Tiptoeing Back into the Windows Fold
In the early 2000's, I made a hard switch into the world of the Mac. First at home, then I took the precarious step of self funding my own machine to work on.
Why? It just worked better for me. To me, that made it worth the effort. Having a comfortable to use UI, familiarity, and I really liked that my meagre Unix knowledge and skills served me well when I dropped into the terminal.
But it was at times painful. OS-X on the PowerPC CPU was great, but the applications environment was, strained to say the least. Anyone who remembers Microsoft's Office-X before 2008 or so when they went to native, back when the suite was written in Cocoa, the bridge library between the original MacOS and OS-X will understand. Powerpoint in particular was a bad experience.
But I persisted, the software got better (a LOT better) and my productivity remained quite high. Life was great.
But over the last 12 or so years, there has been a significant shift in the world. When I opted for the Mac, Windows was Windows XP, pre SP2, it was buggy, crashed a lot, and felt clunky to use. Then came Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and for the last 5+ years, Windows 10. When I joined my current employer as a contractor, I was forced to use Windows, and that was my first contact with the latest version of Windows.
Yes, the laptop I had sucked (it was the low end option from Lenovo) with a modest Core i5 CPU, and a paltry 8 gigs of RAM (oh, the irony compared to the recent posts about my evolution of computing in my life from my teens to my mid 50's.)
But, Windows 10 (win10) didn't suck. It was snappy, and because our IT and Infosec team are top notch, our configurations were lean, and well tuned (well, once I installed the official drivers from Lenovo's website to get rid of the Windows defaults.)
But, I was made permanent, and a refresh later, I switched to Mac. It is supported by IT, and it works well, with caveats. I won't go into detail, apart from the fact that to be managed via our IT team, there is a shim installed that causes some wonkiness that my personal Mac's never exhibited.
I still have two personal Mac's and my work laptop. But I have a desire to play games on the PC. That pretty much means Windows. I do have a 12 year old system that I built in 2009 to do virtualization. At the time I worked for a company that made enterprise communications software, and to test scenarios, and configuration, I needed the ability to run VMWare Workstation. Yes, Fusion on the Mac could do it, but the Mac Pro was a wee bit out of my price range, so I built a PC.
That PC is still here, but it was an energy pig, a 3rd or 4th generation Core i7, 4 core/8 thread CPU, with 24G RAM (that was a lot more expensive then), a paltry 80G SSD to boot from, and 2 1-TB Seagate drives for programs and data.
I think the CPU's TDP is 135 or 145 watts. A ton of juice to run it. A ton of heat. Maybe I will extract that CPU and embed it in resin for a paperweight.
So, to play reasonable PC games (think AAA titles from 3-ish years ago) I need something a bit more modern.
As I mentioned in a prior post, I pulled the trigger on an Intel Ghost Canyon i9 NUC, configured with 32G ram, and two M.2 SSD's, a 500G for the OS, and a 1T for programs and data. I also opted for Windows 10 Pro, and a recovery copy ($15 option, but worth it in my mind). I hesitated because as a 5L package, I worried about cooling. However, I found a couple of reviewers who did a full evaluation of performance including the thermals, and that assuaged my concerns.
It wasn't cheap. But, I am in the Apple ecosystem, so the price didn't scare me too much. I took a leap of faith, and dove in. I ordered from Simply NUC, a reputable vendor, and it took about a week and a half to arrive.
I did look on Amazon, but there were a ton of vendors, and plenty of i7 versions, at "attractive" prices. Alas, they all seemed a bit skeevy. I knew I wanted the i9 version.
Getting it up and running was trivial. Plug it in, add mouse/keyboard/video, and whack the power button, and it was off to the races. The first night I got all the required bits. 1Password, Sonos, set up email, and other mundane items.
I did order a GPU that will fit, a "Mini" Asus GTX 1650. Not leading edge, and yes, it was more than MSRP, but it is a good compromise, and it works with the NUC. Alas, it has a defect, the fan speed sensor appears to be broken thus while the card works, the fans are pegged at 100% speed. I will have to navigate Asus support on Monday to work up an RMA. Bummer.
The system is solid. It runs quiet (once I removed the card) and cool. It is extremely well built. Having been inside a few times (c.f. the GPU issues) I can attest to how well engineered the little unit is. Compact, well thought out, and top quality components.
One of the things that kept me on the Mac side was the ability to drop into the terminal, and use unix commands to do routine things. But the Linux Subsystem for Windows (WSL) is stupid easy to set up. Select an option in the Applications control panel, reboot, and then install. There are several options in the Windows store, so I chose Ubuntu 20.04LTS, and I was up and running. Wicked cool. I will have to do an in depth analysis, at least from my point of view as a duffer.
I am disappointed that my GPU is defective, and will need repair/replacement, but in the interim, I can play some of my favorite vintage games (the original Doom, Quake, Half Life, and some others that don't stress a GPU.)
I am also going to do a pass at learning the basics of programming, something I do every couple of years. Usually with python, this time I think I will dive into C/C++.
I am enjoying the transition thus far.