Monday, March 10, 2014

zBook Performance Considerations - Oh.. Those Memories

I've had a few questions from folks regarding this blog about the performance of the zBook and several Mac folks were also asking what my opinion was of the DreamColor compared to a Mac.

It is easy for me to avoid the Mac Vs PC question/wars. I just don't have enough Mac experience. One advantage of the Mac was Thunderbolt Technology which the zBook now optionally has. I haven't used it myself yet. As time marches on and my Photoshop files get bigger I'll have the option of adding SSD (solid state device) via Thunderbolt. I wouldn't buy a zBook without that option.

This post is mostly about the optional SSD you can have installed by HP in you zBook. I'm old enough to still have memories of buying a 2Meg memory card for the IBM AT. That was a really big deal back then. I mean really Big deal. It was a foot long and 3-4 inches wide and just chalk full of soldered in place memory chips which must have been about 64K each.

The zBook boots in about 10 seconds which I've read is partly because of the 32G of flash technology SSD. Boot time has never really been a large concern of mine. Coming from an old XP system anything would be better.  I'm new to SSD, and found SSD Tweaker by Elpamsoft interesting, but question whether it is necessary, and if it would actually work, given there are a different types of SSD. Here is a review of the product. My understanding at this point is that the flash type SSD will maintain itself fairly well.  HP Support sent me this link to do a little reading on the MSATA, L6M type installed  in my zBook. For an overview of SSD technology in general check out this page.

Here are a couple other reference sent to me by HP Support.

HP Rapid Start Technology
Drivers, Software & Firmware for zBook 17

My question to HP was why can't I see the SSD on the Windows level. I just wanted to see what the capacity utilization is. Maybe I could benefit from a larger capacity unit. Their response was that you don't see this type of SSD, except in the Windows Disk Management utility where you might see how it is partitioned... but I didn't see it there either. So... for now I just have to believe that it is working. I have no reason to suspect otherwise.

It does show up in the boot process if you hit F2 during the boot. You will be taken to the BIOS management set of utilities which include memory and hard disk test applications. The SSD did show up as HDD #2 and was 32G, and it tested out as being OK. So... it's there and the BIOS can see it. I can only assume it is working.

Yes, there are endless ways to spend your money.

If you want the type of SSD that you can load up like the old RAM disk, there are other products like Fusion-io which advertise advanced IO features in conjunction with Thunderbolt.

Fusion-io announced that the Fusion ioFX workstation flash memory platform is available in the new HP ZBook Mobile Workstation portfolio, which includes the world’s first workstation Ultrabook™. The Fusion ioFX can now also be integrated into HP’s award-winning line of Z Desktop Workstations through external Thunderbolt expansion chassis, in addition to internal integration with HP Z Workstations featuring PCI Express connectors.

And there are many others types of SSD technology products and companies for those that really need that type of performance level. For me, I might get there some day when my Photoshop files get to be several Gig in size. I'll wait and see.

If you have general questions on the performance of your HP system then the Performance Advisor is one place to check up on your system. It is really cool to see your system diagramed out, and then just point and click to the device you want to interrogate.


The system report that you can optionally create is extremely detailed. It includes the Microsoft Experience Index which has sub scores for each computer component. So, if you think you could benefit by upgrading something like memory just look at the memory sub score to get a general indication. For instance my processor score is 7.6. The scale is from 1 to 7.9, so a 7.6 is just about perfect. The overall score was 5.6 and that was because of the graphic adapter scored low. My memory score was 7.7. These numbers are just indicators. Other metrics can be gathered from the Windows Performance Monitor which is worth looking at before making system upgrade decisions.

Interestingly when I looked at the diagram I didn't see my SSD listed. You would think this app which is so thorough would have at least noted its existence.

If you are having performance issues with Photoshop there are more painless and cheaper ways to insure that Photoshop is performing to full capacity. Photoshop users can use the guide by Adobe on the Optimize Performance page. If you are considering a new PC or tuning and old one reading through these tuning options should help you configure a new unit or tune and old one.

Anyway.... that's my trip down memory lane.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

What is Art?

The title asks What is Art? There really is no answer of course. At least no single answer, and even a set of answers which try to pin down something half definitive would just lead to more discussion and argument. We all know that art and craft are different, but then what of high-end craft? I think we regularly think of artisan one-of-kind ceramics, for example, more art than craft.

There is one definition that has rung true for me over the years. David Pye wrote several books in the late sixties which I bought, because I was learning wood tuning and David did some very interesting turnings. In his book The Nature and Art of Workmanship David lays out a scholarly dissertation (published by Cambridge Press) on the distinction between objects made with an element of risk, and objects made that are completely determined from the start.

The distinction isn't between mass produced items and handmade items, rather, the distinction is between how the process is carried out. Is there an element of chance, risk, or some step in the process that isn't fully determined from the start. Mass produced items must be fully determined in order for production to be efficient. Turning pots or making any craft item can also be fully determined from the start in order to produce items which the public can afford... ditto for 'art'.

I'll let David speak for himself....

Workmanship of the better sort is called, in an honorific way, craftsmanship. Nobody, however, is prepared to say where craftsmanship ends and ordinary manufacture begins. It is impossible to find a generally satisfactory definition for it in face of all the strange shibboleths and prejudices about it which are acrimoniously maintained. It is a word to start an argument with.

If I must ascribe a meaning to the word craftsmanship, I shall say as a first approximation that it means simply workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus, in which the quality of the result is not predetermined, but depends on the judgment, dexterity and care which the maker exercises as he works. The essential idea is that the quality of the result is not predetermined, but depends on the judgment, dexterity and care which the maker exercises as he work. The essential idea is that the quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making; and so I shall call this kind of workmanship 'The workmanship of risk : and uncouth phrase, but at least descriptive.

What I pick up on in his definition is that it is not the object itself which is categorized, but the process. This idea of risk in your work intrigued me years ago and still does today.

Beauty isn't art. Beautiful things are mass produced every day. Design isn't art. Design is a process whereby we typically want a predictable end. I've spent a lot of time (as can be seen in past blog posts) thinking about design. I love design. I love to make beautiful things, but for me at least that's not art. It is following a recipe. You use the principles and elements of design and you end up with something pleasing. With a little practice anyone can follow a recipe, and maybe improve on it too.

This post came about  because I was looking through some of my old sketch books. The image at the top of the post is from a period many years ago where I was working with ink, markers and pens. Mostly black and white. Quite the opposite of what I'm doing today. In those days everything was undetermined. I would pick up discarded things laying in the street, cut stuff out of magazines, combine drawings from different places, whatever. Anything that caught my eye was potential content. For example, at the bottom of the above drawing is a bunch of glue globs and whole pieces of wheat.  There's a feather in the middle and on top a discarded pack from Kertek cigarettes. Why?... who knows.

Is it art, or, is my more recent work of abstracted pastoral barns and trees art?

I think it is only worth asking... when I'm done with a piece am I surprised by what was created? How much of the process was out of my control (that is, who/what/how was control applied). What risks did I take in the creative process? Where did I push into a new direction? Am I just repeating myself?

These types of questions probe into the creative process, constantly seeking to make it motivationally authentic, more exciting, more challenging, and leave questions of art for others.