When my friends ask for laptop-buying advice I tell them if they like the keyboard and screen, then its just plain hard to be disappointed with anything new.
I think I can pinpoint when this happened - It was the SSD. Getting an SSD was the last upgrade I ever needed.
Above that, PCs aren't necessary for a lot of people, because people do not need $2000 Facebook and email machines. For the median person, if you bought a PC in 2006, then got an iPad (as a gift or for yourself) and started using it a lot, you might find that you stopped turning on your PC. How could you justify the price of a new one then?
Yet if there was a major cultural shift to just tablets (which are great devices in their own right), I would be very worried. It's hard(er) to create new content on a tablet, and I don't really want that becoming the default computer for any generation.
I think its extremely healthy to have the lowest bar possible to go from "Hey I like that" to "Can I do that? Can I make it myself?"
I think its something hackers, especially those with children should ask themselves: Would I still be me, if I had grown up around primarily content consumption computing devices instead of more general purpose laptops and desktops?
Tablets are knocking the sales off of low-end PCs, but we as a society need the cheap PC to remain viable, if we want to turn as many children as possible into creators, engineers, tinkerers, and hackers.
The way forward isn't to try and keep cheap PCs viable for creativity's sake, but to ensure that creative desires are being met on the newer devices. Would I have learned memory management and dual booting if I'd had a tablet instead of a 386? Probably not. But now that same money buys a high end tablet and a pile of hours for an EC2 micro instance.
Would I still be me? No, I would be even better. All those weeks wasted fighting with modem racks for my BBS I'd gladly trade for weeks spent on a Nexus 10 and a linode.
As a result, I spent all of my childhood and teenage years reading (mostly fantasy and sci-fi; several books a week, at my peak) and programming. I taught myself programming in 7th grade because I really wanted to play Sim City, but having no gaming computers/consoles, I couldn't. However, I did have a programmable calculator for my math class.
I spent all of middle school and high school programming my own games on this underpowered (a few mhz of CPU and a few kb of memory), inconvenient (typing thousands of lines of code on this tiny keyboard is a feat) device (and yes, I did make a turn-by-turn Sim City for the TI-82). While I was doing this, a lot of my friends were playing Warcraft 3, The Sims, and watching dumb TV shows (early to mid 2000s, reality TV was just becoming big in France).
Similarly, my girlfriend's parents were very anti-TV etc. As a result, she spent her childhood and teenage years drawing, and eventually she went to a top art school (RISD) and now makes a living from her illustration and teaching art.
I'm not sure who I would be if I had grown up with an iPad and a playstation, or who my girlfriend would be if her parents had let her watch TV; no one can tell. However, I think our situations worked out really well for us; and when I have kids/teenagers (not for another decade or so), I will most definitely give them a life analog to what I experienced rather than a media-consumption heavy one. For instance, I haven't had TV ever since I moved out of my parent's house (I do have a projector for watching movies from the computer), and intend to keep it that way.
I obviously have a fairly tech heavy life right now, as a tech worker in SF, but I am trying to cut down. I am noticing that I whip out my phone every time I have a spare 30 seconds, I have several laptops and iPads laying around the house, etc. - and I like it less and less. I'm slowly selling away my excess devices, and am thinking of getting rid of my iPhone when my contract runs out (and just get a dumbphone as a replacement for emergencies). I bought a really cheap netbook, installed archlinux+xmonad on it, and am using it as my primary machine at home for web browsing + programming + LaTeX. It's harder to get distracted with this machine.
In 2011, Tom Preston-Werner said the only hardware he had at home were a waffle maker, a microwave and a bike- I like that mentality.
19 year old me would have pre-ordered a Google Glass from day one and used it with religious fervor; now, I am absolutely not interested in such a device, as I know it is just the ad billboard of the 21st century manufactured by Google.
I still have a few guilty digital pleasures; for example, I buy a lot of used video games that I wanted to play in my childhood and never could (mostly Game Boy Advance/Game Cube- the upside is that you can get 20 of those games used on Amazon for the price of 3 new current-gen games).
My hope is that over the next few months and years, I will revert to reading as much as I used to, and spend less time on Facebook/Twitter/etc. (HN is not completely in that bucket, as it leads me to write introspective comments like this, which I think is good). I think a big part of it is removing the devices that will call for your attention. My Game Boy Advance or MP3 player will never call for my attention- it just waits for me to use it. However, my iPad or iPhone will call for my attention every few minutes, which is not liberating at all. Tech should be liberating.
I've got something of a different view. I was never limited TV or game consumption. My parents had the mindset of 'you'll have to learn to self moderation at some point, better to do it when the stakes are small'. They wanted me to learn to recognize when something I enjoyed was having a negative impact. They would guide me subtly by asking me to think about time spent in various areas and what that meant. Now as an adult I've not struggled with moderation in any area. Never got pulled into MMO style games, diet isn't a challenge etc... My biggest worry is that I work too much and don't make enough time for fun.
I remember finding it odd when I'd visit a friends house and they were only allowed a certain number of sodas per day, and had regimented rules about computer time. Later on as adults, these friends almost universally struggled with various addictions real and digital (I've seen lives ruined by MMOs). To me it appeared that they weren't able to manage their own desires without outside inputs. Obviously it was a different experience for you.
My younger brother always had a really hard time with the constraints my parent set - he would watch TV and play video games in secret, and even sneakily used their credit cards to pay for the MMO he played (he was in his early teens, and my parents didn't give us any allowance- they'd just give us some money if we wanted to go out with friends, or if we wanted a book they'd buy it for us. That worked for me, but not him). At some point my parents did try to not set any limits on his TV watching habits etc., thinking he would learn to self-moderate, as you described; for those few years, he basically spent his life in front of the TV and video games, doing literally nothing else. He's in his early 20s now, and still having a hard time with such matters.
What worked for you may or may not have worked for me, and definitely didn't work on my brother; what worked for me would have probably not worked for you, and definitely did not work for my brother.
Humans are interesting creatures, aren't they :)
I had one or two good friends whose parents were more like yours, and I loved going to their house because we would play video games until 4am and eat pizza and drink unlimited Coca Cola. Doing this once or twice a month was like heaven for me, and my parents were aware of it but were fine with it happening- I guess they thought "as long as it's not in my house and not too often, it's fine". However, one of those friends did not do immensely well later in college/life, to which my parents respond "I'm not surprised".
How I wish those questions had clear cut black/white answers :P
The reason I occasionally let him stay with friends for the junk food/games/TV binge with friends is so that he learns all types of experiences. I don't believe in banning anything, just regulating. How else can we understand our world if we don't experience it for ourselves?
If I were to host the junk food/TV/games binges, I'd have to buy the console and games and stock the junk food ... Things that I just don't want to do .. So it's easier to let someone else do it.
In return, I take others kids on bush walks, to BBQs, roller skating, etc - so their kids get to do something different too.
There may be some "it doesn't happen in my house" as you suggest, but it's not my primary or secondary motivator.
You mention the gaming binges at friend's houses. If you have the opportunity, ask the parents if those marathon sessions happen on a normal night. There are a few instances in my youth were I recall overindulgence, and most were at the urging of friends. Friends who were manic in their desire to get as much time in as possible before their parents returned. The idea of 'limits against overuse don't apply the second you leave my house' is precisely what got many of my friends in trouble later in life. Merely trying to assist with perspective. Please don't take this as a critique of your view (as I'm in agreement) or parenting ability (congrats on the high test scores).
>I'm dubious about your claim, particularly as most levels of freedom and responsibility are gradual with most kids ... But I have seen stranger things.
I'd like to point out that the scenario I describe wasn't a free for all. Falling short of expectations was met with discipline and restrictions as any child could expect. Simply that regulation of tv/game time was a personal choice provided that expectations were met.
The important part is the guidance. Finding the best way to show the kiddos how to recognize a bad habit. I'm thinking a good middle ground would be a discussion where the time limits are decided, but then applied universally. Something doesn't stop being a bad habit just because you're at a friends house.
It's becoming increasingly important to get college right the first time through if only because of insane, rising costs. If it were cheap, I could probably find a class on self-moderation.
On the bright side, I find most of today's games boring, so it's rather easy to get productive.
There is some special about introducing yourself to programming on limited hardware like that. It's the sort of device that you can grow into, and which challenges you to get innovative when you start to reach its limitations. I don't believe that sort of environment is the only environment that somebody with a hacker mentality and approach can be created, but it does seem to be a good way to do it.
Iphones are great for tourtists. Unneccesary otherwise.
But I also spent so much of my time drawing, painting, and programming because I love creating things. I am unsure if TV had any negative effects. The ownership and pleasure you get from your own creations is unlike anything that TV or games can provide, and it is utterly addictive.
This feeling has been creeping on me ever since I succumbed to a smartphone for work a few years ago.
Instead of releasing me from some of the lower-level tasks I deal with day to day, this phone, these devices, nag me to pay attention to all of my friends back home, all of my old classmates, former colleagues, and all of the things they're producing / forwarding / commenting on.
I moved out of the US this summer and it took me a while to get a SIM here. I had roaming data on my work phone but couldn't use it much for the obvious cost.
It's been liberating to just live inside my head and in my immediate environment these past months. When I finally got a local number, I put the SIM in a 20EUR Samsung flip phone. I find few issues with eventually just living with that phone.
I think what I've feeling, and trying to describe, is a rejection of expanding my consciousness into the Internet. A large portion of my social groups use those social networks as extensions of themselves, for communication and interaction.
With immediate access to those channels it's difficult to ignore the draw of that technology. And not using those services regularly ends up being the same as not using them at all.
I've got a 4th gen iPad, a laptop, an external monitor + kb + mouse and a Lumia 920 right now. I still wonder at times if I should cut back a bit, but most of these devices have their uses for me.
Same here by the way, no tv, my laptops are my wife second hand ones, never owned an Apple device.
But if that is your final point, I very much disagree. Besides the fact that a computer keyboard and mouse are often vastly superior to the cramped peripherals you typically see connected to a tablet, large screens and user interfaces designed for large screens often have a huge ergonomic and productivity advantage over the tiny, touch centric interfaces for tablets.
Note: the previous paragraph only applies to the current state of apps for creative and engineering activities. It could be that five years from now, tablets and their software for creating content have evolved to a point where they rival or surpass desktop software. Or they might not. Either way, my point is that we're not there now, and creating software etc on tablets is a sub optimal experience today.
Maybe with some sort of accessory keyboard, but then you are looking at more of an ad hoc laptop than a pure tablet.
Having a 1.5 or 2 pound laptop, with a 12 hour battery life that you can detach the keyboard from for $300 is a much better form factor than the current typical laptop. Many of these tablets also come with wacom pen digitizers or touch, allowing a creative input that is missing in many laptop form factors.
I won't be surprised to see full IDEs that could be viable in creating general purpose apps in near future. I really think Android & iOS will eventually become the next 'desktop' OS with a full suite of apps as powerful as the current desktop set of applications. Concerns about tablets as consumption only devices will go away probably within the next decade as the world transitions to these 'mobile' OSes.
The main downsides of these devices for programming is screen real estate, CPU speed, and support from major IDE/compiler vendors.
Devil's advocate: if that is true, then why are macbook pros such a hot sell? I'm typing this here in a college library's lobby. When I look around, I see roughly 3/4 of the laptop-using students are using a macbook pro, with a few macbook airs littered around. If I were to walk around and glance at what people were working on, it'd probably be something like 70% youtube/facebook and 30% using some word processor.
My point is that the consumer's decision to buy or abandon a product isn't solely driven by how good the product is, the value of the new item as a "status icon" also has to be taken into account. All you need to get the customer to justify that $2000 price tag is a culture of rabid consumerism and the garauntee that they will be cooler than their friends if they buy this extremely expensive laptop that does all sorts of things they will never ever use.
In your example involving the 2006 PC and the new iPad, I would argue that a huge contributor to the consumer's abandoning of the PC is because it's nowhere near the potency of a status icon as an iPad is.
Phones satisfy the mobile convergence thing between organisers, phones, cameras and handheld games. Tablets satisfy the "computer as a bicycle" vision of Jobs and bring portable computing to the masses. But neither are really full featured enough for a developer or a college student.
When it comes to a full featured, keyboard equipped, programmable device there is bugger all that is light, powerful, has a long battery life and ships with a decent environment (posix, term, ssh) out of the box. Dell's XPS 13 DE delivers a bit of the picture but it doesn't have the quality bundled iWork apps that would appeal to a student and has worse battery life. They are getting there though.
The rest of the laptop market is hindered by shipping with Windows only and the difficulty of getting pre and post-sales driver support for the developers and students who require an environment like Linux. The industry has really fucked themselves trying to keep to the model of the glory days.
Hopefully Steam will help set things straight by creating a large mainstream market that more niche users like developers, students and scientists can benefit from.
Manufacturers are going to have to stop the race to the bottom and start building less models, higher quality and in bigger volume if they are to compete with Apple in price, quality and profitability. And they are going to have to explore well integrated Chrome OS and Linux packages and work on developing drivers with better performance and power efficiency.
They are fine machines, but if you don't care about subjective things, like how a laptop looks, how much it weighs (an extra pound or 2 never really genuinely matters to a use case), and you only care about getting exactly what you need (not want) for the lowest price, then there is no way you would ever buy a MBP. They are a product that we convince ourselves that we need or deserve because we lust after it, even when a cheaper alternative would do just fine.
I have bought macs for a while, but if I have to be really honest with myself there was always a cheaper alternative that was 'good enough', it's just that I subjectively want apple's products because they are 'nicer'.
Quite good for those of us that work across multiple OSs.
Just install GNU/Linux on VMWare with CPU virtualization enabled and get two OS in a laptop with the minimum of fuss.
And far less battery life.
I often run Ubuntu or Windows on my MBA with VMWare to compile some software. It's one of the best methods to soak your battery empty quickly.
I use GNU/Linux since 1995 and on a laptop still looks like 1995 to me, in terms of graphics card, battery, hibernation and wireless support.
My Asus, which was sold with a supported Linux hardware, does not hibernate.
In terms of battery life I am yet to find a laptop where GNU/Linux lasts longer than Windows.
Who would be more popular?
A) A rich guy who thinks he can buy friends, by inviting everybody to an expensive cocktail to an exclusive restaurant?
B) A guy who own lots of expensive high-tech and luxury car + his own house?
C) A guy with charme and charisma, who can make anyone feel special, or have a fun time, even in the dirtiest place?
Choose yourself. I believe you all experienced A,B and C already. But I would rely on the scientific evidence that C) has a higher long term chance of staying an attractor of popularity. (I'm sorry, I couldn't put the references together, but hope you understand)
Side story: A weird guy in my old class possessed a bluetooth wireless headphones with integrated mp3 player in 2006, a 3000EUR laptop and all sorts of other very expensive gimmickry. That didn't make him cooler at all. People still didn't like him and it just made him more vulnerable to attacks of the some of the more primitive pupils.
Trust me, you can buy social status. If you pay enough, you have the status.
> Someone can be butt ugly, poor and stupid, but still have the highest social status and popularity in most social environments.
Most social environments he exposes himself to, yes. Most social environments, no.
edit: parent comment has completely changed since I replied
In Marin, I see so many attractive women who settled for some fugly dude just because he has money. Maybe, that's what keeps guy's striving for the next Facebook?
I could go on and on about this subject, but I'll get
My grandma taught me the saying "More money than sense." . It's proven incredibly wise
That's exactly what I'm disappointed with on everything new. The Thinkpad T60p, from 2006 remains superior on both points to everything new from my point of view.
While a very fine machine in it's day, the screen, battery life, processing power, disk speed, size, and lack of heat on a modern machine like the 13" Retina MacBook Pro are on another level. You're talking about 7 years of evolution.
I've used a 15" Retina Macbook Pro. The screen is not better. Sure, it's higher density and brighter, but the viewing angles are not better. Subjectively, I'd say the color reproduction is worse (I used them next to each other). Reflections, glare and fingerprints are significantly worse on the MBP.
I have a one year old MBP that I haven't used much; I'm
not sure why, but the screens seem the same?
I do know one thing about most old laptops; they were made
to last longer than 2 years.
That said--HP--as made crappy laptops for quite some time.
I bought one a few years ago and it was horrid on an
engineering basis, but it looked Slick.
Getting back to the original story, I don't think I've bought a desktop since 2003. I prefer using them, but laptops are just so convenient.
They've done some deep level fixes which just makes everything flow and stick together as one "netbook" user-experience in a much better way.
My experience is mostly from Asus Tarnsformer type devices and not regular X86 laptop hardware, but I suspect the same improvements should be valid in X86 country. You certainly have nothing to lose by trying it .
My 2 cents.
In spite of the problems, it's amazingly fast and usable, esp. compared to Windows/Ubuntu.
running the stable android-x86 on a Samsung NB505
How hard can it be to design keyboards with all keys in the correct place? Thinkpads used to be the only ones which got this design issue right.
The problem with that is Thinkpads were never meant for mainstream consumers, Lenovo isn't going to out-Apple Apple, and if it wanted to try, it would do better using a model line that doesn't have a business-oriented reputation going back decades.
Don't get me started on the single audio socket for both recording and playback.
I'm only 28, and I do it, too-- e.g., how will kids expand their imagination and learn about the world without only having paper books to immerse themselves in for hours at a time? How will anyone learn the basics of programming without finding QuickBASIC on an old Packard-Bell 386, playing around with Gorillas or Snakes, or entering their own code from books in the library?
I think there will be a sufficient number of hacker types around for the cynical and simple reason that corporations need to inspire kids to learn how to code so that they can hire folks in two decades. This ought to inspire a token amount of educational support and tool building so that entry-level development will always be accessible to kids.
I dunno, Facebook and GMail seem to get slower each month. They're unusably slow, even in Chrome on Windows, on both my and my wife's circa-2008 machines.
I haven't used a Puget machine myself, but I've relied on Silent PC Review's component recommendations for nearly a decade, and never been disappointed.
Until the dust hits it...
Teach me oh great one. Honestly I've never managed to clean a fan. You can brush off the obvious dust but the noise comes from dust getting into the fan itself.
That exactly is the issue. They don't just mysteriously develop bearing failure / wobble...they do so because dust gets into the bearings. And that exactly is my point...no amount of compressed air can fix dust in the ball bearing grease. I just end up replacing all the fans after a few years...
Buying these as stand-alone components seems to be more of a challenge.
It's completely silent, you can only tell that it's on by looking at LEDs.
The social implications worry me -- mainly that the most popular handheld devices (iOS) are _locked down_, you can't actually install whatever software you want on it.
I don't know if the actual experience of using Android, for non-techies, might end up seeming similar?
The social implications of this worry me. We spend increasing amounts of time on our computers, and have decreasing power and freedom over what software they run how.
I think your concern about it being harder to create on tablets, and the social implications therein -- is also legit, but it worries me less than the loss of control over our devices. People will find a way to create, although the nature of what they create will be affected by the affordances of the device, for sure. (there will be a lot more 140 char poetry, heheh)
mainly that the most popular handheld devices (iOS) are _locked down_
With a 80% market-share I think it's safe to safe Android is by far the most popular handheld platform, with iOS being for the niche market.
High-end for 4:3 was 2048x1536 (3 megapixels)
High-end for 16:10 was 1920x1200 (2.2 megapixels)
High-end for 16:9 was until very recently 1920x1080 (2 megapixels)
It's the exact sort of snobbery that has almost completely killed art, dance, drama and music in many schools, as if the only valuable acts of creation left to humanity are engineering and science (which, incidentally, are both wonderfully served by the innumerable education apps on these locked-down, post-apocalyptic devices).
You might type stuff in OK, but manipulating text is awful.
At the same time, I think even the "average" person would want more than a 128gb ssd, and therefore today's entry-level harddrives equipped with these small ssd's won't age that well. I know, I know, ssd's come in larger sizes --- but they become significantly more expensive, and most entry-level notebooks (with ssd's) come with 128gb. As a comparison, it's almost weird that years ago you could get a 500gb harddrive without giving it a second financial thought. As such, I think that if there is anything that a normal person might want, it's more harddrive space as they fill up their small-ish SSDs --- so that they don't need to worry about deleting things when they have too many pictures, games, etc. The average person won't want chrome to take half the number of milliseconds to open a new tab, or their games to go from 40 fps to 60fps. But, to me it seems easy to fill up these smaller harddrives, and many people might be looking for a new computer to deal with that.
Before someone mentions it: YES, cloud solutions and external solutions exist. But is it part of mainstream usage to store your stuff on an external hdd? Also, wouldn't people anyway want a future computer where they didn't need to do that? I'm not claiming they have terabytes of data, but I think over the course of 3-4 years, people could pretty easily accumulate > 256gb of data. Otherwise, is there a free and easy cloud solution that gives > 50gb of space that people use a lot today? (Not to my knowledge)
Actually, this isn't entirely true; a few months ago, my WinXP install started to play up, to I bought an SSD and installed Win7 on it. Now it runs better than ever. A recent OS helps a lot, as does a SSD.
I can see one reason why I might still want to upgrade, though: The Witcher 3. I doubt it's going to run well on my by then 6 year old machine. But maybe a new graphics card is all I'll need. Or maybe it'll even just work.
My Macbook Pro is a lot more recent, but it also feels like it might last forever. It can handle everything I throw at it. Why would I ever need something more powerful than this?
If I want anything new from my computers now, it's stuff like smaller size, less noise, less power use, etc. They're powerful enough.
But another thing to consider is that the console release cycle has also slowed down, because there's less of a need to upgrade there as well. So you see the lack of desire to upgrade trend emerging for consoles as well as PCs.
I do think that nearly everyone who wants a PC has one at this point. That plus no desire to upgrade means slower sales. If people were actually ditching their PCs entirely, that would be a different story.
I will continue to upgrade my laptop frequently. Lighter, smaller, faster, longer lived, more durable. Every new laptop has increased my productivity, flexibility.
I just bought a 2013 MBA 13". Most amazing machine I've ever had. Now that I'm accustomed to 13" (vs 15"), I will likely buy a 2013 MBP 13" retina. I'm certain that I'll be very happy.
There are programmers, mathematical and financial users who are still stretching their desktops, but for most of the rest of us the need to upgrade is going away. It's almost like it's time to upgrade when there's just too much clutter on the old machine.
I wanted a gaming laptop, but once I got into that category, I'll be honest--the deciding factor for me was keyboard layout. I'm a developer so it's really important to me to have special keys in the right place, and to have them easily distinguishable by touch.
Nothing is worse than arrow keys with no gap separating them, or an F5 that blends in, or page up/down in some unusable position.
Got some Asus model, and it's great.
I agree with your post but just wanted to point out a Facebook/Email PC does not cost 2000 dollars anymore (and has never cost that much for a long time) :) You can get around with a 300 dollars laptop just fine of that kind of usage.
What's your framerate in Battlefield 3 on a 64 player map at 1920x1080, high settings? Or Crysis 3?
A brand new general-purpose PC handles that situation equally well--unplayable.
You can have double speed.
The limiting factor is if your computer's feedback loop is tighter than your brain's perception loop. If you can type a letter and the letter appears, your computer is fast enough for word processing. But, if you can run a data analysis job and it's done before you release the "enter" key, it just means you should really be doing better analyses over more data. Certain use cases grow like goldfish to the limits of their environment.
I fit into a lot of the special cases here: Developer, gamer, amateur photographer with many gigabytes of RAW files and even I don't feel the need to upgrade systems like I used to. Now it is about an every 3-4 year thing whereas previously it was yearly or more.
for example: random forest, gradient boosting, gam, etc -- you will typically do parameter searches and the models you get are as good as your willingness to wait. Good software will run at a significant fraction of memory bus speed and the faster that bus goes the better your models will be.
eg: most CPU memory traffic is in "cachelines" size chunks so you're best off trying to organize information so you can use all bandwidth! I've a few ideas on this i'm trying to bake into an array/matrix library i hope to release soon. :)
The naive obvious "dot product" matrix mult of two Row Major matrices is 100-1000x slower than somewhat fancier layouts, or even simply transposing the right hand matrix can make a significant difference, let alone more fancy things.
Often the biggest throughput bottleneck for CPU bound algorithms in a numerical setting is the quality of the memory locality (because the CPU can chew through data faster than you can feed it). Its actually really really hard to get C / C++ to help you write code with suitably fancy layouts that are easy to use.
Amusingly, I also think most auto vectorization approaches to SIMD actually miss the best way to use SIMD registers! I've actually some cute small matrix kernels where by using the AVX SIMD registers as a "L0" cache, I get a 1.5x perf boost!
Still I don't see the connection to Haskell, can you elaborate ?
1) i've been slowly working on a numerical computing / data analysis substrate for haskell for over a year now.
2) the haskell c ffi is probably the nicest c ffi you'll ever see. Also pretty fast, basically just a known jump/funcall! And no marshaling overhead too!
3) theres a lot of current and pending over the next year work to make it easy to write HPC grade code using haskell. Some approaches involve interesting libs for runtime code gen (the llvm-general lib for haskell is AMAZING).
Theres also a number of ways where ghc haskell will likely get some great performance improvements for numerical code over the next 1-2 years! (i've a few ideas for improving the native code gen / SIMD support over the next year that I hope to experiment with as time permits)
just plain ole mathematical modeling / machine learning, and associated duct taping the tubes.
I am also going to be releasing the start of a "Numerical Haskell" tool chain sometime (hopefully this fall, but life happens and all that jazz)
Regular users don't know or care about memory management, they don't even close old windows or tabs, its about convenience. That's not a problem in mobile where the need is the mother of invention so mem management is automatic and chrome reopens the tabs you had by itself, but in a desktop environment (specially windows) one wrong click and the session restore in chrome wipes your previous session.
But it was cheap, cheaper than an unlocked iphone and it gets the job done so its ok for her.
I suspect a few people on HN will be reluctant to see their role in this arrangement. ducks
We built really powerful computers and decided the best way to use them was to run web apps consisting of a poor performance scripting language with a poor performance visual-rendering language and half the people who build with it seem to think that anything done in a web browser is free.
I have better system performance when running a Windows 7 VM, a semi-bulky image editor, or compiling the kernel than I do with a few bulky webapps in Firefox. And this is on a desktop built just 4 years ago.
I have a light-weight Linux setup that uses 80MB of RAM after logging in. It has 1GB of RAM. I can't run GMail and Facebook Firefox and browse the Internet at the same time with minimal open tabs. It's sad.
I know that some newer frameworks take advantage of GPU features (actually I used to work as a dev in the Windows org) but guess what, GDI is still faster.
As a data point: Safari is using 600+MB now with just HN and GitHub open. It's using more memory than all the other apps (editor, terminal, mail, Rdio, Skype) combined. 600MB is not much by today's standards, but comparatively, is ridiculously wasteful. It's a damn CD.
Hope the Mavericks update improves this a bit since I'm short on RAM on this machine (4GB).
My MBA has 4GB and I constantly forget, because it is enough, and I am constantly surprised that it doesn't have 8GB.
All modern web browsers save and restore sessions across restarts.
I always up-to-date Firefox, so hopefully the memory leaks are minimal. I reboot my Linux machine every month-ish and don't exit Firefox unless necessary. I always keep a few "app" tabs pinned, only a couple of them are heavy. I have 4GB of RAM and turned swap off for an experiment. Sure enough, after a couple weeks of browsing and keeping about 25 tabs open, Firefox's memory consumption would creep up and up and eventually it would crash.
I can only guess/hope that there are memory leaks involved.
Why should they? If a tab's "dormant", the browser can just quiesce JS timeouts and let the tab's memory get swapped out. Not a problem anymore.
That most (all?) web browsers don't do this currently isn't the user's fault.
That's the problem in this type of "PCs are fine, people just don't have to upgrade" argument. (And I've made it myself, before I really worked it through and took stock of just how far tablets have already come.)
The use cases satisfied by an old PC could all be satisfied just as well by today's tablets. Yes, the software support for keyboards, external displays and server-type services isn't quite there. But that's solely a software limitation. Not a limitation of the hardware platform. It will be addressed and more PC sales will disappear.
And the actual remaining PC-justifying use cases are precisely those where an old core2duo isn't "good enough" and simply buying some more RAM or even an SSD isn't going to obviate the need for new hardware for 5+ years.
So inasmuch as people still need PCs, they have to show up in the sales charts. And inasmuch as we don't, mobile devices are going to eat that market as the software evolves.
There's really no way around it.
Frankly, I think android and/or iOS are one good upgrade-cycle away from decimating laptop sales. If either or both really focus on the 'docked' use case -- better support for external displays and keyboard support to facilitate top-flight bulk text entry/editing -- laptops are dead to the general public.
If a student can so much as use a keyboard case and tablet to write a term paper or code up some homework as easily as on a laptop, it's over. And there's no hardware preventing that. It's software. If Microsoft wasn't so inept, they'd have been way out ahead on this.
And, frankly, between the potential of the docked use case and "BYOD" policies, mobile devices could seriously eat into the enterprise desktop market as well.
You build a device cradle, that connects to an external display, power and a keyboard/trackpad, and enables the OS and apps to automatically sense that connection and shift their interfaces accordingly and you'll see how few people truly need a PC anymore.
I think docks have some hurdles to jump in the consumer market, though. They're unsexy - I think most people associate them with boring enterprise computers and boring enterprise work, and they tend to be big and ugly. They're expensive too, considering that most people view them as nothing but plastic with a few connectors and wires inside.
If someone can figure out how to jump those hurdles, though, and make docks sexy to the consumer market, beige-box sales will plummet. Make them smaller, easier, cheaper. Make them less proprietary - at the very least, a Company XYZ consumer dock should be compatible with all/most of of Company XYZ's portable offerings. Make them wireless and automatic (OK, I realize this conflicts with "cheaper")! Let me drop my Win8 tablet on my desk and immediately have it display to my dual monitors and let me use it with my mouse, keyboard, printer, big external drive and wired network connection. Let me press a button and have it display to my TV or play to my big speakers. Have your cake and eat it too.
I mention Win8 specifically because the whole idea of it is that it's a tablet and a desktop OS in one. Why on earth is there no Microsoft-produced drop-in docking solution for the Surface so it can actually be both?! The consumer potential is crazy - got a crusty old desktop PC laying around? Toss it, keep the peripherals, buy a Surface+dock and you've got a new tablet/laptop and desktop. You can "dock" a Surface as-is with two cables (a micro HDMI and a USB hub with all your desktop peripherals wired in), but that leaves out wired network (maybe important), certain peripherals like speakers (maybe important), and power (critical), and even two cables is two too many.
Most people who say they need a PC don't need a beige box, they need a keyboard, mouse and monitors on a desk where they can work. The form factor of the box that the CPU, disk and memory come in doesn't matter when you're at the desk, so it might as well take the form of something you can take with you and use when you're not at the desk: a laptop, tablet or phone.
My tablet can connect to my wifi when I come home and sit at my desk. There's no reason at all why it can't connect to my mouse+keyboard at the same moment; so someone needs to solve the technical problems of it being able to connect to my large monitor wirelessly, and we're set.
The PC market has relied on end users - consumers and business users - for it's growth engine for decades, and that appears to be drying up. One of the reasons for that is outlined in the article, for most use cases we don't need faster.
Faster CPUs, more memory, and faster storage are always welcome. I look forward to the day when Eclipse and other IDEs really start taking advantage of GPU stream processors for indexing and validation.
A lot of people don't want to cook, so are happy with smartphones and tablets.
Why buy a desktop or laptop when an iPad will do everything you need for a fraction of the price? That's what people mean when they sound the death knell for the PC.
People who cheerfully proclaim that PCs are dead forger that PCs aren't just devices, they also attained a certain level of cultural significance. IF the death of PCs also means the death of PC culture (which involves things like game modding, hobby website making and so on), then the death of PCs is a really, really bad thing.
Plenty of people are too busy with other aspects of their lives — doing things which may, for all we know, be of great cultural significance — to spend time being a producer in the digital sphere as well.
Some people devote their lives to cooking for others; others devote their lives to other pursuits, and only ever consume food produced by others.
In any case, I think you're underestimating the number of people who never cook, or cook very infrequently. In your average family household, one person typically cooks the vast majority of the meals.
To clarify, by cooking I mean real cooking — beginning with raw ingredients, going through numerous stages of preparation requiring some degree of skill, etc.
I really don’t see why everyone should use a computer, given the wealth of possibilities out there.
Also, I’m pretty sure the death of the PC doesn’t mean any of what you are insinuating. It will be more like the death of horse riding after the advent of the car. (If I want to go horse riding there is a club that offers that not five minutes from where I’m living. Horse riding is dead – but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible or even hard to go horse riding today.) Only that PCs will probably be an order of magnitude more relevant than horses are today and, while not always as relevant as in the past in certain contexts (at home), they will still be relevant in others (some work, academia, …).
I’m still pretty confident in the prediction that the PC at home will die. (Which will not mean that no one will have one at home. Just far less people than today.) I’m also pretty sure that the PC at work and in academia will not die.
A 64gb model of the iPad costs $700 (because 48gb of storage should cost $200 to pad those juicy margins).
I bought an amazing desktop from HP last year on a black friday sale for $779. For what's in it, you couldn't have assembled it from Newegg at that price.
In another generation or two the typical Chromebook will be superior to the iPad on performance, while being half the price.
You should buy a desktop or laptop because you get drastically more computing power at the same price.
Thank goodness for tablets with full XWindows support to my desktop and the university supercomputer. I like broken metaphors.
To me a tablet is a cramped working space (small screen, limited memory), difficult to use (requiring additional utensils like a keyboard, mouse to make certain tasks bearable), with limited storage space (no cupboards), limited processing power (more like a camp stove than an oven), and only usable in short bursts.
Edit: In any case, the analogy is as much about the time, effort and skill required to cook as it is about having the relevant equipment at your disposal.
The Post-PC devices (tablets / smartphones) are it for the majority of folks from here on out. They are easier to own since the upgrade path is heading to buy new device and type in my password to have all my stuff load on it. If I want to watch something on the big screen, I just put a device on my TV. Need to type, add a keyboard.
The scary part of all this is that some of the culture of the post-PC devices are infecting the PCs. We see the restrictions on Windows 8.x with the RT framework (both x86/ARM), all ARM machine requirements, and secure boot. We see the OS X 10.8+ with gatekeeper, sandboxing, and app store requirements with iCloud.
The PC culture was defined by hobbyists before the consumers came. The post-PC world is defined by security over flexibility. Honestly, 99% of the folks are happier this way. They want their stuff to work and not be a worry, and if getting rid of the hobbyist does that then fine. PC security is still a joke and viruses are still a daily part of life even if switching the OS would mitigate some of the problems.
I truly wish someone was set to keep building something for the hobbyist, but I am a bit scared at the prospects.
1) Yes, I'm one of those that mark the post-PC devices as starting with the iPhone in 2007. It brought the parts we see together: tactile UI, communications, PC-like web browsing, and ecosystem (having inherited the iPods).
2) I sometimes wonder what the world would be like if the HP-16c had kept evolving.
I really don't understand your concern.
Hobbists have a wider selection of computing tools than ever before (altough, that statement was true at any time since the 50's). We have the entire arduino ecosystem for hardware hobbists, throwaway PCs like the Raspberry Pi for embebbing real computers everywhere, several different standards of desktop-capable parts for more powerfull systems, and the server ecosystem for the real beefy ones.
Most of those computer types aren't even able to run Windows or OSX. iCloud and Secureboot won't make them go away.
I don't think that's quite true. We had Heath kits and a lot more variety of computers from the late 70's to the early 90's. There is no under $200 computer sold at major retailers like there was in the 80's.
* Well, there is a perfectly rational reason for that, and it is not really a problem for hobbists. But that's the fact.
There are LOTS of under-$570 computers sold at major retailers today.
$570 is a lot father out of reach today for many than $200 in the 80's.
It's unfair to say that they don't get cheaper considering that a Mac Mini is an entirely different class of machine from an Apple II, in so many ways that it's ridiculous to even try to list them here.
As for your statement about $570 vs $200... what do you base that on?
The only time I felt like I've needed an upgrade is while playing Planetside 2, which is/was very CPU bound for my setup. However, when it was initially released, Planetside 2 ran like a three-legged dog even on some higher end rigs. It's much better after a few rounds of optimizations by the developers, with more scheduled for the next month or two.
I dual boot Linux boot on the same machine for my day job, 5 days a week all year. For this purpose it has actually been getting faster with time as the environment I run matures and gets optimized.
As good as it is now, I remember struggling to keep up with a two year old machine in 2003.
AAA games mostly target the console. Look at GTA5, which isn't even out on the PC. Most AAA games will run on a PS3, which came out in 2006, and has 512MB of RAM (combined system / graphics).
That said, there's a point of diminishing returns - making games look much more realistic will take obscene amounts of resources.
Planetside 2 is a weird example, though. I don't think there will be many games that have a 1-year+ delay from landing on PC before they hit consoles.
I trolled around Newegg looking for upper-middle tier components with a higher quantity of good reviews. A lot of the times you won't see a lot of the recently released stuff with useful reviews, so some of the parts were actually circa 2009'ish instead of being latest and greatest (2010).
I didn't splurge for a super expensive case, and my power supply wasn't modular (making it pretty cheap). i7 with a decent mobo. Went AMD for the GPU since (at the time) they were the best bang for buck. Got some cheaper G.SKILL 1600mhz DDR3 RAM (which has worked awesomely for me) for next to nothing, and I was ready to roll.
2010 $1000 rig running all 2013 AAA titles at the highest settings sounds unlikely to me…
EDIT: don't know my full specs offhand; i5, gtx 460, either 4 or 8 gigs RAM (4 I think), a 120gb SSD and 2G HD
I don't doubt the OPs rig is powerful enough to play modern games, but I seriously question the "any modern game at highest settings" statement.
FWIW, I built a rig a great rig in 2010 which I still use from time to time. i7 920, 12GB DDR3, SSD, SLI GTX 460 2GB.
Happily ran BF4 beta on High/Ultra 2x MSAA at 1080P.
I go with generally mid range components with my gaming machine. Even then, I upgrade every 3 generations for CPU and every other generation for video card. CPU performance doesn't impact gaming as much as it used to.
This gives me reasonable performance in most games around high to ultra on a 1920x1080 monitor.
I still use an AMD processor on my gaming/development rig, because upgrading to a better Intel CPU would have cost me nearly twice as much (I already had an AMD motherboard, so that helped). I don't notice a bottleneck in most games.
I think the best strategy is to get mid-range components and just upgrade more often. You get way more bang for your buck, and you can always sell the old components on eBay or whatever.
If you're doing multi-monitor or >1080p resolutions, then you might need to get something better than the 580 however.
Maybe the OP doesnt play some of the most demanding games?
I play some pretty demanding games, but I was able to get a lot of performance per dollar building custom. I knew where it was OK to spend more/less and did a lot of research/shopping around.
In fact the only thing I really want a faster machine for is some of the latest emulation techniques (Higan) and a vague desire to play around with some virtualization odds and ends.
Like another poster said, with "game" terms replacing "data": " But, if you can run a [game] and it's [good framerate], it just means you should really be doing better [gaming] over more [pixels]."
My dad went to Walmart and bought a computer (why he didn't just ask me to either advise him, or ask if he could have one of my spare/old ones I don't know) and monitor for $399.
It's an HP powered by a AMD E1-1500. It's awfully slow. Chokes on YouTube half the time. My dad is new to the online experience, so he basically uses it for watching streaming content.
I could have grabbed him a $99 Athlon X4 or C2D on craigslist and it would better than this thing. I'm not sure if he'll ever experience a faster computer so I don't think he'll ever get frustrated with this machine, but it's amazing that they sell an utter piece of shit like this as a new machine.
Did he buy a notebook? I've never even heard of the AMD E1-1500 before today. Everything I see says that its a notebook processor, and a pretty terrible one at that. (2cores/2threads, and only 512kb of L2 cache!?)
What's worse is that it's a BGA package, meaning it can never be upgraded. If that's really a desktop machine (and not some form of "all in one") that's vendor lock-in at its absolute worst. They've ensured that instead of buying a $99 processor he has to go out and buy a brand new machine.
That's just awful. In 2013 you shouldn't be able to buy a computer that can't stream 1080p movies with ease.
Just because it doesn't sit in a big box doesn't mean it's a different class of system. The difference is really the openness of the platform, comparing something like iOS to Win 8 pro.
That said, many tablets are basically what we would have thought of as PCs before. Consider something like the Samsung 500T or similar, or thinkpad helix. Components are small and cheap enough that they can be packed behind the LCD, and you have essentially a laptop that doesn't need it's keyboard.
Will iPads take over PCs? No. They are too limited, not because of hardware, but because of OS limitations. Will tablets take their place though? Quite possibly. The portability is quite handy. That I can dock a tablet with a keyboard and have a normal PC experience, but have it portable when I need it is a selling feature.
The obvious cavaet is that a limited OS is fine as long as the majority of data is cloud based. In that case even development can be done on a closed platform, and the tablet becomes something more akin to a monitor or keyboard. More of a peripheral than a computing device. We might get to that point, but that's not the cause of the current trend.
Input and output is the major differentiator, not the processor or OS.
In high school I recall lusting after a $4,500 486DX2 66Mhz machine with an astounding 16MB (not GB) of RAM, and a 250MB hard drive. A few months ago I spent a little less than that on a laptop with 2,000X that amount of RAM, 8,000X that amount of hard drive space, and a processor that would have not so long ago been considered a supercomputer.
I for one am glad that we have continued to innovate, even when things were good enough.
The computer was a great invention. The Internet also is a big enabler. But the latest computers and phones are hardly innovative: Compared to what you got 5 years ago, they might be smaller and have better power efficiency. But on the grand scale, how does that matter?
If you see the latest Macbooks being introduced, you probably want to get one. It's very shiny and the Retina screen will allow you to experience computing in a great way. People try to become happy by spending money for experiences. Tourism, iPhones, hipster coffee shops. They don't do it because it's the universal recipe for happiness and living your life, but because it's what capitalist societies expect you to do. Most "innovation" and "disruption" only leads to zero-sum money shifts inside this system. If you think that a retina screen is innovative, i think you need to get some perspective.
The same goes for cars. The Germans (where I come from) think that they're innovative because we have a few luxury car makers here. Cars in general are great, they provide mobility and that's useful. But how are the new cars better than what was available 30 years ago? They're not even more fuel efficient.
Bill Gates seems to have got it when he stopped working full-time at Microsoft. All over the world people are using their software, but if we were using OS/2 and Lotus instead of Windows and Office nothing would change. It went very well for him and his company, but nothing they ever did was as important for humankind as what Bill Gates is doing now: giving life to millions by completely eliminating malaria and polio from the planet and supporting AIDS and TB research with huge sums.
I do not want to get a Macbook. They are vastly overpriced and underpowered. If I ran a movie studio, I might buy a Mac Pro. But that's about it.
Cars in general are great, they provide mobility and that's useful. But how are the new cars better than what was available 30 years ago? They're not even more fuel efficient.
Look at traffic fatality numbers over the last 30 years, and tell me that we haven't made innovations that haven't impacted lives. How many kids have parents that were able to raise them because they didn't die in a traffic accident that they would have died in before?
This is insane, wrong, and dishonest. How old are you? I'm 30 and during my adult life (the past decade, basically) we've gone from phones that were essentially unreliable walkie-talkies with shitty battery life to ultra fast portable computers with 10 megabit internet connections and 4 or 5 different onboard technologies (gps, camera, etc).
WTF are you talking about sir. Do we live on the same planet?
By the way, the mobile phones that I had 10 years ago (Sony Ericsson, Siemens) were quite reliable and had good battery life.
I think that if everyone adopted the author's attitude, we get innovation where it is needed most... Which is exactly what is happening: there has been a shift in the focus of processor development over the last ten years or so from "make it as fast as possible and who cares about the power consumption" to a more performance-per-watt oriented approach.
edit: worldsayshi got there first.
- Genuine loathing for the blog post OP
- Smarmy "I'm better than you" attitude
- Examples of how you aren't like OP
- Call out to historic reasons why OP's mindset is terrible
- Multiple over-the-top statements ("If everyone adopted the attitude of the author..." is my favorite!)
I was just about to say that about your response. All I said was that if everyone adopted the "good enough" attitude, innovation might have stopped before we ever had computers. You somehow used that to call me a smarmy scumbag. Are you somehow related to the author?
Needing more RAM and more HD space (especially in order to offer the same feature set) is not innovation.