Monday, April 05, 2010

Breathing Life Into the Soul of a New Machine

My Intel 3.0 GHz Pentium4 with Microsoft XP Pro served me well these last 3 years but lately I've been experiencing some warning signs that a hard drive is about to die. Last month I set out to spec. and build my next image editing workstation designed to withstand another 3 years of wedding work. Here are the components I've chosen (pictured above):

. Intel Core i7 860 quad core processor
. ASUS P7P55D Deluxe motherboard
. 8GB OCZ DDR3 Dual Channel RAM
. 64-bit Windows 7 Pro OS
. Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5750 1GB VaporX graphics card
. six Western Digital Black 1TB hard drives (configured as a RAID 10)
. one Western Digital Blue 500GB hard drive
. Samsung Super WriteMaster 24x SATA Litescribe CD/DVD drive
. Thermaltake BlacX hard drive docking station
. Antec 900 enclosure
. Antec TruePower 650W power supply

>>> Total cost: $1900 (approx.)

The i7-860 processor is midrange these days and more than adequate for imaging work. Selecting a matching motherboard was easy but with the caveat that you must be sure the dual-channel RAM you buy is on the compatibility list. The GPU is again midrange and I went with the ATI because, according to my limited research, it supports a different LUT for each output. This allows me to run 2 monitors and calibrate them independently. The Sapphire VaporX version was chosen because it has also shown some superior cooling abilities which is a big plus. With everything being SATA getting the right power supply and enclosure with 8 drive bays was required, thus the Antec solution. Bonus, there are plenty of cooling fans in the enclosure.

Larger hard drives storing more data means a failure could wipe out a couple years of work. I went with a RAID to reduce the frequency of required backups. Intel's Matrix Storage is configured as 2 volumes (small and large) spanning 2 and 4 drives respectively. Since storage is so cheap, using a RAID 1 and RAID 10 is sensible and easier to maintain and rebuild in case of a drive failure.

After 2 days of moderate but sporadic effort, the system is ready and stable. One lesson learned, the Intel Matrix Storage Manager 8.9 is buggy and would periodically declare a drive failure in the RAID array when there was none. Upgrading to the Intel Rapid Storage Technology application solved that problem (free download). I'm also thankful that my Monaco Optix XR color calibration system continues to work on Windows 7. The DTP-94 (colorimeter aka puck), though not explicitly supported, works with the help of a Windows Vista 64-bit driver. No BSD experienced after installing the driver.

Lightroom 2 and Adobe CS4 are installed and the BlacX docking station helped migrate all my image files over. A test run rendering 700+ 1:1 full resolution images in Lightroom completed in well under an hour which was easily an overnight task on my old workstation. I'm happy :D

Hello wedding season, I am ready for you!

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