Archive for June 2014

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TFF Episode 69 concludes interview with Computer Business book author

The latest episode of Force Field Podcast concludes a discussion with the author of a new book about starting a computer business that takes a different approach to the subject.

TFF Episode 69 features the second of a two pard discussion with Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy, Matthew Rodela. Mr. Rodela, who also hosts The Computer Business Podcast, recently released a new book called How To Quit your Job and Start a Computer Business. TFF Podcast host Rick Savoia interviewed Mr. Rodela to talk about how the book differs from other computer business “how to” manuals and to give listeners a preview of individual chapters and sections.

The book is available from YFNCG.com and can also be purchased through The Force Field. Listeners of The Force Field Podcast can save an additional 20% at checkout with a discount code mentioned during the show.

TFF-69 – How To Quit Your Job and Start a Computer Business Part 2

Today we’ll continue our discussion with an IT consultant who recently wrote a book that takes a different approach to starting a computer business that most other books of its kind don’t consider. We’ll also tell you where you can get this book and how you can get a special discount when you purchase it as a listener of The Force Field.

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Intro to Topic 2:01
We conclude our discussion with Matthew Rodela, an IT consultant, owner of Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy, host of The Computer Business Podcast and author of a new book called How To Quit your Job and Start a Computer Business. We’ll find out how to keep your finances in order while you build your business, how to determine when it is time to quit your day job and manage your business full time, and how to plan for the future as a computer business owner. Part 2 of a two part series.

Interview with Matthew Rodela 2:50

Order your copy of How To Quit your Job and Start a Computer Business and save 20% at checkout with discount code: FORCEFIELD20.

Wrap up and Close 33:17

Comments, questions or suggestions? Send them in to comments@theforcefield.net or post them in The Force Field Forums. Feedback on this topic will be read by the host and included in future episodes of the show. Visit us at http://www.theforcefield.net!

©2014 Savoia Media. All rights reserved.

What is a white box?

I’ve used the term white box this week in other posts on the assumption that most readers of The Force Field and the Rick Rant blog would know what it meant. IT covers a lot of areas and not everyone in the industry builds or repairs computers. So allow me to explain what is.

A White Box is a device that is not branded by major or well-known company. The term generally refers to a generic desktop or tower computer system that is built or assembled by a relatively unknown company or brand, such as a local computer shop or a do-it-yourself hobbyist. In recent years it has come to mean any generically boxed or unbranded device, such as a laptop or a tablet.

Originally these generic or unbranded systems were assembled using white or beige cases, hence the name white box. However, over time the cases became available in other colors and even customized shapes, and today the boxes are typically white in name only.

Why I am building instead of buying a new PC

This month, I plan to build a new computer for my home office. This will be my first new build in seven years. I am doing so for two reasons. First, the computer I am currently working on is seven years old and it will not run the new software I recently purchased to edit my videos. The second reason is because Windows XP has reached its EOL and I need some measure of security.

I am not purchasing a computer from Dell, HP, Toshiba or some other PC manufacturer. I am building it myself, and I am doing so for two reasons. First, because I can.

Once upon a time, building computers was part of my business. The computers that I built were considerably better than those purchased from Dell, HP or another major OEM. They were carefully assembled, burned-in and tested by hand, they were tweaked and optimized for performance, and they were not pre-loaded with bloatware to slow them down on first boot. My computers had a very low rate of warranty repairs and a zero rate on returns. A few of them are still in operation today, although they are now eight to ten years old.

When I first got into building computers, it was rather profitable, but sometime between 2004 and 2006, everything changed. Dell had forced a lot of small system builders like myself out of the business by selling cheap computers at ridiculously low prices. Yes, they were junk, but a lot of our customers bought them because they were so cheap. Of course, after their first or second call to Dell’s horrible and frustrating overseas tech support line, many of those customers learned the hard way that you really do get what you pay for, but by then it was too late. Thanks to Dell and their over-aggressive pricing strategy, the margins on computers became razor-thin, and eventually hit rock bottom industry-wide.

For some of us, it was the last straw. It just wasn’t worth the cost of building a system that we would also have to warranty and support for a year just to keep a customer buying in-house. I had had enough of system building.

After I closed up shop in Florida and moved out of the business, I built one last computer. It wasn’t for a customer, it was for me. I told myself it would be the last PC I would build for anyone, simply because I felt they were no longer cost effective to build. If we needed a computer at home, I would simply go to the nearest Sam’s Club and purchase one. At least I would get a warranty that I wouldn’t have to support.

At first, it worked out rather well. When my wife’s old computer finally bit the dust, I went out and purchased one of the last netbooks with Windows XP. Vista was out on the market, but thanks to Microsoft and their prudent decision to keep XP around and offer a downgrade, we had options.

When my daughter needed a new PC for her school and graphic art projects, it was not a problem. I purchased a white box system (the case was black) from CompUSA during a trip to Florida and installed Windows XP, which was still available. No muss, no fuss, and she is still using it as I write.

Then, we had trouble. When my son’s computer became too old and slow to run programs he needed for school work, I searched around for a new laptop. It turned out to be more than I bargained for, because by this time Microsoft had rolled out the now infamous Windows 8.

I chronicled this purchase in another rant, so I won’t recount the details of the experience here. However, after finally locating a laptop with Windows 7, I came to the disheartening realization that purchasing another PC in the near future without Windows 8 was going to be a problem, if not an impossibility.

Now I need a new desktop computer. This time I am going to build instead of buy one. As I stated earlier, I am doing it because I can, but it isn’t because I really want to. I am not going to buy it from a major OEM because I can’t. Microsoft made the selfishly stupid decision to push Windows 8 and not allow downgrades to Windows 7.

I do not want to be forced to purchase a PC with Windows 8. I want a choice, and if I can’t have the desktop I had before, I want something relatively close to it. I want to choose an operating system that belongs on a desktop, running personal and business programs, an OS that doesn’t make my PC look and feel like an oversized tablet or smartphone.
 
Why are PC sales falling? Because they come with Windows 8 installed, and people like me don’t want to purchase computers with Windows 8. If we can’t buy one from a major OEM like Dell, HP or Toshiba without Windows 8, then we’ll either find a local shop that will build a system with Windows 7 or, as I am doing, build our own.

Microsoft is chasing potential customers away from the major OEMs with Windows 8. I should know. I am testimonial proof.

Why are PC sales falling?

The eventual decline of the desktop PC market has been predicted for over a decade. Contributing factors included eventual natural market saturation, newer and emerging technologies, and an increase in performance and power on the desktop that could eventually outpace its standard three to five year life cycle, increasing the compatibility and longevity of older computers.

During the last five years, the approaching death knell for the desktop computer was blamed on the Mobility Factor, the expectation that an ever-increasing dependence on mobile devices and technologies would eventually draw nearly every user away from the PC to leave it collecting dust on the desk while they cavorted about wirelessly, conducting both personal and professional business while on the move.

First, it was predicted the netbook would take over. It never happened. Then, it was predicted the smartphone would do it all. Sure, it does a lot, but it doesn’t do everything, at least not as well as a desktop PC. For instance, it isn’t easy to write long blog posts or edit podcasts on a smartphone, at least not for me. Now, rumour has it that tablets will take over. Sure, they are popular. I do a lot of work on mine. But I still use my desktop. In fact, I’m using it right now to write this. Why? because when I write, I prefer to use a full keyboard. It’s faster and more efficient. It is also more comfortable. When it comes to writing on a smartphone or tablet, I’m all thumbs.

Apparently I am not alone. smartphones and tablets are great for some applications, but when it comes to heavy duty computing or serious multitasking, they can’t touch the desktop for performance. At least, not yet. Sure, a lot of folks don’t do all that much with their computer other than check e-mail, write an occasional letter, surf the net, watch YouTube videos, or play solitaire. Any smartphone or tablet can do that.

But when they need to do a little bit more, at the end of the day they still find themselves going back to the desktop computer.

PC sales may have declined during the past year or so, but they certainly aren’t dead. I don’t personally know of anyone who has actually ditched their home computer to do everything on a smartphone or tablet. At least, not yet.

We still use desktops, and we still like them, but we aren’t buying them. Why the decline? What is the real reason behind the lackluster sales of personal computers?

Could it be because of Windows 8?

I think so. That’s not an original thought. It has been widely speculated that Microsoft’s poorly received operating system may be one reason why PC sales are soft, although not the only reason. I disagree. It may not be the only reason, but I contend that it is the primary reason we aren’t buying desktops today.

Remember when Windows Vista debuted? Users rejected it. PC sales dropped. When Windows 7 launched, PC sales seemed to be somewhat stable. The dramatic drop in sales after the launch of Windows 8 was obvious. The public did not like the operating system at all. When Microsoft told OEMs it was Windows 8 all the way with no rollback option to Windows 7, the continued drop in sales was a shout out to Redmond that users did not like being force fed something they clearly did not want shoved down their throats.

They aren’t buying desktops because they don’t like what is on them, and unless they purchase an overly expensive Mac or unfamiliar Linux based machine, they don’t seem to have any other options.

Yet there is something missing from all the sales data. Everyone seems to be reporting on sales of desktops from major, name brand OEMs. What about white box systems? Small system builders still exist, and there are plenty of local computer shops that build their own PCs. In addition, a growing segment of the population is building their own. No one seems to have the numbers on the sales of new computer parts.

Microsoft requires the major OEMs to install Windows 8 on new PCs, but Windows 7 product is still available, and smaller white box builders can and do build boxes with Windows 7. So can just about anyone else.

Is it possible that the desktop isn’t dead at all? Is it possible that there is another market for new PCs that is undocumented or under-reported, but may be currently experiencing a resurgence in growth? We don’t have the hard numbers, but casual discussions with other techs in the business indicate to me that their system builds are actually up, largely because their customers specifically want custom builds with Windows 7. 

In other words, the desktop market may actually still be alive and well. It may just be thriving in a different market place.

Perhaps I’m wrong about tablets and smartphones, and they will eventually relegate PCs to the attic under a cache of cobwebs and an inch of dust. But not in my house. Not yet.

If and when it does happen, it will likely be because we can no longer use a PC like a desktop, because it will no longer have an operating system that lets it work like one.

If and when the desktop is discarded, it won’t be due to netbooks, smartphones or tablets. It will be Microsoft that does it in. Whether it’s intentional through forced migration or a botched redesign due to corporate incompetence, the end of the desktop will be Microsoft’s fault.

I predict the PC will not die of from obsolescence. Microsoft will probably kill it.

Dell to close support center

Dell is closing a call center.

Last week, Dell said that it would be closing its PC phone support center in Mohali, India. According to the Hindu Business Line the closure was due to “falling employee productivity”. Translation- the number of incoming support calls are down, apparently so much that it is no longer cost effective to have one of their call centers.

This is no huge revelation. PC sales were down more than 10% industry wide in 2013, according to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Tracker. So far, 2014 isn’t looking too good, either.

Dell is feeling the pinch, but so are HP, Acer, ASUS and other PC manufacturers. Apparently the only PC maker to come out significantly ahead of the game was Lenovo, thanks in part to Chromebooks and sales in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The death of the desktop has been predicted for over a decade. Is this the beginning of the end of the Personal Computer?

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