Monday, November 23, 2009

System Design for Martha

I need to buy a new computer for Martha.
  • Must drive a flat panel display
  • Must accept data from a FireWire miniDV camera
  • Must have a DVD burner
  • We have an ancient parallel-port printer.... which would be nice to use.
I could buy a Mac Mini. The Mac Mini has the FireWire interface and DVD burner. However, it will never work with that printer (a replacement will cost $150). The graphics would be much better than any mini-ITX integrated graphics I'd get. We'd get the 2.53 GHz, 4 GB memory, 350 GB version, $830. A VMware executive will cost another $70. The whole thing will come in a nice little case and make very little noise, and I will have even less idea how the software works than I do with the PC.

Or, I could build a PC. I'd get a 3.16 GHz Intel E8500, 8GB memory, 500 GB hard drive. I can get a FireWire card and a DVD burner, and a motherboard that sports a parallel port. Martha will be happy that I didn't make her figure out a Mac (more to the point, how to run PC-only software under VMware on the Mac). Vista will almost certainly never work with the printer, and so I'll still have to get a replacement anyway (a wash at $150). Even crammed into a mini-ITX case (with some risk it will not all fit in the case), it'll cost $875. The Mini idles at 14 watts, and any PC I build will idle at 35 watts. The 20 watt difference, over 5 years of 24/7, costs an extra $350.

Update: Since Martha figures she's going to be stuck with the sysadmin, she opted for the PC, to avoid learning about VMware, Boot Camp, or any other virtualization. If we could order the Mac Mini with Windows preinstalled under a supervisor, such that I could have told Martha that she could simply install any Windows programs or drivers, then she probably would have gone for that. Oh well.