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Is $11,000 For A New PC Excessive? 17 April 2002 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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Earlier this week I received an email from a reader who was amazed at the amount being spent by a government department to upgrade its PCs.

According to this story from Stuff, a major hardware and software upgrade is about to be launched so as to bring the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry's machines into the 21st century.

So far so good. It seems silly to expect workers to provide high levels of productivity when they're using machines that have long since been superceded.

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However, just look at the amount being allocated for this upgrade.

Ten million dollars!

Unfortunately, it's not easy to tell from the Stuff story exactly how many machines will be replaced under this upgrade program. There is mention of 400 PCs that would be installed in the department's new Wellington offices but it also says that "the network has about 800 to 900 machines on it in total".

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
  • New computer WITH... - Philip
  • Foreign Affairs to OSS... - Peter
  • Replacement PCs... - Paul
  • Is $11,000 For A New PC... - Oliver
  • $11,000... - Camryn
  • $11k PCs... - Geoff
  • get a mac?... - Andrew
  • Excessive?... - Chris
  • Open Source... - John
  • Have Your Say

    If we assume that all 900 machines on the department's network are going to be replaced then some simple math indicates that the total cost of each PC will be around $11,000.

    It might be tempting to say "What? $11,000 for a PC? That's ridiculous" -- but as someone who's done his fair share of IT management I know that the cost of installing new computing equipment amounts to a lot more than just the price of the shiny new hardware.

    The Stuff story says that these machines will be running Windows 2000 rather than the existing Windows 3.11, and then there's the price of those upgraded Microsoft applications. This means that the upgrade will involve handing over a good fist-full of dollars to Microsoft -- particularly in light of its new licensing and upgrade policies.

    Now tack on the cost of actually installing the boxes -- someone's got to load the department's own software, transfer existing data files, configure the Network settings and choose some really groovy wallpaper for the desktop.

    Finally, all staff using these machines will have to be retrained in the intricacies of using Win2000 rather than the Win3.11 they've been used to.

    All this extra work contributes significantly to the total cost of buying new PCs -- and can easily exceed the price of the hardware itself.

    That might still leave one wondering whether even $5,000 is too much to pay for a PC these days.

    Well, I must admit that this does sound incredibly expensive -- even given that they're buying Compaq boxes where you pay a premium for the "name."

    Let's hope that they're not going from the absurd to the ridiculous by purchasing "top of the line" machines which inevitably represent a very low point on the price/performance curve. One has to wonder also, whether a 2GHZ Pentium 4 with 512MB of RAM is really needed just to open spreadsheet and MS Word attachments received by email.

    But here's the real question that's been nagging away in the back of my mind:

    If they're prepared to throw over $11K per machine at this upgrade, why not make the switch to Linux and Star Office? Clearly there's going to be re-training and a budgeted learning curve involved in the move from Win3.11 to Win2000 so what better time to show Microsoft the door?

    What's more -- it is obvious that security is a major consideration -- with the article stating that "all people on the project are cleared by the SIS as the information carried on the network can be sensitive." Given Microsoft's abysmal track-record in the area of security, what more reason do they need to jump-ship to a cheaper, more robust, more secure environment?

    Have your say.

    IMPORTANT NOTE
    Due to other higher-priority calls on my time and resources over the coming days, the publication of this column may be a little erratic.

    Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible however.

    The Jet-Kart is For Sale
    It's time to clear out the closet here at Aardvark's country residence so I'm having a bit of a garage sale. I need to spend a whole lot more time and money on my jet engine R&D activities (now that the defense industry has shown a very real interest) -- so I'm trying to scrape up some more cash.

    The world-famous Jet-powered Gokart is up for sale by way of an informal auction. Send me your bid and I'll post the current highest offer on a webpage that will appear here soon.

    As far as I'm aware, this is the only pulsejet-powered gokart in the Southern Hemisphere -- I wonder why that is?

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    To place a bid, just drop me a line.

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