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88% of Electronics Exports Reused, Not Dumped

timothy posted about 5 years ago | from the well-at-first-anyhow dept.

Earth 157

retroworks writes "Greenercomputing.com staff covered a study which sheds more light on the controversial practice of exporting used computer equipment overseas. University of Arizona professors Ramzy Kahhat and Eric Williams newly published research, Product or Waste? Importation and End-of-Life Processing of Computers in Peru apparently confirms what WR3A.org says in the Video 'Fair Trade Recycling'. Namely, that most of the exports of used computers imported by buyers overseas (88%) are really for reuse and repair. Otherwise, people would not pay to import them. This bolsters pro-export arguments made in a scholarly article by Charles Schmidt of NIH in 2006. Perhaps what is needed to stem e-waste pollution is not a ban on exports, but for more people to export, so that buyers have more choice of (ethical) suppliers. Put another way: If used computer exports are outlawed, only outlaws will export used computers."

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Mexico (3, Informative)

mrmeval (662166) | about 5 years ago | (#29086495)

Has pretty strict rules on importing some items. When I worked for an electronics shop repairing TVs in the 90s we sold all of our scrap TVs to a Hispanic gentleman who would take them to Mexico and strip them of usable parts then sell them. He could do this with scrap televisions but could not do it with any part for a computer as those were even more restricted.

Eat a Shart! Mmm Mmm So Tastey!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29086695)

I fucked your mother in the asshole. First I fucked her in the pussy to get some high-quality natural lubrication, then when my cock was all slick with her pussy juices I stuck it up her bunghole and made sweet love to her. I gave her a creampie in the asshole. She likes that sort of thing, it gives her squishy gooey farts. I let her think that's why we do it to make her feel better. Really her pussy is where many men have boldly gone before, sorta like the opposite of the star trek theme, so it's real loose (not the same thing as "lose" you dumbfucks) making her asshole where it's at.

Re:Eat a Shart! Mmm Mmm So Tastey!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29086891)

Do you know anything about sex that you didn't "learn" from trolls on the internet?

Re:Eat a Shart! Mmm Mmm So Tastey!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29087387)

Or the "Das butt" film.

Re:Mexico (0, Troll)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about 5 years ago | (#29087685)

What I am curious about is why a Spaniard is allowed to do so in Mexico. That's more curious than dubious restrictions on import.

Re:Mexico (2, Informative)

rohan972 (880586) | about 5 years ago | (#29087867)

What I am curious about is why a Spaniard is allowed to do so in Mexico. That's more curious than dubious restrictions on import.

What I am curious about is why you bring this up when he didn't mention a Spaniard.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Hispanic [reference.com]

Re:Mexico (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29088945)

What I am curious about is why you assume that an Hispanic person (ethnia) must also be Spanish (EU country).

Re:Mexico (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29088093)

That is/was an issue regarding tariffs and the market for repair parts. In the first place, import computing equipment (at the retail level) is subject to a 100% duty. In the second place, the market for computing equipment just isn't the same as it is here in the US.

Generic electronic equipment (televisions and such) are not subject to similarly high duties, especially if they are non-functional, and there is a much larger after market for televisions than computers.

The duties applied have less to do with environmental restrictions and more to do with the perception (by the Camera de Diputatos and the Mexican Senate) that computers in the hands of consumers are luxury items.

makes sense to me (4, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 5 years ago | (#29086519)

Most of the time the reason we don't fix something is that it costs more to pay someone to repair it then it does to buy something new. I.E. Man hours are expensive.

But there are lots of places where man hours are a lot cheaper. In a third world country, where they can get the electronics at a per ton cost, it is probably cheaper to pay someone to fix the stuff.

Not to mention the high black market value of the financial information left on hard drives whose power supply broke so no one bothered to delete them (if they even thought about it.)

Re:makes sense to me (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 years ago | (#29086551)

In many cases it goes even further than that. In large deployments, you get to the point where(because of a combination of cost of employee downtime, cost of IT tech time, cost of parts/replacements[if you are trying to maintain a consistent system across an organization, rather than merely equivalent specs, these often don't get much cheaper over time]) it becomes attractive to just toss all the machines of a given age, in case they break. This is one of the attractions behind a 3 year or 5 year automatic replacement cycle.

That leaves you with gigantic piles of machines that aren't broken at all, just no longer a good organizational fit.

Re:makes sense to me (2, Insightful)

Larryish (1215510) | about 5 years ago | (#29087769)

Yep, and you can get them cheap, by the pallet even.

Me and a friend picked up 5 P4 boxes from a local defense contractor, minus memory and hard drives, for the price of $0 (we just had to go pick them up).

Put a half gig of memory and a 40 gig hard drive in each of the 2 that were in marketable condition and sold them for $100 apiece locally.

After roughly 4 hours total, between picking the machines up, eBay for some cheap memory and storage, doing a quick install using the COA numbers on the case stickers. and listing them in the Buy/Sell, our numbers were like so:

Total cost to us: ~$45 and 4 hours

Total profit: ~$155

Re:makes sense to me (1)

jhol13 (1087781) | about 5 years ago | (#29088761)

$155/4h is exactly the reason companies cannot/will not do it - it is not profitable enough.

I myself have gotten some freebies from my ex-company, installed Linux on them and gave them away (for free) as net computers. Problem: display was usually bad.
Only problem is that hard disk policy was getting too strict (it is not enough that *I* wipe the disk, it should have been wiped by the IT guys).

Well, anyway, that was the ex-company, in current I do not get to the "scrap yard" as I know nobody there.

Re:makes sense to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29088825)

That must have been a few years ago right? I mean even linux won't run well on half a gig these days...

Re:makes sense to me (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29088677)

In many cases it goes even further than that. In large deployments, you get to the point where(because of a combination of cost of employee downtime, cost of IT tech time, cost of parts/replacements[if you are trying to maintain a consistent system across an organization, rather than merely equivalent specs, these often don't get much cheaper over time]) it becomes attractive to just toss all the machines of a given age, in case they break. This is one of the attractions behind a 3 year or 5 year automatic replacement cycle.

That leaves you with gigantic piles of machines that aren't broken at all, just no longer a good organizational fit.

This is true and very helpful for people like me who import parts on a very small basis to build cheap computers for schools here in Costa Rica and neighboring Nicaragua. The local rural schools just don't have the funding to buy even one computer for their staff and students to use. Heck! They don't have enough money for books, toilet paper, or soap in the bathrooms so the kids don't keep getting sick! A few of us have a small group who bring parts back with us each time we visit the USA and then use them to build computers or repair defunct computers. And we also donate TP and soap. Books are harder to find than computer parts.

Re:makes sense to me (4, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | about 5 years ago | (#29088735)

Years ago, I used to have a connection with a recycling company in Sacramento with just this sort of marketplace. I would go down to their warehouse (a few hours drive from my hometown) and pick up a huge truckload of computers right off the pallets. Good deals, too. 3-5 year old computers, monitors, keyboards that had been well treated, for sale as scrap.

I took them to my hometown and made quite a good living reformatting them, putting some spit and polish on them, and selling them as "remanufactured" computers. I offered a generous (90 day) warrantee but honestly, it was rare that I had anybody take me up on it. They were generally high-quality machines that had been well treated so problems were, by far, the exception.

The big deal was making them LOOK nice. For keyboards, I used to use a garden hose, a nylon bristle broom, dish soap, and the sidewalk in front of my house. (which got lots of afternoon sun) I'd squirt dish soap all over the keyboards, spray them down with the hose, and stand over them, brushing them vigorously with the broom. After the grit was all out of them, I'd rinse them profusely with the hose washing out as much of the soap and grit as I could. Then I let them dry for a while. California valley sun is VERY warm, so it only took a day or so.

Surprisingly, some 90% of the keyboards worked perfectly after that, and looked almost new. A hour or so of work and $0.25 of soap would usually result in $200 or so worth of clean, fresh keyboards, otherwise attained at $1 a pop.

O/S software was easy - they often came preloaded with some old corporate software image. If there wasn't a license sticker, I'd just dump the registry for the license key, grab the O/S CD, and 45 minutes later was up and going. (sucked when MS changed their license terms to prevent resale like this!)

Since my margin was about 3:1, I could take the time to see that each system was well tested and stable before I sold. That's not true for many new systems sold, I might add. I actually made more money on the used systems per system than I did the new systems at 4-5x the cost!

Of course, this was back when a "new" computer STARTED at $1,500. I saw the writing on the wall when the purchase price dipped under $1,000, right around Y2K, and sold out. There's just no market for used computers in the 'states, since labor costs are high and prices are low enough to not be worth it.

But for the 3rd world, this doesn't surprise me at *all*. Computers passed the point of basic usability years ago. Heck, I have a 6 year old laptop that has survived 3 years of my own rigorous use, and has been passed down through 2 other employees since. It still works fine today, I used it to test Windows 7! It plays Hulu/Netflix videos just fine, and even does a passable job with many of the games out today. If it wasn't for running Vista under VMWare, I could still be using it today.

Re:makes sense to me (4, Interesting)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 5 years ago | (#29086585)

    There's actually a really good market here in the states for "recycled" electronics. I know a big company who buys lots (like pallet fulls, not just a large quantity) from gov't auctions, and sometimes they're simply contracted by the government to haul off the equipment. They're perfectly good working units. They sell them through their store, and on eBay. What they can't sell because they're broken, they break down to components, and then have some 3rd parties that break them down more for precious metals.

    They're SUPPOSE to wipe all sensitive information. I have received routers that were still configured for government agencies and large businesses. I don't know how they ever made it out the door of the original facilities, but they did. I've bought some really nice, and previously really expensive, equipment for real cheap. Sometimes some doesn't work quite right, but I'd say I have a >90% success rate with it.

    Those shops never test them though, so I buy untested, and absorb my losses. BTW, if anyone needs a nice Cisco 5005, I have one sitting in the garage that needs a good home. :) I swapped it out for a Cisco WS-C2980G because it took up less space and less power. :) That, and I have 3 working spare 2980G's in case the first breaks. :)

    They also sell lots of hard drives, but what would I do with 1,000 untested (i.e., not formatted) 80Gb drives, besides pilfer them for information? :) Nah, I have better things to do with my time.

Re:makes sense to me (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29086645)

I know a big company who buys lots (like pallet fulls, not just a large quantity) from gov't auctions, and sometimes they're simply contracted by the government to haul off the equipment. They're perfectly good working units. They sell them through their store, and on eBay.

Store name?

Re:makes sense to me (2, Informative)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 5 years ago | (#29087059)

Creative Recycling

    http://crserecycling.com/ [crserecycling.com]

    eBay seller ID: bargain_crh

    eBay store: http://stores.shop.ebay.com/Bargain-Computer-Products [ebay.com]

Re:makes sense to me (1)

gnarfel (1135055) | about 5 years ago | (#29088133)

I thoroughly enjoy the design of their website.

Re:makes sense to me (1)

ZosX (517789) | about 5 years ago | (#29086845)

While I'd love an old 5005, I'd hate to pay shipping on it. Where is the company that picks up on govt auctions?

Re:makes sense to me (1)

mikael (484) | about 5 years ago | (#29087469)

Government contractors are required to support hardware for the entire lifetime that the hardware remains in use. This creates a market for warehouse companies to buy up all the spare hardware that the government didn't buy, store it, and resell it back when components are required.

Re:makes sense to me (5, Insightful)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 5 years ago | (#29086599)

Well, sort of. Back when we were playing Zork with our EGA Video cards, we didn't have 7 layer PCBs with IC so tight that I would need a million dollar robot to replace. But nowadays, computer components (or really, electronics in general) are just not repairable, even if you wanted to.

I can't imagine these are actually getting "repaired" insomuch that they are likely taking good parts from many broken machines and making good ones from them.

Re:makes sense to me (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 years ago | (#29086663)

I guess it's more "consumer replacable parts" repairs. I.e. find the broken part (is it the CPU? The mainboard? The power supply? The ram?) and replace with spare parts from other boxes that are equally "broken", but at different parts.

Most of the time it's economically unfeasible to repair a 3 year old computer. We are simply too expensive to tinker and toy with it. Ship the broken boxes over to where manpower doesn't cost anything, compared to the parts.

Re:makes sense to me (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about 5 years ago | (#29087747)

Actually, what makes it feasible for them is not so much the manpower costs, it's the part costs.

For you to replace the components in a 3-year-old computer, it's going to cost anywhere from $30-80 or so, per part, provided you do not upgrade, then another $3-8 or so in shipping.

For a company, it's just not worth it at all. They've got their deployment, which they have cycled out; or they bought another corporation's 3-year-old computers to use, and are then ready to dispose of them.

Yes, the foreign man hour is "worth" less. But everything in these countries is "worth" less, making the value - and price - of something like modern electronics significantly higher, relatively speaking.

Likewise, it probably doesn't make all that much sense for someone over there to repair (what is to them) a 3-year-old computer - which in reality might be 6-9 years since its production. Why? Part availability. The older stuff isn't readily available at an equitable market price.

However, when it comes to something like this "pay to import junk computers" it makes sense, because the market value of the scrap, relative to the cost of a computer of the same vintage, is low. It would cost a lot more to get a known-good product, so the per-working-part cost is significantly lower.

Consider: the Dell gx270 and 280. They came out in 2002 or 2003 or so, right about when pretty much every manufacturer had the "bad caps" problems in their boards and PSUs. Those models had both those problems, as well as a high running temperature: the result was a LOT of failures. You can, in fact, get them for $89 still: link [electrocom...ehouse.com] . I imagine they had to go through 2-3 "systems" before they found enough components to piece together a "good" system, and they've got to still make a profit from that $89. A bin of 20 mostly-working gx270s couldn't have cost much more than $200-300.

It makes a hell of a lot of sense, and not just for 3rd worlders. It's a good deal for anyone of limited funds/financing (and does not really take all that much time, relative to (say) unpacking a new system and getting the proper image on it).

Re:makes sense to me (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 5 years ago | (#29086837)

I can't imagine these are actually getting "repaired" insomuch that they are likely taking good parts from many broken machines and making good ones from them.

Probably mostly true, although I've seen people throw away 'broken' computers where the only problem was that Windows was infected with too much spyware. I've also seen machines where one of the motherboard cables has come loose, or the PSU has blown a fuse, being discarded as not worth the effort of fixing. These machines are easy to repair, if you can be bothered.

Re:makes sense to me (3, Interesting)

mikael (484) | about 5 years ago | (#29087537)

I've patched up my favorite laptop over five times now - replaced the LCD, upgraded the HDD, replaced the cooling fan assembly, upgraded the memory and replaced a circuit board that switched the LCD off. Each time it's been cheaper than buying a new laptop. Sending the machine away would have taken two weeks, cost at least a 200 pound service charge plus the price of marked up components, not forgetting the cost of return and delivery. Otherwise, just buying the parts and swapping them out just costs far less. Finding where to buy the spare parts was the hardest part.

Re:makes sense to me (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | about 5 years ago | (#29087783)

There are several issues though. Yes, your repairs were cheaper than a new laptop, but as the overall system ages the MTBF gets lower and lower, so your machine will typically need service more often than a newer machine would. With computers there's also a serious issue: computers become outdated regarding their capabilities very quickly. If you can repair a 5 year old laptop for $200 but can get a new one for $300 then the extra $100 might be money well spent on simply getting a better system in the process of upgrading.

Compare that to some other industries and it isn't as clear cut. For example in the auto industry, even though the MTBF issue is still present, in general the difference between a care made in 2001 and a brand new one is generally not that big of a deal. Indeed, aside from gas mileage (which still isn't bad on some older cars - a coworker of mine has an ancient Ford Festiva that gets almost 45mpg), an older car will generally do almost everything a newer one will. Until the introduction of HDTV's, the same was generally true of televisions. My parents had a very old console TV from the 70's that I doctored up several times. Speaker blew in it, so I opened it up and mounted a new (and slightly better) speaker on the side - wood paneling had it's advantages in that you could attach things and work with it easily. Eventually the push/pull knob that turned it on and controlled volume gave out and broke off. I opened it up and for less than $10 at Radio Shack wired in a rocker switch and a cheap little potentiometer that I also mounted onto the side of the unit. That TV ended up lasting nearly 25 years or so before they finally replaced it. As said though, until the introduction of of HDTV and digital transmission, an old color TV just didn't do anything too much different than a newer one.

I think once computers reach that state of complacency where you buy a computer as an applicance and specs mean very little as time goes on, we'll see more trend towards repair instead of replacement. And truthfully I think that's starting to happen now. Equipment still becomes outdated, it's started to last longer and longer before it starts to feel unusable.

Re:makes sense to me (1)

PitaBred (632671) | about 5 years ago | (#29088851)

If you want nice, free computers find dumpsters around the dorms of your local university around the time the kids head out for the summer. There are lots of kids riding on mommy and daddy's dime that just toss their computer since they'll get a new one next year. Dumpster diving is all kinds of fun :)

Re:makes sense to me (2, Interesting)

Mprx (82435) | about 5 years ago | (#29086839)

Electrolytic capacitor failure is still a problem. The famous industrial espionage incident with the incomplete electrolyte recipe is in the past, but manufacturers still try to save money with barely adequate capacitors that won't stand up to high temperatures or dirty power. They can usually be replaced by hand soldering.

Re:makes sense to me (2)

Falconhell (1289630) | about 5 years ago | (#29087225)

And yet in the last few years I did a lot of replacing capacitors on motherboards.

I'm not saying it was easy, but it was possible.

Re:makes sense to me (1)

citizenr (871508) | about 5 years ago | (#29087597)

we didn't have 7 layer PCBs with IC so tight that I would need a million dollar robot to replace.

its a joke, right? I can still replace ATI gpu on x360 with handheld Hot Air. It wont be 100% reliable (without proper alignment and xray to confirm the swap) but it will work and cost me 30 mins + some solder paste. Same goes for motherboards and graphic cards. Everything can be fixed, you just need skill and knowledge.

Re:makes sense to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29087869)

Here in Mexico people routinely reattach north bridges and other chips to motherboards from broken laptops (hp pavilon anyone?). I would say they succeed like 50% of the time. My own pavilion dv1000 has been repaired twice this way. It cost me like $70 dlls last time i did it. Much cheaper than getting a new lappy when all I want is a 14" usable terminal with three hours of battery life.

Re:makes sense to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29087929)

uuuuh, I can't count how many times I've repaired LCD screens and motherboards and video cards by swapping out caps, I would say 90% of the time, its the caps that go out, instead of any IC's.

Now bad caps CAN cause the IC's to go out, but I've got 2 working machines at home built out of parts people tossed that I fixed with caps from other boards people tossed out, 2 lcd monitors (hp's are really bad about caps exploding) and I've given away a rediculous amount of 7600 + cards that had failed caps I replaced.

Re:makes sense to me (2, Interesting)

crazybit (918023) | about 5 years ago | (#29088209)

I live in Peru and I can tell you:

1. Most of that imported hardware being sold here are COMPLETE computers (working CPU + keyboard + mouse / monitor for an additional price) after fixing bumps and scratches.
2. Many of those "used" computers are equal or more powerful than an average ATOM and is being sold at 200 - 300 US$ (new netbooks go for 400+ US$). They are mainly used for people who want internet access and doing their school/university assignments.
3. The useful spare parts (memory, processors, DVD's, keyboards and mouse) are sold for CHEAP (new 160 Gb. SATA is about 65US$, used 80 Gb is about 20 US$ - used IBM keyboards go for 3.5 US$, same price for used IBM / Compaq / HP mouses).

Considering we don't have newegg.com prices here, getting a working computer for 250 US$ so your bugging adolescent siblings can access facebook and messenger is a relief for many many families, and it gives them access to technology.

And what happens after that? (4, Insightful)

Lead Butthead (321013) | about 5 years ago | (#29086563)

What happens after that? To where do they get... 'exported' again once they are... 'retired' in those third world country? It's very likely that electronics disposal regulations in those third world countries are nearly as strict as they should be. So really what then?

Re:And what happens after that? (3, Insightful)

Dutch Gun (899105) | about 5 years ago | (#29086729)

What happens after that? To where do they get... 'exported' again once they are... 'retired' in those third world country? It's very likely that electronics disposal regulations in those third world countries are nearly as strict as they should be. So really what then?

Computers actually have a pretty long shelf-life if you don't count technological obsolescence. It doesn't mean that an older computer won't be useful for someone, but not as much in a 1st world country, where the cost of obsolescence has outstripped the costs and advantages up relatively frequent upgrades. For example, obsolete systems can be more prone to security vulnerabilities, as they aren't being actively maintained as new exploits are discovered. And with a secondary market, a lot of those 'toxic' components can be pulled out and re-used again.

By helping these countries advance in technological prowess, we'll be helping them out of 3rd world status. Wealthier nations tend to be more concerned with the environment. People tend not to care as much about the environment when they're barely making enough to buy food, let alone a computer. It's the same as with the population issue in many ways. The population explosion is leveling off in many developed nations. In undeveloped nations, the reproduction rate is still absurdly high.

The logical answer, it's always seemed to me, is to focus efforts on getting the rest of the world up to speed economically, not to impose our morals and guidelines like lords and masters from on high. A lot of these problems will be easier to solve once people around the world aren't still starving to death.

Re:And what happens after that? (0, Offtopic)

d3ac0n (715594) | about 5 years ago | (#29086947)

The problem is though, that the primary reason many of these countries are still economically and technologically backward, is because they are politically backward.

Most of them are still either Dictatorships, Military Juntas, Communist "people's state" povertyholes, or are in the midst of some kind of civil war.

All the used computers in the world won't help if the people don't have the freedom and capitalistic opportunity to leverage them.

Re:And what happens after that? (2, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | about 5 years ago | (#29087141)

[quote] All the used computers in the world won't help if the people don't have the freedom and capitalistic opportunity to leverage them. [/quote]

If you didn't have "freedom" and "capitalistic opportunity", would you prefer to be with or without a computer?

Re:And what happens after that? (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 5 years ago | (#29087473)

I think his point was that if you don't have capitalistic opportunity, you don't have the ability to make money via computers, thus it won't help 3rd world nations without said opportunity whatsoever economically to have computers.

Now, indirectly, I think computers would help them, but not over the shot term. Whenever information spreads, it helps to topple dictators. Computers facilitate this, so it could very well help them out of their situation, but not in such a clear-cut way as economically.

Re:And what happens after that? (4, Interesting)

techno-vampire (666512) | about 5 years ago | (#29087647)

Whenever information spreads, it helps to topple dictators.

You mean the way it just did in Iran? People like to say that free and unfettered access to information is deadly to dictatorships, but there's a remarkable shortage of real-world examples.

Re:And what happens after that? (0, Offtopic)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 5 years ago | (#29087205)

The logical answer, it's always seemed to me, is to focus efforts on getting the rest of the world up to speed economically, not to impose our morals and guidelines like lords and masters from on high.

What happens if you get "the rest of the word" up to speed economically to the level where they can compete with us - and note that economic competitiveness implies military capability - and it turns out that their morals are diametrically opposite to ours (e.g., "Behead all those who insult Islam!", as written on the sign of one Muslim protester)?

Re:And what happens after that? (1, Interesting)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 5 years ago | (#29087515)

If they speed up economically, they have to speed up in the "think for yourselves" department, too. I mean, has anyone ever considered that Islamic culture in the area from Israel to Pakistan may not know things we take for granted? Our culture is completely overwhelmed with comedy; I don't know if they even really have comedy because of the large amount of crap they put up with on a daily basis. When people are struggling to survive, comedy doesn't really exist, and definitely not in the fashion we think of it. Therefore, when someone depicts Mohamed in a political cartoon or jokes about an old Imam or whatever, even though the statement is the same regardless of language, they don't have a context on which to put it other than "it's an insult to our religion". When their situation improves, they'll slowly realize that we didn't mean it as harm, as we have a much, much different culture than they do.

Re:And what happens after that? (2, Insightful)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 5 years ago | (#29087609)

If you subscribe to the theory that freedom, human rights etc always grow as economy grows, all's well and good. Me, I always remember about Nazi Germany.

Re:And what happens after that? (0)

rohan972 (880586) | about 5 years ago | (#29087919)

If you subscribe to the theory that freedom, human rights etc always grow as economy grows, all's well and good. Me, I always remember about Nazi Germany.

Part of what undid Nazi Germany is that they wouldn't use the Theory of Relativity because it was the work of a Jew and therefore inferior according to their ideology. As a result, although they did have high technological advancement, it was significantly hampered. I'm not sure why the fundamentalist Muslims don't have a religious problem with nukes for the same reason, perhaps it needs to be pointed out to them.

Re:And what happens after that? (0, Offtopic)

denzacar (181829) | about 5 years ago | (#29088143)

Disregard for the Theory of Relativity is what caused Nazi Germany to fail in the Battle of Britain and so to fail to mount Operation Sea Lion and then to fail operation Barbarossa, which allowed allied forces to clinch them both on eastern and western front?
Is that story from the the Red Alert universe? Before or after Albert Einstein goes back in time to remove Hitler?

As for Muslim fundamentalists...
They don't think that Jews or "Jewish science" are inferior. Who told you that?
They think the same thing that fundamentalist Jews think about Muslims.

That they are evil heathen child murderers who hate their (Jewish/Muslim) god and wouldn't like nothing better than to exterminate and/or enslave all the Jews/Muslims in the world, burn their synagogues/mosques and take their money, land and etc.
Religious hatred beats bogus racial theory hatred any day. Plus it works instantly in both directions.
And they all hated each other forever after.

Re:And what happens after that? (4, Insightful)

number11 (129686) | about 5 years ago | (#29087777)

What happens if you get "the rest of the word" up to speed economically to the level where they can compete with us - and note that economic competitiveness implies military capability - and it turns out that their morals are diametrically opposite to ours (e.g., "Behead all those who insult Islam!", as written on the sign of one Muslim protester)?

You mean, as opposed to those people whose morals are "like ours"? Maybe the military officer [nytimes.com] who "made wisecracks about the soldiers heading off to Iraq to kill some ragheads and burn some turbans"? Or forum posts [viperalley.com] like "Damn Ragheads! We need to simply kill everyone in fuggin Iraq!"? Or "Reaper" [myspace.com] , the Brit who says "I like to Kill Haji's, they disgust me"? Yep, them Christians and Americans and Brits sure are some peace lovin' people, morally far superior to Muslims.

Re:And what happens after that? (1)

tnok85 (1434319) | about 5 years ago | (#29088367)

There's wackos from every religion/ideology. A few nutjobs that makes everybody in that group look bad.

I'd say the Islamic militant extremists are their side of the examples you just listed, but for the most part, the "Christians and Americans and Brits" aren't blowing themselves up to kill their enemies.

This could turn into a ridiculously long debate. As terrible as it is, even suicide bombers are people. And there's a reason they believe that blowing themselves up is a good idea.

Severe poverty (nothing we in the western world could even imagine) combined with a promise of paradise and lots of virgins in a culture where polygamy is common, leaving the poorest and most destitute unable to find even one woman since a man who provides well can have many wives, as opposed to the monogamous western world you're basically guaranteed a mate as long as you give even the tiniest bit of effort and can fill out a basic form to get a welfare check.

I can't sympathize with people who kill women and children indiscriminately. But there's got to be a reason that there are many people willing to die to kill their hated enemies (be it Israelis, westerners, or simply an opposing faction of Islam) when even the worst of those idiots you listed aren't even simple murderers. Just moronic loudmouths.

Re:And what happens after that? (1)

PitaBred (632671) | about 5 years ago | (#29088863)

The thing is, there are much fewer cases of violence against Muslims than there are vice versa. There are douchebags all over the place, it just seems that the Muslim world, especially the ones who are brought up knowing nothing but the Koran and being brainwashed into thinking all of America is the great Satan, has more than their share of douchebags. If you drew the same cartoons of Jesus, you would be hard pressed to find a Christian that would threaten you over them, much less actually do something about it. Not so hard in the Muslim world, though.

Re:And what happens after that? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 5 years ago | (#29088141)

Computer chips may have a long life but capacitors blow up after three to seven years, so that and the cooling fans are what limits the life of a PC.

Re:And what happens after that? (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 5 years ago | (#29086863)

Maybe they're still working? I have a couple of BBCs that still run fine. These were introduced in 1981 and are still useful in some situations. They have a plethora of I/O ports that are very easy to program (I remember using them in design/technology classes to control various bits of electronics) and can drive a TV for display. There's no reason to put them in landfill if they're still doing something useful. You can burn software into ROM for them quite easily and they turn on instantly. A third-world village could, for example, power one from a simple wind turbine and use it to control an automated irrigation system. If they were creating such a thing today then they could probably use better hardware (although you'd be hard pressed to find a modern machine with such easy-to-program I/O facilities), but if it had been sent out in the '90s when the machines started to be discarded then it could have had almost twenty years of useful second life.

Re:And what happens after that? (1)

adolf (21054) | about 5 years ago | (#29087787)

Is there anything the BBC can do, that a cheap microcontroller cannot in terms of (say) irrigation control?

If you're driving the thing from a wind turbine, obviously power consumption is a big concern. A big PCB full of TTL ICs is going to be a lot less efficient than a single-package microcontroller.

So, really (in all seriousness): Why bother?

Re:And what happens after that? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29086887)

You have to put it in context. That computer will never see a dump. For these kids ("http://www.spraguephoto.com/stock/images/Nicaragua/ni04-14%20Nicaragua%20Child%20scavengers%20on%20the%20Managua%20garbage%20dump.jpg") an entire PC worth of scrap metal (steel, aluminum, copper would likely be of interest to them) would be a windfall so it is safe to assume that somewhere between the original owner and the dump there's someone to scoop it. That doesn't account for everything: it seems unlikely that the quantities and technologies available would justify anything more than the most rudimentary recycling of the circuit boards but the fact is that at worst somebody took 30lb of US garbage and turned it into another 5-10 years of computer, 25lb of scrap metal and 5 lb of garbage. Compare that to the guy who tosses an old VCR in your dumpster. Neither is good but we can get one fixed while we're just beginning to massive socio-economic reforms needed to raise everyone to the point that they can throw away 30lb of metal without blinking an eye.

Re:And what happens after that? (1)

the_womble (580291) | about 5 years ago | (#29087075)

Recycling reduces the number new computers being made, which reduces the considerable environmental impact of making them in the first place. Even disposal under better regulation is bad for the environment so the gain is the difference in environmental damage.

The overall impact is probably good for the environment but bad for people whose health suffers. Perhaps the best solution would be to subsidise better conditions for the workers involved in the final disposal and better final disposal of salvageable material? It will almost certainly still be cheaper than an export ban, and would give the third world the gains from importing the stuff.

Re:And what happens after that? (1)

denzacar (181829) | about 5 years ago | (#29088247)

Recycling reduces the number new computers being made

Ummm... no.

How does an old 1GHz computer "recycled" to be used as a typewriter or a web-browser reduce the production of gaming PCs?

What you are thinking of are cars and various other single purpose household items like TVs, washing machines and refrigerators.
Those get "recycled" vertically - they perform the same function as they did before only not quite as well as the brand new product would.

As computers are multipurpose devices, they get recycled horizontally - into a completely different section of the market.
Today's high-end work station can always be used as a file/web/print server, or a media station, or a type writer etc. of tomorrow.
Heck... Because it is far easier to mix and match parts, you can recycle PCs almost indefinitely.

Dumkopf (1)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about 5 years ago | (#29088837)

Whether it's horizontal or vertical, it can be regarded as the same effect because of netbooks.

Producing an Atom cpu will likely result in a similar amount of waste and impact as a Core2 Duo and if recycling a three-year-old machine to Nigeria saves a OTPC production, it has reduced the amount of new computers being made.

In a world without OTPC or netbooks, there isn't a production of new low end machines, everything is at the top, and your logic worked. But not anymore.

Re:And what happens after that? (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about 5 years ago | (#29087767)

Have you actually disposed of any of your old electronics "properly"? Unless you're in a substantial urban environment, it's often difficult to find the correct channels to recycle through even in the US - and then you've got to pay to have it done.

Locally, there are a dozen or so places to recycle computers. Not one of them will accept bin electronics for recycling (I've tried) - because they are not actually recycling, but stripping the good parts for reuse and resale. The best bet is to pay $10 for a (small) box from Office Depot which has just barely enough space for a single tower.

Re:And what happens after that? (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 5 years ago | (#29088915)

What happens after that? To where do they get... 'exported' again once they are... 'retired' in those third world country? It's very likely that electronics disposal regulations in those third world countries are nearly as strict as they should be. So really what then?

I agree. It would be better for these third-world people to buy new computers and then have to dispose of them at some point, than buy used computers and have to dispose of them at some point. Much cleaner and less environmental waste.

Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (3, Insightful)

ZosX (517789) | about 5 years ago | (#29086567)

It amazes me how many people throw away perfectly good equipment because windows is running slow, or the drive is crashed, so they think that the whole machine doesn't work anymore. People cannot differentiate between operating system health and hardware health. Also a lot of older tech that is getting phased out is still perfectly usable with windows xp. Even a lowly P4 2ghz isn't all that bad for just web surfing. I was thinking about the rate of PC platform development lately, and it seems to me that the innovation rate is slowing down. Perhaps this is due to there being one single platform (x86) now, but doesn't it seem like things moved so much faster forward in the 90s? I mean we went from 8-bit processors to 32-bit risc monsters on the desktop in like 10 years. Asides from faster busses and dual processors and (finally) 64-bit addressing, how much further have we really come? All these people are reusing 10 year old tech because it still runs today's software (2d software at least) and that isn't something you could say 10 years ago, and that is my point.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (4, Insightful)

bondiblueos9 (1599575) | about 5 years ago | (#29086633)

Even a lowly P4 2ghz isn't all that bad for just web surfing.

He calls a P4 2ghz lowly, but a P4 2ghz is my main computer. Upgraded a couple months ago from a P3 1ghz. And no, it isn't all the bad for web surfing.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29086701)

I have a P3 500 mhz that I installed more RAM and Ubuntu on. It works like a charm for most basic purposes.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29086749)

Even a lowly P4 2ghz isn't all that bad for just web surfing.

He calls a P4 2ghz lowly, but a P4 2ghz is my main computer. Upgraded a couple months ago from a P3 1ghz. And no, it isn't all the bad for web surfing.

I hate to have to tell you this, but you do realize that your current CPU at that speed was first launched in late 2001.
If a CPU with almost 8 years old doesn't qualifies as lowly, I don't know what does.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (5, Insightful)

PaintyThePirate (682047) | about 5 years ago | (#29086843)

GGP does have a point though. An 8 year old computer is still mostly capable of modern computing needs: surfing the internet, sending email, word processing, etc. On the other hand, a computer from 1991 was not quite as useful in 1999. That would be a 486 in the world of Pentium IIIs (well, IIIs were getting common by then anyway).

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (2, Informative)

forkazoo (138186) | about 5 years ago | (#29088007)

GGP does have a point though. An 8 year old computer is still mostly capable of modern computing needs: surfing the internet, sending email, word processing, etc. On the other hand, a computer from 1991 was not quite as useful in 1999. That would be a 486 in the world of Pentium IIIs (well, IIIs were getting common by then anyway).

For a slightly more extreme comparison, imagine a ten year old computer today, and in 1995.
A ten year old computer would be, like you say, a PIII. 1 GHz for a round number. Not super speedy by modern standards, but stuff it full of RAM and you can do most office type things with it, even using fairly current software. The first machine I used to cut DV footage on was even slower than our 10 year old beast.

But, in 1995, a ten your old computer would basically have been a relic. A 640 k machine with a CGA card being compared to Pentiums running Windows 95. A 128k Mac up against a PowerMac. No real comparison at that point.

There are a couple of reasons why progress seemed so rapid at that point. A lot of technology already existed, and was well understood from high end machines by the 1990's. It just hadn't made it into common PC hardware. OF the things that PC companies did invent, everything was still so new that there was still a lot of low-hanging fruit. Also, transistor budgets were still low enough that it was possible to really exploit new fab process improvements because you could use a modestly sized design team. The market was also expanding very rapidly, so the amount of money that could be used for R+D was exploding in that period. The starting points were so primitive that every little improvement seemed to be huge.

Also, the lack of monoculture prior to about the mid-90's meant that you could try completely new shit. Some of it failed, but somebody always had some crazy idea to push things forward. Then, everybody got email and just needed to be able to open their MS Word attachments. Coming up with a revolutionary non-file-centric storage system is worthless if it can't store an MS Word file. Coming up with a new networking paradigm is useless if it means you can't get your email.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (1)

PitaBred (632671) | about 5 years ago | (#29088879)

The killer app for new computers is video, though. Lots of people playing high-res video on their laptops, and even more wanting to get into the editing and such. Just look at the production on lots of Youtube videos... different effects and such. It's nothing professional class, but it still goes much faster with a faster CPU.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (1)

Mozk (844858) | about 5 years ago | (#29087857)

I run Oblivion with a bunch of mods on a 1.67 GHz Athlon XP and a Radeon 9550. What's lowly about them when they run things just fine?

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (1)

jo42 (227475) | about 5 years ago | (#29088091)

You've been brainwashed by modern marketing and sales into thinking that anything that is only 8 years old is not worthy. Most new netbooks are not much faster. Congratulations on being part of the descent to Idiocracy.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (2, Interesting)

ZosX (517789) | about 5 years ago | (#29086907)

I was stuck on a 1 ghz p3 backup for a month a little while ago. Not bad under ubuntu. Hell I even ran kubuntu on it as it was snappier than gnome. There isn't much you can do with a box like that other than render web pages these days though. You should skim craigslist. I regularly see dual core machines for like $15o-200 right now and you'd be only like a generation or two behind. Nothing wrong with buying 2 year old computers for a decent price.... :)

I finally bought my first new computer ever though. It is easily the fastest machine that I've ever used and its a laptop. :)

dual core athlon64 2ghz, with ddr2 667 ram with hypertransport 3.0 is at least twice as fast as my old single core athlon 64 3000 which also ran at 2ghz.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 5 years ago | (#29087153)

There isn't much you can do with a box like that other than render web pages these days though

Really? I have a couple of 1GHz machines acting as servers, hosting mailing lists, XMPP servers, web and so on. I used to use one for a lot of development, now I use a VM (which is not much faster, when you factor in the increased cost of disk accesses) and it compiled code very quickly. About the only thing it has problems with are compiling big projects (e.g. LLVM) and video editing (I used a 1.5GHz G4 to put together some videos a few years ago. It was fast enough during the editing, but rendering the final version for export took a very long time).

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 5 years ago | (#29088569)

There isn't much you can do with a box like that other than render web pages these days though.

Avoid the more recent, CPU-hogging apps, and you're good. Blackbox or XFce3, Sylpheed, Dillo, etc, and your box will smoke. It's plenty good enough for playback of all standard-resolution video. The system I'm using as my DVR is clocked at about 1.3GHz.

Hell, I can point to a handful servers I admin, all under 1GHz, which run the core functions of an entire mid-size company.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about 5 years ago | (#29087807)

He calls a P4 2ghz lowly, but a P4 2ghz is my main computer. Upgraded a couple months ago from a P3 1ghz.

Wait, I'm confused. That was an upgrade?

Clock for clock, the P3 was by far better than the P4. AMD CPUs of that era were superior by quite a bit as well. Really, anything in that 'era' was primarily constrained by RAM. I've got Windows 7 running on a Thinkpad X30 right now (512M, 1.2GHz P3M) which runs better than XP did, but there were plenty of 1-3GHz machines sold then which were barely even able to run what they shipped with (256M) due to all the crap/bloatware installed by the vendors.

And compared to a 3GHz+ multicore system, 2GHz is indeed poky. (Slashdot is most certainly a pain in the ass on such systems.)

I do, however, have a 500MHz Celeron laptop w/ 256Mb which works just fine for basic web browsing, terminals, and the like. It is also quite slow, admittedly, but no slower than when it was new.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (1)

jnork (1307843) | about 5 years ago | (#29088137)

He calls a P4 2ghz lowly, but a P4 2ghz is my main computer. Upgraded a couple months ago from a P3 1ghz. And no, it isn't all the bad for web surfing.

"When I say 'ome, it were just an 'ole in the ground. But it were 'ome to us!"
"We were evicted from our 'ole in the ground. We 'ad to go live in lake."
"We used to dream of living in a lake!"

OK, my fastest PC is a MacBook. But... my current desktop system, however, is... you ready? ... a P3 850 with 768 megs of RAM. Running Windows XP. Doing a pretty good job of it, I might add. I was actually able to play HL2 on it. It was... barely playable. I do my pr0n downloading, watch movies, play MP3s, and do some minor code development on it. ...Not all at the same time, of course, but then it's hard to focus on writing code when you're watching pr0n. ;)

I do most of my e-mail on the Mac, but I do a lot of browsing on the desktop.

It's Good Enough for most of my work. Eventually I'll save up for a decent gaming system, but today if I really want to play something that requires Windows I can always use my Mac in Bootcamp.

You have a P4 2ghz? Luxury! When I was your age we had to carve our own ICs out of wood!

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29086783)

It amazes me how many people throw away perfectly good equipment because windows is running slow, or the drive is crashed, so they think that the whole machine doesn't work anymore. People cannot differentiate between operating system health and hardware health.

Because your average Mum or Dad at home doesn't know how to diagnose that the problem is with their hard disk, and not with Windows. And even if they did know, they likely don't know how to replace that hard drive and reinstall Windows. All they know is they take it to their local computer shop, and they tell them it'll cost X hundred dollars to fix. At that point in time they probably decide they are better off spending a little bit extra to get a new PC.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29086977)

Indeed, yet with Idiotproof restore discs / partitions they still can't reinstall the OS

I have a number of PIII grade computers running WindowsXP that's perfectly suitable for email checking / basic surfing (minimal flash), non-full screen low def Youtube, full screen non-high def videos in VLC, Word processing, PDF viewing, MP3s, even syncing an MP3 player or digital camera (though USB 1.1 is a little slow), DVD burning, CD ripping. Boots in under a minute and a half. One of the recent ones I got because it was "too expensive to fix". The video card was putting vertical lines on the screen, so I slapped in an old AGP card from a PII and it's been working fine for over a year. Good free computers for elderly relatives.

More recently I got a P4 grade computer for helping someone pickout and buy a laptop.

It helps you understand how the Atom in Netbooks is enough power for most of what people do.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (2, Interesting)

tdelaney (458893) | about 5 years ago | (#29088059)

It's not just the average Mum or Dad. Sometimes us techies can't diagnose it's a problem with the hard disk either.

Case in point - my sister's computer (that I had built for her) was spontaneously crashing. The problem appeared to be a PSU issue (it had a 5-year-old 300W Antec PSU). Swapping out the PSU though didn't help - one (crappy) PSU it wouldn't post with, another it would spontaneously crash, etc.

I swapped out everything I had spares of, but couldn't diagnose the problem. Suspecting a motherboard problem, I eventually advised replacing the internals (they were starting to do things that would benefit from a CPU upgrade).

Several months later (after they'd moved house) their new machine started doing the same thing, and then started refusing to POST. Only three components had been transferred to the new machine - the case, the optical drive and the hard drive. Turns out that the hard drive spindle had become clogged with concrete dust (from their concrete floor) and was partially seizing up, making it use more and more voltage, and eventually tripping the hard drive. Finally it totally seized, causing the refusal to POST.

Never got the data from the hard drive, but their old machine is happily running as my test machine. I've even run an HD4870 in there (troubleshooting for a co-worker), off the old 300W PSU ...

Truer than you realize (2, Informative)

localroger (258128) | about 5 years ago | (#29086815)

I use a nearly 10 year old PC at work as my disposable net-connected computer (we have an air gap between our real network and the internets). It's a 333 MHz P2 and running Win2K and FireFox it runs fine, as long as I don't try to use it to watch video. I use it for all of my at-work email, lots of word processing, and viewing and printing PDF's. I also use it to run circuit board design software so I can submit the images over the net to producers.

Re:Truer than you realize (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29086889)

PIIIs are practically doorstops but they can do a great deal more with a penny of electricity than can a PII. I have at my house a 486, a P-I 166 a couple PIII 866s and a Phenom II 2.8. I wouldn't burden even the ARC with a PII. Not worth it to even turn them on.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29086827)

Picked up two fully functional HP DL380 G5s at the local landfills electronic department while dumping some old furniture. God knows why someone would dump them.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 5 years ago | (#29088881)

God knows why someone would dump them.

The G6's are out now.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (3, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 5 years ago | (#29086953)

I mean we went from 8-bit processors to 32-bit risc monsters on the desktop in like 10 years

Because there was a compelling reason to. Most 8-bit processors used some banked arrangement of memory that let them access a 16-bit address space, giving them 64KB of RAM. I write articles which are 10-20KB of text. This fits in a 64KB address space, but doesn't leave much room for the text editor. Add in some markup and it's easy to go beyond a 16-bit address space. Most 16-bit processors, similarly, had a scheme for accessing more than a 16-bit address space. The 8086 could access a 20-bit space, for example, letting it address an entire megabyte. Want to do some video editing? 640x480 image with an 8-bit palette is going to use a third of that. Put the same image in 24-bit color and it's taken almost all of your RAM. Move to a 32-bit processor and you get 4GB of address space. With an MMU, that's 4GB per process, maybe some hackery like PAE so you get up to 64GB of physical RAM. What can you do with 4GB of address space? You're very unlikely to generate enough text to fill that up; even the whole of Project Gutenberg isn't much bigger than that, and you don't need all of it in RAM at once. Images? Not likely. High-end cameras use about 50MB per image and they're already past the point where the human eye can take in the whole image at once. Video maybe? DV footage is about 10GB/hour, but generally you don't map it all into your address space, you process it in a stream, so it's also not limited by a 32-bit address space.

It would be a mistake to say a 32-bit address space is enough for anyone, just as it was a mistake to say 64KB is enough for anyone. That doesn't mean, however, that 64KB isn't enough for some people. 1MB is enough for a few more people. 4GB is enough for quite a lot of people. 16 Exabytes is probably enough for almost everyone. Note that most '64-bit' processors really only allow something like 48 bits of virtual address space and 40 bits of physical because no one - even the NSA - is using the whole 64-bit space.

It's the same thing with processor speeds. Why do you think things like ARM and Atom chips, which are much slower than the top-of-the-line i7, POWER5, or whatever, are becoming so popular? Because, for a very large section of the market, a 1GHz P3 is fast enough for everything they do. A few months ago my 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro was in for repair, so I was using my old 1.5GHz G4 PowerBook instead. Most of the time, the CPU load on that machine was under 60%. The only difference with the faster machine is that now the average CPU load is closer to 10%. For some people 1MHz was fast enough. For more people 100MHz was fast enough. For a lot of people, 1GHz was fast enough. For some people, 100THz will still be too slow, but they are quite a small niche market (and SGI is very pleased that they are still willing to pay a large markup).

why go to 3rd world when we need them here (1)

enjalot (1619253) | about 5 years ago | (#29087105)

An even lowlier P3 1ghz with 256mb of RAM can run xubuntu (or some other lightweight linux) just fine, and do just about anything the 'average' user would want to do. Surf the web, play online games, email and word process.

There are millions of people in the USA that don't have access to a computer at home, or barely have access to a computer at all. Governments, schools, businesses and individuals routinely discard perfectly good hardware because the windows paradigm has failed them. Recognizing this disconnect has inspired me to take some action in my community, and I am not the only one doing this. We are starting a non-profit called dDivide ( http://ddivide.org/ [ddivide.org] website redesign on the way ) where we collect donated computers, use volunteer labor to refurbish them and then distribute them where they are needed. We are working on developing programs to include those who are receiving the machines in the rebuild process. Giving computers away isn't enough, they won't be useful if the users can't maintain them!

There is a new site called growingupfree.org which is trying to consolidate the efforts of organizations like mine by connecting us and keeping track of efforts going on in all 50 states.

Efforts like ours could really benefit from Slashdot expertise, please check out growingupfree.org and see if anything is going on in your area. If you have any ideas for me or want help, feel free to contact me at ian@ddivide.org

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (2, Interesting)

ztransform (929641) | about 5 years ago | (#29087245)

8-bit processors to 32-bit risc monsters

I think most desktops are now CISC [wikipedia.org] monsters.

Asides from faster busses and dual processors and (finally) 64-bit addressing, how much further have we really come?

Personally I've seen significant development in the last 10 years. Back 12 years ago, when I was at university studying electrical engineering, we were discussing the potential of radio modulation being done entirely in software - what a novel concept that was back then! When the i386 came out I was amazed at things like barrel shifters, and protected memory - protected memory, what a boon that was to multi-process operating systems! Then things got really complicated, with memory register sets for advanced multimedia computations; and chips handling multiple levels of security (now we have the hypervisor).

Whilst the desktop chips were becoming too complex for any single individual to understand (much like the motor car) the embedded chip market also changed.. 32 bits is now common in embedded applications; surface mount components and chips were just entering the market when I left university; now you'd be lucky to ever identify the value of a resister on a circuit board.. circuit boards are rarely a single layer any more.

Ten years ago the recording industry thought it had a monopoly on media distribution and charged us accordingly taking us for the suckers we were. Then the computer industry got smart and the networking industry prevailed. Now we have more lawyers than technicians thinking they have a say in technology.

As far as I'm concerned there's been an enormous amount of development in the last decade, to the point where I believe I can't keep up. I used to know everything I wanted to know about PCs. Now I don't. And I can't be bothered trying to learn as 2-3 years later a new chipset/architecture comes out. I certainly don't want to update my Microsoft operating systems as I'm convinced they will only restrict what I can do (DRM) rather than enhance what I can do.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (2, Interesting)

petermgreen (876956) | about 5 years ago | (#29087541)

now you'd be lucky to ever identify the value of a resister on a circuit board
Well I could probablly lift it off the board with a set of heated tweezers, measure it and then solder it back on, annoying but certainly possible (at least down to 0603 package, probablly smaller).

Also while there are 32 bit embedded processors the 8 bit and 16 bit ones are still availible and afaict are still selling well. For many applications a pic in a dil or soic package on a 2 layer board is plenty and for low volume stuff MUCH cheaper than trying to deal with multi layer boards and/or parts small enough that you need professional assembly (yes it is possible to DIY with TQFP packages but it's not something I'd reccomend)

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about 5 years ago | (#29087785)

Things have been "slowing down" for a while, now. Back in '96 or so, tech mags were saying we were 5 years from crystal based, non-volatile storage. I remember a number of articles about it. Granted, they're always saying that, but consider how many storage advancements have actually been made since then: not many. We had SCSI and IDE, and we've refined our processes and improved the specs in a linear fashion, yes. But there's been no substantial storage advancement; it's all been linear.

As far as processors, I'd say the landscape is changing from a MHz war to one of multiple cores (and it's time for the OSes and software to catch up). We'll see such things being better utilized once that is the case.

Re:Lots of usable tech hitting the dumpster.... (1)

El_Oscuro (1022477) | about 5 years ago | (#29087819)

Even a lowly P4 2ghz isn't all that bad for just web surfing

My hard-core, purpose built gaming rig runs a 1.6G P4 with 384M of RAM. And when I say purpose-built, I mean it. HAPP controls and joysticks, tornado spinners, a 30" Wells/Gardener monitor with LinCade [pc2jamma.org] running xmame, it is amazing what you can do with old hardware.

is anyone surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29086723)

I for one, i am not.

Re:is anyone surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29086829)

I for one, welcome our new reused overlords!

The question is... How is it recycled? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29086801)

Check out this disturbing CBC video short documentary on how these people dismantle computers in the most unhealthy way. Both to themselves and their environment.

http://www.cbc.ca/national/blog/video/environmentscience/ewaste_dumping_ground.html [www.cbc.ca]

ASU not UofA (3, Informative)

bbk (33798) | about 5 years ago | (#29086901)

Arizona has two universities, the Tucson based University of Arizona (UofA), which has been around for much longer than the Tempe based Arizona State University (ASU). This article was written by people at latter, not the former, so the post attribution is incorrect.

Re:ASU not UofA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29088001)

Virginia's got them beat. We've got UVA, VSU, and VCU (University of Virginia, Virginia State University, and Virginia Commonwealth University [we're a commonwealth, technically], respectively). And that's just the most confusing three.

Use my old CueCat in good health! (1)

SnapShot (171582) | about 5 years ago | (#29086915)

I am glad that there's an 80% chance my old CueCat [wikipedia.org] is being put to good use in a third word country somewhere.

My 2 Cents (2, Interesting)

sendro (1548069) | about 5 years ago | (#29087305)

I have seen the EOL recycling process first hand - I have been out to the warehouses and purchased networking & server equipment. It is great that we can recycle this stuff. The issue here is 88% of your "secure data" will end up back on the market exported to India. Do you trust these people with your data - every server I have purchased from these recycling companies has still had your valuable data on it. If you are a company sending your old IT stock to these places.. sure you have agreements to wipe your data; but does it actually happen??? No! The techs at these places have no idea how to format a SAN array or server drives.. now your data is shipped overseas and in the hands of the worst possible people you could imagine. It makes me sick to the stomach as a Linux Administrator.. but its true. If any corporations read this; I suggest you get an insider to purchase from where you dump your equipment and you will find all your data still on the disks.. what is the point of have network security when this happens? ... there is no point at all. I swear this is the shocking truth about the recycling business; and you people wonder how all these people get your personal details.. it is good recycling - but companies should take it in their hands to ensure the data is destroyed. Drill a hole through each drive then let them take your ex lease equipment away.

Re:My 2 Cents (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about 5 years ago | (#29087835)

Would not something as low-level format of the drive do the trick? And they do not even do this?

I find that somewhat difficult to believe. I know the medical industry has strict requirements that such things be done; when I worked in health care, we destroyed all drives physically - it was good stress relief to take a stack out back and pound the piss out of them with a sledge from maintenance, too.

I can't believe that, at least, financial companies do not have similar legal requirements. Please, someone tell me it is not true, and that such companies do, in fact, properly 'delete' all disks before recycling.

Re:My 2 Cents (1)

GiMP (10923) | about 5 years ago | (#29088581)

From software, the best solution is a multi-pass random rewrite. This isn't very practical and doesn't work with broken drives.

The best methods of physical destruction are:
1. Running it through a degausser, which can be expensive commercially, but not too difficult to build or scavenge from old CRTs.
2. Throwing it into a blast furnace. This can be dangerous and bad for the environment, but at least you can re-use the iron! The heat will degauss the metal. If melted into a liquid, complete destruction is assured! There are webpages providing instructions for building backyard blast furnaces.

Re:My 2 Cents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29088721)

Or you can just run a single zero-wipe pass of DBAN on it if the drive is still working, or dismantle the drive and destroy the platters if the drive isn't working.

There are no recorded instances of recovery from overwritten data on a modern drive, and even if there were, the technology that would do it isn't really affordable for people to go randomly seaching for old data.

Ins And Outs (1)

mindbrane (1548037) | about 5 years ago | (#29087311)

I'm a strong environmentalist, but also strongly support exporting recycling and waste management to developing countries. I think the overriding necessary condition is one of controls over the exportation of waste goods and the methods of waste management. Obviously control over waste management in an autonomous state is highly problematic, but for developing countries that are willing to meet the requirements, the benefits to them and to us are considerable. The protocols and governing legislation necessary to the effective and safe management of wast and recyclables could be a vital link to injecting democratic methods into developing nations. In return we might consider barter rather than hard currency. The process would link us to them and allow for a more tractable means of aiding developing countries at all levels. Moreover the recyclables would introduce them to the amenities of our manufacturing sector and provide a basis for future trade. Breaking down recyclables and waste products according to effective, environmental protocols would also give hands on education in basis technology. Seeing such trade as an 'evil', passing of the costs of waste management and recycling onto poorer nations misses the rich interchange of wealth and technology along with cultural ties such trade can effect.

Re:Ins And Outs (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29087553)

I'm a strong environmentalist

Please stop causing the manufacturing base of the world to move to Asia with your regulations, taxes and lawsuits. China doesn't care about the environment.

What about copyright infringement on software? (1)

avtchillsboro (986655) | about 5 years ago | (#29088289)

The only thing that I don't like about this is that old, out-of-use copies of ancient software--like maybe the first version of MS Word v.1.0--that maybe COULD be copied & run on these old machines by some 3rd world school kid--CAN'T legally be copied & run because Ballmer & Gates have bought & paid for US legislation making such "copyright infringement" illegal. Cuz Ballmer & Gates need the $$.

Re:What about copyright infringement on software? (2, Informative)

Orion Blastar (457579) | about 5 years ago | (#29088509)

Actually the older the software, the easier it is to make copies and put it on multiple machines. Once the software reaches online activation, it cannot be copied so easily without beating the activation scheme.

Anyway as it turns out Microsoft is giving away free downloads of MS-Word 5.5 for MS-DOS [downloadsquad.com] so that old systems can run it for free. The direct download link is here [microsoft.com] in EXE self extraction format. It is the Y2K fix for MS-Word for DOS 5.5 and under and released as a new version instead of a patch or update. Microsoft felt that releasing a full DOS version would be easier than update older versions of MS-Word for DOS going back to Word 1.0 and up to 5.5. So those still using DOS or looking for a DOS word processor can take advantage of MS-Word 5.5 for DOS for free.

Re:What about copyright infringement on software? (1)

smchris (464899) | about 5 years ago | (#29088617)

Should I start with "Sonny, back in _my_ day...?" Makes me feel good. Geez, in the 80s we ran a summer school for a couple hundred staff and a couple thousand kids on frackin' green screen, dual-floppy 4.77 mhz IBM PCs. And except for MS-DOS the software was mostly WordPerfect and dBase. I guess the fact that some bureaucrat in Mali can't play Bioshock on the office computer on his lunch break is surprisingly low on my list of liberal heart bleeds.

They have scrap value, too! (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 5 years ago | (#29088729)

FTFS:

that most of the exports of used computers imported by buyers overseas (88%) are really for reuse and repair. Otherwise, people would not pay to import them.

The above is simply silly. The scrap value of computer parts is high - very high in some cases. About a year ago they were especially in demand. PCBs are still in good demand: sometimes for recovery of soldered-on parts, but mostly for recovery of the copper and other valuable metals (gold-plated contacts for example).

I am happy to hear that 88% is being reused before being recycled (mind that most poor countries have much higher recycling rates than developed countries because labour is so much cheaper and also they don't care too much about pollution caused by the recovery of some wastes). Though it is a number that I would call unrealistically high. This considering the large number of e-scrap recyclers in China that are buying computer parts for precious metal recovery.

And it is actually the same with batteries. All kinds of batteries are being collected and exported for profit, sold at high prices to recyclers that are after the various metals used in these batteries.

So really: that people pay money for end-of-life products doesn't mean they are going to re-use it. It just means the scrap has value. And very often this value has to do with valuable materials that can be recovered from this scrap.

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