Cheap PCs from Wal-Mart

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at
Thu May 29 19:46:21 EDT 2003

Alvin's right, there are other approaches...
However, allow me to point out the following:
- $200 for a Linux machine is cheaper than $280, albeit for less 
performance.  I have shopped around the local stores looking for a similar 
pricepoint, and nobody is interested in stocking components that provide 
the low level of performance at the low price point Wal-Mart is selling at.

- The Walmart special requires ZERO labor to assemble and test, and is 
guaranteed good out of the box (they'll pay return shipping)...As far as 
DOA rates go... I'll bet Walmart wouldn't tolerate a 5% DOA rate, since 
their corporate reputation rests on "non-sophisticated users" who "take it 
out of the box and plug it in"

- One probably cannot buy a *LEGAL* copy of WinXP for $25 as an end user. 
One might be able to negotiate such a price from a dealer, but I'll bet the 
OEM License agreement *REQUIRES* the dealer to install it on a working 
system.  Microsoft is no fool when it comes to extracting money, which is 
probably why WalMart is charging $100+ for the WinXP

- Buying locally over the counter merely moves the shipping cost from the 
vendor to you.  How much is your time worth?  FWIW, Walmart charged me $14 
for shipping, which is quite reasonable.

- Legally, you have to pay sales tax (or, alternately use tax) in 
California regardless.  Sure, some out of state vendors may be remiss in 
collecting it, but, then, you're then *legally responsible* for paying the 
use tax.  Likewise, if you use your "resale permit" to claim you're buying 
for resale as an OEM (probably also how you'd finagle the oem Windows 
license), you're responsible for the tax. When it comes to tax, the 
government is amazingly tenacious...

And, of course, if you were buying a low-buck Beowulf for an educational 
purpose (i.e. to give a local middle school a chance to work with a 
cluster), they're not going to hassle the shady tax and/or shipping and/or 
licensing issues.

If you're just hacking a cluster in your living room or garage, have no 
money, and lots of time, then, by all means, meet the guy in the alley, buy 
the bare motherboards for cash, hot glue them to a piece of plywood and 
lash them up....

Clearly, if one had $1000 to spend on raw computing, there are better ways 
to invest it than buying 4 WalMart specials and a switch. I was looking at 
this as an example of a very inexpensive way to put together a cluster 
without having to build your own PCs.

At 04:19 PM 5/29/2003 -0700, you wrote:

>hi ya
>cheap PCs can be gotten almost anywhere ??? doesnt have to
>be walmart/circuit city/emachines/etc
>$ 30    cheap pc case ( that makes the PC their widget )
>$ 70    generic motherboard w/ onboard nic, onboard svga
>$ 70    Celeron-1.7G 478pin fsb400 cpu
>$ 25    128MB pc-133
>$ 25    50x cdrom
>$ 60    20GB ide disk
>----    -------------
>$ 280   grand total
>$  25   oem ms license
>mb, cpu, disks can be lot lower in $$ if you use p3 and pc-133 meory
>via series mb w/ p3-800 is about $85 total  ( subtract ~ $60 from above )
>same cost estimates for amd duron/athlon based systems
>you can save the shipping by bying locally...
>and might be zero sales tax in some states too
>stuff all that into a 1U chassis and add $100 - $250 extra ...
>and take out the cost of the "generic midtower case"
>and if there's a problem w/ the pc, i'd hate to worry about how
>to return it and get a better box back or is it, as typically the case,
>that they'd simply send out a different returned PC .. since its
>a warranty replacement, they dont have to send you a brand new pc
>like they would have to with a new order
>On Thu, 29 May 2003, Jim Lux wrote:
> > For those of you looking to build a cluster on the (real) cheap, Walmart
> > has mailorder PCs, with Lindows (a Linux variant) installed for $200 (plus
> > sales tax and shipping, of course).
> >
> > I just bought one of these for my daughter (with WinXP, for $300.. I guess
> > the MS license is $100) and while it's no ball of fire, and the keyboard
> > and mouse are what you'd expect for a $200 computer, it DOES work
>magic !
>have fun

James Lux, P.E.
Spacecraft Telecommunications Section
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mail Stop 161-213
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena CA 91109
tel: (818)354-2075
fax: (818)393-6875

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