New Home Computer

It’s not often I splash out on a new computer, normally my computers are Frankenstein machines rescued and upgraded using stuff abandoned by customers.
However, the last computer I bought for home, about 10 years ago, was starting to show its age. It is an Acer L3600, with a dual core E4600 processor, originally with 1GB of ram and a 500GB HDD, running Vista Media Centre edition, to make use of the Yuan TV card installed in it.
It served for 10 years as our “entertainment” PC, placed in the home entertainment system cabinet, and connected to the TV, VHS player, amplifier etc. When new it was reasonably quiet, and being small form factor (3litre – the size of a wine box) fitted quite nicely.
Over the years it acquired more ram, eventually reaching 4GB, moved from Vista to Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, was dual booted into Ubuntu 12.04, 14.04, 16.04 and 17.10 at various times, and the HDD went from 500GB to 1TB, and eventually back to a 240GB SSD! I think I have sworn more at this computer than any other computer I have used!
Any way, I finally reached breaking point. After cleaning up windows 10, sorting out my router, and using a new VPN provider, I finally worked out that the dual core processor was not up to streaming full HD TV. As some of the sports we watch most frequently (cycling, WRC rallying, Formula 1) seem to only come in HD nowadays a change was due.
But money is tight, what to do? It had to be small, quiet, and fast enough to show full HD on our TV, streamed from sites in Europe mostly. I reckoned I would reuse the 240GB Kingston Solid State Disk, and that some where on my spares wall I would have any sort of ram required, and I would transfer Windows 10 from my existing system to the new (with the SSD), so a bare bones box was required.
I had a customer bring an Intel NUC i7 device in a few months ago, which was nice but a bit overkill. But, PBTech could supply me with a NUC6CAYH barebones computer. The spec of this is Intel Celeron J3455 Quad core ,up to 2.3GHz (but actually 1.5GHz),1 X SATA3 Support 2.5inch Drive , 2 X DDR3L SODIMM HDMI 2.0 / VGA, 4 X USB3.0, SDXC Slot, Intel Wireless AC 3168/ Bluetooth 4.2. Into this I slotted 8GB of PC3L 12800 ram I had sitting in an abandoned laptop, and my SSD as mentioned before. Its main features however are its size (120 by 120 by 40mm or thereabouts) and its silence. I don’t think is has a fan, but the BIOS and all the reviews mention fan speed – I haven’t heard it yet!
The build was easy, first of all if you use PC3 ram rather than PC3L ram (or DDR3 instead of DDR3L) it just shows a blank screen – nothing, no beeps. PC3L is 1.35V instead of 1.5V hence the L I suppose. Once you get the right ram, away it goes. SSR just fits in into the base, easy to get to.
I backed up my SSD and bit the bullet and ran a Windows 10 install for Windows 10 Pro, then an upgrade to Windows 10 1709 – Fall Creators, and then got it up to date with all outstanding updates. The only real issues were with PCI Simple Communication Controllers – as usual with Windows 10 installs. The other issue was reusing the license key from the Windows 10 Pro 32 bit installation on the SSD for a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro 64 bit. It was very keen on me buying a new key. But with a bit of persistence, I manage to attach the license key to my Microsoft account, and then had the option of going through the updated hardware path, where I could register that the PC was actually the same one as the previous PC with changed hardware, which it is (well the SDD is the same, and it is a replacement for it). So all legal and activated – Microsoft say so!
Then I installed Ubuntu 17.10, and set the machine up as dual boot. The drive is partitioned 200GB for Windows, 40GB for Ubuntu. As Ubuntu can see Windows files OK, but Windows can’t see Ubuntu files, this split of the disk works for me.
Windows and Ubuntu have been set up to be just entertainment devices. Most stuff runs on Ubuntu well enough, there is one TV channel in the UK that insists on using Adobe Flash and DRM together, which cannot and does not work on a Linux based machine, so Windows will persist on this machine until they sort that out.
Both OS use the HDMI as the audio output, so all sound goes via the Panasonic 40″ TV, but the optical audio out from the TV goes into my Onkyo amp and some good speakers, so picture and sound are good, without having to change my amplifier settings.
So far it is really an excellent set up. I am using AirVPN as my VPN service which so far has been faultless (much better than Private Tunnel, which stopped working when I swapped my router). The old Spark router (HG630B) was swapped for a better Spark router (HG659B)that a customer asked me to dispose of as Spark had sent them two! This router has a 5G channel, and this makes the WIFI connection for the new PC much better – as everything else in the house is 2.4MHz only.
We watched 2 hours of the China Formula 1 last night, no hesitation, full frame rate, full HD from start to finish. First time I have done that ever! We are looking forward to coverage of the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France later in the year, F1 races either in highlight or full form as supplied by the UK channel and the rest of the WRC season from now until November.

Posted in Computer Stuff, Windows 10

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