A ramble about making purchases
As a software architect, I make big decisions for a living. I spend hours and sometimes days drawing out all of the pieces of the puzzle, to decide if a proposed solution will work. I try to poke holes in it, find what's wrong with it, draft a replacement if it's unsatisfactory. Defend my own decisions, pick the correct technologies for the job and rationalize their employment based on criteria like robustness, support, sophistication. That being said, making major personal purchases is all too often very difficult and I never really am happy with the decisions I make.
I find it particularly difficult to make selections that involve my working environment such as purchasing a new laptop for my main at-home use. The fact that I live in a sailboat has kind of set in recently, and I've figured out that due to the space constraints a desktop solution would not work for me. So it took me over a week to make a decision about which computer to purchase. And even then, the final two came down to not really the machines I wanted, but two of the several machines I found acceptable that were available in the United States.
My first draft pick was the Samsung X60. Unfortunately, this is from a line of Samsung devices created for the UK. Of which, the availablity in the united states (even when making an over-seas order from an online store) is pretty close to zero. The only one retailer I found selling the device in the US wanted more than twice the normal retail price for it.
After making several attempts at finding a way to get this machine, I felt somewhat thwarted and constructed a list of machines I felt were acceptable and had all of the features I really felt I needed out of a notebook. Simple things, such as a dual core processor, lots of ram, a high resolution 15.4" wide screen, a fairly thin profile and a hot-swap bay where I could remove the optical drive and dawn an extra battery. Finding machines like this took quite a bit of time, since the bay actually seems to have become a very unpopular feature. So I finally narrowed it down to two contenders after a few days of looking.
Today, I ordered a Lenovo Thinkpad T60. I am neither happy with the decision nor do I know if it will be, because after noticing their sale (particularly in upgrade components) I managed to fiddle with the system configuration form until I had selected a machine that they claim will take until April 14th to build. That being said, I'm still not convinced that I made the right decision by not buying the Asus V1J.
After all, I've had good luck with Asus in the past. I'm currently drafting this post on an Asus and although it's on it's last legs and hardly functional, it put in a fantastic 4.5 years of service and something like 20,000 hours of actual (ab)use. It's been thrown across the room a number of times (not by myself, and don't want to talk about it) dropped, received lots of spills, and whatever else you can imagine. But the whole purpose for buying my machine is as a birthday present for myself (from my girlfriend and I). And while the V1J looks incredibly sweet, and has every feature I could want other than a fast hard drive -- and a bunch I don't even know what to do with -- I thought the more wise decision would probably be the Lenovo/IBM Thinkpad. I've yet to figure out what in the hell made me think that, and as a result I won't be getting my machine for over three weeks dispite the fact that I paid for rush shipping. That alone gives me half a mind to call and cancel.
Either way, I've already spent the money and I still haven't made up my mind which brings me back to what I was originally writing about. What makes purchases so difficult? It seems that, atleast speaking for myself, I have no problems making a decision that I will have to live with for months or years to come and standing by it. I take my time in making the decision, but once I make it I stick to it valiantly. When it comes to spending money however, particularly when there isn't a hard-line (low) budget involved, I find its very difficult to really figure out what to purchase. I eventually just come to a "cross your fingers and pray" point where I make a selection out of the remaining contenders just for the sake of making a decision.