Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Desktop

With my Birthday, Black Friday, and Christmas all right around the corner, I haven't been able to keep myself from thinking about the possibility of purchasing my first desktop upgrade. It's not that my computer needs work per se, I just built it in July, but I did stay under budget with the idea of upgrading in mind.

The relevancy of my desktop is complicated by two matters.

Generally, in the computational biology world, desktops can be a bit of an awkward middleman. For most everyday computing (reading papers, browsing the web, note taking, PowerPoint creation, light scripting, etc.), I am going to be on my laptop. I have to be in lab and class, so portability is necessary. On the other hand, if any real analysis is going to be needed, the lab should have workstations built for their pipeline or access to a cluster. I suppose that between those two things, it's easy to think that a home desktop isn't worth it.

Specifically, because I'm still rotating, I don't know what my long term computing needs are going to be. The bottlenecks are obviously going to be dependent on the nature of the analysis. Or the data may absolutely require that it be run on a cluster, so as long as I have a functioning terminal, everything is fine.

In this past rotation, however, having a desktop has been fantastic. I've been generating about 6 GB of image data per experiment-- and already filled 142 GB of my storage drive. Analyzing videos in ImageJ on a laptop with 4 GB of RAM isn't pleasant, and the lab didn't have an open workstation for me at the moment. One particular analysis quickly maxes out the 16 GB I currently have on my desktop. Homework also gets finished a lot faster with the extra screen space. I like the ability to have RStudio, Chrome, and the problem set all open side by side.

I don't have a particular point I'm trying to make here, I'm just considering the pros and cons of sinking money into what I primarily use as a work machine. Of course, I have made a bit of a hobby out of computer building and component researching, so there's a large amount of enjoyment simply from the process. And I would be lying to myself if I didn't admit a bit of pride in having a (fairly) fancy desktop I built sitting in the living room.

Anyway, now that the background and situation have been established, I'll leave brief updates as I continue to add and refresh components in the coming months and years. Having a complete history might be quite interesting by graduation if Moore's law keeps up. Here's a link to my current build:

I'd love to see what everyone else is working with (or dreaming about), so share your build below. Or, if you have suggestions for my first upgrade, post that.

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