Newsletter Archives

  • Windows Storage Spaces

    HARDWARE DIY

    Will Fastie

    By Will Fastie

    I decided to try Storage Spaces on Opal, just to see what it would be like.

    It’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s less technically challenging than the Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) solution that lives partly in UEFI and partly in a Windows driver. On the other hand, it’s a work in progress, with some confusing configuration steps.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.21.0, 2023-05-22).

  • The pros and cons of RAID 1

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    ISSUE 20.18 • 2023-05-01

    HARDWARE

    Will Fastie

    By Will Fastie

    Revisiting an old friend, it’s time to update our thinking about RAID 1.

    In our all-too-brief time working together, Fred Langa and I had only one point of disagreement — RAID (redundant array of inexpensive drives). Our bone of contention dealt with RAID level 1, the “mirror.” That’s the focus of this, our spring bonus edition of the newsletter.

    Following this brief explanation, I’ll provide an update on the RAID situation with two of my PCs, Onyx and Opal.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.18.0, 2023-05-01).

  • Fixing Onyx’s RAID 1 failure

    HARDWARE DIY

    Will Fastie

    By Will Fastie

    Before I was able to decommission Onyx, my daily driver desktop PC, one of my hard drives failed. Hard.

    Why the hard failure? Because I didn’t take my own advice — to replace hard drives every five years. The two Seagate drives in Onyx’s RAID 1 array were built in 2014 and put into service in 2015.

    One of the drives failed nine months ago, so it lasted seven years — two years later than when I should have replaced it. Fortunately, Onyx is modern enough to have a good RAID system, from Intel. The fix was remarkably easy and, for the most part, automated.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.18.0, 2023-05-01).

  • Configuring RAID 1 for Opal

    HARDWARE DIY

    Will Fastie

    By Will Fastie

    The last stumbling block in my quest to bring Opal, my new desktop PC, online has been resolved.

    Back when I was building Opal, my new PC to run Windows 11, I ran into a problem configuring two 6TB drives as a RAID 1 array. I struggled with that, which surprised me because it was relatively easy setting up the mirror on my original box, Onyx.

    I let Opal lie fallow. My excuse was that my wife had acquired her Lenovo Yoga, which was happily running Windows 11 Pro. That gave me access to a machine when I needed to deal with a Windows 11 topic for this newsletter. The delay that ensued turned out to have been a good thing.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.18.0, 2023-05-01).

  • Large or small? Old or new? Borrowed and blue?

    HARDWARE

    Ben Myers

    By Ben Myers

    Decade-long trends in computer hardware make for more expansive and perplexing choices.

    So you need to buy another computer, or two, or more? What do you buy — large or small, mainstream brand, traditional or custom, new or used?

    Running a cradle-to-grave computer business including the repair and resale of gently used computers, I originally expected to portray the various tradeoffs between buying new and buying used computers. Then I realized that the trends that have swept over the computer industry in the past decade can, and do, have great influence over what to buy. Trends first, new vs. used later.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.14.0, 2023-04-03).

  • Tooling around with laptops and other useful gear

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    ISSUE 20.11 • 2023-03-13

    HARDWARE

    Ben Myers

    By Ben Myers

    Portable computers have evolved from the Compaq luggable suitcase to laptops now weighing three pounds or even less, needing special handling and tiny tools.

    Today’s notebook, subnotebook, and tablet computers demand an array of small tools, sometimes unique to a brand and model. My small kit for the road can handle the screws found outside and inside many laptops, but I needed more and better help.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.11.0, 2023-03-13).
    This story also appears in our public Newsletter.

  • Tooling around with computers

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    ISSUE 20.10 • 2023-03-06

    HARDWARE

    Ben Myers

    By Ben Myers

    Whether you maintain your own computer, run your family IT department, or manage lots of computers, having the right tools makes the work so much easier.

    No matter which task you need to do, tools are essential — whether a spoon to stir your morning coffee or a hammer to pound a nail. So it is with computers, which need to be taken apart, put back together, cleaned, and sometimes connected to other devices to get the job done.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.10.0, 2023-03-06).
    This story also appears in our public Newsletter.

  • The Fastie Keyboard Silencer Pro+

    HARDWARE

    Will Fastie

    By Will Fastie

    Getting a quiet keyboard is easier than you think, especially with my new product concept.

    I type a lot. That’s what editors do. I also write code when I’m working on websites. I can’t escape the need for a good, comfortable keyboard.

    I also can’t escape the need for a quiet keyboard.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.07.0, 2023-02-13).

  • Finding a good keyboard

    One thing I’ve noticed lately when buying a new computer is that they EXPECT you to buy your own keyboard. The one that ships with a new desktop computer is one that I typically coil the cord up and put it in the storage room in case I need an emergency keyboard.

    Recently I went to investigate what would be a GOOD keyboard for someone after the wireless one I got for them wasn’t responsive enough and was a bit laggy.

    Who knew that all the really good keyboards these days are for gamers? One for example that I’ve seen recommended by many is the Logitech G series. One of the first things I had to figure out was how to get it to NOT be rainbow colored, or neon pink, or bright green, or any of the other 9 colors or pulsing things it was trying to be. I set it for pale blueish white all the way across the keyboard. Non pulsing. Not having a backlight at all was too weird as you couldn’t see the keyboard keys and numbers. Now while we are all touch typists and all that, it still threw me off to not have any sort of indicator of what key I was on.

    Another recommended brand is Keychron  which looks like an old IBM style of keyboard.  Speaking of IBM, who knew you could still buy an IBM model M on ebay and on Amazon.

    Anyone who REALLY types knows what I mean. You have to have a certain ‘feel’ of the keyboard and the keys can’t be too big or too small. Any thing that is off on the keyboard and you can barely type. We have two people in the office that LOVE their Apple keyboards and even use them on the Windows machines at the office (we use software from magic utilities to provide the drivers for Apple devices on Windows platforms), but personally for me? The Apple keyboard is sooooo flat that my fingers stumble over it and isn’t as efficient. Some of our best keyboards are from older HP and Dell computers where we no longer have the computer it came from, but we keep cleaning and reusing the keyboards because they feel comfortable.

    So what about you? What is your favorite keyboard now and back then?

  • Would you ever run an MS-DOS program in 64-bit Windows?

    HARDWARE

    Ben Myers

    By Ben Myers

    Let’s see if we can find good reasons to continue to use a 30-year-old MS-DOS program.

    Recently, a client asked me whether it was possible to run an MS-DOS program important for his business on a modern Windows 10 laptop, rather than his 15-year-old laptop with Windows XP. I asked him for his reasoning and quickly rejected out of hand the possibility of installing a 32-bit version of Windows 10 to run his DOS program, an extremely limited use for a laptop. And with a look to the future, there is no 32-bit Windows 11, either.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.06.0, 2023-02-06).

  • When is the right time to buy a Windows 11 computer?

    HARDWARE

    Susan Bradley

    By Susan Bradley

    The other day, I retired the last Windows 7 computer in our office, the one that had been used by our office manager.

    She didn’t like change and rarely went online. She used the computer only for some key business applications. (She carried a flip phone.) In other words, this is a case in which I wanted to make the transition as smooth as possible.

    So I took an older Windows 10 computer that wasn’t eligible for Windows 11, put the Start10 application on it, installed the Office classic menu, and ported her preferred background image to the “new” PC. I put the icons on the desktop in exactly the same place. I did everything possible to make the new computer look and behave as much like the old one as I could. And I didn’t tell her the computer had changed.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.04.0, 2023-01-23).

  • Dymo declines

    HARDWARE

    Will Fastie

    By Will Fastie

    One of my favorite brands is headed for extinction.

    I don’t think I’ve ever been as dismayed with a Christmas gift as I was a year ago. I just didn’t know it at the time. My wife gave me the gift because I asked for it, but even my reason for wanting it was askew.

    The gift? A Dymo LabelWriter 550 Turbo. Faster than a speeding bullet. Able to leap buildings in a single bound. And, designed to disappoint.

    Read the full story in our Plus Newsletter (20.02.0, 2023-01-09).