Re: Telecommuters: laptop or desktop?

Subject: Re: Telecommuters: laptop or desktop?
From: Sandy Harris <pashley -at- storm -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 30 Jul 2002 10:43:26 -0400

Jeffrey Osier-Mixon wrote:
> Question for telecommuters, particularly contractors who visit customer
> sites on occasion---do you use/prefer a desktop machine or a laptop with
> docking station?

> My favorite option, of course, is a solid desktop machine at home
> attached to all of the peripherals I have accumulated, and a desktop (or
> tablet PC, whee) to take to customer sites, but I don't know if I can
> afford both.

Consider a cheap used laptop. There are plenty of machines on the
market that are perfectly adequate for many tasks. I recently paid under
$1000 for a laptop with good 15" 1024x768 screen, P II 366 and 256 megs.
You can get a more limited machine for $200.

> Extra question: for those who buy or build their own equipment, would
> you recommend I go out and spend for a pre-built (Dell or similar and
> bask in the warranty), or save at least 50% by building my own? This
> obviously applies to desktops only.

[The following is not unbiased; I've worked in various computer shops.]

I doubt you'd save 50%, or even close to it.

Find a good PC shop in your area. They'll beat Dell or Compaq prices
by a fair bit, be more willing to customize for your requirements,
and offer local service. The only trick is finding the good ones,
and the only way to do that is to ask around among your technical
friends. Look for a company that has been in business for a while
and has happy customers. Avoid the ones whose main sales pitch is
super-low prices; they may use inferior parts, or may go out of

Such companies will be pretty flexible about selling you partial
systems and you might save a few bucks by shopping around, here
a video card, there a disk drive, ... Of course, just telling
shop A that shop B offers that part for $25 less may induce
them to match the price.

Something I've seen far too often is the idiot obsessed with
saving money who buys, say, a CPU from me, memory across the
street ($10 cheaper), motherboard across town ($15), puts it
together and finds it doesn't work. He brings it to me,
claiming warranty problems. I groan, and give it to our
technician, who pops the CPU into another board and says its
fine. I hand the CPU back and quote a rate for technician
time for any further work. Idiot storms out, cursing me for
lousy service, off to bother the guys who sold him other
parts, waste their technicians' time too.

Of course, that isn't the worst case. What if the CPU goes
up in smoke? If it was a defective part, I should replace
it on warranty, but what if a motherboard defect or an
error in the assembly blew it up? How can you tell which
it was?

He saved $25 by buying the pieces in three different
stores. He'd have been far better off paying the extra
few $ for an assembled tested board/CPU/RAM subsystem
at any of the three. That, I can warranty.

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Telecommuters: laptop or desktop?: From: Jeffrey Osier-Mixon

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