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Tech Tuesday

Tech Considerations for Fall

Investing in technology is no longer a necessary evil but a necessary survival tool.

For the past few years in this blog I've take the opportunity to offer up my take on what kinds of computer needs may be out there. And have times changed.

When I first started doing that I wrote about memory, CPUs, and more. Forbes magazine recently noted that 20% of its traffic now comes from mobile sources, and we know that more Farm Futures readers are going only by phone and by tablet to get to our site.

And laptop and computer sales are dropping rapidly as people turn to those mobile devices to do the two most common computer tasks - email and Web searching. So how does that change the way I write about computers this year?

Well, first off, if you haven't considered a move to a smart phone, now is a good time as the price of popular models like the iPhone 4 (now free with a two year commitment) and the iPhone 4S ($99 with that commitment) changing the landscape. And for Android fans, there are some super phones from Motorola and LG on the market that offer access to a wide range of apps you can use. What was once a high-buck purchase is now within reach for many and the phones offered by all the big carriers are comparable.

Network access is still the way to pick your phone. Coverage frustrations should not be part of the smart phone buy. For major carriers, Verizon is pushing hard to upgrade its LTE service across the country and is on track to hit key targets of coverage by year end.

Others are playing catch-up, so that's a start. However, in some markets other carriers are the better choice, like US Cellular or another regional carrier. It all depends on where you live.

If you have been avoiding the smart phone move, consider how important email is to you. If it isn't then you can probably wait, but if you have need for access to email and other information, like market prices and weather, away from your office this is the best way to go.

Computer choices

As for the trusty computer, you still have need for that because of your farm data load. Those maps and other information work best on a full-fledged computer - Windows or Apple. And the price of memory and computing power has fallen so fast, you can get plenty for $1,000 or less.

As usual, think big for on board memory so that computer brain doesn't have to work so hard. It's easier to buy that memory with the computer rather than add it later, especially for a laptop. Investing in the maximum means the machine will work less hard to get the same work done.

As for those hard drives. Well, it appears they are getting less expensive all the time. The idea that you can buy a terabyte of memory for less than $100 these days is amazing, when that kind of memory power only used to be found in high end computer operations in the past.

Today I carry a half-terabyte drive in my computer bag just so I have what I need for video editing. It's cheap, portable and handy. And for backup there's no more inexpensive tool.

I've often joked that a farmer would do well to befriend the small town high school computer geek to keep an on farm network up and running. It might be a good idea, but in fact getting good dealer support is critical especially for those data files from planting, spraying and harvesting. You need access to that information quickly and it should be reliable.

As you consider computer purchases for this year - to maximize your deductions - think through future needs, and push the envelope on the investment. Money spent there will offer a payback later.

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