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phones off (please). CSCI1412 Lecture 13. Hardware 7 System Specification Dr John Cowell. Overview. System life cycle determining requirements, sourcing System specification costs, PPI (price performance index) types: desktop, laptop, server / workstation

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csci1412 lecture 13

phones off(please)

CSCI1412Lecture 13

Hardware 7

System Specification

Dr John Cowell

  • System life cycle
    • determining requirements, sourcing
  • System specification
    • costs, PPI (price performance index)
    • types: desktop, laptop, server / workstation
    • the main components and factors
  • Upgrading
    • processor, memory, hard disks, expansion cards
  • Maintenance and care
    • warranties, maintenance, health and safety, care
system life cycle1
System Life Cycle
  • Ascertain the user requirements
  • Determine hardware and software needed
  • Identify alternative suppliers
  • Purchase equipment
  • Install the hardware and software
  • Train the users
  • Run the system
    • optional: upgrade the system
    • maintain the system
ascertain user requirements
Ascertain User Requirements
  • This means ‘ask the users what they want’!
    • find out what they want to actually accomplish
      • not asking the users what they think they want to buy
    • typical information to extract
      • what sort of documents, types of work
        • letters, reports, memos, etc: word processing
        • accounts, numerical analysis: spreadsheet
        • data manipulation, storing, retrieving: database
      • how many documents, volumes of work
      • how much sharing of information
        • networking: LAN, WAN access
      • budgets, user knowledge, environments, expectations
  • Do they have any existing IT equipment?
determine solution
Determine Solution
  • This means ‘tell the users what they need’!
    • use your skill and knowledge as the ‘expert’ to specify the hardware and software requirements of the users
      • the difficulty and skill is in recommending systems that are adequate for the job (for the lifetime), but without costing (wasting) money through over specification
    • there is no point recommending the latest multimedia, 3D graphics, DVD-RW, 26” Monitor if the user just wants to write one letter per week!
  • If there was any existing IT equipment, an upgrade may be a good solution
    • otherwise migration will have to be planned / costed
selection and purchasing
Selection and Purchasing
  • Many organisations require three or more quotes
    • perhaps obtain quotes from three types of sellers
      • manufacturing company (e.g. IBM)
      • direct sales (e.g. DELL)
      • ‘box-shifter’ (e.g. PC World)
  • When purchasing be careful of:
    • changing specifications and / or prices
    • terms and conditions: delivery charges, warranty
  • There are options on method of purchase
    • outright purchase
    • leasing (pay amount each month over e.g. three years)
      • can be attractive for businesses (servicing often included)
installation training maintenance
Installation, Training & Maintenance
  • For most commercial systems installation, training & maintenance should be included in specification
    • this is expected and companies are prepared to pay for these services
  • Once installed, system must run for several years
    • usually at least three years, often five or more
  • The system should have enough capacity to cope
    • may need to be upgraded during lifetime
  • Normally, some consideration will be needed of system reliability and long term maintenance
    • maintenance / service contracts included in purchase?
pc specification
PC Specification
  • What sort of system is required?
    • stand alone computer(s)
      • how many, what sort?
    • local area network
      • what type, topology?
    • mobile computer(s): laptops, docking stations
    • space considerations: desktop, towers, LCD’s
    • printers: what sort, how many, what capabilities?
  • Cost and price performance index (PPI)
    • divide performance (measured somehow) by cost
  • Other factors may also be important
    • e.g. reliability, company reputation, service
system types
System Types
  • Home PC’s
    • complete, integrated packages designed for novice
      • complete hardware, with bundled software
  • Multimedia PC’s
    • high specification, with large RAM, HD and monitor
      • high spec graphics and sound cards, DVD, speakers
  • Business PC’s
    • usually just the system box and monitor
      • often OS software only; printers, etc, are all optional extras
  • Network PC’s
    • designed to be network components
      • clients, servers; (Ethernet) NIC plus software
main hardware components
Main Hardware Components
  • Processor: the main governor of speed
    • the processor manufacturer and type
      • e.g. Intel Pentium, AMD
    • the processor speed
      • 1.2 GHz to 3.6 GHz, dual/quad core widely available
  • RAM: has significant effect on system speed
    • minimum 1Gb, typical 2Gb, high 4Gb+
  • Hard disk: governs both capacity and speed
    • Typically 500Gb+
  • Monitor+ graphics card: v. important, often neglected
    • determines screen type and size, maximum resolution
  • There are many decisions to be made in specifying a total network solution
    • usually some form of specialist knowledge is required if more than a simple network is needed
      • although everyone is connecting to the Internet
        • this has been made relatively easy using integrated software
  • A simple network may be a good solution for many small offices
    • several users can share office software, data and hardware services such as printers, faxes, modems
    • extra hardware, software and cabling may be required
laptops pros and cons
Laptops – Pros and Cons
  • Laptop PCs are popular with users but can encourage poor security.
  • Laptops are frequently stolen.
  • Laptops are more expensive.
  • Laptops tend to be slower (there are no quad core laptops available)
  • Laptops are harder to upgrade.
  • Only buy your staff laptops if they really need to take work onto other sites (e.g. To demonstrate a new product)
other features 1
Other Features - 1
  • The quality of the case is an often neglected feature:
  • Check the size of the power supply.
    • Will it cope with extra devices?
    • Is it from a quality manufacturer?
  • A ‘silent fan’ can improve the quality of the office environment.
  • Cheap cases can make access to components difficult.
other features 2
Other Features - 2
  • When considering solutions for businesses, there are other features that may be included
    • backup devices
      • if the system, particularly user data, is critical to the business then backup device and strategy must be considered
        • tape, e.g. DAT; optical, e.g. CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-RW; magnetic e.g. external HD
    • UPS: uninterruptable power supply
      • uses batteries to keep the system running, or at least to allow it to shut down cleanly, in the event of a power cut
    • RAID: redundant array of independent disks
      • several physical disk drives hold exactly the same data
        • if one disk crashes the system is unaffected
        • sometimes allow ‘hot-swapping’ of crashed drives
  • Remember: the point of the computer system is the software services available, not flashy HW!
    • it is hard to avoid Microsoft Office as the best choice
      • it’s standard (widely used)
        • but note that a full professional version costs c. £600!
      • alternatives: OpenOffice (free), WordPerfect, SmartSuite
    • for accounts, graphics, software development and other utilities the choice is a lot more difficult
      • Corel, Pegasus, Sage, Symantec, Netscape, Visual Studio
    • for professional database management
      • SQL Server – a heavyweight database application other options include Oracleor IBMsolutions. Microsoft Access suitable only for small applications.
    • dedicated software solutions for specific needs
  • The main points to establish are
    • how many pages are to be printed each day, month?
    • what sort of quality is required?
      • dpi, colour
    • what are the ongoing running costs (consumables)?
      • a low cost printer may cost more in long run
    • are there any special requirements?
  • It is very rare for printers to be fully loaded
    • therefore they are obvious candidates for sharing
      • it is not necessary to install a LAN to share printer access
        • printer sharers / buffers can allow multiple connections
      • printers may be served off PC’s or straight off network
future proofing
Future Proofing
  • There is a common misconception that by spending a little more money at the outset the purchased system can be made ‘future-proof’
    • hardware capabilities and software requirements are continuing to increase as fast as ever
      • there is no sign of any let-up in either
    • any system purchased now will seem archaic in 3 years
      • it is better to allow for the possibility of upgrading
  • Another misconception is that it may be worth delaying a while to wait for prices to come down
    • by this logic you will never purchase a computer
  • Upgrading possibilities and principles
    • most components (except in laptops) can be upgraded
    • some upgrades can be tackled by almost any user
      • extra RAM, extra hard disk, expansion cards
    • some are harder and may not be worthwhile
      • motherboard, processor
  • Drive bays, slots and ports
    • most desktop / tower cases have physical space (bays)
    • either
      • Normally 4 SATA connectors (for HD and DVD, Blu-Ray)
      • Probably one IDE connector (some IDE DVDs still available)
    • usually additional RAM slots (DIMMS, DDR)
    • usually card slots (3-5 PCI, maybe others, e.g. PCI Express)
    • serial / parallel ports can connect backup devices
upgrading the processor
Upgrading the Processor
  • It is usually possible on most motherboards to unplug the processor and plug in a quicker one
    • however, there are issues with socket design
      • not all processors plug into the same socket
    • there are also issues with (system) bus speeds
      • quite often only a small improvement in system speed
    • processors are delicate and have hundreds of pins!
  • Some motherboards / systems are providing the facility for installing more than one processor
    • the speed increase is dependent largely on the ability of the operating system to take advantage of the HW
upgrading memory
Upgrading Memory
  • Increasing the RAM often has a dramatic effect on system performance
    • programs and data are loaded into RAM when needed
      • if multiple programs with large data are being run then both may be ‘swapped’ out to hard disk (the swap file)
        • information transferred to and from the hard disk by the OS
    • most new PC’s now have 3 DDR slots
      • Generally better to buy large memory chips than several small ones.
    • DDR can easily be added as required
  • Note the wide fluctuations in RAM prices
    • Large price increases and decreases due to fluctuations in world markets.
upgrading hard disks
Upgrading Hard Disks
  • Adding a new (second or third) hard disk is an easy way to increase the lifetime of a system
    • a faster hard disk can speed up a system, particularly if swapping occurs often & the swap file is on the fast HD
    • USB devices are easy to install but are slower
    • if the new fast HD is installed as C: drive then all OS and application SW may need to be re-installed
      • there are utilities available to automate such drive copying
expansion cards
Expansion Cards
  • Expansion cards are available to add all sorts of facilities onto the ‘basic’ PC
    • SCSI cards: provide a SCSI bus connection
      • can be used for CD-ROMs (to free up IDE for disks)
      • can be used for SCSI disks: large capacity, but expensive
      • many scanners are SCSI
    • Basic systems are now often included on the M/B
      • sound / graphics / multimedia cards
      • network interface card(s): one per protocol
      • internal modem / terminal adaptor cards
        • may free up a serial port, may be faster
      • specialist cards: e.g. video conferencing
  • All computer systems will come with a warranty (guarantee that they will work) when purchased
    • often this will only last, for example, one year
    • this is not sufficient for a business where the system is critical and must last, for example, three years
    • sometimes extended warranties can be specified at time of purchase (very rarely afterwards)
      • these will typically be up to three years from purchase date
  • Often there are quite strict (and often silly) terms and conditions on warranties
    • e.g. the warranty is invalidated if the case is opened
      • how can the user install an add-on card?
maintenance and service
Maintenance and Service
  • Most manufacturer warranties are ‘return to base’
    • if equipment fails, the user must return (post/courier) it back to the manufacturer, who then repairs / replaces it
    • the user is without the equipment while it is fixed
  • This is probably inadequate for business use
    • service or ‘on-site maintenance’ contracts available
      • an engineer is dispatched within a certain ‘guaranteed’ time
        • e.g. four hour / eight hour / next day response
      • if equipment fails, the engineer will bring the replacement to the site so that the downtime is minimised
    • can be expensive (almost as much as purchase price)
health and safety
Health and Safety
  • All electrical equipment must conform to European health and safety legislation when sold
    • this may not seem important for home use, but may be very important to businesses
      • an employer (or you) don’t want to be sued for allowing employees to operate dangerous equipment
    • however, again there may be problems if computers are upgraded by ‘non-professionals’
      • safety checking may have to be performed after upgrade
      • always check this in a commercial environment
  • Chairs, desks and VDU viewing positions are all covered by health and safety legislation.
  • Disposal of equipment to follow the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive (Retailers to collect free apart from a small handling fee)
care and cleaning
Care and Cleaning
  • If a computer is to stay in good working for three or more years it requires some looking after
    • Inside the case
      • Dust can be conductive and cause problems on the main board.
    • Optical mouse
      • Can get clogged with fluff.
    • the keyboard gets dirty
      • keycaps can usually be removed and dirt & grime removed
    • the screen gets dirty
      • can be cleaned with a specially coated cloth
  • Rough treatment can cause significant damage
    • moving (esp. shocking) a computer can permanently damage the hard disk (portables more robust)
and finally
And Finally!
  • There are computers other than Intel based PC’s
    • other personal computers
      • Apple
    • other network solutions
      • Sun
  • There are operating systems other than Microsoft
    • LINUX: UNIX for IBM / Intel PC’s
    • Apple OS: a variation on UNIX
    • UNIX / Solaris
  • System life cycle
    • determining requirements, sourcing
  • System specification
    • costs, PPI (price performance index)
    • types: desktop, laptop, server / workstation
    • the main components and factors
  • Upgrading
    • processor, memory, hard disks, expansion cards
  • Maintenance and care
    • warranties, maintenance, health and safety, care