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Leading Edge or Bleeding Edge?

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The “Weekly Rant” column was featured in the PC Mechanic Newsletter since 2005. Topics relate to some aspect of technology, which include opinions on hardware, software, new technology, technology companies, and computing standards.

When a new gizmo, gadget, piece of hardware or tool comes out, do you buy it as soon as it hits store shelves, or do you wait a while?  If you get it immediately, why do you?  If you wait a while, why do you?

I tend to wait a while on getting new devices.  These days, stuff churns out so fast and gets put out on store shelves in such a rush that testing seems to be only half done.  So, I’ve learned to wait until other people “beta-test” the new devices, see how they like them (or don’t like them), wait for the price to drop a bit (everything is usually much cheaper a few months after it’s released), and finally take a serious look at the device after it’s been refined a bit (just take a look at this week’s Kudos &Calamities column where Tyler talks about LCD monitors and TVs).  So, my philosophy on purchasing new devices?  It’s alright to be on the leading edge, just don’t get so far ahead of yourself that you end up on the bleeding edge.

Case in point; for a RAID5 backup server I built somewhat recently, I purchased many older hardware components, rather than springing for the newest and fastest stuff on the market.  For one, the hardware I purchased was already tried and true.  Second, it was rather inexpensive since it had been on the market for a while already.  Since I didn’t need anything blinding fast for this backup server, my needs would be adequately fulfilled without having to look to the bleeding edge of technology.  I only get what I need, and that’s about it.  Heck, I’ve only had a cell phone for about 3 years, I’ve only owned a USB flash drive for over a year, and still have yet to get an MP3 player.  I’m a huge technologist, but I really don’t need a whole lot in the way of gadgets and gizmos to get through the day.  For instance, I still use simple pen and paper to write notes to myself instead of a $300 PDA.  To me, a PDA is more inefficient than a few quick notes to myself.  To others, it’s great for organizing those 50 or so weekly meetings.

I like to keep things simple, but if a new gadget or gizmo will help me with getting something done better or faster without a lot of overhead, I will certainly take a look at it.  And with that, I invite you to take a look of all of the gadgets and gizmos you have or are looking to buy and ask yourself, will I need it and use it, or am I just getting it for the “coolness” factor?  Only you can answer that one.

(Originally published in the pcmech.com newsletter)