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A man's got to know his limitations...

An interesting coincidence happened to me this week: two women both e-mailed me for advice on matters computer-related. The irony is, they both know me to be proficient in related fields, but not in the precise field they sought my opinion.

The first was an ex-girlfriend. (We parted ways after discovering we had too much in common. For example, we both preferred the company of women.) I had helped her obtain her last computer, and it recently gave up the ghost. She is looking to replace her late-and-lamented Pentium 166 (yes, it WAS that long ago), and is looking at laptops. All she wants is something that can run Word, Acrobat, and browsing. She's looking at rebuilt Dells for around 800 and Wal-Mart has ECS for 6-700s. There's also these guys, who have used laptops starting at 300 and whom I have been a loyal customer for several years.

I built my own computer. It's a full tower, with ZIP drive, CD-RW, DVD-RW (dual format), DVD-ROM, and four hard drives. I have a fifth hard drive in a USB enclosure, and I still think I'm running out of space. I know squat about laptops. I've always sneered at them as too puny to suit me. Now this dear friend wants MY opinion on them. All i know is the MicroSeconds guys are pretty decent, ECS makes motherboards that I've used in the past, and Dell seems to have a pretty solid reputation. Anyone want to help my friend?

The second woman to e-mail me for help is a regular commenter here who is considering starting her own blog, and is intimidated by the technical aspects. She wants my help and advice in getting started. After all, I AM one of the three regular contributors to a top-20 blog, so I must know a hell of a lot about that, right?

What the hell do I know about blogging? I was a wise-ass who kept scoring high in Caption Contests and cranked out a rant or two, and the next thing I know Kevin's given me a spare key to his palatial estate! We will now pause briefly while Kevin and Paul recall the several times I completely and utterly broke the site and left a huge mess for them to clean up after me. Here and here are two of the more egregious examples.

OK, I think they've had time to regain their composure.

One of my mantras in life is that I have many flaws and weaknesses, but self-deception is not one of them. Both these women have come to me for my advice, and I am so far out of my depth I'm looking up at whalecrap. However, I do have a few resources to get them the info they required -- namely, all you kind folks. I still have a few GMail invitations lying around collecting dust, so I'll toss up to four of them out to people who give my friends the best advice they can about their dilemmas.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled Kerry roast...

J.


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Comments (29)

For the laptop, I'd recomme... (Below threshold)
bryant:

For the laptop, I'd recommend getting the Dell. Buy a Dell laptop with the 4 year at home service agreement. Here's why:

a) You won't have to ask wizbang more technical questions about your computer (you can call Dell).

b) If you keep this computer as long as the last one, you're going to need something that lasts.

With Dell's 4 year at home service, Dell will come to your house and fix any problems (it is worth every penny). If don't have the at home service you will have to mail your laptop to the company for repairs (which limits your usage while they have it :)

For getting started with a blog:
http://www.blogger.com/start

That would be the easiest way to start. Then if you get serious about it and actually keep up with it you can move your blog to your own server.

Hi, The Dell is safe enoug... (Below threshold)
Stephen Walker:

Hi, The Dell is safe enough, double the memory. Under 512 megs you will choke even browsing in XP. I'd actually go looking at one of the big electronics stores for an HP, Compaq or Toshiba with a DVD-RW, 80G HD and 512 megs speed should be 1.7Ghz Centerio Intel or 1.2 AMD powersmart. The desktop megahurtz CPUs are not portable, they are actually desktop replacements. So 3Ghz P4 Intel is a desktop in a laptop and they actually sell special heat shields so that men can stay manly while using them. They also go through batteries very fast.

However, why I came to the site was to talk about the debate and one of the things that Kerry said.

Nobody seems to have made the pickup on this, not the print or electronic media.

Kerry stated during the debate that he wanted to put everything on the table when he held bilateral talks with North Korea. That included the DMZ,
Artillery, etc. Kerry wasn't just limiting it to nuclear weapons.

Almost 30,000 American Military died in Korea. Korea was a UN action, but Canada, Australia and Great Britain are among the nations that took the
largest number of casualties.

I believe Kerry's belief that he can give away what close to 100,000 allied military died for is a even greater mistake than what he did after Vietnam.

He can't be allowed to slide free on this stuff.

Stephen Walker

Very funny, Jay.Se... (Below threshold)
firstbrokenangel:

Very funny, Jay.

Seriously.. started out just as I had expected.

I have a Hewlett Packard laptop and man, you would not believe the stuff I have on this. It's like a thinkpad, has everything in it, Professional Microsoft windows, Pentium III. I can do so much on this and whole so much on this that it surprises anyone who looks at it; I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'd trade other things, including my Frankenstein of a monster that was built for me but 20 years ago when I first started, it was easy to have chat rooms, web sites, and I've made plenty of them. Now it's different and I do not understand templates or ftp or any of that crap. The language has changed, so has the manner and I'm lost. I think I will stick to commenting and keeping good notes for other people once I know what it is they want - I'm really good at that - but not so good at writing anymore. I've even tried blogger.com several times, but end up deleting it, now I keep one for my notes that aren't kept elsewhere, so unfortunately blogger.com gets me no where. Thanks for trying, anyway.

PS Unlike your ex, tho, I happen to like men. :-) But I do love the laptop best.

~Cindy

This can either clearify or... (Below threshold)

This can either clearify or confuse:

For a novice user I'd suggest a laptop from either Dell or Gateway. I do find the Sony VAIO laptops to be nice but a bit pricey. Hardcore computer enthusiast may be more attracted to Alienware (expensive for their flashy features) or Sager (suppliers of Alienware hardware, pre-modification). The Sager laptops are more conventional and gives a more professional appearance while retaining awesome performance. You'll get weird looks in a meeting with a giant lime green laptop by your side. Both options range from moderately priced to second-mortgage factor.

I digress, HP and Compaq make some very low grade products. I've heard many computer illiterate complain of their slowness and annoying issues with compatability. It's not good when you buy your laptop, charge it up and not really knowing great performance, can tell its not performing as it should. Part is due to the fact that they load up an incredible amount of 'software' to allow for the usage of 'features' such as cd player keys, shortcut keys, touchpad features etc... that take up ram and cpu. The hardware aspect of the HP and Compaq products are very low grade and require a lot more 'caution' when buying accessories.

Like I stated before, Dell and Gateway make fairly midgrade laptops. The high end of their product is nice, but you may want to spend the same or a few bucks more on a Alienware or Sager laptop, since they use performance specific parts. They're even starting to release upgradable video cards for these laptops. Very attractive to the gaming community.

This is just a few bits of information to help you and others out a bit. Feel free to email me with questions if you have any!

Shawn
www.toogeek4u.com

Oh, and having a wireless i... (Below threshold)
firstbrokenangel:

Oh, and having a wireless is the best.

For your friend, if she gets a Dell, at least she has backup and they can show her how to use it and fix it when necessary. Just tell her not to fall out of bed like I did and break it. :-)

~C

Another thing about laptops... (Below threshold)
firstbrokenangel:

Another thing about laptops - the sound is poor if you are listening to a video - so make sure you get a good set of headphones - sounds great and you can hear everything!

You can talk to people as if you were on the phone, too. I like that, although avoid it most of the time.

~C

For a laptop, I recommend a... (Below threshold)
Mark Wilson:

For a laptop, I recommend an iBook or a PowerBook. Also, MS Word for Mac. For blogging, iBlog and an .mac account. There is no step 3.

I have purchased numerous I... (Below threshold)
Frank Reyes:

I have purchased numerous IBM Thinkpads through Ebay and IBM Global financing for clients that need laptops. These pcs are off-lease units, selling for $300,00 to $700.00, depending on speed and chip speed. I would add memory {also from ebay}. If you want more specific info, let me know. IBM Thinkpads are the best of the bunch. Lots of utilities to get your laptop up and running, even if it crashes, cause you put some sick software on your hard drive.

I did a project about a yea... (Below threshold)
robert:

I did a project about a year ago when I had to buy 100 laptops for a customer. I started with Dell - good reputation, service, etc. I do this for a living.

Most of their laptops are great, a few are junk. Last year, a product had about 25% bad out of the box rate - on new laptops.

The lesson I learned is to always read the independent product reviews. Always.

9 out of 10 dopeheads prefe... (Below threshold)
Chris W.:

9 out of 10 dopeheads prefer Dell.

I have to second Bryant (fi... (Below threshold)
Boyd:

I have to second Bryant (first commenter) on both points. Dell (with the at-home service) has got to be the best all-around solution for someone who just wants it to work. And when it doesn't, they come and fix it.

In a minor digression, my personal anecdotal experience is to pursue service via email instead of calling. When I've called, I've ended up in India, where they said I'd have to send in the notebook for repair. I started over via email, and they sent someone out to install a new motherboard.

And in regards to blogging, I can highly recommend blogger for folks who just want to blog, and not bother with the underlying technology. I'm a software engineer by profession, but when I'm blogging, I just want to blog, not tinker with the technology. I do that all day, and I don't want to do it again at home, just to get my thoughts on the web.

The biggest concession I make to technology when blogging (via Blogger) is I handcraft the HTML, but that's not necessary. I've just found that I prefer the control it affords me, and it's just more typing. But the Blogger posting interface is pretty versatile.

I already had my domain when I first started blogging, so that's where I point Blogger, but they also provide free hosting at Blogspot.

I think choosing Blogger for a new blogger (or should that be "peer-reviewed journalist?") is a no-brainer.

First, do NOT get the dell.... (Below threshold)
Nick:

First, do NOT get the dell. Laptop technology and design goes around a very fast circle. Right now IBM is on top of the circle. About the dell laptops. Ever since I sent a client's to Texas for service and got it back with a BLANK HARD DRIVE I've sworn them off for life. That's just too big a mistake to get away with. Anyway, an IBM Thinkpad is the way to go if you want solid support and a pretty good chance of never needing it.

I am fairly technical orien... (Below threshold)
Lanny:

I am fairly technical oriented and do bargain shopping a lot. If your ex is not in hurry to buy a computer right now, she can frequent this place to find a bargaining lap top. I just bought a new Presario laptop 2103US XP-2800, 256Mb and 30GB around $650 for my college kid. It's a very good deal I think.

http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/categories.php?catid=18

There will be a push to make the quarter number, so you would see some laptop deals coming up. I would say within 2 weeks, poking around Fatwallet and do a search with laptop or notebook, you would have some good ideas of laptop's pricing.

Every model has pro & con issue. I have problem with both Dell laptop & Compaq laptop. Dell laptop has problem with heat under keyboard and touch pad while Compaq has some problems with certain wireless card like Netgear. What I suggest you to do for your ex is first look for a model she likes, then goto Google group search and type in your model + problem. Dell has a user forum, you can come there and do the same thing. dslreports.com has a forum deal with communication, wireless and wire adapter, router. Do the same thing. You will be amazed that within a few hours, you will know more about that model problems (or lack thereof) than. Don't forget to add more memory. For WinXP, you will need minimum 512MB of memory and Fatwallet has all sorts of hot deal postings there.

In case, money is no objection then my suggestion of checking usernet or user forum still stands.

I have had good luck with m... (Below threshold)
SBD:

I have had good luck with my Dell and the price was the best part. A friend of mine gave me this website to get the best prices anywhere. The deals usually change daily, but are well worth it. Just follow the instructions and enter any discount code if needed. The links will take you directly to a specific Dell web page for the special pricing.

http://www.gotapex.com

As for the Blog, I set this Blog Up on my server really quick if she is interested. It comes with a HTML Editor that has the Microsoft Word interface which make it very user friendly.

http://dotnetnukehosting.com/exwizbangchick

Good Luck,

Thank you~C... (Below threshold)
firstbrokenangel:

Thank you
~C

I think lack of self-decept... (Below threshold)

I think lack of self-deception is especially admirable and timely.

Man, and I thought I... (Below threshold)

Man, and I thought I was the only guy to have an ex girlfriend because we had too much in common....

Seriously, even as heartbroken as you were, you know deep inside you were thinking "Hot Damn! Three way!".

Sharp, I sent a link to my ... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Sharp, I sent a link to my ex right after I posted this. I'm HOPING she reads this. Do you honestly think I'm gonna say anything incriminating when I've done all I can to make sure she reads this?

But it could be fun to take her to a strip club...

J.

I would agree with the post... (Below threshold)

I would agree with the poster who recommended Sager - one of my friends, who spent several years working as a laptop repair tech for a large retail chain whose name rhymes with "rest rye" owns one - and when someone who has worked on pretty much every brand of laptop ever made pics one, you can figure it's good. pctorque.com is the major Sager retailer in the US.

As people have said, pretty much every brand has it's pluses and minuses. My friends' least favorite brand, however, has been Sony - they tend to use a lot of odd proprietary parts that are expensive to repair.

Going the Apple route might not be a bad idea for her as well. I have an Apple Powerbook (12" 866) that I use mostly for class and travel. They are easy to use and don't have many of the virus and spyware issues that nail novice Windows users. You can run office on it. Plus, they look cool.

Men as SICK!!! Gross me out... (Below threshold)
firstbrokenangel:

Men as SICK!!! Gross me out!!
~C

Agreed on the Sagers -- nic... (Below threshold)
DrSteve:

Agreed on the Sagers -- nice machines. I've had good personal and professional experience with Fujitsus (Lifebook Ps and Bs) as well.

Overstock has some older machines that are new-in-box, if I recall correctly.

And not to disparage IBM, but my bosses in NYC (whose machines I wound up maintaining for some strange reason) had ThinkPads that always -- always -- had some sort of major system failure 30 days out of warranty. Power/battery bus failures, other mobo failures. May have been user error -- as it got them a new machine -- but raised my eyebrows.

Those examples are so funny... (Below threshold)
firstbrokenangel:

Those examples are so funny!! They're great - what did you possibly do wrong? I like the foot in mouth UP to hip, tho.
~C

Well now that we know about... (Below threshold)
firstbrokenangel:

Well now that we know about laptops, how about blogs for dummies??
~C

Bryant said "a) You won't h... (Below threshold)
firstbrokenangel:

Bryant said "a) You won't have to ask wizbang more technical questions about your computer (you can call Dell)." Ok, I promise I will never ask wizbang for help in understanding blogging. Got that message real quick. I'm not the ex, just the other person. Blogger.com is useless to me - not when I have no idea what the directions mean; have no idea how to do html, copy and paste to a template (what template and where?); how to blogroll. Blogger.com doesn't even have an UNDERLINE where I can put a link. I love my laptop plus I have a huge desktop I hardly ever use. Glad Jay got all the info he needed for his ex on laptops, even from me. I just wanted someone to get me started and explain to me what certain things meant.

iblog is not available at this time, either.

I'll stick to commenting.

~C

The best stuff I've seen fo... (Below threshold)
psbx:

The best stuff I've seen for starting a blog is at rottweiler's place. Check out the right-hand margin. There's a link there entitled So you wanna be a blogger?

BTW, I own an HP laptop, and I love it. It's a pavilion zt3000. My Dell crapped out on me. Still, I don't think you can go wrong with any of the big three - IBM, HP and Dell - all things considered. Since you're a novice, I'd pay attention to support and go with HP or Dell.

Oh, almost forgot. There's ... (Below threshold)
psbx:

Oh, almost forgot. There's a book that looks decent. It's an O'Reilly book called Essential Blogging.
Gonna grab that one myself....

Here's a link to a non tech... (Below threshold)
SBD:

Here's a link to a non technical Blogger 101.

Also, please don't buy a laptop from a company like HP who's current CEO said "Americans need to realize that it's not their "God Given Right" to have a job".

Wow - thanks for all the ad... (Below threshold)
eX:

Wow - thanks for all the advice, y'all... will print and peruse this whole thread later when I'm not busily avoiding the writing of an overdue research paper as I am now. (Typical, typical...)

Angel - yep, men are sick. Jay Theo's a genuine twenty-four-carat sweetheart but no exception to the species. Ah, well. Good luck on the blogging.

Three-way? All I can say is, she'd better be darned cute.

Stop drooling, Jay.

Strip club, eh? You can buy the drinks.

eX

Ha Ha HaCould not ... (Below threshold)
firstbrokenangel:

Ha Ha Ha

Could not help myself.

Love ya,
~C




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