deflation: gasoline, computers, Popper falsification

Gasoline prices continue down.
Computers are getting so cheap it is ridiculous.
Computer pay is also getting cheap — sweatshop labor.
Too many people in the profession with lower and lower IQ.
I am getting more interested in theories than software development. Like Popper falsification, critique of pseudoscience.
http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/en_US/pdp/HP-Stream-13-Signature-Edition-Laptop/productID.309174500

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* HP Stream 11 Review: A $200 Windows Laptop That’s Worth the Price

The Netbook Is Resurrected—and Refined—With Google’s Chromebook in Its Crosshairs

Microsoft and HP’s new $200 Windows PC sounds like an “As Seen on TV” deal. WSJ’s Joanna Stern puts it up against Acer’s $200 Chromebook 11 to find out if it’s really that good a buy.

JOANNA STERN
Dec. 2, 2014 2:01 p.m. ET

Microsoftand H-P are giving away a brand new laptop. Well, practically giving it away.

TheHPStream 11 runs a full version of Windows 8.1 yet costs only $200. But wait, there’s more: It also comes with a free year of Office 365 and1 terabyte of Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage —a $70 value. Buyers even get a $25 gift certificate for the Microsoft Windows Store. Do the math and this laptop costs $105.

It really does sound like one of those too-good-to-be-true. But this isn’t even a holiday special or a clearance deal. It’s Microsoft’s new strategy to try to destroyGoogle’s low-cost, cloud-based Chromebooks.

In fact, recouping some of the low-end laptop market is so important to Microsoft, the company worked with H-P to price the Stream to undercut the most popular Chromebooks, which are typically $250 to $350.

Low pricing is only half of what’s needed to win this race to the bottom, however. Chromebooks are also appealing for their thin design, long battery life and speedy Chrome-browser-based operating system. They were, themselves, a direct response to the very slow, cramped, toylike $300 Windows netbooks of yore*.*

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But the Stream is the netbook resurrected—and refined. It gives those considering a Chromebook, such as Acer’s comparable $200 Chromebook 11, an alternative with some real advantages.

Build Feels Like It’s Twice the Price

Spec-wise, the Stream 11 and the Acer Chromebook 11, which I tested alongside each other for the past week, are like brothers separated at birth. Both have an 11.6-inch, non-touch display, an Intel Celeron processor and 2GB of RAM. (H-P sells a 13-inch Stream for just $30 more.)

The $200 HP Stream 11 is available in only blue and magenta colors for now.ENLARGE The $200 HP Stream 11 is available in only blue and magenta colors for now.

Acer offers 16GB of local storage space with 100GB of Google Drive cloud storage for two years. The Stream comes with 32GB of flash storage. However, because Windows 8.1 takes up a considerable amount of space, there’s only 21GB left when you first boot up the computer. H-P and Microsoft make up for it by providinga terabyte of OneDrive storage , though after the first year, you’d have to renew for $70.

The Stream’s build also has the edge. The 2.7-pound plastic laptop is thicker and heavier than the Acer, but it feels far more like a laptop that costs two or three times the price. Unlike the old netbooks or today’s tablet keyboards, you don’t have squeeze your fingers together like a hand puppet to type on the comfortable, spacious keyboard. Better yet, it doesn’t cave in to my forceful keystrokes. (The Acer’s keyboard feels much flimsier.)

The Stream’s screen hinge is quite sturdy and the trackpad is surprisingly usable—at least compared with others in the same price range. At times, however, I had to press it twice for it to register my clicks.

The Stream has a very comfortable keyboard but off-putting polka dots on the frame.ENLARGE
The Stream has a very comfortable keyboard but off-putting polka dots on the frame.

If you’re looking for an unassuming, classy design, like the Acer’s basic white chassis, you’ll be very disappointed. But if you’re looking for his-‘n’-hers laptops in “horizon blue” and “orchid magenta,” the Stream is for you. While H-P and Microsoft say this laptop is for everyone, the color choices, not to mention the preponderance of polka dots across the interior, suggest it was designed for people far below driving age.

Compared with the Acer and other sub-$300 Chromebooks, the Stream’s matte 1366 x 768-pixel screen is noticeably dimmer and washed out. I kept hitting the screen brightness button on it, only to find it was at the max.

Even with the brightness cranked all the way up, I was able to work on the laptop for seven hours straight, impressive for a Windows machine. In a more punishing test, streaming video at full brightness, the Stream lasted six hours and 34 minutes. In that same test, the Acer’s battery lasted 45 minutes longer.

Get-What-You-Pay-For Performance

Comparing the Stream’s Windows 8.1 operating system with Acer’s Chrome OS isn’t as cut and dry.

While Chrome OS has been rapidly maturing with more offline app support and better multitasking features, Windows 8.1 is still a far more advanced operating system. The Stream gives you the full power of Windows, its advanced file system and a bigger selection of apps. Plus, you can use much of it whether you have an Internet connection or not. You don’t have to think twice about doing things a Chromebook can’t, like Skype with friends or easily print stuff.

(If you are wondering how the Stream can cost so little with a full version of Windows, it’s because it runs a special version of Windows that Microsoft charges less for, with Bing as the default search engine. It figures your searches will foot some of the bill for the software.)

Those strengths become the Stream’s biggest weakness, however. The Stream can do more than a Chromebook, but it requires more horsepower to do them—horsepower you don’t get on low-cost hardware like this.

The Stream comes with a full-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365, which includes Word, Excel and the others.ENLARGE
The Stream comes with a full-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365, which includes Word, Excel and the others.DREW EVANS/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The Stream launchesWord, Excel and PowerPoint swiftly and using them as I have alongside Web-based email and a streaming music site is a fairly smooth experience.

But other times the whole system got so sluggish, I had time to walk away and reheat my coffee. Internet Explorer buckled under the pressure of seven or more tabs and it became frustratingly slow when I visited some visually heavy websites. Slow and stuttering scrolling is more the norm than the exception.

At times, some apps like Netflix took close to 30 seconds to load (though streaming a full two-hour HD movie from Netflix was fine). And using Google’s Chrome browser is so slow you’ll want to delete it right after you install it. There is simply a massive difference in patience required when using the Streamversus pricier Windows laptops such as the $600 Asus VivoBook or $400 X Series.

The Acer Chromebook booted up faster and was much peppier when it came to surfing the Web and handling multiple tabs. In some cases, the simpler browser-only Chrome OS interface, which is far less confusing than Windows 8.1, is a boon, too.

Part of the reason the Stream 11 was so slow was that H-P preloads it with TripAdvisor, Vudu and other junkware apps and website shortcuts. Cleaning those off helped, but I strongly suggest getting Microsoft’s Signature Edition of the Stream, which costs the same but has no third-party promotional preloads.

The HP Stream is slightly thicker and heavier than the Acer Chromebook 11.ENLARGE The HP Stream is slightly thicker and heavier than the Acer Chromebook 11.

And every time I saw one of those incessant pop-ups for the preloaded McAfee program, I was reminded of the virus protection you’ll need with Windows but don’t with Chrome OS. (Google says protection is built right into its browser and OS.)

Here’s the bright side of the Chromebook vs. Windows battle. The longer it rages on, the better these modern Windows netbooks will get. This fight isn’t for our $200. It’s about keeping us plugged into Microsoft’s services and software rather than Google’s.

For now, if you want a $200 computer solely to surf the Web, the Acer is a better performer. But if you want a cheap computer

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