Laptop Devices - Latency/SpinUp Delay - Overcoming Catastrophic Failure

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Cap Capello

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Dec 14, 2006
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Many great ideas have been shared in another thread regarding media storage, operating systems, and equipment performance. I'd like to weigh in on this subject in its own separate thread and share hardware and software techniques along with the reasoning behind each decision.

First and foremost is what form of media (audio, video, karaoke) is being used in the performance as each form has completely different operational concerns. For example, an audio library (even lossless) take much less space than the others, with hard drive spindle speed rates and latency being minimally impactful to playback. With a 2tb internal hard drive, even the largest of mp3 / FLAC libraries can store a well manicured collection, thus eliminating the need for externals except for peace of mind.

Karaoke libraries can be quite large, especially if not properly managed in reducing duplications. Even so, a 2tb internal hard drive with an auxiliary large usb 3.0 external hard drive works well as spindle speed and latency factors are again of minimal concern.

Video libraries are a completely different animal from the other two. This is my performance media choice with a current library of 30,000+ .mp4 video files, each file being 150mb or more in size.

From this point forward, all the techniques to be discussed will deal with storage and performance issues and how to achieve a level of the highest capacity, lowest latency, and catastrophic failure damage control.

Factor 1: The laptop choice.

Regardless of the brand choice, it should have the fastest internal processor, the fastest bus speed rate, the largest sized SSD for the laptop market, and the RAM maxed out to the laptop's capacity. For video DJs, twin video cards are great; one for the laptop screen, the second for the HDMI output to the second monitor. Try to find a model that the video card doesn't use shared RAM resources. It may affect the quality of the second monitor's viewing; e.g. slight stuttering, lack of sharp clarity, etc.

Here's the first divergence from the norm. The laptop choice should have docking station capabilities. A docking station is a plug and play for laptops. A docking station accommodates multiple external devices, including power, remaining connected and semi-permanent. This completely eliminates the wear and tear on laptop ports, jacks, Bluetooth adapters, and Cat5/6 LAN connections.

First, here's the docking connection jack on the bottom of the Dell Latitude laptops:

1646847695865.jpeg

The second part is the docking station itself, which, in many cases, has more inputs than a stand-alone laptop.
1646847728344.jpeg
1646847746175.jpeg
1646847768535.jpeg
1646847784825.jpeg

Including a 130 watt power supply, the docking station costs... wait for it... $30.00! I have three, one for each Dell Latitude I use. The docking station is semi-permanently mounted on the gig rig/mixing console/podium, everything is attached to it and all that is needed is to snap the laptop into the docking station jack.

Factor 2: Failure Damage Control

Having three identical laptops, if the OS (currently using Win 10 Pro 64bit) I update one C drive, then clone the other two. No need to go through the arduous Window update procedure on all three, doing one at a time.

Now that all three laptops are identical, and all desired externals are connected to the common docking station, if one laptop fails, remove it from the dock, snap the second laptop in and within seconds, you are back in business.

Factor 3: Media Storage Options

It's a fact that all internal devices run at a much higher rate of bits per second than externals. Therefore, if one wants to ensure the faster transfer rate with the absolute lowest latency, all media should ideally be internal.

That being said, maximizing the laptop's internal hard drive with the largest available Solid State hard drive. Most laptops have 7mm hard drive thickness restriction, and currently SSD's at 7mm hold 4tb and cost around $400.00+.

Typical laptop drives are 5400 rpm spindle speed, although some may be 7200 rpm. SSD transfer rates are lightning quick with almost no latency whatsoever. SSDs are Indy 500, all other styles are go-carts.

Factor 4: Adding More Internal Drives

Most laptops have a CD\DVD optical drive. How often is it used on site? If not frequently, or at all, consider replacing it with a hard drive caddy. One can now install another INTERNAL hard drive (another SSD), double internal capacity, and at internal bus speed transfer rates. Again, no delays, no sleep states, no spin down/awake modes, virtually no delays or latency.
1646847949087.jpeg


If a CD/DVD device is wanted on rare occasions, purchase a portable USB CD/DVD device (cost is less than $30.00) and attach it to the dock station.
1646848086683.jpeg


Factor 5: Updating The Constantly Growing Media Collection

Having a monster office desktop computer (8 core @ 4gHz w/24gb RAM), all media files are brought into the desktop machine, files are renamed in accordance with my file naming protocol preferences, existing tags are stripped, then the files are tagged again with my personal tag naming protocol preferences, added to the database, and now those files need to get to the laptops.

Having a file comparison program is essential. It's a program that compares your master data collection with and external hard drive with the identical collection on it. The program compares the master against the backup, deletes/adds files according to comparison and now the master data file and the external backup files are identical. Simply connect the external backup to the laptop and run the file comparison program in reverse. Badda bing badda boom. Master media collection, backup external media collection, and all the laptop's media collection are identical.

I sincerely hope this helps fellow ODJT members if the should take a deeper look into their current processes and procedures.

Be well. Stay safe. Live long and prosper.
 

IceBurghDJ

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Apr 17, 2015
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for video, sure.
Otherwise...it's a glorified mp3 player...$30 used to get you one that worked. Don't need a $1500 laptop to play music from. I'm doing with a $500 one just fine.
now that is ALL it does, it's dedicated to my music library, and backup for DMX.

My old laptop, win 7 old...was used for photobooth, onsite and studio photo sales, some editing, DJing in the beginning, it's now DJ backup and runs my DMX lighting.

Both have spinning HD's, each a copy of the other plus I have an external USB drive I keep at home for backup.

Neither computer has had any issues other than windows updates...argh!...

I run VDJ and before it ran PCDJ which I liked but it demands a high end video card even to just play MP3s and the like. It wasn't stable. I've test-run videos, and camera in/video out (of the crowd, say) and had no issues on my 'cheap' toshiba (who quit making laptops). I usually run with a controller, but not always. No latency issues.
 

IceBurghDJ

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Apr 17, 2015
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the program I use is SyncToy, free from microsoft.

It can copy, update, etc one drive to another, use it for backup of folders or everything on the drive.

I copy my music files from the main laptop to it, plus playlists/VDJ files. Anything I've deleted on the laptop (bad files, old playlists, etc) are also deleted/updated on the external drive.

I then do that again, this time from the external drive to the backup up laptop. All my crates/folders/songs/playlists/DMX files are the same on all 3 devices.
 

ittigger

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Staff member
ODJT Supporter
Feb 1, 2011
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Many great ideas have been shared in another thread regarding media storage, operating systems, and equipment performance. I'd like to weigh in on this subject in its own separate thread and share hardware and software techniques along with the reasoning behind each decision.

First and foremost is what form of media (audio, video, karaoke) is being used in the performance as each form has completely different operational concerns. For example, an audio library (even lossless) take much less space than the others, with hard drive spindle speed rates and latency being minimally impactful to playback. With a 2tb internal hard drive, even the largest of mp3 / FLAC libraries can store a well manicured collection, thus eliminating the need for externals except for peace of mind.

Karaoke libraries can be quite large, especially if not properly managed in reducing duplications. Even so, a 2tb internal hard drive with an auxiliary large usb 3.0 external hard drive works well as spindle speed and latency factors are again of minimal concern.

Video libraries are a completely different animal from the other two. This is my performance media choice with a current library of 30,000+ .mp4 video files, each file being 150mb or more in size.

From this point forward, all the techniques to be discussed will deal with storage and performance issues and how to achieve a level of the highest capacity, lowest latency, and catastrophic failure damage control.

Factor 1: The laptop choice.

Regardless of the brand choice, it should have the fastest internal processor, the fastest bus speed rate, the largest sized SSD for the laptop market, and the RAM maxed out to the laptop's capacity. For video DJs, twin video cards are great; one for the laptop screen, the second for the HDMI output to the second monitor. Try to find a model that the video card doesn't use shared RAM resources. It may affect the quality of the second monitor's viewing; e.g. slight stuttering, lack of sharp clarity, etc.

Here's the first divergence from the norm. The laptop choice should have docking station capabilities. A docking station is a plug and play for laptops. A docking station accommodates multiple external devices, including power, remaining connected and semi-permanent. This completely eliminates the wear and tear on laptop ports, jacks, Bluetooth adapters, and Cat5/6 LAN connections.

First, here's the docking connection jack on the bottom of the Dell Latitude laptops:

View attachment 53532

The second part is the docking station itself, which, in many cases, has more inputs than a stand-alone laptop.
View attachment 53533
View attachment 53534
View attachment 53535
View attachment 53536

Including a 130 watt power supply, the docking station costs... wait for it... $30.00! I have three, one for each Dell Latitude I use. The docking station is semi-permanently mounted on the gig rig/mixing console/podium, everything is attached to it and all that is needed is to snap the laptop into the docking station jack.

Factor 2: Failure Damage Control

Having three identical laptops, if the OS (currently using Win 10 Pro 64bit) I update one C drive, then clone the other two. No need to go through the arduous Window update procedure on all three, doing one at a time.

Now that all three laptops are identical, and all desired externals are connected to the common docking station, if one laptop fails, remove it from the dock, snap the second laptop in and within seconds, you are back in business.

Factor 3: Media Storage Options

It's a fact that all internal devices run at a much higher rate of bits per second than externals. Therefore, if one wants to ensure the faster transfer rate with the absolute lowest latency, all media should ideally be internal.

That being said, maximizing the laptop's internal hard drive with the largest available Solid State hard drive. Most laptops have 7mm hard drive thickness restriction, and currently SSD's at 7mm hold 4tb and cost around $400.00+.

Typical laptop drives are 5400 rpm spindle speed, although some may be 7200 rpm. SSD transfer rates are lightning quick with almost no latency whatsoever. SSDs are Indy 500, all other styles are go-carts.

Factor 4: Adding More Internal Drives

Most laptops have a CD\DVD optical drive. How often is it used on site? If not frequently, or at all, consider replacing it with a hard drive caddy. One can now install another INTERNAL hard drive (another SSD), double internal capacity, and at internal bus speed transfer rates. Again, no delays, no sleep states, no spin down/awake modes, virtually no delays or latency.
View attachment 53537


If a CD/DVD device is wanted on rare occasions, purchase a portable USB CD/DVD device (cost is less than $30.00) and attach it to the dock station.
View attachment 53539


Factor 5: Updating The Constantly Growing Media Collection

Having a monster office desktop computer (8 core @ 4gHz w/24gb RAM), all media files are brought into the desktop machine, files are renamed in accordance with my file naming protocol preferences, existing tags are stripped, then the files are tagged again with my personal tag naming protocol preferences, added to the database, and now those files need to get to the laptops.

Having a file comparison program is essential. It's a program that compares your master data collection with and external hard drive with the identical collection on it. The program compares the master against the backup, deletes/adds files according to comparison and now the master data file and the external backup files are identical. Simply connect the external backup to the laptop and run the file comparison program in reverse. Badda bing badda boom. Master media collection, backup external media collection, and all the laptop's media collection are identical.

I sincerely hope this helps fellow ODJT members if the should take a deeper look into their current processes and procedures.

Be well. Stay safe. Live long and prosper.
Great, great info .. I'll just add about the docks. Alot of current systems use Thunderbolt docks (soft docks) vs Expansion Ports (dock ports located on the bottom of the machines - also called Hard Docks). Same idea is applied to both. Generally, hard dock / expansion port systems will access the dock hardware better than soft docks will (because all communication rides across a single thunderbolt cable) - but hard docks are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Also, SSD's have a finite amount of reads and writes - and if an SSD dies, you're not recovering anything.
 

MIXMASTERMACHOM

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Oct 16, 2011
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Great, great info .. I'll just add about the docks. Alot of current systems use Thunderbolt docks (soft docks) vs Expansion Ports (dock ports located on the bottom of the machines - also called Hard Docks). Same idea is applied to both. Generally, hard dock / expansion port systems will access the dock hardware better than soft docks will (because all communication rides across a single thunderbolt cable) - but hard docks are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Also, SSD's have a finite amount of reads and writes - and if an SSD dies, you're not recovering anything.
That's where backups come handy.
 

anzyxx

DJ Extraordinaire
Jul 22, 2007
1,206
160
GTA
Hi Cap,

Lot of good info, but you need to update your stuff...

1. The reason for docking station costing $30...no one is buying them.

Thunderbolt C is the name of the game now. It does everything, including sending video to 2-4K screens.


While is more then $30 for me is a perfect mobile solution.

To play videos you will need only one video card very soon.

2. While cloning is ok and I do it once a while I copy only my Traktor/VDJ files using second copy program or whatever you prefer.

3. ssd m.2 will replace regular ssd. Very soon. Fast and small. Like a rabbit. LOL

4. Again ssd m.2
 
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ittigger

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Hi Cap,

Lot of good info, but you need to update your stuff...

1. The reason for docking station costing $30...no one is buying them.

Thunderbolt C is the name of the game now. It does everything, including sending video to 2-4K screens.


While is more then $30 for me is a perfect mobile solution.

To play videos you will need only one video card very soon.

2. While cloning is ok and I do it once a while I copy only my Traktor/VDJ files using second copy program or whatever you prefer.

3. ssd m.2 will replace regular ssd. Very soon. Fast and small. Like a rabbit. LOL

4. Again ssd m.2
The reason Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) is the name of the game is simply because they took the port replicator out of the systems - that's where technology is right now. Kind of dumb to buy something for your system that you don't have the required parts to connect to. If it was there, people would buy them - and they do for the machines that have these ports, like the Dell 3510, 7520, various models of the Thinkpad and plenty of other machines. Port replicator / Expansion port connections (aka hard docks) are MUCH more reliable than everything running over a single thunderbolt cable .. driver free connections vs driver required connections. Putting all your eggs in one basket (or on one cable) is usually not a good thing.
 
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anzyxx

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Jul 22, 2007
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True. But people are dumb. USB-C will take over the PC technology. I can see it already.
 
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sawdust123

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Hmm, I thought I posted my suggestions the other day. Now I don't see them.

Cap, if I did my math right (150MB x 30K), you are carrying 4.5 Terabytes of video files. That is well beyond the standard storage of any contemporary laptop I am aware of. However, I wouldn't fret seek and search times. Once a file is selected it should get loaded into RAM and thus played back from a RAM buffer, not directly from the storage device. If your software isn't doing that, perhaps you can find software that does.

I will concur about getting a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 docking station. I use these all the time. It means just one wire goes to the PC for power, video, audio, etc. They are also cheap and easy to find if you need backups. I would add these other considerations for laptops as well.

1) Laptop cooling shelf/tray. Heat kills laptops. The internal fans are really small and will get clogged if you don't regularly blow them out. Some extra external cooling underneath will always come in handy, especially if outdoors.

2) Thunderbolt with PD (power delivery). Nothing is worse than misplacing a laptop supply or having one go bad. A laptop that uses a standard power adapter can be handy. Many vendors use their own coaxial power adapters. If you need a power adapter in an emergency, you will probably have a much easier time finding one that can use the USB-C port.

3) Lock slots (e.g. Kensington). I always put a cable lock on my PCs at gigs. Most stolen items are just unsecured targets of opportunity. It doesn't take much security to discourage this type of theft.

4) Many newer business laptops are designed to withstand higher shock and vibration as well as intrusion from dust and water. Look for IP (intrusion protection) ratings or MIL-STD-810 or -461 ratings. These are worth the added protection. Business laptops could cost $500-700 more than a similar consumer grade laptop.

5) High brightness screens. Most laptops are rated at 250-300 nits of brightness. If you do a lot of work outdoors, find a screen that can reach 1000 nits. These offer higher contrast and can be more readable in daylight. Sometimes they might say this is a Dolby Vision or HDR 10+ rated screen.
 
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Cap Capello

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That is well beyond the standard storage of any contemporary laptop I am aware of.
My two main laptops have dual internal drive slots, plus the optical drive is replaced by an HD caddy. 3 slots x 3 2tb SSDs.

While the Thunderbolt docking station is mod and nifty, I don't have any USB "C" ports.
 

Cap Capello

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You're showing your age! lol
No kidding, Kemo Sabe!
My favorite o.s. was Dos 3.0. Writing scripts was a blast. Since then, my computer evolution has been a constant barrage of kicking and screaming into the next level.
 

sawdust123

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I was a master at DOS 3.0 batch files. And don't forget EMM-386 (expanded memory manager). I was a product manager for some engineering software that was being released on Windows 95 and Windows NT 3.51 at the same time. Both were brand new and they were way more complex than Windows 3.1. I studied those OSes like crazy and became experts in them. Then I realized, the OS is supposed to make the rest of my computing life easier. They shouldn't be a burden on me. I made a concerted effort to leave that to an IT person. I still know more than the average bear but I get no joy tackling PC issues any more.