USB 3.1 and USB Type C: What *is* that port?

The latest iteration of the USB standard is making its way onto motherboards and into notebooks.  With USB 3.1 Type A connectors and USB C (or Type C) connectors, 5 Gbps and 10 Gbps, we have a bit of ‘splaining to do…

There’s some ground to cover:  Port Type, Power, and Signalling type

Port Type
There are two ports in play, the USB 3.1 Type A connector, which looks like the USB 3.0 Type A, and is backwards compatible to 3.0 and 2,0, and the Type C connector which is smaller but is now reversible (so no more rotating the plug around until it fits).

One wrinkle is that the Type C connector does not have to be USB 3.1 – it can be used with a plain USB 3.0 signal, such as with a smartphone which doesn’t need (or want) the extra speed and higher power demands of 3.1.  You won’t be able to tell by looking at the Type C connector whether it is a 3.0 or 3.1 implementation.

USB 3,1 Type C-A Comparison

In order to use a Type C connector with USB Type A or B device, you’ll need some adapters or adapter cables.

The USB Type C standard allows for higher power connections through the USB ports, up to 100W (up to 2A at 5V; 5A at 12V; and 5A at 20V). This is good news for larger, faster hard drives, external monitors, and all manner of peripherals that languish with the USB 2.0 500mA limitation or the USB 3.0 2.0A cap.  Some machines, like the new stripped-down MacBook 2015 model, turn the tables on the USB interface and use the Type C USB 3.1 jack as the power input for the machine.

Signalling is where the rubber meets the road. There are two Generations to the USB 3.1 signal standard, Gen 1 and Gen 2 (branded as SUPERSPEED+).

  • Gen 1 provides for 5 Mbps bandwidth, the same as USB 3.0,
  • Gen 2 provides for 10 Mbps bandwidth (theoretically up to 1.2 GB/sec)

In addition to the wider bandwidth, the Gen 2 USB 3.1 signalling improves on the encoding of the data over previous USB versions, making it quite a bit more efficient by reducing the overhead to as little as 3%.

However, there are still limitations to USB as a hard drive connection (with TRIM on SSDs and handling multi-drive RAID arrays) which mean that Thunderbolt 2 (2o Gbps with PCI-e signalling and robust drive support) will remain the king of the externally-connected professional storage castle for the foreseeable future. has done some testing of real-world transfer speeds on USB 3.1

What’s on the horizon for products?

Apple is early out of the gate with the MacBook, which loses ALL of its ports (video, power and USB) and replaces them with a single USB 3.1 Type C.  Its worth mentioning that the 2015 MacBook only implements USB 3.1 Gen 1 on its Type C port, so it does not gain superhuman transfer speed strength.

Apple sells USB 3.1 Type C male to Type A Female passive adapters

Google’s latest Chromebook design more sensibly includes two Type C and two Type A ports.

MSI have been equipping 12 of their high end motherboards with USB 3.1 support.
MSI USB 3,1MSI’s newest motherboards. These ones:

  • Z97A (for Haswell CPUs and DDR3)
  • X99A motherboards (for Haswell-ES CPUs and DDR4)
  • 970A and 99FX for AMD

include USB 3.1 Type A ports
And the Z97A GAMING 6 motherboard includes USB 3.0 Type A ports and one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C port at 10 Mbps. (It also includes a M.2 SSD slot and a SATA-Express combo connector so it’s just chock full of newness).

Asus_USB_3_1_CardAsus has announced motherboards and an add-in USB 3.1 PCI-e card which can theoretically add USB 3.1 to any machine with an available PCI-e slot (Driver and BIOS updates will be required, apparently.  Check the Asus Qualified Vendor List for compatibility first).



And of course, to be able to use the power and speed of USB 3.1, you’ll need peripherals such as drives that have USB 3.1 support circuitry. We are watching to see what products hit the market first.


LaCie has announced external USB 3.1 Type C hard drives to match the MacBook 2015, their Porsche Design aluminium series in 500 GB, 1 TB and 2 TB sizes.


HighPoint have announced a RocketStor 5411D USB 3.1 Type A 5 Gbps hard drive dock with additional USB 3.0 ports, a SD card reader, Ethernet RJ-45 and audio input/output, intended to be used as a docking station for a MacBook 2015. Highpoint have confirmed that although it comes with an AC adapter for its own functions, the RocketStor will not charge the MacBook while plugged in.



Cables and adapters for USB 3.1 are available from Kanex, Startech and Vantec  (CanadaRAM USB 3.1 cables and adapters Link)


USB-C > Gigabit Ethernet AdapterKanex_KU3CGBT_USB3C-GbENRJ45F

USB-C > HDMI Adapter

USB-C > USB Female Type A Adapter Kanex KU3CA107I USB3C-USB3FemaleA
USB-C > USB Male Type A CableKanex_KU3CA111M_USB3C-USB3MaleA

USB-C > Micro USB CableKanex_KU3CMB111M_USB3C-USB2MicroB
USB-C > Micro-B CableKanex_KU3CMB111M_USB3C
USB-C > Mini-B CableKanex_KUCMN111M_USB3C
USB-C > Standard-B USB 3.0 Type B Peripheral CableKanex_KU3CSB111M_USB_C-B


Vantec have announced USB 3.1 drive enclosures with Gen II Type A interfaces for 2.5 inch and 3.5 inch SATA drives

Startech have announced cables to be available later this summer.
USB2AC1M USB 2.0 USB-C to USB 2.0 A cable (male) 1m (3ft)

USB2CB1M USB 2.0 USB-C to USB 2.0 B cable (male) 1m (3ft)

USB2CUB1M USB 2.0 USB-C to USB 2.0 Micro-B cable (male) 1m (3ft)

USB31AC1M USB 3.1 USB-C to USB 3.0-A cable (male) 1m (3ft)

USB31CAADP USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5 Gbps) USB-C to USB-A Female adapter, 6in


AData have announced USB flash drives with 3.1 Type C On The Go (OTG) connectorsAData_UD350C_USB3_C_OTG

and the ADATA SE700 series external USB 3.1 Type C hard drivesAData_SE700_USB3_1_Drive

SanDisk have announced swiveling Dual USB flash drives with both USB3.1 Type A  and USB3.1 Type C OTG connectors.

Unitek have shown a docking solution which has USB 3.0 Type A ports, HDMI video, Gigabit Ethernet, and crucially, a PD (Power Delivery) Type C port for a MacBook 2015 power adapter, which can charge the MacBook while the dock is in use.  Shipping dates  have not yet been announced.

J5Create has announced a Type C USB hub with USB 3.0 ports, DisplayPort, Ethernet and a PD port, availability is listed as “soon”.



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DDR4 memory makes its debut

DDR4 memory starts shipping for desktop machines and servers.

Through the years, the DDR Memory standard has been updated to DDR2, DDR3 and now DDR4 (JEDEC Satandard JESD79-4). It’s worthwhile to note that despite sharing the DDR name, each of these standards is unique, and they are mutually exclusive – a motherboard designed for DDR2 cannot take DDR3 for example.  Also note that “GDDR5” is a variant of DDR3 that is designed for graphic card memory, and is not another generation of the DDR standard.  (Currently there are no successors to DDR4 in the DDR standard under consideration, the next memory standard is likely to be a completely different signalling format, likely with a high speed serial, rather than parallel, interface.)

History: DDR (Double Data Rate) memory has been the standard for about fifteen years; as the PC133 SDRAM standard was being retired, there were two contenders for the next generation of higher performance RAM; DDR and RamBus (RDRAM).  RAMBus at 533 – 1066 MHz was technically superior and faster, while DDR at its introductory speed of 400 MHz was the low-rent cousin. However the owners of the RAMBus patents made a fatal strategic error – they insisted on high licensing fees for their superior design, so motherboard manufacturers fled in droves to the lower performing but cheaper DDR design.  Without the demand driven by motherboard and computer sales, RAMBus was relegated to a footnote in RAM history, and DDR memory took off, becoming faster as the technology was developed, and less expensive through massive economies in scale in production allowed by the near-universal adoption of the standard.

The advances with the DDR4 standard are:

  • Higher module density (up to 128 GB per module as opposed to 16 GB for DDR3)
  • Higher clock frequencies and therefore data transfer speeds (DDR4 2133 MHz to 3200 MHz vs. 800 MHz to 2400 MHz for DDR3).
  • Lower voltages for the memory chips, DDR4 1.2V vs. between 1.35V and 1.65V for DDR3 (with a low voltage DDR4 standard to come at 1.o5V).

Running at lower voltage means less waste heat, as well as making it easier to design components with smaller circuitry. On the other hand, increased frequencies, lower voltages and smaller traces makes it more important for the designers to guard against electrical noise and crosstalk.

The first DDR4 modules to ship to the market in 2014 were ECC modules for Intel Xeon LGA 2011-v3 E5-1600 and E5-2600 series CPU-based servers and high end workstations, where their premium price can be justified by the increase in performance, and the higher densities may permit the opportunity for server motherboard makers to economise by installing fewer memory sockets, (four or eight instead of 12 or 16 sockets).

The Intel LGA 2011-v3 socket Core i7-5800 and i7-5900 series Haswell-ES processors and accompanying X99 motherboards are just coming to market as of this writing, and are the first desktop class machines to support DDR4.

The DDR4 DIMM package has some differences from DDR3.

  • Although the modules are the same length, there are more connector pins (288 vs 240 pins) so consequently the connectors are narrower,
  • the modules are a bit taller,
  • the key in the connector edge is in a different position,
  • the circuit boards are thicker (1.2mm vs. 1mm in DDR3) and
  • there is a subtle curve to the connector edge to make inserting the module easier.

Photos courtesy Kingston Technology


DDR4_vs_DDR3_thickness DDR4_curved_edge

DDR4_SODIMMWe will also see a DDR4 SODIMM package for laptops and compact desktops and servers, however machines to use them will not hit the market until late 2015

Photo courtesy Crucial





A note on Latency
The default CAS latency for DDR4-2133 is 15, compared with 9 0r 10 for DDR3-1600. These longer latencies eat up some of the performance gain of the increased MHz clock speed.
DDR3 at 1600 MHz, 9 cycles of CAS latency is 11.25 nanoseconds
DDR3 at 2133 MHz, 10 cycles of latency is 9.38 ns
DDR4 at 2133 MHz, 15 cycles of latency is 14.06 ns
so the latency of the DDR4 RAM does impose a relatively higher penalty.

However, this is offset by the faster bus speed and higher bandwidth, and also by the Haswell-E’s memory controller’s ability to do quad-channel access when you have four matching RAM modules.  And the latency penalty will become progressively lower as both the speed of DDR4 modules increases and the yield of lower latency (CL13) modules increases.

Corsair has posted some benchmarks here discussing the effect of latency on bandwidth.

A technical discussion of DDR4 including latency concepts is here

CanadaRAM’s DDR4 product page

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How can I reinstall OSX and keep my bookmarks and mail?

I would like to do a reinstall my OSX as I am having problems. I do have a backup
Can I transfer my browsers favorites, contacts and previous e-mails without losing them?

Here are several specific points, but read this post all the way to the end..

1) Favorites and Bookmarks
Backing up your browser favorites is a matter of going into your browser(s) and Exporting the favorites to an HTML or other text based file. Copy that file to a safe location and you can Import it later. Search the help files for each browser for specific import export instructions.
Firefox_export_bookmarksFirefox – Go to Bookmarks > Show All Bookmarks, click on the tool icon on the right of the toolbar…up-or-transfer


Safari_export_BookmarksSafari – Go to main menu File > Export Bookmarks




Chrome_Bookmark_ManagerChrome: Go to Bookmarks > Bookmark Manager and click on the “gear”
Export bookmarks from Chrome to Safari – How to – Macworld UK


2) Email Data
Transferring emails depends on what email program(s) you are using. The email files are usually held in your user folder, in the ~Library folder (~ denotes the user folder for your account. Other users will have their own Libraries).

Inconveniently, this folder is hidden; but you can get access to it:

In OSX 10.7 and 10.8 by opening your User folder and then Option-Clicking the Go menu in the Finder (Library will appear) 18 ways to view the ~/Library folder in Lion and Mountain Lion | Macworld

In OSX 10.9 and 10.10 by opening you home folder and choosing View Options from the menu, and turning on Show Library How to view the ~/Library folder in Mavericks and Yosemite | Macworld

Apple Mail stores its mail databases in ~Library/Mail/

Thunderbird stores its mail in ~Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/Mail

Microsoft Entourage (if you still have it) stores mail in a different place, in
user folder/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office(versionIdentities
depending on what version you have.

Keep in mind that the Entourage database is s single, large file, and has to be opened in Entourage. Also if you let this file get larger than 8 GB in size, bad things start happening.

Microsoft Outlook 2011 stores in
~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office 2011 Identities/Main Identity/
Under that directory, e-mail is stored as individual message files in /Data Records/Messages

If you take care to back up these folders, it is possible to restore the mail data to a new installation. It gets more difficult if you are attempting to migrate mail into a new mail program from an old one.

Also, if you are using an IMAP based hosted webmail account, (like GMail, Hotmail) then your emails are saved on the mailserver, so they should be available on any machine when you log on.  Just check to see that you haven’t made custom folders to download and organize your mail on your machine.  The easiest way to check if you will have what you expect is to log on via a web browser from another machine.  Is everything you expect to be there, there?

3) Contacts and Addresses
Your contacts and email address lists are also in various places depending on the program. Again, you should export Contacts to tab text or .csv files as backups, using the export/import menu options in your particular mail program.  These files can be imported into different programs with a little bit of work.

AddressBook_ExportThe Apple Address Book contacts are in your home folder Library folder
~/Library/Application Support/AddressBook
and you an export from the AddressBook app by using
File -> Export... -> Address Book Archive

Note that one thing that often does not get successfully exported and imported when migrating from one email program to another, is Groups or Mail Lists where you have saved sets of email addresses. Most times, you will need to recreate these by hand.  If you can print out a copy of the group or mail list members before you migrate, that can help.

But before you do it the hard way…

4) Migrate the Data in one go
Now, about the easy way for preserving your data (and programs) during an OSX reinstall.

The easiest way is to have an external drive with either a complete clone (bootable backup) of your drive, or an up-to-date TimeMachine backup.

This allows you to just go ahead with an OSX install, and when you are proceeding through the installer it will ask you if you want to import your User accounts, files, settings and programs from another disk or TimeMachine backup. (You have some options of which items get transferred in, but the easy option is import everything and delete unwanted items later).

Select the source drive, and let the installer put everything back into place for you.

Migration_AssistantOr, you can do this at a later date by running Migration Assistant by itself

How To Restore Data From Time Machine Backups

And its even easier if you have a bootable USB memory stick with your OSX installer on it. More…

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How can I make a bootable OSX USB installer?

Reinstalling OSX on a Macintosh is sometimes necessary, whether you are upgrading or whether you need to repair a problem.

The problem is that after Snow Leopard, Apple abandoned DVD media and gone exclusively to downloadable installers.  And, many recent Macintosh machines no longer have DVDs, or you may have sacrificed your DVD drive for a second hard drive in your machine.   The easiest solution is to have a bootable USB stick with the OSX installation you need on it.  Note:  It is a good idea to get this made BEFORE you have problems, because you need a fully functioning Mac with an Internet connection to set it up.

First, you will need to log onto the Apple App Store, and download the latest OSX installer. Just do the download, don’t start the installer. Currently, the only choice you have for free is OSX 10.13 High Sierra.

However if you previously had downloaded OSX 10.7, 10.8 10.9, 10.10, 10.11 or 10.12 , you should be able to re-download the installer from your Apple App Store Purchases list.  Again just do the download, don’t start the installer.  Get yourself a 16 GB USB stick (an 8 GB will do, but I like to be on the safe side – also note that the stick is going to get erased in the process, so don’t use one that has any important data on it.)

Then get the shareware program Diskmaker X which has scripts that will do the rest for you. It will ask you where you have stored your Installer file, and then burrow into it to find the disk image, and Restore that to your USB stick.  Diskmaker X is currently having a problem with 10.13, we are waiting for an announcement on a fix.

Some of the Apple installers have a bug in them – if they were downloaded before February 2016, they go out to check an Apple server for authentication, but those servers no longer exist.  The fix, as long as you can boot the Mac still, is to set the date back to January 2016 or earlier, then proceed with the install, then reset the date to current.

As an alternative you can find the files manually:

If your machine came with 1o.7 or higher, and you haven’t purchased any upgrades, then you don’t have a way to download anything except 10.13. However your machine originally came with a hidden Recovery partition and if you still have the original hard drive (or if you migrated the Recovery partition properly to a new drive) you can still build an installer using Apple’ OSX Recovery Disk Assistant 

One note, never try to install an OSX version earlier than the one that shipped originally with the machine.



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Can I build a $600 gaming machine?

The CAN$600 question is, can an uber-affordable machine deliver an acceptable gaming experience?  GF_Case_3205BAnd the answer is: with the right expectations, yes.

The first thing that has to go out the window is the idea that you have to play all games at maximum resolution and maximum quality settings.  You could do that, of course, as long as you were OK counting to ten between frames.  But being willing to compromise on resolution and fine detail will let you play with acceptable frame rates on a machine that won’t break the bank.  The exact settings “sweet spot” is going to vary from game to game, so do some testing with your favorites.

Intel_Pentium_Anniversary For a low-cost gaming build, we are going to sacrifice CPU cores and go for flat out dual-core speed.  The Haswell Pentium dual core chips start out fast, and can be handily tweaked, so the the Anniversary Edition Pentium will power our platform. Starting at 3.2 GHz, it can be overclocked to 4.0 GHz with the stock air cooler.

The MSI Intel B85 motherboard has SATA 6.0 Gbps connections, USB 3.0 ports, solid capacitors and “milspec” components for reliability, and unusually for a mATX board, it has four DDR3 DIMM memory sockets and can go to 32 GB of RAM if you wish.MSI_B85M-E45 This also means you could populate it with some 2 GB DDR3-1600 MHz DIMMs that you may be able to pick up cheaply from someone who has upgraded.

MSI is big on gaming, and they have overclocking support built into their BIOS.

The big ticket item, and the most direct influence on game frame rates is the video card, so about 30% of our budget will go there.

AMD_R7_260XThe Radeon R7 260X 2GB card is reasonably priced with performance close to the NVidia GTX 750ti version (which sells for $40 more). Both cards can run without dedicated PCI-e Graphics power connectors from a 350-400W power supply.

For this build, the first item to get tossed overboard is the hard drive.  This is a gaming machine, not a media library.  You can add a couple of TB of spinning drive storage later for $100 or so if you really want, or you can re-purpose an drive from an older machine or one from a buddy who has upgraded. (A data storage and backup drive does not have to be fast).

SanDisk_X100_128On the flip side, we are going to go with an SSD flash-based drive for the boot drive, because the price point has crossed the critical bar where a 128 GB SSD is as inexpensive as a 500 GB hard drive.  Yeah, it’s a small drive. But it is FAST – your mission if you choose to accept it is to keep your system lean and mean, with no superfluous programs or data (lay off of that Download Now button).  Apart from the fast booting and lightning-speed loading of programs and data, an SSD exacts far less of a time penalty on virtual memory swap files than an hard drive – near zero latency and triple the bandwidth means that you don’t suffer nearly as bad a performance hit if you exceed your physical RAM capacity.

About that memory: 4 GB RAM is just enough, 8 GB would be better, so that’s the obvious first upgrade.  Or you may be able to scrounge up 2 GB module or two to make it 6 GB or 8 GB.

As usual, prices are estimates only, in Canadian dollars, and subject to change.

Case GoldenField 3205B mATX case with 500W PSU
CSE-3205B-500W $ 45
Motherboard MSI Motherboard LGA1150 B85 DDR3 max 32GB RAM Sata 6.0Gbps, USB 3.0
B85M-E45 $ 81
Power supply 500W included with case    
SSD Drive SanDisk X110
SD6SB1M-128G-1022i $ 79
Memory DDR3-1600 CL10 4 GB (1x4GB DIMM) $ 36
CPU Intel Pentium G3258 Anniversary edition dual core 3.2 GHz
BX80646G3258 $ 91
Optical drive Asus DVD-RW DRW-24F1ST/BLK/B/AS $ 20
Keyboard and Mouse Microsoft or Logitech Desktop combo
$ 17
Cooler Stock cooler
Video card Radeon R260X 2GB Overclock Example Asus R7260X-DC2OC-2GD5 $ 159
TOTAL before tax, shipping and assembly $ 528
Upgrade RAM To 8 GB +$ 36
OS Windows 8.1 OEM WN7-00615 $ 116
Upgrade video card
NVidia GTX 750ti -159 + 199 =
+$ 40

Looks good, we’re hitting the mark at $528 plus tax, but there’s a cheat here; that’s without the Windows OS, which puts us over the $600 mark by a long ways.

There are a limited number of legal alternatives here. You could install Linux, but then your gaming selection and installation requirements are radically altered.

If you have an unused retail copy of Windows 7 (as opposed to a Windows that came bundled with a machine purchase) you could use that.

Or, if you are willing to do a bit of work and take some minor risks of compatibility and crashing, for a limited time you can download the Windows 10 beta (Technical Preview ISO) here and follow the instructions to burn it onto a USB stick for installation on the machine.

What are the tradeoffs? Besides the CPU choice, 4 GB of RAM and the small SSD drive, the Golden Field case and power supply combo is, how can we say? Basic.  Although the PSU is rated at 500W, I would really call it a 350W unit, which is still fine for this build.  If you wanted a more attractive case, a larger power supply or the ability to power PCI-e Graphics cards, you’d have to invest $50 – $100 more

Previous articles

April 2015 $1000 gaming machine

Feb 2014 $1000 gaming machine

Dec 2011 $2000 gaming machine

2011 $1000 gaming machine

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Can I build a gaming computer under $1000? (Apr 2015 edition)

It’s April 2015 and we are revisiting our exercise in budget computing: Can we build a computer that will give acceptable gaming performance for under $1000 (In our 80 pound weakling Canadian dollars)?

In the past year we have seen DDR3 memory prices go up and then ease back just a little, the Canadian dollar go down precipitously adding 20% to the cost of nearly everything, and SSDs (flash based hard drives) steadily dropping in price and increasing in capacity.

The component that has the most impact on performance in a gaming computer is the video card, so budget compromises have to be between the relative costs of the GPU video card vs CPU processor vs SSD drives. Fortunately, video cards have been improving in performance, and the latest generation of NVidia Maxwell chips is particularly impressive.

The best bang for the buck on CPUs is still an entry level Intel Core i5 CPU or a 6-core or 8-core AMD FX series CPU. For the cheapest possible machine, an AMD FM2 A8 or A10 APU could be used, or one of the fast dual-core Pentium chips, but that sacrifices CPU power to the point that it can affect game-play.

Here are suggested configurations at about the $1000 price point (before tax, Canadian dollars, current to April 25 2015) In all of the configurations, we have gone with motherboards that have:

  • at least two PCI-e video card slots compatible with Crossfire (or SLI) for future acceleration (with more money, you can get 2 PCI-e x16 slots with full 16 lane support on each, but at this price level, the second slot can be limited to 4 lanes).
  • USB 3.0 on board
  • SATA III (6.0 Gb/s) on board
  • Gigabit Ethernet (1000BT)
  • 4 RAM sockets with overclocked DDR3 capability, with a mximum RAM capacity of 32 GB. This allows us to get 8 GB of Dual Channel RAM installed, with room to upgrade later as budget allows.

A micro-ATX board with 2 slots can save some cash, if you are willing to live with a single PCI-e x16 slot and 2 memory sockets with 16 GB maximum, you could save up to $50

In brute computing performance benchmarks using all cores, the 3.5 GHz AMD 8-core FX-8320 out-performs the Intel i5-4440. (However in the real world we’re often in the position where not all 8 cores are utilized to the max,, and there the 4-core i5 holds its own). We have gone with a 240 GB SSD drive as a primary drive on each machine, for the speed of booting and loading.  Its easy to add an extra hard drive if you need the space for file storage.

So here are our contenders:

AMD FX 8-Core system.

Case Coolermaster CMForce 500 CSE-FOR500KR500   $87
Motherboard MSI 970A-G43 AMD AM3+ 970/SB950 DDR3 SATA PCI Express USB 3.0 ATX $91
Power supply Coolermaster Elite 500W   included with case    
 SSD drive  Kingston 240 GB     $135
Memory DDR3-1600 CL9 8 GB (2x4GB DIMM) BLS2KIT4G3D1609DS1S00 $89
CPU AMD FX-8320 8 core 3.5 GHz / 4.0 GHz boost FD8320FRHKBOX   $199
Optical drive Asus DRW-24F1ST/BLK/B/AS   $20
Keyboard and Mouse Coolermaster CMStorm Devastator combo SGB-3010-KKMF1-US   $34
Additional Fan 120mm (one included with case)     $11
Video card Asus R7 260X 2GB OC R7260X-DC2OC-2GD5 Overclocked, with 2 GB of video memory   $159
OS Windows 8.1 OEM WN7-00615   $116
Cooler Stock cooler  Included with CPU    
 TOTAL before tax, shipping and assembly     $941

The Black edition FX-8350 chip would be fun if you want to experiment with overclocking, but it adds $40 or more to the cost plus the cost of a better cooler.  (If you’re going to spend the money, the Intel i5-4670K is about $100 more, but offers about 25% better performance than the FX-8350)

Intel 4-core system.

For today’s system we are moving the i5 up to the slightly more powerful 4460 at 3.2 GHz, and going with SSD as the primary drive, and it just sneaks in under $1000 before tax.

Case Coolermaster CMForce 500 CSE-FOR500KR500  87
Motherboard Gigabyte ATX 4*DDR VGA DVI HDMI Main Board GA-B85-HD3 109
Power supply 500W included with case    
SSD Drive Kingston 240 GB   135
Memory DDR3-1600 CL9 8 GB (2x4GB DIMM) BLS2KIT4G3D1609DS1S00 89
CPU Intel i5-4460 3.2 GHz 4 core / 3.4 GHz boost BX80646I54440 239
Optical drive Asus DVD-RW DRW-24F1ST/BLK/B/AS  20
Keyboard and Mouse Coolermaster CMStorm Devastator combo SGB-3010-KKMF1-US  34
Additional Fan 120mm (one included with case)   11
Video card Radeon R260X 2GB Overclock Example Asus R7260X-DC2OC-2GD5 159
OS Windows 8.1 OEM WN7-00615  116
Cooler Stock cooler    
 TOTAL  before tax, shipping and assembly   $999
Cooler for overclocking Coolermaster Hyper 212 EVO RR-212E-20PK-R1  $32
Upgrade the video card  NVidia GTX750TI  2GB GDDR5  $197 -159= +$38
Upgrade the video card  NVidia GTX960
(+ power supply adapter cables or upgrade PSU)
 2GB GDDR5  $282 -159= +$123
Upgrade the Power Supply If you want a high powered video card, you’ll have to up the PSU’s capabilities. Switch to CM Elite 371 BLACK Case and CM GX2 650W 80+ Bronze PSU, less the cost of the CM Force 500
  $135 – $87 = +$48  

The video card is the obvious first step to upgrade beyond the basic level. The GTX 750ti, which runs the NVidia Maxwell architecture gives a small but real upgrade in some specific games over the R7 260X $197  (the AMD card does better in some benchmarks, and in a few titles).  Plus the 750ti is very energy efficient and does not need supplemental PCI-e power connectors.

The next big step up is the GeForce GTX960, with the second generation of NVidia Maxwell GPU architecture $282.

Some GTX960 cards require one 8 pin PCI-e power connector and some need two 6 pin connectors.  Since the CM500 Elite PSU has one 6-pin PCI-e connector, the GTX960 upgrade would require either an upgrade to the stock power supply, or some adapter cables to provide connection from 4-pin peripheral power connectors.

These computer builds rely on the stock cooling fans, which is perfectly fine at the rated clocks – if you are intending to overclock, then you may be wise to look into third party CPU coolers, and the Intel Core I5 i5-4670K, 3.4GHz Unlocked “K” version of the CPU for about $67 more than the stock i5, which will push the Intel system just over $1100. For overclocking as well, there are RAM upgrades in the 1866 MHz region for not much more, and in the 2100 – 2400 MHz region for quite a lot more.

Other upgrades:

Mouse: Logitech Gaming Mouse G500 USB $79
(note that you don’t want a wireless mouse or keyboard for gaming)

Keyboard: Logitech Gaming Keyboard G110 12 programmable keys, backlighting, USB audio $96

RAM: 16 GB rather than 8 GB  Add about $100

Next time, we’ll see if we can put together a credible $600 machine.

Previous posts
Feb 2014

Posted in Computer Questions and Answers, General Computer, PC Gaming, Upgrading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

News: Apple admits 2011/12/13 MacBook Pro flaws, starts repair program

Apple finally has admitted that the graphic chips in the 2011 MacBook Pro machines are prone to failure, and have created an extended warranty program for owners who are experiencing black screens, garbled screens and unexpected shutdowns.
The program covers all 2011 15 and 17 inch MacBook Pros, and mid-2012 to early-2013 15 inch MacBook Pros.  13 inch MacBook Pros and machines without discrete graphics chips are not affected.

The extended warranty program goes until February 27, 2016 or three years from its original date of sale, whichever provides longer coverage.

You can take the machine to a local Apple Authorized Service Provider or Apple Store or arrange for mail-in service. Because it probably involves a motherboard replacement, it cannot be done by an owner.

You can check your machine here to see if it qualifies:

Affected Models
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch Early 2011)
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch, Late 2011)
  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2012)
  • MacBook Pro (17-inch Early 2011)
  • MacBook Pro (17-inch Late 2011)
  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 15 inch, Early 2013)

and the program details are here:

Posted in Computer Questions and Answers, Mac questions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Superfish malware installed on new machines exposes HTTPS browsing

No SuperfishIf you have a new Lenovo laptop, do this today: Check for Superfish and eliminate it

Software called Superfish, a “Visual Search enhancer” product pre-installed on new consumer laptops from Lenovo among other brands, has been revealed to have severe privacy breaches. This also affects any software using the underlying Komodia toolkit (see below)

Superfish is software that inserts advertising into web pages you visit, creating a “Visual Search results” area with the notation “powered by VisualDiscovery.” If you see these phrases on your web browser pages and searches, then you have this software installed.

You want to remove this immediately, because it works by installing phony ‘security certificates’ for SSL HTTPS pages that you browse, so that the program can snoop on your secure browsing (like, your banking and financial sites) to throw ads up on the screen. Unfortunately, by subverting SSL security, it also opens up your browsing to a hacker who if they can gain access to your network, can then also view the data of what you thought were private and secure connections.

Fortunately, Microsoft has already updated Microsoft Defender anti virus software and it will eradicate Superfish. Update and run Defender at your first opportunity.  Instructions for manual removal are here:

You can check if your machine is affected by visiting this site

The dodgy technology

The underlying certificate hijacking technology that Superfish is using is from the Israeli firm Komodia, which produces parental control (“net nanny”) software, including Komodia’s KeepMyFamilySecure and is included in similar products from the company Qustodio.

A partial list of programs that have been identified by researchers and reported on ArsTechnica of using this certificate hijacker is

  • Komodia’s KeepMyFamilySecure
  • Qustodio network security software
  • Lavasoft Ad-aware Web Companion
  • CartCrunch Israel LTD
  • WiredTools LTD
  • Say Media Group LTD
  • Over the Rainbow Tech
  • System Alerts
  • ArcadeGiant
  • Objectify Media Inc
  • Catalytix Web Services
  • OptimizerMonitor
  • SecureTeen

Plus there is one piece of malware identified so far which incorporates it

  • Trojan.Nurjax

A different but similar HTTPS vulnerability in the stand alone version of PrivDog (the PrivDog 2 software supplied by Comodo apparently does not have the vulnerability).

All of these programs should also be regarded as hazardous and removed.

The toolkit spoofs security certificates for the sites that you visit, substituting its own certificates that assure your web browser that everything is secure. In fact, it allows the software to see everything that passes between you and the server, whether it is your bank, an e-commerce site, medical or government site.  Then, to top it off, the company was lazy enough to use the same certificate private key for all of the certificates on all users machines… it is the work of a moment for researchers (and hackers) to extract that key, and theoretically have access to the data using a “man in the middle” attack.

Your risk of attack in your home or business is low, because the hacker would have to have access to your network (not impossible, due to vulnerabilities in internet routers or from computers on the network which has previously been infected with a backdoor trojan). But in public areas, the risk is much higher, so removing the software and those certificates is paramount.

Lenovo machines from Mid 2014 to January 2015  which may be affected:

  • G Series: G410, G510, G710, G40-70, G50-70, G40-30, G50-30, G40-45, G50-45
  • U Series: U330P, U430P, U330Touch, U430Touch, U530Touch
  • Y Series: Y430P, Y40-70, Y50-70
  • Z Series: Z40-75, Z50-75, Z40-70, Z50-70
  • S Series: S310, S410, S40-70, S415, S415Touch, S20-30, S20-30Touch
  • Flex Series: Flex2 14D, Flex2 15D, Flex2 14, Flex2 15, Flex2 14(BTM), Flex2 15(BTM), Flex 10
  • MIIX Series: MIIX2-8, MIIX2-10, MIIX2-11
  • YOGA Series: YOGA2Pro-13, YOGA2-13, YOGA2-11BTM, YOGA2-11HSW
  • E Series: E10-30

Why is it there in the first place?

The dirty secret in the computer business is – money.

Software vendors pay computer manufacturers to pre-install their wares on new machines. That’s why any new machine you get comes with McAfee or Norton Antivirus “trial” versions, complete with the nag-ware which pops up incessantly and prompts you to purchase or renew a subscription “to stay protected”.   Ditto the “free” games that came with your machine that clamor for you to upgrade or make in-app purchases.

Less scrupulous software vendors install software that modifies your web browser to show advertising, or redirects your search preferences to their own tailored search results. Their motivation is the ad revenue they get from websites and brand owners for preferentially driving your traffic to them.

In a bid to get more revenue (and lower the price of their computers in a fiercely competitive market) Lenovo have succumbed to the lure of thirty pieces of silver, and have betrayed your privacy (and virtually all other brands engage in the practice of pre-installed software as well). In this case, Lenovo did a stunningly poor job of quality control of what they allowed to be installed.

Are we out of the woods if we don’t have these laptops?

Keep in mind that it is not certain that Superfish, or the underlying technology, is limited to Lenovo laptops.  It could as well be embedded in shareware or commercial software, or in plug ins or browser add-ons – in addition to the parental control software already identified. We don’t know yet what the degree of spread is.

As for the preinstalled software in general, there are a couple of programs that are worth running, the wonderfully named PCDeCrapifier which identifies and removes a range of “shovelware” that manufacturers put on new machines

AdwCleaner, a program that does a good job of removing web browser redirect and adware extensions.


Posted in Computer Questions and Answers, General Computer, News, Security, Viruses and malware | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Event: DesertBus For Hope Charity drive

DesertBus 2014 is now in progress,

My friends from the Loading Ready Run sketch comedy troupe in Victoria are playing the most boring video game ever made (Penn & Teller’s DesertBus*) to raise money for the Child’s Play charity. They will keep driving the DesertBus 24/7 for as long as people donate to the charity. While they are driving the bus, they hold auctions, do skits and songs for donations, and accept challenges to do hilarious and/or embarrassing things for donations.

The volunteer drivers have over 160 hours to drive the DesertBus (keep them driving by donating, the more money raised, the longer they are tortured by having to play the worst-game-in-the-world.)

DesertBus for Hope has passed $400,000 on this years campaign so far, and have raised over 2 million for charity since 2007

Tune in and support the gang and the Child’s Play charity, which provides toys and games to children who are seriously ill and in hospital.

* Developed by comedians Penn and Teller, the “anti-game” DesertBus is a first-person driving game, where you drive a bus from Tuscon to Las Vegas, in real time. The road is dead straight, and — nothing happens. Then when you reach Las Vegas 4.5 hours later, you —turn around and go back. The bus’ steering is defective, so if you don’t pay attention it will veer off the road and crash. At which point a tow truck is dispatched to tow you back — in real time.

Here’s an article from last year in the New Yorker about their effort

Posted in Local to Victoria, Media and Commentary, News, Web News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ventir: New Mac malware, Trojan Horse

As reported by The Safe Mac here, and Kapersky Labs here, a new trojan horse “Ventir” has been discovered which infects Macintosh OSX.  The vector for infection has not been determined, but the Ventir installer must be run, either as part of another program installer or as a trojan horse (masquerading as something else).  It has two methods of installation, including one which will continue to infect the Mac even if Administrative privilege is denied after the installer starts.

The malware is called a modular malware program, there are two known components – it acts as a keylogger, capturing your keystrokes and sending them, plus it opens a back door for installation of other malware. Because at this point it isn’t known what this “Dropper” component may install, the indicated disinfection for a compromised machine is “nuke-and-pave”, or complete reformatting of the hard drive and re-installation of OSX and your programs from known-clean sources such as your original DVDs or installer files.

According to reports, ESet antivirus software has signatures for this malware, and Apple are working on an XProtect update.

Posted in Computer Questions and Answers, Mac questions, News, Security, Viruses and malware | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Memory for the new late Apple 2014 5K iMac, Mac Mini

Apple has released a 2014 model of the iMac, with a stunning new “5K” 27 inch Retina screen.  Happily, unlike the previous Retina iMac models, Apple included upgradeable memory in this configuration. It can go to a maximum of 32 GB with four 8 GB DDR3-1600L SODIMMs, accessible through a fold-out hatch on the back of the machine. You can see the inner details of the iMac 5K at iFixit’s teardown page here.

Apple iMac 27" 5K Screen Late 2014

Apple iMac 27″ 5K Screen Late 2014


CanadaRAM offers memory for the 5K iMac machine here in 8, 16 and 32 GB kits from DMS Certified, Kingston, Crucial and other brands.

Sadly, the 2014 Mac Mini, which received a refresh at the same time, has soldered in RAM which is not upgradeable, it can only be ordered with 8 Gb or 16 GB from the factory (4GB, 8 GB or 16 GB on the entry level model)  The stock hard drive is a 5400 RPM model, which makes the 1 TB Fusion Drive (1TB hard drive plus a small SSD drive) or SSD options pretty much mandatory if you are looking to put the Mini into any high performance application. Between the 16 GB option and the higher performance drive option, the Mini’s previously low price balloons to well over CAN$1,100.


Apple Mac Mini 2014

The entry level Mini with a small 1.4 GHz processor is strictly for budget use with non-demanding applications; like the entry level iMac introduced earlier, the machine uses a low-power CPU (the weakest processor released by Apple in some time) and is aimed at schools and students with a minimal budget.

Posted in Computer Questions and Answers, Mac questions, Memory News, Upgrading | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is the state of Thunderbolt drives? (October 2014 edition)

Thunderbolt drive news
Apple has left Firewire and adopted Thunderbolt as their recommended high speed connection for external hard drives (and monitors and other devices). With the Late-2013 “tubular” MacPro, Apple is making it quite explicit that there is no longer any place for drives internally in Macintosh computers.  In the mean time Intel has been quietly promoting the inclusion of Thunderbolt into higher end PC motherboards and workstations.

Thunderbolt is a Intel development with cooperation from Apple, which extends the PCI-e bus to an external interface and includes connectivity for DisplayPort graphics signals. The speed that it provides for data transfer is of particular interest to media production professionals (Video editing, music recording, animation) and for scientific, graphic, and other large data set applications. The extension of the PCI-e bus also opens the door for high performance external video and processing acceleration cards such as the Red Rocket, AJA Kona, Black Magic, Bluefish, DeltaCast, Matrox Mojito.

Thunderbolt hard drives and enclosures were slow to come to market but a number of models are now shipping. Thunderbolt products do remain pricey as the chipset adds a premium over the cost of USB 3.0 drives. As chipsets become more common and manufacturers get competitive we should start to see the prices creeping down.

Here is a quick review of what is available as of Oct 15 2014

The Thundertek/PX-Q6G is a promising development, a Thunderbolt to eSATA solution which actually supports Port Multiplier, for up to 20 external hard drives (in four 5 bay eSATA enclosures). You do have to purchase the Thunderbolt cable and the eSATA enclosures or external drives separately. Unfortunately the Thundertek has only a single Thunderbolt port, making it a terminal device (no daisy chaining) and does not come with the Thunderbolt cable.
The ThunderTek/PX is a Thunderbolt to PCI-e slot external chassis for Macintosh machines with Thunderbolt ports, it can take a PCI-e half-length card.  In combination with the SeriTek/Q6G 4-external-port eSATA card, it creates a Thunderbolt to eSATA 4 port solution, the combination is called the Thundertek/PX-Q6G.  The ThunderTek/PW version is the same but is PC compatible as well as Mac compatible.

CanadaRAM Thundertek/PX-Q6G link

Firmtek ThunderTek/PX

Firmtek ThunderTek/PX

The eSATA Hub Thunderbolt series did ship earlier than most of its competitors, and offers two eSATA ports.  Sadly, it is not Port Multiplier compatible, so it supports at most 2 external eSATA drives. It does have two Thunderbolt ports for daisy chaining, which is a plus, but no cable.
CanadaRAM LaCie ESata Hub Thunderbolt series 9000186 Link

LaCie eSATAHub Thunderbolt

LaCie eSATAHub Thunderbolt

LaCie eSATAHub TB back

LaCie eSATAHub TB back

LaCie is shipping their 2Big Thunderbolt external drives, which have 2 x 3.5″ drives in a RAID pair within the Thunderbolt enclosure, these come with the Thunderbolt cable and dual Thunderbolt ports.

CanadaRAM 2Big Thunderbolt 4TB RAID 9000359 Link
CanadaRAM 2Big Thunderbolt 6TB RAID 9000360 Link
CanadaRAM 2Big Thunderbolt 8TB RAID 9000246 Link

LaCie 2big Thunderbolt

LaCie 2big ThunderboltLaCie 2big Thunderbolt Back

LaCie 2big Thunderbolt Back

The 5Big Thunderbolt has 5 drives in a RAID configuration. These can be configured as a RAID 0, or by using Apple’s Disk Utility, they can be formatted either as RAID 1 mirrored pairs (2 pairs plus one independent drive, or one pair and three independent drives), or as 5 independent drives.

CanadaRAM 5Big Thunderbolt 10TB RAID 9000378U Link
CanadaRAM 5Big Thunderbolt 20TB RAID 9000398U Link
CanadaRAM 5Big Thunderbolt 25TB RAID 9000462U Link

LaCie 5big Thunderbolt

LaCie 5big Thunderbolt

The LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderboltâ„¢ Series is a smaller size desktop drive (requires an AC adapter so it is not considered a mobile drive) available with 2 hard drives in a RAID0 Array or with two SSD drives internally. They have two Thunderbolt connectors and include a cable.

CanadaRAM LittleBigDisk Thunderbolt 2 TB HD 5400 RPM 9000358 Link
CanadaRAM LittleBigDisk Thunderbolt 4 TB HD 5400 RPM 9000466 Link
CanadaRAM LittleBigDisk Thunderbolt 512 GB SSD 9000321 Link
CanadaRAM LittleBigDisk Thunderbolt 1 TB SSD 9000350 Link


LaCie LittleBigDisk Thunderbolt

The LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt2â„¢  1 TB SSD is a compact size desktop drive with two 512 GB  SSD drives in a RAID 0 Array and two Thunderbolt 2 (20 Gbps) connections, making it one of the fastest currently available drives. Thunderbolt cable is included.

1TB LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt2 SSD 1TB USB3.0 + TBolt Mobile RAID 0 (2X512) SSD drive, fanless with cable up to 1300 MBps RPM External, Thunderbolt 3 Yr Warranty 9000477

LaCie LittleBigDisk2 Thunderbolt2

LaCie LittleBigDisk Thunderbolt2

The single-drive options are the LaCie d2 USB 3.0 Thunderboltâ„¢ Series, which also have USB 3.0 but sadly have just one Thunderbolt connector. The cable is included.

CanadaRAM d2 USB 3.0 Thunderbolt 3TB 9000353 link
CanadaRAM d2 USB 3.0 Thunderbolt 4TB 9000303 link
CanadaRAM d2 USB 3.0 Thunderbolt 5TB 9000465 link

LaCie d2 Thunderbolt

LaCie d2 Thunderbolt

LaCie has some mobile drives, the Rugged USB3 Thunderbolt Series, available with hard drives or SSD drives, encased in bright orange rubber shock resistant material, and including a 1.5 foot Thunderbolt cable but just one Thunderbolt port

CanadaRAM Rugged USB3 Thunderbolt 1 TB HD 5400 RPM 9000294 link
CanadaRAM Rugged USB3 Thunderbolt 2 TB HD 5400 RPM 9000299 link
CanadaRAM Rugged USB3 Thunderbolt 120 GB SSD 9000291 link
CanadaRAM Rugged USB3 Thunderbolt 256 GB SSD 9000352 link
CanadaRAM Rugged USB3 Thunderbolt 500 GB SSD 9000449 link

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt

Western Digital:
WD is shipping, in limited quantities, their MyBook Thunderbolt Duos which, like the LaCie 2Big, have two drives in the enclosure.  Credit to Western Digital for including both the Thunderbolt cable and the second Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining.

CanadaRAM MyBook Thunderbolt Duo 4TB RAID WDBUTV0040JSL link
CanadaRAM MyBook Thunderbolt Duo 6TB RAID 0/1 WDBUPB0060JSL link
CanadaRAM MyBook Thunderbolt Duo 6TB RAID WDBUTV0060JSL link
CanadaRAM MyBook Thunderbolt Duo 8TB RAID WDBUTV0080JSL link

Western Digital MyBook Thunderbolt

Western Digital MyBook Thunderbolt

WD MyBook Thunderbolt open

WD MyBook Thunderbolt open

MyPassport Pro 2 TB and 4TB RAID drives
Portable, bus-powered aluminum external drives with two 2.5″ drives inside, in a RAID 0 configuration, these come in 2 TB and 4 TB sizes, and have maximum data throughput of about 230 MBps. They have a tethered Thunderbolt cable (short), and no daisychaining capability. As far as we know, they are not shipping in Canada as of Aug 6 2014.


The Highpoint RocketStor 5212 Thunderbolt brings a quick-load dual slot “Disk toaster” to the Thunderbolt arena. This is great for the convenience of swapping 3.5″ and 2.5″ SATA drives in and out. On the downside, Highpoint provides neither a Thunderbolt cable nor a second Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining.

CanadaRAM RocketStor 5212 Thunderbolt RS5212 Link

Highpoint RocketStor Thunderbolt with 1 2.5"SSD and 1 3.5" HDD

Highpoint RocketStor Thunderbolt with 1 2.5″SSD and 1 3.5″ HDD

Highpoint have also released some Thunderbolt2 to Mini-SAS high performance external interface adapters, with Mini-SAS interfaces for enterprise level SAS storage bays (can also be broken out to multiple eSATA connections)

RocketStor 6328 RAID interface with two 20Gb/s Thunderbolt2 Ports, two Mini-SAS Ports and Hardware RAID 0,1,5,6,10,50 and JBOD

RocketStor 6328L interface (no internal RAID) with two 20Gb/s Thunderbolt2 Ports, two Mini-SAS Ports

RocketStor 6324L interface (no internal RAID) with two 20Gb/s Thunderbolt2 Ports, one Mini-SAS Port


Ministation 1 TB THUNDERBOLT portable Hard Drive HD-PA1.0TU3  Thunderbolt speed in a pocket sized drive, comes with USB 3.0 as well. Overall, it scores highly for portability, the performance will top out at the throughput of the 2.5″ hard drive, which is slower than a desktop 3.5″ drive. The inclusion of neither a Thunderbolt cable nor daisy chain second port is disappointing.

CanadaRAM Ministation 1 TB Thunderbolt  HD-PA1.0TU3 Link

Buffalo Ministation Thunderbolt HD-PA1.0TU3

Buffalo Ministation Thunderbolt HD-PA1.0TU3

Buffalo’s Drivestation Mini Thunderbolt SSD is a compact desktop drive which has two SSD drives in a RAID for high speed storage up to 763 MB/s transfer rate.  It comes with dual Thunderbolt ports for daisy chaining and a Thunderbolt cable.

CanadaRAM Drivestation Mini Thunderbolt SSD 1TB SSD-WA1.0T Link

Buffalo Drivestation Mini Thunderbolt SSD

Buffalo Drivestation Mini Thunderbolt SSD

Buffalo Drivestation Mini TB back

Buffalo Drivestation Mini TB back

Data Robotics:
DROBO 5D – 5 Bay Storage Array is one of the few devices that comes with both USB3.0 and Thunderbolt ports, it has room for up to 5 3.5″ drives plus a unique approach – an mSATA slot accessible from the bottom of the drive, for an mSATA SSD drive; this is intended for cache memory, which could speed up the RAID performance.
It is an expensive solution that uses a proprietary RAID system internally.

Drobo 5d Thunderbolt

Drobo 5d Thunderbolt

Drobo 5d back

Drobo 5d back

Drobo Mini: four bay 2.5″ drive enclosure, Two Thunderbolt and one USB 3.0 port. No Thunderbolt cable.  mSATA slot in the Drobo Accelerator Bay for a caching SSD drive (optional).

CanadaRAM Drobo Mini link


Kanex has a line of Thunderbolt adapters, one for SATA and USB 3.0 (useable simultaneously) and one for USB 3.0 and Ethernet (intended for MacBook Airs which don’t have an RJ-45 port)

Canadaram Kanex Thunderbolt to USB3.0 + eSATA Adapter KTU10



Canadaram 1M Kanex Thunderbolt 1 m. cable M-M TBOLT1M
Canadaram 2M Kanex Thunderbolt 2 m. cable M-M TBOLT2M


Backup Plus for Mac with Thunderbolt external single-mechanism 3TB desktop drive includes both a cable and a daisy chaining second Thunderbolt port.

CanadaRAM 3TB Backup Plus for Mac with Thunderbolt STCB3000400 Link

Seagate Backup Plus STCB3000400

Seagate Backup Plus STCB3000400

Seagate also has adapters to convet GoFlex and Backup Plus drives purchased originally with USB or Firewire interfaces to Thunderbolt. The adapters are specific to certain models.|

Portable Thunderbolt Adapter for Backup Plus Portable STAE128 for mobile Backup Plus 2.5″ drives (Thunderbolt cable not included)

Desktop Thunderbolt Adapter for Backup Plus STAE129 for desktop Backup Plus 3.5″ drives (Thunderbolt cable not included)

Thunderbolt Adapter for GoFlex drives STAE121 (Thunderbolt cable not included) Intended as a Thunderbolt adapter for GoFlex Ultra-Portable portable drives with detachable adapters. The GoFlex Slim drives are too thin and they are loose when fitted, possibly leading to SATA connection failure.  This item may be discontinued, it seems to have disappeared from most catalogs.GoFlex_Portable_Thunderbolt_Adapter inside


Sonnet has their own take on an external PCI-e chassis, Echo Express III-D Desktop Thunderbolt 2 Expansion Chassis, which is a three-slot PCI-e chassis, and has support for Thunderbolt 2 (20 Gbps).  The Echo Express III-R Rackmount Thunderbolt 2 Expansion Chassis is a rack-mount version of the same.

Sonnet Echo Express 3d

Sonnet Echo Express 3d

The Echo Express SE II Thunderbolt 2 Expansion Chassis is similar but with two half-length PCI-e slots


Their latest entry is the Echo Express SEL Thunderbolt 2 single slot expansion chassis, which accommodates one low profile PCI-e card only.


The xMac Mini Server is a unique rackmount product that houses a Mac Mini, adds two PCI-e slot and a 150W power supply so the Mini can run higher end video editing cards.

Keep in mind that with this and any other expansion chassis, support for PCI-e cards will be limited to those cards which are on the manufacturer’s supported list.

Next up is the fabled Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock 15-port docking station for computers with a Thunderbolt port. This should be intriguing when the products actually ship – an optical drive and a internal hard drive, plus other ports, this would seem to be a solution made for Macs that ship without optical drives. We are told the first units of these will start arriving in September 2014 after a close to two years wait on backorder. I’m sorry, Sonnet but credibility suffers when you continually announce ship dates only to push them back each time.

4 x USB 3.0 ports, 1 internal SATA and 1 external eSATA ports, 1 FireWire 800 port, Gigabit Ethernet, and audio interfaces, plus a second Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining. Includes either 8x DVD±RW drive or, optionally, a Blu-ray BD-ROM/8x DVD±RW drive. Supports installation of one 2.5″ or 3.5″ SATA internal hard drive or SSD (and is available with various drive configurations pre-installed).

The Echo 15 Pro+Thunderbolt Dock 16-port comes with a Blu-Ray drive pre-installed, and it has connections for either two 2.5″ drives or one 3.5″ drive internally.

Sonnet Echo15 Thunderbolt Dock

Sonnet Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock

Promise has several variations of the Pegasus line of Thunderbolt enclosures.

The Pegasus J4 is a 4 bay 2.5″ SATA RAID enclosure that can hold laptop 2.5″ SATA hard drives (9.5mm or 7mm tall) or 2.5″ SATA SSDs. It will create a RAID array out of the drives, allowing up to 750 MB/sec transfer with SSDs.  It does have two Thunderbolt ports but does not come with the cable. With SSDs, the J4 can create an extremely fast RAAD drive in a portable package.

CanadaRAM Pegasus J4 enclosure J4US Link

Promise Pegasus J4

Promise Pegasus J4

Pegasus R4 and R6 are the 4-bay and 6-bay high performance hardware RAID Solutions with two Thunderbolt 10 Gbs ports. They are available in a variety of hard drive configurations up to 24 TB.

Promise Pegasus R4 and R6

Promise Pegasus R4 and R6

The Pegasus2 line is Thunderbolt 2 enabled hardware RAID storage with 4, 6 or 8 drive bays and up to 32 TB of storage per tower. Promise is pitching the Pegasus2 line toward video and multimedia production, giving performance fast enough for 3D and 4K video editing together with enterprise level RAID protection.

Promise Pegasus2 family

Promise Pegasus2 family

The Promise SANLink and SANLink2 are Thunderbolt external adapters that provide dual 4G Fibre Channel connectivity for Macs for connection to high speed storage area networks in enterprises and video production suites. They have dual Thunderbolt ports for daisy chaining, the SANLink2 supports Thunderbolt2.

Promise SanLink2 External  Fibre Channel adapter

Promise SanLink2 External Fibre Channel adapter

Mercury Elite Pro Dual USB 3.0 & Thunderbolt RAID Storage Enclosure. Two 3.5″ SATA drive bays. Built in RAID controller supports RAID modes 0, 1, spanning & independent drives. Thunderbolt cable included, two Thunderbolt ports for daisy chaining.

With no drives (add your own) Elite Pro Dual METB7DK0GB Link
With 2 x 2 TB drives Elite Pro Dual METB7DH2.0T
With 2 x 3 TB drives Elite Pro Dual METB7DH6.0T
With 2 x 4 TB drives Elite Pro Dual METB7DH8.0T

OWC Elite Pro Dual Thunderbolt

OWC Elite Pro Dual Thunderbolt

ThunderBay IV four bay Thunderbolt enclosure. Independent drives or a variety of RAID modes. Note that this enclosure uses software RAID, not a hardware RAID controller in the case. Can take a mixture of hard drives and SSD drives. Two Thunderbolt ports for daisy chaining.
With no drives (add your own) ThunderBay IV TBIVKIT0GB Link
4 x 1 TB drives ThunderBay IV TBIVT04.0S
4 x 2 TB drives ThunderBay IV TBIVT08.0S
4 x 3 TB drives ThunderBay IV TBIVT12.0S
4 x 4 TB drives ThunderBay IV TBIVT16.0S
4 x 120 GB SSD ThunderBay IV TBIVSSD480
4 x 240 GB SSD ThunderBay IV TBIVSSDT1.0
4 x 480 GB SSD ThunderBay IV TBIVSSDT2.0
4 x 960 GB SSD ThunderBay IV TBIVSSDT4.0

OWC ThunderBay IV

OWC ThunderBay IV

Mercury On-The-Go Pro Thunderbolt portable 1 TB hard drive MOTGTBH5T1.0, single Thunderbolt port, so no daisy-chaining, and an odd choice of a slower HDD, I would have thought a Hybrid SSHD or a 7200 RPM HDD would have been better.

OWC Mercury On-The-Go Pro Thunderbolt 1 TB

Mercury Helios Thunderbolt PCIe Expansion Chassis supports one PCI-e 2.0 half-length PCI-e x1, x4 or x8 card. Two Thunderbolt ports

OWC Helios Thunderbolt PCI-e Chassis

OWC Helios Thunderbolt PCI-e Chassis

One Stop Systems 
One Stop Systems has announced the CUBE line of Thunderbolt/PCI-e expansion chassis

The CUBE family includes
nanoCUBE, which takes one 7.3 inch PCIe short card


The Micro Cube family µCUBE (1 slot), µCUBE2 (3 slot), and µCUBE3 (5 slots) supporting  9.5 inch PCIe short cards


The Cube family CUBE (2 slot), CUBE2 (5 slots), and CUBE3 (8 slots) supporting full-length PCIe cards


The details are important, so make sure you go back to their website check the compatibility list for cards that can be used in the expansion chassis as they are tested.

CalDigit has a fairly unique enclosure, the CalDigit T3 which is a three-bay Thunderbolt enclosure with quick-swap trays.  With three drive bays, it can implement a RAID 0 or a RAID 1 across three drives. With a RAID  1 mirror, that means you have three copies of the data instead of the conventional 2 with a 2 bay RAID. Alternatively, you can have a 2 disk RAID and assign the third bay to be an independent disk (JBOD). This opens up the possibility of a 2 drive RAID 0 for speed, which you could set up some cloning software to periodically copy to a large, slower drive in bay 3 as a backup.  Or, two large hard drives for archival data and an SSD for speed on your current working files.  SSDs and hard disks can be mixed in this enclosure.  It has 2 Thunderbolt ports but no Thunderbolt cable.

CalDigit announced (Oct 20 2014) a Thunderbolt2 version of the T3, and they have increased the warranty to 5 years. It supports hard drives up to 5 TB for a 15 TB maximum capacity and a 1,100 Mbps throughput with SSDs.

A T4 model with four drive bays is announced but not shipping yet


CalDigit T3 RAID Thunderbolt Enclosure

The CalDigit Thunderboltâ„¢ Station is an external Thunderbolt adapter that adds USB 3.0, Audio In & Out, HDMI, and Ethernet connectivity via dual Thunderboltâ„¢ ports. Although the Audio in and out may be a benefit to new MacPro owners, the video and Ethernet ports seem to be aimed at MacBook Air owners. It has neither eSATA nor Firewire outputs, CalDigit is suggesting that the USB 3.0 ports are fast enough for hard drives, and position their AV Pro USB 3.0 and USB 3.0/Firewire 800 enclosures as companions for the Thunderbolt station. The AV Pro enclosures share the same drive caddies as the T3 RAID enclosure, so drives can be interchangeable between them (limited by the RAID configuaration of course).

CalDigit Thunderbolt Station adapter

CalDigit Thunderbolt Station adapter

CalDigit AVPro

CalDigit AVPro USB 3.0 / USB3/Firewire 800 enclosure

Belkin has their Thunderboltâ„¢ Express Dock which provides a Thunderbolt adapter providing 3x USB 3.0 ports, 1x Firewire 800 port, Audio I/O and Gigabit LAN. It provides USB charging power (500 mA only) on the USB ports, has a second Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining, and includes an AC power adapter. Comes in two versions, with and without Thunderbolt cable.

Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock (rear)

Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock (rear)

Matrox offers the DS1 Thunderbolt Dock in either a DVI or HDMI versions. This is intended mainly for offering display, audio and Ethernet connectivity for MacBook and MacBook Air machines. It has 2 x USB 2.0 and 1 x USB 3.0 ports, which seems to be a missed opportunity for additional USB 3.0 connections for drives.  It oddly puts the microphone and headphone connectors on the back panel. Without a cable, and without a daisy chaining second Thunderbolt port, it does not compare as well against the CalDigit and Belkin offerings.

Matrox DS1 dock

Matrox DS1 dock

Atto’s ThunderLink adapters convert from Thunderbolt to various media.  They all have 2 x Thunderbolt ports, and come in four versions,

Atto Thunderlink

Atto Thunderlink

ThunderLink FC 1082 Two Thunderbolt ports to 2 x 8 Gbps FibreChannel ports,
ThunderLink SH 1068 Two Thunderbolt ports to 8xSATA/SAS, on SFF-8088 port(breakout cable required for connection to SATA or SAS drives)

Atto Thunderlink SH-1068 Back

Atto Thunderlink SH-1068 Back

ThunderLink NT 1102 (10GBASE-T) 10Gb Ethernet on Twisted pair
ThunderLink NS 1101 (SFP+) 10Gb Ethernet with optical LC SFP+

ThunderStream RAID controllers

ThunderStream SC 3808D has 8 x SATA/SAS ports and is an external Thunderbolt to SAS/SATA RAID adapter, connecting MacPros, iMacs and laptops to 6Gb/s SAS/SATA RAID storage devices. The difference between this and the ThunderLink SH 1068 is the addition of an Atto hardware RAID controller. It uses a SFF-8088 connector which can be attached to SAS storage devices with this connector, or SATA devices with an appropriate breakout cable.

Atto Thunderstream Back

Atto Thunderstream Back

G-Technology (HGST a division of Western Digital):

G-Dock EV with Thunderbolt: Two bay dock for 2.5″ drives in G-Drive EV cartridges.  The individual cartridges can be used as stand-alone USB 3.0 drives. The G-Dock EV however has only Thunderbolt connectors, not USB or eSATA (despite the specs on the website). Two Thunderbolt connectors allow daisy chaining, Thunderbolt cable included. 2 TB model (2 x 1 TB G-Drive EV drives included)

G-Technologies GDock EV Front

G-Technology GDock EV Front

G-Technology GDock EV Back

G-Technology GDock EV Back

G-Technology G-Drive EV Front

G-Technology G-Drive EV Front

G-Technologies GDrive EV Back

G-Technology GDrive EV Back

G-Raid with Thunderbolt: Dual drive RAID enclosures with either 4 TB (2x2TB)or 8 TB (2x4TB) 3.5″ 7200 RPM Drives.   Two Thunderbolt connectors allow daisy chaining, Thunderbolt cable included.

G-Technology GRaid Front

G-Technology GRaid Front

G-Technology GRaid Back

G-Technology GRaid Back

G-Drive Pro with Thunderbolt: Single drive, 2 TB or 4 TB 7200 RPM hard drive. Includes a cooling fan for more reliable 24/7 operation but may increase noise level for recording studios and other quiet environments.  USB 3.0 connection, but disappointingly for a drive labelled “Pro” only one Thunderbolt port, so no daisy chaining is possible. Thunderbolt cable is included, three year warranty.

G-Technology GDrive Pro Front

G-Technology GDrive Pro Front

G-Technology GDrive Pro Back

G-Technology GDrive Pro Back

G-Drive Mobile with Thunderbolt: Mobile 2.5″ hard drive with one Thunderbolt port and one USB 3.0 port. No daisy chaining. 1 TB model, three year warranty.

G-Technology GDrive Mobile Back

G-Technology GDrive Mobile Back


G-SPEED Studio 4 bay RAID, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, comes with Thunderbolt cable. available in 12TB, 16TB and 24TB configurations, from US$2200 to US$3600

G-SPEED Studio


G-Drive with Thunderbolt: Single drive, 3 TB or 4 TB 7200 RPM hard drive. USB 3.0 connection, only one Thunderbolt port,  no daisy chaining. Thunderbolt cable is included, three year warranty.



Areca from Taiwan has some Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 RAID towers. Some of the models include out of band RAID management capability through the LAN port.

ARC-8050T2 Thunderbolt 2 to 6Gb/s SAS 8 – bay RAID Storage (note: for Serial Attached SCSI drives only)


Areca 8 bay SAS RAID ARC-8050T2 Thunderbolt 2

ARC-8050 Thunderbolt to 6Gb/s SAS 8 – bay RAID Storage (note: for Serial Attached SCSI drives only)

ARC-5028T2 Thunderbolt 2/USB 3.0 to 6Gb/s SATA 6 – bay RAID Storage


Areca 6 bay RAID ARC-5028T2 Thunderbolt 2

ARC-5026 Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 to 6Gb/s SATA 4 – bay RAID Storage


Areca ARC-5026 4 bay SATA TB1

That’s all the news we have for now, more updates as things progress.

Posted in Hard Drive News, Hard Drives and SSD, Mac questions, News, Performance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Selling it: pitching stem cells to the credulous

Hey, have you heard of all the medical advances and research being made with stem cells? Especially the near-magical abilities of these cells to regenerate and repair many different types of body cells.  Wouldn’t you like to harness the power of Stem Cell Science to keep your hair looking shiny and youthful?

Have I got the product for you , organic hair shampoos and conditioners with Fruit Stem Cell Science.

You heard it here first you can get Fruit Stem Cell Science for your hair! Go and buy some now!

Yes. Fruit Stem Cell Science, not as in; stemcells, but as in; the company has used cells from the stems of fruits.  And of course it’s scientific, why wouldn’t it be.


Kudos to whatever warped marketing genius came up with a way to take a waste product, incorporate it into a bottle of water and various greases and oils, and spin it so that gullible people will want to get in on this new scientific development.

I am heartily sick of companies who go out of their way to mislead the credulous.  The beauty and personal care industry isn’t the only culprit by far, but they certainly do more than their fair share of prevarication, misdirection, allusion and snake oil salesmanship.  And they keep selling it at insane profits.

Apparently Apple, Grape and Argan stems when mashed into your conditioner, have miraculous results. Quoting their website

Our Advanced Results

Renew Dormant Cells
Awakens dormant cells to behave like younger healthy cells

Repair Damaged Cells
Repairs cellular damage caused by UV radiation, oxidative and environmental stress

Regenerate Healthy Cells
Protects longevity of skin and follicle stem cells for continuous regeneration at the cellular level

If the product was a medical treatment, a car, or most any other product, it would be required for the advertiser to substantiate their claims. But apparently these are all meaningless but vaguely scientific sounding words which don’t have to be defended.

Another example of meaningless words is the Tresemme TV advertisement for their hair care product which intones that it contains “Three caring, weightless oils” while a model rapturously looks at olive, jojoba, and avocado oil being artfully poured in long streams in front of the camera.  Leaving aside that the natural oil content of the product is probably less than 10%, and the amount being poured onscreen would likely do for about 120 bottles, what gets up my nose most are the “caring, weightless” nonsense words. Oil is incapable of emotion, and it is certainly not weightless (or we would have seen it drifting up into the air in the commercial, wouldn’t we?).  Absolute drivel.

</Curmudgeon mode>

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Q. How do you organize emails on an iPad?

How do you organize emails on an iPad or iPhone? You have a gazillion mail messages in your Inbox and you want get them sorted into folders.

Background: The iPad and iPhone operating system iOS does not have a user-accessible document filing system like a Windows and MacOS computer does. All of the file storing and manipulation has to be done through Apps. So managing your documents is a bit different on an iPad than on a computer.

Lets say you want to create some folders to organize your incoming mail messages. Although there is nothing in Mail called “Folders”, you can still do this.

Creating Folders:

  • In the Mail app, on the left hand side, under the Mailboxes heading, you have one or more Inboxes and under that a section for ACCOUNTS.


  • If you touch the Account entry of your mail account, it will show you the existing folders such as Inbox, Junk, Trash, Sent.

Screen 2

  • If you now hit the Edit link on the top, you will see a button at the bottom called New Mailbox.  Does this create a new Mailbox or mail account?  No, it creates a new Folder.  Simple, eh? It’s all a matter of labeling.  It’s strange that Apple, who are normally so attuned to user experience, are imprecise in their language here.

Screen 3

  • Create that new folder Mailbox, and give it a name and hit Save.  Now your new folder will appear below the Trash folder.

Screen 4

  • Touch Done and then touch <Mailboxes to go back to your main Mail screen.
  • Now, you can go into your normal Inbox.

Moving Messages:

  • If you touch Edit you’ll see some round radio buttons appear to the left of each mail message.
  • If you touch the radio button, it will add a check mark to that message.  Go ahead and check all the messages that you would like to move to your new folder.

Screen 4.5

  • Now touch the Move button on the bottom, then select the folder you want them moved to.

Screen 5

You are done!  Go ahead and create new Mailbox/folders for as many categories as you would like to file your mail into.

Posted in Computer Questions and Answers, How-To, iPad, iPhone, iPod | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment