Good Tech is Better Than More Tech – Part 1: Think Before You Buy

We’ve mentioned in the past why you should get rid of your old technology – it’s essentially a weight that’s holding you down and keeping you from eliminating the clutter that I know we all have in our lives, and we’ve also discussed some of the things you can do with that old gear if you absolutely must hang on to that ancient Pentium III that’s propping up one of the legs of your desk, but now I want to dive into a new series that debunks a common geekly myth: that somehow having more gear is the same as having good gear.

Seriously guys – this isn’t Blade Runner, the technology we have out here in the real world doesn’t let you somehow tie together a half-dozen really cruddy computers with no processing ability and suddenly turn them into a massive supercomputer that can take on the highest of the high-end systems that are on the market Malia Juventus today. (And before you say anything, yes I’m familiar with clustered systems and grid computing – that still doesn’t turn trash into treasure overnight, and it still doesn’t mean you can build your own cluster for free using spit, bailing wire, and your own ingenuity. Your ingenuity may save you from spending on a system you don’t need, but we’ll get to that later.)

There comes a point when – assuming you’re ready to do this, of course – you have to realize that the half-dozen systems on your desk simply aren’t doing the job they could be doing, and that you can only use so many computers at the same time. At that moment of realization, that epiphany, that’s when you should head out and pick up something new, shiny, and probably three times as powerful as all of your old gear put together, and it’s time to relegate the old gear to another hopefully useful purpose or send it off to be recycled.

Before you go on that starry-eyed, new-rig-fueled shopping rage, you should probably make a point to streamline the tech you have to match up with the things you do and the things you want to do. That way you’re not running out and spending money on gear that you won’t use, appreciate, or utilize to its full potential.

In our first segment, we’ll get you to think critically about the tech you’re planning to buy versus the tech you’re interested in to make sure you’re not repeating a history of clutter and too much gear. In the next segments, we’ll go bargain shopping, look at gear for common needs, and debate the merits of less tech that’s beefy versus more tech that’s specialized.

The first thing you should do when you find yourself sitting in front of a desk that’s decked out in CRTs and old desktops that just can’t keep up with the apps you want to run and the upgrades that you’ve downloaded for them since you started using them three years ago is determine what’s most important to you in your computer.

I usually give people this advice when they come to me asking what kind of new system they should buy. I answer the question with another question: “Well, what do you want to do with it?” Undoubtedly they waffle, unclear of exactly what tasks take up the most of their computing time and their computing resources. It’s important to note that those two things are very different – sometimes the most resource intensive things aren’t necessarily the ones that take the most time for you.

For example, someone who does a lot of Web design and writes their pages from scratch or uses a hosted content management solution may not need a super-powerful machine just to take with them and do that on the go, but when they need to fire up PhotoShop and design the graphics and logos for those sites, they’ll probably appreciate a llittle extra horsepower under the hood to tap when it counts.

Everyone usually answers the question with “I don’t know, surf the Web, maybe play a few games, and listen to music,” things that everyone does, but if you’re in the place where you’re thinking about new system to replace your old gear, or new systems to replace your old ones, think about what those systems do for you, and how those things tax your computer.

For example, if you’re a huge video encoding fiend and shoot tons of home videos that you want on YouTube or want to burn to DVD and send to family and friends, you may consider a system that’s fairly beefy on both memory and processor resources, or even a video card that can offload a lot of that for you – video maglie calcio poco prezzo encoding can be hell on a system. If you’re a busybody or a developer who needs tons of applications open at the same time, you’ll definitely want to consider a computer with tons of memory before you go looking for the top-of-the-line processor; you’ll want a system that can support the multitude of tasks you’ll throw at it. If you’re thinking about getting rid of the 5 external USB drives on your desk that have 120GB IDE drives in them, you might consider picking up a Drobo or building a home server that’s populated with 1TB or 750GB drives inside.

That’s right – the streamlining principle doesn’t just apply to new computers, it applies to all of your gear. For example, Apple may be thrilled that you’re pondering the purchase of an iPod Touch, but what are you planning to do with the other three iPods you have lying around the house? (If you’re like me, you come up with a plan for them – the biggest one goes in the car, the oldest one becomes a USB hard drive, and the Touch is for games more than music! It’s okay – sometimes rationalization is a good thing, especially if it helps you come up with a plan to use your old tech in a way that breathes new life into it!)

Sure, you’re interested in a Drobo, but what will you do with all of the external hard drives you have? Will you be able to re-use them, or will you have to get rid of them? You’re super-excited about a set-top box like the Boxee Box, but what will you do with your home theater PC that’s already connected to your HDTV? Will you toss it, or rebuild it to do something else? Maybe the Boxee Box isn’t worth purchasing if you can install Boxee on your HTPC and buy the remote from the Boxee Box (which Boxee and D-Link have already said will be available for sale separately.) and save yourself some money?

Thinking about these things before you buy will ultimately save you money, and will keep you from buying gear or power that you simply don’t need. Try to make sure that your buying habits are in-line with your needs and the projected time between big purchases, and you’ll be in good shape. That way you also avoid buying a ton of high-powered gear that’ll eventually be junk just to replace the mountain of junk already on your desk that was all top-of-the-line when you bought it all those years ago.

You see the line of thinking here. There are ways to re-use your old tech, or at the very least make good choices about what you’re going to streamline and what you’re going to keep when you get that lust in your eyes for a new piece of technology.

I’m not saying don’t run out and buy a new iPod Touch when you want one, but I am saying that you should at least think about what your old one is going to do if you do run out and get something new and shiny. Maybe it’s a gift to a friend, maybe you can come up with a use for it. Maybe it’s not worth buying at all – the answer is really up to you, but the best way to make sure that you have the best tech and not the most tech is to ask yourself those questions before you whip out the credit card.

Author Description

Alan Henry

There are 4 comments. Add yours

  1. 2nd February 2010 | Rachel says:
    Who says I can only use so many computers at one time? I have 2 hands! And... um... 2 feet?
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