Boring Tech Stuff

Getting a new computer is pretty exciting for me. The last one was purchased in February 2007, back when Vista hit the shelves for the first time. Computers don’t die for me—even the bargain-basement laptops I’ve had just keep going. Last month I bought a desktop model, a workstation machine that should last upwards of a decade given its capacity for expansion. It’s already a year old because I bought it on Dell Outlet as refurbished. The backup freak I am, I wanted something that would allow complete redundancy. The benefit of a workstation vs. a regular desktop computer is that much more expansion is available for hard drive and memory. The system supports 16 GB of RAM and a dozen or more hard drives. It’s a 64 bit operating system s so I can take advantage of the extra memory. I threw in some spare hard drives I had laying around and bought a few more, so now there are 5 hard drives inside with 3 external drives attached, for 8 local hard drives. 3 of the internal drives are in a RAID configuration. One drive can crash without any loss of data because the data is striped across multiple disks. This configuration is significantly faster than a single disk because data is read from three disks simultaneously instead of just one.

Did I tell you I’m a backup freak? Well, in addition to local drives, I have six campus network drives mapped to my computer. All school work gets synchronized several times a day from my laptop and desk computer. I’ve never lost a file for an assignment, and I can access most recent work from any computer I might be using without using flash drives. I have lost several flash drives over the years, which makes me reluctant to use one as a hub for all my hard work. The network drives give me a fail-proof off-site backup and provide a central online depository I can access from any computer in the world with internet access. On the desktop computer, the operating system and all the programs are installed on one small, fast, hard drive. This disk is imaged onto the RAID daily so complete restoration should be a snap if it dies. Imaging allows all programs and settings to be restored within minutes, rather than having to reinstall the operating system and all the programs, which can take weeks before the computer is fully restored. Having data stored on a different disk than programs keeps the image size down, allowing for more copies to be kept. Storing data on a RAID array eliminates the need to backup a huge dataset and speeds up the computer because data is not being read by the same hard drive the application operates from.

Microsoft Office has gotten sleeker and faster with the newest 2010 release. It’s now available in 64 bit for the first time ever, so that’s good news. The beta has been available to the public at no cost for several months already and I’m hearing good reviews from those using it. Here are some screenshots of Word, notice the missing Office button…

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Notice how the printer settings are integrated into the application, rather than in a boxxy popup window…

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And Excel, which I think is a real beauty…

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