I'm looking at purveyors of computer systems. So far, Im between Monarch
and XiComputers. The latter offers, with a new system, Intellicad standard
for $145 factory installed, and Intellicad Professional for $245. Is this
software any good for architectural modeling?
(I've been thinking of adding CAD to my 3D)
BTW, if anyone knows of a good, reliable mail-order company (or one in
Houston TX?) that can offer the following, I'd certainly appreciate any
references...for some reason I can't figure out, it's difficult to get this
combination. Monarch so far comes the closeset.
((I'm tired of video/rendering errors with program shutdown, pokey renders,
and all of that sort of thing))
TIA :) !
AMD 64 X2 4800 (I know the FX-57 is faster but dual core is better for 3D
WinXP pro SP2, pref 64 version
4 GB DDR 400 (or 533?) RAM with heatsink and pref actve cooling
NVidia SLI 7800 graphics adapter
600W stable power supply (nermasEG701, or <?> ElanVital greenegar 500W)
AntecP180 case or other poly-fan/highly-cooled case (max # of 120mm quiet-
Audigy 2 ZS Pro or pref. Audigy 4 (for composing music - tired of glitchy
old computer and totally lousy MP3 quality from antique sound card)
Mitsumi 1.44 floppy (im case emergency boot is needed)
DVDRW (not picky, Lite-On fine)
CDRW (not picky - but don't want Asus, had one, it broke ;p )
What about "burn in" and so on, tho'...? I've never built a system, but I
also have previously been able to get the parts I've wanted. Monarch seems
decent, tho', and does the burn in and replaces any faulty parts. The main
thing is tat the other place offers IntelliCAD - whcih was why I was
wondering whether it's any good. I know AutoCAD is the standard, but I
can't justify it professionally (yet!) and can't get both it an a new
After a computer is assembled, it should run constantly for a period of
time - I think it's 72 hours but I'd have to check. The purpose of this is
to give any faulty components time to fail, because a very high percentages
of equipment-fault failures will occur in that time period.
If a company builds your computer for you, they're supposed to do this, and
replace any equipment that fails; they usually have the parts on hand to do
If you build your own, OTOH, and something fails, you have to try to
return/replace it as an individual.
I would suggest that if you are looking to do architectual modelling,
you need to decide which way you want to go.
If you want to do modeling and animation, then you need to go with
lightwave or max and then Rhino might be a good choice for a cad
program. If you want to be more of the cad side, then do a more
conventional 3d cad program. These two worlds, cad and 3d haven't
merged very well. Most 3d modeling programs don't have the cad tools.
Most cad programs don't do 3d animation or have the lighting programing
to make a realistic 3d image or animation. Rhino/Lightwave or the other
rhino products seems to be a good solution for the money. Again,
depends on what you want out of the 3d part of it.
I'd argue that Sketchup for modeling and 3DS for rendering/animation is
the best combination (based on my 10+ years experience trying all sorts
Sketchup is pretty cheap (and is getting better rendering capabilities).
Max, not so cheap.
That's not the problem. I prefer to have the burn-in (and any needed
troubleshooting and parts replacements) done by people familiar with the
I'm not a clueless newbie :p
There are simply some things I prefer to leave to competent professionals.
Yowza dassa lotta links. Yeah, I might end up building my own.
And you're right, the systems I've been looking at are just nder $3.5K.
It will be fast - right now I'm only working with a 1GHz Athlon thunderbird
(ca yr 2000) and 1 gig (actually, 999MB because of Win98 RAM useage
restrictions, there's actually 1.5 GB in the machine) and a 64 MB Video Ram
(an old NVidia). It's fine for "common useage" but not for what I've been
trying to do - I've been getting a lot of "traffic jams" (video and program
For right now, the AMD64X24800-based system is all I can or at least am
willing to budget for - I'll be using my old keyboard and glide-pad (I
physically can't use a mouse), and the old monitor, all of which are just
fine so far.
It sounds like overkill to a lot of folks but too bad; then too, if I get
something good, it takes longer for me to outgrow it (for it to become
But I want to get some 3D models together and start trying to sell some
stuff, also enter some image contests, and I need a machine that has speed
and reliability under 3D pressure. I also like doing complicated scenes.
That Dragonfly image I posted kept growing, turned into 3 dragonflies and
other stuff as well - I'd tried useing various permutations of image maps
and transparencies, but to get the right effect, I ended up going with
actual tree models. The scene file itself is something like 58MB last I'd
And actually, I'd also made comprimises in it to accomidate my old machine.
Thing is that, for my images, I like to use multilayerd textures (including
multilayerd transparencies on the image/texture, bumps, and reflectances).
I haven't finished many because I haven't been able to get the right
effects and I never finish something if it's not turning out right.
IOW I'm an obsessive-compulsive 3D freakazoid...it's not so much that i
want to do "photorealism", because I don't perceive/experience the world
like a camera (although I also enjoy photography; I'm one of those insane
idiots you occasionally see lying in the mud at some park or botanical
garden trying to get just the right lighting on some bug or something).
Like, one thing I want to model is something I saw once, an opening in a
forest (this was in British Columbia), and a huge spiderweb, almost like a
magic gate into the glade beyond, catching the sunlight as an angle that
turned it prismatic. I simply cannot do the requisite modeling, texturing,
volumetric etc. lighting, and so on, on my current machine. ((Naturally,
idiot hadn't bothered to take the camera along).
Anyhoo, so I don't want to merely reproduce snapshots. Even when I try to
take photos, I don't take snapshots. I won't touch doorknobs in public
places with my fingertips (not *quite* as bad a Monk...), but for the right
shot, and most esp. the right light, I'll get into all sorts of stuff...
I'm the same way about doing buildings. I haven't really been able to do
anywhere near what I'd like so far. But I'm especially on about the glass.
I also have a real "thing" about reflections. Most 3D people seem to have
the idea that "the shinier, the better". IMO most reflections are too
shiny and too simple and too sharp-looking. Then of course there is
There also are 2 animations I'd like to do at some time - one would be my
envisioning of the Slavic legend of the Fire Bird (yah, same from the piece
of music), and another to go with a piece of music I'd written some time
back but, due to having a crappy sound card, have never been able to get
((In between finishing my table, building my metal'n'glass windhoolie-
fountain-gizmo, and so on...))
I'm still of course working on that Rock House. Got an idea in my sleep
the other night so started ll over, taking a different tack. Booleans
giving me grief, series of "render errors" program shutdowns, bleh.
Hence the new system. Also, I want to start getting my hands on plans etc.
and doing some serious building modeling. My current system just cannot
The thing that's really funny is that I don't even have a cell phone or a
PDA. What I *need*, of course, is a robot to follow me around and remind
me just why it is I went into the living room, or just where it was I put
down my glasses, and so on...
dep.t stor and going to the Salvation
Army Thrift Store!!!!)
Well, my first lineup was closer to that...but the Budget started to squal
at the seams =8-O !
I can't put XP or newer video drivers on the old machine. The newer
drivers rendered (no pun intended) the system unusable. Luckily, I just
re-inserted the previous files ("Always Keep Backups") via DOS.
Yeah, I thought so <G!>
At least it distracts my from compulsively collecting styrofoam meat trays,
jars, and other such effluvia... =8-O
I have a Fresnel plug-in, playing around with another that does/simulates?
caustics. Maya I cannot afford, plus it wouldn't even run on my current
machine if I could, so there are some limitations to my program.
So the biggest problem is simply lack of "horsepower". Maya wouldn't run -
and my work-arounds, evne tho' they seem decent, ust take too bleeping long
to even test render, never mind final render (esp with any volumetric
lighting and radiosity, yikes!)
Not books, I still see a lot of reflections even in current work that
simply just do not look right to me. It's not that they're bad per se,
it's just that it often doesn't look like what I observe. Of course
"observation/perception and the representation of reality" is a whloe
research project unto itself...for example, my one eye is "blue-shifted" in
relation to the other, so that no doubt affects how I perceive the world.
So there are all sorts of factors involved.
Be that as it may, I'm very, very demanding of myself and of my machine.
Which is why I don't think any of my own stuff is good enough to submit
into contests - IMO it's barely good enough to put onto the net at all, but
I figure I have to put up *something*, else it looks like I've done nothing
at all over the years - then too, other people have said some of it is
passable, so I'll eventually finish and upload my new website and new
The closest I can come to an example is the dragonfly pics I'd referred to
(the one dragonfly pic is oldest) - both images are over 600KB. Neither is
satisfying to me and much improvement, IMO, needs to be done. ((For one
thing, I have to get some highly-close-up images of dragonfly mandibles, or
find some way to catch one of the suckers - they like to fly arouind the
pool but as you know, they're so fast and also delicate, plus I don't want
to kill 'em, since they chow doen on mosquitoes, just take a look with my
jeweller's 10X magnifying glass). And I'd tried using painted-planes for
trees, and shadow-casting transparency maps, but they looked like total and
utter *CRAP*, so I went with the actual tree models; I got away with
transparencies for the wings but used a multilayer shader in an attempt to
get the iridescence (it still isn't satisfying). The volumetrics aren't
The links have a problem right now, the site is down, I suspect because I'm
on automatic billing and forgot to submit my new address when I
moved...anyhoo, I sent a Fix-It request, tho' I dunno when they'll get my
email (once they get it, Bitera is usu. *very* fast to fix things). At any
rate, here are the links, whenever they're operational again:
so you can see what I'm talking about. I want the effect of light through
leaves ("rays") and going down to mist-covered still water. The second pic
is the best to date but IMO it still sucks.
I want to fix it.
So that sort of stuff is one major thing I want to do with the new machine.
Heh, to heck with mansions and Rolls-Royces and gold-plated toilet seats
and crap like that =:-p - if I won the Big Lottery, I'd get myself a REAL
<sound of mad cackling laughter disappearing into the distance....>
Oh right, the 1/4" mortar joints at 100yds. ;-)
Anyway, you get a snazzy new beefy machine and I'm just gonna be jealous.
That's pretty much all there is to that.
Well, new machine is always a good thing so go with that. My old dual P2-300
is happy w/ XP though.
Slow. Shy on ram. Hot. Needs the drive cables plugged back in every now and
I managed to channel my of my urges to books.
But then there's www.hwb.com/gruhn/ground so maybe I'm not fully...
Maya PLE you could cover. But I can't remember the hits for getting Maya
free. Probably don't get a seat of Mental which I think you'd want for
caustics/gi. Don't enough to look. It said "500 MHz" and I took it serious.
Besides, I don't need a modeler, I need to be able to model.
Ah, the machine should cut it, but Maya does require XP iirc.
When I was a kid, we'd just sit still and stick a finger out.
(Well, maybe 50 yards...) <G!>
Sometimes I do have to laugh at myself ;)
OK, a lot of times =:-o
Well, lemme know whether you want anything rendered -
- or hypercomplexificationalized <L!>
More maddening than anything else - esp. for other people :o !
I had to keep doing that with USB cables. Got fed up and just jammed the
skinny end of a toothpick under the thing - and now the printer actually
*works*. Previously, I kept getting error messages: "device not connected"
types. I might re-try the scanner at some point, now that I've figured
Sometimes I think things like that are deliberate, so that people will
bring their machines in to be "repaired".
Heh, I have too many of those, too! Esp. landscaping books (plant books,
stoneworking books, pond/fountain books, xeriscaping books....). A *lot*
of military (mostly mil tech) and poli sci books. I can't bear to throw a
((Now, if only I could actually *remember* half of what I've read, I'd
actually be smart - unfortunately... ;) ))
Hey, I thought I saw a styrofoam meat tray there somewhere!
Reminds me of something - I think I saw it on Discovery channel but
whatever, point is, there is a ?magazine?/?newsletter? put out by a couple
of guys who, well, find stuff. SOme of it is bizarre, some poignant, some
mundane - a real mix. I tried to google it but have to figure out how to
limit the search, because the term "findings" collects everything from
"fact finding" to "beads; sewing" and so on.
Hmm, I looked that up; hadn't heard of it before - might be interesting to
I'm mostly looking for expanded rendering possibilities. My current prog.
is agood modeler, I'm *very* happy with it. I'm a polygon modeler - I lost
patience with the Nurbs tools. (I'd also tried Rhino, supposed to be a
Nurbd modeler, didn't like it.)
Mostly I'm curious about some other shading and render engine options. A
lot of the time, it's the texturing and the rendering that make the
difference. Animated hair is a biggie, for example, for character
modelers. Hair and fur are notoriously difficult, esp. when it comes to
animation, because they require a lot of number-crunching. And to get a
more subtle effect, you usually need a number of textured/transparency-
mapped objects. For example, I could use a plug-in that simulates the
motion of cloth, create several animated onbjects using alightly differnt
settings (so the obj.s are all similar enough to look, when all together,
like one multilayered object with parts that move a bit differently from
one another) and then texture each object with slightly varied Hiar
textures and transparencies...
...But it takes a heck of a CPU to crunch an animation like that.
Hmm, maybe XP would install - I was never able to install W2KPro, tho',
something weird with how the hard drive allows (or doesn't allow) itself to
be recognized. Not a big deal at this point, since I'll just be getting a
new machine which I'll set up as a dual-boot (XP on one HD, W98 on the
otehr for running my older-but-still-useful programs).
They do get fairly close, the damselflies at least. I've considered taking
the camera out to the poolside but fear it's get splashed-up and ruined. I
need a macro setup, anyway - tried taking some photos of damselflies
(they're the small ones) last summer, using my Zoom lens, but it doesn't
Zoom enough. So I'd have to read up on "zoomier" lenses.
The big ones, the dragonflies, are more wary. Or at least, more wary of
me. Some of those critters are really striking, tho'
OTOH, I just googled "dragonfly photo OR image OR images OR photos" and got
over 800,000 hits.
THis was one of the first and it's pretty good, entomological images
located at Texas A&M U.:
This one evidently takes photos from all sorts of people; I didn't get to
look at too many but some are pretty decent:
This is Massachusetts dragonflies, but the photos I checked out are
*excellent* - high res, interesting angles, great Artistic reference:
Hmnm, got too wrapped up in looking but this is a site with a number of
general Nature photos, I think they're amateur photos but some are pretty
good, including the Dragonfly photos:
The other great thing is that the photographers provide the Tech Specs. So
now I know I need <need being of course a relative term...> an 80-400mm
Yikes, I'd best stop there.
At least, I now have some bookmarks for Bug Photos. I got an Insect ID
book that, if I recall, has detailed illustrations of the mouthparts. So
now I can "fix" my dragonflies at least.
Not that that's related to Architecture. OTOH nothing wrong with doing a
3D of "Dragonfly On Brick" - or "Giant Dragonfly Attacking House" =:-o
I've listed some advice for HW and SW for CAD users.
Kris Krieger wrote:
Xi is a fine small manufacturer of very high performance CAD
computers. I owned a fast machine of theirs that had a good
high res monitor. That got me started in the high performance
CAD world without having to pay a fortune on HW.
They have many options. My strong advice is to not build your
own. Buy a customizable model, and work with the sales engineer
at Xi to develop a list of specifications. Compare those specs
with other brands. Then buy from XI. Xi has many resources
and let them build the custom computer that you need.
I think that they use Taiwanese sources. My general advice
is to avoid computers and related HW that are mfd. in the PRC.
You need the depth of available engineering resources in
English that cannot be obtained from the PRC firms. The PRC
firms are incredibly cost pressured and their products are
starting to look a little bit ugly too.
I don't know the Monarch brand.
Intellicad may be a real sleeper regarding a 3-D CAD SW program.
It also has the ability to RW both AutoCAD and MicroStation files
if my memory is right.
If you are taking courses at your local community college you can
get a free copy of the MicroStation PowerDraft. That's a professional
level SW Ap that is limited to 2D and without 3D and rendering.
I've used it in my architectural work, and I've used MicroStation
for nearly 20 years. It is professional SW.
Other excellent low cost 3D programs are TurboCAD and Vellum.
Both are excellent for 3D & rendering work, and are good for all
design work including product design and architectural work.
Those are good if you are designing every detail of the structure,
and if you are not locked in to designing scratch-built buildings
with 2-line walls and generic windows and other symbols.
Archicad is good for architectural work, and isn't as good as the
Intellicad, TurboCAD, Rhino, or Vellum aps for products and
AutoCAD and MicroStation both have many more command features
than the the above mentioned aps, and they are both excellent for
custom designing and for customizable architectural work.
MicroStation has better integrated 3D commands, accuracy features,
and advanced color rendering than AutoCAD. AutoCAD is better for
production drawings that are made on a per-sheet basis, and
MicroStation is better for huge engineering projects.
Really high end CAD programs include MicroStation's Triforma,
Intergraph's Plant Design, some AutoCAD products, Unigraphics,
Catia, MicroStation, and Professional Engineer, for example. They
all have expensive additional modules that cost 10s of thousands.
Learn what they offer before buying even low cost CAD SW, and
the free demos are well worth the trouble of installation and use.
Some of those are for heavy industry, e.g., autos, aircraft,
pharmaceuticals, chemicals, mining, transportation, power
generation, oil refining, and machine and tool designing.
The reason for the possibly 75% market share of AutoCAD in
the architectural field is the skillful marketing of AutoCAD
by AutoDesk. AutoCAD didn't have the better SW products.
They were better at persuading the market that ACAD was
all CAD, the ACAD was the fashion, and for ACAD the
customer supposedly didn't need to conduct any comparative
testing at all.
Better all around CAD packages, e.g., MicroStation, were
simply ignored due to the lies, fashion and the rumored
popularity of AutoCAD. That popularity had zero to do
with actual performance, accuracy, command structures,
or ease of use of the CAD programs that were already
in productive use in industry.
I like Insight. At least they didn't lie to me regarding the
mfd content of the products that originated in the communist
nation, the PRC, as have other firms that I have dealt with,
e.g., C__. I got treated with the highest and most
businesslike conduct possible from Insight.
Not necessarily. A single processor is better for some aps, e.g.,
MicroStation, and a dual processor system for ordinary 2D and
3D CAD work is unnecessary.
A dual core machine, as I understand it, is for the option of running
Apple or MicroSoft OSs. But you really need only one OS.
Very high speed CPUs are not needed for 2D and 3D CAD designing,
modeling, and drafting. Where a very high speed CPU is needed is in
the manipulation of large reference files, and for sophisticated
lighting of models and rendering.
64bit? Same argument as above.
WinXP pro SP2 is needed, and that is required for
the proper functioning of the latest features of
Symantec's AV protection SW package.
Follow the mfrs. recommendations for cooling devices, and get all that are
What I worry about is dust. No mfr seems to have a good HW dust
A high resolution graphics adapter is a necessity for 3D work. Get a
card that has dual monitor capability with. e.g., a min. of 1200 x 1600
pixels resolution per monitor and a min of 1200 x 3200 pixels total
for the screen file. The monitors should be able to display a min of
96 dpi, and the card should have 128+ megabytes of display RAM. The
card should have the capability of displaying the above screen file
size, on high res monitors, simultaneously with 32 bit color pixel
resolution, and a 75Hz screen file refresh rate. I stress the
requirement of simultaneity.
250W to 400W is sufficient, but add up what is needed and get more
capacity than that.
What is really needed is a UPC device. that is, an uninteruptible
recharging battery backed power supply device. That provides power
when the grid has failures due to daily switching. The few hundreds
spent on a UPC unit will pay for itself in preventing data losses
within a few months, and the sense of security and confidence is
significant. You'll know you are winning when the cry of your
fellow AutoCAD workers goes up when the unsaved content of
their designs in RAM disappear due to a temporary power outage.
The sound of all the AutoCAD user's voices crying out in unison
due to no instantaneous data saving features, like MicroStation
has, is a cry of lost money that only Wall Street traders have
experienced. AutoDesk thought that data security was not
important for its customers. How many millions has that
oversight cost the AutoDesk customers? At one company I
brought my own UPS unit, and when the regular afternoon
power grid did its switching everyone in the office lost data,
and I did not. They lost thousands. Management, didn't even
buy me lunch, nor did they get UPS units, They continued
with the AutoCAD religion even though it cost them more in
data losses than the ACAD program itself cost them..
Get an integrated system that is put together by the Xi sales
engineer. There are too many technical electronic complexities
for the beginner to reckon with.
Inside? Use what the Mfr provides.
Get the sound card later. Or follow the Mfrs recommendations.
That is the least of your worries.
Its no big deal. CDRWs and DVDRWs media are cheaper. Get
your computer guru to set up your machine so that it will boot
from a CD emer. disk if that is found in the drive. You won't
need a 3.5" floppy.
Get Norton Ghost SW that does incremental backups.
A fast DVDRW drive can make life a lot easier when
the data is systematically saved. Some drives accommodate
You'll need that for DSL access or for connections
to other machines.
What you've missed is a big item. RAM.
For CAD you'll need at least 512MB, and preferably,
1028MB or better 2056MB. Note that the big
professional 3D and rendering workstations offer
10 GB or more. Fast SDRAM is a minimum, and not
Don't buy Belkins cables. They are really inferior
and are of very low quality. The pins bend and fall
out, and that will seriously damage your monitor and
graphics card connectors.
Get the large, and not the smaller over the counter
size MS Optical Intellimouse. Get a spare, too,
because while that MS unit is better from the HF and
resolution or accuracy standpoints the MS mice are
not that durable. The other mice brands are worse
I wish that I had a good keyboard to suggest, however,
I don't. The best keyboard that I've used is the one
made by Intergraph several years ago for use with its
UNIX 2020 workstations. That used diaphragm key
switches and not mechanical switches. It had
a really great touch, and it was quiet. Unfortunately,
the electronic connection standards were not the same
as used on the conventional modern keyboards, or I'd
be using them today.
CPUs? Intel or AMD. The mother board is very
important. Cheap ones break or have thermal problems.
The sophisticated designs created by the majors,
whoever they are, are really important. Durability
is a major factor. For that I would trust the QC
of the majors.
Don't build your own until you've taken sufficient
courses to know what you are doing. Let the experts
at Xi configure the machine for you. Believe me, you'll
be a lot happier and more confident of the reliability.
Thanks for the info :) , I was going to go with Monarch but will take a
second look at XiC. based upon this. My only concern is that, for their
selections, they don't list exact components - they list, for example,
"NVidia 7800" for the graphics card, but don't say what brand, model, etc.
Other than that, from what I've been able to find (for custom built systems
- I'm not rpepared to build my own, and deal with any possible burn-in
problems), they're the onlt real competitor with Monarch. What I like
about M. is being able to specify make'n'model.
OTOH, given your advice about working with the Xi engineer on components,
that might be a way to be more specific. Thanks!
Oh, also, re: Taiwan vs. PRC products, I'm personally fed up to here with
PRC products. That's all I ever see with just about anything any more, and
I'm not favorably impressed by the majority of the stuff and find most of
it to be of inferior quality. (Just my personal opinion based on the stuff
I've bought over the past 4 decades...other people can buy whatever the
heck they want...)
So I really appreciate the info about sourcing. It's not something I'd've
thought to ask - so I'd now want to look into that as well, with any system
Also, thanks for the IntelliCAD info. I'm not taking courses anywhere, so
the XiComp. deal looked interesting. The additional details re: CAD are
great!, I hadn't thought of CAD being applied to pharmaceuticals, but my
S.O. is in Biotech - theraputics design'n'development, formulations,
testing, scale-up (to mfg.), and other aspects that are totally out of my
league, but the point is, I'll pass your suggestions on, since thre seems
to be dual-use potential.
Dual-core and single-core - I'm mostly a 3D modeler, which is why I'm going
for dual-core, but the info you offered should be very helpful to a lot fo
folks. Mainly, it's my understanding that CAD, in terms of programming and
operations, is more like math apps than is 3D modeling-rendering. As you
Where a very high speed CPU is needed is in
and that's my primary area of interest. So the info is very helpful!
All of the info is very helpful, actually.
A mouse I can't use, tho' - I have to use a glide-pad because I can use it
left-handed when my right hand gives out (joint problems :p ). I'd
considered soemthing like a Wacom tablet, but those require teh use of a
Keyboards all seem to me to be pretty much the same in terms of touch.
It's be nice to have something with a very light touch (for achy-hand days)
but I haven't noticed that the "jazzy" ones are any better in that regard
than the plain old $10 Fujitsu or generic ones.
I've decided on AMD because of what I've read about their function with 3D
modeling and rendering. The FX-57 is superior for 2D, business programs,
and games, but the dual-core (X2 4800) seems to be superior when tested
with 3D modelers and renderers. I don't do games and I don't need
sophisticated or complex business functions, and I figure that any 2D I do
will be adequately handled by the X2 4800.
RAM - 4 GB...unless I can find a MB that takes more...
MB- so far, ASUS A8N Premium, but still researching this.
Thanks again for the info and taking to time to offer it!
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