Computer Tech 2019

Computer Tech 2019
Most of my computer stuff now fitting easily on one small desk.  The smartphone is heavily involved in taking the picture so couldn’t attend this tech party

When I designed my first web site way back before 2003 to be launched that year I envisioned four primary elements would form the layout – Ideas, Opinions, Personal and Writing.  Within the personal section I wanted to tell all a bit about myself and also to include details of my computer set up.  I wanted this because at the time I imagined a fair percentage who were surfing at the time may share similar interests to me and would appreciate information on how I operated my technology.  As a result since October 2003 I have included details of my computer hardware, software and web use.  You can see these unaltered articles posted by me in this WordPress site on 19 October 2017.

I created an update to my computer story in March 2010, which is now nearly a decade ago so I thought it timely to provide another round up of my tech.  You can see my 2010 update in this WordPress site on 3 August 2018.

When I left off in 2010 I had just started to work myself into the Applesphere.  My main computer was a Mac Mini viewed on an Apple Cinema Display.  I also had an Apple MacBook whilst I waited patiently for the rumoured iPad which hadn’t materialised but sneakily came out just a month after I posted my article.

I also had a couple of Windows based laptops.  My ageing, noisy, overclocked Novatech lap top and a tiny new Dell Mini netbook primarily for servicing my HiFi processor.

Apple’s iPhones were becoming more common and I noted in 2010 that I was on my third one and I have listed a full schedule of those I owned below.

Other accessories included an Iomega MiniMax MMHD 500Gb USB/Firewire 400 back up drive running Time Machine, a Logitech QuickCam Fusion web camera, a Hewlett Packard HP Photosmart C6180 All-in-one WiFi full colour printer/photocopier/facsimile machine, a 2009 BT HomeHub 2 WiFi N router, a Bose Companion 5 Series 2 sound system with stereo speakers and Subwoofer, a first edition 2008, 160Gb Apple TV plus an iPod Classic.

Since these heady days of multiple devices I have greatly simplified my set up which is now fully suited to remote working and have subsequently sold off or given away everything I had previously listed.  Now it is just one lap top with a few accessories, an all-in-one device, a smartphone and router.

Hardware

My current laptop is again an Apple product.  I have not deserted the brand but did upgrade.  As advised in March 2010 I was considering an iMac but never went down this route.  I really liked my white, unibody MacBook and appreciated the simplicity of using just a single, portable working device which suited my changing lifestyle.  I did try a couple of iPads along the way, a 64Gb black WiFi, 3G enabled iPad 2 in November 2011 and a 128Gb space grey WiFi, 3G enabled iPad Air 2 in November 2014 but none could be considered a true laptop replacement.  Data and software back up to anywhere but the cloud was too difficult, my old file system comprising sometimes deprecated file extensions couldn’t be handled, I wasn’t able to natively title and sort my growing photograph collection and web coding was awkward to do in the way I wanted too, which is simply.  So in the absence of suiting these critical criteria I purchased a proper, full power, old style lap top in November 2014.

I choose a new MacBook Pro, a late 2014 Retina 15″ model with a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7, 16Gb 1600MHz DDR3 RAM, an Intel Iris Pro 1536Mb video graphics card and a 1Tb Flash hard drive.  This was a standard selectable Apple configuration and I haven’t modified it in any way.  And as you are dying to know it cost me £3.60. Short of £2,400.

MacBook and Pro on desk
My trusty old MacBook hooked up to the new MacBook Pro.  Some time later the Pro was fully impregnated with the guts from the willing donor

The alleged lack of connections didn’t concern me as the world was moving in a WiFi interconnected way but I was concerned about reliance on huge operating system updates over the air and the ability to play and record to disk media such as CD and DVD so I also purchased an Apple DVD Rewriter, a USB Super Drive, for £65, which has since rarely been connected.

I intended to use the laptop in a place where it could suffer potential loss so needed a way to secure it to some infrastructure in a room.  The MacBook Pro didn’t have a Kensington Lock slot, the standard in computer security, so I had to find a way to provide this kind of protection myself.  I discovered the solution in a LandingZone Dock Express, model LZ3015AL, similar models of which are currently on sale, new for $99.  This MacBook Pro accessory clamps into opposing connectors either side of the laptop edge and locks into place, protecting the removable base plate whilst providing substitute connectors and crucially a Kensington Lock slot.

As the hard drive on the MacBook Pro was 1Tb and my Iomega MiniMax was only 500Gb I also had to upgrade my local back up drive.  I wanted greater portability and the option to have two solid state drives so one could be stored away remotely and each could be swapped regularly to ensure the most reliance in case of major theft or failure.  I chose the bright orange, rubber encased LaCie Rugged 3.0 Thunderbolt 2Tb flash drive and purchased two at a price of just under £200 each.  I also bought a lightweight My Passport Ultra 500Gb back up drive, for about £60 and used this to make a further copy of my photographs and videos which hold the greatest digital sentimentality.

The only mouse I now have is my Logitech V450 Laser Cordless Mouse which I purchased in 2007 but failed miserably to mention in 2010.  I purchased this mouse to be a portable input device, small enough to pack into a rucksack with the laptops I took to work but I don’t tend to bother with it as I find the MacBook Pro’s large trackpad sufficient for most of my needs.

HP Envy 110 Printer
The remarkably beautiful HP Envy 110 all in one printer, copier etc., etc., just before it was sold

My Hewlett Packard Photosmart printer/copier/scanner/etc device was getting old and I wanted a WiFi model so in May 2012 upgraded to a very smart looking HP Envy 110 D411a printer/copier/scanner/etc/etc which cost a whopping £175.  Although sleek and beautiful it eventually needed new inks so naturally I bought a new printer/copier/scanner/etc/etc/etc.  Sadly these days buying a whole new printer/copier/scanner/etc/etc/etc/etc is now a cheaper option than ink replacement.  It is an Epson Expression Photo XP-760 printer/copier/scanner/etc/etc/etc/etc/etc which I got for £98 [new obvs], in October 2017.

And to complete my hardware set up my Wifi source also had to be addressed.  For a while I was reliant on using a commercial over the air source which at first only provided about 0.1-0.5 Mbps.  Over a couple of years it increased to a more reasonable 5-6 Mbps but I changed tack, invested in my own mobile router, a Huawei HomeFi B311s-220 and now get around 10-12 Mbps from a 3 SIM, just shy of 4K streaming.

I no longer own any Windows equipment nor use any emulator.

Software and Web

8 cores and GPU running
The MacBook Pro running at near full speed during a video conversion process.  Note the near full capacity of the 8 cores [4 core hyper-threaded] and GPU

As I am now solely reliant on Apple devices I naturally err toward Apple software, the latest operating system being MacOS Catalina version 10.15.2.  My pattern is to always update to the latest formally issued, non Beta version of any OS X since I purchased my first MacMini and have never had a problem.

I also always favour Apple supplied software applications and programs such as Books, iMovie, Music, Mail, Maps, Notes, Numbers, Pages, Photos and Safari, all in their latest guise.

Web site coding is now handled within Apple’s Xcode with uploading to the cloud via FTP within a non Apple product, Filezilla [ver 3.46 currently] up to my web hosting service provided by UK2.

Mobile Smartphones

When I reported in 2010 I mentioned that I had been through a slew of Apple iPhones and this trend has continued until this day.

Prior to 2010 they were an 8Gb [original] iPhone in February 2008, a 16Gb 2.5G iPhone in July 2008 and a [replacement] 16Gb iPhone 3G the next month.

In 2010 I upgraded to a 32Gb iPhone 4, in October 2011 I chose a 64Gb iPhone 4S, in October 2014 I went for a 128Gb iPhone 6 Plus and my latest choice, from November 2017 is a 256Gb iPhone X.

You can see a pattern of purchasing the largest capacity version available, which I did to attempt to chase a dream of fully storing high quality versions of my photographs.  You can see that my ‘phone updates originally occurred around once a year but slowed to replacements every three years as the technical abilities of these smartphones matured.  So I expect my next one to be the iPhone 12S with around 500Gb.  Not that such a large storage is needed as I currently use around 200Gb of my 256Gb capacity including now being able to store all my photos and filmed videos at full resolution on the device.

For mobile sound I used the out of the box wired EarPods for most of the last decade but am now using the wireless Apple AirPods, which are great for sound and safety in operation as a hands free device whilst driving.  I have tried the latest, wirelessly charging, noise cancelling AirPods Pro but remain unconvinced that their performance is worth the very high price of upgrading.

Binning The Tech

But what about my superseded, now no longer required tech.

As you will be aware from reading my Computers 2010 update [I presume you did] I take digital security seriously.  This is why I destroyed my Mac Mini and its hard drive.  However I felt guilty about doing the same to my MacBook, which still retained considerable value.  I twice cleaned the hard drive with a security wipe but did not want to sell the thing to an unknown source on an auction site.  Whilst most likely to be purchased by a grateful teenager who wanted to spend more time on their ass watching YouTube I couldn’t risk it being bought by a clever dick, Black Hat, cyberpunk who could unmask my security cleansing.  So I chose to donate it to a family member.

I had done something similar with my original Packard Bell desktop system which went to my brother-in-law.  He did eventually pass it on to his own father but I have no idea where it went after he died.  Maybe to that Black Hat?

My mother was given my old Dell lap top, which she didn’t get on with on the grounds she only played Solitaire so my father eventually used this.  Occasionally.  Over the years he had collected a number of lap tops and enjoyed the variety despite being unable to consistently remember his passwords and not really utilising any of his machines.  He also owned a ChromeBook and a separate netbook along with his ancient desktop system which he liked messing around with in both Windows and Linux.

All this confusion led to much requested tech support from me so I figured that I could offer him my MacBook, watch him get to love its powerful simplicity and consequently tech support from me would be greatly eased.  However an illogical opposition to Apple products meant he was determined to dislike it and so never used it.  I took it back.

I offered the MacBook to my brother who really needed an update to his old desktop system but sadly shares my father’s same illogical opposition to Apple products so turned it down.  It seemed I couldn’t get rid of my valued old friend.  But then I heard my nephew was struggling with an old Windows laptop he shared with his partner and needed a device to assist in his studies to become a Fireman.  He willingly accepted my offer of a free, high end Apple MacBook and has gratefully kept it since.

The Novatech was too old to be touted around like the MacBook and so I decided to risk selling it on the open market.  Any secure data on it had already been well superseded and it was primarily used for business work for most of its life.  I once again cleaned up the hard drives and sold it for £62 in November 2017.  Furthermore, it would not have looked so interesting to Mr Black Hat due to its age, specification and low value.

The Dell Mini 10 was also sold, in April 2012, for £121.  No major security wiping was necessary as it had only ever been used to put processor updates on my HiFi and if that software was interesting to anyone or a security risk to me I’ll eat my hat, which for the record is not Black.  I do intend to tell the full story of my HiFi system in a future blog update and will include details of why I needed this netbook and why it is now gone.  Contact me if you need this story sooner rather than later.

The Apple Cinema Display was no longer needed when I sold the Mac Minis so this had to go to a new home as well.  Due to its quality and being just three years old I got £350 for it in November 2010.  It was perfect and well worth the money to the lucky buyer.

Other accessories were also sold, for instance the Logitech webcam around the same time for just £16 and the stunning HP Envy 110 D411a for a pitiful £25 seven years later.

One item I could not sell was the Iomega MiniMax MMHD 500Gb back up drive.  Not that it wouldn’t find a market or fetch too little but that I was concerned that it had held too much personal data.  Although fully encrypted as a Time Machine back up I couldn’t guarantee that some smarty pants couldn’t unlock these bits and bytes so decided to destroy it instead.  I duly picked the case apart to get at the internals.

The case and mother-board proved low resistance to my assembled tools and were suitably destroyed allowing me to concentrate on the internal disk platters.  They were held together in some sort of clear glass moulding, the destruction of which I considered to be effortlessly simple.  However this glass like substance proved to be actually made out of unbreakabilium.  It successfully survived dropping onto hard surfaces, frenzied attacks with screwdrivers and a crow bar and even blows from a full size metal mallet with a three foot handle being swung against it whist it was precariously supported at a forty-five degree angle across two bricks.  I was fully impressed despite being exhausted from my efforts and furious at my predicament.

I had to find a way to hide this perfectly undamaged drive from future prying eyes and concocted a plan to drop it in a deep river crossing.  I imagine it is now roaming the seas balanced precariously on the back of an enormous crab and I am relying on that crab to be the final protector of my data.

A neat thought that my 2019 set up is now truly mobile.

Author: Vince Poynter
From the Computers section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 18 Dec 2019
Version 5.281 17 Dec 2019 [First Publication]
The first photograph shows my computer tech set up in one place, taken in December 2019.  The image includes the MacBook Pro, a USB Superdrive, orange clad portable drive, a smaller red external drive, a Joby Gorillapod adjustable tripod, a Logitech mouse and a small external USB drive in front of the laptop.  On the desk to the left is the Epson XP-760 printer and Huawei router
The second image shows my unibodied MacBook linked to my new MacBook Pro Retina 15″ during the process of transferring data from one machine to the other on 26 November 14, as taken by the me
The image of the printer is my HP Envy 110 all-in-one WiFi device, shown in a standby state.  The photograph implies the panels are mismatched but this wasn’t so apparent in real life.  The photograph was taken by me on 8 October 17
The final image shows a screenshot from my MacBook Pro during an intense workout for the CPU processor cores.  The Activity Monitor indicates 8 cores in operation but in reality the computer has four cores each hyper-threaded.  Note also that the NVIDIA graphics card is also in full use for the intense mathematical computations required.  The screenshot was grabbed on 5 October 2018 by the author
The LandingZone dock can be found at https://landingzone.net/products/macbook-docks/for-the-macbook-pro/#products-macbook-pro-description

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