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Hardware Thread, [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future?? in Technical; Hot on the heels of my query about the Intel CPU's I figure I'd ask for some opinions on a ...
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    contink's Avatar
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    [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    Hot on the heels of my query about the Intel CPU's I figure I'd ask for some opinions on a specification for primary school that would be able to handle a minimum of 5 years of service.

    This question gets a little split though as I'd like to consider two options.

    1. A good motherboard with potential to upgrade the CPU, RAM and possibly the Graphics (for vista presumably) at a later date*

    2. A good all round system that can handle vista from the get go but is also WinXP compat for the first 2-3 years.


    The areas I'm already confident of are:
    - Hard drive (80Gb should be plenty)
    - Initial RAM (1Gb) (1 stick! - no point in getting matched pairs and lose a potential upgrade slot)
    - DVD ROM


    So, any ideas, thoughts?




    *Upgradeable: The reason for this suggestion is that it's something I did in one school with a good MB capable of AM2 CPU's, DDR2, etc.. but I popped in Sempron 2800's with 512Mb or RAM initially. Cost wise it's cheap (@ £30) compared to paying £200+ for an X2 5000Mhz Athlon as was back then. The downside of course is mainly down to the stress to the MB when upgrading the CPU if you're not careful.

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    contink's Avatar
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    Re: [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    Updated the title to make it a little less confusing...

    Anyone?

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    Elky's Avatar
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    Re: [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    Hi contink

    We can help but I dont want to just throw some options at you without your say so. Let me know if you want to me supply some ideas and I'll get some details over to you

    Many thanks

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    Re: [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    Quote Originally Posted by Elky
    Hi contink

    We can help but I dont want to just throw some options at you without your say so. Let me know if you want to me supply some ideas and I'll get some details over to you

    Many thanks
    I appreciate the query first...

    I'd be interested in some ideas certainly..

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    Re: [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    Quote Originally Posted by contink
    potential to upgrade the CPU, RAM and possibly the Graphics (for vista presumably) at a later date
    That right there is the answer. There's no way you can accurately predict where you school will be in 5 years, and what their requirements will be as there are simply too many variables. Even if you could produce a model for where you think things will go based on where you are today, this could change dramatically if you got a new head, or a few new teachers, who are either really IT-minded or technophobes - either of those could totally rain on your 5-year-plan.

    One thing of which you can be certain is that the demand for bigger and faster hardware will continue, so get the best your money can buy today and leave room in the boxes to add or change things as the need arises, and make sure that the future budgets factor in these changes.

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    contink's Avatar
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    Re: [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    Quote Originally Posted by NickJones
    Quote Originally Posted by contink
    potential to upgrade the CPU, RAM and possibly the Graphics (for vista presumably) at a later date
    That right there is the answer. There's no way you can accurately predict where you school will be in 5 years, and what their requirements will be as there are simply too many variables.
    Aye... and this was my thinking when I started my original 4 year plan which ended last June. Unfortunately there's a factor I hadn't considered and that was availability of parts or more specifically; that AMD would stop producing socket 939 CPU's so quickly that obtaining the top range 4800 x2 core would prove impossible after less than 3 months from AMD moving to the AM2 socket. My head pure spun. Then on top of that I found that I had a slew of version 1 AX8's which are not x2 core boards which further fubar'd my plans.

    To that end I actually find myself at odds with my original plan of building in an upgrade path that's more than 18 months ahead. But if that approach were adopted I'd ensure that the budget plans for that upgrade and is available to spend in less than 3 weeks if we realise that supply will just drop out from under us.

    One thing of which you can be certain is that the demand for bigger and faster hardware will continue, so get the best your money can buy today and leave room in the boxes to add or change things as the need arises, and make sure that the future budgets factor in these changes.
    Well this is where I wonder if you're entirely right here. We are after all, talking about Primary schools and the usual lag in software development that follows with it. I'm actually sitting looking at the specification I put together for some socket 7 systems with Athlon 2800 CPU's in them and they've lasted a solid 4+ years now and can still handle another two, although a couple have died from crappy PSU's failing rather spectacularly.

    So, really I'm wondering if the plan should be more one of expecting two years of XP but being capable of doing Vista and doing it well enough to not require replacement for another two to three after.

    You see what I'm getting at?

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    Re: [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    So, really I'm wondering if the plan should be more one of expecting two years of XP but being capable of doing Vista and doing it well enough to not require replacement for another two to three after.
    The system requirements for vista will increase with service packs, remember what happened to machines that were fine pre XPSP2. Plan for thin client, theres less that can scupper your plans esp if the software already runs on server side.

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    Re: [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    Quote Originally Posted by contink
    - Initial RAM (1Gb) (1 stick! - no point in getting matched pairs and lose a potential upgrade slot)
    You'll more than ,likely have 4 slots so filling 2 of them wont matter as you've still got room for another 2-4gb. 3-5gb is plenty for a primary school id say.


    Personally id go with the best CPUs i can as, as said, you wont be able to find CPUs of the same socket. Then be looking at building the RAM up as and when. Also id go onboard GFX and wait and see how vista goes when you come to it, you might not need a fancy GFX card but if you do by that time a compatible one will be peanuts

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    Re: [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    Thanks for those additional points.

    I'd forgotten that DDR2 does allow for 2Gb sticks instead of the 1Gb limit that DDR has on unreg'd sticks.

    .. I'd also forgotten the whole SP2 cafuffle as well...


    On the subject of CPU's does anyone envisage there being any real need for quad core for Vista in a primary school env'? I'm guessing not but I thought I'd ask..

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    Re: [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    In recent years I've rarely seen a middle-of-the-range CPU get remotely near a bottleneck (unless cracking crypto or as the side-effect of a memory leak and paging). In fact the amount of time CPUs spend doing not much is one of the reasons for server consolidation on ESX servers etc.

    Getting top of the range CPUs will add a lot to the cost and not do that much compared to decent disks and sufficient RAM (I'd want 2GB RAM now and holes to add another 2GB without throwing any existing RAM away). I very much doubt it would be essential in the next 5 years, but 64-bit capable CPUs *might* be worthwhile e.g. some entry level Core 2 Duos don't support 64-bit.

    My old home box is a ~7yr-old dual P-III 700MHz and still runs XP and the apps I want very well (including a VM or two).

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    Re: [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    Quote Originally Posted by NickJones
    Quote Originally Posted by contink
    potential to upgrade the CPU, RAM and possibly the Graphics (for vista presumably) at a later date
    That right there is the answer. There's no way you can accurately predict where you school will be in 5 years, and what their requirements will be as there are simply too many variables. Even if you could produce a model for where you think things will go based on where you are today, this could change dramatically if you got a new head, or a few new teachers, who are either really IT-minded or technophobes - either of those could totally rain on your 5-year-plan.

    One thing of which you can be certain is that the demand for bigger and faster hardware will continue, so get the best your money can buy today and leave room in the boxes to add or change things as the need arises, and make sure that the future budgets factor in these changes.
    there may be a demand for bigger and better hardware, but it certainly won't be at the rate we've seen in previous years. For instance what exactly are the requirements for Vista that a 3 year old Pentium 4 pc can't handle - certainly isn't proc speed, RAM can be easily and cheaply upgraded if required (as you've said leave space for extra sticks), shared ram and integrated grafx are fine if you can do without Aero - which most people can and should in my opinion. Yes, any new pc you need to buy you'll want the capability to expand but realistically only in the two areas you've mentioned - grafx and RAM.

    Even with the average grafx you'll get with an hp or dell business pc will be more than adequate for practically any task you conceivably want to throw at it - I'm guessing nones planning a large scale rollout of high-end cadcam or high-end video editing ?

    So a SFF pc like a HP DC7700 is perfect for a 4-5 year timespan. There aren't going to be any hard disk, network or other advances that are going to be a must have beyond what this pc features.

    Must haves for a realistic 4/5 year life span.

    2GB+ RAM

    2ghz+ Core 2 Duo or equivalent AMD. for all new PC's to handle 64bit and future multiple threaded apps.

    1000mbps ethernet NIC (schools are going to need 10gbps to the desktop like a fish needs a bicycle)

    64MB+ dedicated grafx

    80+ gb SATA drive.

    A couple of usb's and a firewire port.

    Bingo.

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    Re: [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    Quote Originally Posted by PiqueABoo
    In recent years I've rarely seen a middle-of-the-range CPU get remotely near a bottleneck (unless cracking crypto or as the side-effect of a memory leak and paging). In fact the amount of time CPUs spend doing not much is one of the reasons for server consolidation on ESX servers etc.

    Getting top of the range CPUs will add a lot to the cost and not do that much compared to decent disks and sufficient RAM (I'd want 2GB RAM now and holes to add another 2GB without throwing any existing RAM away). I very much doubt it would be essential in the next 5 years, but 64-bit capable CPUs *might* be worthwhile e.g. some entry level Core 2 Duos don't support 64-bit.

    My old home box is a ~7yr-old dual P-III 700MHz and still runs XP and the apps I want very well (including a VM or two).
    This is the most sensible and accurate post I've read in a long while, I agree with everything you've said. A lot of bs is spoken by people regarding hardware specs, and requirements for things like processor speed for day-to-day tasks in the middle range.

    To expand on my previous post, there is an advance in RAM just around the corner the emergence of DDR3 but that should really only interest of those looking to procure a server or graphics workstation - not for the average school or home PC.

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    Re: [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    As CyberNerd says have you considered Thin Clients, the initial setup cost is pretty steep but they will last allot longer than fat clients.

    Z

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    Re: [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    Quote Originally Posted by FN-Greatermanchester
    As CyberNerd says have you considered Thin Clients, the initial setup cost is pretty steep but they will last allot longer than fat clients.

    Z
    If it weren't for the fact that I'm offsite and only available on a limited one day a week basis on average, I'd probably suggest this but at present it makes more sense for these machines to be standalone capable so that any server problems only affect printing and net access rather than most classroom applications like word processing, or basic programs like 2publish, etc...

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    Re: [Primary] PC's spec balanced for future??

    Ah right well fat clients will be the best option then.

    Z

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