Make Friends with a Geek & Save Money
by Tim Gesner
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Computer Upgrades on a Budget
Are you friends with a computer "geek"? Computer geeks can be easily recognized when you know what to look for. It's usually a teenage boy who builds computers for fun, or the programmer three cubicles down from you who always has the latest hardware and three screens on his computer. Computer geeks can save you a lot of money. I work in the I.S. Department of a large manufacturing firm and everyone I know either has a computer or wants one, and they constantly ask me to do upgrades or other work for them. Normally, I charge about $50 an hour to work on a computer, but for my friends, I'll usually work for a box of donuts and a case of Diet Coke. See what I mean? If you were my friend, you would already be saving money. Try asking someone at a computer store, like Best Buy, to fix your computer and see how much that will cost you!
Are you in the market for a new computer? How can your new friend save you money on that? Go talk to him and tell him you are looking at "Brand X" computer and ask his opinion about it. Odds are that he will either tell you it's a great deal, or he'll steer you towards an even better deal somewhere else, probably online, or at Costco or even Wal-Mart (Don't laugh).
You can come across amazing deals online, but you usually have to wade through a lot of websites first and your new friend probably does Internet searches in his sleep. Costco is another great place to look for computers, because they have a 90-day return policy on their electronics, and usually long warranties too. That's important because you don't want to find out you bought a lemon and not be able to take it back. Most computer stores won't take back computers any longer than 30 days, and they'll do anything they can to keep you from bringing it back. Spend the money on a longer warranty; Costco's Dell machines have three years and that equals peace of mind and a savings on repair bills. Wal-Mart can be a good place to find deals, too. They may not have a big selection, but what they do have is buying power, which means low prices. Ultimately, however, your best bet is the Internet. You might be asking, "If I don't have a computer already, how can you expect me to go online to buy a computer?" My answer is to go to the local library; they almost all have free Internet access!
Okay, here's something most people don't know. When you buy a computer, even a relatively inexpensive one is going to cost you somewhere in the range of $350 to $700, depending on the make and model and bells and whistles. Computers need a program to run called an Operating System. Usually it's Windows 7 or Windows 8, and that program costs money. Even with an O.S. on your computer, you're probably going to want to do something more with your computer than send e-mail and go online. You'll want other programs for composing a letter or cropping images from your digital camera, and that software costs money too.
Well, there is a new breed of program called "Open Source" software. Open Source software is created and built by individuals, special interest groups and even by Software companies, but what makes Open Source software special is that it is free! Your new computer-savvy friend knows all about Open Source software and will be happy to direct you towards some of it. If you were to buy a computer without the O.S. or any other software on it, you could easily save yourself upwards of $200 to $1,000 just by using Open Source software instead. Now just in case you don't know a computer geek, I'll be your friend and direct you towards some of the best and easiest to install and use Open Source software available. For the Microsoft Office equivalent and the same software I use at home, go to www.openoffice.org to download a wonderfully diverse and amazingly smooth "Suite" of software programs that let you create spreadsheets, type up letters, create and view PowerPoint demonstrations and much more. Plus, it's fully compatible with everyone else's Office documents, no matter what software they are using. For something better than the standard "Paint" that comes with most computers, www.gimp.org. Both are great programs that can easily keep up with Photoshop, but without the price tag. There's more out there, but instead of me telling you what they are, go make friends with a computer geek and ask him!
Tim Gesner is an alleged "Computer Geek" and has been working professionally in the computer business for over fifteen years.
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