Monday, February 08, 2010

Product reviews on the cloud

Finding low-cost, high value tech products that aren’t neutered in anyway is an endless and often fruitless quest.

I should know.

A decade ago, my budget desktop PC would radiate enough heat in my room that I often pondered about fitting an exhaust fan in my window. It was powered by an AMD Duron processor, which never set itself on fire, as some warned me - but it would run so hot, that it required me to sit half naked, in lungi or chuddies. I am sure those in Europe and North America saved a bit in heating bills, but here, back in India, this was not happening at all.

Until 2005, the gigahertz race between Intel and AMD pushed the power draw of desktop processors to outrageous levels - these PCs needed dedicated cooling. That’s until they made the transition to multi-cores. The CPUs chilled out a bit after that.

I am now using a netbook that runs on the same OS that I used a decade ago - but it barely warms my lap - the CPU fan kicks in every once in a while.

But it is designed with a two-year lifespan, and has very limited upgrade options – even the RAM slot has a “warranty void if seal broken” sticker on it. (screw that)

Sadly, most consumers, especially the more hardcore ones, care less about a product’s carbon or environmental footprint, and more about price and brute performance.

But I can imagine that they do care dearly about their electricity bill, and a product’s lifespan.

At some point in the future, I foresee someone coming up with a web site that makes it easy for anyone to calculate or compare the total expense incurred in running a PC over its stated lifecycle. Including power consumption. This information is not available to us currently as it is very difficult to measure, but maybe Google Powermeter will help us out with that. What we need is a cloud based app that monitors a PC’s uptime over its lifespan. Combine something like a hosted version of AIDA with newegg style user reviews and driver update news, and you’ll have a site that provides real value to everyone involved.

Such a site would help measure a computer’s lifespan, as long as the user community volunteers to poll in such data into a single web resource until the product’s lifecycle. With all that data, it should be possible to measure every computers effectiveness and the failure rates of its individual components over its lifecycle. A facebook for computers. Computers that never ping back over time can be commissioned to an eventual virtual graveyard. With all that data, over time, we would be able to tell how long a computer lived, on average.

Technically it would also be possible to measure programs applications are the most CPU hogs, have this averaged out over thousands of PCs so that these apps are weeded out by those running older PCs.

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