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ollypenrice

Deep Sky Imaging PC - best spec?

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As you're probably aware, I'm a PC and IT numpty. I urgently need to replace my office desktop with a new PC whose main role will be processing large datasets of DS images. I do some very large (gig sized) mosaics, too. When I go down to the shop (they are proper IT people) what should I ask for in terms not so much of brand but in terms of spec. What are the priorities?

Thanks!

Olly

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Loads of memory are key, and for this kind of work a fast processor (Core i7, I would say, or perhaps an AMD Ryzen 8-core processor). I am not sure the software you use supports parallel processing on the graphics processor, but if it does, a fairly hefty nVidia graphics board could help.

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It may depend exactly how the software you use has been written, but processor "cache size" can be more important than speed. A processor has a couple of layers of increasingly small but increasingly fast memory it uses before having to access your main 16GB RAM or whatever. The intention then, is to allow image processing algorithms to spin faster on cached portions of the image. But in practice it depends on the software and the data. Similarly, as well as how much RAM you have, a higher memory "bus speed" is an advantage as this is the first bottleneck outside of the processor.

Putting the two together, if you go for two physical processors for example (each with multiple cores), then it can be important to ensure the RAM modules are fitted in the right slots, effectively giving each processor it's own bank of memory, this reduces "contention".

You may also want to consider dual hard-drives - with a fast, solid-state (SSD) drive for working storage and a cheaper, larger, slower disk for longer term storage and probably the OS.

I can't comment on GPUs.

Edited by furrysocks2
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3 things you'll need, the fastest processor you can afford, more RAM is always better (i have 16GB but i wished i had 32) and lots of hard drive space. Intel processors are good. Graphics card isn't a big deal (i used a cheap 1GB one, you're not going to be playing games on it so don't worry). Don't buy Celeron. Brand doesn't matter

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Yep agree with loads of fast RAM (12GB +), which will depend on the bus speed of the motherboard, and good processor (i7 is ideal).

If you are using the storage on this device then I assume it won't be SSD as this size would cost a fortune.  I would get a small 128GB SSD drive for the OS, and additional drives for storage.  Make sure any mechanical hard drives are 7200rpm and that you have USB3 ports (even 3.1 (USBC if possible)) as you can then use some very fast external drives for effectively unlimited storage.

A very handy, cheap and oft missed addition is a multi-card reader to allow you to read and write information to various formats

Edited by RayD
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Within the house I have 2 desk top systems and 5 laptops all decent machines, Desk tops are Dell pro series and all laptops are either Thinkpads with i5 or high end Dells. The good thing about all of these is you can add Ram to them easily, well if you know what your doing that is. My office upstair has 16 gig of Ram which flys through anything I do with it, it also has a very good i5 processor. As said 32 gig would be better but expensive.

My advice is get as much Ram as you can with at least i5 and better still i7, will not be cheap though. I am typing to you on an 8 gig Lenovo T420 i5, it was almost 2000e and that was a few years back, but it will go for years (all being well). In my opinion the type of work you do and the size of it you need to buying top quality, with the quality of your work it make sense

Alan.

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https://www.amazon.co.uk/MSI-i7-7700HQ-Graphics-Windows-7RD-833UK/dp/B0735FQVP6/ref=sr_1_1/259-2077228-7306747?ie=UTF8&qid=1512040982&sr=8-1&keywords=msi+gaming+laptop&refinements=p_89%3AMSI

This is what I am using. Will need a bit of work out of the box to get

the best out of it. Had it about 2years now. Battery life is only about

4 hrs max. Done loads of imaging with it. Very pleased .

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I'm not sure of your entire software suite and if it is all available on Mac OS, but for graphics based applications, I really don't think that a Mac can be beaten. A fully loaded 27" iMac would be a dream to create your works of art on. I use a 15" MacBook Pro for most things and I love it, the screen quality is simply outstanding. The only part of my image processing workflow that has to be done on a PC is the Hasta La Vista Green Photoshop plug-in, which is PC only.

It is probably not a viable option for you as I have a feeling the software you are used to using, apart from Photoshop, is PC based only. Just thought I would wave the flag for my favourite visual things computer system though!

Edit - I've just checked the PixInsight website and that is available for Mac...

Edit 2 - Forgot to say that whatever machine, definitely go for a Solid State Drive (SSD), they are significantly faster than a 'nomal' HDD hard drive, and of course the larger the better for both drive and RAM. You can never have too much memory.

Edited by PhotoGav

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4 minutes ago, PhotoGav said:

I'm not sure of your entire software suite and if it is all available on Mac OS, but for graphics based applications, I really don't think that a Mac can be beaten. A fully loaded 27" iMac would be a dream to create your works of art on. I use a 15" MacBook Pro for most things and I love it, the screen quality is simply outstanding. The only part of my image processing workflow that has to be done on a PC is the Hasta La Vista Green Photoshop plug-in, which is PC only.

It is probably not a viable option for you as I have a feeling the software you are used to using, apart from Photoshop, is PC based only. Just thought I would wave the flag for my favourite visual things computer system though!

I would +1 this for sure.  I do all my actual processing on my 27" 5k Mac, which is a dream, but I can only use PI and PS CC on it (unless I went the Parallels route which I don't want to).  

Edited by RayD

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Just to add, you might want to use SSD storage for your working set of data (it's much faster) then transfer to the HDD when done, so I'd bear that in mind. I agree about RAM and processor being important... other than that, online can be much better value btw, but not sure about the situation en France.

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The information given so far is sound, I would opt for an i7 and at least 16 Gb Ram with a SSD for work in progress and a larger HDD drive(s) for storage.

I would also include a graphics card if you can (it helps with Photoshop) and other graphics packages may use it in the future, the day might also come when you adopt CMOS cameras and all the extra bells and whistles will be welcomed.

Alan

Edited by Alien 13

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I am not sure if you will be buying a complete package, or just the computer.  I agree with everything above about specs - SSD, lots of memory (16 GB minimum), and fast processor (i7 would be good).

But what about the screen?  If you buy a package which includes a screen then the screen might not be very good.  Better perhaps for your processing work to buy just the computer and then a really good screen as an extra separate purchase.

Chris

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I might be worth knowing why you need a new pc and the amount of ram and processor speed you have in it. If you run task manager and click on the performance tab you can see how much of your ram and processor are being used as you run your programs.

This may help you decide what is needed from your software. 

When it come to ram there is no point loading up a pc with 32gb if you only need 12gb it's just a waste of money.

Ram and hard drive space is cheap and easily changed and upgraded unlike the processor.

spill.

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If you process gigapixel images, you will easily need 32 GB of RAM, to avoid swapping data to disk. I have quite a beast of a machine at work: a 64-core, 512 GB RAM Opteron-based compute server. We run out of memory at images larger than 6-7 Gpixel.

Regarding the need for a powerful graphics board: they are not just for games. They can also be used to accelerate physics calculations and image processing.

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11 minutes ago, michael.h.f.wilkinson said:

If you process gigapixel images, you will easily need 32 GB of RAM, to avoid swapping data to disk. I have quite a beast of a machine at work: a 64-core, 512 GB RAM Opteron-based compute server. We run out of memory at images larger than 6-7 Gpixel.

Regarding the need for a powerful graphics board: they are not just for games. They can also be used to accelerate physics calculations and image processing.

This is exceptional so it would be an indulgence to spec for it, I guess! We made up the Orion image in blocks for some tasks.

Olly

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22 minutes ago, michael.h.f.wilkinson said:

If you process gigapixel images, you will easily need 32 GB of RAM, to avoid swapping data to disk. I have quite a beast of a machine at work: a 64-core, 512 GB RAM Opteron-based compute server. We run out of memory at images larger than 6-7 Gpixel.

Regarding the need for a powerful graphics board: they are not just for games. They can also be used to accelerate physics calculations and image processing.

Golly Michael 512GB , two those could rule the world. I imagine Olly images would only benefit with plenty of ram, it's, as you know when you are running all sorts of actions where big ram comes into its own. I wanted 16 for this laptop until I found out how much it was, with it being a laptop you can't just plug in another 8gb, you have to take out the 8gb (2x4) in it and replace it with 2x8, solid gear though Lenovo thinkpads.

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I found myself out of memory with 16 gig and only "ordinary" imaging.

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The largest image I have processed to date was 153 Gpixel :D

That was on 128 nodes of a cluster, using 16 cores per node. This was just a section of a 1.5 Tpixel mosaic of a remote sensing image of Haiti. 

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And you will have all the joys of Win10 Olly, good luck :grin:

Dave

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Oh, gods yes.

Make sure it's one of the pro versions or you could find it tying itself up for hours downloading rubbish when you want it to do some work.

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Agree with all points above - one extra suggestion.

i added an extra SSD to my system, only a little 128G one, and use it solely for my pixinsight swap file, and the image files Iam currently working on. Speeds things up massively. Bit of an Bottom to move things afterwards, but my goodness, it doesn’t half get it processed quicker...

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Don't forget a good sized, quality screen. You wouldn't want to publish images which are constantly "off" in colour.

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