I have made a mistake

I take it all back. I apologize. I have been wrong for years now, and I have to admit it: You need a new computer. You need a faster laptop, a bigger LCD and a smaller netbook. You need a new computer for you, one apiece for your family members, and another for your home network. Get an iPad for your iDog, an iPhone for your iInfant, and get two or three wireless routers to manage it all, so you’re never out of reach.

There’s no shame in it any longer. I won’t harass you about the environment or materialism or social manipulation any more, I promise. I will not use the words “fanboy,” “brand imprinting” or “maximalism” again, unless it’s in a context outside consumer electronics.

You should think of a computer as a biennial — or even better, biannual expense, much like winter clothes or charcoal for the barbecue. Pick any regularly observed holiday in your country of residence, mark out an even six months on either end, and call that New Computer Day. You can build up the excitement by festooning your abode with any number of calendars or decorations — just like before Christmas or Easter or Mother’s Day. Or maybe even better, you should use another new computer to count down the hours until the next one arrives.

Computers are disposable, like diapers and tissues, and should be thrown out at the end of a good run of six or eight months. The hardware decays, gets slower, grows unstable and unreliable. And everyone knows the software is designed to last for only one or two startups. Sort of like running shoes or brake pads or light bulbs: After some use, you’re safer and smarter to go buy new ones.

And of course, I apologize again for misleading you all these years with suggestions that out-of-date systems are viable alternatives. That’s obviously just not true, and I committed a grave error in saying that. Get out there now, pick out a brand-new machine, and plunk down the US$2000 or so it costs to bring it home. That’s less than US$200 a month really, and I know people who spend more than that on baseball tickets or gasoline or dairy products.

What you do with the old one is not really important any more. But as I mentioned, computers are ephemeral and disposable, so probably the best idea is just to toss it out.

I patiently await the fruits of your ignorance. 😈

32 thoughts on “I have made a mistake

  1. Aberinkulas

    You know where the real punchline is? I know a ton of people like this.

    Then again, good for the Linux nerds.

  2. William

    I would love to see a follow up on that user’s story when he shows his brother that same computer with all of the compiz bells and whistles doing cube-with-fish or expo or what have you. The specs on that machine makes it seem like it would blow through that electricity wasting eyecandy without having to spin the fans.

  3. poss

    yes the scavenge!! time for those good folk to start tossing out those core2 duo’s cause really they are a bit dated garbage now… :p

  4. ovIm

    Wow, For the time of reading that article, I thought one of the last people who prefers minimal computers stopped seeing the fun in it. Now, after reading the article and the Ubuntuforums post, I’m at least relieved that this blog continues getting good blogposts.
    Unfortunately, most people think like that. Someone gave my brother their computer for free, saying it didn’t work properly. All I needed to do was replace the power supply to make it work again. Needless to say, the original owners didn’t think of letting that thing repaired.
    The problem is with most computer users, they don’t even remotely know how a computer works. Most of them expect them to work like a TV or a Radio. Switch on and works, nothing is going to suddenly stop working. And when it does, what do we do? Buy a new TV/Radio/Computer. I bet most of the non-working computers only have minor problems that can be repaired in less than 10 minutes. Then again, those people help the economy =D

  5. Foz

    Gee and i’ve just had given to me two laptops – one is a 650mhz, 64mb ram, 5gb hdd, and the other is an unopened 800mhz, 128mb ram, 10gb hdd.

    And it’s all because I’d asked if people had laptops they were thinking of throwing away…

  6. celettu

    I built my own PC, bought Jen’s Dell laptop…but the franken-server is an amalgam of several PCs I got from my inlaws, and the netbook I bought from a colleague for a fraction of teh actula price because it was “too slow”…runs like a dream with Lubuntu on it.

    It becomes even more baffling if you know these PCs are only used for browsing, email, and chat.

  7. elmariachi

    I wish people around here were like that… portuguese don’t give away their “trash” for free haha

    still… you also got me! I thought you had bought some mega hundredcore monstruosity :p
    that guy must be really happy/proud of himself! I wish I had a quad-core for free !

  8. EvilGold

    I’m an intern at a place called FreeGeek, which focuses on recyling electronics, and giving them back to the community whenever possible. It exists in no small part because of people who buy new computers every 2 years. We are never low on new(ish) hardware these days.

    Currently for 24hours of vounteering, someone can ‘adopt’ a free system with a 2.0ghz CPU, 512mb RAM, 60-80GB hard drive, and a DVD player. All of which came from donations and was put together by volunteers. Running Ubuntu Linux!

    We had our first QUAD CORE system donated to us about a month ago, we’ve been getting more and more dual core systems coming in this year too. I’ve seen at least 1 iPhone (it was damaged but still worked).

    While it is a wasteful attitude to take, constantly getting new gadits and whatsits does have some positive effect, in that the poor and less fortune people are able to use up all the discarded old gizmos for cheap or free.

  9. Linc Fessenden

    I sure wish I could get some people to donate their old equipment to http://freelinuxbox.org. Some months it’s like pulling teeth. The other side of this is there are some months that go by where there are 3 or 4 sub 1ghz machines that nobody seems to want.. Sad..

  10. Aberinkulas

    Somewhat off topic (someone mentioned power sucking devices), but K Mandla, do you have a power management blog post? How do you keep those old computers from killing your electricity bill?

    1. Benj1

      Old machines actually tend to use less power than modern machines in general absolute terms (excluding the monitor, crts use much more power than lcds), although in watt/mhz newer pcs probably are more power efficient.

      Think about it, in ye olden days your pc probably had one fan that would only turn on in the middle of summer, when the moon was in alignment while you were running Doom, now most pcs sound like a jet at takeoff, and thats just to get to the bios. Half your wattage these days is used by your processor trying to cook itself, the other half is used by the fans trying to stop it succeeding.

      1. ajlec2000

        I have access to an Alienware super fast monster gaming machine. The only time the fan doesn’t run is when I’ve got a live cd running it(good Puppy, sit boy!)

      2. K.Mandla Post author

        +1 to this, with the added point that both of the Pentium machines I have now are completely fanless and perfectly silent, with power supplies rated around 40W (I’m using watts = volts * amps, since neither one is explicitly labeled … tell me if there’s a better formula 😉 ).

    2. K.Mandla Post author

      I honestly don’t worry about power management. The biggest, fastest, most power-sucking laptop I have draws only 65W when it’s plugged in, and I use a surge protector with an on-off switch to cut the power completely if I leave the house for a while. Old laptops aren’t the energy demons people think they are.

      And really, most older machines aren’t as power-inefficient as most people believe. Probably that — along with the idea that dumping memory into your machine automatically makes it faster — are my favorite computer myths. … 😐

  11. ajlec2000

    I wouldn’t mind somebody’s old LCD. The crt with my 1998 Pavilion is nearly the size of my car. I’d have room in the guest room for a guest. Or that Inspiron 5100 I saw at the recycle store.

  12. elmariachi

    I have two crt’s a 15″ with damaged plug (you need to get it’s position right, or else there won’t be red colors) and a 17″. They aren’t being used.

    I live in Portugal though. I don’t want to make any money with this, if it can be of good use to somebody I would be glad to give them away. There’s also a Pentium III but it’s quite unstable, it shuts down without warning, maybe a bad PSU. I want to try to convert it to a headless NAS. and then I need a 939 Mobo for my amd. Now that I think about, I have a lot of material laying around O_o

  13. Josh Miller

    Yeah, I know a lot of people like that. The ones that somewhat irritate me are the sales people at work. Like the sales manager basically wants a new laptop because the manager at the other office has one that is newer than the one he has. He doesn’t phrase it that way but it sure feels like that.

    So i go through the order process at Dell which basically amounts to the cheapest thing I ca find that isn’t terrible because the company is cheapish. Then he’s like “hey for 20 dollars more you can get 500 gigabytes over 320 gigabytes, that will make it faster won’t it?

    No, that just means you can put more stuff on it. I didn’t mention to him that most of the people in the office use like 30 gigs of their hard drive and that a handful of people with older machines probably have 40 gig drives in their machines.

    But hey,I get stuck in the middle of the pissing match. I’ve gotten probably a dozen “obsolete” machines out of the company at least.

  14. Algol

    I had someone give me their Inspiron 5150 because the hard drive was dead. For the uninitiated, it is an incredibly heavy, bulky beast of a laptop. All I did was drop a new hard drive and reseat one of the buttons. It’s really great, I’ve got a very nice portable media center machine to play around with. It was very painless. I consider that a pretty beefy machine for what I need it to do (watch movies) and it’s a waste considering how much laptops did cost a half decade (or more) ago.

    Another great post, kmandla. 🙂

  15. koleoptero

    Holy bananas.

    On another note, that’s what I’m saying to all the people besides close friends. I might get lucky one day too.

  16. elmariachi

    This has been the weirdest day ever.
    My best friend just dumped a perfectly good 21″ Widescreen LCD in my desk, because he bought an iMac.

    Please continue to make posts like this!

    1. ajlec2000

      Right on. Now lets see if I can come up with a cdrw for my Latitude D610 and make this a perfect day.

  17. Benj1


    im intrigued, did the computers come without fans, or did you just rip them out, and if so was there any reason for you to think they wouldn’t fry, or was it just hope and the consolation of being able to ‘rescue’ another pc from the rubbish heap if it did?

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      The Pentiums didn’t have fans to start with, ever. I’m stretching my memory back quite a ways, but fans in PCs — short of power supply fans — really weren’t necessary in commonplace household desktop computers until the Pentium II, if I remember right.

      I once had a Celeron desktop that was totally fanless and completely silent, and I couldn’t tell if it was on or off sometimes. But people are probably tired of hearing me talk about it. …

      1. mulenmar

        I’ve got a (currently-not-assembled) Pentium II system that has an oversized heatsink, with no fan, so even the mid-range Pentium II systems didn’t QUITE require a fan directly on the CPU.

  18. Joseph George

    Mr Botho, someone seems to have hijacked your blog. It just doesn’t seem right – this post couldn’t be written by the same person. 😉

  19. Pingback: As long as it works, keep using it « Motho ke motho ka botho

  20. Andy C.

    Too bad I live in Romania. Noone gives out free “broken” computers here and second-hand computers are horribly overpriced.

  21. Pingback: Favorite computer myths « Motho ke motho ka botho

  22. LovingitlikeLinux

    Check this out for the benefits of keeping hold of “old” machines:

    I`m currently being threatened with bailiff action any day because of a corporate “clerical error” that I`m trying to put right.

    “The captain”(IBM t43 1gb ram Thinkpad-Ubuntu 10.4) and “The first mate” (Elonex 1.6 ghz 500mgb ram-Xubuntu 10.4) safely stashed at mother`s,leaving me with “The cabin boy”(a 1999 “something” pent3 650 mhz 180 mb-was running vector linux stroppily and buggily,but just guess my pleasant surprise when I installed ubuntu 9.04(no higher ubuntu though?) and it works operates only maybe 10% slower than the Elonex 🙂

    All told,I`ve not spent a penny on box hardware in my 3 year computing career and downloaded terrabytes of films and other goodies,and I can rest easy that if my door gets busted in,only the little abused cabin boy gets carted off 🙂

    The corporate thieves can kiss my astrolabe thanks to the wonders of Linux and their own brainwashing of the masses.


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