Wed 20 August 2014

Computers that Writers and Gamers use

Posted by. James Jackson This article was posted in Self Publishing, Routine and tagged with Self-Publishing, Indie Authors
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The technology of a writer (and avid Gamer)

terran chronicles universe blogThe only common denominator for my title is that I do both. In reality, the computer system that is essential for writing has rather simple needs, while a gaming system definitely requires far newer technology. I will add that having multiple monitors for both is a very handy feature.

The first debate for a writing machine is; do you go for a Mac? Or a PC? Well, that depends upon how writers wish to publish to iTunes. If people use third party companies, such as Smashwords or D2D, then either platform works. If writers wish to publish to Apple themselves, then a Mac is a must. The software packages, iPages, iBooks, and iTunes Producer, are proprietary. As an additional note, when considering a Mac, be sure that it is able to run, OS X Mountain Lion, or better. This is key, as the publishing process requires the latest software.

I own both, though this is not something I recommend. I use a Macbook air to convert my efforts into ePub files. This allows me to publish directly to Apple. I did this so I could gain greater control over key words, and when the eBooks actually publish. However, my writing is done on my Windows based PC.

I have always owned gaming systems, and thus, still have one with a pair of large screens, tons of memory, and all the goodies in between. Once I started writing, this computer simply took over the task. The screens offer plenty of real estate when it comes to research, playing music, and for keeping up with social media. (Or trying to anyway!)

When it comes to writing software, the choices are seemingly limitless. If I were to write on my Mac, then I would probably use Scrivener. This software is also available for PC, and is something that I am considering switching over to, in the future. I could spend all day discussing the many packages out there. But instead, I offer this piece of advice; write with the tool that is the easiest and most comfortable to use. A complicated software package can in fact, distract the writer from their task, and that is writing! For this reason I still use Microsoft word, as I have done so since its earliest inception.

One key element to consider with a machine for writing, is backups. While this is not as essential to a gaming machine, it is to a writer’s. Make sure you have multiple hard drives, or SSD’s, run backups to external drives, and also to online storage. In addition I backup my work to USB drives, and usually carry the latest version with me. I do this because we had a house fire once, and almost lost all of our computers, which would have also meant the backup drives!

There are three rules in I.T.; Backup... backup... backup...

Okay, it is time for a few words on a gaming system. If I were building a new Windows based computer today, I would consider the following: SSD’s are the fastest drives that the average person can buy, and thus a must. Secondly, purchase at least eight GB of ram, if not more. I use twelve, and find this to be the perfect amount for my system’s configuration.

A key piece of hardware, is the video card, and this requires its own section. There is an ongoing war between AMD and Nvidia, for video card supremacy. The pros and cons are as varied as are the opinions on which is better. I will not get into this debate, but instead, will focus on some core features that both cards have in common. One critical feature to both cards is the version of Direct X that they will run. Direct X 11 is the current flavor, but version 12 is on the way, so be mindful when looking. There is also a delicate balancing act when it comes to video cards; and that is, memory size, interface bits, and the number of CUDA cores. For example, a GTX 470 has 1.2GB of ram, a 320-bit interface, with 448 cores. A newer video card, the GT 640, at first looks more powerful with its 2GB of ram, but only has a 128-bit interface, and 384 cores. The only GTX470 outperforms the newer 640GT by almost three to one. So be careful when selecting a video card, newer is not always better. Also be mindful of the sales pitch of, “look at all the memory”. Well, imagine an hourglass. The narrowest part is the number of bits, while the sand is the memory. Having more memory, is not necessarily a benefit. There is a lot more to video cards than I have explained here, but at least this is the general gist of what to consider.

Motherboards have different chipsets, each with its own pros and cons. There is literally a myriad of other elements to consider. But I feel that if I delve into these, I will not only confuse most people, I would bore you to death with the technical jargon.

Lastly, I will remind folks not to skimp on the power supply (PSU) an often overlooked piece of hardware. Make sure you purchase one that is larger than your needs. In addition, check on how many ‘pins’ your video card requires. Also be mindful, a GTX780 requires 600 watts of power, while the Titan requires 700 watts. Once you factor in the motherboard, HDD’s/SSD’s, fans, and a ten percent buffer at least, you can see that even an 800 watt PSU is cutting it fine. Do not buy a cheap power supply, this is a false economy. Personally, I am a fan of a 1000 watt PSU, or more.

I have barely touched the surface of this topic, but will have to call it a day. Before I go, I will add one more suggestion. Do plenty of research. Make sure that the memory is compatible with the motherboard; the video card and PSU have the right amount of pins, and that your case is large enough to hold all of your goodies.


Take it easy mates.

James Jackson