Retrocomputing at City Tech

retrocomputing-at-city-tech

In addition to working on a book review today, I created a new OpenLab site for Retrocomputing at City Tech. In addition to recording how I use vintage computers in the classroom and in research, the new OpenLab site contains a catalog of my vintage computing archive. I populated this catalog with most of the hardware, but I plan to granulize it further and create a catalog of my software. This, of course, will take time. At least there is a place for me to record these things now within the auspices of the work that I do at City Tech. I updated my previous Retrocomputing Lab page on this site with a link to the updated site on OpenLab.

Computer Upgrades: HDD and RAM

Maker:L,Date:2017-10-2,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

My desktop PC, which I wrote about its build and benchmarks previously, has performed very well since I built it late last year. However, I built it on a budget, so I wasn’t able to outfit it as well as I would have liked. After deciding that I would use the desktop computer as my primary computer, I upgraded it with those components that I needed most: more storage space and more RAM.

The most pressing need was additional hard drive space. The original ADATA 128GB SSD was adequate when I was testing the system and deciding if I wanted to use it as my primary computer. When I wanted to do more than just the bare necessities and have access to my data more quickly than an external backup hard drive or flash drive could provide, I added two hard disk drives.

First, I picked up a Toshiba 5400rpm 2TB OEM drive when Microcenter had them on sale. I had good luck with Toshiba drives from Microcenter with previous computer builds, so I was comfortable using a larger format capacity one in this computer. Due to the limited warranty on OEM drives, I put the drive through its paces to ensure that it wasn’t a lemon: I performed a low level format on the drive, and then I began the laborious task of moving files to the drive via USB and over the network. Then, I culled through the copied files to remove duplicate files. Finally, I erased the free space to stress test the drive again.

Second, I waited for another sale at Microcenter and purchased a Western Digital Blue 5400rpm 4TB drive. After adding it the computer, which required routing the power cable and SATA cables differently than I had done before, I stress tested the new drive with a low level format (this took all evening to perform!) and then copied everything from the Toshiba 2TB drive to the WD 4TB drive.

Another important need was additional RAM for the software that I use–multiple productivity applications, Wolfram Mathematica, and games. The Gigabyte B250-DS3H mATX motherboard supports four sticks of DDR4 RAM. I bought the computer’s first dual-channel pair of Crucial DDR4-2400 4GB RAM sticks at an amazing discount. Unfortunately, DDR4 RAM prices rose and have stayed elevated since that time. When a more modest discount was offered than originally, I chose to take it. Now, all four DDR4 slots are filled with two pairs of Crucial DDR4-2400 RAM for a total of 16GB RAM.

I dabbled with VR before video card prices went through the roof. For this experiment, I upgraded the video card and PSU. I don’t have the video card any longer, but I kept the Corsair CX650M PSU so that I can switch out video cards for something more powerful in the future.

After these upgrades, my computer’s stats are:

Intel i7-7700

Gigabyte B250-DS3H mATX Motherboard

Asus Radeon Rx-550 4GB GDDR5 Video Card

Crucial 16GB 4×4 DDR4-2400 RAM

ADATA SU800 128GB 3D-NAND 2.5 Inch SATA SSD

2TB Toshiba OEM HDD

4TB WD Blue HDD

Corsair CX650M PSU

ROSEWILL Micro ATX Mini Tower Computer Case, FBM-01

Maker:L,Date:2017-10-2,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

Desktop Computer Build Description (i7-7700 and Radeon RX-550 4GB GDDR5) with Benchmarks

IMG_2466

Over the past two weeks, I built a new desktop computer to replace my i5-based Intel NUC, because I wanted more CPU horsepower and a dedicated graphics card.

The NUC6i5SYH has a soldered i5-6260U CPU. This part has only two CPU cores, which support two threads each for a total of four threads. With this new build, I use a socket-based i7-7700, which has four CPU cores, each of which supports two threads for a total of eight threads. Coupled with a higher, maximum clock rate, this i7 processor can do more work in less time than the i5-6260U CPU in the Intel NUC.

For watching 1080p videos and lower resolution 3D graphics, the i5-6260U’s integrated graphics are more than sufficient. However, I wanted to play some 3D games and use Unreal Engine 4 for a project. The entry-level graphics of AMD Radeon’s RX 550 coupled with a design that does not require a higher-wattage PSU seemed adequate for this particular build.

IMG_2468

My new computer’s specs, sourcing, and pricing are:

Intel i7-7700 (Microcenter, $280)

Gigabyte B250-DS3H mATX Motherboard (Microcenter, $10 on promotion and free after rebate)

Asus Radeon Rx-550 4GB GDDR5 Video Card (Microcenter, $103)

Crucial 8GB 2×4 DDR4-2400 RAM (Microcenter, $75)

ADATA SU800 128GB 3D-NAND 2.5 Inch SATA SSD (Amazon, $56)

EVGA 400 watt PSU (Amazon, $30)

ROSEWILL Micro ATX Mini Tower Computer Case, FBM-01 (Amazon, $25)

Redragon K552-N KUMARA Mechanical Gaming Keyboard (Amazon, $27)

Teknet Gaming Mouse (Amazon, $11)

Microsoft Windows 10 Home USB (Amazon, $110)

Total: $727

With any computer build that I undertake, I am most interested in maintaining access to legacy software and operating systems for my research. While I haven’t tested everything, I have confirmed that Sheepshaver/MacOS 7.5.5 and VirtualBox/Windows 98 are up-and-running.

After this preliminary setup, I ran the following benchmarks to stress test and evaluate the system. The results are included below as a measure for anyone interested in how a system like mine performs.

Performance Test 9, CPU Test

performancetest-cpu

Using the evaluation copy of Performance Test 9, the CPU Test yielded a result of 11,399, which places the system above the average for this CPU and in the 92nd percentile.

Performance Test 9, 3D Graphics Mark Test

performancetest-graphics

I opted for the budget/entry-level RX 550 video card, because only a few games that I play would benefit from a greater investment in this part of the overall build. Nevertheless, I was pleased with the 3,954 3D Graphics Mark result, which places the system in the 71st percentile.

Unigen Heaven Benchmark 4.0

unigen-heaven

My system earned a Heaven Benchmark score of 843 and it sustained an average 33.5 frames per second.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0

FPS:
33.5
Score:
843
Min FPS:
17.9
Max FPS:
68.6
System

Platform:
Windows NT 6.2 (build 9200) 64bit
CPU model:
Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz (3599MHz) x4
GPU model:
Radeon RX 550 Series 22.19.677.257 (4095MB) x1
Settings

Render:
Direct3D11
Mode:
1920×1080 fullscreen
Preset
Custom
Quality
High
Tessellation: Disabled
Powered by UNIGINE Engine
Unigine Corp. © 2005-2013

Unigen Valley Benchmark 1.0

unigen-valley

In the Valley Benchmark, my system gained a score of 1,415 with an average 33.8 frames per second.

Unigine Valley Benchmark 1.0

FPS:
33.8
Score:
1415
Min FPS:
21.1
Max FPS:
58.3
System

Platform:
Windows 8 (build 9200) 64bit
CPU model:
Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz (3599MHz) x4
GPU model:
Radeon RX 550 Series 22.19.677.257 (4095MB) x1
Settings

Render:
Direct3D11
Mode:
1920×1080 fullscreen
Preset
Custom
Quality
High
Powered by UNIGINE Engine
Unigine Corp. © 2005-2013

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward Benchmark

heavensward

After creating a character and running the benchmark, my computer earned a score of 8077, Extremely High performance, and it maintained an average 59.933 frames per second.

FINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward BenchmarkFINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward

BenchmarkTested on: 10/27/2017 10:38:37

PMScore: 8077

Average Frame Rate: 59.933

Performance: Extremely High -Easily capable of running the game on the highest settings.

Loading Times by Scene  Scene #1 1.251 sec  Scene #2 5.183 sec  Scene #3 3.822 sec  Scene #4 3.259 sec  Scene #5 4.570 sec  Scene #6 1.514 secTotal Loading Time 19.600 sec
DAT:s20171027223837.dat
Screen Size: 1280x720Screen Mode: WindowedDirectX Version: 11Graphics Presets: High (Desktop)General-Wet Surface Effects: Enabled-Occlusion Culling: Enabled-LOD on Distant Objects: Disabled-Real-time Reflections: Highest Quality (DirectX 11 Only)-Edge Smoothing (Anti-aliasing): FXAA-Transparent Lighting Quality: High-Grass Quality: High-Background Tessellation: High Quality-Water Tessellation: High QualityShadows-Self: Display-Other NPCs: DisplayShadow Quality-LOD on Shadows: Enabled-Shadow Resolution: High – 2048p-Shadow Cascading: Best-Shadow Softening: StrongTexture Detail-Texture Filtering: Anisotropic-Anisotropic Filtering: x8Movement Physics-Self: Full-Other NPCs: FullEffects-Limb Darkening: Enabled-Radial Blur: Enabled-Screen Space Ambient Occlusion: HBAO+: Standard Quality (DirectX 11 Only)-Glare: NormalCinematic Cutscenes-Depth of Field: Enabled
SystemWindows 10 Home 64-bit (6.2, Build 9200) (15063.rs2_release.170317-1834)Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz8151.770MBRadeon RX 550 Series (VRAM 3072 MB) 22.19.0677.0257
Benchmark results do not provide any guarantee FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn (Windows version) and FINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward (Windows version) will run on your system.
FINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward Official Website http://na.finalfantasyxiv.com/pr/(C) 2010-2015 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved.
Share ResultsType 1http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV Score: 8077 1280×720 High (Desktop) DX11 Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz Radeon RX 550 Series Type 2http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV Score: 8077 1280×720 High (Desktop) DirectX11 Windowed Radeon RX 550 Series Type 3http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV 1280×720 High (Desktop) DirectX11 Score: 8077 Extremely High Type 4http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV 1280×720 High (Desktop) DirectX11 Windowed Score: 8077 Full ResultsFINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward Benchmark  Score: 8077 Extremely High  1280×720 High (Desktop) DirectX11 Windowed  Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz  Radeon RX 550 Series  http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV

Then, I ran the test again in 1080p resolution in full-screen mode. This resulted in a lower rating of “high” with a numerical score of 4,416.

heavensward-high

 

Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood Benchmark

final-fantasy-stormblood-launch

I ran the Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood benchmark twice–once at 720p in windowed mode (default) and once at 1080p in full screen mode. I imported my created character from Heavensward into Stormblood.

final-fantasy-stormblood

In 720p, windowed mode, my system scored 10,877 (extremely high).

FINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood BenchmarkFINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood BenchmarkTested on: 10/28/2017 3:58:19 PMScore: 10877Average Frame Rate: 73.707Performance: Extremely High -Easily capable of running the game on the highest settings.Loading Times by Scene  Scene #1 2.109 sec  Scene #2 2.956 sec  Scene #3 2.329 sec  Scene #4 3.194 sec  Scene #5 5.589 sec  Scene #6 1.192 secTotal Loading Time 17.373 sec
DAT:s20171028155819.dat
Screen Size: 1280x720Screen Mode: WindowedDirectX Version: 11Graphics Presets: High (Laptop)General-Wet Surface Effects: Enabled-Occlusion Culling: Enabled-LOD on Distant Objects: Enabled-Real-time Reflections: Off-Edge Smoothing (Anti-aliasing): FXAA-Transparent Lighting Quality: Normal-Grass Quality: Normal-Background Tessellation: High Quality-Water Tessellation: High Quality-Glare: OffShadows-Self: Display-Other NPCs: DisplayShadow Quality-LOD on Shadows: Enabled-Shadow Resolution: Normal – 1024p-Shadow Cascading: Best-Shadow Softening: StrongTexture Detail-Texture Filtering: Anisotropic-Anisotropic Filtering: x4Movement Physics-Self: Full-Other NPCs: FullEffects-Limb Darkening: Enabled-Radial Blur: Enabled-Screen Space Ambient Occlusion: HBAO+: Standard-Glare: NormalCinematic Cutscenes-Depth of Field: Enabled
SystemWindows 10 Home 64-bit (6.2, Build 9200) (15063.rs2_release.170317-1834)Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz8151.770MBRadeon RX 550 Series (VRAM 4044 MB)
This software does not guarantee that your system will run the Windows versions of FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn, FINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward, and FINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood.
FINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood Official Website http://na.finalfantasyxiv.com/pr/(C) 2010-2017 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved.
Share ResultsType 1http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV Score: 10877 1280×720 High (Laptop) DX11 Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz Radeon RX 550 Series Type 2http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV Score: 10877 1280×720 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Windowed Radeon RX 550 Series Type 3http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV 1280×720 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Score: 10877 Extremely High Type 4http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV 1280×720 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Windowed Score: 10877 Full ResultsFINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood Benchmark  Score: 10877 Extremely High  1280×720 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Windowed  Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz  Radeon RX 550 Series  http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV

Next, I ran the benchmark again but in 1080p resolution and in full-screen mode.

final-fantasy-stormblood-1080p

This time, my computer scored only 5,807 (very high). Watching the benchmark demo unfold on my monitor was exciting, and the game looked gorgeous!

FINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood BenchmarkFINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood BenchmarkTested on: 10/28/2017 4:07:17 PMScore: 5807Average Frame Rate: 39.137Performance: Very High -Easily capable of running the game. Should perform exceptionally well, even at higher resolutions.Loading Times by Scene  Scene #1 2.298 sec  Scene #2 2.920 sec  Scene #3 2.417 sec  Scene #4 3.088 sec  Scene #5 5.725 sec  Scene #6 1.032 secTotal Loading Time 17.484 sec
DAT:s20171028160717.dat
Screen Size: 1920x1080Screen Mode: Full ScreenDirectX Version: 11Graphics Presets: High (Laptop)General-Wet Surface Effects: Enabled-Occlusion Culling: Enabled-LOD on Distant Objects: Enabled-Real-time Reflections: Off-Edge Smoothing (Anti-aliasing): FXAA-Transparent Lighting Quality: Normal-Grass Quality: Normal-Background Tessellation: High Quality-Water Tessellation: High Quality-Glare: OffShadows-Self: Display-Other NPCs: DisplayShadow Quality-LOD on Shadows: Enabled-Shadow Resolution: Normal – 1024p-Shadow Cascading: Best-Shadow Softening: StrongTexture Detail-Texture Filtering: Anisotropic-Anisotropic Filtering: x4Movement Physics-Self: Full-Other NPCs: FullEffects-Limb Darkening: Enabled-Radial Blur: Enabled-Screen Space Ambient Occlusion: HBAO+: Standard-Glare: NormalCinematic Cutscenes-Depth of Field: Enabled
SystemWindows 10 Home 64-bit (6.2, Build 9200) (15063.rs2_release.170317-1834)Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz8151.770MBRadeon RX 550 Series (VRAM 4044 MB)
This software does not guarantee that your system will run the Windows versions of FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn, FINAL FANTASY XIV: Heavensward, and FINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood.
FINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood Official Website http://na.finalfantasyxiv.com/pr/(C) 2010-2017 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved.
Share ResultsType 1http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV Score: 5807 1920×1080 High (Laptop) DX11 Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz Radeon RX 550 Series Type 2http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV Score: 5807 1920×1080 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Full Screen Radeon RX 550 Series Type 3http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV 1920×1080 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Score: 5807 Very High Type 4http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV 1920×1080 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Full Screen Score: 5807 Full ResultsFINAL FANTASY XIV: Stormblood Benchmark  Score: 5807 Very High  1920×1080 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Full Screen  Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz  Radeon RX 550 Series  http://sqex.to/ffxiv_bench_na #FFXIV

Conclusion

While I certainly understand choosing components for overclocking, I opted for a build that was stable first and provided performance second.

I am very happy with my system’s stability and performance. If your processing needs outweigh your graphics needs, I recommend building a system similar to this one.

Desktop Shelving Epic Continues: Notched Shelf Added in the Middle

shelf-progression

What began as a simple shelf to raise some of my LEGO sets off the workspace of my desk and rose to incorporate a higher shelf to accommodate more sets that I brought back from my parents’ home is now a three tier Franken-shelf.

It quickly became evident that I needed more shelf space for a few more sets that I had assembled. Also, I noticed that the 16″ space between the lower and upper shelves of the second phase construction was more than necessary. It seemed that 8″ headspace was required for most of my LEGO sets. So, I set about adding a third shelf between the lower and top shelves.

I decided to notch this 1″ x 10″ x 4′ shelf and install it only with deck screws through the upper shelf supports. I measured 46 1/2″ between the two supports and the 1″ x 4″ supports are 3/4″ thick. This is where I made a mistake with my initial cut. My measurements were correct, but during the 5 seconds that it takes for me to talk from my closet (where the desk is) to the living room where I had left my handsaw, my mind misremembered the measurement as 46″ between the supports. This meant that I cut 1/4″ more than needed on each side of the shelf! Luckily, I had a scrap piece of 1″ x 4″ board that I cut 1/4″ fillers from and glued into the notch to fill the missing material.

IMG_2117

The shelf is centered on a line at 8″ between the top of the bottom shelf and the bottom of the top shelf, which is a distance of 16″.

IMG_2118

My deck screws extend through the supports and filler, and enter the shelf securely. They are spaced 1″ inside from either end and the third being in the middle (3/4″ from either end screw).

IMG_2116

The new shelf easily accommodates a number of sets from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who.

IMG_2115

If I had planned out the shelves better than I had, I would have built the entire thing using only wood and deck screws (my previous blog posts explain how I used metal brackets and braces). This would have lowered the cost and it would have had a better craft appearance than horribly kludge-like. Nevertheless, it gets the job done–I can see my sets above and continue building on my clearer workspace below.

IMG_2114

In Search of a Better Backpack, Review of The North Face Electra

IMG_2073

Despite being labeled for “Women,” I recommend The North Face Electra backpack for anyone needing a compact, EDC bag that can accommodate a 10.5″ tablet. This is my new work bag that carries the things that I need daily without incurring too much added weight.

IMG_2082

In a previous blog post, I wrote praise for the Magnoli Clothiers’ British Mark VII Gas Mask Bag reproduction, because it is a good everyday bag for carrying an iPad mini, notebook, lunch, and thermos. It is still a good bag, but I sold my iPad Mini after I got Apple’s new 10.5″ iPad Pro, which would not fit in the Mark VII without the removal of the supporting material stitched through the center of the bag. As you can see in the photo above, TNF Electra is slightly larger than the Mark VII. The Mark VII has just shy of 6L capacity whereas the TNF Electra has 12L capacity.

I use the TNF Electra to carry the same, essential things as I used the Mark VII to carry, but the difference between the kits is the iPad upgrade from mini to Pro. Above, you can see the various pockets that differentiate the TNF Electra. It has a padded tablet sleeve in the main zippered compartment, the front flap has a Napoleon-style pocket that I use to hold my cellphone, a small zippered compartment in the lower left for change, keys, or another small item, and a slightly larger zippered compartment at the top of the back beneath the grab handle that holds all of my small, regular use items like hand sanitizer, eye drops, pen, pocket knife, etc.

IMG_2083

The TNF Electra weighs the same as a Jansport Superbreak–12 oz. However, the Superbreak has more than double the capacity–25L. The difference between the two packs is that the Electra has a smaller surface area against the back, and it has more substantial padding in the back and around the tablet sleeve. The Superbreak has thin back padding and no laptop/tablet sleeve. The TNF Electra’s zippers are more subtantial YKK brand than what Jansport uses on the current Superbreak packs.

IMG_2074

The TNF Electra features “Women-specific back panel and shoulder straps.” These have worked fine for me, too. The pack rides high on my back, which I prefer to a pack that is lower, because it allows my back to breathe more and remain cool on my long walks to-and-from work.

IMG_2080

The TNF Electra that I have is black heather and burnt coral metallic (it reminds me of Apple’s Rose Gold). Y liked my bag so much that we got her one in dark eggplant purple dark/amaranth purple.

I like the TNF Electra, because it holds just what I need, is lightweight and compact, and helps me stay cool on my daily long walks.

While its labeling and colors might signify its use by a specific gender, I think its better to focus on one’s needs than on the social signifiers made into a tool–in this case–a useful bag.

Magnoli Clothiers’ British Mark VII Satchel Review, an Excellent Everyday Carry EDC Bag Inspired by Indiana Jones

IMG_1752

A bag is a form of technology that helps us move our things from place to place so that we can get our daily work done. Every bag has affordances and constraints. Unfortunately, I find myself running up against what I see as unbalanced trade-offs in these affordances and constraints for my particular circumstances.

I don’t begrudge a tool’s constraints. In fact, these constraints can be quite liberating. For example, Thomas Lux, my former poetry professor at Georgia Tech, would purposefully give his students specific constraints for a week’s assignment: there can be only so many words, there can be only so many lines, there must be the color green, etc. He explained that these constraints open up possibilities that would not have existed had he not instructed us to create a new work of poetry based around these constraints. Put another way, while affordances are the explicitly designed ways and interfaces for using a technology, constraints can open up new, unforseen possibilities along the lines of William Gibson’s important observation: “the street finds its own use for things.”

IMG_1766

Of the bags that I do own, I’ve unstitched a lot of the fluff on my small Timbuk2 messenger, and I’ve unriveted and cut the unnecessary branding and features of my STM Aero 13 backpack. I’ve made them more usable for me, but I come to realize that I didn’t like how large they are for everyday use. Certainly, if I’m going to the store for groceries, a larger bag is better (my stock Jansport Super Break II is usually deployed for these missions), but I’m thinking about the gear that I carry everyday.

IMG_1759

So, my bag problem came to be one about just the needed size for the things that I carry everyday. I should explain that these are the things that I carry to and from work. This is about a 2 mile round trip walk. This makes weight and comfort a prime consideration. Also, as I think is true for many instructors, if a large enough bag is available, I tended to bring a lot of work home with me in the form of books and stacks of papers. However, my interaction with this material often was simply via osmosis instead of material-in-hand engagement. I would carry things home with an intention of using the materials and then returning them to campus later, but this often didn’t happen. Life gets in the way (or simply exhaustion–probably from lugging 10 pounds of student work a mile down Court Street), and the books and papers would be returned via a return trip to be used ultimately on campus. Thus, I wanted an EDC bag that would obviate the possiblity of using it for carrying these kinds of materials. Also, I thought that this change might turn me to using my tech gear in a new way–digitizing and scanning only the most important and pressing work to carry home on a device or upload to the cloud.

2010-08-28 - Christmas 1982 2

As you’re probably familiar with, the character Indiana Jones made famous the anachronistic British Mk VII gas mask bag (the bag did not yet exist during the period of the first three Indy films). When I was a kid, my cousin Amie and her folks gave me one of my most precious gifts–a Dukes of Hazard shoulder bag. I wore it everywhere and it always contained my most essential kit–toys, candy, and a leather whip. Yes, I fancied this bag as my Indy bag. When its strap broke, I tied my best knot to keep on adventuring with it. Looking through old photos like the one above when I received it, I was reminded about how much I liked its size and simplicity.

FullSizeRender (4)

In my searches, a name kept popping up: Magnoli Clothiers. It is an outfit based in New Zealand that specializes in making clothing and prop reproductions from film and television (and other bespoke tailoring services, too). Many folks online–especially in forums discussing Indiana Jones–recommended their reproduction of Indy’s bag called the British Mk VII Satchel. I figured that its low cost justified trying it out. Also, I liked that it didn’t include a shoulder strap. Magnoli Clothiers offers an add-on leather strap, which would make the Mk VII satchel match Indy’s customized look (the original Mk VII bag has a built-in canvas shoulder strap). For me, however, I decided to get a 55″ Rothco General Purpose Nylon Strap. It is adjustable and has metal hooks on either end to mate with the customized metal rings on either side of Magnoli Clothiers’ Mk VII satchel.

The British Mk VII satchel measures about 11″ x 11″ x 3″. It has a number of compartments. The front-most pocket holds an Apple iPad Mini 4 with Smart Cover and a Muji A5 notebook. The large middle compartment is open at the bottom, but there is a divider making the left side slightly larger than the right. I put my 16 oz. Zojirushi thermos on the right and my lunch/supper fixings (usually MREs) on the left. Rolling about in the bottom of this compartment, I leave my pens, pencils, pocket knife, flashlight, eye drops, and Advil. In the back of the back against your body are two small pockets–my phone goes into one of these and my business cards in the other. Sewn between these pockets is a small pouch that holds a 1 oz. hand sanitizer bottle perfectly.

IMG_1761

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been having great success with the British Mk VII satchel. Its affordances (It carries my essential things to and from work) and its constraints (Its smaller volume made me change my workflow to be honest with my carry-home workload and essentially carry less to and from work) have worked out very positively for me. I’m curious about how it will hold up in the long term, but its already received bumps and brushes on the street, train, and campus without any appreciable wear. If you are looking for a small bag for essentials, drink, food, and personal electronics, I highly recommend the British Mk VII satchel.

IMG_1558

Intel NUC 6I5SYH Hardware Review, BIOS Update, and Fedora 25 Installation Guide

Before Thanksgiving 2016, I purchased an Intel NUC 6I5SYH ($319.99 on sale at Microcenter, late-November 2016) to serve as my new home desktop computer. This review/guide is based on my initial setup of the 6I5SYH.

The Intel NUC 6I5SYH is a small form factor (SFF) bare-bones personal computer from Intel’s “Next Unit of Computing” line.

The 6I5SYH includes an enclosure (approximately 4 1/2″ wide x 4 3/8″ deep x 2″ tall), motherboard with a soldered i5-6260U CPU (Skylake, or 6th-gen architecture–1.9GHz up to 2.8GHz Turbo, Dual Core, 4MB cache, 15W TDP), wall-mount power adapter with multi-country AC plugs, and VESA mount bracket.

The 6I5SYH’s motherboard supports the i5’s integrated Iris 540 graphics over a built-in HDMI 1.4b or Mini DisplayPort 1.2, and it includes 2x USB 3.o ports (back), 2x USB 3.0 ports (front and one supports charging), 2x USB 2.0 headers (on motherboard), IR sensor, Intel 10/100/1000Mbps ethernet, Intel Wireless-AC 8260 M.2 (802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, and Intel Wireless Display 6.0), headphone/microphone jack (front, or 7.1 surround sound via HDMI and Mini DisplayPort/back), and SDXC slot with UHS-I support (left side).

The 6I5SYH requires the user to supply a hard drive or SSD, and RAM. For permanent storage, it has internal support for an M.2 SSD card (22×42 or 22×80) and SATA3 2.5″ HDD/SSD (up to 9.5mm thick). For memory, it supports dual-channel DDR4 SODIMMs (1.2V, 2133MHz, 32GB maximum) across two internal slots.

For my 6I5SYH’s RAM, I installed one Crucial 8GB DDR4 2400 BL SODIMM ($44.99 on sale at Micro Center, late-November 2016), and for its SSD, I installed a Silicon Power S60 240GB SATA3 SSD ($67.99 on sale on Amazon, December 2015). Excluding the costs of a monitor, keyboard, and trackball, this system cost $432.97.

After first assembling the 6I5SYH with its RAM and SSD, I booted it and went into the BIOS (press F2 at the boot/Intel screen) to check its BIOS version. Based on everything that I had read about this and past Intel NUCs, it is always advisable to have the most up-to-date BIOS installed. Sure enough, it reported having BIOS 0045, and a newer BIOS had been released (0054) according to the Intel Download Center page for the 6I5SYH.

I downloaded the new BIOS binary file to a FAT-formatted USB flash drive on my Mac, inserted the USB flash drive into a front USB port on the NUC, pressed F7 to update BIOS, and followed the prompts. After confirming the BIOS had updated, I turned the 6I5SYH off by holding down the power button on its top plate.

Next, I used the Fedora Media Writer for Mac OS X to create a bootable USB flash drive of Fedora 25 Workstation using the same flash drive that I had used to flash the 6I5SYH’s BIOS.

After the media creation was completed, I inserted my Fedora 25 bootable USB flash drive into a front USB port of the 6I5SYH, powered it on, pressed F10 for the boot menu, and followed the prompts. If you need an installation guide for Fedora 25 check out the Fedora Documentation here, or if you need a screenshot walkthrough of installing Fedora 25, check out this guide.

After installing Fedora 25 with full disk encryption, I installed updates and began installing additional software. The guides here and here offer great advice (there are others for “what to do after installing fedora 24” that have useful info, too) on what to install and configure after a fresh installation of Fedora. Some that I recommend include Gnome Tweak Tool (available within Software app), Yum Extender (DNF) (available within Software app), VeraCrypt, and VLC. Remember to install RPM Fusion free and nonfree repositories–directions here, too.

So far, Fedora 25 has performed wonderfully on the 6I5SYH! Out of the box, the graphics, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB ports, and SD card reader have worked without error. I am using a Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter to connect the 6I5SYH to a less expensive VGA-input LCD monitor. I am watching 1080p Rogue One trailers without a hiccup, and I listen to Beastie Boy MP3s while doing work in GIMP or LibreOffice. I have not yet fully tested virtualization or emulation (consoles or vintage computing)–these are my next steps.

The 6I5SYH is snappy about doing work, and it is quiet nearly always except when it first boots up (and the fans spin up high momentarily). For the features, size, and price, I highly recommend the 6I5SYH as a desktop replacement that runs Fedora 25 and common Linux programs quite well!