Adventures in Upgrading a Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 Desktop

After spending the last year getting to know my i7-7700 PC that I had built several years ago better than I had ever known it before due to the shift to remote work and distance learning, I came to think that I needed a new computer that was better suited to my needs in the current situation. After a lot of research and patience price hunting, I replaced my old computer with the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 with a Ryzen 7 4700G CPU pictured above.

As an English professor at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY who teaches classes asynchronously with weekly posted video lectures anchoring each class, a lot of my time goes into planning, shooting, and editing these lectures in addition to designing course sites, writing syllabi, adding content and assignments, and corresponding with students via email.

Overall, my i7-based computer supported my work admirably except for the final step of rendering my edited videos into single files before uploading them to my YouTube channel. For a two-hour-long lecture, the rendering time could be as long as 30 minutes. While not excessive, I knew that a newer computer with a CPU with more cores and threads than the 4-core/8-thread CPU that I had built several years ago would render the videos much more quickly.

I didn’t want to reinvest in my desktop setup unless I could afford to double the performance of my current setup (a rule of thumb that I picked up from my friend Mark). As a point of reference, the i7-7700 has an average CPU Mark of 8,617. Considering the price and long-term support of Intel and AMD’s platforms, including the cost of a new CPU, motherboard, and RAM, I focused on AMD’s Ryzen 7 3700X and OEM-only Ryzen 7 4700G, both of which seemed to fit the bill with CPU Mark scores of 22,804 and 19,863 respectively. The lower cost of processors and motherboards combined with higher out-of-the-box RAM speed support and a commitment to supporting multiple CPU generations across motherboard chipsets via the AM4 socket also weighed in AMD’s favor.

While I could reuse my PC’s case, power supply, and drives, I thought about how much room the i7’s Corsair Carbide Series 100R case, which I had purchased earlier in the pandemic to accommodate a large video card, takes in my small closet-sized work area (approximately 18.5″ x 7 7/8″ x 17″ or 2477 cubic square inches). My cramped work environment led me to lean toward a pre-built system using the OEM-only Ryzen 7 4700G, because these systems, primarily made by HP and Lenovo for sale in the USA, are relatively tiny desktop PC systems.

Additionally, the Ryzen 7 4700G’s integrated graphics are nearly as strong as the discrete graphics in the Radeon RX 550 video card that I had in the i7-7700 system. This would mean that I didn’t need to have a discrete video card if I went with a 4700G-based system.

Another plus for the Ryzen 7 4700G is that it supports dual-channel DDR4-3200 RAM out of the box without a need to overclock the RAM (and having a motherboard that supports this function). Having fast RAM is essential for my workloads and it is needed even more so if I am relying on integrated graphics, which would share the RAM with the operating system and applications.

However, I didn’t want to overspend on a pre-built system with a 4700G processor. I knew from tracking computer prices that there had been deep cut sales on HP’s 4700G system (an incredible $450) around Black Friday 2020 and early in 2021. In fact, my friend Mark in Atlanta had worked on such a system for a friend of his family, and he filled me in on his experiences with upgrading its RAM and heat-sink and fan (HSF).

Ultimately, I choose the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 with Ryzen 7 4700G system, because commenters online seemed to have stronger out-of-the-box experiences with it than that HP Desktop M01-1024. In particular, the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 with a 4700G CPU included two sticks of DDR4 memory (which enables dual channel, as opposed to a single stick not in a dual channel configuration) and two drives (one SSD and one HDD). Also, I was impressed by my experience with a Lenovo ThinkPad, including its long life and build-quality, which I hoped would carry over with the IdeaCentre-line of desktops.

The Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 came with 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3200 RAM, a 256GB M.2 SSD, and a 1TB HDD. Its small footprint (13.5″ tall x 11″ deep x 5.75″ wide or 854 cubic square inches–almost 1/3 the volume of the Corsair 100R case!) saved space in my office, too. As I needed to begin working right away with the new system before making any upgrades, the Lenovo system seemed like the right way to go for me. Though, it took me about a month of price watching on Lenovo’s official eBay store before they lowered the price to an acceptable $560.69 with free shipping.

Below, I’m recording some of my experiences with the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5, including installing Linux Mint, upgrading the RAM, swapping out hard drives, installing an aftermarket heat-sink and fan, accounting of the costs involved, and concluding with a look ahead.

Installing Linux Mint

Since late last year, I’ve been using Linux Mint as my daily driver. My long-term issues with Microsoft Windows 10 and its data collection and forced upgrade regime, and frustration with Apple’s direction immediately before and certainly after Steve Jobs’ passing led me to switch to Linux where I have more control over my computer, my data, and the software that I use. Using Linux, I can get my work done without feeling that my computer isn’t mine, I’m being spied on, or I’m locked into a corporation’s walled garden.

The software that I use on Linux Mint supports my workflow great. For recording my weekly lectures, I use Google Slides (for the background), OBS Studio (to capture part of my screen with my webcam video overlayed), and Shotcut (to edit the video before uploading to YouTube). Also, I use open-source software, including LibreOffice (word processing and spreadsheet use), GIMP (image editing), Audacious (music playback), Firefox (web browsing), Thunderbird (email), Handbrake (trancoding), and SMPlayer (video playback), as well as proprietary software, including Wolfram Mathematica (mathematical modeling) and Zoom (video conferencing and online event management). While I could install Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat and run them in Linux via WINE, but I have found that their web-based, online counterparts work remarkably well when it is absolutely necessary that I use them.

Perhaps the biggest reason why I prefer Linux over Mac OS X and Windows 10 is how well the Linux operating system does disk and file system specific things like handling large numbers of files and nested directories. Throughout my career, I have collected copious notes, articles, and other research data that are organized in many nested folders, each potentially containing thousands of files. Mac OS X and Windows 10 would bog down when opening these directories of files. Searching through these files was also an ordeal with Apple and Microsoft’s offerings despite some third-party tools that made things better. Linux file systems and open-source tools give me far more control over my files both in handling and searching them, which helps me do my research more efficiently. Some of the search tools that I use include grep, Catfish, and Recoll.

Installing Linux Mint was a snap on the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 with a Ryzen 7 4700G CPU. On my old PC, I used balena Etcher to burn a copy of the installation media for Linux Mint 20.1 on a USB drive. Before installing Linux, I backed up the Windows 10 installation media to a separate USB drive in case I needed to reinstall Windows on the Lenovo for some reason. Then, I rebooted the Lenovo, went into the BIOS, changed the boot order so that it would load the USB drive first and disabled SecureBoot, which causes problems with some Linux drivers for the WiFi card and other hardware. Continuing with the bootup process, I directed Linux Mint to launch the desktop so that I could see that everything worked before installing. Everything did work out of the box except for high resolution graphics, which I figured might be due to the older long-term support kernel that might not have drivers for the 4700G’s integrated graphics. So, I erased the m.2 SSD, installed Linux Mint, and after booting in successfully with the 5.4.0 kernel, I updated to the 5.8.0 kernel, which solved the graphics issue and restored 2560×1440 resolution on my 32″ MSI Optix MAG322CQRV monitor.

Maxing Out the RAM and Swapping the HDD

After receiving the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 and testing out its stock capabilities, which were impressive compared to my i7-7700, I installed its first major upgrades: swapped the 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3200 RAM for 32GB (2x16GB) DDR4-3200 RAM, and swapped its included 1TB HDD (a Western Digital Blue) for my 4TB HDD (also a Western Digital Blue).

After taking out two screws on the back of the case, I slid the side panel off, which exposed the computer’s components–motherboard, CPU, RAM, PSU, and drive cage (to the left above). Before opening the drive cage to locate the RAM underneath, there are three plastic tabs on the front panel that need to be lifted to release the panel and then it can be unhooked on the opposite by swinging the panel open-and-out. To open the drive cage, there is a metal tab now exposed after removing the front panel. Press the tab down and the cage slides forward and then up.

The stock Lenovo RAM is a matched pair of SK Hynix 8GB DDR4-3200 RAM (HMA81GU6CJR8N CL22 Single Rank). This is good RAM, but I wanted to max out what this system could use, so I ordered a 32GB Crucial Kit (16GBx2) DDR4-3200 (CT2K16G4DFD832A CL22 Dual Rank x8 Unbuffered). As with any other desktop system, it was easy enough to replace the RAM. First, the tabs on both sides of a stick of RAM are depressed, which lifts the DIMM out of the slot. Pull the stick of RAM out, place the new RAM in the slot–paying attention to the placement of the DIMM’s notch (the RAM goes in only one way)–and press down until the tabs fold in and lock into place.

While I had the case open, I also swapped the stock 1TB HDD with my 4TB HDD from my i7-7700 PC. This involved several steps due to how tight the drive cage assembly is designed. First, the DVD-R drive has to be removed, which exposes the screws underneath holding the HDD in place. After disconnecting the SATA data and power cables, I removed the screws and vibration pads, pulled out the 1TB drive, put in the 4TB drive, replaced the screws and vibration pads, connected the cables, and reinstalled the DVD-R drive. Then, the drive cage can be swung back into place and locked, and the front panel can be notched and snapped into place, and finally, the side panel slid into place and screwed down.

Installing the Silverstone Argon Series AR11 HSF

After using the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 for a month, I noticed that the video editing software Shotcut would would bog down about halfway through rendering an hour-long video. Using CPU-X as root, I saw the CPU temperature rise to 72C and then the CPU voltage and CPU clock rate would decrease to lower the temperature. When the temperature decreased, the voltage and clock rate would creep up again. This feedback cycle would persist through the rendering process.

Lenovo, perhaps to cut costs by standardizing heatsink and motherboard designs, uses what they rate as a 65watt TDP (thermal design power) heatsink and fan (HSF). It’s made out of extruded aluminum with an offset 80mm, 4-pin fan mounted on top to blow air through the heatsink’s fins. What’s interesting about this part’s design is that its mounting hardware is for an Intel 1151 socket hole pattern instead of AMD’s AM4 socket, which the Ryzen 7 4700G processor uses.

My guess is that Lenovo sells many more computers with Intel CPUs than AMD CPUs, so even when they design a product that uses AMD parts, they design the motherboard and cooling solution to reuse the same hole pattern and heatsink fan as their Intel-based products.

While Lenovo’s HSF was rated for the 65watt TDP of the 4700G CPU, it didn’t seem capable of displacing the heat generated when the CPU was under a sustained load. This led me to replace Lenovo’s HSF solution with an aftermarket HSF that had a higher TDP.

Unfortunately, there were some constraints that I had to work around. First, as mentioned above, the cooler had to support a 1151 hole pattern. Second, the drive cage in the IdeaCentre 5 case overlaps the CPU area of the motherboard. This limits the height of the cooler to about 55-60mm (this was my best measurement due to taking it with Lenovo’s HSF installed). At the upper end of this range, it would be very tight, and airflow into the HSF might be restricted. Also, if a larger HSF with a wider fan were installed, it might not permit the installation of a 3.5″ HDD in the underside of the drive cage.

Ultimately, I decided to purchase the Silverstone Argon Series AR11 heatsink and fan.

It is only 47mm tall, but it features four heat-pipes that make direct contact with the CPU. Included in its height is the 15mm tall 92mm x 92mm fan, which should supply more air flow at the same rpm as the 80mm fan on the Lenovo-made HSF.

And, it has a 95 watt TDP rating, which means that it should give the 4700G’s 65 watt TDP some cooling headroom.

It included four nuts with spacers and a pouch of thermal compound.

To remove the Lenovo HSF and install the Silverstone AR11, I had to completely remove the motherboard from the case.

I could see that the Lenovo HSF was secured to (what I thought) was a backplate with threaded lugs that the spring-mounted screws on the four corners of the HSF would screw into. Since the Ideacentre 5’s case has the motherboard-side of the case riveted to the chassis, I had to remove the motherboard as I couldn’t see what the underside of the motherboard looked like from the other side (as you can in many aftermarket/hobbyist cases). Before dealing with the motherboard and the HSF, I began disconnecting all of the cables running to the motherboard, removing the drive cage, and removing the front-side frame around the USB connectors and the power button module.

Then, after removing all of the screws holding the motherboard to the chassis, I discovered that the motherboard wouldn’t budge. I had not yet removed the HSF, but it dawned on me that the HSF screws were connected to what I hoped were easily removable stand-offs beneath the motherboard. I would soon learn that this wasn’t the case. But, first, I removed the HSF to expose the 4700G covered in thermal compound underneath, which I cleaned off with a paper towel, a few Q-tips, and alcohol.

Underneath the motherboard, I found four stand-offs built into the chassis that were used to secure the HSF. I think that this design is a cost-saving measure on Lenovo’s part, because it might reduce a step or simplify the installation of the cooling solution during assembly of the PC.

Nevertheless, these four stand-offs were in the way of the nuts that would hold the SilverStone AR11 to the motherboard, so they had to be removed.

Thankfully, I was able to drill out each of these standoffs with a 1/4″ drill bit. Drilling each out, left a thin-walled bushing and it popped out the rivet underneath.

I was able to vacuum the metal shavings, which left four clean holes in the chassis.

With nothing obstructing my work now, I proceeded to install the AR11 HSF on the 4700G. I applied the included thermal compound to the 4700G and smoothed it with an old credit card. Then, I positioned the AR11 over the 4700G and through the four mounting holes. Carefully holding the AR11 in place with one hand, I used my other hand to flip the motherboard over. Balancing the motherboard on the AR11, I threaded each nut with spacer on the protruding studs from the AR11’s mounting hardware. I tightened the nuts slowly in a four bolt torque pattern until it was secure. Then, I reinstalled the motherboard with the new AR11 mounted into the IdeaCentre 5’s case.

While I had everything exposed inside the IdeaCentre 5 case, I canibalized the 80mm fan from the original Lenovo-supplied HSF and mounted it as an intake fan in the front of the case (lower right above). The exhaust fan (upper left above) came mounted with the computer. Both use 4-pin power connectors. The motherboard supports one 4-pin CPU HSF connector and three 4-pin case fan connectors.

With the drive cage re-installed, there is a safe clearance of about 10mm between the AR11 and the 3.5″ HDD installed above it in the drive cage.

With everything reassembled, the Lenovo fired up without any issues, and psensor reports lower minimum temperatures (24C after, 31C before) and lower maximum temperatures (60C after, 65C before). When I record this coming week’s lectures in Science Fiction and Technical Writing, I will have a better idea about whether the AR11 keeps the temperatures low enough to avoid excessive clock rate throttling during extended load times.

Calculating the Cost

As a computer enthusiast and retrocomputing preservationist, I wish that I could keep all of my old computers.

Unfortunately, the costs of living prohibit my holding on to everything. As such, I needed to sell my i7-7700 PC and its components, and sell/repurpose parts from the Lenovo IdeaCentre to lower the overall cost of switching to a new computer system.

Below, I am including a tally of my costs and profits surrounding the new system. The new components cost $777.67 (excluding tax), but I was able to sell my old PC and some components for $529.00. This makes the final cost for the new computer to be $248.67.


Lenovo IdeaCentre 5 Desktop, Ryzen 7 4700G, AMD Radeon Graphics, 16GB

Crucial 32GB Kit (16GBx2) DDR4 3200 MT/s (PC4-25600) CL22 DR x8 Unbuffered DIMM 288-Pin Memory - CT2K16G4DFD832A 

Silverstone Argon Series (AR11-USA) Intel Socket LGA1150/1151/1155/1156 Compatible 


Total $777.67

-$300 (thanks to Patrick for getting this for his daughter)
i7-7700 PC, 16GB RAM, 480GB SSD, 1TB HDD (the HDD was from Lenovo PC)

SK Hynix 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 3200 RAM Kit HMA81GU6CJR8N CL22 Single Rank (from Lenovo PC)

MSI Radeon RX 550 AERO ITX 2G OC 2GB PCIe Graphics Card (from i7 PC)

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX PCIe 5.1 Sound Card [SB1570] (from i7 PC)



Looking Ahead

One of my goals in purchasing a pre-build system with a Ryzen 7 4700G processor was ultimately to get one of these OEM-only CPUs. In the USA, the options are few for purchasing one–either order it online from an overseas seller or buy a pre-built system that comes with one. In a sense, the latter turns into a shucking situation like many people have done for years with Western Digital external USB hard drives and now others are doing with pre-built systems that come with a video card. The market and pricing drive computer hobbyists to do things that save them a buck or land them a hard-to-find component. For me, this system serves this purpose in the long run. For the time being, I plan to run the 4700G in the Lenovo IdeaCentre 5, but if/when component prices return to saner price points, I would like to build a new system with a motherboard that can do more with the 4700G and its system RAM than the extremely limited Lenovo-made AM4 socket motherboard.

My needs change depending on the work that I happen to be doing at any given time. I imagine that I might get a dedicated graphics card again in the future, but I have no interest in dealing with the scarcity and market-inflated prices right now. I realize that there are a number of forces at play that are driving up prices, including the pandemic’s effects on workers, their families, and supply chains, ensuing component part scarcity, high demand among computer users working, learning, and playing remotely from home, and high demand among cryptocurrency miners. As we dig ourselves out of the pandemic, I think the former issues will sort themselves out. However, as we’ve seen before, cryptocurrency’s built-in blockchain inefficiencies and the proof-of-work concept that underlies their systems continues to wreak havoc on the cyclical graphics card market while simultaneously damaging the environment through its outsized and ever increasing energy needs. Crypto-mining doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, so it’s an issue that we need to collectively deal with before it virtually absorbs the graphics card market and inaugurates a new industrial-market revolution with detrimental environmental costs.

Retro-Review of Used Lenovo ThinkPad X230 Sourced from eBay


I’ve wanted an IBM ThinkPad since I first saw my boss’ at Netlink in the fall of 1998. But, while I’ve been invested in PCs over the years tangentially, I reserved Macs as my primary desktop or laptop computing platform, which combined with the premium price on IBM and then Lenovo ThinkPads kept me in the Apple premium category. Put another way, I could afford one but not both.

Apple, as I’ve confided with friends, is diverging from my computing interests and needs. While design has been an important part of Apple’s DNA since the Apple II (arguably even earlier if we consider Woz’s design aesthetics for the Apple I motherboard layout), its increasing emphasis on fashion and accessorization and seeming less technological investment and innovation in its desktop and laptop computers have soured my allegiance to the company and its computers.

So, I thought about how to try out a different kind of PC laptop–one that I had wanted but could not afford when it was originally released–and make an investment in extending the life of what some folks might consider an obsolete or recyclable computer.

Within this framework, I wanted a laptop to take the place of the MacBook Pro that I had sold on eBay awhile back while the resell value was still high before rumored price reductions as product refreshes roll in. It needed to be relatively lightweight and have a small footprint. Also, it needed to have good battery life. And of course, it needed to run the software that I use on my home-built desktop PC.

Eventually, I decided to purchase a very well taken care of Lenovo ThinkPad X230 on eBay. Originally released in 2012 for a lot more than what I paid for it, this ThinkPad model features an Intel Core i5 3320M Ivy Bridge CPU running at 2.6GHz with 2 cores and supporting 4 threads. It has 8GB DDR3 RAM and a 180 GB SSD. In addition to built-in WiFi, it has an ethernet port, 3 USB 3.0 connectors, an SD Card reader, VGA and Display port connectors, and a removable battery.

From a user interface perspective, it has a chiclet keyboard which responds well to typing quickly. Its touchpad leaves a little to be desired in terms of responding to some gestures like scrolling, but its red pointing nub and paddle-style mouse buttons at the top of the touchpad are exquisite. It includes some feature buttons like a speaker mute button next to volume keys above the function key row, and on the left side there is a radio on/off switch for the WiFi and Bluetooth.

Initially, I tried out the ThinkPad X230 with Ubuntu, and everything seemed to work out of the box (though, I added TLP for advanced power management). However, I switched back to Windows 10 Professional with a full nuke-and-pave installation, because I have some software that is far easier to run natively in Windows instead of through Wine or virtualization in Linux.

In Windows 10 Professional, the ThinkPad X230 meets all of my productivity needs. I use LibreOffice for most things, but I also rely on Google Docs in Chrome for some tasks (like inventorying the City Tech Science Fiction Collection). The WiFi works well even at City Tech, which has one of the most cantankerous wireless networks I’ve encountered. At home, I use it on my lap to browse while watching TV.

The X230 is snappy and quick despite its age. Of course, the SSD and ample RAM support increased input/output for the older CPU. Chrome, LibreOffice, and Windows Explorer respond without hesitation. It easily plays downloaded Solo: A Star Wars Story 1080p trailers in VLC, too.

With the included 6 cell 45N1022 battery, it runs for several hours (this is a used battery, so its capacity might be lower than one that is brand new). I purchased a 9 cell 45N1175 battery, which I’m testing out now. With the 6 cell battery, it is just shy of 3 pounds, and with the 9 cell battery is a little over 3 pounds. I’m hoping that between the two of them that I can get plenty of work done on the go without being tethered to a power outlet.

Future tests include running World of Warcraft and watching full length movies. The display’s viewing angles could be better, but I’m willing to accept them as they are as I can adjust the brightness and display gamma easily using keyboard shortcuts and the Intel Display Adapter software to minimize its poorer display quality as compared to the latest HiDPI displays available now.

I’m tickled to use the Lenovo ThinkPad X230 as my main laptop. Now, I can say that I’m a proud ThinkPad owner instead of a zealous Apple user.

At the bottom of this post, I’ve included more photos of the X230.

If you’re considering a new computer, I would, based on this and my other vintage computing experiences, suggest that you consider trading up for a used or refurbished machine. Getting a used computer keeps that computer out of a landfill or being destroyed for its rare metals, and it might be an opportunity to try out a computer that you might have missed on its first time around.

PC Computing, August 1994


The August 1994 issue of PC Computing was my go-to source for customizing my 486/DX2 66MHz system back in high school. I wanted to relive some of those tricks in my emulated DOS environments today, so I began hunting around for a copy to refresh my memory. After having no luck with nearby collections on Worldcat, I reached out to several eBay sellers who offer back issues of computer magazines. Seller sij167 replied that he had a copy that he would offer up, which I immediately purchased. It arrived very well protected this afternoon.

In this issue, the Operating Environments section is particularly helpful for building batch files to do a variety of otherwise tedious typing tasks. There are tips from “superstars,” including Bill Gates and Peter Norton. There are opposite-end-of-the-spectrum columns by John Dvorak and Penn Jillette. And, of course, the advertising! I wonder if I would get a reply if I send off a bubbled-in information request postcard?

A note about the magazine’s title: The Wikipedia page for the magazine lists it as “PC/Computing.” The magazine’s logo is styled with a slash between PC and Computing as shown in the photo above. However, the magazine’s masthead page lists the magazine as “PC Computing” with a space separating PC and Computing, as does the footer on odd number pages throughout the magazine.

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


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.


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


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


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


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

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0

Min FPS:
Max FPS:

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

1920×1080 fullscreen
Tessellation: Disabled
Powered by UNIGINE Engine
Unigine Corp. © 2005-2013

Unigen Valley Benchmark 1.0


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

Min FPS:
Max FPS:

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

1920×1080 fullscreen
Powered by UNIGINE Engine
Unigine Corp. © 2005-2013

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward Benchmark


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
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 2010-2015 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved.
Share ResultsType 1 #FFXIV Score: 8077 1280×720 High (Desktop) DX11 Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz Radeon RX 550 Series Type 2 #FFXIV Score: 8077 1280×720 High (Desktop) DirectX11 Windowed Radeon RX 550 Series Type 3 #FFXIV 1280×720 High (Desktop) DirectX11 Score: 8077 Extremely High Type 4 #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 #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.



Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood Benchmark


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.


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
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 2010-2017 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved.
Share ResultsType 1 #FFXIV Score: 10877 1280×720 High (Laptop) DX11 Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz Radeon RX 550 Series Type 2 #FFXIV Score: 10877 1280×720 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Windowed Radeon RX 550 Series Type 3 #FFXIV 1280×720 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Score: 10877 Extremely High Type 4 #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 #FFXIV

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


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
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 2010-2017 SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved.
Share ResultsType 1 #FFXIV Score: 5807 1920×1080 High (Laptop) DX11 Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700 CPU @ 3.60GHz Radeon RX 550 Series Type 2 #FFXIV Score: 5807 1920×1080 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Full Screen Radeon RX 550 Series Type 3 #FFXIV 1920×1080 High (Laptop) DirectX11 Score: 5807 Very High Type 4 #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 #FFXIV


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.

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!

Before Cyberpunk: Science Fiction and Early Personal Computing (for the 13th City Tech Poster Session)


For the New York City College of Technology, CUNY’s 13th Annual Research Poster Session, I created the poster embedded above to illustrate my current research on pre-cyberpunk science fiction (SF) about computing and personal computing. The poster discusses my focus and provides a timeline with SF about computing matched with key technological innovations that made the personal computing revolution in the late-1970s possible.

What I am interested in is the fact that William Gibson’s “cyberspace” captured the popular imagination about the metaphorical place where computing, processing, navigating, interacting, and communicating occurs, but some of the very good SF about computing that predates Gibson’s coining the term cyberspace failed to leave an indelible impression. Certainly, these stories were read and circulated, but the reach of their images and metaphors seem to have been limited in scope as compared to Gibson’s writing.

One of the ideas that I have had since creating the poster is that the idea of hidden computing or outlaw computing is something central to Vernor Vinge’s “True Names.” This, of course, features large in Gibson’s fictions, and it is the image that I am looking for in other SF of this transitional era.

At the poster session, I will carry my Raspberry Pi-based touchscreen-computer-in-a-Suntory-box-from-Japan to demonstrate the idea of hidden computing. I will post a step-by-step instruction post soon about assembling the Raspberry Pi-based computer and offer some additional thoughts about how I would like to use them in my technical communication classes.

In this post, I want to provide some of my notes and links to relevant resources as a record of the initial research that I did in preparation of this poster. It is my hope that it might lead to conversations and collaborations in the future.


Fiction Sources

Murray Leinster’s “A Logic Named Joe” (1946): Home computers connected to a large scale network. [Couldn’t fit within poster dimensions, but a significant work that needs mentioning.]

Isaac Asimov’s “The Fun They Had” (1951): Children discovering a print book are agog at what it represents while their classroom/desktop teaching computers flash mathematical fractions at them. [Couldn’t fit within poster dimensions, but another important work in this genealogy.]

Poul Anderson’s “Kings Who Die” (1962): Human-computer interface, according to Asimov and Greenberg in The Great SF Stories #24, “one of the first stories to address this question” (69).

Daniel F. Galouye’s Simulacron-3 (1964): Also published as Counterfeit World. Adapted as Welt am Draht/World on a Wire (1973). Simulated reality for artificial beings programmed to believe (except in the case of one character) that they are real and living in the “real world.”

Philip K. Dick’s A Maze of Death (1970): A crew in a disabled spacecraft while awhile their remaining lives in a computer generated virtual world.

John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider (1975): Computer programming and hacking. First use of the term “worm” to describe a type of self-propagating computer program set loose on the computer network. Protagonist as outlaw.

[Five year gap during the personal computing revolution. Were the SF writers playing with their new personal computers?]

John M. Ford’s Web of Angels (1980): The “Web” is a communication and computing network connecting humanity. “Webspinners” are an elite group of programmers who can manipulate the Web in unique and unexpected ways. Protagonist as outlaw.

Vernor Vinge’s “True Names” (1981): Computing power hidden from view of a watchful government–literally under the floor boards. Early MMORPG/virtual reality experience of what was later called cyberspace. Protagonist as outlaw.

Damien Broderick’s The Judas Mandala (1982): First SF to use the terms “virtual reality” and “virtual matrix.” Protagonist as conspirator/outlaw?


Nonfiction Sources

Cavallaro, Dani. Cyberpunk and Cyberculture: Science Fiction and the Work of William Gibson. New Brunswick, NJ: Athlone Press, 2000. Print.

Ferro, David L. and Eric G. Swedin. Eds. Science Fiction and Computing: Essays on Interlinked Domains. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011. Print.

Kay, Alan C. “A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages.” ACM ’72 Proceedings of the ACM Annual Conference – Volume 1. New York: ACM, 1972. n.p. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Mowshowitz, Abbe. Inside Information: Computers in Fiction. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1977. Print.

Murphy, Graham J. and Sherryl Vint. Beyond Cyberpunk: New Critical Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.

Slusser, George Edgar and TA Shippey. Eds. Fiction 2000: Cyberpunk and the Future of Narrative. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992. Print.

Stableford, Brian. Science Fact and Science Fiction: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.

Timeline of Computer History. Computer History Museum, 2015. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Warrick, Patricia. The Cybernetic Imagination in Science Fiction. Cambridge: MIT, 1980. Print.



KSU Writing Classroom Improvements

Thank the maker–my first class students had unimpeded wireless access in SFH, and our peer review exercise went off largely without a hitch. I’m very happy that I was able to use that computer classroom without any technological hiccups.

My second class is busy working on their peer reviews now, and they are all busily engaged with each other’s essays. But what would this post be if I were not to complain about something–the desktops in MOU should have the default Microsoft Windows XP games disabled. I would rather my students have “underlife” talk after completing an assignment rather than playing a throw-your-brain-into-neutral game of solitaire.

And one concluding question: Why do computer support folk have to be jerks? This isn’t a universal rule, but it a widespread malaise that appears with a variety of stenches. I encountered the kindergarden teacher routine today, when I asked for help getting the projector to mirror the computer monitor. If the podium in these otherwise nicely equipped computer rooms wasn’t a Frankensteinian agglomeration of multiple breakout boxes and wires that must be configured in just like a sudoku puzzle for the proper video source to be projected. I wouldn’t be quite as upset about this if the tech didn’t use a normal tone of voice with her assistant and would code switch into a condescending cutesy voice when she would turn back to me.

KSU Information Services, Please Increase the Wireless IP Pool

Today, I finally learned that another issue may have been contributing to my computer woes in SFH 213. Apparently, the IP address pool for wireless network connections at KSU has run out of addresses, but a greater allocation of IP addresses for use on the wireless network should be in place by Monday.

As in my previous SFH classes, my students and I roll with the punches and switch to the tried and true method of writing on paper. With their daily work on pulp, I ask them to type up their scribbling on vista when they are online in the dorms (I wonder if this IP allocation issue is affecting the dorms–I understand that not all students use ethernet). This extra step with writing, as I told my students in that class, may actually help them develop their writing further, because it adds another layer or step to their production of text. I encourage them to consider what they wrote in class and how they can make it better or write it differently when they are transcribing it on vista. Considering this, it will be interesting to see how my two classes develop if the computer connectivity issue continues.

Pitfalls of the Computer Classroom, Again

I had another unfortunate encounter with the computer classroom in SFH, but I think I stumbled on the solution. The students who couldn’t login to the wireless network hadn’t yet updated their passwords with Flashword. Apparently, this needs to be done before they can login to other services on campus besides Flashline, Vista, or campus email. It was very frustrating to discover this during class when I would have preferred to focus on the writing assignments. As with last time, I had students work with pen and paper when they weren’t able to login to the wireless network. Even though they should have updated their passwords in order to access the wireless network, I wish that the computer classrooms in SFH had wired connections to the Internet as they do in MOU. I understand that this requires more infrastructure investment, but a wireless access point connected to a switch with wires snaking around the room to each laptop wouldn’t be that expensive and it would remove the added “cost” of having students login to the wireless network each class.

Recap–For other KSU instructors in SFH, make sure that  your students have updated their passwords with Flashword if they trouble connecting to the wireless network.

Bottom line–I’m glad that I was able to roll with this (second) punch, and that I had a plan b to offload the writing to more traditional media.

Robert Jackson on The Future of the Book and the Future of Academic Libraries

On October 28, Robert H. Jackson visited Kent State to give a talk in the Read Special Collections Classroom on the 10th floor of the Library on “The Future of the Book and the Future of Academic Libraries.”  Mr. Jackson is a lawyer by trade, and a recognized collector of books and tribal art.

Mr. Jackson argues that there is something special about the physicality of books, and what books mean to us that will help keep them around for at least another hundred years.  However, he admits that books are part of a technological process for the presentation and maintenance of words via text.  He charted his way through scrolls, codex, printed word, and the electronic revolution.  It’s the latter that he has some concerns about regarding the conservation of our textual archive in the future.

He bills himself as a collector of information–information that is inherently unstable and fleeting.  He catches concrete pieces of information before it’s lost and left to deteriorate.  The electronic revolution has problematized the collection of information for book collectors as well as library special collections.  First, there’s no longer manuscripts of creative works.  He noted that even John Updike has given up the typewriter for the computer word processor.  Obviously, writers draft their work in word processors, but the author has to be mindful of the writing process to produce files that would resemble what we consider manuscripts.  I imagine, more often than not, authors draft their work in one file or in chapter files, but the act of word processor writing lends itself to continual revision–subtle changes that are skewered for meaning by scholars but lost in the digital age.  Then, if special collections or a collector is presented with digital manuscripts, how should these be preserved?  What if they are on 320K 5 1/4″ floppy disks, or another difficult to read medium?  What about the rate at which computer storage changes–anything cutting edge now will be difficult to read in 5 or 10 years.  Another problem involves author letters and correspondence.  Most communication today is done by email, but there is often no special care taken in the preservation of these emails.  Furthermore, how should emails and other digital communications (think:  myspace, facebook, twitter, aim, etc.) be preserved?  

This problem of preservation is primarily one presented to library special collections.  Mr. Jackson has some canny observations about the trends in libraries and their special collections.  He views the library as the core or heart of a campus.  The library has its own gravitational field about which the rest of campus rotates.  It’s a place of learning–students and professors go there to work, study, and interact.  However, a shift occurred beginning in the 1990s where computers were used more in the library setting than books.  Now, we get the majority of our research from what he calls indexes, or perhaps more appropriately, databases.  However, I get his point that there has been a shift from the content to the proliferation of content indexing, and the use of finding where content is stored rather than delving right into the content itself.  

Coupled to this indexing is the recent move by Google to digitally store books online.  He believes that it’s healthy to make things available to a wider audience at all times.  What does this mean for the future of books and libraries?  He admits that books are only a stage in a progression of textual technologies, and he sees libraries as becoming even more dedicated to being places of learning.  He sees books falling to the wayside with the growing popularity of serials, which he admits has been a form since the 1500s, but they are undeniably growing in popularity, he says, because they don’t give you all the information at once.  At this point he gave TV programs and Star Wars as examples, but I would add to that the Web, YouTube, etc. He talks of books as having a reliability and authenticity, especially in uncertain times, that other media do not have, or I might suggest haven’t yet attained.  Also, he says that special collections will continue to grow and accrete more library space for the preservation of books.  With this being the case, he argues that special collections should assume a museum-like approach in which books are made available and the collections are displayed for people to easily see.  He wants to see libraries become a destination for people and families in the same way that museums and zoos are today–a destination of rare and valuable books with a “less rarified audience.”  He believes this will happen, because people want to see the real thing rather than a representation of the real thing such as on Google Books.  

This was an enjoyable presentation, and it helped me think more about some recent conversations that I’ve had with Mack Hassler regarding my own marriage/affair with books and technology.  I wish more literature grad students had attended, because this is important stuff for us to think about not only in terms of the shifting academic culture and job market, but with the very artifacts that we hold dear as objects of study.  As it was, I believe most of the folks in attendance were from the Classical Studies Department.  

After the presentation, I was beat and wanted to get home after a long day at the office, but I stuck around a few minutes to talk to Mr. Jackson.  While I was waiting, he told one well wisher that he was going to CERN this week for a private tour.  Apparently, Mr. Jackson has another hobby–quantum mechanics.  He talked about having a tutor so he would be up to speed on things before his trip.  I imagine he’s in Switzerland as I’m writing this–the lucky bastard.  Anyways, I did get the chance to talk to him on my way toward the elevator.  I told him about Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, which I thought was a critique of some of the very things that he said about the digitalization of books.  He said that he had read some of Vinge’s other stuff, so he would add Vinge’s most recent Hugo Award winner to his reading list.  I think he’ll get a kick out of it.