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Purchasing a Computer

The Berkeley Astronomy Department system admins (a.k.a. currently support Desktop PCs running Linux and desktop Macs running OS X. While you may purchase any computer you wish, only Linux and OS X machines will receive software support.

When purchasing a computer, we recommend that you do the following:
Ask Bill for recommended machines. Currently, we mostly order AMD-based PCs to run Linux (from here) and Macs (from here).

When planning for disk space, figure that you'll lose 10-15 Gbytes to the system and swap files. If you plan to do anything CPU-intensive, consider doubling the default amount of memory (RAM); RAM is inexpensive these days. You do not need to purchase any general software licenses (e.g., for C or Fortran compilers), but might want to purchase a private, node-locked license for IDL. You can place the order through the BearBuy system yourself, or ask our purchasing person Nina to do so. You will need a chart string to use Bear Buy.

Connecting to the Network

In most cases, your new machine will be replacing an older one (which will either be retired or will trickle down to someone else in the department). In this case, your new machine will get the name, IP address, and ethernet port of the one it is replacing. You can also request your own hostname; please talk to Bill if you want to do this.

Other Stuff to Buy

Don't forget to check for power! You should have a minimum of 2 outlets available (and add one for each self-enclosed peripheral, e.g., extra disk). Order a power-strip with surge-suppression.

Also, you may want an extra-long ethernet cable if your desk is away from the wall outlet. These can be ordered from a number of vendors.

Moving a Computer

Computer names are associated with their actual locations, so you must notify central@astro, who will update their data base, and help you with the move, at the very least shutting your machine down gently.

Buying Disks

Disks with a capacity of over 3 Terabytes are available, however reliability and support varies. In general, the more you spend, the more reliable the disk will be.


We strongly recommend purchasing an AppleCare extended warranty with any Apple computers. Linux systems are usually maintained by Bill. Most hard disks come with 3-year replacement warranties. We do not recommend buying a disk which does not come with a warranty! If your machine breaks, Bill will attempt to make repairs and you may have to order a replacement part.

Taking It With You

Post-docs who have purchased their computers with their own funds may take their machine with them when they leave only if they first notify the department Manager; leaving sufficient time to process the paperwork.


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