Need help showing up an IT jerk
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Thread: Need help showing up an IT jerk

  1. #1
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    Need help showing up an IT jerk

    The place my brother works at is looking to get some new workstations. My brother, one of the head people in the computer department, and the idiot IT guy that orders all the hardware at his company are not getting along too good. My brother does not know a lot about the currant hardware end of things, so he asks me lots of queastions. Their IT budget it pretty tight, but they need some new workstations. Basic engineeres will be doing lots of general CAD work with them and sometime down the road some video work. The computers are not THAT time critticle, but they need to run better that the ones they have right now. I think they run along the lines of a PII450-550, 128-256MB SDRAM, and Quantro 1 graphics cards or worst that they use right now (yes, pretty easy to beat). They have about 25 of these and can either get 25 more good ones and keep the old ones or get 50 new ones replacing the other 25. They are ordering a few "test" systems early to replace a few failed systems.

    Well my brother wants to show this guy he is an idiot. He wants me to build a system for them to campare against a Compaq EVO-W400 with a P4 2.8Ghz, 1GB DDR, and a 750 XGL for $2800. Service is not a big deal to them as they service their own systems and the box will not include an OS as they have licences for Windows XP Pro and will install it and all the other applications themselves.

    The big application they will be running on these boxes is Autodesk Inventor 5.0 (possibly a little Adoby Arcobat). I have never used it or seen it benchmarked befor and was wondering if anybody out there has it and if a P4 or an Athlon XP would run better? Also if I used a P4 would DDR be fine or would RDRAM make much of a differance? Also does the 750XGL really perform any faster than a GeForce4 Ti 4600 (that it is based on) or if the Radeon 9700 would do even better yet. The XGL is about $600.

    He wants me to build a system that could beat it (which is liekly not worth it) or build a system that is much cheaper that can come close. I was looking at a P4 2.53 with 1GB PC-2700 DDR, WD 80GB 7200RPM drive w/ 8MB cache, ASUS P4S533 (SiS 645DX), and Radion 9700 for about $1,350. I want to do an AthlonXP 2400+ with a GeForce4 Ti 4200 and 512MB DDR for about $800-900, but the new Athlons are not avaluable yet and the 2200+ kind of sucks. They might come out in time, but I am not sure when he needs this system and when they will come out. These systems are with no monitor and just a CDROM for optical drives and I will likely us the Antec SX1060 Performance Plus case. Both motherboards I picked had integrated sound and network. I was thinking of RAID, but he said you can't Ghost a RAID the way he wants so he didn't want it. He also said no dual CPU as only one small portion of the app actually supports SMP.

    What do I get for doing all this. Well, I likely get to keep the test system which would make me VERY happy. I also would get hired to build these systems at about $200-300 a shot with no support. I pick the parts and vender, my brother gets it paid for and they ship the parts to their company. I come in on the weekends and assemble them. My brother then sets up the OS and apps and Ghosts the first hard drive onto all the others. I might also get to slavage several of the old workstation for myself. They also might have me upgrade a few for some extra money too. I think I could handle a nice $1400 system, 5-10 older workstations, and about $10-15,000 cash for a few weekends of work. Man I don't even need to set up the OS, My brother will do that and his techies under him will set up and test the systems. Just nobody in their 5000 employee company knows how to design a good system and they are sick of their OEM systems.

    I just wish I could test the program on a few systems. He wants to get me a copy to test on my system sometime next week. He will bring along another 512MB DDR to slap in too. The Compaq system should be in by the end of the next week. He can then get me the times for the old workstations and the new one to compare with my system to give me some ideas about how differant systems work. I will also try it on my Duron 900, 256MB PC150 cas2, and GeForce2 GTS (210/410) (more memory if he drings some of that too). That would give me a nice Christmas pressent and a possible starting as a subcontracted computer builder. He has LOTS of contacts in several companies as does another of my brothers. This will give me some good marks for gewtting into these other places.
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  2. #2
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    Thats a nice chunk of change for a few weekends of work... Say, do you need any help building all those systems? I'll lend you my services

    Good luck...
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  3. #3
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    OCing aside (which I'm sure they WON'T do), a good DDR system will run with RDRAM. SiS645 is a good chipset, so you could pull off DDR and save them money. If they can afford the 2.53ghz P4 and really need new systems now, then that is what I would go with.

    Do you really think they need the R9700? It's a bit new and expensive. Granted it does perform well, but will they need that much 3D power? You may be better off using the R9000 instead. It will probably offer all that their program needs at over half the price. I guess that will depend on the program, but it's good that you have dual display in mind. Matrox is a good choice in the workstation sector as well.

    Also, keep in mind these systems will have to be rather quiet to meet regulated office standards (OSHA, I think). You may want to research that so your systems aren't too loud.

    Sounds like a good deal to land. You, of course, will owe us all a consulting fee.

  4. #4
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    Man, that's a nice load of cash and very good benefits considering all you have to do is spend a couple hours each weekend setting these things up

    I don't know much about the Radeon8800, but that would probably be a better choice because its designed for OpenGL CAD-type work. Same with the 750XGL (but why not something more like an MX version of the 750?). I'm not good on the workstation side of video cards.. As for the hard drive, awesome choice. The P4 on DDR should also perform quite nicely for the task.

    Feel like having them send me one of those old machines?
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  5. #5
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    I picked the SiS chipset because it was about the best DDR chipset, it was not new so many bugs have been worked out, and the 648 had some trouble with the 9700. I was looking at the 9700 for a few reasons. First is it should have plenty of horsepower to beat the 750 without too much trouble, second is that is was cheaper than the 750 and third is that if I do get the system after testing then I'd want the 9700.

    The P4 2.53 has come down considerably in price. It only runs about $250. The 2.8 is about double that. I was thinking of the i845e chipset, but figured I'd really get a better motherboard with a SiS chipset on a good board like ASUS. The graphics card seems to be the big factore. Is it worth the 750, 9700, or 4200?

    Anybody used Autodesk Inventor 5.0? Anybody realy know the differance between the Quantro4 750XGL and GeForce4 Ti 4600?
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  6. #6
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    If the key phrase really is :
    Their IT budget it pretty tight
    Here is a configuration from http://www.micropro.com :

    Spiral Mid Tower case + 300W PSU
    ASUS A7V333
    AMD XP2200+
    512MB Corsair PC2700
    WD 800JB
    MItsumi CD-FX54
    Chaintech GF4 Ti4200
    3Com NIC
    KB & M$ Mouse

    Total cost : $867

    Of course, you can add another 512MB DIMM for 180 or so. You can also use a loadable driver to make the GF4 act like a Quadro.

    I am willing to bet that the Compaq system, while costing around three times as much, will not be twice as fast. Maybe 20% but not much more.

    If they really have a tight budget this does not seem like a very difficult call to me.

  7. #7
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    I was actually thinking of throwing both ideas at my brother. I was looking at a better case/PS, slightly better memory and a version of the Ti4200 that came with the DVI to CTR addaptor. Small differances, but important. I was looking at just under that price shipped. I was thinking of a 2000+ or 2100+ though as the 2200+ is a bit flawed and I just don't trust it. I'm thinking he will opt for the P4 unless AMD gets off their but and actually releases the 2400+ and 2600+ to market VERY quickly.

    Think about it I can build a system with an AthlonXP 2200+ or use a P4 2.53Ghz for only $100 more. The 1.8Ghz will never keep up with a 2.53Ghz. The $100 more is well spent at this point. Now the 2400+ should come in at about the price that the 2200+ is right now (about $150) and the 2600+ will likely run about $200. This would put an AthlonXP 2600+ system about $50 LESS than a P4 2.53. This is a bit more attractive. It's up to AMD though. By the time they get it to market the Barton core will be ready (which would be very nice too).

    I need more imput on the video card though. I was even looking at vesions of the WildCat, but I know close to nothing on any of these (but the GeForce4 Ti4200) or how they would perform with this application.
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  8. #8
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    AthlonXP 2000+
    MSI 745 Ultra
    3DLabs WildcatVP
    2x512mb DDR
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    ...pick the rest...
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  9. #9
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    Which WildcatVP and is it that much faster. I read a reveiw on Tom's Hardware that had the FireGL 8700 and 8800, Wildcat VP760, VP870, and VP970 and the Quantro4 760XGL and 900XGL. The WildcatVP and XGL traded places on most of the benchmarks and the FireGL even did good in a few, but all these cards start at $450-600 and go up from there.

    I really wish he had the regular GeForce4 Ti4600 and Radeon 8500 to compare to along with the new Radeon 9700. When you can get 8500 for $100 and GeForce4 Ti4200 for $150 and 4600 for $300 and Radeon 9700 for $400, you wonder how much better if any these other card compare.

    As of right now I am sticking with the P4. If AMD gets off their buts quick enough I might change my mind. I don't think I have enough time for the test system to wait though. The 2.53 is a pretty good deal at $250. I'm too cheap to get one for my own system, but for these purposes, it will likely be best.
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  10. #10
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    For the applications you mentioned, which are not SSE2 optimized, even a much slower AMD chip will be faster than the fastest Intel chip, due to a brawnier FPU...
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  11. #11
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    ....oh and BTW, the FireGL 8800 is now available for $330. I'd personally go for the WildcatVP due to much more hardware capability....all the potential isn't yet revealed with the current drivers....
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  12. #12
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    You know, I've seen some damn long descriptions of where people live, and I was just wondering how freakin' long of a location they actually allow you to write in here. Looks like it's quite a bit. Oh well, if the space is here I'll use it!!! :)
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    I haven't played with Inventor much, but I do use Mechanical Desktop on a daily basis. It depends really on which mode things are displayed in as to the importance of the graphics card. If the engineers are always using wireframe models, then a Matrox G400 would be just fine. If they like working in shaded models, then OpenGL hardware acceleration does become more important. My 8500 is noticeably faster (um... that's an understatement) than the GF2 GTS our machines at work use in manipulating shaded models. Also remember that the GF4 (as mentioned) can be "hacked" with software pretty easily to become a Quadro4.

    As for the processor (again, this is Mech Dektop, not inventor, although since they're both AutoDesk there's a good chance performance is similar) my 1.2 Tbird on SDRAM routinely laid the smack down on our work 1.4 Willamettes with 1GB RDRAM. The difference in rendering times and complex functions (lofting complex solids etc.) was 50% or more typically. The Northwood should be faster of course, and my estimate would put 2.8 Northwood on par with an XP 2000+ on DDR. This is just in the one program, with only a few uncontrolled tests, so don't take my word as gospel.

    Something I'd like to stress is Hard Drive. Working with CAD day in day out, I know that saving and backing up your work is critical. Losing an hour of labor intensive modeling just really blows, and CAD programs aren't known to be the most stable on the planet (that's the understatement of the century). The files can get quite large, and in some cases a single quick save can take several minutes. HDD speed is crucial... if it's too slow, then the engineer will either lose time saving, or be so frustrated that they don't save as often, which in the end will cost them lost time when they can't recover the file after an error. In addition to speed, you need adequate storage space to make backups of your work (some Autodesk errors corrupt the file beyond what audit and recover functions can salvage).

    If you were asking me what I'd want in a CAD workstation for a given amount of money, this is what I'd tell you: give me a decent mid-high end CPU (P4A 2.4 or XP 2000+ or better), a mid range graphics card (an 8500 or GF4 would be plenty, for AutoDesk products you really don't need a FireGL, Oxygen, or Wildcat type card), and give me a SCSI system disk (or a blazing fast IDE... like the WD special edition). Something like an Ultra160 10krpm 20GB system disk and a 40+ GB IDE storage disk would be ideal. If you had to cut corners on price, I'd say do it on the CPU first, GPU next, and HDD last.
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  13. #13
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    Actually, the GF4 and GF4MX model cards cannot be modded to the Quatro line of cards anymore. The GF2--> Quadro2 works better than the GF4MX--> Quadro4MX because nVidia got smart and changed a bit in the core. In the past (GeForce1-GeForce3), they used the exact same chip with a different BIOS and drivers. However, they now use a slightly modified chip to eliminate any gain by modding the card to a Quatro4. I read a review on this somewhere. I was actually going to recommend getting a GeForce2 and modding it to a Quatro2 in my first post.

    I would also agree on the hard drive speed. It is very critical. Since you are saving them so much money, I'm sure you could add SCSI to each computer and still the systems would be much cheaper than the Compaq system..
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  14. #14
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    Wow. Thanks. That was a lot of help. By the sounds of it they used other parts of that program, but Inventer was the most used. Now I just might have to push a little harder for AMD. I know they smoke the P4 in Maya pretty bad, but other apps tended to lean towards the P4. I realize a lot of this was do to the SSE2 opptimizations.

    As for the graphics card I really got the impresion that the Quanto and RireGL cards mostly ship with patches and drivers optimized for a few of the big CAD apps and such and Autodesk was not one of them. I was thinking of targeting for a cheap box like an AthlonXP 2000+ with 512MB DDR and a GeForce4 Ti4200 or Radeon 8500 for about $800. The other system would be a P4 2.53Ghz with 1GB DDR and a Radeon 9700 and I will try to beat the other system at half the price at about $1350. An Athlon 2400+ or 2600+ would also be nice (as would the 2700+ on a 333Mhz bus), but I might not be able to wait that long. I am hoping my brother can bring the program over tommarow so I can test it on my AthlonXP 1600+ and GeForce4 Ti 4200. Then I can compare it to their currant servers and the new server when it comes in. If I can wait that long I would feel a bit safer weither I could beat the system easy. That would really make me happy.

    I also am looking at the WD 8MB cache drives in the 80GB range. I will find out from him how much storage they really use. SCSI drives generally are not very big. I need to find out how big of drives he will need. From the sound of it things will be saved directly over their network to their servers. Also for the test system he wanted me to stick with the same IDE 7200RPM drives. That leave me to the WD drive for any extra performance since he does not want RAID.
    Last edited by Todd a; September 8th, 2002 at 08:19 PM.
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  15. #15
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    Actually I got some more information about what I am running up against. He said they have about 10 dual PIII 800Mhz with Quantro2, a Dual P4 1.7Ghz with a Quantro 2, and about 8 single PII 550 with some original quantros. They also ordered the 2.8Ghz with the 750XGL, but they have 30 days to try it out. So now I need to bring my system in tommarow to his company and they will drop in a drive with Windows 2000 Pro pre installed. I will then install all my drivers off a CD and run the benchmarks. I think I will beat the pants of the workstations they already have and likely come close to the one that is coming in if Athlnos are that much better. Then we will sit down and order a system this weekend for the main test. I'll have a about 2 weeks to get the parts and get the system set up. Then they will test and and evaluate weither it performed good enough against a sytem costing 2-3 times as much. My brother thinks if my currant system can beat the dual P4 1.7Ghz they have then I am a shoe-in. The better I beat the 2.8, though the more he can rub it in on the IT guy. He said this guy has ordered about the worst system he has ever seen and has been the #1 cause of all downtime and upgrades they have made in the 2.5 years he has been there. Maybe I can get his job. I think the possition starts at about $55-65,000 a year. I think I am going to clear about $35,000 (plus about $5 for this job if I get it) this year.
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