This is a rant, no question. Just to warn you… Mom & Dad, forgive me.

The debate is on prebuilt/factory built computers versus homemade computers. When I graduated from high school, my parents granted me $800 and suggested I buy a factory-built computer. Being freshly and madly in love with a guy who had a reasonable amount of experience in the field of computer-building, I refused this option, choosing instead to bestow the honor of computer-building on my dear Ian. My parents decided that in light of my irrational and passionate insistence on an Ian-made computer, and in the interests of family-preservation, they wouldn’t push my buying a prebuilt computer. Ian built CyberVixen, and she began crashing consistently once I brought her to Clark. Before that, she worked fine. However, this eventually necessitated replacing her, which we did through the generosity of Ian’s parents, who bought me a ShuttleX PC. The Shuttle is a great computer, and I haven’t had any trouble with it since Dan kindly put the CPU and video cards in.

Now Colleen, my “syster,” is going to college next year and the debate once again crops up: to allow her technical boyfriend to design and build her a machine, or to encourage her to buy a manufactured computer recommended by her college. Where to start? The positives of a factory-built computer is that it’s guaranteed to work initially; if it breaks, you ship it back to the manufacturer and they fix it while it’s under warranty; you need no technical skill to buy or use a Dell or Gateway, and in the worst case it goes off and is magically repaired. My family feels burned, because not only did I insist on Ian’s building CyberVixen, but she didn’t ever work perfectly. Homemade computers have their advantages, however, and I think those advantages outweigh the disadvantages. They’re self-designed and thus will fit your needs perfectly; the parts are easily replaceable/upgradeable, no sending back to a factory; generally building one will be cheaper than buying a whole system from Dell or Compaq or Gateway. I’m recommending they take a middle-of-the-road approach by buying Colleen a Shuttle. She could get a nicer card for her graphic design, a good CPU, and everything else is contained on the motherboard: cooling problems are avoided because it’s all designed into the computer’s motherboard. The CPU has a special cooling system that beats any I’ve seen before; because it’s so small, they specially engineered it to stay very cool. Crashing because of hardware mismatches can’t happen because it’s practically all right on the motherboard, and Shuttles run fairly cheap. Certainly cheaper than a Dell. For somebody like Colleen, this would be the perfect solution.

Mom, however, has gotten this idea – which I cannot entirely make out – that somehow a homemade computer could be incompatable at certain colleges. I’m a little confused on this point, but what I heard from her was that college ITS systems – the network? – was actually incompatable with certain PCs, primarily homemade ones. She said that certain programs they would want students to use “to turn in homework” (one example of hers) would not work on any but a very few specific computer types. She also said that she’d heard ITS people had special agreements with Dell, for instance, where they would work with Dell tech support to fix computer problems in Dells owned by students but the non-Dell-using students were left out in the cold. No tech support if you don’t use the computers the college recommends! As Ben said: “That would be like going to school and them telling you you had to wear your hair a certain way or they wouldn’t teach you anything.” I admit I was a little confused on the point Mom was trying to make, because as far as I know no server can tell the difference between a Dell and a homemade computer: they all have the same types of components (working MoBo, CPU, etc). I cannot imagine how a college could force you to buy a computer of their desired brand! Software compatablity doesn’t have anything to do with hardware you’re using, does it? And could a college’s tech support people refuse to work on any but a certain type of machine? It’s ridiculous! -I cannot imagine a situation in which a college would care one whit what type of machine you buy; they don’t run programs on the intranet that would rely on your owning a Dell; if you have a functioning computer it will work.

Maybe I’ve misunderstood here, but overall it sounded like the college was able to force you to buy the computer of their choice by not offering tech support to other users, and Mom also thought that school tech support had special agreements with computer brand X which allowed their tech support to work closely with computer X’s and thus fix computer X’s comptuers, as well as these college having a network that would exclude non-correct computers if it used software that would only run on the college-condoned ones. Is that even possible?! Is any of this even feasable, at all? Is there any way that something along those lines could be accomplished, even if my understanding (garbled through both mom and my non-technical brains) is off somewhat?

Is that discrimination?

– KF –



9 thoughts on “Should Computers Be Homemade or Manufactured?

  1. Computers are bad, don’t use computers m’kay? Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about hardware to answer your concerns. I’m a software guy. But my home-built computer has worked great for almost 2 years, and I’ve had nothing but bad experiences with name brand computers. I’d say it comes down to just making sure your parts are all compatible.

  2. Ummm…
    I don’t think so. There is no difference besides the little logo on the outside. Build your own… it’s much cheaper. However, if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of building your own, you can buy it (a good idea for the non technically inclined), and they will help you fix it (well, their dudes in India will attempt to).

  3. Thanks Katie! XXXXXXXXXOOOOOOOOOOO:):):):):):)

    Dad tried to post a big anti-build-your-own-comp counter-rant, but it was over 1000 words 😀

    More benefits of building your own box:
    Gain life skills (Peter says he has every intention of making me assemble it)
    Satisfaction of doing something yourself + doing it well
    Fun summer project
    Bonding time with nerdy boyfriend
    Bragging rights (very large since I’m a girl!)

    And of course we have 1 example (CyberVixen) of a homemade computer that doesn’t work, and countless examples of homemade comps that work extremely well.

    Thanks again!

  4. Haha that Toshiba looks exactly like what every college student needs! *Heck yeah!!*

    Dad emailed me the comment, and in fairness the gist of it is: Either one can be good, but you have to choose the right time and place. Pros for choosing a manufactured machine:
    1) Vendor qualification
    2) Design validation
    3) Unit testing
    4) Warranty (all the parts you buy for a homemade comp come with warranties, many more comprehensive than for a while computer)
    5) Tech support
    “There is no one decision that is right for everyone. So it is with computers. Legitimate choices can be made either way.” (Dad’s comment)

  5. I am sure you see the difference between buying a bunch of parts that all have warranties versus buying a finished machine with a warranty…

  6. Though this blog was written ages ago, I wanted to put my own $0.03 in.

    *Colleges cannot force anyone to buy a certain brand of computer.
    *They can require a certain operating system (most likely Windows XP or above) for compatibility with their software.
    *Networks cannot exclude or even detect the brand of computers (they can know what browser you’re using, what OS [Windows/Linux/Mac], your IP, that’s about it].
    *College techs can refuse to offer hardware tech support to home-built machines, though they should still offer software support as long as the OS and software you’re using is supported by them.
    *Some schools do have agreements with computer manufacturers (one near me has one with Dell, I believe), and so sometimes buying computers from the school can be a bit cheaper than buying the same one from a retailer.
    *Now-a-days, many colleges require students to own a laptop. When my sister went to school, computers were completely optional, and now desktops won’t even do for many schools. Quite interesting.
    *Software compatibility only relies on hardware if that hardware is “Apple” hardware (which really, the only thing Apple about Apple computers is their motherboards – everything else is brought in from other manufacturers). But on “PC” hardware, with Windows XP or newer, there should be nothing incompatible with whatever the college has, unless you’re taking classes that USE Apple computers (Adobe Premier 101 anyone?).

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