Why Amazon can’t make a Kindle in the USA

Dan Bowman sent over this ongoing series at Forbes. I’d seen the first couple of parts of it, but didn’t realize it was still ongoing. In light of new Amazon tablet rumors, it takes on new relevance.

It’s a thought-provoking look at the state of U.S. manufacturing today, and the state of management. I don’t know if the author thinks it’s too late to reverse this decline, but presumably no. Otherwise he wouldn’t be writing it, probably.
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PC Magazine’s sub-$200 PC

PC Magazine has reprised its sub-$200 PC. I think it’s a good guide, and a savvy shopper can potentially do a little bit better with some care and some luck. At that price, it’s running Linux, but it also serves as a good guide for upgraders looking to upgrade an existing PC inexpensively. If you have a case and hard drive you can reuse, you can either buy better parts, or just pocket the savings.

Here’s my take on their selections.

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A bargain SSD for the masses

I spotted a bargain SSD: The Kingston SSDNow V+100 96 GB  is available at Amazon for $130. (It’s available other places for about the same price, but with Amazon’s free shipping, it’s probably cheaper there.) It uses a Toshiba controller that (by some accounts) lacks NCQ, but other than that, it’s a modern controller, and it has a good track record, having been the controller Apple used in its Macbook Air.
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Maybe this is the sales tactic computer stores use these days

So, Dr. A’s computer is going to get the full Farquhar treatment. I told him I’m pretty confident I can get it running better than it ever has.

He said one of the salesmen told him it’s overdue for a crash, because it’s a Dell.

I really don’t like that kind of a generalization. I told him yes, all other things being equal, I think HP has better engineers than Dell. But would I discard an old machine just because it’s a Dell? Well, I ran this web site on an old Dell computer from about 2003 until October 2010. Actions speak louder than words. But there are a lot more problems with that argument. So I think it’s a sales tactic. I think if he’d come in and said he had an HP and he thinks it’s due, the salesman would have said, “Oh, it’s overdue for a crash because it’s an HP. Here, let me show you this Dell….”

Here’s why.

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What I would do to fix Dr. A’s computer

I left my conversation with Dr. A nearly convinced he doesn’t really need a new computer. The local store is pitching him a new $700 Dell Inspiron with a 1 TB hard drive and 6 GB of RAM and a 17-inch screen. But he could upgrade to a 1 TB hard drive for less than $125. If he doesn’t want to switch to Windows 7, his current Windows XP Professional will only use 4 GB of RAM anyway. Upgrading to 4 GB of RAM will cost less than $40. And looking at the new system, I don’t know that its CPU is all that much more powerful than what he already has.

To me, the clincher was this. I asked myself the question whether, if I were offered a machine exactly like his for $200 or $300, would I buy it. And it was an easy answer. I would.

I haven’t done a thorough analysis of the machine, but I’ve seen enough to have an idea what it needs. Much of it will seem familiar, if you’ve been reading me a long time.
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Upgrade diary: Compaq Presario C552US

The Presario C552US shipped from the factory with a 1.6 GHz Celeron M single-core CPU, 512MB of RAM, and Windows Vista Home Basic.

It’s the most miserable computing experience I’ve seen in a very long time, if ever. I don’t know how they ever sold a single one of these machines, performing like that.

Fortunately, there’s room to improve it.

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Samsung, Samsung, and more Samsung

Well, that certainly didn’t take long. Yesterday Samsung announced its hard disk business was for sale. Today it announced Seagate was buying it for $1.375 billion in cash and stock, a slight discount from the asking price.

So after the deals finish shaking down, Seagate and Western Digital will each have somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of the market, and Toshiba around 10 percent.
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And then there were three

I see reports today that Samsung is looking to sell its hard drive business. Samsung is one of four companies left that manufacture computer hard drives, the others being Seagate, Western Digital, and Toshiba.

Hard drives aren’t a growth market any more, so the most likely suitors are one of the remaining three. Since Western Digital just bought Hitachi’s drive business, it probably won’t be them. They may not have the cashflow, and they probably don’t want the regulatory scrutiny that would go along with two acquisitions in rapid succession that make them suddenly nearly twice the size of Seagate. It’s more likely to be Seagate or Toshiba. I’d expect Seagate.
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Upgrade and repair diary: IBM Thinkpad T30

I picked up an IBM Thinkpad T30 this week. People ask me occasionally to keep an eye out for an inexpensive used laptop, and Thinkpads from 2005 or earlier are a good choice because they’re generally well built, easy to find, and most importantly, parts and information for them are plentiful if anything goes wrong.

In the case of this particular model, that’s a good thing.

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