Bought this refurb’ed emachines H3070 online through BestBuy.ca (the online store for Best Buy Canada). Got the machine on December 30. Relatively painless order process. Had been waiting for some “Boxing Day” sales (on December 26, the equivalent of Black Friday in Canada). Got the machine for 399$. With taxes (15% in Quebec) and express shipping (around 11$): 473$. Not bad. Got a 15″ CRT monitor at a pawn shop for 22$. So a true sub-500$ system. In Canadian dollars.
TigerDirect.ca had similar deals on similar machines. Ended up with BestBuy because the machine I wanted (C3060) was sold out at TD. Among the least expensive machines you can get and still have a way to back up to DVD. An emachine H3070 has an AMD Sempron 3000 2.0 GHz processor, two 16x DVD drives (one ±RW and one -ROM), 512MB of RAM, a 160GB HD, an NVidia GeForce4 MX card, 7 USB ports (3 front, 4 back), a media manager with slots for almost anything (MemoryStick Pro, SD, CompactFlash…), audio i/o ports front and back, speakers, keyboard, mouse, XP Home, Microsoft Works, Nero 6… Standard issue desktop computer.
Performance isn’t that bad overall. Usually get between 9x and 20x on converting to MP3 in VBR minimum 160kbps with error correction on CD in iTunes. It seems to depend mostly on the shape in which the CD is, physically. Older CDs with potentially more scratches take more time, obviously. Using AudioGrabber, was able to recuperate a track from a relatively badly scratched CD (“Every Saturday Night” on Maceo Parker’s Southern Exposure). Finally been converting my whole CD collection after spending so much time away from it. Installed MikTeX, Firefox, iTunes, OpenOffice, Google Pack, Eudora, Palm Desktop… Bought a cheap (20$ plus shipping: 28$) FireWire card through TigerDirect which should arrive soon. The card is necessary for a digital camcorder, a LaCie d2 external hard drive, and an iPod 2G (no dock connector). Also got a broadband connection (DSL at 3.0 Mbps) through Bell’s Sympatico service. Three free months without a contract. It will be 45$/month afterwards without a contract. Modem included. No cap on bandwidth. Could easily get WiFi on my iBook.
Pretty satisfied with this machine overall, despite the issue discussed in that other post. In a way, it’s nothing to write home about. But once a talktative person starts blogging… 😉
This machine is in fact, my first Windows PC. Yup, a “switcher to Windows.” Been an intense Mac user since 1987. Used a number of other systems since then but always worked on Macs. First my father’s Mac Plus (1987 through 1991). Then worked on SEs in labs at UdeM. Bought my own Mac SE 30 in 1992 or so. Got online in 1993. Worked in Switzerland (thanks to a Gopher site!) on a Mac IIvx in 1994-95. While in Switzerland, also used a friend’s PowerBook 170 (IIRC). Coming back to Montreal, bought a PowerMac 7200 in 1996 and soon thereafter (probably 1997) got a 7300 as an Apple academic consultant. Moved to Indiana in 1998 for the Ph.D., was using PowerMacs at computer labs there (G3s and G4s). Eventually bought a PowerBook 5300 from one of my committee members in 2000. Went back to the PowerMac 7300 for a bit. In 2001, bought an iBook (Dual USB) 500MHz before leaving for fieldwork in Mali. Although life was already pretty good, Mac OS X was a dream come true. Ok, it was a bit clunky in 10.1 but it already had a lot of potential. Enjoyed almost every moment of it for those few years. Brought the iBook to different places, moving with it 13 times. Usually got open WiFi connections pretty easily. Didn’t even need an ISP for a while!
The iBook itself had known issues. Apple has been pretty good about it, offering a repair extension program through which they replaced the motherboard for free. Ok, they had been pressured by unhappy customers to do something. But they did repair it for free, even on a rather old computer. Still the iBook eventually died. Had to get a new computer rather quickly (it’s hard to teach without a computer). Went to the PC side purely based on price.
So far, this PC gets the job done. IMHO, the difference between a PC running Windows XP and a Mac running Mac OS X is pretty much the difference between a wooden chair and a La-Z-boy. Sure, both serve the same purpose. The wooden chair may come in different designs, some of which are quite nice. In fact, the wooden chair’s hardware is more customizable and it may be used for different things (e.g., as a stool on which to step when you want to hang a picture or… jump off). Wooden chairs are available everywhere, are relatively inexpensive, can be repaired fairly easily at home, and are fairly inconspicuous. But the La-Z-boy is so much more comfortable!
The comfort here is in the way to do simple things. Sure, I still need to get used to things on the PC and comfort will come in some ways. But I miss things like Cocoa’s Services and centralized multi-lingual spell-checking. Or Mail.app’s rather efficient spam filters. Or the system-wide keyboard shortcuts. Or OmniOutliner’s BibDesk’s active communities. Even Entourage and other Microsoft products have more features on Mac OS X. And Mac OS X seems to do a better job at performance management. Though that iBook 500MHz was outdated and quite slow by today’s standards, it could run a recent operating system efficiently and was never a source of grief for performance on common tasks. This Sempron 3000 2.0GHz processor is much faster at some tasks (MP3 encoding, for instance), but it’s clearly the slowest processor possible. And the way some apps work, the processor is easily hogged by a couple of processes.
Anyway, gotta go and let the H3070 convert my CDs…