It seems that as soon as you buy a new computer, something even better comes along. It's impossible to keep your equipment "state of the art" without buying a new machine every month, but when is it really time to upgrade? Do you need to purchase a "new" computer or can you get by with upgrading your current machine? Let's start with when you need to look at this issue.
As computer technology improves, the available resources (faster processors, larger hard drives, and so forth), programmers quickly fill the gap and take advantage of these new capabilities. These new capabilities allow them to build programs that do more and provide you with more information. If you're still using the same software that came with your computer and have not upgraded any of it, chances are you're missing out on a lot of new features available. If you want to get the latest updates to the software you use, or get new software, you will need to consider whether your current computer can run it efficiently or not. If you're spending a lot of time looking at the screen waiting for the computer to process data, it's probably time to consider upgrading your computer.
trading vs. buying new
If your current hard drive, modem, and other accessories are meeting your needs and do not need to be upgraded you can probably get away with simply upgrading your computer. In most cases, however, by the time your processor is out of date, so also are your other components. If this is the case you might as well purchase a new computer, as the cost of adding a new processor, hard drive, modem, etc. will put the cost of the upgrade within a few hundred dollars of a new computer. You should talk with someone at a local computer shop about the cost of upgrading and what you actually need to perform the tasks you want. Just keep in mind that salesmen are in the business of selling–so try to seek advice from a serviceman rather than a salesman about what you actually need.
While the Intel Pentium remains the most popular processor around, the newer K6 and Celeron processors both offer comparable performance at a much lower cost. Much of what you're paying for with a Pentium processor is the name, so if you go shopping for an upgrade or a new computer, check out the prices on machines with these alternate processors.
Using the Internet
If you currently have access to the Internet, there are several online sources for computer shopping which offer much better deals than you'll find in the general marketplace. A surplus (or factory refurbished) computer may easily meet or exceed your current needs and can be purchased for hundreds of dollars less than a new stock item off the shelf in a computer store. At the time of this writing, www. egghead.com had a Celeron, 366mgz, with a 4.3g hard drive, CD-ROM, soundboard, 56K modem and Windows 98 for $599.00. This is a new computer and includes the same factory warranty that it would carry in a store. This is just one example. There are many others and many other online stores in which you can shop. There are also a variety of auction boards available online where you can bid on items. Just be careful and don't get caught up in the excitement of the moment and pay more than an item is worth.
What an upgrade will mean
In terms of processing power, each hardware upgrade roughly doubles the speed of the previous processor. If you're currently using a 486 computer and upgrade to a Pentium II, K6, or Celeron, your new computer will instantly process data that takes your 486 as much as 30 seconds or more to do. If you currently have a 486, you need to upgrade your computer. If you're currently using a Pentium, you'll need to upgrade soon. For those with Pentium IIs, if your processor is running at 200mgz or higher, you probably won't need to upgrade in the near future. Before you take the plunge, find out what you need to do the job you want to perform. Overbuying is foolish, as the technology may change before you outgrow the computer.
If you'd like some help in determining what you need, you can e-mail us with as much information as you can provide. Tell us what you'd like to do and what software you'd like to install. We'll be happy to help you define your minimum system requirements.
Until next month–be safe.
On the Net
Sharon Board maintains our featured site this month. Sharon worked for many years at a fuel desk in North Bend, WA, and found many drivers asking her for directions to shippers and receivers in the area. She started a book of directions, which has continued to grow over the years. Sharon now has these directions (along with many other items of interest to truckers) available on her website: http://sharonb.hypermart.net
Our next site is by a trucker's wife, who has put together a fun and interesting site. This site uses the new welcome.to address that we mentioned last issue. Stop by and say hi at http://welcome.to/truckstop .
In keeping with the subject of this month's column, here are some online shopping and auction sites that you might want to check out. If you're shopping online, be sure to check several of these sites and compare their prices. You can usually save yourself some money by shopping around. This is just a small sampling of what's available. To find more online stores enter "computer hardware" in your favorite search engine and go browsing: www.egghead.com offers an online store, a surplus store and an auction board, www.ubid2.comoffers an online auction, www.pickadw.com offers an online discount store and www.computers4sure.comoffers an online discount store.