Fred A Levy Haskell (fredcritter) wrote,
Fred A Levy Haskell

Geek help requested: RAID and Macintosh

Hey gang!

I'm hoping to purchase a new Mac before the end of the year, but I have a boatload of questions about configuration and hard disc storage, and so on that I could really use some expert help on.

Fundamental assumption/thought: I am currently using a B&W G3 which is something over 10-11 years old but is still quite useful (with some limitations of course—it's a bit too slow to handle streaming video or video files that aren't tiny, for example). I would like to think that the new box could be expected to serve a similarly-robust lifetime (assuming/allowing for increasing limitations as the technology advances and even more astonishing things than streaming video can be handled by a computer). So in cost/functionality/length-of-useful-service trade-offs, I want to put more weight on the latter than I might normally.

This leads us to the technical questions that I'm hoping that somebody (or some of you in tandem) can answer, since I seem to be unable to ferret out answers on my own … even with The Power of The Inter-Web Search Engines at my command.

1. The reviews I've read indicate that the current quad-core platform is actually better than the 8-core.

    a. However, it appears that at least part of that judgment is based on the fact that very little current software is able to take full advantage of four cores, much less eight; therefore, over the long term might the eight-core option be better as software "catches up" to the hardware (unless hardware spirals off into an entirely different sort of direction thus making the eight-core methodology an evolutionary dead-end)?

    b. It also occurs to me that while it's probably not that important at first, having eight rather than four memory slots might be better over time, as apps require more and more core memory. Hm?

    c. If I do go with the 2 quad-core configurations, I presume the best choice would be the "middle" path—two 2.66GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processers—rather than either the base or "bleeding edge" options (2.26GHz and 2.93GHz, respectively). Yes? No? Answer cloudy, ask again later?

2. Memory. In either case, I presume it makes more sense to configure it from Apple with memory in 2GB units (either 3x2GB or 4x2GB) rather than 1GB. Correct? Or does it make the most sense to configure memory minimally? Or even configure it minimally and immediately trade in the 1GB units in for 3rd party 2GB or even 4GB?

3. Drives. I have heard and believe that 3rd-party drives are always at least as good and significantly less expensive than what Apple offers. So do I configure it with a 1TB drive and then purchase one to three 3rd-party 1TB (or even 2TB!!!) drives to round it out? Do I buy the 640GB drive and purchase one to three 3rd-party drives to round it out? Or do I buy the 640GB drive and immediately trade it in on two to four 3rd-party drives?

4. RAID. What's all this then?

    a. Does mirrored RAID mean never having to say, "Back me up, Scotty"? Susan has made the excellent point that backups will sometimes allow you to recover from user stupidity (e.g., deleting the wrong file), but, you know, other than =that= Mrs. Lincoln...?

    b. If RAID actually makes sense (to one in my position—not honkin' big commercial concerns), internal or external? Hardware or software? I note that it looks as if I were to go with factory-configured hardware RAID, I'd have to buy at least two drives from Apple.

    c. Help! I am only an egg.

5. Am I right in assuming that since I'm neither a gamer nor a video producer there are really no advantages for me to the optional ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB card over the standard NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512MB … even though I do and will want to do some heavy lifting with Photoshop?

6. Ooooh. My B&WG3 has a factory-installed internal ZIP drive (remember them?). Might I be able to swap it in into the "second optical drive slot" of the new box? I assume there's no reason on earth to purchase a second internal optical from Apple—although at some point in the future either an external or internal blue-ray burner might make some sense.

7. Display. I drool at 30" displays. I yearn for a 30" display. I dream of a 30" display. But.... I note that the Apple Cinema HD Display (30" flat panel) is getting extremely long-in-the tooth and therefore may be suffering from outdated technology. Is it any good? Are there rumblings of an Apple replacement I should hold my breath for? Am I better off spending $2400 on a NEC 30" display, even though that's, you know, more expensive. (I =won't= have a Dell-labeled product in my house). Are there other 30" options? Or am I in fact better served by "lowering my sights" and buying something smaller—maybe an HP 25.5"?

8. Is there something I should know that I haven't thought to mention here?


Tags: computer
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