I cringe every time I hear that a parent has once again succumbed to their child’s wishes for a new computer and has gone and gotten them a new Macbook or even a iMac. It’s not that Apple makes a bad computer, or that they don’t have uses, but for students they just aren’t a good thing for so many reasons. I know quite a few kids who are either in college or have just graduated, and what I hear most often from them is that the tech kids know better than to get a Mac – they run Windows or Linux on PC’s because it is a better value, there is a greater choice and freedom of softare and they aren’t tied to overly expensive and limited hardware and software. Also the majority of kids who run PC’s (usually 60% or more at most colleges) think that the kids who tout their Apple’s are just what they call posers.
It isn’t that my opinion is based upon a dislike for Apple (although I will admit I am not a big fan of the company in general), it is more because of the numbers. Apple makes up at the most 8% of the computers being used, and the percentage for businesses is much smaller. This means that all the time spent learning and using their Macs in school is wasted when it comes time to enter the real world – go ahead and look at the majority of company requirements for most kinds of mid to upper level jobs today; very few mention anything about having experience with a Mac, whereas most will expect at least a comfortable skillset with PC’s. The kids who spend their school years using Macs will be at a big disadvantage when it comes time to enter the ever competetive job market.
The majority of business software runs on Windows or Linux, and in fact there are quite a few corporations which dissallow Macs to even hook into their networks. Despite many erroneous claims, Macs are in no way more secure, in fact they are very unsecure and easily exploitable (there are just less viruses and malware due to their small percentage of the market). While it used to be that Macs were touted as being good for those interested in doing Graphics and multi-media, this is not so much true today. While it is true that Apple does make some systems that are good for graphics, these are in the high end range and usually in the 3-4k USD range in price.
Someone told me recently that their student needed a good computer for Graphics (Photoshop etc) so they bought them a new Macbook (the $1000 one). I hated to tell them that it in no way was a good choice for a graphics (Photoshop) computer. Granted, it would run Photoshop marginally, but not real well as anyone who knows Photoshop knows that to really have Photoshop hum you need a secondary hard drive (and a fast one) for a scratch disk. Not to mention that the brand new Macbooks are running 3 year old intel processor technology and are designed for battery life and not power.
Considering I just purchased a nice laptop for my wife for Christmas which has an Intel core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, dual hard drives, and nice graphics, not to mention a blue ray player for a bit less than the ‘cheap’ Macbook, and that it will easily run Photoshop, as well as do computer intensive video editing, it isn’t as if there aren’t some much better choices for a student who needs a good system that they can actually use to its potential for school.
While it is possible to run Windows on a Mac, but not OSX on a PC (talk about anti-competetive practices thanks to Steve Jobs), doing so results in you paying quite a bit more for the exact same hardware as in a PC. And for all those Apple fanboi’s who tout Apple’s great customer service etc, you might want to talk to a growing percentage of people who have found that Apple seems to find just about any justification that they can to not honor a warranty.
In the end it comes down to the numbers – the best bet for careers and a future says go with what the large majority of businesses run – Windows and Linux (which can easily both be run on most PC’s), the best price for the hardware comes to PC’s which are highly customizable for the student’s needs, the most software available (there is 98% more software for Linux and Windows than there is for Macs). The argument for lack of viruses and such doesn’t stand up against all the other numbers, and there is an increasing amount of malware and viruses that are now able to infect Macs as well.
In the end, while your kid may whine and beg that they ‘need’ an Apple computer, before you buy, think about the numbers and their future. What good does it do to know how to use something that only a small minority of people and businesses use? While Apple computer market shares are increasing when it comes to things like iPads, unless your kid is writing and selling apps, there is not a big need for the skills to use an iPad, nor is there a very big learning curve as compared to skills with an operating system and business software.
When it comes to colleges and Macs, this picture I snapped this past Summer at Duke University speaks volumes for what higher education institutions think about their Macs (the Macs were donated by Apple in an attempt to sway more people to buying Apples, but it doesn’t look like their use is as was intended).
Duke University Computer Lab – All the Apple computers running Microsoft Windows
Many times I am faced with having to tell someone that their old computer needs to be replaced, and often it is hard to get some people to let go. But let’s look at things from a logical perspective. If you have a 4 or 5 year old computer (or even older in some cases), you have to think back in time to when you first got the computer, and look at how it was used (and what it was designed for). Going back to 2005 and a lot of people were still making the move to high speed internet, and even those with broadband were probably getting speeds of 1-3 Mbps download. Fast forward to 2010 and highspeed internet can easily reach between 10-30 Mbps. This means that when visiting some websites, your computer is getting 10 times+ the amount of information being fed to it every second during page downloads. Add to that the fact that 5 years ago, most websites were text based, whereas today we are bombarded with video, sound, animations etc, and you can see that computers of 5 years ago, even ones that were top of the line, really were not designed to handle what is here in 2010.
So the hard question sometimes is it worth it to upgrade, or is it better to just get a new computer. Generally if your computer is a couple of years old, adding some memory, or upgrading graphics (for desktops) may be a worthwhile option. For memory, 2-4 GB is about the norm today with higher end systems having 8GB or more. Increasing your memory can really help if you multi-task and/or do much with multi-media. Upgrading your graphics card in a desktop can also be a worthwhile option, especially if your computer is currently using onboard graphics. Many websites and programs today are very graphic intensive, and having a good graphics card can really enhance your computer experience – it can also help by taking some of the burden off of the processor. When upgrading graphics though, you have to make sure that your PSU (power supply unit) has enough juice to handle the upgrade.
For older computers, adding memory or upgrading the graphics, while sure to add a boost to the system, is not always a worthwhile investment. Most computers today run multi-core processors, and more and more programs are written to take advantage of this. If your computer has an older processor (CPU), even with more graphics and memory, the CPU may become the bottleneck. The other thing to consider with an older computer is that your Hard Drive will fail eventually, and it would be a real drag to spend a bunch of money on upgrades only to have your hard drive fail a short time later (or PSU fail, or CPU, or anything else in your system). The other thing about older systems, is that if during their lifetime they have been overheated (especially laptops), or subjected to power surges (common here in Pensacola), their parts have been stressed, and sometimes when you add fresh parts or increase the demands, the stressed parts can easily fail (sometimes taking the new parts with them).
Of course there are some things you can do to prolong the life of your computer (or at least its usable life). First, ensure that you keep it clean – get some computer/electronics approved compressed air (never EVER use an air compressor!) and carefully blow out the dust, dog hair, dirt etc from inside the case, paying special attention to the cooling assembly of the CPU and the fan assembly’s on the case and power supply (be careful not to tilt the compressed air cans when using!). Secondly, get rid of unneeded programs and startup entries, or if your computer is a number of years old, and full of unwanted programs, re-install Windows (make sure to back up important files first!).
With the great deals on computers these days, it is often better to go with a replacement, than try to prolong an aging system. While computers today don’t seem to last as long as old computers, due to their lower cost, their cost per year has remained about the same. For example, if you paid $1000 for a computer 4 years ago that is ready to be replaced, you spent $250. A $1000 computer 4 years ago was in the low-mid range of computers. Today you can get a low-midrange computer easily in the $500 range. If the new $500 computer only lasts 2 years, your price per year remains the same. Computers today are cheaper for two main reasons – one is that they are massed produced (mostly overseas), and the production costs are much lower, the second reason is that they are not made to last as long (because of cheaper construction as well as the fact that technology is changing so fast).
The best scenario is to know that you want to get a new computer, and shop around waiting for an excellent deal – this always beats waiting until a computer dies, then having to shell out money on whatever is available at the time. For information on upgrading your computer, or a helpful guide to buying a new computer, visit Pensacola Computers. Offering Computer Service, Computer Repair, Networking, Computer Classes, and general help on any computer related topic for Small business and home users, Pensacola Computers serves Pensacola Florida community
One day you are sitting in front of your computer, and all of a sudden it dies. You come home, power up your computer, only to find that it has been infected with a very nasty virus. Your computer suddenly stops working, and when booting it up, all you hear is a click click click of the hard drive.
All of these scenarios happen to people every day, it is a fact of life when using computers. So what do you do? Well, if it is a real nasty virus infection, you can attempt to clean it, pay someone a lot of money to do it for you, or…. If it is a hard drive failure, time for a new hardrive and then…..
When these kinds of things happen, you usually will want or need to reinstall Windows. Back a few years ago, most computers came with a Windows cd, or a restore disc. But most computers now, as a cost cutting measure, don’t come with these items. Instead they build a recovery partition and provide a software program that will allow you to burn your own onto cd’s or dvd’s – but wait, you didn’t remember to do that? Unfortunately, many people forget to do this when they purchase a new system, and they find themselves without a usable computer, and no way to reinstall Windows short of buying a new copy of Windows. Hindsight tells us – make the restore disks a priority! It should be one of the first things you do when you get a new computer!
If by chance you didn’t make a restore disk, you have a few options. The best and easiest thing to do is go to the manufacturer’s website support section, enter your computer model number and see if they offer an option to get a restore disk (most of them do, although some will charge you a nominal shipping fee). A restore disk is often easier to use than a retail copy of Windows, as most of them are pre-made for your specific system and include all the neccessary hardware drivers. If one isn’t available, you can always search places like ebay for someone who might be selling one. One thing NOT to do is try to use a friends copy of Windows – usually the cd keys on your computer are tied to what is called an OEM version of Windows, so your key probably won’t work to install it, if you use your friends key you are in violation of Microsoft licensing and take the risk that the computer won’t pass validation. If you have a computer, and haven’t made a restore disk (if it has the software to make one) definitely make one today, right now, this very minute, because you never know when you just might need it!
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!
Sooner or later your computer will die. Whether it is due to a hardware failure (hard drives will ALWAYS fail, it’s not a matter of if, just a matter of when), or sometimes Windows just gets tired, or infected and dies; when it happens you are faced with one of two options: fix it, or buy a new computer. The hardest decision comes when you think how much you payed for your current computer. It may have cost you $2000 five years ago, but in today’s terms it might be worth $100 if even that.
The problem with investing money in an old computer is that it will never get much faster, even if you spend the money to upgrade the memory, processor etc. The other issue is that once one component fails, even if you replace it, time is against you and it is probable that something else will fail fairly soon. There comes a time when putting money into an old computer just isn’t worth it, and it’s time to start looking for a new computer.
Fact is, even the cheapest computers out there today are probably quite a bit faster than your old computer. With computer programs and internet content becoming more demanding every day, it is always advisable to have hardware that will not only be able to handle what is out there today, but also be able to deal with what is coming. With rich multimedia becoming more popular on the internet, there is a great demand for more memory, faster processors, and better graphics hardware. When you computer dies, you need to carefully consider how much it will cost to fix it, and whether or not that money wouldn’t be better spent putting it towards a new computer. 10 years ago, the lifespan of a computer was much longer than it is today, however, with mass production that is used to make most systems today, computers just aren’t made to last as long (and there is no reason for them to be because the technology is changing so fast that making a computer that lasts 5 years or more just doesn’t make sense anymore because in 5 years the hardware and software demands will be so much greater). Sometimes the question isn’t so much ‘can you afford a new computer’ as it is ‘can you afford your old one’.
Lately, one of the nastiest spyware/viruses out there causes pop-ups that tell you your computer is infected – this is just another ploy to get you to click and buy even more garbage. Unfortunately, some of these infections are very nasty because they disable your system restore, redirect your web browser, and some will even stop you from installing programs that can find and kill them.
Some of these real nasty ones are what they call polymorphic – they will recreate themselves using random file names, hide copies of themselves all throughout your files, and some will even release time bombs (applications that lay dormant for a specific period of time, making them very hard to be found and killed). While most of these infections can be removed, sometimes the removal process is very time consuming (sometimes not though), and there comes a time when you have to balance whether it is worth the time to try to kill these vermin, or if it is a better use of time to just wipe and reinstall Windows (reinstalling Windows is sometimes the only guaranteed way of ridding yourself of some of these pests for good).
So what can you do to protect yourself? First, make sure you have up to date antispyware and antivirus programs and definitions. Scan your computer regularly. Never open unknown Email attachments. And NEVER install anything that you aren’t sure of (many times these malicious files come when you visit a website and you get a box telling you that you need to install something to view the content) – generally if it isn’t something that you can get from a reputable site, like Adobe’s flash, or Windows media player, or Java, you could be risking your computer’s health by downloading an unknown plugin or program.