[rescue] Sun Kit Needed for EE Student Here

Don Y dgy at DakotaCom.Net
Wed May 3 12:02:38 CDT 2006

Wesley Will wrote:
> Aaron Finley wrote:
>> I just seems to be "fan boyish" to recommend a $200 Sun over a $200 PC
> He already -has- the "$200 PC."  The problem is, a -newer- machine
> with the processor capability you are talking about is -decidedly not-
> a "$200 PC" it is more like six or seven times that.  The memory
> -alone- runs more than that.  Any motherboard (PC type) that I can in
> good conscience recommend (reliability, longevity, and the like) costs
> more than $200.  The CPU -alone- costs more than $200.  Cases are
> relatively cheap.  Disks are very cheap.  Video controllers (other
> than the old free ones I can give him, some aren't even all that bad
> but they aren't gamer items or by any means 'high-end') are almost
> that at the lower end of the 'better-quality' scale, and upwards of
> twice that for the higher end.

He won't need a "gamer" video controller for engineering work.
(unless, like the neighbor's kid, here, he's trying to convince
daddy that he NEEDS a new computer "for school" -- and to
play all of the GAMES that he spends his "pin money" on...)

I do 3D CAD, solid modeling, PCB layout, etc. with a generic
video card on an 800MHz machine.  Hardly "light speed" but I
have found that the machine *still* ends up waiting for *me*
most of the time (except photo-rendering complex 3D animation
scenes -- which I let the machine do "overnight").

Assuming he wants a *big* disk (some of my CAD files get
pretty big... and the 3D renderings can eat disks faster
than you can upgrade them!), then he surely wants to avoid
SCSI, etc. in favor of "IDE" drives.

> Bare-bones, with RAM, CPU, some sort of disk and video, in a mediocre
> case retails for quite a lot over double that $200, and it's not
> anywhere near the top end which you are talking about.

But, you (he) don't need "top end".  I think the point is that you
(he) can get a lot closer to that "top end" (in terms of
performance) in the PC market than in the Sun market.  With
3GHz machines common, 2GHz machines quickly depreciate.

IMHO, the biggest *problem* with the PC route is that he'll
quickly be envious of his friends with *4* GHz machines, etc.
(and, since the PC world strongly encourages you to continually
upgrade software -- another PITA -- it's not long before he
*wants* that faster machine!).  My solution has been to
adjust my work habits to match the machines I use.  E.g.,
doing 3D renderings overnight along with 'make world'.
I try to work *smarter* instead of spending time waiting for
a machine (and then complaining that the machine isn't fast
enough) -- but that's a whole other thread...  :>   I write
most of my software on an NCD tethered to a dinky LX in the
other room... I never have to wait for more than a few seconds
for a 'make' (I am a fan of small modules instead of huge
megabyte files), the display is nice and large (and CRISP!)
and the LX uses less power than my laptop!  :-/

> Bang for the non-existent buck, I'll take commercial-grade el-cheapo
> Sun or SGI or DEC or whatever.  Besides, I figured this list if
> nowhere else on the planet would be in favour of getting more rescued
> kit back into solid and productive use.  I must admit I am somewhat
> non-plussed by some of the responses.

I think people are just being realistic. *I* wouldn't recommend
any of my neighbors, friends, etc. to go the "non-PC" route.
There are less resources for them to draw on (even for the
"little things").  Business is less eager to hire them
(they want someone that can *work*, not that needs to be
trained on their tools).  "Gee, it's great that you know
213 different emacs modes... but we don't run emacs, here..."

If he wants to explore other hardware/OS's, great!  See what
sort of hardware you can get FOR FREE and let him play with
it.  I have a friend who is always asking why I don't upgrade
*my* machines... or, why I have my network configured in the
(unnecessarily complex) way that it is.  In my case, I try
to learn how to do different things that I might not NEED
to do, otherwise (but, that I might *have* to do in a
business environment, etc.).  And, since the machines are
all free (or very close to it), all I am investing is my
*time* (which you have to invest if you want to learn
different things).


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