tech computer

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Sep 15, 2005
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powell ohio
hey im going tho college and studying technical theater and as a student i need a computer. i plan on building my own so i can get what i need and what i want or go the money rought and by a nice laptop

i would like to gear this new computer to technical theater but want to now what type of hardwear i need ot include for sound recording and editing light control and designing. and of course school work

but so far here is what i think i need
cd/dvd burner and drive
cd drive

good graphics card so i can do cad and lighting designs aswell as run two monitors

and a good sound card that allow midi

so if you guys have any thing that i should add to my new computer just say so
 

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i would higly sudgest going for the laptop FIRST and getting a desktop later.... as far as hardware goes get one with a decent hard drive and dvd burning would be a plus if you can get it.... have plenty of USB ports and good battery life... also dont get one that is huge, i.e. alienware... you are going to be filing them up with mice, jumpdrives, and a number pad, dongles, and others things... video card should be decent but doesnt have to be amazing... CAD contrary to popular belief does not need a huge video card enless you are doing a ton of 3d stuff and everything has a texture... i have a dell d600 and it does anything i want seamlessly in vectorworks and it has a 2 year graphics card... and the audio thing... having a computer that is capable of recording and editing is fine...all it take is a good sound card.. but if you are going to build a desktop (which is the cheapest way to get a decent audio computer) do you want to drag it to whatever space you are working in?... most laptops have resonable sound cards in them that can at least be used for editing cues.... or you could add on an mbox or something like that.... and the lighting contoller thing.... you dont need your computer to be a dmx controller.... if you do this you will have to leave your computer in the space even though you might not (most likely you wont) be running the console for the show... your computer should only be used to do cad and paperwork in the theatre, not be a controller
 

soundlight

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NJ & NYC
GET AN HP LAPTOP. That is my strongest reccomendation. Get one that has the SD card reader and a good drive. Make sure to get as many ports on it as you can, because you never know what you will need to interface to. (I have a Dell 600M with 1/8" ports, VGA, serial, parallel, network, phone line, and four USB.) Try to get one with firewire or get a firewire PCIMCA card, as many high-end audio interfaces run on firewire these days. Also, get one with an "everything drive". DVD+-RW/CDRW, as you never know what kind of media you will encounter. My dad has an HP business laptop right now, and it works great, and he hasn't had to take it to IT more than twice in the two or so years that he's had it. And he uses it every day, for a majority of the business day. Also, when you get it, get one of the business models (in my opinion) so that the networking is easier, and the business models are, for some reason, usually more durable. The business models for HP also have the point-stick. Make sure to get the best (internal) wireless card that you can get so you can hook up to whatever networks you find.

Also, make sure to get the longest warranty available, WITH accidental damage coverage. If you don't do this, you may very well end up having to buy another computer because you accidentally mess up the one that you get. The warranty should be included in the price these days, as the reason that computer prices are going down (one of the reasons) is that companies are using cheaper components. So get the nice four-year extended warranty w/accidental damage coverage.

Also look at the refubished section. I got my laptop from the refurbished section (FROM THE MANUFACTURER), and it works like a new one. The refurbished models are the ones that people ordered and then didn't want, so they can't sell them for the full price. It's just about exactly like buying a new computer, except for the price, where you can save a huge amount of money.

Also, get XP Pro. Don't go home edition. And get Office '03 with all the goodies.

If you really want to pursue the audio recording deal, get one of the small two-mic/line interfaces from PRESONUS. These should fit in your bag.

Hope this helps,
 
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gafftaper

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Got to agree with the Laptop as the way to go. While you can get more for your money with the desktop, portability is very important especially in college. As far as hardware, the good news is tech software doesn't require much. You don't need a heavy duty video or sound card. The only exception would be if you wanted to go heavy into audio, in which case you need the desktop and a ton of other stuff. In general however, you probably don't want to pay to have your own digital sound recording studio... that should come out of the wallet of whatever theater you are working for. I would focus on just a good all around laptop and spend your money on software. Getting a refurbished laptop is a great way to go. The laptop companies have lease agreements with major corporations. After a year or so, or if they break down, they return them and the manufacturers refurbish and resell them. Dell used to resell them on E-bay… I don’t know if they still do, check their website first. It sounds like HP sells them direct from their website. When I got my refurbished Dell 600 mhz w/ DVD ROM for about $400 about 3 years ago… it still works great and that still isn’t that bad of a price. I had to spend $60 on a new battery right away but other than that it’s been great. Be sure to check in with your college bookstore about student pricing on Windows and Office. Often there is a special deal available on campus somewhere (If you live in Seattle like me you just get your friend who works at Microsoft to hook you up… XP Pro $40).

Light and set design software is expensive stuff... but doesn't require a lot from your system to run, you aren't 3D rendering. As for what to buy you'll have to shop around and decide for yourself.

There are ton's of cheap freeware/shareware sound editing options out there to play with. If you want to run sound cues from your computer check out http://www.soundcuesystem.com I haven't used it but I've heard good things about it and it starts at only $40.

When it comes to editing light cues, that will depend on what type of light board your theater owns, however most current light boards have an offline cue editor you can run form your laptop. I've heard that some of the ETC software will not run in XP so you may have to set your laptop up for a dual boot system with Win95 to run their software. Apparently rather than upgrade their offline software, ETC is going to release a new line of light boards instead.
 

soundlight

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ETC's Express software runs on XP, because I've got it on this computer right now, and it works. But I don't know about the Obsession stuff, or if it even has an offline editor.
 

gafftaper

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Just checked ETC's site. Aparently it's the old version of the Obsession software that won't work on XP. They have recently posted an updated version that will work, so ignore that part of my previous post.
 

PhantomD

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Mar 3, 2006
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Brisbane, Australia
I call bullsh*t. ANYTHING that works on 9x will work on XP with the appropriate compatibility settings set. It sometimes takes a bit of tinkering though.

Definitely go for a laptop if you can afford the extra - I'd actually recommend a Toshiba much more than a HP.
 

SteveB

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Mar 20, 2004
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Brooklyn, NY
PhantomD said:
I call bullsh*t. ANYTHING that works on 9x will work on XP with the appropriate compatibility settings set. It sometimes takes a bit of tinkering though.

This not true.

There are lot's of programs that run on DOS only (early Obsession Off-Line, ETC Edit, Trackmaster, etc..) and run in a DOS window within Windows 95/98 or ME but cannot be used on an XP machine as XP has no DOS in the core. You can get 3rd party software to run these programs, such as Virtual PC that is clunkier then running in a DOS window. FWIW, ETC has most every one of the console series available for Win XP - Obsession, Emphasis, Express/ion, Smartfade. The only legacy DOS software is ETC Edit, for the Expression/Insight 1 series and Vision/Microvision consoles.

That said, I too would recommend a laptop. I would also recommend a Win XP Pro unit, and I'm very fond of my HP unit with the 17" screen, especially for CAD work. I'v had 2-1/2 years now with no problems.

SB
 

AVGuyAndy

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May 1, 2005
Well, I could not disagree with your post any more!

HP/Compaq Sucks. Big time. Their "customer service" is god awful, and their laptops are poorly constructed peices of junk. I used to own one. I now have a Dell, and it has so far served me well.

Don't bother with the extended warranty. HP will just try to screw you and make you pay dearly even if you have a warranty. They claimed I spilled something into mine, and even emailed me (fake) pictures of my system board. I say fake because my board did not have the damage shown in the pictures.

XP Home works just fine. The only real diiference between Home and Pro is remote access, which you don't need.

As for office you really only need Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, so I would not reccomend getting the full package.

And the Presonus interfaces are too expensive. You can get the same thing from M-Audio for less, with the same quality.
 

SteveB

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Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Andy

Be careful with blanket statements such as your's that "HP/Compaq Sucks. Big time. Their "customer service" is god awful, and their laptops are poorly constructed pieces of junk. I used to own one. I now have a Dell, and it has so far served me well".

Folks tend to jump all over you with comments about how your one particular experience does not indicate that every HP laptop ever made is a POS, or that Dell is the cats meow.

My experience with a HP 7010 laptop mirrors yours with the Dell, terrific value, very reliable, a workhorse. I use mine in a very busy performing arts center as a desktop replacement. I wanted an IBM or Dell, but neither offered a 17" screen, which is a very good thing to have when doing CAD work. In fact the only 17" unit at the time outside of a Mac, was a Toshiba, which at the time had a poor reliabilty rating compared to the HP. The HP has actually exceeded my expectations and a quick web search yielded this: https://www.pcworld.com/reviews/article/0,aid,123409,pg,9,00.asp about laptops/notebooks in general.

One thing I've learned about computers in 10 years of having them in the home and 25 years of use at work is that such ratings are very rough and never seem to reflect actual usage. My first home computer was a Gateway, who's reputation at the time was as the most reliable with the best cucsomer support. My unit had 9 terrible months of problem (registry errors) with countless calls (3-5 times a week) to service. I had to threaten legal action to get them to send me a new and DIFFERENT computer, which they eventually did. After that I never purchased another Gateway. My experience with HP, on the other hand is that I have never had to call tech support. I was so happy with the reliability of the laptop that I purchased a desktop for the home 2 years ago, which also has run fine.

As to XP Home vs. Pro ?. It's a tough call. XP Pro does offer better network support and usage and is required for certain functions, such as accessing ETC Net2 systems, CEM Plus On-Line and remote console in Emphasis. These may well not be something most folks need, but if the computer comes with XP Pro, take it. It may well be that you can get more features on a machine with XP Home - more USB Posts ?, a DVD burner ?, who knows, and that may have more value. But if it's apples to apples and one machine has XP Pro, then that's a better choice.

My $.02

SB
 

AVGuyAndy

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SteveB said:
Andy
Be careful with blanket statements such as your's that "HP/Compaq Sucks. Big time. Their "customer service" is god awful, and their laptops are poorly constructed pieces of junk. I used to own one. I now have a Dell, and it has so far served me well".
I stand by my statement.
 

soundlight

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Oct 27, 2005
Location
NJ & NYC
I'll repeat what I said that my dad has an HP business laptop and he has had very few problems with it. And he has had it for about two and a half years. I have had a Dell for a year and a half, and it has been full of bugs. I'm not making blanket statements, but I'm adding a plus for HP and a minus for Dell. And in my experience, Dell has had SLOOOOOOWWW customer service, and didn't have my service call number (two hours worth of answering questions and they guy on the other end clicking check boxes) when I called back. I've already had to replace my Dell hard drive once, and I'm going to have to do it again soon, as it is getting scratched again. Again. And this is the lousiest time to need this done, as the musical is fast approaching.

So, basically, all companies have their problems. Every company gets their fair share of cases that they just can't handle. That's just the way computers work. But, from what I have heard, Dell is introducing lower quality components in their new laptops and desktops. I can't confirm this from the Dell site, but I know that I read it as a report (not as a passing rumor) somewhere (can't remember where).
 

gafftaper

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SteveB said:
PhantomD said:
I call bullsh*t. ANYTHING that works on 9x will work on XP with the appropriate compatibility settings set. It sometimes takes a bit of tinkering though.

This not true.

There are lot's of programs that run on DOS only (early Obsession Off-Line, ETC Edit, Trackmaster, etc..) and run in a DOS window within Windows 95/98 or ME but cannot be used on an XP machine as XP has no DOS in the core. You can get 3rd party software to run these programs, such as Virtual PC that is clunkier then running in a DOS window. FWIW, ETC has most every one of the console series available for Win XP - Obsession, Emphasis, Express/ion, Smartfade. The only legacy DOS software is ETC Edit, for the Expression/Insight 1 series and Vision/Microvision consoles. SB
Thanks Steve B... yeah the problem with the old ETC software is XP's lack of a DOS core. Yes someone who really know's their stuff can probably find ways to make it work but it would not be a very pleasant experience. Sorry I didn't make that clear.


Putting on my teacher voice and switching to the HP vs. DELL argument... "Settle down boys." We have hit one of those topics that there is very little quantifiable evidence to support just bitter stories of what happened to me. This argument is almost as bad as if Abortion should be legal, you can't win, people are set in their beliefs about a certain brand. Accept it and ... move on.

The truth is even the best manufacturers make a bad line, model, or individual machine now and then. I suggest you pick a few Dell and HP models that fit your price range and then research them. Try www.cnet.com and www.epinions.com to find out what the experts and actual customers are saying about the specific models you are interested in.
 

Radman

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Apr 9, 2004
Location
Franklin, TN
Last I knew, the US government uses HP computers to keep the national time. Just food for thought.
 

SteveB

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Mar 20, 2004
Location
Brooklyn, NY
"Last I knew, the US government uses HP computers to keep the national time".

Of course in the last 6 years it's seemingly going backwards to the '50s

Just a little politcal commentary (grin).


Well worded comments by Gafttaper, by the way

SB
 

Radman

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Apr 9, 2004
Location
Franklin, TN
:D

Personally I have a gateway laptop, and I cannot recommend it. I have had horrible service on it, countless defects, and my mobo is f'd up to the max. I would go HP, Dell, or Toshiba (or IBM really) or if I could afford it Alienware. XD
 

Techy101

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Jul 7, 2004
I just switched from being a loyal DELL person after the worst computer experience I've had. Both in customer service, and quality. Dell seems to have been riding on their name over the past few years, and letting everything else go down the tubes. That laptop (Inspiron 8500, P4 2.6 GHz) was one of their flaships, and supposed to be one of the best things Dell had out. Well it had 2 new motherboards/processors, 1 new housing, 4 new wireless cards, 2 bluetooth cards, 3 sets of RAM, 1 new Heatsink/Fan assembly for the Proc.

The only thing that actually came with the laptop was the LCD Module itself, and the HDD.

So I am now using a Toshiba Qosmio G35 AV600 and couldn't be happier. The only thing that I would rather have had is a Sager computer. They're quite expensive, but you will find them all over the place in the live production world. They're well built/deisgned, have great customer service, and stand behind their gear. (and IMHO, are better than Alienware).
http://www.sagernotebook.com/index.html

I ended up with the Toshiba because I needed the machine ASAP, because my DELL died (again) and I needed a computer for work. So I ended up with a store bought.

Just my $0.02