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I bought a Mac

I bought a Mac

I’ve had enough of Windows 10

I’m sorry Microsoft, but I’ve had enough of Windows!  My home-brew PC ran fine on Windows 8, but ever since my horrible upgrade experience to Windows 10,  I’ve had no end of problems.  There have been so many Blue-Screen crashes that I’ve lost count. Even completing a fresh Windows install is wrought with danger, with the process failing or crashing countless times before a successful install was achieved.  Even with a fresh install, some pretty common programmes, like iTunes, simply refuse to run.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Windows.  I’ve embraced every iteration since Windows ’98.  I really like the latest design of Windows 10, but I’ve had too many problems.  My two sons have issues with their Windows 10 computers too, although not as bad as me.  On the other hand, my wife’s W10 laptop works fine.

Then there are the quirks that make me question the latest Windows, like when you cant find what you want in the Windows 10 “Settings” screen, you can click through to the old “Control Panel”, with the same appearance as the old Windows versions.  This gives me the impression that the Windows 10 design has just been tacked on top of the older Windows versions, rather than being a completely new operating system.

I know there are thousands of people who use Windows 10 without any issues, but my experience has not been pleasant.  The final straw was when my desktop started freezing, not necessarily freezing during intensive tasks, but often just during simple web browsing!

So I bought a Mac

I’ve chosen the latest 13 inch MacBook Pro with Touchbar, Core i5 and 16GB of Ram.  This laptop is small and light, about the size of a magazine, and not much heavier, yet it’s powerful enough to handle my photo editing in Lightroom.  I may even try my hand at video editing.

The Retina Display is amazingly clear, the track-pad is amazing big and the USB plugs are…different.  Apple have done away with the traditional USB plugs, and rely on the new USB-C for everything, even charging.  This laptop doesn’t even have an SD card reader, but neither did my Windows desktop, so all I needed was an adaptor to connect my USB card reader to the new plugs.  I ordered the usb to USB-C dongle for $12 when I ordered the MacBook online.

USB to USB-C dongle to connect my card reader

USB to USB-C dongle to connect my card reader

I’m still finding my way around the Apple Mac operating System (“MacOS”), but so far I’m really happy with my new MacBook Pro laptop.  It connected to our network printer and NAS easily.  There was no problem installing software like Adobe Lightroom and Microsoft Office 365.  I’ve found the big trackpad really easy to use, editing hundreds of photos from White Night without a mouse wasn’t a problem, the trackpad is that easy.

The Keyboard

The only thing that’s slightly negative about the MacBook is the keyboard.  It’s noisy – tap, tap, tap, click, click, click.  So typing in bed while my wife is sleeping isn’t a good idea.  Apart from the noise the keyboard makes, it’s comfortable and easy to use.

No more problems

The more I use this MacBook, the more I learn the Mac way of doing things, and the more I like it.  Now I can spend less time stressing about, or fixing my computer, and more time on my photos and blogs.

QNAP NAS (Network Attached Storage)

QNAP NAS (Network Attached Storage)

QNAP TS-431 NAS still in the boxA few months ago one of the hard drives in my main computer failed, it wasn’t the drive with Windows installed (so the computer still worked), it was the 3TB drive where all my photos and videos were stored. This could have been a disaster of lost memories, but thankfully I’m over cautious with this sort of thing and have multiple back-ups of my important data.

While no files were lost, finding somewhere new to save my recovered data was a bit of a challenge.  I had to squeeze information onto what was an exclusive boot drive, plus another smaller x-laptop drive I’d installed into the desktop case.

It was time to start thinking about my data storage.  Do I go out and buy another large capacity hard drive?  Or should I go for external storage with built in redundancy that connects to my home network?

I decided to look for a NAS – Network Attached Storage.  A NAS box can come in many different configurations, usually with the capability to take multiple hard drives to offer some sort of redundancy.  Redundancy is a fancy way of saying a “safety net”, if one of the drives fails you wont loose your data.  Rather than connecting to your computer, the NAS connects to your home network and is accessible to any computer on the network, or even over the internet if you choose.

Looking for around six terabytes (6TB) of storage capacity, I looked at 2 bay, 4 bay and 5 bay NAS enclosures.  Generally a NAS doesn’t come with hard drives, the user will have to buy drives to suit their requirments.  I needed to take into consideration the prices of different NAS boxes plus the cost of drives to suit their different configurations.

A 2 bay NAS is cheap, but I would need to buy two expensive 6TB drives to get my 6TB capacity with redundancy (data is replicated on both drives).  A four bay NAS is a little more expensive, but I can fill it with four of the cheaper 2TB drives.  The total 8TB capacity is reduced to around 5.5TB usable space in a RAID configuration that spreads your data across all four drives with redundancy which would allow one of those drives to fail without any loss of important information.  When I looked at the sums, I worked out a four bay NAS was the best value.

After reading various reviews of NAS enclosures, I’d narrowed my options down to devices from either Synology or QNAP.  Even though QNAP was cheaper, every review I read said that Synology had the better software which made their NAS boxes easier to setup and use.  So my decision was made, I would buy a Synology four bay NAS with four 2TB drives.

After getting approval from the family Chief Financial Officer (my wife!), we headed down to our friendly computer store (Centrecom in Clayton) only to be told the Synology was out of stock.  Retail shopping can be really frustrating at times!  Centrecom is a half hour drive from home, so I wasn’t about to leave empty handed.  We purchased my second choice, the QNAP  TS-431 and four Western Digital 2TB Red Drives.

Hardware setup

Installing the hard drives into the QNAP NAS couldn’t be much simpler, and only took a few minutes.  With the drives installed, all that’s left is to plug in the power and network cables.

Software setup

The QNAP doesn’t come with much instructions, other than to connect to a special URL – start.qnap.com – which will find the NAS on your network easily enough.  You’re then prompted to install firmware, but after that it wasn’t really clear what I was supposed to do to complete my setup.  After watching a few YouTube instructional videos about setting up a QNAP, I was able to setup a secure NAS user accounts and folders for everyone in the family.

QNAP also have various apps, most of which will need to be downloaded and installed, for additional functionality.  I wasn’t interested in apps, I just wanted storage.   I now have over 5.5TB of network storage.  With the NAS mapped to a drive letter on my computer, I can treat my network storage just like any other folder on my computer.  I can also access the NAS from my phone or iPad while connected to my wifi network.  If I’d wanted, I could even setup remote access over the internet.

Getting almost 3TB of data across to the NAS did take considerable time, but when I looked at my home network traffic I could see data moving way faster than anything done online with cloud storage.

Every user account on the QNAP gets their own recycle bin, so any file deleted is automatically backed-up in the network recycle bin – much safer than USB drives where data is permanently gone when you hit the “Delete” button.

Summary

Having a family NAS drive for all of the household data storage is a great solution to safeguard valuable information such as photos.  The files can be accessed from any device connected to the home network.  Each member of the family can have their on password protected folders alongside shared folders.

Your data is a lot safer on a NAS too.  A drive failure in your computer, or the computer crashing wont result in the loss of valuable files stored on the NAS.  A drive failure in the NAS wont loose your information either, if its multiple drives are setup in a RAID configuration (which is usually the default setting).

The only negative when it comes to getting a NAS for your data storage at home is the initial setup.  While I had no problem installing the hard drives into the enclosure, some people may not be comfortable handling computer hardware.  When it comes to setting up the NAS on your home network, QNAP’s lack of instructions made the process more difficult than it needed to be.  Reports I’ve read suggest Synology NAS enclosures are easier to setup thanks to better software.

Windows 10 install errors

Back in September I told you of the difficulties I had installing the new Windows 10 Operating System to my desktop computer.  By contrast my younger son’s (Brad) laptop updated to Windows 10 without any problems.

Now it’s my older son’s (Josh) turn.  Josh was happy to stay with Windows 8.1 until he installed something dodgy that made his pc crazy and couldn’t be fixed.  The cure was a clean install of Windows, so we may as well move him up to Windows 10.  To get the free upgrade I had to re-install Windows 8, then upgrade that to 8.1 and then W10.  We experienced a few of the same difficulties as my machine, but got it installed eventually.

After a couple of months with Windows 10, Josh started having trouble.  The Start Menu stopped working, nothing would happen when you clicked on the Windows icon (or the Windows key on the keyboard).  My first instinct was to run Windows Update, but that was missing altogether (once I worked out a way to navigate to the old Control Panel without the Start Menu working).  Josh denies installing dodgy software again, so who knows how these problems sprung up from.

So it was time for another clean install of Windows 10 on Josh’s desktop, but regardless of how many times I tried, each time there would be any one of several error messages.

Various errors attempting a clean install of Microsoft Windows 10 to a homebrew computer.

Various errors installing Windows 10.

After countless failed attempts to re-install Windows 10 to Josh’s desktop, I gave up and installed Ubuntu Linux instead.  Ubuntu couldn’t be easier to install, it worked first time, connected to the internet, found our network printer, downloaded updates, everything just worked!

The only problem using a Linux Operating System was the game app Steam wouldn’t run on 64 bit Ubuntu, but a check of the forums and some Google searching found a fix, but it still wouldn’t run half of Josh’s games.  Josh wasn’t happy at not being able to play his favourite games, so he decided to persevere with Windows, trying, trying and trying again for hours.  Finally he was successful!

As I write this, Josh’s computer is alternating the install messages; “Installing Updates”, “We’re still working” and “We’ll tell you when we’re ready”.  Hopefully there will be no last minute crashes or other problems, fingers crossed!

We'll tell you when we're ready. Operating System install Microsft Windows 10

We’ll tell you when we’re ready.
Microsoft Windows 10 install.

 

My horrible Windows 10 upgrade experience

Windows 10 has been publicly available for just over a month now, and I think I’ve finally got a stable installation on my main computer.  Well after several upgrade and clean install attemptes, three or four ISO downloads, countless crashes, a new hard-drive and new drivers, I certainly hope my PC issues are behind me.  In this post I will try to re-count how I went from a trouble free and stable Windows 8.1 machine to being excited that Windows 10 has stopped crashing. (more…)