What Next?

By Nils Dahl

Date: May 28, 2002

The world breathlessly awaits big news from AMD, nVidia, and partner firms, hopefully including good explanations for the sudden demise of the nForce 620 and details of its replacements). Meanwhile, I managed to get a new watch battery at Wal-Mart without incurring terminal stress - but it was a close thing. Ah, the retail experience.

Meanwhile, let me speculate on just why computer sales slumped and the dotcom revolution turned into a heap of broken dreams.


First time buyers of computers, almost always being optimistic and always lacking a true understanding of the 'marketing approaches' of many firms, blissfully lug home their set of boxes. Many surprises lie in store for them.


The first surprise likely is that replacement ink cartridges for their bargain printer cost more than the printer did. Do they throw away the printer? Well, some chose to steal cartridges from retail stores instead. This is one of the key awakeners for lots of people. They may also suffer sticker shock when they buy that first package of glossy paper to print photos on - and realize that a disposable film camera with development actually costs way less per picture printed.


Gee, how about some documentation that is written to actually help first time users - maybe a basic guide to the system and its capabilities. Is paper so expensive these days?


Now I cannot justify including a good warning about the value of system restore CDs and the famous Microsoft OS certificate in many languages, but how about a cheap paper folder that holds everything AND has a warning printed in English, using very large type? Maybe even a clear and simple statement that 'replacing the contents of this folder will cost $200 or whatever if you loose it'. And another warning about BSA raiders breaking down your door and raiding the system while the kid is chatting on AOL. Hey, no proof of OS ownership, go directly to jail - pirate scum. No, that sales receipt will NOT suffice.


Anyone EVER see a truthful set of performance ratings for any inkjet printer? Anyone ever see a set of ratings of cartrdige capacity for black text pages or color photo prints? Now stop laughing, you in the corner. Not nice.


Oh, your dialup connection doesn't work any more? Maybe your ISP, like mine, downgraded the connection from V.90 to V.32 and forgot to tell you. Hey, just call the toll free help line and ask the right questions - in plain English. You'll find out. Yes, we had to raise the monthly cost to pay for the special bandwidth limiting hardware and software. Don't ask stupid questions.

You want to Play Games? Well, why didn't you say that to the salesman before he sold you that half speed piece of integrated graphics junk? No, there is no slot for a video card. Just shut up and go away.


The little disappointments are almost endless - and they add up to a great big disappointment for many people. These people may speak Albanian, but they are NOT stupid. They know when they get ripped off or deceived. And they have lots of friends, all refugees from the same place. Feed them bits of truth that add up to big lies and you get backlash. The ONLY stupid people are the marketing types who think that everyone will keep on bending over.


Hey, want an upgrade for your original Pentium processor? Just buy a new motherboard, new memory, a new processor and THEN find out that your OEM system restore CD refuses to work with the new motherboard. That will teach you. Now go buy a whole new box.


Frankly, the ONLY firm that has made any effort to provide a useful performance rating is AMD - and they get harassed for doing this! Just imagine a world where each system MUST contain a set of ratings printed on the system box, ratings that cover 2D and 3D gaming performance, some indicators of performance while a mixture of productivity apps are all active and doing useful work, a rating of performance with the shipped browser when dialup and DSL are used for Internet access, and maybe something about the number of minutes required to generate a bit-mapped image for the printer. I'll not go so far as to suggest showing performance with different main memory sizes because that would destroy salability for far too many low cost systems. But at least the poor people who work 2 jobs and finally have decent clothes for their kids do deserve to know that their $50 printer actually delivers 1 page per 2 minutes for black text and 'somewhat longer' for color photos. And if they upgrade to a decent main memory size (throwing away the smaller modules that fill all the sockets, of course), the print time per page drops way down, applications begin working instead of reloading from the hard drive, etc.


And most important of all, NEVER EVER let a guy named Walter do any upgrades to your computer. Don't ask. Shorting the 5 volt logic supply to ground really does do 'very bad things' to the motherboard, hard drives, the very expensive caching IDE controller, and other parts. There, I said it. Fortunately, Walter went on to become a Sun service technician. Good luck, Sun.


So hyping new processors with clever ads of aliens visiting dance clubs just isn't going to restore customer confidence. They probably don't live anywhere near those aliens anyway. And disco dance. Trust me. Very few of my neighbors even resemble aliens at all. Or pod people, for that matter. Now if you are talking Night of the Living Dead, well that is another story.


So here I sit, paying more per month for an ISP service quality that was obsolete in 1995, waiting for both shoes to drop on the un-deregulation of telecommunications competition. The guys at Port One Internet, the largest independent ISP in the state, are warning people that they may be going out of business later this year. Downloading software is either a royal pain or just plain impractical. I could get DSL from the local provider but I suspect that their rates will rapidly increase real soon. Maybe I can do a deal with the local library to download Linux packages and burn them on one of their systems. They do have a T-1 connection. I can't afford $50 per month for the limited bandwidth allowed for home DSL anyway. Both the cat and I like to eat a variety of foods now and then.


And Amazon is quoting me full list price on the books I want to buy. Free shipping - yeah, right.


Wise up, all you players in the computer world. You will NEVER regain customer confidence and see sales ramp up if you keep on playing marketing games and hiding the truth of your products. I can even tell what a real bovine looks like - and the one in your ad is 'missing certain anatomical features'. The cape is nice. The mystery of just what is inside the box remains unsolved. I could go on, but......

The worst offenders in the performance rating game are the inkjet printer makers. Next come the box makers who stuff cheap no-slot integrated motherboards into their low end cases, selling obsolete products to innocent people. Then there is Microsoft with its high priced OS and upgrades that turn decent older machines into painfully slow boat anchors. Any reason why you can't just sell Windows 98 SE for $99 instead of copying Linux? Yes, I mean running Linux with WINE instead of Windows XP Home with its compatibility shell. I'll bet that Linux with WINE is faster anyway. I inted to find out - oh, I don't use any Microsoft apps anyway, just Clarisworks, Filemaker Pro, and some other GOOD products. I'll get around to trying Approach and MySQL after I get the garden planted. Treepad works just fine for notes and it is free. Well, I do enjoy solitaire and the occasional game of Taipei but I here that XP doesn't ship with those neat little games. And some day I just might get the defrag included with Windows 95 to actually work. Maybe.


And you people who have decided to stop making new drivers for older products - give us all a break. Just charge a few bucks for Internet delivery of new drivers that let us use our older scanners and printers with new Microsoft operating systems. Otherwise, my friend Ted is going to be using his 700 mHz Athlon system and HP 1120 printer for a long, long time.


Has ANYONE seen a good book on Lotus Approach or Corel Paradox lately? Can Sun manage to clearly and succinctly explain just what Star Base really is and what the user needs to use it as a real database front end? Can ANYONE try publishing technical documents in html format instead of pdf? I'd like to lock certain people into rooms with systems that have 17 inch or smaller monitors and give them instruction for getting out ONLY in pdf files that they must try to read - painfully - on small displays. No, LCD displays would be too cruel.


So tell me just how well that GeForce 4 MX pci bus video card at Wal-Mart really works. I don't run BeOS any more so I really don't need my old Matrox Mystique 220 card. Never mind - modern 3D games are not going to like a 166 mHz Pentium anyway. My Sony VAIO will never die. Best darn computer I ever purchased. Best darn mouse ever made. VAIO mouse. Excellent genes. In fact, Sony just might have the best mouse in the world. And their support was the best I have ever experienced.


Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Oh, oh, I hear a banging on my door. Where is that darn certificate?



just an old man

waiting for Harry Potter to charm dear little Fluffy




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