One Hundred Dollars: A terabyte disk, one copy of Microsoft Windows, or a thousand copies of Ubuntu Linux?

I just spent some time visiting my favorite computer parts supplier, Newegg, to see what was new and also just to poke around to see how prices had changed.

Though I knew it was only a matter of time, I still was surprised that an internal hard disk drive with a one terabyte capacity can be had for one hundred dollars! HITACHI 0A38016 1TB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ Hard Drive – OEM.

Though some youngsters may be surprised at my use of the exclamation mark, I’m old enough to remember when such a price was almost unimagineable. For example, back in 1983 NYU bought me a five megabyte external hard drive that cost almost five thousand dollars. That is 5,000,000 bytes / 5,000 dollars, or 1,000$/megabyte, or 1e3$/MB. “1e3” is 1 with three zeroes after it, or 1000, or one thousand. (This is called scientific notation. It is especially useful when comparing large numbers with lots of zeros.)

The terabyte drive has 1e12 bytes for 1e2 dollars, or 1e6 MB / 1e2$ or 1e4MB/$. That is ten thousand times cheaper than my 1983 drive.

Put in more ordinary terms, recall that 10,000 is 100 times 100, so if gasoline had gone down at the same rate, gasoline that cost one dollar per gallon in 1982 would now cost me one one-hundredth of a penny per gallon, or one penny per one hundred gallons!

Newegg also had a link with the interesting title PC Challenge. I accepted the challenge by clicking on the link, and found myself at a page titled “PC Challenge: To build the best Family PC for less than $500.” The page includes two machines, one from “Andrew,” the other from “Seth.”

Neither included the cost of a display. Each included the cost of a keyboard and mouse, but I’m going to take them out, since they made different choices, and these are stock items . Andrew’s cost was then $469. However, Andrew also included a speaker costing $41, so taking that out gave $428. Andrew also included a video card and a DVD burner. Taking them out gave $358.

Seth’s cost was $476. He also included a Blu-ray burner and a keyboard/mouse combo. Taking them out gave $363.

The net for both was about $360.

Each also included $99.99 for a copy of Microsoft Windows Vista.

Vista! Yikes! That dog is worth only a fraction of that, but being a monopoly does have its advantages.

Simply put, about 30% of the cost for either machine is for a copy of Vista.

If we put that aside — and everyone should — the net cost comes to $260, just about what I came up with in my recent post How to Build Your Own SETL Ubuntu 8.10 Linux Desktop Computer for About $250.

For $250 you can now get 2.5 terabytes of disk space. That is 2500 GB (GB is gigabyte, one million bytes). You can record an audio CD in an open-source (free) format called “flac” in under 500MB, or two CD’s per GB, or 5,000 CD’s for $250. That is enough music to play without repetition for about 5,000 hours, just under thirty weeks — night and day — or over six months.

Ubuntu Linux is already “good enough” forlmost users, including most corporate users, and it wil be even better when the Vista Day of Reckoning arrives.

You can download a copy of Ubuntu Linux and put it on a CD that costs about a dime, so you can burn one thousand CD’s for the same one hundred dollars.

That is a lot of music. For example, I have a complete collection of Mozart’s works on 170 CD’s, as described in my post Open Mozart: Ecco la marcia, andiamo. It cost me less than a dollar per CD, or less than a dollar an hour for Mozart.

Those 70 CD’s take about 33GB, costing about $16, to put on a hard drive. Every note would then just be a click or two away, with no need to ever put one of the CD’s in a player again. This would be a boon to me, as my wife earlier this evening reminded me that there were three or four of the Mozart CD’s scattered in various parts of our house.

For the same $100 you can get a crufty piece of software from Microsoft that is worse than its predecessor, Windows XP.

If you doubt this, just ask anyone who works at a large corporation when they plan to move from Windows XP to Windows Vista. The answer is “not ever,” though they know that eventually Microsoft will be able to stuff it down their throats, and they will have no choice.

Put another way, would you rather pay one hundred dollars to get a copy of Vista when you could store two thousand hours of music for the same cost?

I don’t know about you, but the choice to me is obvious. So obvious it is music to my ears.

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