Finding Classes, MacBook Upgrade & Getting Older

I’m two classes short of getting my associate degree in computer programming at San Jose City College. The plan was to take one class at Mission College in the fall semester and the other class at SJCC in the spring semester. The registrations numbers at either campus don’t look too good that I’ll get those classes.

When I started going back to school five years ago, I couldn’t get the classes I wanted because there were too many students. Now I can’t get the classes I need because there aren’t enough students. Never mind the long-term trends of the Baby Boomers retiring en masse over the next 20 years, and that technology growth in for India and China will require keeping their I.T. workers at home, the United States won’t have enough people to fill the technical jobs in the future.

I’m not sure yet what I’m planning to do next semester. I could take a class that I don’t need like finite math or photography, complete my Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) certification, work on becoming a published writer sooner rather than later, or all of the above. Decisions, decision, decisions. That doesn’t get any easier when you get older.

Speaking of which, I recently had my 37th birthday. I got myself two sticks of 1GB memory and a brand new Windows XP OEM disc for my MacBook. I had more trouble trying to get the memory modules out of the packaging than putting them into the MacBook. I did the upgrade at work because I didn’t have the extra small screwdrivers at home. Going from 512MB to 2GB made a huge difference—no more waiting on the beach balls! Installing Boot Camp and Windows XP was just about as easy, but the post-install of Windows took forever. Now I have the best of both worlds by running Mac OS X and Windows XP on the same laptop.

A Wacom Graphire 4 Drawing Tablet For A Talentless Artist


I recently got a Wacom Graphire 4 drawing tablet for my Mac. Since my artistic talent doesn’t exist beyond straight crayon lines, it may not do me much good. If I had serious artistic talent like Hawk at Applegeeks, I would go for a $2,500 USD Wacom Cintiq 21UX tablet. Even Scott Adams of Dilbert fame uses the Wacom Cintiq to beat a medical condition that makes it difficult for him to draw sometimes.

Titania File Server Case Upgrade

The boot drive for Titania, my Linux file server, suffered the “click of death” and stopped working after a system reboot four months ago. The drive that died was a seven-year-old Quantum 6.4GB ATA66 hard drive that ran 24/7 since the day I bought it. The replacement drive was an eight-year-old Quantum 2.1GB ATA66 hard drive that sat in the junk box for the last few years. I’ll have to replace that drive soon before it fails. Unlike the two Seagate 80GB ATA100 hard drives in a RAID-1 configuration that stores my data, the Quantum drives are out of warranty. When upgrading a computer, it’s never thing that gets replace but a whole bunch of things at the same time.

I’ve decided it was time to switch out the old tower case with the Codegen BRIZA-63-CA mid-tower case, replace the 3Dfx Banshee 16MB video card with a Nvidia Geforce MX4000 64MB video card, add another Promise Ultra100TX controller card to run each RAID drive off a separate controller, a Samsung 40GB ATA133 hard drive to replace the boot drive, and upgrade the operating system to OpenSuSE Linux 10.

Took six hours to switch out the hardware, two hours to get Linux installed and configured, and 48 hours for stability testing. The hard part was disassembling all the hardware from the old case (a Pentium 60MHz file server from my father’s last employer that became his first computer in retirement in lieu of a gold watch), and figuring out what goes into the new case or gets tossed into the junk box.

Setting up the new case was pretty straight forward. The power supply and blue LED 80mm fan that came with the case got replaced with a Rosewill 400W power supply and a non-lighted 80mm fan that I have. The ECS K7S5A motherboard, AMD Athlon 1GHz (Thunderbird) CPU, and 256MB PC-2100 DDR memory stick went in next. I then installed the video card, gigabit network card, the USB2 adapter card, and the two controller cards. That left one PCI slot for installing a third controller card. Each of the Seagate drives attached to an individual controller card. The Samsung hard drive and Samsung CD-R drive attached to the motherboard controller. The venerable floppy drive ended up in the junk box.

The newly rebuilt computer runs quieter and cooler now. Although I only needed 4GB on the boot drive for the operating system, I’m using the extra space on the Samsung drive to store a month of backup files for my Windows desktop and laptop computers to free up space on the RAID. (The backup files are also stored on DVDs in a fireproof box.) My next upgrade within six months will be converting the 80GB RAID-1 to a 160GB RAID-5 with an additional Seagate drive and a controller card. I could expand up to a 400GB RAID-5 configuration using six Seagate 80GB drives or replace the existing drives with larger drives (i.e., 6 x 500GB = 2.5TB for RAID-5), if I have the money. It’ll be a long time before this machine has another major overhaul.