THROWING THE WORLD AWAY

It’s not about Windows: The repairable PC is dead

… Amazon, who launched their Workspaces offering yesterday, which provides a remote Windows environment that allows you to run all of your business-critical and personal applications in EC2.

Amazon is certainly not the first service provider to do this, but its endorsement of the technology speaks volumes about where we as an industry are going.

You don’t need an expandable, serviceable PC to get to that desktop and the applications that are hosted there. Indeed, Windows still serves a very key role in that scenario, but within the datacenter and public clouds. —  From ZDNet, November 15, 2013

The computer industry has declared me — and everyone like me — obsolete. Irrelevant. We can’t afford subscriptions to “keep us up to date.” Worse, keeping up to date isn’t a major issue in our lives. I don’t mind running a version or two behind as long as the tools I’ve got get the job done. I can go years without repurchasing my software. I guess they don’t make enough money selling new releases to folks like us. Yeah, that’s probably it.

dell14ZIf you — like me — are one of the millions of computer users who live on fixed incomes or are just plain poor , you’re barely able to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. You are NOT subscribing. To anything.

A couple of days ago, I got my “You’ve Been Hacked!” letter from Adobe. This has affected (depending on who you believe) between 38 and 150 million people. All of us have had our personal information stolen and quite probably sold to hackers. Doesn’t anyone but me find this alarming? Where’s the outrage, the demand for better security? I am less than ever interested in storing anything I care about anywhere except on a drive I own and have at home.

Yes, I know the house could burn to the ground and all my backups would be lost. If that, God forbid, should happen I will be otherwise occupied trying to put my life back together. Worrying about lost data is not going to be my primary issue. I’m not a business, you see. I’m a person. (What’s a person, daddy? Is it a new kind of corporation?)

When my PCs stop working, which they don’t do more than once in a deeply cyanotic moon, I call the Guy Who 75-WorkingNIK-CR-87Fixes PCs. He comes to the house.  Replaces the broken bits. Cleans out the virus that bypassed the safeguards and generally tunes it up. I give him a hundred bucks, he gives me a card with his number on it so if the problems come back, he will return and fix’em.

Am I the only one who is in no position to just dump equipment and replace it? No way could I afford that. I’m still in debt for the stuff I have. Moreover, I deplore the throwaway society we are building and the mindset that comes with it.

Disposability it not good. It’s not an improvement. It’s destroying our environment. Polluting landfills. Making an already profligate society more thoughtless and wasteful. It’s the definition of where and how we’ve gone wrong.

Does no one in the computer industry look at business in a wider social context? Realize what a dangerous path we are treading? If one thing is going to doom our world, throwing stuff away rather than fixing it will be our route to damnation.

There was a time when Garry and I were working a ridiculous number of hours and started using paper plates. To avoid washing dishes. After doing this for a while, one day, I found myself washing the paper plates. I couldn’t bear the idea of throwing them out. It seemed wrong. Wasteful. That was when I rediscovered the concept of reusability. I had actual dishes in the cupboard. I could use them, wash them — and use them again! Epiphany!

96-Kitchen-HPCR-1

We are turning into a world of paper plate users. Everything, from your car to your computer, to your kitchen appliances. It’s all junk. When it stops running, dump it. Don’t even think about fixing it. Change your cell phone every six months. Toss the old one. Somewhere on this planet, there is a giant, bottomless hole into which the garbage goes and it will never fill up, right? If you keep believing that, maybe the house brownies will come and clean for you while you sleep.

I’m not expecting answers. I’ll be dead before anyone looks around and says “Whoa … this isn’t so good. What about building things we can repair. You know. Reuse.”

 



Categories: Computers, Customer Service, Ecology, Economics, Software, Technology

Tags: , , , , , , ,

14 replies

  1. There’s a scary pile growing out there somewhere & some day it will take over the world. I will probably be long gone by then though. So- I won’t get to see it. Oh well…

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  2. I couldn’t agree more. What on earth (yes, *literally*, for once) do we really need with everything being short-lived, non-reusable, irreparable and exemplary of the evil that is Planned Obsolescence???? All I can say of the people that invented the latter concept is that they clearly subscribe to the belief that we, our planet and everything on it should be subject to annihilation sooner rather than later, if not by outright breakdown, then by burial under a mountain range of broken and useless trash.

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    • It’s greed. You sell more stuff if you can’t fix it when it breaks. My mother was born in 1910 and remembered when nylon stockings were invented. They were indestructible. You could wear a pair for weeks, just wash them out and let them dry. That was not selling enough nylon stockings so suddenly, they developed runs. No more sturdy nylons were ever made. And that’s the way it’s been ever since. The guy I worked with at the Environmental Health Laboratory in Jerusalem was the world’s leading expert on two things: trash and arid climate water resource management. This was long before ecology was the “in” thing. No one listened to him then, or at least no one outside the University. Which is how come Israel has no aquifer (they killed it) and the world is drowning in trash. I think a lot of people really believe there IS a great big hole into which all the garbage goes and it never fills up. Sadly, it fills up. I could tell stories, but I won’t. It’s preaching to the choir. I hope I won’t live to see the end game of this foolishness.

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  3. We don’t throw away old computers. They multiply and have babies down in the basement. Same with monitors. And mice (the electronic scrolly ones…lol) and keyboards, speakers and any type of cable you may need. Quite often, a part from one of the basement computers is needed to fix a current computer. I’d like to think of that as reusing, or recycling. We also have a kitchen drawer full of cell phones, that I fully intend to take to the Battered Women’s Shelter so they can be used as “911 call” phones. Anytime someone talks about throwing their phone out, I take it and put it in the drawer. When the drawer is full, I make my donation. We throw too many things away, I agree, and there really isn’t a bottomless pit somewhere that it all goes into. Love this post, Marilyn.

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    • Thank you. This is one of Those Issues that just sticks in my throat and I can’t cough it up. I’ve also got — maybe all of us who use technology have — spare monitors, telephones, entire computers, mouses, keyboards, old hard drives. We keep the stuff that still works “just in case” but we also keep the stuff that’s dead. Me because I hate throwing in it the trash. It seems wrong. It’s not recycleable or worth anything to anyone. I literally can’t give it away. My son sometimes gets in a mood, takes the stuff outside and beats it to smithereens with a big mallet, then leaves it in an obscure part of the woods to become mulch, though most of it is totally not going to dissolve — ever. So, as do many people in rural areas, we have small areas “out back” for things that have died and have nowhere to go. It’s not a real solution, but I have no idea what else to do. The recycling places won’t even take this stuff and around here, there aren’t many recycling places. We have to go to another town because ours has no dump, no recycling. The trash collection company only takes cans, glass and plastic bottles. Too much trash, nowhere to put it. And now they are making disposable computers. That’s going to improve the situation, eh?

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  4. This is an interesting topic Marilyn. Do you remember the very old sci-fi series Space 1999? Way back then the premise was earth overflowing with trash so they started storing their dangerous rejects on the moon, mankind’s junkyard. The resulting explosion started the reason for the series.

    Adobe has adopted software “rental” for Photoshop and their other top software. You can no longer buy it off the shelf but must rent it from their cloud. I got that “we’ve been hacked” email from them as well. That was the end of it, they did their duty in notifying their customers. I trust no one! My only protection is that I have nothing to steal, I’m broke and will be broke for the rest of my life. I have no offspring so they won’t inherit my junk.

    I have the master software disks stored securely so I can keep running my favorite application for a few years until my iMac drops dead. I have the latest operating system, “Maverick”, on my iMac. My Google Nexus 7 has the latest “Jellybean” Android operating system on it. I’m good for a while. I just sold my iPad for $75 to a young gal who could never afford the $500 for a new one.

    We’ve shared our fixed poverty stories before so suffice it to say there will be no more “stuff” purchased anytime soon. I think Microsoft is just getting onboard what Adobe started, a trend to rent rather than manufacture and sell. The car industry only advertises the rental/lease price now. Have you noticed that? It’s a throw away economy in the United States. Thank God the rest of the world hasn’t caught up yet.

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    • Earth really IS overflowing with trash. It’s not science fiction and hasn’t been for a long time. If we had a space program, I’m sure we’d build garbage barges and send them off for other worlds to deal with. Microsoft has been talking about subscriptions since XP in the ’90s. They are still waffling. An operating system is not a piece of software and I think it unlikely people would buy a computer without an embedded OS. But they are already looking for subscription on Office. I don’t know how well they are doing because you can get very good substitutes — like Open Office — as freeware (please donate something to keep it going). It’s open architecture, so the twiddlers love it.

      Mac just brought out a new OS a couple of days ago. There is NO way any of us can keep up. They make impossible — there’s no money in stability. We’re not a big profit center for the computer world.

      CS6 will never be less functional than now. I used CS2 for years … like five of them … and it worked. Still does. And I still have CS5 which isn’t so different and for which I have a commercial license good for more computers than I or my friends will ever own. So I’m good for the forseeable future. Adding filter packages helps add usability. Did you notice the changes to the NIK set? Google keeps updating them which confuses the heck out of me until I dope out that it’s just a new interface.

      I just got (finally … after 3 years of looking at it) the Lumix 20mm f1.7 lens for my 4/3 cameras. The price went down a little bit and no one ever has them used. Probably the most popular walking around lens available for 4/3 cameras.

      The subscription only thing may not work out as planned and I’m betting Adobe will goose up Elements for the millions of people who will never subscribe … the millions upon millions of amateur photographers who are in reality the bulk of their business. I’m pretty sure in a few years, Elements will be a CS6 — or better — equivalent I don’t know if I’ll care.

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  5. I feel the same way about paper plates. I hate them because I can’t reuse them.
    Unfortunately some technology eventually gets so old it’s a real pain to use. I stopped using my old laptop for everything except blogging because it was extremely slow (minimum of 10 minutes after boot before it had sorted itself out enough to use) and kept locking up. I had to plan in advance when I was going to check my email.
    I agree though that at some point there will be nowhere left for the rubbish, and no new resources to make new stuff either. Funnily enough, although I only use cloud computing for photo backups and email (most people use the cloud for email, at least temporarily), it’s a partial answer. If the cloud did all the processing our own computers would be fine for decades – instead of a billion people changing their computer once per year, ten big companies will upgrade their hardware once a year. Hopefully less waste?
    p.s. I do recycle everything I can, and a good deal of my clothes are many years old! New technology is my weakness 😦

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    • I know hardware gets obsolete, but at computers should start out repairable. Non-repairable computers means the cloud solves nothing because everyone will just toss the old ones in the trash every few of years. Like cell phones.

      We all use cloud storage for email. And blogging. But every photo I have here, I also have backed up on one or more external drives. I’ve had clouds disappear and had things disappear from clouds. If I lost my email, it would be upsetting, not tragic. I keep addresses and contacts in multiple places. I don’t want Google to own me … and I sure don’t want to rent my software. We could all wind up paying thousands of dollars a year — which I don’t have — and if your connection goes down? You have nothing.

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      • True – I don’t want/can’t afford to rent software. And my connection is not stable enough – it drops at least once per day, usually more.
        All these adverts for streaming high def movies, running your office from the cloud, Chromebooks and so on – yeah, fine of you live in a city with stable high speed internet but not if you live in the country.

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        • Personally, I don’t think it’s fine anywhere. It is the old Put Your Eggs In One Basket thing. No matter where you live, nobody has an ISP that never drops. And don’t our ISPs have enough power? How much of our lives to we want them to own?

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  6. There’s a place for disposable things. I think we may have a scenario coming up in a couple of weeks that’ll make things easier on us for one evening. But THAT shouldn’t be a daily way of doing things. I plead guilty to using lots of disposable stuff during my bachelor days. Nowadays, I like permanence. Like hand washing dishes, pots, and pans. Not very glamorous but you get a sense of cleaning things. you are using a little elbow power. A sense of accomplishment at seeing the the grease defeated and the the silverware, plates, etc sparkling if only for a brief period. So much of life today is disposable right down to relationships. Have some fun, some laughter, some passion and then end the relationship because it’s becoming complicated. Emotional investment requires too much time and concentration. Dispose of it and move on. Sad. Very sad.

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