Popular Computer Questions Answered:
[What is Operating System?]   [What is a Driver?]  [What is Wifi?]


Monday, December 31, 2007

How to choose when buying a computer - is asking "what is the most popular computer" the right question?

How to choose when buying a computer - is asking "what is the most popular computer" the right question?

(Note: this article was written and sent out to subscribers to my free computer lessons email newsletter on December 12th, 2007)

Around this time of year, it's common for people to be looking into buying a new computer as a gift or to replace the aging one they're using.

I thought I'd write an article to give a few tips on how to chose when buying a computer.

First off, I've found that a lot of people start thinking about this by asking "what is the most popular computer?" and letting the answer to that decide the question for them. Well, this isn't necessarily the best idea.

Just because something is popular doesn't necessarily mean it's the best -- for example, fast food restaurants are popular places to go, but I think we all know they don't serve the best food in the world.

Here's the thing to remember when thinking about how to chose when buying a computer -- you should generally avoid the big brand names.

Yes, this might surprise you, but in my opinion, it's usually not a good idea to buy from one of the big brand name companies (there's one exception that I'll get to in a minute).

Here's why: dollar for dollar, you're generally going to get a worse deal than if you go with a reputable "generic" or "white box" store.

A lot of people have low price as the first thing on their list when they're trying to figure out how to chose when buying a computer. So they go with a cheap brand name and spend a few hundred dollars on it, and they think they're getting a good deal.

But what they don't realize is that it's common for a lot of the big brand companies to sell very out-of-date computers in their lower price ranges, and from what I've heard, they also often sell computers with parts they know are bad!

I'm not kidding about this -- most of the big computer companies out there, when they sell their least expensive computers, are trying to unload old inventory that's been collecting dust on their shelves for a long time.

They sell it to you as if it's new, and maybe it is in the sense of never purchased before, but it's hardly new in terms of the technology.

And the more disturbing part of this is that from what I've heard, those computers often have parts in them that are *known* to be bad parts!

You see, when a chip manufacturer like Intel makes a computer processor (the "brain" of the computer), they test it to make sure it works.

Makes sense, right?

But inevitably, many of them fail these tests. Now you'd think these bad parts would be thrown away, but no -- from what I've heard, what happens is they still sell them to the big computer companies at a discount, and those companies put them into their computers anyway.

What you can do with a bad processor a lot of the time is set it to run slower, and while it may not be running at full speed, it works well enough to pass the tests.

But the parts are still bad! Sure, they may work OK for a while (maybe just long enough to make it through the warranty period) but they have more little "glitches" and end up breaking down sooner.

So if you can find a reputable local company that sells computers they assemble themselves, you'll get a well built computer for a lot less because you're not paying for the brand name.

I can't help you find a local store like that everywhere, but those of you reading this who live here on the Big Island of Hawaii can go to Falcon Computers in Kona or Falcon Computers in Waimea.

A family-owned store like that is the only place I'd buy a Windows PC, personally.

So earlier I mentioned there was an exception among the big brand names -- if you've been reading my newsletter for a while, or know me, you might have already guessed which one it is -- Apple.

Apple is the only big brand name computer I personally would buy (I'm writing this on a MacBook Pro). I do this partially because I've used a lot of different types of computers over the years, and really don't enjoy using Windows much.

But I also do this because Apple doesn't deliberately put bad processors in their computers, or try to sell out-of-date computers as new. Some people complain that Apple's Macs are overpriced, but that's actually not the case -- when compared apples to apples (excuse the pun) they tend to be in the same price range as a Dell or HP of the same general specs.

So bottom line is, here's how to chose when you're buying a computer: if you want to stick with Windows, then support a local business and go to a good store that puts your computer together for you from parts.

And make sure you ask them to put Windows XP on it, not Windows Vista (for reasons I've covered in a previous 3-part article about the problems with Windows Vista).

Or get away from Windows and switch to a Mac.

Either way, you're getting a better deal.

Hope that makes sense and helps with your decisions on how to chose when buying a computer.

Until next time, enjoy,

Worth Godwin

P.S. And if you're looking to learn to use your computer -- new or old -- you should take a look at my easy video computer lessons for Apple Mac or for Windows. They come on CD, are quick and easy to use, and come with a full 1-year iron-clad money back guarantee.

More information is available by clicking one of the following links:

If you have an Apple Mac computer (iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) then click this link to get easy Mac lessons

or if you have a Windows PC, then click this link to get easy Windows computer lessons

Labels: , , , , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Why you should avoid Windows Vista like the plague (at least for now) Part 3

In this three-part article I will talk about three big reasons you should avoid "upgrading" to Windows Vista, at least for now. This is part three of three.


I've been talking in the first two parts of this series of three article about reasons you want to avoid getting the new Windows Vista. I called it a real turkey, and gave you two good reasons you shouldn't use it.

In this last in this series of articles, I'm going to give you a third reason that I don't think you should bother getting Vista, at least for a while.

Reason #3:

All the new features are old features stolen from Mac OS X, and not very well.

Microsoft has a history of stealing ideas and presenting them as their own -- all of the basic ideas behind Windows (having information displayed in one or more windows, having a desktop, having a recycle bin or trash can, using a mouse, etc.) were directly taken from the Mac after Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (the co-founders of Apple) invited Bill Gates over to show off their new type of computer.

Bill took notes and ran back to Microsoft to copy it, and he's been doing it ever since.

The new version of Windows -- Windows Vista -- was supposed to come out years ago, but it got delayed and delayed, and finally was released around the beginning of 2007.

Back in 2004, Apple announced the then-new version of Mac OS X, OS 10.4 or "Tiger" (the "X" in Mac OS X is a Roman numeral 10, not a letter X by the way) at their developers conference.

Early in 2007, some internal emails were leaked from inside Microsoft that revealed that when one high-up employee from Microsoft was at the 2004 Apple Developers Conference, he was taking notes (just like Bill did all those years ago) and he confessed Microsoft had to take a lot of features of OS X from Apple to put into Vista.

He was also worried they wouldn't be able to do those features as well.

When Vista finally came out (two and a half years later) I remember watching the promotional video that showed off all of the supposedly new features of Vista.

Every single one was clearly a knock-off of features in the 2004 version of Mac OS X, and in my opinion, not very good knock-offs.

In fact, the Microsoft employee who wrote those leaked emails is on record saying that he'd use a Mac himself if he didn't work for Microsoft.

So why pay for recycled "new features" when they won't really do that much to improve your computer (and as I mentioned in an earlier email, are likely to slow it down) -- it doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

I won't deny that I like Macs better than PCs too -- and unlike a lot of people who are big supporters of one and bash the other, I am very familiar with both types of computer, and realize that neither type is perfect -- and I honestly think that 99% of the time, you're better off using a Mac than a Windows PC.

So if you're going to get a new computer, which you're better off doing if you're getting Vista, why not get the real deal instead of the pale imitation?

Just my opinion.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Why you should avoid Windows Vista like the plague (at least for now) Part 2

In this three-part article I will talk about three big reasons you should avoid "upgrading" to Windows Vista, at least for now. This is part two of three.


In the first part of this article, I told you the first of three reasons I don't think you should be getting the new Windows Vista, and why you should stick to Windows XP or Mac OS X.

In this article, I'm going to continue with the second reason that, at least for now, Vista is a turkey and you should avoid getting it.

Reason #2:

Not all of your old equipment will work because of "driver issues".

A "driver" is a piece of software that lets your computer work with the devices you have connected (outside or inside) the computer. Think of it like each part of the computer, or each device hooked up to it (like a printer, or a digital camera, etc.) talks a different language. The driver is like an interpreter that translates the language the device talks into the language Windows talks.

The same thing applies if you have a Mac -- it needs drivers to "talk" to printers and other devices. Without the right driver, the Mac has no idea how to talk to the printer, scanner, or whatever kind of device you might have hooked up to it. One big difference between Macs and Windows is that in a *lot* of cases (not all, but a lot) you don't need to jump through a lot of hoops to get a new device to work. You plug it in and it just works. But it still needs the driver for this to happen, it just is built in for most printers, mice, etc.

But back to Vista.

The drivers that used to work for Windows XP don't work for Vista, so every company out there that makes computer equipment has to make brand new drivers to work with Vista, and until they do, their equipment won't talk to Vista.

Now by the time I'm writing this (August of 2007), a LOT more drivers are available, unlike a few months ago when Vista first came out. But still, there are many thousands of devices that aren't "compatible" with Vista (in other words, there is no driver for them).

And the companies that make different computer parts and devices may not bother to ever write drivers for their older equipment -- even things just a couple of years old -- because this way they can sell you a new printer, or scanner, or whatever.

So even if you buy a new computer, the devices you had hooked up to it might not work anymore, and if you try to save money and just upgrade your current computer, parts inside the computer might not work right, or at all.

And if this happens, there's not a lot you can do about it.

I'll talk about the third reason I don't think you should get Vista in the third and final segment of this article.


Oh, and one last thing -- Mac users reading this, remember that if you have a Mac that was made in 2006 or later -- an "Intel Mac" of some kind -- you *can* run Windows too, and all of this information applies to a Mac running Windows just as much as any other computer running Windows.

But fortunately, most of you won't ever need to run Windows, so you can stick to the more familiar (not to mention safer and easier) Mac OS X that you're used to. But if you do have a need to run Windows, this is important to know.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Why you should avoid Windows Vista like the plague (at least for now) Part 1

In this three-part article I will talk about three big reasons you should avoid "upgrading" to Windows Vista, at least for now. This is part one of three.


"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!"

You may recognize the quote above from the old TV sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. The episode it was from involved the not-too-bright head of the radio station deciding it was a good idea to do a Thanksgiving promotion by giving away free turkeys -- how did he give them away? By throwing them out of a helicopter flying over the city!

Since domesticated turkeys can't fly, you can imagine it didn't go very well.

Out here in Hawaii, we have wild turkeys, which actually can fly. There was one in a tree outside my window earlier that made me think of this.

You may have heard of the new version of Windows, Windows Vista, that Microsoft started selling around the beginning of 2007.

Well, in my opinion, Vista is a real turkey, and it's flying about as well as the poor turkeys from that classic episode of WKRP.

In fact, the big irony is that I read recently that releasing Vista actually *increased* the sales of Windows XP! That's pretty sad.

There's three basic reasons I don't think you should get Vista. I could think of more, but let's keep it simple and stick to three big reasons. To keep the article fairly short, I'm going to cover the first one in this article, then the other two in separate articles.

Reason #1:

If you upgrade, you'll either need to get a brand new computer that's a lot more powerful than your old one, or you'll have to sink a lot of money into your old one to try to get it "up to speed".

You see, Vista is what we in the computer business like to call a "resource hog", which means it needs a lot of memory, a big hard drive, and a fast processor (computer brain) for it to work well. Especially if you want to use any of the newer features.

If you don't have at least a fairly high-end computer (and a new one, not a high-end PC from a few years ago) you either won't see most of the new features, or you'll be screaming at the computer in frustration at how slow it is.

So the only time to go to Vista would be if you're already planning to buy a new PC, otherwise you might spend a few hundred dollars getting up to speed, which is money that might be better spent towards a new computer.

And even then, I'd really suggest sticking with XP (or going with a Mac, but that's something to talk about in a different article).

In the next section of this article, which I'll send in a separate email, I'll talk about the second reason you don't want to get Vista, and how getting it could cause you big headaches, especially if you keep your old computer, or any older equipment.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

The Hidden Dangers In Keeping Old Computers For Too Long

You know how they say dog years are like 7 people years?

Well, with computers it's more like 15 to 20 computer years for every real year, thanks to something called "Moore's Law."

I won't go into a lot of technical detail about what Moore's Law is, but to boil it down it means basically that stuff in computers roughly doubles every 18 months.

So in other words, about every 18 months, the average hard drive (storage space) size will approximately double.

About every 18 months processor (computer brain) speeds will roughly double.

About every 18 months RAM size (temporary working space like a tabletop or work bench) will roughly double.

And so on. peace of mind

What this means for you is that while your computer isn't obsolete in a year and a half, it's definitely not cutting edge anymore, even if you got a high end model.

But that doesn't mean you need to throw it away or anything.

BUT, the thing you should remember is that while 5 years doesn't seem like a long time to us, it's 75 to 100 years for your computer.

And just like a 100 year old person can't be expected to be as physically active as a 17 year old, we can't expect our 5 year old computers to be able to handle all the modern programs.

This is one reason I mentioned in a recent email that you shouldn't try to put the new Windows Vista on an older PC -- it just can't handle it!

But there's a different problem, too, that a lot of people don't think of.

Not only does the hardware (physical parts of the computer) change radically in a few years time in terms of "strength" and speed, companies come up with new *types* of hardware that the old computers may not be able to even understand or be able to talk to.

This doesn't happen as quickly as the "every 18 months" Moore's Law that I mentioned earlier, but the bottom line is that if you keep your computer for too long, you can run into problems when the inevitable time comes to upgrade to a new machine.

Here's why.

I had a client named Dorothy several years ago who had an old Mac (what I'm talking about applies to both Windows PCs and Macs). This was around 2003 or so, and her Mac dated from the mid 1990s.

I don't remember the problem I fixed, but I told her at the time that she should replace the computer immediately because she was playing with fire trying to keep an old computer like that running.

She ignored my advice, and lived to regret it.

A year or two later, she called me asking me for my help because her old Mac had died and she had all her files on it and she wanted me to move everything over to a newer computer.

When it turned out that the computer didn't even turn on, I had to tell her that there was nothing I could do, at least not without it costing her several hundred dollars in parts and my time, and it wasn't a guarantee.

The problem was, the type of hard drive (remember, that's where all the files that she wanted are stored) wasn't being made any more, and I'd long ago had all of my old equipment that could read the old drive type break down and I'd had no reason to replace it.

Now if she'd been backing up her files, she would have been better off -- you know this if you've gotten my "5 Common & Costly Computer Mistakes" CD which comes for free with the amazing deal I'm offering on my website right now -- but she didn't.

Now we might have been able to do something if we'd hunted around on eBay for a really old computer, and shelled out a few hundred for it, plus a lot of my billable time.

Or if she'd just listened to me in the first place.

Hopefully you'll heed my advice: don't keep your computer for more than six years or so, and *please* back up your files, or one day you will be sorry, just like Dorothy was.

So keep reading my articles so you can keep up to speed yourself. And if you haven't already, rush over to my website and take advantage of the amazing opportunity I'm offering. One of the first disks you'll get will show you exactly how to back up your important files to protect yourself.

And the price will be going up sharply in a few days!

until next time,

Worth Godwin

P.S. Remember, when it comes to computers, what you don't know *can* hurt you, so keep reading my emails. Also, if you haven't tried out my easy video computer lessons for Mac or Windows you really should take a look. You get plain English lessons that are easy to follow, and each lesson is short enough to fit into even a busy schedule, and they all come with a full guarantee. The video lessons let you see every step, every click of the mouse, while you hear me explaining every step in plain English.

I've got a pretty incredible deal going on right now, which you better take a look at before I change my mind. Find out more on my website.
Just go to: www.WorthGodwin.com

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.