Hoxopleuratical Intermulationz

In this entry from a few years ago, I wrote about putting an SSD in an iBook from 2001. I got another iBook because I like them and they play Starcraft and if I didn’t who would, and I thought that it’d be fun to revisit that and see what a new IDE SSD did against that one from 2011.

Unfortunately, that was a short-lived plan. KingSpec (and others) do still make IDE SSDs, but almost all of them use the SM2236 controller, instead of the older SM2231, which seems to demand a couple more channels than the iBook knows what to do with. It can’t start up from a preformatted SM2236 drive, and it can’t install from a CD onto the drive either. Since clamshell iBooks are one of the trickier computers to do a drive swap on, I found this realization very amusing (although, truth be told, it’s not a terrible job at about 40-50 minutes; it’s just a fuss).

So that was out. But then I figured, in that last article I made reference to my CompactFlash-bedrivulated iBook — what if I revisited that? I made that thing in 2008 or so, surely CF has gotten faster. I also sold it in 2011 without having benchmarked it, lending an air of pointlessness to this whole thing, which was perfect.

So, I got a neat Syba IDE-CF bridge in 2.5″ drive format. Pretty nice; it has two CF slots. I used a Lexar 16 GB 800x card, since I had a spare one; presumably a 64 GB 1066x card would be faster. I also added a 512 MB stick of RAM and a new “CWK” battery to the iBook — which must be made using decade-old NewerTech tooling or something, but it works shockingly well.

Installation was the usual pain in the ass. Installation was the usual pain in the ass.


I also lost my Air’s disc burner and had to resort to, err, backup measures. I didn’t realize this iMac only had 10.1 on it, but it burned the Panther CDs fine, so that’s alright.

Anyway, long story short, it works great. On the left, here is the SM2231 KingSpec SSD in the other iBook. On the right, that iBook’s original Travelstar HDD.


Now, here’s the iBook with 800x 16 GB CompactFlash: 

A nice improvement! Slower small random writes than the KingSpec, but everything else is a decent little bit faster. Again, I think you could address that by going with a faster CF card if you were so inclined. The CF and CF-IDE bridge is also slightly cheaper than the 16 GB KingSpec was (in 2011) and the 16 GB KingSpec (with SM2236 controller) is now. The computer is fast for a 2000 laptop, silent, and gets pretty good battery life even by modern standards. The only downside is that the first-generation AirPort cannot use WPA2.

Obviously it’s sort of pointless. When I was little, the three computers I really wanted in 2000 were the Indigo/Key Lime iBook and the Cube, as well as the “Lamp” G4 iMac when it first came out in 2001. I couldn’t afford any of them at the time (although I eventually did have a 1.25 GHz 20″ iMac G4, bought slightly used in 2004, which lasted me until the Intel switch), and made do with a PM7100/80 upgraded to G3. But I guess buying now-useless things you couldn’t afford when you were small is part of being a grown-up or whatever. I have the iMac and a couple iBooks, and I had a Cube upgraded to a 1.33 G4 in 2007-2008, but sold it. That was real dumb since Cubes cost insane monies now. Ah, well. The point is, I don’t really use any of them and it’s pointless. But if you like pointless old nonsense, I guess I recommend shoving CF cards all up ins it. Sometimes you just gots to have a Starcraft 1 LAN party.


Back in the game, okay? I had to sell my overclocked orange iBook that ran on CF cards, plus the indigo one I put a real SSD into a couple years ago, to pay for grad school, or at least groceries while at grad school. But now I’ve pulled this PowerBook 1.33 outta storage and gotten another iBook, so I’m all set to do it all over again, to create another Quake 2, StarCraft, and WarCraft 2 LAN kit. This iBook was walking-around money, not “save up for it” money — I wanna grab a Key Lime iBook, as well as a Cube, but those things are pretty expensive. Of course, it’s particularly stupid because I had both of those things, but sold them in early 2008 for a lot less than what I will undoubtedly have to pay for them now. My Cube even had a 1.4 GHz upgrade, wastrel that I was.

I’ll grab a Transcend PATA SSD for the iBook this time, to compare it to the KingSpec I put in the last one, as well as a 4400 mAh battery. Runcore and OWC also do a PATA SSD, but they use real parts for theirs, as opposed to things they found in their cereal boxes, so they are too expensive.


I have a few of the old colorful iBooks (a Tangerine and a Blueberry), which I like because they’re indestructible, and have a much more naïve design than modern Macs, which are quite Germanic and boring. The Tangerine is overclocked by 133mhz, has CompactFlash instead of a hard drive, and I re-celled the battery so it can get about 12 hours of life. It makes a great simplistic writing machine.

Of course, the essence of technological simplicity is needlessly complicating and overthinking it, then rationalizing more nonsense purchases. I like the FireWire iBooks because the colors are nicer (it’s less translucent and more white), and I also wanted to try a shady Chinese SSD instead of CompactFlash. So I got a preposterous KingSpec 16gb IDE SSD, and another iBook, a 366 Indigo. Here’s the procedure and a little test of the KingSpec.

Here’s the SSD. The mark of quality… must be around here somewhere…

There’s the computer with its keyboard off. In a nice world you could get to the hard drive from here, but the Clamshell iBooks (and every other iBook) are actually among the more notorious Macs to re-hard drive.

There’s the removal of the top case. Surely one can now get to the drive….

…oh. Then the EMI shield comes off. There’s the 60gb 7200RPM drive that I transplanted from a P4 2.8 Toshiba. I was going to overclock this computer to 433mhz like the older one, but Apple moved the resistors that you re-solder to do so in these second-generation clamshells, and I have no idea where they went.

At this point, I became paranoid that the Chinese SSD was filled with CompactFlash and an IDE-CF bridge, or playing cards, or nothing, so I took it apart.

There was actually real memory inside there. And it’s from Hynix, a brand I have heard of. I wonder if KingSpec have some kind of business where they harvest old OEM RAM modules for memory. I didn’t take the sticker off the controller to see who made that (I thought it might let the ghosts out). It isn’t JMicron, though. Some company whose initials are PA, according to System Profiler.

There, now it’s in. I got this down to about 50 minutes from start to finish, so it doesn’t seem that hard. Putting the display back on is kind of annoying because the clutch cover has to go over some tabs, but it’s not bad.

Anyway, then I tried it out. It starts reasonably quicker—49 seconds from power-on to opening a browser, compared to 1:35 on the hard drive. The battery meter on the OEM battery jumped from 3:55 to 6:20, 13 hours on my custom battery, and of course it’s also silent. Here’s the XBench score; SSD on the left, HDD on the right.

You can see the SSD is a lil’ faster with small sequential writes, slightly slower with sequential reads and big seq. writes, and way, way quicker with random reads. That’s nice, because random reads are what a computer spends most of its time doing. For modern comparison, here’s my MacBook Pro’s 500gb 7200RPM SATA HDD (on a much faster bus, of course):

So the cheap Chinese SSD must have a pretty awful controller, but it overpowers a modern HDD by a factor of 10 in small random reads, and that’s handy for making a computer feel quick. Although this one’s pretty CPU-limited. It’s a lot quicker than the CF “SSD”. So I’m pretty happy with this experiment. It runs OS 10.4 and WriteRoom just fine. My rationalization for keeping the other iBooks around will be “emergency Starcraft 1 LAN party laptops”. That actually happens sort of frequently around here, so I am being prudent.