The first 72 hours with 64 bits -or- Taking the Ferrari to the corner for milk

Gateway® DX4710-UB301AAs some of you may have read on FriendFeed and Twitter, after six years, I finally replaced my aging home desktop computer. The old one ran Windows XP at 2.0GHz with 1GB of RAM. The new computer (shown right) runs Windows Vista 64-bit with a 2.66GHz Quad-core processor and 6.144GB of RAM. I’ve nicknamed it "The Beast". (Full specs can be found on the Gateway site.)

First, some background.

Whenever someone asks me, "Should I get a new computer?" I ask them "Well, does your current computer do what you need it to do without an undue burden on you?" In other words, does it work without going too slow, or needing regular (daily) reboots? If the answer is yes, then it isn’t time for a new computer. If no, then it is.

Readers, it’s been that time for me for about a year now.

I knew that this computer was never going to be upgradable to Vista. I looked into doubling the RAM (which is generally a stop-gap measure at best) and found that the old Gateway used some sort of obscure RAM and that all my slots were full so upping it to 2GB was going to cost me something in the neighborhood of $300. That wasn’t going to fly.

So, I’ve been looking. I’ve been trolling the NewEgg and TigerDirect flyers and RSS feeds and figured that I’d be purchasing a bare-bones kit (case, power supply, CPU, RAM) then customizing it with a graphics card, hard drive, and OS. This was looking to cost me about $900 for something in the neighborhood of a dual-core 3GHZ with 3GB of RAM.

Then, this past Thursday, Gateway sent me an e-mail.

The e-mail listed a deal on a laptop and The Beast via Office Depot. I posted a message to FriendFeed and Twitter to get opinions and most were "go for it". The one from @stephenk was memorable: "Do you really need a Ferrari to go to the corner store for milk?"

The simple answer is of course no, but I’m glad I got the Ferrari. (I ended up driving 50 miles out to LaVista, NE to pick it up at the store so I’d have it to set up over the weekend.)

I’m not a serious gamer (as can be shown by the fact that The Beast doesn’t contain the greatest graphics card in the world,) but I have been known to encode DVD video. Did I "need" 6GB or RAM and a quad-core processor, probably not. But for this price, I’m glad I didn’t pass it up.

Here’s an example from the weekend:

At one point I had Firefox, Outlook open, BitTorrent downloading and seeding some video, a bunch of background software running in the system tray, I was burning a DVD-ROM, AND streaming a tv show up the the livingroom over the network.  All at the same time, and yet was still using only about .45 of the CPUs and .40 of the available RAM.

That’s what I need my computer to be able to do and it did so with enough headroom to be able to handle anything else I could think of throwing at it. Oh, and did I mention that it boots in about 30 seconds?

As for the 64-bit version of Vista, I was hesitant but Paul Thurrott over on the Windows Weekly podcast says that it’s ready for prime-time and the 64-bit hardware drivers are no longer a problem. So, how’s that working for me? Just fine.

I did have to hunt through the Dell Web site for a 64-bit driver for my Dell 1100 laser printer but once I found that, it printer works as it should.

The only continuing problem is with my Ultra USB hard drive enclosure. Which, most unfortunately, contains my music. So far The Beast refuses to recognize this USB device even though it works fine on the old computer. I contacted Ultra and they insist that it should work just fine in Vista 64-bit, it’s a Windows problem, and I should contact Microsoft. I’m thinking I’ll just replace the enclosure with a different brand. Right now that decision is coming down to wether I’d rather spend time with Microsoft technical support or just shell out $30 for a replacement.

So, yes, I’m glad that I bought the Ferrari. Sometimes a little overkill is worth not having to walk to the store.

3 Replies to “The first 72 hours with 64 bits -or- Taking the Ferrari to the corner for milk”

  1. David’s new computer (which he put together) is similar to yours. He likes it very much. Yes, it is much much much faster. Now he doesn’t have that to complain about!

  2. Whenever someone asks me, “Should I get a new computer?” I ask them “Well, does your current computer do what you need it to do without an undue burden on you?”
    I’m glad to hear you say that. Our computer is 5 years old and, while slow, does everything we need for now. The biggest problem is space. Since getting a digital camera it is filling up. (Yes, we can put them on CD-ROMs, but then we’d have to go through them and organize them.)

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