Sound effects computer

jtweigandt

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Joined
Aug 2, 2013
Location
Moline Il
Currently running Show Cue systems on a very aged windows computer. Some of the younger sound operators come in and avoid it like the plague,
not because it doesn't work, but because they don't "trust" it. So they do something I trust less.. bring their own laptop and run sound fx from whatever software they have
from audacity to whatever.

I don't trust that.. because what happens if they and their laptop are hit by a truck on the way to the theater?

So looking at getting a mac mini.. and running Qlab. Mac would be purchased used.. I'm thinking 16 gig memory I7 processor and SSD hard drive
Could I be happy with an i5 processor? No doubt it's long past time to upgrade the PC that's there, and I'll admit it's "long in the tooth" Choosing to migrate to qlab
not so much to do anything new and exotique, as to just get in house equipment and software that they will actually use, so we are positioned better for disaster.
 

dbaxter

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Mar 10, 2007
Location
Rochester, NY
If the 'trust' is Windows vs Apple driven, I'm not sure why one would not 'trust' a computer used around 78% of the time in business (and costs a heck of a lot less). If you are looking for something easily replaceable and upgradeable, then the argument still leans to Windows. If, however, it's a question of software, then I would offer our Cue Player family of theater software as a possible alternative.
 

jkowtko

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Joined
Jan 9, 2007
Location
Redwood City, CA
Either that or update your Windows PC to Win10 and get a nice new monitor, keyboard and mouse for it. The Dell 2319 is under 100 bucks at Best Buy right now.

Fyi I have a Mac mini 2018 i7 with 1TB SSD and 64GB RAM (Fyi I bought it with 8GB RAM and upgraded separately, saved several hundred dollars that way) ... works great but it is pricey. And I use it for my regular work, I have two 4k monitors AND a 2560 monitor attached to it. If you are going to go the Mac mini route I suggest get the i7 for a couple hundred bucks more or else you will be kicking yourself later on for spending over $1000 and not spending the extra 10-20% to get the faster processor. Not sure if it's true with this model, but on many i5's the hyperthreading was disabled. Do you need the i7? Maybe not for audio only ... but if you do video as well ...

Good luck -- out of curiosity please let us know what cpu/monitor you currently have, and what you end up getting.

Thanks. John
 

CrazyTechie

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Joined
Jun 14, 2009
Location
Salt Lake City, UT
Here's a link to their system requirements page. It's written very well to help you understand how each component affects what you're doing with QLab. https://qlab.app/docs/v4/general/system-recommendations/

With Macs, I would also echo the advice of buying the best hardware that you can afford. The after-purchase RAM upgrade is a good idea as well if the computer you buy supports it. So that's a good thing to look into and consider as well.
 

rsmentele

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Premium Member
Fight Leukemia
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Apr 6, 2010
Location
Madison, WI
I would choose the computer based on the software you want to run. If you want to use Qlab, get a Mac. If you want to use any of the PC based options, get a PC. I would echo @CrazyTechie suggestion of buying the best you can get now. Programs are only growing larger and more complicated as time goes on, spending a little more now may get you a longer life span on the hardware.
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Currently running Show Cue systems on a very aged windows computer. Some of the younger sound operators come in and avoid it like the plague,
not because it doesn't work, but because they don't "trust" it. So they do something I trust less.. bring their own laptop and run sound fx from whatever software they have
from audacity to whatever.

I don't trust that.. because what happens if they and their laptop are hit by a truck on the way to the theater?

So looking at getting a mac mini.. and running Qlab. Mac would be purchased used.. I'm thinking 16 gig memory I7 processor and SSD hard drive
Could I be happy with an i5 processor? No doubt it's long past time to upgrade the PC that's there, and I'll admit it's "long in the tooth" Choosing to migrate to qlab
not so much to do anything new and exotique, as to just get in house equipment and software that they will actually use, so we are positioned better for disaster.
Bringing their laptop is one thing, playing back performance music and effects from their phones while simultaneously initiating and answering calls seriously offends my sensibilities.
Think POSITIVE.
Test NEGATIVE.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

jtweigandt

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Joined
Aug 2, 2013
Location
Moline Il
Current cpu is a machine I donated after pulling from service in my Vet clinic. It's probably pushing 16 years old and been in place at least 8 years now.. Probably a celeron or similar AMD processor.. I'll look when I'm on site. I did max out the ram and put in an SSD a few years ago.. so it runs pretty darned well. I actually like Show Cue Systems, and have used it to run many shows at 2 different theaters. But we tend not to micromanage our sound design/tech volunteers That's why I'm leaning toward Qlab/mac as that's probably the path of least resistance.

Easier to declare "Thou shalt use this" when its the kit that a whole lot of professional shows run on. If I had my druthers.. I'd freshen up the pc and delcare "thou shalt use this" but that's a tougher slog.
 

almorton

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Joined
Dec 17, 2014
Location
Caterham, Surrey, UK
We pulled the W10 PC running SCS out and replaced it with an iMac running Qlab after the PC did a system update during a show, despite having been told to do all updates in the morning, not to continue with the update it wanted to do and not even being connected to the internet at the time, Shame, as we liked SCS but didn't like the fact we no longer trusted Windows not to ignore us again (I see from various developer fora that random inexplicable restarts are still a problem with various versions of W10).

The iMac is connected to a Soundcraft Si Impact sound desk and networked to an ETC Ion and the whole thing works a treat. We run a projector on the second video feed, and 16 channels of audio. The iMac has coped fine with everything so far.
 

jtweigandt

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Joined
Aug 2, 2013
Location
Moline Il
When I think of how many dedicated industrial processes are or used to be controlled by xp and 7 Makes you wonder..
I have a digital xray machine that is on 7.. proprietary interface drivers... no way I'm risking the upgrade on that one.
 

dbaxter

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Premium Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2007
Location
Rochester, NY
Things we do with our Windows computers for sound, projection, and lights: 1) Keep current with updates. The big ones come out on the second Tuesday of the month. Smaller ones may come on subsequent Tuesdays. So we check and install Wednesday morning. 2) During a show run, we set the pause on updates to longer than the run. You can go up to 35 days.
It's sort of like doing your light cue check before a performance, just weekly.
 

ACTSTech

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Joined
Nov 13, 2019
Location
USA
Backup EVERYTHING somehow (Dropbox, Google Drive, USB, SD Card, CD, 8-track even) anytime something changes. If someone insists on using their own equipment, write it into the Tech Rider that they MUST leave a physical copy at the venue until the end of the show run. I don't trust any computer to keep my files, I also don't trust myself to keep my files.

When I was filling in at a college, a student INSISTED on recording directly to his USB drive and INSISTED that he backed everything up to the cloud. He was fine until he came running in one day and the Flash Drive wasn't recognized. The cloud wasn't saving the file because he didn't tell his computer to back it up every time I guess. After that, he'd put it on two drives and used the old CD-RW they still had in the studio.
 

Aaron Becker

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Apr 27, 2016
Location
US - East Coast
Things we do with our Windows computers for sound, projection, and lights: 1) Keep current with updates. The big ones come out on the second Tuesday of the month. Smaller ones may come on subsequent Tuesdays. So we check and install Wednesday morning. 2) During a show run, we set the pause on updates to longer than the run. You can go up to 35 days.
It's sort of like doing your light cue check before a performance, just weekly.
Just curious - what's your need for these computers to talk to the internet at all during a tech period/production? If it were me, I'd be unplugging the network entirely. Let them do updates/etc after the run is over. If you have a permanent run, allow internet access for updates only on Mondays (or whatever day you're dark) and then do a full test after dumping the internet connection again. Any resources should be stored locally anyways in the event of internet failures, etc. Food for thought, or for future readers.
 

Moonthink

Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2013
Location
here
Yeah Aaron, I'm the same way. All the computers I use as production computers (sound/video/etc.) don't even have internet access. I download updates on another computer and transfer it over via thumb drive.

This has 2 simple benefits:
1) no internet = more secure
2) operators not using the computer to surf rather than pay attention (though to be fair -- they could do the same on their phones.)
 

jtweigandt

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Joined
Aug 2, 2013
Location
Moline Il
But the takehome is... unless you are diligent and apply every update while the computer is online.. if it has even one in "ready" mode not applied, then eventually that Win10 box will restart itself, without permission, and without warning. Used to be able to completely turn off updates on xp and win7, not so with 10
 

Aaron Becker

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Joined
Apr 27, 2016
Location
US - East Coast
But the takehome is... unless you are diligent and apply every update while the computer is online.. if it has even one in "ready" mode not applied, then eventually that Win10 box will restart itself, without permission, and without warning. Used to be able to completely turn off updates on xp and win7, not so with 10
If you strand the PC in no-internet land, this won't be an issue. Windows 10 and it's update methods are... difficult to manage. After applying updates, I'd do several reboot cycles a few hours apart to make sure it's "happy" - and then pull the cable again.
It begs the question, though, if the only reason you're connecting it to the internet is for updates, do you really need the updates?
 
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almorton

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Dec 17, 2014
Location
Caterham, Surrey, UK
Ours did an update during a show despite having been unplugged from the internet for over a week and told only to apply updates in the morning. It had downloaded an update but hadn't tried to apply it during the allotted time, instead picking 20:30 GMT for some reason to suddenly decide that's it, time for forced update.

I just don't trust W10 not to bugger about. I use it on my work and home PCs because if it screws up it's just an absolutely massive ball ache, rather than quite literally a show stopper.
 

jtweigandt

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Aug 2, 2013
Location
Moline Il
If you strand the PC in no-internet land, this won't be an issue. Windows 10 and it's update methods are... difficult to manage. After applying updates, I'd do several reboot cycles a few hours apart to make sure it's "happy" - and then pull the cable again.
It begs the question, though, if the only reason you're connecting it to the internet is for updates, do you really need the updates?
We run in off the internet mode.. but you really need to specifically go to the update window.. offline, and make absolutely sure nothing is downloaded but not applied.. and sometimes you have to look way down the list to find failed updates that will try time and again to apply themselves. if the machine was EVER online.
 

Aaron Becker

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Apr 27, 2016
Location
US - East Coast
Ours did an update during a show despite having been unplugged from the internet for over a week and told only to apply updates in the morning. It had downloaded an update but hadn't tried to apply it during the allotted time, instead picking 20:30 GMT for some reason to suddenly decide that's it, time for forced update.

I just don't trust W10 not to bugger about. I use it on my work and home PCs because if it screws up it's just an absolutely massive ball ache, rather than quite literally a show stopper.
We run in off the internet mode.. but you really need to specifically go to the update window.. offline, and make absolutely sure nothing is downloaded but not applied.. and sometimes you have to look way down the list to find failed updates that will try time and again to apply themselves. if the machine was EVER online.
Yeah, I don't trust manually-set Windows Update settings as far as I can throw the computer itself (though with as small as the PCs have gotten these days, might be farther than in the 90s). Still, it requires way too much diligence and I'm still not 100% sure they won't try to do something stupid. If you keep it off the internet forever, though, it shouldn't do anything too stupid.

Anyone ever use Linux? I've dabbled with some desktop deployments of Linux, but mostly use it for terminal-access only stuff. I presume most of the good software doesn't work on Linux, though?

Curious what the Broadway/on tour folks use, but I suspect it's mostly Mac rigs.
 
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sk8rsdad

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Ottawa
Windows 10 Pro has options to turn off updates by setting a group policy.

I use Unix variants daily. They are bulletproof. One server hasn’t been reboot since 1998. I don’t know of any theatre software that runs there. FWIW, MacOS is a Unix variant. Windows is becoming one.
 

Aaron Becker

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Apr 27, 2016
Location
US - East Coast
Windows 10 Pro has options to turn off updates by setting a group policy.
Yeah, but I don't image most theatre guys/gals are running their dedicated sound/video rigs on a domain-joined environment where you're harnessing the power of GPO via DCs. GPOs are just global-policies that control already-existing settings within the OS. Furthermore, the only (pertinent) settings I'm aware of via GPO is to prevent automatic updates. That doesn't prevent manual updates or the erroneous restarts Windows 10 loves to do.

I do a little IT (sysadmin) work on the side, so I'm pretty familiar with the function of GPO and the struggles of Windows 10 and the update pains it most certainly has.

edit: spelling.
 
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