becoming more affordable.

One technology that is becoming quite affordable is the SSD drive; for less than $100 you can now get a 128 Gb drive. What kind of performance can you expect? ... well we discussed that a while ago and while you were maybe expecting even faster results, it is still pretty nice to load sample sets as fast as possible. I've been using an SSD drive for 6 months and I wouldn't go back.

But wait before buying a new SSD drive! You may to consider a few things before spending $100 for a 128Gb drive.

1. You should use an SSD drive for your "cache organs" (the file that is created by Hauptwerk on the first load). Using it as your boot drive may seems appealing, but once you booted your computer, you won't gain must advantage to have the OS and HW on the SS drive ... don't forget that 128Gb (and even 256gb) is not that must for the OS, sample sets data and cache folder. So you will want to boot from your sata drive, store Hauptwerk sample set on this drive and use the SSD for caching, making each load of an instrument faster.

2. For you new computer, you may consider 32Gb or even 64Gb of ram (Esztergom is very happy with 64Gb of ram!); loading the Caen surround or some other sample sets at 20 or 24bit is now possible with your 32Gb computer... but don't forget that the cache file will be that size also; if a sample set takes 24Gb of ram once loaded, you can consider that the cache file will be about that size also! This means that your 128Gb (before formatting it - formatting a SSD drive reduce the size available by about 10%, meaning that you will have about 110Gb of free space) will be able cache 3 sample sets (assuming that the cache files are around 28-30Gb)... it won't be able to cache 4! If you have 64Gb of ram, well you will be able to cache the Esztergom with all it bells and whistles (60Gb) and have about 45-50 Gb of free ram for some other sets to load.

3. What happens when you run out of space for the cache files... well, you will need to delete one or more cache files to load some other organs (meaning that on the next load of one of these deleted cache organs, it will be a "first" lengthy load)

4. If you are using various Hauptwerk configurations (wet, dry, surround... HW, Hw altConfig1, Hw altConfig2), you will need even more SSD space, since each configuration has its own cache file of an organ.

So as you can see, spending only $100 may seem a no brainer at first, but you should consider your needs (in space) for the cache files. You can easily estimate your current use by looking at the size of the cache folders (C:\Hauptwerk\HauptwerkInternalWorkingFiles\Config0-OrganCaches .... Config1-OrganCaches... Config2-OrganCaches... Config3-OrganCaches) . This size is what you are using right now; as explained previously, if your new computer has more ram and you're planning to use a higher resolution (20bit vs 16bit), then you can double that size.

Of course there are "work around" to cache some of the most used files on a SSD drive and other organs on the sata drive, but this is not something supported by Hauptwerk and this "hack" requires a bit of programming to automate the process.

In conclusion, take the time to plan the use of your SSD drive so you won't be disappointed after a while. In no time a few sample sets loaded at high resolution can fill it and you will then have to find ways to store your cache files. Keep in mind that as you increase the amount of ram, your cache files will increase accordingly if you decide too take advantage of the extra ram to load at a higher resolution.

I love my SSD drive; since I've been using it, I'm changing organs a lot more frequently during a practice sessions; I know, 2 minutes is not that long to load a set, but once you are able to load a large set in 1 minute or less, then you will do it even more frequently.

Best regards
François
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Re: New computer, ram, ssd... some thoughts

Postby marcus.reeves » Wed Aug 15, 2012 2:19 pm

Thanks, François, this was most informative.

I hadn't realised that the price of SSD drives has come down so much and I'd be very interested in using one on my current setup. I only use a few sets; mainly Hereford, Metz and Velesovo all loaded in 24bit, which I think will comfortably fit on an SSD leaving room for future expansion.

Is there a particular brand or model of 128Gb external drives that you'd recommend?

Many thanks.
Best wishes,
Marcus
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Re: New computer, ram, ssd... some thoughts

Postby micdev » Wed Aug 15, 2012 3:22 pm

Hello Marcus,

Hereford (even the 67 stops),Metz and Velesovo use about 8Gb each (at 16bit), so even at 20bit you will use about 48Gb (16x3). So in your case, 128Gb should be perfect.

In some upcoming Hauptwerk update, it will be possible to select where we want to install the cache file on a per sample basis (viewtopic.php?f=5&t=10398), so even with more sample sets you will be able to cache the "regular" one on the SSD and the one use less often on your SSD drive.

There is still a width range of price and performance among SSD drives; I bought an OCZ Agility-3 240Gb (220 Gb free after formatting). Performance I pretty good for the price. If your motherboard supports sata III, then make sure to select a sata III SSD drive and setup everything accordingly.

In Canada you can have the same OCZ Agility-3 240Gb for $160., the faster OCZ vertex 4 at a bit over $200.If you read the post that I included in the original post you will see that right now Hauptwerk is limiting a bit the loading speed, so a faster SSD drive won't automatically translate into faster load time.

If you look around the web you will find many reviews of SSD drives; you will want to check mostly the "read speed", since we will cache the file (write) only once, but read it many times. At the time I purchased mine, the OCZ Agility was pretty good for its price. While one drive may be faster (and more expensive) in some benchmarks, don't forget that in Hauptwerk/real-life you may gain only a few seconds, something you won't really realize in practice; to see a difference you need a lot more difference than a few seconds.

I don't regret my purchase, even though I paid at that time close to $300 for the drive (now at $159)...

Regards
François
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Re: New computer, ram, ssd... some thoughts

Postby mdyde » Wed Aug 15, 2012 4:21 pm

Hello Francois,

Thanks for the detailed discussion - I'm sure lots of people will find that very useful.

In some upcoming Hauptwerk update, it will be possible to select where we want to install the cache file on a per sample basis (viewtopic.php?f=5&t=10398), so even with more sample sets you will be able to cache the "regular" one on the SSD and the one use less often on your SSD drive.


Just to clarify, that's not actually quite correct - in that topic we only said that we'd make Hauptwerk's component installer unpack its temporary files to a different drive:

We do actually already have planned as an enhancement request that Hauptwerk will instead unpack temporary sample set files within the sample sets folder structure, to accommodate people who want to use smaller SSDs just for the sample set data caches:

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=9451&p=68770#p68770


We definitely haven't said that we'd change Hauptwerk to allow users to select different cache locations for different organs.
Best regards,
Martin.

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Re: New computer, ram, ssd... some thoughts

Postby schantzplayer » Wed Aug 15, 2012 5:40 pm

2 smaller SSDs are cheaper yhan 1 big one. I got 2-240 gb drives from OCZ and spanned them so I have, after formatting, about 430 gb. I love them, but have had them quit. OCZ replaced them within days.

Bob
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Re: New computer, ram, ssd... some thoughts

Postby micdev » Wed Aug 15, 2012 8:50 pm

As always Martin, thanks for clarifying.. I read the thread a while ago when I made the suggestion and forgot it was for the tempfile... When I wanted to suggest this afternoon to allow to select a per set location for the cache-file, I found my old post, without re-reading the answer... Thinking it was planned...

Thanks for clarifying/correcting...so here is my request for a future version :wink: by default have the cache file install in a pre-determinate location, but allow the advanced user to override it and specify another location.

Bob, very good point about the spanning...

All the best
François
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Re: New computer, ram, ssd... some thoughts

Postby mdyde » Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:00 am

Hello Francois,

We do have logged as a separate enhancement request that Hauptwerk could have native fully-automatic functionality for keeping the most-used organ caches on SSD storage if available:

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=6760&start=0

(We definitely wouldn't want to do it by introducing technical options for advanced users - we want anything we implement in Hauptwerk to be intuitive and easily understood and used by all Hauptwerk users, not just the relatively small percentage of technical people.)
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Re: New computer, ram, ssd... some thoughts

Postby josq » Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:06 am

mdyde wrote:
(We definitely wouldn't want to do it by introducing technical options for advanced users - we want anything we implement in Hauptwerk to be intuitive and easily understood and used by all Hauptwerk users, not just the relatively small percentage of technical people.)


I LOVE that attitude :D

Sometimes I find all these technicalities very interesting, but in the end I just want to play beautiful organs. I'm happy to notice again and again that you keep this in focus!
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Re: New computer, ram, ssd... some thoughts

Postby mdyde » Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:27 am

A couple of other points about SSDs in general:

Large 512 GB SSDs are readily available too these days, and relatively affordable. E.g. dabs.com in the UK list 10 different quality-brand models >500 GB, the cheapest two of which are currently about £320 (including UK VAT tax):

http://www.dabs.com/products/crucial-512gb-m4-sata-6gb-s-2-5--solid-state-drive-7GL3.html?refs=56350000-52780000&src=3
http://www.dabs.com/products/crucial-512gb-m4-slim-7mm-sata-6gb-s-2-5--solid-state-drive-7X2S.html?refs=56350000-52780000&src=3

I haven't tried those models personally, but I would expect them to be fine. My MacBook Pro came with a 512 GB SSD which I use for the operating system and for all Hauptwerk caches. Although the computer only has 16 GB of RAM, even if it had 32 GB (i.e. potentially requiring organ caches up to say 30 GB in size), then that could still be sufficient space for quite a few different organs - perhaps 15 or so large ones if when installing Hauptwerk you chose to put the sample set data on a different (non-SSD) drive.

768 GB SSDs are also available (e.g. in the new MacBook Pros), although they're still quite a bit more expensive than 512 GB SSDs.

Another thing to consider is that recent traditional (non-SSDs) hard-drives can achieve amazing performance too. E.g. the current 1-3 TB Seagate Barracuda models can achieve sustained read rates (maximum Hauptwerk loading speeds) of 210 MB/s:

http://www.seagate.com/gb/en/internal-hard-drives/desktop-hard-drives/barracuda/specs/

Only a small number of years ago hard-drives typically managed sustained read rates of only about 70 MB/s, so just using a fast modern hard-drive could as much as triple loading speeds compared to an older one.
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