Solid State Drives

If you’re interested in computing technology, you’re probably already quite familiar with the term “solid state drive.”  Solid state drives, or SSDs, are a fairly new hard drive technology that stores your computer’s data on a stationary flash medium, rather than on a rotating disk like old HDDs.  SSDs are exceptionally fast, able to achieve data read and write speeds hundreds of times faster than HDDs, and are also more mechanically reliable since they contain no moving parts.  However, as a relatively new technology, they are still prohibitively expensive for many functions.  If you’re interested in upgrading your hard drive to an SSD, though, you have several options to reduce cost.

840PROThe first option is simply to wait.  As with most new technologies, SSD costs have been tumbling, decreasing by a factor of three over the past three years.  Currently, a 512GB Samsung 840 Pro can be had for $429 or a 256GB model for $214; these prices are sure to continue falling.  If your computer’s boot time and performance are fine as-is and you’re on a tight budget, waiting to upgrade could be your best bet.

If you’re using a desktop PC, a second option is to install a small boot SSD and keep the remainder of your files on a larger HDD.  Putting your operating system and core applications on a 64GB or 128GB SSD will significantly decrease your boot time and application start time, while avoiding the prohibitive cost of a larger model.  You can then store the rest of your files on your existing HDD and take advantage of the cheaper storage space.  Unfortunately, this solution is only really feasible for a desktop PC; very few laptops have the physical internal space to accommodate an additional hard drive.

Finally, a third option that will work for almost any PC is to upgrade to a fusion drive.  A fusion drive is a single hard drive that contains a small SSD partition and a larger HDD partition.  The drive firmware automatically moves your operating system and most frequently-used files and applications to the SSD portion, providing rapid access to the things you need most, and stores the rest on the larger HDD portion.  Fusion drives offer read/write speeds that can approach those of an SSD under optimal circumstances for a significantly reduced cost.  Additionally, fusion drives can be installed in laptops as well as desktop PCs, since both the SSD and HDD sectors are contained in a single drive enclosure and exposed to the operating system as a single hard disk.

As SSD prices continue to fall, this exciting new technology will become affordable for more and more computer users.  Here at Omnispear, we’re always staying on top of the latest technology to provide top-quality IT support to our clients.  For quotes or inquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

CSS Frameworks: a Developer’s Best Friend

Most contemporary web developers recognize the importance of using an application framework when developing for the web.  From Ruby on Rails to the litany of PHP frameworks available to up-and-coming Node.js offerings, application frameworks substantially reduce development time while improving code readability and standardizing development practices for the web.  Surprisingly, though, many developers continue to handcraft their CSS for each application, or copy-and-paste legacy layout styles to new projects.  CSS frameworks improve developer workflow for a few key reasons:

1. CSS frameworks standardize layout code.

Handcrafting layout code or maintaining your own company styles is a functional solution, but it reduces readability.  New developers, or developers working on new projects, must learn the terminology and intersectional usage of a number of styles before they can step in to make changes.  Custom stylesheets that have passed through a number of hands often accrue a number of outdated, conflicting, or repetitive styles that further worsen this problem.  Regular refactoring can solve this problem to an extent, but who wants to waste time rewriting old CSS?

CSS frameworks standardize layout code because each class in the framework has the same meaning across applications, in much the same way that each element of an application framework connotes the same functionality across projects.  This keeps stylesheets short and readable: each developer can learn the framework styles once, and only have to use custom styles for application-specific colors and layout elements.

2. CSS frameworks solve cross-browser compatibility issues.

A mature CSS framework, such as Bootstrap or Foundation, will have undergone an extended period of open-source development.  This means that layout issues with old browsers have often been sussed out already, eliminating most of that feeling of shock you get when you first open your site in IE7.  Cross-browser testing is a must for any project, but a good CSS framework will solve many problems for you before you even notice them.

3. CSS frameworks play well with mobile devices.

CSS frameworks are generally built around responsive principles, automatically optimizing content and even menus for the mobile web.  While application-specific tweaks will need to be made, frameworks drastically reduce the time necessary to create a great user experience on mobile platforms.  Additionally, some frameworks, such as Foundation, include layout elements that allow you to control the flow and order of layout elements as they are resized downwards.

Which framework?

The two most common CSS frameworks being used today are Twitter’s Bootstrap and Zurb’s Foundation.  Both offer the advantages mentioned above and neither is a poor choice; however, they have different focal areas that make each one a better choice for different types of projects.  Bootstrap has traditionally been focused more around desktop than mobile, although this has changed to an extend with its most recent release; if battle-tested responsive behavior is important to your project, Foundation is the better choice.  Additionally, a number of developers tend to adhere too closely to stock Bootstrap in their implementations, creating a “Bootstrappy feel” that plagues a number of websites.  Foundation doesn’t tend to create this effect, but that may be just because it’s currently the less popular of the two.  Finally, if your application is in Ruby on Rails, Foundation is the far superior choice; it is implemented with SCSS classes that allow you to easily create mixins and adjust variables to easily access powerful customizability.   Whichever option you select, though, use of a CSS framework will go a long way towards building a powerful, beautiful application with readable, well-maintained styles.