Saturday, September 30, 2006

Geeking out: Quad Core Tower of Power Yumminess

I've needed to upgrade my P4 3Ghz Dell Dimension desktop for awhile -- it's been 2+ years since I got a new computer. Once Apple went x86, I always knew my next computer would be a Mac. I've been using Unix for the last 16 years as a development environment, but I never really liked any of the Unix desktops (except NeXT), so I always kept a PC around as my main terminal and connected remotely to Unix boxes. Not so much for applications per se, but mostly for games, multimedia, and Java performance (remember the bad ole days of no Hotspot for Linux and old JDKs?)

Mac OS X gives me the environment I'm most comfortable in: Unix and the Unix command line, as well as a fabulous desktop. My only dilemma was: MacBook Pro or Mac Pro? Last year, I traveled alot for work, so it would be a no brainer, but given that I rarely travel now, and I'm replacing a PC Desktop that also acts as a gaming rig, the Mac Pro became alot more desirable.

The only worry was I haven't seen the Merom based notebooks and Clovertown based Mac Pros on the horizon, with supposedly a new case design for the Mac Pro by an internationally famous designer. Should I wait till January or longer? The next-gen NVidia and ATI DirectX10 video cards would be out by then as well. The problem with waiting is that there is *always* something new and great in the pipeline 6 months later. If you wait for the next big thing, you'll always be paralyzed.

I decided that the Mac Pro was so much better than my current setup, it doesn't matter what's coming 6 months from now. The Mac Pro case, before redesign, is already very very nice, especially the RAM and SATA connections. But once I saw how Anandtech was able to just plug Clovertown engineering samples into a Mac Pro and turn it into a Octo-Core monster, it clinched it -- this baby's CPU is upgradable too. In any case, I need to do lots of video editing, and 4 easily accessible SATA drive bays + 4 cores is good for the task.

So last Friday, I pulled the trigger. Mac Pro, 2.667 Ghz, minimum sized HD, ATI X1900XT, 2Gb FB-DIMM RAM, Bluetooth = $3003. I did not get the 3Ghz version because I think a 12% gain in serial performance is not worth $800. I expect that when Clovertown is released, Xeon 5160 prices will drop radically, and I'll upgrade later if I need to, and it will be far cheaper. Moreover, Apple charges $400 for 500Gb HDs when I can buy them online for $170. I'll use the 160Gb that comes with it as my Windows XP Bootcamp drive for gaming. I'll also have 4 empty FB-DIMM slots to upgrade RAM later if I need more, when the price is cheaper.

Now goddamn it, hurry up and deliver my machine Apple!

P.S. Parallels announced that they will support DirectX acceleration near the end of the year, which would effectively eliminate the need for Boot Camp for gaming in most cases. Yay!

As for my old Dell PC, I've got another 1TB RAID sitting in the house and I've been itching to run ZFS, so I'm gonna try running OpenSolaris on it. The Linux and Apple guys need to get their butts into gear and get ZFS ported ASAP!



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