Though there is a savings to be had to building one's own system, there is a bit of built-in comfort when you deal with a reputable company (Dell, Alienware) who will back up their build with Customer Service.
Saw an article today that Intel has shipped the first batch of dual-core processors along with the new 955 chipset to support them. I would guess they'll hit the market over the next week or so (maybe a little longer). So you might not have to wait until summer, Ron.
Tom's hardware has some preliminary tests on a dual-core, and they emphasize that clock speed is still important. That a dual-core 2.8GHz may not provide much benefit over a single-core 3.6GHz P4.
There are 1 GB USB 2.0 keychain flash drives. That amount of flash would have been plenty for a MacOS 8/9 System folder, or for a Windows 98SE installation.
You can get a high-speed 4 GB CompactFlash card for about $450 from online photo stores. Put one into a USB 2.0 or FireWire reader, attach to a computer that can boot from an external drive, and you might have room for a minimal installation of one of the modern OSes.
One thing to consider before using a flash card as a boot disk: flash memory has a limited number of write cycles. The limit is a lot higher than it used to be, but you do not want to let your OS put page/swap files on a flash disk.
Ron I thought I'd update you on my recent upgrade in ram. I used to have 512 of DDR2 in dual channel mode on my new laptop (Dell 6000) but it was rather sluggish esp multi tasking. I just installed two 1 gig sticks and man what a difference. Apps don't really open much faster (at least not the first time) but multi tasking is now very smooth with several high memory apps running plus a few things like spyware and antivirus etc. From what I can tell if you want a fast multi tasking environment with fast load times for apps you need tons of ram and very fast hard drives...the CPU's aren't really going to gain you much for what you need.
Problem is the ram always has to have power. The type of ram we use in our computer erases when we turn off the power. Compact Flash cards don't need power all the time, but aren't nearly as fast and reliable.
As I've mentioned here before, I work for one of the largest distributors in the US (Period) so if anything comes up that we notice big, I'll try to post here regarding dual core availability and what comes out of our lab..
Which reminds me, the HTPC report from our main lab went out to other distribution points a week or so ago, I'll have to post up findings here soon.
Don't ever say you'll 'never' use it. As far as Photoshop goes, you'll definitely appreciate dual processing no matter WHAT you are working on.
I have a single Xeon 2.79 GHz Dell with 1 GB of RAM and a Dual 2 GHz Mac G5 with 1.5 GB of RAM and Photoshop on the Mac BLOWS the PC version away! I'm sure if I had the dual processors in the PC, that I'd be kickin' a** there as well, so don't be too upset about getting the dual. You may not notice it, but you would if you all of a sudden went back to a single processor.
This isn't really a direct comparison though.. on MacOSX variants of Photoshop, it does all tasks split on both processors thanks to the architecture. On a PC, that's not so.. Photoshop is (mostly) multithreaded, but not entirely so..
Though yes, he would see definite benefits of a dual in Photoshop (just not in the same way you see it on a Mac G5 Dual
According to an article on Yahoo! News both Dell and Alienware will start shipping computers with the dual-core P4's on Monday, April 18th. Just thought you'd like to know, Ron. Also, there's word that the new G5 will have dual processors with dual cores, so essentially 4 processors. But you'd already decided on PC, so these dual core chips may be what you're looking for.