The recent collapse of worldwide financial markets has everyone on edge. If you’re like most people, tough times have you looking around at ways to cut back on spending. You might be tempted to impose a freeze on all new purchases of hardware and software, but that draconian strategy only works for so long. Sooner or later, you need to refresh old technology, either because it’s stopped working or is so slow that it’s cramping your productivity. A better strategy, in my experience, is learning to shop smarter. In today’s post, I share some of the secrets I’ve learned about how to get great PC hardware and software without breaking the bank.
The Ed Bott Report
Get outspoken insights and expert advice on the products and companies that define today's tech landscape, from a source who knows these technologies inside and out.
Ed Bott is an award-winning technology writer with more than two decades' experience writing for mainstream media outlets and online publications.
Ask any Windows pundit about all the different versions of Windows Vista that Microsoft offers and you’ll invariably get the same response. There are too many! Consumers are confused! It all needs to be simplified! To which I say: Be careful what you wish for. The case for reducing the number of Windows versions to one or two sounds convincing in the abstract, but the argument breaks down quickly once you start to examine the details and consider how such a change would affect the way you and I buy Windows on consumer and business PCs. For starters, would you be willing to pay 17.5% more for an entry-level PC? That's just one of the problems with this idea.
Who’s buying new PCs with Windows Vista Home Basic? Judging by the name, you’d assume those OS editions would be loaded on underpowered machines for starving students and penny-pinching families. But you’d be wrong. Based on my observations of the PC market over the past year or two, I think consumers have rejected Home Basic in favor of Home Premium. But small, budget-conscious businesses have embraced the low-end OS. In one large sample I looked at, nearly three out of every five machines destined for small business included Windows Vista Home Basic. Small-business buyers are apparently able to look past that name, and PC makers are happy to accommodate them. I've got the details on this apparent trend.
I’m reading more and more about Windows 7 lately as PDC approaches and Microsoft begins revealing more snippets of information about its most secretive product ever. In most of that coverage, I've noticed an assumption that Windows 7 is going to be the final name of the product. I’ve been guilty of leaping to that conclusion myself. But a reader asked the other day why Microsoft is calling it Windows 7, and as I worked on my response to that question, it struck me that it’s entirely possible, even likely, that the next release of Windows will get a new name before it hits the streets. Keep reading, and I’ll give you a chance to compare your prediction with mine.
Is Linux ready to replace Windows on the desktop? Linux advocates think that light, cheap netbooks show off the advantages of an open-source OS over Windows. Out in the real world, though, the market is arguing to the contrary. The director of sales for one especially hot-selling netbook says its Linux-based machines are being returned at four times the rate of the Windows version. Research shows that after playing around with Linux, people "don't want to spend the time to learn it, so they bring it back to the store."
How do you supersize a simple music manager? Ask Apple. The Windows version of iTunes 8 takes up nearly 200MB of space on a Windows PC, including kernel-mode drivers, multiple system services, and at least one add-in. It takes a supersize helping of chutzpah to create an ad that criticizes Windows for its “bloat” and then deliver an upgrade with as much unnecessary junk as this one. If you’re like most people, you don’t need any of that additional junk. In this post, I’ll explain how you can figure out which parts of the package you need, and then show you how to wrestle control of iTunes back.
Fellow ZDNet blogger Jason Perlow recently wrote about his long weekend setting up a new PC for a friend, Over the years, I’ve done this process dozens of times for business clients, family members, friends, and neighbors. I’ve got the process down to a series of checklists, all built around some core principles. In this post, I explain how I use this opportunity to get rid of clutter, get a fresh start, and involve the PC owner in the process so they learn some valuable skills along the way. Here's a step-by-step account of how I set up a new PC.
In the comments to an earlier post, a reader wonders out loud whether Microsoft plans to dump its Vista users when Windows 7 comes out. Fortunately, the support lifecycle for all Microsoft products is well documented. In this post, I show you where to look up the details and explain why XP and Vista users will still have access to critical support resources even after Windows 8 is released.
These days, the passionate Media Center community is spending much of its energy complaining, loudly, that Microsoft is ignoring its wishes and moving too slowly with development. Why are Media Center fanatics so worked up over it? And will the controversy over its release blow over?
It’s now been a week since Apple’s botched release of iTunes 8, which caused a tidal wave of Vista crashes before it was hastily rolled back. Judging from traffic on Apple’s support forum, pulling the new Apple USB driver and replacing it with the file from iTunes 7.7 succeeded in quieting most of the complaints from most Windows users, although a handful of customers report that they’re still having problems. After looking more closely at the other driver, from Gear Software, I've concluded that it was unrelated to these crashes and might even be an innocent bystander in another iTunes support headache involving missing CD and DVD drive letters.