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Entirely Rebuilding My System

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#1 Guest_Mathematical_*


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Posted 17 January 2014 - 01:50 PM


This is my first post to the website, so I have thoroughly read all of the guidelines and navigated it before posting. I believe this is the most appropriate forum to post my inquiry. If I still manage to violate some kind of more or otherwise do something terribly wrong, I apologize. I also apologize if this post is terribly long-winded, but I want to ensure that I am effectively communicating the appropriate context to my questions. 

I was very interested in computers when I was young since my father was a computer professor. This was during the 90s, so Windows operating systems were all the rage and I became pretty intimately introduced to them. I felt very comfortable with these early machines (Windows 95  to XP) and feel like I accessed a little bit beyond basic literacy. However, I never really wound up learning anything about hardware or serious programming.

Fast-forward to around 2007. My father has since passed away and I literally abandoned using computers. This is not to say that I had hostility against technology or was afraid of it, but I had come to believe many of my contemporaries (including my father) had a dependency on computers and technology which penetrated beyond what they even knew. In my protest, I wound up going through the process of getting three bachelors degrees and completing all of my assignments on a Remington Typewriter (unless the assignment specifically required computer use). Ergo, I am quite proficient with all Microsoft Office programs and some designed for mathematics such as SPSS. 

Now it's 2014 and I have to admit defeat. Even if there was complete globalization and a hypothetical single-world government tried to destroy the internet, they wouldn't be able to do it (although it does sound like an interesting plot for a science fiction novel). I mean, let's face it: Computers simply make things a lot easier, almost all applications for work are entirely online, it's easier to connect with people who have common interests online, and I now live in a society where I am simply doing myself a profound disservice by not extending my knowledge to electronics and computers. This being said, I have time, energy, and discipline that I can focus on learning all about computers. This is why I am here. My greater goal is to learn a lot of stuff about computers.

Now, I realize the goal of "trying to learn about computers" is like "trying to learn about maths" - it's a very ambiguous goal. The problem is that I have no real direction and I am not sure what I should be reading. Unfortunately, all my father's books are outdated. I therefore did the best that I could think of and got a book on Python entitled "Hello Python!" This is the book I am talking about ( http://www.amazon.com/Hello-Python-Anthony-S-Briggs/dp/1935182080 ) and I am under the impression that pdfs exist online for it. I think the amazon reviews are a little harsh, as I had made it the whole way through the book and thought it was quite charming. However, while I have successfully written programs and understood around 85% of what I read, I still don't feel like I have gained a whole lot of knowledge on programming with Python. I know there are free libraries to do so online, but even when I look at those I still feel like I am not approaching the discipline systematically and establishing a knowledge base that I can build off of.

I am therefore here asking for help and taking a different route. I think the most intelligent way to accomplish my long-term goal is to get a basic familiarity with hardware and then progress into learning about different operating systems in order to transition into programming. The ultimate "direction" would be to learn about networking and security (specifically privacy). I met an old friend whose husband sold me the computer I am currently writing from for $150. I think I should learn everything there is to know about this thing and do some basic operations on it. This is why I am asking for help. 

The computer is a Compaq model Presario F700 (GR967UA#ABA) manufactured by Hewlett-Packard. Processor AMD Anthlon ™ 64 X2 Dual-Core Processor TK-55 1.80 GHz. Memory (RAM) 2.00 GB. 32-bit Operating System.

I have very little idea what any of this means at this point, but I'm going to google each term and read all I can about it. I just fear that I'm going to access a webpage which will tell me things I have absolutely not context for understanding and literally spend hours learning terms which mean nothing to me. As far as software is concerned, when I access My Computer I see:  

Local Disk C (83.6 GB) and Presario_RP D (8.11 GB)

It is dual booted with Windows Vista Home Premium and Ubuntu. Whenever I turn on the computer, I have around ten seconds to choose between one of several options which boots Linux or one that boots "Longhorn" (Vista). I do not have access to the username or password for the Linux Operating System and have no idea how to get rid of it or even see what is on it. 

My Modest Goals:


  • I want to understand all of the hardware on the computer, its capabilities, and have context of how it compares to other modern stuff. 
  • I want to totally wipe the computer and install all of the drivers on it so that it still works properly. I have done formats in the past on older computers but have always gotten tripped up when it came to installing drivers. Wireless connectivity, sound, or several other things wouldn't work properly.
  • When I format the computer, I want to dual boot it with Windows Vista and another *nix operating system of my choosing (I'm not sure which one yet, I will have to compare them).

Overall I want to know the computer very intimately as a starting point so that I can progress onto further knowledge. I think this is a reasonable way to accomplish my greater long-term goal. My questions for this forum are as follows:


  • Does this sound reasonable or am I going about it all wrong? 
  • What kinds of basic operations do you think I can do with this computer to help me reach my overall goal?
  • What kinds of fun, reasonable upgrades do you think I could do to accomplish my overall goal? Can I buy and install something that will make it go faster, increase Wireless signal strength, allow me to fly drones  into outer space, etc.
  • Do you have any online references or textbooks that you think would be helpful to my mission? 

 I will conclude by again apologizing if this is not precise enough or if these are stupid questions. I just figured that the last time I tried to go it alone I feel like I wasted a lot of time accomplishing very little. Any other guidance, bright ideas, knowledge, or scoldings are welcomed.  

Edited by Mathematical, 17 January 2014 - 02:09 PM.

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#2 SubtleNerd


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Posted 17 January 2014 - 02:45 PM

Hey Math,

I am somewhat in the same boat as you right now and have this desire for learning about the software and hardware of computers, though I don't really enjoy the programming side of it as much.  Currently I am reading Mike Meyer's CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide, 8th Edition (Exams 220-801 & 220-802) and am trying to get my A+ certificate so I can get a job that works with computers.  I have learned so much from this book already and and I believe it is a good start to learn about basic hardware and software of a computer.   I have learned about many Windows OS's and CPUs so far (I have a long way to go) but I am really enjoying it.  Good luck to you!

#3 Kilroy


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Posted 17 January 2014 - 04:40 PM

First off it is a good thing that you are on Vista, that at least gives you a little bit of time.  I was afraid you were on Windows XP, which is being retired by Microsoft in April.


From doing IT professionally for over a decade I'd say you're trying to run before you walk.  Think about how far computers have advanced since the 90s, in cost, storage space, and power.  Moore's Law, more of an observation, is "The number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years."  This roughly equates to processing power.  So, just since the year 2000 we have computers that are 2^7 more complex.


The book suggested by SubtleNerd might be a good start for understanding the hardware.  The CompTIA A+ certification is knowledge that someone working with computers for six months should have, or at least that is what it used to be.


After you understand the hardware pick an operating system and work with just one to start.  Trying to learn two at once is a bit much, especially with the differences between Windows and *nix.  You can get the Windows Vista drivers from HP.  Search GR967UA on HP's site for the driver page for your machine.  I only saw Vista drivers there, so you are going to have to find the *nix drivers on your own.  So, you might want to start with Vista.


Since your machine is a laptop there are only two real upgrades that I would recommend.  RAM and hard drive.  I checked Crucial and 2GB is as much RAM as that machine will take.  Since the RAM is already at its limit you may be able to put a solid state drive in the machine, but I'd recommend leaving it as it is.


Remember there are a ton of people on the Internet who are willing to help you.

#4 waldojim42


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Posted 18 January 2014 - 09:00 AM

This is an interesting position you are in.


First off, the hardware side of the learning can wait, to a certain extent. There is a good deal to learn, but most of it should be transparent.


Before you decide to wipe your hard drive, go to the HP website and download all the drivers for your machine. Burn those to a CD using either tools available on your machine, or something like ImgBurn, or Nero Media Home. Once you have a working driver disc, I would also suggest making a full backup in case something doesn't go well. Use the built in backup software in Windows, or download a 3rd party package. Once done, go ahead and reinstall if you desire.


As for a *nix based OS, those typically do not need any external drivers. I would suggest checking into Mepis, or Linux Mint as a starting ground. Both of those are available in a live-cd/dvd format, so you can try them out before installing them.


At that point, take time to really familiarize yourself with the OSes and how they interact. Use this time to understand more about the hardware interaction with the OS. This will lead to a better understanding of the hardware itself.


The A+ book is certainly a healthy starting place. My own personal reference for many years was Scott Mueller's Upgrading and Repairing PC's. That book is absolutely filled with valuable knowledge that A+ does not cover. A+ is more of a training guide though, while Upgrading and Repairing PC's is more of a reference.

Laptop: Alienware 14 : Intel i7 4700mq : 8GB ram : Nvidia GTX 765 : 256GB Plextor M3 : 1080P IPS display

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Hackintosh : Gigabyte GA-H61m : Intel Celeron @ 3Ghz : 8GB ram : EVGA GTX 550Ti : Patriot Torx 2 64GB : Silverstone Strider ES-50 : OSX Mavericks


#5 Guest_Mathematical_*


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Posted 21 January 2014 - 08:03 AM

Thank you for all the replies. I will check out these resources when I have a  chance.

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