Thursday, April 26, 2012

A new way to do business

My computer is 6 years old now. We purchased it as a "package deal", so we received a brand new computer with monitor, keyboard, mouse and operating system (Windows) and paid just under $1000 for it. Six years ago that was pretty good value, but now my old system has aged it can barely keep-up with all that multi-tasking. If we were to buy another computer package, it would cost a few hundred dollars less, for a more powerful computer.

We considered a new package, but I suppose after you buy a few (between us, Dave and I have purchased 4 in the 17 years of owning computers) you start to look at the whole exercise as a bit of a waste. Why do we have to replace the monitor, keyboard and mouse all over again, when it was really only the hard-drive which kicked the bucket?

I asked myself that question more seriously before going out to purchase a new computer this time. My three criteria were price, value and reliability. Could I find something different to the normal way of doing business with the PC world? Without going into long convoluted stories, let's just say I came to realise why we were locked in a wasteful cycle. We'd grown-up on package deal diets, and didn't know how to make a PC from scratch. What's more, the two operating systems which dominated the market (Windows and Macintosh) went out of their way to make computing easier for the user. Why did we have to think beyond megabites someone else prepared for us?

Basically, we were happiest to sit back, open a box and go wow when the switch was flicked for the first time. That was the problem. It was the "operators" not the operating systems. We didn't want to go looking for choice if it was a harder process to go through. After many months of determined research, often feeling like I was sitting for exams all over again (my brain turning to mush and being out of my depth) I eventually received my prize...

Two Acer computer towers side-by-side

Above you can see my old and new system, sitting side by side. Both are Acer computers and somewhat a bit of luck the new (second-hand) computer turned out to be an Acer too. I was looking at purchasing a new hard-drive originally, but the new Linux operating system I was going to install may not have worked. After all, I had never attempted anything like this before.

So I decided I would opt for a second-hand computer to experiment on instead. If I lost the money because it didn't work, then at least I wouldn't have lost as much as a brand new hard-drive would cost. The one I had priced was around $360. All up, my second-hand system cost a total of $255. I will itemize all the costs and the process involved, in another post. I believe the information is a lot easier to absorb if it's broken into smaller bits.

I think the new Acer blends in well with my existing monitor, keyboard and mouse. I didn't have to replace them and that gave me a great deal of satisfaction. I know you can get bigger monitors (mine is 17 inches) but it works perfectly fine and I don't do a lot of video editing to justify an upgrade.

At the end of this exercise, I got the satisfaction of knowing a little more about how computers work, and that I'm not as powerless a consumer as first believed. There are many options beyond the package-deal diet, but you have to hunger for something else. I like technology, I think it can be very useful, but why not learn something new in the process? We can choose to sit back and go wow when we open the new box, or we can choose to put something together ourselves that meets our needs better.

The process didn't kill me and I'm not a computer geek either. I raise a family and maintain a property at the same time - I don't have a paid job though, so that's the only reason I had the time. If you've got time available too, before your next computer dies, look into free open-source software, which uses a Linux based kernel. It's why I didn't have to pay for an operating system, or all the free software that makes my new system work.

This won't be the last post I write about this subject. It's far too interesting not to talk about.


  1. Congratulations!
    I also thought about Linux but with being ill comes something called chemo brain. I cannot focus right now for very long. So computer on it's last gasps, we bought another Apple. If I were well, I would have done what you are doing. I look forward to more posts.

    Amazing price as well.

  2. You know we seriously considered an Apple this time, because it wasn't going to be another Windows Package Deal for us. If my experiment didn't work, we were off to purchase an Apple Mini Mac. I loved the low energy features of it (compared to the desktop iMac) but I could also keep my monitor and keyboard and just transfer them over to the Mini.

    Macintosh is a far superior product to Windows, but I wasn't comfortable committing to another system that would lock me in. Not without trying the alternative (open source software) first.

    There's so much to learn, I barely scratched the surface, LOL.

  3. Chris, many many folks with a great deal more computer savvy than I, swear by Linux as the supreme product. In time, I might choose it myself. My iMac is a monitor with the computer built in. Its fine but it's not as fast as my old MacBook Pro which cost twice as much.
    I just need to have a Mac because I hope to get back to web ad graphic design once I am cured. Adobe software is not as compatible with Linux sadly yet thry are the industry standard. So i am stuck in someways.

    But I am very happy for well as proud of you for this project.


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