Sometimes when I have an utterly bewildering tech issue, I’ll ask Ed how to get out of the weeds, and he’ll almost always have the solution, no matter how convoluted the problem, no matter how convoluted other online experts say the resolution is. (My favorite Ed Bott Line came after I once asked him about some problem and passed along the very long resolution I found online that I was wary to try before asking him if it made sense. His great response was, “Oh, Lordy, someone is sending you down a long and twisted path.” And being Ed, what he also said, “No, do this” – and it was like four easy steps, and it worked.)
You cherish such people and keep them close. Not just for their good cheer as a friend, but their tech expertise getting you out of Tech Hell. I’m always wary though of contacting him too often with a problem since he is, after all, such a major expert, and he always devotes so much time to helping me resolving it. (I had a laptop go belly-up in a totally weird way a few months back, and the effort Ed spent trying to resolved it via countless emails was Herculean. And he finally did.) But he always says the time he spends is not a problem because, “This is what I do," and also "When I answer your questions it gives me column ideas, because I figure if you're having that problem, other people are, too..” And some of those headaches have indeed turned up as jumping-off points for his columns.
Anyway, that’s the brief background of who Ed Bott is.
A couple weeks ago I was looking into getting a new computer system. I mentioned this to Ed and asked if he had any suggestion. And being Ed, he not only had suggestions, but thought it deserved a "Windows Meet Now" video call. (That's Windows' new Zoom-like feature they've built into the operating system that's based on Skype, which Microsoft owns.) And so, we spent a lot of time talking about all the various options, including things called NUC’s (which I'd never heard of) and Small Form Factor systems and laptop docking stations, beyond the normal tower systems. In fact, we literally spent over an hour talking, to the degree that I told him once again that I really did feel guilty with this issue using up SOOOO much of his time. He laughed and said, no, that he would get a column out of it. And that he had even asked certain questions which would help in such a column.
The thing is, he not only did it, but it turned out that it wasn’t just an idea for a column – but it was the column, the whole experience. And he published the column last Friday. The piece is about the various options most people don’t always consider when getting a new home computer system, and it's specifically based in full detail on our hour-long discussion..
And funniest of all is in the third paragraph. That’s when he explains the basis for the column and talks about how he has a friend in Southern California looking into getting a new computer, and adds, “Let’s call him Bob.” I burst out laughing. Great pseudonym. I later told him that since the article was based completely on our video conversation, it was the first time I’d read one of his articles and after every paragraph was able to say, “Oh, pffft, I know that.”
If you’re interested, you can read the article here. It would be especially valuable if you're thinking of getting a new computer soon. Or if you think you may want to get one in the near future. If not, it's still an interesting thing to read (because that's how Ed writes), but at the very least, the third paragraph is the treat.
But even more fun is that he does a video version of the article. ZDNet often has one of their reporters talk to Ed after one of his columns, usually Karen Roby, and they get a more personal, detailed version of what he wrote. In this case, the video is much closer to the video chat he and I had, rather than the article which is more about the specific options. But what’s funny in the video is that he skips over the “Let’s call him…” part, and it’s just plain, “I have a friend in Southern California named Bob.” And if you do decide to click on the video for even just a minute, you’ll get to see Ed and how personable he is, especially for a serious tech maven.
For those who do watch the video, it's excellent, though I do want to take squatter's right and make a few minor disclaimers. I told Ed later that my only tiny “quibble” with the video is that he mentions Bob’s old system is 14 years old – which is true, but of course I did have it upgraded during that time as much as I could. (It's pretty funny in the video, because when Ed mentions this to the interviewer, Ms. Roby's mouth drops about eight inches in horror...) The one problem I face with my system is not that "it's old" (since as I said I've upgraded most of it), but mainly that the RAM is limited to a paltry 4 GB and can't physically be upgraded. And as a result of that, the processor is a bit slow, too, though not as much an issue. Also, another disclaimer is that when Ed and I spoke about “expansion” which he brings up in the video, my bigger question was less about expansion cards, which is what he discusses here -- since he had told me that that was not much of an issue today -- but rather, USB ports. However, I realized I could use a USB hub, so that issue was resolved. And at the end of the video, he says that I haven’t decided what to get yet but am considering the NUC and may still stick with another tower system. However, while I did say that, it was only in our first conversation. At this point, after more research on what Ed discussed with me, it’s down to an NUC or laptop docking station. The bottomline, though is that the video very enjoyable.
By the way, Ed describes what an NUC is in the video and very well. The short version is that they're small boxes, not significantly bigger than a cigar box, that are full-powered computers. They have a few limitations, but for most people those limitations won't overlap with their needs.
If you’re interested to even briefly see Ed, the video is right under the list of products near the top. And even if you skip the article entirely, at least you know that Ed Bott has a friend in Southern California who, for the sake of discussion, let’s call him ‘Bob.’”