What specs to future-proof a ham PC

Discussion in 'Computers, Hardware, and Operating Systems' started by K3RW, May 14, 2019.

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  1. KX4OM

    KX4OM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi Paul,
    I just switched to Ubuntu from Linux Mint with some trepidation. I'm interested in the longer term support, as I may be not as savvy as I used to be, looking ahead. Just today, I checked out CentOS for Mate compatibility: it's iffy. The upcoming Release 8 will be supported through 2019.

    Ted, KX4OM
  2. KK4NSF

    KK4NSF Ham Member QRZ Page

    you know.... as long as you are not running an extremely graphics-heavy task, a Core2 processor and standard VGA can be a very useful computer, and will handle any Radio-Related task you can throw at it. In fact, the problems with older hardware are often Software related, and have nothing to do with the machine itself. Folks are amazed at how a fresh installation of Linux will bring an old, clunky computer back to life.
    Speaking of Core 2 Quads..... I run four of them in my cluster computer, using Scientific Linux (they are in the 4 Dells at the bottom): gracie1.jpg
    They are all retirees from our local college library, and about 12 years old. BUT for the tasks they do, they work perfectly.

    KD4MOJ likes this.
  3. AC0GT

    AC0GT Ham Member QRZ Page

    In my opinion the best way to future proof a computer is with a ThunderBolt port. These ports are very fast and versatile. With them you can add more storage, a GPU, and any of a number of adapters or peripherals. The days of upgrading a computer are fading fast, it's like trying to upgrade a toaster. If the toaster doesn't toast enough bread, do it fast enough, etc. then you just get a new toaster. Trying to future proof a computer might be a fool's errand.

    Today's processors are very fast and inexpensive, and it's been that way for a long time. What slows down a computer is the lack of memory and the speed of the drives. Get plenty of memory from the start since that's going to be a limiting factor. Having a fast interface for adding storage in the future means keeping the computer operating longer. Computers are very reliable today and so the need to swap out failed parts is largely history. Even so the part that is most likely to fail, and likely most critical for anything you do with the computer, is the storage. Expect to update, replace, or expand the storage if you plan to keep the computer for a long time. To do that effectively means having a port suited for adding storage.

    My opinion is mostly just an educated guess on where the future is going. I made a similar guess a long time ago that having FireWire would "future proof" my computers, and that didn't go so well for me. ThunderBolt is probably a safer bet since the upcoming USB4 is supposed to be a superset of both ThunderBolt 3 and USB3. USB4 is expected to be basically what ThunderBolt 3 is now but with some minor tweaks. Most every ThunderBolt port you will find is backward compatible with USB3/USB-C, so even if there is a failure in ThunderBolt being the future there is still the use of these ports for high bandwidth USB peripherals.

    I don't know if there is such a computer inside the budget given. You may need to reconsider your budget or the plan to future proof the computer.

    Your mileage may vary. Please read all labels. Use with caution. Etc., etc., etc.
  4. WA4SIX

    WA4SIX Ham Member QRZ Page

  5. AC7CW

    AC7CW Ham Member QRZ Page

    PCIExpress 4.0 will obsolete GPU's most likely
  6. AC0GT

    AC0GT Ham Member QRZ Page

    That's an intriguing claim, would you care to expand on that thought?
  7. WA4SIX

    WA4SIX Ham Member QRZ Page

    I do not think so. THe reason for GPUs is to send the video off to be processed & distributed.
    Even with PCIe4.0's fast speeds, it should still need a GPU for high end video.
    I read through all of the specs & this was not even hinted at.

  8. KB0MNM

    KB0MNM Ham Member QRZ Page

    You may still be able to find a refurbished HP Elitebook with i7-3740QM for around $400.00, but it probably would come with Win 10 Home rather than Win 7 Pro SP1. What sold me on the machine is that it is old enough to have a 9-pin ( dE-9p, same as what some call an DB-9p ) male-pinned RS-232 compliant port and a decent-sized solid-state drive. Mine has 8 GB of installed memory, a DVD-drive, and plenty of USB ports. It is a model 8570P. I believe that the Houston source was MicroCenter, yet I also sometimes shop at Fry's because of price matching. You may wish to look ( pun intended ) at the LCD screen size and resolution that you can get in that low price range, as I did. My professional machine is a Dell 17", which sports lighter weight, touch screen, and most of the same features. The real peripheral upgrade is the USB-C port ( very fast ), but it does not include a fast ( 1GB) Ethernet Port. So for now it connects to a quick WiFi host. The Dell machine, though light for the size- would probably be out of your price range. It also lacks an optical drive, which means you need to get your software from a different machine. I am glad I kept an old desktop machine with both 3.5" and 5.25" capability- some ham software needs to be loaded that way. There really is no pat answer to the question, because HP, Dell, Asus, and a few others all make reliable laptops. For that price, you might get a better equipped desktop and find that you could use an smaller television ( LCD ) as a monitor. And yes, I have not regretted sticking with Windows 7 Pro- so far. No, I am not sure whether or not I might need to use an older ( as in Windows 2000 ) machine for an older DOS-based program some day. There is a program called VMWare....
    K3RW likes this.
  9. K3RW

    K3RW Ham Member QRZ Page

    I was able to lookup some recommended Flex radio specs on the CPU side (user provided), and that gave me at least a starting point for running some of their stuff. I'm not sure I'd go with Flex specifically, but I do think eventually I'll have at least one SDR. The Flex 5000 looks particularly intriguing. Other hams I know have Anans and other similar things.

    What i was particularly concerned with was the CPU and RAM requirements. Where I get lost nowadays is that a later-gen i3 can be faster than an older i5, etc. So what I remembered about CPUs 5 years ago isn't necessarily applicable today, like how a quad core can actually be slower than a dual core, etc. Some guys went nuts on their systems--well beyond my budget. Some systems guys had ran multiple CW skimmers, 3 monitors, etc. Yikes. I just would like to do decent SDRing, maybe run multiple receivers, and CW skimmers.

    There was considerable debate on the Flex site about Win10 vs Win7. Most seemed to think Win10 Pro was good despite some update problems. Not sure how 'S' mode factors into that, since I would *think* that the SDR utilities aren't Microsoft signed programs--but not sure on that. I've only used Win10 on a junker notebook, which will be replaced soon. Its USB ports actually failed.

    It does seem that virtually any homebuilt PC will be much cheaper than the laptop with similar specs. I do wonder about shielding on the laptop vs PC side. On my older PC I did notice some perceptible noise when the hard drive would spin, move the mouse slightly, etc. With SSD drives maybe that is all but gone. But I'd like something portable as well, though not like taking a Flex radio portable. And currently I don't even have a Flex radio. I'm still running a 7200, 7600, 706MKIIG, 7100, or 817 depending on the wheres and whats the needs may be. I'd like to consolidate considerably.

    And you might laugh, but I do wish I still had my Tandy 1000. Trying to program a Kenwood 941 through Virtual Machines, serial to USBs, etc., was just a huge hassle.
  10. KA9JLM

    KA9JLM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Not sure that is a big thing to worry about.

    My Win 7 machine works a lot better now MS no longer supports it. :)

    Have Fun.

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