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A PC For Tightwads

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the pinching-a-penny-till-lincoln-cries dept.

The Almighty Buck 19

ThinSkin writes "What can a $159 fetch you these days? Apparently a PC that includes Linspire, a keyboard, mouse, and speakers. ExtremeTech's Loyd Case took the plunge with this $159 PC and come out quite impressed--with a little cheating of course. From the article: 'If you're willing to spend just a bit more for some more memory, you'd end up with a highly capable light duty office system for less than buying Microsoft Windows and Office.'"

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A message from SCO. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13965317)

Don't forget to pay your $699 licensing fee, you cocksmoking teabaggers.

cheap for a reason... (2, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#13965356)

ECS motherboard ... 250W noname power supply unit, AGP 4x support!!!!

If all you want is something to write emails with or whatever then that's good. ... I guess. If you want a PC to play games with or develop software this isn't it. 250W doesn't allow you to have [say] a decent CPU and multiple hard disks. Something most home developers require. etc..

I guess it serves a purpose but I'd rather see some innovation. This isn't creative, it's just OLD. How about you make a PC out of an IBM 405 [or 440] PPC processor, 128MB of SDRAM, 512M flash. some Linux distro, etc. That box would take far less power, be smaller and be just as capable to write emails.


[*] you could build the same PC out of a MIPS or ARM processor... I just have a PPC fetish lately :-)

Re:cheap for a reason... (3, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 8 years ago | (#13965428)

I wasn't aware that developers needed multiple hard drives. A fast CPU helps, it really depends. Writing code and running software isn't necessarily processor intensive. But this isn't meant to be a developer computer, I really don't see why that's even mentioned.

I thought ECS was some company that just makes junk disguised as something that might be useful.

For game play, one might as well just stick to a console computer.

Re:cheap for a reason... (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#13965508)

If you're a software developer who works for home and you don't have a lot of resources you need some short term stability. A raid-5 or raid-1 setup is a must. If you can manage another box to host it, all the power to ya [hehehe punny].

While a RAID setup is not a "backup" it's more reliable then just putting it on a single drive. Losing even a single "really productive day" of work can be disheartening and a setback.


Re:cheap for a reason... (2, Insightful)

Professor_UNIX (867045) | more than 8 years ago | (#13965700)

It'd be better to have a USB hard drive that you can periodically copy your code over to in order to back it up. Maybe even have a program that automatically does the backups every so often. With RAID you're going to lose your data even if you have 50 redundant drives and you accidently do a rm -rf on the directory.

Re:cheap for a reason... (2, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#13966181)

first off, copying to a device like raid or usb is NOT a backup you should rely on. In my case I have a cronjob that does nightlies to the RAID then I do manual burns to a CD.

Copying to another HD is a good temp storage but not a backup.


Re:cheap for a reason... (2, Informative)

Penguin Programmer (241752) | more than 8 years ago | (#13966873)

It's obviously not intended to be a gaming or development machine. It's intended to be a standard office machine.

An ECS motherboard, onboard video, small PSU, 256MB of RAM is exactly (it's creepy how exactly actually) the machine we buy for most people in our office. If I could tell my boss that a new computer was $159 (or $200 ... we're in Canada after all) including all the software, he'd be a lot more willing to replace the Celeron 333's we're still using. This can only help Linux by getting it into more homes and offices.

Re:cheap for a reason... (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#13970892)

When I'm buying desktops I always go ASUS or Gigabyte because they're more often than not decently priced and very stable. It also happens to help to shop at stores with good exchange policies. Once in a while you get bad boards but a quick replacement or BIOS upgrade [ASUS did mess up the A8N-E boards when they first shipped the BIOS was unworkable] is all they need.

On the otherhand when I chose ECS a few years back [around 2003 or so] I had no end of trouble. They didn't really support AGP and the overall board quality was just lame. If you're trying to save 30$ by going from ASUS to ECS ... I don't see the point. An hour of downtime costs you 30$ so you might as well pick a board that won't get you in that mess.

As for the other comments, a developer machine has to be decently powerful not only to compile code but to test and verify it. For instance, a quick test I usually do [weeds out almost every single bug I've encountered] of my bignum code is to run it through random vectors against a library I know works. [it also helps that I only work one of my math libraries at a time].

So each time I do a new optimization I run the code through millions of test vectors. Being able to do that in less time saves me time and money. For instance, my AMDx2 can do a million "across the board" tests in less than an hour. My Prescott P4 would take more than twice that. A cheapy VIA C3 would take even longer, etc, etc.

I'm assuming this box is solely meant for people who just want to chat and write emails [I suppose read them too]. If that's the case this is hardly a creative [or news] worthy solution.

It'd be like me selling compact cars from 1973 as a "economical solution" for poor people. The car from 1973 is likely a piece of shit, burns gas like a mo'fo, isn't environmentally friendly, etc..

Similarly this electron-guzzling kit from 2000 isn't power efficient, environmentally friendly, etc...


Re:cheap for a reason... (2, Insightful)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#13967381)

You must have a short memory or something. Five years ago the PC in question would be a spead demon, and I'm pretty sure people did more than write emails back then. Put Windows 2000, or Linux without the new versions of KDE or GNOME and you have a system that will fly.

Re:cheap for a reason... (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#13970716)

My point is with todays technology you can have a box capable of handling email that draws less current, requires less resources to create [and run] and contributes less to overall polution. The flipside too of using non-x86 is that you get thrown headfirst into the world of OSS which I think is a good thing.

A 400Mhz PPC [IBM 405] processor draws less than a Watt of power, in turn the power supply doesn't have to be as big [and wasteful, keep in mind they're not 100% efficient]. You won't need a huge motherboard, the cpu doesn't even need a fan, etc, etc.

Take 64MB of SDRAM, throw in a 512MB flash drive, 400Mhz PPC and typical I/O ports [USB. PS/2, Ethernet, sound, VGA] and you'd have a silent PC, that's a fraction the size of a typical PC that draws about as much current as your alarm clock radio. I'd make things like the ram and flashdrive changeable [e.g. use SODIMM and CF respectively] so you can upgrade and maintain as required [flash does wear out eventually...] but you get the jist.

It would be more than powerful enough to browse the web, handle emails and do typical office processing you'd do at home [e.g. spreadsheet for finances, writer for letters to family, etc].

My point of bitching is what Fry's is doing is not that special. They're taking technology from 5 years ago and selling it today. Keep in mind that it may have been "good" in 2000 but it still wasn't efficient. That 250W power supply is probably less than 60% efficient, the cpu likely takes over 40W, the spinning hard disk takes another 25W, the case is a lot bigger than it needs to be, etc, etc.

In short it's not resource efficient for the task it is meant to solve.


PC for the Low Paid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13965408)

I would like to be able to recommend a PC adequate for web browsing and chat rooms priced for the $10/hour Medicaid / Food Stamp single mom. Her child would use it for homework and she would use it for browsing the web and chat rooms.

Re:PC for the Low Paid (2, Interesting)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 8 years ago | (#13965632)

There are several angles to approach this. I think there are non-profit organizations in many cities that provide inexpensive computers. I've personally bought a lot of pretty functional computers on eBay. I am preparing two such computes to be sold or even given away locally now that I don't need them. Personally, I'd rather trust a $200 used computer than a $200 new computer. The trouble, I suppose, is finding reputable sellers and reliable models.

Re:PC for the Low Paid (1)

artifex2004 (766107) | more than 8 years ago | (#13966452)

So what's her real budget? My parents recently bought a $300 after rebates eMachine, which has a sempron 3100+, a 100GB HD, 256 MB RAM, DVD reader/CD writer combo, and Windows XP Home license. Even better, a 17" flat front CRT and some Canon Pixma printer model I haven't even looked at yet were also part of the deal. Just keep watching your paper for local sales -- they got theirs at Office Depot. Now if my mom will ever actually send those forms in...

Re:PC for the Low Paid (1)

thesnarky1 (846799) | more than 8 years ago | (#13968600)

I got one of these also for a campus organization I was web master (read: everyone's tech bitch) for. They're not bad, a tad slow to load Macromedia Suite (the reason we bought the thing) but for $300, what do you want?

True, there's not a lot of room to upgrade, which is what I always look for in a personal system. I think that by throwing on a case you can upgrade, the extra $20 at newegg (how much I got mine for, which has 3 spare CD/DVD bays and 4 HD bays) saves you so much more down the line when all you have to do to upgrade is slap the new part in there.

I upgrade my friend's systems here at school, and the biggest hassle is always explaining to them: "Sorry, you can't do X, because you need another Y". They've got low-end mass-produced models, and no upgrade space.

With any computer this cheap, I'd be looking for a way to upgrade in, say, a year, when I could put in a GB of RAM and another hard drive for the same price ($150ish).

You don't need much these days (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 8 years ago | (#13965843)

You might need a good PC for all your favorite games (unless your favorites are over 3 years old), but any cheap PC will usually be enough to run your favorite desktop apps. I bought one of those Linspire PC's for my dad for $269, which had 256mb ram, an 80gb HD, and a DVD/CDRW combo drive. It runs pretty smoothly. The only big downside is that they used a video chipset which was incompatible with Linux, including the Linspire that was preinstalled. And the hard drive is held in by only two screws, allowing it to wobble.

Re:You don't need much these days (1)

paz5 (542669) | more than 8 years ago | (#13970010)

I feel the need to chime in with my cheap computer comment...

I was able to pick up a $220 dollar computer (granted after rebates) with 512MB ram, 160Gb sata drive, 16x dl dvd+-RW, amd 64 3500+. The biggest down side for me is that it says compaq :-( but the only part that was bad on it was the cheap multi card reader. Called in and they shipped me a new one same day shipping for free.

keep an eye out for those 6 hour only sales at compUSA... The key is to look at upgrades carfuly.. for 20 dollars that machine was upgraded from a 1.8GHz sempron.

Bargain PCs (1)

FreakUnique (927847) | more than 8 years ago | (#13968685)

It's the old adage of you get what you pay for. These PCs are perfect for a first PC where the user might not be able to handle a high end PC's capabilities.

Not everyone is after a high end gaming machine. Some literally just want to use an office type program, surf the web, email, and play Solitaire.

It's the stupid salespeople selling these expensive computers just for the purpose of getting their profits up so they can win that incentive the big bosses put out. Not all salespeople are like that but there are that sort of salespeople out there.

Imagine a... (2, Insightful)

el_womble (779715) | more than 8 years ago | (#13968969)

...beowulf cluster, ok don't this would suck as much at this as much as an XBox, but I think the target market for this should be geeks, not noobs. As the article said, in order to get it working they had to put 512MB RAM in to get it acting like a modern PC. I can sympathize with this, but really, should this machine be allowed a GUI?

It's got a good network card, a half decent amount of RAM and a harddisk. I'm seeing a fileserver, bittorent client, tomcat, CVS, distcc, firewall, game/print server etc. It takes cheap DDR, so if you want to run JBoss or MySQL that is a real possibility, but what I'm thinking is stick a $20 WiFi card in it, and stick it in a cupboard/basement away from harms reach.

I have a PowerBook and a iMac G5, and although both of these are fully capable of running all of those applications, I like keeping my development boxes 'clean'. Farming out essential, but resource nibbling tasks out to smaller, disposable boxes makes a lot of sense to me.

ECS Motherboard (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 8 years ago | (#13970630)

Everything was ok up until the ECS 741GX-M. That was the turn off point right there.

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