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In-Depth Series

Hardware upgrades

Hosts share their experiences when upgrading their equipment.

New laptop bargain? - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2018-07-13

Greetings HPR listeners this is Tony Hughes again coming from Blackpool in the UK. Well, as you heard on my last episode I recently visited the computer auction I frequent here in the UK. If you want to drool over the catalogue at any time their website is here:

https://www.realnorth.co.uk/

So at the sale in June they had some really good 3-4 year old laptops for sale so I decided to take a trip and see if I could liberate a few bargains, and one of the items I came away with was 3 Toshiba Z30a Ultra Books of the i5 4th generation. The basic specs are:

  • i5-4300U CPU
  • 128GB mSATA solid state drive
  • 13.3 inch display
  • 8Gig DDR Ram
  • 3 x USB3 ports
  • VGA and HDMI video out
  • Full Ethernet Port
  • Combined Audio in/out jack
  • SD card reader
  • Mobile Intel ® HD Graphics with up to 1792MB dynamically allocated
  • shared graphics memory.

There will be a link in the show notes to the full specifications

http://www.toshiba.co.uk/discontinued-products/portege-z30-a-1fd/

I had also picked up some 240Gig SSD's and had planned to upgrade the storage but this is not possible with a 2.5 inch drive as it doesn't have a bay for this format. However it does support up to 128Gig High capacity SD cards so this could be an option if you don't want to go to the expense of upgrading the mSATA drive, however as luck would have it one of my other purchases had a 256Gig mSATA drive in a 2.5 inch caddy so that was quickly swapped out and both laptops got an upgrade. More of that in another show.

So after doing the hardware upgrade I proceeded to install Ubuntu 18.04 MATE onto the PC. The install worked flawlessly and after completion and configuring the machine to my liking everything seems to be working just fine. The battery condition for a 4 year old laptop is excellent at over 90%, however a replacement can be had on Ebay for around £30 if needed and I always factor this into any second hand laptops I buy.

Since I got it running I've installed Windows 7 in a Virtual Machine, in this case Virtual Box as I have a preconfigured Virtual Box HDD image that makes it less of a hassle to install as I don’t have to spend days waiting for all the updates to come through. When this is running in the background it doesn't over tax the host machine, and for Linux users it does mean you have access to that occasional bit of light weight MS software that you may need without the need to lug around 2 PC's.

So did I bag a bargain, well 4 years ago on release these laptops went for £1100+ in the UK and even today they fetch £160 in good order on the likes of Ebay for a model with the specification as I originally purchased it. I would never have been in the market to spend £1000+ on a laptop now or then so the only way I can enjoy these types of machines is after they have been pre loved by someone else. Lets just say £160 is quite a bit more than I paid but with the upgrade to 256Gig mSATA drive I have a better machine for a little less than that, I personally think I bagged a bargain which will do me good service in the coming months/years.


Blowing a PC Power Supply - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2018-07-06

Greetings Hacker Public Radio listeners, Tony Hughes again coming all the way from Blackpool in the North West of the UK. Originally this show was going to be about some new kit that I have recently bought at my favourite computer auction. However as luck or actually bad luck should have it I fried the power supply on my Desktop machine yesterday as I was setting it up again after moving back to my office.

The PC is a HP Compaq Elite 8300 micro Desk top tower with a i7 3rd generation 3770 3.4Ghz CPU and since upgrades now has 16Gig Ram and a Primary 256Gig SSD. This is my daily driver and I've been running it for a couple of years since I bought it at the said auction. It is the best PC I've ever owned; the full specifications are here:

https://www.cnet.com/products/hp-compaq-elite-8300-cmt-core-i7-3770-3-4-ghz-4-gb-1-tb-b2d12utaba/specs/

As I said I was re setting up my full rig after moving it back to the office upstairs after a temporary move while we had a house guest. As I was plugging in the power cable there was a flash and crack, and a few expletives were uttered, sure enough when I switched of the power at the plug and reconnected the power cable and then tried to power on the PC, it was dead. I was hoping that it was the power supply that had blown and as I had a spare I was not too concerned. However on investigation HP have done the dirty with the design of the motherboard and power supply and neither are standard ATX configuration, yes propriety hardware for this baby.

I was lucky as a few months ago I had picked up a i3 HP using the same case, so I pulled out the power supply from this and fitted it into the i7 PC and luckily that did turn out to be the issue, and the PC sprang into life when I hit the power button. I’m now left with a PC that works, but another one that unless I can find a power supply to match is next to useless except for spares.

Lessons learned, never connect the power cable when the socket is live, if your plug socket doesn't have a switch connect the kettle end to the PC first to reduce the risk of a short like mine. Also never assume that 2nd hand PC’s are standard case/motherboard format as you may have a problem sourcing spares if anything goes wrong as in my case. It’s not the first PC disaster I've had over the years and I can as in this case usually get round them, although not when I bricked the BIOS on a Lenovo x200 one time trying to clear a BIOS password, again I was left with a box of spares which actually came in very handy.

Well that's the end of my tale of woe. I’ll do another episode on the recent trip to the auction and my new laptops shortly. This is Tony Hughes for Hacker Public Radio signing off for now.


Ubuntu 18.04 Mate - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2018-06-21

Ubuntu Mate 18.04

Good day to all you HPR Listers. Sorry that its been a while since I recorded a show, but as they say life has got in the way over the last few months, and I've spent quite a bit of it away from the home front.

As it happens on one of those trips away my laptop running Mint Mate 18.3 LTS, based on Ubuntu 16.04LTS decided that it wouldn't boot as it didn't recognise my account, and as I had not created a Root account I could not sign in and fix the issue, which was a corrupted configuration file in the users folder.

As luck would have it I had just downloaded the latest Ubuntu Mate 18.04 .iso to try it as a live disc, so I had a boot disc that I could use to boot the laptop and access the data to rescue all my important information which was mainly all my emails and my browser settings and bookmarks, as this is one of my travelling laptops not much of importance is permanently stored on it, so it didn't take long and I was ready to reinstall the OS to the PC. Just in case I had missed some important data on the current SSD, as I had a spare SSD with me in the bag, yes I'm geeky enough to carry a spare SSD or 2 in the bag. So I dug it out and installed it into the PC, which by the way is a Dell Latitude E6540 with an i5 dual core mobile chip with hyper-threading. It's currently running 4Gig DDR3 RAM but can run up to 16Gig in the 2 slots it has.

So I booted the laptop with the USB boot disc I had created and as with all recent Ubuntu releases you get a screen asking if you want to try or install the OS, as I needed a working PC I went straight to the install option. For those not familiar with Linux or Ubuntu, the installer is a joy to use and very friendly to new users. As this was a first install to this SSD the only option I had was a full install which I chose, then was asked if I wanted to do the default install which partitions the drive and installs the bootloader automatically without any further need for intervention or did I want to do a custom partition arrangement. As the default is adequate for my needs I chose this and clicked continue. During this process you also get the option of a minimal or full installation, the minimal installation gets you a running PC with the basic utilities and leaves you to chose what to install later, but as I use the software that would be omitted I chose the full install. You get asked a final time if you are sure you want to install, with a warning that all current data on the disc will be wiped, as I was happy I clicked proceed. At this point the install starts and you are taken through setting up your PC configuration for language, keyboard, and user account. By the time I had completed this, the install was half completed and the whole process took less than 15 minutes.

After the install is complete you get the message to reboot the PC and eject the boot media to reboot into the new install, on first boot you will either be presented with the login screen or go straight to the desktop depending on the choices you made during the install. Once you are at the desktop for the first time you are presented with a wallpaper of the Ubuntu Mate logo and 2 panels one at the top and one at the bottom of the screen. The top one has for those more traditional Linux and Windows users all the information you would expect on the lower panel, such as the menu, notification area etc. As I'm more traditional in my use of a PC I quickly set up the lower panel with the Advanced Mate Menu and other notification apps such as network, clock and calendar and then deleted the other panel, but obviously this is a personal preference - go with what you find comfortable.

The next step after connecting to the local WiFi was to install any updates, which despite this release only being a few days old there were a few, but this didn't take long and in less than an hour, which included backing up and swapping out the SSD I had a fully working laptop running Ubuntu 18.04 Mate.

So there are a few bits of software not included by default in Ubuntu which I use regularly, one of which is synaptic so I opened the terminal and a sudo apt install synaptic later I had the package manager on the PC. You may ask why, but the software Boutique doesn't seem to have all the software available in the repositories and I don't always know the appropriate name of software I'm looking for to use the terminal all the time, so synaptic is a tool I use a lot. The next software that gets installed is Audacity as I use this for editing audio and sometimes extracting the audio stream from videos of the internet, most importantly for HPR listeners it is what I use to record and edit my HPR shows.

So back to Ubuntu 18.04 Mate, I've been running it for a month on the laptop and about 3 weeks on my main box and as you would expect from a LTS (long term support until 2023) it's very solid and stable, I had a glitch transferring my e mails into Thunderbird on my main box, it had worked flawlessly on the laptop, so I ended up having to reinstall from scratch and on the second install it went perfectly, I think it was down to the way I set up Thunderbird which screwed things up, not the OS, but it's all fine now and I didn't lose anything in the process. For me coming from Mint there are a couple of utilities the Mint developers have implemented that are not available in Ubuntu, but nothing I can't work around. Saying that, if there are any Ubuntu developers out there, the Mint USB drive formatter and USB boot disc creation utilities are nice and simple to use but not available in the Ubuntu repositories.

Obviously I've only had limited time to get to use the new OS but so far it doesn't seem too bad coming back to the mother ship so to speak from several years of using Mint Mate, virtually since its inception, but as I record this there has been nothing that has made me feel I need to rush and reinstall Mint, so I'll continue with Ubuntu Mate 18.04 at least until the new Mint19 based on this Ubuntu release comes out.

https://ubuntu-mate.org/download/


Living with the Nokia 6 – an update to HPR 2405 - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2017-11-28

Living with the Nokia 6 – an update to HPR 2405

I’ve now been using the Nokia 6 for about 2 months and just wanted to update listeners to my thoughts on the phone.

First a response to Dave who said on the Community News that as he had a OnePlus 1 he was surprised I found it inadequate. The One+1 is a great phone, my problem with it was it does not support O2’s 4G network although it supports EE’s and 3’s 4G networks here in the UK, as I use GiffGaff which runs on the O2 network I have not been able to benefit from their 4G offer and I don’t want to change provider. Also the One+1 was stuck on CyanogenMod 13.1 (Android 6) and no longer got updates, so this was the reason for the new phone purchase. I’ve now flashed Lineage OS onto the One+1 and have a secure backup phone or one I can pass on to my Wife at some stage.

Back to the Nokia, now I’ve lived with the phone for a few weeks I can say I am more than happy with it, and some of the issues with battery life I have found are unfounded once you configure some of the settings to be more battery friendly, such as restricting background access to the net for most aps the battery life is well over a day's use. At night in stand by mode over 8 hours battery use is less than 1% so even with moderate to heavy use I can get a day out of the phone without any risk of running out. Also if the official charger and cable are used a 1 hour charge gives about a 30-40% battery capacity, so not as slow as the reviews I’ve read. Would I still buy it having used it for 2 months, I would say yes to that, and I also have no issues with recommending it as a large format phone at a budget price.


Nokia 6 Review - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2017-10-20

The Nokia 6 is a mid range phone with the following specifications:

  • 5.5-inch 1080p screen
  • Snapdragon 430 chip set
  • CPU - Octa-core 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53
  • GPU - Adreno 505
  • 3GB of RAM
  • Dual 4G SIM capable (All UK networks)
  • 32Gig internal storage expansion with SD card up to 128Gig
  • 16MP and 8MP cameras
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • 3.5mm Headphone Jack
  • All metal Aluminium case

Price at purchase, network unlocked £200

The phone came with Android 7.1 and as soon as it was connected to the Internet it updated to 7.1.1 so has the latest September security patches.

The first issue encountered was that this phone uses a nano SIM card for the phone network and my old One Plus used the bigger micro SIM, so I had to get a new Sim card sent to me which took 24 hours. In the mean time I was installing some of the applications that I have on the phone and checking that all my contacts had transferred to the new phone, which despite a backup of same some had not migrated, but that’s a Google issue not the phone.

When the SIM arrived I put it and a 16Gig micro SD card into the SIM slot, the cards were recognized and after configuring the SD card as additional storage I was able to set my pod catcher and camera to save files to the SD card rather than internal storage thus leaving internal storage for apps and Android updates.

First thing I noticed over my previous One Plus1 is how snappy everything is the CPU upgrade was definitely and improvement over my old phone. Another thing is the fact that Nokia has decided to keep the 3.5mm headphone Jack which for me is essential as I listen to music and audio recordings at some time on the phone most days. A lot has also been said about the 3000mAh battery not being up to all day use and the slowness of recharging it if needed. For my use profile I find the battery more than adequate, I surf, use social media, take occasional snaps, watch the odd You Tube video and listen to pod-casts/music, Oh and make the odd phone call.

After a 14 hour day I have still got 50-60% of battery left. Granted the other night I got down to 40% it did take all night to recharge to 98% with a 2.5A charger, with the official 2A charger it does seem to be a little faster, but yes if you're a heavy user you will need to carry your charger or a portable battery for emergency top ups.

So would I recommend the Nokia6 to someone in the market for a phablet, the short answer is yes, if you need the larger screen but can't afford the high end larger screen phones this is a very good mid range option, if you need to use the dual SIM capability it might be worth spending the extra £40 and getting the 64Gig version to give extra room for updates and plenty of space for Applications as you will not be able to use the expansion capacity as the second SIM uses the space where the Micro SD card goes.

After the first 2 weeks or so my first impressions are this is a good phone and well worth the £200 price point.


Raspbian X86 on P4 Tower - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2017-09-15

Raspbian x86 on an old P4 tower

Well I’m back again, as I said in the show I did about Raspbian x86 on the Lenovo x61s, I was interested to see how the OS would perform on what I now class as very old hardware in the form of a Pentium 4 tower.

We have a spare tower at the Makerspace which gets used to test low resource operating systems to see if they live up to their name, so on Saturday (yesterday as I write this, but a few weeks ago by the time this show goes out) I put the x86 Raspbian image on to this tower to see how it would perform.

Tower specifications are: Pentium 4 2.8Gig CPU, 2Gig DDR Ram and a 40Gig HDD, which in its day was a very useful bit of kit, but technology has moved on and most people wouldn’t consider it any use as a working PC today.

First problem I encountered was the DVD drive was duff and I didn’t have the image on a flash drive. Luckily I did have my trusty USB DVD in the bag, so I hooked that up, booted into the boot menu and set the disc off loading the OS. I won't go into this again as I ran through the install process last time, HPR 2362, but the install went well and I was left with a new install of Pixel on the tower.

I went through the new install process and was left with an up to date and password secure PC, I then rebooted to check what the resource use was at first boot, which I was amazed was a consistent 66mb of RAM, and about 1% CPU use.

http://hackerpublicradio.org/eps/hpr2380_P4_01.jpg

Using the Chromium web browser pushes up RAM usage over a 100 but it was smooth and easily coped with navigating to resource hungry sites such as YouTube and the BBC. So first test passed.

I next opened a Word document in LibreOffice, this took about 10seconds to load but once open was perfectly usable with no lag, so should provide a good office capable PC.

So you can use the Web, Write documents, it has an email client or you can use web mail. And it’s not painfully slow, this PC would now make a very usable homework/first computer for any child, or a computer for an older member of the family that just needs to keep in touch with family and friends without breaking the bank. In fact you could probably pick up a working tower off the likes of Freecycle/Freegle for £0 and you may even get a small 17”/19” TFT monitor from the same place.

Yes it’s not as energy efficient as the latest kit but as I said last time the cost of a new PC/laptop can buy a lot of additional electricity in the time you may run it before it finally expires.


MX Linux - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2017-05-19

MX Linux OS

Hi To all in HPR land, this is Tony Hughes in the UK back with you. I noticed that the queue has a couple of gaps in the next week or so here goes again.

Apart from my last show I've recently done shows on current Linux distro's that are suitable for older hardware but with a modern look and feel and fully featured with the latest software available.

As you have probably gathered by now if you have listened to my other shows I am a big fan of older Lenovo Laptops. My main Lenovo is an X230i i3 with a 2.5G cpu and 8Gig of Ram and a 120Gig SSD, it did have Mint 17.3 running on it and after running Mint 18 / 18.1 for several months on my desktop PC I decided to upgrade to 18.1 on the X230i.

I completed the install and on first boot after install the boot time had risen from about 40s to over 2 minutes, I suspected a problem with the install so did it again with the same result. I couldn't find any issues reported on the net so resorted to installing Linux Lite which is based on Ubuntu 16.04 as is Mint 18. The problem persisted after this install despite getting near 40s boots on the Lenovo X61s with an SSD and the same Distro.

I did another web search but could not find any other reports of this issue with the X230i so put a post on the Facebook community Distro hoppers. The response I got back from one member was to try MX16.

MX Linux is a joint venture from the antiX and former MEPIS communities and is based on the latest Debian Stable "Jessie" with the XFCE desk top environment.

I duly downloaded it and installed it in a Virtual PC using virtual box to see what it looked and felt like. The install is fairly user friendly although if you've never had experience of Linux and installed other Distributions a new user may be a bit unsure when asked about the MBR and where to put it, other than that a fairly straightforward install.

On install there is a fairly good selection of the software you would need including a full install of LibreOffice, FireFox, Thunderbird, GIMP and synaptic package manager for adding further software from the repositories. MX have also included the ability to simply install codecs and additional drivers and a software installation system for popular Apps from the MX Welcome that comes up at boot or if disabled can be started form the menu. Also I installed it on a virtual 8Gig HDD and GParted reports use of 4.64Gig after install and updates, by default it only installs a 1G swap despite 2Gig allocated Ram in the VM.

I liked the look of MX and decided to give it a go on the X230i, install went smoothly and lo and behold boot was back to around 40s on first boot after install. So I've updated the install, installed my packages I use that are not there by default such as Audacity, Scratch and a couple of other things I use. I've also put it on the X61s I use and again working faultlessly, so I'm happy again. Since I installed MX I found out from a member of my Makerspace/LUG that he had experienced the same problem with Ubuntu 16.04 based distro's and crippled SSD Boot times.

I like MX so much when it come to time to reinstall my Desk Top PC, which is about the only PC I use that is not constantly changing OS, I think I will be putting MX on it. This is a big deal for me as I've been a loyal Mint user for over 5 years but MX is working so well on the Laptops at the moment it would be good to have the same OS on the Desktop PC as well.

Will MX stop my Distro Hopping, NO, I like trying out new things that's why I have several Laptops kicking around so I have spare hardware to try out new Linux stuff, but it is good to have something stable around when you need it, hence sticking with Mint for so long on the Desktop.


Lenovo X61s Part 2 - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2017-04-28

HPR episode on Lenovo X61s part 2

  • Cost £36 including auction fees
  • OS Free (any Linux will work well)
  • Upgrade to 120Gig SSD £40 of ebay
  • Total outlay £76

If you have to buy one then get an OS free one and don't pay more than £80-£100 depending if it has an SSD or not

Hello HPR, a few episodes ago I talked of using the Lenovo X61s with Watt OS and said I would report back after a possible upgrade to the laptop with and SSD replacement for the hard drive.

Well I duly ordered and received a Drevo 120 Gig SSD from ebay. These are about £40 each so make a cheap upgrade to an older laptops spinning disc see review here:

http://www.enostech.com/drevo-x1-240gb-ssd-review/

after installing the PC with WattOS while it did everything you would need of an OS and was absolutely fine on the X61s I was a bit disillusioned with the amount of configuration needed to get all the software I needed working, definitely not New user friendly.

Looking at other lite Linux distributions I came upon Linux Lite

https://www.linuxliteos.com/

and decided that this might be a better choice as it says it is aimed at new users, and being based on Ubuntu was a familiar beast. ISO was downloaded and duly installed on the X61s and as soon as all the updates were completed I looked at the installed software and it was more comprehensive but not at the expense of still being lightweight.

At first Boot it takes about 300mb of ram and even with the word processor and Firefox in use Ram usage was only about 700mb.

Audacity after install worked out of the box, and I've already recorded and uploaded another show for HPR using the X61s and all went flawlessly. With the new SSD I am getting close to 5 hours of use from the 8 cell 63W battery installed on the PC and while I recognize the X61s being over 10 years old is not going to meet the needs of a power user, its fully capable of being an everyday laptop for basic office tasks, some light audio editing, and even photo editing in GIMP. I was able to edit and process a 10mb .jpg image without any issues and exporting the final image took seconds.

I was fairly happy with the X61s performance with the 80Gig spinner it came with, but the addition of an SSD has both improved performance and battery life to the extent that I would happily take it on the road as my only PC. Actually for the porpoise of writing this review I've lived with it as my main PC for almost 2 weeks and have not really missed its big brother the X230i i3 laptop I also have. In fact I was going to record a show using that and found that as it has a composite Audio jack, and my head set requires separate mic and headphone sockets I wasn't able to, so one up to the X61s there.

Conclusion, if you have a couple of kids and you're looking for a laptop for them to do homework, watch Utube, and surf the web (parental controls enabled) then I would look no further. And if they get broken by said kids you've not lost a bundle of dosh.


Raspberry Pi Zero W - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2017-04-17

In this episode I talk about the new Raspberry Pi Zero W single board computer released on 28th February 2017 to coincide with the 5th Birthday of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

This tiny 65x30mm single board PC has the following specs

  • 1GHz, single-core CPU
  • 512MB RAM
  • Mini HDMI and USB On-The-Go ports
  • Micro USB power
  • HAT-compatible 40-pin header
  • Composite video and reset headers
  • CSI camera connector
  • 802.11 b/g/n wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Here are a couple of links to the foundation and a fuller review

https://www.raspberrypi.org/

https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/28/raspberry-pi-zero-w-is-a-10-computer-with-wifi-and-bluetooth/


Watt OS - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2017-03-28

In this short episode I tell you about installing Watt OS onto an Acer Aspire One Netbook from 2008.

This net book came with a 8Gig SSD installed and a 32bit 1.6G atom processor and many modern Linux spins are just too big for the hardware.

However Watt OS came to the rescue and installed on the Netbook without issue.

I plan to give it a go on a Lenovo x61 shortly and will let you know how that works out, my thought is it will fly on that hardware.

http://wiki.planetwatt.com


Alpha32's new machine - Alpha32 | 2016-09-20

I built a new desktop computer with AMD components.


New Toys - Tony Hughes AKA TonyH1212 | 2016-08-16

Hi HPR listeners this is Tony Hughes talking from Blackpool UK

I did a show a few weeks ago about my Geek Bags but didn’t talk about the Desktop PC I use and as I’ve just upgraded to a new (used) PC I thought I would tell the story of my Desktop PC’s over the years.

I was a latecomer to the world of personal computing having been at school in the Late 60’s and early 70’s when we hadn’t even got calculators, if you were lucky to be able to work out the intricacy of it you may have had use of a slide rule. Even after calculators started to be more widely used I had a lecturer at college while studying marine engineering, that was so good with his slide rule and mental calculation, he could, and would often work out equations far faster than those of us using a calculator.

I first came across my first IBM clone PC back at college in 1987 while studying a control systems course this was a Intel 286 PC which the college ran CAD/CAM software on and we used it to learn how to create engineering drawings electronically. This would be the last time I used a computer until the early 1990’s when by then I had changed career and become a Registered Nurse. I was working in a residential nursing home and we had access to a Windows 3.xx PC which I would use to create templates of the clinical paperwork we used for record keeping.

Around this time I met my then wife to be and she needed a PC for the University Course she was on so we obtained a used Intel 386 PC from a Friend and upgraded the Ram from 1Mb to 4Mb which cost nearly half the price we paid for the PC £120, which in 1993 was a good chunk of cash. It was a time when there was a world shortage of Ram and offices were getting burgled just for the memory in the office PC’s.

While we had this PC in the house it didn’t much interest me at the time, this was pre internet days for the average user, we weren’t on line at work and the Word processing software was Dos based and I hated using it, so would do the odd things I needed to at work during my break.

Move forward 5 years and Windows 95 had taken over the world and there was this wonderful new OS called Windows 98 starting to appear in the shops. In September 1998 I went back to do a Nursing Degree in my specialist area of practice and found that we were required to submit all our course work in word processed format, no long hand written assignments this time around. So I decided that I would invest in a new home PC.

There were a couple of Big Box PC retailers in the UK at the time that advertised heavily in the press and on TV and I chose to go to one of these and bought a PC with the following specs:   

Pentium 2 350 CPU, 128Mb Ram, 6Gig HDD, 56k modem and a DVD Rom. It also came bundled with a Scanner, Inkjet printer and software including MS Office for small Business. All for the grand total of £1400 which at the time was about a month’s take home pay so I had to pay for it with the flexible friend (my Credit Card for those of you too young to remember the ad’s)

I also signed up for an AOL account to access the internet over the 56k modem, dog slow now but at the time was the only affordable way us mere mortals could afford home internet access. I remember it could take a minute or 2 to render my Bank’s web site when I started online banking in 2001 and that was using compression software to reduce the bandwidth.

I used that PC to write all my college work and with the help of a couple of friends started to tinker with the PC, getting a 120 ZIP drive for it, and later adding a CD RW drive for storing documents and Photos that I’d scanned and later taken with my first digital Camera.

By 2002 the PC was starting to get a bit long in the tooth and I decided it was time for an upgrade and I had a PC built for me by a local shop with P4 2.5Ghz CPU 40Gig HDD and 512Mb Ram (later upgraded to 2Gig) and a CD RW drive again later upgraded to DVD RW drive. This PC cost me half of what I paid for the P2 four years previously and was to be the last PC I bought new, all the PC’s including laptops I’ve owned since this PC have been second hand. Some given by family or friends, some built from parts of Freecycle/Freegle, and lately PC’s I’ve bought at a local computer auction in the north west of the UK.

The title of this podcast is “New Toys” and so to the juicy bit, my Desktop for the last 6 years has been a Lenovo ThinkCentre 7373 Core 2 Duo PC with a 2.6Ghz CPU, 250Gig SSD, an upgrade from the 160Gig HDD it came with and 12Gig Ram also upgraded from the 4Gig it came with and requiring a bios flash to get the MB to support 16Gig. This rig has served me well but lately I have found it starting to feel its age and taking a long time to do things I now do regularly such as video and photo editing, Audio editing and virtual PC’s in virtualBox. So I decided it was time I looked around for an upgrade. As usual I was not in the market for a new PC, I could afford one but I don’t like splashing the cash unnecessarily. As luck would have it the monthly Auction catalog included a HP Compaq Elite 8300 i7 Micro Tower. I checked out the specs and liked what I read. So Monday 1st of August I took a trip to the auction and as luck would have it I became the proud owner of said PC for the princely sum of £212.80, hammer price of £190 plus commission.

The full spec of the PC is: i7 3.4Ghz CPU (22nm architecture) 4 cores and 8 threads, 8Gig Ram Supports 32Gig 500Gig HDD, DVD RW drive and a card reader. Also came with a Win7 pro CoA but no installed OS.

So it took me 10 minutes to install Linux Mint 18 and another 30 to complete the updates and install my software over and above the base install. It boots in just over a minute, which is only slightly slower than the old PC with an SSD, so I guess it will boot mega fast with an SSD upgrade, which is on the cards after I return from Holiday as may an upgrade to the Ram. I’ve already used some Ram from the old PC to increase to 12Gig but I need some matching 8Gig Ram to go to 16 or higher.

Well that charts my PC hardware journey over the last 20 odd years it’s amazing to think that one of the Raspberry Pi 3’s I own has more processing power than most of the hardware I’ve had up to the Core 2 Duo in 2010.


Put an SSD in your Linux Box - 2BFrank | 2015-08-18

Some commands I mentioned that you should check out:

Check SSD disk specs:

sudo hdparm -I /dev/sdb

Check for TRIM support:

sudo fstrim -v /

Perform TRIM support

sudo hdparm -I /dev/sdb | grep -i TRIM

Detailed SSD Info


How I Upgraded My PC - Motherboard - Claudio Miranda | 2011-05-09

In this episode, Claudio recaps episode 1 and covers the what, why, and how of his motherboard purchase.

AnandTech: http://www.anandtech.com/show/4025/holiday-2010-system-builders-guide

AnandTech: http://www.anandtech.com/show/3877/asrock-890fx-deluxe-full-review-and-an-investigation-of-thuban-performance-scaling

Phoronix: http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=asrock_880_mobos&num=1

Hardware Secrets: http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/ASRock-890FX-Deluxe4-Motherboard/1094/1


How I Upgraded My PC - CPU - Claudio Miranda | 2011-03-01

In this episode, Claudio talks about his current desktop PC and covers the what, why, and how of his new CPU purchase.