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Aaron Harper
Works at Issyroo Farms LLC.
Attends American Public University System
Lives in Walsenburg, CO
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I have been limping along with my old PC for a while now.  What was once a high end Dell workstation, now a frankenputer, has served me well for years.  Last week it started having hardware trouble that indicates the fault is either the CPU or motherboard.  Additionally, my needs have evolved and will continue to do so.  

I need a new computer and I want to hear what others think I should use.

I am not married to any particular architecture or brand, but I use open source software and hardware where possible as both a cost control measure and for transparency.  I have a strong interest in reducing power consumption (the new lab will be off grid), but not at the cost of capability.  My current and future uses for a computer are as follows, in order of priority, not necessarily frequency of use:

1. CAD / CAM workstation.  My models have moved from simple geometries to multipart assemblies with articulations and structural analysis.  It is likely that I will add 3D scanning and vision processing within the next 2 years, increasing the computational and memory demands considerably.  I use dual monitors for this type of task.

2. Spreadsheets. Yeah, I know that this is usually no big deal, but the spreadsheets I make range from financial / economic analysis (no big deal) to communication link budgets for deep space probes and sensor data correlation and analysis (a big deal, especially if a fourier transformation is required).

3. Research.  When I am doing research I will generally have many PDF documents open, a word processor, a spreadsheet or two (see above), and a web browser with a ton of tabs, etc.  It adds up quickly and the longer it takes to get the data and move it, the slower the progress.  I use dual monitors for this type of task.

4. Coding.  We haven't done much coding for projects, but once projects reach a certain maturity this will change.  While compiling a program for the system itself or other platforms (I do embedded Linux work), I need the ability to continue working without a major slowdown.    I use dual monitors for this type of task.

5. Magnetic field and CFD analysis.  This has become much more complex over the last 2 years.  My current PC has been crunching the same 18-26GB dataset for 2 weeks and was only 30% done.  More analysis tasks with more detail are coming for future projects over the next 2-3 years.  This task usually runs in the background.

6. Virtualization.  Unfortunately much of the software I need to run is not available on the same platform as the other important software.  While much of this is a choice and preference, some is not.  As an example, I need to run GNU Radio and GPredict under Linux and AGI's Satellite ToolKit (STK) under Windows concurrently, sharing data.

7. Video processing.  As my projects mature, I would love to share the build, testing, and documentation in both written and video format.  Doing a little post production on the videos would make them better, and I would not mind publishing a weekly vlog.  I see this becoming a large amount of the work volume over the next year to two years.

8. Software defined radio and similar spectrum processing tasks.  While not terribly intensive over a long term, these tasks can be quite computationally intensive in bursts.  I don't anticipate a change in the moderate amount of work I do in this area, though the complexity may increase, and with it the computational requirements.

9. Communication and data entry.  My use of social media and email for communication is fairly typical.  Neither this nor data entry tasks are a major factor in the selection of the new PC since much of this will be automatic and/or involve a tablet, chromebook, or smartphone.

I am evaluating 4 different options in meeting my computational needs over the next 3-5 years.  The possibilities are as follows:

1. Do I buy a new PC, and if so, what?  I have a fairly generous budget in mind, but this would remove funds from other projects, delaying them further.

2. Do I build a PC, and if so, what specs / components?  I am no stranger to building a PC from components, having been a PC tech and modder since the original IBM PC.

3. Do I build a computer using a different architecture (eg. ARM / cell processing supercomputer), and if so, what specs / components?  I can do this, but the system's capabilities must be compelling to offset the time spent on learning curves and tweaking.

4. Do I build / purchase multiple PCs dedicated to specific tasks, and if so, how are the tasks split and how is the communications between them handled?  This is a possibility, but the increased cost and energy consumption must be offset by parallel speed and reliability.

Please cast your vote and comment below.  If you have another solution, please comment as well.  Thanks for the time. :)
25 votes  -  votes visible to Public
Buy a new workstation
24%
Build a new workstation
32%
Build a supercomputer
24%
Buy or build task specific machines
20%
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Hit us up on h.o
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Now you can own one for a fraction of the cost.
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LOL 
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Morgan Harper was here
Doing some wiring in an old school, and found this message written in dust. The last time I did the wiring, which was 3 years ago, my daughter +Morgan Harper was my helper, or "Cablemonkey" as we like to call it. She is now hundreds of miles away in college. Finding this made me smile. :)
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lol
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I just did something awesome. :)

I have a client 170 miles away who had an issue connecting to her home network using her work computer. The network is a Ubiquiti UniFi managed system which I recently moved from a stand alone controller to a cloud based controller on Amazon EC2.

After a little diagnosis, we discovered that her work had switched encryption methods, locking out the other type, and pushed the change out using windows group policies. This change was transparent to their users at work, so no memo went out to inform anyone of the change.

The UniFi cloud controller allowed me to make the required changes to her network remotely, allowing her work computer to use the other encryption algorithm and connect to the wifi network. I did this on the phone with her in less than 12 minutes, including diagnosis.

Thanks to +Ubiquiti Networks I look like a complete badass, saved my client hundreds of dollars, saved me a 340 mile round trip, and once again, I have a client for life. Thanks guys!
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It's all fun and games until... Thank you +Philip Plait 
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Have him in circles
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Open source and Microsoft make awkward bedfellows in dealing with outdated export control laws.

http://www.scmagazine.com/wassenaar-arrangement-inhibits-international-cyber-security-efforts/article/510921/

Via Slashdot
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Some of the guys I work with. Awesome job guys!
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As a prize, I will donate two random lengths of wire.
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+Rob Holland Bingo
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What if we helped people understand their government the way Khan Academy help folks understand math? Here's your chance to make that happen.
We want to create a new content series that helps people better understand our system of government. | Crowdfunding is a democratic way to support the fundraising needs of your community. Make a contribution today!
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What's wrong with this picture? :D
 
Clear instructions can be so helpful!

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hilarious. Don't steal my left, please...
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THIS, and it's about goddamn time.

https://youtu.be/0MdK8hBkR3s

h/t to +Chad Haney 
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This was great.
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Have him in circles
766 people
Bryan Forsythe's profile photo
David Seikel's profile photo
Dolidh Young's profile photo
Dika Petkovic's profile photo
Natures Lovers's profile photo
Khandaker Niamul Haque's profile photo
ServoCity's profile photo
mary zhang's profile photo
number one's profile photo
Work
Occupation
I build things that makes science fiction a reality.
Skills
Electronic, Mechanical, Aerospace Engineering / Economics, Workforce, and Economic Development
Employment
  • Issyroo Farms LLC.
    Technical Lead, 2012 - present
  • Ahead Research Corporation
    CTO, Chief Designer, 1988 - 2013
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Walsenburg, CO
Previously
Cut Bank, MT - Bozeman, MT - Tucson, AZ - Carmichael, CA - Worms, Germany - Hampton, VA - Nashville, TN - Lacey, WA - Cocoa Beach, FL - Mobile, AL - London, UK - Kalgoorlie, WA - Christchurch, NZ
Story
Tagline
Per scien et fortitudae ad plurum mundi inter astra.
Introduction

My name is Aaron Harper, and I am self-employed. If this sounds like an Alcoholics Anonymous or other support group introduction, perhaps it is. What started out as a plan to create my own business has become a source of incredible opportunities.

As a young boy, my father took me to see the last Apollo launch. I can still remember feeling rather than hearing those five F-1 engines light off and watching those three brave men being accelerated through the night sky on a pillar of flame. So began my obsession with aerospace. I earned a degree in Electronic Engineering specializing in communications and robotics. During the eighties NASA wasn't doing much that I was qualified for and civilian aerospace didn't exist the way we know it now. I started a small aerospace company to address the needs of the civilian aerospace companies that I knew were just around the corner... but that took another 15-20 years to materialize. In the mean time, the closest I could get to space was the Air Force, so I joined. Up to this point, the business was largely used as an intellectual property holding company.

After I left the military, I moved to a sleepy little southern Colorado town in 2002. I brought that little aerospace firm with me and shifted gears. We reorganized in order to manage and develop the intellectual property I and others in the organization had worked on over the years.  The low prices in the area allowed us to expand more than we would have otherwise, using several buildings and resources in the area for office, lab, and test facilities. Once testing started we quickly discovered that the relative isolation of the town was a boon to research. Things progressed much more quickly than we had even hoped. Preliminary tests of our assemblies were overwhelmingly positive, and even the couple of catastrophic failures we had in the lab and on the pad gave us much more data than they cost.

Soon after, I was appointed to the regional Colorado Workforce Investment Board to represent my region to state leadership. While performing my duties I proposed “out of the box” solutions with clear and measurable results. I was elected chairman of the South Central Colorado Workforce Investment Board, and currently serve on the Colorado Rural Workforce Development Council on the Executive, Economic Development, and Technology committees.  During this time I studies economics, ran an IT shop, cultivated the aerospace business, and home-schooled my daughter through her high school years.

Finding that I need the knowledge of a Space Studies Degree, I enrolled in American Public University's Space Studies program. Over the next five years I will fully develop the aerospace products we have designed over the years into products and service offerings that will make spaceflight less expensive, less risky, and commonplace. My goal thereafter is to retire by age 60, which is coming up much faster than I had planned.  

In retrospect I find that I'm not doing all of this for my ego, nor am I motivated by money. When my state's unemployment numbers drop it makes me smile, thinking I was responsible for some small part of that. When a project I have been working on for a long time works better than I had dreamed, it puts spring in my step. These all pale to the times when my sixteen year old daughter, who is a biology major in college now, looks at me and says “Daddy, I am proud of you”. That makes it all worthwhile at the end of the day.

Bragging rights
I change my world.
Education
  • American Public University System
    Space Studies, 2012 - present
  • ITT Technical Institute
    Electronics Engineering, 1985 - 1986
  • University of Arizona
    Electrical Engineering, 1986 - 1988
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Aaron Harper's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.
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When in haste I chose the wrong board, but didn't have time to return it and receive the correct one, their support staff went above and beyond assisting me in getting the OS and my proprietary application loaded. It worked, the customer is pleased, and so am I. A big thanks to Logic Supply and especially Jim Dines!
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
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