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Editor's Note: Building Dream Machines, Studio PC and Media Server

Dec 05, 2009, 00:01 (12 Talkback[s])

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

My fun winter projects are building two new computers: a high-powered studio PC for music production and digital photo editing and management, and a music and movie server.

The studio PC should be easy. I can re-use some of my existing components. I want an Antec Sonata case for quiet and good cooling. I think I want an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and a boatload of memory. My geekchums are pushing quad-core, but what for? As far as I can tell none of the software I use takes advantage of those extra cores. If they were offering to buy it for me I would give it a try, but even then maybe not. Some articles I've read show worse performance under some circumstances with quad-core.

I like a full-sized ATX motherboard to get extra PCI-e slots and have more room for air circulation. My ATI-based video card is fat with fan, so having extra space for it is good. It is well-supported under Linux and does good 3D with native open-source drivers.

On my wish list is a higher-end monitor that I can profile for accurate colors, something like the Samsung F2380 which I have heard good things about. It goes for around $300, which doesn't seem too bad. I'm also coveting a wide format color printer. But first I need to test third-party inks because no way do I pay full freight for ridiculously overpriced vendor inks. If truth in advertising were enforced all the big brand-name inkjet cartridges would be called "GREED".

Finally, it may be time to upgrade to a newer Wacom tablet. I have one that is so old I don't remember where it came from, or what century.

Media Server

Linux has a number of great media servers, and this will be new territory for me because I haven't paid much attention to the small, quiet form-factor boxes people like to use for these. XMBC, GeexBox, and Elisa all look interesting. I have dreams of stuffing a big hard drive full of music in nice high-quality FLAC format, and movies galore at my fingertips.

The next question is do I want to network the whole house and try to pipe music and movies everywhere? Funny how these little projects always want to grow.

Backups

And then comes the problem of backups. It may be time to break down and build a central fileserver, one with RAID and gigantical hard drives. Software RAID? A hardware RAID controller? And where do I park the beast. So many questions.

We've come a long way from the era of finicky vinyl LP care and feeding, cruddy videotapes, and rooms full of giant expensive equipment for creating audio and video. It is amazing what can be done on a PC-- I like this digital multimedia era a lot. What goes into your dream PC, media server, or central file/backup server?