Pondering hardware & software upgrades

· by Steve · Read in about 4 min · (828 Words)

Relatively soon I’m going to have to do some hardware & software upgrades to my equipment here - the initial driving factor being that in order to realistically work on a DirectX10 rendersystem I’m going to have to upgrade my main machine to Vista and buy a 8800 (my main machine is, and probably always will be nVidia based). Yes, I know I can do it using the reference driver, but really, that just sucks and I’d rather be sticking a fork in my leg. I’m hoping to find time to work on the Dx10 rendersystem as a background task during the summer. However, the number of compatibility issues still remaining with Vista (such as iTunes) still gives me pause, although things do seem to be getting better.

Another potential upgrade candidate is my laptop, which is getting a bit long in the tooth - it’s got a Mobility 9700 which was great in 2004 when I bought it but is lacking somewhat now (running Nimble on it was fun ;)). If I bought a Windows laptop these days I’d get Vista pre-installed, which would save me having to brave Vista compatibility on my main machine, but AFAIK there are no Dx10 compatible mobile chipsets yet (although I believe they’re incoming, at suitably inflated proces no doubt) so it would be something of a waste of time. Therefore I’ll probably not bother upgrading this just yet. Although, another option is a MacBook, which would give me the advantage of being able to start doing some support for OSX myself, although the starting price tag for MacBooks is still higher than I really like (higher if you count wanting to load a copy of XP on it too - multiboot until Parallels supports hardware graphics), and the iBook is just a waste of time for anyone who wants a decent graphics chipset. I can’t justify buying a MacBook really given the cheaper & more appropriate options (in graphics terms) in the PC space.

Lastly, I’d really like to build a Shuttle box (or similar) where I can have copies of  a few different OS’s (a couple of Linux distros and XP perhaps) where I can plug in various graphics cards for testing. I tend to keep all my old graphics cards in case I want to test with them, but I never tend to use them because I don’t want to be dismantling my main dev machine all the time. It’s just too much of a pain when you have a busy schedule to risk incapacitating your main machine, even temporarily. I also have a Linux install on my main machine but I rarely boot into it, for the same reason (time & hassle). So an extra machine I can flit to running builds & tests in parallel while I carry on working would be a serious boon.

Unfortunately all this stuff gets quite expensive, and money is a little tighter than it has been in the past 😕 Since the vast majority of it is for the benefit of OGRE (my PC isn’t really a games machine anymore, with the exception of the odd game of Trackmania now and then) I’m beginning to think about a donation drive, with funding targets to cover a proportion of the above. The 8800/Vista and the Shuttle box will have the greatest cost:benefit ratio, but there may be some OSX users out there who would appreciate more direct OSX support from me and who would perhaps be willing to donate towards a MacBook. If I do go ahead with it I should probably encourage people indicate their funding target preference when donating.

I basically let the donation system go into hibernation since I started doing commercial OGRE-related work full-time, mostly because it felt wrong to collect money when there were commercial operations going on. 6 months later I have a better idea of how things lie, and as it’s turned out there is a stronger divide between pure OGRE and the commercial work I do than I thought there might be. OGRE itself hasn’t actually been earning anything yet, the opposite actually - as of this month I’ve managed to optimise our ad revenue so we’re finally breaking even on the server costs but there’s nothing left over. There’s always things in the pipeline (e.g. possible OUL licensees) and you never know what’s going to happen of course which is why I’ve been reluctant to ask for donations, but I’m wondering if it’s worth doing now to help cover things like this. I dunno, I always find myself wrestling with my conscience over this - it’s easy to talk money when you’re dealing with pure commercial work,  when the line is blurred it’s much harder. But, I guess the community would get a benefit out of this too so perhaps it is an appropriate thing to do now. If you have any opinions on the matter, I’d be glad to hear them.