My desktop computer died. It was a peaceful passing in the middle of the night after a protracted illness. While not unexpected, it’s death does mean some decisions have to be made. How should I replace it? Is it time for a paradigm shift? Should I even replace it, or just rely on a laptop? I’m just not sure.First question – How do I use a desktop now?
In addition to the usual PC chores, I used mine to create music with keyboards, Acid Music, and Audacity, and to score music with Coda Finale. I manipulated photos with Photoshop, and scanned images with my flatbed scanner. I used the PC as a media server, with shared external drives that hold my MP3s, photos, and video. Finally, this computer had a TV tuner, so I watched TV while I worked, and used it as a DVR. Whatever solution I come up with has to address all of these functions.
Second question – What are the options?
I could replace the PC with a similar, updated unit. In fact, I found an HP PC with a TV tuner and pretty good specs at Walmart, of all places. TV tuners are fairly easy to come by, so I could actually scale back and get the functionality I need.
The next option is that I could just forget about it and use laptops. I could plug in the scanner and keyboards as needed, or, better yet, I could just keep these plugged into a USB hub and plug that in as needed. The shared hard drives and printers are another matter. IOGear makes a device called a Sharestation for about $100 which, as its name suggests, would allow sharing of USB devices over a network. The device acts like a print server, and turns any attached USB drives into Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices.
We use laptops most of the time anyway, so this would just let us continue that practice, and would certainly be cheaper.
The last option I’ve been toying with is replacing my PC with a Mac (blasphemy). I’ve heard the stories that Macs are better for music, video, and photography, so it’s a consideration. I’ve been playing with a Macbook for about five months now, and I haven’t found it particularly easier to use. In fact, the little bit of video and photo work I’ve tried to do seems even more difficult with the iLife software. While Macs are purported to be more reliable, that reliability comes at a huge price. Every option was at least a thousand dollars more expensive. Even the little Mac Mini topped out at $1200 once I added the necessary software.
Third question – What are the potential problems?
First, the dead PC was licensed for several pieces of software, including Photoshop, Finale, and iTunes. Some of these can be reclaimed, and on some I think I’m SOL. Getting these reset is going to mean lots of time with tech support for several programs, along with having to prove that I had legitimate licenses. I can get anything I need off of the old hard drive, but retrieving these licenses is more difficult. I may try to resurrect the old PC, even if it’s only to deauthorize these programs so I can re-use them on a new computer.
If I decide to go the PC route instead of Mac I’ve got an operating system problem. I hate Vista, but that’s about what’s available now. Windows 7 is supposed to come out this fall. Should I dive in with Vista now and upgrade, meaning I’ve got to wipe and reinstall everything at that time? Or should I just wait until 7 comes out?
If I go the Mac route, I’m not sure I can get enough analogous programs for my GPS, etc., etc. I could install Parallels and run Windows, but that adds even more expense to an already expensive computer.
And finally, even though our house is covered with wireless, it’s not as reliable as I might like. Having everything on the network might not be the best thing. That makes the laptop solution less than desirable.
So, here’s what I’ll probably do. I’ll probably get the IOGear device to buy myself some time. That way I can hold off on the decision until Windows 7 comes out. At that time, the PC vs Mac debate will rear its ugly head.
(Top photo – Herman Hollerith’s 1890 Census Tabulating Machine)