New Computer, Windows 7, and an Interview with Peter Funk

My recent hiatus from the blogworld is due to being in-between computers. My new laptop just came in last week and I am so excited!! However, with a build it is always scary to know if what you are building is just right for Civil3D.

So follow along as I interview Peter Funk – Autodesk’s Civil 3D Product Manager – about new computer builds and especially his passion for Windows 7. Afterward, we will see how well I did with my build.

One small disclaimer: Peter is definitely a guy in the know but his opinions might not necessarily be the opinions of Autodesk as a company.

    The Interview

    In your opinion, why is Windows7 so important for running Civil3D – now and in the future?

    I’m excited about Windows 7 (especially the 64 bit versions) and the number of companies that are moving towards it, because we’re reaching the limits of what is practical to do in a 8 year old, 32 bit operating system and Windows 7 provides us with a path forward. We’ve been doing a lot of testing on different operating systems and have seen real differences in how they deal with memory both in terms of the amount of memory but also in how the available memory is managed. In every case, Vista and now Windows 7 do a better job than XP does.

    Would you choose the operating system over other components of a computer build? If so, which ones? Why?

    The operating system is the most important component of a new computer because it is the foundation of everything else. You can buy the fastest quad core system on the planet and load it with RAM, but if you put XP 32 on it you have hobbled it. I know that many organizations aren’t ready to move from XP to Vista or Windows 7, but now is the time to do so.

    Are you currently using Windows7? (How about at AU?)

    I received my current machine before Windows 7 was released so it is loaded with Vista 64. We may have machines at AU that are loaded with Windows 7 64, but the Civil team won’t be running those in the public sessions.

    Do you have any other comments on Windows7?

    In the last couple of years it has been hard to purchase a computer that wasn’t 64 bit, so if you’re still running XP on it then Windows 7 is the best $200 that you can invest in your computer system. I see a lot of questions on the newsgroup about the best graphics card for Civil 3D, but a new graphics card won’t provide nearly the performance boost as a new OS. IT departments have had a good 8 year run with XP, but it’s time to move to Windows 7.

    If you were to build a computer, what would you include (in order of importance)?

    1. Windows 7 64 – any other operating system is a downgrade.
    2. RAM – the more the better, but I wouldn’t pay a premium for it. The reason I say that is that with 64 bit operating systems if you run out of physical ram, the OS will start using the hard disk as virtual RAM so while 8 may give you better performance than 4 you may not need it right away.
    3. Hard Disk – Get a fast one (especially if you think you’ll be using it for virtual RAM swap space). Point cloud files are also disk based so you want a fast drive to process those.
    4. CPU – I would go with a really fast duo core. If you work mostly in Civil 3D then having more than 2 cores won’t help that much especially if you pay for the additional cores with reduced speed in each one. We’ve look at splitting Civil 3D across multiple cores and found that it really doesn’t help (in some cases it is slower) because of the nature of the calculations that we do and the structure of the program.
    5. Graphics Card – unless you do a lot of rendering in Max the graphics card is really not where you need to invest. Any good certified card should be good enough. If you’ve maxed out 1-4 and still have budget then go for a great video card.

    –End of Interview. (Thanks so much Peter)

    My Computer Build

    So how did I measure up?

    Well, I needed a laptop for portability but don’t do that much travel so a bigger monitor (17in) would be more useful. I prefer to have someone else build the computer and you rarely can beat Dell for price versus product. So I got from Dell a Studio 17 with the following components:

    • Intel Core i7 820QM 1.73GHz (3.06GHz Turbo Mode, 8MB Cache)
    • 8GB, DDR3, 1066MHz, 2 DIMM
    • 320G 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive
    • Microsoft Windows Vista SP1 Ultimate 64-bit Edition English (with free upgrade to Win7)

    So what do you think? Did I do okay? What would you have done differently?


    1. George Phoenix says:

      How much $$$?

    2. George Phoenix says:

      BTW, check out the current system requirements for Civil 3D:

    3. Looks good…
      You can mail that to:
      369 East Park Drive
      Harrisburg, PA 17111
      Attn: Mark Spatz


    4. Scott Conte says:

      Geoge’s link includes multiple versions of Windows 7 in the minimum system requirements.

    5. Jon Rizzo says:

      One correction – you make the statement that “At this moment, Autodesk does not OFFICIALLY support AutoCAD Civil3D 2010 on Windows7”. Perhaps you should look here:

    6. Jon Rizzo says:

      Sorry – late to the party! I guess I should have read the other comments first. 😉

    7. As I mentioned in the disclaimer they had done everything but say it was official but until it hit that Autodesk page some would not see it official.

      James thanks for making the change.