The digital Darkroom.

There is no getting around it: if you’re going to take digital pictures, you need to process those pictures and for that, you need to have decent software and hardware. For most of my work, I prefer to use Adobe Lightroom because it streamlines the process of editing and converting raw files. For photo merging, I use Photoshop and I am finding that my current computer ā€“ an aging dual core desktop is just not adequate anymore. My upgrade path is usually to upgrade either my desktop or my laptop within two or three years of each other so that at any given time, I have access to the relatively fast computer.

I usually just buy a stock laptop, but for the last 15 years I have preferred to build my own desktops so that way I get exactly what I need and let’s face it: it’s the nerdy thing to do. My philosophy is to build the fastest computer I can reasonably justify spending money on so that usually means looking at the latest and the fastest and coming one notch lower.

Currently, I am considering building a Sandy Bridge i7-2600 3.4 GHZ machine with a hefty graphics card ā€“ I am thinking of and in the NVIDIA 570GTX or possibly 580GTX. The good thing is that I already have a 2 TB internal data drive on my existing computer which I recently purchased and installed. I will also continue to use my older SoundBlaster live sound card plus some other accessories including the case so my biggest expenses are going to be the motherboard, processor, graphics card, memory (unfortunately, I won’t be able to use my DDR2 memory) and a new system hard drive.

The system hard drive is the sticky point at the moment because there were some floods in Thailand last year that damage to many factories that make the hard drives and the prices have gone up because of it and there is a shortage of the higher and spinner hard drives. This would open the door to get a newer SSD hard drive which is solid-state and thus has a much faster response time which would speed up startup time as well as hard drive intensive processing such as merging photos or playing games. The problem is that a decent SSD drive even now with the inflated price of the spinners, will cost almost double the price for about a fifth of the capacity.

The only realistic choice I would have for an SSD drive would be 120 GB SSD which will cost me around $200 give or take. Even on my current system where I am separating my programs from my data, I am using more than 120 GB for windows and all the other software that I have so I don’t feel very comfortable spending that kind of money for that little capacity only to out grow it in a year or so. The other problem I have with the SSD drives is the long-term reliability because even though there are no spending parts, there is a finite number of read and write attempts that each drive can do and in real world situations this would mean that even if I don’t outgrow the SSD drive, chances are that I will have a failure in two or three years.

In comparison, I have six year old hard drives that still works like a charm. Of course, I wouldn’t trust those hard drives for very critical things right now, but if I’m going to take the time and spend the money to build a brand-new screaming system, I wanted to last me at least two or three years before I have to do any major upgrades to it and so I am thinking of getting a 1 TB 7200 RPM 6 Gb a second transfer rate hard drive. I can live with waiting an extra 6 seconds for my computer to start and a few seconds extra for a process to be finished.

the only other question would be whether I should even bother with keeping my old 320 GB hard drives. Currently I have one 320 GB hard drive for my system and an older 320 GB hard drive that used to be my data drive which I mostly use as a temporary drive just to see if something is worth keeping before transferring it to my 2 TB data drive. with the new system, I’m not really sure if it’s worth having a system drive, a data drive, and two little data drives. even if I just recycle those drives, I have gotten five good years out of them so I can live with that.

The next question would be what monitor to get. I’m thinking at least 24 inches and LED.


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