The danger in overthinking things

I still haven’t found a high(er)-end laptop that suits my fancy, which is mostly my fault. I acknowledge I have a tendency to overthink things and wait too long, and miss a deal or decide against a purchase altogether. It’s the result of having been church-mouse poor for an exceptionally long time: If I could talk myself out of something or learn to live without it altogether, I made a point of doing that.

But this time my tendency to … what’s the opposite of “impulse buy”? “Anti-impulse buy”? … means I just haven’t gotten to the computer shop, and the few times I have, I’ve sat around and thought about it too long, and missed a sale date. There is a slight flaw in my character, that way.

That flaw is underscored by the fact that almost everything I do on a daily basis is handled by an old Pentium laptop. To wit:

  • Instant messaging friends,
  • Managing e-mail for personal, public and work responsibilities (in other words, my accounts for work, home and this site)
  • Appointment and scheduling for all of those “facets” of my life
  • Note-taking, or note-arranging, depending on the information and the way it is structured
  • Web surfing, download management and download acceleration
  • Music playback, to include sound equalization
  • Document and file conversion, for both work and home
  • Blogging, although I am ashamed to call it that 😐
  • File encryption and decryption
  • Chatting, although it is rare
  • Remote machine access
  • Local and networked file management, and
  • A variety of games, some quite good and some only “good.” 🙂

The things that can’t be done at such a low clock speed — video playback, for example — are pawned off on the Thinkpad, which sits to the side. And if the Thinkpad had a CD writer in it, my little world would be complete.

The strange part (as if all that wasn’t strange enough) is that I know, with a fairly strong sense of certainty, that even if I pick up a high(er)-end computer, chances are I’ll want to run it as a console-only machine at least for a little while. And I have enough experience with both low- and high-speed machines running as terminal-only systems to know there’s really no difference in performance.

Both machines can run the same software, both have basically the same responsiveness (even Pentiums are snappy at the command line) and the only differences come from the connecting hardware itself. I can, for example, run the same suite of programs on a 1Ghz machine or a 120Mhz machine, and except for the fact that the Pentium takes longer to start them (or the framebuffer takes longer to display an image, or the network card is just naturally slower) there’s no loss in productivity. Once they’re up and running, I really can’t tell the difference.

So I guess I should be working harder to find that mystical laptop I dream about, but at the same time the only real reason I want it is to build software for the machine I would be using anyway, and perhaps to burn a CD or two. Maybe I should take my own advice, and stick with the low-end leftover machines I keep around the house anyway, and skip buying a new one altogether. I seem to be getting by just fine without it.

There I go again, overthinking things. … 😐

13 thoughts on “The danger in overthinking things

  1. Serguei Filimonov

    No way, man. Poor lifestyle is cool and I’m serious. As Epicurus puts it: “Nothing is sufficient to someone for whom a little is not enough.”.

    On the less philosophical and more practical side however, may I say that your proficiency with low-tech software will make you an absolutely AMAZING netbook user with a through-the-roof productivity and mobility. “Small hardware” is the new “old hardware”.

    1. Xyzzy

      “No way, man. Poor lifestyle is cool and I’m serious. As Epicurus puts it: “Nothing is sufficient to someone for whom a little is not enough.””

      Nah, it’s living frugally that’s truly cool… Poor just means being too tired from chronic malnourishment to do the research to get the most out of your dollar. Though if you’re quite sure poverty’s the way to go, I’d, um, be willing to help you…muahaha >;-)

      I can heartily agree with the second comment from experience, though. Since falling into poverty, I’ve gotten months or years of true joy from my few & invariably inexpensive purchases — but when I had disposable income, I was rarely happy with what I bought, even the same kind of items I’m now thrilled with secondhand. Or as I read elsewhere recently, even one’s absolute most favorite foods lose their attraction if they’re an everyday meal…

  2. mulenmar

    Look on eBay, find a few laptops that have what you have decided you want, print out their entries.

    Pin to a wall, through darts with eyes closed and no one else in room.

    If one hit, buy.
    If multiple hit, take others down and repeat. Repeat until only one hit. Buy.

  3. Bryan

    I have to concur with the above netbook statement. Though it might not be the clock speed you want (though some netbooks get just under 2GHz), the RAM is relatively high and they have a number of newer features that your older machines simply didn’t have available such as USB2.0 and SDHC storage.

    1. Peter

      On the netbook idea – I’m not a huge fan of laptops – I like a full size mechanical keyboard (I have a IBM Model M) and screens I do not have to squint at so I use desktop systems but I am thinking about replacing my ageing 1Ghz Athlon system (over a decade old) if only because my spare parts bin is getting very empty (just had to swap out the sound card). When I started thinking about a replacement (I wont lie) my thoughts immediately turned to a quad-core system with oodles of RAM but on reflection I going to put together an Intel Atom based system (most likely based around a Asus AT3N7A-I ION motherboard) – this will still be more powerful than my current system (which more than meets my needs with the exception of the fact that it has started eating parts a a ferocious rate). Of course the Atom is the same chip that power most netbooks…

  4. Xyzzy

    I certainly identify too much with this post, especially since I’ve needed to get a new-to-me system for about a year but have talked myself out of it thus far. Luckily given my finances, reading your blog has shown me that I don’t need a 1.6+GHz system for a decent user experience, though as a novice I think I’d prefer at least half that. 😉

    Based on how you use your systems, you might want to consider whether a used Linux PDA + keyboard (plus wifi if needed) would work well for you… I’ve really enjoyed the old Zaurus SL-5600 I got last year despite the frustration of being in way over my head with no user community, so I’d certainly recommend & its newer siblings.

  5. Onyros

    He’d absolutely fall in love with an N800/N810. Plus, the 400MHz ARM chip they have would be a flyer for his kinds of needs, and there’s a world of possibilities in terms of tweaking.

    I know I couldn’t live with mine (N800), it’s my personal assistant, my ebook reader (even though I prefer good old books, but they can’t be read without light, in bed, without disturbing anyone, for example – and it also relieved me of having to choose which books to take while on the go, they’re all in there), my music player, my email buddy, and I usually control all computers in the house with the N800 (through VNC).

    It’s a helluva machine, and available for a very meager price nowadays.

  6. lo0m

    “Blogging, although I am ashamed to call it that” .. don’t be… I’m always looking forward to your new post showing in my RSS reader.. keep up!

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