What Are You On?

intel dongleWhat are you on right now?

Helaine uses a laptop. My dad is 100% tablet. I rotate through devices and touch close to a dozen keyboards or screens through the day.

Nearly everything you know about computing is about to change. The size is shrinking again.

If you have a recent iPhone or one of the high end Android devices, you know the brain in that small device of yours works fine for browsing and video. Why do we need anything with bulk?

We don’t.

There is a new class of dongles entering the market which are full fledged PCs. Plug one into an HDMI port on any TV, pair with wireless keyboard and mouse and it’s a computer that can do nearly anything! Browse the web. Stream HD movies. Skype. Whatever.

These dongles are quad core machines special image processing chips. Very low power, they need no fans. They are light on RAM and disk space, but are optimized for the tasks most people normally perform.

They’re not for making content. They’re for consumption.

At the moment (and we’re very early in this game) the Windows version is $150 and the Android $100. Expect those numbers to fall.

This is crazy. How far we’ve come. We’re not slowing down.

Have We Seen The Last Hard Drive In A Computer?

wd-ssdThe computer you’re using probably has a hard drive. That’s been the go-to mass storage solution for over 20 years.

Now there’s better.

A hard drive is elctromechanical. Its got moving parts. It heats up. It makes noise. It’s relatively slow and prone to fail.

Enter the SSD or solid state drive. No moving parts. It’s 100% digital. Speed and reliability have improved. Noisefree!

My newish computer boots from an SSD in around 15 seconds. There’s also a large ‘old school’ hard drive for data. I wouldn’t buy that today. There would be a second SSD instead.

SSDs cost more than hard drives. That difference continues to shrink. For most people, even with SSD’s smaller capacities, there’s plenty of storage space.

Mechanical hard drives will be relegated to offline backup. Never throw anything out! Storage is cheap.

Computers will become smaller, quieter, faster and with longer battery life! It’s right around the bend.

I Am Very Dweeby

IMAG0651-w1400-h1400My audio studio is taking shape. A mic stand came this morning. Now my MudGuard, Blue Yeti microphone and wind screen are all at eye level.

I am so dweeby. Part of this afternoon was spent getting a cable at Fry’s. I love Fry’s. They have a full aisle of cables! Now there’s an extra ten feet of play for the mic.

IMAG0648-w1400-h1400A few months ago I got a ShuttleXpress. For guys like me who edited video and audio tape, the ability to ‘jog’ back and forth in the digital age is a big deal. ShuttleXpress brings jogging back.

Tonight I programmed a little script to let it also control my audio recording software, Audacity. Now there’s a remote set of controls for when I’m at the mic.

Finally I’m ‘screencasting’ my computer monitors over my television via a Chromecast dongle. I can see audio levels a little easier while I record now.

All the toys I wanted as a kid exist now.

I’m listening closely, trying to understand this room’s acoustics. The MudGuard has made a huge difference. I might need bass traps. I’ll listen some more first.

No More Noise

my-pcWhen I was configuring my new computer a few months ago there were two very important considerations. It had to be fast for video editing. It had to be quiet.

That quiet thing isn’t as easy as you think. More powerful chips throw off more heat. More heat means more fans. Fans mean noise. It’s a vicious cycle!

The computer’s in a Thermaltake Soprano case. The case was designed to be quiet. It’s even got acoustic foam padding on the doors.

The PC under my desk is as fast as expected and quiet. I wondered if it could be quieter still? It’s so overdesigned. It should be silent.

Today was my chance. I was installing a case mounted card reader. The doors would come off. The case would be open. Everything would be exposed.

When I looked inside I noticed the fan for the CPU’s liquid cooling unit was plugged into a “CPU fan” socket. I’d been unable to control its speed. What if it was plugged into the “System fan” socket instead?

The fan, which had been running around 1,500 RPM is now clocked near 500 RPM. The CPU temperature is still 1&#176C cooler than Intel’s idling spec for my 4770-K. This motherboard/chip combination can be overclocked. I could probably squeeze out some extra performance. Right now I’m like a guy with a Maserati who obeys the speed limit.

The computer is silent… OK, nearly silent. It is just part of the white noise of the house. Turning down that one fan eliminated the bulk of the problem.

If you’ve read this far you are seriously geeky and should consider therapy.

Tonight I am happy.

I’ve Got This Thing On My Desk


There’s this thing on the desk. It’s labeled, “5.25 Media Dashboard.”

Damn right.

“Is anything geekier,” I ask as a proud geek?

The computer I designed this summer is all I’d hoped for. Every time I shoot photos I plug in an external card reader. Now I’m going to add this one more little thing to speed the process and make the computer more functional.

This goes down as a 21st Century problem, right?

The choice was buying a card reader or buying a CARD READER. I chose the latter.

The “dashboard” occupies the same sized slot a CDROM drive fills. Ten cables with a variety of plugs snake out its rear. Nine will be plugged into a corresponding socket on the motherboard. The tenth will draw power.

There’s a digital thermometer on board and the ability to adjust fans speeds with a thumbwheel. I’d like to make this computer even quieter. Slower fans will work as long as things don’t heat up too much.

Too much to do now. The building takes place in about a week.

My Fast Drive Gets Slower Then Faster


I’m in love with my new computer. It’s really fast. That was the plan.

I spec’ed out all the components. That doesn’t mean I have a through understanding of all of them.

For instance, my boot and program drive is an SSD (solid-state drive). With no moving parts it’s light years faster than a conventional hard drive. That’s why the system boots in under 20 seconds!

The SSD comes with a companion program, Samsung Magician. I looked at it when the system was first installed, not since. It didn’t seem important. There was no indication the drive would change with age.

I fired it up today and was surprised to see my SSD had slowed in all categories! Random writes went from 70,159 I/O operations per second to 53,047 IOPS.

There are optimization routines listed within Magician. I tried those and installed a waiting firmware update to my drive.

Oh my!

Random write speeds are up over 100%! Other speeds are up too, though not as much.

Will I notice the difference? I’m not sure. Disk i/o is one factor of many, but it’s among the most important.