Tag Archives: lifestyle computers

What Computer – Which Computer is best?

What Computer

As technology is ever improving computers are equally changing, getting faster and smaller. The choice of computer was relatively simple when it used to be limited to either a Desktop or Laptop. Now we have Netbooks and Tablet PC’s to also consider.

What Computer – The Desktop

Custom PC - Cube PC
Custom PC – Cube PC

The Desktop PC is a relatively large computer and as the name suggests it normally sits on top of your desk with a separate display, keyboard and mouse. But even this format has expanded to include all-in-one computers like the Apple iMAC and Acers Z5700 touch screen. There’s also small format media PC’s similar in size to a shoebox but retaining the separate display keyboard and mouse.

The Pros/Cons: Generally you get more performance for your money and they are upgradable so there is some obsolescence built in. The Cons: Generally they are large and need a lot of desk space (but not always see Cube PC).

What Computer – Custom PC  the desktop solution

We still think the desktop PC has a lot to offer, particularly in its future proofing. We build custom PC’s using standard components which means that we can generally offer upgrades keeping pace with advances in technology and changing needs.

For example a customer buying a entry level custom PC  from us for say running Microsoft’s Office and maybe surfing the Internet then develops an interest in digital photography. In most cases this would generally mean buying a new computer or laptop but for our customers we can upgrade the memory and add better graphics capabilities and so for a much smaller cost they can continue to use the same computer for their new interest.

We’ve added more details on this in another post which can be read here.

Laptops Netbooks and ChromeAcer Ultrabook

Laptops have become much more popular in recent years with rapidly falling prices and ever increasing specs. However they do have drawbacks – not all Laptops are equal, they may look the same but what is inside can make a huge difference to the performance. Some laptops are just not that well made, check the reviews before buying and watch for the catch behind that temptingly low price. Some Laptops come with the previous generation CPU a slow Dual Core will frustrate even the most patient user. They can run very hot and even though they go also by the name laptop it’s best not to use them in your lap.

It’s also rare that they can be significantly upgraded so buy the best you can otherwise you could be forced into an early replacement purchase defeating that initial low cost outlay.

But get it right and a Laptop can be a great purchase – spend more than £600 to get a good one check that the processor is at least an i5 or AMD’s equivalent. Get one with at least 4Gb memory and 500Gb hard drive. And don’t forget that screen look for a bright HD screen that can be viewed in daylight.

Netbooks – those cut size Laptops have had their day tablet computers have over taken from them, but saying that I still use one for photography on the go, my Acer One has a ITB hard drive and built in SD card support meaning I can transfer my photos to the hard drive on the fly and view them on a relatively large screen.

Chrome – a new entry to the market, these are restricted to the Chrome OS (Linux) so you can forget running Microsoft’s products e.g. Office on them but you can add Apps, so there is some useful software out there. They are relatively slow though and are best restricted for use on the Internet. More powerful versions are coming online so watch out these could be the Laptops to have in the future.

What Computer – Which Computer is best?

What Computer

As technology is ever improving computers are equally changing, getting faster and smaller. The choice of computer was relatively simple when it used to be limited to either a Desktop or Laptop. Now we have Netbooks and Tablet PC’s to also consider.

What Computer – The Desktop

Custom PC - Cube PC
Custom PC - Cube PC

The Desktop PC is a relatively large computer and as the name suggests it normally sits on top of your desk with a separate display, keyboard and mouse. But even this format has expanded to include all-in-one computers like the Apple iMAC and Acers Z5700 touch screen. There’s also small format media PC’s similar in size to a shoebox but retaining the separate display keyboard and mouse.

The Pros/Cons: Generally you get more performance for your money and they are upgradable so there is some obsolescence built in. The Cons: Generally they are large and need a lot of desk space (but not always see Cube PC).

What Computer – Custom PC  the desktop solution

We still think the desktop PC has a lot to offer, particularly in its future proofing. We build custom PC’s using standard components which means that we can generally offer upgrades keeping pace with advances in technology and changing needs.

For example a customer buying a entry level custom PC  from us for say running Microsoft’s Office and maybe surfing the Internet then develops an interest in digital photography. In most cases this would generally mean buying a new computer or laptop but for our customers we can upgrade the memory and add better graphics capabilities and so for a much smaller cost they can continue to use the same computer for their new interest.

We’ve added more details on this in another post which can be read here.

Maxed out your hard drive! – clone a new one

I’ve had to do this myself on numerous occasions now – you’ve maxed out your hard drive there’s just no more room left for all those programs, images and music files you’ve downloaded.

Internal Hard Drive
Internal Hard Drive

An easy solution is buy yourself an external disk and move your data to that, but sometimes, particularly if it’s a laptop you just want a bigger drive.

I’d say this is not a job for the non technical as you need to go inside the laptop at some point but here’s the process.

You need to buy a replacement hard drive – I’d go for a minimum of 500GB it should be a 2.5″ drive and as this is an upgrade I’d buy one with a spin rate of 7200 rpm and go for a 16MB cache. This can have a significant improvement on the original 5400rpm drive, making power up and the running of programs almost a third faster.

You also need a external hard drive enclosure with USB – you need this as you will fit your new drive in this for the cloning process before installing into your laptop.

You will also need some software to be able to clone your drive – I’d recommend a free program called TODO Backup which can be downloaded from here:- http://www.todo-backup.com/

The Process

  1. Install your new hard drive into it’s enclosure
  2. Connect to your laptop via USB and make sure that your computer recognises it.
  3. Run your cloning software and following the instructions, make sure you se t your laptop drive as the source and the USB drive as your destination.
  4. Depending on the size of your drive the cloning process can take several hours so make sure your laptop is connected to the supply otherwise the process will fail when your laptop runs out of power and shuts down.
  5. When the cloning process is complete shut down your laptop.
  6. Remove the new cloned drive from it’s enclosure.
  7. Remove your drive from your laptop – it usually just slides out but sometimes it’s in a cradle and so you will have remove the drive from this.
  8. Install the new drive first into the cradle if it has one  and then slide into the connectors on the laptop.
  9. Now comes the good part – restart your laptop and all being well your new drive boots and shows your all your programs and Windows Explorer lets you see how much more space you have.
  10. However you may find it’s exactly the same size as the old drive as it’s cloned it exactly. To get around this you need to resize the partition for which you will need Partition Software which is also a free download from here:- http://www.partition-tool.com/
  11. Now you can install your old drive into the enclosure and this gives you the bonus of an external drive that’s a complete backup of your original files and data.

I need to add a note here – sometimes the new drive needs to be re-mounted – what this means is you need a Windows systems disk to run Repair and this will remount your drive and update your boot record.

Maxed out your hard drive! – clone a new one

I’ve had to do this myself on numerous occasions now – you’ve maxed out your hard drive there’s just no more room left for all those programs, images and music files you’ve downloaded.

Internal Hard Drive
Internal Hard Drive

An easy solution is buy yourself an external disk and move your data to that, but sometimes, particularly if it’s a laptop you just want a bigger drive.

I’d say this is not a job for the non technical as you need to go inside the laptop at some point but here’s the process.

You need to buy a replacement hard drive – I’d go for a minimum of 500GB it should be a 2.5″ drive and as this is an upgrade I’d buy one with a spin rate of 7200 rpm and go for a 16MB cache. This can have a significant improvement on the original 5400rpm drive, making power up and the running of programs almost a third faster.

You also need a external hard drive enclosure with USB – you need this as you will fit your new drive in this for the cloning process before installing into your laptop.

You will also need some software to be able to clone your drive – I’d recommend a free program called TODO Backup which can be downloaded from here:- http://www.todo-backup.com/

The Process

  1. Install your new hard drive into it’s enclosure
  2. Connect to your laptop via USB and make sure that your computer recognises it.
  3. Run your cloning software and following the instructions, make sure you se t your laptop drive as the source and the USB drive as your destination.
  4. Depending on the size of your drive the cloning process can take several hours so make sure your laptop is connected to the supply otherwise the process will fail when your laptop runs out of power and shuts down.
  5. When the cloning process is complete shut down your laptop.
  6. Remove the new cloned drive from it’s enclosure.
  7. Remove your drive from your laptop – it usually just slides out but sometimes it’s in a cradle and so you will have remove the drive from this.
  8. Install the new drive first into the cradle if it has one  and then slide into the connectors on the laptop.
  9. Now comes the good part – restart your laptop and all being well your new drive boots and shows your all your programs and Windows Explorer lets you see how much more space you have.
  10. However you may find it’s exactly the same size as the old drive as it’s cloned it exactly. To get around this you need to resize the partition for which you will need Partition Software which is also a free download from here:- http://www.partition-tool.com/
  11. Now you can install your old drive into the enclosure and this gives you the bonus of an external drive that’s a complete backup of your original files and data.

I need to add a note here – sometimes the new drive needs to be re-mounted – what this means is you need a Windows systems disk to run Repair and this will remount your drive and update your boot record.

New Website – LifeStyle Computers goes live

Friday 24th June 2011

The New website for LifeStyle Computers went live today.

We’ve been researching all kinds of ideas and designs for a replacement to our previous Website and in the end we decided to go with a design based on WordPress App.

WordPress is incredibly flexible and allows us to add new pages and information (posts) without major changes to the design and just as importantly we can add this information without the use of editing apps or any special skills. This allows other members of the company to add new information and it immediately goes live on the site.

I created this website as an intern forming part of my course work for the Digital Media Production course at the Arts University Bournemouth.

 

New Website – Now Online

Friday 24th June 2011

The New website for LifeStyle Computers went live today.

We’ve been researching all kinds of ideas and designs for a replacement to our previous Website and in the end we decided to go with a design based on WordPress App.

WordPress is incredibly flexible and allows us to add new pages and information (posts) without major changes to the design and just as importantly we can add this information without the use of editing apps or any special skills. This allows other members of the company to add new information and it immediately goes live on the site.

 

MAC G4 to PC conversion project (Part 4 – Assembly)

Fitting the Power Supply:

MAC - PC Power Supply Installation
MAC - PC Power Supply Installation

Purchasing a power supply that fits the case pays dividends here as it’s a straight fit and uses the original fixings. The only change that was needed is to lengthen the ATX cable, fortunately you can buy a 15cm extension cable which is long enough to connect to the mother board connector with the case fully open. As it’s an Intel board you will also need to lengthen the separate 4 pin 12V power connector, while you can buy extensions for these we just extended the existing cable by inserting some extra length using in-line barrel crimps. The stock PSU fan was a bit too noisy for us so we swapped it for a low noise Akasa, the white lead hanging out the back is the speed controller.

MAC - PC Power Cable Extended
MAC - PC Power Cable Extended

The case fan:
We used the original case fan which draws air in from the case rear and blows cold air over the motherboard and importantly the graphics card. The bad news is that this is a 12V fan with an incompatible connector so you have to cut this off and either make up a 4 pin Molex to connect to the wiring loom or in our case look in the parts bin for a spare lead and connect using barrel crimp connectors.

IDE cables:
We used round IDE cables because they look so much better and they can be routed much easier in such a complicated case as this.

Optical Drive:
We planned for this so this was a fairly straight forward fitment using the original fixings although we did find it easier to fix the IDE cable and power connector to the drive before pushing the complete assembly into position.

Hard Drive:
Again thanks to forward planning we were able to fit the hard drive into it’s original caddy and it’s original position. The cables should be fitted to the drive first before fixing in position as the hinge can get in the way.

Power On/Reset Switch:
Warning – We used the original front panel (see manual) but even though the original connector fits the ASRock motherboard panel connections don’t be tempted to just plug it in as the pin outs do not match up. You need to identify the power switch connections and match these up to the pin outs on the mother board. We also traced out the other connections to give us a reset etc. but could not get the power led to light so ours maybe dead.

With the assembly complete it’s was time to fire it up and see if it works ok see part 5 for details

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MAC G4 to PC conversion project (Part 3 – Case preparation 2)

Custom PC

PC motherboard fixings: Custom PC

MAC - PC Motherboard installation
MAC - PC Motherboard installation

One of the things we believe in is re-using old components so whenever we dismantle an old machine we tend to keep the bits so a quick look in the parts bin gave us a chassis for mounting a mATX board. This saved us from having to drill new fixings for mounting posts for a motherboard all we had to do was drill 2 fixings for the chassis itself. The other benefit was that we could manoeuvre the chassis within the case before drilling the fixings to make sure we had enough clearance to be able to close the case without anything hitting against say the power supply or optical drive. (Sounds good but we nearly came to grief at the last hurdle – see later on for details). Another thing this allowed us to do was to do a preliminary installation of the motherboard cpu and memory etc. (we actually fired the computer up before assembly to prove the hardware before installation.

If you are unlucky enough to have a separate chassis for your motherboard then you’ll have to trial fit your motherboard and then mark out fixing points using the holes in the motherboard as a guide. What I would do though is make a cardboard template and use this to mark out your drilling points for the fixing posts. I’d use those small brass fixing posts but the plastic push fit type are probably easier to fix.

Orientating the board: Custom PC

MAC - PC PCI card retaining strip
MAC - PC PCI card retaining strip

Using the chassis it was easy to trial fit the motherboard and assembly in position before final fixing. We installed temporary PCI and Graphics cards to line up the rear panel fixings (This is important – allow space for when the plastic goes back or your connectors will foul). We ended up cutting away the join between the two sections of the rear panel to clear the Audio connectors but some motherboards may not need this.

Card fixings: Custom PC

Thanks again to the chassis we only needed the top rail from the old I/O panel to be able screw the top of the cards to the rear panel the chassis provide the bottom fixings for the cards. The top rail was hack sawed from the rear panel and fixed back onto the case using self tappers. We actually did this at the same time as orientating the board so that the cards lined up perfectly. If you are not lucky enough to have a chassis then you will need the bottom fixing points as well so just hacksaw down the middle of the I/O panel and fix once again with self tappers.

Optical Drive caddy: Custom PC

MAC - PC Optical Drive Caddy
MAC - PC Optical Drive Caddy

At the last hurdle just as we thought we were home and dry on closing the case the ATX power connector was found to catch on the drive caddy. Fortunately it was not catching on the drive itself so with the application of the hacksaw again, 1.5cms was removed from one corner of the caddy. Unfortunately this was still not enough because we found that the retainer for the ATX cable itself was catching on the back of the optical drive – the only solution was to cut this off using a knife. It was a tight fit but the panel closes.

Part 4 looks at the assembly, cable choices

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MAC G4 to PC conversion project – Custom PC (Part 2 – Case preparation)

Custom PC

G4 Manual Download:Custom PC
We were lucky enough to find the official manual for the G4 available for download unfortunately we found this after we had completed the project – unfortunately it’s 8Gb pdf file so I’m unable to host this here but a search on Google should let you find a copy to download. This could prove invaluable for this Custom PC build, but you could manage without it.

Getting Started:Custom PC

The external plastics should be removed and safely stored before any work is carried out on the steel case itself. The manual will tell you how. You’ll also need to remove the plastic from beneath the motherboard for which we could not find any use for although it seems to be part of the door mechanism.

Removing the old components:Custom PC

MAC - PC Input Output Panel
MAC - PC Input Output Panel

We ended up with a fair sized box of metal and components after removing everything from the case which may end up on ebay at some point unless we get exited about building them into a PC case to balance up the equation. Don’t forget to remove the wire and fixing brackets on the case’s exterior which we think was for the wireless network or Airport as it is known.

Cutting the old motherboard fixings out:Custom PC
You have to remove all the existing fixings for the old motherboard the easiest way we found was to drill them out from the exterior of the case which leaves you with some holes but the exterior plastic will hide these ok.

Rear panel removal:Custom PC
We thought it best to remove the entire rear panel which they call the I/O panel. This is held in with pop rivets and so you need to drill these out remember that you are only removing the inner panel the exterior to which the plastic is attached has to remain. Keep this panel as you will need part of it to make up for fixings for your AGP Graphics card and PCI cards etc.

Miscellaneous:Custom PC

MAC - PC Hard Drive and Case Fan
MAC - PC Hard Drive and Case Fan

You will find various metal plates held in with screws which seem to have no purpose except to hold down cables, those also went into the large box of components except the hard drive caddy which will be re-used for the same purpose later in the build.

In part 3 we will look at what we need to put back, modify or fabricate before installing the components.

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