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Best workstation for DVR using multi-input PCI video capture cards.

Posted on 2004-10-17
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Last Modified: 2012-08-14
I have found "old" answers to similar questions...but I'm looking for some updated answers.

I would like to assemble a new (and stable) machine for digital video recording using multi-input PCI capture cards.

My current computer has an Asus P4P800 Deluxe MB, P-4 3ghz CPU, one gig of ram, 4 HDs. Two of the drives are SATA-raid-0 for storage and two ATA-133 raid-1 for the OS (Win-XP Pro) and programs. All of the software and drivers are current (they have the most recent updates). This setup has proven to be a very flaky combo.

The SATA raid drive(s) are a real pain. Every few weeks they have a write error and I lose a lot of data. My best quess, after reading a lot articles, is that the PCI bus is overloaded by the capture cards and may be part of the problem with the onboard SATA-RAID controller.

Since the software and capture cards support dual CPUs, I intend to ditch this system and replace it with either a dual P-4 or Xeon system and an Ultra-SCSI raid controler and hard drive setup. But after looking and reading all I could find during the past few weeks, I can't find any consistent answer/opinion as to what the ultimate system is for this application.

BTW, my software/dirver combo only works under XP-Pro 32-bit. I mention this because I have an AMD-64 bit machine running WinXP Pro x64 edition, but there are no divers avaiable for my capture cards, so these machines are not, yet, a choice.

Of course, cost is a consideration up to a point. Like, I would keep the parts price under $4,000.00. I've assembled over 50 machines in the past few years, so assembly labor is not an issue.
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Question by:bvalvarez
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by:OliWarner
ID: 12335302
Well usually for any system including high-end games I would suggest a AMD64 but for this a better-floating point computational processor is needed/better. This is about the only thing where Pentiums are better. They are more expensive tho and if you gave me the choice between the top AMD and the top Intel I would always choose AMD. Not only would I have the better computer but I'd have nigh on $500 still in my pocket.

They're better for so much more than just games. Everything would be faster on the whole. But video encoding would be about 10FPS slower between the top machines (AMD vs Intel)

Check out www.tomshardware.com for reviews on hardware.


I helped a friend build his first PC the other day by ordering his parts. He got a AMD 64 3500+ with a gig of ram, 160gigs of HD space and an ATI x800Pro. With a 17TFT (you might want a CRT) it came to just under $1600. That's pretty good because it was a beast of a machine.

You want to get a fair input device too. Pinnacle do some good soho solutions which are very fairly priced and perform very well. Again tomshardware for reviews.


If you're in the US, www.newegg.com, the UK, www.ebuyer.com
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by:x86fix
ID: 12335506
I would switch to something like an Intel 865PERL MB.  An some raptor 10,000rpm drives in a raid 0.  I have no problems with mine but have seen problems with performance and Asus 865/875 Mb's.  The Intel Mb alone may surprise you.  It would be a cheap fix that would probably not affect Windows either.  I was able to upgrade from the Asus board to an Intel and Windows booted right up.  I just installed the intell drivers to frewshen things up and my performance improved dramatically.  I think Asus either has some bad bios or mismatched chips.  They will tell you that they make "fast" boards.  The fact is that they build in overclocking support- I don't overclock because I can't afford data errors -period.  Asus boards in tests tend to perform slightly faster but some savy reviewers will point out that they tend to be overclocked slightly by default.  I you want to overclock that is fine - but it sounds like you want stability- So buy Intel boards.

I have the WD Raptor drives and they are outstanding-  I also have some hitachi 7200 sata drives that are nice and quite.  They are also fast but no match for the raptors.  

If you want a good sata raid controller, the Promise Fast Trak TX2 plus have worked well for me (since I turned of write caching).  I have used them on a number of systems in both raid 1 and raid 0.

You would definitely get faster performance with 3-5 15k scsi drives in a raid 5.

Intel makes a nice entry level server board that has the 875 chipset and SATA Raid built in and the board works very well.  I built a simple server with it and it was extremely fast with 2 raptors in a raid 1.  
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by:OliWarner
ID: 12335539
I'm not sure I would recommend a RAID setup for capturing...
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by:x86fix
ID: 12335653
SCSI handles multiple streams much better.  With a raid 5 controller that has memory on the card it is more reliable and faster.
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by:bvalvarez
ID: 12338408
OliWarner,

I'm sorry, but you must have missed this part of my question "I have an AMD-64 bit machine running WinXP Pro x64 edition, but there are no divers available for my capture cards, so these machines are not, yet, a choice." And this is not going to be a game machine. I am going to build a mission critical video surveillance recorder.

As for the AMD-64 machine I cannot get any drivers for my HP-120 or Brother-1440 printers. It has an FX-1100 VGA card (Nvidia provides support for the 64-bit OS) and the only thing I currently use it for is CAD using SolidWorks and Rhino. However, I have to open the drawings on an Intel workstation in order to print to the large format HP-120. I'm looking forward to the day when there is driver support for this, otherwise fine machine.

x86fix,

Thanks for the "unknown" issues concerning the Asus MBs. I've had nothing but trouble with all the ones I've built the past few years, stability-wise, and have suspected the MBs were a bit flaky. And NO I never over-clock anything either.


When I've built a mission critical computer for other clients, I've always used Intel components throughout. Now, you did not mention anything about the advantages of Dual Xeons over P4s for this setup (DVR using multiple camera input capture cards). Do you know of any?

And also, do you know of a supplier that carries a complete line of Intel stuff...at competitive prices?

Thanks, bvalvarez
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x86fix earned 500 total points
ID: 12339412
I use newegg for just about everything.  I have some accounts with other suppliers who are more geared to commercial customers but they don't have the Intel MB's or the consistently good pricing of newegg.  So I use newegg for most everything and I think their prices are very good.  
Yes, I would agree that the dual Xeons would be faster especially with multiple tasks.  I don't know exactly why the Xeons are faster (maybe the Intel E7505 chipset?) but my observation has been that the dual Xeons are faster than Prescotts.  I think the Prescotts are a nice value and perhaps hit a sweet spot (price/value) but only if they have the muscle to do the job.
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by:OliWarner
ID: 12340687
Yeah sorry I must have been have been high (not really) when I read the original question.

You could see if you can get your drivers for linux then build them once your in there.
Linux has better usage of 64Bit architechtures and it'll add the stability for your system that you really need - assuming you can get the drivers for the hardware.

As money doesnt seem to be too much of a limitin factur, why not splace out and go Dual Opteron or Xeon.

The problem with windows for these things are that windows just doesnt use 2 or more processors well. Linux variants have been doing it for a lot longer and are far more scalable, assuming, as I said, hardware drivers are available in source, as you'll want to compile them to be optimised to your system.

So whatever processor, just try and use *nix if you can.
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by:bvalvarez
ID: 12341415
Thanks a bunch, x86fix. I've used newegg too, so I go there first for the Intel stuff.

Sorry OliWarner, but...again...I said in my original post "BTW, my software/dirver combo only works under XP-Pro 32-bit."

Although we are almost totally Linux here at my company: web server, mail server, data-base server, all workstation nodes, all programming machines, etc. (over 25 Linux machines and only 3 M$ based systems, one to run QuickBooks, one for CAD like SolidWorks, and one for video surveillance).

So far I've not found a solid software package for high-end (stable) video surveillance and recording. Do you know of any?

Thanks bvalvarez
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