Hard Drives & Computers ... What I buy when it's my money.

Man, I hate having to spend my own money on computer stuff. I get used to receiving software, utilities and other gizmos from companies all the time to review. It can get addictive. Then something breaks or gets old and I have to come back down to reality.

A couple of times a year I’m forced to spend money, out of my own pocket, for some necessary products. That happened twice this week. I can feel your expressions of empathy. Thanks.

Fortunately, I saw the first one coming. When you’re in the business of speaking about the latest computer products, people expect you to own the latest and greatest yourself. So once a year, whether I need one or not, I buy a new computer. So what does the “technology guru” buy when he has to spend his own money? My choice was a 15” MacBook Pro. I was tempted to go with the 17-inch model, but decided to practice what I preach. The 17-inch model is just too big to carry through airports several times a month.

I was visiting with a PC-using colleague by phone yesterday and mentioned that I’d just purchased the new computer. His response was, “I could buy three PC laptops for that much money.”

Truth be told, I could have bought a couple of MacBooks for the same money (yes, I was tempted), but I’ve learned the hard way that you get what you pay for. That’s not just true of cars and phones. I need a computer that works every time. I don’t have time to worry about fixing a computer. I need a computer that’s not susceptible to viruses. I need a computer that doesn’t need upgrading every few months with new service packs. I need a computer that still speeds through applications after it gets some wear and tear.

That’s why I recommend iMacs for my clients who are purchasing desktop computers. Sure, they could buy a couple of cheap PCs for the $1,200 they’ll spend on an iMac, but they won’t have to worry about computers breaking down, virus attacks and more over the years.

So my first purchase was the MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the second one coming.

If you read my column regularly, you know that I’m a big believer in backup drives. You can’t have too many of them. I keep two of them connected to my primary desktop (yes, it’s an iMac). You might even remember that I always keep at least two backup drives, because they tend to break down after two or three years. The better drives tend to last a little longer. You guessed it. Yesterday, I was in the middle of backing up my system when the secondary backup drive started clicking. Hardware gurus refer to this as the “click of death.”

When you hear the click of death, you know a drive is history. Whether it’s an external or internal drive, the click means it’s time to do an immediate backup - on the chance that you can still save your data. It was too late for mine. There was no saving the data on this drive. Fortunately, I have another backup drive with the same data, so I’m OK. But I am forced to purchase a replacement drive. Yes, with my own money.

While we’re discussing the backup drive, you might be interested in knowing that I had two brands of drives connected to my iMac. One was a Lacie, the brand I always recommend to my friends and clients. The other was a Western Digital. You guessed it. The Lacie drive is fine.

So this morning, with credit card in hand, I ordered a Lacie Triple-Interface (Firewire, USB, eSATA) drive. For $100 plus change, I ordered a 500 Gigabyte drive that should work quite nicely. The Lacie drives work well with both PCs and Macs.

Donations can be sent to my usual address.

InCopy Continues to Impress

InCopy is Adobe’s word processing application that works in concert with InDesign. Even though InCopy has been around for a long time, I still get a lot of questions about it.

Often overlooked because it’s not part of the bundled Creative Suite products, InCopy is a valuable resource, making it possible for even small operations to have a managed editorial workflow. I’ve been using InCopy CS4 over the past couple of months and continue to appreciate this powerful application. While the CS4 versions adds only a couple of noteworthy new features, it’s important to make sure your version of InCopy is the same as InDesign. If you’re considering an upgrade to the CS4 suite of applications (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) and you use InCopy in your workflow, remember to upgrade that as well.

Upgrades to InCopy start at $89 (US). The full version is $249 (US). For more information, visit: adobe.com/products/incopy/.

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