meepz97: I haz a new computar machine!

WARNING: EXTREME PC hardware-related nerdiness ahead. Read at your own risk.

My most awesome employer to date (that’s the vxlabs of course!) decided to treat me with a brand new workstation. On Tuesday, February 10 of the year 2015 the new desktop PC arrived. (Around these parts, we have a long tradition of writing about new computer acquisitions, see for example 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 or 2013.)

Because this event has sparked quite some interest amongst the various groups reading this blog, management has decided to present workstation-related information in a Q and A format.

Say what?! A desktop PC and not a laptop??!

Yes people, it’s an actual desktop PC, not a laptop. They’re big boxy things that eat laptops for breakfast and they really appeal to old-school nerds like me. Plus, when I go to work at the coffee shop around the corner with a ginormous black midtower PC under my arm instead of some far-too-easy-to-carry mac laptop, the other hipsters have no choice but to concede that I am their new king.

(Beautiful and thin laptops have become completely mainstream. Even that erstwhile PC-toting bro with his suit supply suit and his excel spreadsheets and his outlook email now has one. Hehe.)

What exactly do you have in that big black box?

I’m so happy you asked. Sensitive readers might want to look away, because this is going to get fairly graphical. I hand-picked all components from the limited set available to us this far south on the African continent. This is what I came up with:

As nerdiness-fuelled retail fixes go, this rated 23 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being multiple head asplosions. Even now, multiple days later, when I look sideways at the beautiful black box, my knees turn into jelly and I blush a little bit.

What operating system have you installed on this machine?

Emacs and Linux, software of the gods.

(By the way, if you run into kernel GPFs in __slab_alloc with this hardware, remember to add intremap=no_x2apic_optout to the kernel boot parameters. It seems the BIOS is being naughty and reporting that it does not have x2apic when it in fact does.)

How fast is the Samsung 850 PRO SSD?

This SSD is STUPID FAST, there is just no other way to describe it.

Anandtech has this to say about the drive:

To be honest, there is not a single thing missing in the 850 Pro because regardless of the angle you look at the drive from, it will still top the charts.

(My employer is still smarting a little bit from the cost angle however. I’ll work extra hard to compensate.)

Are you disappointed that having to encrypt the SSD will slow it down?

Fortunately, this drive also has hardware-based full disc encryption built right in. A further major improvement over my previously favourite drives which also have hardware support for encryption, the Intel 520 SSDs, is that the Samsung 850 PRO supports the TCG Opal 2.0 standard for the configuration and unlocking of the drive encryption.

In short, all data that touches the drive is transparently encrypted, at over 500 megabytes / second (!!). When the PC boots up, it asks me for my decryption password. If I get it right, the drive unlocks itself; if I don’t it does not. If anyone (I’m not paranoid, they really ARE out to get me!) gets access to my PC by whichever means, they will most probably not be able see one bit of my or my client’s data.

If you’re interested, you can find much more detail about how this works, and I how I configured it using open source tools, in this other post I wrote over at vxlabs.com.

Are you happy now?

Yes.

New Samsung NP300V3A laptop is welcomed into the family!

It’s traditional around these parts that I write a post whenever I get to welcome a new computer into the family. In July of 2002 it was Dr. Evil, more a brick than a laptop, in May of 2004 it was my beloved 14″ HP NC6000 laptop, in July of 2006 I met my 15.4″ HP NC8430 (employer-supplied, thank you employer!), which in turn led to this Ubuntu-critical blog post of mine that attracted 50000 (yes, fifty thousand) readers over 2 days, in July of 2008 I splurged on a lovely quad core desktop machine, in September of 2009 I acquired an Asus 1005HA-H netbook, and in November of 2010 my employer got me a super-strong Dell Latitude E6410 laptop.

Today I welcomed the latest and probably prettiest laptop so far into the family:

Pretty Samsung NP300V3A-S01NL laptop!

Behold the Samsung NP300V3A-S01NL (Series 3). It has an absolutely gorgeous-to-type-on chiclet keyboard, a 13.3″ matte (!) display, NVIDIA GT520m graphics with Optimus, second-gen Core i5 2410m, 4G RAM and 500G disc, all for a terribly reasonable price, which is important, as this one is not employer-bought. A man needs a laptop like this for his top-secret personal biznizz, yes?

It’s running Windows Home Premium, so I have to use Truecrypt instead of EFS for encrypting my biznizz, which is stored mostly in my Dropbox pro account. The battery life is quite impressive probably due in part to Optimus switching. The drawback of this is that I probably won’t be putting Linux on here anytime soon. These days you can use both the graphics adapters in Linux, but both of them stay active all the time, so it kills the battery really quickly.

We learn at least two more things from this post:

  1. I do seem to exhibit a certain obsessive compulsive behaviour when it comes to keeping track of the arrival dates of the various computers in my life.
  2. When spring comes around, hide my credit card.

Update on May 2, 2012: I have just eaten my hat. Ubuntu Linux 12.04 with Bumblebee runs just wonderfully on this laptop. Read all about it in my VXLabs blog post.