Black Friday sales are everywhere with supposed incredible deals on computers – but are they really that incredible? While some prices advertised may seem like the best you’ve ever seen, be careful! Many of the computers that are being offered are year old models (or even older in some cases) with old technology that will barely run the software they have on them. Just because a computer comes with Windows 7 doesn’t mean that it is a new computer model – case in point: I saw a computer advertised at a large retailer for Black Friday that offered wireless b/g (but no wireless n), 10/100 Ethernet (many new systems offer 10/100/1000), and a AMD processor that was released 2 years ago – and the price on the system wasn’t that good anyhow.
There are also many of the ‘netbooks’ being advertised at $199 – $299, and while some of these are ok deals, many people don’t realize that these netbooks are designed for basic internet and single running applications (multi-tasking will often slow them to a crawl). While netbooks are great for on the go and portability, they are by no means media or gaming type computers, nor are they made to handle the demands of heavy duty business applications. In addition, most of the real cheap ones come with Windows XP (which lets face it is on it’s way out as it is a 9 year old operating sytem that is reaching the end of it’s lifetime).
After looking at many of this years Black Friday ads for computers, I would have to say that for the most part it looks as if the retailers and manufacturers are offering the best deals on mostly junk that they are trying to clear out of their inventories. In the end it is probably better to shop the regular sales and stick to the mid-range prices where you will find the best deals – you can often find an $800 computer in the $450-$500 range. Just take your time and do a bit of research before buying – if the deal looks too good to be true – it usually is.
This year in Pensacola, you will find your best computer deals at places like Office Depot and Best Buy – just remember to take anything the salespeople there tell you will big grain of salt (you are better off to do your research first, and then just getting what you have pre-decided on). Remember to NOT let them sell you any garbage security software (most anything they will try to sell you is overpriced and not that good), and beware of the sold called value added services like charging you extra money to ‘optimize’ your system, or to create a recovery disk (both things that you can easily do yourself). Also beware of those ‘extended’ warranty plans that usually require you to bring your computer to them to get fixed (which often will take quite a bit of time, as if it is anything serious they usually send the computer out anyhow).
The best shopping experience can be had by good preparation – for some useful info about computer buying and systems, check out the Computer Guide at PensacolaComputers.com: http://pensacolacomputers.com/guides.htm
Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer announced at this years CES the release of Windows 7 Beta 1 to both official beta testers and the general public. For those who are technically inclined, you can get a free copy (it will run until August) here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/beta-download.aspx . As a Beta, it is expected to have some bugs, however from what I have seen so far, most of these are minor annoyance bugs and Windows 7 seems to be less demanding on hardware than Windows Vista, and also seem pretty zippy.
Windows 7 comes with a number of pretty cool new features, including a newly designed taskbar with a very cool implementation of live windows previews and switching. It also comes with a reworked Windows Explorer which now has true Library folders (a Library folder is actually a collection of folders so that you can access all of a certain type of file from multiple locations). Library folders can be especially useful when you have things like Music scattered in differernt folders (and even on different hard drives).
A number of things have been redesigned for better access and simplicity, and there are some noteable improvements especially in the Network area. In my own intitial tests (I have installed this on 4 systems so far), all of my hardware was properly identified by Windows Setup (Microsoft says that if you are currently running Vista, you should have no problems). The setup even installed drivers for my printer, TV Tuner card, and Bluetooth!
A Beta is not something to try if you don’t have a fair level of technical experience though – things like being able to burn an iso file to a DVD, knowing how to do a system backup, and willingness to suffer through some inevitable bugs. However, that being said, Windows 7 has been a joy for me to use, and I have been quite impressed with how well it runs, especially being just a Beta. I will be posting some screenshots soon as well as a more in-depth review of some of its cool new features in the days to come.
I was reading and interesting article about someone who already hates the new Windows 7 because they are a die-hard XP fan: If you love Windows XP, you’ll hate Windows 7 . In the article, someone who has tested the new Windows 7 Beta tells about what they hate. Thankfully the author of the article goes on to point out why the things that are hated are in fact some of the greatest improvements in Windows. One of these being how the new Search feature works. This is one of the most misunderstood and often unused features in Windows Vista, and every time I show someone how it really works, they are amazed. A lot of Vista’s problems are due to a couple of factors, the main one being that when Vista was first released, there just weren’t enough hardware drivers for it, and as a result a lot of older hardware just wouldn’t work – and this pissed people off. Of course, this led to Vista getting slammed in the press, and what followed was a huge number of people hating Vista without ever really trying it.
Hopefully Windows 7 will not suffer the same fate. While I personally love Vista and have been using it well before it was officially released, I am looking forward to some of the new and improved features in Windows 7. The nice thing about Windows 7 is that it should easily run on hardware that is running Vista now, and in fact it may very well run on some older hardware that doens’t run Vista very well.
While XP was ok when it first came out (although if you were there, you will remember how people screamed that their Windows 98 hardware and software had so many problems trying to run on XP), XP is old, it was never designed for the applications and rich media internet that we experience today. Nor was it designed to deal with the numerous security threats that are out there today. While Microsoft is still issuing security patches for it, it just isn’t as secure as it needs to be, especially if you do anything on the internet. There is also the fact that as time goes on, there will be less and less manufacturers that will release XP drivers for new hardware, as well as less new software that will be supported on it.
I am currently one of the limited number of official Beta Testers for Windows 7, and as the testing progresses I will be writing up some of my opinions (limited somewhat by my Beta Tester agreement with Microsoft). What I can tell you now is that Windows 7 looks to be a great operating system, and for those who have held off moving to Vista from XP, when it is released I will probably highly recommend it to all those people who haven’t upgraded yet.
Many people are now using Windows Vista, and despite the often misinformed bad press about it, there are certainly quite a few nice features that help it stand out as better than Windows XP and previous operating systems.
One of these is the integrated search – an often missed out upon tool that is right there when you press the start orb. Yes, right there below All Programs and just above the orb when the menu is activated – Search. Now what exactly does this search do, and how can it save you time? Well for one, instead of hunting through the start menu for a program (if the program is even listed in the start menu, as many hidden Windows programs aren’t), you can just type the Program Name in search, and presto it appears in the list (just click on it to open it). If you are like me and hate having a ton of shortcuts on your desktop, and you also hate having to search through the start menu for something like Microsoft Word or Excel, just type in ‘Word’ or ‘Excel’ in the search pane, and there it is! Search will also index your documents and emails that are saved using a program like Outlook or Windows Mail. Want to quickly find last years tax document, or a picture, just enter part of the file name, or something that is in the document, and search will show it to your right in the start menu results pane!
The other really cool tool is something called the ‘snipping tool’. It can be found under ‘All Programs > Accessories’. The first time you run it, it will offer to add itself to the Quick Launch bar (I highly advise doing this). This is a great tool because it lets you save any selected portion of the screen as an image file (jpg, png, or gif, or single page htm or html). In XP you had to use the Print Screen button on your keyboard to save the entire screen or window to the clipboard, then open up a program like paint to save it as an image file. With the snipping tool you can select a rectangular area of any size, an entire window, the entire screen or even an odd shape from anywhere on the screen. Once captured by the snipping tool, you can also use the snipping tools pen or highlighter to add to the image before saving it (especially helpful to highlight a bit of text before emailing the image). If you are using something like Outlook or Windows Mail, you can even insert the snip directly into an email. Pretty darn cool!