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6. AMA - Ask Me Anything about System Hardware
I wanted to take some time to hear from you and answer questions you might have on computer fundamentals or computer literacy. So that's why we put together these Ask Me Anything episodes. My friend Aaron is going to ask questions about stuff in this chapter from viewers like you. I also want to hear from you as well. My email is at the end of the episode. Ask me anything. So, my geeky neighbour keeps talking about the four-core CPU. What is that? So the CPUs, the central processing units, are the things that do the most work and are the brains of the computer. I talked about it in other episodes and in the book as a kind of singular thing. Modern processors, though, are able to put not just one or two but four, six, or even eight different processors on one little chip. Wow. and they all work together to make magic happen. Okay, so your geeky neighbour is proud of his four cores, and that's cool. Awesome. Okay. Bill W in Albuquerque, New Mexico, asks, "What's the difference between Intel and AMD?" Good question, Bill. So, for the main desktop and laptop computers, there are two major processor manufacturers, Intel and AMD. Intel is like the 800-pound gorilla—the dominant player in this thing. AMD is the scrappy underdog who makes really good chips but is always kind of pushing to catch up. So, with Intel, you get the most awesome processor, but it is also the most expensive. With AMD, you get something that's good and sometimes great, but a little less expensive. So it depends on where you want to go. And in fact, you can see the same computer, literally. They look identical on the outside, but one might have an Intel processor inside, and the other might have an AMD processor. So there's one other player, and that's Arm. So, with Arm-based processors, you'll find them in a couple of devices, like every smartphone on the planet. So Arm is the other big player in CPUs. I see. Thank you. Candace T. in Cheyenne, Wyoming, wants to know. You said it's important to have enough RAM. Can I upgrade the amount of RAM in my system? Maybe. It depends on what kind of device you're talking about. When you look at a tablet or a smartphone, the answer is no. Okay, right. You're out of luck completely. On many portable devices and most desktop devices, the answer is yes. But then it's also qualified because it depends on what kind of RAM you already have in the system. Okay. There's a great website for my company named Crucial. They are a major manufacturer of memory, and they have on their website, which you can see right here, a memory finder utility. So you go to their website, you type in your make and model of your computer, and then they'll actually scan your system and come back with a list of how much RAM you have installed. whether you can add more RAM. Wow. Specific, right? That's handy. And, more specifically, the Ramthat that works with your system. Perfect. So this is one of those things that, if you want to get a little geeky, is kind of the first technical thing that nontechs do: add RAM to their computer because you get so much more performance with more RAM. And if you don't want to get geeky, then you need to go to one of the big electronic stores like Fries or Best Buy, and their technicians will happily take your money. So. There you go, Candace. Make your choice. Whatever fits you best So, I've been curious. You talk a lot about the heating and cooling of the systems, and that cooling is very important. Absolutely. I've been curious—the more that I'm doing on my computer, the more windows that are open. Does that affect how hot the computer gets? Or does it matter what kinds of things I'm doing on my computer? No and yes. Right. Let me answer the second question first. Sure. The kinds of things you're doing on a computer make a gigantic difference in how much the computer has to work for things like word processing, spreadsheets, and office productivity. The computer is basically just laughing at you. Right. It's sitting there idle, like, "Hello, mellow days." If you're doing more intensive things and more interesting things, like gaming, then the computer is working hard. Okay. You'll notice that the computer is working harder because the fans will start spinning up and it will become hotter. If you have a stand-alone device, such as an Imac, you'll notice a vent right along the top. It'll start getting hotter and hotter as it just tries to get all that heat out. When you have a lot of windows open, modern computers seamlessly switch back and forth between active windows without you even noticing. Really? And so it's not really working hard, just with lots of things open, but the active processing of things like, I don't know, processing this video, that takes a lot of juice. Okay. So it can handle a lot of tabs, but so much video processing. Game processing. Exactly. Yes. Awesome. Speaking of vents, recently my little one dropped my computer on the floor. Oh, no. Yes. And the vent area along the backside of the laptop has had the worst damage. It is bent. I have had problems trying to get my Mac to work again. It goes to the grey screen—the sad Mac screen. That's the sad mac. Do I need to get a new computer? Is that too bad? Yeah. Unfortunately, when the vintage is closed properly, Because we're talking about heating and cooling when the computer overheats, every modern processor is designed to do one thing when it starts getting too hot, and that is slow down and then shut down. Right. and that's exactly right. So if you're unable to get enough venting out of that computer, then with a desktop, you could probably take a hammer to it. With a laptop, maybe not so much. Yeah. So everything will melt? Yeah, essentially yeah. So it's going to keep shutting down because it gets too hot. I see. That's it for Chapter Two. Wow. Okay.
Device Ports and Peripherals
1. Ports and Connectors
In this episode I want to look atthe ports and connectors and name names. And to do this, I've ripped the internals out of a personal computer. This is the inside, and this is the back. These are standard ports used in a personal computer. Let's start from your left all the way over here and look at various ports and connectors and what they connect to. This guy here is a PS-two connector used for very old mice and keyboards. It plugs in just like that. The blue ones below it are for almost every other kind of peripheral device these days. universal serial bus, or USB. Up here now, we're going to do a bunch of video connectors for connecting monitors. This top one here—or, actually, it's the middle one—is called HDMI high definition. It plugs in just like that. The one below it is also used for monitors, although mainly on Apple devices and some Dells. It is called DisplayPort. This blue guy on top is for much older monitors. It's called VGA. The white one below is also used for monitors. It's called DVI. This little red one here isn't used much anymore. This is called ESADA. It's for connecting external hard drives. Below it, you see a couple more blue USB ports. And now we have an Ethernet or RJ 45 connection for connecting networks. Below it, you have two black USBs, one dot, and one connector. And then over here, finally, on the side, are all of your mini audio connectors. They're color-coordinated paint for my microphone and black for other ordinated paiAnd of course, green is where you plug in your speakers.
2. General Use I/O Devices
To have fun. The processing components are inside the computing device. Like you saw in the Chapter Two episodes, the interaction with the user comes through input and output devices. On an awesome computing device like a smartphone, all the input and output devices are built into the same system. The touch screen, for example, enables us to input information. And then the touch screen shows the processing and the information back to us. So the touch screen is both an input and an output device. What other kinds of input-output devices does the smartphone have? I know. Hey siri. That's right. voice for input and sound for output. The device also has cameras for additional input devices. Once you start scaling up the computing devices, you begin to get some separation between the processing components and the input/output devices. This laptop has an attached LCD screen and built-in speakers for output. The keyboard and touchpad enable me to type and move the cursor around the screen. Also like the smartphone, this particular laptop has a built-in camera, called a webcam, and a microphone. They handle input duties by taking pictures and issuing voice commands. Both the laptop and the smartphone have built-in networking capabilities, so I can get on the Internet. Network components work for both input and output. I can send an email message and stream a video from YouTube. Once you get bigger, components can start separating even more. Here's a typical Windows PC. The PC has a wired network connection that, just as with other networking, works as both input and output. The output screen is a separate monitor. The speakers, likewise, are separate units. The keyboard provides text-based input. The mouse, like the touchpad on the laptop, moves the cursor on the screen for more visual input.
3. AMA - Ask Me Anything About I/O, Ports and Peripherals
I wanted to take some time to hear from you and answer questions you might have on computer fundamentals or computer literacy. So that's why we put together these Ask Me Anything episodes. My friend Aaron is going to ask questions about stuff in this chapter from viewers like you. I also want to hear from you as well. My email is at the end of the episode. Ask me anything. Trevor in Dallas, Texas, asks, Can I just add another video card to make my games play faster? and the answer is maybe. on a portable or laptop-type computer. The answer is no. Video card manufacturers are trying to come up with some awesome external video card solutions for portables, but not so much right now. On a desktop computer, the answer is maybe. Right? A lot of desktop computers have built-in video, but they also have an extra expansion slot for video cards. So you can just go to the store, spend $300 on a new video card, open up your box, and install it. You're already rolling your eyes at that point, okay? You're in Technician Land, right? You're a geek. So if you don't want to get that geeky about it, you can take your computer to one of these electronic stores, like Fries or Micro Center, and their text will ask you questions like, "What kind of video games are you playing? Okay? And that will determine just how much of a video card you need to add, right? And then they'll, of course, install it for you and happily take your money. Yeah. So I have a drawer full of annoying cables that always get tangled. Why does everything have to have a different type of connector? You mean annoying cables like these? just like those. Right. So these are all Universal Serial Bus, and you'd think they'd all be the same cable with Universal Serial Bus. Instead, there are, what, seven different types of USB, all used for different purposes. For example, right now I have USB A. This is what plugs into the main desktop or laptop computer. Then I have USB minib here and a USB microb. So the A connector is what plugs into most computers, right? The B connectors Oh, we have another B connector here, the full size B; this plugs into peripherals, right? Then we have the microbe, and the microbe is ten times faster. Nice, huh? Nice. So all of these crazy connector types are not just annoying to you, they're annoying to everybody who uses computers. In fact, how many times? There is only one way to plug in this connector, but it seems to take two or three drives every time. You keep flipping it, and then you finally get it in my life, right? So the latest connector is called USBC, and USBC is a universal connector. A truly universal connector that plugs in either way is awesome. It will transform the entire world. Alison in Denver, Colorado, wants to know: How do BGA's video, DVI, and HDMI differ? Okay, Allison, the difference is in both the quality of signal they carry and the type of signals they can handle. For example, I have here VGA, DVI, and HDMI cables. VGA was standard definition. It was the default standard for a long time and supported resolutions up to a reasonable size. DVI was able to handle much better resolutions. DVI is the way to go for your 24 to 27-inch high-definition monitors. Okay. Both VGA and DVI carry only video signals. So HDMI and its little brother, S-Video, carry both audio and video signals. Video was used in standard-definition things like really old camcorders and stuff and carried standard-definition audio and video. HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) carries high-definition audio and video. As a result, everything up to 60 or 70-inch TVs will be supported. Perfect. Sweet. Yeah. So my first iPhone had this huge connector. You mean like this one? Exactly. 30 mm Apple connector Exactly, yes. So why did they change it to a tiny little connector now? You mean like this Lightning connector? Yes, yes. Right. Several reasons. One, they got the technology better, so they were able to make a smaller connector. And two, this 30-pin connector only goes in one way. The Lightning connector, on the other hand, goes either way. So no more fumbling with the cable. That is better. Yeah. Why don't they just use a USB? Do you want the Apple answer or do you want my answer? It's better technology. They think they've made a better connector than USB. That's the nice answer. And they like your money. I'll take it. All right. There you go. And do I need to spend $20 on getting a new connector? Can I go to the gas station and buy one for $5? That's a really good question. If you buy an official Apple cable, you're absolutely guaranteed that it's going to give you the kind of throughput and the kind of charging that Apple says it needs. If you go and spend $5 on a little cornerstore cable like this one, yeah, maybe not, right? Will you get perfect connectivity? Will you get the kind of charging speeds that Apple guarantees? Maybe not. Unless you're desperate. I would tend to go with an Apple cable. Okay. So in the episode, you talked about audio connectors. You showed how to colour coordinate them. I was wondering if it matters which connector you put in which audio port? That's a good question. Many devices these days have auto-sensing ports. So if I plug a headphone into a microphone jack, the computer will go "it seems like the headphone that you just plugged into the microphone jack" and it will electronically redirect the signal so that I'll get audio out of the microphone jack, which is kind of crazy in the 21st century. Okay. On older devices, it does matter. So you want green for your speakers or headphones and pink for your microphone. Right. So it matters which one you plug into. All right. Well, that's all I have for Chapter Three. Thank you. Well. Thank you, Erin. And thank you.
Data Storage and Sharing
1. Basics of Binary
This is how humans count. It's called base ten. We count things from zero to nine, and then it goes to ten and beyond. Computing devices don't work that way. Computing devices use wires and electricity. They use a type of math called binary, or base two. It's all about the state of electricity on a wire. If a wire has electricity on it, it's on, right? We call that a one. If it doesn't have electricity, it's off. We call that a zero. Let's take a look at the way we can use binary and talk about binary math so that it's totally relevant for computing fundamentals. I have here a circuit board connected to a battery pack and two little LED circuits. Now, when I make a connection to one of these circuits, like this guy here on the left, the LED turns on, and when I take it away, it turns off. So you can say that the state of the connection is either on or off. In binary, we use the terms "one" or "zero." So on is one; off is zero. Now, with two LEDs, I double the number of combinations, right? So, for example, these two circuits can both be off, like they are here. Zero, zero. They can be on, off, 10, off, on, zero, one, or on on.Got it? Every wire we add doubles the number of combinations. So for a single wire, you have two states, right? It can either be on or off. With two wires, that number doubles. It can be up to four different combinations of on or off. with three wires. Six. No, right. It doubles eight different combinations, and so on. From there, four wires 1632, 64, 128 Get it? Modern central processing units come in a couple of different varieties: 32 bit and 64 bit. Modern operating systems also come in 32-bit and 64-bit versions to take advantage of the more complex CPUs. A 32-bit CPU with a 32-bit operating system can only handle up to 4GB of RAM. That means the number of possibilities for on or off is 4,294,967,296. When I go from 32 bit to 64 bit, does that double the number of combinations? Come on, yes or no? 50 50? No, of course not, right? Just going from 32-bit to 33-bit would double the number of possibilities. Instead, going from 32 bit to 64 bit creates this massive leap. And how important that is in computing is the amount of RAM that the CPU with the operating system can handle. So a 64 bit CPU with a 64 bit operating system can handle way more than 4 GB of RAM.
2. Storage Technologies
A CPU can't remember what it's supposed to be working on from moment to moment. So it needs a really fast, accessible short-term memory. Here's the thing about Ram, though it's volatile: That means when you turn off the computer, all the data stored in RAM goes poof off.So what do you do if you want to, I don't know, store a document for more than a few hours? Or while the computer is off? Enter mass storage devices. Mass storage devices come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and technologies. The next episode explores those variations. This episode focuses on the most common mass storage device in a desktop computer, the hard drive. A hard drive is a device for long-term storage. When you power off the PC, the data on the hard drive stays put. It's available when you turn the PC back on. It will be there until you delete it, or if you're unlucky, until the drive dies. Hard drives are measured in two ways: capacity, or how much information they can hold, and speed, or how fast they can access that information. Capacity is, generally speaking, the more important measure of long-term storage for now. So let's talk about that. Computers process data in a form called binary, usually represented as ones and zeros. This means that every piece of data in your computer gets broken down into a long string of ones and zeros. that picture of your kids? ones and zeros. Your graduate thesis? ones and zeros. That awesome new computer game you're playing has an enormous amount of ones and zeros. This is what we mean when we say that computers are digital. They operate on discrete digits—ones and zeros. Now let's dive into some computer jargon for a bit, and pardon the pun. In binary data, one digit, either a one or a zero, is called a bit. Eight bits put together are called a byte. This is how we measure storage capacity. 1024 bytes is a kilobyte, 1020 4 KB is a megabyte, 1024 megabytes is a gigabyte, and 1020 4GB is a terabyte, which is what most modern hard drives are measured in. In practical terms, bigger drives store more data, and it goes up fast. Here's an example. A typical three-minute rock or pop song stored on a computer is about three megabytes in size. A 1GB mass storage drive can store around 330 songs. A two-gigabyte drive doubles that capacity to over 650 songs. A 1 TB drive more than 1000 GB) can store over 350,000 songs. For its fundamentals, you need to understand the relative capacity of drives so you can pick the system that will satisfy your needs. Word processing documents don't take up much space. There's just not that much data involved in inputting words on paper, emailing, or surfing the Web for the latest BuzzFeed article. Likewise, don't take up a lot of space. The computing devices used for these tasks, therefore, don't need huge mass storage devices. This laptop with 256GB of storage will enable you to do all sorts of computing things. The video you're watching, on the other hand, is huge. The original footage used to make this five-minute episode is 5GB. A video production computer needs huge amounts of storage, usually with hard drives. That storage could be built into an integral part of the computer or be external. Watch the next episode for more details. Thanks, Aaron.
3. Mass Storage Variation
I could do a boring episode that walks you through all the common forms, but let's explore the storage forms in action instead. Meet Steve. Steve wants to be a rockstar and makes music on his Mac. Well, he uses instruments and microphones and such, but puts the finished songs together on his Mac. Steve lost the first half of his album andall of his work at the beginning of theyear, when an outrageous thunderstorm rolled through his neighborhoodand lashed lightning down like the hammer of Thor,pounding Loki and fried his previous Mac. Armed with a new Mac and new songs, Steve takes advantage of mass storage varieties to save his music in numerous places so that a Ragnarok-esque storm won't take him out again. Steve stores all his song files on the internal drivein his Mac, a solid state drive, or SSD. That's very fast for a first line of defense. Steve attached a portable external hard drive to his computer and copied the files to it. The external drive is a little slower than his SSD because it's a traditional hard drive with moving parts, but it has two advantages: if he needs more space, he can replace it easily with a drive with larger capacity. Second, if his main system dies, he can plug the external drive into another system and access his music. Sweet. That takes care of a simple local backup. But Steve wants copies of his music in multiple physical locations. One option is to copy files to one of the optical disc formats (CD, DVD, or Blu-ray disc). Steve opts to burn the album to CD to play in his mid-2000s Acura. Steve could also send copies to other places by mailing a flash media drive like a thumb drive or SD card. Technically, all these storage devices built in or plugged directly into a computer are called local storage or direct attached storage. The opposite of this kind of storage uses networking to connect to network-attached storage. A business network, for example, will have a fileserver on its network that employees can access. We'll talk more about this when we hit networking in later episodes. Let's turn back to Steve and the final category of mass storage in this episode, cloud storage. Finally, the modern computing environment includes the Internet and lots of options for cloud storage. Various services like iCloud and Dropbox enable Steve to store copies of his music out there and, with the latter, share with others as well.
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