Jan
06
2009
3

How to Buy a New Computer: Part I: Balancing Want and Need

Broken Laptop

Old Laptop

Out With The Old…

Unfortunately, its that time again.  When my laptop died for the first time I got it repaired.  When it died again, it had the good manners to at least do so within the repair warranty.

My trusty sidekick died for the third and final time on December 31, 2008.[1]

…And In With The New!

Now its time to get a new laptop.  I’m reluctant to buy another Dell.  Dell installed nVidia graphics chips on the motherboard.  Those nVidia chips have  a critical flaw in that they overheat and pull away from the motherboard.  Sound familiar?  Well, this was the exact problem I was having with my laptop.  Apparently this problem has spawned a lawsuit against nVidia.

New Laptop

New Laptop

I’m undecided what kind of laptop I want/need.  A netbook?  A basic laptop?  A high-end laptop?[2]

Figure out what you need, then figure out what you want

Needs

Its all about what you want and what you need.  I need a laptop that will let me program, surf the web, listen to music, and send e-mail.  This accounts for roughly 98% of my computer usage.

The last 2% of computer usage is comprised of processor intensive activities such as watching DVD’s, video games, video editing, DVD and CD burning, and manipulating large amounts of programming code.  For instance, the WCAB legacy number to EAMS number converter involved more than 4.6 million lines of code. [3] My previous laptop struggled with that one. I probably only do these things once every six months or so.

For what I need, a netbook would actually work very well for me.

Wants

As any computer user knows, its very frustrating to have a computer that will not do what you want or takes to long to do it.  My wants are a super slim, light-weight, battery efficient, computer that has the processing power to deal with large amounts of data and the ability to burn DVD’s and CD’s.

A netbook fulfills the wants of a slim, light-weight, and battery efficient computer.  A basic laptop would suffice for the processing power and CD/DVD burning capabilities.

Having it all

When it comes to laptops, sometimes you can have it all – it just depends how you’re going to compromise.

  • If money were no object, this would be a no-brainer: buy a high-end light and powerful laptop.  These cost $1500 and start climbing steeply after that.
  • The other compromise is not so intuitive.  A very decent external CD/DVD burner combo drive would probably only cost $75 or so.  If I’m only burning discs 2% of the time, this is a very reasonable solution.  The bigger problem is the underpowered processors in netbooks.  They simply do not have the ability to play new games, handle large amounts of data, or deal with too many simultaneous tasks.  The only possible work around here is where you use your underpowered laptop to remotely control a more powerful computer and use that more powerful computer to crunch numbers.[4] However, this won’t help with video games.  ;)

Decision Time

What am I going to get?  I’m going to run down the pro’s and con’s of netbooks, basic laptops, and high-end laptops next time.  Stay tuned!

  1. Photo courtesy of Just Us 3 []
  2. Photo courtesy of Ciccio Pizzettaro []
  3. Seriously.  4.6 million. []
  4. Scroll down to the part about TightVNC. []
Sep
17
2008
0

Why Web Apps Rule

The Internets

The Internets

I’m not exactly a neutral party when it comes to “web apps” (short for “web application”) versus their downloadable-installable cousins.  This website, its articles, and blog posts are basically just packaging for my own suite of free web apps, workers’ compensation calculators.

For the purposes of this post, I’m restricting the definition of “web app” to those programming applications which run from inside an internet web browser and require an internet connection to operate.  I’m excluding those hybrid web apps that require plugins to be installed (think flash or adobe multimedia banner ads).  While web apps have inherent…

Weaknesses

  1. Web browser. Some require a particular type or version of a web browser.
  2. Internet Connection. They won’t work without one.  If you lose your internet connection, you’ve just become isolated from your information and the program.
  3. Form. Sometimes the program will look different depending upon the type or version of web browser.
  4. Function. Sometimes the program will act slightly differently depending upon the type or version of web browser.

… there are also undeniable…

Consumer Benefits

  1. Portability. Web apps allow you to access your information from the internet.
  2. Independence. Web apps allow you to access your information from any computer.
  3. User Friendly. Nothing to download, install, or maintain.
  4. Seamless. These days web apps use AJAX so that your computer doesn’t need to reload the page to show you new information.  The result are web based programs that look and act as if the program was installed on your computer.
  5. Braindead Backups. Since all information is stored on the web app server, a browser crash doesn’t have to mean the end of the world.  No need to do anything.
  6. Updates. You immediately benefit from web app server program updates without needing to do anything.
  7. Compatibility. Most web apps can’t interfere with other programs on your computer.
  8. IT Security. With nothing to install, your IT professionals don’t need to worry about what you’ve got installed on your computer.

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