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New computer contemplation - specs and dilemmas

Posted on: Tuesday, 26 May 2015 @ 11:26pm
Blatting about
More specifically

My iMac is about three years old.  It's kicking along fine, as long as I don't do anything too hardcore in the 3d department.  We're having slight issues there, as in Blender starts lagging and acting strangely (like failing to realise that I've "released" when the pen is off the tablet) when it has to deal with over 2M polys.

This is the machine I want to get:

Mac Pro

  • 2.7GHz 12-core with 30MB of L3 cache
  • 64GB (4 x 16GB) of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC
  • 256GB PCIe-based flash storage
  • 2x AMD FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM
  • Apple Thunderbolt Display (27-inch)
  • 3 year warranty

Unfortunately I don't have $14 197 kicking around (and if I did I wouldn't after I'd dropped it onto the mortgage).  It goes down to $12 097 if I go down to the 3.0GHz 8-core with 25MB of L3 cache and $9 997 if I settle for the 3.5GHz 6-core with 12MB of L3 cache.  Additionally I'd have to get some extra drives for storage because I opted for the smaller built in drive with the intention of expanding externally.  Ideally I'd like one of the Pegasus RAIDS that you can get bundled with it but unfortunately I'm not yet a proper studio with a budget for these things (as is I'm lucky to be in a position where I can start scraping together money for the next machine as soon as I've bought one as it takes about that long to save up, but sometimes other things like unexpectedly large vet bills or planning on buying another house and moving into it can interfere with that).

Over at System76 I spec'd this:

Leopard Extreme

  • i7-5960X Extreme Edition (20MB Cache – 8 Cores – 16 threads)
  • Quad Channel DDR4 at 2133MHz
  • 2x GTX Titan X with 3072 CUDA cores
  • 250Gb 2.5" ssd (for os drive)
  • PCIe M.2 SSD Sequential Read: 1000MB/s, Write: 450 MB/s (for scratch disk)
  • 4× 4TB 3.5" 5900 RPM Drive
  • SD, memory stick, compact flash reader
  • WiFi up to 867 Mbps (mentioned as it was an optional extra, some kind of wifi is included in the Macs)
  • 2×1440p Matte Pro IPS Display (2560×1440)
  • 3 year warranty

And it was a much more affordable $8 518.  The major problem there is Ubuntu (even Studio which I have slightly less problems with for some reason) and the amount of fighting I have to do to get anything to work and the amount of problems I have with it from fighting to get anything to work.

I suppose the choices there are a a hexcore Mac Pro if I want one in a couple of years when I'll probably have to start seriously looking at replacing the my iMac, or wait a bit longer and get the octacore, or get the nix box and after recovering a bit from that using the remainder of the money I didn't blow on the Mac Pro to get one of the MacBooks (not an Air) so I have something I don't hate to do normal things on.

My other other option which is even more affordable (as far as affording expensive computers go) is to get another maxed out iMac:

iMac with Retina 5k display

  • 4.0GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz
  • 32GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM
  • 3TB Fusion Drive
  • AMD Radeon R9 M295X 4GB GDDR5
  • 3 year warranty

That one comes to $5 138 which is ~$1k more expensive than my current iMac.  It'll give me a new computer buffer for another 5 years (I hope) and make the ceiling slightly higher but I'll probably find myself banging my head again shortly afterwards.

10yo went from the purely money vs specs perspective (in his defence it's a very common delusion) and said I should get the nix box.

JJ initially said I wasn't getting an $8.5k computer and after I told him I wasn't getting it tonight and asked why not, was about as helpful as any person that is not a *tard is going to be and said "get whatever you want" (also he's as sick to death of hearing me getting angry about not being able to get Linux to do what I want easily as I am of hearing him tell me how crippled and overpriced Macs are while watching me doing everything I need to do on one.  I guess it's hard to relate when you have completely different use cases for your machines).

Most of my problem with getting a Linux box is getting anything to work easily on Linux.  I do manage (got both my old Cintiq 12WX and my new Cintiq Companion Hybrid working well enough, though the complete inability to set some keys really annoyed me and I don't remember if I managed to get the screen switch to work.  JJ blames most of my Linux problems on Ubuntu (I use Studio as I have less problems with that than straight Ubuntu for some reason, but still have problems) and the tendency for things to randomly break every update.  One of the major things that was breaking were my nvidia drivers on my laptop and I managed to work around that by uninstalling and reinstalling the drivers after every update that wanted the computer to be restarted.  I think I'd have more issues with Debian (solid as a rock but I would break it because I would need to use the testing and unstable repos to get anything working as I need it to) and another option I was vaguely considering was Sabayon but that's a Gentoo deriv and I played with Gentoo once about a million years ago.  Seeing as JJ is very reluctant tech support I kind of stick with Ubuntu as I can usually find at least one other person on the internet who is having similar problems and sometimes there are even solutions that work.  Maybe I'll have better luck on a desktop than on a laptop, and hopefully I won't blow it up in fury.

And going with my ongoing love/hate relationship with Linux I'm also worried about a larger repeat of my recent Android experience.  When I was getting a new phone I decided to try an Android instead of doing the obvious upgrade to the iPhone 5s.  I've been regretting it ever since.  If nothing else I can try to find some entertainment in being all hackerish and open source with a kickass Linux rig and an Android phone.  I'll either like it and do it again or go running screaming back to Macs and iPhones at their EOL.

Hopefully I'll get by for another couple of years and see where things are at then.

*** UPDATE 0002F18c ***

A G+ friend Roland Taylor brought my attention to a new desktop that I'm sure System76 just rolled out at some point last night because I was on that site for freaking hours staring and it wasn't there then.  It's an actual workstation (so an actual Mac Pro contender rather than a near enough with consumer parts) and therefore I'm actually really seriously considering it.

Silverback WS

  • 6 core E5-1650 v3 (3.5 GHz – 15MB Cache – 140 Watt – 12 Threads)
  • Quad Channel Registered ECC DDR4 at 2133 MHz (8× 16GB) (XD)
  • 2.5″ Solid State Drive (os drive)
  • PCIe M.2 SSD Sequential Read: 1000MB/s, Write: 450 MB/s (scratch disk)
  • 4Tb 3.5″ 7200 RPM Drive (storage, this thing has a million drive bays and can go up to 48Tb but I can wait on storage, I haven't come anywhere close to filling the 2Tb storage drive in my iMac, bit more impatient with RAM :P)
  • 2x GTX TITAN X with 3072 CUDA Cores
  • SD, Memory Stick, Compact Flash Reader
  • 1x Matte Pro IPS Display (2560×1440)

This one weighs in at $8 326 (or $9 051 if I got two displays, opted for one this configuration as a thought I had last night was that I could blow $4k on this 27" monstrosity from Wacom.  Taking it down to one screen would make that Leopard Exrreme $7 728, by the way.

I wonder if I could ask them to install Ubuntu Studio LTS for me instead of straight Ubuntu.

Like I said earlier, I'll see where things are at in another couple of years and start saving like a saving thing in the meantime (around saving up for a new house and moving and getting ferrets and guinea piggies and associated gear and vet bills that will come up there, quite likely but not necessarily in that order).

PS - I'd probably prefer dual-cpu over dual-gpu but I'll take what I can get.  Ideally I'd like both but that's me being greedy.

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