News, Interpretation, and Advice

Achieving Success With High Resolutions
October 25, 2013
Fall 2013 marks the beginning of the end for your current display technology, and the excitement is mounting, thanks to new releases coming together to create the next big ecosystem in computing.

We're talking today about "4K," two letters which represent a new paradigm in performance computing, whether for recreation, work, or a bit of both. Those two letters, of course, refer to the horizontal quantity of pixels available to show information on your monitors; four-thousand, in this case. Put another way, a 4K monitor is 3840 pixels wide and 2160 pixels tall in 16:9 aspect ratio, making it precisely twice as dense in both directions as 1080p displays.

Why do this? Well, as has been found through careful research, when the display is closer to your eyes than its diagonal measurement---e.g. you sit less than 30 inches from a 30 inch monitor---a person with normal vision can distinguish that there are one pixel wide imperfections in a 1080p display...and even a 1440p display. To solve this problem of seeing a diagonal line as a stair-step, you need more dense displays. Cameras, of course, have long since surpassed that limit. This year, our PCs can as well.

ASUS 4K monitor, juxtaposed with your standard Macbook. Notice the quantity of data on the larger screen.

4K, then, is revelatory; it means one display can display an almost unfathomable amount of data, and can in turn offer the user lots of utility, as above, or lots of fine detail, as below:


Click through for the full-sized image, and make sure you're looking at it without zoom; pan around for detail

To achieve these lofty visuals, however, we need serious resources; each of those 8.2 million pixels has 32 bits of data to define it, and updates as often as 60 times per second, meaning your computer may have to provide the display with as much as 2 GB of processed data every second. It's a seriously large number, and right now, the PC components industry has finally cracked it.

Yesterday, AMD released the R9 290X, a first-in-its class product. For our purposes today, we'll discuss what it can do, why you'd want it, and some of the limitations in using such a behemoth of a card.

First, in case you're wondering what such a piece of hardware looks like in the flesh, check out the MSI version:

$550 US of serious parallel-computing clout

This PCI-Express Graphics Card, a nickel-sized chip mounted on a foot-long circuit-board and cooled by an immense Heatsink/Fan, is the brand new R9 290X, designed by AMD and manufactured (in this case) by MSi. It's the first of the designs from AMD based on their codenamed "Hawaii" processors, and it features 2816 sub-processors and 4 GB of onboard RAM. This kind of computational power (5.6 TeraFLOPS) marks the first chip available on the market to support 4K in a meaningful way. We here at GTC do the research so that you can call us at any time for recommendations, and what has become abundantly clear is the following:
The R9 290X is the first card on the market to offer adequate mainstream performance at 4K.
In today's most stressfulapplications, the 290X bests the previous most-powerful GPU, the GTX Titan in most applications, and the closest value card, the GTX 780, by a wide margin. In game after game, the 290X exceeds the performance of the others, all while selling for a lower price ($550 vs $1000 and $650, respectively) despite being manufactured on the same Process. This marks a tremendous victory for AMD and for those looking to enable 4K gaming today.

What about those who don't care about 4K? The rare soul who fits this bill will find that 1440p titles have been completely mastered with this card, allowing for an ideal, greater-than-60 frames per second experience that drives our monitors to perform at their limits. In other words, treating your eyes to incredibly fluid performance while maintaining all the advanced visual techniques a modern game can create.


The other end of the whole process, and our most important sense, finally matched

The crux of the matter, here, is we're trying to match the capabilities of the human eye; 4K does so in terms of resolution. 60 frames per second is fairly good, though some studies suggest the eye can perceive details in as little as 1/100th of a second. To that end, then, the 290X gets close; with a 120 frames per second monitor, it can hit those frame rates at up to 1440p.

And here, dear reader, we finally get to the limitations not yet exceeded by this technology. You'll need two 290Xs to hit 60 frames per second at 4K. 120 is simply not possible yet. Certainly not with the competition, either, but AMD is the closest.

Why not? With current software, highly detailed, realistic graphics can only be rendered at 30-45 frames per second on the 290X. On the Titan and GTX 780, we see 20-40. Two cards can lead the 290Xs to hit as much as 65 frames per second at 4K, while the Titan and GTX 780 require three (!) cards to hit that performance.



You'll need three to max out your monitor at 4K

Where does this leave us? Certainly better off than before, but there are other limitations, too. Power consumption, for one, is quite high. To keep itself alive, the 290X has been fitted with a very powerful fan that can keep the chip inside from boiling (literally 100 degrees Celsius). To keep that powerful fan from making too much noise, AMD has limited it to 40-55% power, and because that's insufficient to keep the card completely below its thermal-danger point, the 290X slows down to avoid destroying itself. While good insomuch as your expensive GPU doesn't die, we at GTC are saddened by something of an inelegant solution.

The reason for this is simple: AMD has been very ambitious. This card is out earlier than it really should be. In modern computer components, one of the most important features is how small the individual switches are inside the chip. By a complicated bit of physics, the size here directly impacts the amount of power, and thus heat, given off by the chip. The 290X, like the GTX 780 and GTX Titan, is a 28 nanometer (nm) part. What we're actually seeing here is performance that we can expect from a 20 nm, released today in a hot, loud package that has to slow down and catch its breath on occasion.

None of this is to detract from the raw performance, which is what this product was designed for, really. It does prevent us from recommending it to everyone, however. Only those serious about performance need apply, but it won't be like that for long.

As a last aside, and a conclusion, these products, "graphics cards," are powerful pieces of hardware, much more powerful than the average processor in your computer. Wouldn't it be nice if you could use them to process more than just graphics? Instead of playing video games with your friends, you could use them at work to run complex simulation software, edit photos, or crunch huge amounts of financial data?

Well, you can.

Thanks to software standards like OpenCL and CUDA, these powerful multi-processors can be used to perform tasks such as one operation on a sea of data, or several individual operations on a finite data set. We actually have software today that can take advantage of these functions. Autodesk, Adobe, WinZip, LibreOffice, and many, many more all can or will take advantage of these types of processors very soon. You may need a graphics card before you know it.

GTC will leave you today with one such program, and one of our favorites: Musemage, a photo-editing program built from the ground-up to incorporate graphics card power excels at applying a series of filters and effects to entire albums of photos, all in less time than it could take to make a cup of coffee. Need to add copyright watermarks to your albums? Done. Check them out, and of course, if you need hardware, software, or human advice in the world of tech, please contact us today.



Musemage, a powerful multi-photo editor that puts Photoshop to shame



Your Mobile Strategy in Fall and Winter 2013
September 20, 2013

As we enter the second half of 2013, we find ourselves once again in that exciting part of the year when all the new battery-powered touchscreen devices are launched; some are tablets, some are phones, some are even cameras in today's market, but they all package a comprehensive mobile internet experience that allows us to communicate at a level our selves from seven years ago would have found amazing. However, in all of that cacophony of product launches, what we here at Goodwin Technology Consultants find said very often is the following prescription:

                     

Oh, you want a smartphone or tablet that 'just works?' Get an iPhone or iPad.

This attitude, however, is overly simplistic; here, we'll delve into the real reasons to choose a mobile device, consistent with the GTC method of finding the perfect fit for your lifestyle and needs.

So, what are the needs of the mobile market? First, typically, is internet and email access, in a small form factor. All of the devices below meet this criteria, and as such, we consider it the basis of all mobile computing needs. If your budget allows nothing else, there are certainly still good options for hitting this target without a lot of outlay. Devices for this function, typically, are the less expensive options on a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator, like Straight Talk, Virgin Mobile, Ting, and many, many others). A personal favorite here at GTC is Republic Wireless, which hits the target perfectly, by offering flexible options through the use of WiFi for call routing, without the hassle of setting up a VOIP client. Keep an eye on them for when the launch the Moto X, coming soon.

Beyond those basic needs are the ability to do presentations, edit documents, provide GPS navigation, and then general apps, including entertainment and niche usage. All of these functions get bundled under the category of "Apps," and here is where our field finally starts to resolve itself into several notable contenders. First, we must dispel some myths: unless your special-use app is very rare, its function can be tended well whether you're using an Android, Windows, or iOS device. Simply, few apps are so special as to make the difference in our recommendations. Security, too, can be just as high (or just as low) on each of the above. Password protection is your most important tool. Remember that most "hacks" are social ones.

Now, on to recommendations.

The iPhone

The perennial favorite, pictured above in iPhone 5s form. This device is a high-end, middle-of-the-road contender. It has the power to perform virtually any task, and is compatible with the largest number of applications. The accessory market, too, is immense. It's doubtful we need to go into all the great things about the iPhone in this space, and there's a high chance that you've heard the standard drawbacks, but here are a few of each.

The iPhone 5s is a 'prestige' device, which means that it is the number one target for theft, vandalism, and fraud. It is expensive, and because of its status, carriers will attempt to tie their most expensive plans to it, driving the lifetime price of the device well north of $2000. It is not a large device, which can be a bit of a problem for the "getting things done" user, and it is delicate; a broken device is so common that there is a fashion industry in the cracks.

For the more business-oriented user, we recommend the following:

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Big, fast, stylus-friendly

The Galaxy Note 3 may be the King-of-Smartphones in the fall of 2013; it features impressive specifications, performance, and a great screen. In some ways, this one device can completely obviate the need for a tablet, meaning that if you are a two-mobile-devices person, you may just be able to switch to a single device, depending on your usage. Given the screen and included stylus (which will tuck away into the body of the phone), typing speed will exceed that of many other devices, and would the be perfect work-trip companion except for a small bit of hostage-taking: the HDMI-output is a $100 accessory.

Still, for the power user whose needs for access need to fit in a pocket but still accomplish everything, the Note 3 will be the best device on the market.

The New Nexus

Google's fall is incomplete until it has launched a new Nexus-branded smartphone, and that trend continues this year. While the big G has been quiet about the new device, what you can expect is this: a great, solid device, north of mid-range in performance, with a great software experience. The market here will be those looking for something that's a great value, but performs notably better than the MVNO-bundled phones. Discounted plans, too, are possible here.

Ultimately, what we try to convey, however, is that your mobile device is just that: yours. Don't accept that the most common device on the market is the best device for your needs, because it likely is not; every customer we've ever helped has had a different balance of desires with technology, different needs. Remember, we're here for you, not for Apple, Samsung, Motorola, or HTC. Give us a call, and we work for you.


Guidance Through End-of-Life Software

August 22, 2013

As April 8, 2014 approaches, the choices for what to do with your remaining Windows XP machines loom. Some will be destined for scrap, as their performance becomes woefully out-of-date, while others will be relatively potent machines, simply running legacy applications.

The options, then, are numerous. The machines can be converted to virtual machines, living on inside software until they can be replaced. This approach can mitigate the damage of irreplaceable legacy applications, although it typically adds a layer of complexity to access. Before trying that, however, it's worth a shot to see if the program can be used under a more modern Operating System.

For simple machines whose task has always been word-processing, internet browsing, and number-crunching, there are other options, still. The most common approach would be to install the latest version of Windows and move on. This, however, presents some problems, because the latest version is the business-repellent Windows 8 (and soon to be 8.1). Windows 7, then, could be a reasonable option, since it can run many programs in compatibility modes, and has a wide array of compatibility. On the other hand, if the budget is tight, and you're looking for an employee morale boost, you could implement a Bring Your Own policy, which would like draw an influx of the current popstar of the personal computer world, the Mac. The task of integrating such a device into existing infrastructure in a secure way may prove difficult however, which brings up another low-cost option: Linux, with its free licenses, could prove tempting here.

So what should you do? The answer depends upon your organization and its needs. Today, though, we'll walk you through what to expect from each option, and hopefully provide some ideas. Of course, during your transition, a Technology Consultant may come in quite handy.

First, let's talk about Windows 8.1.


The latest from Redmond, WA, designed for a tablet near you

Windows 8.1, soon to be released, is a very-attractive Operating System, that can prove entirely competent in the task you set before it; it can run the latest software, supports the latest hardware, and can keep yourself (or your organization) well up-to-date with integrated communications superior to Windows XP in every way. Upgrading from Vista, too, this OS will leave socks firmly knocked off.

Besides being attractive to look at, thanks to the Modern User Interface (Microsoft's name for the tiled UI within its Start Screen), the focus is on so called "live" content. What this means for a home user is that most of the common tasks you perform will be a mere nudge away, and some of the more pertinent info is put on display immediately, such as the email in the top left (above) within the custom-named "Column 1." That's one of the new features, by the way, of 8.1, and it should be a good one, helping to tame the chaos that was the former Start Screen. Further, you'll find an easily clickable button on the traditional desktop to return you to the your start screen, which can also be configured to simply display "All Programs" in addition to a search bar, should you forget the folder your shortcut for AutoCAD rests within.

Overall, Windows 8.1 (and the current version) offer a new UI that excels in readability, and is great with a touch screen, while integrating an application store that has become the standard of a modern operating system. However, we're no Microsoft shills; Windows 8.1 does have problems, especially with regards to productivity.

While 8.1 brings back the side-by-side multi-tasking from Windows 7, it does its best to hide advanced features at all costs. If you found yourself cursing them when they introduced the Ribbon interface to Microsoft Office a few years ago, with few controls for what you want to do, you'll find Windows 8 maddening. It features invisible buttons at the corners of the screen, which react to your mouse to provide you additional controls, but they are seldom laid out in a traditional manner. Grinding of teeth may ensue as you attempt to open a menu found previously quite easily in Internet Explorer, while here, it is completely obscured.

Further, rumors swirl of Windows 8's continued inability to be completely compatible with the programs clients need; while difficult to say with high precision, Windows 8 may have difficulty with some programs designed for Windows 7, let alone its predecessors.

Windows 8, then, is for adventurous users who use the newest programs, and lots of web-content.

How about, then, Windows 7?


The King is Dead, Long Live the King

Windows 7 is the most common operating system on Earth, making up 46% of all Desktop Operating Systems. It's familiar with most, and its similarity to XP makes it incredibly easy to learn. It's lean, fast, attractive, and The King of hardware compatibility. Its application-support is excellent, and while a big target for viruses, mal-ware, and their ilk, thanks to many Anti-Virus suites available, even for organizations, it should be relatively secure. Even in the face of Windows 8.1, the features look good, with multi-touch support out of the box, if you can find an affordable touch-screen monitor.

What, then, could possibly keep one from upgrading to Windows 7, then?

There are a few issues. One is security. Windows 7 is not perfect, and it is a big, big target for shady-types. This means a serious investment in AV software, or a serious investment in backups. Further, the OS is a little long-in-the-tooth with respect to "readability." The text within the Operating System is specifically designed for the monitors that existed when it launched, such that the next wave of higher-pixel-density displays may be almost illegible. You can adjust font sizes, but not without breaking the look of the scene above, with text escaping beyond the limits of the buttons.

Windows 7, too, may soon become extinct in the marketplace. Microsoft has yet to announce plans to discontinue its sale, but because a newer OS exists, that could happen at any time.

Elsewhere in the list of flaws with an upgrade to 7, various features exist to confuse which version of the software is right for you. Would "Home Premium" or "Professional" or even "Ultimate" suit your needs best? The actual comparison can be difficult to say, and depends on your usage.

Finally, the fact is that Windows 7 Home Premium is simply not compatible with all XP programs. Some will not run, even in compatibility modes. While not a new problem for IT professionals, it is more difficult to recommend the Professional edition to fix this when that increases licensing fees by as much as 50%.

Perhaps, then, it's time for a complete break with XP; what of the Bring Your Own approach, and the influx of Mac OSX devices that entails?


This, plus brushed aluminum

Mac OSX devices, in many cases, perform well. The hardware behind them is always solid, and you'll enthrall your users allowing them access to their favorite Operating System. The "polish factor" can in theory drive up your individual productivity, especially in Adobe Suite programs, and OSX is also reasonably well-armed out of the box, with programs for most common tasks that are just plain better than those that come with Windows.

The upcoming Mavericks release, however, does tend to highlight some of the flaws in the OSX world. While things like font-scaling, and battery life improvements are surely welcome, they aren't large changes. Yet, a series of small changes that may have been released in patches in other operating systems become a new release with Mac, and each new release closes off old hardware.

The trouble, then, is to adapt your IT strategy to the idea that your users can bring in a new device every other year, which then must be properly configured for your organization's standards.

Note, too, that we aren't discussing using OSX devices as an organization-funded device; this is because, per dollar spent, they simply cannot compete with the other options. If a faster machine is needed, price is easily better. For equal machines, the same is true.

Finally, while it is the premise, it's worth saying again that any program used in Windows XP is extremely unlikely to work in OSX.

Any other options, then? Something that might offer some compatibility, less license fees, without being too difficult to learn?

Welcome to the world of Linux.

Linux is technically a kernel, which can be thought of as the heart of an operating system, that "thing" which each application passes on its data to, in order to be processed and returned in different form. Atop the Linux kernel, there are literally hundreds of interfaces, each with a slightly different usage-model, tailored to a specific case.

Our favorite, and most easily recommended "distribution," then, is Linux Mint.


Linux Mint's desktop, looking to be a not-so-different UI

Linux Mint, which is free of licensing fee, is easy to learn, cheap to deploy, attractive (enough), and essentially perfect for replacing XP with on a Word Processing+Web machine. It has advanced options for those that need them, is easy to virtualize should the machine eventually need it, and is secure enough to not need any anti-virus. Simply a good password, thank you.

While not loaded with touch-screen support, and not a premiere locale for proprietary applications to be developed (although they exist), Linux Mint actually does offer some compatibility with Windows Apps, especially older ones. Luckily, those tend to be the ones in need of transfer! Further, while it isn't the most familiar OS for most users, you can be assured of fewer IT problems with the great suite of bundled programs, which is easily the best on this list.

For those reasons, then, Goodwin Technology Consultants recommends taking a bold step that larger organizations simply cannot; choose a solution that exactly fits your needs, instead of a least-common denominator that can't offer a change in trajectory. You'll be glad you did.

Defining Modern Performance
August 15, 2013

In some days in the not-so-distant past, high-performance computers were easily recognized; pick the machine with the most Mega-Hertz, the most RAM, and you were golden. Then, later, it was dual- cores. Then, dual-cores, but it depended on which brand of two cores. Then, low-latency RAM or high-speed RAM. Then, it was four-cores, unless the dual-cores were twice as fast (which was entirely possible), but make sure you grabbed the right brand, and RAM speed was more important than capacity, while latency was less a factor thanks to enlarged caches on modern CPUs.

Today's computers, however, have never been more complicated. There are dual-cores that simulate four cores, which are better than the other brand of quad-cores, while the Hertz rating isn't even completely useful within the same vendor's lineup, thanks to differences in microarchitecture, cache quantity and organization; RAM configuration, latency and speed; graphics options that reiterate all the previous subcategories; and storage subsystems that can (and do) baffle some professionals not up-to-date on their products.

In the spirit of simplifying, easing worry, and ensuring that our presence stems the tide, Goodwin Technology Consultants offers the following build as a near-perfectly balanced general purpose machine for the modern user. For more specifics, contact us; a class on building your own machines is forthcoming, and as always, we can build machines that can outpace your wildest dreams, and can nail almost any budget.

Now, without further ado, we present the sleek, fast, and near-silent Modern Baseline PC:


Not pictured: the fearsome speed packed within

The above machine, in specifications:
  • Intel Core i5 4430, four cores, 3 GHz with Turbo up to 3.2 GHz
  • B85 motherboard, featuring triple-monitor support, USB 3.0, and lots of functionality
  • Antec case, light, small, quiet, and well-ventilated
  • 8 GB DDR3 1600 MHz RAM with reasonable latency
  • 250 GB Samsung 840 Solid State drive, a leader in value and performance
In terms of speed, this should be the target for any user looking at building today; this computer can handle any tasks set before it, from image-editing to video-conversion for your mobile devices. The solid state drive is fast, resulting in 15 second boot times, and snappy performance within Windows. The i5 processor has much more graphics alacrity than previous Intel offerings, while keeping power (and as a consequence, heat and noise) low.

MSI, too, has done well with their motherboard; pictured below, it's the epitome of "just working," high praise amongst IT professionals. It doesn't go overboard with any features, with just two USB 3.0 ports, but does allow for additional expansion and plenty of SATA ports for hard disks and solid state drives. Thanks to Intel's design of the i5 4430, part of the power-smoothing circuitry has been made unnecessary, so longevity is almost a certainty.


Simple, while supporting a wide array of tech; the perfect baseline motherboard

Further, this build has the perfect case. Note that no space is really wasted; the power supply bay sits exactly at the top of the motherboard, the optical drive bay ends precisely where the motherboard begins. The space beneath your desk is respected, despite the push in performance machines for large enclosures. Quality could be higher, but this machine keeps its feet grounded in interest of the users.


Snug, almost ready for work

Finally, the star of the entire project is the Samsung 840 Solid State Drive, which peaks out at transfer rates of over 500 Megabytes per second, putting it nearly as fast* as RAM from the early 2000s. Not as fast (quite) as the Micron alternatives, but vastly faster than spinning-disk drives, this should be the number one priority on a modern machine. Prices, too, are falling, and some builds, such as our baseline, find adequate storage in one device, rather than the previously-preferred two-device solution, or potentially allowing for the reuse of the previous hard drive as a backup (or supplementary storage option; remember, backups are necessary, too!).


The star of the show

Today's Baseline, however, is just that; great performance for reasonable money, with room to save for low-cost computing (with sacrifices) and room to expand for better performance, in any of many categories, like compute-performance, graphics, storage capacity, et al. As always, we recommend any purchases be tuned to your specific needs. For a profile of your needs, please contact us here.


When to Deploy Custom Resources
August 8, 2013

In your organization, you may have myriads of pieces of technology, all from different vendors; networking by Cisco (or Linksys), PCs by Dell or HP or Lenovo, printers by LexMark, HP, Samsung, or Brother. All of these companies leverage economies of scale to produce volumes of components at prices that can be attractive to a group the needs to buy five, ten, or twenty at a time. These devices, because of their similarity, can be easier to troubleshoot, and even cost little enough to simply replace when they go bad, as all hardware does in time, thus enabling your office to be an office first, instead of a computer-purgatory. This, then, is the gold standard.


An office, with mass produced tech, and an open floor-plan.

This cannot endure, however; the concept is dependent on the idea that your employees will perform roughly equal tasks to one another, and need the same resources. In 2013, our computing needs are almost as unique as ourselves; each person, with their different work habits, different programs in use, and different workload, will have a unique hardware footprint. Put in more technical terms, each user has differing needs for RAM, processor(s), storage, network performance, and software.

This, technically has always been the case. Some users run a solitary program, complete their work, and move on. Some, as we discussed last week, will perform multiple tasks simultaneously, keeping themselves engaged in their work through utilizing parallelism, and using their natural tendency toward distraction to keep moving forward at peak efficiency on all their projects. Finally, some will simply ignore the powerful tools at their disposal and their machines may ultimately be too expensive at almost any cost.

Where the Goodwin Technology Consultants approach comes in is here: research, on-site, to determine your needs, your employees needs, and implementation that allows for differing use cases, application-profiles, and storage needs. In other words, because your employees aren't all doing the same job, they don't need the same machine, and the cost savings from the lesser-used machines can be passed on to the users who need more out of their computers.

Building custom PCs for this purpose is the most practical way to accomplish this. While commercial PC makers do undercut custom PCs by a few percentage points (the margin is slimmer than most realize), they seldom do so by choosing high-quality components, meaning total cost-of-ownership can be quite comparable. Another fact of the matter is that custom PCs, suited well to their task, are essentially always more easily serviced, again, saving you money and potential downtime. They also can enable more employee-satisfaction, as they see the organization investing in them, recognizing their hard work with a fast machine capable of expanding their utility---a win for all.

Finally, what is the most important reason to use customized computing resources? Performance. For your image and video editors, AutoCAD and Inventor users, your Maya and Lightwave artists, performance from vendor machines is either woefully inadequate, or ludicrously expensive. Here are a couple of Dell workstations, which are relatively good value for the industry:


On the right, the T1700 represents a solid workstation

That machine, however, suffers from the same problems as before; jack of all trades, master of none means paying more for performance you don't need, sacrificing performance you do. The most common sin of the PC industry has become blandly producing a machine with the same "level" components across the spectrum, assuming that you won't know the nVidia Quadro K600 is unnecessary for Adobe Illustrator (versus a standard graphics card), or that Solidworks essentially requires such a card.

All of this is to say, your tech needs are important, complicated, and absolutely our focus. A recommendation from GTC is one you can rely upon. If you need flagship performance on a project, but don't want to pay for a bundle of extras you never needed, call us today.



Multiple Monitors Anno 2013
August 1, 2013

Today's individual productivity target is higher than ever; how do you reach that goal in an office, where you're constrained by budget, training, and time?

The solution of the era is bigger monitors, but too often, it's found that increasing workspace does little to effect productivity. Why? Often, the enemy of productivity is that the tasks hide, out-of-sight, where they can easily be forgotten, ignored, or simply too much frustration to access. While training can mitigate this last factor, the very Operating System of choice has some role to play here.

This was Windows 3.1.


Windows 3.1, c1992

Every time a user needs to access a task they've previously opened, they must remove the current task from view; this wasn't much of a problem, as then computers were only able to accomplish one task at a time. Today, a modern processor can typically handle eight simultaneous "serious" tasks. A powerful workstation (a serious investment, to be sure) can handle up to 24, not to mention servers. That means that while your organization has the computer hardware to handle every task the users throw at it, in terms of actual utilization, with one monitor, we're here:


Windows 7, juggling tasks

And, with two monitors, we encounter a new problem; the data we need cannot be the center of our attention. Add another monitor, and while the second space is great for tertiary data and research, it must be a second-class priority, or it's merely a distraction.


Two unequal monitors

Two can't be equal; but three can. Three equal tasks, with seamless workflow from one to the other thanks to modern hardware. Here, it's worth noting, we diverge a bit from the standard. Goodwin Technology Consultants seldom uses "I." Our focus is on our clients, their needs, their problems. This particular issue, however, is a dear one. A fast computer is only as fast as the tasks it enables the users to complete, and while a good worker doesn't blame his tools, a worse one makes do with a hammer with they need a wrench. Our solution, then, for fully utilizing powerful or workstation-level machines is to pair them with an interface to match. Thus, the following.


Three monitors, in a 3x1 portrait array

Three monitors means your workspace is centered; use the middle monitor for your main task, fill to the sides with research, data, web content, image editing. Thanks to the portrait orientation, we optimize for text-based tasks. Web content fits well, as do documents, correspondence, and the like. While landscape can be superior for some tasks (image, video, and audio editing spring to mind), there is still room for them here.

Here's the actual workspace:


Click through for the full-sized version

All of this is to say, don't just accept the solutions that traditional wisdom suggests. Thanks to AMD and nVidia (and to a lesser extent, Intel), multi-monitor arrays can now be customized to the exact purpose of the user. For many, the expense can seem questionable because of impressions lingering from the hastily-planned implementations they have struggled with in the past. No, longer, however.

For more on how to put hardware to work, investing in your organization to fully utilize both personnel and devices, please Call Us today.





The Goodwin Technology Way

July 23, 2013


You need a strong desktop-style computer, and the right mobile solution for you.
It's a powerful premise; no laptops or notebooks allowed, which for years have been the go-to machines of choice for people of all persuasions. There are years of traction built up here. Today, we'll convince you that the conventional wisdom is obsolete.

The traditional wisdom on portable computers is that despite their higher cost, less performance, and poor ergonomics, their portability means you or your employees are achieving maximum productivity on the road, are saving you valuable office real-estate in the main office, and are a one-product solution. While the last point has some weight, note that it isn't by itself a reason to choose this option.

Now to the rest.

On the issue of office real-estate, a desktop can occupy comparable or even less space than a notebook. Check out the Antec ISK 110 VESA computer case below:


Antec ISK 110, mounted on a computer monitor

Or the Lian-Li PC-Q27, which accommodates more powerful innards:


Lian-Li PC-Q27, with full functionality

Both have a smaller footprint than a 15" laptop while allowing for virtually any monitor and keyboard to be attached, whether small and space saving or (our preferred solution) sized properly relative to the productivity desired. More on monitors later; bookmark our page!

All of this is possible thanks to new standards for motherboards, and decreased power usage by desktop components, and is fantastic for the office looking to upgrade their technology. But what about home users?

If space is absolutely critical, we recommend something no laptop will ultimately be capable of performing: merge your PC with your entertainment center. While you run the risk of losing productivity, it's a part of the home that very few people will ever completely discard. Thus, adding a small machine to such an area simply enhances functionality, eliminates the need for a desk at all, and means only one monitor is necessary.

Desktops, too, are less expensive, but for more reasons than you might expect. While obtaining more performance for each dollar spent (and not paying for features you don't need), they also offer increased lifespans. Here at Goodwin Technology Consultants, any machine we build is made to last; current machines are specified to last until 2020, to the end of support for Windows 7. A laptop may physically endure that time period, but will be eclipsed in performance many times over.

Further, because a quality desktop machine is upgradeable, if performance does lag, many upgrades exist thanks to easily accessible, modular options, such as PCI-Express ports, seen below.


PCI-Express, the backbone for adding storage, processing power, and utility

Finally, our two-product solution would be incomplete without mentioning the device used to replace the mobility of the notebook PC; however, it isn't just one device.

There are thousands of capable mobile devices to fill the role. Your local consultant can help to decipher them all, but whether it be a smartphone, tablet, or more exotic device, the old limitations have largely disappeared.

One of many solutions

The modern mobile device, whether supplied by your associates (this can be complicated; please see us) or your organization, can entirely replace the need for laptops for presentation. They, too, are less expensive, and not merely because of the Bring Your Own Device capability; a top-level ARM-based device can be half the price of a presentation-oriented notebook computer, and less than a third that of a so-called "Desktop Replacement." Their battery life can easily meet (and typically exceed) that of notebook computers, and offer phenomenal flexibility to their users in terms of built-in capability.

Ultimately, then, the ergonomics, employee satisfaction, cost, and potential productivity gains of a two-device solution are compelling alternatives.

For how you and your organization can benefit from these advantages, and extend your technological reach efficiently (and securely), please contact us today.