Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Computer Specs

The Kung Fu drafter sent out a request through Twitter for the latest computer specs. Unfortunately I’m of an opinion the question has become irrelevant. It’s not irrelevant in the sense that computers aren’t getting better, but the AutoCAD, and by extension Civil 3D, aren’t developing with the hardware available. AutoCAD hasn’t joined the multithreaded software revolution. It probably never will, or at least for the product you purchase today. It appears that Autodesk has decided to skip multithreaded applications in favor of developing a replacement product on the cloud.

For instance when I went to a Dell event releasing the latest Dell Precision Workstation products; Intel presented where a small change in the code brought the time to do a complex tasks from hours to minutes using their newest processors. A truly astounding reduction in time to process. In the past year I’ve programmed some complex tools. One in particular was processing thousands of points and converting them into alignments, profiles, and labels for use in floodplain studies. The code was slow. It was largely slow because I was only able to use one of the eight cores on my computer, instead of all 8. If I was able to use all eight cores I could have done the tasks in about 1/7 of the time. The weakest link in the process was my needing to interact with AutoCAD. Since AutoCAD generally requires a single threaded interaction, my program was slower then it needed to be. All of the computations where simple math, they where just numerous.

I currently do all of my design work in Virtual Machines. Partly to be able to program Civil 3D applications in a 32-bit environment, to debug with Visual Studio, and because I’ve found Civil 3D to be unusable with Windows 8. I haven’t seen any degradation of performance from going from 8 cores to 4 cores. So my 2 year old Dell Precision laptop is handling Civil 3D just fine. I can’t see any advantage to upgrading my computer the latest hardware, because it would probably be a waste of money.

I occasionally do work for a large AEC firm doing levee modeling at one of their workstations. The levees are contained within drawings that go for a mile or two. I spend most of my time waiting for Civil 3D to build the corridor. It’s quite disappointing to have the time to look at the processor utilization and find that only one of the four cores is maxed out. The workstation is over three years old, I couldn’t honestly say it needs to be replaced.


Kung Fu Drafter said...

Do you think that workstations with faster processors like the Xeon series from Intel could make a difference? What about better qualities (faster) RAM or SSD's?

I understand your frustration with the threading, but perhaps there are improvements to be had with the hardware surrounding the processor or by increasing the raw power of a single core. Or am I just deluding myself?

- KFD -

Anonymous said...

faster processor but what about the bus speed, does it kep up with the increase. I also have never been able to grasp why AutoCAD can't use the power we have, and have seen lots of wasted money on computer upgrades for little return.
I'm siting here using a $6,000+ (I didn't buy it myself) notebook that likely is not very much better than a $1,000 machine, at least when ACAD/C3D is being used.
One of the reasons I push so hard for a cloud option is, because when else is it going to get better. When else are we going to be able to work with large data, including images?
I'll say it again, don't give us c3D users any new features, just improve what we already have and make it faster. If ACAD has to be written again, than do it. It would have been better time spent than making a MAC version, and the limited amount of users it has.

Christopher Fugitt said...

@KFD I've upgraded my RAM from 8 to 20 GB and upgraded the SSD. It is faster, but I'd say the 5-20 minutes I save a day during opening up Civil 3D isn't exactly worth the cost of the SSD compared to having most of my machine sit idle. The extra RAM means I can keep more instances of Civil 3D open, but I've found Civil 3D decides I'm being too productive and shuts down all instances of the program while it does some heavy duty work in one of the sessions.

Anonymous said...

You're so right on everything Christoper.

It's ridiculous Autodesk keep one of the most important products of today/tomorrow so regressive.


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