What Computer Should I Buy?

I get a lot of questions from coworkers and family about what type of computer to buy. Or they will email an ad or ask me about a particular model that they have been looking at. My philosophy on purchasing a computer has changed many times over the years. It has been influenced by the available technology at the time, if I was currently selling computers or not, whether I was on a budget and pinching pennies or, if my employer was paying for my computer. It's hard to be objective!

One of my favorite questions was always; should I buy a Mac or a PC? Since I am a computer scientist, I should use the consensus of industry expert opinion based upon the preponderance of evidence that exists from the many double blind studies at major research universities, and quote the empirical data. But since I don't have any idea what that is, I usually just tell them, "I don't know!" Then, I try to help them find the answer for themselves, by asking them some standard questions:

·         Do you know anyone who uses a Mac?
·         If you do, do you think they are willing to help you when you have an issue?
·         Will your friends make fun of you if you don't buy a Mac?
·         Will they make fun of you if you do buy a Mac?
·         Do you think that owning a Mac will boost your self esteem?
·         Does your self esteem need a boost?
·         Would you feel bad knowing you paid twice as much for similar capability?
·         You got the money honey?
·         How do you plan on getting the word out that you are now a Mac user?
·         Bumper sticker?
·         Facebook?

Then I always tell them, "I would really like to have a Mac!" When they ask, "Why?”, I tell them, “Because I don't have one, and they're really cool!" By this time, they can tell that I really don't care. Everyone that ever asked me if they should buy a Mac bought one regardless of what I told them. For most things you need a computer for, it probably doesn't matter one way or the other. I would really like to have one! I have a good friend who updates software and data on fifty or so Macs every day for a lab at a big university. The university paid for his MacBook Pro. It's really, really cool!

Ok. Here is the part of the post that contains the practical advice. If you don't keep six files open in Photoshop while you use Dreamweaver to push PHP files to a testing server that is IIS 7.0 on the same PC, it is running SQL Server, and you are not, at the same time, designing your new backyard patio and landscaping with AutoCAD while your are using Excel to work on your budget with pivot tables and Vlookup, then buy a cheaper computer with a screen that you can see!
Today’s entry level computers are probably more capable than most people need. If you’re worried about more hard drive for pictures and music, just buy a Western Digital Passport USB Drive, they are really cool, and you can get a terabyte for about a hundred bucks. And, you can use it on your next computer!

I use my son's old Toshiba Satellite laptop to write this kind of stuff while I'm sitting on the couch watching TV. I gave him my new HP Pavillion, because he said his Toshiba was broken. I fixed it. I can word process and Google stuff as I go, so it will seem like I always know what I'm talking about. I can surf the web, and use it to do most everything I need a laptop to do, and it is at least four years old. I use a Pentium dual core tower in my office when I am wearing my super user cape. It has a big screen, a big hard drive, 4GB of RAM, and it does everything I need  a desktop to do.

I bought my wife a Compaq Presario at Wal-Mart for $300 about four years ago. It runs Vista (yeah I know... but she doesn't), burns CD's and DVD's, has a big hard drive, and a beautiful 15.6" screen. It's great to use for watching movies on our 50" plasma TV. We hook it up with a $20 VGA/audio cable and use a wireless mouse for a remote. Her "R" and down arrow keys quit working last year, so I ordered a replacement keyboard from Amazon for $13 and fixed it in about 10 minutes. She still loves it!

Oh yeah. If you’re a gamer, you should get the biggest, baddest, fastest computer your Mom and Dad will pop for!