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. []
Aug
28
2008
0

2003 reasons to delete Vista

Looong story short, after Dell lost my Windows XP laptop they replaced eventually it with a new laptop (hooray!) with Windows Vista (boo!). Sure, I got used to it – but its a constant struggle. Once you strip down Vista, yanking out all the features that make it different from Windows XP, its not that bad. But, then again, there isn’t much good about it either. More than 18 months after the release of Vista, here’s my reason to not use it:

  • User Access Control
  • It requires more resources (hard drive space, RAM, processor speed)[1]
  • It will not work with MS Office 2003

In this day and age, there is exactly one reason to have Windows – Microsoft Office. If you want to play games, you’re better off with an XBox or PlayStation 3. If you want to surf the web, you can use your phone. For anything else, you can use a Mac or Linux.

A friend of mine confided that when her copy of MS Office 2003 didn’t work with Vista she bought MS Office 2007. This exact problem, my copy of MS Office 2003 not being able to run on my laptop running Vista, is why I turned to OpenOffice. Here’s the vicious cycle I perceive:

  1. Your old computer is slow.
  2. Buy a new computer.
  3. New computer comes with newest version of Windows.
  4. You buy all new software to run on the new version of Windows.
  5. Your computer is now loaded down with so much junk you need a faster computer.

I absolutely refuse to believe Microsoft is incapable of figuring out a way for their newest operating system to work with the world’s most popular office productivity software. The only possible explanation I will accept is that Microsoft is using the manufacturer’s theory of LRR.[2]

  1. Compare Windows XP’s requirements to Windows Vista’s for yourself. []
  2. Lather, rinse, repeat. []

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