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Stanto's World

15th April, 2011. 2:18 pm. A friend asked a question

 "I'm tired of re-installing my computer system so often within 6 months, should I buy backup software?"

The short answer to your question is: yes and perhaps a USB drive to back up to, if you want to go further then back it up to a second PC that has the drive shared over a network and/or online storage such as Dropbox.

The long answer is that perhaps you should take an analytical look at how your computer's being used and how you can change it to prevent having to reinstall your system in such a short time-frame.

You could tell me the reasons and we could go from there, but what I'll also do is tell you how I run my system to prevent this, though granted this isn't necessarily how you can set yours up.

Firstly the computer hardware, I run at least three hard drives. Primary hard drive is the fastest (either 10000rpm+ or SSD) and has installed the operating system, swap/page file and any software that defaults to install to c:\program files. If you want to go a bit advanced this folder can be changed to default to a different drive but I find that some older software doesn't like this.

The operating system has the Administrator account enabled and passworded, also it has a secondary user account. This means I run as the standard user all the time and when I need drivers or software installing I 'elevate' to the administrator (windows vista/7) or switch users (windows 95/98/xp/2000).

This prevents the majority of spyware/adware/spam from being installed and adds a level of security to your system files.

Now I said that I run three hard drives, what are the other two for?

The second hard drive is where I store any downloads and temporary files. If I'm running Second Life (stop sniggering) or Adobe Photoshop I have this set as the temporary location.

Why?

If you're working from one drive, then that read head and SATA/IDE channel is switching between the page file, the temporary location and the program files. You're increasing data throughput and speed by utilising the 'parallel' data access from two drives, the bottleneck in speed is then elsewhere or pretty much non existent.

The third drive is where I install my games to, Steam doesn't need to have the games re-installed once they're downloaded or most other games. It's a bit of a misconception that they do (though admitedly some do).

If you've had to rebuild your system drive (which in this case is the first) you'll have your game 'save games' in your 'My Documents' on the second drive and your games on the third. Barely anything to re-install as it'll find everything again.

So?

With these setups I barely have to rebuild the system and when I do it's very minimal.

Restoration work:

If you DO have to rebuild the system, perhaps first you just need to make a new user account. A lot of 'slow down' and issues are profile based. So perhaps just create a new user and copy files across. Files are usually stored in C:\Documents and Settings or C:\Users (WinXP former, Win7/Vista latter).

Alternatively you can just copy your profile to another drive and then re-setup the OS if you really need to, but bear in mind that it may copy over any problems with it.

Computer roles:
Consider what you're doing with the computer once it's setup this way. I keep my system mainly as a multimedia and gaming PC. Mixing this with development is a bad idea.
Development work installs debuggers and debugging library files which tend to be slower than 'retail'. I work on development either on another computer entirely (my netbook) or within a virtual machine. VMWare's 'VMWare Server' is completely free and you can install an operating system within it, or there's Microsoft's 'Virtual PC'.

This keeps it separate and portable. A lot of slow down arises with computers when software's in/re/uninstalled a lot. This could also be done in a virtual environment to cut down on fragmentation.

There's also the point that you might want to use a virtual machine to browse the internet, if it gets infected with spyware, just delete or format the virtual machine. That way you your main system and your important files aren't affected.

So to summarise, my key areas to assist are:

- Keep computer user and administrator profiles separate
- Store data files physically separate either for security or efficiency
- Maximise parallel data transfer or processing
- Virtualise or use another computer for greatly different tasks

Current mood: calm.

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1st February, 2011. 12:49 pm. Computing in Schools

In secondary school (ages 12-16 approximately) I spent my spare time at home on the Amiga 1200, at first it started with using word processing software such as Wordsworth and playing computer games but like the Sinclair Spectrum 48k before it I saw a world of greater customisation.

Scripting, programming, control, video editing, audio editing, manipulation, creation, images.

The list went on.

At school my itch for creation and manipulation in this manner just wasn't scratched. 'ICT' or 'Information Communications Technology' just covered word processing, excel spreadsheets, databases.

Data management, with the introduction of computers as I was beginning to learn, it was an introduction and replacement for what currently existed in businesses:
  • File systems
  • Automated paper based systems
  • Data logging
  • Data store
Yet computing was already becoming something more, seemingly fuelled by the creativity of computer games.

3D worlds, simulation environments, replicas of social interactions, information pushing and now? It's changing even further by how we interact with computers. In the coming years there'll be a change, or at least a parallel development, in how we interact with computers. We have been limited to the mouse and keyboard for so long that finally we're moving into a world where a sweep of the hand or a gesture of the voice can command an electrical piece of equipment.

So in this fast world of computing and technology, where are schools? Where are they at with the development of the human psyche to handle how it is moving forward?

It's still 2D. Mathematics focuses on the x,y axis and ICT pushing onto the documenting and automating of systems of which are mostly now already computerised. Even then people get to University level and haven't familiarised themselves with the nuances of Microsoft Word's page layout functionality.

To take advantage of the next level of computing, to push onto it earlier (building on a basis of understanding stemming from knowledge of current systems and in some cases, ICT to a layer) there should be a push for 3D learning and parallel processing.

A lot of school children when I was young didn't understand the application of mathematics, so perhaps there could be a tie-in where it's demonstrated in the computing class room.

Learning about computing could be more from a computer science perspective than just the 'end user' line, perhaps offering an end year GCSE in it similar to the construction nature of 'Design Technology'. 

These ideas and thoughts are erratic and perhaps the argument is poorly structured, but there is an underlying idea and need that is perhaps crying out for action.

Current mood: sleepy.

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24th November, 2010. 8:48 pm. Sleepy.

I'm so very tired these days.

It's not particularly my job that tires me, although it can be quite physically and mentally active.

It's the traveling which gets me. I spend a good portion of my day walking, this is a typical day:

1. Wake at 6:45am
2. Travel to the bus stop at 7:25am
3. Get on the bus at 7:45am
4. Wait in traffic on the bus, arrive at destination 8:20
5. Walk to work, arrive at 8:40am

When going home,

1. Leave work at 5:00
2. Arrive at bus stop 5:20
3. Get on bus at 6:06
4. Get off bus and walk home, arriving at 7:45

It takes me two and three quarter hours to get home and almost an hour to get to work. I spend almost four hours trying to get to and from home.

In that time I could code software, cook food, do my online food shopping.

What's extending my day to waste 4 hours of my waking day? Well a main part of this is that the 229 Arriva bus travels along Gelderd road through Wortley (sp?) and crosses the ring road. The priorities on this ring road are totally wrong and could do with being an under/over pass.

The wait at that crossroads can exceed 20 to 40 minutes. The bus journey is meant to be 20 minutes, this is doubled.

The return journey is extended by the fact that I don't get dropped off at my workplace and have to walk from the city centre, the second is that the bus comes at every half hour, 5 minutes past and 25 minutes to.

That's if the bus turns up at 25 minutes to, which because of crossing the ringroad, only gets me home 15 minutes earlier than the 6:06pm bus.

Oh there's a bus stop that's right outside of my flat, but that bus takes 50 minutes to get into the city centre and runs every hour, sometimes.

As the public we're meant to be ushered towards busses because they "take 10 cars off the road".

If I wasn't forced to use busses, I would gladly not.

Current mood: tired.

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30th March, 2009. 11:20 pm. My desk


My desk, originally uploaded by TheStanto.

A bit geeky but it works well for space and my RSI.

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