Is it worth it to upgrade my netbook/laptop hard disk to SSD?

A few years back I started using solid state drives (SSD) whenever I got a new netbook/laptop or when someone asked for hardware upgrade suggestions. The speed increase and shorter boot times on any given system is phenomenal and current GNU/Linux distributions take care of the configuration details. I don’t even take into consideration finer details like bus speed, hybrid disks or other technical features.

I’ll say this just once again, even though the price is high, the speed increase is ridiculous. If your job is in IT or requires using a dedicated computer full-time (some accounting positions or other engineering, graphic design, development, etc.), you may be able to justify the time gain (ie. booting/rebooting/starting apps/loading data) and calculate a short ROI justifying the expense. That’s not my line of expertise but I think I get the point accross.

Having picnic while waiting for the email indexing to finish
From the archives: having picnic while waiting for the email indexing to finish. License: CC-BY, source: Moon Stars and Paper

Back from one week at the hospital after two small but painful operations, I have one month leave to get back on my feet. I also just finished my employment and needed to upgrade my older personal laptop, so I decided to also evaluate how to make my housewife’s netbook a bit faster for occasional use at home – I can’t move much or sit down for extended periods at the home computer / with a big laptop.

Although I know the speed increase will justify the upgrade, I still want to confirm how slow the current disk is, and of course what type of disk it is – if the system is using the older PATA interface, I am not even sure if you can find such SSDs. Confirming the system has a SATA interface will make it easier to shop around and prevent ending up with a hard disk I can’t connect.

Most consumer laptop/netbook systems come with the cheapest hard disk at the time of manufacture, which often means 4200 RPM. The hard disk exact model number can be found easily via command line or graphically, without opening your system.

The following information can also be used after booting from a live CD, if you’re evaluating such a hardware upgrade for a system that doesn’t have a GNU/Linux OS installed. That’s right, no need to find (or buy) and install any vendor-specific disk utilities for the simple checks I am sharing how to do here. Just an Ubuntu live CD.

Using the command line from a terminal you can get such information as follows (assuming your system only has one hard disk, extra information redacted):

magicfab@hermes:~$ sudo hdparm -I /dev/sda


ATA device, with non-removable media
Model Number: Hitachi HTS545016B9A300
Serial Number: 090726PB5B03QCH542MH
Firmware Revision: PBBOC66G
Transport: Serial, ATA8-AST, SATA 1.0a, SATA II Extensions, SATA Rev 2.5, SATA Rev 2.6; Revision: ATA8-AST T13 Project D1697 Revision 0b

[…] Form Factor: 2.5 inch
Nominal Media Rotation Rate: 5400

Using the graphical environement there is the Disk Utility application that will give you the same information. It’s under System > Administration unless you’re using the Unity interface in Ubuntu.

The above results indicate it’s a 2.5 inch 5400 RPM SATA drive, a perfect candidate for an SSD upgrade. On higher-end laptops you may have a 7200 RPM hard disk which may be fast enough if you optimize your system otherwise (and having cheap, matching SSD-per-GB to 7200 RPM drives is not happening anytime soon).

I also use this method to check the firmware version of newly installed SSD drives, which sometimes needs updating depending on its manufacture time and purchase time – if I am buying a drive that has been on the market for some time, there are high chances its initial firmware as shipped at the factory has a new version available for updating.

If you’re somewhat of an SSD geek like me, take a look at my SSD checklist, it has a few tricks to optimize SSD configuration and some of those tricks can also increase performance on non-SSD systems.

Once you have installed and used your first SSD hard disk, please don’t hurt yourself too much for not having done so before 😉 I still think it’s the best ratio of dollar/performance gain of any hardware upgrade you can simply accomplish on most laptop/netbook systems.

Oh, and don’t forget to sell your older, slower hard disk – or re-purpose it for external storage and backups using an external case!


LibreOffice 3.5.3 disponible / LibreOffice 3.5.3 is now available!

(English version follows)

La Document Foundation a annoncé la disponibilité de LibreOffice 3.5.3 pour le téléchargement. Je suis membre de la Document Foundation depuis un an maintenant, pour en savoir plus sur mes activités dans le projet LibreOffice, visitez ma page wiki sur leur site. J’encourage aussi ceux qui voudraient participer au projet à le faire, et éventuellement faire une demande de membership! C’est un projet très stimulant, en tout cas pour la partie qui me concerne (surtout de la promotion et formation locale et le support / entraide).

Si vous n’utilisez pas Ubuntu, ou si vous voulez partager cette nouvelle avec des amis, famille ou collègues qui utilisent Windows ou Mac OSX, LibreOffice 3.5.3 est disponible pour téléchargement immédiat à partir du lien suivant: Rappelez-vous que lorsque vous utilisez Ubuntu, vous n’avez pas besoin de télécharger et installer manuellement ce logiciel!

Si vous avez Ubuntu 12.04 LTS vous n’obtiendrez pas cette mise à jour automatiquement. Correction: cette version sera disponible d’ici 2-3 semaines. Si vous la voulez immédiatement, vous aurez besoin d’utiliser le PPA LibreOffice – ne le faites qu’à vos risques et périls. Vérifiez la page du wiki Ubuntu sur LibreOffice pour plus d’informations sur les autres versions aussi. À noter que le PPA de LibreOffice peut être utilisé tel quel avec Trisquel (dont la version actuelle 5.5 réagira comme un Ubuntu 11.10).

Voici quelques corrections de failles et mises à jour qui ont retenu mon attention:

  • Correctifs à l’import/export CSV / PDF / RTF / DOCS / XLS / XLSX / PPTX
  • La méthode de chiffrement ODF de versions antérieures est maintenant celle utilisée par défaut
  • Correctifs à l’export PDF (d’images) à partir de Impress lors de l’export avec notes
  • Amélioration de l’assistant d’étiquettes / cartes d’affaires – choix du format de page
  • L’emplacement par défaut des documents téléchargés n’est plus /tmp par défaut (GNU/Linux)
  • Le filtre d’exportation OOXML est maintenant Office 2007/2010 par défaut

D’autres nombreux correctifs ont été apportés.

Consultez l’annonce originale publiée sur le carnet de The Document Foundation. Ne manquez pas la section qui parle des fonctionalités à venir, comme le client Android ou le filtre MS Publisher!

Une liste détaillée des correctifs et mises-à-jours est disponible à et à

Pour terminer, voici deux correctifs qui ont vraiment piquée ma curiosité! Pourrez-vous les trouver? 🙂

  • fix the fix so it doesn’t crash
  • this hack in no longer needed

LibreOffice 3.5.3 is now available!

The Document Foundation has announced the availability of LibreOffice 3.5.3 for download.

I’ve been a member of The Document Foundation for a year now, to follow my LibrOffice activities you can visit my wiki page on their site. I’d encourage anyone willing to do so to participate in this project, perhaps even request membership at some point! It’s a very rewarding project, at least for the activities I develop the most (local advocacy and training, and users support/help).

If you’re not using Ubuntu, or want to share the news with friends, family or colleagues that use Windows or Mac OSX, LibreOffice 3.5.3 is available for immediate download from the following link: Remember when using Ubuntu you don’t need to manually download and install this!

If you have Ubuntu 12.04 LTS you won’t be getting this update automatically, though. Edit: this version will be available for Ubuntu 12.04 LTS automatically within 2-3 weeks. If you can’t wait and absolutely want to have it now, you will need to use the LibreOffice PPA – only do so at your own risk. Check the Ubuntu Wiki entry for LibreOffice for more information about other versions too. Also note that if you use Trisquel, you can use the LibreOffice PPA for Ubuntu as-is, it will bring updates corresponding to Ubuntu 11.10.

Hera are some bug fixes and updates that caught my attention:

  • CSV/PDF/RTF/DOCS/XLS/XLSX/PPTX import/export fixes
  • ODF legacy encryption is now the default
  • Fixed pdf export (of images) from Impress when printing w/notes
  • Improved label/BC wizard – set paper size
  • Default location of downloaded documents is no longer /tmp by default (GNU/Linux)
  • Ddefault to Office 2007/2010 filter for ooxml export

Other numerous bugs were fixed.

Check the release announcement on The Document Foundation Blog. Don’t miss the section about upcoming features, such as the Android client or the MS Publisher import filter!

Detailed change logs are available at and

And these two bug fixes also stood apart from others! Will you find them among the other bug reports in the release notes ? 🙂

  • fix the fix so it doesn’t crash
  • this hack in no longer needed