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It has been 10 days with Loong

It has been about 10 day, since I first started setting up this machine (Loong), and I thought I would give you a quick update on what has been going on.

In the early morning hours of August 5th, I placed my order with Amazon.com

and went to bed.

Later on in the morning, my inbox was full of confirmation emails telling me when to expect the various packages over the course of the next few days.

Wednesday morning, the 7th, the first set of boxes arrived, and when I checked my email, it suggested that the rest of my shipment would be at the house by the end of the day!

Talk about excited!

I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon, reviewing various videos on how to build your machine from scratch, taking particular interest in the application of the CPU thermal heat paste amount. (One of my nervous points)

Between picking up the kids from play dates, and getting dinner on the table, I was not able to finish my build until early evening, and that is when my first hopes were dashed.

The machine would not boot.

After doing my basic troubleshooting, and communicating with several people online, it was determined that the most likely culprit, was the motherboard.

A replacement board was ordered immediately and confirmation notices suggested that by late Friday afternoon, I might be able to begin again.

Now all I could do was wait…

Tick tock… Tick tock…

All I could hear in my head, was Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” song…

FINALLY, around 4 PM the new motherboard arrived!

It was easy for me to reassemble the machine in record time, since I’d had so much practice only hours before…

Then it was the moment of truth… Pressing the on button, I saw the motherboard LED codes change in the CPU fan fire up!

It was finally a success in getting the hardware to work, and I was off for a long night of installing software!

Configurations

I tried two different configurations, especially since I had nothing to lose.

SSD for operating system only –

In this configuration, the goal was to set up the SSD with only the Operating System (Win 7 64-bit), and using the HDD for Applications and Data.

In theory, this would be the fastest configuration on this box, but as I thought about it, and read reviews of the possibly quiet and deadly malfunctions of SSD drives, I decided to reconfigure the box for something a little bit more practical in the event of a failure.

I did not want to rebuild this machine anytime soon.

That being said, and since it was so early in the morning, I decided to download the various patches from Windows update, and returned to the machine when I woke up later.

Saturday – My eagerness to play with my new machine woke me early, and I scurried down stairs to my office with a pot of coffee.

I woke up the box, and was happily greeted with no error messages, but I rebooted the machine, and in standard Microsoft fashion, more updates needed to be installed.

More patching ensued, and the only bottleneck was my access to the Internet, and my kids streaming their various shows from YouTube.

It was amazing that once the files were downloaded, their installation screens zipped across the monitor to the point of not being able to be read the dialog box titles; what use to take minutes on my old machine, now took seconds!

Playing a little more, and seeing the incredible “zippy-ness”, I finally ran the benchmark again, and was very surprised to see it only ranked in the mid-fives.

Now I was on to creating a new configuration that offered more reliability in case the SSD failed.

Hybrid SSD-HHD –

One of the technologies included in the Intel Z87 chipset, is the ability to take advantage of Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology, in which you use both a SSD and HDD drive in conjunction to form a hybrid of the two technologies.

Basically, you install your operating system, in a normal manner, onto the HDD, and after all the RST RAID drivers are installed and operating system is updated and rebooted, you are ready to play.

There was a little catch that I did not pick up on when I was initially configuring my purchase, but I have been able to take advantage of it, as I will describe later.

When configuring the RST RAID drive (or cache drive), there is a limit of 64 GB, which left me with 50% my SSD drive still unused, which initially had me irritated for over purchasing the 128 GB SSD drive in the first place.

After quickly configuring the RST RAID, and rebooting I was now able to “see” the technology in action.

At first, it was definitely faster than running on the HDD alone during the initial set up, but not as “snappy” as the pure SDD OS install.

It does seem to be getting quicker as I move along, and that is what is to be expected in this type of configuration.

The SSD drive, will slowly “learn” about the most commonly used files and cache them to disk. The HDD is now termed “enhanced” on the motherboard’s RAID controller.

In regards to reliability of this configuration, the thinking is, that if the SSD drive fails, the only files that are lost are cached files.

The main “live” data still resides on the HDD drive!

Simple! – (I am keeping my fingers TIGHTLY are crossed now!)

As an amusing little side note, in both configurations, after I installed the base OS, without any Drivers or Updates, the built-in Microsoft App only rank the machine as a 1, but eventually did reach a 7.4.

Current Configuration

As I set off into this new adventure, I have configured my storage drives as follows:

  • SSD1 (128 GB) – RST drive
  • HDD1 (1.0 TB) – Enhanced (WDC Black) (Internal)
  • HDD2 (1.5 TB) – Seagate Barracuda 7200 – Backup 01 (Internal)
  • HDD3 (1.0 TB) – WDC Green – Backup 02 (Internal)
  • HDD4 (2.0 TB) – WDC Green – Backup 03 (External)

And (2) ODDs, which should hold me over for a while..

As it stands now, I only have about 500+ GBs of “live” data that I’m worried about, and this is the first time that I’ve actually had the space on one drive to put everything!

Consolidation of files – It should now be very easy since I’m only dealing with one main directory, and this will make writing a Robocopy backup script incredibly easy!

Installed Software

Google Chrome –

I have not mentioned this until this point, but this is the first time I’ve been able to install the Microsoft operating system, without using Internet Explorer!

Why?

It is because the Asus Z87-Pro mother support DVD, includes and installs Google Chrome, which is VERY nice!

Yes, when I ran Windows update, I did patch, to the best of my knowledge, Internet Explorer, but I have yet to launch it in any way shape or form.

Mozilla Thunderbird –

Talk about installers dream!

I was able to quickly download install the Thunderbird application, and after an initial launch, I exited the program in hopes of establishing the base directory structure.

On a whim, I thought I would try to take my existing Thunderbird email directory from Dragon, and copy it across the network, into the same location in Loong.

Being an old Microsoft Outlook 2007 user, I thought there would be no way this would work, and I’d have to spend time reconnecting my POP accounts and individual PST mailbox files.

To my amazement, when I relaunched Thunderbird the second time, everything popped up right where it should!

That was about an hours worth of configuration and headaches that I didn’t have to encounter!

Adobe Lightroom 5 (64-bit) –

Adobe Lightroom 5 (64-bit) was the first major application that I installed onto Loong.

Since I had already been running LR5 on Dragon, there was nothing really new or interesting yet, I still had not transferred my catalogs or images files, which were still on a backup hard drive.

Adobe Photoshop CS6 (64-bit) –

This was the application I had built this machine for.

You don’t get an Intel i7-4770 for basic word processing.

With that being said, Adobe has made it rather difficult to actually find CS6 for download on their site, which makes sense, when you consider that they are really pushing their new Cloud Computing environment.

In the final hours of configuring the system for software, I thought about CS6 vs CC many times, and it came down to what do you have at the end of your expenditure of money.

Basically, once you stop your subscription to the Adobe cloud, you can’t Open your files, whereas in the purchase of CS6, I still have an application “locally”, and I can do what ever I want with my images. I am not potential held ‘hostage’.

I do plan in the future, to look at and use their single application subscription, but for an application like Photoshop, I feel far more comfortable having a local installation of the software application.

Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 –

I have been using Dragon NaturallySpeaking since the late version 10 days, and have always had a sort of love-hate relationship with the software and the company.

Originally, I wanted to try to use my existing version 11 license, but was thwarted when I could not find the 11.5 upgrade file in my backups.

One would think, it would be a simple matter of going to Nuance’s Support page, and download the update, especially as a registered user, but I had forgotten that you lose all support after the initial 30 days of owning the software, and there was no way for me to download the patch.

So I spent several days lamenting on whether I should ‘bite-the-bullet’ and purchase a new license for Loong.

Searching the internet, I was able to find an online deal where I got a new seat for only $75 after various rebates!

After the software arrived, I eagerly installed it, only to find that I had to download a service pack, which is no big deal, per se, if the service patch was in 500 MB to be downloaded!

I also made sure that I backed up the Service Pack file this time, and at the moment, I have not registered.

Once I had Dragon finally patched, I started a new user profile, and I have been using it to create this blog entry, and so far it has been working out very well in terms of speed and accuracy, and as I use it more, it should get better.

Final tweaking

As the title of this blog entry suggests, I’ve been playing around with my system for about 10 days.

I still have not gotten into some of the deeper aspects of the fine tuning of the OS, mainly because the machine is very quick and responsive.

I have copied all my 500GBs of live data from Dragon onto the C drive of Loong, and reestablishing connections in my Lightroom catalogs.

Moving in and out of the various image directories and watching the thumbnails snap up on the screen is very exciting.

I have opened a few of bigger 800+ MB files into Photoshop, there is no hesitation as they jump up on the screen, as I zoom in and out!

Crunching HDR files together is very quick, and should save me countless hours in the future!

WOW!

Then it occurred to me while playing, but I still had some of my SSD disk available to me.

I opened up Disk Manager (diskmgmt.msc), and initialized the remaining SSD partition.

Going back into both Lightroom in Photoshop, I set their cache options to the newly created SSD partition, and relaunched the applications.

Now that it’s fast!

Conclusion

In reading the various manuals, how-to guides, tips and tricks, there is still a lot of things for me to explore and learn on this new machine.

I will continue to post new tidbits as they become available, so do stay tuned!

- Andrew
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Building Loong (Dragon i7-4770)

I have finally gotten to the point, where I am just waiting between downloads for the various Drivers and Updates…

Earlier, I put this together:

This all started, kind of… A couple of days ago

All part of a new installation…

Here is a quick Overview, which I was Posting on Facebook and Twitter –

[2013-Aug-09 Fri 12:00ish]
– USPS Delivers New Motherboard (Asus P87-Pro)

[2013-Aug-09 Fri 13:30ish]
– Motherboard boots outside of case

[2013-Aug-09 Fri 14:30ish]
– I’m in the BIOs!

[2013-Aug-09 Fri 15:49ish]
– COOL! – NO MORE FLOPPY! [EL – Oh I’m glad your cialis arrived!]
[AM – Is that no more 5.25 or no more 3.5″? ;-)]
[Me – Only Firewire & USB over that SATA 3…
Now we are calling gigabytes!]
[JQ – It is all about the thumb drive]
[Me – I got plenty of Front and Rear ports!]
[JQ – OH YEAaaaaaaaaaa]
[Me – and I have a TON of cache!]
[DP – That’s what she said.]
[VR – Floopy!? LOL]

[2013-Aug-09 Fri 16:02ish]
– Installed OS in under 10 minutes!

[2013-Aug-09 Fri 16:14ish]
– Too funny! – Out of the box… The OS rates this as 1.0 in User Experience… Let’s see if I can do something about that…

[2013-Aug-09 Fri 16:23ish]
My current System Rates at 5.0… OOTB… New machine (Loong “Chinese Dragon name”) rates at 1.0… I have NOT even put in the OEM drivers yet, and it is still faster!

[2013-Aug-09 Fri 17:06ish]
First FB post from Loong!

[2013-Aug-09 Fri 20:17ish]
One has to LOVE a family that understands the deep and dark ritual of installing a new personal computer… The various incantations to be passed down from Father to Son… Well… It sounded good… Didn’t it?

[LS – No sons, but the ritual here is gun cleaning and fishing lol]
[Me – Damn GF! You know me too well!]
[MR – Starting from a baseline of Gregorian chant punctuated by outbursts of Tourette syndrome, right? Toned down to Donald Duck when the kids and/or wife are around…]
[Me –  Scary, but TRUE, I have SEVERAL CDs of Gregorian chants! and that is an AWESOME idea!]

[2013-Aug-09 Fri 21:25ish]
– WinTel 7 Pro {Up-to-Date}
– Asus Drivers {Issues}
– Installed Browser (IE, Firefox, Chrome)
– Installed JAVA
– Installed Adobe Flash

[2013-Aug-09 Fri 22:09ish]
– Upgrade BIOs 1007 x64 (05/17/2013) > 1205 (07/05/2013)

Issues
– Can’t Get into BIOs w/USB Keyboard (DEL and F2 keys)
-> Switch to PS/2 and into BIOs w/o Issue


If you happen to have any Tips or Ideas, PLEASE let me know!

Stay tuned for Updates as I go along!

- Andrew
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New Computer Ordered

The last time that I bought a new computer, was back in late 2003, just before my daughter was born.

I remember say to my wife at the time, I had to purchase the computer because there was no telling the next time that I would be able to purchase a new one.

This time, instead of paying extra for a mainstream computer, I decided to go to a local computer builder, and have a custom unit built for me.

I ended up with a Pentium 4 on an Intel motherboard, 4GBs RAM and a 100GB HD for around $1000.

At the time, it was a very speedy machine, but after many years of service, and countless upgrades, the machine started to show its age when trying to run Windows XP, Office 2007 and Photoshop CS3.

So the hunt started for an upgrade, and I was able to finally scavenge a base Intel Core 2 6400 box, which I am still using to write this entry.

My biggest issue with this current machine, is that I am running into some compatibility issues with Camera Raw 7 after upgrading to Lightroom 5 and trying to move files into Photoshop CS5.

There is also the occasion, when working on larger 1+GB TIFF/PSD files, I simply run out of memory.

Then, about 2 weeks ago, after a tough budget negotiation, I was given the green light for a new machine!

Yeah!

Now the question was what to get!

I knew what I wanted a machine that could run Photoshop & Lightroom as the main applications, which meant as much CPU and RAM that I could get!

Like any computer geek, I fantasy configured systems on the major computer websites, and knew that they were way overpriced for what I wanted.

I wanted a custom-built machine, but how? Another Local vendor? or via the Internet…

Or myself, which I had never done before, even though I have fixed hundred of computers over the years!

I started to look at several ‘You Built It’ websites to get a very rough idea of price and configuration, and was quickly overwhelmed with the various configuration options!

It was time for a spreadsheet.

I listed the major components I wanted, and then I started to visited 5 different sites (ComputerLX.comMagicmicro.comNewEgg.comTigerDirect.com, Amazon.com), collecting prices and reviews.

Even for a seasoned computer person, the various chip sets and sockets available made my head spin! I spent countless hours reading the forums on Tom’s Hardware so that I could make as intelligent decisions as possible!

At some point, I came to the realization, that I was going to be building this machine myself, and I started to venture into YouTube land to learn more about the basics of my new DYI project.

Finally, after many hours of research and internal debate, I finally placed my order:

Stuff starts to arrive Wednesday!

I can’t wait!

- Andrew
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