New PC 2018: Parts chosen (until I change my mind)

Ironic note: This post was written on a Mac mini.

My current PC is about five years old and truthfully, it still does most things I need it to do without any major issues. I can browse the web, check email, write, read, play games, chat and so on, all without gnashing my teeth about the system being infernally slow, laggy or otherwise annoying to use.

It has an SSD as the main drive, so Windows 10 boots and restarts quickly (even if I notice that the Thinkpad X1 Carbon boots Windows 10 and programs even faster). It has 8 GB of ram, which still allows multitasking of as many programs as I’m likely to run. Its 4th generation Core i5 CPU is officially five generations behind, but it’s clocked at 3.3 GHz and still capable.

In the time I’ve had the PC, I’ve only upgraded three components:

  • The monitor, which isn’t even directly part of the PC. I went from a 24″ Samsung TN panel to a 24″ Asus IPS monitor, and the change was totally worth it. The color, clarity, viewing angles and brightness of an IPS monitor are so much better than a TN display. I still have the Samsung as an emergency backup.
  • The video card, from a GeForce GTX 570 to a GTX 770. This was also worth it, though I bungled things by not doing enough research, as the even-better GTX 970 came out just weeks after I got the 770.
  • The OS, from Windows 8 to Windows 10. And technically this isn’t a component of the PC, anyway.

Apart from that, the system is exactly the same as the day I put it together. I’m even using the same 2 TB hard disk from the previous PC as the secondary drive in the current one.

So with everything working, why build a new system?

The best answer might be that while everything works, I am starting to see the upper limits of what the current PC can manage. As programs–and especially browsers–become more bloated demanding, the 8 GB of ram is becoming an issue. Having a small primary drive (256 GB) is slowing down overall performance when loading and saving, because I simply don’t have room for everything on it. Older and less demanding games can still run fine on the GTX 770, but more often I have to turn down settings, accept lower framerates, or just play stuff released 10 years ago. Which Diablo 3 halfway to, luckily.

Also, we are at a point where technologies and pricing have both stabilized with some really good offerings.

If I stick to what I’ve picked out, here’s how the new system will compare to the current PC:

  • 4x the storage on the primary drive (1 TB vs. 256 GB). I would add additional storage on an as-needed basis.
  • 2x the memory (16 vs. 8 GB)
  • Faster video card with 4x the memory (RTX 2070 with 8 GB vs. GTX 770 with 2 GB)
  • A CPU with 2x the number of cores (8 core AMD Ryzen 2700 vs. 4 core Intel Core i5)
  • A larger case (microATX vs. mini-ITX)

The new case is an improvement because I’ve moved the PC back under the desk, so I don’t need a super-small case anymore. A taller one will make the front-facing ports and jacks easier to access, and the case itself should theoretically be easier to work with.

I’ve already gotten the video card, the next step is to figure out where to get everything else. Having ship everything to a locker is appealing (and simple) but amazon’s pricing and selection is surprisingly inconsistent, so I may be going to local dealers, like I did before NCIX self-immolated.

I am both excited (that new toy feeling) and filled with dread (piecing everything together, turning it on, nothing happening). And of course, it doesn’t address one critical aspect–I’m back to using Ulysses, a Mac-only writing app. I’m hoping the developers will eventually use their alleged subscription-fed largesse to port the program to Windows. I don’t think they will because they seem beholden to Apple’s ecosystem, but it would be nice. I like the app a lot more than I like macOS. Maybe I’m just too used to Windows after a hundred years of using it.

But maybe WriteMonkey 3.0 will eventually come out of beta, actually support indents and fulfill all my writing needs. It could happen!

Perhaps most importantly, my giant backlog of games can’t be played on a Mac mini. It’s new PC time.

I want a tiny computer

If I thought I wouldn’t game at all, I’m pretty sure my next PC would be a NUC, simply because they are so small and adorable. And you can get a full PC without any real compromises–you can have fast storage, lots of memory, a good port selection. And it can sit silently and adorably on the desk, where those ports are easy to get to.

I will likely build a new, bigger PC with a full-size video card in the near-future to replace my current, aging machine. But I might go ahead and then build a NUC as a secondary/experimental PC. I might even try a zany Hackintosh build, so I can have that Mac experience, but with a good keyboard.

Informative notes on lab PCs

Found today in a library lab sitting on top of the keyboard:

You're a bad PC, aren't you?The part that tripped me up was when I thought it said “slutty computer” and I was trying to determine how someone would reach that conclusion. Porn wallpaper? Lust moans for every Windows sound effect? DVD tray keeps sliding open? Then I read the note again and understood and was a little disappointed.


When PSUs are KIA -or- The Day the (PC) Power Died

I came home from work on Wednesday to find my PC shut off. This may not seem unusual except I keep my PC on 24/7. A quick perusal of clocks and such confirms no power outage. I brace myself for Bad PC News.

I press the power button. Nothing. I press it again. Nothing.

I jiggle the power cord, then swap it out and try another one. Nothing and nothing.

The amount of nothing is pointing toward one thing: the power supply, which has worked faithfully for over three years, has died. The only way to confirm this was to put another one in and I don’t exactly have a bunch of spares kicking around.

It wasn’t until today that I was able (or willing–picking things up after work during rush hour is a certain kind of madness) to get a replacement. I would be turfing my modular 700 watt OCZ for a modular Antec 620 watt. I felt safe getting a lower wattage PSU because I’m running two drives now instead of three, one of which is a low-energy SSD.

I pulled the PC out from under the desk and set it on the table in the living room. Both the underdesk and the inside of the PC case were resplendent with dust. Compressed air in a can was generously blasted all about and the resulting dust bunnies collected with a broom and pan. I extracted the dead PSU and noted how it resembled the head of Medusa, with its twisty cables the snakes. Having not turned to stone by gazing upon it, I set it aside and installed the new Antec power supply, plugged everything back in and hit the power switch, hoping for more than nothing.

It came on without a hitch. Hooray.

Ironically, after spending time working inside the cavernous interior of my MegaCase™ I was left with a desire to go small for my next PC, whenever I might get it. I’d like something that plays games decently but can sit on a desk, run quietly and work more like an appliance. I think this means I’m over my mid-life crisis or something.