PC homebrewing and white-boxing: Dead or alive?

Summary:To build, or not to build: Does it still make sense? Jason Perlow and Adrian Kingsley-Hughes debate the pros and cons of DIY.

Jason Perlow

Jason Perlow

Dead

or

Alive

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Best Argument: Dead

10%
90%

Audience Favored: Alive (90%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

It no longer makes sense

In 1969 the world-renowned Swiss psycholgist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, in her book "On Death and Dying" introduced a hypothesis on how humans handle grief in successive stages. There is Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance.
 
I was once an avid homebrewer. I grew up with a love of the user-serviceable PC, to be able to understand its inner workings, to be able to do my own repairs and upgrades, and also to save money. For over 20 years I built my own PCs for these very reasons. But now this no longer makes sense.
 
While there still exists a cottage industry for building "White Boxes" and supporting the homebrewed PC enthusiast, this industry is not a healthy one. The homebrewing and White Box industry is on the verge of extinction. 
 
This is because PC industry is now mature, and that a combination of factors including economies of scale in PC manufacturing by the large OEMs, a heavy consolidation of PC component vendors that has eliminated diversity and choice for the homebrewer, an industry movement towards integrated systems (such as APUs and SoCs) which reduce the overall components required to build a PC and also a shift towards notebooks and tablets as preferred computing devices has largely made homebrewing and white boxing an unnecessary anachronism.
 
Five years ago I went through the Denial stage. And then the Anger. And then Bargaining and Depression. I am now in full acceptance that building PCs for personal and business use no longer makes economic sense, and with the exception of certain edge and vertical scenarios, of which there is a declining few, that whiteboxing and homebrewing is dead.

 

Best choices for DIYers

While there's no doubt that big-box PC OEMs have driven computer prices into the dirt – so much so that it's hard for the OEMs themselves to cut a profit – there's still room in the market for DIYers who want to build their own PCs.

If you want to make a good meal then you need to make sure that you use the best ingredients and put them together carefully.

This is something Mr. Perlow knows all about.

Sure, there's nothing wrong with going out and pick up 'fast food' PC from the nearest greasy spoon, but you probably don't want to know what when into it, or how it was put together!

Also, a quality homebrew PCs doesn't have to cost the earth. You can put together a $300 or a $2000 system, and be sure that you know that you have a quality product that should last for years.

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Pencils ready?

    We're almost ready to begin.

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Look out

    Because I've got the facts on my side.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Yes

    I'm ready for a battle.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the big advantages?

    Since the needs of a business are often very different from an individual consumer's needs, let's approach each scenario separately. And once we've examined both business and consumer perspectives on homebrew PCs, we'll wrap up with a look at how trends in the overall desktop computer market are affecting the build vs. buy equation.

    Thinking only about businesses, what are the biggest advantages to building your own PCs or having a local IT firm build custom, white-box desktops (i.e. not name brand machines)?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    It's time has passed

    There very few advantages to building your own PC or having a reseller/integrator do this for you today. 10 years ago, more realistically 15 or 20, there was a healthy ecosystem of diverse component vendors as well as businesses that could competitively price systems built from scratch as well as provide significant differentiation and value add with building systems. Part of what came along with this would be personalized support.

    But that ecosystem is not healthy today, the component supply chain has become heavily consolidated, and the Tier-1 vendors can provide excellent on-site tech support contracts.

    If you really prefer local, personalized tech support, there's always independent consultants who specialize in this -- who have largely ceased the practice of building and reselling systems due to the resale tax burden as well as being unable to compete with system margins sold in retail, brick and mortar retail/discount clubs, and with e-commerce direct to order.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Quality, customization, and price

    First off, while I'm a huge DIY PC advocate, I'm not suggesting that business build every PC they need – although I know some smaller businesses that have done this. This is a foolhardy endeavor that doesn't bring much in the way of gains.

    However, for some sorts of PCs it's a great idea for the following reason:

    • Quality: You know ever part that goes into the system.
    • Customized systems: Taking the DIY approach means you get exactly what you want, down to even the chassis (which can be handy if the PC needs to fit into a specific footprint). 
    • Reduced downtime: If you – or a local firm – built the PC, then repairs can be carried out quickly because you know what you need (ideally you or your PC builder should keep spares).
    • Price: If you build the PCs yourself, then there are no middleman profits to pay.
    • Ease of upgrade: Adding more RAM or storage should be a snap, and there are no worries about voiding warranties.

    Bottom line, with a brand-name system you have very little control over what goes into the machine. Usually they are the cheapest components that the OEM can find. While this is great for general–purpose systems, if you need something a little more specific then most OEMs either aren't going to be able to cater for your needs, or are going to charge you a premium.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the risks?

    Again thinking just about businesses, what are the biggest risks to building your own PCs or having a local IT firm build custom, white-box desktops (i.e. not name brand machines)?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Support, standardization and time

    First there is the risk of a local IT firm or whiteboxer being unable to support your systems by the very real possibility of them closing up shop and you being stuck with non-retail, bulk OEM PC components with limited warrantees. While this sounded ludicrous 15 or 20 years ago, that's now a very real possibility today.

    The second is being able to consistently source the same components and not being able to standardize installs and drivers. While this is not necessarily as much of an issue as it was, say, 10 years ago with the advent of componentized and scripted installs, as well as superior PnP technology in today's PC OSes, it still adds to the support burden and it adds significantly to overall level of effort and time sink.

    Why? Because you are spending an inordinate amount of time and energy on system verification rather than unpacking OEM systems from boxes and turning them on, and pushing down a standardized image with all your apps on it. Time is money. Do you want your highly-paid IT staff wasting valuable time playing PC tech, or to focus their energies in support your line of business applications and infrastructure?

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Human error, overspending, and gambling

    As with most things, there are risks attached to taking the DIY PC approach:

    •     Building the wrong PCs.
    •     Building PCs is not a tricky task, but building, testing, and deploying several might be a challenge for someone who has never done it before.
    • Overspending on components.
    • If the PCs are built by a third party, or you are relying on a single employee, what happens if the firm goes bust or the employee leaves?
    • Proper planning, and a little bit of forethought, should help prevent these issues from arising in the first place.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    When does it make sense?

    Even if homebrew PCs aren't right for every business situation, are there specific scenarios where it makes more sense for a business to build a white-box PC rather than buy a name-brand machine, even one that has customized hardware? What are they?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    It never makes sense

    It almost never makes sense to do this. Never. One could argue that there are edge-case vertical industry scenarios where they need a specialized graphics or PCI card, or an extreme high performance internal storage device, extremely high-speed networking, or what have you.

    There may be legacy hardware/peripherals with software and drivers that still needs to be supported that doesn't run on modern systems, but in cases like this the business should be considering migration/transformation to rid themselves of these high-risk devices that could severely impact their business if they fail.

    Industries like computer graphics / engineering/ content creation have demanding requirements that may occasionally outstrip the capabilities of what many PC vendors might offer, even with their most high-end workstations. But these are extremely rare cases and more often than not there are practical workarounds which don't require a custom build.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Where DIY outperforms a brand-name

    I've come across several situations where a DIY PC outperforms a name-brand system. Here are a few examples:

        - Lab setting, where there are specific requirements that might be hard for an OEM to pull off (or at least pull off cheaply).
        - Challenging environments, such as workshops of garage settings, where eliminating fans and mitigating the effects of dust are paramount.
        - Sound studios that require quiet PCs (these are much cheaper to build than to buy off from specialist retailers).
        - Custom system for recording or duplicating CDs and DVDs (again, much cheaper to build than to buy a custom solution).

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Does size matter?

    How does the size of a business (number of PCs) change the build vs. buy equation?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    It makes no difference

    I'm going to say this again. It doesn't matter about the size of your business. You should never consider building your own PC if you actually care about the dynamics of your business and require consistent support.

    You aren't going to save money, your support options are not going to be better with white boxes than with an OEM certified system, because you can get a support plan from an OEM, and you can get local consultants to deal with break-fix on simple items if the machine comes out of warranty.

    And in most cases, when a key component of the system dies, it's probably simpler and more cost effective to just replace it rather than repair it due to labor costs alone.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    It's cheaper off the shelf

    A total DIY PC solution only works either for small companies, or big organizations that are willing to invest capital in having a group devoted to the task of building and maintaining PCs.

    Bottom line however is that if you want a bunch of cheap PCs for regular desktop usage, then it's always going to be quicker and cheaper to buy these off–the-shelf than it is to build them.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the best practices?

    If a business does decided to build its machines in house or purchase white-box PCs from a local IT vendor, what are some best practices to follow?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Send for help

    Go send your IT staff to a clinical psychologist or call the police, because your business is suffering from mass psychosis or someone put hallucinogens in the water cooler. See my last answer.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Plan ahead

    I recommend the following:

    - Know exactly what you want – the DIY PC approach isn't for people who aren't clued up about PCs. If you don't know your HDDs from your SSDs, and your CPU from your GPU, this isn't for you.
        - Realize that 'in house build' does not mean 'free build' – set aside resources for the job like you would any other project.
        - Buy spare parts – there will always be components that fail, so plan for them.
        - If a third-party is building the systems, get it clear from the start what the support terms are.
        - If you are using a third party, consider the benefits and risks compared to buying a name-brand from an OEM.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Consumer time: What are the big advantages?

    Okay. Let's think about the individual consumer now. What are the biggest advantages to building your own PC or buying a custom-built, non-name-brand machine?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Zero, Zip, Zippo

    There are no advantages to doing this today. None. Zero. Zilch. Zippo. Nada. If we are talking about a typical consumer with a capital C (and not a Hobbyist, or a Gamer) someone who browses the web, engages in social networking, and uses productivity and typical multimedia applications, and plays games casually, then you should never consider building a PC.

    First of all, a brand-new PC is going to come with a Windows 8 license. A white boxer or a PC hobbyist building a system from scratch will need to buy the OEM System Builder Kit, since there is no Retail license as with Windows 7, there are only Upgrade licenses for consumers.

    That System Builder license of Windows 8 will run you about $95 on Amazon for the regular version and about $135.00 for the Pro version. That's going to negate a lot of the perceived cost savings of building a box right there.

    Your old Windows 7 Retail license can be re-used if your old PC is discarded, but you cannot re-use the OEM copy that came with a OEM-built system without violating the Microsoft EULA. This counts for businesses as well, unless, they have volume licenses and EAs.

    And yes, my Linux friends? Building a system doesn't help you either. You can buy perfectly good Linux certified systems from OEMs and virtually every OEM system out of box that runs Windows works fine with Linux anyway, and even with the cost of that OEM license built in, you'd be hard pressed to save time, money, and frustration from building your own box. I've done this, many times.

    I'm going to leave out the intangibles of the warm and fuzzy feeling of geekish accomplishment having put together a PC and becoming one with the homebrew universe. That's not part of what we are debating and is completely irrelevant to the discussion.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Price, quality, and ease

    I've built my desktop PC systems for almost two decades, and I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future for the following reasons:

        - Price: I build quite high-end systems, and these are invariably cheaper than anything I can buy with a name-brand badge on it.
        - Quality: I like to make sure that my systems are built from quality products, and I can only do this by taking charge of every component that goes into the system.
        - Ease of repairs: If you built it, you can fix it. No having to wait for a technician.
        - Ease of upgrading: Again, I know what went into it, so I can upgrade it, and there are no warranty issues to worry about.
        - Warranty: All the parts I buy come with a warranty, usually a better one than a complete PC comes with, so I'm better covered when things do go wrong.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The disadvantages...

    Likewise, what are the biggest disadvantages to building your own PC or buying a custom-built, non-name-brand machine for the individual consumer

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Almost the same answer I gave for business

    Read the first part of my answer for businesses:

    First there is the risk of a local IT firm or whiteboxer being unable to support your systems by the very real possibility of them closing up shop and you being stuck with non-retail, bulk OEM PC components with limited warrantees. While this sounded ludicrous 15 or 20 years ago, that's now a very real possibility today.

    I will add a slight modification to this for the typical end-user:

    The second is being able to reliably source quality retail components for a PC build via mail order from online suppliers and also the high risk of running into hardware and driver compatability issues during the PC build process.

    I'd like to cite my last PC build in 2009 as a good example of the many issues you might run into.

    While this is not necessarily as much of an issue as it was, say, 10 years ago with the advent of superior PnP technology in today's PC OSes, it still adds to the support burden and it adds significantly to overall level of effort and time sink for a PC build.

    Why? Because you are spending an inordinate amount of time and energy on system verification rather than unpacking OEM systems from boxes and turning them on and installing your apps.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    I'll be honest

    I'll be honest, there are down downsides:

        - Time: All that planning and building takes time.
        - Garbage: Buying the components separately generates a lot of waste to get rid of. Keep on top of this or you will bet buried.
        - Little support: Something you have to get used to.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Special interests?

    Are homebrew PCs only for computer DIY enthusiasts, case modders, or gamers?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Not enough to matter

    I believe these groups certainly identify themselves as PC builders. There are prosumers and hobbyists which, for whatever reason, have had a history of building systems and are permanently fixated in a DIY worldview who can never be convinced to buy systems from OEMs due to whatever misguided or outdated ideologies about build costs or component quality they may still maintain. But this this such a small and ever declining portion of the PC using population and is no foundation for a PC building industry to survive on.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    The biggest market

    This is without a doubt the biggest market for homebrew PCs.  This crowd appreciates quality PCs, loves putting together solid systems, and are constantly tinkering with their hardware.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the trends?

    Lastly, let's examine how trends in the overall desktop computer market are affecting the build vs. buy equation.

    In April, IDC reported that PC shipments fell 14 percent in the second quarter of 2013--the worst year-over-year decline since the company began collecting the numbers in 1994. Data from Gartner and even Intel show a similar downward trend. Many attribute this decline to the proliferation of mobile computing devices (tablets, smartphones, wearable computers, etc.) and the growth of cloud-based software, services, and storage. How will the overall decline in PC sales, affect the homebrew PC market?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    The great PC decline

    Now we're really getting into the meat of the debate. Movement towards low-cost SoC-based and APU-based devices, whether they be Ultrabooks, tablets, smartphones, convergence devices, wearables, shifts computational power and infrastructure from the destktop to the datacenter and Cloud and also software from a purchased/licensed to a subscription and SaaS/DaaS model. So building PCs will make far less sense than ever before.

    Many of the component vendors who make PC parts are also moving their business models towards supporting and manufacturing the above mentioned systems and away from things like graphics cards, hard drives and mainboards, which will make building PCs that much more difficult.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Homebrew growing?

    While PC sales are falling, I see no sign that the homebrew PC market is declining. Supply chain data on components destined for this market – especially graphics cards – suggests that the homebrew and after-market upgrades market is growing.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    New PCs require fewer components

    For years, sound cards were separate PC components. But now, nearly every motherboard (even high-end boards) have onboard sound. More recently, reports have surfaced that Intel is slowly moving away from processors that use a land grid array (LGA) package (which can be removed from the motherboard and replaced) to processors that use a ball grid array (BGA) package (which are soldered to the motherboard). As PC component manufacturers make fewer discrete components, will building a custom PC become nearly impossible or at least be less attractive?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Disposable PCs

    Alas, poor Computer Shopper. I knew him, Bill.

    I've written a few articles about this already, so I don't have to re-hash this ad nauseum here.

    Tablets, Ultrabooks: The future is unfixable

    Are tablets now disposable computing devices?

    In summary, we're moving towards a model where PCs are no longer going to be serviceable, whether it is a notebook computer with soldered-on everything or a PC mainboard that is simply a just a glorified SoC with onboard GPU, RAM and networking. I don't see how a PC building ecosystem can continue to be viable in that way.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Enthusiastic commitment

    While there has certainly been a shift towards reducing the number of discrete components inside PCs – for the sake of making them easier to build for the OEMs – the major players (such as Intel and AMD) have all reaffirmed their commitment to the enthusiast market.

    In other words, it's going to be possible to build PCs for the foreseeable future.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    PC makers don't care any more?

    Likewise, many PC makers seem to be focusing less on traditional, upgradeable tower cases and more on all-in-one desktops and laptops. Are consumers and businesses just naturally shifting away from the "beige box" to designs that are inherently less likely to be built in house or by an individual?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Touchscreens are taking over

    If you've walked into a typical enterprise lately, the tablet, laptop and notebook population far exceeds the desktop PC population. Let's face it, nobody is homebrewing or whiteboxing notebooks. And by the way, I consider "White Box" specialty notebook builders like Sager as pure OEMs, not whiteboxers.

    I think we're also seeing a distinct movement toward touchscreen devices, whether they be on High-end Ultrabooks and Convertibles like the Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch, Asus's budget VivoBook X202E or all-in-ones like HP's TouchSmart line. Because while the PC market as a whole is in decline, these form factors are actually showing very clear signs of adoptance.

    If the industry trends and hard numbers are of any indication, consumers value mobility just as much if not more than the enterprise does. So the PC desktop, be it OEM or home-built, is long overdue for total extinction.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Shifting with the tide

    True, but the DIY market is shifting with the tide. You can now put together your own custom all-in-one systems, and I expect that this niche will grow as towers become irrelevant as component sizes shrink.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Shoud we preserve the homebrews?

    Lastly, should the IT community want to preserve the homebrew, white box PC movement? If so, why? Or, should IT embrace the commoditization of PCs and refocus our energy elsewhere?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Let them go

    There is no "embracement" of the commoditization of PCs. As I said in my opening statement, there is only "Acceptance" in this stage of our collective Kubler-Rossian grief model.

    We should be refocusing on supporting and building our line of business apps, and undergoing transformation processes that shift as much of our infrastructure to the Datacenter and Cloud as possible, and that includes moving desktops to VDI and DaaS. That may be very hard for some folks to accept but that is the path that has been laid for our industry going forward.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    We need choice

    Absolutely, and for one reason – choice.

    OEMs are driven by the desire to maximize profits drive prices into the dirt as much as possible. While this is great for the majority of users who see PCs are a disposable commodity, for people who want PCs capable of carrying out certain tasks well, it's not such a great thing.

    My belief is that the death of the homebrew PC will be the death of the PC as a whole. At that point the PC will become a commoditized, disposable items much in the way that smartphones and tablets are. At that point the PC is dead, and the IT landscape will be changed forever.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    That's it

    Thanks to the debaters for a very lively discussion. Tune in Wednesday for the closing arguments and Thursday for my choice for winner.

    A special thanks to all of you for joining in. Please vote.

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

Closing Statements

The thrill is gone

Jason Perlow

If you have the love of the build, then by all means, build PCs. However, this is a pure economics and business discussion and romance and love for PCs has nothing to do with it, and I implore the moderator to think practically and not as a kindred spirit of someone who has always loved hardware, of which I include myself as well.
 
As someone who has built systems hundreds of times as a former independent consultant and reseller and who has watched our industry consolidate and our margins disappear, my feelings regarding PC building and repair as they stand now are purely clinical. 
 
Once you separate yourself from the emotional aspects of playing around with hardware, the cold, unpleasant facts remain. PC building is now a business for OEMs and large Asian contract manufacturing firms which now control the entire component chain and are operating on razor-thin margins that would be perilous for any commodity white boxer to survive in. 
 
PC building is a chapter that I am sad that has closed in our industry, but it is what it is, and we should get on with the day to day operations of running our businesses and as end-users, enjoying and using our apps.

It works

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

I make no apologies for being a hardcore supporter of building PCs. Want to take that away from me? You can pry the #2 Phillips from my cold, dead hands!
 
I'm such a rabid supporter of DIY PCs because I know that it's a system that works. I've built dozens of PCs, and each one of them has outlasted any brand-name PC I've bought, and by a comfortable margin. After the initial building and testing, I've got several years of happy computing out of the system before it's time to repair or upgrade something. 
 
That's an excellent track record, and it makes me more and more determined that taking the built route is the right idea.
 
I look at the difference between a PC I build myself and one I buy from a big box OEM as the difference between building (or buying) a gourmet burger made with care and the best ingredients, and picking one up something thrown together from a McBurger and throwing it down my neck. Sure, they both accomplish the same thing, and sometimes you just want a quick, bulk-buy burger, but it's unlikely to be a product of quality. 
 
Same is true of PCs. There are times when an off-the-shelf PC is the best options, both in terms of price and convenience, as long as you're aware that you've traded quality for price and convenience. 
 
That burger's only going to be around for a few minutes, after which you'll never see it again – hopefully! – but your PC is going to be staring you in the face for months, if not years, to come. 

Don't you want to make the right choice from the start, and make sure you have a quality product made from the finest possible ingredients? And whether I'm spending $300 on a cheap PC for the study, or a $2,000 video rendering rig, I want the best possible PC for the money. 

Dead for all but the hardcore PC enthusiasts

Bill Detwiler

As an IT pro, gamer, and someone who's built PCs for both business and personal use, I was really excited to moderate this Great Debate.
 
Before I render my decision, it's important to provide a bit more clarity on this Great Debate's topic. Our debaters were arguing the pros and cons of building vs. buying desktop PCs. They weren't addressing custom-built network and datacenter hardware, such as Google's Pluto Switch, or open networking technology, such as Facebook's Open Compute Project (OCP) or Google OpenFlow protocol. That kind of "whitebox" hardware is a topic for another debate.
 
So does it still make sense for businesses or individuals to build their own PCs? Most debate voters and forum participants certainly think so. And Andrian made an impassioned argument that homebrewing is still practical--but only in a few narrow business situations and for the PC enthusiast.
 
"First off," Adrian wrote, "while I'm a huge DIY PC advocate, I'm not suggesting that business build every PC they need." Adrian also acknowledges that off-the-shelf PCs are less expensive, writing that "if you want a bunch of cheap PCs for regular desktop usage, then it's always going to be quicker and cheaper to buy these off–the-shelf than it is to build them."
 
Along with price, other trends are pushing the homebrew market further into obscurity. PC sales are declining. Hardware manufacturers are slowly, but surely moving away from discrete components. And consumers are migrating en masse to mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) and laptops.
 
This doesn't mean the homebrew market will disappear tomorrow. As Jason noted, there are individuals who are "permanently fixated in a DIY worldview who can never be convinced to buy systems from OEMs." But this group of PC builders is a "small and ever declining portion of the PC using population."
 

For all intents and purposes, the homebrew PC is dead within the business and dying (albeit slowly) within the consumer market. I side with Jason.

Topics: Great Debate

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor for ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic Pro and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. He was most recently Head Technology Editor for TechRepublic. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager and desktop support technician in the social research and energy i... Full Bio

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