As with the laptop section, the first step in choosing a new computer is to decide what it's for and what are the important criteria. So after the laptop died, with apparently no hope of repair, I looked around for a replacement system. So I was looking for:
Firstly I looked around the new laptops, but these are all widescreen now, and often only have 800 or fewer pixels vertically. Crazy. There are some 1680x1050 laptops but the cost goes up and the features are not so great. Normal format screens are practically impossible to find now, except for a very small number of Fujitsus which are expensive and difficult to find. Dell had some interesting-looking business laptops in the 1680x1050 range but the price quickly goes up to over a thousand euros which is difficult to justify.
So I went to look at the desktops, and almost all of them are hideously ugly! I was quickly drawn away from those plastic monstrosities when I saw the smaller form factor PCs, especially those from Shuttle. But there is also a new range of low-power "nettops" based on Intel's Atom processor and the nvidia ION graphics chipsets (such as those from ASRock), which also looked interesting. They're quite a bit cheaper, but perhaps not as flexible for more demanding tasks. For regular browsing and emailing they're probably fine but I was recommended by several people that they would struggle with more intensive tasks.
If it was to be a Shuttle system, I could have either bought a complete system, already fully assembled, or I could have bought the components separately and assembled it myself. Plus of course I could have bought it from a local store (with people to talk to in case of problems) or from a variety of online stores (with of course hassle of delivery). In any case, with these systems you don't have to buy an operating system, you can just buy it with an empty hard drive and install whatever you want on it yourself.