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Keep On Keepin' On


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#1 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 12 June 2017 - 08:10 AM

Back when I first started rocking the Internet with a Pentium 133, 16 MB of RAM and a 28.8 dial-up modem, I accepted the fact that every 3-4 years or so I was going to have to replace the system to keep up with technology. In fact I had to junk one PC because its hardware couldn't cope with broadband access. Fortunately that is not the case today.
My Windows desktop has just now reached its 5 year point and if I can manage it, I'd like to get 5 years more out of. It won't be the same machine after 10 years though. Heck, it isn't after 5 years of service.
When I got it in 2012 I was seriously thinking about building my own desktop but the Acer Veriton M I found at my local computer store was a great deal. It had a solid and attractive case, an i5 Sandy Bridge processor, 4 GB of RAM and a very well designed and commercial grade motherboard. Those parts continue to serve me well.
Not all was perfect though. The integrated graphics were weak even by Intel standards and the power supply was wimpy. The mobo had a PCI-e 16 slot so after changing the power supply I was able to get a discrete card into the unit. I boosted the memory up to 16 GB over the years. I've added an SSD. The mobo supports SATA 3 so it runs well.
Of course I miss out on such modern technologies as USB 3 and NVME and DDR4 but I can get by. I've gone from Windows 7 to Windows 10 and that was no problem for the hardware to handle. I have one monitor and don't intend to go beyond 1080p so a low-midrange video card will be fine. My "games" are train sims that are DX10 and don't need a lot of GPU power to look good at 1080p.
So my only concern is keeping the CPU and mobo functioning well which I hope to do by cleaning and decent cooling.
If I had Linux on this box I wouldn't be worried at all but with Windows you never know how much more crap you'll have to run to be safe. Fortunately this Acer didn't have a lot of crapware being a commercial machine. I keep it that way.
Right now with all the upgrades (just changed the power supply again) the Acer is still a fine machine for everyday use - even with Windows. I hope I can Keep On Keepin' On foe a few years more.

Edited by raymac46, 12 June 2017 - 08:12 AM.

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#2 ONLINE   V.T. Eric Layton

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Posted 12 June 2017 - 11:16 AM

Ah... the memories...

My interests as a child/young adult were primarily in RF Communications (radio) and Audio. I tinkered and played and learned it mostly on my own from the time I was 10 years old or so. At 17, having dropped out of high school in 11th grade and getting a G.E.D. from the State of Florida, I started taking classes at a local technical college here in Tampa. I studied there for two years and achieved an AS in Electronics Engineering (Specialized). I never intended to actually work at it. It was just something I wanted to learn. I did end up making it my career for 25+ years... component-level service of commercial and consumer RF Comm and Audio.

I was exposed to primitive computers and computer languages in tech college; 8080A and Z80 processors, robotics (primitive), machine language, PET Basic, COBOL and FORTRAN (a little), etc. In about 1983, I bought my very first ever computer... It was a Commodore SX-64 briefcase system. I bought it from some fellow who had placed an ad in the newspaper. He had 8 or 10 of these things in his living room floor when we went over there. Myself and the two friends I came with each bought one from him. I think he charged us $120 for them. They were about $800 from Commodore at the time. I don't know where he got them and none of us asked.

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After this time, though, I didn't really have anything to do with computers until 2000; a break of 15+ years. It just wasn't my thing. I was into "real" electronics, firearms (studied gunsmithing), fishing, automotive mechanics, and such. In 2000, though, my brother asked me to take him to see some friends of mine whom I had gone to tech school with years before who worked at the local Gateway computer store. He wanted to have them build a new system for him. He wasn't a computer wiz by any means (still isn't). He was just a classic "user" like most folks back then.

Anyway, he got his new system... an AMD K7 Thunderbird-based machine that I still have out in my shop, actually. ;) He asked me if I'd like his old Pentium I 90Mhz machine. It had 256K RAM and a huge 2Gig hard drive. HA! Well, I took it from him and brought it home and set it up. This was to be ericsbane01. I discovered the Internets and the rest, as they say, is history. Note that 17 years later, I'm only up to ericsbane07. I've NEVER bought a brand new computer. I've either been given hand-me-down systems or I've built Frankenputers from parts I've dug up in the middle of the night from old computer graveyards. ;)

It's been a fun ride. I've met amazing people on the Internet (many of the from right here at Scot's). When I was a child, I always wanted a pen pal in Europe or somewhere. The Internet has given me hundreds of them.

That's my story. It's your fault again, Ray. You inspired me by shaking loose some of those old memories for decades ago. :w00t:

#3 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 12 June 2017 - 01:46 PM

My earliest home computer was a Commodore VIC-20 that I got in 1982. That was a good 15 years before I managed to get online in Windows. About all you could do with a VIC-20 was play games or program in BASIC - something I knew well from years of experience with time sharing systems at work.
I remember writing a game that simulated Russian Roulette - not too hard with random numbers and probability. The sound of a hammer "click" was easy enough using the VIC's random noise generator. However a "gunshot" was problematic until I figured out how to "decay" the sound level with an exponential function. Then it sounded chillingly correct. Amazing what you could do to waste time before the advent of Internet forums. :Laughing:
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#4 OFFLINE   saturnian

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Posted 12 June 2017 - 02:02 PM

My first home computer was one of those eMachines, back in 2001. Windows XP.

I had a little bit of exposure to some programming back in high school, and at Michigan State, 1979-80. I was a Computer Science major. Or that was the intent; I dropped out after freshman year. Had a couple of nice programming classes up there, though. (Having taken those few programming classes helped me when I started with Linux, at least.)

Then I was out of the loop for most of the 80s. Life takes ya through a lot of stuff. Finally started using computers again during the early 90s -- took a few more classes, and got some experience with computers on a few jobs I had. (Learning to use MS Access at work turned out to be a big help later, too.)

Right now, I have five laptops (notebooks). None of them are anything special, and all of them are a few years (or more) old. I don't even have wifi at home. I use 'em at my desk, like desktop computers. All of them were either used when I got them or seriously discounted. All running Linux, no Windows. I'm hoping I can "keep on keepin' on" like this for some time.

#5 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 12 June 2017 - 04:51 PM

Building a computer for Linux is a different matter than for Windows. First of all I wouldn't be doing any gaming so having the latest video card isn't necessary. Second, I don't think it's that great an idea to build for Linux with the latest technology like Kaby Lake and the latest motherboards. It might be OK, but is the kernel up to date enough? I would certainly give something like Ryzen a year or so before doing a LInux build.
I have had a couple of Linux only machines built with AMD and I always was careful to get the previous generation of hardware. Right now I'd probably choose one of AMD's "Bristol Ridge" (Excavator) APUs for Linux. Or for Intel Skylake would be great.
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#6 OFFLINE   saturnian

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Posted 12 June 2017 - 07:39 PM

Gawd, my post doesn't fit in this thread, I think! I kinda skimmed before I posted my reply. Came back home this afternoon and actually read the thread. You folks know a lot more about (and have done a lot more with) computer hardware than I ever have or will. I have certainly never built my own.

About the best I've done is replace a few hard drives and other easy stuff. But, I've done okay with taking old, used computers (some of which I acquired for free), slapping Linux on 'em, and getting 'em back up and running.

The situation I used to be in, I had to be concerned about what I'd do if somebody broke into my place and took my computer. Like I wrote above, it was just an inexpensive eMachines box, but at the time I wouldn't have been able to replace it easily. Armed with Linux, I realized that I could pick something up, even for under $100 bucks (or even for free), and be back in business, so to speak.

So, I did that, found myself some piece-of-crap computers, maybe somebody was giving one away, or from thrift stores and so forth. Most times, I was able to get Linux running on them just fine. I liked using Mepis for this -- it was the best distro I knew of at the time for that sort of thing.

And that mentality is why I'm sitting here with these 5 cheap laptops, even though I'm in a much better situation now than back then. If I found a great deal on a used laptop, I grabbed it, thinking it would be good to have a spare one, not wanting to be stuck sitting here with nothing. Some folks I know laugh at me, but they don't know why I'm the way I am; I guess I've learned to come up with backup plans, if you know what I mean (and that's also why I've been multi-booting and spending time installing and using various distros -- that's given me a lot more options, of course).

I haven't had a working desktop computer for several years now; I started looking for used laptops instead, for whatever reasons.

Edited by saturnian, 12 June 2017 - 07:42 PM.


#7 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 12 June 2017 - 08:06 PM

Different situation for me I guess. Being retired I don't travel on business any more so a desktop is the best way to go. I have also done my share of fixing up old PCs for Linux but most of what came my way were desktops. By the time I see a "free" or cheap laptop it's usually so clapped out it's not worth it. Nobody's giving away a used Thinkpad.
Where I live most folks didn't get into computing before say 2003 and around 2011 they started replacing their old desktops with cheap laptops. I suppose they have to replace those machines soon but they wen't much good to start with. A typical laptop user in my neighborhood would be Lillian - who has it on a desk, hooked up to a full size keyboard and mouse, and parked about 8 inches away from her wifi router. She gets a good signal I bet. But she'd be better off with a desktop. Her laptop is slow, underpowered, lacking in memory, overrun with security apps and crapware - but she thinks that is normal.
Theft / break and enter isn't much of an issue up here in the sticks.
I don't think I'd try to keep a laptop going for 10 years as it's hard to upgrade aside from maybe an SSD or a bit more RAM.

Edited by raymac46, 12 June 2017 - 08:18 PM.

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#8 OFFLINE   abarbarian

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Posted 13 June 2017 - 05:28 AM

View Postsaturnian, on 12 June 2017 - 07:39 PM, said:

You folks know a lot more about (and have done a lot more with) computer hardware than I ever have or will. I have certainly never built my own.

About the best I've done is replace a few hard drives and other easy stuff. But, I've done okay with taking old, used computers (some of which I acquired for free), slapping Linux on 'em, and getting 'em back up and running.






You are doing yourself a disservice, you should be proud of your achievements.

Getting linux up and running on a variety of pc's is no small feat especially as you have been doing it for some years. It may be easier now but go back a few years and it was not straight forward.
Also if you have replaced drives and other stuff, by which I take it you mean memory or fans or gfx or psu's what else is there that you have not replaced apart from the cpu and mobo.
An if you can unscrew and unplug a drive you can unscrew and unplug a mobo. Replacing a cpu only has one hard bit and that is how much paste to put on it and there are plenty of guides to help with that. As to choosing what to put with what well there are sites that will tell you how much power you need for the components you fancy so they will tell you how powerful a psu you need. Mobo manuals found on the manufacturers sites will tell you what cpu's and memory will run.
Building a pc these days or for the last ten years has really been a simple screw and plug operation, a bit of reading for some basic info, and the only hard bit is choice.
Such as do I get a mobo with colour matching memory. Do I want coloured flashing fans, loads od little ones or really big ones. Should I get a quiet cpu fan or a massive jet engine one or a water cooler type. Now they are the sort of questions that are really hard to answer as the more you look at what is on offer the harder it is to choose. Also you make up your mind about what to get and go looking for a decent price, along the way you read an article about some new release, this makes you think and you change your specs and go looking again. After a few reiterations of this loop you decide enough is enough and buy. Only while you are waiting for the parts to arrive some new upgraded parts have been released, you missed the announcements whilst researching. So by the time all your parts have arrived, some may have been delayed, and you have built the pc which may have had a build delay due to life, your pc is out of date.
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Install ARCH
You'll never need to install it again
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#9 OFFLINE   raymac46

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Posted 13 June 2017 - 06:28 AM

Abarbarian is correct. After I had replaced a hard drive or two, added RAM or a video card it was no big deal to build the whole PC - all you need is a Phillips screwdriver. There are plenty of excellent videos that go over the whole process and sites that help you put together a compatible parts list.
Whether you build or buy you'll always be a bit behind the times. That isn't really a problem though if you are making a Linux only machine.
You can't really build laptops anyway; it's a desktop world for the PC builder. And getting Linux installed after choosing your distro is at least as complicated as screwing the hardware together. In simply choosing to install and run Linux you are probably tech savvier than 95% of the computer users I meet.
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#10 ONLINE   V.T. Eric Layton

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Posted 13 June 2017 - 12:26 PM

View Postsaturnian, on 12 June 2017 - 07:39 PM, said:

Gawd, my post doesn't fit in this thread, I think!

Your posts ALWAYS belong. Don't sweat the details. :)

#11 OFFLINE   Hedon James

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Posted 13 June 2017 - 02:53 PM

View PostV.T. Eric Layton, on 13 June 2017 - 12:26 PM, said:

View Postsaturnian, on 12 June 2017 - 07:39 PM, said:

Gawd, my post doesn't fit in this thread, I think!

Your posts ALWAYS belong. Don't sweat the details. :)

What the slacker-dude said!

If it wasn't for you Saturn, I would've never gotten familiar with Fluxbox, which I LOVE as a window manager.  I had heard of flux; I had seen flux; but I never really understood the point until you posted one of your screenshots with a comment.  I don't even remember what made it click for me, but it did.  And fluxbox is now my preferred window manager, which also opened the door for PekWM (fluxbox with edge actions) and caused me to go back and look at Openbox customizations.  All because of you!  (or all your FAULT, depending on perspective?!) :teehee:

Point being...I'm pretty sure that wasn't your intent when you posted in that thread...but something wonderful happened as a result of that!  Those types of posts belong in whatever thread they're posted in!  So post away!

#12 OFFLINE   goretsky

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 03:36 AM

Hello,

I had a Commodore SX-64 machine, too.  Saved up for a long time, plus I sold the Commodore 64 which preceded it to afford it.  Great computer, but mine eventually succumbed to a dead power supply.

Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky
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#13 ONLINE   V.T. Eric Layton

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 11:00 AM

AHA! That dead power supply thing was a common occurrence with that model. Myself and all the friends who purchased these SXes had PSU crapout happen to us. Being a technician, I tore into mine and found that the high-wattage bridge diode assy. that rectifies the 120vac to use it to run the internal switching power supply wasn't up to specs for the demands on it in that application. I swapped mine out for a larger wattage (heat-finned) version. I never had an issue with it after that. I also made a couple bucks doing the same repair on my friends' units. :)

I kept my SX till 2000 or so, when I donated it to a local thrift store (it was still working fine). I regret doing that because I later found out online that there was a great demand for SXes by collectors. I've seen a couple on eBay going for close to $1000. Insane! Ah, well... I hope it found a nice home somewhere and didn't just end up in that gloomy moss-covered computer graveyard.




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