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Proper Computer Shops
When buying a computer, it's a good idea to buy from a Proper Computer Shop. That is, a place that actually knows about computers, understands the technical things about computers, and is willing to help when things don't quite go right. Be very wary of places that are too tidy, too plush, or look like a 1990s office. They're not necessarily bad, but it important to test the place by asking a lot of technical questions and see if they know what they are talking about, and also to ask for help to see if they are actually willing and helpful rather than just interested in selling. The sort of place that is generally a good place to buy a computer is the sort of place that has loads of junk all over the place and computer boffins poking about inside open cases of computers in bits in full view of the customers. Link here for More about more advice on buying computers.
In the 1980s Felix Computers was a proper computer shop. It was run by a character who had a degree in computer science. If you bought a computer there you'd get free technical support, not just mending it if it went wrong, but advice on how to learn to program a computer.
In the modern era (2002/01), places like 2nd to Nunn are recommendable. In contrast, be very wary of multiples, "high street" shops, places selling televisions and cameras and washing machines in shops that are too tidy. Remember, it's how Knowledgeable they are that matters. Put them to the test!
If you were buying a new car, you'd want to take it for a test-drive, and you'd probably want to find out about the power of the engine. If you found the salesman wouldn't talk about the engine and would only talk about how comfortable the seats were, and was in fact unable to drive, you'd probably not buy from there. Sillier things go on at some seemingly "respectable" computer shops. And if you were getting a prescription from a chemist, you'd worry if the chemist had no knowledge of medicines or dosages but just had a good idea of what drugs sold best this year. In a similar way, you can put your local computer shop to the test. You yourself don't need to be very knowledgeable to do this, but just need to know a few key points which the salesmen may not have any idea about and may be evasive about. In the modern age (2002/01) there is a new operating system, Linux. It's excellent but it's not the most user-friendly for beginners. However, all new hardware should be Linux-friendly, and anyone with the responsible job of selling computers Should know about it, and if they don't, then, how helpful are they going to be when you need technical advice?
Update 2005: There are now some places that sell computers where there is some reasonable level of Linux support and help to the customer!
Update 2012: In my opinion it just beggars belief that so many folks are still fooled by places that flog computers and yet have not a clue what they are doing. Also, how Microsoft can stay in business when it's considerably inferior to Linux, is bizarre. Maybe there's some sort of Microsoft Bias, a conspiracy to keep Microsoft in business when it should have gone long ago.