Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




New Development PC

I eventually got around to ordering my new development PC and my initial impressions are very favourable indeed.

It is a Dell Precision 650, with dual 3GHz Xeons, 2Gb RAM, Adaptec SCSI controller with an RAID-5 array of 15,000 rpm SCSI disks. It has also got a very nice 20 inch 1600x1200 LCD flat panel monitor, driven by DVI. Considering how many moving parts there are (disc drives and numerous fans), it is suprisingly quiet.

It is very responsive and just works - no more waiting around staring at the hourglass cursor when I load something.

Visual Studio 2003 loads and opens my current project in 1-2 seconds and Excel, Word, etc seem to open in under a second.

I'm also pleased to report that all the problems I experienced previously with Dell delivery did not occur this time around.

I guess to some people this might seem like overkill on the specification, but I want this PC to last me 3 years. I'm guessing that in three years time, it'll be looking pretty slow compared to the "state of the art", but will hopefully still be useable.

For anyone looking to get a real "turbo-nutter" PC for development use, I'd recommend this combination.

Steve Jones (UK)
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Did you consider getting 2 (possibly slightly smaller) screens rather than the one?

Spider
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Replace Windows with Red Hat Linux and your applications will start even more quickly. (Open Office is the replacement for MS Office)

Seriously I use last 3 years Intel P-III 800MHz/VC820/384MB RDRAM/60GB HD 7000rpm, 19" Hitachi CM721 for development and it is quite enough.

Evgeny Gesin /Javadesk.com/
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Show off.

Nick
Thursday, December 11, 2003

"Replace Windows with Red Hat Linux and your applications will start even more quickly. (Open Office is the replacement for MS Office)"

Not likely.  Although that kludge xwindows with a bloated wm like kde is really fast

Linux, Zero Dollars and Zero Sense
Thursday, December 11, 2003

"Replace Windows with Red Hat Linux and your applications will start even more quickly."

Wow, how fast does Visual Studio 2003 open on your machine then?

;-)

Steve Barbour
Thursday, December 11, 2003

"Did you consider getting 2 (possibly slightly smaller) screens rather than the one?"

That 20" Dell FP2000 is an amazing monitor, and well worth the paltry $799 price. :)

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Thursday, December 11, 2003

[[ Replace Windows with Red Hat Linux  ]]

JOS isn't /. although soon will be I suppose ..

Evgeny Goldin
Thursday, December 11, 2003

I did consider getting two 18 inch 1280x1024 screens instead of the single 20 inch one. However, I thought it was better to get one fantastic one now, rather than two pretty good ones. At least that way I can upgrade to two fantastic screens later, rather than having to pay a lot more and throw out the lesser screens. As suggested by Brad (see above), the monitor really is magnificent, especially driven by DVI.

I was underwhelmed with the "Replace Windows with Red Hat Linux" suggestion. I would be suprised if that was a viable approach for my company, especially as my clients expect me to develop Microsoft-based solutions.

Also, Open Office (whatever that is) is not a replacement for MS Office until it is guaranteed to work 100% seamlessly with all existing Office applications and files and whoever is selling it offers to re-train all the IT people in how to support it, as well as all the Users in how to use it.

Thanks for the feedback though guys, even the *nix guys.

Steve Jones (UK)
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Steve,

no mention the price for this nice pc?

Guillermo
Thursday, December 11, 2003

While it buys you some short-term bragging rights (which this thread obviously is all about :-)), buying huge now under the economic justification that it will last for years seems like a very poor plan -- it's like going heavily in debt because you want to live great for the short term, at the cost of the long term. i.e. For the price that you likely paid you could most certainly buy yourself close-to-cutting edge each year for the next three years. Instead you have the cutting edge...for a couple of months...then in March the Prescott will be in wide availability and your PC won't have any bragging rights anymore.

Per the other user commented about RedHat offering a faster startup -- while it's easy to kick Microsoft, the reality is that both Windows 2000 and especially XP/Server 2003 _smoke_ the Linux offerings for startup speed (apples to apples -- i.e. going into a windowing sessoin). I'm not anti-Linux, but this is just basic facts.

Dennis Forbes
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Windows 2000 is an absolute laggard at starting up; talking two or three minutes. Luckily you can just send it to standby or hibernate, but my home machine is in the bedroom, and it's too noisy.

XP is faster.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Sorry Dennis, but you are wrong about the bragging rights. It is nothing to do with that.

Its just that I was asking questions over the past few months about various configurations, so I thought it would be worth mentioning that I had (finally) gone for it.

I was also happy to report the lack of delivery problems, which contrasted significantly with my previous Dell experience.

I'm sorry if you mis-interpreted my original post.

Steve Jones (UK)
Thursday, December 11, 2003

On the topic of buying a new machine every year, do you factor in the time to set it up to the way you work.

I find it takes me a day or so to get things installed and basically configured, but it takes me 3 months of using the machine before I get everything just "so".

Maybe you're not as anal about minor things as I am, but I couldn't imagine of going through the upgrade hassle once a year.

Steve Barbour
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Looks like about $6000 from Dell's US web site...

Joel Spolsky
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Looks like your job is to restart Windows all day. You are now very efficient , indeed :)

coresi
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Steve,

I just recently upgrading my main development machine and I found a solution to the downtime problem.  I took my old machine and booted it up headless on the network and used remote desktop to access it from my new PC.  I was able to keep working as I slowly brought my new machine up to spec.

Almost Anonymous
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Showoff!!

My daddy can up your daddy :)

Tapiwa
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Seriously though, drool, drool. I am so jealous!

What was the pricing for this baby in the UK?

Have  been looking to buy a new machine but I have been balking at the prices. I might try for the sweet price spot just below bleeding-edge.

On a not-so-related note, has anyone used ebuyer.com in the UK? And Dabs.com?? Comments.

Tapiwa
Thursday, December 11, 2003

I agree with the original poster's approach in buying PCs (though I've never purchased anything that sweet).

Why pay $1500 every 18 months for a machine that is only adequate for a year, and is inadequate for the next six months? (Six months is my "dang, I should get a new PC but I'm too cheap" period.)

If it costs me twice as much to get a machine that lasts 30 months, I end up with one that is excellent for a year, adequate for a year, and inadequate for the next six months. The cost per month is about 20% higher, but a much better performance/month ratio (which I won't attempt to quantify since it's subjective anyway).

Zahid
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Joel is about right in his post, although that would include VAT here (and the current extreme USD:GBP exchange rate).

I think if it saves me about ten minutes a day in staring at the hourglass it'll pay for itself within the first year. Also, the fact that it is just so smooth and responsive will probably increase my productivity a bit, so pay-back will be even quicker.

Steve Jones (UK)
Thursday, December 11, 2003

"Why pay $1500 every 18 months for a machine that is only adequate for a year, and is inadequate for the next six months?"

How is a machine purchased today -- even a midrange or lowend machine -- going to be obsolete in 18 months for development purposes?  If a box is fast enough today for running Visual Studio and Internet Explorer, it will be fast enough two or three years or now for running the same type of applications.  For the most part, the only people who need bleeding-edge computers are hard-core gamers.

I'm using a notebook with a slow hard drive and a 1.6 Pentium 4 processor.  It boots in about 45 seconds and Visual Studio opens in about 6 seconds.  I can't justify spending several thousand dollars just so I can have "System Idle Process" an even higher percentage of my processor's time.  <g>

Robert Jacobson
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Just checked the Invoice and it was £4061 + VAT, which is about $6,900 (ignoring the VAT, which the company reclaims anyway).

I think it is a good deal for such an amazing piece of kit. It's the first stage of my Joel-style bionic office.

Steve Jones (UK)
Thursday, December 11, 2003

"On the topic of buying a new machine every year, do you factor in the time to set it up to the way you work."

Develop inside of Virtual PC. Total setup time for a new PC? The time to copy ~ 15 gigs worth of "disk" files to it.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Thursday, December 11, 2003

http://www.go-l.com/desktops/machl38/features/index.htm

MR
Thursday, December 11, 2003

I've got a 21" CRT and an 18" LCD - I love this setup. Absolutely amazing.

Philo

Philo
Friday, December 12, 2003

go-l is a hoax as i know,

name not available
Friday, December 12, 2003

"Excel, Word etc open in under a second". Wow. That's, like, less than 3 billion CPU cycles. However do they make it happen so fast? :-)

Gareth McCaughan
Friday, December 12, 2003

Wish I knew. They take a lot more on my machine!

Stephen Jones
Friday, December 12, 2003

Developers generally over-estimate the importance of CPU speed and under-estimate the importance of disk speed.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Friday, December 12, 2003

"go-l is a hoax as i know"

Uh-oh. Better go let Maximum PC know, since they just reviewed the Mach 3.8 (and I do believe it's not their April 1st issue)

Philo

Philo
Friday, December 12, 2003

Brad - agreed, though I'd add "and the importance of number of pipelines"

I know I'm a huge SMP fanboy, but let me just say that IMHO my dual-800MHz system is definitely as *snappy* as any 2+ GHz system I've worked on.

Granted that that 2GHz system may perform raw processing tasks (compiling, rendering, etc) faster, but when you're talking development, like keeping multiple tasks going (compiling, reading email, doing research on multiple web browsers) then single CPU's on IDE machines seem to get threadbound really quickly...

Philo

Philo
Friday, December 12, 2003

Tapiwa - I've used ebuyer a lot - I've had no problems and some of their prices are really good.

r1ch
Saturday, December 13, 2003

Thanks Rich

Tapiwa
Saturday, December 13, 2003

Brad: I'm guessing that was addressed to me. So, yes: it's a mere 3 billion CPU cycles, or (guessing) 40MB or so of data transfer, or 300 HD seeks. Which makes it less surprising how slow it is, of course, but the point I was making is that surely by now we ought to be doing a better job of using some of those 3 billion cycles to reduce the quantity of data transfer and the number of seeks.

Gareth McCaughan
Monday, December 15, 2003

The problem isn't the wealth of available cycles. I'm quite positive that except in rare instances (which it's okay to buy up for, if you want), your CPU is sitting around doing nothing.

Part of the reason it's doing nothing, is because you're doing nothing. But a big part of the reason it does nothing, is because the data it needs it not yet available. You can't just throw an extra billion clock ticks at the problem. The drive is slow, orders of magnitude slower than your RAM and your CPU cache.

This is why I find code micro-optimizers funny. We live in an age of 3 billion cycle CPUs, and people are worrying about ++i vs. i++, when our disks have hardly kept pace. Yes, they're fast, but the gap widens every year, and every year it becomes more and more critical to optimize your disk and network activity, and less and less critical to optimize your O(2n) algorithm into O(n).

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Monday, December 15, 2003

"We live in an age of 3 billion cycle CPUs, and people are worrying about ++i vs. i++, "

You are assuming that all CPUs are equal.


Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I suppose if you have to support PCs from 1993, then maybe you care. *shrug*

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Tuesday, December 16, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home