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PC help for a Mac user!

Old 09-01-19, 03:13 PM
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PC help for a Mac user!

I'm calling on the collective experience and wisdom of Foo to help me with a computer issue. I have been mostly a Mac user for decades, so I am really clueless on the details of working out what sort of PC specification I might need for a specialised need.

My plan is to buy a small desktop CNC routing machine to help with a few projects.
Something like this: https://ooznest.co.uk/product/workbee-cnc-full-kit/

In the long run I might have lots of options for CAD and feeding G-code to the router, using a fairly standard bit of software like this (https://www.vectric.com/products/cut2d-desktop) will get a number of my jobs running a bit quicker. It's Windows based.

Although I can hook up my Mac to this machine (or drive it with Linux on a Raspberry Pi device!), I believe it will make sense to use a small Windows based PC to do the job.
This is mostly to do with software availability and support. I also don't want to drag my Mac from home to the workshop (although in the long run I'm thinking of a new Mac and then shifting the old one in the future).

What I'm clueless about for this CNC machine and this software:
- what Windows system would be best?
- what processor power and RAM would do the job?
- how cheap can I go?
- is there an entirely different way to go?

I'd thought that a Mini PC (just a very small box) would be OK as I don't need a lot of room in a tower for old style CD/DVD drives and so on, and I don't think that the processing power requirements for this CAD package or router management software would be that great. A smaller box would also be handy in a small workshop as I can pop it out of the way.


Any suggestions from experienced Windows PC users would be welcome.
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Old 09-01-19, 09:44 PM
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What hardware ports do you need for the CNC... USB, parallel or serial. Not all PCs have all these today.

Are there any recommendations from the software vendor?

You are not doing heavy graphic work... so you can get away with a pretty basic machine.

Looks like pretty interesting software... again, you don't need a super gaming system... but here are their minimums... and right off the bat, I would double the RAM...

Computer:

2 Ghz multi Core CPU
4Gb RAM with Windows XP(SP3), Windows Vista & Windows 7, 8, 8.1 or 10
300 Mb Disk space (Program)

USB drive required for USB Media Pack if purchased.

7.7GB Additional disk space required if you wish to store
the tutorials and clipart supplied, on your hard drive.



Display:1024 x 768 Graphics display

Operating System:Microsoft Windows XP (SP3), Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 or Windows 10 with 4Gb RAM


Other:N/A
https://support.vectric.com/aspire-q...o-run-software

Hell, just get 16G of RAM... be happy.

Earlier versions of Windows are being dropped, so just go Windows 10 and be done with it.

Looks like the router is either ethernet or wifi... so make sure your PC can do those.

Heck a refurbished Dell laptop from Walmart would probably be fine.

Something like this...
https://www.walmart.com/ip/Dell-Insp...7b&athena=true

Have fun.

Last edited by genec; 09-01-19 at 10:06 PM.
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Old 09-02-19, 01:18 AM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
What hardware ports do you need for the CNC... USB, parallel or serial. Not all PCs have all these today.
I expect that I'll go with the ethernet option (other is Wifi) for reliability.
PC wouldn't need the older ports - just USB and HDMI. All modern machines and the mini-PCs seem to favour these.


Originally Posted by genec View Post
Are there any recommendations from the software vendor?
Yes, but so broad as to be useless helping me narrow things down.

Originally Posted by genec View Post
You are not doing heavy graphic work... so you can get away with a pretty basic machine.
What I was hoping!

Originally Posted by genec View Post
Looks like pretty interesting software... again, you don't need a super gaming system... but here are their minimums... and right off the bat, I would double the RAM...
Had read somewhere that Windows 10 really needed 4gb as a minimum and much better with 8.

Originally Posted by genec View Post
https://support.vectric.com/aspire-q...o-run-software

Hell, just get 16G of RAM... be happy.
It might come down to cost at time of purchase.

Originally Posted by genec View Post
Earlier versions of Windows are being dropped, so just go Windows 10 and be done with it.
Wasn't really sure about going with a much older (but possibly more reliable and compact) system, or going with the newest so I don't have to worry about future as much. I just don't enough about Windows 10 other than the silly tiled interface has done my head in the few times I've tried to use it (it's just so different).

Have seen a couple of 'how-to' guides about reducing the bloat and simplifying Windows 10.


Originally Posted by genec View Post
Heck a refurbished Dell laptop from Walmart would probably be fine.
Hadn't really thought of a laptop. That would solve the monitor and keyboard issue by building it in. Although I had thought of a separate box so I could mount a monitor on the wall (to save space) and have the PC box out of the way (for bench space and to reduce dust issues). There are some fanless mini-PCs that might be better in a dusty workshop.
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Old 09-02-19, 01:58 AM
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Originally Posted by JonnyHK View Post
I expect that I'll go with the ethernet option (other is Wifi) for reliability.
PC wouldn't need the older ports - just USB and HDMI. All modern machines and the mini-PCs seem to favour these.




Yes, but so broad as to be useless helping me narrow things down.



What I was hoping!



Had read somewhere that Windows 10 really needed 4gb as a minimum and much better with 8.



It might come down to cost at time of purchase.



Wasn't really sure about going with a much older (but possibly more reliable and compact) system, or going with the newest so I don't have to worry about future as much. I just don't enough about Windows 10 other than the silly tiled interface has done my head in the few times I've tried to use it (it's just so different).

Have seen a couple of 'how-to' guides about reducing the bloat and simplifying Windows 10.




Hadn't really thought of a laptop. That would solve the monitor and keyboard issue by building it in. Although I had thought of a separate box so I could mount a monitor on the wall (to save space) and have the PC box out of the way (for bench space and to reduce dust issues). There are some fanless mini-PCs that might be better in a dusty workshop.
Yeah, dust IS an issue. Decades ago, I worked with a machinest that had several mills and was "carving" 6061 T6 for my RF designs... he had metal dust everywhere.

Kept his hardwired old large desktop PC in a small office with the door closed. The serial cable went through a hole in the wall.

You might just put a cardboard box over the computer to keep it clean. BTW, going wifi can both physically and electronically isolate your computer from the dirty stuff.
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Old 09-02-19, 08:25 AM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
Yeah, dust IS an issue. Decades ago, I worked with a machinest that had several mills and was "carving" 6061 T6 for my RF designs... he had metal dust everywhere.

Kept his hardwired old large desktop PC in a small office with the door closed. The serial cable went through a hole in the wall.

You might just put a cardboard box over the computer to keep it clean. BTW, going wifi can both physically and electronically isolate your computer from the dirty stuff.

I'm mostly messing with wood, but also a fair bit of epoxy/composites and paint. Anything with a fan will suck in crud at a great rate.

Sadly, no separate space - but I could make an enclosure for it. Mounted under the workbench?

Thought I'd risk interference with any wireless method. I'd hate to fire up a powertool at the other end of the workshop and throw off the router midway through a job!
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Old 09-02-19, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by JonnyHK View Post
I'm mostly messing with wood, but also a fair bit of epoxy/composites and paint. Anything with a fan will suck in crud at a great rate.

Sadly, no separate space - but I could make an enclosure for it. Mounted under the workbench?

Thought I'd risk interference with any wireless method. I'd hate to fire up a powertool at the other end of the workshop and throw off the router midway through a job!
Heck, a "tupperware" box will do just fine. Only open it when the dust is settled... RF will go right through that. Or you could do a small cable pass through and seal it with clay. Simple, easy and cheap.

Wish you all the luck in the world... looks like a fun thing to do. Know a guy that did something similar with a laser... made model RR parts... was able to "age" them with some light burning. Know another guy that is doing 3D lithography... having a blast.

Funny thing about the Mac... my brother in law is an architect... does all his design on a mac, but prints large scale drawings on a large HP plotter he has had for decades... for a long time he was able to get a serial converter for his older mac that would drive the plotter. But his last two macs would not take the software, and the latest mac doesn't have the right kind of port. He bought an old XP PC just to do his plots... writes em out as PDFs, reads them into the XP and plots em. Most of his work doesn't require the plots... but some building departments still do. When he doesn't need plots, he makes these awesome 3D walk through videos for his clients on the mac.
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Old 09-02-19, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
Heck, a "tupperware" box will do just fine. Only open it when the dust is settled... RF will go right through that. Or you could do a small cable pass through and seal it with clay. Simple, easy and cheap.
I'm thinking a tightly sealed box might get a little warm! The PC will likely be running exactly when there is a lot of dust!

Originally Posted by genec View Post
Wish you all the luck in the world... looks like a fun thing to do. Know a guy that did something similar with a laser... made model RR parts... was able to "age" them with some light burning. Know another guy that is doing 3D lithography... having a blast.
I'm hoping to do some cool marquetry design work. Here's some I designed when working for a well known boat builder (on his nicely set up CNC system with years of experience).




Dyed tulip wood was used on the base timber.

The CNC machine will also help cut components to help build my first boat (frames, templates) and hopefully also cut parts for production boats (in my dreams only at this stage).


Originally Posted by genec View Post
Funny thing about the Mac... my brother in law is an architect... does all his design on a mac, but prints large scale drawings on a large HP plotter he has had for decades... for a long time he was able to get a serial converter for his older mac that would drive the plotter. But his last two macs would not take the software, and the latest mac doesn't have the right kind of port. He bought an old XP PC just to do his plots... writes em out as PDFs, reads them into the XP and plots em. Most of his work doesn't require the plots... but some building departments still do. When he doesn't need plots, he makes these awesome 3D walk through videos for his clients on the mac.
I feel his pain. So many kludges and workarounds to get perfectly good equipment of different eras or languages to work together!
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Old 09-03-19, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by JonnyHK View Post
Yes, but so broad as to be useless helping me narrow things down.
They appear to indicate you don't need a high end PC or lots of memory.


Originally Posted by JonnyHK View Post
Had read somewhere that Windows 10 really needed 4gb as a minimum and much better with 8.
4 might work (depending on the software) but 8 is more reasonable. More is probably unnecessary.

Originally Posted by JonnyHK View Post
I just don't enough about Windows 10 other than the silly tiled interface has done my head in the few times I've tried to use it (it's just so different).
The tile interface is entirely optional.

Last edited by njkayaker; 09-03-19 at 08:02 AM.
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Old 09-03-19, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
They appear to indicate you don't need a high end PC or lots of memory.
I was pretty sure that my need for raw power wasn't great, but that was a lot of operating systems spanning more than a decade!


Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
4 might work (depending on the software) but 8 is more reasonable. More is probably unnecessary.
Going to 16 doesn't seem too expensive.


Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
The tile interface is entirely optional.
Thank God for that! I presumed that it could be simplified and customised, but if I could get a fairly old fashioned desktop with icons I'd be much happier.
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Old 09-03-19, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by JonnyHK View Post
Going to 16 doesn't seem too expensive.
But it likely will be unused in this situation.

Originally Posted by JonnyHK View Post
Thank God for that! I presumed that it could be simplified and customised, but if I could get a fairly old fashioned desktop with icons I'd be much happier.
It's pretty much this.

(Windows 8 forced the tile interface but 8.1 removed that being required.)

Last edited by njkayaker; 09-03-19 at 01:59 PM.
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Old 09-03-19, 05:54 PM
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The tile interface is for touch screens. Makes sense in that context.
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Old 06-02-21, 02:57 PM
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Sorry to resurrect a very old thread, but I've finally built up the CNC machine and produced something.

The computer is a 12 year old HP laptop now running Linux Mint.

Here's the first job - a test file of the CNC machine company logo.


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Old 06-02-21, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by JonnyHK View Post
12 year old HP laptop now running Linux Mint.
I absolutely adore Lubuntu for older machines. Linux is a neat thing if you can figure it out. So efficient.
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Old 06-02-21, 03:22 PM
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Great, now I need a CNC router.
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Old 06-05-21, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Juan Foote View Post
I absolutely adore Lubuntu for older machines. Linux is a neat thing if you can figure it out. So efficient.
I didn't figure it out for myself.

I grabbed a mate who works IT for a large hedge fund to help. He did it all very quickly!
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