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New Computer for Video Editing

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I've been making a few videos on my ten year old laptop, an Acer 5349-2635. I bought this computer new in 2012 a rock bottom laptop at $279 through Walmart. It was built like a tank and had a big screen, and modest performance under Windows 7.

After purchase I immediately re-partitioned the drive, keeping Win 7 on a reduced size first partition, and Puppy Linux on the rest of the drive. Puppy Linux runs many times faster than Win7, and performance was very fine, despite being a low end laptop. I could dual boot into Win7 on rare occasions when I needed some oddball non-WINE compatible software to run, but by and large it was a dedicated Linux machine.

But after 8 years the old lappy was not quite keeping up with the needs for video editing in larger and larger formats. So I upped the RAM to 8 gigs and replaced the old 1.6 gHz Intel Celeron B815 processor with a used 2.4 gHz Intel I5-2450M processor from Ebay. That gave a definite boost in performance, for very little money.

But again 2 years since, the need for speed in ever increasing video editing requirements has had me thinking about a newer laptop. Unfortunately, a good enough upgrade to make much difference is just way too expensive for our household budget.

For every other daily computing purpose my present laptop provides all the performance I need. But video editing requires simultaneous rendering of several streams of video and audio to the monitor screen on the fly, including transitions, while making cuts and edits. It's severely demanding -- even more demanding than the final video rendering which can be done a leisure overnight, if long and complicated.

Editing on the fly is the big problem. If there is any jittering of the image in monitor playback, you don't know if it's in the actual video (which you'd have to fix), or if it's just processing skips because graphics processor isn't fast enough. So you need raw computational speed to keep up, during the editing process.

I started thinking about the possibility of fixing up an ancient Dell ATX desktop box, with a new motherboard and proc for running a video editor, as a headless server, while retaining the laptop, and using it as a remote desktop client for that server via wireless connection. If so, I could keep my old perfectly adequate laptop for everything, and while doing video editing, just hit on the server box, which would have advanced processing aboard. I happened to also have sitting in a closet, a not-so-old gamer NVIDIA graphics card on hand, NIB. So that clinched the deal.

Whether or not I could get a remote desktop app to connect the two fast enough for editing (and still run in Linux) was unknown, but I decided to try.  :dremel:

Since this was to be a budget build I went looking for a good deal on a just-slightly-past-prime (but new) gamer board. I settled on an MSI B450 Tomahawk MAX II motherboard for $104

For a proc, I chose an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core, 12-Thread Processor with cooler for $142

I added 16 Gigs of Corsair RAM for $58.

And a  2TB Western Digital Hard Drive for $50.

I had on hand an MSI N460GTX Hawk GeForce GTX 460 PCI-e graphics card.

So the total upgrade of the old Dell to a gamer level machine was about $350. Considerably less than a new laptop, and considerably higher specs than would have been possible for most.

Installation wasn't too bad but I did run into a problem mounting the fan -- which after many lookups online was confirmed as a big problem for many people. Well also the annoyance of a Babel of new connector types. I'm definitely behind the times on those! For instance, new to me DVI connectors on the GPU required a new DVI cable -- luckily my older monitor could accept it, as well as the former VGA cable. New smaller HDMI jacks than the cable I have are unused. The motherboard had more types of USB than I knew existed. But all seemed to work with what I plugged in.

CPU issue: The cpu fan has very short spring loaded screws and is supposed to normally screw into an extra bracket on top of the CPU's mount. At least that what it shows on the instruction cartoons. Words are no longer used in manuals. Unfortunately all included cartoons were irrelevant. MSI did an undocumented alternate mount with a backing plate underneath and standoffs which penetrate the board. The fan mount screws are supposed to go into this standoff/backing plate combo.

Unfortunately this backing plate comes loose when the board is mounted and temporary retainers are removed. It drops down a short distance to sit on the computer case. The spring mounted fan screws then can't reach the standoffs, but that's not obvious because all are hidden under the fan cooling fins. Ideally you'd mount the CPU and fan assembly before mounting the motherboard to the case so you could hold the plate tight to the board. --- IF you were aware of the whole problem in advance. But who is? Seems everybody mounts the board before the CPU, and then puzzles why the screws won't engage in the invisible space under. There are whole videos showing mounting OUT of the computer. Saying, it's easy, but not mentioning it is absolutely necessary out of the computer, and hundreds of comments from people saying "but my fan doesn't fit, HELP!"

The problem is complicated by the fact that the fan has thermal compound applied already by the mfr (their brand tied to the warranty) and once you've started to mount it, the cpu is covered with the goo, and suction won't let you remove the fan without fear of damage, etc, etc. If I took the board out, the compound would probably end up everywhere and contaminated. What to do? I finally managed to catch one of the screws by applying enough pressure to the fan bend the motherboard down a little (not recommended!). By screwing that one in a little I could catch another screw and then eventually all four.

Anyway, here's a pic of the new motherboard in place, proc mounted, and the dual fan heat piped MSI GPU on the left taking up two slots.


All the cover panels were off of the computer chassis. I wanted to see the fans, troubleshooting LEDs etc. I connected monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and finally the power cord. With a giant cartload of trepidation I switched on the power supply and..... NOTHING!    :bugeye:  Nope. No lights, no sounds, no nothing. I looked over the wiring. I looked at the power cord, was it fully plugged in? I looked at the manual.......all connectors in place?

Then I remembered, have to hold in the momentary power switch in the front of the chassis, not just flip the power supply switch. Duh!!  :wack:

And when I did, expecting no change, all of a sudden all kinds of things started happening: green lights red lights, lots of red LEDs, fans turning, but silently. Are they turning fast enough? What do so many red LEDs mean?

Then the monitor came to life, and this is what I saw:


Phew!!!   :med:

Congrats for the new setup! Yes it can be sometimes hmm.. rather interesting, when upgrading/building the machine. Or if one has to move and remove all the cables and stuff, and after moving put them back on.

"Why isn't this working, like it used to?". Once after I moved, I was like "now it should work". But no, the monitor showed nothing. I was automatically thinking, that I should look on the net, what could be the problem. But without monitor, how the heck am I going to do that?

So after banging my head on the wall, I tried all kinds of tricks, until I found out, that monitor cable was connected to motherboard's integrated display adapter, that was disabled in the bios, as I had separate pci-e nvidia display card .

So yeah, cold sweat helps one to keep on trying.

Finally, when the success is achieved, it's almost like from the old horror movie: "it's alive!"


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