The Computers Trade

By EP / CosmiK

In reaction to the Hugi 28 article "Unwanted junk" by TAD, I have written this article. It's about computer trades in general.

First of all I have to talk a bit about myself: I'm working as a PC technician in a library inside one of the biggest secondary schools of France (2700 pupils and 300 teachers). I tell you that because I install a lot of software and so I can talk a bit about it.

Well in fact, I can say I spend my time to install!!! Why? Simply because pupils destroy what I have done, Windows destroys itself, a lot of patches are applied, a lot of cookies are installed on the hardisks and there is also a lot of porn stuff :) This forces me to reinstall the whole computers system and apps from time to time. So what's the link between this article and the one by TAD? Please be patient!!!

I have given you the context, now the facts: I spend a lot of time installing office 97 / 2000 / XP and especially a lot of time installing the cliparts. Easily half an hour to install the full Office XP package and one other half for the cliparts!!! Yes, this is pure junk but it's wanted!!! People have no graphic talent, no time to draw, no ideas, and even nothing to write!!! So they fill their documents with a lot of graphics that have already been done, and that's it, their document is done.

But now let's talk about the installation process and an analysis of why it is done this way. When I install a program under Windows, each time the process can be summarized as clicking less than 10 times for 1 minute and waiting a moment more or less long for the copy process from the DVD / CD to the hardrive to complete. When the program is coded by an important firm like Microsoft / Adobe / MacroMedia / Symantec, the process is at least 10 minutes long, when the softwares are shareware like Ad Aware, or similar, the process is in the worst case 2 minutes long!!! Yes, there is a ratio of 5 between a small app and a major application used by millions of people like Office, Acrobat Reader, DreamWaver or Norton Antivirus!!! And each time a big company is involved, there are presents, new programs, new stuff, new apies, new functions, new things added meaning the whole program is quite bigger : Acrobat reader 6.1 archive is 18 MB!!! That means 36 MB on hardisk + 18 MB if you forget to delete the install program to read a tiny 45 KB pdf file!!! I know a pdf reader under Linux which is 15 KB long. Yes it don't do all the so usefull function AR 6.1 can do, but who cares: I use normal display, zoom display, printing, and search facilities, nothing else is necessary for a normal use.

Why have apps become so big? Hey guys, be sure of one thing: the coders in these firms have no time to optimise, they even have no time to code: everything is calling functions stored in big dll or plugins. And be sure of one another fact too: money rules this world!!! You spend 30 minutes installing office? Well buy a faster CD-Drive. Your CD is already 52 or 54X? Well your hardisk is surely not enough faster to complete the process quicker... Why not changing it? You have a fast CD and a fast HD, well there is perhaps a problem with your motherboard, the chipset is lame for sure. Change the motherboard... You have a good motherboard? Well so it's your processor which is not enough as fast as it should, let's change it!!! It doesn"t help? Your sys admin is annoyed by such a big time to wait for such a simple procedure? Well why not try to make a software repository on a server? Buy network cards, cables, hubs or switchs and that's it!!! Not fast enough? Hey use gigabit Lan!!! Change everything: the network cards, the cables, the switches and it will be faster. Not convinced? Well for sure you have reached the limit of the IDE PATA, let's use the new SATA, it will speedup things a lot. But you know what? The PATA limit is 133 MB theorically, sorry but in reality, the data is not transferred as fast as that. It you have a 3 MB/sec transfer rate on IDE drives you are lucky!!! 133/3=44 times slower as it should be theoretically!!!

Yes, it's trade secrets: lies in the advertisement, lies in the technical documentation, lies on the web sites, well that's it. And this is the case in every aspect of the computer trade: everything is done under PC to make money. The apps are big on disk to take time to be installed so people upgrade and update to get a faster PC but in fact as everytime the data to tranfer becomes bigger and bigger, there is no time gain. Proofs? Hey, the Atari ST uses 16 color graphics, the Amiga 32 color graphics, on the PC everything began to get interesting for sales with 256 colors and 256=16*16 or 32*8, so the image files need 16 or 8 times more space and time and a harddisk to be installed.

Now we no longer have just 65536 colors, no we have 16 millions colors and it's not enough, we will get more than 24 bits graphics in the future, we will get billions of colors. The sound is also a good stuff for sales: 8 bit sounds on the Atari and the Amiga but now we have 16 bit sounds and the new standard is 24 bit. More bits, more space needed to store, meaning bigger and also faster hard drives, and RAMs. This is the storing process, but we need also to view the pics and listen to the sound so we need faster video cards and faster soundcards.

When the MMX was released, specialised press have said it was a joke. That was the case: I have read before that with MMX a computer (P133) could go to the net using 5% of its CPU power to emulate the 56Kb modem. In reality, this was 95% of the CPU power which was used by the emulated modem. Too bad and a modem worth 45 at this time, changing the CPU was far more expensive: 450!!! Well MMX was used after, but for other things: it can do matrix operation quite quickly as a mathematician in a research laboratory have explained me. And with the multimedia, MMX was ready to prove what it was really meant to: compute a lot of multimedias datas quickly with SIMD instructions (Simple Instruction, Multiple Data, think it as a function A applied to x datas. Quite fast and don't take space, sadly at the start MMX was impossibleto use in the same time as the FPU as these instructions use the same registers). Well I know that because I have read technical and programmer documentation, if you ask any sellers at any shop, he will not know what these instructions do.

This is another method to sell: ignorance is good for sales. Yes, when people don't know, they are easily convinced by salesmen. And there is another method in computer sales which is important to notice: when a new product is made by a big company, you can be sure that it's incompatible with old technology. That means once it is on the market, all old computers will be rapidly considered as not usable especially for games: "hey guys, we have used MMX, too bad for you if you don"t have it yet, you will need it to run our so good games...". Yes guys, they kill the old computers and their old technology just to force you moving on new ones. And that's it: yeah guy I have a P4 2.6 GHz but I know a guy who has a 3.4 GHz machine. I'm allready obsolete, too bad... That's how the trade works: imitate the others or they will never talk to you anymore. You don't do, or buy like me, you're not my friend. That's trend, that's fashion, that's consumption system.

It applies everywhere: in the computer trend it is more visible than everywhere because one month is enough to see your computer loosing 1/20 of its value, 6 month to lose 1/4 of its value and so on... and computers don't get a bigger value because they became rare, old C64 will not be sold more than 50: emulation rules!!! So what's the solution? Use alternative. Bill Gates isn't really an inventor: everything which is implemented nowadays in Windows was allready know by Amiga / Mac / Unix users long times ago. And no, it doesn't need 1 GB of harddisk space, nor 256 MB of RAM, nor 1 GHz 32 bits CPU to run. Yes, the Amiga OS is running on one 880 KB disk with 512 KB of RAM and a 7.8 MHz 16 bits CPU. But as Commodore haven"t done good advertising they were dead!!! But using alternative everytime is nowadays impossible: the word format is changing with every version meaning your application will not be able to make documents modifiable once modified by the future version of Word. You will be traped under Windows. It's true now and it was true also in the past: the Amiga wasn't able to read in its first system version, the MS-Dos disk format, we used DR DOS to transfer modules (*. mod) to friends or "enemies" on the ST / PC!!! You see it clearly: everything is trade, catch the customer, sell him something which will make him dependent from you and take him away from the other competitors products.

Looks like wars: Do you remember the Atari ST and the Amiga wars? Do you know what a MAC user think of a PC user? That's the same story as the Amiga and the ST. That's trade too!!! We where cheated by salesmen. Windows / Linux? The same think: trade. People who have money buy windows products, people which are a bit more conscious and who don't have money, use Linux. The market is divided. Divide to reign easier. So what to do? Nothing!!! Sadly we are all traped, what we can do is just buying the least. For instance I buy a totally new, at the top computer each 5 years I avoid buying not really necessary stuff. I listen to mods composed under Amiga and PC, listen to free non commercial mp3 music made by free artists availlable on the net (try and believe me the old cracktros 20 Kb max sized tunes are far better than the best mp3 available on virgin stores.

And guys who don't love me because I don't think, don't do, don't be like them? I ignore them, free thinking, or to be short, freedom of thought and actions is more important than anything. Real friend, accept your differences. If you can't be yourself, you are already dead. I don't buy every material stuff I find too. I do sport, have good time and live my life, trying not to be traped by anybody. When I see a product with only pros and no cons, I analyse all these pros to see if they are not real pros but in fact cons listed as pros: this is a marketing man trading technics to show only pros and no cons because when you've found the best and to be brief, the perfect product, you stop searching around and buy. Believe me guys, the perfect product is the one which is not overclockable, but do the maximum at the right price and the right frequency: buying something 150 higher than another compatible product is usually meaning getting more from it. That's the true with good resellers, and in everything is life try to buy stuff from good resellers.

Try also to be realistic when you buy: nowadays products especially in the computer trade are so competitive that no product is equal to another. Each one are different: the vide card X cost C and the Y card cost also C , but X and Y are different, one is faster at moving video memory, the other is faster in 3D. You can't have the card which do all the functions at the fastest speed. The more expensive card isn't the best: paying 30% more than the second best card for just 5% of speed difference is a rip-off and you will never use this power. In fact, something which is badly coded, will never run at the right speed, never even with a billion times faster machines: a lot of software are badly written without video synchro for example, and now LCD screens are able to display only 30 frames per second, so, having the ability to produce 500 frames per second is not a good idea!!!

Be sure of one thing too: salesmen will always have something to sell you: if there is nothing to sell, they are dead. Usually don't be cheated by the software products supplied with the hardware: it's here to drawn your mind in non necessary details. All software can be bought separatly, or be downloaded later. These software presents are poisoned ones: they take space from your HD, they take time to be installed and they cost a performance loss for your system. HP, Packard-Bell, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, Dell and others big companies are specialist to build PC with 1/3 of the hardisk full of non used at all stuff. And don't forget that saving a few money here and there on something as simple as a keyboard or a mouse can be really annoying after: allmost all parts of a computer equipment is used intensively all day long during years. Quality products will make your computer trip better. Quality products aren't necessary sold on your computer shop near you: people want cheap products, not quality products. For example the best keyboards on this universe are KeyTronic one and mine was bought using the internet market. If you want quality, be prepared to pay for it: work a bit to make some resumes, some web sites and with the earned money you will be able to buy a really faster machine. Don't forget also that the longer you stay in front of your computer, the less you will be loving it: things done too often have no taste, that means I have also to be less and less near my computer. It's best for my brain not to be all the time connected to the net, nor hypnotized by my monitor / TV.

Last but not least, remember also, that there is progress: old hardware can't do what we can do today, but if we have better machine, we don't do the old task really faster because what is the most slow part of a computing system is the human in front of the screen!!! Yeah! You, me, and even the fastest typing guy, will not be able to reach the limit of the keyboard transfer rate: 75 chars/sec!!! You, me, and everybody use our computer at 5% of its power, so please, use special software which use your CPU power to help the research. Good meditation.

EP = Emmanuel Poirier / CoSmiK