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Upgrades Hardware

Less Might Be More 714

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the grossly-overpowered dept.
Quantum Skyline writes "Most of us are running on a newer Pentium 4/Athlon 64 box with lots of RAM and a 7200 RPM drive and a uber-sweet graphics card that pushes 100 FPS in Doom 3. Our parents are probably running an old Athlon 700 with half the RAM and a Rage128 videocard, and some think that's overkill while the parents think its not enough. Why debate this? DevHardware has an opinion piece on 'leaner computing' and the author thinks that less might be more." This reminds me of a modern desktop system I saw sitting in a store, running Windows XP just so that it could connect via a terminal to another server and run the store's application. It would seem that even an old VT100 would have sufficed, but someone was able to sell the store a full blown PC.
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Less Might Be More

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  • inevitable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wattersa (629338) <andrew@andre w w a t ters.com> on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:17PM (#10335424) Homepage
    Companies make the most money when you buy as much new hardware as possible rather than keeping your existing stuff that is sufficient. Car manufacturers are the same way. It's inefficient but like everything else we can chalk it up to capitalism.
    • by wattersa (629338) <andrew@andre w w a t ters.com> on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:21PM (#10335471) Homepage
      FYI, I still have my first-gen Power Mac G4 from 1999, which has outlasted three of its hard drives, two displays (a sony CRT and an Apple Studio display), the original video card, keyboard and mouse, and hp deskjet printer. This is the least problematic Mac I've owned yet.
      • by dark404 (714846) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:34PM (#10335586)
        I would say it had three drives and a video card fail.... And being from 1999 you're averaging a drive failure every 1.6 years. If that's the LEAST problematic Mac you've owned, I'd hate to see the MOST problematic one.

        Your chip and motherboard may still be working, but your system as a whole doesn't seem to be anything to brag about.
        • by wattersa (629338) <andrew@andre w w a t ters.com> on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:53PM (#10335767) Homepage
          Two Quantum hard drives, a Seagate, a Sony and Apple monitor, Microsuck ergo keyboard and intellimouse all failed. My point was the the Mac itself isn't a problem and if I were less tech savvy I would have thrown out a perfectly good computer long ago, which likely adds to the Joe six pack need to buy a new comp when the previous one conks out after warranty.
          • by Dominatus (796241) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @08:03PM (#10335845)
            "Mac itself isn't the problem"

            Then what is? The harddrive failed, the video card failed. A computer is the sum of it's parts. The Mac you have now with a different harddrive and video card isn't the same one you bought 5 years ago.

            Besides I still have an old 75 mhz Pentium sitting at my parent's that gets regular use and has had *nothing* fail except for a module of expansion RAM I threw in there for my dad that died after 3-4 years.
          • Is your workspace constantly bombarded with gamma radiation? I have a G4 from 99 with all the original hardware still in great shape. In addition, I've got a handfull of PII 266 boxen that were in heavy office use from 1997 to 2002. Now they've retired to miscellaneous server status, but still plug away faithfully on original hard disks/monitors/video cards/keyboards. Maybe you need better cooling in your office, or plug those leaky holes in the roof. Your situation sounds pretty alarming from a hardware po
    • Incorrect analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TWX (665546) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:30PM (#10335551)
      Car manufacturers do not operate under the same mentality as computer manufacturers. Theoretically computers offer significantly more potential every year as hardware development increases power exponentially. Car manufacturers are in the business of taking a core technology and repackaging it until they are forced to concede to a partial redesign or new implementation to satisfy consumers or federal regulators. Sheet metal on most vehicles remains 90% similar for more than five years, uni-frame designs may last twenty years before a redesign, usually for crash safety modernization. Engine castings are used, with different bore, stroke, and cam choices, until the engines no longer meet federal emissions or fuel economy reqirements.

      The auto industry made its money convincing consumers that they had to have a new car, never mind that it was mechanically almost identical to the last three they had. Computers actually do develop new technologies, more power, and new end-user features at a fairly brisk pace.
      • by suckmysav (763172) <suckmysavNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:45PM (#10335696) Journal

        "The auto industry made its money convincing consumers that they had to have a new car, never mind that it was mechanically almost identical to the last three they had. Computers actually do develop new technologies, more power, and new end-user features at a fairly brisk pace."

        Yes, but cars literally wear out, where computers generally don't*. PC's just keep on working just as well as they did when new until they are usually replaced simply because they are just obsolete, even though they still work OK. I've had at least 15 PCs over the last 20 years, usually have 4 or so in service at any one time. Not one of them have I had to replace because it "wore out". I've replaced many worn out cars in that same period.

        * Hard disks + fans do wear out, for exactly the same reasons that cars wear out, ie they have moving parts. The difference is that it is trivially easy to replace a worn out HD or fan inj a PC, whereas it is financially impractical to try and replace every single moving part in an old car, which is why people tend to buy new ones every five years or so. Wholesale replacement of old parts generally only happens when someone is restoring a classic car and value for money is not the overriding factor at play.

        • Re:Incorrect analogy (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:51PM (#10335748)
          "I've had at least 15 PCs over the last 20 years, usually have 4 or so in service at any one time. Not one of them have I had to replace because it "wore out". I've replaced many worn out cars in that same period."

          You've replaced the computers because they became useless before they wore out. But computers do wear out. Typically the motherboard fails first because manufacturers use cheap electrolytic capacitors that leak (because they don't expect anyone to be using the hardware after 5 years).
    • Re:inevitable (Score:3, Insightful)

      Thing is, with a car you can still go out and buy a 600cc 25hp SmartCar for running about the city. You can't really do that with a computer, your minimum config just keeps growing.

    • Re:inevitable (Score:5, Insightful)

      by epine (68316) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:41PM (#10335660)

      That's not what the theory of capitalism says. Capitalism says that capital follows need, and corporations had better keep their feet moving if they don't want their bottom line to look like DeCaprio's private parts after he plunged.

      It's corporatism not capitalism that says "try to keep the dull consumer buying what they don't need anyway".

      A modest Pentium-M with silent cooling would serve the needs of most people far better than any Pentium-IV, complete with miniature nuclear cooling tower.

      From where we are right now, a mad rush to 10GHz computing is not the most efficient use of available capital, a no amount of duping the average consumer can change that fact.

  • by DAldredge (2353) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:18PM (#10335429) Journal
    Why are they buying these fast systems? Easy, it is what is being sold and it is not worth the hassle to buy a used system to save money.
  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:18PM (#10335430) Homepage Journal
    Unlike a hobbyist, Joe isn't going to run out and change his PC every 6 months. Joe's going to use that sucker until it dies. So, what's horribly overpowered these days will be ho-hum, run-of-the-mill in 2-3 years. That's why Joe buys a machine that overpowered for what he's doing today.
    • by MacFury (659201) <me@johOOOnkramlich.com minus threevowels> on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:22PM (#10335484) Homepage
      The problem is, Joe thinks he needs the biggest and the best today, just so his computer will work next year. He pays a premium for his brand new computer, and it still becomes outdated. Midrange systems are by far the best value. You save enough buying midrange, that you can afford another midrange system in a year or two. Then you have the benefit of two computers.

      With the crappy quality in most PC parts...the thing won't even last two or three years.

      • I have a NeXT Cube, along with it's N2000 laser printer running just fine. It's serving the printer on my network. Not only is it running just fine, it's only replaced part was a 2 gig drive to replace it's dead 400 meg one.

        My 3rd Gen iMac (slot-loading DV/SE 400Mghz) not only runs all but one of the applications my kids use, it also runs software I regularly use as well. So dooes the dual 450Mghz G4 tower wich handles all photoshop QuarkXPress and accounting for my wife's businesses. That machine, too, is
      • by Pollux (102520)
        Everyone in the IT industry needs money. Unfortunately, the company that needs it the most is Microsoft. Release a new OS every 3 years and a new Office suite every 2 years, price them insanely high (well, at least the Office suite), rewrite the platform to use a higher-higher language, which requires a faster CPU to process what really amounts to someone typing in the letter 'a', and pressure everyone to believe that yesterday's computer just isn't good enough for today's "software innovations."

        Or perha
    • by garcia (6573) * on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:26PM (#10335523) Homepage
      I am a geek and I am looking for a useful life. Hell, I was running my machines with 128MB of RAM until I found some on the side of the road (no joke) and my father gave me some of his slower RAM when he upgraded MBs on my mother's machine.

      I have been using a Abit BP6 2x400 Celeron w/128 (and now 384MB) since the boards were released (sometime in 1999?)

      I don't want to upgrade. This machine runs XP just fine and it is only feeling slower now that I use a 2.66ghz w/1024MB at work. I wouldn't have noticed the slightest difference if I was only using a P3-700.

      I am all for using a machine until it's dead. My machines aren't for games or graphics. They're for work and they do that well :)
      • In the early 90s, when everyone started to have a computer, you could tell who the REAL geeks were because they were running slow, ancient machines held together with glue and rubber bands. If you had a shiny new 486 you were a newbie; if you had a 16 mhz XT you had some geek cred.
    • by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:32PM (#10335573) Homepage Journal
      Joe isn't going to run out and change his PC every 6 months. Joe's going to use that sucker until it dies.

      I saw a poll in a USENET group about a year ago. Most posters (residents of the USA) were still on Pentium I and Pentium II PC's. $1,000 for a new PC may not sound like much to most slashdotters, but most slashdotters probably don't have kids, a mortgage and a car payment or two. Once you're in that situation $1,000 expense requires it's priority rising past a lot of other items.

      • Hear, hear! I just replaced my wife's P2/233 box. It was coming up on it's 7th birthday, I believe. All she uses it for is browsing and email and the very occasional Word doc. Iicked up an Optiplex off eBay for a couple hundred that's got a lower end P4, with 256Mb RAM & a 5400 rpm disk. I'll bet this one lasts her almost as long. Me? The Linux box is 2xP3/600 with 1Gb of RAM and 7200 rpm scsi disks. The Windows box is a P3/1500. Neither are going anywhere any time soon.
      • by C10H14N2 (640033) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @10:45PM (#10336833)
        Most Slashdotters probably have $50k in student loans, a mortgage (or equivalent rent, which is actually more expensive than a mortgage even in the short run since there are few tax breaks and no equity) in a major metropolitan area, a car payment and on average .75 kids instead of 2.5, since education and income have an inverse relation to birthrate, but they probably have 30% above average incomes and can write-off their computers as "tools," in effect making them roughly 20% cheaper at the end of the year than for those who buy them like Playstations.
    • by FlipmodePlaya (719010) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:37PM (#10335625) Journal
      One thing I was surprised to find recently is that those in the know and those in the not seem to have radically different interpretations of 'dead'. I say this after hearing someing I had met comment that they're buying a new computer. She was very upset because the one that had just 'died' was only a few months old. The way she described the 'deadness' reminded me of whatever the Windows virus was that rebooted your PC right after you started up (not certain that was the problem). She was probably ready to go out and buy a horredously overpowered and overpriced PC without reason, just months after doing that same thing. That brings up another point, maybe Joe User needs tons of power just to run all of his malware :)

      In either case, educating these consumers could save them a LOT of money. This conversation was held on college campus, on that note...
      • "She was very upset because the one that had just 'died' was only a few months old. The way she described the 'deadness' reminded me of whatever the Windows virus was that rebooted your PC right after you started up."

        This is an excellent point. Of all the clueless users I have ever met who had told me about their plans to buy a new computer, the primary reason that most of them had for wanting to do so was because thier old one was "broken", where broken=infected with virus's, spyware and broken apps. It

  • by supertbone (624441) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:18PM (#10335431)
    ...Microsoft taketh away!
  • by ajiva (156759) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:19PM (#10335444)
    In my opinion, what most people want is a responsive desktop, not necassiarly a fast one. Most people would be perfectly happy with a ~1GHZ processor, but the 128mb of memory and slow 5400rpm disk destroy the usability of the machine. That's why I adovcate to all my non techy friends, to buy a resonable speed CPU (mid 2Ghz Celeron/Athlon) but grab a fast 7200RPM disk, and 1gb of memory. The cost of the machine is similar to a decked out 3Ghz with 256mb (what Dell seems to sell these days), but the machine is much more responsive. Opening multiple programs doesn't cause the machine to slow to a crawl swapping. And loading apps are fast, because the disk is nice and speedy.
    • by Compholio (770966) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:24PM (#10335503)
      Personally I'm a fan of the AMD FX-53 with a 10,000 RPM SATA-150 drive GeForce 6800 and 2GB of DDR400* running a 2.6.8 Linux kernel and utilitizing 6+ desktops with at least 1 memory-hog running on each one. But that's me, I just like to leave all my programs running and switch to the desktop that has the one I need.

      *the only part I don't have yet
    • by hawkbug (94280) <psx@GIRAFFEfimble.com minus herbivore> on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:33PM (#10335582) Homepage
      Ok, putting a Celeron and Athlon on the same level is just stupid. I know what you're trying to say, but a Celeron has nowhere near the cache an Athlon has. For example, I have an Athlon XP processor in my work machine, the 2500+ and it has 512 K of L2 cache. It also runs at 1.83 GHZ, but because of it's shorter pipeline vs the current generation of Celerons, it absolutely smokes a celeron, they aren't even in the same class in my opinion. Just because a processor is cheaper it doesn't mean it's on the same performance level. It would perform equal to or better than a Pentium 4 @ 2.4 GHZ if you pair the Athlon XP with dual channel DDR @ 333 or 400. Like I said, I realize what you're trying to say, and I think you're on the right track - but I would never compare a celeron to an Athlon in terms of performance. Price - ofcourse, but not performance - an Athlon is a much better buy if you're not stuck on Intel and will evaluate all your x86 options.
    • by Rallion (711805) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @08:26PM (#10336005) Journal
      I think 1GB RAM is a bit much. I have 768MB, and that's more than I need. However, it's a fact that people have way more processing power than they need. The only things a 3GHz processor is going to give you a noticable benefit in are things like video rendering. Not running office apps, not even running games. My XP2100+ (just slightly OC'ed) is serving me very, very well, and I see no need to upgrade it in the next few years.
    • That makes sense. My system is an 850 MHz Thunderbird, 640 MB ram, an ATI 8500 AIW card, and a couple of 7200 rpm drives. It's a lot more responsive than machines I've worked on that are 2 or 3 times faster.

      I don't have a whole lot of crap running that I don't need; the system tray is nearly bare compared to some I've seen. Changing XP's ugly gui to the classic one helps a hell of a lot, too.

      As a running experiment, I have people sit down and use my computer without knowing what's inside. Then I ask t
  • what? (Score:5, Funny)

    by seringen (670743) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:19PM (#10335446)
    yeah maybe a dumb terminal would suffice, but how would the clerk play doom3 while ignoring the customers?! It'd be unfair
    • yeah maybe a dumb terminal would suffice, but how would the clerk play doom3 while ignoring the customers?!

      Like this. [dumbentia.com]
    • Re:what? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      At our local Train station they just invested in about 50 (possibly more.. didn't count) displays, which are bolted to lampposts etc. and are about 10 feet off the ground.

      They display text (yellow on blue, at about 20x15 resolution) 24/7. The page updates maybe once every 3 or 4 minutes.

      Every single one of these displays is run from a separate Windows XP installation. Some gimp at the Train company was suckered into paying for licenses for all of them.

      They don't even use terminal services FFS!!! At le
  • by PHPgawd (744675) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:19PM (#10335452)
    This [vt100.net] is a VT100.
  • by 3seas (184403) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:20PM (#10335462) Journal
    ... MS Levels of computer terminology?

    I'm having hard time understanding this article... ;)

  • Well, (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Neil Blender (555885)
    I have a brand new high end box that I play doom 3 on. Windows 2000, gig of ram, radeon 9600, etc. I also have a 5 year old viao that's about the thickness of 2 magazines stacked on top of each other. It's running a pared down redhat 7.2. If I only needed mail and web the vaio would be all I need. It's what you do that dictates what you need.
  • by octaene (171858) <bswilson@noSpAm.gmail.com> on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:23PM (#10335487) Homepage

    Recently, during a home improvement trip to Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse [lowes.com], I noted that the terminals their employees use are running some version of Linux with WindowMaker as the X11 interface. They of course mainly use an IBM TN3270 application to access inventory and supply data, but I'll bet that their version of Linux is not a full-blown distro.

    In any case, they definitely subscribe to the less is more principle... Have you seen the crappy PCs they have there?

    • by TCM (130219) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:50PM (#10335742)
      subscribe to the less is more principle

      $ ls -li /usr/bin
      [...]
      69687 -r-xr-xr-x 3 root wheel 96720 Dec 6 2003 less
      69687 -r-xr-xr-x 3 root wheel 96720 Dec 6 2003 more
      [...]
      $ _


      Correctamundo!
  • by MBAFK (769131) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:23PM (#10335491)
    I use a VIA EPIA 5000 Fanless Motherboard with a 533mhz CPU as a silent X terminal with a more powerful workstation in another room doing all the work.

    I couldn't do this with a desktop P4 or Athlon XP processor etc since they get too hot to passively cool. So for this computer at least, less definitely is more.
  • by NetDanzr (619387) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:24PM (#10335501)
    Ever since my Pentium II 400MHz, 128MB RAM and a 5400RPM HDD, I haven't noticed any difference in the speed and reliability of basic office computing. That computer is still my primary machine, and if I wasn't required to get a laptop with wireless connectivity for my grad school, it would still be my only computer.

    Let's face it: unless you feel the need to play games, there was no reason to upgrade your computer for the past six years.

  • The author says "why the hell is Joe Sixpack buying an Alienware or Dell XPS?"

    I don't know about Joe Sixpack's near where ever he lives, but around here, they all ask me what the cheapest machine is that will do basic stuff for themselves, or their kids at school. The only ones I see running out for Alienware or Dell XPS machines are serious gamers who are either 1) too uneducated, or 2) don't want to put forth the effort, to build their own machine.

  • My parents run P2-366 class hardware and it's more-or-less enough.
    But I will need a faster PC just to build FreeBSD-packages for them, and re-build world.
    Because that's taking ages on these slow machines...
    When I migrated them from SuSE to FreeBSD, the idea was to be able to upgrade the machines step by step - but I didn't take into account that it takes almost a weekend to build KDE....

    Rainer
  • Better Software (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikeleemm (462460) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:29PM (#10335545)
    glad to see someone bring thing topic up. For the "normal" computer user, think about it, you play MP3s, use some type of IM, web browse, check email... All things that work fine on anything higher than lets say a 500MHz... As far as I've noticed, the average user's complaints of a slow computer is actually the disk access, and not the actual processor.

    It just seems lately they just have been coding software to be so bloated you need a faster computer to run it.
  • here's the deal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mo (2873) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:29PM (#10335548)
    It's probably cheaper for computer manufacturers to make (only) the latest and greatest and sell it to everybody than to try to specialize and sell one guy a 486 with DOS, somebody else a 4ghz p4, third guy gets a vt100 terminal, etc...

    That's why new vt100 terminals retail for $250 while a new dell retails for $300. I'm sure the EE's on slashdot can testify about slapping a overpowered PIC microcontroller into a design instead of a cusom circuit because it simplified the design, and only bumped the product cost up from 30 cents to 40 cents.

    It just makes sense from a manufacturing standpoint to mass produce one general-purpose product then try to shave a few pennies off making custom solutions for all kinds of tasks.
  • by mobby_6kl (668092) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:30PM (#10335553)
    Less is More!

    Now who wants to trade my 486 and PII boxes for P4EE and AthlonFX??
  • by theantix (466036) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:30PM (#10335559) Journal
    Jebus, you'd think they could apply the "less is more" concept to their advertising on that site. I could barely find the article through all the blinky and flashy ads, and the textads, and the banner ads, etc. I realize they need to make money off ads but that is plain overkill... an argument that parallels the one the article tries to make.

    (yes, I know how to block them)
  • by Monkelectric (546685) <[moc.cirtceleknom] [ta] [todhsals]> on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:31PM (#10335561)
    running Windows XP just so that it could connect via a terminal to another server and run the store's application

    Um? Have you tried to deal with 95/98/ME before? They make me cry, seriously. XP, while not perfect is a 100 fold improvement over ME. I've been trying to start a business consulting company -- and I've started to notice something -- every time I'm out ona job and there's a 9x machine involved, the job will be invariably hindered by hte 9x machine. I have hundreds of war stories if you want to hear them ... Its gotten to the point where I am considering saying we simply refues to support 9x (95/98/Me).

  • by DogDude (805747) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:31PM (#10335563) Homepage
    A REAL geek is running a web server on a 386SX. Personally, I don't understand all of this dick waving about fast computers. Any moron with a few hundred bucks can buy a fast computer. Big fucking deal. I'm always impressed by somebody using ancient, ancient hardware, held together with duct tape. Geekiness is all about resourcefulness, not running out to Best Buy every week like a fucking lemming.

    Leaner is more. Leaner is cooler. If you can get done what you want to get done by being smart as opposed to throwing soon-to-be-overpriced hardware at the problem, all the better.
  • I can relate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rinikusu (28164) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:33PM (#10335578)
    My desktop is a dual processor PIII 750 that I built a few years ago (upgraded from a dual Celeron 400). For all practical purposes, it's not really all that much different than the dual Celeron box, except that I've added more RAM and a faster drive. All my apps run smoothly, my games (albeit limited) run well, and it's a super Web-browsing machine. I even run a small website from it, simultaneously.

    Now, I did have a mini-ITX machine awhile back. P4 2.4ghz, 1 gig of RAM, 7200 RPM HD. I did not notice a single bit of difference between the two machines except my framerate was a bit highter on the P4 (better graphics card installed). So I sold it. I'm still using the dual PIII.

    Earlier this year, I picked up a used iBook G4 800mhz. Ancient CPU technology, by most PC standards. And yet, it is also 100% sufficient (enough to say it's not DEFICIENT) for anything that do. A Voodoo or Alienware laptop would be more than enough machine for me, at a higher price tag. Performance I don't need. Performance I suspect others don't need, as well.

    I also agree with the author of the article. CPU's are growing faster and faster, and are consuming more and more power. I'd really like to see more "Power consumption" aware options (like a desktop based on the P-M), because frankly I don't like my computer to be a space heater (actually, the 2 21" CRT's in front of me are probably more to blame than anything). It really has gotten to the point that buying a new machine today is not really all that "special" as it was a few years ago. (With the exception of the G5 in the Apple lineup, or maybe the Opterons or Athlon64 machines, but the general public doesn't seem too enamored with the latter 2).

  • by chrispyman (710460) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:36PM (#10335602)
    Frankly, from what I've found, most people either get new computers so that they can have more than one in the house, or they do it because their old one gets a virus, lots of spyware, Windows crashes, etc.

    Getting a new computer to increase the number of them in the house seems perfectly fine, since afterall, they get used more and more, especially with the advent of easy home networking. Now as for those who get new ones to "fix" the old ones, you have to consider that these days, with computer repairs still being relatively expensive, it can often be cheaper to just buy a new computer than to have to deal with an old one that's warranty has run out.
  • School Lab's (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JimmyG13 (530501) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:39PM (#10335637)
    This reminds me of the lab computers at my University. They are: Pentium 4 3.0GHz Radeon 8500 1GB of RAM Sound Blaster Audigy (No Speakers) DVD Burner Mind you that the most people use them for is Microsoft Office. A total waste of my tutition money...
    • by green pizza (159161) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @08:11PM (#10335909) Homepage
      It's not just your university, this is happening at most universities. At my state university, the library has probably 200 public use PCs spread in out in groups of four thruout the building. They're currently 3.2 GHz P4 systems with 17" LCD monitors. Last year they were different PCs, 2.8 GHz with 15" LCDs. Nobody seems to know where exactly the old machines went.Unlike the lab machines you mentioned, our library machines are mostly used to access the card catalog software and hotmail.com

      Most of the labs on our campus are updated to the latest and greatest Dell models every 2 years. Thankfully they usually have plenty of ram, but the hard drive size is usually insanely large. I think most of the actual deparment labs now have 200+ GB drives---that's pretty big for machines that get reimaged via Norton Ghost every Saturday morning.

      And yet, we still have neglected labs. You know the type, the labs that look like what you find in most highschools---Pentium 1 systems running an unoptimized stock install of Win98, running slow. For some reason, our most neglected labs are those that get the most real usage.

      Next time you pay your tuition, check the fees section. This semester my tuition included ~$400 "Campus Technology Fee".
  • by stanwirth (621074) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:39PM (#10335640)

    Bloatware -- it's not just for Microsoft anymore. Your typical latest SuSE and RedHats require 64MB of main memory or more, and god forbid you try running OOo on the thing. Still too much!

    What to do for your granma's system? You want something with up-to-date kernel, a low-profile windowing system and a nice combination of office apps that don't chew up memory and disk like they were going out of style.

    Run Uptodate Linux Everywhere [rule-project.org] is one place to look.

    Vector Linux [vectorlinux.com] is another.

  • by JacobO (41895) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:41PM (#10335657)
    This reminds me of a modern desktop system I saw sitting in a store, running Windows XP just so that it could connect via a terminal to another server and run the store's application. It would seem that even an old VT100 would have sufficed, but someone was able to sell the store a full blown PC

    PCs are cheap enough now that they are competitive with terminals, consider the production volumes. I'm not talking about things you pick up from the dumpster around the back of the bank, but something that someone would pay for and get support for.

    You also get some pretty good host integration features such as using the PC's local receipt printer without additional networking, not to mention the ability to change your POS software to something PC-based later on if you so choose.
  • by Flexagon (740643) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:46PM (#10335701)

    I can't imagine a VT100 being useful for much of anything. Without insert/delete line, which appeared in the VT102, vi is painful. So are many other programs. TECO maybe.

  • by Deag (250823) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @07:49PM (#10335736)
    While people may make do with a slower computer, and you may wonder why someone who only surfs the web and reads email needs a 3 GHz computer, it doesn't really work that way.

    It takes intel millions of dollars to make a fab to put out a chip, and that fab only makes those chips, so all that is available to the consumer is faster processors. How much would a new 486 sx 25 Mhz processor cost today. If you wanted one, how much? Intel don't make them anymore, so you'd have to fund some sort of production faciltiy, so that's a millions straight away.

    The fact of the matter is that there are only fast processors available now. They may eat power and heat siberia but it's all there is (at a reasonable price for a desktop).

    This is also a good thing though, the computing power is needed. Computers at the moment are kinda crap, you need to argue with them to use them, voice recogniton (good voice recognition) intelligent computers will need alot of power, and it's no harm at all to have an abunfdance of it available.
  • CPU scaling (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mennucc1 (568756) <d3slash@mennucc1.debian.net> on Thursday September 23, 2004 @08:29PM (#10336018) Homepage Journal
    As the article suggest, I would love to see a desktop PC running on a Pentium M (or any other mobile version of a CPU): less heat, less power, reasonable performances.

    It would be also very good if desktops' MB and CPU may implement frequency and voltage scaling on the CPU (as is done in notebooks).
    Unfortunately most desktop systems do not allow it (but I heard that some newer models will).

    I use Linux on my notebook, and I have instructed the daemon "cpufreqd" to scale down on voltage (when the CPU is not very busy) *even* when I am on AC. This way, the CPU operates at an average of 60Celsius (compared to the 70C that I see under WindowsXP): saving the heat is very nice, the fan operates much less, less noise; and you can really keep your laptop on the lap.

    Moreover: do you know that CPUs evaporate? Yes, they run so hot that the tiny metal strips forming the VLSI circuitry do evaporate, (or if you prefer, diffuse) : if you keep your desktop on 24/7, in ~2 years, a Pentium or Athlon at 3000Mhz will stop working....
    But if I could scale it down when I do not need the CPU full power (and this means, most of the time) the problem would be much diminished.

    Summarizing: CPU scaling = less heat, less power, less AC bill, more life of CPU
    • Athlon-MP (Score:3, Informative)

      You can put certain Athlon-MPs in a desktop. Socket A. I think they even do frequency scaling.

      That said, I'd rather pay a lot less money for a lot less computer than buy a 3 ghz only to run at 200 mhz most of the time.
  • by rjamestaylor (117847) <rjamestaylor@gmail.com> on Thursday September 23, 2004 @08:42PM (#10336101) Journal
    Dear American PC Users,

    Please continue to use Dual Athalon 64 processors connected by 802.11g to unfettered cable modems to run Solitare, Word and, especially, Internet Explorer. We need the excess power to provide the thousands of spam relays, DDoS zombies, open proxies and anonymous FTP servers for our training manual distribution efforts.

    Thank you for your continued cooperation,

    Al Qaeda and Russian Spammers

    Kidding aside, these 50,000 machines DDoSing Authorize.Net ... where do they come from? Does the average person know that these are not machines owned by the DDoS'er but likely THEIR machine 0wned by the DDoS'er? SETI at home, Folding at home, etc., aren't the only ones capable of reclaiming these wasted resources.

    This abundance of power won't go away (until Longhorn is released -- kidding) for what manufacturer or salesperson will tell the novice computer purchaser that a 1998 computer is more than enough for their needs? Or that LTSP is all a large company needs for their basic workstation desktops?

    People should be held accountable for what they allow their computer to do. Just like any other property I may own; if through my negligence something I own is used by another to harm others, I may be held liable. Especially if I left the item unprotected -- such as a car with the doors unlocked left running with a full tank of gas along with my now-legal assault weapons, fully automatic and fully loaded, sitting in the passenger seat while I stroll into the convenience store for a Sno-ball and RedBull power lunch -- those harmed through my negligance can sue me, or press charges against me.

  • by gillbates (106458) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @08:45PM (#10336123) Homepage Journal

    1. When you are using Java for desktop applications, or:
    2. When you're running Windows XP and it seems to think the average user needs to turn on every conceivable service at boot time.
    3. When it's chained to a 7200 rpm drive that is around three orders of magnitude slower than the main memory.
    4. When developers are more concerned with glitzy interfaces and with trendy programming than actually writing efficient, well-structured code.
    5. When developers reinvent the wheel in the language du jour, in spite of the fact that other languages might be more suitable (no, C++ is not better than assembler for writing device drivers, and no, Java is never "blazingly fast" - under any circumstances...)
    6. When the firmware uses an interpreted language to implement hardware IO routines.

    No, the average user doesn't need a 3 GHz processor.

    However, the reason they buy such fast machines is because when it comes to issues of performance, the response they receive most often is that they need to upgrade their machine. This alone speaks volumes about the ability and professionalism of the average Windows developer.

    And I can always spot Windows devs at conferences - they're the ones who will argue to the death that assembly is obsolete, as they plug the latest Microsoft reinvention of the wheel which requires ever more processing power and memory to do the same things that it did ten years ago...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2004 @09:33PM (#10336399)

      And I can always spot Windows devs at conferences - they're the ones who will argue to the death that assembly is obsolete, as they plug the latest Microsoft reinvention of the wheel which requires ever more processing power and memory to do the same things that it did ten years ago...

      Yeah, but I bet they took less resources to develop. Like it or not, hand-coding everything in assembly isn't practical for anything but the smallest things. Even if your application is three times as fast as your competitor's application, nobody will buy it as the people who need it will have bought your competitor's application a year before yours came out.

      You might consider that attitude to be unprofessional, but the people paying developers' wages understand that the bottleneck isn't the processor but the brains of their developers.

  • by Mulletproof (513805) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @09:20PM (#10336303) Homepage Journal
    "Most of us are running on a newer Pentium 4/Athlon 64 box with lots of RAM and a 7200 RPM drive and a uber-sweet graphics card that pushes 100 FPS in Doom 3. Our parents are probably running an old Athlon 700 with half the RAM and a Rage128 videocard, and some think that's overkill while the parents think its not enough. Why debate this?"

    Wait wait wait... First we need to learn how to construct a sentance before pulling something like this as a front page story. I mean, 'Our parents are probably running an old Athlon 700 with half the RAM and a Rage128 videocard, and some think that's overkill while the parents think its not enough'???????????

    WTF are you trying to say? The parents are running inferior hardware and don't think it's enough? Some other people don't think it's enough? The parent AND these mystery people are in league with the demonic hardware from a 5th dimention paralell to ours? WTF are you trying to say????? And when did all of us stumble across these great uber-machines? I musta missed that boat, sadly enough.

    Cripes, I know journalism isn't Slashdots forte, but how this one even made frontpage in shambled state is an amazing feat in itself.
    • First we need to learn how to construct a sentance

      sentence

      I mean, 'Our parents are probably running an old Athlon 700 with half the RAM and a Rage128 videocard, and some think that's overkill while the parents think its not enough'???????????

      Double quotation marks are typically used to quote someone, except when nested parenthesis are required. Also, one question mark is enough. If you'd like to indicate that you are shocked to be asking the question, some people like to double up the exclamation mar

  • by Hadur (636978) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @09:46PM (#10336494)
    My sister went out and bought a brand new system when she was going away to college. One year later, I heard that she was looking to buy another one because her system was "so old." Now, given that my computer is five years older than hers and I ran more intensive applications than her AIM and IE, I was surprised.

    When I visited her, she had every spyware kown to man. Everyone in her dorm seemed to. There were so much of the stuff that I could not even open the Start menu and I found it easier to reinstall Windows than try to remove the crap.

    So, many consumers are driven to buy modern computers because they have so much malware running that is bringing their system to a halt.
  • It's true (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EZmagz (538905) on Thursday September 23, 2004 @09:48PM (#10336517) Homepage
    Honestly, I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to hardware & goodies of that nature, and my main desktop is a PII 333MHz w/192MB of PC100 RAM. And for practically everything I need it for, it works perfect. I'm not a huge programmer so really I only compile either stupid shit that I wrote that's of minimun size or source for an app that I'll never need to recompile. And my only other computer is a PIII 1GHz laptop that burns the shit outta my lap if it's on for more than 30 minutes.

    My point is, computing has reached a point where the AVERAGE person doesn't need to upgrade anymore. It used to be that the newest killer apps would require an upgrade of some sort. More memory, an updated OS, or if it was called for, an entirely new system. Who remembers checking the back of a software box back in the day and nothing thinking "wow, I wonder what my fps will be", but instead "jesus, will this even RUN on my 386???" Nowadays really the only person who needs to buy the latest and greatest are gamers...and they're such a small percentage of overall computer buyers and users that they're negliable at best.

    I think computer companies are starting to realize this and they're starting to freak out a tad. The real limiting factor with the majority's computing experience is how fast their net connection is, not what CPU they're using or what GFX card is under the hood. This isn't to say of course that when/if I get a job, I won't be throwing my money away at CrapUSA on a sweet video card. It's just that we've hit a maturity in computers where it doesn't pay to update every 1.5 years if all you're doing is checking email, writing shit and downloading the occasional mp3.

  • Really? Let me check this right now.

    $ diff /bin/more /usr/bin/less
    Binary files /bin/more and /usr/bin/less differ

    So the answer is a resounding "no". "less" is definitely *not* "more".

    Hope that helps.
  • by Zog The Undeniable (632031) on Friday September 24, 2004 @03:23AM (#10337973)
    Most of us are running on a newer Pentium 4/Athlon 64 box with lots of RAM and a 7200 RPM drive and a uber-sweet graphics card that pushes 100 FPS in Doom 3

    This is a troll, right?

  • by BlightThePower (663950) on Friday September 24, 2004 @07:23AM (#10338570)
    For a business of any real size a computer is a trivial purchase. They just don't cost that much, especially given it is tax deductable (where I am anyway).

    In assessing this cost remember how expensive something going wrong for a business is in terms of (a) the time of an employee trying to fix things, (b) lost earnings/tarnished reputation when a customer feels let down and even (c) image...notice how trendy "creative" companies always have the latest Apple hardware even if its just for word processing?

    It just doesn't make any sense to scrimp on non-standard hardware. And non-standard in this sense is anything that isn't current. No business is going to want to do things that a home user might think trivial (e.g., hunt around for drivers on the web, find a keyboard for a non-standard connector, etc etc.) Unless you already have the capability it is never worth repairing when you can just replace instead.

    It has nothing to do with the technical capability of the hardware and is all to do with perceived reliability (newer==less likely to fail in the next year), logistics (swiftly replace like with exact like) and image. I would push this and say that if the new iteration of hardware was actually somehow worse than the previous one in an objective sense, businesses would still throw out their old machines and buy in the new model.

    Yes it is senseless, but its the way of the world and the same thing applies to company premises, company cars and even formal dress in the business environment (servicable but double-breasted when it should be single? Over/undersized lapels? Put it away and head for the nearest tailor).
  • Right on! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CrazyWingman (683127) on Friday September 24, 2004 @08:38AM (#10338909) Journal

    Wow - this article is right on the money! I've been running an AMD 700Mhz for the last four years, and the only reason I'm not still running it is because it died (actually, I did the math and found that it was on for something like 80+% of it's lifetime, so it's demise was not unexpected, especially given the environment in which it spent those years). That machine did everything I needed it to - I'm even a software developer, and it still compiled with plenty of speed. I'm kind of batting around the idea of trying to find some old used parts just to reassemble the same machine.

    This feeling carries over into laptops. The main reason I haven't bought a new machine yet is because I'm thinking of moving to something portable instead. However, it seems my desires are a bit out of line with what Intel/Dell/etc. wants to sell me. I'm really only looking for two things: small size and lots of battery life. The size search does have limits, as I don't want the keyboard to be too cramped, but mainly I really don't want one of these new laptops that has a good 2" on either side of the keyboard. I know battery life is mostly a factor of the screen on a laptop, but you can't tell me that just scaling back the other stuff a bit won't help.

    I've actually been expecting for a couple of years now that we'll start seeing machines that are more dedicated to specific purposes again. For a long time we've been talking about how "one commodity piece of hardware can do everything." But, the simple fact is that most users don't need it to do everything. Thin clients are excellent machines for surfing the web. I expect someone will soon come out with a media PC that makes sense. I can't say I'm all that surprised that no one is marketing a word-processing machine any more, but that application is so lightweight that it could execute on any of these other systems.

    Alright, I've ranted/rambled enough. Time to stop this post before I really do begin to sound stupid. ;P

  • Software Guys... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SuperChuck69 (702300) on Friday September 24, 2004 @09:33AM (#10339286)
    Software guys have a problem with overkill. They can't do ANYTHING without a full-blown personal computer backing it up.

    One project of mine is a little php/mysql app to manage my dvd collection. A friend of mine suggested that the program should also control the DVD player, selecting the proper DVD.

    Then he started specing out the machinery. Nothing short of an ITX machine seemed to satify his desire. A desire, I might add, which consisted of nothing more than accepting network input and outputting IR.

    All told, we were talking about $300-500 to run an IR Blaster off a serial port.

    But that's the mentality. Software guys are so used to starting with predetermined hardware and then writing whatever code they want to on top of it, and if it's too slow, you just add more metal.

    It's just a matter of perspective. You're looking at it from "I need a to talk to a server" and the hardware supplier is looking at it from "How do I connect a PC to this server?"

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