Designing Custom Computer Systems – CompTIA A+ 220-901 – 1.9

| December 4, 2015

There’s a different computer system for every task. In this video, you’ll learn how to build and configure the specifications for graphics workstations, virtualization workstations, home theater PCs, and much more.

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Graphics workstations are those that are used for applications like Computer Aided Design or Computer Aided Manufacturing. We sometimes refer to these as CAD/CAM workstations. These are devices that need a lot of computing power. So they’re probably going to have a multicore processor because your performing a lot of advance calculations when you’re designing in a graphical form on your desktop.

Usually, you’re doing things like 3D modeling, like the picture shows here. Something that’s going to require a lot of CPU cycles.

You also are going to need a video card that can support this type of output. This video card usually is able to handle a lot of complex graphics, has a lot of memory on the video card itself, requires some additional cooling because of that.

This device is going to use a lot of memory. These are usually performing many different kinds of calculations, all simultaneously, and showing this information graphically on the screen. So you’ll probably want to maximize the amount of RAM in this workstation.

Here’s something I’m pretty familiar with is audio and video editing on a workstation. These are usually going to require a video card that has plenty of video memory. Sometimes it’s a specialized video card that can really handle the load of having this real time video editing. You’re also going to want to have very good audio, because you want to be able to hear it exactly the way it’s going to be heard by the end user themselves.

You’re going to use a lot of very large drives when performing video editing. So you want to be sure that you not only have the capacity that the storage device itself is going to be able to access that information as quickly as possible. There’s usually a lot of temporary files being written constantly. And if you can afford a very large SSD, you will see a very nice improvement over their performance just because you have a very fast storage device.

It might also be useful to have multiple monitors all this device, one that you can use to perform the editing, and another one that you can use to view a full size representation of what the end user is going to see. That way you can make any minor changes on a larger screen, rather than trying to figure out what those might be in a smaller editing window.

It’s becoming more and more common to run multiple operating systems at one time on our desktops. We use specialized virtualization software to be able to do this. But, of course, we need the hardware resources to support all of these operating systems running at the same time.

The amount of memory in your computer is probably going to be the very first thing you want to consider upgrading. You’re going to want to maximize the amount of memory, because a single operating system uses a lot of RAM. Imagine adding two or three additional operating systems at the same time.

Virtualized environments also require additional CPU cycles. So you’re going to need to have a CPU that can support a lot of processing occurring simultaneously. If you can get a processor with multiple cores, you’ll increase the amount of efficiency you have across all of the different operating systems that are running.

The games that we run on our computers can be some of the most advanced applications you’ll find. Because of that, they require a lot of resources from our computing devices.

It’s useful to have a processor that can handle the load of these games. Although much of the processing is occurring on the video card, there’s also a large amount of work that’s being done by the main CPU of your system.

These games often have a very advanced graphical component. It maybe high resolution, a large number of colors. There may be real time shadowing that occurs. And a lot of this processing is occurring on the graphics card itself. You want to make sure you have a graphics card that can keep up with a high frame rates required of these games.

The audio on these games is also very high end. You want to be sure that your audio card can support the many layers of sounds that usually come from these games. They will definitely provide more atmosphere and allow you to enjoy the experience even more.

While you’re playing these games, your CPU, your memory, and your video card are going to be running at full steam for the entire time. So because of that, you want to be sure that your system is able to cool things properly. You want to make sure that you have the proper number of fans or that you’re using a cooling system that’s able to keep up with these high-end computing requirements.

A PC that’s designed for a home theater is one that’s going to focus on the enjoyment of watching television. So you want to be sure that it has the audio that’s going to be able to provide the surround sound components that we’re used to having on our movies and our television shows.

It’s very common for our televisions to receive a high definition signal over an HDMI cable. So we need to make sure that the video card we’re using in this computer can also output the signal in HDMI to the television.

Our home theater PCs need to be large enough so that we’re able to cool them properly. But we also want them small enough to be put out of the way. We usually will see home theater PCs use the smaller form factors of cases, so that you could put it on a shelf or somewhere out of the way while you’re using it.

Although more and more of what we’re watching is provided to us over streaming connection, we do also want to be able to save shows locally. So we’ll often add a TV tuner into this home theater PC to capture signals that are coming from our cable television system or from signals that are coming over the air.

You can think of a thick client as a traditional computer. It’s one that has all of the programs running in local executable memory. You have your own CPU processing that is running this application local on your computer. Everything associated with this app occurs on this standard thick client.

These thick clients are going to have an operating system running on them. So we usually get our requirements from the operating system specifications. Those will give us a minimum value to start with for our CPU, the amount of memory in that system, and how much storage device we’re going to need.

Instead of everyone having a thick client on their desk where all the applications were running locally, what if you could have a centralized server where everyone’s application ran, and then you would need something very simple at everyone’s desktop. That’s the idea behind a thin client, where the thin client is simply a keyboard and mouse and a screen. All of your computing, all of the CPU cycles, all of the storage is being done on a remote device.

This concept of thing client use is called a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI. That means that all of your CPU cycles, all of your storage is occurring on that remote device.

That means locally on your desk you need a device they just does the bare minimum. It’s able to connect a keyboard and a mouse. And it’s able to show you information on a screen that’s being computed somewhere else on the network.

This also means you want to have a big requirement for network connectivity. All the applications are executing on a device that’s somewhere over the network. So we want to be sure everybody’s desk is able to communicate as efficiently as possible using this VDI.

Our lives are becoming much more digital. All of our family photos, our videos, and movies of vacations are all now stored in a digital form. So we’re seeing an increased number of home server PCs being implemented in your house.

This can be used for media streaming, where all of your media is in one central location. And you can be anywhere in the home to watch videos or to view pictures.

This is also a good place to share files and information that might be important for the household. And because it’s on a central server, everyone can access it.

This would also be a good place to set up a print server. You can have a centralized printer connected to your home server PC, and anyone in the house would be able to print to that central server.

Since everyone in the house will be accessing files, looking at videos, or printing information, you want to be sure that it has the fastest network access possible. And usually in a home, that’s something like a gigabit network interface card to provide that high speed connectivity.

The pictures of our family and the videos of our vacations only become more valuable over time. So you’ll probably want to set up your home server PC with some type of redundancy in the storage system. It’s very common to set up a RAID array with mirroring or RAID 5, so that you’re able to ensure that if a hard drive goes bad, you still have all of your data intact.

Here’s a summary of these workstation types. I’ve listed the type of workstations on the left side. And then I highlighted which are most important from a processor, video, RAM, storage, and audio perspective. I’ve also added some notes on the side so that you could see what characteristics are important for these different types of custom workstations.

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Category: CompTIA A+ 220-901

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