Getting the Right PC for SketchUp and Shaderlight

Getting the Right PC for SketchUp and Shaderlight

BY LEN HORDYK, L.A.T. | CEDAR SPRINGS LANDSCAPE GROUP

Having used SketchUp and Shaderlight for many years creating large models, I have had the benefit of testing both on various PC’s. Over that time I havehad a number of PC’s custom built,  talked to lots of heavy SketchUp users and read all the SketchUp forums. I’d like to to take a moment share my own discoveries with you.

If you’re using SketchUp for creating landscape models with lots of vegetation, you’ve likely experienced times when working in your model becomes painfully slow. If you’re using rendering software like Shaderlight you may also have noticed it takes a long time and your computer is virtually unusable for anything else while the rendering software is running. It may be time for an upgrade or it may be time to get a new one if your PC is more than 3 or 4 years old.

Basic Components of a PC

It may be helpful to understand which components of the computer that your software uses most and what affects its performance. I will try to be as low-tech as possible:

  • CPU (central processing unit) also called processor – this is the brain of your PC, It interprets and executes program instructions.
  • Video card (also called graphics card) – this is what generates the graphics on your display (screen).
  • Memory (RAM) – this component stores things that your computer is working on in the short term so your CPU can quickly access it when it needs it.
  • Hard Drive – this is for storing and retrieving data.

Although each of these can affect performance,some software programs rely more on one component than others. Understanding which one(s) should help you decide what you need to upgrade, or if you need to start over. As general rule, SketchUp relies mostly on your video/graphics card, while Shaderlight uses your CPU (processor) when rendering.

How Does Your Computer Rate?

You can see how well your PC can perform by checking your computer’s Windows Experience Index Rating. This will show you where your PC is weak, although it may be a bit misleading. To check this on your PC:

  • Click on your Start button

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  • Then right-click on Computer and then select Properties.

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  • Under System you will see your rating.

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  • Click on Windows Experience Index to see the breakdown of the main components and their score.

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The highest score you can have in each category is 7.9. Although your rating can tell a lot about your PC’s performance, a high score does not always mean it will perform well with SketchUp and Shaderlight.

Understanding Video Cards and Why It’s Important

There are two main categories of video/graphics cards: Gaming cards and Workstation cards. Gaming cards may score higher but they are designed for computer games. Workstation cards are designed for 3D modeling and generally perform much better for programs like SketchUp. Although SketchUp uses all of your computer’s main components, it relies heavily on the video card, especially for larger models. Rendering software, on the other hand, relies on processor speed more than anything else.

Build a PC for Running SketchUp and Shaderlight

Here are some suggested guidelines for a good PC to run SketchUp and Shaderlight. I would recommend having this built for you because it is unlikely you could find anything off the shelf at your local computer store that would come close:

  1. CPU (Processor): Look for a PC that can run dual CPU’s and use quad core CPU’s (min 3.0GHz). This will make rendering much faster and it will allow you use your PC for other tasks while rendering – cost: $120 x 2 = $240
  2. Video/Graphics Card: Investing in a good video card is worth every penny sodon’t cheap out here. Look for a workstation video card like the NVIDIA Quadro K2000 ($400-500) or, if you can afford it, the K4000 ($700-900). Gaming video cards do not work as well for SketchUp, even if they are high end. Integrated video cards (built-in to the motherboard) are not good for SketchUp at all.
  3. Memory (RAM): Nowadays you should be running no less than 8GB of RAM.
  4. Hard Drive: Always go with a Solid State Drive (SSD) as they have a much faster writing and reading speed than regular hard drives. 240GB – $150, 512GB – $250.

If you plan to upgrade your PC, go with a balanced setup of all the components. One weak component may lead to a bottleneck in your system and can reduce the effectiveness of your stronger pieces, reducing overall performance. Time is money and no one wants to waste time waiting for a sub-par PC to perform your day-to-day tasks.

Planning for Strategic Success in 2015

Planning for Strategic Success in 2015

Planning for Strategic Success in 2015 (in 7 easy steps)

BY JEFFREY SCOTT | GET THE LEADERS EDGE. GROW YOUR BUSINESS.

Now is the perfect time to gain clarity and direction–and set your company up for sweet success–by assessing this past year in broad strokes and by setting your sights on clear long-term objectives.

I developed the following seven questions to help you get focused, and to greatly improve your chances for success in 2015! To gain the most from this exercise, give this same set of questions to your management team and get together to review your answers.

 

JEFFREY’S SEVEN STRATEGIC-PLANNING QUESTIONS

1. What were your (your company’s) biggest accomplishments in 2014?

Too often we are overly self-critical as human beings. This question therefore allows you to enumerate your successes and build on your strengths. Think about the larger positive impact you have had on your business, your clients, your employees and your personal life where applicable.

 

2. What did not work well in 2014?

OK, now you can take a high level look at your miss-fires. What did you attempt last year that didn’t quite play out as you had hoped? Don’t go over board; keep your list high level by focusing on the top 3 to 5 points.

 

3. What were your high-level key learnings from the past year?

Here is the step most people forget to take when assessing their progress. Reflect on what you learned: both to confirm the positives as well as to use these learnings for future decisions and strategic planning. One client of mine who answered this, said initially that “he learned nothing new” this past year. He said the year was full of reminders but nothing brand new. He didn’t dig deep enough. You have dig through the mud and get down to bedrock and virgin soil. If you aren’t learning, you’re dying.

 

4. For 2015, what are the biggest challenges and obstacles you (your company) need to overcome?

Rock climbers don’t face problems; rather they face “more challenging climbs.” What are your biggest challenges that you foresee this coming year? A rock climber often can take an easy route by turning one way or a challenging route by taking an alternative direction. What challenges would test you and your team this coming year, and stretch your learning and growth?

 

5. What are your company’s biggest exciting opportunities in 2015 and beyond…?

Ahhh, now we come to what will drive your passion and success this year. List out the most important ones: 3 at a minimum and 5 at the most.

 

6. Write a short letter to yourself: Next year, at this time, how would you paint a picture of great success in 2015?

This letter should be written both in terms of accomplishments and in terms of how it makes you feel. Include specifics you have accomplished as well as how success makes you feel.

 

7. You are about to receive a lifetime achievement award for your remarkable accomplishments, what would that award be for?

This is not necessarily about design awards or installation or service…but rather about you and your professional endeavors. This question is similar to “what your head stone reads after you die” except you get to enjoy this award!! Write it out as a full paragraph; what the awards stands for, and what they will read during the ceremony.

 

Take Action: Don’t overthink your answers; write your first draft without any editing or corrections. Then go back and review.  Ask your key employees to do the same, and meet and review your answers together. Identify where you are on the same page, and where you all need to have a discussion to get on the same page. This exercise is highly focusing and energizing.

 

BIO

Jeffrey Scott, MBA, author, consultant, is the expert in growth and profit maximization in the lawn & landscape industry. He grew his company into a successful $10 million enterprise, and he’s now devoted to helping others achieve profound success. Over 6000 read his monthly newsletter. He facilitates the Leader’s Edge peer group for landscape business owners; his members achieved a 27% profit increase in their first year.  To learn more visit www.GetTheLeadersEdge.com.