Although I ended doing more online "looking" then buying on Black Friday, I did spend some time looking for computer deals. I finally cleared out my garage to make room for a play space, and we decided to put a family computer in the family room – where we can monitor it’s use. My third grade son has my old laptop, but it has strict internet controls so I don’t worry about him using it when I am not around. But that computer is old and on it’s way out – so we need a new one.
I saw deals at Apple, Staples, Newegg and all over the internet. But I find these official shopping days overwhelming – so I am holding off for now. This also gives me more time to finalize our list of needs for the family computer. I did find this summary from Kimberly Keith on About.com very interesting:
- Internet access only in supervised common areas of the home (for us that is our family room)
- Extra RAM (1Gb minimum) and hard drive space (160Gb minimum)
- Multimedia connectivity – USB, Firewire, and network
- Broadband Internet access
- Microsoft Office Standard Version with Scholastic Keys for the kids
- Software for homework help – dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia
- Software geared to your family’s interests – card making, simulation games, learning games, digital scrapbooking
- Basic color ink-jet printer plus a black and white laser printer
- Digital camera – video and/or still
The list above really applies for kids in elementary school (in our district it is not until 3rd grade that kids can even type their homework anyway). I do think it is a good summary. Some of the terms may be confusing so I provided links to help explain them:
- RAM (or random access memory) is the ‘main memory’ or primary storage: the working area used for loading, displaying and manipulating applications and data. For running multiple programs at one time, it is important to have the appropriate amount of RAM. I say go for 2GB just to be safe when getting a new computer. RAM is a volatile memory as the information or instructions stored in it will be lost if the power is switched off (these definitions are from Wikipedia).
- Hard Drive is where files are stored and retains information when the computer is powered down. I think 160GB is a great size to house all the family files. But I would throw in an external hard drive to store family digital photos and as a back-up. I will post later on more alternatives for backing up computers.
- Here is the Wikipedia definition of Firewires.
- USB port allows consumers to plug in USB cards to transfer or store information. Some elementary schools have children take their homework home on USB flash drives. USB ports also allow interfacing with additional hardware. For example, the Flip video camera has a USB port built in so that transferring video’s are as easy as plugging in the USB port and transferring the file.
- Internet Access: CNET has a good review of the internet access options. I personally prefer a wireless network (wi-fi) so that the family laptops and desktops can all share the internet access anywhere in the house. I will also post later on some wi-fi recommendations.