J. Peterson's Writing About Electronics, Reviews, 3D Modeling, etc.

Category Archives: Miscellaneous

After Ten Years, a New Computer

Four decades of personal computer purchases

Forty years ago, Moore’s Law was on a tear when it came to personal computing. Every year or two, CPU clock speeds doubled, RAM prices fell by half, and the compute power your OS and applications expected increased accordingly. You really had to buy a new machine every 2-3 years, or else your computer was hopelessly slow and out of date.

This slowed down by the late 2000s. The CPU chips had made the jump from 32 to 64 bits wide, and the clock speeds the processing chips ran at leveled off at around 3 – 4GHz or so. You could comfortably use the same computer for several years before replacing it. This is why the PC sales rate is a fraction of what it was 20 years ago.

My approach for buying my previous two computers was to get a top-end Macintosh and run Windows on it (I’ll explain the OS choice later). The fit, finish and performance of Apple hardware was excellent, and the selection process was very straightforward. When he returned to Apple, Steve Jobs paired the Mac product line down to simple groupings of computers making it easy to choose the right one. The rate of obsolescence had slowed down to almost a decade between replacements (though I may procrastinate on this longer than most). Read on for some history and how I selected a new machine…

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The Return of Attic

2011 Mac Mini

Many years ago, I repurposed an ageing Dell tower PC into a household server named “Attic.” After the fire, we had to move out of the house for a while, and it no longer made sense to keep it. So I kept the hard drives, and junked the aging PC hardware. The original machine ran Linux (Debian), simply because I find it a slightly more useful way to configure as a remotely accessed device than a Mac or PC. But to quote @jwz: “Linux is free only if your time is worth nothing“. Nearly two decades later, that’s still true.

I still missed having the server though. I found another leftover computer, this time a 2011 Mac Mini my son used in middle school, and set it up again as a household sever.

The installation is the easy part, everything else is messy. It’s Linux: meaning it’s nobody’s job to make sure everything works. Or rather, it’s everybody’s job to make sure anything works. The good news is all the nerds use Linux and post about it, so help is usually just a few searches away. Click “read more” for a running brain dump of what I’ve discovered so far while getting it on the air.

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A Clip for the Apple Pencil

Render of the Apple Pencil clip

The original Apple Pencil, in addition to its phenomenally bad charging method, has no means to keep it with the iPad. The nice leather Sena case we keep the iPad in doesn’t have a loop for the pencil. I solved the problem by coming up with a clip that’s easily tucked into the case when it’s closed.

This was a quick project, created in less than an hour of CAD work. The first print back from Shapeways had a couple of problems. I made the inner radius of the clip match the pen, thinking it would shrink enough from the spec dimensions to fit securely. Nope, it fit perfectly – and slid right off. The second issue was the original spike was only about 1.5mm thick; turns out that’s pretty bendy in Shapeway’s nylon. For the second revision, I made the clip diameter a full millimeter less than the pencil and it clips on securely now. Making the spike about 3mm across is rigid enough to stay in place.

Ironically, Sena now sells the case with a loop to store the pencil. But it’s still fun to solve the problem in less than an hour of design time. The STL is up on Thingiverse if you want to print one.