Monthly Archives: February 2010

“A Geek Falls Upon Tough Times” or “The Frugal Geek”

Someone keeps talking about a recession, but I never had a whole lot of money so it all looks pretty similar to me. But what is a geek to do? They keep parading out new shiny things with lights and buttons that tempt and draw us in. Like that ridiculous iPad thingy. I have no need for it, it’s little more than an enlarged iPod Touch, yet of course I am captivated, longing to make it mine. But I can’t justify a material purchase in this rocky fiscal environment, no sir. And frankly, I’ll wait until they start blowing them out at $300 and add a usb port. But still, what is a geek to do? How can we maximize our tech budget, or better yet, how can we save money? Today we’ll focus on a few key tips to provide just that.

Here’s the first one, and it may be too late. The holiday buying season and the Superbowl came and went, and maybe, just maybe, you made it through without buying a new flat screen. Maybe you didn’t make it, but if you resisted, good for you. The prices that magically appeared just after ‘Black Friday’ (Monday for us internet shoppers), have stayed and perhaps dropped further. And they will continue to do so. My advice is to hold out as long as you can. If you’re looking at a specific model of television, wait for at least a 25% price drop off from it’s original retail price. And don’t get too caught up in the 1080p, 120Hz, higher numbers are better idiocy. It’s a lot of fluff. They are better, but the amount they are better aren’t generally justified by the price. For the human eye at 20/20 to actually perceive a difference between 720p to 1080p, you’d have to be sitting closer than 5′ from a 42″ screen. My mother told me not too sit that close to the television. You can now get a very good name brand 42″ 720p LCD or plasma for less than $500. That’s just awesome. Somebody paid $1000 for that same shiny box less than a year ago. Sit ten feet away and enjoy.

Want a new computer? Well, it might be time. It’s a fine time to get one, they are cheaper than ever. A decent Dell laptop is sub-$500 now. We are nearing the end of a technology cycle in terms of computer processors and hard drive design, so those components in addition to all major companies decoupling warranty coverage from your purchase has made them all the more affordable. By decoupling warranty coverage, I’m talking about the fact that when you call the 800 number you talk to someone with less than spectacular english. You used to pay more for your computers so that they could provide you with decent service after the sale. Apparently, this quality, as with so many other things, is the first to go to make sure that we can have it cheaper. Sad. I have a Mac, not that it’s ever needed service, but I promise you’ll be talking to someone stateside when you call. If for some reason you bought a computer within the last couple of years, you may be best served by upgrading the RAM and perhaps the hard drive to maximize performance for short money. Why buy new if you can upgrade your current machine and improve productivity for $150 or less?

Leakage. Where is the leakage? Sometimes it’s as easy as taking a closer look at your monthly credit card statement. Hosting a website? You’re almost definitely paying too much. I happen to know of a local company that will certainly save you money on that. Paying for your antivirus program? Sure it’s not much, but it’s really no better than the free versions available in Microsoft Security Essentials and AVG. If you don’t watch a lot of current release television shows, drop the satellite/cable bill and start streaming them online. streams even the biggest new release television shows the day after their on air premiere, and it’s free. Have a Netflix account? Drop it to one disc at a time and check out their stream on demand service. The selection is limited, but it’s pretty cool. If you have a XBox 360 with a Live account, you can stream Netflix through that direct to your television. Or pick up a nifty little wireless box from Roku to make it happen. Or maybe that new TV you just bought has it built in. For real, they make that. Telephone bills driving you to the poor house? An internet phone is a no brainer, especially if you are making any international calls. Vonage is solid, but we recently switched over to Ooma for even our business lines. Great service and all but free after your initial hardware investment. There are even more high tech ways to sweeten the phone deal utilizing Google Voice and other services, but they get pretty in depth and going into it here would bore even me.

Perhaps the best way for a geek to survive the downturn is to stay vigilant. I strongly believe that taking a bit of that new found idle time to educate yourself to new technologies is time well spent. Just brushing up on more recent versions of software that you already use regularly can make you all the more productive and effective in your current position. This is no time to sit idly by. The job market is rough as can be and your skills may need to be much sharper if you find yourself suddenly without work. Take some of this time to push yourself forward and to break through some of the walls that have crept up around you while you were otherwise occupied. Invest in yourself, clean up your own web presence, whether it’s an out of date website, a long lost myspace account (at least go to facebook), or just checking your search engine rankings, there’s no doubt that some part of you or you business has been neglected and can use a facelift. What kind of impression are you giving online right now? Take a look at what’s out there and be honest with yourself, it can always be better.

So that’s just a handful of things, and maybe you’re doing just fine and none of this applies to you. In that case, feel free and give me a call, I’ve got some business ideas for you. But if any of these makes you think even just a little bit about ways to improve your inner geek, well that’s good. I say go for it, and I’ll be happy to help. I will also accept an iPad as payment.