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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Buying a computer in Israel? Don’t shop without this guide! (with Hebrew/English glossary)

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Do you use a computer?  (If not, how are you reading this???) 

If you do, then sooner or later, you’re going to need a new one. 

I hope I don’t sound unpatriotic when I say that it is better by far to buy a computer in North America.   You’ll get name-brand systems for a lower price with more options and software included in the basic price.  Plus, you’ll be able to read all about those options in a language you understand – a huge plus.

But never fear!  With the information in this guide, you will have at least some of the tools you need to buy a new one here.

My husband’s laptop finally quit the other day.  It’s been showing signs of dying, which is actually great, because he’d gotten nervous and backed everything up.

(It was for exactly this reason, we’re told, that Yitzchak davened for illness before his death.  A midrash says that before this, people – like many computers today – simply dropped dead when their allotted time was up.)

So we had some advance notice of the tragic event.  And we decided to replace it with a desktop which will give him room to spread out while he works and more of the semblance of an office at his little corner desk (me, I’m hooked on writing on my laptop – on trains, buses and anywhere I find myself!).

Decision made:  now, all we had to do was pick one.

Now, I am not a computer newbie.  I used to run a computer centre for seniors.  I sourced and ordered all the computers, a server, outfitted and basically ran the network for an entire office.  I have done server maintenance, network and firewall setup, hardware repairs and more.  I wouldn’t set myself up as a computer professional, but I basically know what I’m doing. 

Did I mention that I have taught workshops on how to buy a computer?  I’ve done this buying-a-computer thing before – hundreds of times.

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(I bought every single piece of hardware in this picture… and yes, that’s me at the front telling everyone how to use it all.)

So I figured it would be easy.  Maybe even fun.

As always, however, things are different in Israel.  It has not been easy, or fun, so far.  And I thought it would be helpful to share some of what I’ve learned along the way. 

I hope it will help anyone else who’s diving into this kinda-major purchase, along with a few of the pitfalls ion each category.  Since we were buying a desktop computer, that’s what I’ve written about here.  If you’re buying a laptop, some of these points may not always apply.

Basic terminology.

In each section below, I’ll include relevant Hebrew terms.

Basic words that are useful to know: 

  • מַחְשֵׁב / machshev = computer
  • מחשב נייח / machshev nayach = desktop computer
  • מחשב נייד  / machshev nayad = portable computer (people also say לפטופ / laptop)
  • חָמְרָה / chamra = hardware
  • תָּכְנָה / tachna = software
  • כולל / kolel = includes, as in “does this computer include a mouse?”
  • לא כלול / lo kalul = not included
  • ללא / l’lo = not included
  • גִּ'יגָה/ jigga = Giga; in Hebrew, the “G” is bafflingly soft
  • מַאֲרָז/ ma’araz = case, if you’re buying a desktop.  Matters not at all.
  • משלוח / mishloach or משלוחים / mishlochim = delivery
  • שִׁדְרוּג  / shidrug = upgrade.  Many will be on offer.
  • אַחְרָיוּת / achrayut = warranty.  Very, very important!

 

Computer systems never include a monitor. 

This is true outside of Israel as well.  But there, we were always well-connected enough to score a free monitor of some kind.  For a few years, it seemed we were drowning in them… but here, we had to buy one. 

We didn’t care much about size.  Anything is better than the laptop screens we’ve been using.  Believe it or not, in this all-metric land, screens are still measured in inches (written אינטש!).

Words you’ll need: 

  • מָסָךְ / masach = screen
  • אינטש / inch = inch.  Screen measurements are diagonal, from corner to corner.

 

Name brand computers are best. 

I wasn’t always such a snob.  I figured all computers include the same basic parts, often made by the same suppliers.  Then, I started working for a company that bought off-brand computers.  It was my job to return the defective computers to the supplier for exchange.  A job I got to do every single $#!% week sometimes.  Since then, I have always bought name brand, mostly Dell.   Other name brands include Dell, Lenovo/IBM, HP/Compaq and possibly others.  It doesn’t include “Shmuli’s Computer Systems inc,” no matter how shiny and backlit the case may be.  However, in Israel, you will pay a lot more for a brand-name desktop computer.  Painfully, I eventually decided to buy an off-brand machine.  I hope that decision won’t come back to bite us.

Words you’ll need:

  • מחשב מותג / machshev mutag = brand-name computer

 

Computers in Israel don’t come with an operating system (OS). 

This is huge, and it was a big surprise.  Most computers I’ve bought in Canada included some recent variant of Windows.  Here, most seem to have none or MS-DOS, an OS I haven’t touched since 1981.  Buying a computer without an OS is like buying a car without an engine.  If you know how to install one, and you have a spare one sitting around, then great.  Otherwise, you’re going to spend a lot of time sitting in your driveway.  When you buy a computer, make sure it comes with an OS.  Also, if you’re buying in Israel, make sure it’s an English version of your OS unless you want to work exclusively in Hebrew.

Words you’ll need:

  • מערכת הפעלה / me’arechet hafala = operating system
  • תקליטור / taklitor = CD (some Windows versions come include just a license and no CD, so if you want one, you have to ask)

 

Processor choices are baffling. 

The processor, or CPU, is the “brain” of your computer, squatting inside like a toad and hopefully making your computer do whatever you want it to do.  Choosing a processor used to be easy… but these days, it’s baffling to the point of meaninglessness.  There are websites that help you compare processors, but the differences seemed negligible at best.  For this, I emailed our 20-year-old in Toronto, and he said “if you have a choice between Ivy Bridge and Haswell, then go with Haswell.”  (I had never heard of either until the day before.)  The difference between processors may cost you a couple hundred shekel in one direction or another, but I still think it matters far less than the amount of RAM you go with.  We did, however, pick Haswell in the end.  By the time you read this, there will probably be other, more baffling choices.  However, I still believe RAM counts more.

Words you’ll need:

  • אינטל / Intel
  • מְעַבֵּד  / maabad = processor (same word if you want to buy a food processor)

 

RAM counts. 

This is the internal memory, or the “smarts” that the CPU/toad uses to handle its instructions to the rest of the computer.  Most cheap computers here are now selling with 2Gb of RAM.  My philosophy is always to bump up the RAM if possible.  In my experience, it makes more of a difference than processor speed.  We chose a computer that came with 4Gb.

Words you’ll need:

  • זִכָּרוֹן / zikaron = memory (not just for computers, this is any kind of memory)
  • זכרון פנימי / zikaron p’nimi = internal memory (the exact same thing)

 

Keyboard and mouse aren’t included.

Again, for years we had too many of these floating around the house.  Now, we have to buy a keyboard.  Outside of Israel, you’ll usually get a basic keyboard and mouse with your computer, but here… sometimes not.  Also check to see what other accessories you may want that aren’t included.  Since we don’t want to run a cable to the bedroom where our new computer will be used, we added in a wireless networking card.  But don’t let them rip you off.  Things like surge protectors, you can probably get a better deal somewhere else separately.

Words you’ll need: 

  • מקלדת / makledet = keyboard
  • עכבר / achbar = mouse
  • רמקולים  / ramkolim = speakers
  • כרטיס רשת / cartis reshet = network card (all computers should include one, but if you want wireless – אלחוטי - in a desktop, you’ll probably have to add one on)

 

All in one?

A new category since the last time I bought a computer is the “all in one” machine.  It’s basically a monitor and a keyboard, and you don’t see the rest of the stuff.  I don’t trust this idea yet.  It’s not new; the Mac has been doing it for years, and my first computer, the Commodore VIC-20, circa 1970-something, was technically an “all in one.”  It just seems to me that if you cram everything inside a single box, there’s more that can go wrong and less expandability, like if you want to shove another hard drive or optical drive inside.

Words you need:

  • מחשב ALL IN ONE / machshev all-in-one.  This seems to be what they’re called everywhere.

 

Optical drive?

Speaking of optical drives… this is the CD / DVD drive that comes in some computers, but not all.  If you want one, make sure it’s in there.  If you don’t care if you have one, make sure you’re not paying more for a system that comes with one.  I wouldn’t pay extra to upgrade this, but a DVD burner (and they should all be burners these days) should be pretty standard.

Words you’ll need:

  • כונן / konein = drive
  • כונן אופטי / konein opti = optical drive
  • כונן תקליטורים / konein taklitorim = CD drive

 

Name brand hard drives are best. 

If you go name-brand, you’ll get a name-brand hard drive, no questions asked.  If not… well, look for one in the product specs.  The biggest names are Seagate and Western Digital.  Other brands will probably be fine, but since it may well be the only moving part in the computer, you may not want to rely on “probably.”  Most are 500Gb now, which is fine, but a 1Tb (terabyte) isn’t that much more expensive and will never fill up.  Makes me nostalgic for the tiny 2K (kilobyte) “super expander” my brother and I bought for our first computer.

Words you’ll need:

  • דיסק קָשִׁיחַ / disk kashiach (or konein kashiach) = hard drive

 

What we bought and why

Given our combined language idiocies, I decided it would be easier to buy online (I always start at http://zap.co.il/, where you can compare prices and check reviews of retailers). 

My husband, on the other hand, wanted to check out a couple of stores in person.   wouldn’t recommend this.  From buying household appliances and other in-store purchases here, I’ve come to dread entering stores here.

You may have heard that Israelis don’t do customer service… well, that’s only AFTER you’ve bought whatever it is.  Before you buy, they are the sweetest, most caring, most interested human beings you can imagine. 

Sales people here glom onto you like those nasty black plecos you buy to keep the sides of your fishtank algae-free.

They will also instantly rule out half the items in their own store as garbage, not worth buying, it’ll break in a week (even if it’s just a bath towel).  Suspiciously enough, it’s always the cheaper half of the store.  Meanwhile, they’ll tell you how affordable it is to buy whatever is the least affordable thing they have on offer.

They’re good.  They’re very convincing.

As an olah, especially, I feel like I have to compensate for my language idiocy by being a savvy shopper and going along with whatever they suggest.  Why buy junk when I could get something amazing for just a little more? 

So that’s why I decided against going to the stores in person.

Besides, when you’re buying a computer, what will you gain by seeing it in person?  “Ooh, that’s a lovely-looking computer!” is no way to make a decision about the device that’s going to be grinding out your graphics or text or emails for the next decade or so.  (Yeah, I keep them around for a long time.)

Keeping it clean

Speaking of how long they’ll last…

We were warned before we made aliyah that computers don’t last long here, especially laptops.  Something about sand in the air; I don’t remember. 

You’d think that, in a reasonably clean house, you’d be able to prevent sand and random shmutz from falling into the computer, but looking at my laptop right now (which is cleaned regularly), I would agree that the air here is just… blowier.  Dirtier. 

Everything gets dirty instantly here, and Dirt Kills Computers.

So keeping them clean is definitely part of keeping them around longer, especially laptops.  But ultimately, whether due to dirt or something else, they will fail and you will need to buy a new one.  Good luck.

So what did we decide to buy for ourselves?

Eventually, after two discouraging trips to computer stores (one was closed, even though the business hours posted on the door said it was open), I went back to zap, found a good price for a system that seemed to include everything (and politely let me add on the things we needed that weren’t included), and offered free delivery.

To me, it was worth it to be able to sit down and think each component through logically, rather than being pressured while we stood there in a store.  We just ordered it last night, so I’ll have to report back when it arrives.

In the meantime, if you have any tips for avoiding high-pressure sales tactics or just choosing computer equipment, I’d love to hear them, and I’m sure others would as well.

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה

2 comments:

  1. Tzivia,

    I read that about praying for illness, but I believe it was Jacob who prayed for illness. In Parshat Vayechi, the source for this is the verse "And Jacob became ill..."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's what I thought, but then I second guessed myself and Googled it. Drat, never trust Rav Google. :-)

      Delete

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