Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Brand A or Mango? Help me decide...

For the fifth time in as many years, I’m shopping for a new computer to replace the one that no longer works, otherwise known as “their computer” which is the opposite of “my computer.”

And I’m getting darned tired of it.

I have stuck with the same PC company for all of these years, but I’m nothing if not astute. Perhaps I should switch brands/platforms? Because the five computers that I have owned have all been replaced, one after another, by newer, faster, and sleeker models all because their predecessors have bitten the dust in one way or another.

Horrible virus that wipes out your hard drive? Check.

Computer won’t start? Check.

Computer freezes to screen saver page but won’t allow you to open any applications? Check.

Internet won’t connect and gives you a notification that tells you what your problem is in numbers only? Check.

Computer instructs you to call technical support? Check.

Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think that computers should be disposable. Why is it that computers, like cars, depreciate in value once you open the box and set them up? Why can’t they last for say, oh, three years or even past the warranty date?

PC companies would have you believe that if you switch to the company with the fruit name—let’s call it Mango or “Mang” for short—that nothing you do with other PC users will be applicable, something I’ve come to find is a complete falsehood. (I’m highly suggestible.) The PC companies would also have you believe that their products are much more affordable. This is true. Know why? Because Mango’s computers don’t have to be replaced every year! And Mango’s computers are safe from most viruses! This is important to me because my computer(s) have never met a virus they didn’t like. Every time a new virus is identified and word gets out to concerned PC users everywhere, I usually already know because I’ve already dealt with the virus and am dealing with the guys at Geek Squad who swear they’ve never seen a virus as bad as the one I’ve brought in. (That’s always comforting.)

We’re currently down to one computer, the one on which I work and write, and that just isn’t going to work for a family of four. When everyone is home, that means that they lay in wait until I take a bathroom break and then line up beside my desk like cars waiting to cross the Canadian border, just waiting for the opportunity to check their email. Scintillating exchanges occur like “r u home?” or “I’m lol-ing” or “what r u doing?” all of which could be discussed at length by using the more reliable but far less technologically-cool landline.

I live in fear that my trusty laptop will die and we will have no computer at all. And then I’ll have to run to Mango to purchase something as soon as possible, always a recipe for disaster. I’ll probably get talked into a 50 inch monitor with web cam and complete mani/pedi capabilities and that’s never a good thing. I’ll over-buy. Because that’s what I do in panic situations. (See Bluetooth capable car with no Bluetooth-capable cell phone as an example.)

So I’m asking you, dear Stiletto Gang readers, what do you suggest? Stick with generic-PC company, also known as Brand A? Or switch to Mango (Mang for short)?

We Catholics have a patron saint for everything. I think we need one for computers. I’d feel so much better if I could pray for my computer’s continued health.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. Can't recommend which brand for you because I've found all brands have terrible problems. What gets me the most - you buy a brand new, top of the line computer, take it home, go back next week and you "new" computer is already outdated. What happened to things lasting for at least a year before something new came out?
    Good luck with the computer buying.

  2. I have had Dell machines for over a decade. I have not had serious problems, ever, with my Dells.

    I don’t have to share with others much, i.e., the more hands on the keyboard, especially young hands, the more avenues for problems. I don’t get all the freshest-latest stuff on my computer either. I get what I think most would say is a little above average tool sets and performance. RAM is big because the speed and diversity of running software is key to me. Get plenty of RAM speed. ROM or storage memory (you know, all those 120+ gig hard drives) is less important because buying that kind of memory is cheap if you need more later. Most machines come with the built-in networking card, wireless and cabled, so internet stuff is a given.

    Beyond that, I never care what sort of gaming or video making capability I buy. I never sweat the video card, speakers, etc.

    Friends who have Apple machines do enjoy them. To respond to the problem they had for years, and in some measure still have, they have enhanced their operating systems to be sort of a hybrid of PC and Apple. This is like what they did with the iPod—remember when iPods and iTunes were only available to Apple computer users? Still, though they are probably just as good to use, I can’t help but still seeing Apple’s as the “candy” of computers: cute flavors and colors and very hip and yummy, but less substance underneath it all.

    I usually spend about a grand every 5 years on a laptop. Yes, it is too disposable, but it seems the cost of doing business and I’ve found some good charitable outlets for donating the still-functioning-but-not-well-enough-for-me laptop I replace. So, what are you gonna do?

    I say look at what’s available, then buy a Dell laptop. But I only say this because of my bias. Toshibas and Sony Viaos are probably good bets, too. Try and wait to do this until a Christmas or a July/August season. Consumer Reports, which you should check (or ask a friend to check, print, and email the info to you—hint, hint!) , tips these periods as the times to get the best prices: Christmas and back-to-school are the best times to buy. Oh, and Consumer Reports is worth a check because they endorse lots of brands besides Dell, too. I just logged into Consumer Reports and checked and they ARE recommending Apple’s over any PC in all screen size categories for laptops in their ratings. But, they still have some good PC recs, too.

    Of course, be vigilant about firewall and other PC/network protection. Get and use well your McAfee or Norton or whatever. Get an extra hard drive or just a nice USB flash drive and keep all your work in a single file on your desktop and back that puppy up like a religion! The operating system and the applications can be restored and rebuilt or reloaded, but it’s your documents that are going to hurt you if you lose them in any crash. Don’t just let everything you write or create or all the photos or music you store go into default folders. Force them all into one that’s one big umbrella for you and then you just copy that umbrella every week onto another device. And, you’ve got to discipline yourself and more so the kids in your house to not just download or click on everything that comes along or give your email out willy-nilly! Those viruses can be out smarted, but it takes some judicious use of the mouse to help your self out of their traps.

    There, does that help? Or am I just annoyingly smug? It’s a fifty-fifty thing with me.

  3. Great advice, Vicky. Brand A sounds suspiciously like the computers you own and the ones I continually replace. The trusty laptop might have the swine flu right now; the email is running very slowly and it's making me nervous. People who have Macs swear by them and don't seem to have a lot of problems. But if I find a friend (hint, hint) who would like to send the Consumer Reports' stuff off line, that would be great. Your humble servant--Maggie (and you're not annoyingly smug)

  4. Maggie, I feel like all I do is complain about computers. I've had at least two crash completely, I've had software freeze while working on a revision, and I've cried over lost pages more times than I can count. Even though I married a guy with a doctorate in computer sciences who develops software, I am not reassured in the least. Ed worked at Giant Software Company for awhile in his techie past, and now I know why my computer is constantly downloading patches to fix glitches left in software shipped to meet a deadline rather than being shipped after it works properly. Like Vicky, I mostly buy Dells (did I mention Michael Dell was a year behind me at Memorial High School in Houston? Wish I'd known him!). But my last Dell crapped out because of download overload from AOL and Windows. Now I have a Dell I strictly use for writing books and a computer Ed built that I use for everything else. I still have problems, regardless. So many things these days aren't built to last, and parts never work forever (especially those made on the cheap from China). So just find something you like and load the software you work with (stay away from Windows 7.0 and Vista, says Ed!)...and pray. :)


  5. P.S. Maggie, Ed is Catholic, and I know his confirmation name was "Isidore," after St. Isidore who's apparently the patron saint of technology (i.e. computers!). So maybe you can ask him for help! ;-)

  6. St. Isidore is being added to prayer list as I write this. And that's one sexy confirmation name. Tell Ed it's not surprising he snagged a hottie like you with that in his arsenal! :-) Maggie

  7. I have a Dell that I use for everything and so does my d-i-l and granddaughter. I've had to take it down to the computer shop a couple of times, once because a grown-up grandson got a virus on it from looking at stuff he shouldn't have, and another because it needed cleaning. It was full of cat hair. Otherwise it's been very dependable. Usually I get a new one because I've had mine for a long time.

    I also have a mini laptop that I don't use very much.

    I pay for an outfit to sneak in during the night and save all my stuff offsite, just in case.


  8. Hee hee, Maggie, you crack me up!


  9. I just wanted to mention that sometimes if the machine is just running sort of sluggishly, running the "defrag" tool on it (your security software or even the base operating software should include one) will sometimes help.

    Basically, the defrag sort of reshuffles the deck of cards that make up all the info on your machine and reorganizes the space. This helps the time it takes to access and use the info and the space.

    It may be worth a shot, at least in the interim. It can take a while, though. I defragged my PC just yesterday and I had to walk a way and let it run for more than an hour and maybe for two! Not sure how long it took, but I went away and came back much later and it was done.

  10. I switched to mang about 9 years ago and I haven't regretted a day. The virus issue was a big one for me, too, and since the switch I haven't had to think about it once. We did have a little scare, but a fix was out before it really even got out, so I was covered before it really even crossed the border. My only real complaint recently was that my Sony Reader needed PC, so I had to install a program that simulated Windows. Sony has since created the software for mang, so that issue is done with. I've only recently upgraded to my current mang after 8 years of faithful service. My previous machine is still being used (I gave it to my sister) and is still working fine. I am a true convert :-)

  11. Mang all the way!!! I used to have a IBM that I got from my college total piece of junk I hated it every minute I had it...Finally spend the money for mang and I will never go back. Works like a charm right out of the box no crazy downloads or installation things. The only problem I had (like ZIta) is with programs that only run on PC, for me it has been with science programs only. I will admit it does take a day or two to get used to the layout difference but other than that I would highly recommend mang

    Susie :-)

  12. switch to mango for all the reasons you listed plus this one - I set up my new laptop mango following the minimal, extremely easy directions - all by myself! I'm not known for my technie skills. you'll never go back.

  13. I've been working around computers since 1968 and purchased my first home PC in 1980. My son is an absolute computer whiz because he grew up with them. He not only knows software, but more importantly, knows how a machine works. We currently have 3 desk tops and 2 laptops. Only the old, and I do mean old, HP is still working Windows XP. The others are Ubuntu (Linux). Some suggestions given here are worth repeating.
    1) Always have a second hard drive to back up documents on.
    2) Always backup docs off-sight. I use Google docs. Be aware that flash drives are great, but they have a limited life span. You can not load and delete indefinitely.
    3) Clean your computer yourself. Buy a can of air, unplug unit, remove side panel and spray. Don't worry about any fluid that shoots out. Just don't get it on you. It's super cold pressurizer. (unless you have a wart to remove) Spray the heck out of it. That's really important Marilyn, and other cat lovers. Keep that fan clean so it cools the processor. That's the heart of your PC and the new ones run hot. Over heat that puppy can result in all sorts of nasty problems.
    4) If you are still in love with Windows, keep XP or switch to W7 coming soon. Although my son is a Linux person, he was asked to review W7. He hates Microsoft with a passion because of their sloppy programing and business ethics, but reports that W7 is quite good. Then anything would be better than Vista. With Windows you will need to continue using virus protection (Avira is free and simply THE best out there. It's German-made), anit-spyware, and a registry cleaner. (Those things are not needed with Linux).
    5)Use a PC that is component-built. That means that if something goes wrong with a part, it can be replaced like a car part. Look into having a PC custom built by a local dealer. The one I use the most cost under $600 and wouldretail for over $2500, using some of the best parts from different companies. Just shy away from any computer service that charges $75/hr for their time. They are not being competitive.
    6} Keeping your machine clean physically on the outside, and internally is imperitive to long life. Our HP (Windows) and Dell (Ubuntu) are both over ten years old. Fast? No. Do I need gaming speed for my work? No. Find the computer that best fits your needs, not you fitting the computer, take care of it, and expect it to last at least five years. Expect to replace a part now and then and learn to do it yourself. Much of it really is plug-in. Find a computer shop/person you can trust and afford.

    I'll share with you something that happened a couple weeks ago to my new machine (2 yrs old). Push on button. PC won't start. Call my PC tech. (#1 son). He has me pull and re-set the RAM cards. Nothing. Re-set the bios by re-positioning a pin. Machine works. Problem? The power supply is going out. Order new supply. Replace said supply by attaching that maze of wires. It's all standardized plugs. Looks scary, but done in less than 15 min. Continue working while happily whistling. I am a PC user, not a tech, but it was simply. If done at a shop? $65 to $75 installed. Cost of part wholesale? $65 delivered. You take it from there.
    Sean O'Mordha

  14. You need some security software. You should not be having the virus problems noted if you are prcticing safe computing.

    Not a fan of proprietary equipment. Once they have you there is no way out. Ever notice how expensive mango's periferals are. Sexy store superbly designed equipment but not worth the price in my opinion. Stay with the Generic brand A.

  15. FYI, your sister in the south has a 10 year old Mango and it's running just fine. Their Mango laptop is 6 years old, their other Mango is 4 years old. Not a single virus or piece of spyware in all those years. I'm just saying.