Building a PC for Graphic Design/CAD/Animation

While Mac Pros are the lure of many graphic designers, a well built PC can is often a more cost-effective workstation for those in need of a bit more processing grunt. If you work in anything visual – from graphic design to video editing – you know you need a lot more power than your typical office workstation. We have an excellent range of high-end machines specifically for this task (such as this excellent Xeon powered desktop from HP, ready for your own choice of graphics card), but if you’re looking to build something yourself, these are the areas where you should concentrate:

 

Processor

The Xeon is Intel’s top of the range processor, currently available in quad and 6-core configurations. While primarily aimed at the server market, the Xeon is also very well suited to (and marketed to) high-end desktops for designers and engineers. Its server background means it is a very reliable processor which can intelligently adapt to the task at hand. If the Xeon is a bit pricey for you, a slightly cheaper alternative is the 2nd generation Core i7, a very capable high-end, multi-core processor (again up to 6 cores). The i7 is generally a little less expensive than the Xeon but is by no means a budget processor. It tends to run at a slightly higher clock speed and can be more easily overclocked than the Xeon, but remember there are many more factors beyond the clock speed that define the performance of a processor. Choosing between the Xeon and Core i7 is no easy task – they both have their relative advantages and disadvantages, so we recommend giving your BT Business Direct account manager a call to decide which is best for you.

 

Graphics Card

Once you’ve got the processor sorted, you need to complement it with a suitably high-end graphics card. The big names in graphics are still Nvidia and ATI (now owned by AMD). Both produce fantastic graphics cards at the high end. Nvidia’s Quadro, which is specifically aimed at the CAD and digital content creation industries, is Nvidia’s flagship card in this category. The example in the link features a whopping 1.5GB of embedded graphics RAM. ATI’s alternative is the ATI FirePro, which ups the ante with 2GB of RAM for a similar price. Both cards deliver serious amounts of graphics support. For more cheaper alternatives, you should check out Nvidia’s GeForce cards (such as the GTX 590) or the ATI Radeon series (such as the Radeon 6990 HD).

 

RAM

While the processor and the graphics card are arguably the two most important aspects, you’d be making a big mistake if you coupled them with a pitiful amount of RAM. For high end tasks you should really have 4GB of RAM at the bare minimum, in many cases twice as much as that. RAM is relatively cheap too, such as this 16GB set of DDR3 1600Mhz from Corsair.

 

SSD storage

If you’re going all out on speed, you don’t want to bottleneck your machine with a standard hard drive. To ensure your workstation isn’t held back, we recommend running all your programmes on an SSD. There are a few options here depending on your budget (and perhaps how insane you are). If you’ve got serious money to burn you can throw everything (OS, applications and storage) onto one high capacity SSD, such as this OCZ 1TB Z-Drive, but you really need a lot of cash for that. Alternatively you can go down the much more affordable hybrid route with this OCZ REVO which combines an SSD with a 1TB standard hard drive in one for less than a third of the price. Most of you however will probably opt for the third option – a lower capacity SSD for your OS and applications, paired with a standard hard drive for storage. This is the most cost effective and flexible option, and still gives you the speed boost you need.

 

While the individual requirements of your machine will no doubt be unique to your business, if you focus on these aspects of the build, you can be sure you’ll be building a killer machine for any graphics-intensive tasks. If you want a more in-depth discussion about your specific requirements, speak to your BT Business Direct account manager.

Businesses sceptical about government support

In a week when consumer confidence has been described as being at “close to an all-time low”, we’ve been reading about how (according to the majority of UK businesses) the government seems unlikely to prevent things getting worse.

A recent survey done by Bibby Financial Services revealed that as many as six out of ten UK businesses do not have faith in the support measures being provided by the government. Far from predicting economic growth, only 8 percent believe that the right measures are in place to avoid the current situation becoming a “double-dip” recession in 2012.

In Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement, plans were set out with three goals: 

  • Protecting the economy
  • Building a stronger economy for the future
  • Maintaining fairness for families and the promotion of social mobility

In practice this translated into making reductions to spending for many.

Yet it seems that businesses would prefer the government followed other courses of action in its efforts to kick-start the economy. A large 40 percent think a VAT reduction by 2.5 per cent in 2012 would be the best way to support SMEs, while almost a third would advocate scrapping the 50p rate of income tax. Another 26 per cent want banks to be forced to provide better access to finance for small businesses, and 24 per cent believe more investment in core sectors would effectively stimulate growth.

Edward Rimmer, UK chief executive at Bibby Financial Services, reveals that “looking ahead to next year it is clear there is great uncertainty among the business community, as well as a lack of faith in government plans to take the economy forward. Many of the business owners in the survey said there has been a lack of information available about funding, and that sole traders and micro businesses are finding it particularly tough.”

This week also saw George Osborne backing new banking rules, recommended by the Vickers’ report, which are “designed to avoid a repeat of the 2008 banking crisis”. These measures include separating retail from investment banking, and forcing banks to keep back a bigger cushion of assets. Even Shadow-Chancellor Ed Balls has hailed this as good news, yet it seems that the government still has some way to go to restoring the faith of UK businesses.

Do you agree with the concerns of the business owners?

For the original article please click here.

‘Touchless’ technology could be on its way for 2012

According to a small Israeli start-up company called XTR3D, your remote control may soon see its day. They say that you will be able to control the volume of your TV set and select a channel by simply turning your palm sooner than you think.

A ‘gesture recognition’ software installed in the TV will enable it to “read” your moves and respond accordingly with the right commands. What’s better is there is no need for physical buttons.

The company has received a £5 million investment that is going to give ‘touchless’ tech the boost that it needs. According to the company, the first motion control smartphone will be out as early as next year.

This may seem familiar to consumers already, in the form of Microsoft’s Kinect. There is no denying the popularity of the gesture control gaming console. While there are similarities, it is important to recognise the difference between the two.

The Kinect has depth sensors, multi-array microphones and RGB cameras that help the software retain the information it needs to track voices and gestures. XTR3D uses 2D cameras to extract 3D out of a 2D image, which is quite different from the technology that Microsoft is using. However, they both create the same three-dimensional effect.

According to XTR3D spokesperson Roy Ramati, the touch-free technology will work in broad daylight, it is cheaper, and will use a lot less power. Plus, it can be installed into any consumer electronics device.

Other than being used for gaming and controlling a TV set, the existing prototypes also include a PC, tablet and smartphone. This involves controlling a PowerPoint presentation by waving your hand, creating the effect of a joystick, to click, swipe, and zoom with a pinch gesture.

But XTR3D isn’t the only company thinking on a widespread consumer level. Microsoft has teamed up with around 200 businesses in more than 20 countries including car manufacturer Toyota and digital advertising firm Razorfish to bring Kinect well beyond gaming.

PrimeSense, the creator of the chip that powers the motion-sensing portion of Kinect is now selling a gadget that has the same hardware as Microsoft’s gaming device. Apple has also filed patents that involve using computers to ‘touchlessly throw’ content from one device to the other. The mobile chip maker, Qualcomm has recently bought a small Canadian firm GestureTek. It targets three devices: eReaders, smartphones and TVs, using both cameras and ultrasounds.

According to Francis MacDougall, who is the director of technology at the electronic giant, a major issue with the Kinect is that it can’t track close to a device. The design does not allow tracking of anything closer than 50cm, which is not ideal for tablets and smartphones.

To correct this, Qualcomm has placed multiple audio sensors into their handsets to isolate the voice location in 3D space while it filters out everything else. The ultrasounds sensors prove a close range gesture control and help to pick up movement with the help of a microphone instead of an optical camera.

What do you see as the greatest benefit of the ‘touchless’ technology described above? Do you think it has a real use or do you see it as something that is more of a novelty at this early stage?

Please click here to read the original article.