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Questions to ask when buying a computer

I had a conversation with someone having computer issues, so he’s thinking about buying a new one. He went to my favorite store, but one thing he said got me thinking about questions to ask when buying a computer.

“I’m not convinced all the people there know what they’re talking about,” he said.

Fair enough. And that doesn’t matter when I’m doing the shopping, but not everyone is me. So here’s what you need to know if this isn’t what you do for a living.

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Review: X-Kim GPTL-00A

I think the last time I saw a halfway original idea for a game was around 1992. Everything I’ve seen since then has just been a re-hash of something old, with incrementally better graphics to make it prettier to look at, better AI to make the game harder to beat, and perhaps a new setting.

So I don’t play a lot of games. And when I do, I’d rather play an old game for an old system, which of convenience’s sake usually means running an emulator. But video games on a keyboard–even a really good keyboard–isn’t much fun, so I bought myself a cheap USB game controller.

Read More »Review: X-Kim GPTL-00A

Analysis: Samsung “green” memory

I was at Micro Center today, picking up CD jewel cases and USB flash memory and a cheap USB game pad. And to buy a little extra time–I had one son with me and the other was home napping–I wandered around. In the memory aisle, I spotted some Samsung “green” memory. Manufactured with a 40nm process instead of the usual 60nm process, the modules are 2/3 the size of conventional modules, run cooler, and use up to 47% less power.

Is it worth paying extra for? As always, it depends.

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How to decide if a computer upgrade will pay for itself in power savings

I occasionally read an offhand comment where someone says he or she just bought a new computer, and the new computer is so much more power efficient than the old one, it’s going to pay for itself.

I wonder if they did the math, or if that’s what the salesperson told them. Because while I can see circumstances where that assertion would be true, but it typically would involve extremes, like replacing an aged Pentium 4 computer with, well, a netbook. They probably didn’t do that.

Part of the reason I got into computers professionally was because I was tired of hearing lies from salespeople and technicians. So let’s just take a look at this claim.
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Farquhar discovers power-sipping AMD Fusion motherboards

AMD just announced its next-generation Fusion CPU/GPU combo. I’m not quite comfortable with AMD’s APU (Accelerated Processing Unit) moniker, because CPU-GPU integration isn’t about speed so much as it’s about reducing price and power consumption. This version of Fusion is intended to compete with mainstream Intel CPUs. Pricing isn’t available yet.

And that reminded me to go look and see what’s going on with first-generation AMD Fusion motherboards. I’m not so much interested in Fusion as a netbook/low-end notebook solution as I am for a power-sipping PC. Looking at the reviews online, it looks like I’m not alone in that. I don’t think I can afford to run multiple 750-watt fire-breathing dragons at home, and I don’t think I’m the only one. Give me a cool, quiet PC that doesn’t get bogged down in Visio, and I’m happy.
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The rise and fall of Shack, and how to fix it

Wired has a nostalgic piece on the not-quite-late, not-quite-great Radio Shack. I think it’s a good article, but it glosses over part of the reason for the store’s decline.

It blames computers.But blaming computers ignores Tandy’s long and successful run in that industry. Most Apple fanatics and other revisionist historians conveniently overlook this, but when Apple launched the Apple II in 1977, Tandy and Commodore were right there with competing offerings. I don’t know about Apple, but Tandy and Commodore were selling their machines faster than they could make them.

Read More »The rise and fall of Shack, and how to fix it