Posted tagged ‘PC’

Cubase LE 3 compatibility with Vista

January 15, 2009

I recently bought a Tascam FW-1082 FireWire interface for my home recording studio.  I won’t get into my issues with that just now, but I will mention this – it came bundled with a copy of Cubase LE and a copy of Gigastudio 3.

Gigastudio wouldn’t run.  Period.  It’s a Vista thing – it crashes the PC every time the app is opened.  So much for that.  But Cubase is mostly functional.  I wanted to mention this because it’s a classic case of “almost compatible.”  Really, most issues work fine.  It used to crash when I attempted to close it (or was that Finale 03?  Can’t remember – if it did, it doesn’t anymore.).  But it’s a lesson – if you can, get v4 if you use Vista.  If not, try to use v3.  Although it’s not supported, it does work to a large extent.

Though, I should mention that version 4 is supposed to be significantly better, especially for synth lovers.

The move to quad-core

October 15, 2008

I received this comment recently: “I am searching for configuration for a desktop with quad core processors. Plz Guide me. also tell me should i go for 45nm process or 65 nm will do.”

I’m writing this with gaming in mind, because that’s what many techies think of when they consider the move to quad.  If you’re in the market for a heavy processing number-cruncher but not a gaming rig, much of this still applies.  Just not the part about video cards and water cooling.

I’ll admit it – I rock the C2Q.  But first I want to say that you may not want it in the end.  Without getting too into the technical side, some gamers go with a dual core processor with very high per-core speed rather than a quad with lower core speeds.  I will also say that my entry-level C2Q is plenty fast at 2.4 GHz per core. 

Processor Selection 

At any rate, while I do game quite a bit (and use my PC as a home recording studio), I am mostly interested in the reliability/speed/price relationship.  And at risk of starting a flame war, I really only deal with Intel processors.  I won’t discuss the reasons because I’m trying to avoid arguments. =)  And I won’t change my mind.  So here’s some of my recommendations as far as Intel goes:

Intel C2Q Q6600 – relatively inexpensive (less than 200 USD for the retail edition), incredibly stable.  2.4 GHz per core.  Although I don’t do it regularly and I don’t officially recommend it, I have overclocked this processor a few times and it ran very reliably. 

My main issue with this processor is that it runs a 1066 MHz front side bus.  This is where your bottleneck will probably occur (if you are using 4 GB RAM).  The bus is like the highway the data travels on.  The higher the MHz level, the wider the freeway is.  Kind of.  At any rate, if you have the extra cash, you may want to go with something at 1333 MHz.  Like…. the

Intel C2Q Q9300 – 260 USD, 2.5 GHz.  It doesn’t sound much faster than 2.4, but with the faster FSB this one does have quite a bit of bang for the buck.  This uses the 45nm process, whereas the 6600 uses a 65nm process.  Since you had asked about them, the process essentially has to do with the size of the miniature “transistors” etched in the silicon chip.  Smaller process makes for faster, cooler processors.  If I were building another QC system I would seriously consider this one.  I don’t consider the decrease in nm to be a buying incentive (to answer your question).  The clock speed and the FSB are the determining factors, as I have seen supported by stats on the Interweeb.  And we all know that two things NEVER lie: statistics and the Internet.

There are several dual-core processors that run high speeds with 1333MHz FSB and the 45nm process.  If you want I can post some links to those, but I want to stick with QC for now.  I do need to mention one more:

Intel C2Q Q9550 – this is a beast and still manages to be on the low end of the middle of the quad core price range.  At 320 USD it’s a significant investment, but it runs at 2.83 GHz, uses the 45nm process, and runs on a 1333 MHz FSB.

If you seriously want to spend more, then go with a Core 2 Extreme.  I have never heard anything bad about them (except that you have to commit some kind of crime in order to pay for one).  Take your pick – they will all blow you away.


It’s really important that you pair your CPU with the proper cooling technology.  I am a fan of anything Zalman makes that is in the 30-60 USD price range.  I use Arctic Silver thermal paste (make sure to clean all the stock thermal grease off of the heatsink before applying the Arctic Silver).  Make sure you get the one for the LGA 775 socket if you are using the C2Q or C2E.  If you’re an AMD fanboy, you need the one for the corresponding AMD socket.  But I think anyone really into AMD has already quit reading this.

If you’re overclocking significantly, the stock cooler will not be sufficient.  After that, the next step is an aftermarket cooler like this one.  If that is not enough (or if you are REALLY OCing and want the most cooling you can get within reasonable prices) try water cooling, but be careful.  If you needwater cooling, you are OCing to a point where you threaten to damage the processor permanently.

Other components


With this kind of investment in a processor, you want a good motherboard to support it.  The best way to find a good one is 1) decide what you want, and 2) decide what you can afford, then 3) read the reviews on Newegg or another comparable site with text reviews.  If it gets a lot of DOAs, then don’t buy it.  I bought the ASUS P5E and like it a lot, though I wish I would have bought the one with integrated wifi.  It’s a bit pricey, but I would resist the urge to skimp on a mobo.  If you need to skimp, do it on the case or the DVD drive.  I would probably say that if it’s less than 100 USD, it’s probably not a great choice to support your investment.  If I did it again, I would definitely go with ASUS.  BTW, the reason the P5E is expensive is that it runs the X38 chipset.  If you get one that runs a Q35 chipset it will be much cheaper.

Bottom line is, with mobos (and most other components that have been on the market for more than a few months), you usually get what you pay for.

Power Supply

This one is subjective depending on your system.  If you are not running a high-end video card and you aren’t OCing the processor, you can get by with 300-400 watts.  Most corporate desktop models (such as Dell) typically have 250-350 watts.  If you OC, bump it up 50 watts.  If you run a high-end video card, maybe bump it up another 100 watts.  If you run SLI or CrossFire, bump it up another 100 watts (and get one that’s SLI certified).


Get as much as is reasonable.  If you’re running a 32-bit OS, get 4 GB.  If you’re running 64-bit, I would still probably only recommend 4, but you may want to try 8, especially if you are running Vista.  I recommend Kingston, Corsair, or Mushkin.  Kingston is probably my highest recommend.  They have DDR2-800 for very reasonable prices.

Make sure you get a speed of RAM that your motherboard supports.  This is critical, and if you don’t know, please ask and I would love to check on it for you.

Video Card

If you’re a gamer, you probably already know what you want here.  If not, keep in mind you get what you pay for.  As an owner of an ATI card, I would recommend an NVidia card.  Not because anything is wrong with mine (actually, it kicks butt).  Mainly because the support for the GeForce cards and drivers is nearly universal, and they generally rock people’s socks off.  I would say if you are a moderate gamer then plan to spend 125 -175 bucks.  If you have the cash then plunk it down for the $479 card, but don’t complain in three months when the price is half what it was. =)

Hard Drive

I wasn’t going to mention hard drives, but I think there are a few things that would be good to say.  I like Western Digital and Seagate.  I would not buy a Maxtor. 

You can set up RAID in several ways.  Do not allow Windows to control your RAID setup.  You will most definitely want your HARDWARE (i.e. the motherboard’s built-in hard disk controller) to control your RAID.  Then, in RAID 0, Windows will see it as one drive.  I like RAID 0 and I recommend it for non-critical use.  If you run a Web server or have financial data on the PC, either back it up very frequently (you should be doing this any time you have irreplaceable information) or use RAID 5.  You will need the motherboard book and a little time to set up RAID via the hardware.  It’s not that hard, you just need the instructions.  Do this before installing Windows.

Or you can just buy a 15K RPM SCSI drive and you don’t need the speed bonus from RAID.  But if you have that kind of money, send me some of it. =)

Other Thoughts

The other components (such as DVD drive, card reader, etc) are not really very interesting.  Just make sure you get the ones that work best with your system (i.e. I wouldn’t buy an IDE drive if my system supports SATA).

I like Antec’s cases.  Very much.  I have the 900 and I kind of wish I had gotten the P182 or something similar due to the noise (I record music on this thing and the 900 lets a lot of video card and power supply fan noise out of the case).

I wish I could provide information on AMD CPUs, but I really don’t run into them much in the world of corporate tech support.  Our office (all 105 users) use Intel.  I think our servers all run Intel, but I’m not sure.

One more thing.  Dell’s deals are getting so cheap that it’s hard to beat them, even building it yourself.  Part of that is because they get products in bulk.  I wonder, though (as a tech who works almost exclusively on Dell machines), if part of the reason is that the parts they use (RAM, HDD, DVD, mobo, etc) are less than the highest quality.  I have had to replace quite a few motherboards and power supplies on Dell machines.  And a lot of CD players.  Bottom line – I have bought Dell and like them.  But make sure you can afford the 3-year warranty unless you plan to sell it quickly or repair it yourself.  I don’t trust their parts.  But man, they have SMOKIN’ deals on quad-core systems (in the small business department).  But you can buy from the SB dept even without a business. 

At any rate, check them out.  Sign up for the email deals if you want the best deals.  I think they send them out every Monday.  You will get a very good deal on the system, and typically a very good deal on an LCD monitor as well.  Dell SB computers use stock fans, so make sure you get an aftermarket cooler if you overclock one (not that I recommend that, and not that it’s really needed with C2Q).  They don’t usually come with a nice video card (if they do, you will pay too much for it) and the power supply may not be bulky enough to handle an add-on card, so I would be careful with that. 

Well, hope I didn’t bore your socks off!  Enjoy, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.  I’d be glad to answer, or do my homework and find you an answer.

One more comment.  Building a system is very personal.  Your tastes and needs come first.  There are a multitude of good sources out there, and many knowledgeable folks disagree on what works best.  You just have to 1) make sure your system will work well with itself and you set it up well (i.e. don’t use an AMD processor with an Intel motherboard, make sure you get a SATA-friendly power supply if you want to use SATA, etc), and 2) make sure it’s what you want and what you can afford.  There aren’t really any other rules.  And have fun.  Building my first system was an amazing experience and I haven’t been able to sell it, despite the fact that it’s more power than I need.  And I should have gotten XP. lol

Mac vs. PC… vs. Linux?

March 11, 2008


Back from vacation and ready with a new list of essential freeware apps

February 12, 2008

It’s good to be home – we vacationed a long weekend in Chelan, WA, visiting friends with a new baby. 

So I saw this post in a TechRepublic newsletter:

It’s a list by George Ou of favorite freeware he puts on customers’ PCs when he sells them.

I personally think a PC should not come loaded.  However, this difference aside, it’s a good list.  And I would add that I would not sell a PC without an antivirus solution.  I don’t sell PCs (only one to date, and another if you want it – just ask) because I’m an enterprise tech, but on the one I recently sold, I loaded AVG.  Before you start the war over AVG, I would add that I’m a very conservative surfer, and I don’t use P2P downloading.  That being said, I don’t use a heavy-duty A/V solution because I rarely use anything questionable.  So anyway, I’ve never had malware troubles since I adopted my conservative surfing/downloading habits.  Still, AVG is a good solution, but I would say that if you spend 3 hours a day on BitTorrent, you need something a little heavier.  Sophos is good (we use that at our company), Kaspersky is good, Norton/McAfee are not.

Anyway, I’d sure love to hear your rants about AVG, or your list of freeware you like.  Give me some feedback here if you get a chance.

vLite gives an edge for Windows Vista enterprise deployment

January 29, 2008

My PC is no slouch.  I’m running a Core 2 Quad Q6600, 4 GB RAM, and a slew of other nice hardware.  So why is it that, when I run Windows Vista (especially the first few times after install), it takes longer to boot than my XP box did (it ran a Core 2 Duo E2160 with 1 GB RAM)?

If you have wondered this kind of wonder, vLite is something you might be interested in.  This is a freeware tool for customizing Vista installations.  The vLite website is – have a look.

If you don’t do technospeak, here’s what they are saying.  This program lets you manipulate Vista BEFORE you install it – this way, you’re not trying to rip out components that are already installed.  In other words, hopefully we can keep from breaking it while getting it to be a little more resource-friendly.

Now, after looking at this, I see some good points.  Here’s some of the highlights for me as an enterprise IT tech:

          remove components/tweak installation
If you’re an IT tech, you probably have found things in the OS that your users could waste time with.  Minesweeper, FreeCell, Paint, Windows Movie Maker, and the list goes on.  This gives you the option of adding, removing, or customizing components prior to install.  Enterprise techs use this kind of technology all the time (called a transform when used on individual programs).  Most recently, I used it on Adobe Reader, though it also comes in handy on MS Office installs.  Using this technology helps you set up default options, remove garbage, and keep your users out of the Games folder.

          unattended setup

We’ve seen this on other OSs, and though I haven’t used it much (we clone our HDs, so I don’t have to do many OS installs).  You get to start it and walk away.


          driver integration

If you have lots of PCs with the same hardware configuration, here’s your ticket to get it all set up ahead of time, so when you boot the system after the install, you’re all set.  Enterprise techs LOVE this kind of thing.

          create ISO and burn bootable CD/DVD
Here’s another one we IT people love.  You can save your work and burn a DVD – presto!  Your own customized Vista install.  As I mentioned before, transformed installs are popular in the IT world.  But this is the first I have heard of one for Windows Vista.

So here’s the downside.  Two that I can think of.  First, you have to know what you are doing with operating system installations.  You have to know what the program is talking about before deciding you don’t want it.  Otherwise, you may not be able to get your hard drive to boot, or who knows what else?

Second, you actually have to do the customization BEFORE you install.  So, that means that you would have to reinstall your OS to make any changes using this program. 

Bottom line for me – if you aren’t comfortable working with a few technical terms and some things that could seriously mess up your PC, I don’t think I’d worry too much about vLite.  Either that or you could get your Vista-savvy cousin to help you.  But if you’re a PC tech who has to widely deploy Vista, this tool (properly learned and tested) could be a real time and resource saver.



BTW, here’s the post that tipped me off to this tool.