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The Rules of Thumb For Tech Purchasing

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the kevin-kelly-always-has-brain-candy dept.

The Almighty Buck 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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Last, but not least... (5, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132506)

Read TFA, not TFS.

Re:Last, but not least... (2, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132740)

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 thumb?

Simple (4, Insightful)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#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 (5, Insightful)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Understand why people buy things (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132818)

Strange. I find that I'd lose more time developing with a tiny screen than in with a slower computer with a bigger one. Heck, just one screen makes me feel crippled: At work we run 3.

Re:Simple (2)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132830)

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 services have become perhaps more important then hardware).

Re:Simple (3, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

In some areas it is bigger than people think too (4, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#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 (4, Insightful)

Bill Dimm (463823) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132848)

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.

That is really it right there (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

My rule with Apple products (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132514)

Always buy even numbered versions. eg: iPod Touch v2, iPhone 4, etc.

Re:My rule with Apple products (3, Funny)

Noughmad (1044096) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132622)

Fascinating, I have a similar rule for Star Trek movies.

Re:My rule with Apple products (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132638)

This doesn't hold for values larger than 6.

Silly advice (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132516)

Most high end brand name desktops already come with "too much" RAM as standard, often 6 or 8GB.

As long as Windows applications are almost universally 32bit, this is pointless. As long as the system has 4GB, the rest is "nice to have for future", nothing more.

Right about CPUs tho, in desktops they range from very fast to ridiculously fast. Laptops, on the other hand, are another story. Cheapest laptop CPUs are pretty puny...

Re:Silly advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132556)

What's windows?

Re:Silly advice (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132628)

Its the plural of "Window" which is a rectangular display area used in GUI.

Re:Silly advice (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132778)

Those not living in their parent's basement know that a window is a piece of glass in a frame, fitted into a hole in the wall, which is used to illuminate the room during the day, to allow watching the near surrounding, and usually also to let fresh air in.

Re:Silly advice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132874)

Why would you want to look at people's shoes while they walk past your window? Some shoe/foot fetish?

Re:Silly advice (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132596)

As long as Windows applications are almost universally 32bit, this is pointless. As long as the system has 4GB, the rest is "nice to have for future", nothing more.

Bullshit. Running 32-bit apps just means that no single app can have all of that RAM mapped into its address space at once. Even if you're only running a single 32-bit app, 6GB means that you have 2GB left over for the OS, most of which is used for filesystem caches. More likely, you're running half a dozen 32-bit apps. With 6GB, each one now has a maximum of 512MB of physical RAM before you have to go to swap (ignoring the OS requirements), which is well within the limits of a 32-bit address space.

Re:Silly advice (3, Interesting)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132954)

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

Re:Silly advice (2)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132614)

As long as the system has 4GB, the rest is "nice to have for future", nothing more.

Only if you run a single program at the same time. Which isn't ever the case anymore. How often do you have a program using 4GB of your RAM anyway? Generally I have my web browser always open - which takes 500mb - 1gb or so depending on the amount of tabs I have open, and then if I'm running something RAM intensive it can take the rest. Not that I've ever used up all my RAM anyway...

Re:Silly advice (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132694)

As long as Windows applications are almost universally 32bit, this is pointless. As long as the system has 4GB, the rest is "nice to have for future", nothing more.

First, A 32-bit application can allocate more than 4GB of memory, and you don't need 64-bit Windows to do it [msdn.com] .

Second, even if each application couldn't use more than 4GB, all applications combined certainly can.

Re:Silly advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132914)

OK, this must be refuted since it is so wrong. Applications have nothing to do with it. The OS is what matters - it must be 64 bit to use the RAM. 64 bit Windows (and 64 bit Linux) can use all that RAM. And, 32 bit applications on Windows can use up to 2 GB of RAM each. Windows allocates it to them with a sliding virtual table. So running with say 8 GB you can have several memory hungry apps not being starved. (Of course, if the app is compiled with the large memory aware flag it can get 3 GB). Again - the applications DO NOT MATTER. It is only the OS that matters. My work notebook (for various work related reasons) happens to run 8 GB with Windows 7 x64 with a VMware VM of Windows Vista 32 bit assigned 3 GB all on a nice SSD and it runs it great. Multiple instances of Visual Studio on the host, everything running well. Try that with your supposed 4 GB solution.

WHAT THE FUCK! THIS DOESN'T WORK FOR OPEN SOURCE! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:WHAT THE FUCK! THIS DOESN'T WORK FOR OPEN SOURC (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132608)

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...

Re:WHAT THE FUCK! THIS DOESN'T WORK FOR OPEN SOURC (4, Insightful)

brusk (135896) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132640)

Simple. For software, pay for the support+license, not the license.

"dealing with a finite amount of money to spend" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132530)

NO. The Space Nutters keep telling me how people will just line up miles-long for a chance to go for a 15 minute sub-orbital hop at 15000$ a pop. People have so much money these days!

RAM Over Processor? (3, Interesting)

Apple Acolyte (517892) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:RAM Over Processor? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132564)

Agreed. Especially when looking for a laptop. I usually tell people get the fastest processor you can afford, don't worry (too much) about the RAM and Hard Disk capacity those can be upgraded (fairly easily) later if the need arises.

Re:RAM Over Processor? (1)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132574)

Indeed - immediately after that section in TFA, it tells you never to buy it from the manufacturer, and then promptly links you to websites from which to buy nice, cheap RAM.

Re:RAM Over Processor? (4, Insightful)

rvw (755107) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:RAM Over Processor? (2)

improfane (855034) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132750)

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.

Re:RAM Over Processor? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132826)

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.)

Of course. (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132692)

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 single thread is running, the field has compressed again.

RAM, otoh, can often be quadrupled or octupled by the user after the purchase - for less than the difference between processor options adding only 20-25% speed. Nothing makes you hate a laptop like swapping, even if you got the SSD. For a laptop, unless you're going for a "workstation" grade, in which case rules of thumb don't apply, you really don't need top speed on a processor. I have a 1.4GHz single core laptop and I almost never want for more speed. Of course, I've got 8GB of RAM, so I don't even have a swap file. I also don't do my Finite Element work on it, nor do I do much CAD, but I do run several engineering analysis programs on it, view and edit multi-hundred page PDFs, and do minor photo manipulation for reports. I have - and have used - photoshop and premiere on it as well, but again - why would I do my main work there when my desktop has a 4960x1600 3 monitor setup?

As for the work computer - gotta say, I got the middle of the road processor (i7 920) and am upgrading it to 24GB of RAM when the UPS guy stops by tomorrow. Everything I run runs fast enough, but when I get heavy into CAD, photoshop, premiere...I need as much memory as I can muster.

The hard drive is the bottleneck (2, Informative)

gozu (541069) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132540)

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.

Re:The hard drive is the bottleneck (1)

hellop2 (1271166) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132582)

There's a smartphone with a decent camera? The video quality is atrocious in low light conditions on all I've tried.

Re:The hard drive is the bottleneck (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132612)

Nokia N79 has acceptable (not good, but acceptable) low light performance

Daytime performance is great though (matches a low end dedicated digicam, though you lose out on optical zoom)

Re:The hard drive is the bottleneck (2)

L473ncy (987793) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132938)

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]

Re:The hard drive is the bottleneck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132676)

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

To be honest, I'm sceptical about this rule of thumb. While SSDs have a great performance, they also require you to spend a good amount of buck per GB. And so far, SSDs' lifespans are quite limited compared to clunky good old hard drives. In the end, the consumer may end up paying more than intended (due to higher $/MB and having to replace the SSDs every x months, if you believe the anti-hype).

Re:The hard drive is the bottleneck (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132808)

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

To be honest, I'm sceptical about this rule of thumb.

I am so. fucking. over. not having SSD. I'd consider RAID but it just adds more points of failure. I think the best way to go is to have an external HDD that you back your SSD up to periodically. The only time I really wait for my PC, I'm waiting for disk access. The only thing that takes enough CPU to worry about is video encoding which I don't expect to happen in realtime... not with this amount of CPU anyway.

Re:The hard drive is the bottleneck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132886)

It's by all accounts the most effective upgrade you can do to improve system responsiveness, and while the per GB cost is high, you don't need much capacity at all if you supplement it with a spinny.
Anything you buy today should do better than the first-gen products, for which the doom-and-gloom predictions have yet to come true at any noticeable scale.

Re:The hard drive is the bottleneck (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132926)

While SSDs have a great performance, they also require you to spend a good amount of buck per GB. And so far, SSDs' lifespans are quite limited compared to clunky good old hard drives.

If lifespan and price/GB always trump seek time, I imagine you exclusively use backup tape?

Re:The hard drive is the bottleneck (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132894)

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 to take photos is stupid.

Re:The hard drive is the bottleneck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36133008)

So when SSDs fail on average in under one year of use, and cost 4x as much as magnetic media for the same storage space, does the small amount of time saved in access speed make up for the amount of time you're opening up the machine and swapping out new drives?

As a 49 Year Old Militant Feminist Grandmother (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132558)

It really disturbs my essence how proud some people are that whilst they're making 50k a year instead of a quad-core they'll buy a celeron and say how it's good enough. Then they'll brag about it for 5 years... "well you might've wasted $200 on an X6 but I don't actually need performance so I've spent 5 years on a celeron, and the $50 I saved is now $55 when you consider compound interest, impossible that you've gotten 5 years of better times than me with your lack of $55" ,

Really I do dislike people who think they saved $50 by using a POS for half a decade... cant they possibly conceive of themselves getting more than $10 per year additional value out of something 3x faster.

Re:As a 49 Year Old Militant Feminist Grandmother (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132726)

I make six digits and I'm running a core solo laptop from 2007 as my main machine. Fuck the noise.

Re:As a 49 Year Old Militant Feminist Grandmother (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132838)

My rule of thumb is that the most value for money for normal usage is to be found among products which cost twice that of the cheapest product in the same class. If you're a hardcore user you might buy something that costs three times the cheapest. Products which are more expensive than that are for professionals.

If the cheapest 15" laptop sells for $350 the best value for money will be in the $700 range. Hardcore gamers should go for something in the $1050 range. If you need to use a laptop as your main workstation for things like compiling then the rule does not apply. Buy the best laptop you can reasonably afford.

Re:As a 49 Year Old Militant Feminist Grandmother (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132856)

Yes, but most grandmothers don't need anything more advanced than that.

So, (2)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 3 years ago | (#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, (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132634)

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.

Re: RAM over SSD (2)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132662)

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 the high-end SSDs, but SSDs aren't necessarily more than 10x faster than a decent cheap hard disk, even with lots of small reads provided you use readahead to preload a lot of your HD data to RAM, and of course migrate /tmp to tmpfs or something.

http://trumblings.blogspot.com/2010/11/using-readahead-to-speed-up-disk.html [blogspot.com]
(and for recent Fedora, Ubuntu/Debian, etc. your OS is already using readahead to boot fast)

If you never shutdown your laptop or desktop and just put them in and out of suspend, this cache is always maintained in RAM where most of your critical OS and applications never expire from, so you're kinda not benefiting from your SSD as much as you expect anyway. Maybe if you used your SSD for swap, but people don't tend to like to do that ;-)

Re: RAM over SSD (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132816)

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.

Re: RAM over SSD (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#36133032)

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 navigating menus. You should be able to just go into /etc/readahead.d/ and tweak exactly what you want loaded into RAM before and after bootup so it makes sense on your system.

I'm running eeebuntu [eeebuntu.org] 3.0 on my eeePC 901 w/ 1GB RAM ... should be a bit better optimized for it out of the box. I am a bit crazy and have it running compiz so I can get all the eye candy, and it actually runs pretty snappily. Biggest change to my habits was running chrome instead of firefox to make web browsing more responsive. Also useful to replace the google earth static 3D libraries with symlinks to the system ones to fix a bunch of UI artifacts.

Re: RAM over SSD (0)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132864)

There's also the bit about MS and its incompetent architecture. I assume that it's been fixed since then, but on 32bit versions of Windows, they claim to support 4gigs of RAM, but apparently that's not really true, the can only address 4gigs, but that includes not just the RAM, but the video RAM as well, meaning that anybody that pays for a full 4gigs isn't going to actually get to use it, and MS documentation is useless as always on the matter.

Which is yet another reason why MS sucks and should be avoided.

Re:So, (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132700)

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.

If I'm serving videos (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132812)

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.
 

Re:So, (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132912)

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.

Re:So, (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132968)

...depends on the GPU.

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

Define the Requirement(s) (5, Insightful)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Pay for the TV size, not the refresh rate.' (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132594)

Unless you plan to watch 3D

On real estate (4, Insightful)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132598)

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

Probably could have saved us some troubles back there.

Re:On real estate (1, Informative)

Manip (656104) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132650)

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%).

Re:On real estate (1)

BeShaMo (996745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132668)

Probably because too many people have bought too expensively, so house prices are artificially inflated.

Re:On real estate (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132876)

No, it's because in much of the world, there's far more demand than there is supply to fill it. The US has it relatively easy as we've plenty of space to build more in.

Re:On real estate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132702)

There are plenty of 2 bedroom houses below 150K in the UK - you may not like them but they are there.

Re:On real estate (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132708)

In Luxembourg it starts at 500k. 150k? You wouldn't even get the terrain.

Re:On real estate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132888)

1 room apartment, 197k

http://www.arkadia.com/usa/real-estate/for-sale/world/eden-t6710801/

Re:On real estate (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132774)

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 (4, Interesting)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132902)

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.

Re:On real estate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132844)

Is that one income or two?

Northern Ireland, UK (under 58K):

http://www.zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/14198149

Re:On real estate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132976)

I'm pretty sure that depends on whether your household has one income or two. But the market assumes that you have two, so if you don't you'd probably be better off renting.

Re:On real estate (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132896)

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

Re:On real estate (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132690)

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 (1)

Hultis (1969080) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132704)

I wish I could buy a house for just three times an average annual income. Heck, I'd be extremely happy to get a small apartment for that amount of money.

Re:On real estate (1)

gutnor (872759) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132728)

"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.

Re:On real estate (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132858)

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.

See Trainspotting, 1996 (2)

jeti (105266) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132742)

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.

Re:See Trainspotting, 1996 (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132916)

You know, I don't think that's quite the point they were going for...

Re:See Trainspotting, 1996 (1)

funkatron (912521) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132990)

I'm not sure that poster (and monologue) makes fixed interest mortgage repayments sound all that attractive.

That's actually not the rule (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132936)

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.

Who is the exception? (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132618)

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

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

Re:Who is the exception? (1)

brusk (135896) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132652)

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

Re:Who is the exception? (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132666)

0 is still a finite amount

Re:Who is the exception? (1)

brusk (135896) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132772)

In some fields. Physics usually treats it as non-finite.

Re:Who is the exception? (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132932)

Because physics so often deals with dividing by those quantities. What's the current on a zero-resistance wire?

Re:Who is the exception? (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132674)

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.

A little education is a dangerous thing. (2, Insightful)

magusxxx (751600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132642)

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.

Pay for companionship, not sex. (1)

harlequinn (909271) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132648)

Of course that may not be what floats your boat...

I'd disagree (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132654)

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 generation. Generally with the way intel is doing their pricing at the moment the lastest gen offers the best bang for buck and is also likely to have the highest ram support (see point one) and is most likely to have support for future operating systems.
3: if buying a portable then the difficult to measure stuff like build quality and form factor are just as important if not more so than the headline specs.

Prevention (2)

Neoporcupine (551534) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132660)

Pay for the protection, not the clinic.

CPU, not RAM (1)

benwiggy (1262536) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132678)

I disagree: always go for the faster CPU, and don't worry about RAM.

I usually find that a faster CPU equates to a computer that is useful for a longer period of time before becoming unable to cope with up-to-date apps and OSes.

You can buy more RAM at any point in the machine's life and install it yourself, but that isn't always possible with a CPU.

The golden rule is: don't get a machine that is "just good enough for now": buy some "future" too. Also, don't be an early adopter.

Common sense (1)

z3nwizard (1711276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132712)

You could buy the most expensive computer but the trade off of power to cpu is pointless with most games... Usually would just buy a good solid mainboard, good ram 4 gig is enough for most things and an entry level graphics card that's good enough to enter into the 3d vision range; cheap enough now days.. You don't have to do much after that other then a 2 or 4 core processor until they come down in price. My Dad purchased a quad core and he only uses it for browsing the web, emails and writing documents.. a waste to tell the truth.. he could have gone for the same mobo and a cheaper cpu. I could have just given them my older amd FX-55 with 3 Gig of ram and he wouldn't notice much difference with most apps. You know what sales people are like.. they would sell the top bollocks computer system to someone who only wants to browse the net if they could.

Deeds not words (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36132850)

Do expect your prospective representative in government to sympathise with you, to make pronouncements supporting your views and to criticise stuff you don't like when they need your vote... but don't expect your elected representative in government to represent your views in their actions when there are organisations with far more money than you who are willing to pay to get him or her to represent their views.

TV size vs. refresh rate (4, Insightful)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Buy your last one first (1)

Marrow (195242) | more than 3 years ago | (#36132988)

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

if you need this list, don't use this list (1)

PJ6 (1151747) | more than 3 years ago | (#36133014)

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.

amisick (1)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 3 years ago | (#36133030)

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

Ignore dead technologies, and check your power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36133038)

Dead technologies include IDE drives, PS/2, serial ports, PCI slots, VGA video ports, and CD-only drive bays. They're only useful for legacy components, and adapters or external support components are cheap. Ignore them, they just waste your time and system space.

Watch your power consumption. You may think "I can upgrade my RAM and CPU later if I want", but if you've already added half-a-dozen USB widgets and a spanking new 1 TB hard drive, you may find yourself out of electrical power and cooling for all those upgrades.

And, oh, yes. A pair of big RAM modules is always better than a slew of smaller modules of the same size. Easier upgrade path, easier to find a failure, and likely to take less coolling.

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