It was 30 years ago this week that Commodore released its landmark, long-time-coming Amiga 1000 computer–the first 1990s computer in a field full of 1970s retreads.
Yes, it was a 1990s computer in 1985. It had color and sound built in, not as expensive, clunky, hard-to-configure add-ons. It could address up to 8 megabytes of memory, though it ran admirably on a mere 512 kilobytes. Most importantly, it had fully pre-emptive multitasking, something that had previously been the exclusive domain of commercial workstations that cost five figures.
It was so revolutionary that even NBC is acknowledging the anniversary.
Being a decade or so ahead of its time was only the beginning of its problems, unfortunately.
Continue reading How the Amiga could have lived to age 30 and beyond
If you need gigabit ports for your home server or router project and you’re short on available expansion slots, I have just the thing. Home sysadmins have known for a while that you can get cheap PCI-X Intel NICs and run them in PCI mode, but you may not know that you can find the very same thing by searching Ebay for HP 7170 and it’s usually cheaper. It’s not rare to find them for $7, shipped.
Continue reading Need a good, cheap dual gigabit NIC? I have just the thing.
I’m not particularly worried about this, but under the very worst case scenario, certain solid-state disks can theoretically lose data in a week or two if they’re left without power. But that doesn’t instill panic and get clicks when you say it like that.
But you knew I was going to write about it. Let me tell you why I’m not worried.
Continue reading SSDs, data loss, electricity, and hype
Earlier last week, Intel quietly unveiled a new series of Braswell SoCs, intended for very low-power computers. Literally low-power, as the chips use between 4 and 6 watts. Add the requirements of the motherboard, memory, and an SSD and you’re probably still looking at a computer that uses less than 15 watts.
The SoCs are priced between $121 and $161, which probably means the motherboards will run between $140 and $200 depending on the feature set. Add memory, a case, power supply, and an SSD, and you have a silent, power-sipping computer.
So far only MSI has announced motherboards and they haven’t announced pricing, but given Asrock’s selection of boards featuring previous-generation 6W TDP CPUs, I expect at least Asrock will join in, and probably Asus will as well.
These aren’t powerhouse machines, but they’re fine for everyday use, and someone like me who has a 7-year-old PC that works fine could think about replacing that machine with one of these. It’ll be marginally faster, but with the difference in power consumption being nearly 100 watts, the computer will probably pay for itself eventually. Or go grab one of the previous-generation boards, which sell for well under $100, and settle for less performance but a faster payoff.
Here’s a good question from a search query: What’s the difference between the number of CPUs and the number of cores in a system?
It’s easier than it sounds. As far as the operating system is concerned, there is no difference, but I’ll explain why.
Continue reading The difference between a CPU and cores
I guess I owe an apology for not writing and posting this last week, when $40 tablets were all the rage as doorbusters. Cheap Android tablets are back again, and people are going to buy them–so it pays to buy one worth having, rather than one that’s going to drive you nuts.
Here’s what I look for, and you should too: Continue reading What to look for in a 2014 bargain Android tablet
So the sales fliers for the 2014 Christmas shopping season are out, and I’m seeing tons of cheap laptops. If you only have $200 to spend, they have something for you.
Some of them look like they’re even worth having. Yes, I’m shocked too. Here’s how to figure out which ones are worth taking home, and which ones are best left for some other sucker. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else, you’ll probably want to keep the following in mind.
Continue reading What to look for in a cheap laptop in late 2014
FTDI is a company that makes computer chips for USB peripherals. Their chips are frequently cloned, which is an issue they have a right to deal with. But they have to be careful.
Breaking suspected cloned chips that consumers bought in good faith is the wrong answer. If I did that, it would be called hacking, and I would be sitting in jail right now, and probably would be facing a quarter-century in prison. Continue reading FTDI needs to be charged under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
I’ve been building PCs for more than 20 years and I tend to keep them a very long time, so it occurred to me that someone might be interested in what I look for in a motherboard to ensure both a long, reliable life and a long useful life.
Of course what to look for has changed to some degree over the years, but this is what I look for in the mid-2010s.
Continue reading What to look for in a motherboard
Every once in a while I get a question about what SSD I recommend, since I’ve been buying them a long time. I always recommend the best price you can get on someone who makes their own memory chips, which means the cheapest drive you can get from Micron/Crucial, Intel, Samsung, Toshiba, or Sandisk.
Looks like someone else, in that same vein, recommends the Crucial MX100. The explanation why is good reading.