Tuesday, September 11, 2007

computers: love the one your with

The computer industry has created the meme "Computers get slow and gunky after 20 months or so". I know lots of people who buy a new laptop every year or two because, well, that's just the way it is.

Of course that's completely untrue. Run anti-virus, uninstall programs you're not using, run a spyware remover, disable startup programs and services that don't seem to be important (note how these tasks are progressively harder for the average user) and your computer should work for years. I ran a Macintosh 128 with the "kitchen-table memory upgrade" for a decade.

After 8 years, we're replacing a Pentium III 500 Mhz desktop machine.
  • It needed more disk space. 10GB just isn't compatible with today's mega-bloated programs.
  • Contacts search in Outlook 2000 started mysteriously crashing and nothing fixes it.
  • Although the key program SeaMonkey (the latest iteration of the Netscape all-in-one browser and e-mail) works perfectly, lots of utilities and new versions didn't run well on Windows 98 SE, e.g. Photoshop Elements.
  • Network sharing and printing between Windows 98 SE and XP is slow and unreliable.
  • Most importantly, Windows 98 SE isn't getting updates and patches. Most security vulnerabilities are in the browser but occasionally the bad guys find holes in the operating system.
I could have performed surgery to address all of these, starting with the hard drive, but when you're that many generations behind, the software/hardware/documentation to upgrade your old computer is itself out-of-date and unsupported.

So an IBMLenovo Thinkpad T61 with ultra mini-dock is on the way. The hard decision was whether to go with Windows XP or Vista Home Premium. Cnet's laptop buying guide recommended Vista Home Premium. We'll see...

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