Matt RaibleMatt Raible is a Web Architecture Consultant specializing in open source frameworks.

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Over 10 years ago, I wrote my first blog post. Since then, I've authored books, had kids, traveled the world, found Trish and blogged about it all.

New Computer - should I keep it?

HP Pavilion a1250n When I arrived here in Florida on Wednesday, I got a call from Julie saying my Windows Desktop was hosed. When she started it up, she just got a black screen. This is the problem with having a 23" Cinema Display hooked up to a Windows box - you can never see if anything went wrong on startup. I told her she needed to hook up one of my humongous 19" CRT monitors from the basement, and plug it in to see what was wrong. 10 minutes later, she calls me back and tells me the problem: it can't find the hard drive. I walk her though putting in the XP CD and trying to repair the drive, but it doesn't work. I tried to convince her to live w/o e-mail and the internet until I got home, but that didn't fly either.

I got a call from her yesterday afternoon telling me that she'd just bought a computer from Best Buy. I cringed. "Best Buy?", I thought. Knowing my penny-pinching wife, I figured the machine would be a $300 eMachine. However, she sent me a link and I was pleasantly surprised. She bought a HP Pavilion a1250n, which seems to be a dual AMD 64. After further reading, it seems it's a dual-core and not a dual processor. Regardless, I was quite proud that she bought something that I've been thinking of getting. I've used AMD-based machines in the past and they've always seemed much faster than an equivalent Pentium box.

This machine does seem to be a "media center" PC, which is expected when you buy it from Best Buy. But what exactly does that mean? Does it mean it won't make a good development box? We have 14 days to return it, so I'm wondering if I should. I don't really want to buy a new desktop (unless it's a G5), but my 2.6 GHz Dimension 8300 has thrown up quite a few times in the last few months - so I'm probably due. I tried to talk Julie into a G5, but a lot of the software she's using for her new business is Windows-only ... and VirtualPC sucks.

Update: I've decided to keep the box, mainly because my Dell Dimension 8300 is getting old and this one seems much faster. It's unlikely I'll ever have a Mac desktop because we still need and enjoy using Windows for a lot of things. I'd love to, but it just won't fly with the wife - as well as many software vendors out there. To make things a bit speedier, I did buy 4 GB of RAM for the HP today. I'll likely turn my Dell into a Suse box for Subversion, CUPS and Samba.

Posted in General at Dec 09 2005, 09:07:55 AM MST 22 Comments

It's a pretty decent machine. I use a similar model for my home projects. Windows Media Center Edition is just XP with a few extra pieces installed to support connecting it to a TV and using it like a "Tivo + music player + DVD player". What's odd about this box is that it doesn't come with a TV tuner card, which makes the MCE aspect kind of pointless. As long as you don't care about the Media Center part of the machine, then I guess that's not a problem.

I think you'll be suprised by how snappy the machine is with that Athlon 64 processor. Every few months I get the urge to switch my desktops over to Macs with OSX to keep my unix orientation but have something a little more consistent and elegant than linux. However, when I just can't get over the drop in perfromance in moving from my Ubuntu/Athlon 64 combo to the OSX/G5 combo. I'm hoping the Intel switch will help in this respect, but the reports I've seen aren't promising.

Posted by Matt Welch on December 09, 2005 at 10:41 AM MST #

I've been eyeing this model (the 1st cheap dual core athlon at the big box stores) for a month or so. Major corners cut on it are shared video RAM so you don't really get the full gig of memory, and media center OS. If I get the machine I'll wipe it and put XP on it 1st thing (and fedora).

Posted by Pete on December 09, 2005 at 12:11 PM MST #

I've been thinking about getting a new PC for gaming reasons (I use my Powerbook for development) ... but with Apple's new Intel based Macs moments away I'm keen to wait and see.

To me, I can't imagine anything better than a hardcore, robust and gorgeous Mac that can easily dual boot into Windoze. Well, other than one that doesn't dual boot into Windoze! <<em>grin</em>>

I'd send it back, fix (or replace) the hard drive on your old one, and wait for a dual bootable Mac!

Posted by Carl on December 09, 2005 at 02:10 PM MST #

I'm with Carl on both points. a) Why are you buying a whole new computer when you probably just need to replace the hard drive, or some other component? And b) It's hard for me to justify buying a machine until I can buy one that dual boots OS X and Windows, which might be real soon now.

Posted by Dan on December 09, 2005 at 04:23 PM MST #

Matt, great meeting you at the Spring Experience this last week. I got to remember that 10 cups of water trick (ugh). I say you definately keep it, your wife didn't screw around at all getting a dynamite machine. I figure you got to honor that at least, right?

Posted by Daniel Hopper on December 09, 2005 at 07:34 PM MST #

Matt, you seem to be happy enough to use windows so I guess that you'll keep this pc and the dimension. Myself, I greatly prefer to use OS X and find myself more productive. I'd been using my powerbook for dev as well, but the slowness has been killing me. A full build of my project from scratch running tests, building the war with ant via IDEA averaged 62 seconds. (1.25 Ghz with 1 Gig ram, 4200 rpm hard drive). I got a new Quad and upped it to 2.5 Gigs of ram. The same build averages 8 seconds now. The great thing vs my past experience with any single cpu machine is that performance doesn't degrade. I load up Oracle, Mysql, resin, IDEA, Browsers, iTunes, etc, etc and everything stays responsive. Unlike the beachball hell my Powerbook can put me through. Certainally not cheap, but Amazon and MacConnection have $200 rebates. Amazon also had 1.57% off for the A9 discount and 3% back via their credit card. No sales tax either, so the machine was 3k even. (+ 3rd party ram) I haven't booted my windows box in 6 months. If I need it, MS makes a free Remote desktop client for OS X to connect to an XP pro box. The only app I haven't found a good Mac solution for is an ERD modeler like Erwin.

Posted by Ted Bergeron on December 09, 2005 at 09:17 PM MST #

Sorry, Matt, but I cannot resist: install linux; fsck

Posted by jeff bonevich on December 09, 2005 at 09:49 PM MST #

Your wife is cool! My wife would never buy a computer herself just because e-mail and internet doesn't work for a few days:-) I'm not surprised that you have problems with your Dell - last week I lost about 3 working days because may Dull laptop sometimes worked and sometimes not. I'd never ever buy a Dell again.

Posted by Lars Fischer on December 10, 2005 at 03:12 AM MST #

I agree w/ Lars. Definetly KEEP the wife. And wait for the new (TV TOP DWR ) Mac Mini and new Dual CPU laptop from Apple... in January! x86 based.

Posted by Vic on December 11, 2005 at 08:30 AM MST #

You've got a cool wife :) I wish my girlfriend would buy me a dual core AMD64 :) You are sooo lucky

Posted by Sergio on December 11, 2005 at 01:17 PM MST #

yep i agree with Vic. Keep ur eyes peeled for the new IntelMacs coming in Jan 06.

Posted by James Lee on December 11, 2005 at 09:20 PM MST #

I bought a very similar HP (m7248n) and have found it to be a reliable development machine. I did upgrade the RAM, but even before I was able to run Visual Studio, Dreamweaver and Photoshop. After the RAM upgrade I loaded up VMware and am getting ready to install a Linux virtual machine. The Media Center components just allow me to watch TV on the same screen as I do development. Otherwise it is not too bad of a hit on memory or processor.

Posted by Shawn Swaner on December 11, 2005 at 10:35 PM MST #

>>I wish my girlfriend would buy me a dual core AMD64 :) You are sooo lucky Who suggested the new gear was for him? I think Matt is supposed to repair his own box. If not, Matt will be angry at me because I gave his wife an interesting option... :)

Posted by tom on December 12, 2005 at 09:48 AM MST #

I've decided to keep the box, mainly because my Dell Dimension 8300 is getting old and this one seems much faster. It's unlikely I'll ever have a Mac desktop because we still need and enjoy using Windows for a lot of things. To make things a bit speedier, I did buy 4 GB of RAM for the HP today. I'll likely turn my Dell into a Suse box for Subversion, CUPS and Samba.

I will be getting a new PowerBook if they release Intel versions in January. If not, it's likely I'll give up on Apple and buy a PC Laptop. I'm tired of dealing with a slow-ass laptop, regardless of the OS.

Posted by Matt Raible on December 14, 2005 at 01:48 PM MST #

What a computer!!! You always can send to me if you dont want it :).

Posted by Tyson Cung on December 15, 2005 at 08:36 PM MST #

Matt - Don't give up on OS X yet. I suggest you work on the HP for a while, then move to an Intel-based Mac when they come out. Patience, patience :)

Posted by Geof Harries on December 16, 2005 at 12:55 PM MST #

[Trackback] As I needed a powerful machine for some development work involving MS SQL Server 2005 and IntelliJ IDEA on Windows, I decided to buy the same machine as Matt's wife. For about $1200 I got it today at CompUSA with 2 GB additional RAM. Now I have a dual-...

Posted by Stephan Schwab on December 23, 2005 at 10:38 PM MST #

I was just given a used Dell Dimension 8300 XP Pentium 4 Home Edition PC. It is to replace my HP windows 98 that is running just fine for me. Anyhow I do not know much about PC's and my neighbor who is out of town for a month is going to set it all up for me and transfer all information from my HP to my Dell. My question is as follows. I did not get a manual, or Restoration, or Resource CDs with the Dell 8300. Do I need them or since my neighbor is pretty well versed on PCs will he know what to do. If I can locate some Restoration or Resource CDs would it be a good idea to purchase same. I did locate a manual from Dell on the 8300 on-line using adobe reader and that should be fine. So bottom line do I need the CDS and does anyone have them and would you be willing to sell them to me for a reasonable cost? Thank you.

Posted by Philip Balkin on February 17, 2007 at 11:10 AM MST #

If your neighbor is well-versed in PCs, you shouldn't have any issues. At a bare minimum, you might need a copy of Windows XP. However, this should come with your Dell - most PCs ship with a copy these days, as well as the restore CDs.

Posted by Matt Raible on February 17, 2007 at 11:45 AM MST #

Hey i have the same model and want to buy more RAM for it. Not sure does it matter wether its DDR or DDR2 for this computer? Sometimes i get confused between the compatibilities of RAMs. Can you help me out with what kind of RAM this model supports? Thanks

Posted by Johnny on March 20, 2007 at 02:42 AM MDT #

Johnny - I'd use Crucial to order your memory. They should allow you to select your computer name and pick the memory based on what will fit in your computer.

Posted by Matt Raible on March 20, 2007 at 10:16 AM MDT #

[Trackback] Someone referenced this post to answer question "When I turn on my Dell computer it doesn't load?"...

Posted by Copious-Systems on December 01, 2010 at 07:41 AM MST #

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