New Computer

Time for a New Computer

Nothing to do with cells or networks but after three years I decided to upgrade to a new computer at my home office. My old computer ran 2 GB of RAM using a Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor E6600. This had 4M of Cache but only ran at 2.40 GHz. The chip used 65 nm technology. I think I paid about $260 for the processor.The new machine is based on the new Intel Quad Core i7-2600K Processor with 8M of Cache and a much speedier 3.40 GHz.The chip uses 32 nm technology. Cost me about $315. This processor represents a significant increase in performance, according to the specs, about 10 times my E6600. I also installed 8 GB of RAM (for only $99) and Windows 7 64 bit. I bought the parts from our local Fry’s and put most of it together myself. First lesson, never listen to the Fry’s sales people, of the two that tried to help me they caused more problems that it was worth. For a start, they recommended an incompatible display monitor that used the old VGA inputs rather than the DVI I wanted. The difference between these is quite noticeable, especially when displaying text. Secondly they recommended a DVR drive that wasn’t supported by Windows 7 64 bit.I ended up visiting them a few times to get these issues resolved.

Once built, the first problem was installing Windows 7 64 bit. It looks like the device manufactures haven’t yet caught up so I discovered I couldn’t install Windows 7 64 bit from CD!  After doing some searching on Google I discovered it is possible to boot and install from a USB stick. To do this you need a minimum of a 4 GB USB stick. There are various sites which describe how to make a bootable stick. Once the USB stick is ready, just copy the Windows CD over. Plug in the USB stick and reset the computer. It turns out that installing from a USB stick is much faster than from a DVD and after than things went quite smoothly.The biggest issues in getting a new computer ready is installing your main applications and setting up the little things like graphics drivers and the motherboard drivers such as LAN and chip set drivers. Once these are done the most important applications that suit my purpose include but not in any particular order, the following:

0. Chrome – Firefox has become bloated and in my experience a little buggy
1. WinEdt – For LaTeX editing
2. Ultraedit – Text editor, Ultraedit is commercial but there are free ones such as Notepad++ and Notepad2. The reason I have Ultraedit is that it allows me to also edit in hex which is handy for manipulating binary files.
3. MikTex – LaTeX et al
4. JabRef – BibTex manager
5. Mendeley – Its growing on me but it still has some major issues.
6. SumatraPDF – Excellent pdf viewer for working along side WinEdt (better than Adobe Acrobat)
7. Adobe Acrobat – For pdf manipulation and sometimes viewing
8. Adobe Illustrator – Sadly InkScape is too buggy for me
9. Delphi – The best development environment for writing GUI Windows apps ($100 for academic)
9. Visual Studio Express – For C# programming
10. Office – required for work
11. Cygwin – For low level command line work
12. WinZip – Comprehensive and nice interface
13. Dropbox – Great for file sharing across your machines
14. Paint.NET – Bit based editing of images
15. Skype – We all use skype
16. Malwarebytes – Good for scanning your machine for viruses etc
17. Sophos – Our University gives out Sophos but it isn’t very good at spotting trojans (avast! seems better)
18. Python – You never know when you need it
19. TortoiseSVN – Access to SVN code and document respositories
20. SBW for modeling support (I also usually have a copy of COPASI installed)
21. Scilab and Octave for Matlab like environments

and if there is time:

Sim City and Age of Empires

Here is a picture of the insides:

This entry was posted in General Science Interest. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to New Computer

  1. Bennett Ng says:

    Windows features a built-in disk image tool (Control Panel > Backup and Restore > Create a system image) that works just fine for migrating to a new drive. You do have to copy to an external drive and then copy back to your new drive, but it’s painless and works perfectly.

    I had an OCZ Vertex LE drive, which actually did fail after about a year of use. They have 3-year warranties, though, just like most hard drives. I sent it in and received a newer/faster OCZ Vertex 2 drive in return. I keep regular backups, so the whole situation worked out in my favor with the new drive. That said, I’d second the comment about Intel drives providing very high reliability.

    The firmwares from these main vendors (Intel, OCZ, Crucial, Samsung) have generally become fairly stable, and most support the “TRIM” garbage collection command which helps to maintain drive performance over time.

    One other note, if your motherboard supports SATA III (6.0 Gbps), you’ll want to look for an according SATA III drive to maximize performance (Force GT, Vertex 3, RealSSD C300, Intel 510). Otherwise, a SATA II (3.0 Gbps) drive will be plenty fast and a better value (Vertex 2, Intel 320).

  2. Austin Day says:

    Mmm.. I’ve used Acronis Tru Image to copy images of hard drives to and from the same model, but I don’t know what issues, if any, will pop up if you go to a different type of drive. I’ll be buying a new SSD pretty soon, so I can give that a test by copying my current windows setup as an image onto the new drive and see if it works straight away. (probably later this month)

    In terms of reliability, they’re definitely advertised as being safer for laptops that may be dropped or moved around. For data corruption, I never read about any kind of issues specific to SSDs. The failure rate of the individual cells is pretty low. If the advertisements can be trusted, the mean time till failure of the technology is about ~171 years. So long as you don’t rewrite every cell over and over again constantly, I don’t think the technology’s lifetime is much of an issue.

    I think the main issue is the reliability of the firmware or bad quality control. The most common problems for SSDs on the market are either diminished performance over time (controller / firmware issues? and more of a problem for the older generation drives), blue screens when coming back from sleep/hibernation (firmware issues?), or the drives just die and all data are lost (quality control). Although like most computer parts, they either break within a few months, or they seem to last forever. The only way to help prevent that is by getting a highly rated and thoroughly veted drive like the intel G2 or intel 320. They may not be the fastest drives out there, but once you make the leap from HD to current or last gen SSD, the jump from medium end SSD to high end SSD won’t really feel all that significant. (So windows boots in 7 seconds instead of 12.)

    From all the reviews and ratings I’ve read, I would stay away from OCZ drives, the Crucial RealSSD C300 CTFDDAC128MAG drive is the highest rated on newegg, so the QC is probably pretty good, but a few reviews mentioned that it may suffer from slightly diminished performance over time. (Didn’t say how long it would take, or if it is even that significant.) The corsair force GT just came out, so there are only reviews on performance, not reliability. But it’s performance is one of the best. The intel G2 was hailed as the best of the last generation of SSDs, and the intel 320 is supposed to replace it, so that’s a good bet for reliability, although it’s lacking a tiny bit in random read/write.

    Sorry, I write too much. I just really like my computers 🙂

  3. hsauro says:

    What’s the failure time on SSDs? Are they more reliable that hard drives? Difficult to add an SSD now because I just took a week to install everything (that’s the hard bit in getting any new computer) but given your description it is tempting to add one. Are there any utilities to move the contents of a partition to another drive including the operating system so that I don’t have to install everything again?

  4. Austin Day says:

    I second that! Once you go SSD, you cannot go back. I have 2 Intel Gen 2 80GB drives (desktop and laptop) and I think that’s just enough for the OS all apps, paging file, and all of my lab files. I think 120gb will be in my next build though.

    If you’re considering an SSD, the intel drives are known for being the ones with the lowest failure rate, although they aren’t exactly the fastest drives. If you want cutting edge speed, then the OCZ vertex 3 or the corsair force GT are the way to go. (I’m thinking of getting the corsair one personally.)

    Newegg is awesome, no sales tax, better prices generally, useful reviews and wider selection. (mwave and tigerdirect are also highly rated sites without sales tax in WA) The risk is that you’d have to pay return shipping IF it’s DOA or within their 30 days return policy (after that, it’s the manufacturer’s warranty problem), but the amount you save is usually worth it. I’ve bought all my stuff from newegg and have never had to return anything…yet.

  5. Bennett Ng says:

    The largest mainstream SSDs currently available are about 480 GB, but they’re astronomically expensive. You can, however, get a smaller SSD of about 60 GB for a reasonable sum around $100 – $120.

    With a desktop, you could use a small SSD as your boot drive and have a traditional HDD for your large programs and files. Boot times and overall responsiveness will be drastically improved, especially with a fast system like the one you just built.

  6. hsauro says:

    I paid $99 for 8 Gb. Newegg is fairly trustworthy so that looks like a very good deal at $99 for 16Gb.

    As for SSD drivers, what the biggest you can get now?

  7. Bennett Ng says:

    Looks like a very nice machine! Good case for expansion, and that 2600K is very well-regarded. Perhaps you might consider a small SSD to make it blazing fast…

    Next time you’re looking for computer parts, I think I could handily outdo the Fry’s guys. For instance, there’s a deal today for 16 GB of RAM for $99 at Newegg.com.

  8. hsauro says:

    It seems that 2600k is an excellent choice at the moment, I’ve not yet tested the speed however. One problem I had was I forgot to attach the 12v power leads to the CPU. Took me two days to figure that mistake. Can’t understand why I forgot it. So far I’ve not had any heating problems but I’m only running it at 3.5 GHz.

  9. Austin Day says:

    I’m building a new computer too! The 2600k is an awesome overclocker! (Assuming you got an appropriate motherboard) You’ll need a non-stock heat sink too. I read that some people have been able to get stable computers at 5GHz on an air only heat sink! (The record is ~5.8 GHz). That’s what I’m aiming for with my new computer!

    -Austin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.