4Getting started


In this section I discuss the basics needed before starting to code the website. This is starting from scratch stuff; I even go through installing the text editor and how to configure it.

Before we start, I should perhaps explain what equipment I used to code the website; this isn’t particularly important and any PC or Mac can be used to configure a website.

However, it does explain why all the screen shots are from Windows applications and not from a Mac.

I am by profession, a Chartered Electrical Engineer (there’s not many of us left now) and I spend most of my time building and coding various types of control system. These control systems are made by many different manufacturers—Siemens, Rockwell, ABB, Schneider &c.—and they all have different programming packages and languages; they do however, have one thing in common:

They all use Windows†1

Engineering lives pretty much exclusively in a Windows environment; so I use Windows too.

I do have a Mac Pro (the one that looks like a wastepaper basket) and I like the hardware; Apple makes really good kit. I particularly liked their 27" Thunderbolt displays (now discontinued, sadly). I don’t however like their software much and I’m not a fan of Mac OS; I know many of you will think me a philistine for saying so (please don’t email me, I’m entitled to my opinion)—but, I’ve tried it and it just doesn’t feel like a grown up operating system to me.

So I’m a Windows man; there it is—although Microsoft is doing everything possible to make me rethink this with Windows 10 —Microsoft. Stop. Just stop changing my default apps back to Edge and Groove (whatever that is) and those other abominations you call software.

†1 There were some (well one) that used UNIX—but that’s long gone. Some even (until very recently) used CP/M—Just goes to show, if something works engineers are very reluctant to change it—you should see what we put in satellites, it ain’t new.

So this is the kit I’m using: I have a PC workstation made by Scan Computers and a Dell laptop. If I’m at my desk, I use the workstation; otherwise it’s the laptop.

These are both fairly powerful machines (I use a lot of virtual machines), they have the following specifications:

Scan workstation

This is an overclocked Scan Computers: 3xs x99 carbon fluid gl sli system with the following specification:

  • Intel core i7 6800K

  • 32 GB DDR4 3000 MHz RAM

  • 512 MB Samsung 950 M.2 SSD primary hard drive

  • 1 TB Intel 540 SSD secondary hard drive

  • 2 × GTX 1070 8 GB graphics cards (SLI configuration)

  • 2 × 27" ASUS PG279Q monitors (2560×1440)

  • Windows 7 Pro SP1 operating system

It’s also got eerie white fluid running round it and more flashing LEDs than I’m comfortable with—it’s very quiet though (but not as quiet as the Mac Pro).

Dell laptop

This is a dell xps 5510 with the following specification:

  • Intel core i7 6700HQ

  • 32 GB DDR4 2133 MHz RAM

  • 1 TB M.2 SSD hard drive

  • 3840×2160 touch screen

  • 2 x 27" Apple Thunderbolt monitors (2560×1400)

  • Windows 10 Pro operating system

Some notes on usage

I generally prefer to use two 27" monitors with a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels; this seems like a nice size to my eyes; I even scale the 4K display on the laptop to give the same effective resolution (although this is a bit small on a 15" laptop).

If I use the laptop at a desk I plug it into the two 27" Apple Thunderbolt monitors (my favourite monitors by a long way). I use a Thunderbolt 3 (USB C type) to Thunderbolt 2 adaptor to connect the monitors to the Dell (I was a bit sceptical about this at first, but it works very well; I use a StarTech.com tbt3tbtadap adaptor. apple have also introduced a similar adaptor, this is cheaper but I haven’t used it so can’t comment—the reviews are a bit mixed though†2†3).

†2 I have now tried the Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB C type) to Thunderbolt 2 adaptor and it didn’t work with the Dell—there is no Windows driver for it. This is a shame because it is quite a nice device, very small and reasonably priced at £29 instead of £100 for the StarTech adaptor—MG December 2016.
†3 After a bit of buggering about updating the BIOS and the Intel Thunderbolt driver to the latest versions (I think it was the Thunderbolt firmware that needed updating, I used the Dell intel Thunderbolt 3 Firmware Update, from their support page here), I eventually got the Apple adaptor working with the Dell. It seems to be just as good as the StarTech adaptor, the price is now £49—MG July 2018.

I don’t like Windows 10. I don’t like the way it updates, I don’t like the way it changes my default settings, I don’t like the way I have to click twice where in Windows 7 it was one click, I don’t like the way it handles high resolution displays (this is something that Mac OS does do better), I don’t like the default metro apps (or whatever they’re called these days), I don’t like the way it deletes old drivers without asking, I don’t like the way it thinks it knows better than me. I just don’t like it.

I’m sure this is why my Dad fought in the war—to protect my generation from this kind of dictatorship.

I prefer Window 7 and this is why my workstation is running it (Microsoft are supporting it till 2020 so they’ve got time to come up with something better than Windows 10). I’m even thinking about reinstalling it on the laptop.

I’m also sticking with Microsoft Office 2010. This I think was the best version; the later ones (2013, 2016 or Office 365) are a bit “shouty” and flash (I don’t like the fact that they use capital letters in the ribbon tabs—yes, I really am a grumpy old man and I don’t like the animations—Excel, I’m talking about you here). These later versions also suffer from the Windows 10 problem of needing extra clicks to get to the same point as the 2010 version.

In short—like my father before me and as my daughters well know—I blame the younger generation.

I think I’ll stop now.

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