Feet on the ground – head in the clouds.

Buying a computer? Metaphors be with you…

with 2 comments

If you are buying a new laptop for college, or simply for a home/family computer, this is how the tech specs break down for someone who is generally unfamiliar with computers:

CPU – Think of this as your brain. You can be a genius, but if all you do is write email, surf the net and type papers, you are good with anything not used. You can still get hosed on the deal, but anything you can buy new these days will do your basic user operations with ease. 

Hard Drive – These are your pockets. Got cargo pants? You can probably hold more CDs than me! Simple as that. Using an iPod as a guage of how much a GB is worth, their 4GB Nano is 1000 songs. For pictures, use a digital camera memory card. If you are worried about filling up ANY hard drive with documents, you are writing way too much. PowerPoint presentations maybe, but it will only be as big as the media you put in the presentation. Photoshop CS2 is 750MB, roughly 3/4 of a GB.  

RAM – Think of RAM as your hands. If you could have thirty hands would you be smarter? Nah. But you’d be able to get things rolling faster, and take on more tasks at once. Anyone benefits from upgrading RAM. It’s the most noticeable upgrade, so 1GB for a light user and 2GB for a computer addict at this point in the technology spectrum. 

Video – There are basically two ways to go: integrated chipsets and video cards. If you want a small, ultra-portable laptop and don’t plan on doing video editing or playing those $50 video games that people get addicted to, you are going to be fine with an integrated chipset. Basically, it just affects moving picture, so don’t think this will hinder your Photoshopping abilities (the smaller screen should do more to affect that). Video cards are pretty standard on larger laptops, but beware a big screen and an integrated chipset, especially if you get a DVD player or burner. 

At this point you should decide on an operating system. I can’t lie, my bias for Mac takes over at this point. Everyone will make a gut decision here, as the “best” operating system does vary, but I think the right OS for any home or student is Mac OS X. Simple. Safe. Complete.  If you take, edit, organize and backup photos…you’re better off with a Mac. If you doubt your eyes love looking at a Mac, just walk into an Apple store. The major drawback right now is that CS2 is running in Rosetta, but CS3 will be out soon. So again, for someone who isn’t doing professional editing, you’re fine until CS3 comes out, at which point you’ll again be faster and easier than PC.  [Update:  CS3 is out, I use picnik.com instead though.)

Having said all of that, I still can and regularly do use a WinXP system,[Update:  no longer true…I can barely stand the “experience”, it’s compu-torture.] on which editing and organizing photos is just as easy, just less pleasant. (Someone do a study!)  If you edit video…get a Mac. I’m not being a fanboy. I’m not kidding. If you DO work with video, you know this. If you want to, you soon will…whether it’s from experience or lack of it.If you play video games…get an iMac. I’ve seen this conceded to PCs, but a PC laptop at an affordable price is no better than a MacBook Pro running boot camp, and a PC desktop at a stupid price is still no more worth an iMac running boot camp. Gamers could disagree here, but 1) I’m not talking to gamers. If you call yourself a gamer, you should have stopped reading after “if you are buying a new laptop for college”.2) I’ve played some recent, high demand titles (I’m not a gamer, but observant enough to see that on my iMac they were as good as I needed them to be. They didn’t lag, they didn’t look ugly, they didn’t get choppy. It was a game, with good video and a smooth, hiccup-free computer.  If you’re an engineering or business student…get a Lenovo or Dell and then complain to whoever sets that stupid standard in your industry. The medical industry is increasingly becoming Mac-driven.  Ask questions, add comments. Next post: my essential mac freeware and building a home studio. 

** Software note:  Software for Starving Students (www.softwarefor.org) is 680MB or so, enough to fit on one CD and includes free open-source applications for your everyday tasks. It includes an office program (similar to Microsoft Office 2003, GIMP Image Editor…) If you don’t like paying for software, check it out. 


Written by unastronaut

February 17, 2007 at 2:49 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Well for me if it is laptop it is not too much especially if you are studying something about computer or software.


    February 17, 2007 at 4:17 pm

  2. A $600 iBook G4 got a friend of mine through his electrical engineering program. Not saying it would be fun, but then again an engineering or computer science student shouldn’t really be skimping on the computer. I’m more aimed at those who use their computers like the majority; for email, internet, listening to music, basic photo work and word processing.


    February 18, 2007 at 12:54 pm

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