Choosing the Right Computer System,
Part 5: Graphic Gadgets Demystified

[Ed. Note: See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this series for more information.]

After you have decided on your basic computer system, you'll probably be tempted to add one or more of the various computer or graphics “gadgets: to it. To help you make those decisions, we asked our panel of graphic-design experts which gadgets they use or are going to purchase in the near future.

Lori Haller:
My goal is to have “bluetooth” connection using a BlackBerry® very soon, so I can check emails while away from the studio. That will provide me with even more flexibility to run my business … and also have time with my family.

Roger Parker:
Your very first add-on should be a system to do automated backup of both data files and program files. Restoring a computer involves more than just data; programs and settings and preferences can take hours to re-do, plus many programs can only be installed a limited number of times without dealing with software vendors.

Viruses and spyware are frequent problems on Windows systems (much less so on Mac). So adequate spyware, virus, and adware protection is a must – including keeping them upgraded.

Dennis Rome:
My handiest device is my portable USB backup drive. It is an 80Gb 2.5” hard drive that came out of a previous laptop. It requires no power cables, just a simple USB port to get its power. At the end of the day, I back up all the files I worked on that day to that 80Gb portable drive and to my second desktop PC. (I simply jot down the names of the files on a piece of paper throughout the day as I work on clients' stuff.) And I ALWAYS take that drive with me when I leave my home office – just in case! (It is so small it can fit in a shirt pocket.) Simple, yet effective.

The second most useful thing is our new super-high-speed Internet access – 10Mbps via fiber optic cable. This is very handy for all those large graphics files that need to be transferred to and fro.

Mike Klassen:
Dual-monitors is the best investment for designers. There is nothing like being able to open a program like InDesign or Photoshop on one monitor, and have all your palettes on the other monitor. That gives you maximum space to see your design, while still having full access to all your palettes.

Another useful gadget is a USB or Firewire hard drive to back up your important files. Your computer's hard drive will eventually die or become corrupted. You'll be glad you have your work backed up on another device that can easily be plugged into a new computer.

Kammy Thurman:
This is kind of boring, but the only extra “gadget” I have is an external hard drive to back up my files. I decided to go this route when a couple of viruses got past my scan software and crashed my computer so badly the repairman had to pull everything off the hard drive and reload it.

As you see, the most-recommended “gadget” isn't a gadget at all. Our experts agree that after setting up your basic computer system, your next purchase should be a device that allows you to back up your important files. (See our Quick Tip, below, for more information on backing up your data files.)

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Published: October 6, 2005

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