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Buying a new computer

Last week our tax return came in and I got my long-awaited chance to buy a new computer!

Not that there’s anything wrong with our old desktop computer. The old Black Box has been great. About two and a half years ago my friend Michael instructed me in putting it together. He’s the IT Guy/Computer Administrator at a private school in Western New York, and he had tons of computer components lying around that were no longer being used since their students switched to laptops. So I got to make a computer from used parts that cost me nothing. That was also my first experience installing and using a Linux operating system (Ubuntu 8.04) and the beginning of a wonderful learning adventure. The only thing I’ve had to do is replace a $12.00 fan. But lately I’ve been thinking that a newer (faster) processor might come in handy for certain things. And since the components of the old Black Box are 7 or even 8 years old, it seemed like time for an upgrade. Plus there’s a funny noise I think is caused by a screw on the panel that I can no longer tighten. And I just remembered that the CD burner just started having problems.

I started looking around the internet for different options. Stores like Staples and Office Max had pre-configured systems that sounded good for about $530 to $600. But after reading different computer forums and reviews, it seemed that some components on pre-made computers in my price range may not be the best quality. For example: the HP computer I was considering only came with a 250 watt power supply, while the consensus of on-line reviewers suggested you should have at least a 400 watt power supply. I’m not much into heavy-duty gaming, but if you want to plug-in numerous USB devices like printers, scanners, camcorders and such, more power would definitely come in handy. Also there’s the system bus and L2 cache size to consider and many other things that I won’t bore you with here.

Then I began thinking it might make more sense to go to a computer store where I could have them put together a system with the components I wanted, and where they only sell and service computers (as opposed to the big stores like Staples or Best Buy that sell everything under the sun). And by going to a store that will build what you want I could get a computer without an operating system (Windows) pre-installed, thus saving about $130 right off the bat! I’m still nervous about buying all the parts and putting them together myself (without a lot of assistance from Michael!) so this seemed like the best alternative. I checked out the website of Soyata Computers in Rochester, where you could mix and match components on-line. The cost for what I wanted still came out to be least $600.

Then I remembered the Batavia Computer Center, which is closer to where we live. I stopped in last week just to get an idea what I could put together and at what price. And the people there were great! They first asked me what I wanted to do with the computer. I initially told them I had about $600 to spend, but when I told them what I wanted, the owner said I didn’t need to spend nearly that much. I was thinking of getting 6 GB of memory, but they said unless you’re doing coding or heavy-duty graphics rendering you really would never come close to using more than 4 GB. And that makes sense. We’re just so conditioned to thinking more RAM is better, because RAM has been cheap for a while. I’ve never really used more than about 1.7 GB myself. And I had been thinking about getting a more expensive graphics card, but again, unless you want to play intensive 3-D games, there’s no need for it.

After going over the options I ended up getting a system with an MSI motherboard, an Athlon II duo core processor (much faster than my older Athlon processor), 4 GB of DDR 3 RAM, a 2 Terabyte hard drive, a 700 watt power supply and a lovely CD/DVD burner. And of course, no operating system. They put it together in a nice black metal case (none of that shiny plastic) in about twenty minutes. And it all came to $410, including tax!

When I brought the new Black Box home I installed Linux Mint on it and transferred our old files from the back-up hard drive. I could not be happier! The new processor is considerably faster than the old one. Ripping copies of our DVDs is much quicker. Even launching apps, web page loading; everything is faster. And I can now watch full screen video on Youtube or Hulu without any glichiness! Life is good. And it’s a nice feeling to have bought the computer from a family owned local business. They’ve been there for quite a while, and likely will be for a long time. It’s nice to know there’s a place close by to take it if it ever does need repair. And I had fun talking with the guys at the store about Linux and other computer stuff.

Next Post: The Return of the Linux Evangelist!

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  1. March 17, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I wish i got a tax return đŸ˜¦
    building a system in most cases is better i have found

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