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Personal Tech

Why I won't buy a Dell next time

Or, Reason #11 to buy a Mac

Backward compatibility

I have three IDE hard disk drives that I once used with my most recent system, prior to the 9200. One has a Windows image, one a Linux image, and one is dual-boot Linux/Windows. Because I recently moved overseas, and because the system I'd been using was a couple of years old, I decided to ship only the HDDs. At $3 per lb for overseas shipping, one discards anything one can.

Well, the new system has two SATA drives, which is fine with me. What's not fine with me is the fact that the motherboard has no IDE socket, only a power lead, although it does have a floppy drive socket. Unfortunately, I have got a lot of important data on those disks, and I naturally want to transfer it to my new system. For me, the easiest way would be to plug in the disks one at a time and simply copy the data using a file browser like Konqueror or Windows Explorer. Only there's nothing to plug them into. So I imagine I will have to find some sort of USB adapter or PCI adapter, or worse, build a slightly out-of-date system for my IDE drives and use some kind of "software solution".

Now for a real frustration, to me anyway: this machine has no Firewire port. I never thought to check the detailed spec sheet for information on this, because I simply expected a high-end machine to have one. I mean, do you expect to have to ask for power windows on a BMW? This is an expensive, upper mid-range machine for which I paid €2,100, including optional hardware upgrades, monitor and VAT. It ought to come "loaded", as they say in the automobile trade.

Firewire is the only way I can download video from my palmcorder. I do some very amateur video work teaching cooking techniques, and I was planning to use this machine for editing. Obviously, this system doesn't suit my needs very well. And, after spending over €2k, I don't think that's something a person should have to say.

Dell suggests that this system is fairly typical of current PCs, and I don't doubt that. The company told us: "The Dimension 9200 is a high-performance entertainment device, and its port selection is in line with current requirements. Customers can buy Firewire as an upgrade, but at the time of your purchase, it wasn't available from Dell's online store."

So it's an option now, but it wasn't a month ago. Perhaps Dell miscalculated in withholding it from a "high performance entertainment device". But why not just make it standard? I seriously doubt that I'm the first person to be frustrated by the lack of IDE and Firewire support in a new PC. No person willing to spend two grand on a computer is going to balk at the few extra Euros needed to ensure that it's fully functional. I'm really appalled by the lack of backward compatibility and "xeno-compatibility" in today's PCs.

So maybe this is reason number 11 to buy a Mac. They certainly seem to have few problems with backward compatibility. And they all seem to have Firewire ports. Oh, and they seem to be quite heavily built, too.

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