Do Linux users really need more powerful computers?

In today's open source roundup: When is a Linux computer powerful enough? Plus: Apple Music app released for Android. And Arch Linux 2015.11.01 has been released

Do Linux users really need more powerful computers?

Computers just keep getting more and more powerful as the years roll by, but at what point do Linux computers jump the shark in terms of hardware specs? A writer at Foss Force questions the constant focus on ever more powerful systems.

Ken Starks reports for Foss Force:

There is no escaping the fact that outside of commerce or government there is little need for a computer with an octa-core chip with 32GB of RAM. And yeah, it’s nice to have that horsepower, but in actuality, how many of us really need it?

When will the madness of the need for ever increasing hardware specs stop? When will enough be enough?

I have run a few VMs at a time and used a 16GB RAM machine to do it. I also ran a number of BOINC projects on this machine too, but it was a desktop with several 120mm and 80mm fans, and blow holes in the top along with the many vents on each side. Outside of that, it served as a foot warmer in the winter if ever used at all

Will there come a day when these are considered “old” and donated to organizations such as Reglue? How about a gaming rig that runs into five figures. Can you imagine that? I can’t.

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Foss Force readers shared their thoughts about the obsession with faster and more powerful computers:

Eddie G: ”Well since no one else is going to answer I will. First of all there is a strange, almost perverse push by the media to go bigger, to go faster, to go higher, to go farther. It never seems to end, this incessant push to outdo last year’s model.

Do you know what the difference is between a Galaxy Note 4 and a Galaxy Note 5?….aside from some background changes, and maybe a bigger screen NOTHING! So why do people go crazy for the next iteration of the “same old thing” with a new set of makeup? (This was my number 2 reason for leaving MS behind, I saw that 98….2000…..NT 4.0……Me…..Vista…XP ..7….8….10….are pretty much the same thing with different looks to ’em give or take an application here or there!) But If your laptop or desktop still works fine, why is there this need to replace it with the latest an greatest which will EVENTUALLY become “outdated, old junk”? I

I think the main reason is: If we all stopped chasing New & Improved? A lot of companies would go under and not survive. A LOT of different industries rely on making you feel like you’re inferior if you’re using last years model, color, flavor, size, setup etc. I don’t know exactly how much more difference there can be between a Dell Inspiron laptop from two years ago, that had 4GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD, and one that has 8GB of RAM and a 128 SSD….aside from faster boot times and snappier response from the SSD. But does that makes the 500GB machine obsolete? No.

I think the problem is people aren’t focused like they used to be. There was a time people would buy things…a car….a phone..a laptop…a desktop PC and they would use it until it couldn’t go anymore, nowadays?….people only have to hear about the next iPhone coming out before they stand in lines at 4AM waiting to buy one for over $700.00!What’s wrong with this picture?

I myself have a few machines that are considered “old”…(A Gateway laptop running Fedora Linux, a Sony Vaio with 4GB RAM and a 320GB HD, I have a Compaq….another Sony, a small Dell Latitude and another HP. These machines aren’t even all functioning right now, but I can have them repaired and install any version of Linux on them in a jiffy. I will be holding on to my machines for as long as they can survive. by the time I’m ready to buy a new machine?…they’ll be nothing but a thin piece of glass, with touch ability and hover-mode!”

Scott Dowdle: ”It has been this way since the beginning of the computer industry. While it is definitely true in technology, it is also true in a number of industries. How many people do you know, perhaps even in your own family, that want the “best of everything”? So, Bill Gates told us in the 80’s that 640K was enough for anyone… but he was so wrong. In a competitive market, having higher specs helps. Since they hit the GHz wall they have had to add more cores, more threads… more of other things… and of course the video card and storage industries are two additional layers.

Nintendo is one of the very few companies that has intentionally been conservative with their hardware refreshes. While the Nintendo Wii added innovative motion control, the hardware underneath really wasn’t that different from a Gamecube. When the came out with the Wii U, they added the innovative gamepad, but again… underneath the console was really not very different from a Wii. Nintendo has been greatly criticized for not keeping up with the Jones… which of course are Sony and Microsoft. Doing it that way, Nintendo is actually able to manufacture their hardware at an affordable price where they can actually make a profit on each unit sold. Sony and Microsoft, not so much… but who is winning in the market?

One property about the gaming console industry that the computer industry could learn from, and I doubt it was intentional, is that a game console (in recent years anyway) seems to have a shelf life of 5-7 years. The computer industry is more on the 2-3 year cycle. The smartphone market is more on the 6-12 month cycle. How does having a few more years, and less models to choose from benefit the consumer? Developers who get more experience with the hardware and can optimize for it. The first generation console games are usually pretty good, but the following years will be even better as the software developers better understand the hardware.

The PC gaming industry is horribly broken with a videocard being hot for maybe 1 year before it is replace with something bigger and better. If PC game developers are not always developing for the next card around the corner they’ll fall behind… and as a result, they almost never get the ability to refine and mature and optimize. In the PC market, stuff changes so fast so that software developers can make better software without the necessity of having to master the hardware and optimize for it. The need to produce efficient software has greatly been reduced by the hardware treadmill… which has only reinforced said treadmill.”

Uncle Ed: ”I have always had a conflict between my ordinary little-boy desire for shiny-shiny, faster, more powerful, etc., and the side of me that asks what I would gain if I upgraded my computer. I am now old, very old some days, and I can’t think of a reason. I assume this lack of drive indicates shortage of testosterone or that Armageddon is imminent.”

Mike S: ”It’s all about planned obsolescence, right? Microsoft, Apple, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Huawei, Acer, Asus, LG, Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and so forth all make way more money if consumers cannot use or do not wish to use older hardware.

The companies intentionally invest in graphics-intensive games to drive the obsolescence. There are plenty of great video games that are ten or twenty years old, but adding refinements to those games won’t drive new hardware sales like releasing something breathtakingly beautiful that only runs on a brand new (whatever).”

Mike: ”Games have always been a big driver of computer technology…more speed, more capacity, more everything. They push the envelope of what’s possible.

For me, the race for ever better hardware is still important. I am a big fan of emulation of classic hardware and software (including games). Emulation of many platforms demands excellent hardware and there is always room for lots of improvement.

While my uses aren’t typical, there are plenty of use cases out there that require “MOAR SPEED!” that have nothing to do with commerce or government, e.g. emulation, 3D-modeling, hi-res video editing, music production, etc.

Just because the “typical” user can get by with a five year old machine doesn’t mean it is right for everyone.”

Mindaugas: ”The truth is, that it is capitalism, my friend. In capitalism, increasing hardware specs never stops.”

CFWhitman: ”With Windows, it would be a different story. I have seen OEM Windows installs which bog down the machines they come on, which are more powerful than most of the machines I run. A cleaner Windows installation can be better, but it still feels slow next to a Linux installation with an Xfce desktop, which is the heaviest desktop I run.”

Frankreid: ”The constant need to have a faster computer is, in my opinion, driven by the gamers. Killing at the speed of light over the internet is what is wanted. But it really is just human nature. The question was asked, “When will it stop?” Well, never. Or at least not before we all stop demanding faster cars with a more cool appearance.”

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