The first thing I wanted to do for this project was to determine how the computer system I chose was going to be used. I wanted to purchase a personal computer system, with monitor and printer that I could use to do Web-based research. The research will be done out of my house. It will be primarily based on comparing different start-up companies to determine investments for the future.
Since I determined that all my research was going to be over the Internet, it was important to find a system that would be fast in downloading different sites and capturing information. I will be running my new system off a cable modem with Internet service provided by Time Warner?¦s Road Runner. This is important because it will determine some of the software I choose for the new system.
The Operating System
The first operating system to be considered was, obviously, Windows. Windows 2000 is being launched on February 17th. Windows 2000 is being called ?§the next generation of business computing??. It was designed on Windows NT technology, which should make it more reliable than Windows ?¦95 or ?¦98. Windows was designed to make it easier for organizations to work with the Internet. It has Internet Explorer built-in to provide users with a faster and more efficient Internet experience. It also has support for DHTML and XML. This offers a powerful platform for the development of highly scalable end-to-end e-commerce and line-of-business Web applications. The reason I would like Windows 2000 rather than ?¦98 is because it is geared directly toward the Internet. Windows ?¦98 would actually be more for a home computer. It was developed for easy use and setup in the home. However, since I will be using my PC strictly for Web research, I think 2000 would be the best choice in the Windows environment.
Of course, the other Windows operating system to consider would be Windows NT. Windows NT Workstation 4.0 integrates the Windows 95 interface. This combines the ease of use of the Windows 95 operating system with the reliability and security of Windows NT. It would enable me to work more easily and efficiently, and still enjoy the same Windows user interface that I?¦m used to having. However, NT has the reputation of being a business, networking environment, which is not something I will need for my system.
OS/2 is the IBM operating system. OS/2 Warp Client supports OS/2, DOS, Java and most Windows 3.X applications. It supports multitasking and multithreading and has OS/2 Crash Protection. One review I read stated that OS/2 ?§falls short on gaming and M/Media support (DVD)??. However, they said it was the ultimate operating system for the corporate desktop. It is said to be faster and more reliable than most other operating systems. However, it has not been very compatible with different applications, which is why it has not been more successful. Since I am very concerned with the speed and performance of my operating system, this was definitely on my list. In all the review I read, it was rated more stable and had a higher performance rating than Windows. It also handles Java, which has been a problem with the Microsoft systems.
Linux is a free, Unix-like Operating System (fundamental software) that is developed by a loosely knit team of talented programmers working from all over the world. Linux works on almost every kind of computer, and provides a robust platform for a wide variety of applications. One of the features that made Linux so popular is that it gives the user complete control over the system. The GUI interface lets the user create the look and feel of their desktop. Linux has two of the most widely used desktop environments, GNOME and KDE. GNOME stands for the GNU Network Object Model Environment. The goal of GNOME is to make available an easy-to-use, yet advanced desktop environment that both beginners and experts can use to their advantage. Several programs are available which use GNOME's framework and structure to function, which in turn makes something common for many different applications. KDE, the K Desktop Environment, on the other hand, focuses more on ease of use and graphics. KDE better resembles Microsoft Windows, which many new users are using before switching over to Linux. The thing I liked the most about Linux is that it is free. I was not able to find as many reviews about this operating system, so I would not feel confident enough to put it on my PC.
The MAC OS X was designed with two goals for the new user interface: an operating system that?¦s appealing to look at, and a pleasure to use. Mac OS X combines Quartz, which is based on the Internet-standard portable document format, QuickTime and OpenGL to give you the sharpest graphics ever seen on a personal computer. Apple will support three critical applications environments in Mac OS X. These three environments are named: Classic, Carbon, and Cocoa. Classic allows the user to run all your existing Macintosh applications ?§as-is.?? Carbon applications, on the other hand, are optimized to run on Mac OS X. They?¦ll get the use of the modern carbon applications programming interface, all the great features of the Darwin core OS (like protected memory for crash-resistant computing and pre-emptive multitasking for a more responsive system). The future will include Cocoa, an advanced object-oriented programming environment. It will give developers a whole new toolbox for building the best next-generation applications. Although I really like what MAC has done, it is still more a graphics-based system. Most software is not supported by the MAC. The reviews I read were very one-sided. Either the people were in love with their Macintosh computer and hated all others, or vice versa. From what I know of the Macintosh machines, it would not be a choice for my system.
I did research on several brands and narrowed it down to three different systems, with three different operating systems, based on some basic requirements. The most important issue was that the machine was expandable. I wanted something that was going to last and could be easily upgraded. Most systems today are expandable, but some are more expandable than others. Also, some machines are more easy to upgrade yourself than others. These were issues I wanted to consider.
Based on the requirements I have seen for various software, I wanted a processor that was at least 450 mHz. The three processors that seem to be the most popular are Celeron, Pentium III (Intel), and Athlon (AMD) A recent article found an Athlon-650 reference system blew away the average Pentium III-600 by 14 percent or more, and squeaked by the average Athlon-600 by 3 to 5 percent. AMD is currently selling the Athlon (formerly the K7) in four versions: 650 MHz, 600 MHz, 550 MHz, and 500 MHz as of November of 1999.The best news about this processor is you don't have to pay a premium for all that speed. Fully loaded Athlon-650 systems should cost $2100 to $2400, which is about what it costs for a comparably equipped, though slower, Pentium III-600 PC.
I did not read very good reviews on the Pentium III. The majority seemed to think it cost a lot more money and you didn?¦t receive that much better of a performance. One article claimed that Intel was greatly exaggerating in their claim that the Pentium III would propel the user into the world of browsing. Intel and AMD both recently released their versions of a 750 MHz processors. However, the reviews stated that they were neck and neck in speed. This is not a concern for me because I will not need a system that fast.
Since AMD is getting great reviews and winning some serious market share, Intel decided to speed up its Celeron chips almost as often as the Pentium and Athlon. As a result you are able to pick up a high performance system for under $1500.The Celeron systems today are running business applications exceedingly fast. Intel is so intent on producing budget chips that will enable PCs to outperform AMD-based systems that it is blurring the line between PIII and Celeron performance. This is an advantage for the consumer because we can pick up a low-priced computer system that is closely comparable to the Pentium III and AMD.
As far as memory, I was looking for something with at least 64 MB of installed memory, but I wanted it expandable to 256 KB. I felt that the smallest hard drive capacity should be 4.2 GB, but I was hoping to find something in my price range with 10 or more.
The research tool that I want to run on my new system was recently developed by a start-up company here, in Cincinnati. The name of the product is Webspace, developed by Giage, Ltd. It is a wonderful search tool that will help me to better organize and file the information I find on the Internet. The second version is due out by the end of February, which will integrate email with the application.
Other software I will need on my system is: a word processing, a spread-sheet, an email, and a browser application. The brands of these are dependent on the system I chose. Some systems come with applications already installed, and others will be extra.
The other requirements that were important to me are cost, support and warranty. The cost must stay below $2,000.00. This is for the entire hardware, software, applications, monitor and printer. I would like to find a company with 24-hour support because I may be doing some of my research at strange hours. The warranty must be at least one year for parts and labor. However, I would like to find a system with a three-year warranty on parts.
Micron Millennia Max
The first system I picked was the Micron Millennia Max. It was the Editor?¦s choice in a PC Magazine review in November of 1999. It comes fully equipped, but still offers an impressive expansion capacity. The review stated that ?§the Micron Millennia Max 533 combines features, performance, expandability, and a substantial service and support program.??
Since one of my main issues was expandability, this system was more than I expected. The left side of the tower case releases easily for interior system access, and expansion room in the Max includes five available PCI slots, three externally accessible drive bays, and two internal drive bays. This array of slots and bays and system resources will allow for me to add peripherals to the Micron to increase capacity or meet specific application needs that I may have in the future.
My other major concerns were support and warranty. The Micron Millennia Max comes with Web-based support, which includes drivers, bug fixes, and a trouble-shooting wizard, but it does not offer online documentation. There is a generous warranty -- three years (five years on the CPU and memory) with first year on-site service standard. The system can be configured and purchased over the Internet or by telephone, which makes it very convenient.
Dell Dimension XPS The second system that I was interested in was the Dell Dimension XPS T500. It is considered to be one of the best home PCs for performance-oriented users. It has excellent performance, features, and is a great value for the dollar. My biggest concern is that this Dell system doesn't have the extra convenience features, such as quick-launch keys on the keyboard and front-mounted USB ports, which we've come to expect in this class.
The biggest features in the reviews I read were the Dimension's 128MB of RAM, 32MB TNT2-based graphics card, and the 7,200-rpm hard disk. This is what made it one of the best performers overall.
Dell's offers online support, which includes drivers, bug fixes, BIOS updates, and trouble shooting, all helpful for users who want to figure out problems on their own. There is a standard three-year warranty with 24-hour, 7-day toll-free technical support. Dell also allows their buyers to sign up for the Dellnet ISP with one month of free access and link directly to Dell's technical-support group via the Web. This was not a big advantage for me since I have my Internet access already set up.
HP Pavilion The lower-cost system that I chose in my final review was the HP Pavilion. The HP Pavilion series is considered to be among the market's more polished and user-friendly home PCs. It is easy to set up and use, and offers multiple software-based help tools and electronic documentation.
The biggest drawback for me was the lack of room to upgrade. The Pavilion has a smallish, crowded system. It only has one free drive bay, two free PCI slots, and one free IRQ apiece. This was a big concern, but the system is prices almost half the cost of the other two.
This system can be purchased over the HP Web site, but customization and configuration is limited. The site also provides some of the market's better Web-based PC technical support. This is definitely a plus.
Summary of Prices
Manufacturer Micron Millennia Max Dell Dimension HP Pavilion
Processor 533 MHz Pentium III Intel Celeron 433 MHz AMD-K6/500 MHz
Memory 64 MB 64 MB 64 MB
Hard Drive 13.6 GB 10 GB 10.2 GB
Monitor 17?? Micron 700 Dx 17?? E770 17?? CRT
Warranty 5/3 years limited parts 3 year limited/ 1 year on-site 1 year limited hardware
Operating System OS/2 Warp 4.0 (add $259) Linux (Free) Windows 2000 (add $219)
Printer Verox WorkCentre 470 HP DeskJet 895 Cse HP OfficeJet 600
Total Cost $1997.99 $1254.00 $1386.00
I decided to mix things up from what is listed above. I want to go with the Micron Millennia Max because it seemed to be the best all-around system from the three I chose. It has the expandability, support and performance that I was looking for and is within my price range. Also, the warranty cannot be beat. This machine had the best warranty of all the systems I looked at, which was a lot.
I am going to go with the AMD-K6 500 MHZ processor. This received better performance reviews than the Intel processors. It also should last me a long time. I think it will be quite a few years before I need something faster than 500 MHz based on the purpose of my system.
As far as the operating system, I would like to try Linux. I really liked what they had to say and what they are doing. However, I think I will end up with a Windows operating system and will probably run Windows 2000 on my machine. I will wait until some better reviews come out.
These were the major decisions I had to make. I will be able to get this system for under $2,000 (just under), so I think I?¦m going to enjoy my new computer system. I will also be able to do some work out of my home, which will be great.
Most of my resources came from the Internet. I visited several sites including PC Magazine, PC World, ZDNet, IBM, Dell, HP, Apple, Micron, Computers4Sure and several other personal Web pages that had reviews and opinions. I received hands-on information about the product Webspace because I work at Giage, Ltd. It really is a great software application. It can be downloaded for a free trial version at www.webspace.com. Any other information was based on person knowledge and one visit to Best Buy, which did not go very well. They were extremely busy and not able to give me the attention I needed. Therefore, it was not much help.
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