back to article Shopping for PCs? This is what you'll be offered in 2016

The personal computer market has been in the doldrums for years, with global sales falling under 300 million a year, slipping nine per cent in 2015 alone. But there are also some rays of light in the market, as Intel's predictions of a sales rebound were confirmed by a nice little bump in sales over Christmas, due in part to …

  1. Ole Juul

    Call me old fashioned

    My next PC will pack whatever I put in it. They can market all they want, but I'll be looking at a decent motherboard and CPU with the other aspects falling in line with that.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Call me old fashioned

      Now imagine rolling out 1000+ home-brew PCs to a business.

      There's a market for both.

      My PC is very much grandfather's axe. Box is ancient, screencard out of date, but recent mobo and i5 CPU. That's fine for me, but would be impossible in a busines setting.

      1. Bc1609

        Re: Grandfather's axe

        Interesting one - I'd only ever heard that expressed as the Ship of Theseus, and thought that the "grandfather's axe" thing was from The Fifth Elephant, but I've just googled it and seen that it is a commonly-used variant. Nice little thing to learn at the start of the day.

        1. S4qFBxkFFg

          Re: Grandfather's axe

          "Trigger's Broom" is another one.

          (Originating from "Only Fools and Horses".)

          1. FuzzyWuzzys

            Re: Grandfather's axe

            "Trigger's Broom", isn't that joke pre-dated by "Open All Hours" ( curiously both staring David Jason ) wherein Barker's character Arkwright exclaims the origin of his own shop broom?

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Call me old fashioned

        Now imagine rolling out 1000+ home-brew PCs to a business.

        Not really a problem if you approach it in the right way; in fact it may be less problemmatic than trying to deploy a similar number of supposedly identical systems from a major PC builder...

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: Call me old fashioned

          Sorry, but the last time I built a PC was a long time ago.

          In work, I just order 100 of whatever the cheapest model is that meets minimum spec. They arrive, we unbox, we image (don't even boot one up to look at the existing config), we test, we roll-out.

          Nobody really cares any more. And for every home PC, I guarantee there are one or even two business PC's (probably more to account for those struggling along on old gear, or upgrading rather than replacing), so the market is there.

          And yet, even a site-wide RAM upgrade would suck up so much time that I would have to justify it to "those above". It's probably quicker and easier to just skip a RAM upgrade one year, and buy all new PC's next year, in fact. Less time and effort, and then you can shift the old PC's down to other uses or flog them off to a PC refurbisher.

          I honestly can't even remember the last time I had to look up what processors fit in what socket. Buy pre-made, slap it in, even if you end up slapping it in an old case. The problems of homebrew PC's are far more, in business, than just ordering in new kit. And it's less expensive in the long-run. God knows what it would cost to upgrade RAM, processor, motherboard, PSU, all the driver hassles, imaging, testing, etc. compared to just sitting a new one alongside it and moving a hard drive over (which is the SLOW way, I'd just reimage onto the new and switch a couple of PC's around in AD).

          Nobody with a brain hand-builds PC's on any kind of scale, nor sits and makes up network patch leads, nor installs software on each PC individually, nor deals with MAK activation keys on an individual basis. Except possibly my predecessor. Who is my predecessor because his lost his job over related issues (spent all the time pontificating over having perfect cables in the cabinets, but forgot to backup or do anything about the failing RAID array in time).

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Call me old fashioned

            "And yet, even a site-wide RAM upgrade would suck up so much time that I would have to justify it to "those above". It's probably quicker and easier to just skip a RAM upgrade one year, and buy all new PC's next year, in fact. Less time and effort, and then you can shift the old PC's down to other uses or flog them off to a PC refurbisher."

            And this one of the primary reasons for the downturn in PC sales. They stay current for longer because the workload is no longer increasing and neither is the PC power. Pretty much any PC bought 4 years ago will very likely still run for at least another year for most office use. The most likely reason for replacing a fleet of PCs now is because their age means the failure rate is on an upward trend. Most of our customers are buying with the 5 year on-site warranty now and even after that, a fair number go into non-essential/occasional user roles where it gets replaced by another old one when it breaks.

            1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Unhappy

              Re: Call me old fashioned

              "And this one of the primary reasons for the downturn in PC sales. They stay current for longer because the workload is no longer increasing and neither is the PC power. "

              Unless of course the main supplier of desktop OS's and the apps that uses t hem rolls out a new monster resource gobbler while shutting down earlier versions.

              But why would they do such a thing?

          2. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Call me old fashioned

            The problems of homebrew PC's are far more, in business, than just ordering in new kit. And it's less expensive in the long-run. God knows what it would cost to upgrade RAM, processor, motherboard, PSU, all the driver hassles, imaging, testing, etc. compared to just sitting a new one alongside it and moving a hard drive over

            I think you are confusing two related by different things. The build and deployment, and the in-situ maintenance/upgrade.

            To my mind if you are really thinking of deploying a large number of 'homebrew' PC's then you contact a local system builder and get them do the build; its what they are good at. One of the advantages of the 'homebrew' approach, if done well, is that your systems will use standard components, potentially making them easier and cheaper to maintain, or cannibalise for spares. Hence are probably a better investment if you are intending to run them for an extended period of time.

            As for the in-situ upgrade/maintenance, there isn't really any significant cost difference between the two approaches and I agree with the strategies you advise to reduce the man-effort involved in keeping systems runnings.

          3. DrBobMatthews

            Re: Call me old fashioned

            So basically you are just a de-skilled box shifter, could explain why industry has so many IT problems.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Call me old fashioned

      100% for self-builds, I've been doing that since the 90's also and spent ££££'s

      Remember 2016 WILL be the year Windows 10 with spyware/ malware will be coming to a new PC.

      (I like to fight it on my Windows 7 Desktop PC as I have all the programs I use on it) :D

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Call me old fashioned

        Good luck in building your all-in-one, laptop or convertible... DIY PCs are very good of our basements, but no way most business will rely on them but the smaller or meaner ones, and even then they will rely on PCs build by someone else. Most business want a warranty, and on-site maintenance with spare parts delivery. Also they like uniformity for easier management - and management features.

        1. BitDr

          Re: Call me old fashioned

          The computer that is custom assembled (we don't build them) is generally much better than the name-brand you buy. When assembling a machine more control is exercised over the choice of the components. Selecting items that are built to last means cutting through the marketing BS, which can be a time-consuming task. Motherboards that can handle 32 GB or RAM, that use solid capacitors and a larger less-densly populated surface area (no built-in graphics or Audio) generate less heat and better dissipate what it does generate. Cases with good airflow management instead of good "bling" management. Cooling fans with quality bearings that won't fail in place of LEDs that do nothing to add to performance. A power supply with low-ripple in the output voltages, fast RAM, a kick butt CPU (8 cores or better) etc. Enterprise class HDDs (spinning rust) in RAID for data storage, SSD for booting (with a backup image of the SSD stored on the RAID).

          If a business wants (or needs, in the case of specialized applications) to spend the money for licensing then by all means do so. I'll install your proprietary software and even manage your licenses and implement an audit program to ensure you adhere to their terms, all for a fee of course. I will not compromise on hardware.

    3. DrBobMatthews

      Re: Call me old fashioned

      To true Windows 10 is expensive junk and not fit for use. No doubt MS will end support for 10 in the next 2 years and rip off the dumb with Windows 11.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Call me old fashioned

        To true Windows 10 is expensive junk and not fit for use. No doubt MS will end support for 10 in the next 2 years and rip off the dumb with Windows 11.

        Having recently setup a 10-inch Win10 tablet, I can't agree more - Win10 on a tablet is no competition to iOS or Android - other than in conning people out of their money, because it's UI (on a tablet) is worse than Win8, even the much toted "mobile office" is not particularly finger friendly.

        So MS will need to announce a new edition of Windows, for exactly the same reasons it decided to announce 10, namely to distance the new release from Win8/10.

  2. James 51

    I'm looking forward to AMDs new line up. Did no one talk about that?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      I'm more interested in ARM.

      Little SBCs are becoming quite capable.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >I'm looking forward to AMDs new line up. Did no one talk about that?

      Anandtech have twenty pages about AMD's lineup:

      http://www.anandtech.com/show/10000/who-controls-user-experience-amd-carrizo-thoroughly-tested

      While the major OEMs, such as Dell, HP, Lenovo and ASUS will happily produce several models to fill the gap and maintain relationships with AMD, none of them will actively market a high-profile AMD based device due to the scope of previous AMD silicon and public expectation. If a mid-to-high end device is put in play, numbers are limited, distribution is narrow and advertising is minimal.

      Performance per Watt is still on Intel's side.

      1. jason 7

        OEM's only put out AMD at Intel's request to stave off monopoly claims.

        OEM's don't want AMD gear anymore. Hence why when you look for a AMD based laptop you'll find the single A10 one hobbled with single channel ram, a 5400rpm HDD, 1366x768 TN screen and yours for £650.00.

        All my customers have heard of Intel (the jingle at the end of every Currys ad helps) but none of them know jack about AMD...so they can't be as good can they? Yes AMD, marketing does help!

        I'm an old AMD fan but to be honest they are now useless. When a firm knows what's wrong but cant change course even after 10 years, then their time is past.

        1. Wade Burchette Silver badge

          For laptops, the AMD Carrizo (A-8000) CPU would be my first, second, and third choice. On a laptop, I really don't care about performance per watt. I won't be encoding any audio or video on it. What the Carrizo does that Intel cannot is full H.265 decoding. I want my laptop to be good enough for casual gaming and watching movies when I'm on the go.

          For my desktop ... I am excited about the new video cards coming from AMD and NVidia.

          1. Calleb III

            "On a laptop, I really don't care about performance per watt."

            Unfortunately for AMD, most people actually do care about performance per watt on a laptop as it's tied to the battery life. And where 2h battery wife might be acceptable to some, nowadays people tend to expect full working day of 8+ hours on battery charge for office load.

            1. Wade Burchette Silver badge

              Performance per watt is different than actual wattage. Yes, I care about the wattage. But on a laptop, I have more things I care about than the performance. The tasks I do on my desktop are different than on my laptop, so I don't need the extra performance of Intel CPU's on my laptop. My desktop will be Intel. Unless AMD Zen is a game changer.

              However, what I worry about most is lack of competition.

              1. Code For Broke

                However, what I worry about most is lack of competition.

                Yes, I worry too. I worry that AMD hasn't tendered a competitive processor since the mid-noughts.

                Intel Core M chips draw 4.5 watts, max, and comfortably outperform AMD's 15 watt competitors in most computing benchmarks.

                Granted, the AMD chips cost half as much. But as RAM and SSD eat up an ever larger portion of the total cost of a PC, the AMD cost advantage is diminished.

                I loved AMD back when they were the technically superior chip maker. But they havent just fallen behind; AMD is mowing the grass alongside the track.

                Because they are so far behind in x86-64, have not even lifted a finger on mobile and are so horrifically in debt, I believe they will soon be dead, without even the hope pf becoming the target of acquisition. AMD's few valuable patents will sold at pennies to the winds. Done. No more AMD.

            2. Lee D Silver badge

              "And where 2h battery wife might be acceptable to some,"

              Stop battering your wife for two hours. It's not acceptable.

              1. itzman

                Stop battering your wife for two hours.

                And put her in the frier

            3. This post has been deleted by its author

            4. John Tserkezis
              Coat

              "...And where 2h battery wife might be..."

              Hey, if I had a wife that could go for 2 hours, I wouldn't be complaining.

              Fine, I'm going.

            5. itzman

              And where 2h battery <b>wife</b> might be acceptable to some,

              !!!

              Depends on whether she is programmed to nag, or to...

  3. BongoJoe
    WTF?

    "Nobody needs to load software from disc any more"

    So, it's time to upgrade to the next version of Adobe's somewhat less than slimline Lightroom. I am still living in the back of beyond where the download speed is neither barely registering or I am forced to use my 15GB/month 3-Network dongle.

    And they say that no-one needs to load software from disc?

    I find it's useful sometimes to have the discs handy for one's paid for applications. It's nice to know that there is a more mechanical backup, i.e. the orginals, nearby.

    1. MotorcyclesFish
      Pint

      Re: "Nobody needs to load software from disc any more"

      I think it's less that "nobody needs to load from a portable storage medium these days" and more that "loading from a portable storage medium rarely includes disc these days"

      Beer because a glass is also a portable storage medium

    2. Adam 1

      Re: "Nobody needs to load software from disc any more"

      I suspect the office will just have a USB DVD burner on the BOFH desk.

      1. BongoJoe

        Re: "Nobody needs to load software from disc any more"

        Given that I am living, travelling and working on my motorhome with my own network on board you may find that I am that BOFH, user, developer and PHB too.

        No DevOps here though; I just want to get thing done.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "I just want to get thing done"

          "No DevOps here though; I just want to get thing done."

          Unbeliever! Off with his head!

        2. BebopWeBop Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: "Nobody needs to load software from disc any more"

          Given that I am living, travelling and working on my motorhome with my own network on board you may find that I am that BOFH, user, developer and PHB too.

          So where do you find the lift shaft when your other you has misbehaved?

        3. LucreLout Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: "Nobody needs to load software from disc any more"

          @BongoJoe

          Given that I am living, travelling and working on my motorhome ... No DevOps here though; I just want to get thing done.

          Yes, and it's precisely that approach that has led to you living in your car ;-)

          1. BongoJoe

            Re: "Nobody needs to load software from disc any more"

            It's precisely that approach which has me looking out over parkland this week with pheasants wandering through the topiary, last week towards Glastonbury Tor, before that somewhere in Cornwall, before that over the sea, the moors, woodlands, the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, etc., etc..

            And the best bit: no Cloud computing!

            Oh, and does your car have a cocktail cabinet the size of a tea chest? :)

        4. Adam 1

          Re: "Nobody needs to load software from disc any more"

          > I am living, travelling and working on my motorhome with my own network on board

          It's possible that you may not be the target market of large OEMs line Dell or Lenovo. Dropping the DVD drive let's them bring the per unit costs down by £20. Less to screw in, less SATA cables, less power cables as well. They can then either drop the price or bump the CPU or RAM or a slightly larger monitor over their competition.

          Then again, perhaps the strategy of chasing the motorhoming system administrator market may go someway in explainiy HP's profit figures?

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: "Nobody needs to load software from disc any more"

            It's possible that you may not be the target market of large OEMs line Dell or Lenovo.

            Yes, but as long as someone is, Sharwood's "nobody needs" is at best hyperbole, if not an obnoxious generalization. I know I get tired of having industry writers tell me what I do or do not want or need.

    3. TheProf Silver badge

      Re: "Nobody needs to load software from disc any more"

      Portable USB DVD. Less than £20 for a new one.

      I use one after replacing my laptop DVD drive with a second HDD. (Old DVD drive in an ebay caddy.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Nobody needs to load software from disc any more"

        I re-purposed my SATA DVD connector in my desktop, to add an additional SSD, as I was short of cables at the time. Figuring once I'd got hold of a few more SATA cables, I'd hook the DVD back up.

        Must have been 10 months before I remembered the DVD still wasn't connected to anything inside the case, and that was only as I was trying to rip an audio CD! Press eject button, nothing, me "Huh?", 3, 2, 1, brain engages, "Ah...".

        I just plugged in a USB DVD writer/Blu-ray reader I'd bought a while back for use on an old ION PC that for some reason didn't like installing an OS from USB.

        Still haven't bothered hooking the SATA drive up, don't think I ever will now.

    4. xybyrgy

      Re: "Nobody needs to load software from disc any more"

      An external DVD-RW drive can be had for dirt cheap, so what's the problem here, exactly?

    5. itzman

      Re: "Nobody needs to load software from disc any more"

      No, but how else am I gonna rip all those DVDS onto my server?

  4. Julian Bond

    Windows 10 Drivers

    Some proper windows 10 drivers that actually work would be nice. Looking at you, Dell-Realtek-internal microphone. It sucks that one of their most expensive laptops doesn't actually work properly with the recommended Win10 upgrade.

    1. jason 7

      Re: Windows 10 Drivers

      Have you tried the Windows 8.1/Windows 8/Windows 7 and Vista drivers?

      You'll probably find they are pretty much all the same driver type.

      I've had good results even installing Vista drivers in 10 for audio on older kit. The audio chips don't change all that much.

      1. Adam Jarvis

        Re: Windows 10 Drivers

        Even if they work, 64Bit unsigned Vista/7/8/8.1 drivers are a pain in Windows 10,

        To use them you need to hold down shift while selecting restart.

        On reboot, select Troubleshoot, Advanced Options, Start-up Settings.

        Then Restart again,

        Then select F7 - Disable driver signature enforcement. (Even though confusingly its marked as 7), so for most people they select the key 7 and nothing happens, its F7/Function Key 7, which may also need enabling via your keyboard, before you can use)

        Yep, nice and easy Microsoft. Holding F8 on boot was a lot, lot easier.

        It would be nice to disable enforcement for certain drivers, not all, as is the case.

        Its basically a botch job. Even 'lock-down' Apple is easier in this regard.

        1. jason 7

          Re: Windows 10 Drivers

          Hmm I haven't had to jump through any hoops like that and I've been putting 10 on some very old kit.

          Digging way back in the driver archives.

  5. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
    Stop

    Any news on laptop resolutions?

    Will they finally stop foisting crappy 1366x768 screens on laptop buyers?

    1. Lusty

      Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

      There are many, many options for laptops with high resolution screens. You do, however, need to spend more than £50 on your laptop to benefit from this. The real issue is that buyers started spending less and less on laptops, not that specs really dropped (although they did for a short while). If you spend the £1000 a good laptop has always cost then you'll get plenty of memory, good CPU, smaller form factor, better screen and best of all a 10 hour battery life that actually lasts all day unless you're gaming. This is definitely an area where you get what you pay for.

      1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

        Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

        "There are many, many options for laptops with high resolution screens. You do, however, need to spend more than £50 on your laptop to benefit from this."

        True, happy to do that. I also want != 16:9, currently the only way to get that is an eyewateringly expensive mac or surface. I could be persuaded to spend that much but I will absolutely NOT do so on something with limited or niche I/O, is non upgradable and non repairable.

        1. d3vy

          Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

          "True, happy to do that. I also want != 16:9, currently the only way to get that is an eyewateringly expensive mac or surface. I could be persuaded to spend that much but I will absolutely NOT do so on something with limited or niche I/O, is non upgradable and non repairable."

          16:9 is only really a problem on lower resolution screens.

          1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

            Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

            "16:9 is only really a problem on lower resolution screens."

            At what point does it ease? I've not used laptops over full HD and I find the ribbon* takes up more space than I'd like on my 1920x1200 desktop screens.

            * Yeah I know that's not the correct name, it's actually called The Fü$king Ribbon™.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

              Try minimizing the "Fü$king Ribbon™" then. As long as you're not using Office 2007, you can either click the up arrow/carot on the right hand side of it, or you can double click on one of the tab headers. After that, it almost works like a menu.

              Personally, the size of the ribbon doesn't bother me much, even on 1080p, but I have it minimized unless I'm likely to use it.

        2. IanRS

          Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

          A 16:9 screen is really good for editing documents on. In portrait mode, of course, so a slight problem for laptops. Working in the office on just a laptop screen seems so much more restrictive than on my own system with one landscape and one portrait monitor side by side.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

            A 16:9 screen is really good for editing documents on.

            In a 14~15 inch laptop a (1400x1050) 4:3 screen is superior to a 16:9 screen, for business document production.

      2. RedCardinal

        Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

        or buy a desktop with better specs at half the price. Oh but wait....:P

      3. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

        There are many, many options for laptops with high resolution screens.

        But have you tried to actually buy any?

        There is a big problem that major vendors, such as Dell, Lenovo and HP will announce systems (laptops/desktops/etc.) who's spec sheet outline the availability of a range of supported CPU's, Screen resolutions, Memory, HDD/SSD, built in 3g, OS's etc. yet when you come to purchase they will only sell you "this months" configurations for your country and these are typically the lower specification ones...

        1. ChrisBedford

          Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

          There is a big problem that major vendors, such as Dell, Lenovo and HP will announce systems (laptops/desktops/etc.) who's **WHOSE ;) spec sheet outline the availability of a range of supported CPU's, Screen resolutions, Memory, HDD/SSD, built in 3g, OS's etc. yet when you come to purchase they will only sell you "this months" configurations for your country

          Exactly. Which is why I started fuming when I read this article. I am currently trying to find a halfway decent notebook PC for one of my clients - who typically buy between 6 and 10 new machines a year - and every time I have to go through a process of contacting 3 distributors to see who has stock of what g*d-awful models this week. **EVERY TIME**. If I'm really lucky one of them will have something halfway to acceptable somwhere in the country, then I'll have to wait two days (or three if I order after 3:00 pm) for the thing to arrive.

          And the model: will have a VGA port, a 1366x768 15.6" screen, a 5,400 rpm hard drive, and a DVD. I have no idea where all these high-spec ultra-high-res machines are that the article talks of, but unless you are talking Apple prices we aren't really seeing them.

          See Alistair Dabb's article elsewhere on El Reg for "what not to look out for in 2016" - this article is basically exactly that. Stuff we won't see this year, irrespective of Dell's marketing department's opinion.

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

      2002: I had 1600 x 1200 on my laptop. I'd like better than that.

      P.S. It still works.

      Why would you buy a new PC or Laptop to replace Win7 with Win10?

      Surely you'd only buy a new PC or laptop if the old one was broken. Unless you are doing bleeding edge games, or rendering or decent Virtual Reality, you don't need to replace any DECENT PC made in last 10 years for better speed.

      I'd like to buy a new laptop without an OS.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

      >Will they finally stop foisting crappy 1366x768 screens on laptop buyers?

      There are plenty of very high res laptops available now. The issue is waiting for 3rd party software to play nice with it.

      1. Dave K Silver badge

        Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

        Unfortunately, they're almost all 16:9 panels, which is crap for work because there's just not enough height.

        From a laptop point of view, I want to see more laptops with either 16:10 or 3:2 screens (the latter becoming more popular thanks to the latest Surfaces, plus the Google Pixel). Decent resolution and matte coating are a must.

        I also want a good keyboard, and a decent trackpad with physical buttons, but which isn't so large that I have to disable it when typing.

        So, kind of what I have in my 2010 ThinkPad, and which seems to be absent from pretty much all current laptops in other words...

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

          So, kind of what I have in my 2010 ThinkPad

          From the article, it does seem that the idea put out last year from Lenovo that they were looking to create a new Thinkpad T-series laptop that was truly in the tradition of these older machines has come to nothing...

    4. d3vy

      Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

      "Will they finally stop foisting crappy 1366x768 screens on laptop buyers?"

      For budget laptops.. probably not.

      For a bit more money, of course.

      Lenovo Yoga 2 & 3 (pro) both have QHD 3200 * 1800 (just shy of 4k)

      HPs Spectre 360 has a 2k screen

      All of these laptops are sub £1k and have been available for more than a year.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Any news on laptop resolutions?

        Available for more than a year? That means that they are obsolete. Probably going to end up at Morgan Computers any day now.

  6. MotorcyclesFish

    I'd be interested to know whether Windows 10 was responsible for a surge in the purchase of Windows 10 machines or of Linux ones...

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      All PCs are Linux PCs regardless of whether you pay a little premium for the subsidised W10 licence it is always potentially a Linux host.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Hmm. At the risk of starting a small war, how's third party driver support in Linux these days? I think recommending *any* PC and expecting it to work is still a touch optimistic.

        1. Mage Silver badge

          Linux vs Win10

          Linux seems to have better support for old hardware (Epson Scanner + PCMCIA 1460 SCSI or PC PCI 2940 SCSI just worked) compared to Win 10

          Linux seems to now have good support for new hardware.

          Putting Linux Mint + Mate Desktop on 12 year old XP laptop will work, or replacing Win7 or Win 8.x on a newer computer.

          1G RAM and 32G CF card or HDD seems to be a reasonable minimum spec for Linux. Less RAM and HDD is usefully feasible for simply LibreOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, Filezilla and The Gimp. Kindle Reader, Notepad++ and Digiguide work fine on WINE (1G or more RAM a good idea).

          Unlike Windows, 8G ram is available even on a 32bit install on a 64 bit CPU.

          Strangely Linux version of Skype works better than Windows version.

          Linux Calibre works better than Windows version.

          So compatibility of computers with Linux, IMO is now better than with Windows 10.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Linux vs Win10

            Unlike Windows, 8G ram is available even on a 32bit install on a 64 bit CPU.

            eh?

            1. LDS Silver badge

              Re: Linux vs Win10

              Actually PAE - which allowed 32 bit CPUs to address more than 4GB of physical RAM has been available since the Pentium Pro. In Windows usually only server (32 bit) versions allowed to use more than 4GB of physical RAM through PAE, officially due to drivers issues reasons, but IMHO due to commercial decisions to avoid cheaper "desktop" versions to be used as servers.

              Of course in PAE mode each process can't still address directly more than 4GB of virtual addresses (if using a flat address space like most OSes), but the OS can map those virtual addresses into the whole supported physical RAM through the pagination mechanism.

            2. Mage Silver badge

              Re: Linux vs Win10

              NT4.0 32bit Enterprise could use (via PAE) more than 4G

              32 bit XP can only use 2.5G application, 4G (minus graphics hole) entire OS. Same with 32bit Vista

              I've not tried a recent 32bit Linux on a PAE based Mobo, but certainly on a 64bit mobo, 32bit linux isn't limited to 4G.

              Note that address space isn't usually the same as Word size on almost any CPU anyway and unless you NEED a 64bit OS, it might be less compatible with widest range of drivers and do some few things slower than 32bit OS, as well as actually use a bit more ram.

              Most 64 bit CPUs do not have 64 bit physical addressing

              Most mobos don't even accomodate as much RAM as the CPU can physically control (via PAE or MMU or whatever physical address bus there is.

              On a suitable Mobo, with 64bit CPU, you can run a 64 bit VM on a 32bit Host OS too, though that's usually an afterthought, as starting with a 64bit OS might be better if you are wanting VMs too.

              Strangely not all 64bit CPUs /Mobos support a 64 bit VM. I've an AMD that won't.

            3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

              Re: Linux vs Win10

              Unlike Windows, 8G ram is available even on a 32bit install on a 64 bit CPU

              Most 32 bit kernels shipped by distros by default have PAE mode enabled. The result is a hideous performance penalty immediately after 1G, but being able to address up to 32G on pretty much anything from P3 (or was it P2?) onwards. One of the first things I used to do while I still had 32 bit machines in use was to recompile the kernel to turn PAE off. For some CPUs (Via for example) the performance difference was clearly visible with a "naked eye" just watching the boot time. The other alternative is to force the install of a 486 kernel. That limits you to 1G, but it is so much faster than the PAE one, it is not even funny.

            4. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. LDS Silver badge

            Re: Linux vs Win10

            Just installed Ubuntu 14 on a Dell Precision T5500:

            * It wasn't unable to boot after setup because of a third drive connected beyond the RAID 1 virtual disk. It looks it didn't enumerated disks correctly before and after installation. Had to disconnect the disk.

            * It has issues with the SAS RAID adapter. It didn't boot due to a timeout until you fix it in some config file.

            * It installed the FOSS nVidia driver which with the Quadro FX card gave very poor performance until the nVidia native, proprietary driver was installed (at least in Ubuntu there's a utility to switch).

            It took one day to have it working - after trying to update firmwares and the like hoping Ubuntu would boot.

            Yes, Linux hardware support is great... as long as you use what it supports. Just like the Ford T, you can have it in any color as long as it is black.

            1. Sam Liddicott

              Re: Linux vs Win10

              You probably needed to type:

              dmraid -ay

              before installing. Appalling, I know.

              My adventures here:

              http://blog.sam.liddicott.com/2015/12/linuxmint-173-on-dell-xps-8900.html

              it took me about 7 days to work out how to get LinuxMint working. In the end installing on SSD while external USB attached, and then moving it to internal did the trick (along with some trick to hide the existing disks during installation)

          3. Chika
            Holmes

            Re: Linux vs Win10

            Linux seems to now have good support for new hardware.

            I suspect that this has to do with the very stagnation of PC design that is worrying the market so much when it comes to shipping numbers, possibly tied with the idea that more hardware developers are covering themselves by building systems to run compatibly with older stuff. Although the days of the wildly exotic card with a driver (or without one!) to match is on hold, seemingly, I suppose it's something that may come back if somebody gives them a reason to try it.

            As for the older kit, Linux has always been a way to keep old iron running beyond Microsoft's death date. I've gotten extra life out of old servers, desktops and laptops for some time now, and I can't see that stopping any time soon.

            Whether Windows 10 will be a factor in boosting sales will almost certainly NOT be from people and corporates getting concerned about the impending death date for Windows 7 - that's four years away still, and the lesson taught when Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 went out of support would show that people don't necessarily move just because Microsoft wants them to. Some corporates only just made it to Windows 7 and need a rest from all the rollout troubles before they get going again. We can't really make a firm judgement call on W10 until this whole "free" upgrade business is out of the way at the end of June.

        2. Hans 1

          Linux is always improving on this side ... my Linux box supports many more devices than my Windows 7 or 8.1 box, in 10, they removed even more drivers ... Linux only recently ended support for some 1980's printers ... only because somebody found out you could no longer find compatible ink cartridges for the devices.

          >I think recommending *any* PC and expecting it to work is still a touch optimistic.

          Same can be written for the Windows world as well ... ok, you can hunt down the drivers on the interwebs, same for Linux, in extreme cases ... for usb devices, you rarely have to adapt a udev rule (not happened to me in over a decade).

          For printers, if you are unlucky, you might have to download a ppd file (5kb) ... compare that to 250Mb with 4 reboots, ritual incantations, etc you need on Windows ...

          USB support in Windows is abysmal ... I happen to use multiple keyboard layouts, sometimes the kids want to play on one of my systems (his mates are around, want a LAN party), I then have to swap a USB keyboard for another, the keyboard has been used a gazillion times on the windows host, yet it still thinks it needs to install some "drivers" and you have to wait a minute or two (system is a X99 i7, 24Gb RAM (yes, DDR4), triple 500Gb SSD) ... this is a multiboot with Windows, FreeBSD, and Linux.

          In FreeBSD, Linux, Mac OS X, when you plug a keyboard in, even a keyboard the system has never ever seen, you can start typing on it within a few milliseconds ...

          Install a printer in Windows, you grab the driver disk, ensure you have not already plugged the printer into the computer (WTF?????????????) - you know, the first thing you do with a new device, to see if Windows has the drivers already .... 3 or 4 reboots and you can use it.

          the other day, I had to move a tower ... unplugged mouse, keyboard, headset (all USB) when I plugged them back in Windows said "installing drivers" followed by "hw changes, please reboot the system for new changes to take effect" WTF????? Funny thing is, the devices were working perfectly. How can you put up with this crap ...

          systemd on my Linux computer now starts Linux faster than Windows 8 awakes from sleep. No, I have not changed my mind, it is still crap, I do not need to reboot my Linux box that often. With Linux 4, you no longer need to reboot Linux anymore, I think Poettering should have been hired by Redmond, they need systemd more than anybody else ... ;-)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            It looks you're among the ones for whom they develop those 250MB printer downloads with everything to print the silliest items directly from your web browser or smartphone. For example the driver for my Canon Pixma Pro 1 - a pro photo printer - is just 27 MB and it does include - beyond the installer code - the full Canon specific print engine - being not a simple PCL printer. And no reboot is necessary after installation. Under Windows, if a reboot is needed is because some locked files - usually some loaded DLLs, have been replaced. Useless integrations into the shell or web browsers usually lead to such situation.

        3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          At the risk of starting a small war, how's third party driver support in Linux these days?

          Not great, in my experience, and I speak as a Linux enthusiast who uses it at work and at home.

          I recently upgraded my "grandfather's axe" home workstation. I decided to use a processor with Intel integrated graphics because all the reviews said it's now perfectly adequate for anything except gaming. Big mistake.

          The latest version of Mint displays a horrible fuzzy screen along with a warning that it's using software emulation for graphics. Intel only provide drivers for Fedora and Ubuntu, but it seems Mint is based on an older (LTS) version of Ubuntu, for which Intel appear to have stopped distributing drivers.

          I like Mint, but the hand-knitted screen look isn't acceptable, so I back everything up and install the latest Kubuntu. The screen almost looks good enough to justify the grief of switching to a new UI. Then I try playing video files, and I find it's impossible to re-size the playback, something that was always possible with my previous, now obsolete, Nvidia graphics.

          What on earth are Intel up to? I'd guess that about 80% of Intel-based computers sold today use integrated graphics, but their driver support is limited to two distros and even then the drivers don't work properly.

          1. JEDIDIAH
            Linux

            Debian derived silliness.

            > Intel only provide drivers for Fedora and Ubuntu

            What Intel actually provides is an nvidia (for windows) style driver installer that will bypass the Ubuntu package manager and install the video driver itself.

            Mint is really not all that distinctive. It's really just Ubuntu with some different bits of flair added. It uses the exact same repositories. So if something is breaking under Mint, I can't imagine it working any better under Ubuntu. You're going to be dealing with the same kernels and the same exact builds of any of the relevant libraries.

        4. Fibbles

          Linux driver issues seem to be something I always read about but have never really struggled with in a decade of running penguin PCs and laptops. Am I just really lucky in this regard?

        5. Barry Rueger

          FWIW, my girlfriend just got new Windows 8>10 HP laptop, which she likes very, very much.

          It took more than an hour to get her new system printing to a not terribly old HP inkjet All-in-one on the network.

          My Linux box managed that in about twenty seconds.

          In fact, it took several hours to get through all of the updates, application installs, fixes, and tweaks to make her system what she needed.

          Installing Mint from scratch to full usability usually takes about twenty minutes.

        6. Remy Redert

          Based on converting a few dozen machines of various ages from Windows to Linux over the last few months, I'd say 50/50 odds of any random machine working immediately, 90/10 of it downloading the necessary drivers when given a (wired) internet connection.

          The few exceptions were generally easily fixed, but that does require some knowledge and/or Google.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "All PCs are Linux PCs"

        Point being that once the nickel-and-diming takes off on W10 as it's expected to, many people feel that there will be an increase in the rate of installation of Service Pack Mint.

        1. Andy Non Silver badge
          Unhappy

          "All PCs are Linux PCs"

          I wouldn't be so sure that you will always be able to install Linux onto computers that have had Windows 10 on them. In my experience Windows 10 messed with the firmware of my dual-boot laptop making it Windows 10 only, killing the grub menu. In response I re-installed Linux Mint to it again from scratch, giving it the entire laptop, only to discover that bootup fails and the computer hangs. After it hangs I need to press CTRL, ALT, DEL then it boots into the grub menu. I suspect that Windows 10 has meddled with the firmware making it look for an executable in the C:\Windows folder, which of course no longer exists hence the hang. I read about this particular bit of nastiness from Microsoft on El Reg last year. I've also read that some hardware manufacturers are shipping a database of "authorised" hardware and software embedded in the firmware to prevent "unauthorised" changes to the hardware or operating system (i.e. Windows 10). Time will tell how many other people find such issues trying to install Linux on an ex-Windows 10 computer.

  7. Lusty
    Megaphone

    "VGA is just about dead, since HDMI and DisplayPort have become the norm"

    I miss VGA. One standard that lasted for many years. Now we have several "standards" and I have a bag full of crap just to make sure I can connect to displays and projectors. Even Displayport isn't a single standard, with HP choosing a connector that literally nobody else uses.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      I miss VGA

      VGA will work over a 30, 40, 50m cable even and produce a picture good enough for an XGA or WXGA projector showing Powerpoint. I've done 1920x1080 over 50m of VGA though it was a bit "smeary" by the time it was on the screen.

      HDMI, no chance. In my experience HDMI struggles at 15m even at those resolutions, and at higher resolutions 10m may be your limit. This can be a problem if you take your laptop somewhere and try to connect to an installed projector.

      Don't talk to me about Macs - the "display" interface changes almost every time there's a model update and our current policy, if someone wants to bring a Mac, is that they must also bring their own adapter because we can't keep up!

      M.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I miss VGA

        We recent had about 3 months of on-site training and consultancy for a certain newish API driven ESB product. The vendor company (based in the US) sent over various people to the UK to provide this training and consultancy, mostly from their offices in Germany (there staff in the UK were already fully booked up for months).

        But we are a Windows shop, mostly Thinkpads of various ages, running Win7 or Win 8.1 depending on when you last had a re-build, and all the overhead projectors (or in some cases large TVs) all use VGA or HDMI inputs.

        The guys they sent were all using Macbooks (their product is cross-platform, including the IDE which was eclipse based), and every one of them turned up without the ability to use VGA or HDMI!

      2. DropBear

        Re: I miss VGA

        "VGA will work over a 30, 40, 50m cable even and produce a picture good enough"

        Dunno about that. Last time I looked around in-line standalone TV tuners, none of them was capable of relaying the PC's screen through the two pieces of 1.5m VGA cable without clearly visible smear / shadowing / etc - and it was a fairly modest resolution, around 1366x768....

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: I miss VGA

          in-line standalone TV tuners????

          We were discussing VGA from a laptop to a projector or monitor screen. If you mean "TV" type monitors, then few of them even have VGA sockets these days, or did you mean something else?

          Don't forget that 1366 x 768 is not a native resolution for TV nor projector and so, whatever device you are using it will be up- or down-scaling and that in itself will introduce image problems.

          Put it this way, the projector in our largest room here is connected thusly:

          • projector VGA socket
          • 20cm VGA to 5xBNC adapter
          • approx 25m of cable to a VGA socket
          • a VGA-VGA "flying lead" of about 15m
          • occasionally another flying lead of 3m or so if 15m isn't quite enough

          Over that little lot, 1280x720 or x768 works very well to the projector, with only a little "ringing" visible on sharp vertical edges. 1600 x 900 works very well too, though not all our laptops can output a 1600 x 900 signal that the projector likes. 1920 x 1080 does work, but is a deal more smeary and/or ringy.

          If 1920 x 1080 or x 1200 (the projector's maximum resolution) is required then we have an HDMI extender over 2x Cat.6 next to the VGA socket, but the lead from the laptop to the extender cannot exceed 15m and is ideally 10m.

          M.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I miss VGA

            Little Tip when using an external display (monitor, TV or projector etc.)

            If your using Windows, don't use the default 'Duplicate these displays' option, as it uses whichever is the lowest resolution device, which means usually either the external device is screwed up, or your laptops display gets screwed up.

            Switch to 'Extend these displays' instead, and then set the resolution separately for each display, and try to use the native resolution for each display (it should automatically pick the native resolutions anyway when activated).

            e.g. If your laptop is a 1366 x 768, and it's a 1080p external display (e.g. a TV over VGA), then make sure the external device is set to 1920 x 1080, and not 1366 x 768.

            Only adjust res down, if you have issues (i.e. the cable is too long to hold 1080p) so try 720p instead.

            Using Extend mode also makes things like presentations easier, as apps like Power Point are multi-screen aware, and so can show the presentation on one screen, whilst showing the next and previous slides, notes, run time, pointer controls etc on the internal screen.

            <rant>

            It bugs me to hell when you go into a presentation, to find the one giving the presentation is running the 1080p overhead display (or TV), at their laptops low native resolution (i.e. 768), with their taskbar on display using up the bottom of the screen, and if using Word or Excel, they've also not selected full screen view, or haven't' minimised the Ribbon! So the viewable document, is tucked into a tiny letter box sized section with 50%+ of the display being completely wasted!

            ...and breath...

            </rant>

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: I miss VGA

            "with only a little "ringing" visible on sharp vertical edges."

            That "ringing" is due to cable impedance mismatches.

            It's possible to work out which end of the cable is causing it if you measure the ghosts and know the timing across the screen, but the take-home lesson is that high quality vga cables with individually shielded 75 ohm feeders inside work better than cheap and nasty (usually thin) ones.

            A lot of TVs have no terminators on the VGA line so the signal reflects back to the computer and gets reflected back again (basic RF stuff, same principle as TV ghosting) and the best solution in that instance is to interpose a buffer box with a very short cable to the TV.

            This also applies to SCART

            That said, VGA(HD DB15) (and scart) are dead standards. If you want to run long cables then use the right kit for the job. HDMI and displayport are both very tolerant if you treat 'em right (buffer units are cheap)

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: I miss VGA

              I know what ringing is. The point I was making in a roundabout way was that good ol' analogue VGA is tolerant of such issues while HDMI is not. For a simple presentation or video on a large screen, a few analogue artefacts are neither here nor there. Getting no picture at all, is.

              HDMI will not work reliably "bare" over 15m. It has just as many signals issues as VGA (i.e. lack of a proper impedance standard and no terminators at the receiver) but because the signal carried is digital, it is essentially perfect until there comes a point when the analogue errors cause too many errors in the recovery of that digital signal, and the picture fails completely.

              As for "buffer units are cheap". Try again? Cheap (under £50) Cat.6 units or HDMI-HDMI cable units are not reliable beyond 30m, which I grant you is better than 15m, but nowhere near long enough for some of my uses and the non Cat.6 units also require that you can put the unit in the middle of the run (i.e. 15m of cable each side). This is rarely convenient.

              If you want an extender that can send HDMI at 1080p reliably over 50m or so, and do so without having to put a box in the middle of the run then you are looking at up to £100 for a unit that uses 2x Cat.6 cables. If you need more than about 80m then fibre is the only way to "extend" the signal, and such units are many hundreds of pounds.

              These days there are alternatives, such as converting HDMI to video-over-LAN, but these also have problems.

              I'll grant that if you want a pristine VGA signal over 50m then you will also need to be spending perhaps £100 for a transmitter/receiver pair, but if you can make do with a few minor analogue foibles, a half decent cable will do the trick, up to a point.

              VGA may be a "dead standard" but there are still cases where it works better than its replacements. I could say the same about analogue radio, 4G voice telephony, plasma television screens (CRTs for that matter) etc. etc.

              M.

  8. Chris G Silver badge

    Integrated graphics

    I am not a gamer but I find that all the integrated graphics processors are quite poor, not good enough to watch a film while editing a few photos. If the graphics don' t have 2Gb it's not enough.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Integrated graphics

      I don't know. I found the inbuilt HD4600 graphics in my new bundle (Intel i7 5820K Haswell-E CPU and Asus X99A USB 3.1 ATX Motherboard from Scan 3XS) could cope with Elite:Dangerous just fine. I was surprised.

      1. Efros

        Re: Integrated graphics

        Very much depends on how serious the photo editing is and how poor the integrated graphics are. Having said that the only machines I use a non integrated graphics cards on are the ones that I play games or watch movies on.

    2. Lusty
      Headmaster

      Re: Integrated graphics

      "If the graphics don' t have 2Gb it's not enough."

      I'd have thought 256MB far too small these days, surely you'd want at least 2GB...

  9. TeacherMARK

    What people want...

    120 GB SSD boot drives on the motherboard.

    2 TB storage drives.

    USB 3.1 EVERYWHERE!

    i7 4790K CPUs.

    16 GBs 1600 DDR3

    That's about it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If by "people" you mean "TeacherMARK" then yes, I'd agree.

      Personally I want a laptop that's fast enough to work on very large documents without lag, large enough screen to see that document, and light enough to commute with. It is also desirable to have a battery that lasts from 8am until 6pm so I don't need to take a charger. The other stuff on your list is irrelevant to me - why should I care if there is 16GB memory in there if I'm able to do my work. Oh, you're using your laptop as a virtualisation host? Great use-case, genius, have you heard of this other form factor known as servers/cloud?

      Before you start designing laptops though you should also know that flash on the motherboard is just called flash, SSD is a disk drive form factor version of flash storage.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Great use-case, genius, have you heard of this other form factor known as servers/cloud?

        Yes, but they help very little when you have to work outside your office and/or with slow (or metered) connections - and also you may need access to your local hardware which may not be available on a server, i.e. your powerful vide card, genius...

        Of course RAM depends on your needs, but not everybody works with just a browser and Excel opened.

        For the matter, I also find a 120GB SSD too small, when you need to use some large applications (maybe several versions, i.e. Visual Studio and Windows SDKs). Unless you have another SSD for applications, you usually want applications also to start from a fast disk, and some non critical but often used data probably also - i.e. headers and library files - other more critical data may be better stored on slower but redundant disks.

        1. Lusty

          Re: Great use-case, genius, have you heard of this other form factor known as servers/cloud?

          Everyone's needs are different, which just shows that OP was wrong to say everyone wants that spec. If anything, "mobile users" as a generalisation need the opposite of what was in the list.

          In reality, us geeks are spec junkies and as such are definitely not the right people to make these decisions. The lack of choices with high end hardware is evidence of this - if there were a market for it we'd see loads. It is unfortunate that laptops with crazy specs are not as available but it's the nature of technology. Everything tends to get dumbed down to appeal to the masses, the Internet is perfect proof of this. We all called it the "Information Superhighway" with the expectation that it would open up knowledge to all. In reality we have Wikipedia, porn and lolcats, and wikipedia is a distant 3rd in the ratings because popularity is key to success. Just like with the memory in a laptop, most people don't have the capacity to consume more even if you give it to them...

          1. LDS Silver badge

            High-end hardware is available, just not on generic electronics shops

            High end hardware is available - just you won't find it any longer at your generic local electronics shop (but Apple stores, maybe). Too many people drool over powerful machines, then don't buy them because of the cost, and buy the cheaper ones instead. If you're a generic shop, you won't keep many - if any - $1500 or more machine available, if they don't sell enough. Maybe you will accept special orders for people wanting one.

            More specialized shops, i.e. for CAD, media, etc. may offer more powerful machines and the required devices (monitors, etc.) to exploit them. Just of course these are not the mainstream markets, anyway if you shop online you can find what you want, although sometime you can find what you want only on B2B offerings, and not for plain "consumers" ones.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. frank ly

      I want a 60GB SSD boot drive in a front panel SATA slot. I've got one and it's great. (Ok, it's a Startech dock and it wobbles but it works.)

    3. GregC

      @TeacherMARK

      I've already got that machine - well, more or less, add in a 980m for graphics, and it makes a cracking gaming laptop. It's also fairly big and heavy.

      What I would quite like to buy right now is what we used to call a netbook - small, cheap, light basic laptop. 10.1 or 11.6 screen, enough processor/memory for the basics but no more, non-touch screen to keep the price down. Loooong battery life (10hrs+). Somewhere around the £200 mark or below. The rise of the tablet has almost killed this particular segment of the market, I only seem to have a couple of options, neither of which is ideal, unless I consider Lenovo - and they remain on my shitlist after last year's Superfish fiasco....

      1. Down not across Silver badge

        Re: @TeacherMARK

        What I would quite like to buy right now is what we used to call a netbook - small, cheap, light basic laptop. 10.1 or 11.6 screen, enough processor/memory for the basics but no more, non-touch screen to keep the price down. Loooong battery life (10hrs+). Somewhere around the £200 mark or below.

        There seem to be bunch of Bay Trail ones cropping up (especially in the "convertible" tablet+keyboard format). Only 2GB of RAM and 1366x768 (or threabouts) resolution, although on 10-11" screen it is not utterly unbearable (still bit unpleasant). The most annoying thing is they all seem to have horribly broken UEFI. On some it appears to be possible to boot non-Windows OS using bootia32.

        If only they had proper UEFI to just boot 64-bit BSD or Linux they'd be great.

    4. Chika
      Trollface

      What people want...

      A cup of tea and a slice of cake.

      120 GB SSD boot drives on the motherboard.

      I doubt that many people would know the difference.

      2 TB storage drives.

      That's a given. It doesn't matter how much storage space you put in a PC, users always find a way to fill it up and then moan that they want more. The corporates behind cloud storage like to brag that they have the solution to all that but even they can't guarantee to sate the user's storage appetites.

      USB 3.1 EVERYWHERE!

      Again I doubt many users will know the difference. It's a nice thought though.

      i7 4790K CPUs.

      Not every user wants a gaming rig, you know! Besides, everyone + dog knows that the top of the range in any given period is subject to change.

      16 GBs 1600 DDR3

      Again, users will only notice the difference when something comes out that wants more than you have.

      That's about it.

      Sounded more like a wish list for yourself than "what people want". Or do you have a source to quote there?

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      What I want:

      Enough ram to do the jobs I'm doing without swapping

      Enough disk to hold them.

      Enough CPU to not slow down.

      Enough network bandwidth to reach the NAS where everything's held.

      A big enough screen with enough pixels to not have to play stupid games with multiple monitors.

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "It's expected that plenty of organisations will look therefore decide 2016's as good a time as any to take the plunge on a new PC fleet, powered by Windows 10."

    Let's hope their procurement processes include due diligence on the T&Cs.

  11. Dr Paul Taylor
    Linux

    Self healing BIOS?

    HP will this year refresh BIOSphere, a self-healing BIOS tool that can spot when someone's tried a BIOS-level hack and return things to your pre-determined configurations before reboot.

    Ah yes, that useful "feature" that considers my Linux installation to be a "broken" PC and offers to "repair" it back to M$, but fortunately gives up after a minute or two of "preparation".

    1. Andy Non Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Self healing BIOS?

      As Windows 10 wrecked the BIOS / UEFI / bootup on my dual-boot laptop making it Windows only, I wasn't going to take the chance of buying a new desktop with Windows 10 pre-installed; no telling what it may have done to the firmware, so bought my latest desktop computer directly from a small manufacturer in China (eggsnow) via Amazon.co.uk. It came with Ubuntu pre-installed but I popped Linux Mint onto it. Quick and easy install. Great high spec desktop and cheaper than those for sale on the high street with Windows 10. Very pleased with my purchase, won't be buying from the UK high street again.

      1. el_oscuro
        Linux

        Re: Self healing BIOS?

        This is one of the many reasons you want to by a system with Linux preloaded. It doesn't really matter what the distro is, as long as it is Linux. Besides avoiding the UEFI bullshit and the Windows tax, you will get better hardware, and your shit will work. I have a Dell laptop that came with Ubuntu preloaded, from about 2007 or 2008 and it is still trucking along.

  12. BoldMan

    I hate seeing laptops with just 4GB RAM, especially if they are on 64bit Windows! Try getting that up to 8GB and the price rockets considerably, yet RAM isn't that expensive. This price gouging pisses me off.

    1. Boothy Silver badge

      Indeed, 4GB is pitiful these days.

      I've little running on my (work) laptop atm, and it's still used >5GB of RAM.

      4GB single stick is around £15, a full 8GB kit (2 x 4GB) is about £31, and that's from a main online retailer.

      Yet buy an 8GB laptop, and you'll add £50+ onto the price!.

      You're better of checking to see if the 4GB laptop has a free slot, and just buy and fit the extra stick yourself.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        You're better of checking to see if the 4GB laptop has a free slot, and just buy and fit the extra stick yourself.

        Unless you are in the position I found myself in last year. For reasons best known to myself I had settled on a particular low-end Acer laptop for my wife from a reasonably well-known online retailer, but the specifications for that laptop were not available anywhere on Acer's website, though other models in the same range were. I knew it came with 2GB RAM and I knew I wanted to increase that, but I could not get any response directly from Acer. I actually spoke (on the telephone!) to a bloke at the retailer who claimed to have looked at the machine in question, had it on the desk in front of him even, and was absolutely adamant that it had four RAM slots.

        When was the last time you saw a cheapish laptop with four RAM slots?

        I knew I was ditching the bundled disc for an SSD onto which I would install OpenSuse, and that OpenSuse works well enough in 4GB, particularly for the sorts of things my wife would be doing. The question then was, do I take a chance and buy a 2GB stick, expecting to find two slots in the computer, one occupied, or do I buy a 4GB stick reasoning that if there's only one slot I'll still have 4GB but if there are two I will have 6, or do I go all out and buy an 8GB stick and risk having a low-end laptop with 10GB of memory, half of which will never, ever be used?

        I opted for the 4GB stick as being practically the same price as 2GB, but a deal cheaper than 8, and good thing too as the supposedly four-socket laptop turned out to have only one, after I'd removed about a million tiny screws to get the whole bottom of the case off, this model lacking a trapdoor. I suppose I'm lucky that it had a socket at all these days, a lot of laptops in that price bracket seemed to come with soldered-on memory and a soldered-on 32GB SSD; Chromebook specification machines but running Windows 8.1 or 10.

        Anyway, the wife's happy enough with it, and we didn't spend too much money.

        M.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          You're better of checking to see if the 4GB laptop has a free slot, and just buy and fit the extra stick yourself.

          I've not seen a laptop with two slots ship with a 1x4GB module, they've always come with 2x2GB...

          1. Andy A

            I have 2 Tosh R830 boxes returned recently as officially "too old", meaning out of warranty. Each was factory fitted with a 4GB stick and an empty slot.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "but the specifications for that laptop were not available anywhere on Acer's website, though other models in the same range were. I knew it came with 2GB RAM and I knew I wanted to increase that, but I could not get any response directly from Acer."

          The most reliable way of finding out is the Kingston or Integral or Crucial memory configurator.

          Seriously.

          And in cases where only one ram socket is visible you usually find the other one is under the keyboard (Toshiba are buggers for doing this)

  13. Big_Ted
    Pint

    Well

    I recently upgraded my 3 year old Dell desktop that was getting a bit long in the tooth, I installed Chromium on it instead and bought a very cheap plug in the tv windows 10 box from Gearbest for £55 delivered.

    I now have a very fast booting and shuting down PC for 99.5% of what I want to do at home plus a windows unit for the very rare need to do something with it. I mostly use it for Ethernet drives to access old data due to Chrome OS not working with that, otherwise meh to windows.

    Dreaming of the day when I can kiss goodbye to Windows completely.

    Yeh I know I could go for Mint or Umbutu or whatever but I just have very simple needs at home that Google cover almost completely.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What I buy ...

    is a few leftover x201s for $220 a pop. They'll run the lab diagnostics, I can hand them to the students without a second thought, and they should do just fine for a few years.

    If you know what you needs are, you might not need the newest shiny iThing. I know it's a problem for Intel and Co., but their wishful thinking won't change the reality: most computers became a boring utility. Good to see that some companies reinvented themselves as fashion brands in time ... :)

  15. Joey

    What I want

    Is a compact all-in-one with a 27" high res screen, a 3Tb drive with a large SDD buffer, no problems with drivers. That can run all modern versions of Windows and LInux concurrently and even copy and paste between them should I so wish. I'd also like it to pay for itself in the first week and to be able to sell it for a high proportion of what I paid for it after three years or so. Oh wait, that's what I have. An iMac.

    1. Robin

      Re: What I want

      Have an upvote for bravery! :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ iJoey

      How exactly does an extremely expensive Mac 'pay for itself'? Do you make it go out and get a job? Because if you can do that, I might actually reconsider and buy one.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @ iJoey

        I don't think this is true nowadays, but at one time renders could easily take all night. I do remember some video people telling me that even a 7% speedup in a top of the range Mac was worth paying for, because that was extra productive time every day. The same applied, of course, to the output of CAD designers and Photoshop workers.

        But nowadays there are cheap render farms, and neither iMacs nor Macbooks are significantly more productive than PC equivalents, so things have changed though folk memory hasn't.

        Gone are the days when, on a military system, we had a choice between recoding some time critical stuff in assembler or just putting in a faster (more ops per clock) CPU. Despite the horrifying price of the CPU, replacing the entire lot was cheaper than just the charge for recompiling the code, let alone the actual coding.

      2. Andy Non Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: @ iJoey

        It works at a chain of burger restaurants where it is known as big Mac.

  16. Efros

    Tiny one

    Looking at that lenovo PC brought back something I think I saw awhile back, I may be mistaken... I'm old! A laptop with a detachable module containing HDD, CPU, GPU and USB, video and audio connectors which can be mounted on a monitor when not travelling. Given the smallification of systems over the years I wonder if such a thing is a goer now.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Tiny one

      I think the Tiny One is attempting to solve a problem that doesn't actually exist. The marketing implies that the main benefit is the quick and easy upgrade of the system unit, independently of the screen. Yet I have to question just how often that will really happen. I suspect for many companies and users upgrading the system unit is a once in n years event where n is some value between 3~10.

      So all I can see is just another proprietary laptop docking station without the benefits of the laptop.

      What this example does illustrate is how the majors still haven't really got their collective heads around the mounting of the system unit on the back of the monitor using the VESA mounts. Such systems have been around for years, just the majors don't want to mainstream them...

  17. Wade Burchette Silver badge

    Windows 7 cut off date is October

    I plan on buying a new laptop before October when Windows 7 is no longer available to OEM's. I will not get Windows 10, ever. I read the terms of service, I will not agree to them. If I pay money for software, I want to own that software. But the terms of service of Win10 says that it is not owned, only licensed. It also says that most but not all of the anti-privacy settings can be disabled. Whenever a company says "we value your privacy", they don't mean they respect your privacy, but that your privacy is valuable to them.

    But Microsoft can win me back real quick. Make Windows 11 a clone of Windows 7 except with the performance improvements of Windows 8. That means, bring back the option for Aero, don't disable F8 ever, have a proper backup program, a logical and customizable start menu that doesn't try to force me to use your app store, no tracking, no forced updates, and I own the software. Seriously, the person who thought it was a good idea to disable F8 by default needs to be smacked in the head every day for the rest of his life.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Windows 7 cut off date is October

      "Seriously, the person who thought it was a good idea to disable F8 by default needs to be smacked in the head every day for the rest of his life."

      Or be forced to use a keyboard that has had all the keys re-mapped to the f8 function :)

    2. Fibbles

      Re: Windows 7 cut off date is October

      Just an FYI, if you get stuck buying a Win10 device you can buy MS certified 'refurbished' copies of Win7 on Amazon for thirty quid.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We asked folks from the top three PC-makers – Dell, Lenovo and HP – what they see as must-haves in a 2016-vintage PC

    ...and they all sent us this link: http://www.apple.com

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. dunebuster

    All I want for Christmas

    New desktops should come configured with a small SSD for OS and programs, and add a spinning drive for backups and storage.

    Most laptops are still coming with spinning disks, and don't have room for a 2nd drive. SLOW!

    I upgraded my home HP desktop with a SSD for the OS and programs, then re-installed the old terabyte storage spinner for as a separate drive for MY Documents and now Win10 boots in 16 seconds, programs start very quickly. That speed makes the desktop very desirable, well, that and the 24" screen... FAST!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: All I want for Christmas

      If you are doing backups to an internal drive within the same device, then you're not really doing backups *.

      * Can be mitigated by doing an immediate copy of the backup to another location of course.

  21. Dallas IT

    These tiny systems (laptops, all-in-ones, etc) all have a big problem; they overheat and downclock far too-easily, resulting in very slow performance. It's why I gave up trying to use a laptop as a primary system (plugging it into a dock when home/stationary); it's simply unusable and too slow for any power-user type activities.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Dallas IT

      There are desktop replacement laptops which don't overheat and downclock, but they are quite big and heavy. I have one and it can churn away at full speed on database queries, but every six months I had to jam the fan very carefully and blast out the dust with a CO2 cylinder. The fan has to be jammed or it turns at bearing-destroying speed. Also, do not leave the mouse next to the vent while the thing is running flat out for an hour.

      Some "gaming machines" will do the job.

      Thin and light laptops - forget it - there is not enough space in there for a decent fan and heatsink.

    2. Code For Broke

      Yes, I think had you consulted even one of the 16-year-old staff at the nearest department store, they would have helped you understand that if you intend to use a computer balls-to-the-wall all the time, there is something called a workstation that might suit you best.

  22. Roland6 Silver badge

    So no change then!

    From the article and lack of any real indication that the major vendors will be launching new 'surprise' models, I get the distinct impresssion that what we will see this year is more of the same. ie. basic product with little real innovation or flare. This viewpoint being reinforced by looking at their websites...

    For example, the highly rated portable AiO's/tablet systems (Dell XPS-18, Lenovo Horizon etc.) seem to have disappeared. With respect to the desktop bound AiO's the vendors seem to have shrunk their ranges - Lenovo for example only list a 24" AiO with minimal configuration options being permitted...

  23. bombastic bob Silver badge

    Windows 10 does _*NOT*_ help PC sales!

    The article suggests that December sales of PCs were somehow HELPED OUT by the presence of Windows 10, Microsoft's WORST operating system TO DATE.

    Nothing could be FURTHER from the truth!

    PC Sales have been SERIOUSLY HARMED by Windows "Ape" (8) and 10, as evidenced by the undisputable FACT that twice as many people *STILL* run windows 7 as run 8 and 10 COMBINED, according to information available at 'statcounter' and elsewhere.

    The reason for this is simple: People do NOT perceive "the new machine" as being BETTER than "the old machine". This goes DOUBLE for a BUTT-UGLY 2D FLAT-LOOKING CRAYON ART interface, that's closer to Windows 1.01 in its "flatness" and "cheesiness".

    Does ANYONE remember how Windows 3.0, with it's 3D SKEUMORPHIC LOOK, actually made sales of Windows SIGNIFICANT? It beat OS/2! but NOBODY wants to ADMIT that it's the "eye candy" that was a BIG part of this.

    So WHY do people actually "FEEL" (not THINK) that Windows 10 will *HELP*? I suspect that, when Windows 7 is no longer available for OEMs, that LINUX PCs will have a SERIOUS opportunity to DISPLACE WINDOWS. The only problem here is PC software compatibility, but that's less of a problem than a lot of people want to admit.

    Intel should be SERIOUSLY INVESTING in a Linux distribution that end-users will GLADLY accept, or at least in MARKETING IT so that people *DO* accept it! Their influence would make PC SALES GO UP AGAIN. And it would be a VERY HIGH RETURN compared to the level of investment needed.

    Instead, they "trust Microsoft", sorta like trusting the FOX to guard the HENHOUSE. Microsoft does NOT care about Intel. They released a PHONE-LIKE OS THREE TIMES that was intended to DISPLACE the DESKTOP-ORIENTED OS (Windows 7) that was SO SUCCESSFUL!

    You have to wonder what kind of WACKY WEED Microsoft was SMOKING to literally AIM AT THEIR OWN FOOT AND FIRE, REPEATEDLY.

    Microsoft is trying to CORNER THE MARKET with "their patentable brand", which STINKS ON ICE. They want to LITERALLY accomplish what Apple could NOT do to THEM back in the 80's and 90's, and do so by SHOVING ADWARE AND SPYWARE at us to glean whatever additional revenue that Lenovo got in trouble for a year ago (remember superfish?).

    So, riddle me THIS: How is *ALL* *OF* *THAT* from Microsoft *HELPING* PC SALES ?????

    1. Code For Broke

      Re: Windows 10 does _*NOT*_ help PC sales!

      This was nice, but... too long. Didn't read it.

  24. CrosscutSaw

    This cracked me up.

    "It's expected that plenty of organisations will look therefore decide 2016's as good a time as any to take the plunge on a new PC fleet, powered by Windows 10."

    Hahahaha! FALSE. (Dwight Shrute face)

  25. Paul Bartlett

    Apple

    Interesting, yesterday I was in local coffee shop here in California. There were 6 people on laptops and all were Apple Mac. None were Windows. This is common place here, I rarely see a non-apple laptop these days. Maybe they have too much money, or more likely they are fed up with Windows and can afford to be.

    1. All names Taken
      Headmaster

      Re: Apple

      Maybe the apple laptop crowd do a bit of public performance like sit in coffee shops using mac whereas windows users are too busy doing other stuff or too ashamed to take windws laptop/tablt/thingy into a public place?

      Just saying like you know?

    2. Code For Broke

      Re: Apple

      A coffee shop is intended as a place of recreation and casual social gathering. Someone who goes there to "work" doesn't even understand how to use a coffe shop. Why would you presume they know who to do meaningful work?

      My strongly biased, closed-minded opinion of anyone who poses as attempting to get work done in a coffee shop is that they are peri-unemployed, living largely on the privilege of their parents and social class, and desperately at odds with how to make their existance on the planet meaningful. They are not working in any substantive, value-generating understanding of "work."

      1. JEDIDIAH
        Linux

        Re: Apple

        Meh. At the local mall there's a Starbucks next to the Apple store. Even there, the mix is predominantly PC rather than Mac. Even right next to the Apple store, there are more people using non-Apple kit.

  26. Aaron 10
    Mushroom

    1366x768

    Can we finally -- FINALLY -- put the 1366x768 resolution to rest for laptops? Especially 15" laptops! Pixels so large I think I'm watching censored Japanese tentacle porn.

  27. All names Taken
    Boffin

    Now were I a betting man sir I'd probably bet on this or something quite like it:

    http://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/computing/desktop-pcs/desktop-pcs/lenovo-ideacentre-300-21-5-touchscreen-all-in-one-pc-10141695-pdt.html

    Play on the Mac lookalike-ness of it in white all-in-one form with optional switch from tablet UI to trad(ish) UI incorporating keyboard shortcuts that go back to Windows 3 or even DOS and all the way up to Win10 with added plusability in that user experience that is so intuitive with fingers onscreen the tablet glitterati will excel in their excllence

    But that is just me

    EDIT: but as for any lego-like pooter of much complicated-ness = uh-huh baby

  28. Ralph Online

    Couple of minor requests...

    What I'd like to see on the next "fleet" of business laptops is:

    a) Bluetooth enabled (maybe even properly secured - if that's possible?) so that I use a Bluetooth mouse directly instead of a silly little USB dongle

    b) Windows 10 - with Miracast. So somehow you can use Miracast to connect a laptop to those big screen/projectors in meeting room. So no more palaver with HDMI cables, or God forbid those old VGA cables with the bent pins!

  29. Barry Rueger

    Where's all of the used kit?

    For ages I've been just fine with something second hand, and a couple of generations behind the latest and greatest.

    For the last year or two though I'm in a quandary since the prices asked for used PCs (on Craigslist anyhow) are pretty much the same as for a brand new system with more specs and a warranty.

    Is this just a local Vancouver thing, or it more widespread?

    And who is buying used PCs at new prices?

    1. Code For Broke

      Re: Where's all of the used kit?

      Eye Cap'n. Reporting the same experience in NJ.

      1. All names Taken
        Angel

        Re: Where's all of the used kit?

        Maybe its not just a case of old pooter prices going up but new pooter prices going down (or a bit of both?)?

  30. Geekhillbilly

    The spying abilities of Windows 10 drives me away from pre-configured PCs -I'll just build my own,thank you and I won't have to pay the Microsoft Tax.To hell with Windows,I'll run what I want

    1. All names Taken
      Boffin

      Maybe... ?

      Maybe like all prey such as mackerel in the deep salty blue, bison on the plains (well historically I mean), burgers in a MacD, ... the best protection a single of the species has is in big numbers.

      Same with pooter users on new kit (but I bet the cell phones/mobile phones are far more wildly and popularly hoovered, slurped and vacuumed for user data)

  31. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Calling all 'nix'ers

    My Mac Pro circa 2006 is mechanically sound and at the same time evolutionarily defunkted.

    El Capitan (who chose that moniker? No wonder Mac pooters are dying dieing not doing very well) just does not want to know so ...

    ... is there a nix or two or 4 (i don't mind a multiboot option of nixes or even guest operating systems to meddle with and explore.

    What say you?

  32. Cloud-Bytes
    IT Angle

    Just saying...hopefully useful info.

    I have a strange mix of requirements for a laptop as a self employed IT guy and in own life serious photographer.

    Currently running a 2016 model Dell XPS 15. 32gb DDR4 RAM, 1TB PCIe SSD, Nvidia Graphics card and a nice clear display. It's slim and tough, about the size I'd a 14" Laptop due to near zero bezel display. For me it's kind of the laptop I have been waiting for. Churns through photoshop actions in seconds via CUDA. Runs / Stores numerous Virtual machines in various OS's. Runs visual Studio super fast. As an example can fire up a virtual server from cold to logged in in around 20 secs.

    I add this in this thread not to be tw**ty just as lots of IT folk with work to do might find this is a good portable "road warrior" laptop that replaces a desktop. Also supports Thunderbolt/USB C docks. Currently running 2 X HD and 1 X 4K displays and various peripherals from one cable.

    Feels like a kick in the backside from MAC designs made Dell raise their game on design which can only be a good thing...

  33. Tom 13

    Anything that follows an opening line of

    confirmed by a nice little bump in sales over Christmas, due in part to Windows 10. is of questionable value.

    Windows 10 ain't bumping purchases. If anything, it is retarding them as people desperately cling to the OS they prefer. To the extent buyers are increasing purchases, it's either growing businesses that need more kit, or increased hardware failures on old stuff.

    As for USB-C replacing the proprietary dock, I don't see it. I will grant I hate the proprietary dock, or at least the expense typically associated with it. But there's a reason we buy them that I just can't see USB connectors fixing: Unplugging from that proprietary dock is a button push and putting it in is just snapping it in. Business/government users may also have to fumble with a cable lock, but the USB won't take that away so it is a wash.

    No matter how you look at it, with "the big vendors" down to 3 and that pretty much being the market except for roll your own, 2016 is going to suck for buying hardware. With more vendors consumers actually have a shot at dictating what gets built. With only 3, the vendors are absolutely in the driver's seat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anything that follows an opening line of

      Do many Business/government still use/buys laptop docks?

      My current employer (50,000+ employees in about 10 countries), banned purchasing laptop docks about a decade ago. Other companies I've worked for, or that friends work for, have similar or exactly the same rules.

      Docks tie you to a specific vendor, and are expensive, and the 5-10 seconds time saved just doesn't add up as a valid business case. If you have money to burn, then fine, but real business, that have to watch their bottom lines, can't justify docks.

      My monitory has a built in USB hub, so all my stuff (keyboard/mouse etc) are plugged into the monitor, and so all I have is one VGA and one USB cable to plug in currently.

      If that could be replaced by a single USB-C, then that makes it even simpler, especially if the same USB-C could carry the charge power (which is part of the spec).

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Anything that follows an opening line of

        Docks tie you to a specific vendor

        My experience was that they also tied you to specific model ranges so that a laptop upgrade was also a dock upgrade.

        I stopped using a dock (back in the 90's) and started plugging peripherals (mouse, keyboard, monitor & LAN cable) directly into the laptop when I discovered that the system bus was being extended into the dock to support these ports and to avoid problems it ran at a much lower clock speed...

  34. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    I have the following criteria for a PC or Laptop:

    Low power consumption

    Fanless

    Decent CPU (an N3540 will do)

    Decent 3D graphics (on par with, say, and iPad Pro)

    8GB RAM (anything less is a bit lame today)

    128GB or greater SSD, or 500GB or greater spinner.

    I can get all of this today, except the decent 3D graphics bit, which for some weird reason always goes hand in hand with a fan and large size, or a fan, small size and extreme price.

    If an iPad or Android tablet can do it, why can't the PC-platform?

    P.S: Laptops should start to come with a proper IPS display that can compete with iPads in quality. Even cheapish-latops. Not the junk that is pushed at the moment.

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