Is 2005 The Year For Your New Computer?

By Mike Dooley, Systems Administrator, NSDCAR

February, 2004, Revised December 2004


Disclaimer:  The following editorial reflects the opinion and experience of the author, and does not constitute a mandate or recommendation of any specific product or manufacturer by NSDCAR.





As we enter into the new year in a “hot” market, it may be time to put some of those hard-earned bucks into a new computer.  If you haven’t read my 2002 article on purchasing a PC, click on the following link, (or type it into your browser’s address bar), and read this perennial advice on avoiding the pitfalls of PC retail marketing:


If you’re running anything earlier than Windows 2000, or your hardware is between three and five years old, it’s time… before a catastrophic breakdown forces you to upgrade.  And if you're still running Windows 95 or 98, you face severe security risks as Microsoft withdraws update and security patch support for these platforms.




For hardware, your choices are pretty much the same as last year, with some improvement in speed and processing capability.  The real progress, IMHO, has been made in the area of peripherals like printers, storage devices, and display technologies.


For workstations or personal computers, there have been improvements in some of the tablet PC offerings, for those that still wish to hand-write on a computer screen.  Processor, bus, and memory speeds continue to improve, and one can benefit from these improvements without going too far out on the “bleeding edge”.


My recommendations in previous computer-shopping articles still hold true; put your money into hard disk space and memory, which are both cheaper with each passing year.  Also, it’s time to explore the new display technologies, and get rid of the monster glass monitor that dominates your desktop.  Flat-screen LCD monitors continue to fall in price, while growing in size.  Much more bang for your buck with these devices, now, so take a look at this eye-pleasing technology.  The reduction in eye fatigue, alone, is worth the price point.  Peeking ‘round the corner, 3M recently unveiled a completely foldable, paper-like display technology that may portend the e-document of the future.  Imagine the daily paper beamed to your personal pocket digital screen, which can be wadded up and tossed in your purse or pocket like any other paper product.  Or a listing flyer that automatically updates itself as the user moves through a neighborhood, showing all your properties as the prospect encounters them on the road.  The possibilities are limitless!




Is your mouse cursor jumping around or failing to move at all, because there’s so much dirt accumulated in your digital rodent?  Try an optical mouse.  No rolling ball to gather dirt and food particles, as the thing reads light from an LED and judges its motion from the passing pattern on the mouse pad beneath it.  Want to move about your office, without being tied to that keyboard and mouse?  There are radio- and infra-red-based keyboards and mice available that free you from restrictive cords and cables.





Internet access gets cheaper, faster, and more widely available with each passing season, as well.  Take a look at wireless offerings from Verizon, Cingular, AT&T and many others.  DSL and cable modem are now much more affordable, too.  If you’re still dialing a telephone line to connect to the Internet, your competition is leaving you in the dust.





If you’ve taken a hands-on class in WinForms at NSDCAR’s wireless classroom, you’ve seen what can be accomplished in a very small and attractive desktop computer; if you haven’t, browse on over to our Education page, and sign up for a class!  Explore the choices in PC design when choosing your next computer.  It no longer has to be institutional beige in color, nor housed in a box the size of a Winnebago.  There are even fast, fully-functional computers with no “brain box” at all… the whole thing’s stashed in the keyboard or monitor!


In summation, read my previous two articles on choosing a new computer, and apply the principles to your 2005 purchasing decisions.  Choose the system, warranty, and options that best fit your needs, and then take the plunge!  Make this year a new era of comfort and compatibility in your choices of technology.  Measure how much of your success over the last few years could have happened without technology...  this makes the (temporarily) empty wallet much less painful.  


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