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Author Topic: PC configuration question  (Read 5996 times)
duffergirl
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« on: December 27, 2008, 12:39:56 PM »
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Hi everyone

I have been delaying my purchase of a new desktop computer as I have not been able to get my wish list in one affordable PC that has everything on my laundry list.  Now I am willing to make compromises to accelerate my purchase.

I am not a gamer and will be using the desktop mostly to house, manage and to work on my digital pictures.  So I have a couple of questions;

1) considering I am not a gamer...would 256 video card be suitable for now and the foreseeable future?  I am willing to spend the extra $$ to go up to 512 but I don't know exactly what advantage I would get.  Can anyone explain that?

2) Memory....one system I am considering can only house 4 gig max....will that be enough?  A second system I am considering can house 6gig...would I really notice the difference?  I will be working with Photoshop CS3 and most likely Lightroom.  No video editing.

3) OS - this is a foggy area for me...my current PC that I will be trashing after upgrading has XP....so I have not worked with any other newer versions.  My laptop is a MAC.  There is an ability to continue on XP and upgrade at a later date.  That is not appealing to me as I would like to get onto the most stable, up to date, and appropriate OS for dealing with my photos.  Should I just jump into Vista Ultimate?  Will that system suffice....or should I go to the 64 bit version?  

thanks in advance
Tammy
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2008, 12:58:14 PM »
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1) With CS4 photoshop now uses the video card, I don't have the link but Adobe provides a list of compatible video cards, I think they also suggest 512mb as a minimum.

2) Using non 64 bit systems the maximum memory windows/photoshop will use is 3GB and that is only with the /3GB switch in the boot.ini file. I've just bought 8GB of RAM since upgrading to 64 bit and my motherboard can't hold more which is a shame given the stupidly low price of RAM at present.

3) The above should have answered that for you, lots of people who run Vista 64 bit and are happy with it around here. I'm in the process of seeing whether XP 64bit will be sufficient, very few drivers out there though...
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David Sutton
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« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2008, 03:15:48 PM »
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Hi  Tammy. First go for a fast cpu. A fast 2 core will do the job. After that you hit the law of diminishing returns (you may possibly get more speed from a quad core but the price goes up and many applications don't support more than one core anyway).
Some other considerations: a separate drive for your images, a separate drive for your photoshop scratch disk. If you are going the pc route a motherboard that supports 2 video cards in case you want to have 2 monitors. You can do it with with a single dual head card but it's a little more fiddly on the colour management front.
Many people have reported success with vista 64bit. In a recent thread (http://luminous-landscape.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=29674&st=0) someone posted an action to test speed, and I think from memory the results came in as ranging from 10 to 60 seconds. Mine came in at 32 seconds without restarting and without shutting down any other programs (virus scanners etc.). Fast enough for my needs on XP pro, 2 core processor, and 4 gb ram with 3G switch. Cheers, David
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Scott McGee
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« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2008, 04:59:21 AM »
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I too was recently confronted with finding a newer, more powerful system that would handle my photos while at the same time providing future upgradability. I looked at all the major companies (Dell, HP, Falcon NW, Alienware, etc.) and couldn't find a system configured the way I wanted for a reasonable price. So I ended up building a system myself. If you want a fast system, I recommend going with the new Core i7 processors (920, 940, or 965) with 8 to 12 GB of RAM. For an operating system, go with Vista 64-bit. Also, if you can afford it, you should get a fast 10,000 RPM drive for the OS and two high capacity drives for your data configured for RAID0.

Here are the specs of my new home-built system:
Core i7-965 processor (3.2GHz)
Gigabyte GA-EX58 motherboard
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
12GB DDR3 RAM
300GB 10,000 RPM SATA drive for OS and programs
2 - 1.5 TB 7,200 RPM SATA drives in RAID0 for data
nVidia Quadro CX GPU w/1.5GB RAM

I've just run a test of this system against my old dual Xeon 2.8 GHz Dell Precision 530 workstation (Vista Ultimate 32-bit and 4GB RAM), and my new system blows the doors off the Dell. I work with large panoramas that range in file size from 500MB to 1.8GB. My test consisted of opening a 1.2GB file and running some typical actions on it (curves, flatten, resize, sharpen, and save using Photoshop CS4). The Dell ran the test in 4 minutes 55 seconds. My new system ran the test in 31 seconds. That's 9.5 times faster than the dual Xeon Dell!

So, my recommendation is to go with the fastest CPU and drives, and as much RAM as you can afford. More than 4GB of RAM will provide huge returns if you work with large files (>500MB). And if you go with a 64-bit CPU, then it makes no sense to go with a 32-bit OS, so I would recommend Vista 64-bit (Home or Ultimate - either one, doesn't really matter too much). Good luck!

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Scott McGee
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Plekto
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« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2008, 04:26:29 PM »
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I'd honestly take a jump over to Linux or BSD, since it's exactly what OSX on the Mac is, aside from the fancy interface.   Very reliable and inexpensive.   Unless you have an app that *must* be on Windows, you're better off ditching the nonsense. If you must have Photoshop, then get a Mac.

Oh - with PAE enabled, you can actually get most 32 bit OSes to run up to 64Gigs of ram.  Microsoft purposely disables this so that they can force users to "upgrade" to 64 bit versions, which is another reason that I don't like them.  In Linux, it's a simple 1 minute tweak and presto-as much as you need.  On a Mac, it's enabled by default now.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_Address_Extension
Neat trick if you have an Intel processor and are running most anything other than Windows.

Windows also has a nasty problem where it only allows 2GB per process(3 with that switch), which means that you're but out of luck.  Ie - even with Vista, though it can use a bit more memory, the processes themselves can't use more than 2-3GB each.   When you want one giant app, you can't get it.  And 64 bit Windows is a lot like Linux in that it's not backwards compatible most of the time and has the same issues with availability of native supported titles.
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feppe
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« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2008, 05:26:54 PM »
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Quote from: Plekto
I'd honestly take a jump over to Linux or BSD, since it's exactly what OSX on the Mac is, aside from the fancy interface.   Very reliable and inexpensive.   Unless you have an app that *must* be on Windows, you're better off ditching the nonsense. If you must have Photoshop, then get a Mac.

With the threat of derailing this into an OS thread: there is no serious photo editing for Linux, so there is no "if" in "if you must have Photoshop." GIMP is an absolute joke, or at least it was two years ago when I last tested it - no color managed workflow breaks it before even trying it. And don't get me started on the UI.
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Farmer
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« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2008, 06:30:33 PM »
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Quote from: Plekto
Windows also has a nasty problem where it only allows 2GB per process(3 with that switch), which means that you're but out of luck.  Ie - even with Vista, though it can use a bit more memory, the processes themselves can't use more than 2-3GB each.   When you want one giant app, you can't get it.  And 64 bit Windows is a lot like Linux in that it's not backwards compatible most of the time and has the same issues with availability of native supported titles.

Vista 64 happily runs the vast majority of 32bit apps and has drivers for the vast majority of modern hardware.  Apps that are 64bit (LR 2 and PS CS4) are not limited in how much RAM they use - my LR 2 and PS CS4 will happily use lots of the 8GB I currently have.  Support for 64bit is growing and the rate of growth is increasing (as you'd expect).

Vista 64 *IS* backward compatible most of the time - it's specifically built to run 32bit apps.  It's also been extremely stable in my use and there are tangible benefits for using more RAM in 64bit PS when using large files.

Outside of LR and PS, how many people here are likely to need an app to have more than 2-3GB of address space?  I'd venture to say that most would never encounter such an issue and by the time there are more apps that demand such vast amounts they'll be available in 64bit and problem solved.

OSX is a good choice, but you'll just have to wait for 64bit PS.  Other than personal preference, though, there's not a lot between the two OSs and they remain the only real choice if you want to run LR and PS (WINE is an option and Adobe is publically working with them to help, but it's not there yet and I don't know about 64bit support so you'd need to check that).
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duffergirl
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« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2008, 06:56:00 PM »
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Hi Scott

I had considered (but only for a moment!!) getting a system built for me.....I don't want to go with Mac because I think their systems are too much $$ and they could also use some upgrading.
I did want to ask you why you chose raid0 or raid1?  
Also, why such a powerful graphics card?

thanks again

Quote from: Scott McGee
I too was recently confronted with finding a newer, more powerful system that would handle my photos while at the same time providing future upgradability. I looked at all the major companies (Dell, HP, Falcon NW, Alienware, etc.) and couldn't find a system configured the way I wanted for a reasonable price. So I ended up building a system myself. If you want a fast system, I recommend going with the new Core i7 processors (920, 940, or 965) with 8 to 12 GB of RAM. For an operating system, go with Vista 64-bit. Also, if you can afford it, you should get a fast 10,000 RPM drive for the OS and two high capacity drives for your data configured for RAID0.

Here are the specs of my new home-built system:
Core i7-965 processor (3.2GHz)
Gigabyte GA-EX58 motherboard
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
12GB DDR3 RAM
300GB 10,000 RPM SATA drive for OS and programs
2 - 1.5 TB 7,200 RPM SATA drives in RAID0 for data
nVidia Quadro CX GPU w/1.5GB RAM

I've just run a test of this system against my old dual Xeon 2.8 GHz Dell Precision 530 workstation (Vista Ultimate 32-bit and 4GB RAM), and my new system blows the doors off the Dell. I work with large panoramas that range in file size from 500MB to 1.8GB. My test consisted of opening a 1.2GB file and running some typical actions on it (curves, flatten, resize, sharpen, and save using Photoshop CS4). The Dell ran the test in 4 minutes 55 seconds. My new system ran the test in 31 seconds. That's 9.5 times faster than the dual Xeon Dell!

So, my recommendation is to go with the fastest CPU and drives, and as much RAM as you can afford. More than 4GB of RAM will provide huge returns if you work with large files (>500MB). And if you go with a 64-bit CPU, then it makes no sense to go with a 32-bit OS, so I would recommend Vista 64-bit (Home or Ultimate - either one, doesn't really matter too much). Good luck!
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« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2008, 07:18:24 PM »
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Quote from: Farmer
Vista 64 happily runs the vast majority of 32bit apps and has drivers for the vast majority of modern hardware.  Apps that are 64bit (LR 2 and PS CS4) are not limited in how much RAM they use - my LR 2 and PS CS4 will happily use lots of the 8GB I currently have.  Support for 64bit is growing and the rate of growth is increasing (as you'd expect).

Vista 64 *IS* backward compatible most of the time - it's specifically built to run 32bit apps.  It's also been extremely stable in my use and there are tangible benefits for using more RAM in 64bit PS when using large files.

Outside of LR and PS, how many people here are likely to need an app to have more than 2-3GB of address space?  I'd venture to say that most would never encounter such an issue and by the time there are more apps that demand such vast amounts they'll be available in 64bit and problem solved.

OSX is a good choice, but you'll just have to wait for 64bit PS.  Other than personal preference, though, there's not a lot between the two OSs and they remain the only real choice if you want to run LR and PS (WINE is an option and Adobe is publically working with them to help, but it's not there yet and I don't know about 64bit support so you'd need to check that).
Well said.
I think we get bogged down with our computers and spend to much time fiddling with the wretched things. The question I asked with mine was how well would it work out of the box, so to speak, and how up-gradeable. I don't mind losing a few seconds per image (and that's all it is at the most) if I don't have to worry about wasting time finding drivers, or having it stop working or all the other things that trouble us. I had my pc built to my specs (Intel core 2 E8400, over 1tb storage on 3 drives blah blah) and bought XP Pro for less than the cost of a 40D body. Let's keep it in perspective. How much has anyone here spent on camera gear in the last few years?
The test for me was stitching 500mb panoramas in Autopano pro. I used to have to go away and do other things for a long time. Now by the time I open my web browser and come over here it's done. Good enough. D
Edit: I'd always spend the money on the monitors and profiling anyway. That's the crucial thing. Just as with cameras it's a good lens that really hurts the back pocket, but pays dividends.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2008, 07:24:18 PM by Taquin » Logged

John.Murray
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« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2008, 09:01:56 PM »
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Quote from: duffergirl
Hi everyone

I have been delaying my purchase of a new desktop computer as I have not been able to get my wish list in one affordable PC that has everything on my laundry list.  Now I am willing to make compromises to accelerate my purchase.

I am not a gamer and will be using the desktop mostly to house, manage and to work on my digital pictures.  So I have a couple of questions;

1) considering I am not a gamer...would 256 video card be suitable for now and the foreseeable future?  I am willing to spend the extra $$ to go up to 512 but I don't know exactly what advantage I would get.  Can anyone explain that?
256MB card should be perfectly adequate, however, I'd recommend getting a card that will work with dual displays should you choose - 512MB
should cover that.  I've always like nVidia chipset cards, but given the thermal issues that have recently revealed - you may want to steer clear and go with an ATI chipset.

Quote
2) Memory....one system I am considering can only house 4 gig max....will that be enough?  A second system I am considering can house 6gig...would I really notice the difference?  I will be working with Photoshop CS3 and most likely Lightroom.  No video editing.
Make sure your chosen system is capable of 16GB Ram, then depending on your O/S choice, go with 4 or 8GB.  Check available memory slots your system board offers, I would steer clear of boards that only offer only two memory slots.  2GB DDR2 memory sticks right now are cheap.  I understand you intend on staying with CS3, but you *really* ought to consider CS4 w/64bit support . . . .  

Quote
3) OS - this is a foggy area for me...my current PC that I will be trashing after upgrading has XP....so I have not worked with any other newer versions.  My laptop is a MAC.  There is an ability to continue on XP and upgrade at a later date.  That is not appealing to me as I would like to get onto the most stable, up to date, and appropriate OS for dealing with my photos.  Should I just jump into Vista Ultimate?  Will that system suffice....or should I go to the 64 bit version?
I'd strongly recommend 64bit - but *check* compatibility with your existing hardware, printers, scanners, etc.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2008, 09:18:12 PM by Joh.Murray » Logged

Plekto
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« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2008, 09:33:55 PM »
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IIRC, there is a program for *IX that is better than GIMP, and Codeweavers does make a better supported commercial product.

http://www.codeweavers.com/ - Check out Crossover Linux.  It might be a cheap way to get it all to work.  Since the OS is free, it doesn't hurt to try, IMO.  At worst, you decide it doesn't work and stick some version of Windows on it.

http://blog.wired.com/monkeybites/2008/02/...shop-works.html
An interesting article I ran across.

http://max.limpag.com/2007/05/27/installin...n-ubuntu-linux/
He seems to have gotten it running this way.  But it does have the same memory issues as XP.  

http://blog.wired.com/monkeybites/2008/01/...-photoshop.html
There also is Pixel.  This might work a tad better?

Or you could make your own Hackintosh...
« Last Edit: December 30, 2008, 09:38:27 PM by Plekto » Logged
Scott McGee
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« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2008, 09:48:32 PM »
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Quote from: duffergirl
Hi Scott

I had considered (but only for a moment!!) getting a system built for me.....I don't want to go with Mac because I think their systems are too much $$ and they could also use some upgrading.
I did want to ask you why you chose raid0 or raid1?  
Also, why such a powerful graphics card?

thanks again


A couple reasons for choosing a RAID0 setup for my data:
1) I wanted the fastest possible read and write performance, because I frequently work with very large files (from 500MB up to ~2GB).
2) RAID0 provides no data protection if a drive in the RAID array should fail. But that's not an issue for me because I run an automated backup from the RAID0 to multiple other backup systems daily.

The reason I went with the Quadro CX is due to the large files I'm working with. On my old system with a Radeon x1950 Pro card, panning, zooming, and redrawing the screen in Photoshop CS4 was painfully slow with my large files. The Quadro CX makes navigating around a photo as smooth as silk. Even with a 1.5GB file loaded, I can pan and zoom in real-time with absolutely no on-screen delay. It's now a joy to work with my large files, whereas before I dreaded the long waits for screen redraws. I also work with 3d data in ArcGIS, so the CX provides a big speed boost for that type of work. Another plus for the Quadro CX is greatly improved video rendering times. Although I don't do a lot of video at this point in time, I'll probably get more into it eventually, so having the CX will benefit me in the future as well.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2008, 10:12:55 PM by Scott McGee » Logged


Scott McGee
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« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2008, 10:49:24 AM »
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Scott:

some consumer graphics cards have as much as 2GB of memory.  Do you not think they would do the job?  The pro card that you have costs (correctly if I am wrong) more that $2K.

Quote from: Scott McGee
A couple reasons for choosing a RAID0 setup for my data:
1) I wanted the fastest possible read and write performance, because I frequently work with very large files (from 500MB up to ~2TB).
2) RAID0 provides no data protection if a drive in the RAID array should fail. But that's not an issue for me because I run an automated backup from the RAID0 to multiple other backup systems daily.

The reason I went with the Quadro CX is due to the large files I'm working with. On my old system with a Radeon x1950 Pro card, panning, zooming, and redrawing the screen in Photoshop CS4 was painfully slow with my large files. The Quadro CX makes navigating around a photo as smooth as silk. Even with a 1.5TB file loaded, I can pan and zoom in real-time with absolutely no on-screen delay. It's now a joy to work with my large files, whereas before I dreaded the long waits for screen redraws. I also work with 3d data in ArcGIS, so the CX provides a big speed boost for that type of work. Another plus for the Quadro CX is greatly improved video rendering times. Although I don't do a lot of video at this point in time, I'll probably get more into it eventually, so having the CX will benefit me in the future as well.
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Scott McGee
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« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2008, 12:37:39 PM »
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Quote from: VanKou
Scott:

some consumer graphics cards have as much as 2GB of memory.  Do you not think they would do the job?  The pro card that you have costs (correctly if I am wrong) more that $2K.

Yes, of course they'd do the job. The only question is how would they compare to the Quadro CX. I don't know the answer to that. But you could check sites such as gpureview.com and compare various cards. I think the higher-end consumer level cards that you're talking about would be more than adequate for most people's workflow.
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Scott McGee
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« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2008, 04:27:36 PM »
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Quote from: Scott McGee
Yes, of course they'd do the job. The only question is how would they compare to the Quadro CX. I don't know the answer to that. But you could check sites such as gpureview.com and compare various cards. I think the higher-end consumer level cards that you're talking about would be more than adequate for most people's workflow.

I rarely have files over 500GB open - so I sort of stop where Scott starts :-)  My nVidia 9800GTX+ 512MB does just fine with these files on a dual screen setup under Vista 64.  If you have need for very large files as does Scott, then you're going to need more powerful cards such as the Quadro CX or you'll have to deal with rendering delays.  For most people, even a 9800GTX+ is probably overkill but at less than $200- a lesser card seemed less of a bargain.
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Sheldon N
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« Reply #15 on: December 31, 2008, 11:00:44 PM »
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I routinely work with files over 500GB in size (4x5 film scans) and my graphics card (ATI Radeon HD 4850) handles them fine for CS4 screen redraws and zoom/flick panning, etc. (Vista 64bit, 8GB RAM). My card has 512MB of video RAM and is made by Sapphire, cost only $140 or so.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2008, 11:01:05 PM by Sheldon N » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2009, 03:56:18 AM »
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Quote from: Scott McGee
A couple reasons for choosing a RAID0 setup for my data:
1) I wanted the fastest possible read and write performance, because I frequently work with very large files (from 500MB up to ~2GB).
2) RAID0 provides no data protection if a drive in the RAID array should fail. But that's not an issue for me because I run an automated backup from the RAID0 to multiple other backup systems daily.
Scott

Don't understand. I thought if you had 2 hard drives in a RAID 0 (mirror) arrangement, all files were duplicated on both discs. Therefore if one hard drive fails, all the data is on the other. I realise it's not a system backup as such, so would need to do that to an external storage media, e.g Norton Ghost (don't know what the backup utilities in Vista 64 Home Premium are like.
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« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2009, 04:31:30 AM »
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Quote from: NigelC
Scott

Don't understand. I thought if you had 2 hard drives in a RAID 0 (mirror) arrangement, all files were duplicated on both discs. Therefore if one hard drive fails, all the data is on the other. I realise it's not a system backup as such, so would need to do that to an external storage media, e.g Norton Ghost (don't know what the backup utilities in Vista 64 Home Premium are like.
Nigel


Your're thinking of RAID1 (mirror). That setup mirrors one drive to a second one. So you have identical files on both drives - it's essentially an automatic backup. RAID0 (stripe) writes part of a file on one drive and the other part of the same file on the second drive. So it's spreading a file across two drives at the same time, which is why the read and write performance is better than with RAID1. But in order to gain the performance advantage, RAID0 gives up data security. So therefore it's very important to have a consistent and reliable backup procedure.
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Scott McGee
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« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2009, 05:07:25 AM »
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Quote from: Scott McGee
Your're thinking of RAID1 (mirror). That setup mirrors one drive to a second one. So you have identical files on both drives - it's essentially an automatic backup. RAID0 (stripe) writes part of a file on one drive and the other part of the same file on the second drive. So it's spreading a file across two drives at the same time, which is why the read and write performance is better than with RAID1. But in order to gain the performance advantage, RAID0 gives up data security. So therefore it's very important to have a consistent and reliable backup procedure.

Thanks for explanation
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« Reply #19 on: January 02, 2009, 04:53:08 PM »
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Hi Everyone,

One caveat you need to be aware of when using Windows Vista X64.  Canon does not provide WIA drivers to support their camera so the ability to shoot tethered is not available.  Recently, I wanted to do some studio work with my 5D and shoot tethered on my HP Notebook with Vista Ultimate X64.  When I tried to find a driver from Canon for my 5D, none are available.  They are available for 32bit Vista but not for X64.

In doing lots of research on the web, I found many posts on various forums that validate this fact.  the Canon website itself says that it is coming, but I found one post from a user user that has been calling Canon for about 18 months and still no driver.  Canon has recently released some of their utility software for Vista x64 but the driver needed to allow the camera and the computer to communicate is not available.  Without this driver, the software is pretty much useless also.

The Windows world is moving to X64 O/S' and Canon does not seem to care.  What a shame. I'm now thinking I need to purchase another notebook with Vista x86 in order to shoot tethered or continue to shoot on CF and download manually.

Anyone else experience this?  Any advise (other than get a Mac or switch to Nikon) would be appreciated.

Fernand
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