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Specialty Computers Built, As Needed

Written by Jerry Stern
Webmaster, PC410.com
Westminster, Maryland

We’ve built a lot of custom computers over the decades, and most of them are just a custom combination of a specific choice of case, drives, and options, but sometimes there are special requests that require experience or research, and those are not a problem. Here are some of the different systems we’ve created, some repeatedly, others, well, they’re unique.

  • Cabinet computer: Place a normal computer into any modern desk system, with a compartment for everything, and a beautiful hidden compartment for a tower computer, and what you get is a hot computer that blue-screens frequently, and then the hard drive dies from long-term overheating. Solution: There are low-wattage, energy-efficient (Green-certified, Energy Star) processors and hard drives, or solid-state drives, that will work very well inside a cabinet and will run cold. There are airflow issues in the case (fan direction, position, and selection), and in the cabinet (positioning and venting).
  • Game computers: These are computers with more memory, fast video cards, and fast hard drives, optimized for full-screen and multi-screen games. At the high end, well, they can resemble full servers, with high-wattage power supplies, multiple video cards, and loads of storage and memory.
  • Flight Simulation: A pilot asked for an X-Plane¬† 10 machine (www.x-plane.com). The important considerations in a computer for simulation flights is the video frame rate, because the software needs to be able to show maps, terrain details, and weather simulations in real time at a fast playback rate.
  • Business Applications: Yes, these are mostly databases, but they’re usually more complex than that. Every business has the program they can’t function without, and it’s usually industry-specific, only compatible with specific software, database engines, and operating systems. There will be a list of requirements, from the publisher, and they’re usually a little out-of-date with a lot of techno-jargon.
  • Security camera Network Video Recorder: While there are pre-built digital video recorders based on Linux that can operate multiple security cameras, these don’t have the options and ease of use of a Windows-based video system. The Linux boxes do a great job with old-fashioned analog TV cameras. With digital network cameras, we can setup monitoring, motion detection, and remote viewing (including mobile access with smart phones and tablets), all done through a network-attached storage box, through Synology.
  • Remote-Control Server: We run our own remote-control server for monitoring business computers for our clients. That’s the high-end approach. There are lots of other approaches to remote control, some free, some large-scale, and different products work well for remote support than will be good for telecommuting. Most of these won’t require custom hardware.
  • Sewing & Embroidery Software: Bernina and some of the other advanced sewing machines can import an embroidery pattern through a USB port. There’s special software for preparing logos and images to be stitched, so that the precise finished size and thread colors needed can be planned. We can set up that software, and help with any of the dongle or security-protection issues. That includes upgrading software while backing up your patterns from the previous versions.

In every case, we can create or adapt a computer to run a specific piece of powerful software, but we need to know the system requirements. These are available from the program publisher, and we’ll handle that communication as-needed. Just tell us what the program is, and who wrote it, and we’ll check out the issues and make it work.