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Computer Related Information & Articles

I have pretty much always enjoyed computers, my first experience with them was in 1979 at the West Palm Beach Science Museum they had a computer fair, and I got to use a Commodore PET. From that point on I wanted a computer, my first computer that I actually owned was a Texas Instruments TI-994A, I had that computer for years, ultimately getting all the accessories ever made for it.

I sold it eventually to get an IBM Clone, one that was relatively rare in the US, the Amstrad PC-1512, it originally had DUAL floppy drive, and I later added my first HARD DRIVE a 32Meg Hard Card.  I used this machine for a couple of years but then things started moving faster in the computer world, and I was working at a small computer store, so I decide to build my own, I built a 286 Intel Machine with a 40Meg Seagate 5.25" Hard Drive and 1 Meg of Memory!

I have been building & playing with computers ever since!

Here is a breakdown of my current network configuration.  I have current moved from a mid-tower workstation to an Intel NUC(s).  I wanted to go to something much smaller and also wanted to lower my power consumption.  My compete workstation including the DeskBot and WHS2011 Server NUCs only draws 88 watts.  That’s 3 NUCs, 2 Monitors, Powered Speakers, 7 Port USB 3.o Hub, Gigabit Switch and the UPS unit. 

 

Intel NUC

 

 

Main Workstation Specs:

  • Model Number: NUC5i7RYH

  • Processor: Intel i7-5557U

  • 16Gb DDR3 PC3-1600 Low Voltage RAM

  • Samsung EVO 950 500GB NVMe SSD

  • Seagate 2Tb 5400rpm Storage Drive

  • Running Windows 7 64bit Professional*

 

DeskBot Specs:

  • Model Number: NUC DN2820FYKH

  • Processor: Intel Celeron N2820

  • 8Gb DDR3 PC3-1600 Low Voltage RAM (currently only sees 4gb)

  • Seagate 2Tb 5400rpm Storage Drive

  • External DVD/CD-r Drive (USB)

  • Schiit Modi DAC (USB)

  • AudioEngine A2 Powered Speakers

  • Running VortexBox 2.3*

 

Server Specs:

  • Model Number: NUC5i3RYH

  • Processor: Intel i3-5010U

  • 16Gb DDR3 PC3-1600 Low Voltage RAM

  • Intel 7265 WiFi/Bluetooth Card

  • Samsung EVO 850 120GB M.2 SSD

  • Seagate 2Tb 5400rpm Storage Drive

  • Running Windows Home Server 2011

 

So I have the Intel NUC with the i7 processor as my workstation with Dual monitors (one connected via Display Port to DVI cable and the other with MINI HDMI to DVI).  The Monitors are the only holdover from my old system, everything else is new.  I even mounted the monitors on a dual arm articulated desk mount ditching the OEM bases.

 

The desk itself is nothing special an IKEA 5 sided unit, but being that the monitors are mounted on a clamp on articulated mount and the NUCs are mounted to the bottom of the desk it works extremely well with plenty of desk space.

 

So the workstation NUC is the i7 processor with 16Gb of Ram, which is the ‘documented’ max ram that the unit can support (not actually true it can support 32Gb but the 16Gb modules are crazy expensive).  The most interesting part of the 5th Generation NUC with the i7 is that it supports the NVMe standard right out of the box.  I installed the Samsung EVO 950 500Gb SSD Drive, this is basically a PCIe directly connected drive.  It’s as fast as or faster than have 2 SATA SSDs in a RAID Ø configuration, which is what I had before on my mid-tower workstation.

 

So basically I have something that competes with my former workstation (i7 3770k with [2] 240GB SSD drives in RAID Ø), but is 4” x 4” x 2” and draws 28 watts at full load!

 

This got me thinking that well I wanted everything NEW, so I got a new mouse, well new out of the box, but has existed for a while the Microsoft wireless 5000. I also got a new Keyboard first I got a Corsair CM QuickFire TK with Blue Switches.  I liked the feel of the keyboard, but I hated the way the arrow keys are integrated with the number pad.  BUT the wife LOVED it so she took that for her MAC (which took a bit to get configured).  I then ordered a Corsair K70 RGD with Brown Cherry Switches.

 

This is one amazing keyboard, the keys feel amazing and the lighting effects are extremely cool.  If I had one complaint it would be the thickness of the USB connection cable.  The USB connection cable is think and has 2 USB connectors, I am told that if you are not connecting to USB 3.o you have to use both connections to power the keyboard.  I am using 3.o, but I connected both anyway to make sure there are not problems with power of communications.

 

*I originally installed Windows 10 Professional on my workstation, but it did weird things, example the desktop background would just disappear every so often, and I would have to restart explorer to bring it back.  Also if I was connected via WiFi it would blue screen every so often, now I am mainly connected via a wired gigabit connection, but I do switch to WiFi to control a subnet that I have installed in my house.  So it’s my opinion that Win10Pro is just not ready yet, which sucks there is some really neat features in the OS.  But it is quirky still, it did have NVMe native support (win7 requires a driver), far better support for new hardware during installation, and it looks really nice.  I will try it again in about 6 months.

 

The second NUC in my ‘rack’ is a lower end Celeron unit (3rd Generation), funny thing this is the first unit I bought to try out the Intel NUCs.  We see how that worked out, I now have three and Might go to one more to run this webserver.

 

The Celeron NUC is dubbed DeskBot, this is because it is running VortexBox music server OS/Software, I have another machine in my network that is also running VortexBox OS/software dubbed RipBot, let me explain.   So RipBot lives in my stereo rack and has gone through about 5 revisions (currently an i5 with 8Gb of RAM, a 60GB M.2 SSD and a 4Tb 2.5 inch HD).  RipBot is the original VortexBox for me and works amazing, but he lives in the stereo rack and is used for the more powerful tube amp setup.  DeskBot in comparison is to do nothing more than handle playing something to hum to while at my workstation.

 

Don’t get it twisted, it’s still a totally premium setup. 

 

Deskbot is RSync’ed with RipBot so the catalogs are exact copies of one another; all CDs are ripped to FLAC , the output is sent to a Schiit Modi DAC via USB then that analog output is sent directly to a pair of AudioEngine A2 powered desktop computer speakers.  I control it all from a web browser interface while working.  I do have a slot loading DVD/CD drive if I need to rip something directly to DeskBot.

 

DeskBot is run headless, meaning that is does not have monitor, mouse or keyboard attached, it is mainly administered via the web based interface or SSH connection.

 

The 3rd NUC is an i3 based 5th generation unit with the following installed: Samsung EVO 850 120GB M.2 SSD (boot) and a 2Tb Seagate Spinning HD for storage.  This machine is running Windows Home Server 2011 (which is based on Server 2008).  I really wanted to run FreeNAS, but they sold out to the man and now it’s a commercial product that has a crap load of overhead.  I considered and even tried an older version (and now a branch of the project) FreeNAS .7 (aka Nass4Free) but it did not seem to see the boot drive, which is too bad as FreeNAS is a really nice OS/Program.

 

So I install Windows Home Server 2011 (WHS2011) on this machine, it is basically used as a place to dump the things that need mass storage and I can stream to the RoKu and the XBOX One.  I also backup the other machine to the WHS2011 machine.

 

This machine is also run headless the folders that are used for storage can be mapped or reached via the network tap.  I can use Remote Desktop Connection to do any work that needs to be done on the server.

 

Before getting the i3 NUC I had got the lowest priced NUC in the current lineup, the NUC5CPYH, it seemed like an amazing configuration, with an SD card slot and VGA monitor / HDMI output, TOSlink.  But it has a major flaw; it only supports Win7 8/8.1 and supposedly 10.  I wanted it for a storage server, like FreeNAS or WHS2011.  I could not get either to install first once the BIOS hands off the keyboard, mouse and optical media stop talking to the machine as everything except windows 8 does not have a native driver for the USB 3.o ports.  There are 2 USB 2.0 ports but they require an adapter to be connected.  I ordered one of those (from the UK) and still no love.  So don’t buy one of these unless you are looking to make a cheap media server running a supported OS.

 

I am thinking about maybe getting another of the i3 units to replace my Atom based webserver.  There is nothing wrong with the Atom unit it’s just that it is a 19” ¼ depth rack mount unit.

 

So in closing I really like the small, quiet, low power usage of the NUCs.  They have enough power to handle about all workstation needs, and could handle some gaming,  They will not replace a dual video card crossfire type rig playing the newest PC games, but they will do EVERYTHING else.

 

  

Former Machines & Network Setup

 

  • Work Station #1 - Intel 4770K Based Unit
  • Work Station #2 - Intel 3770K Based Unit
  • Laptop - HP 4360 i7 Based
  • Server #1 - Bit Torrent Unit
  • Server #2 - VortexBox (aka RipBot)
  • Server #3 - BlueOnyx Webserver

Router - PC Engine (running DD-WRT Professional w/ WiFi)

Switch Cisco 16 Port Gigabit (unmanaged)

2 Seperate Cable Modem Setups One with Static IPs and one with Dynamic and an Open WiFi.