Monday, March 16, 2009

Workstation Computers

I am in the market for an industrial-strength microcomputer that resembles a desktop PC but isn't meant for consumer use. This is pretty much in line with my brand of hyperbolic extremism that supports both the super-inexpensive and the ridiculously pricey but not any middle ground. Anyhow, I've been researching various tech forums (and copying and pasting terms on Google/Wikipedia so I can get some definitions) to get some tips on what kinds of goodies to expect for what price, so I can use this info to create a balanced and informed decision. Various threads eventually get reduced to flame wars, which is mildly entertaining. In any case, there's lots to know about processors and multi-cores and virtual threading and RAM beyond 4 GB and cards upon cards upon cards.

Okay, time to be a bit facetious for this rant: The big test is whether or not such a computer can handle Massive (the program that generates crowds for epic war scenes). It costs about $18 grand initially and about $4 grand annually to upgrade. That's why this test is silly.

The obvious choice is the eight-core (two quad chips) Mac Pro. Unfortunately, Massive doesn't run on the default OS X platform. Mac hardware doesn't officially support open source Linux, which can run Massive. Fortunately, Massive can be run with Windows XP, and Macs can dual boot XP along with OS X. Then again, this support is only for 32-bit XP so it could all be moot, potentially defeating the purpose of RAM greater than 4 GB. How would I know? I'm still doing some research on true workstation computers. Unfortunately (again), Apple just released a newer Mac Pro, and whenever new technology is released, the pricing is just plain screwy (see's Kindle and Kindle 2 for examples). I would have to wait a few months, after the early adopter period, to see some reasonable pricing.

The next choice would be to get a similar machine with similar specs as the Mac Pro but made by another PC manufacturer (or DIY from high-end parts). I have a hunch that the perceived "Apple premium" of consumer/prosumer products is relatively absent in the realm of industrial/professional equipment. (In other words, expensive is expensive.) As long as the hardware can accept the Linux build (32 or 64-bit) or XP (32-bit), then Massive will run on such a machine. Ideally, this machine would be a dedicated special effects computer and not an editing bay. Otherwise, it would need to be a Hackintosh (PC+OS X violating EULA) to run Final Cut Pro (defeating the purpose of doing things legally). I will have to Google the requirements to run Avid (the fading industry standard for video editing). (Beside the point but worth mentioning: Adobe recently changed the base code of Premiere Pro, which is eerily similar to FCP due to shared history. It is now a 64-bit program.)

Anyway, running Massive to create epic battle scenes is still a pipe dream. It would make more sense to replace "Massive" with "Pro Tools HD." PTHD would work fine in almost any proprietary computing environment: Mac+OS X, Mac+Windows, or PC+Windows. (I'm not sure if PTHD has the same issues with 64-bit Windows as PTLE and PTMP.) Then again, the PCIe DSP TDM card cores of PTHD (it seems like I'm just making these terms up!) would handle most of the processing; therefore, an industrial strength computer isn't technically necessary. The PTHD components would essentially make the base computer industrial strength.

I'm pretty sure this post is one of my most incoherent. I don't even understand half of what I wrote. But whatever it is, I want it.

1 comment:

  1. industrial computerThese computers are best suitable for many automated manufacturing process such as application like stock control and dispatch however their needs are quite a different one. There’sa lot different environment to run the Industrial PC’s. .


Please note: Comments are open only for seven days after publication of each blog entry.