Any computer geeks here? - Posted by Charity

Posted by Darryl on January 10, 2001 at 10:59:46:

I have (through my employer) a Dell laptop and have extremely pleased with it. It’s a PIII-500 running NT 4.0. Does it keep up with my Dell Dual PIII desktop monster?
It doesn’t need to. It’s fast enough, and it travels (“packs & unpacks”??) well. All my impt files come with me, no zip disk shuffling, it takes up minimal space at home, on the plane, on the sofa, the floor -it goes where I go.

sans power cord for 4 hours too.

I heartily agree with the buy “big & nasty” comment and drive it into the ground. You will use the capability later.

My suggestion is seriously consider what you want the computer to do for you (i.e. what will you use it for) then buy the most capable name brand computer you can afford. If it’s a laptop, buy at least a 14" display.

my next computer will likely be a desktop Athlon because it will not travel and price is a serious consideration.
my next-next computer will likely be a desktop Athlon because it will not travel, price is no object and I will be using it for scientific research so I’ll need all the horsepower I can get.

My thanks to the MSCE for the expert advice…

Any computer geeks here? - Posted by Charity

Posted by Charity on January 09, 2001 at 13:41:41:

This is sort of unrelated to REI, but I need help from someone who knows computers! I am going to try and buy a new computer once I get a good deal in. I don’t want to buy from a store (because they come with all that other junk loaded on them). I am thinking of having one built or something. I need to know what specs I should ask for so I can shop around. Here is what I need: a FAST processor (I don’t even have a Pentium now). I have ADSL service and I need the computer to move as fast as possible. I also need a lot of memory. My current computer crashes a lot because it is overworked from being used all day. I just need a solid computer that runs fast, online and offline, and has lots of memory. Any suggestions?


Re: did you consider this?? - Posted by Darryl

Posted by Darryl on January 10, 2001 at 11:10:50:

…follow on to my earlier post.

The frequent crashes may be due to Win 95,98,98se
I’ll only use NT4.0 or Win2000; therefore I spend more on hardware. Downtime costs me money.

Consider your cost of downtime with cheaper equipment,

Consider the true cost difference when you amortize over the life of the purchase

Also…Dell provides business leases
Do you conduct your real estate through a business??

Re: Any computer geeks here? - Posted by Wayne

Posted by Wayne on January 09, 2001 at 18:14:08:


I build all of my systems and have built many for others too. Here is what I would recommend:

450 mHz processor (min)
128 Mb RAM
3Com NIC Card (for Adsl connection)
Sound Blaster Sound Card
AGP Video Card w/ 16 Mb Video RAM
Mid Tower with ATX Power Supply
15 Gb Hard Drive (min)
CDR for backing up files (SCSI is best)
Adaptec SCSI controller card (for CDR)

DON’T use cheap generic components, they are a pain to work with and don’t hold up.

Now all you do is find a tenant/buyer that knows how to build a system and get them to put one together for you, credit them on their Option money for the computer. IF the computer breaks and they won’t fix it, raise their rent ! LOL

You just bought a computer with “no money down” !


I’m not a bully but… - Posted by Jim Locker

Posted by Jim Locker on January 09, 2001 at 17:32:59:

I’m not an MSCE either. However, I am an MS Physics with about 28 years experience with most of the major computer architectures that have existed in that time.

I build all my own systems.

Eric gave you some good advice, but I would modify it somewhat. First, I think you would have no problem with getting a system custom built. There are bound to be shops in your town who will do that. You get the advantage of having just the system you want, without all the extra crap, and this shop will support you. If they won’t, find another shop.

You will not ordinarily find that your processor bottlenecks you WRT your ADSL line; if that is your reason for specifying a fast computer, you don’t need it.

Now, I think that Moore’s Law is going to break in the next couple years because our processors are approaching theoretical limits. I don’t know how fast the engineers will be able to push the clock speeds, but density isn’t going to increase by more than a factor of about three before silicon “hits the wall”. Maybe clock speeds can go up a factor of 5 or 6 from here, but the rate of increase will slow in the next couple years. Also, for the first time really, hardware is ahead of software, and there are very few applications out there that really drive the hardware to its limits.

Accordingly, if you buy prudently now, you probably are looking at five or six years minimum before you MUST upgrade, and there is an outside chance that if you go far enough upscale now you won’t have to upgrade for longer than that.

Dell computers are a good choice, if you want to buy a built computer. They are somewhat pricey, but very well constructed.

I presume you want this as a business system. Accordingly, you need to pay attention to certain things.

First, get a good quality chassis and power supply. Do not scrimp here - it’ll bite you down the road. You want an ATX power supply with a ball bearing fan. Get a chassis that is larger than you need; you need the space for cooling and you might want the room to expand later. Install extra fans. They are cheap, and they are cheap insurance.

Second, get a good motherboard. I have recently put together a very nice system based on the Gigabyte GA-7IXE and the AMD Athlon 750 MHz processor. This combo would do nicely for a business system.

There are plenty of other choices, and unlike eric, I would not rule out the Celeron. Granting that the lack of a cache is a disadvantage, scrimping on the processor is a decent place to save money in the current marketplace. You will not notice the difference unless you are a hard core game player, or run large numerical simulations.

Third. Get a good hard drive. Don’t buy IDE. Those are OK for home systems, but for a business system you want the durability, speed, and reliability of a SCSI drive. I recommend the Quantum or IBM brand names in SCSI. I specifically do not advise Seagate. Depending on how critical your system is to your business, you might want to consider a RAID system. This is Redundant Array of Inexpensive Drives, and provides a way to “mirror” and backup your data - protecting you against a hard drive failure. You do this if you really cannot afford to have your system go down for more than a very short time.

Fourth, get a CDROM (and/or DVD ROM), CD/RW, video card, sound card to suit your preferences. For a business system, none of these matter very much; it’s just what you want to spend.

In any case, make sure you have the means to back up your system. You might want to buy a tape drive. If so, buy a good one. HP makes some fine drives. If you only want to back up your data, and are willing to reload your system if necessary, buy a Zip drive.

Fifth, you should stay away from Windows 95/98/ME for a business system. Security and stability problems. Go with Windows NT or Windows 2000 Professional. These are much more stable and can be made very secure.

Finally, with an always on ADSL connection, it is imperative that you consider system security WRT the internet. You will need a firewall ( and an anti-virus package (several on the market). You might want to seriously consider a trojan scanner ( and protection against adware/spyware (

DO NOT BUY Norton Internet Security package. It is being heavily marketed, and it is basically trash. Norton Anti Virus is OK, though.

the bully comes to kick sand in the face… - Posted by eric-fl

Posted by eric-fl on January 09, 2001 at 16:46:41:

Charity, I am an MCSE, and my full time job is as a network engineer for a software firm. Having said that, most of the recommendations posted below in my opinion are a little weak.

According to Moore’s law, data processing power doubles every 18 months. That means that, even if you bought top end today, in three years you’ll be obsolete, no matter what.

Your best bet is to therefore buy a midrange system. Entry level won’t last long, in terms of running the latest software. High end will be midrange in twelve months, yet often costs more than double that of a midrange system.

Were I in the market for a new system right now, I would shoot for an Athlon processor-based system, the architecture is better than Pentium, due to the 200 mhz FSB (front side bus) vs. the 100 mhz fsb on a Pentium system. Also, if you do go Pentium, don’t go less than a 350 mhz, or you won’t even get 100 mhz fsb, you’ll only get 66 mhz below that. Even if you don’t know what that is, remember - bigger is better. Smaller numbers mean a place where a bottleneck could be created, and this is definetely an area where a chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Above all DON’T buy a “Celeron” chip. All a Celeron is is a Pentium chip with no cache on it. Again, even if you don’t know what that is, more and bigger is better. Celeron is less, and cache makes a difference.

Additionally, I would insist on a mimimum of 128 mb ram. 64 is not enough. I just bought a stick of 128 mb SDRAM for my home machine for 60 bucks. That’s roughly 50 cents a megabyte, the cheapest I’ve ever seen. Make them put it in.

Also, there is good advice given below on going with the larger hard drive, due to the fact that smaller drives don’t save as much. Often, for only an additional 50-100 dollars, you can almost double the hard drive capacity.

Finally, and above all, do NOT “have someone build” you a system if you are unfamiliar with computers yourself. Otherwise, when it breaks, (and it will), who’s going to fix it? As soon as someone brings me a clone from an unknown company, with unknown parts, I farm it out. I won’t even touch them anymore. I’ve wasted too many days trying to ferret out drivers for peripherals in old computers made by companies that have long since gone out of business.

I recommend you do what we do at my company. Buy Dell refurbished systems. I know that Dell is the big evil corporation and all that, but their refurb systems cost roughly HALF what a new one costs, they come with the same warranty as a new system, you know they’ll be in business next year, and Dell can pack in a box (i.e., they have good performance.) We’ve not experienced any higher failure rate with these systems than those purchased new.

P.S. - there’s no such thing as a “computer geek” anymore. Everyone uses computers now, they’re not just for nerds anymore. Those who know them best rule the world, literally. A geek is a geek, period.

WOW! - Posted by Charity

Posted by Charity on January 09, 2001 at 15:39:37:

I didn’t realize we had so many computer geeks here!:slight_smile:
Thanks for all the great info and I hope to get one good deal in here soon so I can buy a new computer (and possibly a Jacuzzi, but that’s another topic…:))


Re: Any computer geeks here? - Posted by Stew(NE)

Posted by Stew(NE) on January 09, 2001 at 14:59:32:

I assume Joe made a typo when he said get a 10mb HardDrive. Go to Below is a list of some of there systems. I don’t know all that you are doing but for $1200 dollars I think you paying about 33% more than what you need. This site sells parts but here is a list of some of the complete systems.

$1498Complete Pentium 4 1.4GHz
$865 Complete Pentium III 1GHz
$659 - Complete Pentium III 933MHz
$591 Complete Pentium III 866MHz
$562 - Complete Pentium III 850MHz
$507 - Complete Pentium III 800MHz
$494 - Complete Pentium III 750MHz
$508 - Complete Pentium III 733MHz
$472 - Complete Pentium III 700MHz
$452 Complete Pentium III 650MHz
$422 - Complete Pentium III 600MHz
$442 - Complete Pentium III 550MHz
$465 - Complete Pentium III 533MHz
$425 - Complete Pentium III 500MHz
$414 - Complete Celeron 633
$382 - Complete Celeron 600
$388 - Complete Celeron 566
$363 - Complete Celeron 533
$338 - Complete Celeron 500
$365 - Complete Celeron 466

Re: Any computer geeks here? - Posted by Ed Reilly

Posted by Ed Reilly on January 09, 2001 at 14:49:16:

I would suggest you get an AMD Athlon, 500MHz or greater, instead of the Pentium. Works faster at same clock speed. Also, 98MB of RAM memory should be good. And a hard drive of 13Gig or higher(mine’s 20Gig and I have used about 10% so far). One last thing. Make sure the bus speed is 200MHz, instead of 100. If this all sounds confusing, check out this link:

It’s very useful and explains things very well. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.

Ed Reilly(Montco, PA)

Re: Any computer geeks here? - Posted by Joe (CA)

Posted by Joe (CA) on January 09, 2001 at 14:39:36:

Yes, I am a computer geek.

The key in buying a computer is to work backward from your budget. If you start reading reviews etc… it is easy to get sucked into spending too much. The vast majority of buyers buy a lot more power than they need.

In terms of bang for the buck, I would go with the AMD Duron Processor. The megahertz will not make too much of a difference. The system described below is designed to take full advantage of your high speed internet.

My specs:

AMD Duron Processor - Celeron would be 2nd choice
64 MB RAM - 128 if you can afford it
10 MB HD or larger - not much savings in smaller drive
8 MB video ram - an overlooked key to performace
17" monitor - you’ll never work on 15" again
CDWR - slow, but great for permanent backups
Network Card - if your ADSL service requires it

This machine will likely cost about $1,200, but you won’t need an upgrade for 4 years or longer. If this is too much, consider a regular CD Rom and a used monitor.

As a final note - buy it through the web - you will be able to customize the machine according to your specs, you pay shipping but it will likely save you the sales tax.

Re: Any computer geeks here? - Posted by Brian W(IL)

Posted by Brian W(IL) on January 09, 2001 at 14:08:35:

Charity, I wouldn’t call myself a geek, but here goes:

You want to get a PC with at least a Pentium II or higher processor/300mhz or higher speed, Windows98 or Windows2000 operating system, 64k Ram(memory) or higher, a 56k modem, cable modem, or modem/connection provided by your ADSL service provider. With all of this, you should have no problems with your system. Hope this helps.

Re: I’m not a bully but… - Posted by eric-fl

Posted by eric-fl on January 10, 2001 at 08:30:14:

I do disagree with many of the points (especially Moore’s law, more on that later), but you did hit on a CRITICAL point that I forgot, backups. You are absolutely correct in your recommendations here. In addition, I might recommend you just go ahead and specify a cd-burner to back up data only. HP also makes excellent burn drives, and the discs are cheaper all the time. Plus, with a CD-RW drive, you can re-use the disks. What I do, personally, is I have a folder on my machine called “data”, and all docuements, saved mail, etc., go here. Then, when I do backups, I only have to back up this one folder, and it’s sub-folders, and I’m done. Also, will give you 25 mb of free space on the Internet, which you can also use for data-only backups. I wouldn’t use it as a primary storage location, but it’s excellent for backups, and it’s free.

Now on the bit about Moore. I understand exactly where you are coming from in terms of upcoming limits, but those are mainly due to the “top down” approach wherein everything gets smaller all the time. What about the “bottom up” approach and promise of molecular nanotechnology, where we begin from the individual molecule and go up from there? I’ve read the Drexler texts, and am familiar with the theory, but given your physics background, and knowledge of computers, I’d be interested to know your opinion regarding the practical applications of the technology? Do you think the assemblers will be ready in time to account for the upcoming limit thresholds? I know that IBM is doing research into this area all the time, but there’s surprisingly little information available on RECENT nanotech developments on the Internet.

Re: the bully comes to kick sand in the face… - Posted by Chris

Posted by Chris on January 10, 2001 at 04:45:19:

Eric- For laptops, can you provide recommendations for suppliers of RAM(SDRAM possibly?). I have a Compaq and ordered an upgrade through them which I’m about to cancel because they haven’t shipped it(ordered Thanksgiving) and it seems relatively expensive.

By the way, I was just researching computer companies and it looks to me like Dell has the best warranty-3 years versus 1 year for most of the competition.


Re: I’m not a bully but… - Posted by Jim Locker

Posted by Jim Locker on January 10, 2001 at 08:49:45:

We are getting way OT here, so this will be my last post on the subject on this board; we can continue it via email if you wish.

Moore’s law will be broken WRT Silicon. Other technologies are in the lab and one or more of them will undoubtedly replace silicon. However, this won’t happen soon enough to prevent a plateau effect in personal computer hardware. So there will be a hiatus of several years, then a new generation of platforms with radically new technologies will begin to appear.

IMO of course.

Re: the bully comes to kick sand in the face… - Posted by eric-fl

Posted by eric-fl on January 10, 2001 at 08:08:52:

I wouldn’t cancel that upgrade order. I don’t really like laptops, and you have hit on one of the main reasons why. There aren’t many “clone” laptop systems, i.e., they are almost all name brands. Therefore, the manufacturer holds you hostage like this in terms of upgrades and service. There are some companies that sell SODIMMS for laptop memory upgrades, but I REALLY wouldn’t recommend this. You are playing with fire and just asking for compatibility issues when you do something like this, since the nature of laptops is so proprietary in the first place. But you’re right, it probably is expensive in comparison, but really, whatcha gonna do?

Laptops, IMHO, have very limited utility for the price. Basically, unless you travel a lot, or are in sales, or both, you’re almost always better off with a desktop machine. They are more expensive to buy, repair, and upgrade, and the specs of the fastest laptop are never near that of the fastest desktop at any given point in time. For those who HAVE to have them, I recommend that you buy the biggest, nastiest machine you can, regardless of whether you need it now or not. Then, drive it into the ground. Don’t replace it until it’s gasping and wheezing at running the latest software. Otherwise, it’s really tough to get your money out of them.

Dell also SOMETIMES has good deals on these in the refurbs as well, but inventory is dicey. I also like the Sony VAIO line, they really pack it in. I would specifically recommend against anything Toshiba. Compaq is a fine laptop, and upgraded, should service you well for years to come. But remember, as they add new lines, they will phase old ones out, and upgrades may no longer be available down the road. So, again, I wouldn’t cancel the order.

Re: the bully comes to kick sand in the face… - Posted by Jim Locker

Posted by Jim Locker on January 10, 2001 at 09:07:46:

I agree with about every word of this post. Ergonomically as well, all laptops s*ck compared to a desktop.

I have 7 computers in daily use. None of them is a laptop. I don’t own (or need) a laptop…though I keep thinking about it for when I travel…