Computer Upgrade - 2013
My Computer Headquarters/Office

In November of 2013, I upgraded my computer(s). I replaced a Mac Pro (with dual quad-core processors) with a 27" iMac. The all-in-one computer takes up considerably less space, costs a lot less, and has more processor power than my old Mac Pro (not by much though / that old Mac Pro still has a lot of years left in it). I also purchased a computer (a Mac Mini) for use as a media server (in the living room/adjacent to the big-screen TV).

Purchases for the computer upgrade were started in October of 2013, and completed by the middle of November, 2013. Kim and I planned and saved for nearly five years in preparation for this upgrade. With a budget of appx $7,500.00 (I didn't spend all of that), I planned the computer upgrade for November of 2013.

I can actually afford a slightly beefier upgrade now that I'm not in the military anymore. With my new career, I can finally afford some of the nicer toys offered to consumers these days. The last computer (the Mac Pro) was purchased in May of 2009. It lasted a long time, and it did it's job well. With the purchase of our new computer(s), the old work-horse (the Mac Pro) made it's way to Wisconsin. We gave it to a Niece of our's who was enrolled in college courses (living on a very limited income).

My next computer upgrade is planned for Christmas of 2019. If Apple had upgraded the iMac line in 2018, I would have purchased the upgrade in December of 2018. Unfortunately, they were busy updating other product lines. They upgraded the Mac Mini, and I alomst ended up buying a Mac Mini - The new Mac Minis (refreshed in 2018) are easily as powerful (and moreso) as the iMac I purchsed back in 2013. Unfortunatly, a Mac Mini would mean the loss of my stunning iMac monitor. I'd likely have to purchase a new monitor, and finding one that performed as well as the one integrated into the iMac line could be costly and difficult. I really want an iMac all-in one desktop mode, but I didn't want to upgrade to a two year old model. I guess I'll have to wait another year...

(Update - In March of 2019, Apple upgraded the iMac all-in-one desktop line. The new iMac computers come with 8th and/or 9th generation Intel processors. This is the update I've been waiting for. I wish it had come earlier, but I now have my eyes set on a new 27" iMac with a 3.7-4.6GHz 6-core 9th gen Intel processor. Unless Apple refreshes the line before Christmas.)

   

My Computer: Purchased 11 Nov 2013


 

Hardware/Primary Desktop machine:

 
 

Machine type: iMac (27-inch, late 2013). I chose an iMac instead of a Mac Pro this time around. In comparisons of computing power for my needs, I now find that the iMac line has sufficient power to handle my computing needs. You no longer need a Mac Pro to do video editing, rendering, production. In the past, the iMac line couldn't adequately handle this type of application (in my opinion). Since occassional video production is now my most CPU/Graphics intensive application, I can easily switch over to the iMac line for my needs.

CPU Type: 64 bit, 22nm, fourth generation 'Haswell' chip. The CPU contains a 3.5GHz quad-core i7 processor (4 processors on one chip).

CPU Speed: This particular build to order option cost $200 more than the standard 3.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor (with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz). With the Turbo Boost (automatically enabled based upon processor load), this CPU can clock up to 3.9GHz. Each core has a dedicated 256k level 2 cache, and each core shares a single 8MB level 3 cache.

Number of Cores: This CPU supports 'Hyper Threading', giving this desktop iMac access to/the ability to recognize eight total 'cores' or 'threads' (four real/four virtual).

Memory: The base model comes equipped with 8GB (2x4GB - Two slots unoccupied) of 1600MHz PC3-12800, DDR3 SDRAM SO-DIMMs (204-pin) - The machine has four memory slots (optimized as one slot per core on the CPU). Following the 'bigger is better' maxim, I maxed out the RAM. Apple wanted $540 in order to max out the RAM at 32GB. I opted for a second party upgrade (installing it myself) for appx $350.00. (Previous machine had 20GB of RAM)

Hard drives: With only one slot for internal storage, I'll need to connect external drives via USB and/or Thunderbolt in order to get the same kind of redundancy/storage I had on the old Mac Pro. The old Mac Pro had a total storage capacity (counting internal and external storage) of 9.28TB.

Internal to 27" iMac:

  • This model has a few configurable storage options. I selected (for $200 more than the base model) the 1TB fusion drive. A 1TB Serial ATA drive running at 7200rpm, fused to a small (128GB) SSD drive for optimal speed. The 1TB drive is more than spacious enough for my current needs and the SSD addition makes for super snappy apps (especially those I use most frequently)

External/Network drives:

  • External/Network drives:
  • Buffalo Technology 6TB hard drive (HD-LX6.0TU3). This massive hard drive is attached to my network by way of my primary router. I've configured it to serve as a primary back-up destination (Archive01 (2TB - Set up as backup for music, movies and photos), Archive02 (2TB)), and a Time Machine backup destination (TimeMachine01 (1TB), TimeMachine02 (1TB)).
  • Seagate Expansion 8TB Desktop External Hard Drive USB 3.0 (STEB8000100)
    • One of these bad boys (8TB hard drives) is used as my 'Media Drive' - That's right, all my media (music, movies, photos) is stored on one of these hard drives. Seagate isn't a very reliable brand, so I bought a 'replacement' warranty when I purchased these 8TB drives. The warranty was inexpensive, but it's a full replacement warranty with a content backup clause. So even if the drives fail, I'll get a new drive with my data copied to the replacement.
  • Seagate Expansion 8TB Desktop External Hard Drive USB 3.0 (STEB8000100)
    • No that's not a typo, I bought two of these! While I've got all my media on one drive, I'm backing up that drive to another 8TB (backup for all my media). As noted above, I'm not very confident with the Seagate brand, so I bought a 'replacement' warranty. Having one drive as a back-up to the other pretty much guarantees the security of my data. Unless my house burns down... That's a sad thought. I sure hope that never happens!
  • Synology DiskStation 2-Bay Network Attached (NAS) DS214: w/2x WD Red 2TB NAS Hard Drives - 5400 RPM Class, SATA III 6Gb/s, 64MB Cache, 3.5" WD20EFRX - My NAS drives are configured as RAID1 devices. I'm storing backups of data on one of these devices and using the other for remote access to some gaming materials.
  • Synology DiskStation 2-Bay Network Attached (NAS) DS216: w/2x WD Red 2TB NAS Hard Drives - 5400 RPM Class, SATA III 6Gb/s, 64MB Cache, 3.5" WD20EFRX- My NAS drives are configured as RAID1 devices. I'm storing backups of data on one of these devices and using the other for remote access to some gaming materials.
  • Buffalo MiniStation 500 GB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive (HD-PCF500U3B): A portable hard drive connected directly to my iMac. Just in case I ever need a portable solution with more capacity than a thumb drive (I've got plenty of those handy). Buffalo is a brand that I trust/know, and this drive fills a niche case.
Total storage = 26.5TB

Media Drives:

  • Apple USB SuperDrive: The iMac (the one I purchased in 2013) doesn't come with any media drives (CD or DVD). I purchased a USB SuperDrive for any disk reading/writing needs. Model MD564ZM/A is a slot-loading 8x SuperDrive (DVDA±R DL (double-layer)/DVDA±RW/CD-RW). Writes DVD+R DL and DVD-R DL discs at up to 6x speed. Writes DVD-R and DVD+R discs at up to 8x speedWrites DVD-RW discs at up to 6x speed and DVD+RW discs at up to 8x speed. Reads DVDs at up to 8x speed. Writes CD-R discs atup to 24x speed. Writes CD-RW discs at up to 16xspeed. Reads CDs at up to 24x speed.
  • SEA Tech Aluminum external USB Blu-Ray writer Super Drive. One external drive is not enough. I needed a Blu-Ray reader, but wouldn't be content unless I could also write to Blu-Ray discs, just in case. I purchased this drive from Amazon. On the back is a label which indicates that this is a 'Archgon' Ultra Slim Optical Drive Model: MD-8107-U3. Apparently it has a Panasonic Blu-Ray device inside. According to documentation I was able to find online, this drive is able to read and write to the following formats: CD, DVD and Blu-Ray. It can read UHD 4K BD, but it can't write to the UHD Blu-Ray discs. I use it to read Blu-Ray discs.

Internet connection: 75Mbps(download)/2Mbps(upload) always-on cable (Motorola SurfBoard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem) internet connection (Comcast) w/DHCP IP assignment.

Wired/Wireless Network: Setting up and maintaining a proper wireless network is no easy chore. Especially when you have a large house and a lot of devices employing several different wireless standards for communications. Add in some wif-fi wielding neighbors in a standard tract-home community, and you've got one challenging wi-fi landscape.

  • My primary router: Apple has stopped producing their Airport line of network devices. Apple officially discontinued the AirPort product line on the 26th of April, 2018. They've sold off their inventory, and they no longer sell the products through their online or retail stores. It's a sad day. Apple made some great network devices. They were innovative, reliable and well supported. Unfortunately, I've had to turn to someone else to provide my network needs. I still own some of the Apple network devices, but they no longer serve a primary boundary role (Internet/Intranet interface).
    • My primary router is now an ASUS GT-AC5300 (aka ROG (Republic Of Gamers) Rapture) router. This beefy bad-boy represents the top-of-the-line (as of Jan 2019) residential router. This router is Tri-Band beast with the ability to bind three channels (in the 5GHz networks) for high-throughput (If I ever need/want to stream 4K content). The router is capable of 802.11a,b,g,n and ac networking (using IPv4 or IPv6 protocols) with MIMO beam forming using 8 antennas. It's easily capable of covering my 2,200sqft house (ranch style). Yes - I said Tri-Band. This router is capable of creating three simultaneous networks: One 2.4GHz network, two 5GHz networks, and the ability to create three guest networks means I've got six networks running simultaneously (they're all hidden for security purposes). My maximum download from Comcast is 75mbps (which would easily accomodate 4K content, if Comcast permits/sustains the throughput). The router features a 1.8GHz quad-core processor, 256MB of flash storage and 1024MB of RAM in order to run and manage all the built in features. Another feature that I'm planning to take advantage of is the VPN compatability. Apparently, I can configure the router to apply a VPN at the network layer. As of 24 Jan, 2019, I haven't been able to get that to work, but I'm working on it. This router should serve my needs for many years to come - Provided they can manage to keep it updated.
  • Secondary router/running in bridged mode: One of Apple's older MB764LL/A Airport Time Capsules. It's a 500GB model, with 802.11a/b/g/n simultaneous dual-band wi-fi capabilities. I'm using this router as a network pass-through (bridging) to provide more ethernet and USB connectivity, and it's currently generating a second set of wireless networks (1x2.4GHz, 1x5GHz and 1x 2.4GHz Guest network). Yes it's old, but it still works well. I'm using the timecapsule with my wife's laptop. 500GB is more than enough to back up her laptop.
  • Secondary router/running in bridged mode: In November of 2013 I bought one of the new (at the time) ME182LL/A Airport Time Capsules. The 3TB model (~$379.00). The Time Capsule is a simultaneous dual-band (2.4GHz/5.0GHz) wi-fi base station (Apple's Airport Extreme router) with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless, Bluetooth (modified in Apr 2012 to use an external antenna), an Ethernet WAN port, three Ethernet LAN ports, and one USB port. It supports the following protocols: NAT, DHCP, PPPoE, VPN Passthrough (IPSec, PPTP, and L2TP), DNS Proxy, IPv6 (6to4 and manual tunnels). There's a 3TB hard drive inside the casing for use as a Time Machine backup (I'm using this one with my iMac). Unfortunately, my plans to use this as my primary router were thwarted. It failed to perform as expected. I wrote all about that failure on my blog. No matter what was tried, I could not get the Time Capsule to create a hidden network (which is o.k. - I can live with that) or allow my Airport Express to pair with the base station. In the end, I connected the brand new Time Capsule to my network in bridging mode. I've added it to my network as a Time Machine destination, and remove it from any network/base-station responsibilities.
  • Network extension: I've also got an Airport Express in my network. It's serving (through the ethernet connector) an older Roku player that would otherwise slow my network down. It works fine in this role, although it occassionally drops out of the network for no known reason.
 
     
 

Video card / Displays:

 
 

Video card: iMac desktop - comes standard with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX 1GB GDDR5. I opted for the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4GB GDDR5. The card's memory: 4 GB (780M) GDDR5. Display connects via Thunderbolt digital video output (The iMac has support for up to two Thunderbolt displays). Display Modes Dual display extended, video mirroring, AirPlay Mirroring, and Target Display. External Resolution Up to 2560 x 1600 pixels. The iMac's display has a built-in FaceTime HD camera.
Second display: I used an awesome 30" monitor with my previous Mac Pro, and I liked that monitor so much that I bought another for use with my new iMac (I gave the old one to my Neice (along with the old Mac Pro). The second monitor is connected to my iMac's video card (it can support two monitors) using a video adapter cable that I purchased from Apple. Dual-Link DVI to Mini DisplayPort Adapter. The second monitor is a Dell UltraSharp 30" monitor - 3007WFP-HC. LCD / Widescreen Flat-panel. Resolution is 2560 x 1600. I mounted the second monitor on the wall behind and above my iMac desktop (see the photo above) using a Mounting bracket for the 30” monitor - VideoSecu Long Articulation LCD LED TV Monitor Flat Panel TV Wall Mount, 20 inch extension 55lb loading capacity VESA 75mm/100mm 1US. I'm truly amazed that I mounted the unit correctly the very first time. I set the screws into a 4x4 stud that sits adjacent to a window frame in the corner of my office. I hit the studs dead-on, and the height was perfect for mounting the monitor - I'm awesome!

 
     
 

Peripherals:

 
 

Printers: Our home is currently hosting four printers (two in the office and two downstairs near the D&D table)
Epson Artisan 800: A multi-function printer, scanner/copier, fax. This is the printer we used to use for photo prints, but the ink is way too expensive for that. Now we're using it for our D&D meetings. This printer sits in the basement, closer to our D&D table. I've already reset the 'print counter' once (since purchasing it in 2009), and I don't know how much longer it will allow me to produce prints. This Epson printer was manufactured in such a way that you can't use second party ink, and the printer must be serviced after a specific (secret) amount of time and/or prints, lest you flood your office with ink from the saturated 'ink pads'. This will likely be the last Epson printer I purchase - Their intentional policies of planned obsolecence and exorbitant ink prices have made them my 'enemy' - An anti-consumer company that acts against my interests at every turn. It's wireless features seem broken. I was able to make it connect to my wireless network - once. Then it sat in my basement unused for an entire year. After purchasing my new (ASUS GT-AC5300) router, I was finally able to make it connect to my network, but I had to connect it to the router via ethernet - It still wouldn't connect wirelessly.
Brother HL-2270DW: Wireless laser printer with duplex printing. This laser printer produces black and white toner prints for cheap. It's a great printer for use with drafts that don't require color and plain text documents (I print a lot of those for D&D). This printer sits in the basement, closer to our D&D table. Eventually I'll get a color laser printer that I can share with others (D&D players). For now it's connected to my primary network, because it doesn't have dual network wireless capabilities.
Brother MFC-J985DW: A wireless multi-function ink-jet printer with duplex printing. This ink-jet printer produces color prints for far less than any Epson printer I've ever owned. Granted, I've only owned it since March of 2017, but it came with an entire years worth of ink. This new 'INKvestment' line of printers has ink that is considerably less expensive than the typical Ink-Jet printer, and I'm no longer able to trust Epson to satisfy my printer needs.
Brother MFC-J995DW: Another wireless multi-function ink-jet printer with duplex printing. This ink-jet printer produces color prints for far less than any Epson printer I've ever owned. I purchased this one in Dec of 2018.

This printer replaces an Epson Stylus photo R200. The old work-horse dates from 2004, when Epson initially produced them. Of course the printer was made obsolete soon afterwards, but it continued to produce relatively inexpensive (because I used 2nd party inks) color prints (not suitable for photos anymore) for draft work. Many years after Epson stopped producing driver updates, I continued using it. While Epson certainly wanted me to buy their expensive inks, they hadn't yet figured out how to prevent me from using 2nd party ink. The fact that I could buy and use 2nd party ink with this printer meant that I kept using it until it stopped printing black altogether - No matter how many cleaning and calibration routines I ran, the printer just wouldn't reliably print anything requiring black ink. The cost to replace the print heads would have been far more expensive than the value of the printer. Since I had already paid to have the ink-pads reset once, I could no longer afford to spend any more money on this printer. As of Dec, 2018, I replaced it with a new Brother printer. The old work-horse is boxed up now, waiting under my basement steps for its eventual final destination in a landfill somewhere. Of course I will have to pay to have it disposed of, but that cost will be nothing compared to the amount of money I've spent on Epson's expensive inks and the ink-pad reset procedure. Long live the old R200! It served me well for many years - I hope I never need to buy another Epson printer!

Like the MFC-J985DW that I purchased in 2017, this new model came with an entire years worth of ink. This new 'INKvestment' line of printers has ink that is considerably less expensive than the typical Ink-Jet printer, and I'm no longer able to trust Epson to satisfy my printer needs. This model has slightly more network compatability features than the MFC-J985DW, and the ink cartridges have been redesigned to hold more ink. For more information on Brother's INKvestment printers, please read the review of the MFC-J995DW produced by Tom's Guide.
Camera: The iMac's built in monitor comes equipped with a built in FaceTime HD camera. The built-in 720p FaceTime HD camera (with an ambient light sensor) lets you make video calls that are so clear, it seems like everyone's in the same room. Make FaceTime calls from your iMac to any FaceTime-enabled Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. The video is supported with the iMac's dual noise-canceling microphones. The camera has an indicator light that illuminates when the camera is in use, but it doesn't have a manual shutter like the old Apple iSight camera, and I can't disconnect it at will like a second party USB camera.
Keyboard: I'm still not using one of the standard Apple keyboards. While I like the aluminum with chiclet styling, the ergonomics of that keyboard aren't comfortable for me. For many years (appx 10 years), I used an Adesso Tru-Form ergonomic keyboard: Model EKB-2100. Despite it's problems handling powered USB peripherals (any use caused continuous restarts after any operator initiated system restart), it served me well for many years. In February of 2009, I bought a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 keyboard. The Microsoft keyboard features an ergonomic design, augemented with numerous customizable hot/favorites keys, internet/media keys, integrated palm rest, and an outstanding design - Microsoft makes some good stuff. This keyboard is one of their better products. I used that Microsoft keyboard for many years (9 years), and I still own it. It's the same model that my empoyer offers as an Ergonomic option. If necessary, I'll bring it back. In 2018 (for Christmas), I bought a new ergonomic keyboard; one with a superior design (or so I've been led to believe). I'm now using a Kinesis Freestyle2 Keyboard for Mac (9" Standard Separation). Combined with the VIP3 Accessory Kit (KIN-FS-VIP3), this keyboard can be tilted and angled in a manner to produce a highly customized typing experience. My wrists, hands and forearms are already appreciating the fact that I can use the keyboard more comfortably than I ever thought possible.
Mouse: I exclusively use the Magic Track trackpad for Mac. Awesome! Makes your hand into the mouse. It's the best 'Mouse' I've ever used. It beats the traditional mouse, the scroll-wheel mouse, and the thumbwheel mouse. No wrist strain, easy to use, highly configurable.
Speakers: Bose Companion 3 - Series II mulimedia speaker system

 
     
 

Operating system / Core components / Software:

 
 

Mac OS: macOS 10.14.4 Mojave
Apple's Mobile Operating System: iOS 12.2 - As of Mar 25, 2019
Productivity Software - When I ordered my iMac in November of 2013, it came with the iWork productivity software: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote all came pre-installed on my iMac at no extra charge. That wasn't always the case. When it was first released (2003-2007) it cost $79.00.
Creativity Software - iLife ’11 (includes iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand). The release in Oct, 2013 did not include any iWeb or iDVD updates. Although it was still branded as iLife '11, it was commonly referred to as iLife '13.

 
 
 

Author: Robert L. Vaessen e-mail:
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