The process of choosing a new computer

At my daughter's second birthday, on the sixth moon of april 2014, this was my work office.

Messy workplace.

After working exclusively on my dinner table I decided it was time for a decent workspace. This way I am secluded from everything.

I want to delve a little in how I got were I am.

So I can forget it once and for all.

Reality calls

Every single PC that I've used has had a hard drive upgrade, Memory Upgrade, one had a MOBO upgrade. Every single time I felt how my work computer was dying.

The crappy college experience

Don't get me wrong, college was fun. Before entering college I was promised the following:

  • We'll learn how to build robots
  • We'll learn how to automate everything

The problem is that we did learn all that. By the time I got out of college I would say something like this

Let me automate this process to reduce QA issues, Health Risks, and add flexibility to your production line but before doing that give me the following:

  • Get me National Instruments hardware valued at > $20,000 USD
  • Don't forget my LabView license for $4,000
  • Want some diagrams with that? Sure, pay for the AutoCAD license, or NX, or SolidWorks, let's round this to $1,000
  • Want reports too, give me a MS Office license $250
  • Dude... Sensors, gotta have them and I need them to be Top of the Line to communicate with the Compact RIO > $50,000

So in the end we were being educated in a PRE COLLEGE experience. And we would have to work in some company, production line, or somewhere before actually making money for someone.

Spending > $50K and 4 years for an education that would not allow me to generate cash for my customers is shit, plain and simple. The sheer pressure from my school with homeworks and projects was enough not to enable us to discover new knowledge.

Sure I had scholarship, and I paid nothing of the debt thanks to my father. But by the end of my college I felt I needed to learn to make money by using the less means necessary not the other way around. I learned PLC programming on my own, I learned BASIC programming on my own, and I felt I could generate more cash using those tools and simple common sense decisions based on a lean manufacturing book than all those years of college.

And I feel this hatred, for every single class of Entrepeneurship. It took 1 desktop and 1 laptop to survive college.

Sure some companies could afford that dough... but what about those companies that are in diapers? After college I could not help shaping the future of a startup, made me feel like crap.

The tool of college

I stole this laptop from my father:

The HP Pavilion

Like fungus growing on the humid part of your house. I would use it for one homework in an emergency, then I would take it for an exam, then I would use it for a final project, until it was mine.

The laptop underwent two Hard Drive changes and one expansion of RAM from 2GB to 4GB. It also went a change in the power socket, and the screen bezel. I seriously could not afford this piece of hardware, so I did not want it to die on me.

Between the following every single computer died on me:

  • LabView
    • The second killer
  • AutoCAD 2005
    • The first killer
  • MS Office
  • Minitab
  • Matlab
  • Arena Simulation
  • 45 Degrees Celsius in Hermosillo Sonora

It feels sad saying all this, but is the truth.

Focus in college was in how to get things done instead of how to get things done cheaply and with the same level of quality.

The Planning of the future

I heard it before... trust no one but yourself. It was at that year earning barely the minninmun that I realized I studied the wrong tools, but not the wrong subjects when it came to automation and planning.

The Change to Software Development

In my free time I was reading about Digital Control. The wonderful subject of Mechatronics. I would read about the different types of control and how to implement them and what kind of hardware to use. I was trying to save some cash for a basic PLC on eBay. The plan would take years at an income of 300 USD per month.

By the end of the year 2009 I had read about scholarships and Masters in Science and went all in for a Masters in Science with a specialty in Automation. I would be studying Digital Control there and finding a way to get into cheaper ways of doing things.

My friend Durdo told me "Why don't you study Intelligent Systems?" This was the path to cheaper hardware, cheaper software, and the quality of the work would be established by the ability of the programmer.

"I mean it will be hard, you need to know how to program software... this is not SCADA or LabView anymore, and ladder logic will be a thing of the past." I didn't even required to sleep it through. The change to software would mean getting everything I wanted.

I would study R&D in the comfort of my computer, I can get better without any hardware, just software. That didn't mean I would not be able to program hardware, just that I would be useful without it as well.

Entering the Masters was easier than I thought.

Walking for Interviews with what would be my future teachers I felt like this sickly man asking for forgiveness for some reason. As I was there standing in front of this gray haired man I said, I only know some Java sir, he would just reply without flinching, That will be enough.

For some reason I wanted to learn C++, I kept reading about it in 2008 and how the arduinos could be programmed now in C/C++. I started learning C++ in a what felt a nice era, an era of learning, when a lot of things have went wrong.

Object Oriented Design felt like the way to go.

The lack of a tool to keep growing

Of course after college my laptop was more dead than new. I could not upgrade the video card nor the processor and the years were starting to show.

My dad decided to help me yet again by providing another laptop, a Sony VAIO VPCCW15FL

A new laptop

A new beginning

It was an awesome piece of machinery. I upgraded the RAM from 4GB to 8GB and the hard drive from a 500GB HDD to a 128GB SSD. This machine felt like a beast for years. Of course gaming felt sluggish but I wasn't using it for gaming for the most of my time. The laptop also went regular cleaning every 3 months and a yearly thermal paste change.

I was able to spend entire days in the library learning everything I could about API Development, TDD, C++. I learned even more about Ubuntu that I ever learned, and even more about Python. Python gave me a certain eery feeling I was replacing Matlab with it.

The Masters was amazing, a whole plethora of subjects to learn from. Each subject was a tool. Computer Science... is amazing.

The new subjects to get things done

Here is just an overview of how to get things done the "cheap" way (trading knowledge and careful work for money).

  • LabView was replaced with Programming Languages, to this day C++, HTML5, Python. And I am looking for new languages slowly but surely.
  • Matlab was replaced with Octave, with much less tools so more library usage should be necessary
  • National Instruments hardware was replaced by new embedded development using Arduino and Raspberry Pi, I couldn't afford such expensive equipment, but I was damn sure I would learn to use alternatives.
  • MS Office was replaced with LaTeX
  • Adobe Fireworks was replaced with HTML5
  • Netbeans with javac and ant
  • Visual Studio with Makefiles and Eclipse

Moving to R&D

Research and Development.

That awesome area where you can work on something 24/7 and people will not look at you as if you were this crazy person. The area where people want to thrive, and you can work with a team of people moved by getting something done.

I've been working in R&D for two years now, and it is everything I expected it to be.

Except for the 24/7 team, I'm just the crazy guy from R&D that works overtime.

I don't mind it though, it feels awesome to be changing things. And it feels great to finally bury buggy subjects with a huge pile of unit testing and a big pile of quality code carefully designed.

The betrayal of SONY

In 2013 I tried my hand at Programming Massively Parallel Processors, and I liked everything about the subject except the development process.

So I tried compiling CUDA code in my laptop. To my own surprise I needed the latest Nvidia drivers. My laptop had a GT 265M video card, which was compatible with CUDA programming.

But I could not install the driver as it was controlled by SONY.

A friend from work told me to hack the driver. It was easily done and in a matter of minutes I had CUDA programming in the comfort of my laptop.

But a blue screen every few hours or so.

The final call

I was working with my Company's manual in laTeX when suddenly my computer starting extra crunching, extra heating, extra dying.

It took my computer two and a half minutes to render the pdf that my work's pc was rendering without a problem in less than 10 seconds.

It is almost unbearable, that moment you realize your companion is old and obsolete, and you were blinded because your computer never flinched, whined, or begged.

I had to call the big guns for this. My dad told me I just needed to present the options... in a matter of days of analysis I had selected my option.

The Options

  • Asus Zenbook UX302LG
  • Acer Aspire V7 482PG
  • Asus Zenbook UX32VD
  • Razer Blade
  • Gigabyte P34G
  • Gigabyte P35K

I chose the Gigabyte P35K comes in three models. I was thinking of getting the cheaper and upgrading it to met the specs with the following:

Total de piezas 1,795.85 with taxes.

My dad approved the selection and the budget.

April

The first CES laptops started appearing in April. I was holding off the new computer powerhouse as far as I could. I was on the fence because for the same amount of money I could give up mobility in exchange for power.

Until a new challenger appeared, Street Fighter style.

The MSI GS70 StealthPro

Mobile and powerful, this piece of machinery blew me away. With 2014 graphics, and an amazing screen, all usb 3, 3 monitor sockets. It was a dream come true.

By April 12 at 4:00 am I was sitting in a bus from Monterrey to Reynosa and then another bus from Reynosa to McAllen.

The geriatric smell inside the bus was weird, and the lack of people younger than 40 was even more so. The bus drived at the amazing speed of 90 km/h, I felt as if I was riding an old camel to my destination.

All bus passengers took the sentry walking lane to cross the border. Awesome, except when the sentry moves like a snail. After 2 hours of waiting on the border line, I was in McAllen. I walked fast from the bus station to Sendexpack where I was greeted by the awesome guys that work there.

After some talk about titanfall, wolf from COD Ghost, wives, and friends I was back on the street.

I also had the opportunity to taste the new creation from Subway. In Mexico Subway carries a different menu from the US.

Customs was a joke. I felt like it was new years ever and someone told me, Grab your bagpack, run around the customs guy, and come back. The ride home was horrible at a mean speed of 85 km/h, it took one full hour longer than it should.

I arrived all sweaty and stinky to my home in the night. By around 7:30pm my wife was picking me up from Cintermex's main entrance.

And my office changed radically.

Development changed radically. Dual Booting Windows 8.1 and Ubuntu was easily done. Configuring the 7260 AC Wireless card was easily done. And this computer had no quarrels running Ubuntu in blazing speeds (something my other laptop had problems with).

Of course I had to blast the warranty in the first use. I replaced the 1tb hard drive with a 256GB SSD from Samsung.

A new era dawns on my professional development

  • OpenGL 4.3
  • OpenCL 1.2
  • CUDA

So many tools to learn.

So much speed.

Way way cheaper than the options provided by College.

What would you recommend?

By the end of college I was asked by the Director of our school what were my opinions. I felt confused at the sheer lack of information I had to answer that question. I wasn't even out in the real world for a month and they were expecting a review of what took them 4 years.

Is just like giving your consumer an new TV and asking them, WAIT! Before you get home and try your new tv set, tell me what you think of the product.

Sure, I could work for 18 hours a day non stop, sleep the rest, get up, and repeat just like no one else.

I could get results where I had to "get things" from people, but I could not be "the guy". To this day I don't understand my teachers' obsessions with being a manager. Why would I want to be a manager? I want to create stuff, manage can be done by someone else. I don't want to tell people what to do, I want people to help me with what I want by producing what they want and what they can.

I feel like I can give an honest opinion now:

College is not for those who have not found their passion for creating, for there is no time in college to find it. Take a year, try to learn your passion for free, If you can't, don't do college. If you need a license (for example lawyers), just get the cheapest college and learn on your own.

I felt so envious of the exchange students who did not have to go to class if they don't wanted to. Just picture what you would do with 6 hours extra a week of Entrepeneurship and Project Management classes. There were no homeworks in Germany, but these guys were brilliant, and that is mostly because they loved the subjects and self learned from the big dogs.

In the end

Books are still the way to go, so get a tablet/paperbacks/research papers/blog tutorials and change your life.