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tigger

Workstation Build Advice and Questions

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Hello All,

I am new to these forums and this is my first post. I am almost as new to Houdini as I am to these forums, so I am just learning Houdini using Apprentice. Houdini works just fine on my current computer, but it is pretty outdated at this point. It was built back in 2007! So I'm looking at upgrading with a completely new build.

I've done a good amount of research related to a computer build that would work pretty well with Houdini and based on that I've put together a build. I would like to get some thoughts as to how this build looks and any suggestions and/or recommendations for what to change. The build is linked here:

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/lhI9

I do have some questions related to some of the info that I've found in my research:

- Is 64 GB of RAM overkill for someone just starting to learn Houdini? I'm thinking of dropping the extra set of 32 GB to save some money. Although $30 off seems like it is a good deal...

- I am most likely going to remove the second GTX 680 from the build to save money. How valueable is it to have that second GPU? If I keep (or add later) the second GPU, should the two GPUs be connected via their multi-GPU connector (SLI for nVidia)? Or should the 2 cards be left unconnected? I've never used a multi-GPU setup so I'm not 100% how to configure them.

- I've read about different combinations of SSDs and HDDs. What is a recommended setup? In the build you'll see that I've included 1 SSD. Is it worthwhile (value wise) to get a second SSD and have them in Raid 0? I already have 2 1TB 7200 rpm drives in my current computer that I can use. How should I utilize those in this new build? I read a mention of setting up the SSD as a local cache and using regular HDDs for files. Does Houdini use the OS disk as a default local cache, or does that need to be configured? Any suggestions and insight here is very helpful!

- This is kind of a random question...I've read that nVidia cards are better for the viewport while AMD cards perform better with OpenCL. What about installing an nVidia card as the main GPU for viewport and installing an AMD card as a second GPU. Then set Houdini to use the AMD card as the OpenCL card? Does this even make sense or is it just a silly idea? What would the advantages and disadvantages be?

- I am very much in need of a new mouse and keyboard. You'll see the ones I selected in the build. What input devices do you guys use? Which mouse and keyboard?

- Displays. I currently own a BenQ 241W and use a very old Dell 2005FPW as a second monitor. I'd like to upgrade my displays, though I'm not sure what to do yet: get a second 24" or upgrade to a 27"? Which displays and display setups are suggested for Houdini work?

Many thanks for your time and suggestions. I look forward to learning much about Houdini from all the awesome info and people in this forum. Hopefully I'll be able to give back one day.

Cheers.

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A few of my thoughts:

  • 64GB is probably a bit much initially, but it's much easier to buy all the same RAM at once than it is to track down a kit that matches what you have installed, a year later.
  • I agree you should only have 1 680 installed. SLI only works for fullscreen games, not windowed workstation apps (need a Quadro for that, and Houdini doesn't support that sort of multi-GPU rendering).
  • A common storage config is a smaller SSD for the system and applications drive (100-200GB), and larger HDD's for data (2TB+). Putting SSDs in RAID will often prevent TRIM from working, though I think a recent Intel driver update for their RAID controller resolves this issue.
  • AMD 7000 and FirePro W series seem to cause a driver reset with Houdini 12 when OpenCL is invoked, so it's not a great choice at the moment. AMD is looking into resolving this. Also, having a second card in the system that runs off a different driver is possible, but it might not be worth the setup/driver hassle.
  • An IPS display, either 1920x1080/1200 or higher (2560x1440/1600) is recommended. I prefer 16:10 displays myself, but they can be tough to find. Houdini can run on multiple monitors, though I prefer a single large display myself.
  • Keyboard doesn't matter too much (personal preference), but make sure you get a mouse where the middle button is easy to press; many mice have a wheel/button combo that can make panning a bit challenging.

Hope that helps.

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Great info Mark, I thought multi monitors or 30" lcds were not supported though. Like if you double click a hip file to open it and your startup desktop has panes on both monitors (one of them is enlarged on the 2nd lcd), the enlarged pane ends up on top of the primary monitor with everything else behind, and any mouse movement makes them flicker like crazy, some sort of z-fighting I think.

I see the same issue since H11, but just thought they weren't fixed because multi monitors weren't supported. Then I guess it's because very few people actually use multi monitor setup with Houdini, actually utilizing Houdini on both monitors.

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Great info Mark, I thought multi monitors or 30" lcds were not supported though. Like if you double click a hip file to open it and your startup desktop has panes on both monitors (one of them is enlarged on the 2nd lcd), the enlarged pane ends up on top of the primary monitor with everything else behind, and any mouse movement makes them flicker like crazy, some sort of z-fighting I think.

I see the same issue since H11, but just thought they weren't fixed because multi monitors weren't supported. Then I guess it's because very few people actually use multi monitor setup with Houdini, actually utilizing Houdini on both monitors.

There are a lot of people using Houdini with two monitors. Works flawlessly in Linux for us.

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Sorry this was on Windows, maybe that's the source of the problem. Also not sure how your setup is, but the problem I see arise from maximizing a pane to the 2nd monitor. I basically created a Scene View pane and maximize it onto the 2nd monitor using the pane options with the full screen option.

It works fine though if you just scatter floating panes across your monitors.

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Thank you Mark for the really great info. Exactly what I was looking to hear.

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I wouldn't buy gskill ram .. I bought a bunch of this ram about a year ago and kept having problems.. turns out I got a couple of faulty ones.. returned them no problem and got replacements but some of the replacements had faults. It's cheap but not worth the headache IMO.

-G

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The computer I built in 2007 (the one I'm replacing) has G.Skill RAM and I never had any problems. I actually specifically chose G.Skill this time because of price but also because I have had a good experience with them so far. Thanks for the advice though. I will look into some other RAM manufacturers for comparison.

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