Have you changed computers lately? I have had the misfortune to have scored on both a new laptop and two new computers in exchange for some work. Why is that a misfortune? Getting a replacement laptop for the one I gave to my wife when her desktop crashed should be a positive. And getting a newer, faster desktop is always a joy — isn’t it?

Well, in the bad old days it used to take me about two days of frustration to setup a new computer the way I wanted it, but with the new operating systems and easy move applications, it only takes me about two days of frustration to setup a new computer. Of course the latest generation does much more than the older ones, so in some sense setting up a new computer has become more convenient. That is, for the same amount of frustration, I get more done. Surely getting my LAN to do the things I want is much easier now, but at this writing, one of my network printers is still not recognized by everyone. If no one recognized it, that would be understandable, but when I try to bring up two new computers with the same operating systems and do the same things to them, they should behave similarly. Or am I being dense?

But here is an underlying source of frustration: how much computing power do I need? The reason that netbooks took off and sold so well is that many people realized they were mostly writing letters, checking email, surfing, and maybe checking the latest on Facebook. You do not need very many processors for that type of load. Even if you keep your books and have fairly large spreadsheets, an entry level desktop will likely handle anything you throw at it.

Watching HD DVDs is no problem, but perhaps playing the latest action games would bring any of my computers to their knees. I have one home-built PC with dual-core and 8 gig of RAM which I like to use for video editing. Speech recognition is another application that can slow down a weaker machine.

Put this recent frustration in the context of tutoring seniors who spend most of their time at their PCs being frustrated. Part of my job is to empower them so they can do what they want and not be frustrated. But sometimes I fear that my main accomplishment is to help them to become frustrated at a higher level.

Now I have to try to sell one of the extra computers. It is nice, and not frustrating — would you like it?