Upgrading

I’ve just upgraded my desktop computer system. I’ve replaced the CPU, motherboard, RAM, power supply unit, and disk drive. In fact what I’ve really done is build a new computer in the existing case, keeping only my keyboard, mouse and monitor.

I’ve not had any problems, apart from the fact that the pesky little screws that hold things together seem smaller and more fiddly than I remember, but that may just be my ageing fingers.

English: Sony NEWS UNIX workstation. Left view...

English: Sony NEWS UNIX workstation. Left view with the top open. The top is held by 6 screws, 2 on the back and 2 on each side. On the left side we can see the only cooling fan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Incidentally I replaced the existing hard disk drive with a solid state drive or SSD. This is neither disk shaped nor does it have any moving parts, so its name is a bit misleading.

I’d had the previous computer for several years, so why did I replace it? Well, it was getting a little slow and some things ran very slowly on it. When I did a backup it would slow almost to a crawl. Its slowness was my fault really as I was trying to run far too much stuff on it. If I merely browsed the Internet and received and sent mail, and got rid of all the other baggage that I had acquired, it would probably have sufficed.

A modest junk box

A modest junk box (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But where’s the fun in that! Having been system administrator in the past, I see interesting things coming through, like programs that simulate the running of an Android phone, so that you can write and test them on your desktop,. Wow! Now all I need is an idea for a killer app that can make me buckets of money.

So that went on the desktop, and I tried it out and lo! It worked fine. Then I moved on to something else and the killer app never got written. That seems to be the way that it goes with me – I see something cool, install it, and get it working, but once I get a handle on how it behaves, I lose interest.

English: Wikipedia Android app

English: Wikipedia Android app (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have nothing but admiration for people who have an idea, who then program it up, put it out there for people to try, and then deal with the inevitable bug reports and requests for enhancements and changes. Sometimes they modify and support the programs that they write for decades. Of course if they get bored with the whole thing, they can walk away from their baby and either the program becomes “abandonware” or someone else takes up the baton.

I can program though. I’ve written and supported programs and scripts which I’ve written for my job as systems administrator, and even at home I’ve written backup scripts and programs which are useful and, for the moment, complete, but I’ve got dozens of others which I started but did not complete for some reason or other.

As an example, this blog uses WordPress as a platform. WordPress comes in two forms. There is the usual WordPress service, referred to as “WordPress.com” and there is “WordPress.org“.

The “dot org” version is an Open Source project with hundreds of volunteers writing code, packaging and otherwise making WordPress available to anyone wants to download it and use it on the computers that they operate and use.

Screenshot of WordPress interface (wordpress i...

Screenshot of WordPress interface (wordpress is under the GPL) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, many people don’t want to do download and run it themselves, either because they don’t have that sort of access to the computers that they use, or they are not technically competent enough, so the “dot com” version of the program is provided for people who simply want to use WordPress and not maintain it.

I set up this blog on WordPress.com initially, but wondered if it would be a good idea to run the WordPress.org version instead. So I downloaded it and installed it, and bingo! A clone of WordPress.com. Which was OK, but then I was faced with the need to find somewhere visible to host it – it’s no good having a blog if people can’t see it!

Multiple racks of servers

Multiple racks of servers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the end I decided to stay with WordPress.com as I didn’t need anything different from that version, and using WordPress.com avoid the hosting hassles. For a simple blog, without any esoteric bells and whistles, it is ideal. It can also be used for more complex situations, provided they don’t need changes to the core code.

Incidentally I started out with a Drupal site. I love Drupal and still have a Drupal site on my computer, which I tinker with occasionally. It’s a much more complex beast than WordPress (though WordPress is very flexible and extendable), but in the end, I don’t need the complexities at this time, so I moved to WordPress. One is not better than the other, they are just different.

drupal icon, svg version

drupal icon, svg version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, I’ve tried many other content management or blogging tools and frameworks. A framework can be thought of as a “do it yourself” type of website building tool, a few steps up from writing HTML, and several steps below a complete content management or blogging system.

All the discarded and forgotten stuff on my computer was obviously slowing it down, but arguably more importantly, technology has moved on. The old CPU had a single core, whereas the new one has ten! Two gigabytes of memory was proving restrictive. The disks were old and slow.

English: A portion of a DECsystem-1090 showing...

English: A portion of a DECsystem-1090 showing the KL10 CPU and MH10 memory cabinets. Suomi: Osa DECsystem-1090-tietokonetta. Kuvassa koneen KL10-pääyksikkö (kolme ensimmäistä kabinettia?) ja useita MH10-muistikabinetteja. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the upgrade happened and I’m very pleased with it. The CPU (currently) barely breaks into a canter. The RAM is extensive, and I’m sure there are bits that haven’t been touched! Above all the new SSD is fast and my browser opens in a snap. No doubt I’ll think of things to eventually slow it down, but for the moment it is great. All the crud is gone, but I still have it backed up. Once a sysadmin always a sysadmin – always take backups of your backups and never throw anything away!

Just About There

Just About There (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Above all it is quiet! There is no disk noise, and the CPU fan is also quiet. I was telling my daughter how quiet it was and sure enough we couldn’t hear it running. OK, there was a bit of ambient noise from the grand-rats and the dog, but it was quiet. It wasn’t until they had gone that I discovered that it was actually switched off! But it really is that quiet.

English: It's not normally this quiet.

English: It’s not normally this quiet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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