Geek-in-Law “True-Cost”

What’s the True-Cost of buying a $400 desktop computer on special at Best Buy? That’s a tough one to answer, but it’s important to put a Geek-in-Law perspective on it.

Note: If you are a Mac user, you can add about $500 onto the “base cost” of $400 I used above for a desktop computer. With that adjustment in mind, I believe that all the rest in this post still applies to you.

Partly, True-Cost depends on your needs. And it depends on how high a priority you place on things like:

  • Never worrying about losing your data
  • Security and anti-virus protection
  • How much “downtime” you can tolerate

It also depends on what tools you need. For example, you may or may not need any of the following:

  • Digital camera
  • Scanner
  • External hard drive
  • Online backup solution
  • Personal finance software
  • Word processor
  • Photo-editing software
  • MP3 player

The list can go on and on.

For the items above that you “need”, the True-Cost also depends on whether you actually need these, or just feel like you need them. Find out, before you goto the store. Never buy a salve for an itch you don’t really have.

This is the easy stuff – the stuff you can buy at the store, or from a handful of online vendors. But what about the inevitable?

The Inevitable

One day, your computer is either going to die or come down with a nasty flu. Here, your tolerance for “downtime” will be tested. Do you really need to use your digital camera? How bad would it be if you could not read your email for a few days? How good are you at figuring out how to solve entirely new classes of technical problems on a regular basis?

Keep in mind:

  • Most places where you might use your digital camera, there’s someone else there who also has a digital camera. Let them take the photos – after all, we don’t ALL need to be the semi-professional photographer / family historian, do we?
  • If you can’t check your email at home, you can probably check it at work or on your mobile phone.
  • Your computer and sundry technology is far more complex than anything you’ve encountered before. Can you really ever expect to come anywhere close to mastering it?

Note: You might claim that other aspects of your life – e.g., your marriage – are equally complex. You are right – totally right. But I’m using the word “complex” with a slightly different connotation here. The difference between your computer problems and your marital problems is that when you computer fails, it fails drastically, it stymies you. Again, you may say that it is the same with a marital problem. But the truth is, in either case there is always a way around the problem. But I’m still going to call the computer problem more “complex” (at least until I come up with a better term for the situation) since I think most of us are better prepared to move around or abandon complex “life problems”. Doesn’t necessarily mean we are better able to solve them, but we tend to get past them anyway.

Also keep in mind: If your tolerance for “downtime” is truly low or non-existent, there is a bullet-proof solution for you. Use only the highest quality systems, services, devices, providers, hardware, and software. And then, ensure you have a high-quality redundant system for each of your primary systems. Finally, decide whether the effort and expense is worthwhile to you. The answer is probably “no”, right?

So, how can you deal with the inevitable?

Well, the best way is to keep reading the “Geek-in-Law” posts on this blog. 🙂

Next best would be to marry ME into your family and provide sufficient financial support so that I can be at your beck and call instead of working for some other non-appreciative corporation or firm. 😉 🙂

For those of you who are still with me, a few suggestions right-off. The remainder of this issue will be explored in future posts. Obviously, your feedback is helpful and appreciated as we go along.

Can we stymie the inevitable?

A few things you could try..

Go into your Best Buy purchase with your eyes open, and don’t let the sales staff convince you that you are getting a good and reliable product, no matter what price you pay, or what service or hardware / software add-ons you agree to. No computing technology is good or reliable enough to make a significant difference for 99% of the computing population.

Find a tech you trust, and hire them for a few hours here and there to help you learn some things. Once you get comfortable working with them, start to depend on them, and call / hire them when you have more serious problems.

Note: If you find a good one, you’ll get a level of service you won’t even find in your Geek-in-Law, since the independent, hired technologist is going to be available when you need him – that’s his job. In this case, continue to use your trusted Geek-in-Law for advice. Also, Geeks-in-Law like chocolate.

Keep in mind that hiring tech support can get very expensive, very quickly. Many computing problems are unbounded in scope. So, lean on your Geek-in-Law sometimes, but also question your own expensive new hobby of system administration, which came along with your cheap computer.

Relentlessly find and buy only the very best technology solutions. A few well-placed dollars can go a long way toward helping.

Relentlessly re-evaluate your own relationship to your own technology. On the whole, is your computer making your life easier or more enjoyable? If not, toss it in the trash. Seriously. Don’t get swept up in the Internet madness. A few years from now, I wager that “I don’t like computers” will be a completely acceptable thing to say in public. Besides, everyone knows that a TiVo is far more useful and fun than a general purpose computer. Get one!

General purpose computers – they are the wave of the past.. In your personal decision, you might find that you’d rather leave them as toys for people who like to hobby-compute!