28 December 2005

What computer should I get?

As a certified computer geek I have often been asked "What type of computer should I buy?" I figured it would be easier if I recorded my answer here for future reference.
The first step is to ask yourself, "What is the computer for?" That is, for what reasons will I be using the computer - letters, email, research, reading Bruggie Tales, home finance, business tools, and so on. Answers such as "My child needs one for school" or "I don't know - everyone has one." are not valid answers. A computer is a tool to achieve an end. If you just intend using it for games stop reading now. My recommendations are for a multi purpose tool which will help you in many areas. Games are a minor reason for buying a computer.
Children (and adults) need to learn that a computer is best used as a useful tool and not just a time wasting games machine. Computers don't come cheap and you should be able to justify the cost of all your purchases, especially a larger one such as a computer.
To determine the platform to use it is critical to know whether you will need any special software. Do you need to run specific programs such as those used at work or school? If so your choice of platform has been determined for you. If you just need to run word processing, spreadsheets, email, web browsing, design and so on then the choice of platform is wide open.
For the majority of home users I would recommend a Macintosh (such as iMac or Mac Mini) without a problem. The Mac comes with
lots of great software such as iPhoto, iTunes, email, web browsing, Appleworks and pretty much most of what you would need. If you already have a PC with adequate mouse, screen and keyboard, you could just get the Mac Mini and plug it in. Otherwise get the iMac. Also, the Mac works very well with PC networks. You can purchase an academic version of Microsoft Office and you will be able to open and save Word and Excel documents with Windows PC users.
At home we have a Mac Mini, an older Mac and four Windows Pcs. Three of the Windows machines are for my work, allowing me to do multiple data processing tasks and testing, whilst the other is an old one that's still working so I let the kids play with that knowing that nothing important is on there. The Mac Mini is for all of our photos and music and everything to do with Lana's crafts and our homeschooling. I do not need to worry about viruses or spyware and it works great. Quiet, efficient and easy to use. (Unlike the Windows computers! Whenever I visit friends with Windows PCs I often have to help them clean up or maintain their computers.)
All the computers (other than the really old Mac) are on the network via the DSL wired router. The Mac and Windows can see each other and share files and printers.
(The photo is of Rose back in May when she was 11 months old.)

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