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We are amused to point out that AMD wants the FX-51 systems it handed to reviewers back and won’t give them socket 939 systems until they do.

It sure shows them who’s boss, doesn’t it?

It should show you, too.

When you let the puppeteer attach the strings, you tend to get jerked around.

Not like there’s just one puppeteer either, or that this one is particularly bad. At least AMD let people keep machines for quite a bit of time. From what I hear, the normal practice seems to be a short-term (sometimes very short-term) loan.

Nonetheless, this is just visible proof that free equipment isn’t free.

A Simple Test

Go to one of those “commercial” hardware sites, and read a handful of reviews. Then read some reviews from the “noncommercial” sites (preferably reviews of the same products).

I think you’ll find that the “commercial” sites are rather more critical of products than the others.

This is not good. You see, this is how the “free” equipment gets paid for; the audience pays by buying products they likely wouldn’t have bought had the reviews been more objectively critical.

Common sense ought to tell you that out of a range of products, a few will be really bad, a few will be really good, and most will end up somewhere in the middle.

When a technology first emerges, generally, the overall scale is shifted to the left. Even “excellent” products aren’t actually very good. As the technology matures, the scale shifts to the right; the proportion of poor products decreases, and the gap closes between the middle and the high-end.

The contents of any good review sites ought to take these two facts into consideration.

If a place doesn’t, then it just isn’t a good review site.

The What Matters, Not The Why

Let’s take Reviewer A and Reviewer B. Reviewer A is in it for the goodies, and he’ll say whatever needs to be said to stay on the gravy train.

Reviewer B is enthused about hardware. He loves hardware so much that he takes it out after testing and uses it as a teddy bear. He loves hardware so much that he just can’t say anything really bad about any of it.

For someone in the audience, is one better than the other.

May I suggest that for purposes of deciding what to buy, both are bad, because all that matter to the audience is output? The bottom line is that good intentions do not make up for bad advice.

If you buy something, and it turns out to be a bum tip, does it really matter to you why the tip was bum? Bad advice is bad advice, and bad advice due to enthusiasm is functionally no better than bad advice due to corruption. No matter how nice and pleasant and sincere someone is, if he keeps giving out bad advice, you’re going to stop listening.

I think a lot of people think that you have to prove evil before you can consider someone or some place bad. Since few if any of you have the investigative powers of the FBI, this is extremely difficult to prove.

However, if you adjust your definition of “bad” from “evil” to just plain “unrealistically positive,” and not worry yourself about the “why,” all these problems go away.

Understand that sincerity is not necessarily a virtue. The greatest evils in history have more often than not been committed by very sincere people.

Of course, computer hardware is hardly that important, but the same principle applies. The True Believer can cause as much or more damage than the sleazers.

An “Evil” Way To Find Evil

In the P2P arena, whenever some Congressperson or Senator introduces a bill the P2Pers don’t like, they immediately check out that person’s list of campaign contributions. They’re looking for evil as they see it.

Well, Congressfolk have to provide that kind of information, essentially because people demanded it.

Imagine if that kind of information were available for computer hardware sites. Imagine if every place had to disclose where they got their inputs from, from advertising to paid trips to free equipment.

It would be interesting, wouldn’t it? Rather than face manufacturer pressure, blatant or implied, to be as positive as possible, websites would then face audience pressure to show that they really aren’t influenced by the first.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Of course, this will never happen because national legislatures have better things to do than pass laws requiring this, and George Bush will join al-Queda and beg to become Osama’s boy toy before you’d see the bulk of hardware sites volunteer that kind of information.

Want to bet this article doesn’t attract too many links? 🙂

Nonetheless, so long as you remember the simple rule, “When everything’s good, that’s bad” when reading websites, that will do just as well.

Ed

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