Expanding laptop storage

A couple of weeks ago I upgraded my laptop by swapping the current hard drive, a SSHD type disk, with a new SSD. The performance was noticeable increased at once!

However, now I had another problem. My old hard drive was 750 GB and my new SSD only 240 GB. So, storage became a problem. I store most my stuff on a NAS with a Raid setup, but this is more of an archive. It’s slow to work with video files from network storage, so I need a bit of storage locally on my computer as well.

The solution was to take out the DVD-player and put my old hard drive back in as a second disk. I’ve rarely used my DVD-player at all so this is no loss to me. I bought a kit from IcyBox, IcyBox IBAC642. The kit consisted of a caddy for the HDD so that it could be installed in the optical drive bay of my laptop. The kit also had a chassis for the DVD-player so that I can use it as an external USB DVD-player. While the DVD-player chassis was metal, the caddy was plastic. All in all the build quality of the kit did not impress me, but then again it was cheap and it does exactly what I need it to do.

IcyBox  IBAC642, SSD/HDD caddy

IcyBox IBAC642, SSD/HDD caddy. Comes with caddy for your HDD/SSD, and external USB chassis for you DVD.

Installing it was really simple. It does need you to know your way around a computer, but no it does not require any special knowledge. The job took less than 10 minutes and involved less than 10 screws. The result is that I now have a high performance SSD, making my computer fast and more than enough storage space for other stuff.

New hardware

My 5 year old Macbook is still working, and except for some bite marks from the dog and the regular cracks from it being a “crackbook”, it is still pretty much in mint condition. However lately it’s been acting more and more like syrup. So I decided some time ago it was time to make an upgrade.

What made me do the upgrade now, however was that I’m also doing a camera upgrade soon. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m upgrading to the new Nikon D800 (or at least so I’ve said for a while, but nothing has happened. Nikon have been slow with delivering this camera and the waiting list have been long), a camera that generates much larger image files than the one I have now, so I’m afraid that if I tried to open one of them with my Macbook it would simply keel over and die instantly.

My Macbook have been faithful to me and I would love to upgrade to another Mac. However, my student budget does not allow it, especially since I wanted at least a 15″ and not a 13 “. Hence, I would have to go for a Windows based PC this time. After searching the Internet and finding some interesting candidates, I settled on a mid-range Toshiba computer; Toshiba Satellite P850-133. At least that’s what it’s called in Norway.

What made me choose this computer, was the power to price ratio. It was a reasonable prised computer, with a 3rd generation Intel i7 quad-core processor. It came standard with 6 GB of RAM, but I ordered 16 GB which I installed myself, saving some cash there. I also switched out the 750 GB 5400 RPM hard drive with a 750 GB 7200 RPM hybrid drive. The reason I didn’t go for a pure SSD was mainly a price issue. At the most my budget would allow for a 128 GB SSD and this size barely worked for my Macbook. I had very little saved locally on that machine, so this time I would need more. A hybrid disk would then give me reasonable space, as well as the most apparent benefits of a SSD and it would be affordable. The Toshiba machine also had the new Ivy Bridge architecture and USB 3.0. Ivy Bridge meant it had the new Intel graphics, but it also had a NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M with 2GB dedicated memory. I really missed having a proper graphic card on my Macbook and while this is not a very heavy graphics card, it’ll do the trick when it comes to regular stuff. Most of the really heavy work this machine will be doing is video and image editing, and RAM and CPU power is more important than graphics power for these tasks.

So, what I ended up with after my upgrades was a pretty powerful computer with lots of CPU power and RAM and with the graphics and storage space to handle most of what I will put it through. Actually, it was better spec’d than most of the standard Macbooks available and for under half the price I don’t think that’s so bad.

However, there are some drawbacks. The display has a fairly low resolution of only 1366×768, though considering the price for an upgrade and that I will be working with an external display for image and video work I figures it didn’t matter that much. Also it didn’t come with a Blu-ray drive, only DVD. However, I don’t remember the last time I used the DVD for anything on my Macbook so that didn’t really bother me. What actually bothers me  the most is the track-pad. I really don’t like it. The one on my Macbook is much better, however I hope it’s just a matter of what you’re used to. And that’s another thing that bothers me; it’s not a Mac. But, again; I hope it’s just a matter of what you’re used to.

Livestream: Conclution

I got back from Oslo last night after working at an event for Skagen Funds with live webcasting of interviews. It was an very interesting experience and I learned a lot. Mainly all of the things that can go wrong with live webcasting.

The software/service we used to stream live was Livestream Procaster. It’s an ok and easy to use software with varying degree of difficulty, depending on the users level of knowledge. If you want to make it easy and simple you can, but it also have some options to satisfy the more advanced user.

However if you are an advanced user and want to learn the software well and take control, it’s a bit messy. Adjusting the settings is somewhat messy and hard to find. We never quite figured it out.

One of the most notable problems we noticed was the audio. Even though the input quality was excellent and the bitrate should be sufficient it sounded bad and had digital noise. This was a result of the messy settings. We adjusted the settings in the Procaster module, but we’re not quite shure if adjusting these settings had anything to do with the stream or just the recording. Until you figure it out properly you’re probably better off with just using the preset. Another problem with the audio was that if we plugged the mic directly into the computer audio and video was out of sync.

A couple of other draw back; we could not monitor audio or video before going live. We could just see the peak meter, but not listen to the audio. This is unacceptable and makes it really hard to ensure the quality of the stream and checking connections. As a result of this we had difficulties connecting DV cameras (as mentioned before) and problems finding the best settings and adjust them correctly to our current situation.

All in all we experienced that there were a lot of things that could go wrong. Proper internet access that was fast enough was one problem, connectivity, settings. All of this could and at some point also went wrong. Not being able to test it properly offline or to stay connected without broadcasting was this systems largest drawback. Apart from that, on the plus side; it did work, and it worked well when it did! There was only about 5 seconds (depending on bitrate and internet connection of course) delay, which is very good! However, we were always excited to see if it would work when we hit “Go Online”. So all, in all with a little bit more testing on our part and with a few upgrades to the software from the developer, the Livestream solution may in fact be a very good one.

Lightroom weekend

Yesterday I started a project; I started organizing my photos in Adobe Lightroom. Not a small task!

Having heard a lot of nice things about Lightroom, I decided I wanted to try it out. So far it’s great. Easy and quick to organize photos. So far I’ve imported and added keywords for searching to a couple of thousand photos. I have not yet tried the development feature for RAW-files yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

My organizing was not without problems though. However, Lightroom was not the cause of any of them. Halfway my girlfriend managed to spill some Pepsi Max on my MacBook. Pepsi and computer not the best of combinations, I’ll tell you! The computer stopped working for a while so I pulled out the screwdriver and opened it. Just to check. Seemed to be fine, though, but still didn’t work. Tried to boot it a couple of times with no luck, but then it suddenly just booted. Worked just… well ehm… worked. Still the battery isn’t charging, but it seems to be working. Then again my Mac is almost 5 years old, so maybe this is my que and excuse to finally get a new one.

Friday Production: Notekoppen #2

Another Friday, another production. My responsibility this week was graphics. Graphics is not the hardest job. Since most of the templates are already made, the job mostly consists of writing in the text and manually queuing it, so it appears on screen at the right time.

However, one huge challenge with being responsible for graphic is that nobody really know the system we use very well. Nobody! Hence we have to learn it all by ourselves. Now, the system we use is a professional broadcast solution, Pinnacle Dekocast. It’s a fairly powerful system that works really well. Unfortunately, it’s a bit old. Some 7 years or so. Meaning the front-end computer runs on Windows 2000 and it’s a bit challenging to operate.

Most students are really frustrated by this and say there are no logic behind this system. I’ve had a couple of run ins with stuff like this before. Now outdated, but still in use purpose-built systems. These are really stable systems, and you’ll be able to use them for many years, making them good investments. Unfortunately they get outdated on the software side when new, simpler and more intuitive software comes along. Such systems work really well, but seeing as they work on an almost 10 years old view of the computer world the logic seems all messed up today. But there is logic there. You just need to find it. If you know why stuff is done in a certain way you’ll easier understand it. A system built on 10 years old technology would have other hinders and bottlenecks than today. The logic is there, but it’s hard to see for someone used to newer technology which has a totally different approach to things.

Unfortunately I didn’t take the time to really learn the Dekocast system. I just figured out the stuff I needed to get the job done. Most of the job was preparation. Filling in names and titles and sorting them in the right order of appearance in a playlist. When the show was on, my only job was pushing space at the right time. Today’s show did have more names than the previous, hence more to do than before, but still not a lot.

This weeks slow job was welcomed however. Last week I was busy as scripting the show and next week I’m producing it so that’ll definitely be a busy week!