Need some advice from the computer gurus.

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Thread: Need some advice from the computer gurus.

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array maclean3's Avatar
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    Need some advice from the computer gurus.

    Well, the computer I've had since 1995 kicked the bucket a few months back ... amazing, ain't it? It was a 1st gen. 100 Meg Pentium with a whoppin' 1.2 Gig HD.

    Anyway, we did okay on the tax refund this year so my wife said I could take part of the money and get a new computer (I think she's tired of me using hers). I looked around online for the last couple of days and the closest system I found to what I wanted was a Refurb Gateway notebook -- I didn't really want XP but I refused to buy Vista. It originally listed for $650 but I extended the warranty a bit and with tax, S & H it came to about $875 -- I feel pretty good about the deal.
    Okay, here's the specs:

    Operating System: Genuine Microsoft® Windows® XP Media Center Edition

    Processor: Intel® 1.6GHz Core Processor Duo

    Keyboard: Keyboard with touchpad

    Display: 15.0" WXGA TFT Active Matrix

    Pointing Device: EZ® Pad

    Memory: 1024MB RAM

    Drive: 80GB Hard Drive

    Optical Drive: DVD/CDRW Combo Drive

    Application Software: Microsoft® Works 8.5

    Video Card: Integrated Video

    Sound Card: Integrated Sound

    Speakers: Integrated Speakers

    Floppy: Floppy Drive Not Included

    Modem: 56k Integrated Modem²

    Network Card: Integrated 10/100 Ethernet

    Wireless Network Adapter: Integrated 802.11b/g Wireless Networking

    Expansion Slots: One Type II PC Card Slot

    Battery: Included


    Here's where I need advice from you guys. I need to add Excel and Word but don't need the rest of the bundled MS Office proggies, Should I buy them individually or is there a better option? I also need really good AV and firewall programs. I'm leaning toward MacAfee for that because I like their AV protection and interface but I'm not sure how good their firewall stuff is. What do you guys recommend for firewall protection? I'll be sticking with dial-up at first but plan on going with a wireless router and high-speed connection when finances improve.
    Thanks guys,
    Jack

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  3. #2
    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    If money's tight, consider bagging the extended warranty and then putting that money into a decent hardware firewall device, such as the SonicWall SOHO3 or TZ150. That plus MacAfee AV should do well. Though, if going mobile, you'll want one you can take with you, such as software products instead of the hardware firewall. Your choice.

    Other than forking out the cash for the Microsoft Office suite, you could consider going the route of the freebie Google Docs (online) products, freebie email via Yahoo or Google, etc.
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  4. #3
    VIP Member Array maclean3's Avatar
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    Thanks for the tips. My wife and I have both fried motherboards on our computers at different times so I'm more than willing to pay for a little protection there. Gateway's refurbs come standard with a 90 day, no on-site warranty. I just bumped it up to one year on-site to be safe, well worth $99 to me.

    I'll check into the Sonicware options and see what they offer. I was looking at a MacAfee bundle package that had AV, spyware blocker, firewall, etc. It's not too outrageously priced so I might see what "the boss" thinks about that one as well.
    Jack

  5. #4
    Member Array Smooth23's Avatar
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    Not a wonderful price for a refurb. In fact you should be able to find equal product new at the same price. Don't shy away from vista, its pretty nice once you get used to it, and IMO seems more designed for laptops than desktops. Oh, and if available, you might want to spring for an extended battery, they're pricey if you buy them alone, real pricey.

  6. #5
    VIP Member Array SammyIamToday's Avatar
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    Don't waste your money on a software firewall. They don't really do anything worth note, just be smart about your web browsing. Use a non-IE browser (Opera is great) and watch what you click yes to.

    Software firewalls still allow packets to get to your box and block it logically not at another network point. At which point imo, it's pretty sub-par protection since your actual machine is still being touched. Since you'll be on dial-up at first, you'll have the strength of a different ip address every time you connect and the slow connection speed should make you a small target for hackers (although most people are very small targets anyway despite what the security industry sells you). Buy a good anti-virus and be smart. When you do upgrade to broadband, make sure you get a router that uses NAT. That increases your security a lot. Better yet is a router that includes a firewall and uses NAT.

    As far as getting word and excel individually I didn't even know you could do that. I guess it would be better in the long run since you don't want the whole suite, but it might cost a little more money on the whole. I get office via work, so not up to speed on what it costs. Of course there is always pirate bay.
    ...He suggested that "every American citizen" should own a rifle and train with it on firing ranges "at every courthouse." -Chesty Puller

  7. #6
    Senior Member Array Daddy Warcrimes's Avatar
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    Instead of MS office try Open Office. For word processing and spreadsheets I find it works just as well (and it's free). It also does powerpoint and has a database (I do prefer Access though).
    For Windows, I go with Norton's Symantec over McAfee. I can get both for free through the Army and Symantec seems to use less memory. I really don't use it much since I've learned how to avoid viruses. If you really want to be virus/spyware/adware free, don't use Windows. I think there is about 10 viruses for Linux compared to the thousands for Windows (and not nearly as severe). I recommend Ubuntu Linux as an alternative to Windows. You can have 2 OSs boot from the same machine without any problem. Oh yeah, it's free too.
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    If you can call yourself a teacher or student, Microsoft has some deep discounts for their Office stuff you might check into. Another alternative I have heard good things about is http://www.openoffice.org/ It is about 100 megs of free software very similar to the Office products.

    I use Symantec (Norton) AV and Firewall and have had good luck with them for about 7 years, the last year with DSL. I have never used McAfee or a hardware firewall, so I can't do any comparisons for you there.

    For what it's worth, that's my 2 cents.
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    Senior Member Array briansmech's Avatar
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    most dial up services offer free AV and firewall services, nowadays.

    MS Office Student edition/Home Edition arent so expensive, and include powerpoint, which you'll regret not having. cost for the suite is ~$100.

    MSOffice Basic has excel, and is about 120.

    thats for 2007. you can sometimes find older versions at staples and stuff for cheaper.

  10. #9
    Senior Member Array Zundfolge's Avatar
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    +1 on OpenOffice.

    As for AV, McAfee and Norton are both bloated, expensive programs that really don't do the best job of keeping viruses off your computer.

    Get AVG. Its free. http://free.grisoft.com (their anti spyware software is nice too ... only downside is its shareware, not 100% free).

    My parents were Norton users for years (even kept their subscriptions paid up). When I removed Norton and installed AVG it found over 60 different viruses on their computer!


    Or, now is as good a time as any to make the leap away from Windows to Linux. http://www.ubuntu.com/

  11. #10
    Member Array ptmmatssc's Avatar
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    http://www.tigerdirect.com/applicati...882&CatId=2510

    If I was to use windows I'd get something like this for myself . I went another route for my PCs . I got a couple laptops that were totally fragged as far as the OS and just wiped them out and installed a couple different flavors of linux. So far the only thing that I have spent any money on (other than the initial cost) is a router/firewall. Use open office vs microsoft office , gimp , and a slew of other free software . total cost for 2 laptops and 1 tower (excluding router , monitor ) was around $650 . The tower I use most of the time was free (AMD sempron 3200 , 1 gig PC2700 , 80 gig HD , TDK 52X burner , 16 X DVD rom , ) . Got it from my mother-in-law after it died due to a lightning strike . All I did was replace the power supply and been running it ever since (currently with Linux Mint) .

  12. #11
    VIP Member Array packinnova's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smooth23 View Post
    Not a wonderful price for a refurb. In fact you should be able to find equal product new at the same price. Don't shy away from vista, its pretty nice once you get used to it, and IMO seems more designed for laptops than desktops. Oh, and if available, you might want to spring for an extended battery, they're pricey if you buy them alone, real pricey.
    What is this Vista blasphemy you speak of ? Yeah sure it works great...if you have loads of resources for it to hog... Why is it that it needs dual core cpu and a gig of ram just for the darn thing to work out of the box? You darn windoze asta la vista people!
    "My God David, We're a Civilized society."

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    Member Array MSGTTBAR's Avatar
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    Before you spend $ on software, at least try the free stuff available on line such as:
    OPEN OFFICE- decent w/p
    ZONE ALARM FREE - as good a firewall as any
    AVG FREE- Really good anti virus
    SPYBOT S&D - spyware removal tool
    ADAWARE - another spyware removal tool
    SPYWARE BLASTER - spyware tool
    STARTUP CONTROL PANEL - at mlin.net self explanatory you'll love it
    EULALYZER - interpret those pesky licensing agreements
    FREERAM XP PRO - use ONLY if you need help managing memory
    FRESH DIAGNOSE - from freshdevices benchmark and computer info

    Most of these are available from pcworld.com/downloads
    Life is too short to be serious!

  14. #13
    VIP Member Array SammyIamToday's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by packinnova View Post
    What is this Vista blasphemy you speak of ? Yeah sure it works great...if you have loads of resources for it to hog... Why is it that it needs dual core cpu and a gig of ram just for the darn thing to work out of the box? You darn windoze asta la vista people!
    Yeah, I refuse to upgrade to Vista because of the ridiculous RAM requirements. My home rig has 2 gigs (it's built for gaming) and I'm not going to give a gig up just to run an OS that doesn't give me anything more really.

    Perhaps when DX 10 releases it will be almost worth it.
    ...He suggested that "every American citizen" should own a rifle and train with it on firing ranges "at every courthouse." -Chesty Puller

  15. #14
    VIP Member Array maclean3's Avatar
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    Okay, lots of responses, thanks for that. I need Excel and Word because there may be times when my wife uses the system to telecommute and those programs are critical to what she dose. Having a "similar" program, even one that translates Word or Excel, isn't an option. That's why I asked if there was a better option that buying stand alone or the full MS Office package. I'm also relatively proficient with both programs and have existing files that I'd prefer to keep in the original format. Neither of us are required to prepare presentations so there isn't much use for Powerpoint, though the student edition of MSO may be the closest option to what I'm looking
    for... don't even get me started on Outlook.

    Adaware, Spybot, Stinger and a few other small programs are already resident on my wife's system and will likewise be uploaded on the new system, that's already been planned for. I'm comfortable with McAfee's AV program and to a lesser extent with Norton/Symantec so I'm looking at either McAfee Total Protection or Norton 360 for bundled package that, when used along with the previous freeware, will the best protection for data miners, tracking cookies and malicious content in a relatively affordable bundle that also includes a basic firewall. The firewall itself isn't immediately imperative as this will be on dial-up service at first but if it's already bundled in a package with other stuff I want, I might as well put it to use. Any AV program will miss problem files here and there, that why I use a reliable program and augment it with freeware stuff. You'd be surprised at the orphan files McAfee Powercleaner finds on systems after using Windows' uninstall program - on a 1 Mg HD those orphan files translate to lots of recoverable disk space.
    Jack

  16. #15
    Distinguished Member Array LenS's Avatar
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    First question? WHY a laptop?

    • If you commute a lot, laptops are OK. But if it will sit on a desk, laptops are a very bad solution. Here's why:
    • Heat management is a real issue/challenge in laptops. Thus, they always have a shorter lifespan than a desktop.
    • Upgradability - new modem, NIC, video card, etc. usually isn't possible/practical in a laptop; but feasible for a desktop.
    • Cost - due to compromises in design of laptops, they always cost more than a comparable desktop.
    • Ergonomics - working on the small keyboard, no practical keypad, etc. is a drag for more than short periods of time. Yes you can add off-board substitutes, but why spend more money to make a desktop out of a laptop?


  17. I'd recommend looking for a good desktop. Check the Sunday fliers and online e-tailers with sales from the usual suspects: Best Buy, CompUSA (assuming any stores still exist where you are), Micro Center (also check online sales), Tiger Direct, Office Max, Staples, Office Depot, Circuit City, etc.

    You could buy a lot more powerful desktop than that for less money, large (19-20") LCD screen and even if it came with Vista you could downgrade to XP if you wanted to.

    AV: I would not let McAfee within 50' of any of my machines or those of my clients. Ditto for Norton/Symantec! Computer Associates and Trend Micro make good products that don't kill your machine. AVG Free is also excellent and I highly recommend it.

    Spyware: Microsoft Defender (free), Ad-Aware Free (you run it weekly), SpyBot are all good.

    Firewall: NAT firewall on router (especially for broadband) and ZoneAlarm Free for the software side.
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