• Special Edition: Building Opal

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    ISSUE 19.01 • 2022-01-03 EDITORIAL By Will Fastie Our writers have the week off. The AskWoody newsletters are published 48 times per year, leaving fou
    [See the full post at: Special Edition: Building Opal]

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    • #2409996

      I like you have been around the block building my own computers as well as buying them off the shelf from major manufacturers. After reading your adventures with opal, I don’t think I’ll be ever be building a machine again. Since I can buy basic high performance empty cases with motherboards supported by a number manufacturers and then configure them afterwards I’ll rely on them to do the work for the BIOS  updates etc. Good luck!

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    • #2410001

      Hi Will Fastie, thank you for putting all the Opal DIY articles together in one place, very handy to keep up and follow. I am sad to hear about the Opal conundrum with what appears to be an ASUS problem, and hope you can sort it out without losing too much hair and sleep. Newsletter writers deserve some time off, especially around the holidays, and you are doing an excellent job filling in. Next may be slightly off topic, but hopefully a touch of Good News: colleague and fellow newsletter writer Leo Notenboom of the Ask Leo! Newsletter has promoted the AskWoody Newsletter in his #893 newsletter. Leo says he has been a lifetime Plus member for many, many years, and also says: “tell ’em I said hi.” Leo Notenboom spent over 18 years as a software engineer at Microsoft, and after “retiring” in 2001 he started Ask Leo! in 2003, a Windows orientated website, and is a very helpful person for many decades, including Amateur Radio volunteering.
      Perhaps we can give Leo a reciprocate call out and proclaim: Hi Leo, thanks for your plug about the AskWoody Newsletter! – Happy New Year and Best Wishes for continued success! From your friends at AskWoody Newsletter, website, Forums and Lounge. 🙂

      I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down.
    • #2410019

      I don’t think I’ll ever be building a machine again.

      When I was a road warrior, I carried around IBM ThinkPads with capacities suitable for their time and the nature of my work. Everything was on those machines, my entire business and personal lives. I’d love for that to be the same again. It’s just that I need more capacity today (ergo the 6TB mirror). It’s one of the reasons I went DIY in the first place.

      Maybe I’ll be able to afford two 12TB SSDs five years from now. Or maybe they’ll just be built into the Surface Pro 18.

      • #2410126

        Maybe I don’t understand Will. If I need a desktop box, which is what you are building, I would simply buy a Dell or Lenovo or HP with a small hard drive and as little RAM as possible and a legal copy of W11, and then do what you are doing to upgrade it. Why wouldn’t that work? Here’s an example of a $1800 Dell XPS just screen shot today. Including DVD


      • #2410130

        Using Onyx as a basis, what changes would you propose for a system

        A) is primarily designed to handle images such as the — at least
        — 11 TB-worth of pix right now on various HDs including many
        duplicates to make sure I can survive the death of one or more of the
        backup drives which are physically swapped in and out. But mostly NOT
        connected except when needed. But I like to be able to swap them in and
        out two or three at a time for updating.

        B) has and is used by photography applications such as Adobe
        Photoshop/Elements/Light room to improve/modify etc

        C) plus all the steps of scanning (Epson V800 Photo scanner, Silverfast,
        Apple 11pro phone )

        And importing/exporting scans on DVDs, hard drives, internet etc

        And thousands more to go

        • #2410265

          What you describe is primarily a photography system. In that context, and assuming you are talking about a conventional Windows PC:

          A) Storage seems to be your main problem. If the drive on which your programs are stored (usually C:) is not an SSD, I’d make that step #1, getting the largest one you can afford. Then I’d deal with archival storage. 11TB is a bit challenging and I think a good NAS solution might be the best course.

          A.1) If the C: SSD drive is large enough, you can do most of your work from that and move files on and off as needed. You could also have a modest drive for C: and make the next drive another SSD for current data. 2TB regular SSDs are now about $100/TB; pro-grade are about $160/TB. 4TB SSDs are perhaps 15% more.

          B) RAM is the best thing you can give photo apps.

          C) Scanning is limited by your scanner. For making sure the scanning app runs at its best, see B) above.

          You didn’t say anything about your processor. Because you mentioned Onyx as a baseline, I’ll say that I didn’t need a new system to do photography.


          • #2410270

            Will Fastie’s advice is very good for this task.  Use space on your computer for the current work, and a large NAS to hold and backup more remote data.  Network attached storage can be slow, but using wired not wireless can help.  Use gigabit ethernet from the NAS to the router and then to your computer.  If you have only a single copy of something, it is not safe.  Use RAID 1 mirroring so that your data vault can survive a disk crash.  But this will not protect it from user error like a delete all command, accidental drag, or malware.

            I’ll mention a few things that applied to me that may not matter to you.  Some old printers and scanners are hard to find drivers for.  Windows 11 may be worse than Windows 10 for this.  If your desktop is close to you and your room is quiet, you may want to make it quiet.  Since you’ll have the large offline storage, you may be able to have only SSDs and no loud HDDs.  Also pick a quiet power supply and a case designed for quiet.


    • #2410014


      I like your first-of-the-year update on your computing systems and the challenges.  I am new to “askwoody” but have been in IT for several decades.


      If you were my customer, I might advise a couple of ideas.  I would not use RAID in a desktop PC running Windows.  There are too many variables that will cause that to fail.  I do not see the value.  Would you be better off with something like a single drive NAS to have that date more disconnected?  NOT a mounted drive.

      If I even smell something before Windows 10, I get the shivers.  If you have unlimited funds and true network isolation, banish Windows 7.

      Have you thought about emergency Windows machines in the cloud?  I am not sure about the idea, but it seems to be gaining traction.

      When I see one person using three or four computers, I feel something is wrong.  Too much time on management, etc.  Again, I am new here, so that might be a misread.


      Building a DIY computer seems to be a minimal use case, but I appreciate the need.  So many of the off-the-shelf machines these days are poor performers.  I wonder how the custom PC builders are doing these days.  That would be another fun article.


      I work pretty hard to make the computing hardware irrelevant.  By that, I mean that if the PC dies, house floods, whatever, I can pick up another computer and get back to work quickly.

      Welcome to 2022!

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      • #2410275

        I feel like he has old machines to run old games, and also to be able to keep familiarity with the old to help support friends who still have older systems.

        I see reasons for lots of people to have three computers.  One standard machine, designed for reliability, easy backup and modern requirements.  One with a mega graphics card for gaming, but that will make it hotter and need high power supplies and fans.  And a third designed for low power use, maybe small size, to serve media to a television.


    • #2410061

      Thanks Will for your update on Opal. I was wondering why it was taking so long to see the final result in Ask Woody +. I built a similar system using the exact same motherboard about the same time as you. I opted for the I7-11700K CPU and Corsair Vengeance 2×32 GB RAM (total 64 GB). Also, I went with the be Quiet! Pure Base 600 and Dark Power 12 850W. I wanted the Blu-ray Disc Rewriter in the case for convenience. The Blu-ray Disc Rewriter is a LG WH16NS40 16x. Also, I acquired a PNY Nvidia Quadro P2200 (I am not a gamer) for a stable but decent graphics card. Everything else is identical to your build except I didn’t enable raid. In my previous builds, I ran into trouble with raid and decided never again on a desktop PC. Instead, I do frequent backups and have a very large Synology archive system (which uses raid 10 with 8 disks). I finished the build without any issues except that Norton 360 gave a lot of trouble. The Auto-Protect feature failed. After many, many hours of troubleshooting with an expedited case at Norton with an actual Norton software engineer (not their first line filter), we discovered a script that re-installs Norton 360 was truncating a very important registry entry: %systemroot%\system32\svchost.exe -k LocalServiceNoNetworkFirewall -p where the last 11 characters were missing in the string. In addition, we also discovered the particular version of VPNExpress I was using created some problems with Norton 360 as well. Both of these issues were fixed by the respective companies with updated versions of their products. Seems to me that quality control has really taken a hit in 2021. The only other issue I had involved transferring my software to the new machine. Licensing issues galore made it very difficult. Software authors have really tightened up their EULAs. Most of them no longer allow two installations (usually a PC and a laptop) now and require an email request to disable an activation before I can activate on my new machine. I think this was more difficult than the actual build and added many additional hours before I could use the new PC. It took some software authors days and weeks to respond. Even Microsoft was a pain (in the a$$) with Visio. I finally had to buy an entirely new version to get it on my new PC. Please keep us updated with your progress.

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    • #2410083

      I would not use RAID in a desktop PC running Windows.

      You’re probably in Fred Langa’s camp. I agree with the sentiment for everything except RAID 1, mirrors, which are quite useful and have a perfect fail-safe configuration.

      Would you be better off with something like a single drive NAS to have that data more disconnected?

      I considered that and it has merit. But when I’m working I want high performance, not just for the intensive things like video but for software development. Getting NAS to match SATA speeds (much less PCIe speeds for SSDs) is expensive.

      When I see one person using three or four computers, I feel something is wrong.

      Having more than one machine is less work than it used to be. And, of course, most of us have at least a second machine in our pockets. That’s life!

      I work pretty hard to make the computing hardware irrelevant.

      An excellent and sensible philosophy.

    • #2410084

      I was wondering why it was taking so long to see the final result in Ask Woody +.

      Me, too.

      Seems to me that quality control has really taken a hit in 2021.

      It is a worrisome trend.

      Please keep us updated with your progress.

      I’ll do my best. No new year’s resolutions on the matter, though. I don’t want to be backed into a corner!

    • #2410122

      nice writeup.. I also have built a few pc’s in my time and found it relaxing actually.. BUT… nowadays I buy Intel NUC’s.. awesome little pc’s that pack a very powerful punch… while I don’t need all the drives you have since I don’t mirror.. I use a M2 like you for booting and a 4tb ssd that all fits in the NUC very neatly.. I use backblaze for backing up my SSD and also use an external to clone the ssd and m2 drives.. quiet as a mouse and does what I need it to do.. just a thought for next time.. 😉

    • #2410133

      Why wouldn’t that work?

      It might and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from taking that path. If I was running a business, it would clearly be more attractive than building from scratch.

      What I want is control at a fine level. I can only get that when I make all the choices myself. And it lets me overbuild when I feel it would be helpful, such as buying a slightly bigger power supply than I probably need. Doing so means I will never need to worry about power when I do upgrade this system, which is almost a certainty. My other choices have similar justifications.

      This has been my approach for two decades and it has served me well, both practically and economically. My systems cost a bit more but they last longer than most off-the-shelf PCs.

      I’ll happily evolve when that perfect device (to my eyes) comes my way.

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      • #2410141

        Spot on Will! I have not found a Dell or other PC that I like. By the time I modify it to meet my needs and likes, I will have spent at least as much $ as my DIY. In addition, you have to remove all the crapware and other unwanted software on the purchased PC. You still have the problem of transferring all your production software from the old PC to the new one. I spent more time on that than building the PC.

    • #2410152

      I only made the comment because he appeared to have been spending an enormous amount of time getting this thing to work and still hasn’t gotten it to work. Or did I miss read the column?

    • #2410592

      FYI USB is getting FAST

      SATA revision 3.0 (6 Gbit/s, 600 MB/s, Serial ATA-600)

      USB 3.0 adds the new transfer rate referred to as SuperSpeed USB (SS) that can transfer data at up to 5 Gbit/s (500 MB/s after encoding overhead), which is about 10 times faster than Hi-Speed (maximum for USB 2.0 standard).

      USB 3.1 Gen 2[4] which can transfer data at up to 10 Gbit/s over the existing USB3-type-A and USB-C connectors (1200 MB/s after encoding overhead, more than twice the rate of USB 3.0)

      USB 3.2, released in September 2017, replaces the USB 3.1 standard. It preserves existing USB 3.1 SuperSpeed and SuperSpeed+ data modes and introduces two new SuperSpeed+ transfer modes over the USB-C connector using two-lane operation, with data rates of 10 and 20 Gbit/s (1200 and 2400 MB/s after encoding overhead).



      Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
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