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Technology

One year on

Somehow it’s been a year. Not since that (although it is), but a year since I built my computer (yes, I know I only blogged about it in May).

Even between March and May, I had already added new components to it (the LED strips and an extra fan at the rear of the case). As a reminder, here’s what it looked like then:

And here’s what it looks like now:

Apart from realising that it photographs better with the side glass panel taken off, and that the colour scheme is different, there’s a few significant changes:

Cooling system

This week (yesterday in fact) I changed the CPU cooling system from the stock air cooler to an AIO water cooler. It does add two black tubes into the interior, but it’s generally more spacious inside now and I like the look of the three extra RGB fans at the top. It’s still too early to see what difference it will make – I think it is a couple of degrees cooler than it was, but it also does have a few extra fans that are venting the case now. I always wanted to get one of these, but for budgeting decisions I decided against it a year ago.

GPU

The graphics card is still the same, but I have rotated it 90 degrees into a vertical orientation. Again, I think it looks much better this way round, particularly with it’s coloured ring that is now visible, and this is how I always wanted it. The lights in the ring were spiralling before, but for some reason it doesn’t always. Don’t worry about the fan not spinning, it’s only supposed to do that when it gets hot.

Storage

You can’t actually see it in the picture, but in the last year I have added two new hard drives. I started off with an 8TB and a 4TB drive (as a combined virtual drive), but then I added an extra 12TB so I could mirror it. Earlier this year I realised I was running out of space and in order to avoid rebuilding the virtual drive, I would need to add an extra physical drive. I added a second 12TB drive, but because of the limitations of the original settings I had to rebuild the whole set-up anyway. It took a while, but eventually I got it how I wanted and it should now allow me to expand it again more easily.

Step 1: Originally. Step 2: Last year. Step 3: Currently. Step 4: Future arrangement?

I am also starting to run out of storage on my main SSD drive (thanks Microsoft Flight Simulator) so at some point this year I’ll have to add some more there (or move some applications to my secondary SSD drive).


But that’s for next year, and apart from that, I can’t think of anything else I need/want to add. I realise I’m now a generation behind on both processor and graphics card technology, but I’m fine with missing out for now. With the price and scarcity of components right now, I’m glad I bought my computer a year ago.

Addendum: I do need a new keyboard and mouse. Preferably wireless (at least for the mouse).

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Technology

How I fixed my mobile data problem

I know nobody reads my posts about my mobile phone, but someone someday somewhere may find this useful (if that’s you, do say hi) so I thought I’d post this.

About a month ago, my Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite got the “One UI 3.0” update. At the same time, my phone stopped connecting to the mobile data network. It could still make phone calls and texts, but whenever it wasn’t connected to wi-fi I couldn’t access any internet data. Weirdly it did still sometimes connect to mobile data, but this was unpredictable and was somewhere between a few minutes or several hours later (if at all).

What my phone icons should have looked like (left) vs what it actually looked like (right)

I searched the internet but couldn’t find anyone else who had this problem. I tried turning the mobile data setting on and off, resetting the network connections and clearing the caches. I even wiped my whole phone and reinstalled everything, but still I couldn’t get it to connect to mobile data.

I phoned up the Three helpline and they just guided me through the steps I had already done. The one thing I hadn’t done was to try my SIM card in a different phone. In the meantime, they would send me out a new SIM card.

I duly tested my SIM card in an old phone and unsurprisingly it worked fine. I had a strong feeling that a replacement SIM card wouldn’t fix the problem but I waited for it to arrive.

It still didn’t work with the replacement SIM card, but I went into the SIM card manager and noticed that “Mobile data” was turned off at this point. And setting the option to “SIM 1” fixed my problem!

The Mobile data setting in the SIM card manager

I was going to blog about how this seemed to be a separate, hidden “Mobile data” switch at the SIM card level to the one at the system level, but I’ve not been able to replicate this at all. Every time I turn off one, the other turns off too and vice versa. Was this not happening before? I don’t know. Was the SIM card setting somehow stuck in the off position? I don’t know. Did the new SIM card help? Probably, even if only because it meant I looked in the SIM card manager settings. Does my phone mobile data work again now? Yes.

So if you have a problem with your mobile data, the SIM card manager may be the place to look. But it also may not be. Because I don’t even know if that was the problem, but after four weeks trying lots of different things it’s now working again.

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Technology

Turn up the bass

You may remember a few weeks ago, that I posted about my subwoofer burning itself out.

As a reminder, here’s what the circuit board looked like after I took it apart:

It didn’t look too promising once I had tried removing the burnt bits (mostly just the sealant), but probably causing even more damage to the circuit board in the process:

After a few hours of removing the old components and soldering in the new ones, I was left with a very dodgy looking board. It probably also didn’t help that I couldn’t exactly remember where the red wire went, or the capacitor that was randomly on the back.

But amazingly, after putting it all back together, my subwoofer works again! I really wasn’t expecting it given the amount of damage it had sustained, but there you go. Fortunately (unfortunately) it saves me a trip to Richer Sounds. But, by spending about £20 on capacitors (I have a lot of spares now), I saved myself a couple of hundred pounds on a new subwoofer.

I’m just waiting for something else to break now so I can use my awesome fixing skills to fix that too…

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Technology

Technology Update

Just a quick post today as I’m busy, and it’s Wednesday now and I had forgotten I had to write something.

Mobile phone

In case you were wondering, my mobile phone is back. Well, my original mobile phone couldn’t be fixed, but it’s been replaced with an identical one. Except that this one is white (my old one was black), making it my second ever white mobile phone.

Laptop

My laptop battery has out-gassed (again). I wrote previously about how my (then) three and a half years old laptop battery expanded and needed replacing. Three and a half years on, it has happened again. I could share some photos but it looks exactly the same as previously. At seven years old, it’s not worth replacing the battery so it will have to be plugged in for it to work. But my new desktop has mostly made my laptop redundant.

Subwoofer

My surround sound system is around 13 years old now. I was at home last week and I heard a crash which I assumed came from upstairs. A few minutes later I smelt something like burnt matches. A bit of investigating found it came from my subwoofer. Taking it apart found some damage to the capacitors, the board and some insulating substance applied to the surface. Talking to a microelectronics expert, the life expectancy of electrolytic capacitors is around 13 years before they start to overheat so it’s right on trend. If I can replace them, I might be able to get it to work again, but the damage to the board (including some possibly caused by me) looks quite substantive. If I can’t fix it, I’ll be adding a new subwoofer to my Christmas wishlist.

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Lessons from the lockdown Technology

Lessons from the lockdown #3

For a long time I’d been thinking of getting a new computer. My 6-year old laptop is still pretty powerful and does everything I need it to (I massively overspec’d it when I bought it), but it is laptop and the case is starting to fall apart. Regular readers may remember that it previously had an issue where the battery died and needed replacing. Three years on, and the replacement battery is also no longer able to hold a charge and requires permanently being attached to the wall. However, until my laptop died outright I was unwilling to replace it.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve kept and updated a list of components I would buy if I was to build my own computer. By late 2019, I had decided that late April/early May 2020 would be when I put my plan into action.

And then the lockdowns started to come in. With the factories in Asia shut down, the internet was predicting that computer parts would drop in availability and increase in price over the next few months. This would be exactly when I was planning to buy my new computer. So, in mid-March, I decided to accelerate my purchasing plans and spent a couple of days finding the cheapest places to buy each of the components I wanted.

A week or so later (and several trips to various parcel depots around London), and I had a new computer built and working:

Since the initial build I’ve also added the additional RGB fan at the back and the two vertical RGB strips (mainly to look better). The light strips could be a bit tidier, but that would involve a lot more effort. The only other planned change I would like to do is to move the graphics card to a vertical orientation, but the parts I want to do that aren’t available at the moment.

Speaking of availability, remember how I mentioned that it was thought that availability would go down and prices would go up as the lockdown went on? Well, I’ve kept track of the prices since then (whilst hoping to avoid buyer’s remorse). Here’s my findings normalised to 100% at the price I paid:

(Note: It’s not entirely scientific, because this is just the prices for each item at the retailer I bought each item from. When doing my initial price checking, I compared all 9 items across about 20 retailers, but I wasn’t going to do that each time. I also only recorded the prices every week or two so it may miss some fluctuations. It’s also not possible to compare with prices before I started recording – prices may already have been trending upwards, or I may have just bought when everything was on sale.)

It may not be entirely clear from that graph, but here’s the key points:

  1. The total price (highlighted in yellow) has gradually increased over the last two months
  2. The second SSD (yes, I have two), the power supply and the memory all went out of stock about two weeks ago. It would be possible to use different components with similar specifications, but then it wouldn’t be the computer I’ve built
  3. The motherboard and graphics card both dropped in price the week after I bought them. However, everything else went up the week after I bought them, and the overall cost would still have been more expensive
  4. Apart from a couple of items, costs have generally stabilised over the last couple of weeks and may even be starting to drop back down again. This is possibly due to increased availability again, or it could just be retailers trying to clear stocks in anticipation of the next generation of components. I may keep recording prices over the next couple of months for comparison

So did I buy at the right time? From the (incomplete) data I have, yes.

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Technology

How did they do it in the olden days?

So, on Saturday evening I went to a pub. Now that’s not the unusual part of the story that needs writing about.

The reason for this pub visit was due to my brother-in-law being in Sheffield so I couldn’t really pass up on the chance of meeting him. Sheffield’s a big place, how would I know where he was? How did they do it in the olden days? I guess people would have to have found a payphone and made a phone call. Assuming they could remember exactly what phone number they wanted. It seems possible but a bit of a faff. [As a side note, my Mum always told me to carry 10p for use in this sort of situation when I needed to make a phone call.] How did I do that the other day? We’re both BlackBerry users and with the BlackBerry Messenger app we get free instant messaging. Problem solved.

Ok, skipping that step, I now know which pub he’s at (assuming he hasn’t moved on). He’s at the Gardener’s Rest pub. It’s somewhere in Sheffield, but he has no idea exactly where that is. I’ve never heard of it in my life. How did they do it in the olden days? And here’s where I get stuck. What would they have done? The only thing I can think of is to look it up in a phone book. Then what? Find my A-Z map and look it up. How about getting there? Take the map with me? Leave it at home? How did I do that the other day? Going back to my BlackBerry I fired up Google Maps. [Sidenote: This is the only place I use anything Google — Gmail does host my university and my personal email, but I avoid it as much as possible.] I whacked “gardeners rest” into the search and it popped up straight away. I then clicked plan route and I knew exactly where I had to go. Did I mention that it showed me exactly where I was by using the phone’s GPS? I was able to follow my whole route on my phone as I went. Try doing that with an A-Z. Twenty minutes later I was there. Problem solved.

So there you have it. I managed to navigate my way to a completely new part of Sheffield just by using my trusty phone. Simples. So what would people have done before technology? Leave me a comment with your ideas.

Categories
Technology

Sad News

That’s right, on Sunday I lost a dear friend. My PlayStation 3 suffered from the dreaded Yellow Light of Death problem. He She It died at the young age of only 3 years and 22 days. That’s 22 days beyond the lifetime of its extended warranty. Typical isn’t it. I had only been playing inFAMOUS for about 15 minutes when it gave up the fight. Beeping a few times, it rolled over and died instantly. My worst fears were realised when I was unable to revive him by any means. It was a very ignominious end for it, after all it had survived being shoved in a rucksack and thrown in the back of a van. It had probably also been dropped several times in its life, but each time it kept on going. So this was truly the end.

I called up Sony who quoted me a price of £131 to get it replaced but that it would be a lesser model. My model is an original 60GB which has all the good features which everyone wants returned to the design. This would also loose all the data stored on my hard drive (which I had upgraded to 320GB). As an aside, make sure you back up all the data regularly. Fortunately for me, I had done a backup about two weeks ago, so although this is missing some of the latest saves, it would have been much worse if I had lost everything.

Determined to preserve the dignity of my console, I found a repairer in Newcastle called Console Doctor who can apparently fix these problems. Therefore as we speak my console is hopefully flying (it’ll be by lorry – due to the volcano ash) up north with the friendly DHL man. And this only costs £70, plus I get my console back and sooner, hopefully with all the data intact and with the disc that is currently stuck inside. Just because I need to add a photo to make this article more exciting, here is a picture of my PS3 in its original box waiting to get sent off:

I guess I should probably do something useful whilst I wait for its return… like my dissertation.