Mike’s Current Computers
(Last update 5/30/15)

I consider a computer "current" if it can at least run Windows XP, Mac OS X, Windows Mobile (still popular on industrial devices) or Android / Linux.

The systems are listed in order of age (based upon date made, not when I acquired them), from youngest devices to the oldest.
 

Recent Updates:

5/5/15 - Added Apple iPad Air 2 (#1)
2/14/15 - Added Dell Raspberry Pi 2 (#2)
1/25/15 - Added Dell Inspiron 20 (#3)

12/10/14 - Added Asus Vivotab 8 (#4)



My current primary system is the custom-built Super PC 2
(#6, below).

 

 

1. Apple iPad Air 2 tablet.  Acquired April 2015.

 

The latest version of Apple's flagship tablet.


 
        CPU:  Apple A8X Triple Core 1.5 GHz 64-bit,

                    plus M8 Motion co-processor.

          RAM:  2 GB (not expandable)
     Storage:  64 GB internal NAND (not expandable)

      Screen:  9.7" IPS LED 2048 x 1536 pixels
                    multitouch.
 
 Graphics: 
Apple proprietary, based upon
                    Imagination PowerVR Series6XT design,

                    with HDMI & analog video/audio out via
                    Lightning
adapter.
         Audio: Stereo speakers, headphone jack.
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/a, Bluetooth 4.0,
                     Apple Lightning
connector, USB 2.0.

          Misc:  Two cameras, 8 Megapixel rear

                     and 1.2 Megapixel front.
                     Built-in accelerometer, gyro, compass
,

                     barometer and finger-print scanner.
            OS:  Apple iOS 8.3

 

Other than my old 2006 iPod, this is the first Apple computer I have ever bought new. This is the sixth

generation of the iPad, and like with most Apple products it made sense to wait a few generations before buying; this edition has the best display I've seen on a tablet and the camera on the back takes better movies than my Canon DSLR.

 

The bad news is that it's expensive and looks a bit fragile; I promptly bought a protective case for it since it seemed too dangerous to leave it naked.

 

I also got a lightweight Inateck Bluetooth keyboard for times when I may need to do some serious typing.

 

 

2. Raspberry Pi 2 Computer.  Acquired February 2015.

 

The latest version of the popular Raspberry Pi computer board.


 
        CPU:  ARM Cortex-A7 900 MHz Quad Core

          RAM: 1 GB (not expandable)
     Storage: Micro SD slot supports up to 64 GB
                    (32 GB card currently installed).
   Graphics:  VideoCore IV 3D graphics dual core,
                     up to 1920 × 1200 resolution,
                     with HDMI & analog video / audio out.
         Audio: Stereo
Connectivity: Ethernet 10/100 Mbps,
                     four USB 2.0 ports.

          Misc:  40 GPIO pins for custom input/output
            OS:  Various versions of Linux supported,
                    also Windows 10 RT (see below).
                    Raspbian Debian currently installed.

 

This credit-card sized computer (see photo at right) costs only $35 and packs a lot of power in a tiny space. A variety of Linux operating systems are supported, and Microsoft has announced a special version of Windows 10 will be available for it later this year for free (based upon the 'RT' edition, not compatible with x86 apps). This board is very popular with hobbyists and students, and has a substantial cottage industry of add-ons and accessories available.

The Videocore GPU supports OpenGL-ES and full 1080p H.264 video encode / decode.

 

 

 

3. Dell Inspiron 20 3043-1252BLK Signature Edition All-in-One.  Acquired December 2014.

 

Our first touch-screen Windows 8 desktop PC. It's like a giant tablet that plugs into the wall, with a wireless keyboard and mouse.


 
        CPU:  Intel Celeron N2830 2.16Ghz Dual Core
                     64-bit 1 MB cache.

          RAM:  4 GB (expandable to 8 GB)
     Storage:  500 GB SATA 5400 rpm 2.5" hard drive,
                     plus SD
card reader.
      Screen:  19.5" 1600 x 900 pixels, multi-point
                      touch.

   Graphics:  Intel HD Integrated Graphics DirectX 11

         Audio:  Realtek ALC290Q with
                     Waves MaxxAudio 5, stereo speakers
                     and subwoover.
Connectivity: WiFi b/g/n, Ethernet 10/100 Mbps,
                     Bluetooth 4.0, three USB 2.0 ports,
                     HDMI in, Miracast.

          Misc:  Front-facing webcam (720p)
            OS:  Microsoft Windows 8.1 64-bit full version

 

I got this for my wife, plus also for testing my Visual Studio applications on a desktop-sized touch screen. This is our second Windows 8.1 machine, after the Asus Vivotab I purchased earlier in the month (see below).

 

Since this PC uses low power consumption components, it's able to run silently; it is by far the quietest desktop PC we have.

 

 

 


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4. Asus Vivotab 8
    
Acquired December 2014.

 

My first Windows 8 tablet. This reasonably-priced tablet runs the full version of Windows 8.1, and therefore is compatible with all Windows tablet & desktop (32 bit) applications including Sage Pro Series and Visual FoxPro.


 
        CPU:  Intel Atom Z3740 1.3 GHz quad-core

                     2 MB L2 cache.

          RAM:  2 GB
     Storage:  64 GB internal SSD, plus a MicroSD
                     card slot supports up to 64 GB,
                     total 128 GB storage max.
      Screen:   8" IPS 1280 x 800 pixels, multi-point

                     touch with Wacom digitizer.

   Graphics:  Intel HD Integrated Graphics DirectX 11

        Audio:  Stereo Speakers with SonicMaster
Connectivity: WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, Miracast and
                     full USB port
.

          Misc:  GPS built-in, both front (1.2 MP)
                    and back (5 MP) cameras.
            OS:  Microsoft Windows 8.1 full version

 

The big connectivity news is a fully functional PC-style USB port. Printers, keyboards, barcode scanners and even old game controllers can be plugged-in to the tablet. The graphics power is sufficient to run older PC 3D games; see picture at right of the tablet running Left 4 Dead with an old USB Xbox controller that I had sitting on the shelf.

 



Vivotab running Left 4 Dead game with an old USB Xbox controller.

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5. Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ tablet
    
Acquired June 2013.

 

My first Android tablet. Very high-res screen (1920 x 1200), good CPU & GPU, and full access to the Google Play Store with over 700,00 apps avalable, also movies and music.


 
        CPU:  Texas Instruments OMAP4470 1.5 GHz
                     dual core.

          RAM:  1 GB
     Storage:  32 GB internal flash, plus a MicroSD
                     card slot supports up to 64 GB,
                     total 96 GB storage max.
      Screen:   9" 1920 x 1200 pixels (256 ppi) 

    Graphics:  PowerVR SGX544
Connectivity: WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth, USB port, HDMI
             OS:  Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

 

 

B&N discontined these tablets so they were being sold at a great price - only $179 for the 32 GB version I got.


The screen is beautiful, bright and at 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution very sharp.

 

Despite the low price this tablet is not crippled in any meaningful way - it runs HD-resolution 3D games fast, no dropped frames or performance lags. Despite being a Barnes & Noble product it is not locked into the B&N ecosystem. You can install the Amazon book reading app if you want and buy movies from the Google store.

 

The only features missing are built-in cameras, which I don't miss since a tablet is not exactly the ideal form-factor for taking pictures, and an oleophobic screen coating which means I have to clean-off my fingerprints every couple of days. On the other hand an iPad with 64 GB of storage costs $600; the $421 difference buys a lot of screen wipes (I eventually bought an iPad in 2015).

 

 

 


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6. SuperPC #2.
    
Completed March 2013.

 

My previous main business system (#14, below) was getting a bit obsolete, with it's 2005-era Pentium D and it's nForce chipset that Nvidia has shamefully abandoned all support for.  It was past time to build a new system.  In mid-January I had the new components operating on a table-top (see pic at right). In March I mounted the parts into a Lian-Li case that I got for a good price. Some of the front panel bling I recycled from my old main system, which remains in operation but at a different desk attached to different monitors. Here are the specs on the new system:


 
        CPU:  Intel Core i7 3770K, 3.5 (normal) to 3.9
                     GHz (turbo), four hyper-threaded cores
                     (eight threads total), 1 MB L2 cache,
                     8 MB L3 cache.

 

          RAM:  32 GB DDR3 Corsair Vengeance

     Chipset:  Intel Z77

   Motherbd:  Gigabyte Z77X-UP5-TH

 

     Storage:  Boot Drive:
                  
 
256 GB Samsung 840 Pro SSD SATA-6
                    Storage Drives:

                     1 TB Samsung 840 EVO SSD
                     3 TB Toshiba 7200 rpm SATA HD

                     Optical Drives:
                    
LG Blu-Ray burner, SATA
                     Sony BR5100S Blu-ray SATA read-
                     only drive.

                     External Drives:

                     750 GB Western Digital MyBook (USB).

                     500 GB Western Digital MyBook (USB).

                     1,000 GB (1 Terabyte) Samsung
                     HD103SJ internal drive mounted in
                     external generic USB enclosure.
                     3,000 GB (3 Terabyte)
Western Digital
                    
MyBook (USB 3.0).

                    
Total system storage:
9.5 Terabytes

 

   Graphics:  EVGA Nvidia GTX 960 2 GB card,
                     and Intel HD 4000 (built into CPU)
.

 

    Monitors:  24" 1920 x 1200 Dell 2405FPW LCD,
                     24" 1920 x 1200 Dell U2412 LCD,
                     24" 1920 x 1200 Asus LCD.

        Audio:  Realtek ALC898, X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity
                    and EAX® Advanced HD, 7.1 channel,
                    S/PDIF out connected to Logitech X-530
                    70 watt 5.1 speaker set.

 

 Power Supply:
                     Enermax 1,000 watt Revolution-87

 

         Other:  USB 3.0, dual Thunderbolt ports

 

Attached Printers & Scanners:
                     Dell
3100CN Color Laser printer.
                     Canon PIXMA Pro 9000 large-format
                     photo printer.
                     Brother P-touch PT-1230 label printer.
                    
Epson Perfection V500 Photo scanner.

             OS:  Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit

 

All the drives are SATA; the Gigabyte motherboard doesn't support IDE, or other "legacy" stuff such as PS2, RS-232 (serial) or parallel ports. It does have the latest cutting edge tech - USB 3.0, eSata and dual Thunderbolt ports. According to Gigabyte, this motherboard can drive a 4K display using the Thunderbolt ports.

The Nvidia GTX-280 is a refurbished card bought for less than $100. This card was Nvidia's top-of-the-line model a few years ago; but it can still hold it's own against the current crop of mid-range (circa $200) cards. I currently have two monitors connected to it, plus a third connected to the Intel HD-4000 GPU which is built into the Ivy Bridge CPU.

 

Update 5/30/15: Replaced refurbished EVGA GTX 280 graphics card with a refurbished EVGA GTX 580, which like the 280 cost less than $100. I got two 580s, but so far only one is installed.

Update 8/2/15: The GTX 580 cards proved to be too noisy. I sent one back and will use the other as a spare. I purchased a brand new GTX 960 which runs dramatically cooler and quieter than the old 580 cards. The 960 is also about 33% faster than the 580 and supports up to 5K resolution.

The periphals originally acquired for my former main business system have been moved to this one. They are:

1. Main printer - Dell 3100cn Color Laser Printer, acquired in late 2005.

2. A large-format Canon PIXMA Pro 9000 professional photo printer (see picture at right). This printer uses eight inks and can print photos up to 13" x 19" in size.

3. An Epson Perfection V500 Photo scanner (see picture at right). 
This is a high quality scanner with a native hardware resolution of 6400  x 9600 dpi; it can create a digital image up to 4 Gigapixels (!) in size from an 8.5" by 11.7" original.
PC Magazine review.

 

4. Brother P-touch label printer (see photo at right below).

 

 



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Under construction - Larger version

 
System displays (pic is obsolete, doesn't show new U2412)
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Two refurbished GTX 580 cards acquired May 2015
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Canon Pro9000   Larger version


Epson V500 Photo scanner    Larger version


Brother P-touch PT-1230PC Label Printer

 

 

7. Samsung Galaxy S3 Smartphone.
    
Purchased new July 2012.


 
        CPU:  Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core
                     1.5 GHz Krait, 1 MB L2 cache
          RAM:  2 GB
         ROM:  16 GB

     Storage:  Up to 96 GB maximum of flash memory
                     32 GB internal plus a
micro-SD slot
                     which supports up to 64 GB microSDXC
                     cards.
   Graphics:  Adreno 225 GPU
      Screen:  4.8" 1280 x 720 HD Super AMOLED
                     screen,
16 million colors, capacitive
                     multitouch.

         Audio:  16-bit stereo, 44.1 KHz sample rate
Networking:  Verizon 4G LTE, 3G EV-DO, WiFi
                     802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0,
                     NFC (near-field communications) and
                     DNLA (media sharing).

                     Mobile 'hot-spot' functionality built-in.

   Cameras:  Back-facing:  8 megapixel stills, 1080p
                     HD movies, built-in LED flash.
                     Front-facing: 1.9 megapixel stills, 720p
                     movies.
  Other
  Hardware:
  Built-in GPS (American system) and
                     GLONASS (Russian) satellite navigation
                     receiver, 6 axis motion sensor,
                     LED RGB notification light, mono
                     speaker, stereo headset jack, HDMI-out.
           O/S:  Google Android 4.4.2
KitKat

 

This has superseded my old Android Galaxy S (see below) which is now two years old. Just like between my old Windows phone (also below) and my original Galaxy, impressive progress has occurred. In comparison with my old Android phone, this one has over double the processing power (1.5 GHz dual core instead of 1.2 GHz single core),  2.5 times the screen resolution (921,600 pixels vs. 384,000), four times the memory (2 GB versus 512 MB) and three times the maximum storage (96 GB vs. 32 GB).
 

Like the original Galaxy S, this phone has a lower SAR(radiation) rating than is typically found with the current "super" smart-phones.

 

The phone originally came with Android 4.0; eventually Verizon upgraded it to 4.4.2 (code name "KitKat") which was released in December of 2013.  Currently as of January 2015 there are over one million apps available for the Android operating system, and the O.S. is currently installed over one billion devices.

This phone supports 4G LTE witch in theory can deliver 20+ megabits-per-second download speed.
 

 




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8. HP Touchpad 16 GB.
    
Purchased new August 2011.


 
        CPU:  Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.2 GHz
                     dual-core APQ8060 processor
(ARM A8
                     based
) with 512K L2 cache

          RAM:  1 GB DDR2

     Storage:  16 GB internal flash memory
   Graphics: 
Qualcomm Adreno 220 GPU
      Screen:  9.7" 1024 x 768 IPS LCD screen,

                     LED backlighting, 16+ million colors,
                     capacitive multitouch.

         Audio:  Stereo with Beats Audio, two internal
                     speakers, built-in microphone, head-
                     phone jack.
Networking:  WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1,
                     USB 2.0

     Camera: 1.3 Megapixels, front-facing for video chat

  Other
   Hardware:
  3 axis motion sensor
            O/S:  WebOS 3.0.4

 

 This is my first modern general-purpose tablet
 computer.  I couldn't justify spending $500 for an
 Apple iPad tablet; but when HP discontinued their
 version and sold the remaining stock at very low
 prices I couldn't resist.  The screen is the same high
 quality IPS panel used for the iPad and is gorgeous
 to look at.

 

 The Beats Audio speakers are a standout feature,
 putting out audio with a strength not normally heard
 from tablets.
 

 The operating system WebOS has only been around
 for a relatively short time and so there are only
 hundreds of apps available, not the hundreds of
 thousands that the Apple and Android platforms have.
 However the available WebOS apps seem to cover
 all the common tablet tasks, such as web browsing,
 watching movies, reading emails, playing music,
 gaming, etc.

 The CyanogenMod folks have a version of Android
  they have ported to the Touchpad; currently it is in
  the "alpha" testing stage.  Apparently it will allow the
  user to select either WebOS or Android when the
  tablet is booted.  Running Android will allow access
  to the 300,000+ applications to date written for that
  operating system.

 

 




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Music app 'moodagent' running on the Touchpad
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9. Samsung Fascinate (Galaxy S) Smartphone.
    
Purchased new September 2010.


 
        CPU:  Samsung 1 GHz Hummingbird (based

                    upon the ARM Cortex A8)

          RAM:  512 MB

     Storage:  2 GB internal flash memory, plus a

                    16 GB Micro-SD card (supports up to
                     32 GB cards).
   Graphics:  PowerVR SGX 540 GPU
      Screen:  4" 800 x 480 Super AMOLED screen,

                     16 million colors, capacitive multitouch.
         Audio:  16-bit stereo, 44.1 KHz sample rate
Networking:  Verizon 3G EV-DO, WiFi 802.11b/g/n,
                     Bluetooth 3.0, USB 2.0.

                     Mobile 'hot-spot' functionality built-in.

     Camera:  5 mexapixel stills, HD 720p movies @

                     30 fps, built-in LED flash.

  Other
  Hardware:
  Built-in GPS satellite navigation receiver,

                     6 axis motion sensor, stereo speakers,

                     headset jack, infrared transceiver.
           O/S:  Google Android 2.3.5 "Gingerbread"
                     (originally shipped with 2.1)

 

This has superseded my old Windows Mobile phone (see #3 below) which I used for over two years. In that time tremendous progress has occurred in cell phones.  My old phone was considered state-of-the-art  when I bought it; in comparison this new phone has over double the processing power (1 GHz instead of 400 MHz), five times the screen resolution (384,000 pixels vs. 76,800), eight times the memory (512 MB vs. 64 MB) and sixteen times the maximum storage (32 GB vs. 2 GB).  Not to mention features that didn't exist on my old phone, such as GPS and a multi-touch screen.

 

This phone's screen is a new type of technology called Super AMOLED, which provides very saturated colors and deep contrast like a plasma TV (the blacks are really black, not the usual dark grey).  Also the screenuses less power which gives this phone good battery life in comparison with other big-screen super phones.

 

Besides the incredible screen the other reason I chose this phone in particular is that it has the lowest SAR (radiation) rating of any of the current super phones. This model puts out only one-third the radiation of the popular Motorola Droid X while matching or exceeding it in most areas (the 'X' does have a slightly taller screen and an HDMI port).

 

The other fantastic feature is the large number of application programs (usually refered to as 'apps') available for the Android operating system - over 70,000 currently.  Apps turn what would otherwise just be a device to make phone calls into a fully-functioningPC that fits in a shirt pocket.
 

 



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10. HP Mini 311 Netbook.
    
Purchased new September 2010.


 
        CPU:  Intel Atom N270 1.6 GHz with 512K L2
                     cache.

          RAM:  2 GB (expandable to 3 GB)

     Storage:  160 GB 5400 rpm SATA hard-drive,
                     SD card slot
(supports up to 32 GB).
   Graphics:  Nvidia Ion (based upon Geforce 9400M).
      Screen:  11.6" 1366 x 768 LCD with LED backlight,
                    
16 million colors.

         Audio:  Realtek 2 channel HD with built-in
                     Altec Lansing stereo speakers.
Networking:  Ethernet 10/100 Mbit, Verizon cellular
                     modem 3G EV-DO,
WiFi 802.11b/g/n,
                     Bluetooth 3.0, also three USB 2.0 ports.

     Camera:  Webcam built-in

  Other
  Hardware:
  HDMI and VGA ports for an external
                     monitor, also audio in/out.
           O/S:  Windows 7 Home Premium

 

This is my first netbook.  Weighing only 3 pounds, it has the footprint of a letter-sized sheet of paper and varies in thickness from only .78 to 1.2".  This makes it much more easy to carry than my regular laptop computers, and battery life is also much longer.

 

The built-in Verizon CDMA cellular modem allows this machine to be connected while on the road which makes it handy for providing emergency technical support to my clients.

 

The Nvidia ION-LE chipset supports playing HD movies and older 3D games; Portal and Call of Duty 1 run fine but Left 4 Dead does not.  Still, this machine's graphics capabilities are well ahead of most other netbooks and the HDMI output has allowed me to use this little machine as a 'Home Theater' PC (streaming HD content from Amazon's Video On Demand service) when it is at home.

 

 
 


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11. Sony Reader Pocket Edition PRS-300.
    
Made in 2009, purchased used April 2011.

 
 
        CPU:  Freescale i.MX1L, ARM920T core,
                     150 to 200 MHz.

   Memory /
    
Storage:  512 MB internal, 440 MB available for
                     books
   Graphics:  Proprietary
      Screen:  5" e-ink screen 800 x 600 8 level
                    grayscale

         Audio:  None
Networking:  USB 2.0
          
O/S:  Montavista Linux


This unit uses the same screen technology as the Amazon Kindle; it's readable even in direct sunlight (see photo at right) and draws very little power, allowing the device to go weeks before needing to be recharged.

Supported e-book document formats are ePub, Adobe PDF, BBebBook, TXT, RTF and Microsoft Word.

                        Sony product page

 




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12. ACN Iris 3000 Videophone.
    
Made circa 2008, purchased used July 2011.

 
 
        CPU:  Freescale i.MX27, ARM926EJ-S
                     400 MHz core.

   Memory /
    
Storage:  Internal memory unknown, USB port and
                    SD card slot for add-on storage.
   Graphics:  Proprietary, supports H.263 and H.264
                     video codecs, G.711 and G.729 audio.
      Screen:  7"  LCD screen 800 x 600 color
         Audio:  Built-in speaker, handset, audio out jack
Networking:  Ethernet 10/100, USB 2.0
  Other
  Hardware:
  Built-in CMOS camera, video & audio
                     out ports.
           O/S:  Customized version of Linux


Like my Sony Reader (see above), this is another device based upon a Freescale SoC ("System on a Chip") with an ARM CPU.

 

 I purchased this item for $20. To function as a video phone, a monthly subscription is required which at this point I don't intend to get.  I bought this gadget because a) it's cool looking, b) was very cheap and c) it functions as a digital picture frame when idle; it can show photos stored either on a USB memory stick or an SD card.  An actual dedicated photo frame with a 7" 800 x 600 screen would of cost considerably more than I paid for this gadget. The CMOS camera and video out features also work without a subscription.

 

 More of my airshow photos can be found here.

 

 




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13. Samsung SCH-i760 PDA Cell Phone.
    
Purchased new December 2007.


 
        CPU:  Samsung SC32442 400 MHz 32 bit
                    (ARM920T core).

          RAM:  64 MB

     Storage:  128 MB internal Flash Memory
                     2 GB  Micro-SD card.
   Graphics:  Proprietary
      Screen:  2.8" 320 x 240 65,000 (16 bit) color LCD
         Audio:  16-bit stereo, 44.1 KHz sample rate
Networking:  Verizon 3G EV-DO, WiFi 802.11b/g,
                     Bluetooth 2.0, USB 2.0

  Other
  Hardware:
  Built-in slide-out QWERTY keyboard,
                     camera (1.3 MegaPixels), stereo
                     speakers, headphone jack,
                     infrared transceiver.
           O/S:  Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.0
                     Professional


This combination 3G PDA & phone was one of the first devices sold by Verizon that  allowed WiFi connections in addition to using their cellular network. When using the cell network for data transfer, speeds up to 2.4 Megabits per second are possible using the CDMA EV-DO protocol.

Programs bundled with this phone included the mobileversions of Microsoft Office, Media Player and the Picsel PDF viewer.  It has full support for sending and receiving emails including HTML formatting and message attachments.

Notable applications that can be downloaded for free to the phone include Google Maps and Microsoft Live Search.  However, like the original iPhone, this unit is not equipped with a GPS chip, so mapping programs cannot automatically show the current location.

 

 

 


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14. Nokia N800 Internet Tablet.
    
Purchased new October 2007.


 
        CPU:  Texas Instruments OMAP2420
                     330/400 MHz

          RAM:  128 MB

     Storage:  256 MB internal Flash Memory
                     One internal SD card slot 8 GB max
                     One external SD card slot 8 GB max.
   Graphics:  X-Windows, proprietary chip
      Screen:  4.1" 800 x 480 65,000 (16 bit) color LCD
         Audio:  Stereo
Networking:  WiFi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth 2.0, USB 2.0

  Other
  Hardware:
  Built-in web camera (640x480), FM
                     radio tuner, stereo speakers, stereo
                     headphone jack, mono microphone.
           O/S:  Linux-based Maemo 3.2 / Internet
                     Tablet OS 2007.


Although made two years ago
this portable computer
still has one of the highest-resolution screens available
for something that can fit comfortably in a coat pocket;
the screen's dpi is about double that of the Apple iPhone (2007 edition) or Touch. It can connect to the Internet either
with WiFi or via Bluetooth through a compatible cell-phone.

Unlike most portable devices, the operating system is an open platform based upon Linux.  Being open means that anyone is allowed to write software for the device, and in fact a large collection is already available, much of it free (see www.maemo.org).

The list of tasks this little computer can do out-of-the-box is impressive; it comes with programs for browsing and searching the web, playing music and movies, listening to Internet radio stations, viewing photos (the external flash slot accepts both SD and MMC camera cards), making VOIP phone calls (Skype), instant messaging, sending and receiving email, and so on.  There is even an applet included for video-conferencing using the built-in webcam.
The built-in Bluetooth supports a wide range of wireless accessories such as stereo earphones and even keyboards.

My primary reason for purchasing this unit was the super high-resolution screen.  I looked at the Apple iPhone, but even though it has the best screen of any cell phone, I found it still to be a bit of a strain to view web pages. The Nokia has double the horizontal resolution of the 2007 iPhone's screen, and it does make a difference.  The primary drawback of the Nokia tablet is that in areas with no WiFi coverage it does need to pair with a cell phone to get online.

It even has a kick-stand!  This is another nice touch, most pocketable devices need to be held in the hand or propped up on something to watch movies.

 

 

 


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15. Sony PlayStation Portable (Model PSP-1000).
    
Purchased new April 2007.


 
        CPU:  MIPS R4000 333 MHz 32-bit

          RAM:  32 MB plus 4MB embedded DRAM

     Storage:  Internal UMD (optical drive) – 1.8 GB per
                     disc.
                     Internal Memory Stick slot – 2 GB card.
   Graphics:  MIPS R4000 core, capable of 664 million
                     pixels / 35 million polygons per second.
      Screen:  4.3" 480 x 272 16.77 million color LCD

         Audio:  Stereo with built-in speakers

Networking:  USB 2.0 and WiFi 802.11b built-in
            O/S:  Proprietary


This is my second PSP-1000, purchased after the price dropped to $169.  I wanted a second one so that I could run Sony's latest firmware; my original unit (see below) cannot be upgraded since it would then loose the ability to run homebrew programs.

With Sony's latest firmware, the PSP can be used as a wireless web browser, it can stream multimedia content and games via WiFi from a Playstation 3, and (finally!) user-created video clips can be played from memory sticks at full resolution (the photo I took at right shows the unit playing back ATI's 'Ruby' video).


 

 


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16. Dell Axim X51v Pocket PC.

     Purchased new April 2007.
 

          CPU:  Intel XScale PXA270 624 MHz
         
RAM:  64 MB
     Storage:  256 MB Flash memory, plus Compact-
                     Flash and SD slots for additional
                     storage.

      Display:  3.7" LCD TFT 640x480 resolution touch-
                     screen, 16-bit color.
   Graphics:  Intel 2700G chip with 16 MB video
                     memory, dual display support.
        
Audio:  WM8750 sound chip with 16-bit stereo,
                     44.1 KHz sample rate.  Output is via
                     stereo headphone jack or mono
                     speaker.  There is also a built-in
                     microphone with full duplex recording &
                     playback.

Networking:  WiFi 802.11b and Bluetooth wireless
                     built-in, plus USB.
          
Misc:  CompactFlash Type II and SD
                      / SDIO Now! / MMC card slots,
                     VGA output for external monitor,
                     also infrared transmitter/receiver.
           
O/S:  Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0.

This is the last and most advanced Pocket PC made by Dell; they pulled-out of the PDA market in April '07. As such it makes an appropriate bookend to my old Axim X5 (see below), which was Dell's first PDA introduced back in 2003.

The X51v was one of the few Pocket PCs ever built with a high-
resolution screen (640 x 480 pixels); this display had about four times the resolution typically found on other
PDAs or PDA/phones for the time (2007).

SciFi fans: This model PDA and my Dell Inspiron laptop (#22, below) were frequently seen on the television series Stargate Atlantis.


 

 


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17. Sony Playstation 3 Premium (original 60 GB
      model).

      Purchased new December 2006.
 

          CPU:  IBM 3.2 GHz Cell Processor with 8
                     special-purpose DSP cores (called
                     "Synergistic Processing Elements").
         
RAM:  256 MB XDR system memory
                     plus 256 MB GDDR3 VRAM (video RAM)
     Storage:  60 GB 2.5" SATA hard drive,
                     Blu-ray High Definition/DVD/CD/SACD
                     optical drive.

   Graphics:  NVIDIA-based RSX "Reality Synthesizer",
                     550Mhz clock 22.5 GBps bandwidth,
                     up to 1080p video resolution, HDMI 1.3
                     and component outputs.
         Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1 channels.

Networking:  Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000 MBps).
                     WiFi 802.11 b/g and Bluetooth 2.0
                     wireless built-in.
                     USB 2.0 ports (4).

          Misc:  Full Playstation 2
hardware compatibility
                     built-in (PS2-style
Emotion Engine and
                     GPU chips).
                    
Digital camera card slots - Memory
                     Stick, CompactFlash and
Secure Digital
                     / MMC
.
                     SIXAXIS wireless Bluetooth controller,
                     Sony Bluetooth AV remote control.

            O/S:  Sony proprietary, 'Crossbar' interface
                     (similar to the PSP).  Linux is supported
                     as an option.

This is the long-awaited follow-on to the popular Playstation 2 game console.  Features include full high-definition support (to 1080p) for both games and movies (using the new Blu-ray optical disc format).

It's interesting to compare this machine with my Xbox 360.  The PS3 is a quiet-running machine with an elegant on-screen interface (see image at right), but as of early 2007 is limited to a handful of games and playing Blu-ray movies.  In contrast, the Xbox 360 is noisy and and sports a cartoon-like interface; but being a much more mature system, it has tons of games and other capabilities, including being able to stream music and even movies from the Windows PCs on my home network.

 

Besides Blu-ray playback, this system does a superb job of up-converting standard-def DVDs for HDTVs; currently this system gets used almost every night for this purpose.

 

January 2008 update:  There are a lot more games available now, including standouts such as Warcraft and Ratchet & Clank Future (see image at right). With the latest operating system updates, this console, like the Xbox 360, can stream audio and video from regular PCs, although the 360 retains an advantage in that it can handle more kinds of PC media content, including Amazon Unbox movies.

September 2009 update:  This first-generation PS3 has become somewhat more valuable due to Sony's decision to drop full PS2 compatibility, the camera card slots, SACD playback and two of the four USB ports from subsequent PS3 models.
 

 




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Original "XMediaBar" Interface (from Wikipedia)
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Ratchet & Clank game   Larger version
 

18. Apple iPod 80GB (black).

     Purchased new September 2006.
 

This is the latest "improved" fifth generation iPod.  It can play a variety of audio and video formats, plus it has some PDA functions (such as a calendar) and the unit can also play arcade games downloaded from the Apple iTunes store.
 

          CPU:  Dual ARM 7TDMI 80 MHz 32-bit cores
         
RAM:  64 MB
     Storage:  Toshiba 80GB  4200 rpm 1.8" drive
     Display:  
2.5" 320 x 240 backlit Color LCD

   Graphics:  Proprietary, max 640 x 480 (when output
                     to external display), S-Video and
                     composite output.
Networking:  USB 2.0
           Misc:  Headphone, line out, video out, dock
                    
ports.
            O/S:  Based upon Pixo OS 2.x

I purchased this for a project to "iPod" my car.  The car came with a trunk-mounted 6 disc CD changer, but like most folks who have been buying CDs for twenty years, I have about twenty times that many discs!  By replacing the changer with an iPod, I can make my entire music collection available in the car. In February '07 with the help of a professional installer I got the iPod connected to the car's radio through a third-party module that allows the car radio
to control the iPod and display the current track name.

Technology note:  The amount of data storage packed into this little five-ounce box was remarkable for 2006; in comparison, my contemporary nine-pound Dell laptop (#22) only had 60 GB of storage.
 

 



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19. Toshiba HD-DVD player (model HD-A1).

     Purchased new June 2006.
 

Why is a DVD player on a list of computers?  Normally it wouldn't be, but this particular player, the first machine sold that was able to play High Definition DVDs, is in fact under the hood a Pentium 4 computer with 1 GB of RAM, running RedHat Linux.
 

          CPU:  Intel Pentium 4 2.5 GHz
          RAM:  1 GB PC2700 DDR (one slot).
     Storage:  NEC HD-DVD drive, IDE interface,
                     compatible with 15 GB and 30 GB
                     HD-DVD optical discs (also backward
                     compatible with the common DVD and
                     CD optical formats).

                     Dedicated 256 MB Flash drive for
                     operating system.
   Graphics:  Proprietary, HD video 1080i with
                     HDMI and component outputs.
Networking:  Ethernet, one port, speed unknown.
           Misc:  2 USB 2.0 ports.
            O/S:  RedHat Linux (boots from flash drive)
 

Further info and photos of what's inside are available
here.  It's been reported that this unit is costing
Toshiba more to make than what they are selling it for.

Update 12/06:  At the end of 2006 I acquired the

Microsoft HD-DVD drive for my Xbox 360 (see below).
 

Update 1/09:  The HD-DVD format was discontinued a year ago (February '08).  At that time I bought a third player at a close-out price, a Toshiba HD-A35.  Note that unlike my HD-A1, this final generation player is a more conventional consumer electronics unit, not a PC in sheep's clothing.

While the format has been discontinued, Amazon continues to sell HD-DVD titles at a considerable discount.

 



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"Batman Begins" HD-DVD playback on 42" LCD-TV
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20. Water-Cooled Multi-Display Super PC Project
    (custom built).

 

Began work on original version May 16th, 2006. From January 2007 to March 2013 this system was my main computer. The system was upgraded numerous times; the specifications below describe it's current configuration.
 

          CPU:  Intel Pentium D 950 3.4 GHz Dual Core
                     with 4 MB L2 Cache (2 MB per core)
          RAM:  4 GB (first 2 GB Corsair XMS ProSeries
                     DDR2-675 sticks).  System maximum
                     is 16 GB using 4 GB DIMMs.
     Chipset:  Nvidia nForce4 SLI X16
   Motherbd:  Asus P5N32-SLI Deluxe
with 2 PCI-
                     Express 16x slots, 1 PCI-Express 4x
                     slot and 2 regular PCI slots.

     Storage:  Boot Drive:
                  
 
320 GB Western Digital WD3200 SE16
                     SATA 3.5” hard drive.
                     Second Internal Drive:
                   
 640 GB Western Digital WD6400AAKS
                     SATA
3.5” hard drive.
                     Plus multiple WD & Seagate 1 Terabyte
                     SATA hard drives used for backups.

                     Optical Drives:

                     HP DVD-RW burner.
                     Microsoft XBOX 360
HD-DVD external
                     USB drive.

   Graphics:  SLI dual card setup:
                     Two EVGA Nvidia Geforce 8800 GTS
                     PCI-E cards each with
640 MB of DDR3

                     memory and two dual-link DVI ports

                     (max resolution 2560 x 1600 per monitor).

     Monitors: (LCD) 22"  Acer B223W1680 x 1050,
                      20" Viewsonic VP201mp 1600 x 1200.

         Audio:  Realtek ALC850 AC'97 8 channel 16-bit
                     48 KHz sound with both analog & digital
                     (S/PDIF) output.

Networking:  Dual Gigabit Ethernet
         Case:  Thermaltake Tai Chi full size ATX/BTX
      Special:  Zalman Reserator 1 Plus Water-Cooling,

                     Zalman ZM-600HP 600 watt modular
                    
power-supply.
          Misc:  10 USB 2.0 ports, 2 Firewire, 1 eSATA
                     port.
           O/S: Triple boot configuration:
                     Windows XP Professional SP3
                     Windows Vista Business SP2

                     Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit SP1

                    

Under construction on-and-off for seven months, this
system was designed to be state-of-the-art with dual
processor cores, support for dual video cards, up to
four displays (three connected as of 12/08), water-
cooling and over a terabyte of storage (6.2 TB

attached as of 5/12).

 

The motherboard and power supply are designed
support two PCI Express video cards, both at full 16x
speed.  I currently have two Nvidia 8800 GTS 640 MB
cards in the system.
 

The two graphics cards together can support as
many as four monitors simultaneously.  I have two
LCD displays currently connected; a Viewsonic
VP201m 20" (1200 x 1600) and an Acer B223W 22"
(1680 x 1050) unit.


The two cards are also physically joined together using a SLI bridge; SLI allows two cards to work together to improve the performance of graphically-intensive games such as Bioshock (see screen shot at right).


The Pentium-D 950 dual-core CPU is from Intel's Presler family; it consists of two 65 nm single-core processors packaged together.  In early 2006 this was Intel's most advanced desktop CPU architecture, with support for both 32 and 64 bit operation along with Intel's virtualization technology known as 'Vanderpool'.  Virtualization allows multiple operating systems to run simultaneously; an example of this would be Linux running in a window on a Windows XP desktop.  Under Windows 7 which I installed in December of '09, I'm able to run Microsoft's Windows XP Mode VM software thanks to Vanderpool.
 

The motherboard can hold 16 Gigabytes of RAM, far beyond any of my other systems except for Super PC #2 (see above).  However, this is only useful to 64-bit operating systems. The 32-bit editions of Windows only address up to 4 GB of memory; the video cards and other expansion-bus devices have to fit in that same address space, which reduces the 4 GB of physically installed RAM to 2.2 GB available to Windows.
  

To lower the noise a system like this would make, I used water cooling; this is the first time I've tried this technique.  In the "under construction" photo at right, you can see the water hoses (the blue pipes) running from the chassis to an outside cooling radiator (the black tower).  Three water blocks are currently installed; these are mounted on the CPU, the MOSFETs located next to the CPU and the
Northbridge chip. Even with the water cooling some air circulation is still needed, so there are also three low-speed quiet fans mounted inside the case.  To eliminate the noisy fan that a 600 watt power supply would normally need, I used a special external power
supply unit (the XG Magnum EX).

 

Update 08/16/08: Added an internal Western Digital
 WD6400AAKS
640 GB SATA drive.  This new drive fits 640 GB on to only two platters, making it one of the fastest, and for it's size and speed, one of the quietest currently available.  Installed with rubber washers to reduce vibration.

 

Update 12/08: Added a second graphics card (the Asus overclocked 9500 GT) and a third display, a 22" Acer LCD monitor.  A week later replaced my older 19" LCD display with a second 22" Acer (see photo at upper right of all three displays).
 

Update 5/09: The fancy XG Magnum EX external 600 watt silent power-supply the system was originally built with failed.  Sadly these are no longer available, so I had to replace it with a more conventional internal power-supply made by Zalman.
 

Update 12/09:  Made this a triple-OS machine by installing Windows 7 Ultimate on the third partition of the primary boot drive.  With XP, Vista and 7 installed on different partitions I'm able to have all three versions of Windows available on the same machine although they do not run simultaneously; I have to reboot the machine to switch operating systems. However with Windows 7 I can at the same time run older versions of Windows using the Virtual Machine software provided by Microsoft.

Update 6/10:  EVGA very kindly sent me a Geforce
8800 GTS 640 MB video card to replace my malfunctioning 7900 GTX (the system's original video card).  I picked-up a second 8800 GTS from eBay so that I can run in SLI mode (SLI requires that both cards be identical).

 

Update 6/12:  Installed another 2 GB of RAM to make 4 GB total.  Available memory to 32-bit Windows increased by only 0.2 GB due to 32-bit address space limitations (see more detailed explanation above).
 

 



2007 appearance   Larger version


2010 appearance   Larger version



Nvidia 8800 GTS  Larger version


Bioshock on the Nvidia 8800 GTS  Larger version



Under construction in 2006   Larger version
 


Viewsonic 20" VP201mb LCD Monitor

 21. Dell Dimension XPS 200.
       Built 2006; purchased used in April 2011.
 

This small form-factor machine weighs only 15 pounds but features dual cores, SATA, PCI-Express and other modern features, making this is my third most powerful desktop system after my custom-built "Super PC" and "Super PC #2" machines (see above).
 

          CPU:  Intel Pentium D 940 3.2 GHz Dual Core
                     with 4 MB L2 Cache (2 MB per core)
          RAM:  2 GB, expandable to 4 GB maximum
     Chipset:  Intel 945G Express
     Storage:  Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 120 GB 3.5"
                     7200 rpm SATA hard drive,
                     Toshiba-Samsung DVD+-RW Writer
                     model TS-L632.

   Graphics:  Asus Radeon HD 6570 1 GB VRAM
                     PCI-Express 16x low-profile card,
                     also built-in Intel integrated Graphics
                     Media Accelerator (GMA) 950.
    Monitors:  Acer 17" 1280 x 1024 LCD,

                     Viewsonic 20" 1600 x 1200 LCD.

         Audio:  7.1 Surround 16-bit 48 KHz with both
                     analog & digital (S/PDIF) output.

Networking: 10/100 Mbit Ethernet
 Expansion:  One 16x PCI-Express slot and one
                     1x PCI-Express slot.

          Misc:  7 USB 2.0 ports, 1 Firewire, 1 analog
                     modem port.
           O/S Windows 7 Professional

                    

I originally got the machine with no graphics card installed; the built-in Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics supports 1080p video playback but is not powerful enough for modern 3D games. Luckily the system has an 16x PCI-Express slot for an add-on graphics card; so I purchased & installed a new Radeon HD 6570.  The 6570 is the most powerful card I found that can fit into the the small case (only half-height cards are allowed) and can operate with the computer's small 275 watt power supply.  "Fit" might be an overstatement; I had to sand down the plastic rail on an adjacent drive holder with #60 sandpaper before I could get the card with it's big heat-sink to fit properly!

The Radeon 6570 is my first DirectX 11 card; also the first one to support the latest home theater technologies such as Stereoscopic 3D, Deep Color, xvYCC wide gamut 3D video and 7.1 high-bit rate audio (Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio).  This is good 'future proofing' for the day if/when I get home theater components that support these new features.

Under Windows 7 the 6570 has been able to play all of the modern games I've tested so far at high quality settings - Left for Dead 1 & 2,  Bioshock and even Crysis.  Note that these were all tested on the smaller 17" display (1280 x 1024); however I tested Bioshock on the bigger 20" monitor (see below) at
1600 x 1200 and it ran fine.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9/14/11 update: Acquired a used Logitech MOMO USB Racing wheel & pedals for playing driving games (see pic at right).

 

 




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Windows 7 desktop on the Dell
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New Asus 6570 graphics card
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MOMO Racing wheel playing Burnout Paradise
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 22. Home Theater PC Project.

     Built April 2006.

 

 Note:  This project has been scrapped due to the failure of the proprietary motherboard that came with the special transparent case. The major components were recycled to build a new computer for my girlfriend (now wife) in a more traditional case.

 

Update: For home theater streaming content, we got a Chromecast back in 2013, and then in December of 2014 we acquired a TV that connects directly to Internet content services such as Netflix.

 

          CPU:  Intel Pentium 4 3.06 GHz CPU with
                     Hyper-Threading
          RAM:  1 GB -
Corsair XMS ProSeries low-latency
                     (CL2) DDR400.  One slot still available
                     (system maximum is 2 GB).
     Chipset:  Intel i845GE

     Storage:  Western Digital WD3200 320 GB ATA 3.5”
                     drive; Shuttle silver internal DVD burner.
   Graphics: 
PNY Geforce 6600 256 MB DDR AGP card
Networking: 
Ethernet 10/100 Megabit
           Misc:  4 USB 2.0 ports, 3
Firewire, optical audio
                     in/out
            O/S: 
Windows Media Center 2005 Edition
                     and
Fedora Core 5 Linux (dual boot

                     set-up).

 Notes:  Based upon the
FIC VG61 ‘Ice Cube’ small-
             form-factor (SFF) chassis and motherboard.

   The
Hyper-Threading feature of the Pentium 4 3.06
   GHz chip appears to Windows as a second CPU.
   With hyper-threading, some processes (such as
   media encoding) show improvements in performance
   from 10% to as much as 30% faster.

   Windows Media Center is the home-theater-PC
   version of XP.  Linux was also installed to support
   using
MythTV, a free DVR (Digital Video Recorder)
   package.

   These two photos show where I started; the first
   photo shows the bare-bones chassis with no
   drives or CPU; the second how things looked with
   the CPU and fan installed.


  12/06 Update:  Arrggh!  The FIC motherboard died,
   putting this machine out of commission.  I am going
   to have to rebuild using a different motherboard,
   probably also a new case (the small FIC case is
   pretty but has thermal problems, as in even with
   three fans some of the components get too hot).
 
 
  10/08 Update:  Decided it was time to resuscitate
   this project.  Accordingly, I acquired a
 micro-ATX
  
motherboard (see photo at right) which is compatible
   with the components I plan on salvaging from the 1.0

   version of this project (socket 478 CPU, DDR400

   memory, AGP graphics card, etc.).  Still need to get

   a new case and power supply...

  
1/09 Update:
  At low cost picked-up a Cooler Master
  
Elite 340 mini-tower case and an Antec 500 watt
   power supply.  Now I just have to find the time to
   assemble everything together.


 

 

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New motherboard - a Foxconn 865M01-G-6ELS

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23. Microsoft Xbox 360 Premium.

    Purchased new January 31st, 2006.

 

          CPU:  IBM 3.2 GHz Power Xenon Triple-Core
                     (1 MB L-2 cache, 165 million transistors
                      total)
          RAM:  512 MB GDDR3 (700 MHz)

     Storage:  120 GB SATA 2.5” drive
                     Internal DVD-ROM drive (12x CAV)
                     Two slots for optional 64MB memory
                     units.

                     External HD-DVD (high definition) drive
   Graphics:  ATI 'Xenos' GPU (500 MHz, 332 million
                     transistors) HDTV resolution (up to
                     1080i).
         Audio:  Dolby Digital Surround 5.1
Networking:  Ethernet 10/100 Megabit
           Misc:  3 USB ports, wireless game controller,
                      wireless media remote, wired audio
                      headset.
            O/S:  Microsoft proprietary (reportedly it is
                     a descendant of the old Xbox 1 OS,
                     which was based upon a stripped-down
                     version of Windows 2000).

 This is the second-generation game console from
 Microsoft; optimized for high-definition gaming. The
 IBM CPU has three symmetrical cores, all running
 at 3.2 GHz (in contrast, two-core CPUs were just
 becoming available for higher-end PCs in 2006). The
 Xbox 360 CPU is capable of one trillion floating point
 operations per second (commonly referred to as a
 ‘teraflop’). The custom ATI graphics processor
  is supposed to be able to pump out as much as
 500 million triangles per second; in comparison, the
 old Nvidia TNT card in the desktop system I built in
 ’98 (see below) is capable of only 6 million triangles
 per second.
 
 The 360 has replaced my old Xbox 1 (see entry
 below) in my home theater set-up. The photo at right
 shows it in place, with the wireless controller and
 media remote.

 

 The TV it is connected to is a Hitachi 50V500 High
 Definition set purchased way back in 2003; it is a
 LCD rear-projector unit with a 50" screen and a
 native resolution of 1366x768.

 

 This photo shows how ‘Call of Duty 2’ looks on the
 360 connected to the Hitachi TV.  No photo however
 can really do it justice - in this scene, snow is gently
 falling, and thanks to the Dolby 5.1 surround track
 you can hear all around you the crackle of gunfire,
 the dull heavy thumps of shells landing nearby and
 even the occasional scream as someone gets shot.
 
Very immersive – so much so that after a short
 while you can imagine that you are really there,
 fighting street by street in the snow on the Russian
 front.

 The last photo is a screen shot of the Xbox 360
 version of ‘Far Cry’.  The jungle and water look
 amazingly realistic; so much so that it makes me
 want to go on vacation right away to some beautiful
 tropical island.

 This system also does a great job as a low-cost
 'Media Center' system - it can stream a variety of
 PC-based media content, from MP3s to Amazon
 Unbox movies.


  Update 12/2006:  Added Microsoft's new out-board
                                HD-DVD (high definition) drive to
                                system.
 

    Update 7/2007:  Replaced 20 GB hard drive with

                                the new Microsoft 120 GB drive.
 

 

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"Call of Duty 2" game   Larger version

 

"Far Cry"   Larger version

 

 

24. Dell Inspiron 9300 Laptop with 17” wide-
        screen display.
        Purchased new March 2005.

 

          CPU:   Intel Pentium M 760 2 GHz "Dothan"
                      with 2 MB L2 cache.

          RAM:   2 GB (maximum capacity)

     Storage:   Internal 60 GB 7200 rpm hard drive
                      Internal DVD+/-RW dual layer burner
                      External Seagate 300 GB Firewire drive
                      External Seagate 400 GB Firewire drive
   Graphics:   Nvidia Geforce Go 6800 with 256 MB
                      VRAM.  Supports dual displays (DVI or
                      VGA connection).

      Display:  17" LCD WXGA+ 1440 x 900 resolution
Networking:   Ethernet 10/100, WiFi (802.1a/g) and
                      Bluetooth.
           O/S:   Windows XP Professional SP2

Notes:  This machine served as my main computer until January 2007, when it was replaced in that role by the result of my "new business PC" project (see above).  The photo at right shows the office as it looked in early 2006.

This laptop was one of the first ones built on Intel’s Sonoma
architecture, which brought the PCI Express bus to laptops.  The machine has numerous USB 2.0 ports, Firewire, an SD card reader, DVI port and a built-in sub-woofer.
 

The 256 MB Geforce video card gives this laptop the graphics performance of at least a mid-range desktop PC, allowing this machine to play 1080p HD video clips and intensive graphical games such as Far Cry.  An external     LCD panel can be connected to the DVI port to provide dual displays as shown in the photo at upper right.  Most older laptops support simple mirroring of the primary display on an external monitor; in contrast the 9300 can actually use the external display to show additional content
such as a video full screen or an extended Windows desktop.

Update 6/12: Increased installed memory from 1 GB
                       to 2 GB.

            

 

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 25. Dish Network 942 high definition receiver &
      digital video recorder (DVR).
     
Purchased new in 2005.

          CPU:  MIPS64 300 MHz, 64-bit embedded

          RAM:  64-bit DDR 400 MHz, probably 64 MB in
                     size.

     Storage:  Internal Western Digital 250 GB 7200
                    rpm SATA
hard drive.

Networking:  Ethernet, modem port.
     Special
  Hardware:  Three HD tuners (two satellite, one
                    OTA).
Two remote controls, one UHF,
                    the other infrared.

          Misc:  DVI, component video, also USB 2.0.
           O/S: 
Linux (GLinux modified kernel)


Notes:  Like my HD-DVD player, this home enter-
            tainment device is actually a
Linux computer
           
'under the hood'.

The official spec sheet is here. More info on the chips used in the 942, plus some photos of the inside are available here.

Update: I discontinued my Dish subscription a few years ago so this box is no longer in use.
 

 

 


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26 & 27. Sony PlayStation Portables (Model PSP-1000). 
       
Purchased new in 2005.


        CPU:  MIPS R4000 333 MHz 32-bit

        RAM:  32 MB plus 4MB embedded DRAM

   Storage:  Internal UMD (optical drive) – 1.8 GB per
                   disc.
                   Internal Memory Stick slot – can use up
                   to 1 GB cards.
 Graphics:  MIPS R4000 core, capable of 664 million
                   pixels / 35 million polygons per second.
    Special
Hardware:  4.3" 480 x 272 16.77 million color LCD

                   screen
                   USB 2.0 and WiFi 802.11b built-in
         O/S:  Proprietary


Notes:  Bought for entertainment purposes; also as a
device for carrying and displaying digital photographs
and movie clips produced by my Canon Digital
and Panasonic DV cameras.  The screen is very
impressive, by far the best I have ever seen on a
hand-held device (as of 2005).

This original unit has the 1.5 firmware, which was the last version easily hacked (there is a  thriving community of folks who have written  'homebrew' applications for the PSP
.

 

 

 


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 28. Intermec 750 Color Mobile Computer. 
       Acquired September 2003.

           CPU:  Intel XScale 400 MHz

           RAM:  64 MB

      Storage:  64 MB of Flash ROM

                      SD and CompactFlash Type II card
                      slots allow additional storage to be

                      added.

      Display:   3.8" Transreflective (daylight readable)
                      LCD
320 x 240 pixels 256,000 colors.

         Audio:  Mono with built-in speaker &
                     microphone, headset jack.

Networking:   WiFi 802.11B and Bluetooth

                      transceivers.

                      Ethernet can be added with optional
                      CompactFlash I-O card.

                      Also supports optional cellular modem
                      (GSM/GPRS or CDMA/1xRTT).

      Special
  Hardware:  Laser Barcode scanner built-in,

                     Backlit keypad,
                     Lithium-Ion 14.4 watt-hour battery, 8-12

                     hour life.

            OS:  Microsoft Windows for Pocket PC 2002

Notes:  This rugged industrial handheld computer can survive repeated drops (5 feet to concrete), is water and dust resistant and can operate in temperatures from -4 to 140 degrees F.  It's primarily designed for warehouse and inventory data collection applications with the built-in laser barcode scanner and WiFi connectivity.

 

There is a good range of development tools available for this system, including Microsoft Visual Studio and a stripped-down version of SQL Server that is designed to run on mobile devices.

 

 


 

29. Apple iMac G4 17".
       Built in 2003; acquired July 2011.

 

          CPU:  Motorola PowerPC G4 (7455) 1 GHz
                     processor with 256K L2 cache.

          RAM:  1.25 GB

     Storage:  Seagate Barracuda ST380023A 80 GB
                     7200 rpm Ultra ATA-100 drive.
                     Pioneer DVR-105 DVD-RW/CD burner
   Graphics:  Nvidia Geforce4 MX AGP with 64 MB
                     VRAM.
                     External VGA port (mirror only).

      Monitor:  Built-in 17" LCD Display, 1440 x 900
                     pixels resolution, 24-bit color.

         Audio:  24-bit Stereo input and output
Networking:  10/100 Ethernet, also 56k v.92 analog
                     modem built-in. Available slot for Apple
                     Airport Extreme card.
          Misc:  USB 1.1 & Firewire 400 ports
           O/S:  OS X 10.4 (Tiger)

 This is my second iMac - the first was an older G3
 iMac with a CRT screen (see #31 on my Antiques
 page). It originally came with OS X 10.2; I upgraded
 it to 10.4 (Tiger).

 

 I now have seven working Macintosh computers:

 

    Mac SE - 68000 8 MHz CPU (built 1987)
   
Mac Performa 466 - 68030 33 MHz (1993)
    Power Mac 9500 - PPC 604 132 MHz (1995)

    iMac DV SE G3 - 400 MHz (1999)

    Power Mac G4 - 400 MHz (2000)
    Power Mac G4 MDD - Dual 1 GHz (2002)

    iMac G4 - 1 GHz (2003)

 I also have an old IIe Platinum, an IIc and a Newton,

 for a grand total of ten Apple computers so far.

 

 The excellent Apple History site has detailed info on
 the iMac G4 here.

 

 7/16/11: Installed an 1 GB SO-DIMM to increase the
 memory from the original 256 MB to 1.25 GB.
 

 

 


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30. Dell Precision Workstation 450.
       Built in 2003; acquired November 2011.

 

          CPU:  Intel Xeon 2.4 GHz with hyper-threading
                     and
512K L2 cache;
                     socket
available for second CPU.

          RAM:  2 GB ECC expandable to 4 GB

     Storage:  Seagate Cheetah 73 GB 15,000 rpm
                    
SCSI drive model ST373453LW,
                     Samsung SM-348B 16X / 24X / 48X
                     DVD-ROM / CD-RW / CD-R
burner,

                     NEC 3.5" floppy drive.
                     LSI Logic Ultra 320 SCSI card with
                     external high-density SCSI port.
   Graphics:  Nvidia Quadro FX 1000 Professional
                     Graphics card with 128 MB of VRAM

                     and two DVI ports (supports dual
                     monitors).  Up to 3840 x 2400 pixels
                     resolution on a singe display, or 1600 x
                     1200 on dual displays.

         Audio:  SoundMax Integrated Digital Audio
                     (AC97 stereo 16 bit)
Networking:  Intel Gigabit Ethernet
          Misc:  One PCI-X 64-bit slot, two PCI 32 bit
                     slots, one AGP Pro slot.

                     Four USB 2.0 ports.
           O/S:  Windows XP SP3

 

 This machine was designed for professional use in
 the fields of CAD/CAM, graphic design, etc.  As a
 result it has a lot of higher-end tech that consumer
 PCs
usually lack, such as error-correcting memory,
 a hard drive that spins at 15,000 rpm (consumer
 drives usually range from 4,000 to 7,200 rpm), not to
 mention a server-class Intel Xeon CPU and an

 available socket to add a second CPU.

 

 The Intel Xeon CPU is designed for use in work-
 stations and servers.  The version in this machine
 is a member of the "Prestonia" family, and supports
 multi-processors (more than one CPU in a system)
 plus hyperthreading (two threads can be executed
 per CPU).  The Workstation 450 supports two CPUs;

 this is similar to today's dual-core CPUs but in dual-
 core both processors share the same die.  Since
 Xeon supports hyperthreading, with two CPUs
 installed up to four threads can be executed simul-
 taneously.
 

 The Nvidia Quadro FX 1000 is my first "professional"
 graphics card.  While similar hardware-wise to
 consumer versions, professional graphics cards
 have firmware that emphasizes drawing accuracy
 over pure speed. 
Up to 3840 x 2400 pixel resolution
 is supported for a singe display, or 1600 x 1200 on
 dual displays.  The GPU is based upon the NV30
 Geforce FX and supports DirectX 9 and OpenGL 2.0.
 The card also features an output port for 3D stereo-

 scopic viewing, intended for engineering and scientific

 applications.
 

 So far I have only tested the card with some
 consumer-style applications such as playing back
 videos and gaming.  The card appears to have no
 trouble playing 1080p video and older games such
 as Call of Duty 1.  On the other hand, it couldn't
 render the graphics properly in the recent game "Left
 for Dead", but this is not surprising considering the
 age of the card.

 Links:

  GPUReview page on the Quadro FX 1000

 

 



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Quadro FX Professional Graphics card
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Opened up
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31. Dell Axim X5 Pocket PC.  This color PDA was
      purchased new in early 2003.

 

        CPU:  Intel XScale 400 MHz

        RAM:  64 MB

   Storage:  48 MB ROM for system software, 1 GB
                   flash memory (SD card).  CompactFlash
                   slot also built-in.

    Display:  3.5" 65,000 color 320 x 240 pixel
                   touchscreen.
       Audio:  Stereo sound via headphone jack, also
                   mono speaker and microphone.
         Misc:  Infrared transceiver
    Special
 Hardware: Two Compact Flash accessory cards,
                   a Wifi 802.11B adapter and a GPS
                   receiver (see update info below).
          OS:  Microsoft Windows for Pocket PC 2002.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update 12/06:  I turned this unit into a low-cost hand-
                          held GPS navigation system by adding
                          a GlobalSat BC-337 GPS receiver card
                          (
see photo at right)  and Microsoft
                          Pocket Streets  software.

 

 

Larger version

 

 

32. Microsoft Xbox.  Purchased new in 2003.

            CPU:  Intel Pentium III 733 MHz 128KB L2

            RAM:  64 MB DDR SDRAM
       Storage:  Internal 8 GB 5400 rpm
hard drive
                       Internal DVD-ROM drive
                       Memory card slot (8 MB proprietary)
     Graphics:  Nvidia NV2A Graphics Processor (125
                       million polygons per second)
                      
- supports up to HDTV (1080i)
                       resolution for games.

           Audio: 
Dolby 5.1 Game & DVD play-back.

  Networking:  100 Megabit Ethernet
Accessories:  Microsoft wired controller

                       Logitech wireless controller

                       Xbox DVD Movie Playback Kit (infrared
                       receiver dongle and matching remote
                       control).
                       High Definition AV Pack

                       MadCatz MC2 Racing Wheel for Xbox

             O/S:  Reportedly a stripped-down version of
                       Windows 2000.


Purchased after the price dropped from the original $300 price down to $150 with several games bundled in. This was the first game console I ever owned (I  now have at least eight in my collection).
 

Bought to connect to my HDTV for gaming– however only a few Xbox games actually support HD resolutions.  Games that can do at least 480p (progressive scan) look surprisingly sharp. I have one game that supports 720p and the increased detail is clearly visible.  This machine is however quite noisy; it sounds like a small vacuum cleaner when running! Hopefully the upcoming Xbox 360 will be quieter;  it’s also supposed to have better support for HD gaming.

Update 1/31/06:  I now have a new Xbox 360 in the
                             house;  this old Xbox “1” has been
                             moved to the bedroom. Sadly, the
                             360 is not quieter than the original
                             Xbox.

Update 12/6/08:  Picked up a used MadCatz MC2
                            Racing Wheel and pedals for $8.

 





Halo 2 screenshot (from Bungie)
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33 & 34 & 35.  Three (3) Compaq Evo D500 Small
                             Form Factor PCs.

       Built circa 2002; purchased used in February and
       March 2009.

 

Machine #1:

          CPU:  Intel Pentium 4 1.7 GHz 256K L2 cache

          RAM:  576 MB SDRAM PC133 (expandable to
                     3 GB)

     Storage:  30 GB Hitachi Deskstar Ultra ATA/100
                     7,200 rpm hard drive.
                     LG CED-8080B CD-R/RW 32x/8x/4x
                     optical
drive.

           O/S:  Windows XP SP3
 

Machine #2:

          CPU:  Intel Pentium 4 1.7 GHz 256K L2 cache

          RAM:  1 GB SDRAM PC133 (expandable to
                     3 GB)

     Storage:  20 GB Maxtor D740X-6L Ultra ATA/133
                     7,200 rpm hard drive.
                     Lite-On LTN-486S 48x CD-ROM drive.

           O/S:  OpenSUSE Linux 11.2
 

Machine #3:

          CPU:  Intel Pentium 4 1.8 GHz 256K L2 cache

          RAM:  512 MB SDRAM PC133 (expandable to
                     3 GB)

     Storage:  20 GB Seagate Barracuda ST320011A
                     Ultra ATA/100 7,200 rpm hard drive.
                     HP GCR-8483B 48x CD-ROM drive.

           O/S:  Drive currently blank - case has
                     Windows XP COA sticker with activation
                     key which allows OEM version to be
                     legally installed.
 

All Systems:

     Chipset:  Intel 845

     Storage:  3.5" Floppy drive (1.44 MB)
   Graphics:  Nvidia Vanta (TNT) with 16 MB RAM in
                     low-profile AGP 4x slot, capable of
                     1600 x 1200 pixels at millions of colors.
         Audio:  Integrated AC'97 Stereo with line in/out,

                     also front-panel microphone, built-in
                     speaker and a headphone jack.

Networking:  Integrated Intel PRO/100
                   
Ethernet 10/100
          Misc:  2 half-length, full-height  PCI slots,

                    4 USB 1.1 ports, serial port,

                    parallel printer port.
 

Notes:  Bought all of these working machine used for less than $200 total; original retail price was around $1,200 each in 2002.  I intend to use these systems as Lightwave 3D render nodes; also to explore alternative PC operating systems such as Linux.

 

The case of this model is very compact at 14" by 13" by 4" high, but it's built like a tank with a lot of metal parts. The drives are mounted internally on a special tray that pivots up 90 degrees to give easy access to the memory slots underneath (see photos at right). Besides their small footprint, these machines need only a moderate amount of power to run (200 watts each) and their P4 CPUs support SSE2 which is required by the latest version of Lightwave. 

 

 





With cover off  (Larger version)


With drive tray tilted up  (Larger version)


OpenSuse Linux running on Machine #2
Larger version

 

36. Apple Power Mac G4 (Mirrored Drive Doors
      model). Built circa 2002; acquired January 2011.

 

          CPU:  Dual Motorola PowerPC G4 (7450)
                     1 GHz processors with 1 MB L3 cache
                     each.

          RAM:  1.25 GB (expandable to 2 GB)

     Storage:  One Seagate Barracuda IV 80 GB 7200
                     rpm Ultra ATA-100 drive.
                     One Quantum Fireball
60 GB ATA drive
                     Internal Superdrive DVD/CD burner
   Graphics:  ATI Radeon 9000 Pro AGP card with
                     64 MB VRAM, supports dual monitors
                     with ADC and DVI connectors.

      Monitor:  Apple 23" Cinema HD LCD Display
                     (1920 x 1200 resolution).

         Audio:  16-bit Stereo input and output
Networking:  Gigabit Ethernet, also 56k v.92 analog
                     modem built-in.
          Misc:  Four 64-bit PCI slots, Adaptec Ultra SCSI
                    card, USB 1.1 & Firewire 400 ports.
            O/S: Currently OS X 10.5 Leopard

This is my second G4 Mac - the first (see below) is an older 400 MHz single processor model.  I also have a
iMac G3, PowerMac 9500 and a very old Mac SE from 1987 - see my Antique Computer Collection page for details on these systems.

Released in August of 2002, this Power Mac featured dual CPUs standard and a faster bus speed.  Known as the "MDD" model due to it's mirrored drive doors, it was the last major Power Mac G4 model, the last one featuring Apple's translucent design motif, the last one with five expansion slots (1 AGP, 4 PCI), last one with easily upgradeable CPUs and the last Power Mac still able to run OS 9.

 

I have to admit I like Apple's translucent designs more than the current metallic look that they introduced with the 2003 G5; along several Power Macs I also have a couple of matching translucent Apple Studio Displays (see below) and the gorgeous translucent white Apple keyboard that was only available for a limited time.

 

The excellent Apple History site has detailed info on the MDD Power Mac here.

 

In May 2011 I picked-up a used Apple 23" Cinema HD display for this system (see photo at right).  This flat-panel display cost $2,000 when new and is packaged in a beautiful clear case with chrome trim; with the 17" version I got in 2008 these may be the best- looking pieces of computer gear in my collection. Like the 17" model, this display uses the proprietary ADC (Apple Display Connector), which carries both video and power in the same cable. This means that the computer's video card directly supplies the electricity for the monitor to operate; luckily both of my G4s came with the special video cards required for this to work.

 

Other peripherals: I have an Epson Stylus Photo 1280 large-format 13" x 44" printer (see picture at lower right) and an old HP Scanjet 6100C Professional Series SCSI scanner.  This scanner, given to me by another nice client, is about ten years old but is a rugged heavy-duty professional model. HP's best desktop scanner at the time, it has a larger than usual scan area of 8.5" x 14", 30-bit color / 10-bit grayscale imaging and cost around $1,000 when new.
 

 

 

 

 

 

9/24/11 update: Acquired used copy of Apple Final Cut Pro Studio with matching color-coded keyboard for this system (see pic at right).

 

 

 



 


OS X 10.5 desktop

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Apple 23" Cinema HD display

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Apple Final Cut Studio
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37.  Two (2) Wyse WT3235LE Winterm Thin Client
       systems. Built circa 2002; purchased used in
       February 2009.

 

          CPU:  x86 compatible 300 MHz, probably a
                    National Semiconductor Geode GX1.

          RAM:  64 MB

     Storage:  32 MB flash memory
   Graphics:  Up to 1280 x 1024 x 16 bit color, VGA
                    out.

         AudioAC'97 16-bit 44 KHz stereo with speaker
                     and
microphone jacks.
Networking:  Integrated
Ethernet 10/100

          Misc:  Keyboard with mouse port built-in,
                    4 USB ports on system, supports USB
                    printers.
           O/S:
  Windows CE .NET 4.10 (build 486.4)


Notes:  Picked-up these thin client boxes for $10 each. A thin-
client is a stripped-down lightweight appliance computer that is used to connect to larger computers or the Internet.  This particular model is tiny at only 7.5 by 6 by 1.7 inches high and comes with the following software built-in:

     
Microsoft Internet Explorer
      Microsoft RDP client
      Citrix ICA client
      Terminal emulation for a variety of terminals such
      as the Wyse-60, IBM TNxxxx series, DEC VT420,
      etc.

      ELO Touchscreen support
 

Product Datasheet (pdf)

 



Larger version



Unit with monitor, keyboard and mouse connected

38. Sony Vaio GR270P Laptop with 15” LCD
      screen.
      Purchased new in November 2001. Spec sheet.

 

          CPU:  Intel Pentium III-M 1 GHz 512K L2

          RAM:  512 MB

     Storage:  Internal 30 GB IDE drive
                     Internal combo DVD-ROM & CD-R/RW
                     optical drive.
      Display:  15" LCD-TFT 1024 x 768 resolution
   Graphics:  ATI Rage Mobility Radeon-D 16 MB AGP
         Audio:  Stereo, built-in speakers

Networking: 100 Megabit Ethernet, V.90 modem
          Misc:  PC Card slots with Cardbus support,
                     built-in Sony Memory Stick drive, also
                     Firewire and USB 1.1 ports, TV-Out,
                     VGA out, parallel port.
     Special
 Hardware:  Adaptec SlimSCSI 1460 PC card
                    Linksys WPC55AG WiFi 802.11a/b/g
                    card
                    Belkin USB 2.0 PC card

                    External 1 GB Jaz drive (SCSI)

                    External flash card reader (USB)

                    LG External DVD burner (Firewire)
                    IDTECH barcode LED gun scanner

                    Sony dock & port replicator
          O/S:   Windows XP Professional (SP2)

Notes: This was my primary laptop until I purchased the Dell 9300 in 2005.  The Sony was designed
for video & audio work: It came bundled with a ton of multimedia software including Sony's digital video capture software, Sonic Foundry Sound Forge, Screenblast Acid and the 'lite' versions  of Adobe Premiere & Photoshop.  Sony also threw in MS Word 2002 and Quicken for good measure.

 

The Mobility Radeon graphics chip in this machine is powerful enough to run early 2000s 3D games such as Star Wars: Episode I Racer (see picture at right).
 

The amount of technological progress between the Toshiba laptop I purchased in '97 and this one is remarkable.  My '97 laptop ran at only 100 MHz, had less than 1 GB of storage and no audio, optical disc player or 3D graphics.  This machine, made only four years later, has a CPU clock speed ten times faster, has over thirty times more storage plus stereo sound, a combo optical DVD player /  CD burner and a Radeon 3D graphics chip.

 

The Pentium III-M (code name "Tualatin") was the third and best revision of the Pentium III architecture, with performance that matched or exceeded the early Pentium 4s while using significantly less power.  In fact in 2006 Intel discontinued development of the Pentium 4 "Netburst" line and switched to a new CPU architecture partially based upon the Pentium III-M, named "Core".


Update 12/06:  I purchased a new fast 60 GB 7200
                          rpm drive to replace the old 30 GB
                          4200 rpm unit, but haven't had time
                          yet to install it.


Update 10/07:  Updated to XP SP2. Purchased high-
                          speed USB 2.0 card to better
                          support external hard drives.
 

 

 

Larger version

 



Larger version (from Gamespot)

39.  Compaq Deskpro EN Small Form Factor PC.
       Built 2001; purchased used in March 2009.

 

          CPU:  Intel Pentium III 1.0 GHz Coppermine

          RAM:  512 MB SDRAM PC133

      Chipset:  Intel 815e

     Storage:  20 GB Seagate Barracuda ST320011A
                     Ultra ATA/100 7,200 rpm hard drive.

                    
Lite-On LTN-486S 48x CD-ROM drive.

                     3.5" Floppy drive (1.44 MB)
   Graphics:  Intel 82815 integrated graphics controller
         Audio:  Integrated AC'97 Stereo with line in/out,

                     also front-panel microphone and
                     headphone jacks.

Networking:  Integrated Intel Pro
Ethernet 10/100
          Misc:  3 PCI slots, 2 USB 1.1 ports, 1 serial
                    port, 1 parallel printer port.
           O/S:  OpenSUSE Linux 11.1
 

This system cost only $15 used but came without an operating system installed.

 

Update 10/09:  Increased memory to the maximum 512 MB (using a recycled PC133 module that cost $5), attached a Viewsonic 17" color CRT monitor (cost $10) and installed the operating system OpenSuse Linux (free).

 

The screen shot at right shows OpenSuse Linux on the Compaq; the graphical user-interface is KDE 4.1.

 



Larger version
 


Linux running on the Compaq (Larger version)

 

40. Apple Power Mac G4 (Gigabit Ethernet).
        Built 2000; acquired January 2006.

 

          CPU:  Motorola PowerPC G4 400 MHz

          RAM:  1.5 GB (expandable to 2 GB)

     Storage:  One 20 GB ATA drive
                     One 80 GB ATA drive
                     Internal Superdrive DVD/CD burner
                     (Panasonic)
                     Internal Zip drive 250 MB
   Graphics:  ATI Rage Pro 128 AGP card with 16 MB
                     VRAM, up to 1900x1200 @ 32 bits/pixel,
                     ADC and VGA connectors.

   Monitors:  Apple 17" LCD Studio Display

                    Apple 17" CRT Studio Display
Networking:  Gigabit Ethernet
          Misc:  Adaptec Ultra SCSI card, USB 1.1 & 
                     Firewire 400 ports
            O/S: OS X 10.3 Panther & OS 9.2

Notes  This particular model was the third revision
            of the Power Mac G4.  Released in August
            2000, it featured AGP graphics and Gigabit
            Ethernet.  Ever since the first Power Mac G4s
            came out in '99 I have wanted one to play
            with, but  couldn’t justify the expense since all
            of my paying work is on Windows PCs. Years
            later
a very nice client let me have this old
            machine that they had retired. This system
            is pretty well equipped for an old G4 with 1.5
            Gigabytes of memory and OS X 10.3
            (“Panther”). 
Currently only four of my
            systems have Gigabit Ethernet - this Mac,
            my Business PC, the Playstation 3 and the
            G4 'MDD' Power Mac.
 

            The excellent Apple History site has detailed
            info on this model here.


Update 7/27/08: Replaced original Apple DVD-ROM
drive with a Panasonic "Superdrive" DVD/CD burner.


Update 7/19/08:  Acquired a used Apple 17" Studio
Display in good condition for $30 (originally cost $500
when new).  The monitor is housed in a attractive
transparent case (see pic at right).  The Diamondtron
flat-screen CRT has a fine 0.25 mm grille pitch and
unusually supports a high 100+ Hz refresh rate.  it uses an ADC connection (video and power combined into a single cable).

 

Later in 2008 I purchased the LCD version of the Apple Studio Display. This flat-panel display originally sold for $1,000 new and is packaged in a beautiful clear case with chrome trim. The display uses the proprietary ADC (Apple Display Connector), which carries both video and power in the same cable. Luckily both of my G4s came with the special video cards required for this to work.

 


 

 

Larger version

 

 

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 41. IBM eServer xSeries 230, Dual-Processors.
       Manufactured in 2000, acquired in February 2009.

 

          CPU:  Pentium III 1 GHz x 2 (dual CPUs)

          RAM:  512 MB ECC expandable to 4 GB

  Graphics:   S3 Savage4 integrated with 8 MB VRAM
    Storage:  
Adaptec AIC-7899G Ultra160 SCSI dual
                     channel
integrated controller.
                     IBM Netfinity ServeRAID-4L Ultra160
                     SCSI
RAID controller PCI 64-bit card.
                     Three IBM 18.2 GB 10,000 rpm Ultra160
                     SCSI slim-height drives in hot-
                     swappable drive slots (six total).

                     Three additional drive bays for non-
                     swappable drives.

                     IBM integrated Ultra DMA/33 IDE dual-
                     channel controller.

                     CD-ROM 40x drive IDE.

                     3.5" 1.44 MB floppy drive.

       Audio:   PC speaker built-in (sound card can be

                    added using the PCI slots).

Networking: 10/100 Megabit Ethernet IBM integrated
                    AMD AM79C975
.

         Misc:  3 PCI 64-bit slots, 2 PCI  32-bit slots, 2
                    USB 1.1 ports
, 2 serial ports, 1 parallel
                    port.
          O/S:  Currently Windows 2000 Advanced

                   Server.

     Monitor:  Dell 15" CRT

 

Notes:  My first industrial-strength server machine; features dual processors, 10,000 rpm hot-swappable drives, error-correcting memory, 64-bit PCI slots, a hardware RAID controller, can be run on either 110 or 220 volt power and is built like a tank.

 

The IBM ServeRAID-4L hardware RAID controller card has an Intel i960 100 MHz processor and 16 MB ECC cache memory.  It supports up to 14 drives and a dizzying array (pun intended) of RAID modes including 0 (striped disks), 1 (mirrored), 1E (two-way mirroring), 5 (striped with parity), 5E (mode 5 with integrated hot-spare), 10 (striped and mirrored)  and 50 (striped with distributed parity).

 

 





Windows 2000 Server desktop - larger version.
See this and other Windows 2000 screen-shots

at the GUIdebook GUI collection.
 

 42. Video Editing System, Dual-Processors.
       Custom-built in 1999 (rebuilt in larger chassis in
       2001).

 

          CPU:  Pentium III 500 MHz x 2 (dual CPUs)

          RAM:  1 Gigabyte (1,024 MB)

            MB:   Tyan Tiger 100 S1832

  Graphics:   Hercules/Guillemot Nvidia Geforce-256

                     DDR-DVI AGP card with 32 MB DDR

                     memory, VGA and DVI ports.

    Storage:   Adaptec 39160 dual-channel ultra-160
                     SCSI controller card.
                     Internal 126 GB in four Quantum Atlas
                    10K 10,000 RPM drives (72 GB used for
                     dedicated video array).
                     Asus 50x CD-ROM drive.

       Audio:   4 audio channels in/out via DPS card

                    (see below).

Networking: 10/100 Megabit Ethernet

           PS:   PC Power & Cooling 425 watt Turbo-Cool

     Special
 Hardware:  DPS Reality & Velocity - high-end
                    professional non-linear video editing 
                    card and software, able to do un-
                    compressed D1 (full broadcast-quality)
                    video capture, dual video stream
                    playback, 4 audio channels in/out,
                    on-board UW SCSI controller.
    Special
  Software:  DPS Velocity NLE, Eyeon Digital Fusion,
                    Adobe After Effects 4.0 Production
                    Newtek Lightwave 3D 6.5, Bryce 3D 4.0.
         Misc:  5 PCI slots, 2 ISA slots, 2 USB 1.1 ports,

                    2 serial ports, parallel port.
          O/S:  Windows NT 4.0 Workstation and NT 4.0
                    Server (dual boot).

    Monitor:   Sony GDM F500 21” flat-screen CRT.

     Video
  Equipmt:   Sony Trinitron 20” NTSC program

                   monitor, Panasonic AG1980
                   Professional S-VHS deck.

Notes:  This machine was built to professional video
             editing standards and is capable of outputting
             uncompressed broadcast-quality video.

 

            

 

 

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Lightwave 3D 8.0 (from Lightwiki)
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DPS Velocity

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43. Dell Dimension XPS T550.
      Built 1999; purchased used in September 2005.

 

          CPU:  Intel Pentium III 550 MHz 512K L2 cache

          RAM:  384 MB (expandable to 768 MB)

     Storage:  2 x 10 GB Western Digital WD100EB
                     ATA-100 5400 rpm drives (20 GB total).
                     Sony CD-RW CRX140E 32X/8X/4X
                     optical
drive.
                     Toshiba DVD-ROM
SD-M1212 6X DVD /

                     32X CD optical drive.

                     Sony 1.44 MB 3.5" Floppy drive.
   Graphics:  Diamond Viper V550 Nvidia TNT card
                     with 16 MB VRAM (in AGP 2x slot),

                     capable of 1600 x 1200 pixels at millions

                     of colors.

         AudioYamaha XG 64 Voice sound card, with

                     Altec Lansing speakers and sub-woofer.
Networking:  US Robotics V.90 voice/fax modem,

                     Kingston 10/100 Megabit Ethernet card.
     Special

  Hardware:  Quadrant CineMaster 3 DVD decoder
                     card with composite, s-video and
                     SPDIF (Dolby AC-3) outputs.

                     PCMCIA to PCI adapter card.

          Misc:  2 USB 1.1 ports, 5 PCI slots (one
                     free),
1 ISA slot.
           O/S: 
OpenSUSE Linux 11.2


Notes:  I bought this machine in 2005 for only $99 (it originally cost $2,600 new six years earlier).  The previous owner removed the original hard drive before
selling it for security reasons.  I purchased a new 80GB hard drive for this system but ended-up having to use it for another project; I eventually got two old 10 GB drives from a good friend (along with an additional 128 MB memory module and an Ethernet card) to finally get this machine up and running.

In the summer of 1999 this system was the top-of-the-
line model from Dell, and was also on the top of PC World's list of "fastest" PCs.  Today no one would call it "super fast" but a Pentium III machine is still very useful for a variety of tasks.

 

This is the only system I have that came with a dedicated DVD hardware decoder card.  This is an interesting artifact from the days when a system's CPU and video card were not powerful enough to decode and play back DVD video smoothly.  The CineMaster card takes care of decoding a DVD's MPEG video and AC-3 audio streams, and has ports which can be used to directly output these streams to a TV and a Dolby surround sound receiver.  This card also connects to the system's regular video and audio cards via internal cables so that DVD video & audio can be routed to the system display and speakers.  On more modern computers, DVD decoding and playback is now done in software, with the MPEG video processed directly by the system video card. 

Also unusual is the PCMCIA-to-PCI adapter, this allows laptop expansion cards to be directly plugged in to this desktop PC.
 

1/25/09 Update:  Purchased a used Radius S-3F 15" 1024 x 768 LCD monitor to use with this system (cost $30).

 

11/29/09 Update:  Finally got this machine operational by installing two used 10 GB hard drives, an additional 128 MB of RAM, an Ethernet card and OpenSUSE Linux 11.2.

           

 

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Radius S-3F monitor

44.  Gateway Essential 400c Micro-ATX Tower.
      Built 1999; purchased used in February 2009.

 

          CPU:  Intel Celeron 400 MHz 128K L2 cache
                     socket 370 version ("
Mendocino").

          RAM:  32 MB (expandable to 256 MB)

     Storage:  Maxtor 6 GB 5400 rpm hard drive
                     Acer CD-ROM 56x drive
                     Mitsumi 3.5" Floppy drive (1.44 MB)
   Graphics:  Integrated ATI Rage 128 VR AGP
                     with 8 MB VRAM.

      Monitor:  Gateway EV700 17" CRT

         Audio:  Creative Labs Sound Blaster AudioPCI
                     128D with stereo line in/out and
                     microphone connectors.
Networking:  Netgear Fast Ethernet 10/100 card,

                     Lucent V.90 winmodem.

          Misc:  3 PCI slots (1 free), 2 USB 1.1 ports,
                    1 serial port, 1 parallel printer port,
                    1 game port.
           O/S:  Windows 98 SE


Notes:  I paid $20 for this system including the monitor; the original system retail price was $1,000 in 1999.

 

The Mendocino Celeron was Intel's second generation 'budget' processor.  With full speed cache memory on-chip, this CPU is supposed to be almost as fast as it's bigger and more expensive parent, the Pentium II.


I intend to upgrade the memory, replace Windows 98 with a more modern O.S. and use this machine as a Lightwave render node or for Linux.


 






Windows 98 desktop - Larger version
 

45. Desktop Business System – Dual-Processors.
        Custom-built in 1998.

 

         CPU:  Intel Pentium II 450 MHz x 2 (dual CPUs)
         RAM:  512 MB (expandable to 2 GB)
           MB:   Tyan Thunder 100 S1836DLUAN-GX

                    with Dual-Channel Ultra-Wide SCSI

  Graphics:  Nvidia TNT 16 MB PCI
     Monitor:  Viewsonic 21PS 21” CRT

    Storage:  Seagate Cheetah 36 GB 10,000 rpm
                    Ultra-160 SCSI drive, internal.
                    HP DVD200i DVDWriter combo DVD+R

                    /RW and CD+R/RW drive, internal.

        Onstream DI30 30 GB tape drive, internal.

        Conner Travan TR-3 3 GB tape drive,
        
internal.
        Quantum Atlas 9 GB 7,200 rpm
        Ultra-Wide SCSI drive, external.

        Seagate Scorpion DDS4 40 GB DAT
        tape drive, external.

       Audio:   Creative Labs Vibra 16XV 16-bit stereo

Networking: 10/100 Megabit Ethernet

           PS:   PC Power & Cooling 300 watt Turbo-Cool

    Special

 Hardware:  Adaptec combo USB 2.0 + Firewire card.
                    Canopus DVRaptor Firewire card.

         Misc:  6 PCI slots, 1 ISA slot, 2 USB 1.1 ports,

                    2 serial ports, 1 parallel port.

          O/S:  Quad boot configuration:
                     Windows 2000 Professional
                     Windows XP Professional
                     Windows NT 4.0
                    
Windows 98SE
             

Notes:  This machine is ten years old now but still usable thanks to it’s dual CPUs and to the numerous upgrades that have been done, such adding a DVD burner and a 10,000 rpm Cheetah drive.

While this system has four versions of Windows
installed, the one I used the most was Windows 2000 (see screen shot at right).

2007 Update:  This machine is no longer my primary business system.  In March 2005 I
started using my Dell Inspiron laptop (see above) as the primary; then in 2007 I switched to the water cooled super-system that I built during my long-running 'next generation' computer project (also see above).

 

9/24/11 Update:  Acquired used HP Pen Plotter (see
pic at right).  Since only Windows 98 has a driver for this printer I will likely attach it to this computer.


 


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Windows 2000 desktop -
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HP Plotter  - Larger version

 

46.  Gateway E-4200 - Full Tower.
      Built 1998; purchased used in November 2008.

 

          CPU:  Intel Pentium II 400 MHz 512K L2 cache

          RAM:  384 MB

     Storage:  10.1 GB IBM Ultra-ATA/33 7200 rpm
                     hard drive.
                     Acer CD-R/RW 4X/4X/32X drive
                     Sony CD-ROM drive
                     3.5" Floppy drive (1.44 MB)
                     Zip drive 100 MB
   Graphics:  STB Powergraph/32 (S3 Trio32 chip)
                     PCI
card with 1 MB RAM.
                     One available AGP slot.

         Audio:  None (can be added with expansion
                     card)
Networking:  Zoom Faxmodem V.92 card

                     Best Data Ethernet 10/100 card
          Misc:  4 PCI slots, 2 ISA slots, 2 USB 1.1 ports,
                    2 serial ports, 1 parallel printer port.
           O/S:  Windows XP Home

Notes:  Bought this working machine used for only $20; original retail price was around $2,000 in 1998.

 

With an 400 MHz CPU, 2D-only PCI graphics adapter and no sound card, this system is not equipped to run modern games or movies, but it is still useful for a variety of business tasks.

 

Historical note - unlike most modern PCs, this model could be purchased from the factory in three different form factors - desktop, mini-tower and the version I acquired, a full size tower.
 

12/20/08 Update:  Increased RAM from 128 MB to 384 MB using memory salvaged from a non-working iMac.  Also purchased an Ethernet card for the system (cost $10).

 



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Comments? Email me at mikegt@svas.com.