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Monthly Archives: January 2017

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Computer Hardware Engineering

In simple words, computer hardware engineers are people, who take care of all computer hardware maintenance, they are assigned to. To enter this field, one obligatorily needs to have strong technical knowledge of computers. A software computer engineer may not know much about computer hardware, but a computer hardware engineer is well aware of how software works. This knowledge helps him solve hardware problems more efficiently and responsively.

Professionals in this field are responsible for carrying out research, contriving, participating in the development, and examining the installation, troubleshooting, and maintenance of all computer hardware. They are directly related to the care and maintenance of computer chips, motherboards, network components and devices, servers, databases, keyboards, modems, printers, scanners, and many more computer peripherals. The speedy advancements in information technology are predominately the outcomes of hardworking efforts made by these professionals.

Due to a rapid change in several technologies, computer hardware engineers are required to update their knowledge base accordingly, so that they can provide every possible service to their clients and customers. In this regards, they are offered technical trainings by companies which they work in. Companies also allow continuing technical education to upgrade their knowledge and skills. This all is done because the company needs their engineers to use their skills and provide maximum services, which may in turn have a good effect on other employees’ performance in the company.

The number of these engineers working at present is lower in comparison to other professionals in the IT field. According to a survey conducted in 2002, they collectively hold approximately 74,000 positions. Out of them, 40% engineers were operating in computer and electronics facilities, whereas 1/4th were providing their services in ‘scientific’ and ‘technical service’ companies that were associated to the IT industry. Others were catering to technical needs of several telecommunication giants. Nowadays, computer hardware engineers might have to pass through tough competition, as the number of degrees granted in the information technology sector has increased enormously. The job advancements principally depend on the years of experience in the same field along with required qualifications. If you desire to get into a computer hardware career, you are required to at least own a bachelor’s degree in the engineering field.

A prospective hardware engineer should also have a liking towards work and learning new technologies. Computer hardware engineers should have the capability of troubleshooting and finding potential problems as soon as possible to preclude severe loss in deliverables. Their working time is never fixed and may change according to the requirements of their services. They may be called upon by their respective employers in case of a technical problem in the server or database, which would be causing a problem to the company employees in carrying out their duties. Hardware engineers are required to have perceivable oral and acceptable written communication skills, to communicate with affected users, so as to interpret what issues they actually face. The main attraction in this profession is the pay scale. Referring to the salary survey stats of 2006, these engineers earned a handsome salary which was around $70,000 to $110,000 per annum.

With a rapid increase in the use of information technology among several industries around the globe, there is certainly a high possibility of an increase in the job opportunities of computer hardware engineers.

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What’s Processor Cache ?

Main memory is a computer device with the slowest access rate. If the CPU needs a data item, a request is sent to the main memory via a memory bus. The main memory then searches for the data item and sends it back to the CPU. Lot of time is wasted in this entire cycle. What if the data item were stored somewhere close to the CPU? The working of processor cache is based on a similar concept. To understand the concept of cache memory, we will take an example of a library throughout this article.

Suppose, we have a library, with a single librarian. If a person comes and asks for Harry Potter Part I, then the librarian goes to the bookshelf and retrieves the book and gives it to the person. When the person is done with the book, it is restored to the shelf. If, any other person comes and asks for the same book, the cycle is repeated again. This is exactly how a system works without a cache memory.

Why do we need processor cache?
Now, let’s see what happens in the presence of a cache memory. In our library example, let’s consider a drawer at the librarian’s desk as a cache. The procedure remains the same, when the first person places a request for a book. But, when the book is returned, the librarian does not store it on the shelf, instead keeps it in her drawer. Now, when the next person comes and places a request for the same book, the librarian simply has to retrieve it from her drawer. In a similar way, cache memory stores the data items that are frequently required by the processor. Thus, every time, the data is requested, processor simply looks in the cache and retrieves it, saving a long trip to the main memory. This tremendously increases the processor speed.

Does cache memory store only the frequently used data items?
No, cache memory is a smart piece of memory that also looks for the data that is likely to be requested in the near future. Continuing with our library example; when the person requests for Harry Potter Part I, our intelligent librarian also fetches Harry Potter Part II along with it. Now, when the person is done with the first book, it is very likely that he might ask for the second part. And when he does, librarian has it ready in her drawer. Similarly, when the cache memory fetches data items from the main memory, it also fetches the items that are located at the addresses near the requested items. These adjacently located chunks of data which are transferred to the cache is called the cache line.

Two-level processor cache
Most hard drives and other components make use of a single-level cache. But a processor cache is a two-level cache, in which level 1 cache (L1) is smaller and faster; while level 2 cache (L2) is slightly slower, but anytime faster than the main memory. L1 cache is divided into two parts viz., instruction cache and data cache. Instruction cache stores the set of instructions that are required by the CPU for computing; while the data cache stores the values that are required for current execution. L2 cache is responsible for loading the data from the main memory. Again, coming back to our library example, consider a librarian’s drawer as L1 cache. On any busy day, when the demand for books is high and the librarian has already stored many books in her drawer, chances are that it might get full pretty quickly. This is where L2 cache comes into the picture. Consider a bookcase near the librarian’s desk as L2 cache. When the drawer fills up, the librarian starts storing the books in the bookcase. Now, whenever there is a demand for some popular book, the librarian first looks in her drawer; if the book is not found there, she searches it in the bookcase. Similarly, when L1 cache is full, data is stored in L2 cache. The processor first looks for the data in L1 cache, and if it is not found, then only L2 is searched. If the data is not found in L2 as well, a trip to main memory is inevitable.

Is implementing more cache a good idea?
Yes and No. Implementing more cache will let you fetch data quickly, only in the cases, when the data is available in either L1 or L2. Coming back to our library example. If a person requests a popular book, which is not stored in the librarian’s drawer or the bookcase; she first looks for it in the drawer and then in the bookcase. This way, lot of time is wasted before she finally retrieves it from the bookshelf. Similarly, the processor checks first in L1 and then, in L2, and when the item is not found in either cache, then only sends a request to the main memory. As you must have realized, lot of processor time is wasted, in looking for the item in the two cache memories. When the processor finds the required data item in any of the cache memories, ‘cache hit’ is said to have occurred; on other occasions, a ‘cache miss’ takes place. Data items are periodically updated and replaced using various algorithms to maximize the instances of cache hit.

One might think that if cache memory is so fast, why not implement it large enough so as to store entire data of the main memory in it? The reason, is that, although cache memory offers fast access, the speed comes at a great expense. Hence, proper utilization of the available cache memory is must.

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Get a Computer for Free

Generous Gesture
Microsoft does its bit by giving $2 million a day in software donations to nonprofit organizations all over the world.
You can get access to a computer for free if you take the necessary efforts. You might not get the latest, hi-tech equipment, but you can solve your word-processing requirements, connect to the Internet, and do other simple tasks with an older computer.

There are a flock of organizations who are trying to ensure that free computers are made available to low-income families or the elderly. In this Buzzle article, we give you some ideas to get a computer for free.

E-waste Recyclers

Get old, used, non-working computers from e-waste recyclers and repair them. This step involves some technical know-how. You have to visit a local e-waste recycler in your area and get a used, non-working computer from them. You can also ask people or organizations to give you their out-of-order computers instead of throwing them. You then have to employ all your technical skills to get the computer back to its working condition.

Charitable Organizations
Get involved with a church, school, scout, or any other charitable institution that has a computer literacy wing. There are nonprofit, service-oriented institutions like non-governmental organizations, churches, schools etc., that have a computer literacy wing. They receive technology grants from partner organizations or from the manufacturers themselves. If you approach them, they can provide you with a computer or a laptop. You can get involved with their service projects by either being a key and pivotal member in their computer literacy drives or just by being a volunteer. This way, you can get access to a computer, if not your own, to meet your needs.
Other Donating Organizations

► World Computer Exchange Inc.
► freecycle.org
► InterConnection.org
► Computers with Causes
► Jim Mullen Foundation
► National Cristina Foundation
► PEP National Directory of Computer Recycling Program
► computersforeducation.org
► Computer Recycling Center
► GiveTech
► Beaumont Foundation of America
► Share the Technology – Computer Recycling Project

Publish a Letter to a Local Publication
Many communities publish a newsletter, magazine, or a periodical. You can write a letter, stating your requirement, to be printed in this publication. There will be many individuals who will willingly give you their old, obsolete computers.

Find a Business that Donates Computers
There are socially responsible companies, businesses, and manufacturers who donate their outdated computers to groups or individuals. You can thus approach them and get your need for a free computer met.

Inexpensive New Computers
New notebooks and computers are bound to get cheap after a while, so you can look for those that fulfill your basic needs. You can opt for Linux-based systems. Inspect models from ASUS or subnotebooks that are very cheap if you wish to.

Computer Help for Free
Do you have issues with your computer that are too costly to fix? Look into resources like Computer Hope that will help you repair your computer without outside assistance.

Among all this, there is a possibility of deceitful people being present out there who may offer free computers on a monthly basis, the charges being so extraordinarily high that you can actually purchase a brand new PC instead of opting for the free one! So, watch out before you are scammed.

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Ways to Upgrade Graphics Card

The graphics card is also known as video card, graphic controller, graphics accelerator or display card. It is a PCB (printed circuit board) that has three major components. These components are video memory, video BIOS, and graphics processing unit.

The graphics card should be changed if it gives a poor performance or if you want more speed options for the computer games. In the first case, you need to verify that it is the reason for the poor performance and not the computer. To do this, use the scan disk or defragmentation options and look for bad sectors on the hard disk. You can also try using other ways to speedup your computer. If they do not work, you can conclude that the lowered performance is due to the faulty working of the card. Once it has been established that the graphics card is responsible for the low speed, you should upgrade it.

Some video cards are integrated in the motherboard and some are externally connected to the computer. Older versions of motherboards used a PCI (peripheral computer Interconnect) slot in order to plug-in the video card. Newer versions of computers use the accelerated graphics port (AGP). The latest version of computers use the PCIexpress, which has a speed twice of the AGP slots.

The task of upgrading the graphics card in your desktop computer, involves finding out the type of slot in your computer motherboard. If your computer system is relatively quite old, then it is likely that it has a PCI slot. In this case, you have to upgrade related hardware in your computer system, as well. This is because, nowadays, graphic cards compatible only with PCIexpress are available. Additionally, they also render high-speed outputs.

The power supply required for a graphics card should also be considered before buying one. The power supply or wattage of the computer must be checked. The power supply ratings range from 350-500W. Also, the available computer RAM must be taken into consideration. Minimum RAM of 512 MB is required. Once all these steps are done, you can buy a new video card. Make sure that you compare all the options available in the market, and choose the one that best suits your needs.

To remove the older one and upgrade the computer hardware to a new video card, follow the steps given below:

  • If you already have a graphics card, un-install the drivers of the same. Download the drivers of the new one that you’ve purchased and store them on your computer system.
  • Remove the overclocks, usually set to increase the performance of your computer by increasing the clock rate. Set the computer system to its original specifications and turn it off.
  • The power cord should be unplugged. Open the cabinet and search for your PCIexpress slot. The PCIexpress slot has a locking clip, which is used to mount the card. Remove the older card and mount the newer one. Store the older card in an anti-static bag, as you can use it as a back-up.
  • The computer system can then be switched on, after carefully placing the graphics card in its slot. Start your computer and install the drivers which were downloaded earlier. This ends the up-gradation process and you can start playing games.

The graphics card is basically used to ensure performance, drive a digital screen, and support dual screens for playing games.