Re: hardware needed for contractors

Subject: Re: hardware needed for contractors
From: "Doug, Data Librarian at Ext 4225" <engstromdd -at- PHIBRED -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 5 May 1994 14:03:53 -0500

Caryn writes:

For the last year I have been contracting on site, and I want to
start doing more work at home. I am looking for a new computer
system but get more confused as to what I should buy that would
give me the most flexibility to run lots of different software
to accomodate clients' needs.

NOTE: The following advice represents blatant personal prejudices based on my
own experience and that of friends and relatives, as well as industry and
hallway gossip. It does not represent corporate policy or systematic inquiry
into the question.

1) Does anyone have or know much about the Mac Power PC? Is
it worth getting?

Put me down as a skeptic. First we heard "Will run Mac and PC programs" then
"will run most Mac and PC programs" then "Will run most Mac and PC programs but
you need a specially-written OS for optimum performance" and then...

I think Consumer Union's injunction on new products ("Never buy the initial
release of anything" or words to that effect) applies here. My mind could be
changed by someone reporting actual, down-and-dirty experience with using a
wide variety of Mac and Windows apps on a daily basis, but until then, "caveat

To mangle an old quote: "People who like sausage and trust software should
never watch either one being made."

2) What about UNIX? What is the best way to run on unix from
a mac or pc?

Not my area

3) How much memory do I need, megabytes, etc?

Experience here (Pioneer Hi-Bred, eight writers) has been that WinWord 6.0 seems
to need about 6 meg of RAM to run comfortably; 8 is better if you like to have
other stuff open at the same time. I have 16 and only occasionally run out of
RAM, usually when doing something really excessive.

Probably as important as the RAM you get is the RAM you can add. I'd pay as
much as a couple hundred more for a machine that would go to 32 MB on the
motherboard using currently-available chips. (If you buy into a maximum RAM
size predicated on higher-capacity chips, you will probably have to replace all
the chips you purchase with the machine to reach system max.) Each new software
release seems to be more of a system pig than the one that preceded it; do I
mark myself out as ancient by saying that my first word processor (Paperclip)
ran in 48K?

By the way, don't count on virtual memory (hard disk space converted to act
like RAM) as a long-term solution. My experience has been that it noticably
slows the system, which is the last thing you need. It's a reasonable
temporaray solution when you've just got to have more RAM for a limited period,
but in the long run it will make you crazy.

As for hard disk size, the best method I ever heard was "Predict the absolute
maximum possible amount of storage you can *ever* imagine yourself using over
the life of the machine, then double that."

Particularly if you're looking at multiple, big apps (like word processors)
you're going to need *lots* of hard disk acreage.

4) What about os/2? Is anyone finding a need to have that installed?

While this will probably bring OS/2 fanatics out of the woodwork to hurl
invective at me, my experience is that OS/2 is largely confined to a few niches
(such as corporate applications development tools) and its share is fading
even there. Unless you are planning to support such a niche, I wouldn't worry
about it.

What would be a basic setup? What would be the like to have setup?

Allow me, right here, to reiterate the disclaimer in the note at the start of
this message. This is *my opinion* not universal truth; I'm sure other list
members will take issue with some or all of my recommendations. Also, this is
predicated on the assumption that you're going to actually earn income with
this setup, not just putter with it.

For home work, I would lean toward a fast 486DX system, say 66Mhz or so. Pay a
little extra for the possibility of a Pentium upgrade in the future, but
remember they'll be selling Pentium boxes for $1,000 in a year or so. 16 meg of
RAM if possible, 8 if the budget is getting tight. Hold out for being able to
upgrade to 32 meg with current chips, even if it means paying more.

As for brands, I've always had tremendous respect for Compaq engineering, but I
can't really justify the extra price for a home system. However, I *would* pay
for a major label such as AST, Gateway, Dell, etc. as opposed to "Fred's
Computers." The bottom feeders use a constantly-shifting array of parts
suppliers, sometimes resulting in subtle compatibility and reliability problems
that are exasperating to deal with.

As for mail order vs local, I suggest this simple test. If you think you could
locate, remove and replace your video card or hard disk unassisted, (and
wouldn't feel abused at having to do so) you can handle mail order. If not, get
to know your friendly neighborhood computer store. I would temper this somewhat
if I had experience with an on-site service plan. If they actually perform as
advertised, then anybody can go the mail order route; until I see it work,
I'm skeptical.

200-300 meg hard drive minimum, unless you want to go for a removable system
like Bernoulli (for a consultant, I could see some *major* advantages to going
this route). If you go the fixed disk route, and thus have lots of your work
and client data on your system, spring for a tape drive and some decent software
to go with it (not the crud they ship with the typical drive). Floppy backup is
cheaper, but the key to a successful backup program is to do it, and if you have
tapes you will, and if you have floppies you'll always put it off. If it saves
your butt only once, it pays for itself.

CD ROMS are neater than neat, but unless you're dependent on CD-based
references, they go in the "nice to have" category.

If you're doing paper docs, an oversize monitor is a must; it will pay for
itself in savings in time, aggrivation and printing. Color is not an absolute
necessity unless you do online work, but it is *really* nice to have. I've
always been very impressed with the NEC Multisync family, but if you're really
tight-budget, go with a cheaper brand. HOWEVER take a good, long look at the
image quality first, and remember you're going to be staring at this thing for
hours on end.

Two words on printers: Hewlett-Packard. They're reliable, they're
state-of-the-art and they're universally supported. Shut up and pay the
premium (I said this reflected my personal prejudices, didn't I?).

If you print a great deal (for example: proofreading on paper) and have a heavy
volume of business, go for one of those personal Laserjets. If volume is light
and the budget is tight, think about an inkjet.

According to the pricing information I have, a 486/66DX from a "second tier"
manufacturer, equipped with a 340MB hard drive, 8 meg of RAM, NEC Multisync 5FGE
monitor, tape drive, mouse, Windows and DOS should cost about $3,700-$4,000 new,
with a one-year warranty. Figure another $1,000 or so for a laser printer,
$300-$450 for an inkjet. That's a lot of money, but if you're going to earn a
living with it, it pays to get good-quality stuff. (by the way, these numbers
are approximations, good only for a "ballpark estimate") You can save a great
deal by going for used equipment, although this requires somewhat greater
shopping skills than buying new.

Previous by Author: Re: To be or not: An E-prime inquiry
Next by Author: Re: hardware needed for contractors
Previous by Thread: hardware needed for contractors
Next by Thread: Re: hardware needed for contractors

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads