thoughts on choosing computers

Since family and friends know I am a ‘computer guy’ I am sometimes asked for advice on choosing computers to buy. The trouble with this is that my own computer needs and use is pretty far removed from the ‘normal’ computer user. Actually I have to imagine how a ‘normal’ computer user works based on a small amount of experience of my parents and some guesswork. Then there is another category, the ‘power gamer’ who is not much like me either.

Normal
Most likely runs Windows, and often Microsoft Office. Apple Mac users are a different category.

Power Gamer
Probably runs Windows for access to the most games, but may dual-boot Linux.

Me
I run Ubuntu Linux as the main OS on my home and work PCs. (I have Windows XP installed for playing a certain game :-) I would like to be able to recommend a Linux to other people, but I’ve had enough issues that I’ve had to resolve with it, that I couldn’t really recommend it to a non-technical user unless I was prepared and able to help with it frequently (which I’m not).

Normal
Buys ‘a PC’ from a supplier like Dell or HP or their local PC shop. Quite likely never opens the case.

Power Gamer
May be tempted by an Alienware system or something designed from gamers from Dell or another big supplier, but more likely to build their own with as much power as they can afford, particularly in processor and graphics card speed. May follow Ars Technica Guides

Me
I bought my last couple of PCs as separate components and assembled them myself.

Normal
I suspect that many ‘normal’ computer users get persuaded to buy something much more powerful than they will ever need. Aside from the ever-growing requirements of overblown OSes like Windows Vista, PCs could happily deal with writing email and letters or web browsing several years ago, and the power needed for doing those has not really changed.

Power Gamer
Of course the ‘power gamer’ can never get enough performance out of their computer. They will want the latest graphics cards (probably two of them) and the fastest processors.

Me
My last machine was optimized for Java and web software development, which means I have a large amount of RAM by the standards of the time, moderate processor speed and disk size1, and use integrated graphics. It all works nicely, thankyouverymuch.

In Summary
I may be a ‘computer guy’ but I would probably have trouble recommending a computer to meet your needs.

1 Though we also have a network storage box for bulk stuff.

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