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Computer hardware

What computer hardware do you use for your primary desktop 'work' machine?  Which CPU, how much memory, hard drive space, and monitors?  I am especially interested in monitors because at work, I have dual 1280x1024 LCD displays but I have never really considered this cost-effective.

Please feel free to comment on why you made any tradeoffs you may have made if the choices weren't immediately obvious.

Chris Thompson
Sunday, February 29, 2004

Personally? I have a 2 GHz processor, 80 GB hard drive, 1 GB memory, and dual 1280x1024 LCD monitors.

As soon as our interns arrive one of them will inherit this and I'll move up ... given how LCD prices have plummeted, I think I'll probably move up to 2 x 1600x1280 monitors.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Sunday, February 29, 2004

Whoa!  Can I be your intern?

I can fetch coffee with the best of them.

Ken Klose
Sunday, February 29, 2004

Is it that bad out there? I would consider such a system merely acceptable given today's advances in hardware.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Sunday, February 29, 2004

Do 1280x1024 LCDs have a 5:4 aspect ratio so the pixels stay square, or do they have a 4:3 ratio like most other monitors and have squished pixels?

KH
Sunday, February 29, 2004

1280x1024 displays are 4:3 with non-square pixels.

Many graphics cards support 1280x960 which is exactly 4:3, but sadly 1280x1024 seems to have caught on with LCD monitor manufacturers.

Dan Maas
Sunday, February 29, 2004

"1280x1024 displays are 4:3 with non-square pixels."

You can't make a blanket claim like that.

The difference between 1280x960 and 1280x1024 is quite small (I run my monitor is "proportional scale" mode, and in a 4x3 mode, the black stripes on top and bottom are very thin).

I'm going to check the specs to see if I can find out, but I'll bet that my LCD has square pixels, but is not perfectly 4x3 (rather, just slightly taller than 4x3).

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Monday, March 01, 2004

I couldn't find the specs for my monitor (Viewsonic VX700), but I found the specs for the model up (VX800, which is the 18" 1280x1024 model).

Size listed is 14.1" H x 11.3" V. That's a 5x4 with square pixels.

http://www.viewsonic.com/products/lcd_vx800.htm

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Monday, March 01, 2004

So Brad...

You've got the LCD on the desk in front of you, and wanted to know the ratio of height to width. You looked all over the web, and simply could not find the specs to the display, so you posted one that was close.

At what point in this exercise did you not think of just picking up a ruler? [g,d,r]

Philo

Philo
Monday, March 01, 2004

I often wondered about that as well. I now have a Sony 18" LCD monitor with 1280x1024 resolution, and I can assure you that the monitor is 5/4 and the pixels are perfectly square. LCD monitor manifacturers are thankfully not idiots.

Frederik Slijkerman
Monday, March 01, 2004

I wanted exact measurements of the panel, not approximations with a ruler that never would've been acceptable past the 5th grade. :-D

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Monday, March 01, 2004

It's a flip of a coin as to whether the specs you cited were obtained the same way. ;-)

In a perfect world, marketing got a detailed spec sheet from engineering. In our world, most of the time that info came via email or phone call to whoever would give them the data. From memory. It's entirely possible Mr. Marketeer, faced with a deadline, simply pulled out a ruler... [grin]

Philo

Philo
Monday, March 01, 2004

I've got a cheapo lcd monitor that does 1280x1024, and it's 13.25" x 271mm, which is 5:4 point something.

I think those extra 64 pixels are worth it. That's a good 5-8 more lines on screen.

Insert half smiley here.
Monday, March 01, 2004

In response to Brad's comment on the power of computers...

I am writing this, while running DataStage, Outlook, a whole bunch of UNIX sessions, Compile All, and more on a Windows 2000 box, with Pentium II 400mhz, 512mb memory, and 8 gig HD.  The box has been with me for almost 6 years.

Oh, and a 17" CRT monitor using 1152x864x32 - at only 75hz refresh with a Viewsonic monitor that's even older than the computer.

Of course, I'm leaving this box soon for a new job.

T.J.
Monday, March 01, 2004

"Is it that bad out there? I would consider such a system merely acceptable given today's advances in hardware."

What you define as merely acceptable is a good deal higher powered than the SERVERS that some of us have to work with, let alone the desktops. :(

Never work for a company run by an accountant! ;)

Sum Dum Gai
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

"Sum Dum Gai" == "Some Dumb Guy".  Clever.

AllanL5
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Responding to the original poster's query: My primary system is a 2.4-GHz P4 with 1GB, 120GB, dual NEC 18-inch 1280x1024 panels driven by a Matrox Millennium P650. Since I'm a one-man shop, the money came out of my own pocket. Are the dual monitors cost-effective? Absolutely. No question about it. Dell delivered them to my doorstep for under $1,000 including tax and shipping, and the dual-head card was another $150 or so. Spending $1,100 on tools that so directly and dramatically enhanced my productivity and satisfaction was a no-brainer, and I only wish I'd done it sooner. In fact, I'm often tempted to add a third panel or step up to two 16x12 panels.

Computers are cheap. People are expensive. If spending a few kilobucks on good technology can make your people modestly more productive -- to say nothing of happier and less turnover-prone -- then it's a great investment.

John C.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I develop on a PII 450 dual with 512 Ram and 98.  I browse the web with PIII 600 yata, yata.

The reason I do this is not financial, at least not directly.  My customers overwhelmingly have 98, 2000 boxes.  If I'm frustrated with the speed, functionality of my code then so will they be.

 
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Your Windows 98 users have 512MB of RAM?

I think you're confusing development machines with test machines.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Maybe once he has launched his IDE, he 's got 64 Mo left, just like his clients.

Pakter
Thursday, March 04, 2004

Where on Dell's site did you get two 18" LCDs for $1000?

Noah
Thursday, March 04, 2004

Config here is:
a Shuttle XPC with 1Gb RAM, Athlon 2500+ and 60Gb hard disk + firewire external disks.
The nice thing about the Shuttle is the form factor and a dual video card.
So, there is a 17" LCD (1280x1024) [Hercules Prophetview] and a 20" CRT (Sony 520 GS). This one can go up to  2048x1536. But my eyes are too bad for such a resolution...

Phil Back
Friday, March 05, 2004

Noah, the prices and promotions on Dell's site fluctuate constantly, and I probably benefitted from some kind of short-lived special offer that happened to be in effect when I bought them. But the bottom line is that my credit card was charged for $991.29 (that includes 8.8% sales tax) on 6/19/03, and the next day two NEC 1860NX panels arrived on my doorstep. Those particular models don't seem to be available any longer, and in fact there seems to be a limited selection of 18-inch LCDs on the market in general. Prices for 17-inch LCDs (at the same 1280x1024 resolution) range from $435 to $590, so that's roughly comparable.

Also, when you're shopping at Dell, it's worth looking at both the business and home sections of the site, as sometimes they offer different pricing for the same product. For instance, right now Dell's 20-inch LCD is $999 on the business site but only $899 on the home site (mmm, tempting...).

John C.
Sunday, March 07, 2004

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