the itjerk

my adventures with technology

Tag Archives: computer

new dell pc

Recently I searched this website for information about my Windows desktop only to find BYOPC 2016 – is that computer really five years old? Indeed it is, so with little hesitation I set out to find a replacement. Why? Foremost, I believe in a four (4) year replacement cycle for desktop computers. Remember, there’s no badge of honor earned from your janky old computer. Performance, security, safety, peace of mind and your itjerk’s respect all factor in. Second, the computer is not Windows 11 compatible, which as an IT professional will be important for me. Finally, it was an inexpensive build, on the noisy side (cheap case) and low on storage (128GB boot drive). Yet as cheap as it was, it served me well, but now it’s time to move on!

As my primary desktop, it was quite easy for me to arrive at the decision to buy a new computer. Building computers is fun, but good, workable options are just inexpensive. Don’t forget, PC makers spend a lot of time designing well-engineered systems; that’s part of what we pay for. I don’t game, so I have little need for power or anything but a standard configuration, including one that is Windows 11 ready. Now, I haven’t had a Dell computer since the old Dimension C521 in 2007, but my recent experiences with my daughter’s Latitude 3190s (despite initial problems) brought me around again.

A quick trip to Dell.com yielded a Vostro 3681 in a small form-factor case, with 8GB RAM, 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive and an Intel 10th Gen i5-10400 processor(6-Core, 12M Cache, 2.9GHz to 4.3GHz) processor, all for $499 (after a $50 coupon code). The HDMI port fits well with my KVM, and it has an extra bay for a spare hard drive. Pandemic-driven built-in bluetooth and wifi card in most desktops (here via a second M2 slot) is handy as well. Plus it’s kinda cute, with that red front bezel.

It arrived quickly (Sat->Wed), and within no time I had an extra 8GB RAM installed, as well as the 128GB drive from my old computer. I signed in with my Microsoft account, and OneDrive did a pretty good job of getting everything in place. I did have to ensure that my Documents and Pictures folders did not connect to OneDrive, as I don’t want them to sync nor be in the Cloud. The perfunctory Windows (shipped with 20H2) and Microsoft Store updates were next, followed by Dell’s System Update. I had previously made a list of the applications I needed, so it was off to the races to download and install them. One thing I realized is that my old Quicken 2007 software is a real relic; getting that now requires an annual subscription, so I’m glad I still had the CD! Once I copied the data from my old drive over, I took it out and plugged in a 1TB “scratch disk” from the old computer that I have a bunch of misc files on. It’s an old SATA drive, so I may replace it with a SSD to keep the “silence” the Vostro 3681 provides.

Update: That 1TB “scratch disk” was actually a 500GB drive, and I did replace it with a 512GB SSD.

Nota Bene: Before you wipe clean your old computer, be sure to give the new computer a run through of your most important tasks. For instance, opening my book InDesign and printing a PDF copy yielded a couple missing fonts (which I had) and a PDF preset (which luckily I found). In other words, don’t be in a hurry to throw out the old!

All in all, it’s a silent, snappy little computer that more than provides for what I need in a desktop environment. Good on you Dell.

One the web:
Dell Vostro

byopc 2014

Hard to believe, but it’s been about 5 years since I rebuilt my linux box. With the arrival of 14.04 LTS, I decided it was time. My computer was getting older, but really I had the itch to switch to 64 bit OS, which required a clean install, which made the decision to start anew quite easy…

Here’s my budget box, all purchased at my local Microcenter: Intel Pentium G3240, a low-watt, 2014Q1 processor at $55; Gigabyte B85M-D3H motherboard with Intel Haswell chipset at $80, one (1) Crucial Sport DDR3 8GB at $55, a SanDisk 128GB SSD at $70, and a new 1TB Western Digital Red drive for my media, at $70. Total $330. Rest of the parts were reused, everything installed like a charm, and I got a one-beep post on first boot. The computer is fast, silent, and running a 64 bit OS. Now I’m faced with the daunting task of reinstalling everything from scratch. How liberating!?

GA-B85M-D3H

Notes: I purchased a bracket for mounting the 2.5″ SSD into a 3.5″ bay, and will be off to get a new case fan because the new mobo needs one with four-pins, the old one has three… weird. Also, I’ll have to come up with a solution for optical spidf, because my old bracket has a three pin connector, while the mobo has a two pin header (the third is +5V to power the light). Of course, I could just get a 75K Coaxial Audio cable, but where’s the fun in that?

UPDATE: Found a pulse width modulation (PWM) case fan at Microcenter, $15. Had to modify my SPIDF optical backet by slicing the red power wire and connecting it to +5v pole on a molex adapter from the power supply. Then I had to install Gnome ALSA mixer in order to get simultaneous output from both my digital and analog outputs (doesn’t survive on reboot however).

IMG_20140525_145000.

FINAL WORD: It’s a great machine, well worth the $350 or so I invested into it. Fast, modern, and sporting a clean install from disk, performance is fantastic. Possible tweaks? 1) Bumping it up to 16GB RAM, and 2) adding a second WD Red disk to RAID1 my media drive.

raspberry pi

Cheap computing's had a lot of promises for machines under $100. The Raspberry Pi, designed by the British not-for-profit foundation of the same name, is a "single computer on a board" that features an ARM processor and high-quality graphics, all for USD$35.00. It's designed to interest kids in computer programming, science, etc. Engadget has a rather tepid review here.

The unit is the size of a credit card, and has connections for USB, Ethernet, SD card (required for booting), HDMI (audio and video), RCA video and a 3.5mm audio jack. It's ARM, so software needs to be compiled for that processor; both Debian and Fedora have been ported, so yes, it's ostensibly a Linux box. It also has a GPIO connector, which means it can also be programmed to do about anything (robotics, interfacing, etc). The unit is powered by 5v, and most any micro-usb charger will do.

To get the Pi running, you'll need a pre-loaded OS on an SD card, connect (wired or wireless) keyboard and mouse, hook up to video via HDMI or composite, and power it with 5v via micro-usb.

I got into the queue with RS Online (one of two exclusive distributors) to order one on March 1st, and actually placed my order on May 24th. Next update when it's in my hands!

On the web:
Raspberry Pi Official Site
The MagPi Magazine
Wikipedia – Raspberry Pi

linux as as desktop

I first started using Linux to run slimserver for my Squeezebox, though I *attempted* to run versions as early as the 2.3 kernel. Since then, it's come a long way, baby. I switched from Corel Linux to Redhat to Fedora and then Ubuntu. It's become my primary desktop, my test server, and a lot more, all on my third self-assembled computer; Linux reminds me again and again why I love computers and computing.
Geek, I know.

Just some other random thoughts on Natty Narwhal:

1. Unity stinks. As in the previous post and video from Linux Journal, I too fail to see the "better" in the change to it. The Dash is not workable, and the launcher is a waste of non-configurable space. Call me a Gnome guy.

2. I've started to use Workspaces, but it begs for the panel at the top of the screen. Call me a Windows guy.

3. Banshee is one amazing media player. Now if it would only quit without having to kill it.

4. Hard to get used to both the new scroll-bars and windows going full-screen when moving the top title bar. Also, mouse has unclickable dead spots in the middle-left of the screen. It's the little things…

5. Firefox 4.0.1 is your friend, Chromium could be. Opera is still a pain to install on Linux. Why is that?

byopc


Built a computer for work this morning: Intel Core i5 650 processor, Gigabyte GA-H55M-S2V motherboard, 4GB OCZ Gold D3-1333 RAM kit, WD 500GB "Black" hard drive and LG 22x DVD burner, all in a plain TX-388 case (shown on right), with an Antec 380W Earthwatts power supply. Win7 installed quickly, will dual boot with Ubuntu (or maybe Red Hat).

Hardware cost: $450.93 (excluding sales tax)

A word about the cost. I purchased everything at my local Microcenter, but first went to NewEgg to check prices. I saved about $50 by doing that. Kudos however to Microcenter for the low price on the i5 650 – $40 less than NewEgg. A license for Windows 7 will run me about $100, so be sure to factor that cost in when deciding to make or buy, as well as a few hours of your time to assemble the parts and install the operating system. Also, I did spend time deciding exactly which parts to buy, insuring they were compatible with each other, price checking for the best deal and finally, going to the store to buy everything.

That said, a similarly equipped machine from Dell or Lenovo would run $800 or $900. Sure, you get a warranty, but, as I told the associate at Microcenter, that's my job!

PS. Why doesn't someone sell an internal 2.25-Inch 8-Ohm 0.25W Speaker?