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The Almighty Buck Hardware IT Idle Technology

The Rules of Thumb For Tech Purchasing 401

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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  • RAM Over Processor? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Apple Acolyte ( 517892 ) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @08:38AM (#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 TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @08:59AM (#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.


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

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

    by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @10:08AM (#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.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @10:09AM (#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.

  • Re:Silly advice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fast turtle ( 1118037 ) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @10:17AM (#36132954) Journal

    The main advantage to 64 bit windows is that all 32bit apps run in their own VM called WoW (windows on windows) meaning that a buggy app doesn't take the entire system down if it crashes or pukes. Another thing is that ASLR and DEP both work a bit better and when I max out system memory (16GB) the system should be able to run w/o paging/swapping at all because of the memory.

    The last benefit is that I will also be able to run any 64bit app as they become available instead of being stuck with 32bit only and from what I've seen, MS is going completely 64bit with TNG Win8

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"