Jump to content

 
Photo

Advice on hardware

- - - - -

  • Please log in to reply
21 replies to this topic

#1
BioGeoMan

BioGeoMan

    Master Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 188 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Albuquerque, NM
  • United States

Hello all,

I am just about ready to purchase a new workstation and need some general opinions concerning what I should purchase. Here are a few parameters and limitations:

1. My budget is around $3,000
2. I plan on purchasing a PC because of ESRI/GIS incompatibility with MACs. If you have information concerning MAC/ESRI compatibility, I would like to hear about it.
3. I would prefer to purchase it from a smaller company rather than supporting the larger computer industry. But good warranties and customer support are still required.
4. I would like a large screen 30" or dual screens.
5. Anything else you guys can think of.

Thanks for your help in advance,
Michael.

Michael Scisco

BioGeoCreations
Albuquerque, NM

505-603-3636
biogeocreations.com


#2
peanut

peanut

    Master Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 138 posts
  • Location:Austin, TX
  • United States

4. I would like a large screen 30" or dual screens.


I personally have a preference towards dual screens. Two 24" dual screens will get you more total screen area than one 30" screen and will even cost you a little bit less. My favorite thing about about dual screens is that they provide an excellent division of the workspace. For example on the left side you can have your webpage editing software up and running and on the right side you can have your browser up and running. Save your changes on the left side, hit refresh on the right side and it is easy to see your changes instantly.

Rich

#3
MapMedia

MapMedia

    Hall of Fame

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,029 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Davis, California
  • United States

My current system was made by a local company (I too thought to support local shop than 'big box') and I have had so many problems with it, despite it being high performance.
(they sold me 4 gigs of RAM, and little did I know at the time, that XP only sees 2, and most programs can only find/use 3), plus lots of heating issues.

Next system will be straight up Dell workstation. Even if you get a Dell 380 workstation from th Dell Outlet with dual 24" landscape monitors, it will be <$3k). Having a good RAID setup is important too.

Will you be using XP or Vista?

#4
Sky Schemer

Sky Schemer

    Master Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 119 posts
  • Location:Hillsboro, OR
  • United States

(they sold me 4 gigs of RAM, and little did I know at the time, that XP only sees 2, and most programs can only find/use 3


You need to go to 64-bit Windows. Of course, many apps are still 32-bit and won't take full advantage of a 64-bit environment, but a few are growing up.

If you're going to bite the bullet and start with 64 bit on a new system I'd start with Vista. Not that XP 64 is bad, but why go through the pain of 64 bit now only to have to go through the pain of Vista upgrades later? Get it over with up front and be done with it.

#5
Hans van der Maarel

Hans van der Maarel

    CartoTalk Editor-in-Chief

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,881 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Netherlands
  • Interests:Cartography, GIS, history, popular science, music.
  • Netherlands

Local company here too. Mainly because at the time I bought this system (march 2006) the big name office supply stores didn't sell computers with my specs). So a small shop here in town put together a pretty good system for me. I was on a budget, so I couldn't get top-of-the-line, but I think I got a really great computer for a very decent price.

2 Gigs of ram, 250 and 500 Gb hard drives (the 500 Gb one being a later addition), good graphics card, AMD 3200 dual-core processor. Quite mundane by today's standards, but I hope to be able to squeeze at least another 12-18 months of front-line work out of it before replacing it.

Got a 21" wide-screen to go with it. Desk space and cable clutter being the major factor in not getting a bigger one, or a dual setup. Mind you, a 21" wide screen was still affordable at that time, anything bigger would cost you big $$$.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
Email: hans@redgeographics.com / Twitter: @redgeographics

#6
Martin Gamache

Martin Gamache

    Ultimate Contributor

  • Associate Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 980 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Washington DC
  • Interests:History of Topographic Cartography
    Topographic Mapping
    History of Relief Depiction
    Thematic Cartography
    Demographic Cartography
    Cartographic techniques, methods, and tools
    Orienteering
    Panoramic &amp; Kite Photography
  • United States

If you are running Manifold and want to go to 64bit stick with XP64. recent discussions on the manifold List suggest that Vista 64 is not quite stable and should be avoided at least until SP1.

#7
Rob

Rob

    Legendary Contributor

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 418 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Kailua, Hawaii
  • Interests:anything outside.
  • United States

have you considered going with a dual boot mac? I know some around here were trying that out.

#8
Adam Wilbert

Adam Wilbert

    Legendary Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 275 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Bellingham, WA, USA
  • United States

I had the student version of ArcMap running on my CoreDuo MacBook with absolutely no problems whatsoever. Once the computer boots into XP, it is no different than any other PC workstation from a software/hardware perspective. I probably wouldn't run Arc from an emulator in OS-X, but the BootCamp dual-boot option is pretty solid in my experience and renders any computability problems as non-issues. The hardware would cost more than a comparable system from Dell though, so the only real benefit to doing that would be to run OS-X (which might just be worth that premium :P )

Adam Wilbert
CartoGaia.com & AdamWilbert.com
Lynda.com author of "Up and Running with ArcGIS"


#9
Unit Seven

Unit Seven

    Legendary Contributor

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 266 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New Zealand
  • New Zealand

You need to go to 64-bit Windows. Of course, many apps are still 32-bit and won't take full advantage of a 64-bit environment, but a few are growing up.

If you're going to bite the bullet and start with 64 bit on a new system I'd start with Vista. Not that XP 64 is bad, but why go through the pain of 64 bit now only to have to go through the pain of Vista upgrades later? Get it over with up front and be done with it.


Investigate throughly before jumping to an x64 OS—recently upgraded to a quad core with 4 gig of ram so for the ram issue went to XP Pro x64 only to find after spending all the downtime setting everything up etc first that printers wouldn't auto install by browsing on the network, more investigation found a lot of printers don't have 64 bit drivers yet.

Then some fonts weren't showing up in Illy, Photoshop or InDesign—Adobe don't support 64 bit, most things work but some creative suite apps don't see PS fonts activated by the OS. They will see them if you put them in the Common/Adobe/Fonts folder but then windows won't so you have to manage these fonts twice.

Also my font manager wouldn't work and neither does Maplex, rest of ArcGIS seems to though.

Another colluge has had issues with the 3d MAx licencing but I don't have specifics and think Autodesk have may now have sorted that for him.

So...when I can afford to take a day off I'm having 32bit XP put back on even if the apps can only see 3gig.

Anyone else found anything that doesn't work on XP/Vista 64?
S a m B r o w n

U N I T S E V E N
unit.seven@gmail.com

Miramar, Wellington
N E W Z E A L A N D

#10
Sky Schemer

Sky Schemer

    Master Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 119 posts
  • Location:Hillsboro, OR
  • United States

So...when I can afford to take a day off I'm having 32bit XP put back on even if the apps can only see 3gig.


While the driver issues and other quirks have been a pain, I've found that 64-bit is worth it. It depends on your work model, of course.

One option to consider, by the way, is to buy VMWare and run XP 32bit in a virtual machine. It's what I do for apps that can't live in a Vista or 64 bit environment. You've got a quad so you can easily run one or two virtual machines without impacting your main system performance.

#11
Unit Seven

Unit Seven

    Legendary Contributor

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 266 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New Zealand
  • New Zealand

Interesting idea—I'll look into it but not sure if it will be worth it since most apps I use regulary don't seem supported and do have issues that I would encounter on a daliy basis if running in 64—ArcGIS, Creative Suite, Acrobat Printer & font manager.

Doesn't quite seem worth running a virtual machine for the few other apps I run occasionally which could of course have isssues I haven't come accross yet.

Out of interest what are the main advantages you have found?

Cheers,

Sam.
S a m B r o w n

U N I T S E V E N
unit.seven@gmail.com

Miramar, Wellington
N E W Z E A L A N D

#12
Sky Schemer

Sky Schemer

    Master Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 119 posts
  • Location:Hillsboro, OR
  • United States

Out of interest what are the main advantages you have found?


I use Manifold for much of my GIS work, and the 64-bit environment really pays off there: the ability to process huge data sets and increased performance are the big motivators. I have also migrated to using a virtual machine for UNIX computing, which saves me hardware and the power (and noise) associated with it. That with some other computing demands pretty much require that I present more than 4 GB of RAM to the OS, something that's only accommodated in a 64-bit environment.

#13
frax

frax

    Hall of Fame

  • Associate Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,309 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Stockholm, Sweden
  • Interests:music, hiking, friends, nature, photography, traveling. and maps!
  • Sweden

I have a new machine since about a month or so, which I am very happy with. It is a customised gaming rig, ordered from one of the biggest Scandinavian mail-order retailers. They have a very good interface, where you can change almost any option in the machine - better than Dells interface, in my opinion.

Buying a high performance gaming rig gives you better bang for the buck - these are powerful machines, without the premium that is added to everything rated as "workstation" - I did quite an extensive comparison vs. Dell.

The machine is quad-core Intel, a really good ASUS motherboard, I have now dual flat screens (not that huge though), and three hard-disks - where my work areas and scratch disks are on a RAID0 array, with 10k RPM disks.

One thing that I regret doing - out of being conservative I picked 32-bit Vista Ultimate - which means I can't use the full 4 GB I put in the machine, but I am happy anyways. I actually think that when you get over 2 GB in memory, it plays less importance for performance, as long as your disks are fast. I'll consider moving up to 64-bit Vista in maybe two years, if I feel it is worthwhile - but I throughly hate reinstalling everything...

My experience with Vista so far, also on a machine at home (Vista Home Premium) has been very good. I turn off Aero and UAC - and I find the compability with XP and lower to be very good, and when there are problems, there is usually quite good workarounds. I haven't tried to upgrade any XP machines to Vista, so I can't compare the performance on the same hardware, but I haven't seen any performance problems.

I don't really see it as a good option to buy new machines with XP today, I don't think it is a good solution for future-proofing, unless you love to do a complete reinstall further along...
Hugo Ahlenius
Nordpil - custom maps and GIS
http://nordpil.com/
Twitter

#14
Sky Schemer

Sky Schemer

    Master Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 119 posts
  • Location:Hillsboro, OR
  • United States

I actually think that when you get over 2 GB in memory, it plays less importance for performance, as long as your disks are fast.


Even the fastest disks are orders of magnitude slower than memory. Disk access is measured in ms, memory in ns. And on top of that, disk writes have to traverse more pathways on the motherboard and then the cable off the controller before the bits reach their destination. Keeping your data from going to disk is the best thing you can do for performance.

RAID can be a good thing, though. Depending on your budget and your preferences, you can get one or more of fault tolerance, redundancy, performance, and storage space. None of these provide for disaster recovery, though, so be sure to invest in a good backup system, too. Either external tape or an external hard drive will do.

#15
GISRox

GISRox

    Master Contributor

  • Validated Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 104 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Interests:Outdoors, maps, travel.
  • United States

I've been running Vista 64 since February. I'm very pleased with the OS and the stability of the system. I built my own system, which I recommend, using a Core 2 Extreme Processor, 4 gigs RAM, a couple 10K raptor drives and a 750GIG SATA drive for my data. My only complaint has been with the NVIDIA video drivers. Everything is stable now, but the early drivers were very problematic. What I do to ensure any XP/32bit compatibility is use VMWare with a 2gig XP setup. It's pretty amazing how fast XP runs under VMWare on my system. I highly recommend using VMWare, since you can isolate different setups and have specific configurations if necessary. Since I also do development, I can keep new technologies isolated and within a separate test environment. I'm using 2 -22" wide screen montiors and I agree that it is probably a better way to go than 1 30" monitor, plus the prices are low right now. Another nice thing about VMWare is the ability to run many of the Linux distros. I'm not much of a Linux guy, but I now have an environment which I can run some of the Linux based GIS tools.






0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

-->