A few computer upgrades

It’s been a big week for figure acquisitions and computer parts! To take stock, here are just a few things that arrived…

1/4 scale Mikuru Bunny by FREEing

1/8 scale Narusegawa Naru by EPOCH

1.5TB Seagate Barracuda Hard drive

300GB Western Digital VelociRaptor

I’m still waiting on a few things, including some wireless networking equipment (finally taking the plunge and upgrading things to N) as well as this little gem. Most of the latter half of the week involved rebuilding my computer and setting up the new equipment. Photos of figures will be forthcoming, once I get in that last item.

My first order of business was to install the 1.5TB drive into my home server. It replaced one of the existing 750GB drives, bringing total storage spaces to 4.78TB:

WHS

The slight upgrade leaves me with a bit more space to store DVDs, and also frees up a drive for use in my main machine. At some point, I’ll be replacing the last 750GB drive, though I’ll likely wait for prices to drop on the 2TB drives prior to making that move. It may also let me wait until the next version of WHS is released as replacing that drive will require a server rebuild.

With the spare 750GB drive in hand, I set on my next series of upgrades. Up until now, Chikane was the last machine I had that wasn’t running the Windows 7 RTM bits. While the post-RC build was mostly fine (build 7201), it was time for me to move forward. In anticipation of the upgrade, I’d also replaced the video card with something that is still supported by ATi. Now sporting a Radeon HD4830, Chikane was ready to rock and roll.

To complete the upgrades, I went ahead and installed both the 750GB Samsung drive and the VelociRaptor. Since I already had an equivalent 750GB drive in the system already, I placed the two in a RAID0 array for a bit extra performance. The OS and programs, however, would be handled by the VelociRaptor.

Performance rating

Sadly, even though the VelociRaptor is a 10kRPM drive, it’s still the bottleneck in my system. I just can’t win! Finally, however, I come to the capstone of my upgrades for the week. Thanks to my friends at Costco, I now have a pair of Samsung SyncMaster 2343BWX LCD monitors!

Lots of desktop real space

It turns out that my local store was clearing these screens out. I grabbed the last new display and the display model for $175 each. I’ll have to say though, when I first got them hooked up, it took some getting used to. I was actually feeling a bit motion sick from having to move my head around to see everything. Now that I’ve resituated my sitting position and had some time to adjust, it’s actually pretty natural. I’m just wondering how I can go back to such little real estate at work tomorrow…

Desktop wallpaper was found here. I’d also modified it to have a mirror image on the other screen, giving a nice symmetric effect.

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Home media setup

Every so often, I’m asked about how I have my home entertainment center set up. Usually, I grab the nearest whiteboard and marker and then diagram it out, because it can be somewhat difficult to explain just by speaking… I think, however, I should be able to jot it down in text with the aid of some pictures!

First of all, meet Kagami, the hub of my home network…

Kagami, the WHS

Some of you may be wondering “What? That’s it? That doesn’t look like anything special…” and on appearance alone, you would be correct. Kagami is the only off-the-shelf desktop computer I own (and in fact the first one I’ve owned in many many years) and is a Dell PowerEdge SC440. The base machine cost me about $250 to purchase from Dell without an OS and I’ve pretty much left her stock. There are, however, a few major additions, namely in the area of storage. At present, Kagami carries 4 hard drives: 2 750GB Samsung Spinpoint F1s and 2 1.5TB Seagate Barracudas. Judging by the manufacturers’ capacity figures, she carries 4.25TB worth of storage space (the “real” number is actually around 4.1TB, using computer interpretation of the number of bytes in a kilobyte).

Continue reading “Home media setup”

Freya levels up!

A week after I ordered the netbook, the RAM upgrade I purchased arrived. After a quick bout with a screwdriver, I removed the bottom panel and installed the new module. Here’s the result:

image

Although Win7 shows 2.50GB of memory available, the chipset is limited to using a maximum of 2GB. Despite this, the upgrade from 512MB to 2GB is pretty striking. Freya is far more responsive than before and applications are less prone to stuttering. As a testament, the Windows Experience Index for memory jumped from 2.9 to 4.4!

In addition to today’s upgrade, I found a couple of driver enhancements that could potentially improve battery life and functionality. The first major change was a BIOS upgrade that was issued by Lenovo a couple of days ago. The most noticeable change was alterations to the fan speed controller. Previously, the fan was either on or off, depending on the CPU utilization. The new update adds a more granular fan control scheme, reducing the amount of noise generated as the fan spins up. It also keeps power drain to a minimal since the fan won’t run at full power when not needed.

In addition to the upgrade, I finally found a compatible power management driver for Windows 7. It seems that the S10 is a mismash of hardware from other Lenovo machines, so it’s all a matter of finding the right driver for a different model. Fortunately for me, Windows 7 eventually identified the power management system as the same system used on one of the Y series laptops. It even gave me a link to Lenovo’s site for downloading the driver. Once installed, I’ve noticed some improvements in the battery life. Currently, the battery gauge is reading just over 50% and 2 hours of power remaining. Pretty good for such a minor tweak!

Brand new Netbook!

Meet Freya, the latest addition to my home computer network. She’s a Lenovo IdeaPad S10 netbook, featuring a 10in screen, 1.6Ghz Intel Atom processor, 512MB RAM (stock) and 80GB hard drive. I’d been considering getting something small and light for on-the-couch use as well as for travel, and this seemed like the perfect form factor for the job. Since Lenovo offers a discount for Microsoft employees, I decided to take advantage.

IMG_1553 Tsuruya-san seems interested in the new toy

After a couple of hours of setup, I got Windows 7 and my required apps installed. Since I’ll be using this as a lightweight machine, I decided to go with a relatively lightweight application suite. The basic Office install is probably the most heavyweight program I put on. Other apps include:

  • Windows Live Suite (Messenger, Photo Gallery, Writer, Mail)
  • Firefox
  • K-Lite Codec Pack
  • Paint.net
  • Virtual Clone Drive
  • 7zip

In all, I am very impressed with the performance given the size and specs. Windows 7 runs passably on half a gig of RAM and I even consider it usable. That, however, won’t stop me from upgrading to 2 gigs. The extra RAM should be here within the next few days, as it was placed on the same day as the machine itself. From what I’ve see, I don’t doubt that Win7 will become the OS of choice for low powered netbooks, easily replacing Linux as the users’ choice.

The form factor has presented a couple of challenges, however. the smaller keyboard is taking some effort to get used to. The lack of a full sized right shift key has caused me several problems, including constant mistypes of the “up” key. Also, the thinner keys means I’m not used to the shorter distance I would have to go to read the apostrophe key. I’ve been finding myself hitting enter by accident and having to correct for typos.

Battery life has also proved, as I’m currently on track to hit the 3 hour target for the 3-cell battery. At some point in the future, I may switch to a 6-cell, though I don’t foresee my usage habits to really dictate a strong need for one. At ~$50 for one, it’s a pretty pricy investment considering that I currently have $350 invested in the machine and upgrades so far.

Lastly, I decided to give Freya a fresh wallpaper today. After doing some searching, I found a half decent wallpaper with a “dark Chii.” Using Paint.net (not on the netbook, of course) I cropped around her image and cleaned up the edges. I then superimposed her onto an existing Windows 7 wallpaper I’d been using on other machines and altered the subtext. I’m pretty happy with the results. While Paint.net is a great editor and has a lot of features, it isn’t by any means a replacement for Photoshop. The magnetic lasso tool alone would have saved me a good chunk of time trying to select the outline. I guess I can’t complain, Paint.net is free while Photoshop is a several hundred dollar program… Anyways, here is the result of tonight’s work:

Win7freya Windows 7: Freya edition

 

***this post was written entirely on the netbook***

Comparing Win7 and WinVista

After using Win7 for a couple of weeks, I’ve started finding things that are subtle differences from Vista. Beyond the obvious changes like the Superbar and sidebar, a couple of other things caught my eye. Here are just a couple I’ve stumbled upon:
 
The first thing I noticed was changes in MSPaint. For the first time since Windows 95, Paint has a new look! Not only did it get a facelift, but it also has a bunch of newly added editing features. Most of these are fairly rudimentary, but are welcome nonetheless (crop image, anyone?)
 
Paint in Vista
 
Paint in Win 7
 
Next thing I noticed was Calculator. Vista calc is on the left and 7 calc is on the right. Again, mostly a facelift, but includes new features like unit conversion, date dalculation, and a mortgage calculator (all found under the options menu). Also included are a scientific mode, programmer mode (for logic, base conversion, etc.) and statistics mode.
 
         
 
Another subtle change is in the performance rating. Notice the new statement about the WinEI range. The value for each stat now maxes out at 7.9 (previously 5.9). Not really sure if this means much, but it’s neat nonetheless.
 
 
Lastly, the consolidation of the Add hardware, Printers, and Scanners and Cameras control panels make for an easier one-stop-shop for managing connected devices without digging into the device manager.