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Christmas Shopping Recommendations

The 2014 Version

Each year, we put out our recommendations for those looking to put a new computer under the tree for that special someone. This year, our recommendations are changing because there are so many new decision points and devices to choose from.

So, while we don't have a listing of specifications, we can make a few general recommendations. First, get an Intel Procesor if you can for better performance, but AMD processors will be less expensive while also providing acceptable performance. New computers will come with Windows 8.1, which works well now even without a touch screen.

Speaking of touchscreens, these are becoming more common. The more points of touch, the better. Points of touch tells you how many fingertips can touch the screen simultaneously. 10-point is best right now, but 5-point is less expensive.

Get the most RAM and Hard Disk Drive space you can. Terabytes (TB) are a Trillion bytes, and Gigabytes (GB) are a Billion bytes. RAM is memory and is less than 100 Gigabytes. Hard Disk space is not memory and is between 100 Gigabytes and 10 Terabytes.

Solid State Drives are hard drives implemented with memory instead of spinning magnetic disks. These are a much newer technology and are more expensive for less capacity than their magnetic brethren. These are common in tablets and will be measured in Gigabytes in powers of 2 (8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512).

On Tablets, look for expansion options such as keyboards, USB ports, memory card slots. I personally prefer tablets that run Windows 8.1 or Windows RT, but Android tablets pair well with Android smartphones due to their similarities. Whichever you choose, get a screen protector for that model of tablet. The screens, while strong, still break too easily and can be expensive to repair.

Finally, it's no longer necessary to buy Microsoft Office with your computer unless you only have dial-up Internet service available. Choose the version of Office 365 that best suits your needs. Yes, you'll pay annually for it, but you won't have to worry about whether you have the latest version because with Office 365, you always do.

What kind of disc can I burn?

Can DVD burners burn CDs?

The short answer is "Yes!"

This is a question we get often when someone new to DVD burning is looking to buy a new computer. They want to be sure that because they'll be making more CDs than DVDs, they are getting what they need. CD's are easy because long ago, a single standard format emerged for creating them. DVD's are another animal altogether! The first format available was DVD-RAM. Then followed (in no particular order) DVD +R and DVD -R which competed to become the de facto standard. What we wound up with was both, DVD +/- R. A single-layer DVD can hold up to 4.7GB of data. A double-layer DVD can hold twice as much, 9.4GB, but requires a double-layer burner. The DVD burner we use in our computer systems will read and write everything from single-layer DVD-RAM to double-layer DVD +/- R.

By the way, if a particular type of disc has a "W" at the end, as in CD-RW and DVD +RW, this indicates that this type of disc can be erased and rewritten. "R" by itself means "Recordable", "RW" means "ReWritable".

You can find a table showing which drives generally read and write which discs here.

Windows Defender and AVG Free 7.1 Have Expired

Have no fear, upgrades are available

Have you seen this message lately? (Click it for a larger image in a new window)

99% of the time, it means that the Windows Defender Beta you downloaded before January 1, 2007 has now expired. If you downloaded Windows Defender after that time, this message means you have a problem.

Windows Defender is still available to Genuine Windows XP and Vista users. Windows 2000 is no longer supported, and I think that's a shame, especially since the only difference I can actually see between the pre-2007 version and the 2007 version is that it requires you to validate Windows' Genuine-ness twice: once before downloading, and once when you install. Other than that, the combination of Windows Defender, Spybot Search & Destroy, and Ad-Aware is still recommended as the best way to keep spyware off your computer.

You can find download links for Windows Defender, Spybot S&D, and Ad-Aware here.

Also, if you haven't downloaded a new copy of AVG Free this year, be aware that version 7.1 has expired. A free update to version 7.5 is available at their website.

Windows Vista Has Arrived

Vista released, upgrade vouchers with all new Windows XP-based computer systems

Please Note: The upgrade vouchers mentioned in this article are expired. If you still need to run Windows XP, we recommend either purchasing your computer with Windows XP preloaded on it, or with Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate and use the downgrade rights afforded by those editions of Vista to run Windows XP instead.

As we reported on October 16, Windows Vista upgrade vouchers are being included with each new computer system we build preloaded with Windows XP. We are now able to build computers preloaded with Windows Vista as well (subject to distributor availability).

Our current recommendations are:

  • If you are a home user looking for a new computer, choose Windows XP Media Center Edition now, then use the upgrade voucher to obtain Windows Vista. Just don't install it immediately.
  • If you are a business user looking for a new computer, choose Windows XP Professional now, and use the upgrade voucher to obtain Windows Vista.

All editions of Windows Vista come on DVD. The 32-bit editions of Windows Vista Business and Home Basic are also available on CD.

You will want to make sure that any new computer you wish to run Vista on either now or in the future includes the following specifications:

  • At least 1 gigabyte of memory, 1 gigabyte is the minimum to take advantage of the new Aero Glass interface. We recommend 2 gigabytes.
  • 3D Accelerated Graphics capable of 800x600 resolution, with support for DirectX 9 (minimum), 32 bits per pixel (i.e. True Color), Pixel Shader 2.0, and a WDDM driver. (If graphics are on a separate card, the card needs a minimum of 128 megabytes of video memory. If graphics are built into the motherboard and use shared memory, 1 gigabyte system memory)
  • DVD-ROM Drive, DVD/CD-RW Combo, or DVD +-RW
  • Internet connectivity - This is an absolute MUST. We recommend high-speed.
  • 80 gigabytes of hard drive space, 250 gigabytes or more if you wish to use it as a DVR (Digital Video Recorder).

If you are in the market for a new system, give us a call!

Zakary David Anderson Has Arrived

Baby & Mom are doing fine

Well, it has been a hectic time for us this past week, but we have a new baby boy, Zakary David, born November 1, 2006 at 8:28am. He was 7 lbs, 14 oz, 20 inches, and a head-full of hair!

The hospital posted pictures of him from that first day here which have now been taken down. Pam will be off work until mid-December (just in time for Christmas) and I've been hitting and missing a bit lately. If you've called and had trouble getting through, or getting a call back, that's the reason. Thanks for your patience and support during this period of growth for our family.

Drivers Now Available

For those who have purchased (or are thinking about purchasing) a system from us, we have added links to Intel's driver and BIOS update pages to our Download page.

Attention QuickBooks Users:

If your company currently uses a version of QuickBooks for Windows earlier than Windows 2000, (QuickBooks 5.0, 6.0, and 99) you may want to consider upgrading to a later version. Intuit's support for these products is being discontinued. More information is available from Intuit here.