Saturday, October 2, 2010

Wasteful Technology Habits - Think Before You Buy

In America many people are always buying things they don't really need. That fifteenth pair of shoes, a third car, a second house... Well you get the idea. I guess it should really be no surprise then that people in America are also over paying for computer hardware and software they do not need, nor will they ever come close to fully utilizing.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have gone to someone's house to clean out a system that is used strictly for webrowsing and typing papers and the system is a total power house. Maybe it is just myself, but it seems wasteful to use a 2.4ghz Quad core sporting 8gigs of RAM to just compose papers.

Why does this happened? Well there are really two people to blame here. The first is the sales person. Odds are the system was purchased from someone who works on a commission and as such it is to their benefit to sell a more expensive computer than a cheaper one. The second is the consumer themselves. If they had been informed on what they are buying in the first place they never would have purchased something so ridiculously powerful for their simple needs.

Beyond these two factors I think another misconception that is ingrained in people is that technology has to be expensive. A computer that costs half as much? That can't possibly last as long as the more expensive model or meet my needs as readily.

In the same manner I believe people have become accustomed to be gouged on the cost of software. The old "you get what you pay for" motto sticks in the back of their mind and because of this I think many don't give free alternatives a fair chance.

OpenOffice meets the needs of easily 95% of home users (and a good deal of those that use office software at work) and most of those people using an, often times illegal, version of Photoshop would be able to accomplish the exact same tasks using the legally free GIMP. Beyond this beginning Linux distros such as Linux Mint or Pinguy OS easily fulfill all the desktop computing needs of your average user.

With all of this in mind, why don't you see Linux, OpenOffice, or GIMP on the shelf at your local computer store? Simple:

There is no money in it for the retailer.

None of these products come with the, often hundreds of dollars, price tag attached that the commerical products have. Beyond this if a customer is using a Linux system the store will not have that same customer returning in six months to have their system cleaned out of viruses and "brought back up to speed".

The lesson to be learned here/the point I would like to get across is this - if you are not familiar with technology, bring someone with you who is when you go to pick out new hardware/software! It could end up saving you a good deal of money in the long run.

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. People also want the biggest and baddest thing out there

  2. Nice article, way to go.

    Funny, cuz I was just looking around for something for my mom-in-law.

    What I'm seeing is the Meerkat NetTop (currently $239) at (that's the no optical drive version), and the Limbo 4110 (currently $299) at I could also buy a computer from, I've had a good experience with a machine from there - for only $269.

    All of my machines run GNU/Linux of course, which comes with a universe of free software. So I get to use the money I save to buy computers for members of my family (lucky them, lol). Here's how I look at it: I could buy 1 computer tower for $1500 today, or I could buy a NEW computer for $500 every 2 years for the next 6 years. To me, the $500 option makes a lot more sense. Besides, technology gets old very quickly anyway.

    Oh and one more thing... OpenOffice is great, but now I use the newly (almost-forked) LibreOffice by The Document Foundation instead ;*). I do this because this is what will come in the next version of Ubuntu GNU/Linux. Get it at
    LibreOffice is OpenOffice, but it's the going-forward version, that has a lot of NEW support (including Google, Novell, and key members from the original OpenOffice).


  3. Nice article. Would have been even better without your "too" typo.
    Linux rules (my desktop)!!!

  4. My new favorite over-expenditure: The new assistant manager wanted something better than dual core with 4 gigs of ram. What did he get? Dual zeon (8 cores total) workstation with 12 gigs ram. What does he spend most of his day doing? Checking the nagios server (through the browser), other web surfing, and maybe some heavy excel/outlook usage i guess. My favorite part is that my netbook with an atom processor boots ubuntu faster than vista 7 on that beast of a workstation.

    Perhaps people get overly powerful computers because that's what it takes to make windows run at a decent pace.

  5. Shanon says "Besides, technology gets old very quickly anyway". I'm running Linux Mint 9 and Peppermint on a 1999 Toshiba laptop with 512 megabytes of ram, both these OS or 2010 versions,

    This system can't run windows xp or vista. it came with windows 98, installed on it. Now with Linux this Toshiba can run all the latest Linux application software without any problems what so ever, Computer only becomes obsolete when you can't run an up to date operating system.

  6. Excellent post. Thank you. I've been using Xubuntu on various old laptops for over three years now. I wouldn't have it any other way. :D

  7. "Here's how I look at it: I could buy 1 computer tower for $1500 today, or I could buy a NEW computer for $500 every 2 years for the next 6 years."

    The thing to keep in mind here is that while this mentality is certainly wise economically, consider the environmental sustainability of this. It means you now have 3 computers being junked in that period instead of one. However, that being said, there might be just as much to throw away in the $1500 beast as there is in the 3 $500 machines.

    And as one person pointed out, a $500 machine can often be very useful beyond 2 years.

  8. I scrapped parts from older system (19 inch crt monitor from 1996, 11 yearold klipsch speakers, 1995 keyboard, 11 yearold logitech optical mouse, a case from an old pentium 3 server, used a 6 yearold still solid and not dieing 120gb hard drive...

    I built my own desktop.

    Geforce 260 (150$ after rebate), 8gb of ram (got on sale with rebates for 20$ per 4gb, REALLY good time to buy ram when I got it), 80$ amd motherboard, and a 120$ (at the time) 3core phenomII 720 cpu. Corsair power supply 550watt 60$..

    That system didn't cost terribly much to build at all.
    150+80+120+60+40... thats 450$

    My only lacking area really is my hard drive, and I could have bought one for like 50 bucks.

    Its a tad overkill, to be honest. 450$ was overkill, think about that.

  9. I know of someone who's currently running a quad-Xeon system, 8GB of memory, and he doesn't even use it for basic email or web surfing! He turns it on once or twice a month, to store his pictures from a web site (that he downloads on a different machine and transports with virgin flash drives), and talk about how it's too slow for him, that he needs a bigger machine, and at least a half-GB video card to occasionally view still images at 1024x768 (and with 16-bit color).

    He's expecting to dump enough money to get a new car on his next machine, and once he finds a salesman with low enough scruples, that's likely what he will do. Of course, the salesman will have to be able to provide a machine with Windows, but not Vista or "That Seven Crap" on it, and know how to make it look like Windows 95. Linux can't be any good, they don't charge enough for it.

    While he's tried MacOS X, he gets frustrated because it doesn't work the way his Windows 95 system did, and he can't quit Windows for long enough to get used to anything else. He gets mad when the Mac does what he tells it to, instead of giving error messages or ignoring him.

    Honestly, for what he does with a machine, an iPad would likely be ideal, but how would he load floppies onto it? And it doesn't run Windows 98, or XP, so he might have to learn something... and he can't have that!

    Overkill doesn't begin to cover it. I suppose it just goes to show how rare "common sense" can really be.