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  1.    #1  
    Well, tax return is (presumably) coming, and the Mrs. and I are thinking about trading up our PII 266 maxed out at 96 megs of RAM. We're looking to get a box on the cheap--i.e. 500 or less. We don't need a CD/DVD/CDRW drive, nor do we need a monitor/printer/scanner/etc. I've found a few things on the net, but nothing to get excited about. For now it'll probably be running some version of Windows (likly 98, but we'll see), with the option of moving to a command-line OS (probably FreeBSD, but again, we'll see) once I decide to spring for VMWare (I can't dump windows entirely, MicroGrade is our "killer app" and the damn company won't return my emails re: a non-windows implementation... and I am told that VMWare makes Wine look pretty sad...).

    ....so... I'm really out of the loop WRT processors and such. Celeron, AMD, Pentium III/IV, what? And can I get by with 256m of RAM? Can somebody help out by telling me what the absolute baseline is for your run-of-the-mill PC these days. Basically anything will knock my socks off, but I hate throwing money at something when i don't know the whole shebang...

    ...maybe I should have posted this in the inane ramble...

    ---edit: the SIG here is in reference to the laptop I'm waiting to be fixed up...
  2. #2  
    Take a look at PCUSA.

    A friend of mine just ordered a very nice machine from them for his mom. Got it for around $400.00 without all the accessories.

    In fact, most prices are shown without an OS, so if you have an OS already, you do not have to pay for another.

    Considering their prices, I would recommend the AMD Athlon or the P4 with at least 256MB RAM. If you want to spend the money, get 512MB RAM and buy XP Home.

    AMD Athlon 1.33 GHZ
    512MB RAM
    WinXP - Home Edition
    Cost is $574.50

    P4 1.4 GHZ
    512MB RAM
    WinXP - Home Edition
    Cost is $628.00

    Both machines are their Home Configuration.
    In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. JOHN 14:2
  3. #3  
    If the MicroGrade you mean is this one, the gradebook software, then it sounds like the minimum CPU speed and RAM specs will be determined by:
    1. your Windows OS
    2. VMWare

    I recommend you find out minimum specifications for VMWare. If you're buying a machine with WinXP on it, it probably is already configured to handle it.

    Also, keep in mind that VMWare uses a lot of HD disk space to hold its memory images. You're lucky that whatever command-line OS you choose, it will likely have a memory footprint similar to or less than XP, but especially since disks are cheap, I'd recommend getting the next larger hard drive than you think you need, probably one step above the typical minimum 20GB.

    Provided VMWare is happy with 1.3 GHz and 512MB RAM (I expect it is), I think you'd be fine with GSR13's less expensive option.

    Good luck!
    Jeff
  4. #4  
    also TigerDirect has some brand new Dell 800Mhz Dimension L800CXE's (Intel Celeron) running Windows ME for $449.99. 128MB PC133 SDRAM, 20 GB EIDE Ultra ATA/100 HD, 48x CD-ROM, Floppy, V90 Modem, etc.

    They also have cheaper Dell Optiplexes (Optiplexi?) running either Windows NT (566Mhz @ $349.99 w/ 7 GB HD) or Windows 98 (700 Mhz @ $399.99 w/ 10 GB HD), both with NIC, 48x CD-ROM, floppy, and 256MB SDRAM (neither with modem)

    And of course they always have cheaper computers (factory recertified, no operating system)
    "I am a debtor both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish."
  5. #5  
    I buy the ultra-cheap discount computer at CompUSA or similar store. ($400 - $500) Then I spend 20 bucks for more RAM. (I got another 128 megs for 256 total) I then have a decent computer for the next 2-3 years. Then I start all over again.

    My theory, is that I get a decent up-to-date machine, and I don't upgrade. I just buy a new, cheap machine a few years later.

    My current machine: 900 mhz, AMD duron, 30 gig, 256 ram, Win XP. It works like a charm and runs everything I need it to run at the same time (about 6 heavy-duty programs). I'm satisfied with it.

    If I was a gamer, I would have to spend more money on my machine. Lot's more.
  6. #6  
    Build your own

    If you are interested I can point you in the right direction.
  7.    #7  
    Originally posted by Techie2000
    Build your own

    If you are interested I can point you in the right direction.
    yo yo, let me know..

    ..thanks to all for the advice... now to get to work convincing my wife...
  8. #8  
    yeah.. those dell boxes may seem cheap, but if you buid your own, you can make a better computer for less. basically you buy the best parts for what's importat to you, and cheap out on things you won't need:

    ie, get a decent video card (gf4mx200 or whatever) a mobo with a fast front side bus, etc, but buy a cheap case and such.

    I'm a big proponent of building your own, but you need to be prepared to put a lot of time into research unless you have a nice guy like techie2000 to point you in the right direction.
    -thorin

    I have a webcomic. You should read it, or I may do something rash. <b><a href=http://driveby.keenspace.com/>Drive-by Loitering</a></b> is updated every monday, wednesday and friday.

    <!img src=http://www.frontfly.com/myrouter/vcsig2.gif alt="Soundsgood is too elite for the punks."><img src=http://www.frontfly.com/vcsig.gif ><!img src=http://www.frontfly.com/myrouter/vcsig2.gif alt="Soundsgood is too elite for the punks.">
  9. #9  
    dietrich...

    it's all about the Pricewatch:
    www.pricewatch.com
  10. #10  
    Originally posted by dietrichbohn
    Well, tax return is (presumably) coming, and the Mrs. and I are thinking about trading up our PII 266 maxed out at 96 megs of RAM. We're looking to get a box on the cheap--i.e. 500 or less. We don't need a CD/DVD/CDRW drive, nor do we need a monitor/printer/scanner/etc. [...] ....so... I'm really out of the loop WRT processors and such. Celeron, AMD, Pentium III/IV, what? And can I get by with 256m of RAM? Can somebody help out by telling me what the absolute baseline is for your run-of-the-mill PC these days. Basically anything will knock my socks off, but I hate throwing money at something when i don't know the whole shebang... [...]
    Well, I'm probably not the guy to ask because I wouldn't consider the system that I'm getting ready to order next week cheap ($2135) by any stretch (unless it's in comparison to that vendor's other available systems). My only regret is that they don't have any non-WinXP systems, so I'll have to settle for XP Pro.
    ‎"Is that suck and salvage the Kevin Costner method?" - Chris Matthews on Hardball, July 6, 2010. Wonder if he's talking about his oil device or his movie career...
  11. #11  
    Originally posted by Toby
    Well, I'm probably not the guy to ask because I wouldn't consider the system that I'm getting ready to order next week cheap ($2135) by any stretch (unless it's in comparison to that vendor's other available systems). My only regret is that they don't have any non-WinXP systems, so I'll have to settle for XP Pro.
    Funny you should mention AlienWare. I had never heard of them until tonight. I was in BestBuy and they had one out with some basic information.

    At any rate, they look pretty cool. Do you already have some experience with them or is this is a first?
    In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. JOHN 14:2
  12. #12  
    Originally posted by dietrichbohn

    ....so... I'm really out of the loop WRT processors and such. Celeron, AMD, Pentium III/IV, what? And can I get by with 256m of RAM? Can somebody help out by telling me what the absolute baseline is for your run-of-the-mill PC these days. Basically anything will knock my socks off, but I hate throwing money at something when i don't know the whole shebang...

    ...maybe I should have posted this in the inane ramble...

    ---edit: the SIG here is in reference to the laptop I'm waiting to be fixed up...
    If ya wanna go really cheap, find a used AMD Slot A 500mhz
    or faster motherboard + CPU. Then swap the board
    out assuming your current setup is ATX.

    256M is plenty of RAM.

    As a bench mark, look at what current and future games are
    requiring for a CPU.... 90% of the new games say Athlon or PIII
    500 as the recommend system.

    As for VMware:

    Wait. VMware/Linux running Windows (any version) is
    slow. And Windows VMware as a host OS for Linux and
    FreeBSD is slow as well.

    The bottle neck is two fold for VMware:

    1. You need fast disks.
    2. You need lots of RAM. Now, 256M of RAM with 128 for the Guest OS (one at a time) is plenty. But disk access is still
    a problem with with 7200rpm/9ms IDE drives.
    3. My ultrawide scsi did a pretty good job, but that $$$$$.

    Also, remember, Windows 98 can only be a host OS for Linux
    (last time I looked, but I haven't checked out 3.0 yet). The
    professional version for WIndows hosts requires NT/2000/etc.

    Anyway, remember, we are in the part of the software/hardware
    cycle for home/SOHO users are seeing the hardware perforamce grow faster than the software can place demands on it.

    -henry
  13. #13  
    Originally posted by GSR13
    Funny you should mention AlienWare. I had never heard of them until tonight. I was in BestBuy and they had one out with some basic information.

    At any rate, they look pretty cool. Do you already have some experience with them or is this is a first?
    I've been watching them for a couple years, and they just happen to have components that I like. The case is just flat out cool (if I was looking to build another system right now, that's the exact case I'd use since it locks little hands out).
    ‎"Is that suck and salvage the Kevin Costner method?" - Chris Matthews on Hardball, July 6, 2010. Wonder if he's talking about his oil device or his movie career...
  14.    #14  
    WOW.. thanks all for the great advice, PW has got the best deals I've seen yet... though I ache for the conspiracy blue.

    ...you've talked me out of mucking around with VMWare, I'll stick with windows on it for a while longer (esp. since I'll have freebsd on my laptop). so now I've got other questions:

    Athlon v Athlon XP v P4 v p3: WTF?

    and of course the moral question: Win 98 or Win XP? Stability or purity? If I'm damned for using Windows, shoun't I just be doubly damned?
  15. #15  
    Originally posted by dietrichbohn
    WOW.. thanks all for the great advice, PW has got the best deals I've seen yet... though I ache for the conspiracy blue.

    ...you've talked me out of mucking around with VMWare, I'll stick with windows on it for a while longer (esp. since I'll have freebsd on my laptop). so now I've got other questions:

    Athlon v Athlon XP v P4 v p3: WTF?

    and of course the moral question: Win 98 or Win XP? Stability or purity? If I'm damned for using Windows, shoun't I just be doubly damned?
    On my current system, I was running WIN98SE. I had a few problems here and there, but for the most it was pretty stable. I wanted a larger HDD and decided to Upgrade to XP in the process. XP, in my opinion, is a much better OS. It has been Bullet Proof so far. I also love the multi-user support and Fast User Switching.

    If you are going to run Windows, you might as well run XP or 2000. Both are more stable, in my opinion, than 9x or ME.
    In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. JOHN 14:2
  16. #16  
    Another vote for piecing one together. For well under your $500 I was able to get a P200 w/mmx, 192MB's RAM, SB Live! 5.1, 32MB all-in-wonder, cdrw/dvd combo. It's not impressive (unless one would consider forcing a P200 through the abuse I am impressive), but I have been able to get some money saved, and purchasing a case, motherboard, processor, and RAM really won't be that expensive an upgrade when finally inevitable.
    -Joshua
    I've decided to become enigmatic.
  17. #17  
    Originally posted by dietrichbohn
    WOW.. thanks all for the great advice, PW has got the best deals I've seen yet... though I ache for the conspiracy blue.
    I'm going for the space black. It matches the decor in the office better.
    ...you've talked me out of mucking around with VMWare, I'll stick with windows on it for a while longer (esp. since I'll have freebsd on my laptop). so now I've got other questions:

    Athlon v Athlon XP v P4 v p3: WTF?
    It basically works out to a price/performance curve on what you're looking to do with it. Unless you're working on some heavy duty floating-point number crunching, go with AMD. On an even clock speed rating, on common applications, the AMD will usually whip the Intel's **** (that's why with the Athlon XPs have started to use a rating instead of raw MHz to show which Intel chip they compete with). If you're looking for low cost, you might even want to consider a Duron. That's what the Durons and Celerons are made for: 'value' systems.
    and of course the moral question: Win 98 or Win XP? Stability or purity? If I'm damned for using Windows, shoun't I just be doubly damned?
    Um...which one is stability and which one is purity? Personally, given the option, I'd go for Windows 2000 (on my new system I only have XP home and XP pro as my options, so XP Pro it is). If those are your only two choices, though, I'd probably go for XP. 98 is the most stable 9x release, IME, but stable is a relative term.
    ‎"Is that suck and salvage the Kevin Costner method?" - Chris Matthews on Hardball, July 6, 2010. Wonder if he's talking about his oil device or his movie career...
  18. #18  
    Originally posted by dietrichbohn

    Athlon v Athlon XP v P4 v p3: WTF?

    and of course the moral question: Win 98 or Win XP? Stability or purity? If I'm damned for using Windows, shoun't I just be doubly damned?

    Windows 98SE (note that Windows 98 Second Edition
    is MUCH different that the non-SE version in terms of hardware
    support).

    Overall, I would put forth this issue:

    Any Windows OS not going to be a good platform for Data Security. NOTE: I mean data security by the following definition:

    "Allowing access of data to those that need it when they need it."

    By this definition, Windows will NEVER be secure, or at the
    very least, it is a very difficult OS to secure. That includes,
    but is not limited to, classical ideas of cracking (otherwise
    mislabeled to the lay public as hacking), your Web browser
    providing info you don't want it to, applications reporting on
    your OS even if you don't want it to, viruses, Trojan horse, stable support for hardware, etc.

    All computer security in the sense most people mean it, is how do you restrict access to data to a give set of people.

    Now, Windows 98SE has the benefit that most of the major
    problems have been worked out, I personally would trust the virus scanners on it, and there is more information on how to "secure" the system and more experience in doing so than XP.

    Windows 2000 is more or less the same as 98SE above in
    terms of being a "known" quantity. However, it can be made more secure, more easily than Win 98SE.

    It has Direct 8.X support, and most hardware that is support by WIndows 98SE is supported by W2K as well. I would encourage you to think about Windows 2000 as an option. Like UNIX, Windows 2000 is a security hole if you do everything as root(UNIX)/administrator with absolute power(windows).

    But, if you setup a W2K user account with restricted access to OS functions, you limit your vulnerabilities to nefarious software. And besides, your wife can have her own account, then you can hide
    your porn from her with W2K as long as she doesn't have admin access

    XP, like the Treo, is the latest, greatest promise. But is there
    really any software out there that is XP only that you think you
    are going to need for the next 2 years?

    The downside of both XP and W2K in respect to Admin controls of the system, is they do take a little more time to manage and some
    applications are a little harder to setup correctly under a multiuser
    environment.

    Also, don't underrate a CDRW. It can backup your critical data
    and save you lots of pain.

    -henry
  19. #19  
    Oh yeah, if you go XP, spend the extra bucks on getting the
    Professional edition DO NOT GET THE HOME edition.

    It is something like $149 with hardware purchase.

    Professional doesn't require you to register with Microsoft,
    and doesn't do some other personal information invasive things.

    Run away from anyone who tells you different.
  20. #20  
    The other nice thing about 98SE is the plethora of utilites it comes with to fix the system when/if it does go down. You have a (more or less) full version of DOS, sfc, scanreg, etc. This system doesn't sound like one that is going to be running daily for years on end, and that is an area where you would notice the advantage of XP (a couple of years down the line when software you want is only available for XP you won't have to upgrade). As for processor, get the one with the most cache you can afford. That makes a more significant difference than a lot of people give it credit for. I'd suggest an AMD chip.
    -Joshua
    I've decided to become enigmatic.
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