I’m a pretty firm believer that, after several years, computers build up enough cruft that you need to start from scratch. With Windows the machine has gotten unbearably slow and there’s never enough disk space. With Linux, you’re running something really old, or just itching to try something new. With any OS, you’ve got a bunch of strange problems that have come up and you’ve just come to accept as normal.

These new installs tend to be great excuses for getting new hardware, too. Might as well hold off for a new hard drive if you’re short on disk space, and that way you don’t have to wipe anything. And you might as well upgrade to 4GB of RAM before you install a new OS.

I’m at a crossroads, though. I live in a UNIX world. I work on Linux at work all day. I come home and my computer runs Linux. I work on my website, running on a Linux machine. I love Linux, but it’s a little bit of a love-hate relationship. It has a few quirks that get under my skin. But going back to Windows would make no sense for me. I suppose I could maintain Linux boxes from a Windows machine, although it’s silly. But I’m way more comfortable in Linux these days anyway.

A lot of my coworkers run Macs, and it’s something I’ve been tempted by for a long time. It’s stable, slick, and it’s based on BSD. What’s not to like? Well, what’s not to like is the price. “OSx86″ solves this (although it’s effectively software piracy), but sources say that it’s kind of like trying to install Linux 10 years ago: you’d better know every piece of hardware in your machine, and be comfortable finding and installing drivers for it.

My other battle is whether I want a laptop or a desktop. I love my Thinkpad, but I want a much bigger drive (RAID, really), and a 14.1″ LCD is comically small. And I’d like to start doing more with virtual machines, but this would require some more RAM.

I played with pricing. I can build a quad-core system with a few big SATA disks and onboard RAID (I think RAID 5 is even an option), 8 GB RAM, and a 22” LCD for under a thousand dollars. That’s less than the cost of an entry-level Mac. (Excluding the Mini…)

But at the same time, I found a few potentially great upgrades to my laptop. A 128 GB SATA disk can be had for $200-300, and it’d cost about $50 to upgrade my Thinkpad to 4GB RAM. (From 2GB.) The jury’s still out on whether a Thinkpad T60 will see the full 4GB; some reports say that something in the BIOS or part of the chipset won’t go past 3, but others seem to suggest that the people saying that are just running OSs that can’t see 4GB on a 32-bit box.

So I’m more confused then ever about what I want. Should I upgrade my laptop or buy a new desktop? And, whatever I do, what is it going to run?

One thought on “Cruft

  1. I’m in a similar dilemma, but I’ve pretty much ruled out Macs (although I do envy their hardware). I’m satisfied with my laptop, but it runs Windows and I really don’t want to throw away the OEM install. I run Linux at work and am much more comfortable developing on it — I actually do have it running on a desktop at home, but it’s an old Athlon XP. Should I upgrade my desktop? Install Linux on my laptop? I don’t know. 🙁

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