Monday, May 22, 2006

Time to upgrade or simply buy a laptop to replace your old computer?

I am being asked on a daily basis, if it is worth upgrading the existing desktop or should I just buy a new computer and if so, should I be looking at a laptop instead?

Good question and my answer would most certainly be to look at the laptop seriously but not because you can now get them for under $1000, but quite simply, the fact that you can be mobile with your computer. The one thing to remember however, is the fact that there will be a new operating system available next year. With Windows Vista just around the corner, you should be aware that whatever computer you are using now or plan on purchasing very soon should be compatible for the new operating system. That is of course, unless you are planning on staying with windows XP. I know from my volunteering with AllExperts.com, that there are many people STILL using windows 98, ME or 2000, therefore I highly suggest getting something compatible with XP at the very least! Since you are going to be spending some money on this upgrade or new computer, you should be focusing on staying current and that means ready for the latest operating system.

Microsoft has now released the list of specifications to be able to use VISTA and the one glaring issue is MEMORY! Yes, you are going to have to have a minimum of 1gb of memory (for the premium version) therefore that should be the deciding factor on upgrade or buying a new box. Regardless of your end decision, some of these new boxes currently available (notebook or desktop) will ship with only 512mb for example and in order to upgrade you will need at least 512mb more and that would typically mean filling up the available slots on the motherboard since it will come with two slots (typically). Now if you have an older computer that is using SDRAM for example, there may be the need to remove the old 256mb to install either 2 strips of 512mb or purchasing 1gb of SDRAM which could be quite pricey comparing it to the newer DDR and DDR2 memory prices. Supply and demand is the most obvious issues when looking in to computer parts and that usually means whatever the current type that is being used in the newer computers is what you ideally want to have in your computer and that might mean replacing the motherboard, which can be as little as spending $70 on this part, in order to buy the cheapest type of memory (DDR or DDR2). Since you can usually get 512mb of DDR memory for a fraction of the price of the same 512mb of SDRAM, you will find yourself better off buying a new motherboard that uses the DDR or DDR2 memory. That can be the determining factor of "upgrade or new".

What I am learning quite quickly is the unfortunate fact that companies like ACER are shipping notebook computers with 256mb as the typical amount of memory (before adding options) meaning you have the ability to upgrade to 512mb, the minimum requirements for VISTA, however you will then have your memory slots filled to capacity on memory (2 x 256mb) and in order to add more down the road, you will have to remove one of the strips to add the 1gb strip (for example) in order to increase your total amount to over 1gb. Most motherboards currently have a 2gb max with the higher-end boards topping out at 4gb.

The other issues are with the video card. In most newer computers, they are using 'shared memory' whereas the video card can run as high as 256mb (typically 128 or even 64mb of shared), but what this means is that you are sharing the memory from the overall memory, therefore if you were to buy a computer with 512mb of RAM, and your video card must be 128mb in order to use VISTA, then your computer is truly only running at 512mb minus the 128mb that is being used for the video, leaving you with an actual total of only 384mb. This same theory applies to buying a new computer with 1gb of RAM, which you would think is enough for VISTA however because it is using SHARED memory on the video card, which can be shared up to 256mb and since you do want to be compatible, you will find you do not have enough memory for this new operating system right from the start. I believe this is the problems that are going to show up pretty much from the moment consumers start purchasing their new operating system, therefore be aware of this NOW!

I personally have many clients asking the question, whether they should be looking at purchasing a laptop instead of upgrading their current computer, since the prices of laptops have truly become compatible with the desktop since the CPU sizes are now almost the same, but in reality they aren't since the laptop motherboard will have a limit to RAM amounts due to the overall size of the computer and that is where things still become quite different when comparing between the two. Even though they are making sub $1000 notebooks, I believe you should still be careful when looking in to these since you still 'get what you pay for' when it comes to overall upgrading. When looking to buy that laptop, you must remember that even though the demand will continue to grow and the prices will continue to drop, you are still going to find purchasing or upgrading your desktop to be the cheaper way to go, that is, if you want to stay 'leading edge' in technology.

My personal opinion is that if you are thinking about purchasing a laptop to replace your older desktop, at this point either plan on spending enough on the new box to be completely VISTA COMPATIBLE (and not with the minimum requirements but enough power to be happy with the unit as it is replacing your desktop) and for that reason to either hold off until VISTA is released at which time you will see a drastic change in what is available in the laptop market since the hardware will no doubtfully be truly compatible and will deliver with the latest O/S-Vista. Spending a little on the upgrade of your desktop will still be the way to go, since you already have purchased that LCD monitor and larger hard drive (for example). If not, knowing that you can install a new motherboard with scads of memory which will make it truly ready for VISTA will still be the cheapest alternative. Since the notebook prices will continue to drop and you will essentially be getting more bang for your buck with whatever hardware solution you end up going with, realize that once VISTA is released virtually all notebooks (and desktop prebuilt systems) will deliver with the latest O/S which means it will have to be compatible and will usually give you the flexibility you will require to still upgrade further down the road.

Microsoft is even introducing a PAY AS YOU GO system.. But then that is another story altogether since this deals with software and not hardware.

Don't forget my TIPS and SOFTWARE/SUPPORT are always good places to visit in order to keep your existing system maintained.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Happy Mothers Day video style

I was sent this cute little mothers day video and thought it would be appropriate to also wish my Mother a Happy Mothers Day, knowing that I was NEVER like this with my brother :-)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Avant Browser Updates

If you are one of many that like and use the Avant Browser, you must realize that this is NOT a Microsoft product which means it does not get updates through the windows update. It relys on the pop up that should happen when you use the program, stating that there is a new version available. What I have found however, that if you don't choose to get this when prompted and you have chosen to close the window instead, you may find you never get notice again. Therefore there is a little trick you should be aware of and this typically goes for any program.

Click on HELP somewhere at the top.. most programs have this, along with 'file, edit, view, tools' or something like that...
From clicking on HELP you will find in the list 'CHECK FOR NEW VERSION' and if there is one and you choose YES, it will take you directly to the download page where, currently, you have two download sites (I choose the second as this seems to be the more direct link from avant and bypasses their sponsored 'download.com' for example.. nothing wrong with getting it there either, in fact you can always get it (the latest version) directly from my own SOFTWARE SUPPORT PAGE HERE.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Is it ok to delete the old windows xp updates?

Simply put.. NO!

Then I ask, why would you want to? Typically the response is "because I am cleaning up and wanted to get rid of the things I no longer use and...."

First of all, if you are doing this because you are getting low on hard drive space, you should be thinking of upgrading it to a larger one. In most cases, if your computer is more then 2 years old, your hard drive size will probably be around 20gb or less. Now, the 'typical' new computer off the shelf will come with at least 80gb! This is actually the smallest drive that I would ever install on a computer these days, and since supply and demand states the current prices on most computer equipment, you can get an 80gb hard drive for under $70! Knowing this, do you really think removing something that might end up being still in use or could be useful down the road some day, is a good thing to be removing? No, I usually keep MY DOCUMENTS as the only place I would be going to remove any 'data' that I no longer need. That, and quite possibly any old game that I no longer use.

The windows updates files you see in the add/remove programs from your control panel are all the updates and patches that have been installed. This means by uninstalling any of them, the patch will not be complete, therefore NO, you definitely want to leave all alone here.

There are many ways you can OPTIMIZE your computer and I mention a few from my TIPS page. As well, my SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page is full of small programs and links to sites with help solutions. The programs in the pink section I highly suggest installing on all of your computers!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Secure is not secure, don't be fooled

Once again, as I have just finished mentioning how spam is once again on the upswing, Shaw once again is introducing their "shaw secure", as I will direct you to my earlier blogs about this, nothing has changed really. When you are told to remove any and all antivirus from your system in order to use a network service, do you think that is wise? I don't. If you want your computer protected then you should have antivirus at the source. Sure the spam protection/filtering for your email is something the internet providers should have been doing from the beginning, but then that is filtering a specific service, not the entire internet and not at the cost of giving up your own personal antivirus, no matter what antivirus program it is, having something is most certainly better then nothing.

Ask yourself this question," if you are to use secure services through a network such as what they offer, then what happens if you unplug from that network? What happens if while you are unplugged from that network, your friend brings over a cd and plops it in to your drive only to find out later that it had a virus. Of course you are only going to find out about it later, when you are back online (if you can get back online, depending on what the virus does), your 'secure' connection should detect this virus, however, in many cases with viruses, once they get on to the system they become a real bugger to get rid of in some cases. Sometimes restarting your computer in safe mode and completely further virus scans is required. Please explain to me how you can do this when the network doesn't work in safe mode? Sounds to me like one large security blanket with a lot of holes in it. Thank you very much but I'll stick with antivirus on each individual computer since it is being used as a 'personal computer' and not some 'slave terminal' that only surfs the internet.

As much as the antivirus is important, it seems as of late, that the spam issues supersede the virus issues. In my opinion, the spyware/spam issues ARE VIRUSES! Any time you and your computer are stuck doing some menial task to remove specific spyware files that are causing a major slowdown on your computer, and/or you can't get to specific websites, or maybe your printer isn't functioning all of a sudden.. They are all related to spyware issues most of the time. From my SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page you can make sure you have the latest in anti-spyware and other system tweak programs and get additional TIPS from the TIPS page.