Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Development Workstation

I'm planning on buying a new workstation for Visual Studio.NET C++ development.  My budget for the system (including monitor or monitors) is $2250.  I am willing to purchase components from different vendors and assemble the system myself.

What should I buy?

Marvin Motherboard
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I found a bunch of nice links here:
http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2002/10/31/1255/9162

I'd just buy a notebook personally though. ;)

Tj
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

http://www.ncix.com/usa/pc.php
http://www.ncix.com/canada/pc.php

Highly dependable and competative on orders in Canada.
Probably even bet for the USA.

Complete customization of systems, much better then DELL's pc builder!

If they don't have a part listed, call them, they will accomodate you!

Heston Holtmann
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

www.sillworks.com

D Angelo
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

A laptop is now my first choice for programming platform.  Has been for the last 3 years. 

Mine happens to be a dell (dood).

Kevin Jackson
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

In my last job, I did development work on an 800MHz Dell laptop.  It was new enough to have a nice big screen (exactly the same display area as my 17" monitor, as it turned out), and with a USB keyboard and mouse on a keyboard tray, I almost never noticed that I was actually using a laptop.

It was nice to be able to pack up and go when I needed to give a presentation, work from somewhere else, whatever.  With your budget, you can probably get a 17" LCD as well for acres of additional desktop area.  (=

Sam
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

You want to go here: http://arstechnica.com/guide/system/index.html

mph119
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Well, if your looking at a desktop I'd suggest a dual-processor+dual-moniter system. I haven't done the math, but you should be able to throw one together w/ cheap moniters at just under budget. Dual athlon's are pretty cheap to set up.

But then again, I compile my code often, and now work extremely well in a dual (or currently triple) head setup. YMMV.

Mike Swieton
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Dual monitors -- definately.

I'm thinking about dual processors.  Does it significantly speed up builds?

How about SCSI or ATA RAID?  Will they significant reduce build times?

Marvin Motherboard
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Marvin,
Truth be told a processor with a lot of L2 cache, standard memory and a Large (1.5 - 2x memory) swap file on each Hard drive used is more important then number of processors in a Visual C build (CL, the compiler, spawns only one process, but it does peg the CPU hit).  So my order of purchase priority would be first memory, multiple hard drives (I don't think RAID would by very useful so I would not do mirroring or stripping, unless you are storing your source on the machine) then multiple processors. I use a dual processor box at my place of employment to build the software for the project I am on and I have found the extra processors do help, but memory helps more.

Project Builder
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Multiple processors won't really help you out much as far as compile times go. However, they DO help tremendously in debugging multithreaded apps. There are some bugs that don't show up on a uniprocessor machine that will pop up on a multi-CPU box. The only way to find them is to debug on a multi-CPU system to begin with.

That and it's nice to be able to run winamp and not have the music slip when you compile. ;-)

Chris Tavares
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Multiple monitors definetly.

I reckon you will find a better compile time improvement by spending your extra money on extra computers to use as a compile farm with Xoreax Incredibuild than by boosting the power of your main one. Not quite sure whether the .Net version of Incredibuild is available yet.

Mr Jack
Thursday, November 28, 2002


I'll put my vote in for dual (or more) monitors.

Also, I'll go against trend and recommend RAID 1. Lots of motherboards come with an IDE RAID controller built in, and hard drives are pretty cheap.

But not for speed, but for uptime.

Sure, you're backing up your crucial data (source repository, business documents, etc) offsite. But people generally underestimate the time that it would take to get their main workstation back up to it's current state if the disk fails.

That is, if you're like me and have your computer extensively tweaked and have tons of software installed (and I think that this is true for most programmers). If all you do is install windows, visual studio, and office and then never make any configuration changes, it's a different story.

For the same reason, I'd suggest a UPS. Just a low end one that gives you five minutes to save everything and shut down cleanly.

Bill Tomlinson
Thursday, November 28, 2002

Don't get SCSI, they are incredibly noisy.

I would get dual LCDs, they are more comfortable than CRT and take less space.

For quick and easy backups, I use a ZIP drive. Much faster and easy to use than a cd-r.

What else? I generally have found that ergonomy is much more important than speed in a computer. If you don't get the fastest processor of the moment, but a slightly slower one, you can save a lot. And so on.

M.
Thursday, November 28, 2002

> Don't get SCSI, they are incredibly noisy.

Hmm, let's see... noisy drives vs drives that FAIL EVERY YEAR. Let me think that one over.

IDE is cheap consumer crap not made for a professional. Three times my only safety has been my backups to CD-ROM when my IDE drives have failed. Meanwhile, my co-workers with SCSI haven't lost a drive yet.

Troy King
Thursday, November 28, 2002

I used to go for screen real-estate and fast disks, but nowadays I prefer a good notebook.

- portability: take it where you want to be for the day. Sometimes a change of scenery realy works.
- No noise: this requires some evaluation and extra work. Make sure that under normal conditions the processor fan does not come on (force throttle processor if necessary). Throw out the HD that came with it and replace it with a noiseless one (IBM has very nice disks where even with your ear to the case you can't even tell they are spinning)

Performance on modern hardware should be no problem, VS.NET is quite spiffy. Make sure you to max out on memory and you will be fine.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, November 29, 2002

BTW buy a matrox dual head card. (G550 is I think the current model number)
It was the only card that looked to windows XP like two proper video cards. This means you can set seperate resolutions on both. Some of the other cards I tried (ATI Radeon VE) treated the display as one very wide system (eg 2048 * 768).
Personally on my desk I have a LCD screen at 1024x768 + a 21" monitor at 1280x768 which works well as the mouse moves naturally from on to the other.
Both Nvidia and ATI may have moved their drivers on, but for development purposes the somewhat poor 3D performance of the Matrox may not matter (Plus the card is around $100)

Peter Ibbotson
Friday, November 29, 2002

Dual-proc compiles:

Under VC a poster above stated that the compiler doesn't spawn more than one thread. I've never used VC, so whatever. Obviously there's no gain in that case.

However: under Unix systems (i.e. Linux), the make program can compile in n threads (make -j n), if your Makefiles are arranged properly (i.e. depenancies).

This is the reason my next machine will almost certainly be dual-processor. The only other thing I'm considering is have two uniprocessor boxes using the distcc program to compile my projects.

Depends on what your platform is, but think about it.

Mike Swieton
Friday, November 29, 2002

I do lot of development. And I just bought a pro-star laptop. I love it! Just a little heavy though. Here is the model I bought.
http://pro-star.com/index.cfm?mainpage=productdetail&model=5654

Yaniv
Sunday, December 01, 2002

Yaniv:

How hot does the laptop get? how many minutes/hours do u get with the battery?

thanks,

Prakash S
Monday, December 02, 2002

Prakash,
It gets a bit hot though. I haven't tested the battery issues yet. I have gone for an hour to two hours without problem.
I wanted a powerfull desktop replacement machine. I wasn't too concerned about battery, heat or weight. If those are the issues for you, this may not be the machine for you.

Yaniv
Monday, December 02, 2002

I recently read a story on CNN about how a guy got his balls "fried" (well almost), thanks to the heat produced by his laptop.

I am not concerned about the weight either, guess since it is a lithium ion batt, it is going to be the same with all laptops.

Prakash S
Monday, December 02, 2002

i read that too :) I keep a book or a hard surface in between my lap and the laptop when I have to use it that way. :)

Yaniv
Monday, December 02, 2002

All laptop users, this is a must read.

http://asia.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/europe/11/22/health.laptop.reut/

Prakash S
Monday, December 02, 2002

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home