Has buying a new computer every two or three years become pass
New Computer lust? Ehhhhh. Not so much.
I sympathize strongly with Stephen Green’s feelings about computer speed. I get a computer for home use every 2 years, more or less, because that’s the length of term for the payroll deduction payment plan through these Colleges. I’ve held…
Actually measuring processor speeds by the MHz or GHz was a marketing tool used by Intel only kind of related to actual perfomance speed. What has happened with the new chips is that lower GHz computers can now deliver faster speeds. Intel actually hurt themselves with their marketing. When they introduced the new chips, many people avoided buying them because they were perceived to lack the oomph that the old ones had, even though they were actually faster.
Unless you’re doing processor-intensive work, which for most normal humans means either video editing/encoding or gaming, you just don’t need a whole hell of a lot of computer, in today’s terms. Microsloth will do their best to change that with LonghornVista, which will undoubtably be reverse-optimized to hog resources that haven’t even been invented yet, but for the time being, you probably don’t need a new computer. Bigger hard drive, sure. New everything else, probably not.
That’s one reason why Intel hooked up with Apple, Microsoft isn’t putting out any innovative stuff that moves people to go upgrade their hardware fast enough.
I’m guessing your next computer will be one of those Media Center PCs that look like a stereo component. That’s what I’m lusting after, but I need to wait a few years until I can justify a new HDTV with an HDMI input.
Definitely wait a bit on the Media Centre units – the HP ones look cool, but their reliability is abysmal – too much computer in a small space results in a Chip-B-Q. Give em another year or so.
Well if nobody else wants to be the stranger to say it, switch to a Mac. Sorry.
Yeah, I’ve noticed the same thing – I bought my computer better than three years ago, and it feels just as fast as the day I got it. My best guess as to why is that I don’t play much in the way of games these days, but even if I did, I’m still decently over spec to play Doom 3 or HL2, and those are the most box-crunching games out that I can think of. It seems like Moore’s Law is broken.
The weird thing is, though, that I’m not sure I mind. Having a fast computer is pointless unless you have programs it can run, and it takes a bloody long time to make a game up to modern specs. We don’t need a 10-year lead time on games(*cough*Duke Nukem Forever), we just need good ones that do cool things. The modern generation has graphics good enough for anything short of making things seem actually real, and enough CPU cycles to do the back-end on anything short of somebody trying to break AutoCad. I’m sure we could do fancy things with 50-GHz processors, but I’m not sure it’d actually be worthwhile.
Are you using a laptop or a desktop? Hard pressed to find a laptop that lasts 5 years.
So the guys with the internet firehose haven’t been paying attention to how fast the guys with the PC buckets can bail…?
Microsoft is doing some things that I think will actually compete for the market that apple normally dominates.
Actually… I’m in the same boat you are… and I write software for a living! The only reason I’d have to buy a new computer today is for lower power consumption and better battery time over my current 3 year old laptop.
I think the point is that a few years ago, PC’s reached the point that they were fast enough for most users. Sort of a similar point to when cars became fast enough and luxurious enough, that they didn’t need replaced because the next model was so much better, but because they were worn.
I noticed this trend in college. Most of the really hardcore computer guys had older computers. There were a few exceptions, obviously, but the way they got their computer-related fix was installing Linux. That was back in the days when Linux had less in the way of eye-candy, and if you were ok with that, you could effectively extend the life of an old computer by 2-3 years by slapping Linux on it and running Netscape.
In grad school, as a theoretical physicist I’m actually one of the few people in the world who maxes out processors for several hours a day on a regular basis. So the computers we use are … ancient. Mainly, they run Mozilla, plus text editors. The actual number crunching takes place on computers which are dedicated to the task. Mainly, you don’t even want a new computer on your desk, because the number of fans they need make them friggin’ loud.
“NOTE: That Pentium Pro was the best computer I ever owned. Blazing fast by the standards of the time, I sometimes long for it and Windows/Office 95.”
No kidding. I had one of those, too (glad to meet somebody else in the small, exclusive club), and it SCREAMED for the time. It ran about as fast as my friends’ PII 400′s, and I’m not exaggerating that. Awesome little box, and there are a lot of them out there that are still being used as web servers.
Isn’t anyone around here going to suggest linux? someone? …anyone?
I’m a firmware programmer, so linux is an absolute godsend for me, but I honestly wouldn’t recommend it for anything other than software development. On the increasingly rare occasions when I need word-processing or graphics stuff, I just open up my XP laptop.
processor speed has always been a ridiculous measure of performance.
MIPS=Meaningless Information Propagated by Salespeople.
The only reason I was upgrading every 2 or 3 years was that the OS (Windows) sucked, and when the new version came out – which sucked a little less – more processor was required. (A local library tried to run XP on older machines for a while – it was a disaster.)
XP is last bit of S/W I will buy from Mr. Gates. When I can no-longer make XP work, I will install Linux. Since the “home” version of everything came with MS Works, and I was unwilling to pay for Office (and unwilling to pirate a copy) I switched to OpenOffice for the low, low price of Free. It works every bit as well as MSOffice. Better since I can export written documents as PDFs.
Now that I use Open Office, and Mozilla’s browser for 99.99% of the stuff I do with a computer…why do I need Gates&Co?
One nice hardware feature coming out around the same time as Vista is a Cable Card slot in a PC. It will let the Media Center software really shine.
That’s about the only reason why I may break down and get a new PC next year.
Although, if the new Intel based Mac Mini has similar functionality I may get that instead.
Funny you should axe. I just took my iMac G5 in for a “power issue” repair. I was under warranty for another three weeks – tho’ Apple has extended the coverage for power issues on machines in my serial # range.
It’s been a wonderful, wonderful machine for me and I’m not even contemplating buying a new Mac even if I am intrigued by the MacTels that will be forthcoming. OTOH, my 1 gig Athlon homebuilt box needs to be replaced with something a) quieter b) faster and c) with a smaller footprint.
I think everyone should be dual platform. (I’m using my G4 PowerBook as my main machine now and it’s held perfectly for well over two years.)
And oh yeah – don’t buy a Mac. The new software cost is what’ll kill ya.
Also: (sung to the tune of “Over the Rainbow”)
Someday I’ll have a desktop box
That’s capable of teraflops….
Except for games, there was little driving the need for faster computers for the average consumer. Just about everything you do on your computer with WinXP now, you could have done with that Pentium Pro with Win95. Operating systems have been the major reason to upgrade for the average home user. The industry needs a new “killer ap” that will make people need more speed and power, or manufacturers will ahve some lean times for the next few years. I’m confident that the killer ap is just around the corner, but who knows what it will be.
Ben, it’ll be High Definition video. HD is a resource hog of Death-Star-sized proportions, but people (including me) love it.
George Lucas did kill off the Ewoks. He just didn’t film it.
TO: Stephen Green
Moore’s Law does not mean you have to have at 5 Ghz to be current. The dual P4s and AMD X2s continue to march of increased computing power for the desktop.
Does everyone need for all the 3.xx Hz processor or dual core cps type computing power? The answer to that is based on what you use your PC for. If one is into video editing and video content creation then having 2 Gb of memory with a dual core processor is a great advantage. OTOH for office apps, surfing the net and email P3s, earlier P4s and all entire AMD Athlon series of CPUs will serve those needs quite well.
Look to upgrade to Windows Vista in 2006. A dual core cpu with a midrange or higher video card with 256 Mb memory will keep one current, for the 2006-2007 period. Sometime during the 2006-2007 periods expect to see an increasing number of 64 bit applications become available. Talk of the demise of 32 bit software will become fodder for many discussion boards.
BTW, there are no 4 and 5 Mhz cpus due to heat generated by current P4s and AMD X2. Intel’s latest and greatest can assist heating cold rooms during winter. To avoid going all the way to expensive liquid cooling with water and radiotors, that is the realm of hobbyist and overclockers, Intel in particular had to find a way to increase computing power without depending on raw processor speed. Unfortunatley for Intel, AMD beat them to the market with a dual core CPU and by most reviewer’s remarks the AMD X2s can leave Intels Pentium Extreme Edition 840 behind on most, but not all, benchmarks.
Zach: Depends on the computer. Apple is very good about controlling fan speed based on temperature sensors. (Not meant as a Mac plug, just the best example of it that came to mind.)
I imagine some or most of the prebuilt PCs these days do similar things, at least with whatever fans are plugged into motherboard fan control plugs. Likewise, homebrew PCs should do the same, in the same circumstances, as long as you don’t just have fans plugged only into the power supply (always on at maximum speed).
Steve: If you’re craving more graphics power, just get a newer/better video card for a few hundred dollars.
A lot of this is application driven. Intel can still make faster and faster chips (and they do), but there really is no need for the average Joe to use such a thing (yet). We still upgrade yearly at work, at least for our number crunching boxes.
Simulations (electromagnetic) that took us 3-4 weeks run time a couple years ago can now be done in a couple days. And that
I’ve owned four computers in about seven years and each time I swapped up it was because of new generations of spyware and the like that had hopelessly infected the software.
The reason Moore’s Law isn’t paying off is that you are misinterpreting Moore’s Law (but misinterpreting it in a common enough way).
Time was I used to overclock and tweak. Now I’m running a 2.2 gig rated Athlon in a 2 gig max motherboard (best deal I could swing at that instant) and the machine is not significantly faster than the wee wifey’s 750mHz machine. By the way, we both recently upgraded Win98 to the second edition because the anti-spyware tools require it.
Sigivald: I hear what you’re saying, but I wasn’t clear with what I was talking about. When we get a new computer, it’s a new number cruncher, and expected to stay in use for many years in the future. The last computer we got had 7 fans. In contrast, the first computer I had after joining the group was a 1995 vintage alpha that I basically used for Mozilla and ssh. So it’s not universal, just the peculiar circumstances of our group.
Ben, it’ll be High Definition video. HD is a resource hog of Death-Star-sized proportions, but people (including me) love it.
Yes indeedy. I *like* being able to count the stitches- regular video looks muddy to me now. But what’s going to develop to deal with that is beefier video cards and faster busses to move the data, not necessarily faster processors to encode the data (unless Jobs is right and we’re all going to be e-mailing each other our digital home movies in a couple of years).
In grad school, as a theoretical physicist I’m actually one of the few people in the world who maxes out processors for several hours a day on a regular basis. So the computers we use are … ancient.
The old paradigm was one big expensive CPU, the new paradigm is many many many small (less) expensive CPUs working in parallel. The amount of computing bang you can get for you $ has increased roughly as Moore’s law predicts, but the marketing numbers (Mhz/Ghz, 32/64bit, etc) haven’t…. this is not cause for concern, those weren’t good indicators of performance anyway.
But the really appaling thing about maxing out those processors is that you’re not really maxing them out, at least if you’re using consumer-grade hardware in parallel. What you’re actually maxing out is the bus between the CPU and the RAM, the CPU itself is idle a lot of the time.
I agree that computers “last longer” than they used to, but I disagree with your comment about digital photography. As I type this note, I am burning a DVD and downloading a tv show simultaneously. Performance is just fine. But when I want to edit an 8 megapixel digital photo, I wish I had a faster machine. I am using a 5 year old Mac G-4 cube (450 mHz) with a 15 inch LCD Screen. In order to process my photos efficiently, I really need a 2 gigahertz G-5 but for everything else the cube is just fine. When will I upgrade? Only when something happens to make using this machine really uncomfortable, maybe when I get a 24 megapixel camera.
Pentium Pro. I had a dual PPro 200 at work.
I now have a Dual Athlon 2800+.
And I’m itching to buy a dual Opteron or maybe a quad (two dual cores).
I do plan to wait for Pacifica/Vanderpool for hardware virtualization.
Do I need all the power … YES! My last course I had 6 Virtual Windows 2003 Servers running on one machine. That was cool. A whole test lab on one box.
I have found that I buy computers probably just as often, or even more often, but they are usually really cheap. Whereas a few years ago it would have not been unusual to spend several thousand dollars on a machine, this computer cost about $400 (Australian – about $US300) about a year ago.
If I had have spent $2000 on a computer two years ago, I could get a vastly superior computer today for about $700.
I think internet speed may be the killer here. My 400 mhz Mac runs the dsl connection via ethernet just fine. Other than games and intense math work current processor speed is overkill. I bought a new computer every 2 or 3 years before this one. I ‘m not planning to upgrade soon.
And you know what else? I don’t miss the speed Intel never delivered.
I see you
I always amazed at how well Macs hold their value, both in terms of resale and how long the hardware continues to be both relevant and operable. Whenever family, friends or clients discuss buying new machines, I inevitably suggest buying one, not only for the above reasons but because of their stability (Unix), ease of use, early adoption of crucial new technologies and, most importantly, freedom from viruses and worms. When you measure the hours of lost productivity due to service pack updates, crashes and mediocre UI programming, it always appears more cost effective to me to choose a Mac or Linux box. Virtual PC is solid enough that you don’t have to give up your Windows apps either. I know the comment from a stranger won’t move you over, but as the Internet moves to an ever more web-based model (see Google’s recent moves towards web-based apps, for instance) stability, UI excellence and viral impermeability seem to me to be even more important.
still herding a PII 200/Win 95 here. First person twitchers make me ill ever since wolfenstein so steel panthers of various flavors, xcom and microsoft flight sims pretty much take care of the gaming jones. As Pournelle might say, it’s ‘good enough’. We’re contemplating a replacement box now only because proprietary hardware is too pricey to replace compared to buying new. I can buy a very nice new box and monitor for what Acer wants for a stinkin motherboard, so asta la vista, baby.
I’ve got a PowerBook 175 (’92) that works fine, for it’s class. That’s..>.what….thirteen years.
And, interestingly enough, all of the OS that I’m running NOW, in Apple-Mac, the apps from back then run better now than back then.
…go f— yourselves.
P.S. At this point, based on the understanding that MS is supporting the Communist Chinese, in their efforts to suppress information, you can all go to some place highly unpleasant. You people are no better than the mindless minions who supported Hitler, Stalin and Mao. Not to forget Pol Pot.
You people remind me of the prognosticators of the 1890s who said that everything in science had been discovered.
Until my computer is as smart and fast acting as human and can call up and relate vast amounts of data instantly(internet time doesn’t even come close), then there is much room for processor speed increases.
Fer chris sakes, computers can barely do rudamentary speech and language recognition, let alone stuff we can’t even see coming.
vexare, interesting points. I had not thought about the “freeloading” nature of expecting commodity hardware to keep getting faster.
Since I work in an environment where 10msec is a LONG time, we don’t have much sloppy code. However, we do count on cheap hardware.
Thanks for the insight!
Move to Mac? I’ve used them for 20 years. Own a dual 2.5Ghz for a year now. In fact, I own 4 Apples. No, make that 5.
Consider that OS X is on version 10.4.3. After years and years of research to get to OS X, Apple has issued I believe over 10 updates to the OS. There are great things about it, but many bad ones as well.
I sit in front of mine a minimum of 10 hours in a day. I know of what I speak, so please, let’s not have any Dead Parrot sketches about how the Mac is the greatest thing since sexual dimorphism.
Wait until Apple remembers that its computer users made the iPod successful. Wait until Apple has the courage (and the reason) to support its computers with a modicum of the confidence a Korean automaker supports his cars.
Wait until Apple stops being Apple Music Company and starts being Apple Computers again. Wait until more than 1 out of every 5 press releases has to do with a computer instead of the exclusive songs from David Gray or some fool thing about Bono.
Wait until they go under. Shortsightedness would be the most delicious and ironic of deaths for such a “visionary” company.
And you can tell it to the fucking geniuses in the little black t-shirts, too. Once Apple sinks, they can all go back to being bike mechanics, barristas or Kinkos counter boys.
Chuck(le): first. How pathetic and silly. Oh, you serious-yet-self-depracating hot, steamy pile of contrarianism, you are!
Second, Clinton had the same opinion of engagement with the Chinese. Look up supercomputers and Loral Aerospace and see how they pertain to Clinton and China.
From what I understand we should support Microsoft’s efforts with the red Chinese. If XP is as easy to hack as 95 or 3.11, the Chinese dissidents will get through it in no time at all. If you leave the Chinese to develop it, it will only be tougher for us to get through because Chinese language hackers are hard to come by here in the States, whereas people who know a few things about Microsoft programming protocols are like grass in the field.
I don’t think this is a mac/windoze issue at all. But I will say that the reason speed doesn’t seem as important now is because they can’t seem to bloat the operating systems enough to require more speed. Most people do little more than word processing and web surfing. You can only bloat those programs so much.
Typing a letter in MS Word should take only a tiny bit of resources because they’ve been doing it since 1984. But by adding more and more bloat they’ve been able to drive new computer sales by making it seem like you needed the extra speed.
But there’s only so many things you can do to a word processing program and current processors and architecture can handle it readily.
Another reason to upgrade is that you’ve run your chair into the side of your PC and now it won’t boot all the way up anymore.
I’ve worked for Apple technical support for over ten years. You know what we like to call customers like you the most? “Dell customers.”
Enjoy your catastrophic virus of the week and spyware. You deserve each other. Me, I had to look up “sypware” at Wikipedia to find out what it was. And I’ve yet to install anti-virus software on any of my Macs because all they do is kill Windows viruses that can’t execute on my system.