We went out and bought a new computer last week, a Hewlett Packard Pavilion a450n, for US$1,000. This is not a souped-up game machine, but it is a souped-up home and small-business computer. And get this: It was the most expensive computer in the store. Which leads us to a modest suggestion …
you’re thinking of buying a new computer, why not buy two or three? In fact, why not buy two or three even if you’re not thinking about getting a new computer? They’re cheap. You can get a pretty nice new computer, from eMachines, say, which now belongs to Gateway, for less than US$300. If you move up to US$400 you can get something that would have been considered hot stuff just a couple of years ago. Think about it: You can get a nice IBM-compatible computer for the price of an overnight stay in a downtown hotel in a big city. Or it’s about the same as the price of a couple of good tickets plus parking and eats at any major-league sporting event.
Our reasoning on multiple computers is simple: Isolate the work you need to do, the important work. It’s too valuable to be at risk on a computer that’s used for other purposes. It should not be at risk for viruses, hijacking, spyware, pop-up ads, lockups, video games, whatever. We’re talking about a computer for writing, handling your finances, portfolio analysis, business plans, etc. It is never to be used for games, and downloading little utility programs from shareware sites should be done seldom and with caution.
It can be connected to the Internet, and for some purposes it needs to be. When you collect your e-mail, do not open attachments. While you can get a virus in other forms, particularly Word documents, attachments are the most common method of transmission. Companies that send us attachments are wasting their time; they will not be read.
This is not a 100 percent-guaranteed secure situation, but it’s a reasonably good one. This column is written on an isolated computer, for example, and it has never had a problem. For $300, how can you beat it?
Back to that Hewlett Packard Pavilion computer we mentioned at the beginning of the column: This thing is a jewel. For a little less than $1,000 it has a three gigahertz Pentium 4, a 160 gigabyte hard drive, 512 MB of RAM, a CD/DVD read/write drive, another drive just for CDs and nVidia high-performance graphics. It comes with so much software that you may never need to buy anything else; the keyboard has extra buttons that immediately link to the Internet, to support, e-mail, shopping, etc. Push the camera button and immediately see thumbnails of all your stored photos. It also has an automatic “”system restore”” function in case things lock up.
This impressed the netherworld out of us, and was the greatest buy since our first rubber-tire tricycle. Tech support is available 24 hours a day, every day, and they actually seemed competent. Would we get another one? Sure. (By the way, we don’t own any HP stock and don’t know a soul at the company.) Web info: www.hp.com.
BACK IT UP, SHIP IT OUT
Even if the computer that holds all your important work is isolated from external attacks, it could still crash. What? Who said that?
Alas, it happens. So you gotta back everything up. We’re working with the “”ABSplus”” backup system and, as the guy falling off a 40-story building once said when he was halfway down, “”So far, so good.””
ABSplus comes as a package deal, combining “”BounceBack”” software with an external backup drive. Prices range from $219-$399, depending on the size of the included backup drive (20 to 80 GB). But actually, it’s the software that matters; you can buy a backup drive on your own if you don’t want the package deal. BounceBack software by itself is $79.
Still, the package deal is nice. If you buy the laptop version, the pocket-size backup drive that comes with it draws its juice from the laptop itself. A bootable CD comes in the package, so you can restart the computer even if the internal hard drive is trash.
Using ABSplus for backup is, in Joy’s words, “”a dream.”” Easy, simple, reliable, classy and maybe a little expensive, but that’s life. You can get more info at the maker’s Web site: www.cmsproducts.com.
A CHIP OFF THE OLD PDA
SanDisk just came out with a 256 MB memory chip that has its own wireless receiver. The combination receiver and memory chip is about the size and shape of half a stick of chewing gum and is designed to fit into most popular PDAs, except for Palm. Information coming into the PDA from the Internet or an external wireless device, like a wireless camera, can go directly into the memory chip, without first being downloaded into the PDA.
The chip has the unwieldy but descriptive name of “”SanDisk 256MB+WiFi”” and has a list price of $130. This is a remarkable piece of miniaturization; the chip even has its own tiny on/off switch. More info at www.sandisk.com.</