Upgrades are sometimes frightening. Things can go wrong, sometimes in ways you fail to predict. It's easy to say, "Why fix what isn't broken," even if the new thing is vastly superior to the current thing, because of how easy it is to be intimidated by change. We're all wired that way, or so I've read.
So it is as I spend many a night glancing at the CompTIA A+ Certification study book on my shelf, which often sits there instead of getting read. I want to prepare for the exam, honest; but too often I tell myself that I'll just be wasting my time (and someone's money - a couple of people have offered to pay the exam fee if I just set up a test date, but ...). I haven't even set up a test date; that would require me to admit that I am going to take the test and I am going to study for a deadline, propelling myself toward big, scary change. The intent, after all, is to use certification to help me get a job somewhere doing tech support (for example, at Best Buy's Geek Squad), and once I am certified, the pressure will be on from friends and relatives to put in job applications and eventually respond to them. Maybe even get hired? after which I'd likely have to put in my two weeks' at Wendy's and say goodbye to (most of) the crew. After ten months of working there, the job feels like my safety net; I don't want it to disappear.
But I have to move on at some point. I have no intent or interest in pursuing a managerial position at Wendy's, and the routine I work gets dull, repetitive. I don't use any skills I feel good at, and there are many days where I return home feeling stressed. It just drains me on most days, and I have to struggle to find time (especially when trying to get together with friends, thanks to our varying schedules) to do things that recharge myself. That part's not as bad as it could be, but still.
Money is an issue, too. I've been struggling on that front for a while, barely scraping by with my funds in the black. If the owner of the property I live in were to pass away any time soon, I would be unable to handle all of the mandatory bills they've been managing, even if I cut back virtually every nonessential (much as I loathe to say it: yes, that would include Internet service for the house). In other words, I have to increase my income rate soon, or else give up any semblance of having a "lifestyle", which would be reduced to "barely existing". The clock's ticking, and I have no idea when it will run out.
So, yeah. That's where I am.
Let's lighten it up a bit. Want to help me make a decision on some computer upgrades?
So I have three machines that I want to make changes to. One is a laptop; two are desktops. The newer, more powerful desktop is named "saanaito", and is basically a donation from a friend who was getting rid of it anyway. The older desktop, "tsubotsubo", has been mine since 2009. The laptop is "eefi", a ThinkPad I bought used on eBay in 2015. You can view detailed specifications here, but below is a quick rundown of the important details so you can get a rough idea of the machines' capabilities:
- Core i3 (Sandy Bridge)
- 8 GB of RAM
- integrated graphics
- 128 GB SSD (OS) + 1 TB HDD (games and stuff) + two external HDDs
- Debian testing
- Core 2 Duo
- 4 GB of RAM
- old Nvidia GPU (GeForce 9500 GS)
- 250 GB HDD (OS) + 500 GB HDD (games)
- Windows 10 Pro
- Core i5 (Westmere)
- 4 GB of RAM
- integrated graphics
- 120 GB SSD + 64 GB microSD (extra storage) + 250 GB HDD (not installed)
- Debian testing (SSD)/ Windows 10 Pro (HDD)
So. The plan and goals.
I'm trying to make it easier to play my game library, mainly. Some games I have are Windows-only, and I can only get so many of them to behave in Wine. There is at least one game (Tangledeep) that completely refuses to run on my laptop in Linux (in this case, due to Unity requiring a minimum of OpenGL 3.0 support, and eefi only supporting 2.1) despite having Linux support; yet it works perfectly on the same hardware in Windows (due to DirectX needs being met and utilized).
I'm also trying to learn to use Windows 10. Until around September, I didn't have a usable license to any Windows release beyond Vista; now I have legal licenses to 10 on tsubotsubo and eefi (eefi's being an OEM-descended license - it took the Win7 product key from eefi's sticker!), and I intend to make myself use them so that I can help people who come to me with Windows questions. Windows 10 has been out for a couple of years now, and many people have either upgraded their systems to it, or bought new systems with 10 preinstalled. I can't sit on my knowledge of Vista/7 forever, if I'm going to get into tech support for a living (and considering Linux's market share, that will only ever truly be practical if I become a sysadmin somewhere; otherwise it's all been me learning about it for fun, for myself).
The trouble is as follows: my 10 installs are on inferior hardware. tsubotsubo's installation would benefit greatly from being migrated to an SSD and being moved to saanaito. eefi's installation just needs an SSD and an extra disk bay to sit in (or to move the Debian SSD into). I am ... cautiously optimistic that I might receive an SSD for Christmas this year. One.
As for my Debian installations, I am contemplating keeping them on their existing SSDs as a secondary OS; I would boot to them with the BIOS disk picker. Windows needs to be the primary disk because 10 likes to wake up the computer on its own to check for updates/do auto reboots, and I'd rather it be able to get back into 10 automatically if I'm away/asleep. But I don't want to get rid of Linux as a host OS, nor do I want to dual boot off one disk (I tried that before, but partitioning headaches are not fun). I'm actually contemplating switching to Ubuntu LTS as a host Linux OS; if I do so, I'd probably run XFCE (so Xubuntu) and mostly run Steam with those installs, while migrating (most of) my Debian installation to a VM ...
... or just to tsubotsubo. Between the desktops, I could set up saanaito as a gaming-focused machine - especially if I can give it a dedicated graphics card - and tsubotsubo as a server, attached to the household router via Ethernet, and with the external HDDs attached to it. This possibility is important for me to consider, because I've based a few of my other devices' setups around the idea that saanaito, when up, is always accessible via ssh and sftp, with the 4 TB HDD permanently mounted thanks to my edited /etc/fstab. Said HDD is already formatted as ext4; it's full and I have nowhere to move the data to to reformat it in a Windows-friendly filesystem; and I'm not taking chances with beta-quality drivers/programs for Windows that would grant it ext2/3/4 R/W access but has a heightened risk of corrupting the entire partition. Therefore I must have Linux running somewhere in order to access the data, which is basically my entire media (books/movies/music/games) collection, assorted backups of Android devices, and such.
I'm sure I've left something out (EDIT: like the option of donating tsubotsubo's hardware to a friend who could use it for - you guessed it - gaming, after I've moved everything to saanaito). If you feel a headache coming on, that's probably normal.
All of these options won't work out very well unless I replace at least one Windows disk with an SSD and transfer Windows to it. I'd like to have two SSDs in saanaito (one per OS; plus an HDD for games), one in tsubotsubo (plus the external HDDs), and two in eefi (one per OS again, plus a big SD card for game storage; one of the disks would have to go in the UltraBase dock, and for that I need a HDD sled). But I can't really count on getting any, so let's just say that maybe I'll end up with a little Christmas money after the holidays are over and I'll spend it on a 240 GB SSD.
Which machine would be better to put it in? Which OS? Should I hold off until I get another SSD? (And maybe a GPU for saanaito?) I know it's mostly a "it all depends on your use case and setup", but I did just try to describe it above ... If you have any suggestions, or even just questions for me to think about, I'm sure they would help.
And maybe, when I stop obsessing over assembling a better gaming machine, I'll pull the A+ book back out and get to work on my life upgrades.