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"Should I buy a Dell?"

While we're on the topic of Dells, a teacher asked me today for advice on a new computer for his wife. This is the sort of question that we get all the time from students, parents, teachers, and other staff that we support.
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While we're on the topic of Dells, a teacher asked me today for advice on a new computer for his wife. This is the sort of question that we get all the time from students, parents, teachers, and other staff that we support. In particular, he asked if there was anything I recommended in terms of hardware on a new Dell.

I asked him if he had Dell in mind for any particular reason, especially since he is one of the few Mac users that I support. His wife needed Windows for compatibility with applications at her job, however, and he, like many people, simply associated Windows PCs with Dells. There's marketing for you.

Not that I have any problem with Dell. Our fleet of Dell Latitudes is aging fast, but have served us well, as have many Dell desktops and servers. For me, my problem remains recommending Vista to unsuspecting consumers (it hadn't even occurred to him that he wouldn't be able to purchase Windows XP through normal consumer channels). Even purchasing through Dell's small business front end, you can purchase a laptop with Windows XP installed, but then, of course, you're buying a 7-year old operating system for a computer that should last at least 3 years. Assuming Windows 7 doesn't materialize soon, that's a 10-year old OS, by the time all is said and done.

So what to do? For me, of course, the choice comes down to:

  1. Can I justify paying for higher-end hardware to purchase a Mac and enjoy OS X?
  2. If not, what flavor of Linux should I install on a cheaper laptop that I can pick up anywhere, in many cases without an OS or on clearance running XP Home or Vista Basic?

That's me, though. We already know that she wants/needs Windows for a variety of reasons (whether good or bad). So should she buy a Dell? Sure. Or an HP, or a Lenovo, or an Acer. Well, maybe not an Acer, but, assuming that she can get it with Vista Business installed (necessary for anyone moving back and forth between home and a work environment with domain join capabilities), it just comes down to getting the best deal.

What advice do you give to your students, parents, teachers, and grads heading off to college?

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