[FoRK] Computer for College Student

Jebadiah Moore jebdm at jebdm.net
Fri Jul 30 21:12:29 PDT 2010

On Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 8:26 PM, Stephen D. Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:

> This is only true if you are positive you will never be in a situation
> where such knowledge is useful to get something done faster / better.  You
> should also be able to use the open source versions for the same reason.

Most home users and students rarely use advanced features of programs like
Word.  Open source programs in this category generally have all the features
most people need, and are no more difficult to use.

> A computer, even an expensive Mac, is such a small cost compared to a car,
> a place to live, and most college expenses, that is is hard to justify
> skimping unless you are really rock bottom on all of those already and still
> coming up short.  I would happily spend 20% or more of my income on better
> computers to get or protect my income and opportunities.  More typically, I
> maybe spend 2-5%, shooting for a cost/benefit peak, which usually pays for
> itself quickly, sometimes in a month or less.
> You have to make suggestions appropriate to the target situation.

I'm personally fairly into the red due to student loans, so I guess I just
have a different perspective.  It's obviously fine to spend more money up
front to improve longer-term efficiency, but what I'm saying is that for
most people it's a matter of diminishing returns, so that it's rarely worth
it to buy a $1000 computer instead of a $700 one.  Being a Photoshop user
doesn't push you very far towards the expensive end, unless you're a very
heavy user.  AutoCAD does more so.

My 3-year-old mid-range laptop isn't noticeably slow, and I am rather a
heavier user than most people/students.  I see a lot of people who use their
computers much less than me, but who upgrade significantly more often and at
a higher price range.  As far as I can tell, these people don't get any real
benefit (beyond status/feeling good I guess) from doing so.  This is what
I'm warning against.

It's silly to think about this comparatively.  It'd be just as absurd for me
to suggest you spend $10 per person on every meal just because you can
afford it.  You can eat well and healthily and easily for much less than
this, especially if you eat with other people.  Most products offer
diminishing returns on quality against price, and in by picking the sweet
spot (roughly) you save a bunch of money in aggregate.

Besides, what you said about being "rock bottom on all of those already" is
usually the case with students, being without major previous income and
often having student loans.  It seems like Jeffery is paying for his
daughter's computer(s), but even so I think he'd probably be better off
giving her an $800 laptop and a few hundred dollars of spending money than
paying $1200 for a Mac.

Jebadiah Moore

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