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Replacing My Desktop Computer

Wanted: New Desktop PC. Must be the strong, silent type. Windows only. Laptops need not apply.

Warning: The following may well be a rationalization.

The arrival of the Logitech Brio webcam reminded me that my computers are now aged. Neither my desktop, nor laptop, are capable of reliably producing 1080p or 4K video streams.

In the case of the laptop, a second generation Lenovo X1 Carbon circa 2013, I’m not particularly bothered by this reality. I don’t expect a laptop, especially an ultrabook, to do such things.

Given that I optioned it well originally (8 GB memory, 256 GB SSD) the Lenovo is still a lovely device for the various tasks where I truly need portability. I can get another year from it without issue.

The desktop is another matter entirely. Its time has past. It has started to let me down in some significant ways. I’ve tinkered with its internals over these past five years. Its lone, traditional hard drive was augmented by an SSD boot volume early in its tenure, a third physical drive a little later on.

Its AMD FX6100 CPU, with 6 cores, first appeared in 2011. Clocked at 3.6 GHz it draws 95 watts. Upgrading the CPU would require a new motherboard, which in turn dictates a new power supply. While memory and storage can easily be upgraded, swapping out the host CPU is rarely worth the trouble on a system this old.

Never fear, we’re big believers in technology recycling. Our older computers often get demoted to lesser service hereabouts. For example, my previous desktop is our current music server. Alternatively, they may get wiped and gifted to someone who might have use of them despite their age.

Now, looking ahead…

Not long ago I revisited the state of small-form-factor desktops. I remain certain that I want a desktop. I just don’t want a hulking big box. After all, those big sheet metal boxes are mostly empty.

After much consideration (some would say waffling) I ordered an Airtop-PC direct from Compulab. Those of you paying attention will note that this is just over a year since I first mentioned the little wunderputer.

Weighing it against the competition I found it to be the best option for my purposes. What follows is an explanation of that thought process.

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Undecided: Replacing a Nexus 7 Tablet

Nexus-7-2013 360pxUntil very recently I was seriously committed to Google’s Nexus line of devices. From the Galaxy Nexus onward, with just one exception, I carried a Nexus Series mobile phone.

I was so happy with the Galaxy Nexus, and Nexus 4 after it, that I jumped on the first generation of the Nexus 7 tablet in 2012. Similarly, my experience with that tablet was good enough that I bought the Nexus 7 2013 edition immediately upon it’s launch.

Later, when Google stopped offering them, I even bought a spare! I regret not purchasing the HSPA+ capable version when I saw it offered by Expansys at a discount.

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Unexpected: OSX on a Polycom VVX-600

vvx-600-with-OSX-320pxA Polycom VVX-600 is my primary desk phone. It has been since its launch demoted the VVX-500 to a lesser role. Both are great phones, but I find the larger touch screen of the 600 model better for both my eyes and fingers. One of the things that keeps the Polycom phone on my desk is its ability to conveniently record calls to a USB memory stick. It’s a capability that I’d find difficult to give up.

On the other hand, in my daily routine I find that I don’t use USB memory stick very often anymore. I have a couple hanging around, but not the little stash that once graced my computer bag. So, occasionally, when I’m in a hurry, I pull the SanDisk Cruzer that lives plugged into the back of the VVX and use it to sneakernet a few files from here to there.

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Now Over HTTPS Courtesy of Lightningbase & Let’s Encrypt

It wasn’t that long ago that I reminded you of how much I admire Lightningbase. Here’s just one more reason why these guys rock. Lightningbase has recently made it very easy to deploy SSL for WordPress sites by integrating Let’s Encrypt.

Lightningbase founder Chris Piepho announced the effort in a blog post. Since I’ve wanted to use SSL for a while, but not had the time to work through the details, I took the new offer as a sign that I should go ahead with the implementation.

I must say that I was floored by how easy this was! The entire process of getting this domain running on SSL took me less than 15 minutes.

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Compulab Airtop: The strong, silent type of desktop computer

airtop-isometry-cutout-300pxI can’t really explain it, but fanless, small form-factor computers have always held a lot of appeal. Over the years I’ve twice selected SFF models as my desktop. Compulab, and Israeli company, has consistently offered very interesting SFF platforms, including the Fit-PC and Intense PC Series.

I bought an original Fit-PC simply because it was interesting and relatively affordable. However, novel as it was, Fit-PC was destined for industrial and signage applications. With hardware common to a netbook it simply didn’t have the grunt to be more than a plaything. While the Intense PC models were more powerful, they were also considerably more expensive than a traditional SFF desktop. I admired them from afar.

This week Compulab noted that they are beginning to produce their newest model, the Airtop-PC. It looks like their most innovative design yet.

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Desktop Storage: SSD vs Magnetic Hard Drive

HP Pavilion HPE H8 Desktop PC & Seagate DiskIt has been said that you have to sometimes look back to see how far you’ve come. A little over a week ago the traditional hard drive in my desktop computer started to fail. The BIOS reported a SMART alarm indicating imminent disk failure.

While this HP desktop was a good deal when it was purchased, the 1.5TB Seagate hard drive, spinning at just 5400 RPM, was part of what motivated the addition of the 256 GB SSD as the boot volume. The traditional hard drive was only for user data.

Despite the alarm state, the system seemed to be running fine. I ordered a 1 TB WD Black hard drive from Amazon. In making the choice of the WD Black I looked around online for research on hard drive reliability. I found a blog post by Backblaze, a company that provides online backup. They have consistently found Seagate drives to be the most failure prone. As a huge user of hard drives, it’s great that they make their data public.

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