The dryer sheet computer


Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso) Give me a forum ...
Jul 27, 2003
Kansas City
I have this web tv - cost $199 on sale back when they first came out. An outrageous price even then. I don't own a computer. And it costs $19.95 to to hook to the telephone that runs through the swamp. No cable. No spell check, long posts mean I can't post to certain threads, the keyboard is getting sticky, IT challenged and as I've perhaps mentioned before - a tendency to be A REALLY CHEAP B#^TARD.

Now being over 59 1/2 (almost 61 actually) not having touched our IRA and looking at SS - If - I say if willing to spend a tad more than $199 -? What is a real computer and what are the chevy, buick, and cadillac models? Remember I still believe in snail mail, DeGaul, the Norwegian widow and no. 2 pencils. Don't scare me off - heh heh.
I paid $399.00, net after a bunch of rebates 2 years ago. In the first year I had some system breakdowns,
nothing since then. Came loaded with Windows XP,
which was just out at that time. The people I know
who used web TV finally just got tired of its shortcomings.
I can relate. For the first year when I no longer had the
office equipment to fiddle with, I had a used system which
usually required lifting and dropping the computer about
2-3 inches several times just to get it to switch on.
I am a cheap SOB too, just like unclemick.

John Galt

- I think the "bargain king" in computers today is the "Emachines" brand. They are sold at BEst Buy (there's a special on them in every one of the Sunday circulars). After rebates the price is typically $399. What you'll get: Computer. 17" monitor, color inkjet printer. I'm using one now and it was very easy to set up.
Specs for the machine offered this week (In case you are interested): 40GB hard drive, 256k RAM, DVD-CD-RW drive (lets you burn your data onto disk). It comes with a built-in dial-up modem. You can get high-speed connectivity (DSL, cable, or satellite), but that'll cost a little more. Advantages: Faster downloads and you can make/receive telephone calls while you are online.

You'd need software, too--the machine comes with MS Windows, but not much else. You can buy software in the store with the computer, but it's usually cheaper on line. The cheapest (legal) way to get good, name-brand, trouble-free software is to buy old editions online. You'll typically get just the disk and instructions on installing it--but it's usually just a few bucks. I've not used these particular folks, but this place is typical of these sites: /

One other way to get a good computer cheap is to contact a local computer repair store. Tell them you're looking for a very cheap machine, something the store will set up for you and stand behind for 30 days. Chances are that a 2-3 year old machine they've got sitting in the back of the store would serve you just fine, and this way you'd get a little handholding from the local repair guys to assure everything works right at first. You'd have to call around, but you could probably get this for a couple of hundred bucks. That machine might even have software on it.

You'll get a lot of opinions on this topic, there are a lot of good paths to get what you need.

Good luck

What is a real computer and what are the chevy, buick, and cadillac models?


Computers are mostly commodity items today. It does matter who you buy it from. If you have someone local that you have good references from other folks, that is a good bet.

If you don't have anyone local, Dell has done fine for me. Should be able to get a very nice system under $500.

I would go with Windows XP (you'll be compatable with the rest of the world) - Mac folks are always coming to me to help with downloading software for their GPS, etc. etc.
Unclemick, the trick is to get a Cadillac at Chevy prices. Computers become "obsolete" very fast, but last year's obsolete computer is perfectly good for the stuff you'll want it to do.

If I were you, I'd buy a used IBM Thinkpad on eBay. Personally, I prefer the smaller light-weight models. Something like an X30 will set you back less than $1000 or an earlier X20 will be something like $300.

In any case, you'll want WiFi on your laptop so you can surf anywhere in the house, including your deck. And ask your phone company if they offer a DSL connection. Some of them offer a WiFi bundle to boot.
I'll chime in on the Dell recommendation. Theres always a nice deal on a dell to be had. They cost a few dollars more than a budget brand but the components, cooling and noise are all improved.

If ya want, I can go look for a nice deal. Figure on about $350-400ish for a system with a regular monitor and maybe $500 for one with an lcd display.
Whichever you buy, load the updates!


eMachines works for us. We bought an old floor-model demo at about six months old. eMachines turns over the inventory pretty quickly so their demo machines are pretty recent. We did upgrade to 512MB in Bangkok but if you're a cheap guy then you won't care.

Even if you're surfing with a hotshot 56K V.92 modem, see if the manufacturer/store will sell you the computer with all of the latest Windows XP & IE updates downloaded & installed. It'll save you hours of downloads & configuring later.

When I plugged my new box in, the Blaster worm installed itself while I was updating my newly-installed Norton antivirus software. The recovery was far worse than the time spent on downloads...
I bought a Dell also because of their reputation for reliability. I like to plug things in and have them just work. I am happy with it so far. Their web site has pretty good deals every now and then.
Thanks for the good posts. Now as soon as I convince the SO that's my birthday present the 23rd of this month, I'll be off shopping. The used/or dust gathering computer store model appeals to me - but I suspect - the 'new' will appeal to her 'gift wise'.
The four biggest differences you'll find between a tier 1 supplier like Dell and a less expensive machine are in the motherboard, the memory, the hard drive and the power supply.

In a Dell, you'll likely see an intel motherboard, kingston memory, a Western Digital or Seagate disk drive, and a decent quality power supply. In the tier 2 and 3 manufacturers you'll have a DFI or Soyo board, off brand ram, off brand drive and an inexpensive supply. Sometimes you'll get a better component. Its whatever the best available was at the lowest cost.

You may not ever notice much difference in performance at the keyboard. You may not even have any more problems or reduced lifespan.

Overall though, you should be buying somewhat improved reliability, a quieter and more efficient power supply (which your ears will appreciate), and good long term use (which I think appeals to you). Case design is usually good in a Dell as well; cowling around the processor to draw heat away from it and out the back for example.

I've got several machines in my office (referred to by the wife as "that room full of crap that needs to get thrown out"), including a Dell and an eMachines unit. I've sold these guys their parts. I've taken them all apart to see whats in 'em.

Of the tier 1 suppliers (dell, ibm, hp, etc) the only one I'd avoid is HP. I've bought one of their desktops and one laptop in the last few years and I couldnt be more disappointed in the build quality, reliability and support.

When its time to buy, keep an eye on there is a deal or two almost every week on a cheap pc. Sometimes you can even score a cheap laptop.

You might even consider an iMac. New they're pretty spendy but a one a few years old will still run rings around your webtv.

You HAVE been getting updates to your webtv, havent you? If you can check the software version on it, it should be 2.8.2. Anything less and you might already have a solution to the problems you've had waiting for a download. I dont have a living webtv with me at this time, but I believe there was an option to force an update...?

My webtv has the auto update function on - ? so o.k.there.

When long posts give me - this page too big -----, then I can no longer post to that thread.

Willy nilly - cleaning out cookies, favorities, and old e- mail seems to help and does the job sometimes.
Separate subject - if Dell out of the can with a Windows system, anything added needed security wise since I will be hooked to the net. And what SHOULD NOT be on that computer.
Well now theres the 64,000 question.

Almost all manufacturers insist on loading the machine up with so called "value add" software. Which means a boatload of fairly useless trialware and subscriptionware.

I would opt for Windows XP home edition before any other product for a modern machine. Its simply a lot better than its predecessors. I'd run Windows 98 on an older machine because XP is a little weighty. XP is getting close to taking a new "security update" in the form of a "service pack". That will improve security substantially but may break one out of ten applications due to the architecture of the security changes. In other words, all hell is going to break loose, so you might wait a few months for that dust to settle.

I'd consider using a browser other than internet exploder, such as Mozilla Firefox, a free download. Two reasons: no hacker "exploit holes" of interest and 'tabbed browsing'. Tabbed browsing opens all of your interesting web pages at once and lets you click on tabs across the top of the screen, instantly taking you to that site, preloaded. You almost have to 'see it' to 'get it'. Once you do, you'll want it.

Other stuff...

Outlook Express is perfectly satisfactory for email, or you can use the web version of hotmail, yahoomail, gmail or whatever floats your boat.

Virus scanner: mcafee or norton/symantec. I've had fewer compatibility problems with norton over the years, but I"m sure others have had the opposite. Get whatever the manufacturer of your PC wants to include in with the machine.

Spyware scanners: download and run "spybot" and "ad-aware" once a week or so, just to clean out any crap that gloms onto your machine.

Other good things to have: Adobe reader...cant think of anything else critical to have...
Yep, we have Windows XP, use Outlook Exxpress for e-mail and Norton for virus protection. No real problems with any of this, so I guess I agree with the previous post.

John Galt
Other low hassle (presumably) option, another internet appliance with a little more beef to it.

I have an old Compaq IA-1 MSN companion, low mileage, yours for the cost of shipping to the bayou from california.

Might even work with the same email address and whatnot you're using with your webtv since microsoft provides the service for both.

Free is good. What's the easiest way to ship to eastern New Orleans or Slidell and pay the cost? BTY - what does it cost to ship CA to LA?
I'd have to look but I'm thinking UPS ground and its a whole machine with screen and everything, but not too heavy...probably ten bucks.

Let me fish the damn thing out and see if it still works, and make sure microsoft is still providing subcription services for it. I'll let ya know.

Relax and take your time. You might be surprised what you find out. I remember back in 93 wanting to ship some of my Mother's stuff from Portland, OR to new Orleans. The size/weight rules were interesting to say the least. A 1930's steamer trunk eventually joined the pre move garage sale after many interesting conversations with various potential shippers.

Anywise - thanks for the offer - if it gets to be too much of a pain/hassle - we'll diplomatically let it slide.
I find trailing edge technology plenty good for my purposes (web surfing, text editing, ftp, spreadsheets).

Here is an el cheapo model with a wacky operating system:

I bought this thing and scarfed a junker monitor from work. Installed RedHat and erased the old operating system off of the hard drive. It is short on memory so figure on an additional $50 or so for a memory upgrade. More memory is more better. This system has worked fine for almost a year now with no burps.

The RedHat install is supposed to be easy although you may need some linux know how. Any linux for dumbos book will tell you more than you want to know.

Here is a link to a source for a free copy while supplies last of the professional version of SuSe linux:

Mine is in the mail. SuSe and Novell are making a big push to make MS products optional instead of a requirement. Competition is good.

Probably the best money saving tip with computers is that Open Office is a good replacement for the Windows Office Suite. OO has GREAT spreadsheet capabilities and can save in MS Excel format. You can get OO for both linux and windows, free download but not for the bandwidth challenged. CD's are cheap.
My husband is an IT guy (isn't everyone these days?) and he recommends the e-machines or going to a local tech guy who you have heard good things about (there are lots of bad ones out there).

You didn't hear this from me, but you could always "borrow" someone's copies of their software to install on your own machine.
Mick - you have a private message...can you read those?

I'd recommend against "borrowing" the operating system. microsoft makes you jump through enough hoops that the hundred bucks is worth it. Some folks have gotten past the XP 'activation' only to be snagged when the first service pack wouldnt install. After saying they wouldnt do that again, the second service pack also whines about XP activation.

And not in a good way, because my copy is legal and the service pack (release candidate) wont install on my machine, saying it cant validate the activation.

The rest of the software I mentioned is free and included in XP, except the virus software. This can frequently be had as a free install on a new machine, for one year, or at a very low cost with a free "upgrade" via rebates yearly.
What to look for in a computer depends on what software you are planning to run. One mistake I see people making over and over again, is going for a low-end computer, then installing newer software two years later, thereby crippling the machine.

Older dirt cheap computers (for example a 750MHz PIII) can run fine. just don't install the latest versions of Windows.

If you just do email, word processing, and web browsing, you can probably buy a used computer and be happy.

If you need high reliability, you want WIndows 2000, or XP, or OS-X (if you like Macs)

If you buy used, make sure you get the installation CDs that came with the computer, then install the OS and software from scratch. Computers tend to accumulate junk, and need to be cleaned up from time to time. The best way to do this is to backup your personal files and email, reformat the hard drive, and re-install the software you need from scratch. Then restore your personal files and email. It's always a good idea to keep a log of all the software you install so that the clean-up process goes smoothly.

If you use a digital camera, need a CD-RW, or DVD-RW, or have a digital camcorder, you will want a newer computer with windows XP.

I will not buy another Dell. My dell laptop overheated from day one. It works on-and-off, but isn't reliable. I am not happy with their service.

For a new computer, I like the "white box" approach. You can get the highest quality 'standard' components at good prices. If service is important, consider the local computer store.

A higher end computer will allow you to install newer software for a longer time. For example, if you buy the cheapest e-machines, you should probably stick with the software that comes with the machine. If you buy the highest end P4 on a high quality motherboard, you'll be able to upgrade the software for about 2 years. (You should be able to upgrade to the next generation of MS windows and office)

If you are willing to spend the extra money and like Macs, OS-X is an excellent system.
Separate subject - if Dell out of the can with a Windows system, anything added needed security wise since I will be hooked to the net. And what SHOULD NOT be on that computer.

An anti virus program (Grisoft has a free one if you don't want to spring for Norton), a firewall (Zone Alarm has a free one), anti spyware (X Cleaner, Ad Aware [LavaSoft version], and Spybot have free ones), a pop up blocker (MSN and Google have free ones). I use Firefox for email (subset of Mozilla) because of security issues with Outlook. Make sure that you download and install all MicroSoft critical security patches as soon as they are issued. This is very important. The first thing you should do when you first connect your new computer to the internet is to turn on the MicroSoft firewall and download all MicroSoft security patches.

Also update your anti virus, firewall, and anti spyware programs regularly (at least once a week). Scan your hard drive regularly with your anti virus and anti spyware programs. If you have broadband, consider a router as a hardware firewall.

Be very careful when downloading "free" programs offered in pop up ads. Many of them contain spyware. If you don't know what it is, don't download it. Never open email attatchments until you ask the person on the sender line if they really sent it. Many viruses come in email attatchments, and pretend to be from someone you know.
Mick -

Some good deals on this one. You can get a few bucks rebated back and either a 17" tube or 15" LCD. Well configured with six months free internet (worth $120) for $500-600 before rebates. You can get a cheaper machine from someone else, but probably without the flat lcd and the included internet.

Dont forget to add a modem; these come with broadband connections only by default.

By the way, that old Compaq IA-1 is now happily spinning through 200 photos as a "digital photo frame". Once I had it out and got past the disappointment that microsoft no longer supports it, I didnt feel bad about gutting it and making it do something useful.

Looks good - I'm er ahem starting to soften up up - hint, hint - my SO for my birthday present toward the end of the month. But - looks like I've got free for 6-8 month's - the step daughters ligament operation plus rehab will take a while so her's is mine including her AOL hook-up. Boy am I cheap or what - heh, heh. Bought her own computer, can hobble around to help cook, clean, wash etc AND brought her disabled income so our per person core budget has dropped - haven't run the numbers but it's signicant.
:confused: Step daughter in spare room:confused:--with computer/AOL account/ extra money cause she can't drive and rat around/ AND she knows how to recyle dryer sheets. Boy oh boy!
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