Contributed by guest blogger: Matt Cash – a connoisseur of geeking out for less. Follow him on twitter: @matthewrcash
I want to set something straight. Technology does not have to come at the cost of your finances. This may seem impossible, but it is. Yes – we like new technology. We like having the newest and best TV’s, computers, cell phones and gadgets. I – as much as the next person – also like having the latest technology but I have been living on a techno-budget for the past 19 years. This “lifestyle” was forced upon me at the tender age of 13. I realized at that time that my parents weren’t going to buy me the computer I so desperately wanted, so I had to devise a way to have what I wanted on what was essentially a paltry income generated from some after school jobs and mowed lawns. My techno treasures came after much sacrifice – so I appreciated them and researched my purchases heavily before I made them. I have taken every shortcut and made every mistake possible in search of good, quality technology priced affordably for me. Through all this searching and finding, I found a great place between “want” and “need” where I like to make my purchases. This is the place I have found my geek paradise and where I can shop with full knowledge that I am not just buying what “they” are trying to sell me and that I am truly solving problems – as every geek loves doing. Now, young padawan, I will share some of what I have learned with you.
For my first trick, I want to address one of the fears of every parent sending their kid to college for the first time; buying a laptop. Most colleges require a laptop for school these days, and most people will go to their nearest Apple store and buy the cheapest Macbook they can find, which is about $1000 for a 13 inch, basic laptop. Apple makes some very good technology and they are really good at selling it, but so does BMW, and you wouldn’t buy your kid a brand new BMW for college would you? If you would, please stop reading this and go play some golf, this tip isn’t for you. Colleges are like “laptop hell”. Laptops at a college will be stolen, stepped on, beer spilled and virus infected in the first month alone. So why spend 1000 to 2000 dollars on a computer that might not make it past the first semester?
I recently read a great article on a website called “Crunchgear” about how to buy a laptop off of Craigslist and load a free operating system called “Ubuntu” on it to help keep costs down. Their reasoning is this: If all the kid is going to do is homework, internet, email and the music, why do they need such a high powered device? It’s not like they are running complex mathematical computations and high end graphics programs. A nice gently used, model from last year is still more than enough power for anything the kid can throw at it, plus because it isn’t the shiniest new tech on the block, it won’t be as susceptible to theft.
It doesn’t even matter if the computer came with a hard drive full of programs or viruses. You’ll want to wipe the computer clean and add your own operating system (OS). Windows 7 is a good OS, but it’ll be at least 100 dollars to buy a legitimate copy, and that doesn’t include copies of Word or Office to actually do real work. Apple’s OSX will only run on a Mac (officially). Ubuntu is a free, open source OS that handles a lot like a Mac but is very efficient and nearly virus proof. It has everything a student could need already preloaded, which includes word processing, spreadsheets, email, and calenders. It even makes older laptops and desktops work better than it ever did before with Windows. Ubuntu doesn’t feel like a cheap knockoff either, it has been in development for many years and is even on version 10.10 as of the writing of this article. Ubuntu is based on Linux, which is a very stable and powerful OS that the geeks of the world have been using since the 80’s. There might be a good week of the student familiarizing themselves to the different terms and intricacies to the new OS, but knowing how to use a Linux in the professional world is considered very highly marketable, plus any question the kid might have is just a Google search away.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to living in a world where technology can be afforded but not having to settle for cheap deals at your local Wal-mart for items that won’t be working just a year after buying them. You can even laugh a little to yourself when you see someone with a brand new Macbook and realize that you paid at least a quarter of the cost of what they have and more than likely have the same guts on the inside. Remember, a geek will always find a better way.