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No Need to Upgrade that PC? 502

An anonymous reader writes "The Washington Post (free reg.) has an interesting article about a developing trend in the computer retail business: People aren't buying new PCs. Why? Well, no suprise to those who read this, but grandma and Joe Sixpack don't need a screaming new P4 to surf the net and write letters. Are they just figuring this out?"
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No Need to Upgrade that PC?

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  • what about macs? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by huphtur ( 259961 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:38PM (#4743708)
    in our office, i hardly see the graphics guys upgrade their macs. after 2 years they always buy a complete new Gx. Do people actually upgrade Macs?
    • by phillymjs ( 234426 ) <(gro.ognats) (ta) (todhsals)> on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:59PM (#4743869) Homepage Journal
      Do people actually upgrade Macs?

      Yup. I've got three beige Power Macs that I've loaded up with RAM, G3 or G4 upgrade cards, USB cards, IDE controller cards and drives, and either a 10/100 Ethernet card or a second video card.

      One of the 7600s was purchased new by me in 1996, and was my primary machine until a few months ago when I got hold of a free beige G3 which I then stuffed with upgrades bought for chump change on eBay. Now the original 7600 and another one I bought on eBay are being used in my house as servers. The PCI-based Power Macs are very upgradable machines, and they make fantastic servers. One of my 7600s is a home-control/monitoring machine, and currently has an uptime of 113 days-- mind you, that's with the *classic* Mac OS. It would be longer than that, but 113 days ago a truly hellacious thunderstorm rolled through my area and I took my machines down to be absolutely safe.

      The beige G3 is going to be retired in January and will be replaced by a Quicksilver G4/733 I bought on eBay, which had a couple upgrades performed by its previous owner-- right now it's in the basement being prepped (I'm making a very slow transition of all my apps and data to OS X). Once the G4 takes over, the beige G3 will either be promoted to server duty or sold on eBay.

      The 'graphics guys' just replace their machines because it's quicker and easier than hunting down the best upgrade bang-for-the-buck-- and since Macs retain a higher resale value for a longer period of time, they can just sell the old Mac to take a chunk out of the price of the new Mac.

    • Actually, over time I've upgraded my PowerBooks about as much as I've upgraded my PCs.

      More RAM, larger HD, even a processor upgrade in my 1400. And I'm considering doing the same [] to my Pismo.

      I've never really done much beyond adding memory to desktop Macs (Suggested some processor upgrades to a few people, though)... They always seem to have just about everything I need in them.
    • Re:what about macs? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 )
      I bought a 233MHz G3 with a 4GB drive in April of 1998 - so it was already a 7 month old model when I got it.

      Upgraded the RAM, put in a 20GB drive later on, added Firewire/USB card, faster CPU, threw in a new video card twice (damned 3Dfx and Nvidia) and used it until late in August of this year.

      When I turned it off, it'd been used every day since April of 1998, it had a 466 G3, Firewire, 20 GB HD, 768 RAM, Radeon.

      It'll become a webserver soon.
    • Re:what about macs? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bsharitt ( 580506 )
      With my iMac, about all I can doo is add more RAM, and maybe a bigger hard drive. I could do more probably, but it'd be more trouble than it's worth since they aren't that upgradable. If you have a PowerMac, I think they're about as upgradable as most PCs.

    • by quantax ( 12175 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:28PM (#4744034) Homepage
      Yes, its quite simple. Graphics take time, time = money. For a busy graphic designer, every second saved can in the long-run mean increased productivity. These people can often be on extremely tight schedules so having the equipment up to par is important. Keep in mind though, I am not saying graphic designers update their equipment every time apple releases a new model, but most places try not to fall behind the curve too much.
    • Re:what about macs? (Score:3, Informative)

      by tbmaddux ( 145207 )
      Do people actually upgrade Macs?
      Yes. Three words, one kick ass website: Accelerate Your Mac! []

      Drive/CPU/graphics card upgrade compatibility databases, and very detailed hardware upgrade and review articles with benchmarks are the real gems here. Front page has daily news updates for upgraders. The forums are good, but closed to newcomers.

  • by Boogaroo ( 604901 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:38PM (#4743712) Homepage
    With a Celeron 400mhz and a Riva TNT 2 video card I can't play many of the games released in the last year. :(

    Being a gamer I'm REQUIRED to upgrade or get left out of all the fun. At least Half Life still works...
    • With a Celeron 400mhz and a Riva TNT 2 video card I can't play many of the games released in the last year. :(

      Being a gamer I'm REQUIRED to upgrade or get left out of all the fun. At least Half Life still works...

      With Grand Prix Legends [] I dont want to play games released last year.

      Well, seriously. I might be a dinosaur, but do the latest games really offer something new that you really have to buy them and then upgrade your computer to be able to play them? Grand Prix Legends, besides having a cool three letter abbreviation, was released in 1998 and still has a huge following. GPL-community races online, makes graphical updates, creates new tracks... For four years, GPL has basically been the only game I have played.

      I mean, if you really need to buy many games a year, should you consider buying only good games instead of disposable crap? :)

      Well, now I guess it would be clever not to mention all the upgrades I have made for my PC just for GPL...

    • that's true, besides gaming, key cracking, et's (seti) and protein folding a typical household PC is totally overkill for what it is used for day to day, and all but gaming are expendable to the owner of the system.

      I still have a p100 laptop that sees good use and for the longest time one of our office machines was a p225 running '98 that just wouldn't die.

      Think about it, what you have on your desk is more than what most IT departments had to keep 5000 people happy (big bank mainframe) in terms of raw processing power and memory (IO bandwidth is a different matter).

  • by shish ( 588640 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:38PM (#4743713) Homepage
    Computer power goes up, windows's speed remains constant. If we lag behind with hardware windows'll be going *backwards*
  • by BitwizeGHC ( 145393 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:40PM (#4743724) Homepage
    ... it's time to put Longhorn on the fast track to release. Nothing stimulates the hardware industry like a new, even more piggish release of Windows with plenty of "new features to make Windows even easier to use"!
    • Hahaha... That's pretty funny. Especially considering W2K runs great on my old P 350, but Redhat makes the hard drive spin ad infinitum and opening a window in KDE or Gnome is a major undertaking. I actually can't run a Linux with a GUI on any of my machines. It's too damn slow. But, I can run W2K on any of 'em. Funny, huh?
      • KDE and Gnome are both a little too bloated. They try to pull users away from Windows with even more useless junk than Windows itself has.
        Get yourself a decent Window Manager (like IceWM, fluxbox (a little more advanced), qvwm, ...), and it will be a lot faster.
          • KDE and Gnome are both a little too bloated. They try to pull users away from Windows with even more useless junk than Windows itself has.

          • Get yourself a decent Window Manager (like IceWM, fluxbox (a little more advanced), qvwm, ...), and it will be a lot faster.

          Windows has alpha blending, font anti-aliasing, and opaque window dragging (evil of vidoes!) and it runs on slower machines. . . .

          With Window Blinds I can have the Win2K interface looking like darn near anything I want, have tons of performance, and have all the eye candy, even on a "lower end" machine.
          • Openbox [] has font anti-aliasing (with XFree86 4.1+), opaque window moving, and it runs like a champ on a P75 laptop of mine. You can get alpha blending using psuedo-transparent terminal emulators like aterm [].

            Then you also have drop shadows for window text, multiple workspaces (seems to be standard with every wm nowadays), window snapping and/or edge resistance (which I STILL wish Windows would include by default), and it only consumes a few hundred kbytes of RAM, leaving almost all of a system's resources available to applications.
            • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @04:18PM (#4744794) Journal
              He does still have one excellent point -- No UNIX environment that I know of (definitely no lightweight one) has real, Win2k-level alpha-blending support.

              Sure, we've had the pseudo-blended stuff that grabs the root window and alpha-blends it since way before Windows did. But Win2k long ago got real blending (you can see other windows behind the current one), and looking at an XP desktop runnin WinAMP (which alpha-blends into the background when it's not the foreground window), Linux has lost pole position in the flashy-sparklies department. Enlightenment used to put Linux up there, but E17 seems to never be coming out, E16 is old, and no one else wants to do eye candy. Dammit, it was awfully useful to impress potential Linux users...

              Furthermore, both GNOME and KDE are fucking bloated and slow. GTK2 has improved a bit, but it's still *far* slower than the blisteringly fast GTK1. Qt has always been slow. My solution is to simply not use either -- gkrellm + sawfish + xbindkeys + a couple of scripts makes for an awfully customizable, flexible environment. But most people don't have that option available when they're moving to Linux. To them, Linux *is* "slower" than Windows from a workstation perspective.

              * I'll never willingly give up the remote nature of X, but X is somewhat slower (and has *much* higher latency, thanks to the required context switches during a draw operation) than Windows does.
              * Linux may be a tough cookie, but X is quite killable. The other day, I wrote a program that accidently got into a loop and started opening windows like mad. It made the X environment completely unusable and prevented me from using a keyboard/mouse. Fortunately, there was a Windows box nearby and I could log into my machine and kill the offending process remotely, but for certain X tasks, from the point of view of a workstation end user, Linux is significantly more fragile than Windows.
              • I'm with you completely on GNOME and KDE, although GNOME has become quite a bit faster with GNOME2. As for GTK2, I haven't noticed any difference - on my desktop PC (Cel 500) any apps I've tried as both GTK1 and GTK2 load in around the same time - certainly with no noticable added latency. And if you want the bells and whistles that you seem to, such as aa text, you don't have much choice!

                Personally I use a combination of ROX [] for the desktop and IceWM [] for the window-manager, both of which work just as fast on my laptop (an ancient P120) as on my desktop - in a word, near instantaneous. They're worth checking out if you like the idea of a desktop environment but don't like the associated crud that comes with GNOME and KDE. (The fact that ROX whips Konq or Nautilus in the file-management stakes is a pretty big reason too, of course :)

                As far as X's stability goes, I've only ever seen that keyboard/mouse lock-up situation twice in nearly five years of using linux, so I really can't agree. For me, X has been rock-solid, and even the standard apps I use with X tend to be incredibly stable. Hell, I reckon that the "unstable" GIMP is just about as stable as certain commercial COREL or Adobe products :)

                I think the main reason why linux *seems* slower from an end-user perspective is because of KDE (which gets installed as default by just about every distro these days). The first thing the user sees is a rather ugly, unreponsive piece of memory-hogging bloat-ware that has all the features he/she doesn't need (aa text, alpha-blended menus, etc) turned on to make it even slower. "What could be easier than opening the file-manager to find a file", the naive user thinks ... whooops! Guess which application takes half a minute to open a directory!

                (alright - I got fairly carried away there, I know KDE isn't that bad. But if I knew nothing about the open-source software concept or underlying OS stability, didn't care about pirating software, and was presented with a choice between Windows or KDE ... well, I know which one I'd choose, and it wouldn't be the one with the penguin on the front :)

      • you just need more memory...linux runnning gnome or kde on top of x takes a bunch of memory. i think that's because everything isn't as integrated as in windows. windows can share a bunch data among different programs, in linux each program needs its own copy of the data (this is just my naieve view of things, i'm not a linux hacker). i have redhat 8 with gnome running just fine on my p2 400, the reason it works so nicely is because i have a half of a gig of ram in it. my p3 800 runs the same code much slower because i only have 128M ram in it. memory is the key. i wish that the x/gnome/kde programmers could get together and work on memory consumption, but i really can't say anything because i don't contribute to the code.
        • by J. J. Ramsey ( 658 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:54PM (#4743833) Homepage
          "windows can share a bunch data among different programs, in linux each program needs its own copy of the data (this is just my naieve view of things, i'm not a linux hacker)."

          Nope, that's not how it works. Programs using shared libraries all use the same library code in memory, just as in Windows. Integration has nothing to do with this. However, if NineNine's X server is misconfigured, or if he doesn't have accelerated support for his card, then X will be slower.
      • weird... I ran RH just fine on everything from a 486 up to now with gnome/enlightenment... I'd love to see some tech details on that one, it just doesn't sound right
  • by pardasaniman ( 585320 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:40PM (#4743725) Journal
    Until KDE4 is released
    • How redundant. See previous post:

      ... it's time to put Longhorn on the fast track to release. Nothing stimulates the hardware industry like a new, even more piggish release of Windows with plenty of "new features to make Windows even easier to use"!

      Same shit, different OS. ;)
  • by MacAndrew ( 463832 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:40PM (#4743730) Homepage
    ...this is the only voice readers may hear to contradict the endless marketing hype by computer mfr who realized this a long time ago! This is a general audience pub., and they can repeat this message as often as they like.

    To be honest, it only really occurred to me about a year ago, that there wasn't anything you might need for most folks that you could get for 1/2 price on eBay, and then I thought, gee, the industry is in trouble unless these things start breaking a lot. (Soon, we learn about the built-in SELF-DESTRUCT chip.)
    • SELF-DESTRUCT chip

      Like, perhaps, the infamous exploding/leaking capacitors of two weeks ago?

      Here? []

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:30PM (#4744046) Homepage
      the funny thing is that even for power users you dont need the super-duper gee-wiz stuff.

      I just bought and built a non-linear video editing machine for less than $900.00

      Dual-P3 motherboard $29.00 with IDE raid on board.
      2 P-3 866 processors $50.00 each
      Geforce 2 MX400 video card $29.00
      Antec Case with 350 watt power supply $89.00
      3 40 gig hard drives - $75.00 each ATA100
      512 meg PC133 ram - $100.00
      Firewire card $19.00
      Mpeg video output card (hardware decode) $19.00
      Adobe Premiere 6.0 - $188.00
      Windows 2000 - $75.00
      keyboard+mouse $10.00

      Add the monitor of your choice and Voila.. Everything needed to make professional videos from your DV camera... if you want to capture Analog get a DV bridge for another $188.00

      this machine is as capable and as fast as a spanking new NLE machine that costs upwards of $3000.00.... I know as one of the guys at work just bought one for $3400.00 and my old boat is as fast as his... and I can do anything his XP + Premiere 6.5 machine can... hell I can do everything he can with NT4.0 and Premiere 5.1c.. it just requires more plugins and skill.

      The AVID we use professionally at work is based on NT4.0 and is a old P-III 500. and it works great! the ice-card does all the rendering faster than any computer any of you can buy or build that can run windows.

      There is no reason to buy the new systems.. espically with the large numbers of people finding that the latest games like UT2003 run just fine no their older hardware (P-III with a geforce 2! cranks the frames without a hiccup) from mom-pop to the power home user.. there hasn't been a real reason to buy anything but video cards, ram(because it's dirt cheap) or hard drives..I dont plan on owning a P-4 ever.. by the time I'm ready the P-5 will be well into production or AMD's offering will be there (I dont believe that amd is going to quit... it's rumor and hype)

      I have more computing power in this old desktop Pc than we had on this planet when we sent the first man into space... I think it's enough for now.
      • Hopefully the hardware vendors saw this coming. I thought of it back in the P200 days and finally the day has come.

        What the HW vendors need is to develop and push powerful hardware "killer apps", such as:

        - high quality virtual reality

        - massive universes to play in with very realistic physics calculations to govern play (eg. things break if you apply too much pressure)

        - at home computerized movie making (like Monsters Inc, etc..)
    • Pass on eBay, check Package 2 You [] and NewEgg [] for cheap new and refurbished hardware. Ever since Onsale @ Auction went away, I've been buying my upgrades from these guys. Usually as cheap (or cheaper) than most of the equivalents I've seen on eBay and most of it has some sort of warranty included.

      No, I don't work for either of these places, but as a purveyor of yesterday's hardware on the cheap, I feel obligated to pass on the places I have good experiences with.
  • actually (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Luke Skyewalker ( 585866 ) <> on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:41PM (#4743735)
    I do all my home development on an old AMD K6-2 450. This way, I know that any software I release will run with acceptable performance on systems that most people have.
    • Re:actually (Score:2, Interesting)

      by daecabhir ( 166667 )
      heh. I'm a coder and a hardware whore (nine working machines in my home cave, including a uVAX II), and up until last November my main machine was a PPro 200 w/ 128 MB RAM running NT 4.0. Why? Because it was stable, and was fast enough to pull e-mail, run Office or Visual Studio when I needed it, or run terminal windows when I was connecting into various *nix boxen. It is good that Joe Sixpack waking up to the fact that they don't need the fastest box out there (now if my dad-in-law would just come to grips with this).

      Of course, I now run off of a Athlon Thunderbird box, and I wouldn't go back to the PPro. But everything else ('cept the uVAX) is PII, K2/K3 or 486-era technology, which runs Linux and Winders just fine. Pretty much the only reason I could see for really high-end stuff is if you are an ubergamer, hardcore graphic artist or someone working with video.
      • Re:actually (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SurfsUp ( 11523 )
        heh. I'm a coder and a hardware whore (nine working machines in my home cave, including a uVAX II), and up until last November my main machine was a PPro 200 w/ 128 MB RAM running NT 4.0.

        My wife runs a K6 233 MHz with KDE 3, OpenOffice, Mozilla, audio apps, lots more, short of fullscreen video. OpenOffice takes 30 seconds or so to start, but once going it's nice and responsive. 2D graphics are rock solid, e.g., fullscreen window moves are accelerated/smooth. While I run a considerably more powerful machine, mainly for compiling, she's perfectly happy with hers for what she does with it. This is a vintage 1996 machine or so, still in full service and likely to remain so for quite some time. I added some memory, bumped the disk space to 95 GB (noticable performance improvement there from faster IDE disks), put in a more quieter fan and added USB ports for scanning, webcam and so on. Besides doing her surfing, word processing etc, it acts as our file server and music jukebox. It's often doing heavy file transfers over the network, and she doesn't even notice. I think I might add in another 120 GB, and make it 7200 rpm for a little more speed. Even on that slow processor, a 5400 rpm disk does 16 MB/sec. With KDE it's super smooth to use and looks slick, and needless to say, it never, ever needs to be rebooted except to add hardware.

        Yes, I can go down the street and get her a K7 machine that's 15-20 times more powerful for $600, but why?
  • by glrotate ( 300695 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:42PM (#4743745) Homepage
    Microsoft and Intel are finding that while they have a monopoly, it is a monopoly on a durable good. As such "the monopoly creates it's down competition and must take that into account in its production decisions" (nicholson)

    In the extreme case the products are perfect substitutes, only the competitive price can prevail in the long-run i.e. price = marginal cost.
    • You make a brilliant point. The primary way M$ makes its money is through the M$ tax on new computer purchases. Little wonder they were trying to put all their business customers on a forced upgrade schedule a few years back.

    • by gentlewizard ( 300741 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:12PM (#4743947)
      If all the content people want (songs, movies, games) come prelocked and only the right kind of Intel processor can unlock it, it will spur a new generation of replacing PC's. Good for Intel, good for MS who will get to re-license Windows yet again. Time marches on.
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:25PM (#4744021)
      Back about 1985 I started saying that I hoped the software 'industry' understood their market had a very limited lifespan. Once Word Processors actually work, well, that's the end of the WP software industry.

      What's more, people won't have to even buy one. Once the concepts are public literally anyone who wishes to take the time can right them and distribute them for free.

      In fact, I went on, the single biggest problem Micro Soft (remember those guys?) faces is the fact that by the turn of the century even operating systems will have an effective market value of $0.

      It was entirely predictable and, give or take a few years here or there, I pretty much nailed it.

      Of course what I didn't count on was the sheer marketing power the big guys have been able to bring to bear. The average Joe is completely unaware that software has zero effective 'value' these days and continues to pay through the nose for it.

      But they *are* at least begining to realize that what they already have works to their satisfaction. The upgrade cycle depends on customer *dissatisfaction.*

      Well hey, if the car still runs make the customer dissatisfied with the size of its tailfins. Hence transparent widgets being hailed as a major breakthrough in 'technology.'

      Well, I hate to tell the computer 'industry' this, but while this may work with a the younger crowd for a while your grandma already knows how to suck eggs better than you do. She remembers the invention of planned obselesence. She bought into it before you were born, and learned the folly of it, again, before you were born.

      When your market consists entirely of people waiting with 'bated breath for the next release of the latest and greatest gee gaw you're ok, but when your market moves to Walmart and the nations grannies it's a whole new ball game. Granny just wants to buy it, take it home, and have it work, and if it does. . . well, that's pretty much it for her, she's done.

      And so are you computer 'industry.'

      • I see your point, and for basic applications you're correct. But the real value in upgraded PCs tends to come from new, innovative software that performs tasks that weren't possible before.

        EG. Software synthesizers for computer musicians. Before the newer generations of CPUs, a PC simply didn't have the processor power to accurately simulate a real Hammond B3 organ, or a Steinway piano, or you name it. Sure, you could sample in one as a series of .WAV sounds and play them back - but it wasn't the same as mathematically calculating the whole thing and reproducing the instrument in real-time. This new ability allows you to have a nearly perfect simulation of an instrument on stage, without lugging the thing around with you or worrying about it getting out of tune. (Not to mention the cost savings, or instruments you simply can't buy at any price anymore.)

        High-end PC sales won't sell in massive numbers to the general public, perhaps -- but they'll still have customers. (Assuming, of course, that software development doesn't stagnate and resign itself to re-inventing the same old apps year after year.)
  • Well... (Score:3, Funny)

    by ActiveSX ( 301342 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:43PM (#4743749) Homepage
    grandma and Joe Sixpack don't need a screaming new P4 to surf the net

    That all depends on the browser [].

    ***ActiveSX ducks
  • by dandelion_wine ( 625330 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:43PM (#4743751) Journal
    As Boogaroo, above, pointed out, gamers need to pretty much constantly upgrade. Used to be, developers put a lot of time and effort into making software compact and min spec - friendly. No more. The bigger and more demanding the software, the better the computer you need to run it. Everyone wins. Oh yeah, except the consumer.

    Thankfully that's not where everyone's at. My parents need their email, a little word processing, and that's it. And if console games keep getting better (and offering network play), it may finally come to pass that gamers have their console and their word machine and never the twain shall meet.
    • by IIRCAFAIKIANAL ( 572786 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:01PM (#4743879) Journal
      Thankfully that's not where everyone's at. My parents need their email, a little word processing, and that's it. And if console games keep getting better (and offering network play), it may finally come to pass that gamers have their console and their word machine and never the twain shall meet.

      Or perhaps, eventually, console systems will feature word processors, email, and other such consumer grade applications, and the computer (in the classical sense) will again become something used at work and by hobbyists. If all of the major players (sony, nintendo, uhm... atari, etc :) pushed for an open document formats, it could happen. Consoles are all about simplicity, usability, and (relative) affordability - combine that with the kinds of computing tasks an average user wants, and they could change things.

      That's the kind of thing that could put a business like Microsoft *out* of business. Maybe that's a small part of why Microsoft is trying to break into the living room - the eventual combination of all the disparate technologies in an average users life.

      (yes, I know console technically == computer, but I think everyone knows what I mean)

      (Yes, I also know this has been argued to death - I'm not claiming to have come up with these ideas :)
  • well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MarvinMouse ( 323641 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:43PM (#4743755) Homepage Journal

    I guess this article states the obvious. Of course people don't need faster computers. The only reason they'd need fast computers is if they are playing high-end computer games, or using Windows (which for some reason or another always keeps on making it's software more dependent on speedier computers, even though it is completely unnecessary.)

    Most family friends, and people I know who need computers just need a simple box that allows them to chat online, play a few simple games, e-mail, surf the web, and perhaps play "The Sims". Since almost all of this can be done on linux, I buy older cheap computers, and i have a special "personal distro" of linux that I give them, which always works, and they usually have no complaints, since everything they want is included, and it didn't cost them much ( I just charge the price of the used computer I bought. ) For smaller families without much money this is great.

    As well, for those families with the little brat that demands more you can usually appease them with something that is sub 1-GHz and has a good graphics card, since most games don't require screeching speeds.

    Just from my experience though. Right now I am running off a 750Mhz Laptop, and I have been considering upgrading eventually to a small tower, but nothing with the numbers I have been hearing lately (2.0+Ghz, with 1Gb+ of RAM, etc.)

    Well, maybe something with those numbers. ;-)
    • "I guess this article states the obvious. Of course people don't need faster computers. The only reason they'd need fast computers is if they are playing high-end computer games, or using Windows (which for some reason or another always keeps on making it's software more dependent on speedier computers, even though it is completely unnecessary.)"

      Or, if they're using an X-server.
  • Why upgrade? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IIRCAFAIKIANAL ( 572786 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:46PM (#4743773) Journal
    The only reason to upgrade is obsolescence. Eventually your PC will wear out and you will have to buy a new one.

    My in-laws are still using a PII and it suits them just fine. Same goes for operating systems - it's only due to forced obsolescence that they will eventually move off of Windows98. (ie/ when they eventually buy new hardware, no support for it in win98 will mean new OS)
    <dons tinfoil hat>Perhaps this is why hardware life expectancy is steadily decreasing?</dons tinfoil hat>
  • Yeah, they're just figuring this out. Of course, I went and did the "impossible" for a buddy of mine at work and installed XP on his Cyrix MII box with 96 megs of ram... People really need to begin asking themselves why things are spec'd the way they are, and maybe save a few $$$ As for myself, there's a few 486's and P75's sitting around here, perfectly adequate for 90% of the day-to-day stuff. I've got this monster dual PIII Coppermine box here with a gig of ram for the other 10%

  • Obviously.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by da_Den_man ( 466270 ) <> on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:46PM (#4743776) Homepage
    The same goes for computer games. Gaming used to be the number one application for converting shiny new computers into wheezing husks. But even the latest pixel-pushing titles haven't kept up with the advances Silicon Valley has made in terms of processor speed.

    They aren't playing ANY of the latest games. Unreal 2k3 stutters on a 2GHZ with 512MB and a GeForce3 card.

    NBA 2k3 needs lower resolution to flow smoothly through some of the animations and events occurring on the "floor"

    And I just bought 2 1700 AMD XP Athlons to UPGRADE my 1Ghz systems.

    Maybe Mom & Pop don't need to upgrade, but they also don't use the computer for the tool it was designed to be.

    • games? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Flamesplash ( 469287 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:51PM (#4743812) Homepage Journal
      Computers were designed to play games? Maybe someone should have clued Babbage, Turing and the rest into this a while ago. We could have some kick ass gaming machines now, though they probably couldn't run notepad.
    • Re:Obviously.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Knife_Edge ( 582068 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:03PM (#4743891)
      People don't use high-end computers for game playing much anymore (slashdot crown excepted, I'm sure). Why would they when they can get a game console for a couple hundred bucks? It fills practically the same need, but much much cheaper, and also works extremely reliably.

      There may be a few 3D game nuts out there who absolutely must have the latest PC in order to play the games they want and have the money to purchase that PC, but that is a tiny minority. For most people, spending 10X as much or more on PC game hardware (versus a console) does not result in 10X the fun.

      Frankly, I have zero pity for the self-indulgent wealthy fools who purchase high-end PCs for the express purpose of playing games on them. It's their money I guess, but what a waste.
    • Maybe Mom & Pop don't need to upgrade, but they also don't use the computer for the tool it was designed to be.

      Which brings up another point. I have played the computer toy chase game for years now, and I've gotten sick of it. I am tired of forking over the $2000 every 2 years that it takes to play the latest games. I've therefore decided that Half-Life and Starcraft are as far as I care to go, and will probably go console if I ever want more than that.

    • Re:Obviously.... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 2nd Post! ( 213333 )
      That's awfully arrogant of you.

      Mom and pop are exactly using the computer as the tool it was meant to be, and are quite satisfied. It's up to Apple, Dell, Microsoft, Gateway, and IBM to add new functionality (movie making, DVD burning, etc) that would prompt mom and pop to upgrade.

      You sound more like a marketing tool, about 'needing' to upgrade.

      Let them enjoy their computers, they'll let you enjoy yours.
    • > They aren't playing ANY of the latest games.

      Sure they are, they're just playing them on their Playstation 2 like sensible people. =)
    • da_Den_man wrote:

      Maybe Mom & Pop don't need to upgrade, but they also don't use the computer for the tool it was designed to be.


      Who the fsck are you to judge that? What is it with some gamers and this strangely arrogant attitude towards what a computer is supposed to do anyway? It seems that quite a lot of current computer users think the purpose of a computer is:

      • watching movies
      • playing games
      • buying more stuff to get better benchmarks
      • bragging about benchmark scores

      Don't get me wrong -- there's nothing wrong with using a computer for being entertained by your favourite entertainment industry, but it seems that quite a lot of current computer "geeks" can't wrap their minds around the idea that it could also be used for quite a lot of other things. The notion that someone could buy a computer to do Boring Things like drawing graphics, writing code and all that sort of creative hippie not-so-1337-g33k stuff seems to be absolutely alien to them -- or, even worse, that someone could even want to have a computer for useless things like writing documents or communicating with friends and family. In fact, the whole idea that people are using computers for something else than what they are using them for seems to be completely unfathomable to them.

      Clue: One of the things that makes computers so damn cool is that you can use them for just about anything you want to. Whether you want to write code, read E2 nodes all day long, listen to music, make music, watch movies, play games, write documents, exchange emails with other people, or any combination of the above, you can build a computer that will do it. Which one of these is The Right Way to use a computer? They all are. No matter how much the hardware industry (in glorious cooperation with Microsoft and most of the game industry) is trying to make you believe that nothing short of a 3GHz P4 is enough for satisfactory performance in Notepad, the truth is that the vast majority of computer users don't need the massive power of current hardware. More power to them if they don't play the part of brainwashed consumers.

      Now that I'm in rant mode and on the subject of gamers.....

      simon@merlin:~$ dict -d jargon gamer
      No definitions found for "gamer", perhaps you mean:
      jargon: lamer

      </RANT> -- don't say I didn't warn you.

  • by kcbrown ( 7426 ) <> on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:48PM (#4743785)
    Intel keeps telling me that a new P4 will make the internet go sooo much faster!

    I'm so confused, I just don't know who to believe anymore!


  • As foretold... (Score:2, Informative)

    by ChTh ( 453374 ) almighty Cringely. []
  • by the grace of R'hllor ( 530051 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:49PM (#4743797)
    I'm currently considering a downgrade.

    Except for my gaming needs, I'd like a small (physically), extensible, *low-noise* little PC, with a comfortable screen and a decent keyboard.

    It seems to me like the low-noise requirement is starting to appeal to more and more people. Hell, else the Via C3 would have been laughed at in *every* review it's gotten.

    I'm currently thinking of getting an (otherwise worthless) Epia C3 933MHz box for server duties, provided I can hang my harddrives in there and keep those silent a bit.

    Oh, where are you, Transmeta, with halfway decent performance low-noise/heat solutions?
    • by cymen ( 8178 )
      You could also look at underclocking Intel CPUs by running them at a lower voltage and megahertz (for example, run the 133mhz FSB CPUs at 100mhz and take the voltage down a bit). Then you can simply put a decent chunk 'o metal heat sink on there without a fan. Open up the power supply and replace the cheapie (or even spendy) but loud fan with a good low Db one. Buy 5400 RPM drives instead of 7200 RPM. Use a decent case that dampens the noise level.

      Or you could just put your server in another room.
  • It really is true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ekrout ( 139379 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:49PM (#4743798) Journal
    People: most computer users simply do not care about running the latest and greatest applications on their PCs. They are quite content with Windows 95, Office 97, and AOL. To them, this is all that a computer does. The PC is merely a way to send email, instant messages, and write papers. The sad truth is that it's the same way for many college students as well.

    From the article: Robert Clemenzi, an electrical engineer who lives in Manassas, is still using an older model that runs Windows 95.

    This is another surprising trend in the PC world -- many users don't care about which operating system their computer uses to manage hardware devices and programs. Whether or not their machine's underlying system code is an inherently secure model such as BSD or an inherently virus-prone OS, they simply do not care. They will go to, perhaps, and install whatever free virus scan is available. Of course, the virus definition files may be a year old and they'll never update them, but they just do not know how to do this.

    It's the same way for many users of Unix-type machines. All these hackers care about is getting a command line interface so that they can run a couple instances of the Vi text editor and the Mutt email client. Simple. That's all. It's just that straightforward. Whereas the average Windows users just wants to write and chat, the average Unix user just wants to code and post to mailing lists.
    • Amen, brother... this exactly fits 99% of the computer users I know. If you saw my previous post, the only reason I have the huge workstation is because I got sick of waiting 6+ hours on large compile jobs... otherwise, a P75, for example, is adequate.
  • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:50PM (#4743802) Homepage
    This is a trend that has been going on now for about ten years now. The average upgrade time has been slowly moving up, from 12 months to 24 months over the last ten years IIRC. My guess is that average home computer upgrade time has moved from 2-3 years to 5-6 years (with the exception of gamers, who ofetn live on the cutting edge).

    For people to upgrade, they need to see sluggish performance. An upgraded GUI can soak tons of raw CPU power in ways that make you yearn for it (just ask the Mac folks about CPU consumption under the OS X GUI). Transparent windows, photo realistic icons, bayesian user interfaces, fully indexable content, database file system, you name it: these features can keep a P4 busy all day.

    Until then, a slow pentium at home is all I need to surf the web and read e-mail.

    • An upgraded GUI can soak tons of raw CPU power in ways that make you yearn for it (just ask the Mac folks about CPU consumption under the OS X GUI).

      Actually I am one of the Mac folk you speak of and I can say that it really doesn't slow things down much. The two big factors which caused people to perceive a slowdown were increased memory usage and a non-optimized operating system.

      Once you up your memory and upgrade to a more recent build of MacOS X (the most recent is 10.2.2), you find that it is pretty much as quick as the MacOSs that came before it. It is slower in some tasks and quicker in others, but overall there really isn't any performance degradation. In fact I would say that performance has actually gone up a bit, simply due to the fact that applications multitask much more smoothly. Another reason performance is up is that I never have to start up my computer anymore, I just leave it running 24/7. It uses almost no power when sleeping and starts up in a few seconds. That is certainly quicker than having to start up my computer every day, or to restart it when there is trouble with a piece of software.
  • Pentium 133 MHz now! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by inc01 ( 628920 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:50PM (#4743806)
    I seriously think every software designer/programmer/whatever should have a Pentium-133 as their primary platform.

    People with new, fast computers sometimes end up writing bloated software just because they don't realise that everyone doesn't have the same equipment they do.

    I'm not a softeare developer, I'm a GIMP artist, so I'm allowed to use a Celeron-600 powered laptop. :p
    • by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:57PM (#4743855) Homepage Journal
      You know, developers sometimes need to compile stuff. It's a pain to code if half of your time is spent building the binaries for testing.
    • by pb ( 1020 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:18PM (#4743980)
      I did this for a while when I had my P133 as my old system. And I agree with you in principle--there should be some *testing* done on multiple hardware platforms.

      However, your application should be OPTIMIZED for whatever people are likely to have. And if you just code your app on one machine and never try it out on anything else, it might be an order of magnitude slower than it should be because you unwittingly optimized it for the machine you were on. (trust me, I've seen this happen, for example when the bottleneck was the cache on the K6's vs. on the P]['s.)

      And, as someone else said, P133's make a sucky development platform these days. Just as I wouldn't expect you to do graphics work on one, (although I did do a lot of work on one in The GIMP back in the day...) you shouldn't expect us to do our compiling on one... just some testing. :)
  • by brejc8 ( 223089 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:51PM (#4743810) Homepage Journal
    Begs the question. For things that individuals use computers for, will there come a time when we will simply run out of things to use the computing power on.
    I remember when I got a 200MHz machine for my mother and I could not think of anything that she would want to do that would require anything faster.
    Unfortunately then came MS products which want more and more computing power and flash heavy internet.

    So is it stupid of me to think that once I upgrate her machine to 1GHz she will not need anything more? Or will programmers be able to use even more power?

    Currently I cant think what anyone using a computer for just writing and looking at the internet would need faster processors.
  • A linux plug:

    I got a PII 266 laptop with a 8gb drive and 96 mb of ram. I bumped the ram to 384 and it runs Redhat 8 great.... ...But it also ran Windows XP equally well for surfing, email and light word processing.

    But I went to Redhat as this was the first 'spare' computer I could singleboot to.

    All for $100 (plus $60 for the ram)
  • Me neither (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dimer0 ( 461593 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:54PM (#4743834)
    I'm going to be content with what I have. The only reason to upgrade PCs is for the games, but I'd rather spend $300 every 2 years or so to have my next-gen console.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I've been running my dual Celeron 366's running at 550 on my Abit BP6 motherboard since September of 1999. It still suits my needs just perfectly. However, my main HD is a 10K RPM U2W drive. But nonetheless, the system is still faster than the new P4 systems in many ways. I have a laptop with a P4 2.4 CPU in it (before you say there's no such thing, read up because there is and has been ever since the P4 2.4 came out). I have a P4 1.8 system at work. Both of the single CPU systems I use on a daily basis feel pretty sluggish at times compared to the duals.

    Duals are just plain awesome! I do plan on upgrading to an Athlon MP system. I will never go single CPU again!
  • by path_man ( 610677 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:59PM (#4743867)

    Call me a cynic, but the reality is that the PC industry needs a new reason to sell boxen. This is the next wave of marketing from the big three (two?) PC manufacturers along side of Micro$oft -- create fear, uncertainty and doubt among the majority of PC users who don't know any better and convince them that they need the new *secure* computers along with the latest generation of Windows crap.

    Or create a Windows Media PC that allows you to plug your computer seamlessly into your entertainment centre and TV at home -- everyone knows we can't do that today (sarcasm).

    The other huge push of course will be the .NET revolution that MS believes will snare all the unwitting mom&pop operations and casual users. And mark my words -- that 1999 Compaq PC that grandma has sitting on her desk at home just won't cut the mustard on the MS controlled .NET-enabled Internet.

    It is truly sad, but the computer industry has sunk to the "whiter-than-white" marketing driven society that we all live in today. Intel, Microsoft, HP, etc. all step in line because they know that it's the only way they are gonna sell new computers. What's the world going to be like in 5 years? Hard to say -- but at the rate we are going now, it'll look an awful lot like today but with more widgets and gadgets than we ever need. And I'll still be typing away on my PII-400MHz and accessing the 'net via outdated software.

  • by timothy ( 36799 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:00PM (#4743873) Journal
    I have a medium-sized collection of DVDs. Among the movies it contain are favorites, like Barcelona, GhostWorld, and Annie Hall, that I sometimes want to watch just for a certain funny or intriguing scene.
    I also prefer (not owning a large TV) to watch movies on a computer screen. I think would prefer this even if I *did* own a large TV, which is (drumroll) one reason that I don't. Ahem.

    So I have been compressing my movies into DiVX;) using the excellent software dvd:rip [] and enjoying the results.

    This is a very slow process, and it's the first thing in a while which has specifically made me want to upgrade both processor (a 600MHz Athlon otherwise still feels very fast to me, and I'm in time-machine-based negotiations to lease a fraction of its power to the U.S. Space program circa 1962) and hard drive (because movies are big, even compressed).

  • by ToasterTester ( 95180 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:04PM (#4743896)
    Once you hit 1Ghz you hit the point of diminishing return on CPU's. Unless a hard core gamers or running some high end graphic or simularion software you aren't going to see much difference and Joe Public is seeing it. IMO the main contribitor is software, there is no popular with the masses software that needs that many CPU cycles. Most software is sitting waiting for the user to give it something to do. Then the rest of the computer system memory, buses, cards, and devices are way slower, again a lot idle cycles for the CPU. Intel has noticed this and has said they are going to start focusing more on power usage. Also this is part of the reason for HyperThreading, trying to take advantage of all those idle CPU cycles.
  • Computers are currently a few common things:

    Word processor

    And if that's all they are, and all they will ever be, then there's no reason to upgrade, outside of the dedicated gamer who needs the faster parts. The three former uses simply don't require it and haven't for years.

    So what must they do if they want to keep inspiring people to buy? Give us new uses.

    The multimedia PC is a step in that direction- using the computer as a home jukebox is a great idea, except that certain interests are determined to undermine that use.

    Apple's making an attempt at it with their bundling of video editing software aimed at the home movie maker.

    We need to see more moves in this direction that stretch the definition of what a computer is for, for the regular home user.

    Then, and only then, will people have a reason to go out and buy new machines.
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:07PM (#4743912)
    I'm sure that most people will disagree with me, but I think not having to upgrade your computer to get an equivilent experience as a person with a new PC is a fairly recent phenomena.

    The key thing is "equivilent experience" -- sure, you can browse the web and send email on a 386 with 16MB of RAM running Linux, Lynx and Pine, but its not the same experience that a person running a newer system with a GUI, new browser, plugins, etc. I'd argue that an absolute bottom of the barrel equivilent experience would to have to be 98SE/ME on a PII450 with 256MB of RAM. Anything below that just isn't the same as P4 running XP.

    Sure, there are some Linux trolls out there happy to deal with sluggish old P1s and P2s, but they're not getting the same experience.

    I don't really notice a difference with my "old" computer (2.5 yr old dual PIII, WinXP) and brand-new P4s with XP. But had this been 4 years ago and I was trying to run Win2K Pro on a P1 166, it would have been glaringly obvious (yes, I have done this).

    I'd attribute most of the comparability between 2-3 year old systems and new systems to the lack of overwhelming mobo throughput increases but mostly to the relative OS stability over the last three years -- the economic slowdown has definitely prompted MS to slow its OS upgrade cycle a little.

  • It's a catch-22 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pinball Wizard ( 161942 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:08PM (#4743921) Homepage Journal
    Because of the faltering economy, people aren't buying the latest computers and gee-whiz gadgets en masse. However, it was the high-tech toys and software that were the driving force behind the last economic boom.

    I also see analogies between the computer industry and the auto industry when it developed. At sometime back in the auto's history, probably the 40's or 50's, cars could already travel as fast as most people would ever want to drive. That didn't stop the industry from improving, and I don't think it will stop the computer industry either. We'll start concentrating on safety(security) and design factors, making software safer, easier, and more fun to drive.

    But first, economically we somehow need to get out of this funk. As long as what we make is an extra that people can do without(and it always will be that) people won't buy in economically hard times.

  • by Logic Bomb ( 122875 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:11PM (#4743941)
    I sell Macs for a living. In terms of processing power, for the consumer-targeted lines of products it can reasonably be argued that you get more processing power for your buck with a Wintel machine. However, very few of my potential customers are concerned with such things. I'd say maybe 50-60% even bother asking about what sort of Pentium an 800 Mhz G4 (the CPU in a flat-panel iMac) is equivalent to. Home users care about applications, and about not having to deal with driver conflicts and the Blue Screen of Death. When a potential "switcher" comes into the store, I mention OS X's stability, then start showing the iApps. And that's usually all it takes. :-)
  • The Lightweight Linux [] article was posted before on /. but the topic is still important: "Hardware is only as old as the software it runs."

    Incidentally, last night I was leafing through an old SciAm special issue (Solid State Century, 1997) and came across an article on Moore's law. It was predicted that the law should break in this decade because of physical limitations. However:

    Engineers may find that the barriers to more intelligent, useful machines lie not in physics but in software, which obeys no such law.

    That said, I'm really looking forward to Transmeta Astro. Until then I should be happy with my 3.5yr old laptop and a 486 webserver :-)

  • What about cruft? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by skryche ( 26871 )
    After installing four file-sharing applications (with spyware), three cute yet inspirational screensavers, a wallpaper changer, an "internet accelerator", and countless email virii, the average user will happily buy a new computer now that the old one is slow and crashes all the time.

    Or is J. Q. User expected to attempt a reinstallation of Windows? I shudder to imagine certain members of my family trying that.

    (Disclaimer: I use OE, and have never suffered from an email virus)

  • by compugeek007 ( 464717 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:17PM (#4743978)
    I don't want to be redundant, obviously (outside of gamers) the MS OS is driving the industry for bigger faster hardware. This is sad because they really can't *won't* figure out how to really make an OS that people can USE!

    Frankly, if you take a person who knows very little about computers and plop any OS in front of them they get scared and will not really know what to do. Mr. Gate's "easier to use, faster internet access" marketing ploy to sell his OS's (which drive the hardware industry) would be meaningless if everyone really knew 2 things. One is that just browing the web will work fine with a 200 - 400 MHZ machine with 64+ MB if ram. The second is that no matter how many features, knobs and gizmo's that Gates packs into his bloated OS the same functionality is really available in older versions of the OS. Plus, a novice will still not be able to use the XP os out of the box very effectively (see below for explanation.)

    My bet is that MS is very aware of these dangers and builds some abstraction into their design to purposefully make the OS harder for new users. Note that Win XP has no desktop icons or easy HUD type bar (like KDE, GNOME, Aqua etc.) on the default install. The start menu (possibly the most familiar "PC icon" i the world) is completely different and much harder to navigate IMO. They make these OS's seem better with gadgets but the core functionality is still not in line with the common users needs. MS will then be able to launch a new OS every few years that is "easier to use." To use an analogy, would anyone be interested in a car that doesn't drive very well (hard to steer, accelerates erratically, just "cuts out" while driving.) then keep buing a new car every 2 - 3 years that has only slightly better conditions (or fixes some problems while adding more!)

  • Software (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ChristopherLord ( 610995 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:19PM (#4743986) Homepage
    Software isn't growing in complexity as fast as the chips. Perhaps this a good thing... But I really do wish comercial software would start using some of the more cpu-heavy algorithms out there. I want a neural-net email filter and IM status indicator, a GA for determining disk load order in order to improve boot time, and huristic news gathering agents the output of which can be used on my PDA, my computer, or my website. Quick-launch menus should be generated from observations of my behavior, not manual labour or click-counts. For example, I want a quick-launch bar that can understand that when I start firing up web development apps, I may want other suchlike programs. Why must the icon for Warcraft III remain prominant if I am currently working in photoshop? If I use a certain directory constantly for a certain type of document, the agent should recognise the importaince of that directory to ME and promote the accessibilty of it somehow when I am working on such a document. My directory structures should be somehow understood, so that when I want to save a new document, the computer can recommend where it thinks I want to put it. Software is starting to stick in its current roles, and so chip speed is no longer the limiting factor. If we start building better software, the chips will resume their progress.
  • I loved the Gateway? commercial, advertising a computer with the latest and greatest processor, ram, video card, and 56K MODEM, "so you can surf the web faster"! The target audience saw nothing wrong with this.

    Its been nearly one hundred years since the automobile hit the mainstream in the United States, and more than fifty years since it was just assumed that you had access to one. A majority of people still haven't bothered to learn how to change their oil, replace basic parts (brake pads, headlights, spark plugs), or even use the turn signals. New Jersey doesn't even know how to pump gas. People don't spend the time learning all about their products. They never will. Dumb will always be the aim of the major commercial players.
  • by Jagasian ( 129329 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:25PM (#4744018)
    The new upgrade trend for the general public will no longer solely be done for a faster PC with more storage space. Most users need only about 20GB HD for their MP3s, emails, etc... because the general public doesn't have a porn collection or tons of video games installed.

    My prediction is that people will start demanding silent PCs that are power efficient, don't take up much space, and have a chasis, moniter, speakers, keyboard, and mouse that fit the fashion of the day.

    Oh, and people will want a PC that is more easily maintained. For example, just last night, I help a friend fix his sister's PC. Turned out there were no hardware problems at all with this thing. Instead, she had a rotted out Windows 98 install with over 250 spyware infections, 40 virus infections, and about 50 processes running in the background and system tray.

    It turned out that this girl's PC wasn't very old. It was about a 700mhz machine (can't remember exactly), which is faster than both my computers (windows and linux). Anyway, after removing all of the spyware, viruses, and unnecessary background processes, then 3 Windows Updates, updated drivers, a scan disk (tons of errors found), and a disk defrag later... the computer performed wonderfully!

    I also cleaned the "broken" mouse, which now works wonderfully. Before I "fixed" this broken computer, it performed like a 386 with 8 megs of ram...

    Basically, computers are like cars: people are going to have to take them in to a specialist every once and a while, to have them tuned. The problem is, I got to thinking that once this girl gets her computer back, in 24 hours, she will reinstall most of the spyware, and after a few months, she will reinstall most of the viri. So maybe people need to learn how to use their computer in addition to taking it to get tuned up by a specialist.

    My point is that the average computer user only needs to upgrade because their computers are so un-tweaked and they are running so many spyware daemons and viri.
    • My prediction is that people will start demanding silent PCs that are power efficient, don't take up much space, and have a chasis, moniter, speakers, keyboard, and mouse that fit the fashion of the day.

      ...something quite close to Shuttle Computer's XPC series of very small computer boxes.

      I wouldn't be surprised the next major form factor for desktop computers is something akin to Shuttle's designs. Why bother with big, monster-sized system cases when you could built a very powerful system with a case that is 1/3 the volume of the average mid-tower system case?

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:34PM (#4744072) Homepage
    • For most users, the only killer app for a fast desktop machine is games.
    • Now that A-title games cost around $20 million to make, good games have to be high-volume products.
    • The game industry is moving to consoles for the high-volume products.
    Therefore, games won't be driving the PC industry for much longer. The requirement for a PC is levelling off.

    What this may mean is the beginning of the PC appliance era. About 80% of PCs are never opened once they leave the factory. They could just as well ship as sealed boxes, with the usual "no user serviceable parts inside" marking. It's already possible to build $400 boxes that will do everything needed for 80% of home and business desktops. That's the future of the PC. Expandable boxes will be a niche market, sold by specialty retailers.

  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:41PM (#4744112) Homepage Journal
    If this becomes widespread, where are we going to get cheap discarded pcs to upgrade our beowulf clusters?

  • by rosewood ( 99925 ) <> on Sunday November 24, 2002 @03:00PM (#4744244) Homepage Journal
    Everyone (damn near?) has a computer in their home. This is a given. However, the new market is the second PC market. A lot of people have turned one room of the house into the computer room and share it amongst all in the family. Now that mom uses the computer for email too damn much and dad has found the joys of net porn and the kids cant get enough of downloading thousands of songs on kazaa that they will NEVER listen to, its time for two if not three PCs in the house. On top of that, there is cheap wireless networking which makes such a crazy cooky idea even more feasable. The sales monkeys need not to be saying trash your old PC and get a new one - they need to say, its time for PC #2.

    PS - I have known people who have taken an entire PC, Monitor and all and thrown it in the trash when they got their new PC.
  • memory (Score:3, Informative)

    by xx_chris ( 524347 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @03:05PM (#4744279)

    my mother's machine starting getting slower even though she only used it for email and surfing. The software had been upgraded and 32M wasn't enough. So I added 256M of memory for $50 et voila: happy mother. Bill isn't happy. Monkey-man isn't happy. But mom is doing just fine.

  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @03:17PM (#4744361)
    Consumers who use a computer to perform tasks, rather than because they're actually interested in the computer itself, won't have a reason to upgrade until their hardware keeps them from doing something they want to do. This applies to home AOL/browse/email users as well as to corporate and institutional users. (That's why there are still lots of Win98 machines in homes and NT boxes desktops.)

    For many people, bandwidth and network limitations bound performace and capability more than chip speed. The slowest piece of the foodchain will determine overall subjective performace, and increasingly that bottleneck is the network.
  • No Innovation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @03:40PM (#4744497)
    In order to drive sales of new computers, new applications are required. These new applications require companies that are willing to take a risk and enter the software market - but with Microsoft hanging over the market like a Godzilla waiting to tromp over any newcomer that might threaten Microsoft's cash cows funding for innovative software is going to be very hard to come by.

    People don't forget what happened to Netscape - the web browser was the last real killer app, and look what Microsoft did to that.

    The fact is that Microsoft is strangling the computer market, and the situation won't change any time soon. AMD realizes this, and is looking to make cpus for markets where Microsoft is not dominant. Markets where innovation and new technologies are possible.

  • by crovira ( 10242 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @03:44PM (#4744528) Homepage
    The only reason I got a TiBook is that I knew that eventually the G3 would croak (it finally did this month,) and, even at that, I waited until the TiBooks could burn CDs and CD-RWs.

    Backups (redundant data & hardware bought before a catastrophy,) take all the ugency out of buying a replacement.

    I may not buy a new computer for a decade. Maybe some boards, more RAM and a new monitor (just picked a Nokia 4445Xpro for the Linux box,) some new bigger drives (I ripped ALL my 200+ CDs to Mp3s,) but I don't use Windows so I never got on the upgrade treadmill.

    My client's a bank and their thousands of NT4.0 SvcPk6 boxen are definitely NOT multi-media ready (bad idea with the public doan'cha'no? You're supposed to be at work, not playing games and watching DVDs.) NO CD burners, no audio cards.

    The apps that we write and that run on those desktops are client-server so they don't need more than a 200MHz pentium III, a 4GB drive and 64MB RAM (and even at that most of that foot print is the OS.)

    Frankly, pitching DRM at these people is a waste of time. Pitching 90% of the software is a waste of time. Pitching 90% of the hardware is a waste of time.

    The working world needs better security, better user authentication, better subnet management tools and 100% reliability. The rest is noise.
  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @04:05PM (#4744716) Homepage Journal

    I first used a 286 with about 1MB of RAM. This ran Wolf3D, but poorly. Wolf3D was copied to my dad's pride and joy 386 w/3MB RAM where it screamed.

    Then Doom came out. And it wouldn't run on my 386 (needed 4MB of RAM). Luckily my dad just bought a 486dx2/66 with 8MB of RAM and Doom was good. Doom2 was just as fine, but we bought a sound card to complete the experience.

    And then came out Quake. It ran at about 5fps on the 486, so I saved up some cash and transformed the 486 into a P133 powerhouse at 16MB (and it only cost about $1000 to do). Quake played nicely and the world was at peace.

    That was until Quake2 came out. Time for a k6-2/300. That was cool, but with a voodoo2 it was even cooler. I bought a companion k6-2/350 and could host h2h deathmatch in my household for the first time.

    But what's this? Quake3? This prompted me to put together a powerhouse of the likes that I had never seen before. I built it piecemeal over time, like mechanics might build a hotrod in their garage. Acquiring it piece by finest piece. Finally, my Athlon 700 was complete. It sported 256MB of RAM, a voodoo3, and an SB 512K.

    And here I am using it now, waiting for Doom3 to come out so I can no doubt upgrade again. I dare to say id Software is more important to the home computing industry than most vendors realize.

  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @05:03PM (#4745094)
    I think in today's economy, the next major burst of upgrade comes in four areas:

    1. Memory upgrades. You'll be amazed that many computer built before 2000 sport 64 MB of RAM at most. Given many of them use 168-pin DIMM's, they could be easily upgrade the RAM to 256 MB or well beyond that for a very reasonable price. And the benefits are immediate: since the need to use the hard drive as virtual memory is very low with computer that have memory upgrades, performance increases of 70 to 100 percent are not out of the question, not to mention substantially fewer system crashes, too.

    2. Hard drive upgrades. The switch to a 7200 RPM drive makes reading and writing data on a hard drive much faster. People shouldn't worry about ATA-66 or ATA-100 hard drives working on motherboards with ATA-33 connections, since they should be compatible in general. Sure, you won't get the full benefit of the ATA-66/100 data rate, but it would probably be much better than the old hard drive.

    3. Graphics card upgrades. Many older systems use old technology AGP slot graphics cards that are woefully underpowered to handle many of today's multimedia tasks. Cards such as the ATI Radeon 7000 or card that use the nVidia GeForce4 MX420 CPU of course won't offer cutting edge 3-D performance, but they're very reasonably priced and are still vastly better than the original cards.

    4. CPU upgrades. Don't laugh--if you have a motherboard that uses Slot 1 or Socket 370, there are now upgrades that can tremendously increase the speed of the computer. Powerleap is now selling CPU upgrades for Slot 1 and Socket 370 that uses the Tualatin-core Celeron and Pentium III CPU's running at well beyond 1 GHz CPU clock speed.

    Very likely, most people will spring for the memory upgrade first, since it's the cheapest solution and the one that has the most immediate benefits for all programs.
  • Upgrade (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @08:11PM (#4746855)

    A lot of the *speed* of new computers is the faster hard drives and more memory.

    Take that older PII/K6 era machine, throw 256M of memory into it, and give it a fast [IDE] hard drive. Congrats, you have a faster machine. Buy a nicer video card off ebay for $20 (someone recently recommended 8 Meg PCI Matrox Millenium II's for the 2D support), and you got a big enough vid card for a 17" or 19" monitor at 1024x768. Assuming it has around a PII 300 mhz or K6-2 400mhz processor, its fine for Mozilla, Open Office, and a few old games. For a lot of users, they don't need more.

Economists state their GNP growth projections to the nearest tenth of a percentage point to prove they have a sense of humor. -- Edgar R. Fiedler