Bad Arguments

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I consider my primary job to do one thing: make you think, hopefully in ways you haven’t thought before.

If you think, and disagree, that’s fine. If you don’t think, and disagree
with me, that’s not so fine.

There can be a thin line between thinking and not thinking. For instance, here’s a summary of what I’d call thoughtful disagreement:

“The experiences you report haven’t been ours. We have a couple dozen AMD machines operating serious software and have had no problems so far. We
need to somehow explore why people are having much different experiences with these machines.”

That’s useful. That makes me think more (and should make you think more, too), and encourages us to deepen our understanding of what is going on out there and why.

In contrast, here’s a summary of what I’d call a case of not-thinking:

“I haven’t had these problems. You must be incompetent.”

This stops discussion. It’s a refusal to think. It kneejerks a convenient, simplistic reaction to reality. That’s not so good.

I’m going to write a separate article dealing with some of the better points and arguments I’ve heard. This article will deal with some of the less-good ones.

“I haven’t had these problems. Anybody who is must be incompetent, or it must be a freak occurence.”

I covered this pretty much yesterday, and later today we’ll have a representative of this line of thinking speak for himself, but I know this isn’t true.

Even a glance at the various hardware forums and newsgroups would show someone
with eyes to see that there are problems out there, some happen fairly often if not all the time, and at least a few of them are not even capable of being influenced by user skill or nonskill.

That same glance should also tell you that many people buying exactly the same
equipment aren’t having those problems at all. There’s no doubt in my mind that at least a sizable portion of these problems are legitimate. Now the size of that proportion is open to question and further study, it’s existence
is not.

We should be asking ourselves, “Why is that?” rather than coming up with a single convenient pat answer that denies any legitimacy to real problems real people are having.

“AMD can do no wrong. You’re biased.”

That’s what a number of people effectively say. Pretty funny when you put it that way, isn’t it?

“If you talk about AMD’s faults, you have to talk about Intel’s faults, too”

Funny these people didn’t speak up all the times I’ve bashed Intel without making reference to AMD. I guess there’s only one kind of bashing is fair.

Both Intel and AMD have some major problems at this point, they just happen to be much different problems. Reliability and stability is more of an issue with AMD than Intel; price/performance is the primary Intel issues.

Now if you find price/performance more important to you, fine. Others don’t feel the same way. Why should those with different priorities have yours shoved down their throats?

It’s very safe to say that a significant proportion of the overclocker population does not believe that Via meets at least the Intel BX standard. This does not mean the BX was perfect, or had no problems, it certainly did.
This is not to say that Intel always will at least meet or even now meets or exceeds that BX standard.

It would probably be very easy to find a number of undoubtably very competent people who have worked extensively with both type systems. Some of them undoubtably will say in all good faith that they have found the Intel platform better. Others will say,
again in all good faith, that they’ve found the Via platforms better. Yet others will find themselves somewhere in the middle.

What do we do in that case, play “Pin the tail on the idiot” or ask, “Why are these experiences so different? Can we learn something from this? Can we get a deeper understanding as to why these experiences are so different?”

“No statistics, no problem”

I went into why this is a bad argument yesterday. Please note, though, that this is only a bad argument when it’s in this extreme form. Less extreme versions have more merit and raise issues that need to be answered, and I’ll address them in the other article.

“You have to be on one side or the other”

Why? There’s only one side I want to be on, what’s best for myself (or for my audience). I don’t do that by wearing blinders. The longer I do this, the more I realize that different groups have different needs, and one size does not fit all.

Why can’t there be one choice on one side of the divide for people with one set of needs, and another on the other side for people with much different needs? If you want to argue whether or not the choices are valid, that’s another matter, but if you’re
stuck on one side, you can’t make that choice.

“You have to be loyal”

Why? You should be loyal to your wife. You should be loyal to your friends. In those cases, you can reasonably expect some of that loyalty back. Why be loyal to a company that doesn’t even know you exist, and even if they did, has no personal interest in you. Whether it’s Intel or AMD or Via, they’re looking out for Number One, and so should you.

These are commercial transactions, pure and simple. Intel and AMD and Via do not love you, period. They want your money, not your love. This isn’t romance; this is prostitution.

Besides, if one party loves more than the other, the one who loves less or not at all often just takes that love for granted or takes advantage of it.

“We have to support AMD, if not Intel will skin us alive again”

AMD is not a charity. They are out to make money. They figured they could make more money under the circumstances by changing the price structure. They didn’t do it to get less money out of you (on average), they did it to get more money out of you.

AMD didn’t give you lower prices out of the kindness of their hearts, competition did. It’s accurate to say, “If it weren’t for AMD, Intel would still be charging cloze to a thousand dollars for their best processor.” It’s probably just as accurate to say, “If it weren’t for Intel, so would AMD.” It’s definitely accurate to say, “If it weren’t for Intel,
AMD wouldn’t be charging $200 for it’s best processor.”

It’s the competition that does it, not any noble intent on anybody’s part.

Competition doesn’t just only happen with price, either. Pointing out AMD’s (or Via’s, or anybody else’s) weak points gives them incentive to correct and improve them. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. “Fix it or we won’t buy it” is a much more powerful incentive
to a company that’s just in it for your money than, “Please, pretty please?”

Besides, I didn’t say “Don’t buy AMD, ever.” I merely pointed out they’re a bit weak in a certain area. They certainly have strengths elsewhere.

Secondly, let’s please not overexaggerate our importance in the grand scheme of things. All the computer websites combined can’t make or break AMD or Intel. At most, it can help or hurt a little.

Look at sales. AMD has gone from 17 to 21% marketshare. Most of that 4% increase is probably due to price. How much influence does that leave any or all of us to claim credit for?

“If you don’t love AMD, you must love Intel”

No. I’m not binary. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. I can be somewhere in the middle, and I am. I don’t have to love anybody. I can very well like some aspects of both, and dislike others, and so can you.

I refuse to be on one extreme or the other. If you don’t like something I say, just don’t kneejerk and assume I’m all the way on the other side. I’m getting people doing that, and telling me what my position must be when I’ve said the absolute opposite later on in the piece.

I never said, “Don’t buy AMD.” I never said, “You must buy Intel.” What I said was that there seemed to be more of a reliability and stability issue overall with AMD/Via than had been the case with Intel.

I didn’t say “Go buy Willy” instead. Willy has its own issues. For all I know right now, Willy may well have reliability issues, too.

Please, before you unleash your wrath, please read and digest all of what I said.

This started up because I’m getting a lot of email from people still sitting with PII or PIII and Celeron systems telling me they’d like to upgrade, but they need something at least as stable and solid as their current platforms.

In my considered opinion, based on my both my personal experiences with these machines, and the experiences of many others, I can’t in all good conscience tell them that this is a sure bet.

That’s my best opinion. It’s not the Word of God. There are strong and weak points to that opinion, and there could be a better way to come up with such an answer, and I’ll explore that in the next piece. I can tell you right now, though, that a better answer has to start answering a bunch of unasked questions.

But none of the items mentioned above is a better answer.

Email Ed


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