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Intro:John Seagrave; LandPeople, San Francisco Sewer Engineering


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#1
chauncey

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]Greetings Mapmakers,
I found y'all with a google for "best desktop for GIS"--(my machine is failing); thought I'd join and search on it, but haven't found a post on that, I'm a cartographer in Open Space/Trail Planning http://www.LandPeople.net and a part timer with city and county of san francisco pub works, bureau of engineering; coming at maps from two ends of planning; which cow paths will become bike trails? and which 20 foot transport storage box sewer is too small? lots of fun with ArcGIS and AutoCAD...looking forward to using more design tools...MapIllustrator?

and so what hardware (spec.s or general) do YOU you recommend for heavy GIS/CAD -- barebones system on a us$650 or less budget?? I've got a gig of 168 pin sdram it might be nice to recycle.....or just throw it all away and start over?

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#2
Hans van der Maarel

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Hello John, and welcome to Cartotalk.

Hmmm, $650 isn't much and I don't think it would be very feasible to put together a high-end cartographic/CAD/GIS computer for that. A good processor and a good video card will probabely eat most of that already, and then you still need a harddisk to store stuff and a case to put everything in :)

P.S. If you could please not use the large text sizes, that would be much appreciated. It kinda gives the impression you're shouting out loud.
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#3
MapMedia

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Hi Chauncey - Welcome. Another Bay Area-er!

In the hardware discussions, there are some really decent suggestions. I focus my system on hyper-threading power (dual core) and max ram for CPU and graphics card. Next step is to go RAID setup.
You might consider starting small (less ram and power) with a system you can upgrade later without starting over (however tempting that always is!).
Dell's outlet has good offers on workstations.

#4
benbakelaar

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and so what hardware (spec.s or general) do YOU you recommend for heavy GIS/CAD -- barebones system on a us$650 or less budget?? I've got a gig of 168 pin sdram it might be nice to recycle.....or just throw it all away and start over?


On that budget, what you are going to have to give on is the graphics card, which realistically probably doesn't affect you that much in your daily GIS use. Despite having worked with Dell's for the past 5 years, and generally recommending them, at this point I would recommend HP, I think they have better bang for the buck on the consumer side. Check out something like this. And if you can, throw Windows XP back on it, that will really give you some power compared to running Vista on it. And I doubt you will be able to recycle the RAM, every year they seem to move one of the notches a millimeter to the left or right.

http://www.bestbuy.c...d=1173577986927

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Martin Gamache

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http://www.wired.com.../cultofmac_0529

Slightly off topic but nevertheless interesting comments on Apple, DELL & HP in the current Wired.

#6
frax

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Ben,

On what grounds are you recommending XP over Vista? If you are thinking about the user interface effects ('Aero Glass') - they are very easy to turn off. If you have all the drivers support (which shouldn't be a big problem, if you buy a new computer - a bit depending on if you have really old peripherals that you hook up) I don't see much reason to not go Vista now.

I just got a fresh machine with Vista for our home use (no fancy stuff - primarily web and e-mail) and I played a bit with the new fancy effects, but then I decided to go back to the Win2k look on the user interface...
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#7
Hans van der Maarel

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On what grounds are you recommending XP over Vista? If you are thinking about the user interface effects ('Aero Glass') - they are very easy to turn off. If you have all the drivers support (which shouldn't be a big problem, if you buy a new computer - a bit depending on if you have really old peripherals that you hook up) I don't see much reason to not go Vista now.


Based on the little bit I've heard about Vista, it needs a lot of RAM and disk space just to sit there and do nothing. Not that XP isn't a memory hog, but I heard reports of a clean Vista install sitting there, not running any apps, needing around 1 Gb of RAM. That's a lot... (thinks back to the days of 640k, EMM/HMA, loadhigh, autoexec.bat and config.sys...)
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#8
frax

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Hans, I haven't looked that up and I don't know about those reports, but under the hood the operating system is not that much different from XP (which is not that much different from Windows 2000).

My reasoning for going with Vista is that it will have better driver support in the future, and longer life for support - XP is quite dated already.
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#9
Martin Gamache

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I would think that support for 64 bit computing would be the main thing especially if your machine is capable. Having said that I'm not planning on moving in that direction anytime soon.

#10
Sky Schemer

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I'll second Ben's recommendation. $650 is not enough money to do this right, so you have to do it cheap. That means sacrificing expandability, redundancy and bells and whistles to get the bare minimum. An off-the-shelf PC purchased from retailers like Best Buy or direct from Dell or HP is the best way to get bang for the buck inside these limitations.

You definitely want dual-core processing and as much memory as you can afford. Those should be your two priorities. Hard drive size is less important since even cheap stock systems come with decent-sized drives and it's easy and cheap to expand later. The graphics card is basically irrelevant for 2D work. All modern integrated graphics are more than powerful enough for typical GIS tasks. That's a good thing, since many of those aforementioned off-the-shelf PC's, particularly in your price range and below, don't provide PCIe expansion slots for modern graphics cards.

Note that for $650 you will not get RAID or backup solutions. Be sure that wherever this PC lands there's some means of backing up the data (e.g. network backups). Worst case: buy some blank DVDs and backup your data by hand. Acceptable case: an external, USB or Firewire hard drive to backup the entire system using something like Acronis True Image.

For $650 it's not likely you'll be able to do 64 bit. Many of these low-end systems have only one or two memory slots, and some are limited by the motherboard to 1 GB sticks. That right there suggests you may max out at 2 GB, and there's absolutely no benefit to 64 bit if you can't get more than 2 GB of RAM. If the system is expandable to 4 GB, you may hit the end of your budget before you can get the RAM and the 64-bit OS. But definitely shop around just in case.

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Sky Schemer

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And one final note...

If at all possible, get more money for this system so you can do it right. You're tossing out software names like ArcGIS and AutoCAD. These are extremely expensive packages. Why spend thousands on software only to install it on cheap, low-end hardware that chokes on it? This is not a field where you can really cut corners on hardware to compensate for the costs of the software.

Remember that CPU time and processing time matter. If a task can get done 25% faster, and you run that task regularly, then there's a significant incentive to buy better hardware. It will save money in the long run to buy the right tools up front.




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