Purchasing a Computer
Laptop and desktop specifications are constantly changing – the following is intended as a guide on points to consider when parents are considering purchasing a machine for their son/daughter to help with their school work.
Despite the higher cost, a laptop is more practical for most pupils than a desktop machine and the price difference is reducing. Very few users need machines at the top end of the specification range, however choosing from the lower end can end up being a false economy given the difficulty of upgrading a laptop.
Things to look for:
- Battery life – current processors should allow a battery life of 4 to 5 hours. Extra memory is generally a better investment than more powerful processors and 1Gb to 2Gb is probably appropriate. Display memory is of less importance for work programs and is usually only significant for games.
- Work files do not usually take up much disk space but music, pictures and videos can. An 80Gb hard disc will easily cope with operating system and work files but users anticipating storing a lot of other files should look for larger hard disks and a DVD writer rather than just a CD writer.
- Consider weight and protection for the machine when carried. Very few machines are supplied with a sleeve style case but this can offer significant protection against everyday rough and tumble. A rucksack can also be more practical than a briefcase style carrier and these are sometimes cheaper from an outdoor shop than a computer supplier, as well as being more discreet.
- There is a trend towards wide screens and although good for viewing DVDs, most users find them less satisfactory for routine tasks like word processing, presentations and spreadsheets. The conventional 4:3 aspect ratio is generally better for a work machine. The actual screen size will have a considerable impact on weight; consider carefully whether a machine with a screen larger than 15” is necessary and practical to carry around.
- If possible try out any pointing device on a laptop – generally this will be a touchpad and although they have improved some users still prefer a mouse.
Wireless capability is essential these days. All current laptops have this and if necessary this can also be added to a desktop machine using a USB device.
Pupils can now access their school files from home by going to https://folders.london-oratory.org (please note the 's' after http - this ensures a secure connection). We strongly advise pupils to use this facility as much as possible. One very important advantage of doing so is because we backup up our servers and hence all pupils' work on a daily basis.
The Professional version of Windows XP is highly recommended in the business environment. Computers running XP Home can be connected to most educational environments. We do not currently support all the features of Windows Vista on our network and systems and as yet there is no plan to make ourselves fully Vista compliant because the additional features are largely irrelevant for school use. However experience shows that we can generally connect Vista machines to our network.
Microsoft Office is the standard school software and it is often cheaper to buy with the machine than as an extra afterwards. Currently all school computers are running Microsoft Office 2003, users with Office 2007 will be recommended to save in 2003 format if they want full file interchange capability. Alternatives should include word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software and some degree of compatibility with Microsoft Office – Open Office is a free alternative worth considering.
The firewall features in Windows are perfectly adequate and we insist on anti-virus software such as www.symantec.com or www.sophos.com.
Laptops are more vulnerable than desktops and more prone to failure or damage. A 3 year warranty and accident insurance may prove cost effective but you need to look carefully at any exclusion clauses.
If you have any further questions then please do not hesitate to contact Mrs Alderton who has oversight for ICT at the school.
Mrs K Alderton
Director of ICT
t: 020 7381 7642