FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)                                                            revised August 2004

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Purchasing a New PC, Laptop, Network, Wireless

1.  What minimum specifications does Stamford PC Networks recommend for a new PC?

1a. Can’t you be more specific?                                                                                                         <new>

2.  What’s the best brand of desktop or laptop?

3.  Where is the best place around Stamford to shop for a new PC or laptop?

4.  What about a Mac?

5.  My Son/daughter’s going away to school.  What kind of PC should we get him/her, laptop or desktop?

6.  What’s  the best internet connection in Stamford?

7.  What’s the best virus software and how does it work?

8.  I’ve heard wireless networking is not really secure.  Is that true?

9.  What’s the best firewall?

Regular Maintenance

10. Once SPCN has worked on my system, what must I do on a regular basis to assure smooth operation, and how frequently?                                                                                                <new>

About this site

11. What do small pictures of sailboats, pine trees and other such things have to do with computer consulting?

FAQ Answers

Purchasing a New PC, Laptop, Network, Wireless                                     <idea: print this to take shopping>

1.  What minimum specifications do you recommend for a new PC?

A. That depends on your intended use.  However, for mainstream users the following: 

·         Minimum 512mb (megabytes) RAM (Random Access Memory), also known as main memory.  Buying “enough” memory is the single most important factor in keeping your computer fast and crash free.

·         Minimum 60gb (gigabyte) capacity hard drive.

·         Windows XP Professional.  These days communication via the internet, and your local area or home network are at least as important as raw computing power.  For connectivity, Windows XP Pro is the best mainstream operating system, and well worth the extra cost over Home Edition.

·         Virus software.  Keeping  it up-to-date on a daily basis is critical to smooth operation.

·         Do not buy a machine with a “Celeron” processor, it’s inferior compared to Intel’s other processor families.

·         Do not worry about getting the fastest “clock speed,” like 1.3ghz v 1.5ghz (gigahertz).  This is but one of several factors that will determine how fast your computer works, and not critical.

The good news is this is a great time to buy a PC or laptop; prices are at historical lows, machines are faster and battery life longer than ever, and the buying process is easy.  Any machine meeting the above specifications will meet your needs for at least four years.  You should be able to get a great PC for less than $1,000, or a laptop for less than $1,600.

1a.  Can’t you be more specific?

A. Not without discussing your particular needs.  To understand better, ask yourself:  Could someone else decide whether I’d prefer a Honda Accord, a Toyota Camry, a Nissan Altima, or a Volkswagen Passat; and with what options; and what sort of financing?

Every person will answer questions about usage, financing, options, and priorities differently.  For laptops there will be questions of portability, weight, screen size, battery life, and wired versus wireless networking.  Computer manufacturers make minor changes to their lines at least twice per year.  Stamford PC Networks can help you make sense of the choices, but ultimately the choice is yours.

2.  What’s the best brand of desktop or laptop?

A. Opinions differ, and keyboard, mouse and display choices are very personal, so you should try a friend’s or the library’s, hit an internet café, or go to a computer store to try the machine you’re thinking of purchasing.  That said, we recommend Dell for desktops, Hewlett Packard for laptops.  The best comparison web-site is www.cnet.com.

3.  Where is the best place in the Stamford area to shop for a new PC or laptop?

A. CompUSA, Shoprite Plaza, Post Road West, Norwalk, between I-95 exits 13 and 14.

A. The Computer Super Center of Greenwich, 125 Mason Street, across from Bruce Park Sports.

4.  What about a Mac?

A. If you are a graphic designer, an artist or a musician I highly recommend one.  Otherwise there’s no advantage to being outside the “WinTel” (MS Windows operating system running on Intel chipset based PCs) mainstream, and several disadvantages, not the least of which is cost.

5.  My Son/daughter’s going away to school.  Should we get him/her a laptop or a desktop?

A. This is a personal choice for every family.  Laptops can be taken to the library to escape a noisy roommate, but it’s unlikely he/she will type fast enough for in-class note taking, which can be noisy and brand him/her as a nerd.  They are more expensive, drop easier, and they’re more likely to be stolen or left in the cafeteria.  Desktops are less expensive, but chunky, and not more reliable.   Look into the manufacturer’s extended “on-site” warranty.  Ask yourself; what will we do if it breaks or if it’s stolen?  How long can our student afford to be without a PC if it needs to be sent back for service?  You may wish to contact the school for a recommendation, and to ask what kind of network/internet connections are available in the dorm, the library, study areas.  Bill’s 11-year-old son uses a laptop.

6.  What’s  the best internet connection in Stamford?

A. Clearly it’s Cablevision’s optonline.net cable service which currently costs $49 per month for home--you must be a home cable subscriber which also costs $49 for a basic package; or $100 per month for a business.  Even though DSL’s approximately $20 cheaper, it can be problematic, difficult to install and noticeably slower.  The problems anticipated when cable first became available never materialized, and Cablevision has done a great job of updating and maintaining their infrastructure.  Get started by visiting www.optonline.net or calling 1-800-OK-CABLE.  They often have special pricing for new customers.

7.  What’s the best virus software and how does it work?

A. Trend Micro’s Internet Security which can be purchased at a store or here: http://www.trendmicro.com/buy/us/smb.asp.  Norton and McAfee also make excellent products.  You pay $29 per year for the right to periodic downloads--configured to run automatically and seamlessly once per day--of their “encyclopedia” of known viruses and malicious processing patterns.  Their software takes care of the rest.

8.  I’ve heard wireless networking is not really secure.  Is that true?

A. Absolutely not.  The problem is the technology is very new and comprehensive security can be tricky to implement and maintain.  We suggest letting Stamford PC Networks handle this for you.

9.  What’s the best firewall?

A. We recommend the hardware firewall built into most wireless and wired routers, even if you have only one PC.  They cost about $65 and provide the best firewall security available.

Regular Maintenance

10. Once Stamford PC Networks has worked on my system, what must I do on a regular basis to assure smooth operation, and how frequently?

A. This is a case where the answer is quite simple, but reads way more complicated than it is: three paragraphs for 10 -12 mouse clicks that will take less than 15 minutes, once per month: 

·         Under construction.

·         Check back soon.

·         Check back soon.

About This Site

11. What do small pictures of sailboats, pine trees and other such things have to do with Stamford PC Networks?

A. Nothing whatsoever.  Robin and I like them and haven’t yet thought of anything more clever.  Suggestions are welcome.  The little nerdy guy we started out with was exceedingly unpopular.  Robin and Bill are working on a “company logo” but it’s more difficult than you may think.  Especially if you don’t want to hire a graphic artist.

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