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A New Processing Tool

April 17, 2022

Much in the way I’m deliberate and stubborn about buying a new camera, I’m similarly deliberate and stubborn about replacing my graphics processing machine.

My last graphics processing machine was assembled in 2016. The reality of how old and how behind the times I was came to light when the Windows 11 compatibility tool was released. The old graphics workstation was not up to the specs needed for Microsoft’s new operating environment. Eye opener. When I built it six year ago it was bleeding edge. Now it is technological road kill. I started my search to build a replacement then. That was late August 2021.

The plan was I’d put it together in December. And then life happened. Then January. And then…

So what were my thoughts in terms of building this new machine?

  • A very fast processor
  • Lots of memory
  • A video card that would support multiple monitors
  • Enough space in the case and motherboard for a bunch of hard drives, yet unobtrusive
  • Quiet–either liquid cooled or very efficient fans
  • Finally, sadly, an update to Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop rental program

The last of those was probably the toughest to accept. It has been my windmill that I’ve been battling against for nearly as long as I’ve had the previous workstation. But alas, with maybe a new camera in my future and a lack of desire to completely learn a new tool, an upgrade to Lightroom was going to be necessary and why not spend $9.99 a month to have a more modern tool.

Rather than sit in my home office, this machine was destined to sit in our living room, so size became a significant consideration. My shooting partner works from our living room every day with dual monitors, so the case had to be small enough to hide neatly amongst the monitors and it had to be quiet enough so as to not be heard with the television on. I spend too much time in the home office working and a change of scenery (and the chance to be with my shooting partner in the evening) was highly desired.

As the weeks moved forward Apple made their new product announcements. I strongly considered going over to the enemy and picking up an Apple Mac Studio box. Small, powerful, and relatively quiet. Its small form factor would fit great in the living room. But the thought of learning a new operating system and dealing with external storage was more than I wanted to deal with. And I didn’t want to be a victim of a 1.0 version of a hardware platform. Maybe later down the road, or alternatively maybe something I’ll pick up later and use on the road in lieu of a laptop.

I finally pulled the trigger in March, walking into my local Micro Center with the well-researched list of parts. Normally the turnaround from order to pickup is four hours. But instead it was almost 4 days before I was able to pick up my assembled machine.

And at that it was about 85% ready. I ordered my hard drives from Amazon (they were significantly cheaper than Micro Center–about $100 for the two drives) and the process of getting them installed took longer than it should because I didn’t have mounting screws I needed to get them attached in the case. The screws showed up the day we headed out for another trip, so thus another delay.

What did I end up with? A really fast processor, an amazing motherboard, a good video card capable of support 4 monitors, 64 Gb of memory (with room to bring it up to 128 Gb eventually), 2 Tb of SSD space (half for the operating system and programs, half for the last two years of images for quicker access…eventually to be replaced by videos when I start working them), and 16 Tb of spinning hard drives (10 Tb devoted to image storage, 6 Tb for various other projects and administrivia). And liquid cooled, making it nearly silent.

Screenshot of Workstation Technical Specs

It absolutely screams in terms of performance. Hopefully it is a machine that will last another 6 years.

As we approach mid-April, this is probably the first week that the machine has truly been useful.

It took forever to move all of the images over to this machine. The last of the 260Gb are moving across the network and onto the new machine as I write this.

Getting used to the new interfaces on Lightroom Classic and Photoshop has taken some time, but I feel relatively confident in my ability to make both of them work at this point.

I’m not decommissioning my old machine any time soon. It continues to serve a useful purpose in the home office and there are times where it will make more sense for me to work images from there. But it does create some logistical issues. Like how do I keep both workstations synced when it comes to raw images and portfolio images. Absolutely a first world problem…

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