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The Almighty Buck Hardware IT Idle Technology

The Rules of Thumb For Tech Purchasing 401

Posted by timothy
from the kevin-kelly-always-has-brain-candy dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Sam Grobart writes in the NYT that buying gadgets can sometimes be like buying a car; it requires sorting through options because the reality is that most of us are usually dealing with a finite amount of money to spend, and that means making trade-offs. Grobart puts forward his set of rules for getting the most for your tech dollar when buying computers, cameras, cellphones, data plans, and service contracts. For example, Rule No. 1: pay for PC memory, not speed. 'When buying and configuring a new computer, companies often give the option of upgrading the processor and adding more memory, or RAM. If it is an either/or proposition, go for the RAM,' writes Grobart. 'Processors are usually fast enough for most people; it is the RAM that can be the bottleneck.' Other rules include 'Pay for the messaging, not the minutes,' 'Pay for the components, not the cables,' 'Pay for the sensor size, not the megapixels,' and 'Pay for the TV size, not the refresh rate.' Kevin Kelly expands on Grobart's rules of thumb with 'Pay for the glass, not the shutters,' 'Pay for reliability, not mileage,' and 'Pay for comfort, not for weight.' Any others?"
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The Rules of Thumb For Tech Purchasing

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  • Read TFA, not TFS.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by syousef (465911)

      Read TFA, not TFS.

      You realise that the article is rules of thumb, which themselves are summaries of accepted wisdom, right?

      If anything, going by this article it should be RTFS not RTFA.

      Or you could just actually take the effort to understand the tradeoffs you're making instead of following a set of vague general rules which aren't suited to each situation... If it's important, it's worth getting the detail right. Think brain surgery - do you want your brain surgeon ignoring the detail and applying a set of shortcut rules of

    • For example - "Pay for RAM, not speed. The speed of the computer chip does not matter; the attention-span or RAM memory does matter."

      Totally wrong. You can always throw in more ram at a later date, and it will probably cost less to replace all of it than the cost of the "upgrade" today. Upgrading ram on a laptop is even easier than on a desktop, while a cpu upgrade ... forget it. And you'll always find takers for your old ram.

      Or "Pay for components, not cables. Buy the best components, and the cheapest cables". While you don't have to pay a monster price for "Monster Cables", some HDMI cables don't meet the latest specs. The difference between those that do and the cheapest may only be a few bucks, and it can't hurt.

      Or "Pay for speed, not channels. For cable internet, with enough speed you can watch TV channels on the internet for free." Pay for bandwidth. Speed means nothing if you have a low bandwidth cap. And buying a pair of bunny-ears for your HDTV can give a better picture over the air than either the net OR cable.

      And "Pay for reliability, not mileage. On a car, you'll spend more of repairs and maintaince over its lifetime than you will on a difference in gas." needs to re-think that when faced with $6-$8 a gallon gas prices. At $6 a gallon, 20mpg is going to cost you $30,000.00 in gas over 100,000 miles. At 40mpg you save $15,000.00

      And for those who don't think gas prices will go that high, they already are in many parts of the world (and you can bet that cash-strapped state and federal governments are going to need to raise more taxes).

      Think of how many people bought their cars when gas prices were half what they were today. When buying a car today, you have to keep in mind that history tends to repeat itself.

      • "'Pay for the sensor size, not the megapixels"...

        This is good advice, but it breaks down above APS-C size-sensors. Anything bigger really requires being a rich photo pro with a desire to carry heavy things. More generally, "buy the low light performance, not the resolution" (unless you're planning on printing posters)

        "Buy the glass, not the shutters"
        Also good advice, but by getting a camera body with image stabilization built in, one can use less expensive lenses with equally good image quality. Also gettin

        • by sznupi (719324)
          Too bad mostly only Canon, for some reason, seems to get the hang of really proper video recording, so far; even in basically lowest-end A1200/2200... (well, if it would come down to it / in a last resort, just adding a Canon digicam for video isn't so bad; low-light isn't that much of an issue in semi-serious videos with controlled lighting, plus it's good to have some compact which can be always at hand anyway - and it seems that, say, SX130 would even use the same stash of NiMH AAs as the DSLR in questi
      • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @12:01PM (#36133890)
        You've really got to consider the audience this article is written for; it's not for /. techies.

        For example - "Pay for RAM, not speed. The speed of the computer chip does not matter; the attention-span or RAM memory does matter."

        Totally wrong. You can always throw in more ram at a later date, and it will probably cost less to replace all of it than the cost of the "upgrade" today. Upgrading ram on a laptop is even easier than on a desktop, while a cpu upgrade ... forget it. And you'll always find takers for your old ram.

        Most /. readers would likely have no problem popping open a case and swapping out a few sticks of RAM. We'd probably also know where to get a better price on RAM than the factory pull-down option offers, and where to get good quality RAM for that better price. However, there are many, many consumers who view this all as black-boxes and black arts. To them, the box will remain in whatever configuration they buy it as until they decide it's time for a new computer and buy another one. Here is when one has to be wary of the marketing of CPU numbers and the illusion that a fast CPU guarantees a fast computer. Nevermind that most consumers' needs would be well met by today's moderate speed CPUs.

        The advice is good for those who won't know more than the rule of thumb. But as with most things - reducing the complexity reduces accuracy. A smart consumer would be better served at knowing a bit more.

        Or "Pay for components, not cables. Buy the best components, and the cheapest cables". While you don't have to pay a monster price for "Monster Cables", some HDMI cables don't meet the latest specs. The difference between those that do and the cheapest may only be a few bucks, and it can't hurt.

        And here we have the same problem. You have to know something about HDMI cables and specs to ensure that you're buying a technically superior cable and not just a marketing up-sell. Keep in mind that a lot of up-selling happens with ancillaries like cables. And if that's the waters the naive consumer is swimming in, the advice to avoid the costly cables and get good hardware steers clear of the most sharks. But again, a bit more knowledge beyond the generic rule of thumb would serve the consumer well.

        Or "Pay for speed, not channels. For cable internet, with enough speed you can watch TV channels on the internet for free." Pay for bandwidth. Speed means nothing if you have a low bandwidth cap. And buying a pair of bunny-ears for your HDTV can give a better picture over the air than either the net OR cable.

        Along the lines of my theme - I'm not sure telling people that they should swap out Internet for the cable box as a TV source is all that wise. Sure - many /. readers probably have no problem doing it. But I'm not sure we're there yet (much to Google's chagrin). So if we're going to get in to those bleeding edge waters - I think you have the right of it. Bandwidth caps are the hidden evil.

        And "Pay for reliability, not mileage. On a car, you'll spend more of repairs and maintaince over its lifetime than you will on a difference in gas." needs to re-think that when faced with $6-$8 a gallon gas prices. At $6 a gallon, 20mpg is going to cost you $30,000.00 in gas over 100,000 miles. At 40mpg you save $15,000.00

        And for those who don't think gas prices will go that high, they already are in many parts of the world (and you can bet that cash-strapped state and federal governments are going to need to raise more taxes).

        A couple small points - repair bills are big, sudden expenses while gas is a slow consistent expense. And while many places in the world have had high gas prices due to taxes for decades, many places in the world do not have the land mass and infrastructure requirements of the US. Having said those things - you do have a very good point that's certainly worth considering.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          You have to know something about HDMI cables and specs to ensure that you're buying a technically superior cable and not just a marketing up-sell.

          There is no such thing as a "technically superior" HDMI cable, only "working" and "broken". There is absolutely no difference in picture or sound quality between the cheapest and the most expensive cables. If the picture isn't perfect then the cable is broken and you should return it.

          The only time you might want to get a better rated one is if you are going to built it into a wall or something where it will need to last for decades and the connector might get some wear.

          I'm not sure telling people that they should swap out Internet for the cable box as a TV source is all that wise.

          In the US you have Netflix at least. B

      • by Sepodati (746220) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @12:41PM (#36134144) Homepage

        For example - "Pay for RAM, not speed. The speed of the computer chip does not matter; the attention-span or RAM memory does matter."

        Totally wrong.

        Remember the audience. This is for people clicking through the customize options on the Dell website. Do they go with the i3 at $550 or the i5 at $650? Do they go with the i3 and 4GB of RAM for $550 or 6GB of RAM $610.If someone's going to spend the money, I think most people would get more out of the additional RAM than a processor upgrade. That's what TFA is getting at. In reality, the plane old i3 with 4GB is going to be more than enough for most people.

        If you're willing to do a little research, you're not the target audience for a rule of thumb.

      • by gordo3000 (785698)

        Mileage is only so big of a factor when you are in the midsized to compact sedan market where you have hybrids that can get significantly better mileage.

        Class of vehicle matters to most people. And within the same class of car (say, deciding between a prius and a fusion hybrid) reliability will matter a lot more in the long run. Now deciding between a ford f-450 and a prius, gas can be a major expenditure difference, but then, they are completely different classes of vehicle.

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "Pay for reliability, not mileage."

        Any mechanic knows those are in no way mutually exclusive. "Honda" ring any bells?

        "Pay for a fucking clue." would be more appropriate

    • PAY FOR SENSOR SIZE, NOT MEGAPIXELS

      which refers to a blog that contains this claim:

      A bigger sensor soaks up more light.

      This is entirely false. The lens size controls how much light enters the sensor and therefore how much light is "soaked up" by the sensor. So, the advice should be: "PAY FOR THE LENS".

      All other things being equal, there may be advantages to having a larger sensor, but getting more photons into the sensor is not one of them.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 15, 2011 @11:17AM (#36133580)

      OMG, read Amazon [amazon.com] too!

      First off, I bought one of these for my $200 19" Visio. It displays 720P, but NOT ANY MORE!!!

      When I got this cable, it came wrapped in bacon, which I thought was pretty weird, but shrugged it off, slid off my recliner into my Rascal, scooted from the living room to the kitchenette, and started cooking my bacon-wrapping.

      As the smell of delicious pork back filled my double-wide, I turned around to look again at the box the cable came in. ...

  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Haedrian (1676506) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @07:30AM (#36132510)

    "Decide what you want to do with it, then buy exactly what you need"

    It sounds stupid, but you have no idea how many people buy a laptop or something without knowing whether they want to run high-end games or just use it for browsing the internet and then they end up with something overly expensive with traits they don't need.

    • Re:Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Haedrian (1676506) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @07:41AM (#36132552)

      To give two real life stories to explain my point.

      A person I know turned up at a shop and demanded that she wanted "The Best". Aside from telling the salesman that you're a mug, she basically got the most expensive laptop in the shop, and now she runs Word, IE 8 and a ton of Spyware on a high end machine.

      Another story involves the missus trying to choose between two laptops, one of which was an i3 with a large screen, and another which was an i5 with a smaller screen. I asked her what she was planning on doing with it, she told me she wanted to use it for watching videos and the like, so she got the i3. For myself, given I don't really need the screen real-estate and could use the cycles for my developing, picked up the i5.

      So before you ask anything, find out what you're planning on doing with it. There's no such thing as 'the best'. An i7 tower with a demon of a graphics card is great for gameplay, but you try taking that on a train or to take lecture notes on. Similarly, a 'netbook' is great if you need a ton of battery life and the ability to carry it around without snapping your back, but sucks if you want to "pwn some n00bs" at online gaming.

      • by petes_PoV (912422) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @08:46AM (#36132798)
        Leave aside all the technical stuff for now. A large proportion of people don't buy tech. to solve a technical problem (such as being able to play a given game, or run a particular application). A lot of people buy stuff as an extension of their personalities. This is particularly true of cars. So asking "What do you want to do with it?" will elicit a technical answer that probably has nothing to do with what the purchasing decision will be made on.

        I also find that most people who do go for the "emotional" buy, rather than the technical buy, will often be reluctant to tell you the real reason they bought something. Usually the sales/marketing material that they quote afterwards is merely an excuse or rationalisation for their decision. Usually the reason people buy tech is because it makes them feel good. Nothing more.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        Depends on the game. Lots of MMOs these days can play on surprisingly modest hardware. This to attempt to attracts as many players as possible. Sure, you loose out on some of the eyecandy. But the game will be playable. Also "helps" that more and more games are multi-platform. This means that the engine will be scaled to work on games consoles that have not been updated for a surprisingly long time (partially because both xbox360 and PS3 have become something more then a games console, and so software and s

      • Re:Simple (Score:4, Informative)

        by hedwards (940851) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @08:53AM (#36132836)

        It would probably help if Intel could hire somebody that's qualified to name its product lines. You shouldn't have to spend months researching processors to be able to know what an i3 is or an i7 is.

      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @09:21AM (#36132970)

        I get that all the time with audio shit. Someone will came and say they want "The best sound system, money is no object." I say ok, and start laying out what in my opinion would be the best sound system money can buy. Generally you are talking in the high six figures, and no that doesn't use anything like audiophile ripoff cable, just extremely high spec speakers, amps, processors and so on.

        They always balk at that, of course, and usually it turns out the budget is a few hundred bucks at most, which doesn't even get you a mid range home theater system. However for some reason they decided that they could have, and wanted, "The best." Never mind that even most people who have that kind of money wouldn't want it as the gains get extremely incremental.

    • Re:Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bill Dimm (463823) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @08:54AM (#36132848) Homepage

      Slight improvement: Decide what you want to do with it, then buy something a little better than what you think you need.

      Because there is a significant probability that you'll underestimate what you need, and having to buy a second item to meet your needs is a lot more expensive than paying a little more for something better the first time around.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @09:09AM (#36132906)

      Analyze what your needs and wants are. You have reasons you are looking at something, decide what they all are. This can be a mental exercise but if it helps you make a physical list and rank things. Do things like set a budget, I recommend 3 points: A target, a preferred max and an absolute max. List requirements, as in deal breakers if you can't have the features, and list things you'd like to have in order of importance. Basically, get yourself a specification sheet.

      Then start doing some research. Find out what best meets your needs that fits in your budget. You can certainly get help, ask friends who are experts and so on. However research what your options are and decide what you would most like.

      Also be willing to back down if you can't make it work. If you cannot find anything that meets your requirements and gits your budget, then be willing to say "Ok, I can't have that."

      That doesn't guarantee a purchase you love, because nothing does, but it gives you a much better chance. You can also rest easier in your purchase with the knowledge that you probably bought what was best, even if it doesn't end up being perfect. You likely couldn't have done better.

      Now I should note I'm not saying do this for every single thing in life. Base it on price. The more it costs, the more considered the decision should be.

      When I bought a $20 water filter/pitcher I did no research beforehand, I just went to Target, looked at the options, and got the one I felt was most what I wanted.

      When I bought a $600 bicycle I did some research beforehand on the Internet, and brought a friend who is a bike nut with me to the store.

      When I bought a $7000 air conditioner, I spent a number of weeks researching A/Cs including who makes them, what matters, what options there are, and solicited bids from about 5 different vendors, all of who I did online background checks on with places like the ROC and BBB.

      When I bought a 6 figure house, I hired a professional (real estate agent) to help me out in searching who in turn hired other professionals (home inspector, title search agent) to examine the potential purchase and make sure I was getting what I thought I was.

      Tech is no different. If you are getting a cheap clock radio, go ahead and buy whichever one strikes your fancy at a store. If you are getting a $1000 computer, you can spend some time doing some research to see what meets you needs.

    • OK, so you read Slashdot and you think you need a water cooled i7 with 16G of RAM and two Nvidia cards (More power than an NSA Cray), but you game on a console? So is this just for some testosterone laden bragging rights? It makes no sense for anybody to pay more than $500.00 for a PC, I do some pretty interesting things with an Asus b202 and an Asus Celeron M powered netbook.

      When you puff up your chest and ball up your Cheeto stained fingers into fists and thump your tiny hairless chest and proclaim that

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 15, 2011 @07:33AM (#36132518)

    FUCK! I was trying to come up with some of these sayings for open source software, but it just doesn't work.

    I started with, "Pay for the FreeBSD, not the Linux". But FUCK, that doesn't work. You don't have to pay for the FreeBSD! It's already free!

    Then I tried, "Pay for the LLVM, not the GCC". But FUCK, that doesn't work, either! LLVM is free, too!

    Finally I tried, "Pay for the Python, not the Ruby". But FUCK ME AGAIN, that doesn't work. Python is totally free.

    FUCK.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @07:59AM (#36132608) Journal

      I started with, "Pay for the FreeBSD, not the Linux". But FUCK, that doesn't work. You don't have to pay for the FreeBSD! It's already free!

      These people [freebsd.org] will happily let you pay for FreeBSD. The FreeBSD Foundation has just paid for some of my work, so I'm pretty sure that it is possible to pay for FreeBSD.

      Then I tried, "Pay for the LLVM, not the GCC". But FUCK, that doesn't work, either! LLVM is free, too!

      XCode 4 includes LLVM and Apple will let you pay for it. Some of that money goes to funding LLVM development. If you need extra features added to LLVM, I (and others) will happily give you a quote.

      Finally I tried, "Pay for the Python, not the Ruby". But FUCK ME AGAIN, that doesn't work. Python is totally free.

      I currently have a contract that is paying me to hack on Python, so I can assure you that it is possible to pay for Python.

      FUCK

      I've not tried, but I'm pretty sure you can pay for that too...

    • by brusk (135896) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @08:06AM (#36132640)
      Simple. For software, pay for the support+license, not the license.
  • RAM Over Processor? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Apple Acolyte (517892) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @07:38AM (#36132538)

    The summary claims that one rule is to pay for more RAM over better processor. That sounds like poor advice for at least three reasons: 1) RAM can usually be user-upgraded later, while the processor usually can't be; 2) RAM is cheaper than the processor; 3) some OEMs overcharge for RAM upgrades (cough, Apple). Plus, it is dubious to claim processors are usually fast enough for most people. All told, whoever offered that suggestion wasn't thinking very soundly.

    • by rvw (755107) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @08:06AM (#36132644)

      The summary claims that one rule is to pay for more RAM over better processor. That sounds like poor advice for at least three reasons: 1) RAM can usually be user-upgraded later, while the processor usually can't be; 2) RAM is cheaper than the processor; 3) some OEMs overcharge for RAM upgrades (cough, Apple). Plus, it is dubious to claim processors are usually fast enough for most people. All told, whoever offered that suggestion wasn't thinking very soundly.

      I disagree. A better processor means you get a 2.7 instead of a 2.4, and for that you pay $300 (Apple Macbook Pro 13"). That's a waste of money for 10% speed increase. Then I would use that money to buy more RAM, which is probably a much better way to speed up a machine.

      • by improfane (855034) *

        That's Apple and Apple hardware is not indicative of the rest of the personal computer world. It's ridiculously marked up PC components. You get more for your money when you buy PC components.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          That's Apple and Apple hardware is not indicative of the rest of the personal computer world. It's ridiculously marked up PC components. You get more for your money when you buy PC components.

          You get CPUs cheaper when you buy them from $cheapest_source than from any vendor, whether it be Dell, Apple, or Omnipro (a local wanker which can't manage to keep the same hardware for any length of time and will switch it on you silently.)

    • Both are limited, actually. For most otherwise identical computers - laptops especially - there is a very limited range of processors. Until there was an option of getting single or multiple cores, there was often less than a 40% difference in processor performance from the bottom of the options to the top. That was a little skewed when you could get single or dual cores. Now that practically everything new is dual or quad core, and the chips are designed to maximize the speed on a single core when only a

    • by Sepodati (746220)

      The summary claims that one rule is to pay for more RAM over better processor. That sounds like poor advice ...

      This isn't for people that'll upgrade RAM, HD or processors later. This is for folks clicking through the "customize this" dialog on the Dell website. I picked a random XPS 8300 for $700, for example. You can upgrade from an i5-2300 (6MB, 2.8GHz) to a i5-2500 (6MB, 3.3GHz) for $140. Or you can go from 4GB to 8GB of RAM for the same $140.

      This article is saying, and I agree, that for most people, the

  • by gozu (541069) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @07:38AM (#36132540) Journal

    For desktops, always use an SSD as your OS/Applications drive.

    For casual photographs: Buy the smartphone with a cutting edge camera. You'll have your phone with you more often than a camera.

    For tvs: size first, then black levels, then refresh rates. You can safely ignore the rest.

    • by hellop2 (1271166)
      There's a smartphone with a decent camera? The video quality is atrocious in low light conditions on all I've tried.
      • by L473ncy (987793)
        Yeah there is. The iPhones camera is actually pretty good if you can get the setting, and lighting setup right. You don't need fancy high end DSLR's or expensive $1000 glass. Case in point: http://fstoppers.com/iphone [fstoppers.com]
    • by jonwil (467024)

      There is no such thing as a cellphone with a good camera.
      I have a Canon IXUS 80IS entry level point & shoot and I can guarantee that its going to take better photos than all the cellphones I have seen with their tiny lens and sensor (and fixed focal length/lack of optical zoom)

      Having a cellphone camera is great for taking photos when you have no other camera. But using a cellphone to take photos instead of investing in a good entry-level digicam when you want to actually go out somewhere with the intent

  • by mehrotra.akash (1539473) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @07:48AM (#36132572)

    So an Atom with 16GB RAM > an i5 with 4GB RAM?

    (just taking the given statements to an extreme)

    Basically you need to balance performance, not lean heavily towards either side

    • Re:So, (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @08:04AM (#36132634) Journal
      For a lot of uses, I wouldn't be surprised. This machine (Core 2 Duo) rarely sees the CPU load go over 20% in normal use, but anything involving the disk is slow and swapping completely cripples it. Doubling the RAM would be a much more noticeable improvement than doubling the CPU speed.
    • Old RAM advice is old.

      Just do a "free -mto" or open up the perf monitor in taskman.exe . With all your common applications open, if you still have more than a few megs of free memory (instead of cached), then you probably have too much RAM.

      These days, I would modify that to say RAM before SSD. You can typically load up on another 8GB+ of RAM for less the the cost of the cheapest SSD, and it will have a more profound effect on the apps you always have open. RAM is still more than 100x faster than even th

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Readahead is not as fast as SSD, though. You can disable readahead if you have a SSD and get a faster boot. This is especially noticeable on slow SSDs like what's in my EEE 701 4G. Ubuntu(-minimal, I'm not crazy) boot time was cut in half by removing readahead.

        • by rwa2 (4391) *

          Yeah, readahead is unnecessary overhead on SSDs... it takes a extra second or two to compile the list of inodes and reorder them to minimize disk head movement, which is completely unnecessary on SSDs so it's a waste of time. But on conventional hard disks, it can boost bulk reads from plodding along at 10MB/s to 100MB/s, which is a bit closer into cheap SSD territory.

          Readahead might still be nice for preloading a lot of the desktop, so you're not sitting there waiting for icons to load when you're navigat

    • It's a rule of thumb. You won't find the same laptop with options for an Atom and an i5. If you get a laptop with a non-netbook processor, get the second-to-the bottom (maybe the third from the bottom if there are 5 or more levels); never choose the fastest. ATFAS (as the..says), buy the RAM aftermarket and install it yourself.

    • Absolutely.

      Basically you need to balance performance, not lean heavily towards either side

      No, you just need to know what the fuck you are doing.
       

    • You need to balance, yes, but store configurations tend to processor-heavy, because processor power is what impresses the average buyer. So, generally, you're looking at a situation where you want to rebalance towards memory.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      ...depends on the GPU.

      Although the i5 will likely overcome the problems you would have with a poorly chosen GPU.

  • by geekmux (1040042) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @07:50AM (#36132578)

    #1 rule, no matter what you buy. Plasma vs. LCD, car vs. SUV vs. truck, laptop vs. desktop, handgun vs. rifle vs. shotgun, or even rent/lease vs. own.

    If you don't know your real requirements for a purchase, then you're just shooting in the dark, or have already made up your mind based on peer pressure. The best example of sheer peer pressure/brand pushing can probably be best summarized within 80% of Apple sales. The other 20% actually know what they're buying and actually need it.

    • by russotto (537200)

      The best example of sheer peer pressure/brand pushing can probably be best summarized within 80% of Apple sales.

      And this is one way Apple's strategy of not chasing the low-end pays off (for Apple). Someone with no clue can walk in, buy the cheapest MacBook, MacBook Pro,or iMac they can get, and it will work fine for them; they'll be happy. Anyone who needs more than that probably has enough of a clue to buy it.

      (This holds especially if the person with no clue is status-conscious, because that person will

  • On real estate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rwa2 (4391) * on Sunday May 15, 2011 @07:55AM (#36132598) Homepage Journal

    "Don't buy a house more than 3x your annual income."

    Probably could have saved us some troubles back there.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Manip (656104)
      So literally nobody in the UK should buy a house then? Houses here start at 150K and that is for a very basic two bedroom attached home with a small garden. If you divide the UK average income (26,700) by 150K you get around six years of annual income. The situation is similar London (just increase house cost and income by 10%).
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        So literally nobody in the UK should buy a house then?

        That may well turn out to be the answer.

        You may well be beyond the carrying capacity of your region.

        • Re:On real estate (Score:5, Interesting)

          by MoonBuggy (611105) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @09:08AM (#36132902) Journal

          Much of the price inflation (at least at the 'low end') is more the fault of the government, so it's hard to make market-based assumptions like that. Basically, the UK has ended up with a public-private hybrid social housing system, and (as expected) it exacerbates the disadvantages of both. It's similar to the US healthcare system, in that it takes the inefficiencies and 'unlimited' budget of tax funding and then funnels them into the profits of private enterprise.

          In short: UK govt. builds council houses, which are rented to the poor at subsidised rents. This is fine, and actually puts pressure on the market to improve offerings at the low end. Govt. then thinks (for some reason) that the 'right to buy' one's council house is a good idea; many people do so. Owners then sell ex-council houses to private landlords at significant profit, private landlords put them back on the market at three to four times their original rent. Since the council is short of space (because it sold off most of its housing and couldn't build more), those on housing benefit are placed in these buildings, with the council paying much of the private landlord's requested rent - on a building they built themselves, and wouldn't have had to pay a penny more on if they hadn't fucking sold it off in the first place. Anyway, because cheap supply exists in the form of sold-off council houses, and many low-end rents can be government subsidised at a high rate, the investment value of these properties is much higher than many could afford if they wanted to buy one to, y'know, actually live in.

          Of course it's by no means the whole problem, not even close, but it is significant, not to mention fucking irritating for those of us too poor to even look at buying a flat, as a direct result of this, but too rich to benefit from the government paying our rent.

      • It means a single person probably shouldn't buy a house. A couple, each making 26,700, would fit exactly into the formula.

    • There are no houses less than 3x my annual income around here. Houses start at 4x, and decent ones start at 5-6x. I might be able to find a condo at 3x.
      • Re:On real estate (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@hotmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Sunday May 15, 2011 @11:04AM (#36133500) Journal

        There are no houses less than 3x my annual income around here. Houses start at 4x, and decent ones start at 5-6x. I might be able to find a condo at 3x.

        Damn, that's in intractable dilemma. It would seem that the rule of thumb offered by the original poster violates your God-given right as an American to own (a small fraction of, shared with the bank) a home with a lawn and a driveway where you can park your SUV, so that you can make long trips to Wal-Mart. Since you're a good person, you deserve to have your front lawn and backyard barbecue; it's a moral issue, not a financial one. I mean, only sub-humans live in condos.

        Seriously, we're talking about rules of thumb here. They can be bent or broken providing one has sound justification; a rule of thumb is heuristic guidance, not Mosaic law.

        On the other hand, the U.S. housing market is ample evidence that large numbers of people are very poor judges of their financial limits. Even among the substantial majority of Americans who didn't lose their homes or their solvency during the subprime fallout, many still live right on the edge. Fewer than half of Americans have any sort of 'emergency fund' to cover them in the event of surprise expenses or unexpected job loss. Any family carrying any credit card debt month to month is living beyond their means, but there is an appalling culture of "I want $NICE_THING, therefore I should have it, whether or not I can afford it--and anyone who says otherwise can go soak his head."

    • by gutnor (872759)

      "Don't buy a house with a mortgage more than 3x your annual income."

      FTFY - If you have the cash, you can buy a house 200x your annual income.

      • by rwa2 (4391) *

        Oh, yeah, that would be awesome... 200x might even be enough to take care of property taxes and utilities too... but other than that, we might be out of "rule of thumb" territory and into creative accountancy.

    • I have this poster of the movie Trainpotting (1996) on my wall:
      http://imagecache6.allposters.com/LRG/%5C7%5C713%5CZYKA000Z.jpg [allposters.com]

      Note hat it says "Choose fixed interest mortgage repaiments".
      If only people had listened.

    • The rule is "Your mortgage payment should be no more than 1/3rd your pretax income." Turns out to be pretty valid at all levels. Now that doesn't mean you should get one that expensive, just that is the absolute max, you probably can't afford more than that.

  • most of us are usually dealing with a finite amount of money to spend,

    So, who is dealing with an infinite amount of money?

    • by brusk (135896)

      Some are dealing with zero money to spend, you insensitive clod.

    • It's relative. When I buy a candy bar I'm not looking for the best deal. I buy what I want. A multi millionaire likewise does not bargain shop for a TV.

      • by geekmux (1040042)

        It's relative. When I buy a candy bar I'm not looking for the best deal. I buy what I want. A multi millionaire likewise does not bargain shop for a TV.

        Most millionaires I know got to be millionaires by bargain shopping, and carefully choosing what they need instead of what they want at the right time in their lives. These are the reasons why 95% of upper-middle class will never become millionaires, as they're far too busy going broke trying to act like millionaires.

  • Shop Electronically, Buy Locally. Do the research at home and take it with you to brick-and-mortal stores. If worse comes to worse, Buy Electronically, Return Locally. By doing this mistakes are easily corrected.
  • On computer my rules would be

    1: Unlike the articles author I wouldn't worry too much about the initial ram beyond making sure it's at least 3GB (should be standard on most machines now) but I would worry about the max supported ram and would not buy any machine where it was less than 8GB. A releated point is to check whether windows is 32-bit or 64-bit and what the manufacturers policies are about switching from one to the other (without buying a whole new copy of windows).
    2: try to get the latest generatio

  • Pay for the protection, not the clinic.
  • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes&xmsnet,nl> on Sunday May 15, 2011 @09:15AM (#36132942)

    I find this statement to be true more for computer monitors than for television screens. Too many people end up with TV screens so large that the individual pixels become annoyingly visible. HD mitigates this, but most channels still use SD.

    Pick a TV screen size that's appropriate for your viewing distance, instead of the bigger == better fallacy.

    • by Dogtanian (588974)

      Too many people end up with TV screens so large that the individual pixels become annoyingly visible. HD mitigates this, but most channels still use SD. Pick a TV screen size that's appropriate for your viewing distance, instead of the bigger == better fallacy.

      Don't listen to this idiot, he's got it the wrong way around. Pick as big a screen as you damn well want *then* pick a viewing distance that's appropriate for your TV screen size.

      Personally, I chose the biggest screen I could get my hands on (having sold my house to pay for it) and yeah, it looks like ass from a few metres away, but I solved the problem by installing it in the field half a mile down the road from my house and watching through the living room window.

      All my friends were impressed until th

    • by CmdrPorno (115048) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @01:25PM (#36134406)

      The average consumer buys an HDTV and brags to all of their friends about how great it is and how clear the picture is, and if you ask them whether they upgraded their dish or cable service to get an HD signal, they have no clue what you're talking about.

  • Don't buy something you really don't want. Save your money and get the one you really want.

  • The only rule of thumb should be, have a techie help you if you're not one already.

    Ask a guy (who has the knowledge) for technical advice. Could be a complete stranger in the store, it doesn't matter. 99 times out of 100 he'll fall all over himself to guide you through the purchase. It's a "guy thing" constructively interfering with a "geek thing" that creates a local maximum of altruism rarely seen in other contexts.

  • I have 1Gb of RAM and do just fine. Am I sick?

When all else fails, read the instructions.

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