The following are my personal recommendations and OPINIONS ... this page was last updated on 8 Feb 2001 ...
The contents of this page are not copyrighted. However, I would
prefer it if you put a
LINK to my page rather than copying the info to yours. If you want to use any of this in an
email - then please just put a LINK (preferred) or "credit the source". Thanks and ENJOY!
OK, OK - let's get on to "the good stuff"!!!
these are the products that I have
and continue to use
Click on the button below to go directly to the section of your choice ... or scroll.
Tools for Computer Professionals
Internet Access, Networking Tools and Utilities
And some Hardware Too!!!
ALWAYS shop PRICES
for hardware purchases
- from SEVERAL sources!!!
(Although the links are live for the hardware below they
are sometimes NOT the best price you can find.)
And now ... the REST of the story.
And ... finally ... some
stuff about hardware and software that the guys in the computer stores
usually either won't tell you or, likely as not, they don't even understand it themselves.
1) The best way to speed up your system is
- not a faster CPU/computer.
2) The 2nd best way to speed up your system is faster video - however, for normal
use (such as "office work") faster video will not be noticeable.
3) Pay attention to the BUS SPEED! Every other speed CPU that Intel makes runs at a
different bus speed and almost always the next SLOWER CPU will give you a faster
overall system than the very next one up (which runs at the slower bus speed). Think
of the CPU speed as the car - some are Volkswagens, some are Mercedes, and some
are Ferrari. Think of bus speed as the difference between a 2 lane highway at 55
and an empty freeway at 65 (and nobody drives more than the speed limit). So the
Ferrari and the Mercedes and the Volkswagen all go the same speed on the 2 lane
highway ... 55 (bus speed 100mhz) ... and they all go the same speed on the freeway
... 65 (bus speed 133mhz) ... but here's the Catch-22 hinted at above ... every other
CPU that Intel makes is destined FOREVER to drive on the 2 lane highways. OK,
when you get above something like 850mhz CPUs they are all 133mhz bus systems.
But up to that number every other one is a 100mhz bus. So a 600mhz system (133mhz
bus) will usually be faster than a 650mhz (100mhz bus)! And yes, you still pay MORE
for the 650mhz CPU system than you do for the 600mhz - even though the system will
very likely be slower overall.
And, of course, the faster bus speed is useless if you put slow PC-100 (100mhz bus)
memory on it - so the memory speed is as important as the bus. No, PC-133 memory
won't run faster than PC-100 memory in a computer with a 100mhz bus CPU.
4) If you aren't getting internet connect speeds of about 40kb or faster then you can
PROBABLY do better - this is not something that is possible thru a "quick fix" but
it IS possible. It may involve an ISP change and we all know that is something we
can't do "lightly" unless we have already gotten our own (hint, hint, HINT).
Also - did you know that for about $30 more a month you can have DSL in your home?
Often the savings for the phone line is more than the increased cost for DSL.
5) For the typical user TWO smaller hard drives are a LOT better than one really large one.
E.G. - two 10GB hard drives will give you more flexibility and protection than one 20GB.
6) Don't save money on a cheap printer or monitor. A quality 17" monitor such as a ViewSonic
is probably the best computing investment you can make! You don't need to
buy the top of the line - but spend a little more and get quality. The printers I like most
right now are the Epsons and the Lexmark Z52 ... but call me for possible alternatives.
7) The pre-packaged systems - no matter who they are made by (Sony, Compaq, HP, IBM,
Dell, Micron, e-machines, PowerSpec ... etc., etc., etc.) are a LOT harder to work on if
you have problems or want to upgrade or add any kind of hardware. It adds about an
hour (+) to almost every call I make if the machine is a pre-packaged system with
"factory installed hardware and software" -vs- the typical OEM built system from
the local, build-to-order shops. If you never have to work on the system they are
probably better - but even one or two calls erases every bit of "savings" you might
have seen at the purchase.
My simple rules of thumb for "easy to work on systems" are:
1) if it doesn't come with a normal, standard copy of Win98/WinME
then "just say no".
2) Similarly, stay away from any and all systems which have a motherboard book that
doesn't have a brand name AND model on it!
3) Software packaged with a system is rarely worth even a 1/10th of the full retail cost!
(You won't use even a 10th of it more than once or twice - if at all.)
8) Be careful to specify quality, name brand, mainstream components when ordering from
an OEM. (Call/e-mail me for "the current list" if you are thinking about a purchase.)
9) There are a LOT of "grey market" products out there. For instance, if you go to the local
"computer supermarket" and the shelf is full of packages that all have blue lettering on a
white sticker that essentially says "in store warranty" then, in all probability, that is a
"grey market" item. Do buy any item that doesn't have the manufacturer's
full warranty on it - at ANY price!
10) It is my hard-learned lesson that the multi-function printers (print, scan, fax, copy all in one)
are usually a poor choice in terms of both reliability AND price. A separate printer and
scanner will always out perform them.
The convenience of using so little desktop space MAY be important enough to you that
you go that route ... but "think about it".
11) A scanner turns out to be the least used item - unless your needs are very special think
twice about it - often you can do ALL the scans you will ever need in 4 or 5 years for
less money at Kinko's for the same cost as a $200 scanner ... convenience is the only
true justification for having your own scanner. (Put the money into a digital camera?)
If you are setting up an office that does not have a copier then a scanner can be a good
"copier" for VERY light needs. A scanner is very slow compared to a copier or even
compared to a fax machine that doubles as a copier.
12) Most offices have a hard copy fax AND at least one computer with soft copy fax.
It is very rare to find an office using a computer for receiving faxes. Usually all
fax Receives are done hard copy even when most Sends are soft copy.
13) Did you remember to factor in the price for enough ink cartridges for 50 packages
- or more - of paper (50x500 sheets) when you bought your last printer? Do this to get
a realistic cost comparison - you will be surprised at how much more some 'cheap'
printers really are.
14) It is absolutely amazing how many times I sit down at a client's system and the
speakers aren't even powered on! I'm not saying "don't get sound" ... I'm saying
"don't spend a LOT of money on the sound card and speakers" - unless you are a
SERIOUS computer gamer (in which case you probably haven't read this far! *g*).
An office with more than one person in the same "room" is rarely a good place for
a sound card - they end up irritating the other people in the room.
15) Voice-activated word processing is still for the handicapped and those writing a novel.
Even if you are a one-finger hunt and peck typist you will probably be faster for
90% of your computing with a mouse and keyboard. *SIGH*
16) Got a laptop? Using a real mouse? (You should be.) Not using your laptop?
(Then you probably didn't get one with an active matrix/TFT screen.) Take a
long look at the Logitech cordless mouse and keyboard above ... 'nuff said.
Like to put your laptop down on the bed/couch/etc. while it is powered on?
You are probably cutting off the fan exhaust which is typically on the bottom
and your system is going to seriously overheat - a crash/lockup is the minimum
guaranteed result - a laptop with the exhaust on the bottom should ALWAYS
be used on a hard surface! (Hint: use a piece of masonite.)
Need a faster laptop? Add MEMORY to the one you already have!
17) Has anybody told you that you probably will NOT be able to use your CD-R/RW
created disks in most DVD drives? Manufacturer produced, "normal", CD's
are no problem - this only applies to those who "burn their own". Although
not designed for backing up your files a CD-R/RW drive is one of the best
ways to do this for the person who backs up about "once a month". Some day
one of the backup software companies is going to come out with a program that
is "enabled" for CD-R/RW drives instead of tape drives and all of us who have
computers in our homes are going to stand up and cheer.
18) What about a home network? Do you have more than one computer?
If yes, then you should ! Have you thought about using a network
to communicate between your laptop(s) and your "regular" computer? Or,
for instance, if you have a network you can back up one computer with the
Also you can share your internet phone line ===> both computers surfing
the web at the same time thru the same line and connection - yes, if they are both
active it is slower - maybe even painfully slow - but at least you are both connected
(and it is a very good solution if one person is doing email and the other is surfing).
Do you have 2 computers and one printer and you are passing floppies from one to
the other to do your printing - a network solves that one also.
19) Get a virus checker that checks email. Use it. KEEP IT UP TO DATE!
The one I recommend is the Norton Anti-Virus that comes with System Works.
Not because the virus checker is any better than McAfee - but because System
Works includes a utility called Speed Disk which is one of the best investments
you will ever make. Run Speed Disk "about twice a month".
A MUCH larger percentage of my calls have been virus related in the last 12
months. This is because most of the viruses today are email based and a lot of
us aren't running an email enabled virus checker. HINT. HINT. HINT.
20) If you are using ANY of the "chat" programs (AIM, MSN Chat, Yahoo Chat, etc.)
then you should seriously consider installing a Firewall program. I consider this
a necessity if you are going into any of the public chatrooms. No matter which one
it is or what tools it does or doesn't use. Down underneath anything that you are
using for a public chatroom there are only one of two technologies which is in use
(either IRC Chat or Java) - and both of those technologies open your computer up
to a skillful hacker. I use the Symantec firewall.
I recommend you use that one if you are using Norton Anti-Virus or the McAfee
firewall if you are using McAfee Anti-Virus.
21) And what about hackers even if you aren't using Chat? Do YOU need to worry?
I have had two clients who were hacked. Neither hacker did any real damage.
Neither of the victims was attacked during a Chat session. One of the hackers
caused a lot of spam to be sent out with my client's email address as the return
address - so it looked like my client was the spammer. The other one didn't do
any damage - or steal any secrets - before he was discovered and blocked.
Viruses are a lot more common than hackers.
Give me a call if you are concerned about hackers and I can give a few simple
things to think about and help you make an informed decision about how much
effort you will spend to keep your computer/network "hack resistant".
For most of you Y2K was a real "yawner". However, I did
have one or two clients who got hit by Y2K related viruses!
0) So far - there haven't been any reported
problems associated with 2001.
1) Microsoft stated in 1999 that neither Win95 NOR Win98 were Y2K ready and
Microsoft shipped "free" Y2K update CD's in .
If you are running a "pre 1999 version of Win95 or Win98 then you may want to
consider upgrading. Call me first! I can help you with that decision also.
2) Simply put - if you are still concerned, then TEST for Y2K. If you have any doubts
about how to do that testing give me a call or send me an email. *g*