Disclaimer: My career has been in Information Technology for more than 20 years. I love good hardware, but this, much like riding, is applicable with a degree of application.
If you’re using AiM or most other full-sized data analysis software, or for that matter, most automotive software, you’ll find that it’s usually looking for a Windows operating system. Now it’s entirely possible and within reason to run virtualization software on a Mac or Linux computer or to dual boot but it often ends up being a bit awkward and clunky. Nearly all of my vehicle software for managing and programming the cars and motorcycles requires Windows. My exception is TuneECU which I use with the Triumphs to map, test systems, and reset service indicators and that requires an Android phone or tablet.
If you’re a casual AiM user, virtualization software will probably work just fine but if you’re spending a good amount of time in it, just bite the bullet and get a dedicated computer (laptop preferably). It doesn’t have to be a $2k+ workstation, I’ve used re-purposed business-class laptops with 8GB RAM and then I’ll usually upgrade the hard drive to a solid-state drive to the biggest capacity the budget can afford. This will run Windows 10 just fine. You can often find refurbished ThinkPad (T or P series) on Amazon or eBay with a limited warranty for a few hundred dollars and these work great. Most business-class laptops also come with Windows 10 Pro, which is key to my personal workflow. I personally avoid Best Buy, Costco, etc. inexpensive consumer-grade laptops–they are difficult to upgrade, they’re heavy, and laden with bloatware and trial versions of software that I don’t care about. Those laptops end up being more trouble than they’re worth. Upgrading RAM and storage (SSD) is a fairly trivial matter with a business-class laptop and relatively inexpensive–AiM Race Studio doesn’t need a lot of RAM but storage is paramount.
I don’t recommend using your AiM laptop for other things, like personal data and such. Checking web mail is fine but this is a laptop you’re taking to the track, it could be damaged, stolen, lost, etc. My AiM computer is dedicated to vehicle software, so that includes AiM Race Studio, VCDS (Audi/VW programming software), BMW’s coding software, Dainese software, HM coding software, FORScan (Ford programming), etc.
The flavor of Operating System MATTERS!
Why Windows 10 (or 11) Pro and not a Windows Home version? The operative feature that’s included with Windows Pro versions is the native ability to connect remotely. While I’m at the track and reviewing data or connecting to my bike’s hardware (AiM or the bike itself), I use my computer directly. However, when I get home, my Windows laptop lives in the garage and is connected to a docking station/port replicator with a single cable and that docking station has a wired network connection connected to my home network. Then, when using my home Mac desktop or laptop and I can use the [free] app Microsoft Remote Desktop and connect to the laptop. I have full access to my AiM laptop, and can easily and quickly review data, make adjustments to math channels, etc. from any computer on my home wireless or wired network. It’s a huge convenience. Remote Desktop connectivity is possible from Windows and Linux computers to your AiM computer as well.
If you have a laptop you like and you don’t want to change anything but it’s running a Home flavor of Windows, Microsoft does have an upgrade path within the operating system to the Pro flavor. This is really only necessary if you
The specifics here in my setup:
- Lenovo business-class P14s laptop running Windows 11 Pro with a 2TB SSD, it has USB-C ports (highly recommended, they’re supremely versatile but have only become common on Windows computers in the last few years).
- Lenovo USB-C port replicator/docking station, this is connected to power and my home wired network, optionally you can connect an external display, USB peripherals, etc.
- On my home network, I’ve set up a reserved DHCP address on my home router for the docking station network connection, that way I don’t have to search the network for the laptop
- I’m generally a Mac user so I’ve installed Microsoft Remote Desktop on all of them (available in the Mac App Store for free) that connect to the AiM laptop.
I’ve used the AiM software for nearly 4 years as of this writing. Because I’m something of an archivist by nature, I want to keep everything and want to be able to find it readily when I want it. I also don’t want to lose any data–it’s nice to be able to work with newer riders and show them where I started. On top of that, I have video files for nearly every track event since I either have run GoPros or AiM SmartyCams–this is useful not just for my own development and coaching others, but I will often review and use it to look for brake markers, turn markers, etc. For the last several years I had simply set up an automatic backup job to copy all the data from the laptop to a network file server. It gave me a good sense of security but I now want to have the ability to use AiM software from more than one of my Windows computers and don’t want to root around network shares and through backup files to locate it.
There are different methods for this but recently I deployed a private cloud configuration so that anytime I import data from my AiM hardware, it automatically synchronizes to an easy-to-find folder hierarchy on my network file server (Synology NAS, to be specific) using a Dropbox-like piece of software on my primary track laptop. So this yields a few things:
- Automatic synchronization to my home NAS, even if I’m remote; as long as I have a functioning Internet connection at the track (thank you, Thunderhill!), it will upload the data files to my home file server.
- If for some reason my primary laptop is unavailable when I get home (maybe I forgot it in the trailer), I can still readily access my data files
- My home NAS synchronizes with another NAS off-site so this offers me resiliency in case something like a fire were to happen at home (other files are replicated off-site as well).
The beauty of this too is that while not inexpensive and moderately complex to set up initially, I don’t have any monthly recurring fees to do all of this and I have terabytes worth of data spanning the last nearly 4 years of my riding and other riders, all available at home and remotely. Now that it’s set up, I pretty much forget about it because it all works automatically.
Hardware and Software Used
- I have a Synology NAS at home with ~35TB of usable storage (also used for my music, videos, photos, data, etc.) and a duplicate NAS I have located off-site. Specifically, I have the model DS1821+ which has an 8 drive capacity though I’m only using 3 drive slots at present, each with a 16TB drive–most people won’t need one this big.
- For software, I use the Synology Drive client [free] on my computers, which operates much like Dropbox; I can selectively determine which folders are synced and which are kept only on the NAS. This works with virtually all of the Synology NAS appliances.
- I’ve configured AiM’s Race Studio 3 to save files in a YYYYMMDD folder format, then the file names are YYYYMMDD_TTTT_TRACK_BIKE_RIDER naming convention. This allows me to quickly find the files I’m looking for.
- Alternatively, if you don’t want to use a NAS and already have a Dropbox, Box.com, or OneDrive set up, you can use one of those. It’s simpler than setting up your own but you don’t have quite as much control and you will likely have a recurring subscription cost. For me, working in the IT field, I like running my own ‘private cloud’ and I am loathe to commit to yet another recurring subscription.