Re: Hanukkah came early this year

Subject: Re: Hanukkah came early this year
From: Samuel -dot- Beard -at- tdcj -dot- state -dot- tx -dot- us
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 08:45:01 -0500

Hey Dan,

My boss is offering to buy me a new machine, with the understanding that
we'll save money by not buying the latest and greatest -- which is fine by

Congratulations!! Not an easy sell in these times.

My main question has to do with processor speed and RAM. I work primarily
in Word, often with files over 1 MB -- ranging in size up to 6.5 MB. My
secondary applications are Visio and Excel. I expect in the future to also
get back to Dreamweaver and PaintShop Pro -- in the case of the latter only
on graphics for manuals and Web sites, *not* huge files for brochures and

You might consider the graphics card for the machine, as well. It would
probably be a pretty good idea to make sure you have at least a 32MB card
with the PaintShop Pro and Dreamweaver files you'll be working on.

My instinct is to say, don't worry about the processor (Dell's cheapest is
a Celeron at 2.0GHz), but I would like a full gig of RAM to keep Word
happy. Any thoughts on this? Also, any thoughts on video cards, upgrade
capabilities, etc.?

Personally, for a Windows machine, I would stay away from a Celeron
processor for what you plan on doing. Celeron is Intel's lowest-level chip
line and as such can't compare to a Pentium chip. For a Celeron to come
close to equaling the performance of a Pentium, the chip rating would need
to be considerably higher (something along the lines of a 1.8 GHz Celeron
equaling a 1.2 GHz Pentium (however, don't quote me on those numbers!)).
Consider going with an AMD chip. Many of their chips are cheaper than a
comparable Intel chip (hence, a cheaper computer price) while providing
better performance, for a given chip rating, than an Intel chip. See above
on the video card comments and don't worry much about upgrade capabilities
as most of the Windows machines you'll likely be considering have all the
upgrade possibilities you would need (i.e., number of PCI slots, most
likely, the amount of max RAM, additional drive slots, et al). Considering
the size of files you're talking about, I would say that 1 GB of RAM would
be a minimum. With RAM prices relatively low, you might even be able to go
higher (1.5 GB or so).

I also plan to ask for a CD-RW, which is my preferred method for daily
backup. I am not worried about hard drive size, as 30 GB seems to be the
smallest standard size and that's plenty for me. I am keeping the old Acer
77e 17" monitor, hoping that when it dies I can plead for a flat-panel.

Yes, a CD-RW would be a minimum, as well. Again, consider getting a
DVD-RW, at least at a later date. Seems like DVD-RW's are rapidly replacing
CD-RW's for availability. The media is still a bit higher in cost, as are
the drives. However, they also hold considerably more data than a CD-RW. My
thinking is that within two years or so, you'll be hard-pressed to find a
CD drive on a new computer. Besides, a DVD drive can play all CD's as well
as DVD's.
As for monitors, flat-panels are not yet capable of doing color-control
to the level of precision as a good quality CRT. If that's not a concern
for you in your graphics work, then consider getting the flat panel later.
If it IS a concern, then make sure that the graphics card you get can
handle dual monitors with enough RAM in it to provide a good level of
depth. That way, you could still get your flat panel later and use it for
most of your work, while still having a CRT available for the graphics
work. Good quality flat panel monitors DO relieve eye strain for most, if
not all, people and are generally easier to read/view for long periods of
time, as long as you keep in mind the resolution setting the flat panel is
designed to optimally support. Changing your resolution to something
smaller generally decreases the readability.

HTH and YMMV, as always.


Samuel I. Beard, Jr.
Technical Writer, Human Resources
Texas Department of Criminal Justice

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