-- Hard- & Software Page
To inappropriately quote Montaigne: "This, oh surfer of the web, is an honest web site, and it warns you upon entering that it serves no other ends than to let me mouth off a bit about my computer. (...) And it seems scandalous that anyone else should waste his thoughts on such a vain and neglectible subject. On, with god, then! (...)"
Anyway, I am using a self-assembled and -installed system, currently running Windows XP Professional. The hardware underwent a thorough revamping in August 2004, bringing the system up to a slightly less medieval state.
What to look for in a new computer system:
- AMD K6-III 450/AFx (core voltage 2.2) running at nominal clock rate
- EPoX EP-58MVP3C-M mainboard with 100 MHz FSB and patched Award v4.51PG BIOS from Wim's BIOS to allow HDDs of up to 128 GByte
- 384 MB RAM, (1*128 MByte cartridge with Infineon ICs, 2*128 MByte cartridges with Samsung ICs)
- Western Digital WD1200JB pATA HDD with 120 (decimal) / 111.8 (binary) GByte storage space and 8 MByte cache RAM running at U-DMA mode 2
- Maxtor 6E030L0 pATA HDD with 30 (decimal) / 28 (binary) GByte storage space running at U-DMA mode 2, for backup
- ASUS AGP V-3000 graphics card with nVidia / SGS Thomson Riva 128 chip and 4 MB RAM
- Iiyama "Vision Master 17" MF-8617-T monitor (17" CRT)
- Diamond Supra Express 56e external modem
- Acer CD-R/-RW 4432A CD recorder
- AOpen DVD1648/AAP DVD drive
- Hewlett Packard DeskJet 850C printer
- LG ScanMaster 30a (really a relabelled Compeye Simplex DP36M) scanner ... more information here.
- Aiptek PenCam II VGA digital camera, VGA resolution, USB, 8 MByte DRAM (the digital equivalent to a Kodak Instamatic)
- chip card reader (for GSM cards, etc.)
- elta 8681 LV / LifeView FlyVideo 3000 Radio / PAL-TV card (both stereo)
- Tevion MD9395 graphic pad with stylo and mouse, 6 * 4.5"
- Logitech MouseMan PS/2 mouse
- Microsoft ergonomic keyboard "Natural Keyboard Elite"
Even though self-assembling an computer system is unlikely to pay off in Euros and Cents, it teaches you a great deal about your system, and it allows you to hand-pick your components -- especially the less-spotlighted parts such as the mainboard or the soundcard. Prefab systems, on the other hand, usually come with ample CPU speed and hard disk, RAM and graphics RAM size (because these are the numbers that most people shop for), but insufficient graphics and hard drive speed, mediocre sound cards and mainboards, and downright awful keyboards, mouses and especially monitors (good monitors are always costly).
Before you buy, you should sit down and consider what you want to do with your system. Modern computer systems provide sufficient resources for running an office package, surfing the internet or playing a "simple" game. On the other hand, if you want a computer to play the latest games or to do video editing / ripping with, you will have to buy a costly high-end system: you will need a fast CPU, a fast graphics card, lots of RAM. Configuring such a system will not be an easy task. If you just want to play and have no computer experience then, in many cases, you will be better off buying a dedicated video game system (Sony, Microsoft, etc.).
Most manufacturers emphasize CPU power ("Intel inside"); you should consider that the CPU is the part of your system that ages the fastest, so you should try to shop for value. Keep in mind that today's top-notch CPU will have become entry class in one or two year's time.
In any case, I recommend you pay more attention to the less spotlighted parts rather than sheer CPU strength. I especially recommend spending for a good monitor: most prefab systems come with CRTs that will make your eyeballs bleed. Also, monitors are relatively value - consistent, i. e. the price of a good monitor will decrease only slowly.
Equally I would advise you to get a good, big-branded mouse and keyboard.
When shopping for hard disk space keep in mind that you need plenty of free space on the drive to avoid fragmentation and sluggish performance -- ideally the drive should at most be half full. A second drive (can be smaller and older) is vital for doing backups.
Mainboards are probably the most underrated part of a computer system; in fact, a good mainboard will very much contribute to system stability, performance, and flexibility. A good mainboard will allow you to add more components, more RAM, a better CPU. Also, the price difference between a mediocre and a superb mainboard is usually undramatic.
Having sufficient RAM is very important, and the old Texan adage "far too much is just about enough" is only slightly exaggerated. RAM helps to counterbalance the innate sluggishness of the hard disk drive. Adding more RAM is usually the best way to upgrade your system.
What's the best operating system?
Right now, after a world of gripe from Windows 95 to ME, for the average consumer, it's indubitably Windows XP. Kudos to Microsoft, as they have finally managed to come up with a stable and usable OS.
Despite what some "politically correct" tech gurus may say about Linux, in my humble opinion it is still far from being ready for the average guy's desktop, so keep out of the fundamentalist OS crusades and save yourself the installation trauma. On the other hand, if you take a deeper interest in computers then you probably should give it a try.
Ultimately, there is no such thing as an "evil" OS.
By the way, I am registered with Linux Counter as user # 94717 and machine # 40432.
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Hard- & Software Page on Michael Barnikel's Website. ©8/2004.