Welcome to your final installment on this series of Computer Tips for your Estate Planning Law Practice!
Hard Drives (HD)
A hard drive is a metal case within which one or more discs (platters) spin, while a mechanical head moves over them to retrieve information from the microscopic pits embedded on their surface.
Think of it as the tool case whence you retrieve what you will then lay on the blank plane of memory.
Older hard drives ran at 4200 or 5400rpm, but nowadays the norm is 7200rpm for desktops, and the whole gamut for laptops, according to the substance of your investment.
The correlation between HD and RAM is important, as, by default, when your system runs out of memory it will recur to the so-called virtual memory; that is, it will utilize available hard disk space to store what it can no longer cram in the already-full memory. That wouldn’t be bad, except the mechanical hard drive is considerably slower than the electronic memory. That is why when you open many programs on systems with insufficient RAM your HD starts chugging away and any operation takes that much longer.
Much like a teenaged son’s room, or many bosses’ desks, information is strewn all over a hard drive, with the OS keeping mental track of where everything is. The fuller a hard drive, the more scattered about the data is, the longer it will take to retrieve it. This phenomenon is called fragmentation, and can be obviated with regular maintenance of your HD, specifically running a process of defragmentation. When you defragment the hard drive, the data is moved to contiguous area so that the HD head no longer needs to run all over the place to put it together.
Well-maintained and comparatively emptier drives run faster.
HDs also have some electronic memory, the so called cache. Much like with RAM, the cache is filled to its capacity with needed information, so that the mechanical, and slower, components of the drive become less involved. The cache is usually a few MB large.
You may have noticed hard drives never sport quite the capacity they advertise; where does all that claimed space go? Nowhere, really. It all comes down to the definition of Gigabytes, which HD marketers measure in multiples of 1000, rather than 1024. Thus a 500GB HD will in reality only be 500/1.024=488GB.
On the same, yet unrelated, theme of marketing, your internet connection is measured in Megabits (Mb), rather than Megabytes (MB), yielding to more impressing numbers, since you remember that 1 bit is in actuality only 1/8th of 1 byte.
My suggestion for hard drives is to buy the largest your budget allows, running at no less than 7200rpm and with the largest cache.
Naturally, all the options described must be considered in concert: 24GB of RAM on a 32-bit system would not do much, as a superfast CPU coupled to 256MB of memory would yield only frustration.
Thanks for hanging in there for this conversation about Operating Systems (click here), CPUs (click here), RAM (click here) and now finally Hard Drives!
Graphic Designer and Internal Technical Support Manager
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
You’ve made it to the 4th segment of the Computer Tips blog topic! You can review the previous 3 segments, Introduction, Operating Systems, or the entry on the CPU.
Memory is akin to a plane upon which lay your information and the tools to analyze it. The larger the surface, the more tools and information you have available at once, the faster and more satisfactory the results. RAM is also volatile, meaning that if for any reason your computer is switched (or logged) off, the surface is wiped clean, and you have to start anew.
I view the amount of system memory as the most influential factor on a computer’s performance. For simplicity, I will only discuss the amount of RAM, rather than its type or speed, as the most directly correlating to performance gains.
A unit of binary information is called a bit. Binary means a bit is either a 0 or a 1, off or on. Eight bits make a byte. 1000 bytes, or more specifically, 1024, comprise a Megabyte (MB), and if you multiply again by 1000, you have a Giga Byte (GB).
A modern operating system requires at least 1GB to operate (Vista hogs more, XP less), and every program you launch will also reside in memory. So you obviously need more than 1GB. The more programs open at the same time, the more memory is required.
If you have a 32-bit system, then you should employ all the 3GB it allows you to install. On a 64-bit system, 4GB is usually the sweet spot. At any rate, the vast majority of users will seldom if ever need more than 6GB.
A few ulterior considerations on memory: RAM is comparatively cheaper than other performance-boosting options, and dollar by dollar will return the best results. As with processors, particular care should be employed in case of upgrade. Motherboards have different amount and format of available memory slots; they may require dual memory, in which case memory sticks would have to be installed in pairs, or even triple memory on the newest boards (if you follow PC advertising you will notice the latest trends offer 6, 9 or 12GB; those are all multiple of triple memory sticks).
Glad you’re still hanging in there for these basic computer tips. If you missed the first two topics, you can review the Introduction to the topic and Operating Systems section.
The Central Processing Unit is the brain: it analyzes information to obtain results.
Here the choices are innumerable, starting with the most common manufacturers: Intel or AMD. The former is considered the reigning champ, the latter a once worthy opponent nowadays only sustained by fervid fans of its former brawny glory. I see no advantages on purchasing an AMD over an Intel.
If you own anything prior to a Pentium processor, than this blog is written on stone, which you should use to bash your archaic system to smithereens before you go out and buy something belonging to this century/millennium.
Pentium had a bland brother, the Celeron, which missed its sibling’s charms and smarts, but was cheaper to acquire. Celeron and celerity are not related.
Pentium eventually grew up and multiplied, literally, as today we have multi-core processors, that is, multiple CPUs on the same die. The very least you should consider for a speedy system is a Core 2 Duo. A quad core would be better, as modern software can take advantage of its multi-threading capabilities. What multi-core means, in practice, is that you have that many more brains thinking at the same time, so that if one of them maxes out trying to solve one problem, the others can intervene on the same, or different ones.
Since there are so many processor options, in case of upgrade particular attention should be devoted to purchasing the right format of CPU for your motherboard (the base on which the electronic components reside), as the pins layout, power requirements, etc. can vary quite dramatically
Core speed is in my opinion not as important. At the same frequency, a Pentium will be faster than a Celeron, a quad quicker than a duo. A user should purchase the best processor his budget can justify, rather than the fastest.
Two more segments covering the topic of RAM and Hard Drive will complete this series of Computer Tips for your law firm… stay tuned!
Different doctrines foment fanaticism, and since the dawn of modern computing there has always been a heated debate between Windows users and the misguided. There will be no siding with either faction, Apple or the more sensible alternative, but we’ll only explore Microsoft’s brainchild in this context.
The operating system can be said to be the interpreter between how the machine calculates and the user thinks.
Over the years windows has evolved into its most modern incarnation, Windows 7. Ideally, that’s the operating system you should have on your computer. Windows 98 (and anything before) is dead. Windows ME was what’s commonly referred to as cerebral flatulence, and any machine associated with it should be shot on sight. Windows XP was and is a very good system, after a few service packs, but it is becoming increasingly obsolete as Microsoft has halted its support. Vista, the OS that has had to be crammed down everyone’s throat, is one of the main reasons for a computer’s poor performance, as it is over-bloated and quite taxing on the system resources. And we are back to Win7.
Home, Business or Ultimate? For working purposes, you should invest into purchasing anything but Home.
You probably heard of 32-bit versus 64-bit flavors of the same OS. Very basically, 32-bit will only allow your computer to utilize up to 3GB of memory, while 64-bit will take advantage of any amount of RAM installed.
Based on the above considerations, a happy computer should be running Win7 64-bit.
Stay tuned for 3 more parts to this topic! About your CPU, RAM and finally the Hard Drive!
It is a common misconception that computers are evolving and getting increasingly faster. In reality, modern systems are akin to a Ferrari with an RV trailer stuck to the rear fender. And bicycle tires. And the engineering equivalent of Alzheimer.
While from a merely mechanical point of view incredible progress is indeed constantly being made, real-world applications of the technology are haphazard and mired in incomprehension.
For one thing, modern computers are weighed down by modern operating systems. Once upon a time, the OS could be installed from a single floppy disk, 1.44MB of data. Nowadays we are in the order of several Gigabytes, that is, thousands of times heavier code.
Moreover, in a trend common within the misinformed (see the escalation of Megapixel turgidity among digital camera manufacturers), special buzzwords are promoted through advertising to snare unwary buyers in a net of bombastic mine-is-bigger-than-yours excesses. Hence the disorganized race to “higher clock speeds” (goody, if my clock runs faster, the working day will be over sooner); more RAM, for a wool new experience in computing; a bigger and meaner HD, to satisfy the inner biker within us.
In its most basic form, the performance of a computer can be said to depend on 4 factors:
- Operating system, henceforth referred to as OS
- Processor speed. This is the CPU, or Central Processing Unit, speed (frequency), and is measured in Gigahertz or GHz
- Amount of memory. RAM, Random Access Memory, size should be measured in GB (Gigabytes)
- Hard Drive (HD) size, speed and content. Once again the size should be measured in GB and the speed in RPM (Revolutions Per Minute)
In reality there are a myriad of other considerations, but they are outside the scope of this particular blog, so we’ll just proceed with a simplistic view of the aforementioned subjects.
Stay tuned for more detailed blogs in this series covering OS, CPU, RAM and Hard Drive!
Ever wondered why the images you so painstakingly pirated downloaded from the web for your newsletter end up printing so fuzzy when they were so sharp onscreen?
It’s a matter of resolution.
Not one of those resolutions you vow to follow each new year, but image resolution.
Think of every picture as a tightly packed bunch of dots, so tiny and in such close proximity as to appear seamless. On your monitor in takes 72 of these pixels (that’s what your monitor’s dots are called) to fill a linear inch. We will then say that your onscreen pictures display a resolution of 72 pixels per inch (ppi).
Printed materials, on the other hand, generally require more, smaller dots to fill the same area. On average, every linear inch will contain 300 dots, which translates to your images having a resolution of 300 dots per inch (dpi).
So, does this mean you will never be able to use web images (72ppi) for print (300dpi)? Not necessarily.
Say that you need to print a 7″ x 5″ picture, and you found a beautiful free pic online that you want to use. You think “72ppi, darn, there goes another good resolution,” but then discover that the image you downloaded is 2100px wide by 1500px tall.
That would be a 29″ x 21″ picture on your screen (2100/72 and 1500/72), so you would fire up PhotoShop and resize it to 7″ x 5″, print it, and start cussing because you just wasted a couple of dollars’ worth of that incredibly expensive printer ink.
That happened because by resizing you threw away a great number of perfectly good pixels, and are left with a 7″ x 5″ 72 ppi image, 504px x 360px.
What you need to do, instead, is resample, that is change the image’s resolution instead of its size.
So your resampled image will still be 2100px x 1500px, but, at a resolution of 300dpi (instead of 72), its size will be the 7″ x 5″ you needed (2100/300 x 1500/300).
Ok, can you take the image you ruined earlier and resample it to 300dpi? Well, you could, but you have only 504 pixels left to work with, so your image would be only just over 1.5″ wide (504/300).
Then why not resize it back to 2100 x 1500? Mostly because if you could create dots from nothing, you would dedicate your creative talent to producing money, instead. Think about it, if you have only $500, can you buy that $2100 sweet gadget you crave so? Whipping out your credit card is cheating and we won’t consider it.
In conclusion, when you provide images for printing, multiply the desired size by 300. That is the minimum dimension in pixels your picture needs to be.
Example: you need to print a 7″ long image. Your picture will need to be 7×300 = 2100px long.
Example 2: you have an 800 x 600 image you want to use for a brochure; what’s the maximum size you can print it? 800/300 x 600/300 = 2.67″ x 2″
Conversely, if you took a megapixel picture with your state-of-the-art digital camera and you need to use it for a webpage, resize it (throw away the extra dots) to fit within your webpage’s dimension and not require several seconds (or minutes!) to load.
There’s an easy trick to assess the value of a PowerPoint presentation: stand next to a slide. If it is prettier than you, then you got it wrong.
A slide is but a tool, like a pen, with which you, the presenter, will put your signature on the presentation. You may wield the finest Mont Blanc quill, but in the end, it is your signature on the credit card slip that lets you take home your prize.
That said, you still don’t want to have your public escape the venue of your show in a paroxysm of terror at the sight of your visual aids. Remember: put your stamp, not stampede, on the speaking engagement.
A slide should then simply be a snapshot, a fond reminder of a moment in time upon which you will rely to relay an interesting story. It should not overwhelm with details, it should not require interpretation, or span over multiple events, multiple memories.
You are the hero in this war against tedium, armed with your wits and charisma, so trim your presentation to the essential landmarks to wind your path through the performance.
Text-only slides must go; discard superfluous ones and those requiring long explanations, or a microscope to discern. Have them be concise, relying on key words rather than rambling sentences.
Think of the individual slide as a game of Russian roulette: fewer bullets make for more excitement, and reduce the mess.
- Ensure whatever you are showing is germane to the presentation and grammatically sound
- Adopt darker backgrounds with brighter foreground elements
- Use large sans-serif fonts and images that add depth and support your concepts
- Avoid clipart and line drawings
- Do not use copyrighted material, distracting details, and kitchen sinks
- Spend a few minutes setting up your templates to avoid hours of regret when having to apply global changes on dozens of slides.
- Be consistent with colors, styles, fonts and general aspect throughout the presentation.
Above all, you be the star; shine! Have the audience point at you to find their way to the safe harbor of your knowledge. It is you they came to see, not your unwitting support of Microsoft.