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Hardware and Software Issues for the Consultant

Deborah K. Sacrey


Starting out on your own is not an easy thing to do.  If you plan on doing any kind of geological mapping or seismic interpretation, probably a computer workstation of some sort will be necessary.  The following issues will be important points to consider:


1)                  Buying a “canned” machine, or building a clone:


When purchasing a computer, think about adaptability and upgrading potential.  Most often, if you want to modify “canned” machines (off-the-shelf), internal modifications are difficult.  Building a “clone” often is cheaper and less hassle for exotic requests (multi-head video cards or 8mm tape drives). 


Much of the time, the off-the-shelf varieties are so tightly engineered, that swapping out video cards, adding hard drives and such can introduce more complications and problems. 


Also, building a “clone” machine avoids the built-in “advertising” costs associated with the national brands.  You are more likely to have better technical support with a local vendor.


2)                  Software:


There are excellent software packages for most any geological/geophysical/engineering purpose on the market today.  Most consultants go the “PC” route over purchasing “Unix” operated software, cost being the main issue


3)                  Maintenance Issues:  PC vs Unix


The cost of owning software designed for PC’s is much less than that of the Unix variety.  The cost of maintaining and upgrading hardware is also considerably less, which allows the consultant to do excellent quality work and keeps their fees competitive.


4)                  Advantages of using PC’s for seismic interpretation:


A)                            PC’s can have up to four monitors easily

B)                             Can have multiple seismic projects running at the same time (on one software license).

C)                            Can stretch a seismic line over all of the screens (Virtual Display)

D)                            Have color bars that are not limited to monitors or types of windows

E)                             Don’t need “systems person” for maintenance

F)                             Don’t need CGM to HPGL conversion software for plotting = $ Savings

G)                            Mobility (can be portable on Laptop)

H)                            Can do everything the Unix versions can do, but more easily and cheaper!


5)                  Speed of Machines and Capacities – Myths and Truths


Several years ago, speed and project capacity were issues for the PC, but no more.  Today, processors as fast as 3400 MHz and hard drives with capacities over 300 Gigabytes (which can be "linked” together) make screen refreshing with lines out of huge data bases or seismic volumes actually faster than the Unix boxes.  Hard drives (preferably scsi drives) can be tied together to create all the storage needed for large volumes of data.  It is no problem to load a 3000 sq.km. volume, create a time-slice file and start working – at speeds in excess of an Ultra-Spark, for a fraction of the cost.


6)                  The seismic interpretation packages on the market are easier to learn, more intuitive, and have the same functionality as the Unix versions.  Examples of the Kingdom software, made by Seismic Micro-Technology will be shown.  These examples consist of varieties of display types, planimeter tool, ruler tool, flattening, 3D visualization, synthetics, vertical and time slice movies, contouring, multiple fault plane displays and correlation polygons.


7)                  Plotters and Printers:


Plotters and printers are easily attached to PC workstations.  Since there is no need for intermediate software programs like Zeh Graphics or Larson to convert CGM or CGM+ files to HPGL, plotting is almost as easy as hitting the “print” button, sizing the sheet to be plotted upon and hitting “GO”!  Costs for small format and large format plotters have come down considerably in the past few years.  Networking plotters/printers or using a “toggle” box is the best way to efficiently use paper and supplies!  One of the best suppliers of HP products in the nation is National Architectural and Engineering Supply Co. in Denver and their number is 1-800-888-4224.  They DEEPLY discount their plotters/printers and supplies.  Since they are out of Colorado and ship UPS – you avoid paying state sales tax!


8)                  Costs of typical equipment for a geophysical/geological workstation:


3.2 gig CPU                                                                 $400

3.4 gig CPU                                                                 $860

Dual-socket motherboard                                             $590

1 gig RAM                                                                   $350

Nvidia QuadroFX 3400 video controller (256MB)  $1400

Viewsonic 19” Flat Panel                                              $565

Viewsonic 20” Flat Panel                                              $757

74-gig Seagate Cheetah scsi hard drive             $360

Western Digital 250 GB ATA/100 Hard Drive  $140

Read/write CD/DVD                                                    $160


One could easily build a state-of-the-art geophysical workstation for around $6000.




1)                              Become an “Expert” in your software package

2)                              Become familiar with the small independents in town.

3)                              NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK!!!!!!

4)                              Join additional Organizations/Social Clubs

5)                              If you are not risk-aversive – building your workstation, and “THEY WILL COME”

6)                              Volunteer time in your organizations!

7)                              Put together “presentations” and hit the speaker’s circuit!

8)                              When you do work for a client, do the best job you can – and charge fairly!

9)                              Finally – Do good deeds for other people along the way!