Computer Advice

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[edit] Computer Advice for incoming (or old) students

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Desktop or laptop?
  • Windows, OS X or Linux?
  • Do you plan on using your computer for something other than homework (games or such)?


  • Desktop or Laptop ?

Answer to this depends on the way a student works - from home/dorm or school. Another critical factor that influences this is the amount of travel. Personally, I have both - initially I just had a desktop but laptop gave lot of flexibility while travelling (attending workshops/conferences, etc) and helped me make learn a lot more from such events. Currently, my desktop, apart from being used for research/sys-admin related purposes, runs my webserver; while my laptop serves as my mobile work place.

  • Windows, OS X or Linux?

Depends on whether packages/software you need for your work (school/home/entertainment, etc) are available for that particular platform and more importantly, how comfortable one with it. Personally, my deskop is a pure linux box (Red Hat Enterprise Linux), laptop used to be a dual boot (Windows XP Home and RHEL) but I have now moved over to Mac laptop...


Robert Pastel 2003 Machine and Advice:

When building or selecting your machine consider the highest demand task you will perform on the machine. For example image processor requires large amount of RAM, while playing first person shooters games requires a good video card and monitor. Most school work, for example writing papers or developing programmers does not require a powerful machine. You will do well with a $500 machine for most school work. Also consider how many tasks you will simultaneously work on.

The machine listed below was design to play games well and perform image processing. I typically work on several tasks simultaneously. In other words the machine is powerful and is not cheap.

The machine was constructed Decemeber 2002. Prices are 2002 prices.

Component Model Cost
Processor INTEL PENTIUM 4 2.4B GHZ $202
Mother Board ASUS P4PE $148
RAM 512 MB DDR 2700 Kingston $123
Video ASUS V8420-DELUX GEFORCE4 $209
Monitor VIEWSONIC 19" G90f $250
Hard Drives SEAGATE 80.0GB ST380021A 2 x $99
CD-RW AOPEN 48X-RC/12X-RW/50X-RD $49
DVD PIONEER DVD-119 $33
Case ANTEC PLUS1080AMG $145
Speakers ALTEC LANSING 2100 $68
Key Board MS NATURAL $29
Floppy TEAC $10

Preexisting parts added to the machine:

  • HP DeskJet
  • ViewsSonic PS790

Later parts added to the machine:

  • 1 GB DDR 2700 Kingston
  • Uniterable Power Supply, APC
  • Pioneer DVD R/RW
  • 120 GB Seagate SATA hard drive

Places I shop:

  • www.mwave.com
  • www.newegg.com

Useful sites for reviews:

  • arstechnica.com
  • tomshardware.com

Short list of some software:

  • Linux /Fedora - free, comes with a lot
  • Web Browser: Firefox - free
  • Email Client: Thunderbird - free
  • Internet Radio: RealPlayer - free
  • Media Viewer - www.winamp.com
  • IDE: Elicpse - free
  • Open Office suite - free at www.openoffice.org
  • Window XP - free from from department
  • Anti virus scanner: AVIRA - free at www.avira.com
  • IDE: Visual Studio 2005 - free from department
  • FTP Client: FileZilla - Free at http://sourceforge.net/projects/filezilla
  • FTP Client: SmartFTP - Free for academic use
  • Telnet Client: PuTTY - free at www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/
  • Text editor: EditPlus - $30 at www.editplus.com
  • MS Office suite - $100
  • Marco Media suite - $200
  • Corel Draw - very old at $100
  • Zip for Windows: WinZip - looking for a better free product
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