Jan 9, 2010

Work Xmas Party

Our work christmas party, delayed from last year due to bushfires. We were picked up from the office in a stretch hummer, drove to Granville helipad (right next to Parramatta speedway) then flew helicopters to the hunter valley where we tried out some wineries and had lunch before flying back home... AWESOME!! - for more pics check out my facebook

Dec 3, 2009

Starting Work

After 17 years of education, I am about to begin the next stage of life as a working man. My Uni degree is now finished, and after graduation in 2 weeks I'll be officially be a Computer Engineer. Although that isn't quite the position I've gone into.

I'll be working as an Automation Engineer for the excellent IT company at Sutho called Freshview. Having worked there as an intern last summer I already have a good feel for the work place and really enjoyed it so I'm quite excited about working there again.

As an Automation Engineer I'll be working in the field of quality assurance which means making sure the software that Freshview release is constantly of a very high quality for all their customers. This will be a new and interesting challenge for me that I'm keen to get started on.

Working at Freshview is awesome, its only 5 minutes away from home, they cater lunch every day, have a relaxed work enviroment and have monthly outings. There is so much this place has going for it. I would definately recommend going for a job there if anyone is looking for a job in the IT/internet area. Check out there website at http://www.freshview.com/ for more info.

Bottom line is, I'm ready to move on from the life of studying into the life of working. Hopefully it will all continue to go well.

Nov 17, 2009

Building A Computer

Last year I built my Dad a basic computer from parts ordered online, I did the same with a better computer for myself not long after that. Now I'm again looking at making a computer, this time for a friend seeking a basic computer for home usage. So I thought I'd put together my thoughts/guidelines for making a computer.

I'll start by talking about choosing the right parts, then look at actually putting it together.

Choosing the Right Parts
The first part you should look for when building a computer is the CPU, this is the brains of the computer. There are 2 brands of CPU's, AMD and Intel. I prefer Intel, put both of them are equally good. In making your decision, you should think about what you will use the computer for, and let this decide how powerful your processor needs to be. As far as I know, there is still few programs that actually make much benefit out of a quad core system, so I would still tend towards a dual core model. Currently, the speeds to look for will be between 2.5 and 3Ghz. Decide how powerful/fast you want your CPU to be, then look for the best deal for that range between either of the brands. Unless your going the basic package, you'll be looking at $150-$200 for the CPU.

After choosing the CPU, the motherboard is next. The type of CPU will determine the type of motherboard you can get, as each motherboard only supports a certain range of CPUs. So figure out which type of motherboard you need, then consider how many extra things you pla on plugging in like graphics cards, tv tuners, wireless cards etc ad make sure the board you pick has enough slots for these to fit. The motherboard will probably cost between $50-$100.

The choice of RAM is next, there are a few types of RAM: DDR, DDR2 and DDR3. DDR is practically gone now, a lot of boards still use DDR2, but the move is towards DDR3. Again, the type of RAM you get and the speed of the RAM is determined by the motherboard you pick. Each motherboard will fit a certain type of RAM and only support a certain range of speeds. So pick the RAM accordingly. Going for 2GB is probably the best bet, 1GB is a bit small, and some things like Windows Vista will struggle with it. going for 4GB often means you don't end up being able to use all of the 4GB since some things aren't able to make use of all of it. 2GB is good. Cost will be around $40-$70.

The Hard Drive is next. The good part here is that you can always get another hard drive later and add it in with little hassle so opting on the smaller side of Memory size is worthwhile. The hard drive is fairly independent to the other parts of the computer, one thing to take into account is the connection type, it will be either parallel (or PATA) or Serial (SATA). If you are going to add more than 1 hard drive, make sure you have enough of those connectors on the motherboard. Computers use 3.5" drives (laptops have 2.5"). You can get Solid State drives which are more reliable but cost a lot more for less memory, so I'd still stay away from them at the moment. For most cases, a hard drive of about 500GB should cover all you want to do with your computer (perhaps even less will do), but if you like to store tv shows, lots of music, pictures, movies, programs on your computer, then it would be worth going higher, perhaps a 1TB drive, or have multiple smaller drives. If backing up your data is important, it may be worth having 2 or more drives and using a RAID setup. Basically this spreads out your data between the hard drives and includes safety measures so that if 1 drive fails, you can insert a new drive and the data will be restored by analysing the contents of the other drives. But care is needed in choosing the right type of RAID (which works best with same size drives). A 500GB drive will cost around $60-70.

Some of these later features don't matter as much on the order of getting them, so can be swapped around a bit, but may be influenced by how much you are willing to spend and how much you spend on the other parts of the system.

A DVD drive is fairly essential, these are fairly straight forward, the models differ in terms of read speed and other extra features, but basically look for the cheapest one that is also a DVD burner (DVD-RW, most are) and go with that. Check the connection type, most are SATA and make sure you have enough ports on the motherboard to fit this with the hard drive(s). Some people like to get 2 dvd drives so you can copy one dvd/cd directly to another in the other drive. You can still do this with 1 drive, just a bit slower process, so this usually isn't necessary, but if you would be copying discs a lot, it may be worth getting 2 . should cost between $30-50 (less if your lucky).

Now we need something to put it all in, the case. The case will need to be able to fit the type of motherboard you chose, generally this won't be an issue, but beware of it. Also check that it has enough bays to place your hard drives and dvd drives. Otherwise you basically are looking for a case you think looks good. It may come with a power supply, if so,  you want one with about 500W of power as this is usually enough to adequately power everything without too much wasteage. Some cases don't include a power supply (PSU) so you may need to get one separately, again look at about 500W, more if you're going to have lots of components to your computer (particualarly graphics cards). The case and power supply will cost between $50 and $100, it's not usally going much over with this part as it only as visual appeal to your computer. However, you may plan to use your computer as a home theatre or in a often used area, in this case, noise is an issue so you should look for cases and power supplies that minimise noise, which will cost a bit more.

Thats all the basics for your computer tower, that is enough to build it and connect your monitor, keyboard and mouse and go for it. You may also like to add a graphics card if you will be doing graphics intensive work like gaming or design. There are two main brands, nVidea and ATI i think, graphics cards get outdated in a few months, so best to look at the models which are 1 or 2 versions older than the very latest stuff, they will stiill be fairly good, but a lot cheaper. Bit harder to choose the graphics cards, but what you need to look at is the speed of it and the amount of onboard memory it has. Also make sure that your motherboard and case can fit it, some graphics cards are double the width so beware of that. You can probably look at spending between $150 and $250 on this, but again look at your needs of the computer, you may not neeed it. Some people buy 2 graphics cards and have both running, it doesn;t double the performance, but it is better, this is for those who would really be giving their computer a work-out graphically.

Other options include TV tuners, wireless cards and other add-ons. These use extra ports on the motherboard, so make sure you have enough space for them. TV tuners are good to record tv shows with, you can get single or dual channel, meaning watch/record 1 show at a time or 2. Generally will only need 1, use this to tape a show, watch the other normally. But up to you, it will cost more for the dual channel (might not be called that). Wireless cards are for if you have a wireless internet connection set up at home you will be connecting to, most people use a cable connection which goes in the motherboard.

You may also need to get speakers, monitor, keyboard, mouse and printer if you don't already have these. Besides the monitor and printer, just getting the basic models for the others is usually fine. Monitors and printers you may want to spend a bit more on as these are important to be comfortable with.

An operating system will also be needed, you can either pay for windows or go with the free linux software. Windows is a bit more user friendly and familiar to most people, but if your willing to experiment a bit, go with linux. The main issue here is that a lot of programs won't run on linux (only windows) or not work well. Also, windows is way more popular, so there will be less support out there for linux. I prefer going with windows. (windows 7 is currently between $100-160)

Where to get the parts from
The other thing to address is where to get it from, online is a lot cheaper than locally. http://www.staticice.com.au/ will give you a comparison by price for any computer hardware related thing you want to search for from a bunch of Australian computer vendors, it is worthwhile looking there once you know the part you want. Choosing the part is a bit harder, try to look for reviews and guides from pc reviewing sites, for example, perhaps pcuser, pcauthority...
Two online sites i've used before and think are fairly good for prices, range and delivery are http://www.itestate.com.au/ and http://www.tigersdirect.com.au/

Putting It All Together
OK, now you've got all the parts for the computer, lets put it together. First we get our motherboard, place it on non-static surface like the package it came in. Then we insert the CPU and CPU fan, following the instructions provided with it. then we insert the RAM into the motherboard by clicking it into place in the long narrow slots, be careful to choose the right slots, consult the motherboard manual for this. we can now screw the motherboard into the side of the case. place the case on its side, with the upwards facing side cover removed. We place the motherboard in with the I/O panel facing the back of the computer and screw it all in. The power supply should be in the case already or insert it and screw it in if came separately. Plug the white long power supply connector into the motherboard. Also plug the power from the cpu fan in. we now put our hard drives and dvd drives into their bays at the front of the case. Screw them into place and then connect the drives to the motherboard and plug one of the power supply cables into each one. Lastly we connect any extra parts like the graphics cards or tv tuners. Insert them into their appropriate slots after removing the corresponding cover plate from the back of the computer where the card output will go. We then connect any extra cables to these devices if needed.

With this, everything is connected and ready to go, turn the computer back up, connect the power cable to the back, connect the monitor, mouse and keyboard and turn it on. We will then do some set up for the bios which is detailed in the motherboard manual (this may not be needed in some models). After this we insert our windows or linux disc to install the operating system. When this completes we are all done, we have our new computer ready to use, wwith only the parts we want and generally a few hundred $$ less than what we would pay for it instore to be made for us.

I built the tower for my dad at about $400 last year, with extra spent on buying windows vista, a new keyboard and mouse. My computer cost somewhere between $1000 and $1500 which was a fair bit more powerful and the basic one im working on now is looking at costing about $650 and includes tower, monitor, speakers, mouse, keyboard, windows 7 and microsoft office.

It is a worthwhile process, but can take a bit of knowledge and patience in finding the right parts, also a clear definition of how you intend to use the computer both now and into the future.

Hope that is helpful to someone, further questions let me know.

Nov 11, 2009

What would it have been like?

After watching a video posted on AB's blog site here, I was challenged to think about whether I agreed with all that was said and what changes might need to be made in my life. Something that struck me when hearing the guy talk about being on your death bed and wishing you had've spent more time reading the Bible, regardless of how much you end up reading.

From viewing this, and some other parts of the clip, it got me thinking about what it would have been like for people such as the Ephesians, Galatians, Corinthians etc.. when they recieved a letter of instructions and encouragement from Paul. Upon first receiving it, I imagine it was read out to all the people of the church by a church leader, but what then? I think it would be something so important to them that they would be reading it daily, particularly those in charge and seeing how they line up with it.

This then prompts me to think that when reading a letter like these, they should be read in one go, and read several days in a row. By this method, it would give a good chance at understanding the purposes of the writer of the letter and what it is we are/they were told to do.

I think this method should be implemented when reading the letters of the Bible particularly, and I plan to give it a go this week. But can it also be applied to other parts of the Bible?Rather than just reading a passage once, then moving onto a new passage the next day, perhaps it is better to read a short section one day, then read it again the next day and maybe another day, or multiple times each day, before moving onto a new section and doing the same thing.

For anyone reading this, what do you think about this reading method? What methods work best for you? What did you think about that video linked to in Andrew Barry's blog?