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Bloom Laptop Designed For Easy Disassembly

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the hack-on-that dept.

Hardware Hacking 151

Zothecula writes "It's a given that we will one day be discarding our present laptop computers. It's also a given that e-waste is currently a huge problem, that looks like it's only going to get worse. While most of the materials in a laptop can be recycled, all of those pieces of glass, metal, plastic and circuitry are stuck together pretty tight, and require a lot of time and effort to separate. What is needed are laptops that are designed to be taken apart, for easy recycling – that's why a group of graduate students from Stanford University made one."

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151 comments

Easily swappable parts (4, Insightful)

Stregano (1285764) | more than 3 years ago | (#34162824)

If the price is right, this may have double use. I know that one issue with me personally not owning laptops is that when they break, it sucks really bad to do some of the repairs/replace parts. If a laptop is brought to mass market with easy to disassemble parts, maybe we can get lucky and get more 3rd party support for swapping out pieces

Re:Easily swappable parts (2, Insightful)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 3 years ago | (#34162888)

Small, easily disassembled, cheap: pick 2.

Re:Easily swappable parts (4, Informative)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163012)

Take a look at the Nohrtec Edubook, which is completely modular [youtube.com], mod'able, and which is often shipped to clients disassembled for them to assemble themselves. Mike Barnes intentionally created a netbook computer that can be torn down and repaired easily, targeted at developing countries. Very interesting model. Uses rechargeable AAs, too.

Re:Easily swappable parts (-1, Troll)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163328)

What part of "small" don't you get? The AA batteries, alone, are far thicker than many laptops these days. As such, your post hardly invalidates the GPs point.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

Voyager529 (1363959) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163520)

At the risk of sounding pedantic, I think that "many" is a bit generous here. Yes, AA batteries are thicker than the Macbook Air, the Dell Adamo, probably a handful of Sony units, and I think there was an ultrathin Thinkpad released a year or two ago. All of the above have something in common: they were EXPLICITLY built to be as thin as possible, to the point where "it's ridiculously thin" was the primary selling feature.

By contrast, you could comfortably fit "C" size batteries into my XPS M1730; a round of "D" batteries is a couple millimeters away if we're assuming a lid-open design.

AA batteries would theoretically fit into every netbook I've come across, as well as every 14", 15", and 17" notebook I can recall. Whether a set of AA batteries would be able to pump out enough juice to power any of these machines is another argument entirely, but your statement was, if I could rephrase, "The thickness of the thickest point on a significant minority of recent-generation laptops is less than the circumference of a AA battery", to which I must disagree.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

Mage66 (732291) | more than 3 years ago | (#34164264)

The problem with the Edubook is that you can't buy them retail. The shipping cost for one unit is $50us. You need to buy the unit in bulk to get the shipping cost reasonable. Nohrtec doesn't seem to care that these units get into people's hands. they don't have them in a U.S. warehouse to ship single units, and they don't have an American distributor. These are inexpensive units great for use on-the-go. They aren't power user machines. But good enough for E-mail, browsing and as a media player. And they can always be upgraded with a faster CPU in the future. Nohrtec just doesn't know how to market.

Re:Easily swappable parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34163208)

Why? It seems to me that "easily disassembled" and "cheap" are usually the same thing.

Re:Easily swappable parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34163298)

I suppose that depends on whether or not you'd like the ability to put it back together again.

Re:Easily swappable parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34163634)

Nope. Welding, glueing, or riveting are all cheaper than screws. Easily *broken apart* can be cheap, but if you want to be able to put it back together, that actually takes more money up front. With no clear ROI.

Re:Easily swappable parts (2, Insightful)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163286)

Small, Easily Disassembled, cheap, proprietary.

Pick any three. (FTFY)

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163340)

"Small, easily disassembled, cheap: pick 2."

Not necessarily. Desktop case form factors were both standard and cheap.

Nonstandard cases are good for vendor lock and to deter upgrades though. Anyone remember the Packard-Bell cases shaped like an inverted "T"? :)

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163678)

Not necessarily. Desktop case form factors were both standard and cheep.

But not small, even MiniITX can't get down to the sorts of sizes of things like an eeeBox or MacMini without a significant amount of expensive custom parts.

So you've only validated the GP's point – you chose cheap and easily disassembeled, but lost small.

Re:Easily swappable parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34163988)

Right, so a standardized desktop case is easily disassembled and cheap. Agreed. That's two.

I have yet to see a standardized desktop case that could be considered "small" or, for that matter, how a desktop case form factor is even at all relevant to a discussion about laptops.

Laptop makers are, by and large, going to resist standardization with the components of their competitor's products. This resistance will break down only when you're dealing with laptops built by some vendor who wants to make them upgradeable, and that level of modularity is going to add to size and/or weight, and cost, and simultaneously cut deeply into future sales as customers just buy upgrades from a cheap commodity parts vendor rather than coming into your store and buying a brand new one.

Few people are going to value upgrade-ability when they can just buy one that is lighter for a good bit less, and plan on getting a new shiny 3 years from now. C'mon, this is research done in America, the same market in which we commit to two years of being serviced by a cell phone company so we can get a cheap phone. The Gillette model was invented here, and it's going to be excised anytime soon.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 3 years ago | (#34164334)

Anyone remember the Packard-Bell cases shaped like an inverted "T"?

Yes, and I can't fathom WHY Packard-Bell is no longer sold in the US.....

Oh yeah, that and the fact they sucked otherwise....

Re:Easily swappable parts (5, Insightful)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163568)

Small, easily disassembled, cheap: pick 2.

Why?

The proper pattern is: Powerful, High Quality, Cheap, pick two.

The "easily disassembled" part is a function of a good design. As such, it falls under high quality. Small is also a function of the design, and as such falls under the high quality.

So you can have a small, easy to disassemble, powerful laptop, but it won't be cheap. You can have a small, easy to disassemble laptop for cheap, but it won't be powerful. You can have a cheap, powerful laptop but, depending on exactly how cheap it is, it won't be small or easy to disassemble or both.

The real trick here will be to get manufacturers to play along. Desktops are easy, having lots of space is a good thing. Laptops are harder, because leftover space is a bad thing, and a standardized format will invariably lead to wasted space for many designs.

In the long run, though, things would be a lot cheaper. We'd be spending $50 for a laptop case, $150 for a motherboard, $300 for that kickass new processor, and $150-$400 for the screen. We'll get a custom laptop market similar to the custom desktop market, and that will be very, very cool. In this scenario you could build a reasonably powerful laptop for $300-$400 if you chose last gen's components instead of the latest and greatest.

If we could get some kind of standardization in the laptop market it would be wonderful in my opinion.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163660)

The "easily disassembled" part is a function of a good design. As such, it falls under high quality. Small is also a function of the design, and as such falls under the high quality.

Not necessarily. Apple's machines are generally very well designed but are generally a pain in the ass to dissemble and service. Similarly, there have been many crap machines that have been really easy to disassemble and service that I've owned with terrible designs.

The two are rarely related in terms of functional design and ease of disassemble when it comes to the average user.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

MadTinfoilHatter (940931) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163994)

Not necessarily. Apple's machines are generally very well designed but are generally a pain in the ass to dissemble and service.

That depends on what you mean by "well designed". Apple's offerings look good, and are decently sturdy, sure. They aren't designed with serviceability in mind, though. If anything they're designed to be a pain in the ass to service, so that noone besides Apple service points will want to touch them.

There should be no reason why a laptop couldn't be well designed like an Apple, and easy to service. These are in no way mutually exclusive, which was the GP's point.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

NorbrookC (674063) | more than 3 years ago | (#34164056)

Exactly. It's a problem across many industries - just ask any auto mechanic. The people designing the product aren't thinking in terms of servicing the product. I've had to disassemble an entire laptop just to replace a case fan. I had to buy specialty tools just so I could remove and replace the hard drive on another laptop. Those are just some of the examples I've had to deal with - and yes, each of them have been "top of the line" laptops. What was frustrating was that it shouldn't have required that much effort - I mean really, why the hell would you use a screw head type that no standard fitting matches?

Re:Easily swappable parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34164130)

No, Apples machines are designed *on purpose* to be painful to dissemble and service. Apple wants to make sure you go through Apple for all your service needs.

You can have high quality and easily disasembled. Ask anyone with a decent ATX tower. PCs have been doing it for years.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34164510)

You can't seriously compare a space-wasting AXT tower with most products made by Apple. Or compare oranges with oranges and use the Mac Pro as the Apple product to compare against your ATX tower.

The smaller and more portable you get, the more customs the parts are. Even then, changing the RAM in the new Mac mini is extremely easy, no tools required.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163692)

The problem always has been heat and power consumption as much as form factor. They can get away with standardization in desktops because those aren't particularly hard problems. Since it's always plugged in, the only reason for energy efficiency is not wanting to waste power, the thing isn't just going to go dead from that alone. And form factor, you can make it as big as you like without a whole lot of trouble, adding a fourth or fifth 5.25 bay isn't much of an issue.

OTOH Laptops a few ounces do make a difference, and nobody seriously wants to go back to the portable computers of the early 80s, which were essentially a desktop that folded up and included a handle.

Sure you could get standardization, doing it and having them not suck or be completely confusing is a much harder problem than you seem to realize.

Why not? (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163668)

If modular laptop parts became more common, why shouldn't they also become cheaper?
I really don't see a reason - other than cooling - why we couldn't have drop-in GPUs and various other peripherals. Heck, if they're "slot-in" (card goes in the side of the laptop and locks, similar to the battery or CD-ROM). Then you can have a cheaper GPU if you want, or a more expensive one. It might even save the producers on hardware costs... easier to produce a generic board and sell it with a given slot-in GPU than to have different lines being soldered in (and a LOT easier if there's a defect such as the issue with the NVidia's that were overheating and deballing back in the 8000/9000 series a few years back).

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

transfatfree (1920462) | more than 3 years ago | (#34162918)

yeah, hopefully.

its kinda sad that before laptops can get to a point where they're just as upgradeable as pc's, we have to get to the point where theres too many discarded ones.

I thought when UPNP came round, this shit wouldnt be a problem anymore.. i was pretty wrong.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163008)

As long as laptops are judged almost exclusively on power-for-pound (or power-for-cubic inch), where power could refer to battery life or processor speed, this just plain won't happen.

Look what happened when Mac moved away from "standard" (if mac-specific) form factors for things like batteries - you get computers like the one I'm typing on, where I have 4.5 hours of development time, unplugged, without an increase in size or weight.

That's valued a lot more at the moment than disassembly is, rightly so - I work on my machine every day. I feel like breaking it down maybe once every two years.

Re:Easily swappable parts (2, Insightful)

Americano (920576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163102)

Good point. If someone getting paid minimum wage has to spend an extra hour breaking down my old laptop *once* for recycling, and I get an extra hour or two a day of productive IT work at much-more-than-minimum-wage out of it for three years of use... focusing on saving time at the breakdown point presents a skewed vision of the value of the time involved in manufacture, use, and disposal of the laptop.

Number of times I've had to crack open whichever laptop I've owned during the ~9 years I've owned one: 2. Once to replace a bad drive, once to upgrade RAM. Number of hours per work day I use my laptop: 8+, with an hour or two per day on weekends. I like that the gear is largely recyclable, but I'll easily pay an extra 50 bucks every few years to cover the extra time spent assembling/disassembling the laptop at manufacture & recycle time if it means I get a more powerful / less bulky / better battery-life unit for the three or more years I'll be using it for.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163746)

Not much point in that. Just do what we did in WA state. Make the manufacturers pay for the cost of recycling. Sure it gets passed on to the consumer, but the manufacturers are usually in the best position to minimize waste being produced.

It's one of the few areas where market forces actually works. You just have to make sure you keep an eye on how their disposing of the waste.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34164234)

That works too. The point I was making was mostly that I'm more interested in getting more productive usage out of the system over its multi-year lifetime than I am concerned with an extra few hours of assembly/disassembly/maintenance time during the life of the device. I'll happily pay a little extra to cover the extra hassle of assembly/disassembly if I get more power & functionality in a smaller footprint.

Re:Easily swappable parts (4, Insightful)

AltairDusk (1757788) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163130)

If shooting for ease of recycling is what gets us easily upgradeable laptops then I'm all for it. I'm willing to accept not having the lightest, thinnest design if it allows me the degree of flexibility currently only found in a desktop for hardware components.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

MadTinfoilHatter (940931) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163270)

Not only that, but this might finally be a way to not being forced to pay the M$-tax on laptops. At least in this country it's currently - for all practical purposes - impossible.

Also, I used to work for a computer repair shop. We would have eaten these things up. We really hated the typical laptops which were a RPITA to work with, and almost impossible to fix even when you discovered the problem. I've really been looking forward to something like this.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163418)

I think that's the only use of "easily disassembly" as per the article - for repair and reuse.

Not for recycling.

If you are recycling stuff from an old laptop you don't really care that much if some stuff has to break in the process. By the time it hits the dump, hardly anyone would be reusing the parts as is. Costs too much to check if stuff is still working well enough.

Maybe someone should come up with a more environmentally friendly mining system that mines and processes certain types of landfills :).

When it's still worth extracting a tens of grams of gold from a ton of rock, I'm sure it's worth extracting up to a kilo of gold from a ton of motherboards ( along with lots more copper).

A typical PC contains iron, aluminium, copper, gold, silver, palladium, platinum. Yes toxic stuff like mercury might be released in the process - but you often have the same problem when mining and getting metals out from ore.

As long as the process is less nasty to the environment than the average mine (and cheaper per amount extracted), you're already doing good.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163822)

In some parts of the world, they've got machines the size of a house, which are hermetically sealed. In them they grind up and separate the component metals and particles for use elsewhere. Very little labor involved and quite a bit safer for the environment. You really don't want to have people exposed to the electronics as their recycling them. It's gotten better with newer standards, but there's still a lot of nasty stuff in the waste stream.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

satuon (1822492) | more than 3 years ago | (#34164284)

Ever since I saw the iPad I've been thinking that they should make a full computer contained inside a VHS-sized box that can just be slid into a laptop or docking station or multi-touch encasing. It would be like an iPad sans the touch screen. It would be a computer - CPU + RAM + SSD, all contained in a box. Imagine the whole computer box having the form factor of a VHS casette, but thinner. And the laptop case would be just the display+keyboard+batteries+maybe wifi, with a hole below the keyboard in which you insert the computer like you insert a VHS in the video. And when you return home you take it out of the laptop case and slide it in a docking station to power a 22 inch LCD with a real keyboard. And you have a multitouch screen, again with a hole in which you plug it in.

This could be done with an ARM processor and SSD - it has no moving parts, and is fanless. The system would be underpowered, and ARM means no Windows, so I don't know if people would actually buy it.

Re:Easily swappable parts (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34164612)

Oh, you mean like an iPhone or an iPod touch? It's still your full computer but it's also pocketable. At your desk, it connects wirelessly to your screen, keyboard, mouse, etc. Just wait a few years. I'd bet Apple already has prototypes of such things in their labs, somewhere.

Easy recycling? (3, Insightful)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#34162876)

How about easy repairing so we don't toss them out so quickly in the first place?

Re:Easy recycling? (2, Insightful)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34162934)

I'm pretty sure with the fact that they can be disassembled, anything you break (or want to upgrade) could be slotted in easily.

I wonder why nobody else thought of this concept before. Size matters?

Re:Easy recycling? (3, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34162946)

How about easy repairing so we don't toss them out so quickly in the first place?

The large laptop manufacturers will resist this because it conflicts with their "built in obsolescence" design principles. If you can keep the main laptop and only swap out keyboards, LCDs, motherboards, etc as needed you'll do it instead of buying a brand new one with a new MS license associated to it.

Re:Easy recycling? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34163010)

Wow. Still you're gay. Had to throw in that little MS dig huh? I'm insulted that you weren't gay enough for M$ though.

Re:Easy recycling? (1)

AltairDusk (1757788) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163094)

I was unaware that preference in software companies determined one's sexual orientation or state of happiness. Technically he is correct, the cost of a Windows license is included in a laptop that ships with Windows installed. When did pointing out facts become a problem?

Re:Easy recycling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34163572)

Actually, what you may not be aware of is that the definition of the term "gay" has, of course, changed and become diluted from its original intent over the past twenty or so years the internet has been available to the unwashed masses. For instance, the ODTMR*, 8th edition, defines "gay" as follows:

  1. syn. homosexual
  2. one who is not understood by the speaker
  3. one who disagrees with the speaker (see: fascist, Nazi, socialist (US Republican only))
  4. one who holds any part of his or her life differently than the speaker (this might not conflict with definition 1)
  5. one who looks strange or otherwise unusual to the speaker
  6. expl. nonsense word used without any regard for definition or actual usage when speaker is angry or otherwise unable to think straight

It's easy to see how this confusion can arise if you are a traditionalist when it comes to etymology. When you understand the full definition as it applies to modern douchebags like the GP, it becomes clear that the GGP is, from the perspective of the troll, "gay" by definitions 2-4 and possibly 6. This has nothing to do with the GP's sexual orientation.

*: Oxford Dictionary of Trolls and Miscellaneous Retards

Re:Easy recycling? (2, Interesting)

Rivalz (1431453) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163074)

They already require computer manufactures to meet certain epa guidelines for materials used. Why not just go one step further and force them to adopt a 5 point disassemble guideline.
If a laptop can be disassembled by blindfolded a 5 year old Chinese child it passes the test.
Still I just see this style of design as a natural step in the evolution of computers.

Re:Easy recycling? (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163248)

You don't need to have a glued-together piece of kit to have planned obsolescence. All you need to do is discontinue the parts or make them so expensive as to make repair impractical.

Re:Easy recycling? (1)

c.r.o.c.o (123083) | more than 3 years ago | (#34164016)

I used to own a Vaio SR490 that took a small bump when I crashed my motorcycle. It still worked just fine, but one of the screen hinge caps broke and the DC plug was exposed.

I wanted to replace it, and the cheapest I found that little piece online was $40+shipping. Cheapest I found it from Sony? $60+tax+shipping. It's a small piece of molded plastic, that even after manufacture, storage, etc cannot cost more than a few dollars.

I could have continued using the laptop as is, but it was bugging the hell out of me. So I sold it. That is how you get consumers to replace gear. What Sony did not count on was me buying an Asus instead of a Sony just for spite. :)

Re:Easy recycling? (2, Insightful)

maeka (518272) | more than 3 years ago | (#34164086)

I wanted to replace it, and the cheapest I found that little piece online was $40+shipping. Cheapest I found it from Sony? $60+tax+shipping. It's a small piece of molded plastic, that even after manufacture, storage, etc cannot cost more than a few dollars.

I'm sure manufacture, storage and inventory were only a few dollars. So were the manufacturing, storage, and inventory costs for the dozens of parts which never got sold.

The parts business is one of statistical inventory. Cheap prices OR large inventory, not both.

Re:Easy recycling? (1)

drcheap (1897540) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163060)

Yeah, the goal was easy disassembly for less effort by the recyclers. But a side effect of easy disassembly is easier repairs/upgrades, which in turn means reuse of the case. An unintended benefit, oops! That's what really should have been the goal.

anti-go-green-mentality rant:

Everyone is so gung-ho about recycling that they seemed to always forget that it is the third best option in the save-the-planet efforts...
1. Reduce -- If you don't use something in the first place, you avoid creating waste
2. Re-use -- If you use something again, you avoid creating waste
3. Recycle -- If you recycle, there is just a bit less waste

Personally I've re-used the same Antec tower case over and over again through many generations of major hardware upgrades in my home computer for over 10 years now. Whoa, look at me, I'm green! No I'm not, I'm just not stupid.

/rant

Of course, for this to really become a useful re-use option, there would have to be some kind of form-factor standards for notebooks similar to the AT, ATX, et. al. we have on the desktop world. Given the current state of notebook design variations, this will be quite a barrier.

Re:Easy recycling? (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163512)

I'd like to edit your list:

  1. 1. Reduce
  2. 2. Repair
  3. 3. Re-use
  4. 4. Recycle

I was talking to a guy who lived in Costa Rica last week, and compared CR to SE Asia (where I lived for a few years). The funny thing is, you see virtually everything go through that whole list -- it's fixed until it no longer can be, then used for another purpose until it completely breaks, then the pieces are recycled.

Re:Easy recycling? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163862)

They've got a lower cost of living there, which both allows and requires that sort of thing. Anyways, repair is implicitly included in both reduce and reuse.

Re:Easy recycling? (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163560)

I like reusing older tower cases, especially ones with Windows 95 and 98 stickers on them. Usually with a decent PSU, they will do a good job. To boot, a thief breaking in won't bother with what he thinks is an ancient machine, and will go for something else in the house.

I miss the old case I used to have which had Medeco locks not just on the front to lock out PS/2 keyboard access, but separate ones to lock the case closed. A would be thief would have to yank out a crowbar and do some heavy prying to get to the goodies in that one. Most keylocks on modern cases are a joke and a bad one at that. Whatever happened to putting something pick resistant? This way, if someone does crowbar the case open, it would definitely leave a signature [1] which makes it easier to file an insurance claim.

[1]: Some picking might leave a signature, but in reality (ceteris paribus), picked lock == claim denied, smashed open lock == obvious burglary, claim more likely approved.

Re:Easy recycling? (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163562)

Word up!

It's sad that PCs have usable lifespans (with the help of upgrades) of 5-10 years, but laptops go out of date in maybe 3-5 years, and smartphones are probably down to 1-2 years. You can see where all of the money is nowadays... the things with the shortest lifespans and planned obsolescence (laptops without Vista/Win7 drivers, and smartphones that no longer get OS updates abound!)

I wish more laptops had upgradable GPUs. Some high-end ones do. That's pretty much the only thing keeping me from reusing the big beautiful displays on some of my older laptops... And also what keeps me from throwing money away at cheap laptops with crappy integrated graphics.

Wish there were more cheap "luggable" PC options around... It would actually be pretty sweet to have some sort of "transformer" PC based around a little KVM connected to a nanoITX PC, maybe even powered by some battery packs.

Re:Easy recycling? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163906)

That's largely because they break more quickly than desktops and are harder to fix. On top of that most software isn't written to run well on a Laptop. It's written assuming the resources of a typical desktop.

The end result is that this technology is going to be much more useful for recycling, although if we can easily replace the HDD, optical drive, network card and video card, that would go a long way.

Re:Easy recycling? (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163106)

We should be making laptops modular. The screen should be replaceable. Keyboards should have standard mounting configurations. Internal fans should be standardized. MBs should have come in standard sizes with standard mounting holes, and standard I/O port locations to allow swapping MBs.

I think that the problem with Laptops is that they are not upgradable at all. If something dies, most of the time, the whole laptop needs to be replaced. Sure, you can order specialty pieces to replacement, wait for them to be shipped in from China and then figure out how to install them. Wouldn't it be nicer if you could go to your local computer shop and pick it up the same day? Instead of recycling the laptop, let's make it upgradable.

Re:Easy recycling? (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163222)

Meh, I've been fairly happy with Dell laptops for that sort of thing. Just try to stick to parts that are used with their corporate laptops. Most of their midrange Inspiron lines are compatible with parts from their long-support-cycle Latitude corporate line.

I've replaced plenty of keyboards, and upgraded CPUs and even a GPU in some of my Dell laptops. Plus if you're friendly with your IT guys from work, they might even let you grab some extra parts from them ;-P

Re:Easy recycling? (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163354)

I have been repairing and upgrading laptops for ages. Some are more difficult to maintain than others. All in all, once you get the knack to work on them and have the right tools, most are not that much different from a branded desktop. This especially valid for the corporate series from all manufacturers.

Re:Easy recycling? (1)

pslytely psycho (1699190) | more than 3 years ago | (#34164104)

Since you have been upgrading and repairing laptops for ages I have a query for you. I have a 2.5 year old gateway 17" fx. It has been a great laptop replacement in my semi truck but I would like to upgrade video, blu-ray, cpu etc.

In your experienced opinion, is this worth the effort or even possible.

I use it for music, gaming, internet and gps functions. So it is on about 16 hrs a day, on my off time it is hooked to a 22" visio television for gaming.

I would appreciate any advice. Thanks in advance.

Wheres the Gel Packs? (1)

jflo (1151079) | more than 3 years ago | (#34162898)

Obviously B'Elanna Torres was not a part of the design team, if she were this thing would be loaded with gel packs and Suprise Maquis Attack mechanisms... where was this teams head at?

Re:Wheres the Gel Packs? (1)

Voyager529 (1363959) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163684)

Obviously B'Elanna Torres was not a part of the design team, if she were

...the instruction manual would be written in Klingon.

Not really a new concept... (2, Informative)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | more than 3 years ago | (#34162914)

Back in the 1990s a Taiwanese manufacturer, Clevo, made "kit" laptops so that OEMs can pick and choose which parts they want for their laptops.

These laptops were incredibly easy to assemble and disassemble. As an OEM, you can choose what kind of screen and what resolution/size, what motherboard, what cpu, what kind of battery, choose between trackpad, mini trackball or trackpoint... It also made it somewhat easy for people to upgrade their laptop. Even a choice of docking station all the way up to sophisticated docking stations which can have PCI/ISA cards installed.

Computers just aren't as customizable nowadays.

Re:Not really a new concept... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34163006)

Anyone remember the "sand benders" from William Gibson's Idoru? It was a beautiful concept that involved a custom cast aluminum case w/easily accessible innards and OS distro's which I would imaging would mirror ubuntu. Any manfacturer who builds a system which is meant to be used rather than replaced would likely build a cult following like no other, allowing it to dominate tomorrows market.

Re:Not really a new concept... (1)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163040)

You mean that laptop shoppers want a laptop in which every component is sized to meet the maximum likely size of any possible compatible device, plus extra space for a subcase and connectors? Really? Laptop shoppers?

Re:Not really a new concept... (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163116)

Perhaps they count "desktop replacement" behemoths as actual laptops or they're expanding laptop to include luggable and portable.

Re:Not really a new concept... (1)

transfatfree (1920462) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163164)

if places like best buy charged the "laptop user muggles" a premium for upgrading, im sure they would bite

Re:Not really a new concept... (2, Funny)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163376)

You mean that laptop shoppers want a laptop in which every component is sized to meet the maximum likely size of any possible compatible device, plus extra space for a subcase and connectors? Really? Laptop shoppers?

I don't think you understand laptop shoppers. Well in excess of 99% of laptop sales are:

1) The hot saleswoman convinced the head of IT to buy quantity one thousand of her mfgr / brand / model despite him not even getting a date. Or if no saleswoman, there were box seats professional sports tickets involved.

Or

2) My mom wants to spend $500 on a laptop. Go to Best Buy and take the $499.99 laptop off the shelf. Mission accomplished.

Re:Not really a new concept... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34163322)

Anyone remember the "sand benders" from William Gibson's Idoru? It was a beautiful concept that involved a custom cast aluminum case w/easily accessible innards and OS distro's which I would imaging would mirror ubuntu.

I don't recall there being enough detail to draw conclusions about what kind of OS they were running on those things, or how they physically went together, and knowing Gibson, I wouldn't expect them. If you've got cash to burn, anyone today could build a high end smartphone or embedded PC into a hand-crafted objet-d'art case, I don't see any particularly clever concept there, I'm afraid.

Re:Not really a new concept... (2, Informative)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163066)

Several of Clevo's models are still like that, especially the larger ones. Shop outside the box and you can find lots more options in laptops.

Re:Not really a new concept... (1)

He who knows (1376995) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163084)

Computers just aren't as customizable nowadays.

That is because there is more profit to sell a new laptop to the consumer every few years than to sell a few parts to keep their old laptop working.

Re:Not really a new concept... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34163316)

Making them easy to disassemble to facilitate recycling is idiotic. You can make them use fewer materials and environment friendlier ones too. Customizing laptops is again something that is idiotic. Laptops are supposed to be portable, light, low power users etc. You want processing power, get a desktop or server. It's Slashdot, I know most of you do this. In the future, you'll have it all inside a blob, with wires sticking out to the power source, keyboard and screen, all covered up in an aesthetically pleasing plastic case.

Maybe you don't remember the old computers where they had solid iron frames, with lots of chips and boards, and wires, leaving the important stuff to weigh only a fraction of the total. Think about it, you have harddisks going the way of the flash drives, LCD screens are becoming lighter and thinner. CPUs getting smaller and with lower power usage.

Re:Not really a new concept... (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163688)

Sager used to use Clevo as the OEM, and those were quite customizable. Want three HDDs? Go for it. A slot with a generic MP3 player? Yep. The laptop could even use desktop chips (say b-bye to your battery life, but for LAN parties, it was essentially desktop performance.)

I also miss standardized docking stations. IBM, HP, and Dell used to have nice docking stations which could not just allow for USB connections to be done, but additional PCI cards, better video, and would provide decent security against a smash and grab.

Clevo is still around, but I'm not sure if their stuff is as modular as in the early part of the 2000s though. I think people rather have a smaller size than customizability... as the race is to go thinner/lighter above all else, it seems.

You mean, even a BLOOMING IDIOT can take it apart? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34162966)

?? Is that a good thing? I think not !!! Allow me to be modded !!!

Blooming fucking stupid-ass idea to let total dipshits take apart a fucking goddamn cunt-lapping laptop !!!

Easier for all of us? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34163024)

One thing i hate about laptops is they make it stupidly hard to open the thing up for 1) cleaning it * and 2) adding new hardware that they never put a panel to access. (such as a PCI slot, hard drive, sometimes even RAM...)

WHAT'S WITH ALL THE SCREWS?! Seriously.
I remember trying to add some RAM to my Toshiba Satellite, had to go through god knows how many screws, lost count. (this was about 7 years ago)
How hard is it to only have a few main screws, then the rest designed to slide in to place? (I have seen a few designs use this to some extent, but so much more could be done)
Not only that, but with all those screws and stupidly hard designs to open up, said laptop eventually melted its own keyboard grids backplate, resulting in some keys firing off (arrows), which i then had to disable in software. (which was painful for a programmer, but i re-used Ins to turn the usual virtual numpad keys in to arrows)

Netbooks, well, the 2 i've had, were fairly easy to open up.
They had a few main screws that held the entire thing together. (well, the bottom bases)
My cousins one, however, was a nightmare. In my case, i was too afraid to pull any harder on the plastic in case it snapped. (it was still under warranty)

If they got rid of most of the screws from these things, it would solve so many problems.
There is no need for so many of those screws. 4 in each corner. Couple for each side of the board, the rest is slid in to place and held together by the plastic itself. (not so much a lock-in design, but just a little section of overhang to prevent things from moving around)

*I know they won't exactly make it easy to open them up because they'd rather you buy a whole new laptop entirely, but that sort of mentality is wasteful.
And, sadly, this probably won't change any designs to make it easy to recycle parts.

Re:Easier for all of us? (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163590)

If they got rid of most of the screws from these things, it would solve so many problems.

Except most of the screws are a *critical* structural features.

Re:Easier for all of us? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34164108)

Said someone who never had to design a case to pass EMI testing. There are plenty of places in a plastic, metallicized case that need a good squeeze to stay RF-leakproof. Four screws would do it only if you added numerous snap latches. Those would likely break the first time you attempted disassembly without a service manual and proper tools. Upon reassembly, not only the case would be creaky and look like crap, it'd be illegal to use in plenty of places around the world (US and Germany comes to mind). I'll take my pre-unibody MBP with its maybe dozen screws any day, thankyouverymuch.

Or alternatively... (1)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163068)

.. build a machine that's capable of disassembling laptops (or other electronic waste) into its component materials for recycling.

Bonus: The technology would be worth millions, because there's many years of old electronic (and other) waste sitting around to be had for the taking, including in landfills and other locations. The problem with trash is that no one likes to separate out the organics from the recyclables from the re-usables. We humans don't even like to throw trash away in multiple places (like keeping a separate recycle bin and compost) so letting us be lazy and having the machines do the sorting is a big win.

Ultimately manufacturers must make sure their products and packaging are environmentally friendly as possible, of course. It would also be nice if they designed the products to be disassembled and reassembled, making repairs easier (repair instead of replace generates less waste).

It's probably unrealistic to expect products to be 100% landfill free through... new products take advantage of new materials and technologies, and the ability to dispose of something new cleanly always lags behind the ability to produce and use it...

Erik

Re:Or alternatively... (2, Funny)

drcheap (1897540) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163096)

.. build a machine that's capable of disassembling laptops (or other electronic waste) into its component materials for recycling.

I find that a sledge-o-matic(tm) works quite well. I'm sure I could automate that by attaching it to some hydraulics or something ;)

Re:Or alternatively... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163268)

.. build a machine that's capable of disassembling laptops (or other electronic waste) into its component materials for recycling.

Depends how you define "component materials" and "recycling". There are innumerable levels not just binary yes no. I can't see reusing much above the molecular level, so you're talking about grinding to a fine powder and using the powder as kind of a "laptop ore" to be refined, which takes boatloads of energy. Worth it for rare earths, not so much for polymerized dinosaur, and by weight most of it will be polymerized dinosaur. The other problem is disposal of mixed "waste". Contaminated silicon is not too useful at a chip foundry, so first idea is dump it on a beach, oh except for the lead solder content. Maybe this is how Chinese plastic kids toys get filled with lead? So the plastic will be useless commercially, may as well burn it (which in a bonfire in a backyard is a dumb idea, but in a properly designed incinerator is perfectly safe, guess which solution is cheaper?)

Re:Or alternatively... (1)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163582)

Interesting... you're assuming a specific method of recycling then proceeding to poke holes in what you believe I'm suggesting. This is an excellent example of a "straw man" argument.

What I'm actually suggesting is a technology that isn't developed yet... machines that could separate any given item into its component parts with a high degree of accuracy and speed. This may mean a process where the first stage is "chop it into small bits" or it may not. There are other approaches.

Yes, it'll take energy. Just about everything does :)

Re:Or alternatively... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163866)

What I'm actually suggesting is a technology that isn't developed yet...

aka Magic. I feel if you're depending on magical thinking to make it work, you're better off with a more versatile unicorn like a Mr Fusion to provide infinite free energy, and pushing the waste into existing well developed refining technology using that free energy.

Interesting... you're assuming a specific method of recycling then proceeding to poke holes in what you believe I'm suggesting. This is an excellent example of a "straw man" argument.

No, I was providing the best currently available real world technology to meet your goal, and then poking holes in it. If I knew magical thinking was part of the business plan I'd probably go full star trek technobabble instead.

Yes, it'll take energy. Just about everything does :)

Unless you accomplish a miracle of 100% recycling and sell all the parts at a profit, you'll have some manner of concentrated semi-toxic waste to dispose of, perhaps at greater expense than just dumping it all, in bulk, into the sun or a volcano or something. The EPA and OSHA costs of a big pile of lead and lead contaminated "stuff" cannot just be waved away, nor the energy costs of continuous Q+A to make sure you're recycled plastic for kids toys isn't full of lead.

Its easily possible to get a test tube or lab scale process that "works" but still have an overall system failure due to other economic costs.

Re:Or alternatively... (1)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34164504)

Heh... so I'm either depending on "magic", which won't work because magic doesn't exist, or I'm using a method that generates toxic waste, and therefore it won't work because I'll have disposal problems. Sounds a lot like you're looking for justification for a conclusion you've already reached, instead of the other way around. Just because you can't imagine how to do something doesn't mean it won't work.

Technology not invented yet isn't the same as magic, and as you note it isn't the same as "real world" technology... because it's NOT INVENTED YET. See how that works?

Specifically I was thinking of maybe using the nanoparticle sorting technologies that have been developed in chip size for materials analysis, or maybe a centrifuge based sorting process with the waste liquified. Maybe even building macro scale robotic sorting devices to separate waste at multiple scales. There are many, many approaches, and fortune awaits the first person who comes up with an economically viable one.

Also, there's nothing wrong with using a lot of energy, just like there's nothing inherently wrong with spending a lot of money, if the result is a net gain. If we remove more garbage (solid, liquid, and gas) from the world than we add, we're moving in the right direction.

Re:Or alternatively... (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163996)

Agreed. At the lowest level, "Laptop ore", or ground up e-waste would take a lot of energy to recycle:

First, thermal depolymerization. This takes a lot of electricity to turn the long chain plastics back into short chain crude. It also takes a lot of water. However, one does get usable oil for this method.

Second, after the organics are dealt with, filtering that out, so you have a pile of minerals and metals. Separating that will be annoying because there will be so many items to filter out, be it copper, rare earths, lead, and other stuff.

Powerbook G3 Pismo (1)

spopepro (1302967) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163114)

I don't think there has been a better or more flexible design that the Pismo G3. Swappable drive/battery bays, easy access to nearly all the parts under the keyboard. I could have mine completely apart in 5 min. It even had a separate sound card and a replaceable processor board. Ahh the days when Apple designed pro hardware instead of gadget interfaces...

Re:Powerbook G3 Pismo (2, Insightful)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163154)

On the other side of the spectrum, I was trying to replace the trackpad in my MacBook Pro. It turned out that I had to take out several tiny screws to open the back cover. The trackpad was under the battery, but guess what? The battery is attached with anti-tamper screws!

I have yet to find a screwdriver that will fit those damn screws. Maybe it's time to rob a Genius Bar?

Re:Powerbook G3 Pismo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34163478)

Re:Powerbook G3 Pismo (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163534)

The battery is attached with anti-tamper screws!

I have yet to find a screwdriver that will fit those damn screws. Maybe it's time to rob a Genius Bar?

Geeze dude hit a (real) hardware store before committing larceny. I believe you're describing a T6 variant, possibly a TS6 or TR6 but certainly a TX6 which looks like a TS with the pins shaped like a TR but it only has 5 pins. Somebody living a mac lifestyle can probably purchase some tools. It'll set you back about as much as a really good cheeseburger, and probably come in handy elsewhere in the future.

Either that or google will find you the exact answer.

Note by "real hardware store" I mean the neighborhood place staffed by crabby elderly semi-retired craftsmen, not a big box store with minimum wage morons whom barely know what a hammer is.

Re:Powerbook G3 Pismo (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163884)

Nope, I have a Torx set. I've been to multiple hardware stores, Fry's, and my local hacker's collective. So far, nobody has had the correct screwdriver.

Just for the record, the screws have a tri-tip notch. It's sort of like a Phillips but with one of the legs missing. The notches don't extend all the way to the ends of the screw, so the screwdriver has to be an exact fit.

Re:Powerbook G3 Pismo (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34164268)

my local hacker's collective

You had me going till there. A "real" hackers collective would have a guy with a lathe and a milling machine and a dremel grinder and you'd go home with a homemade bit made out of an old piece of rebar. And a set of homemade straight slot metric brass screws to use instead of the trilobes.

Just for the record, the screws have a tri-tip notch. It's sort of like a Phillips but with one of the legs missing. The notches don't extend all the way to the ends of the screw, so the screwdriver has to be an exact fit.

My guess is a wiha number 71952, about $7 but if you're paying list price you're doin it wrong.

http://www.wihatools.com/200seri/284_TW_and_TS.htm [wihatools.com]

Or you can go to the apple websites and pay $50, your choice.

A bit of time with a digital dial caliper and some google would verify the exact size. Or you could purchase a large assortment kit of numerous "security bits" and become either the terror of the town, the hero of the wannabe hacker collective, or quite possibly both.

Re:Powerbook G3 Pismo (1)

snookerhog (1835110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163330)

Classic. I have one of these on my shelf still. Not sure what the hell I can do with a machine that will only run OS 9...

Re:Powerbook G3 Pismo (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 3 years ago | (#34164346)

Debian should be able to install on it, or Yellow Dog Linux, which is targeted specifically at Mac hardware.

Re:Powerbook G3 Pismo (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163430)

On the other hand, I once owned a Mac desktop (can't remember the model, it was from the mid-1990s) that had absolutely the dumbest internal design I've ever seen. I had to completely disassemble the whole thing and remove the motherboard just to get to the RAM slots. And it wasn't particularly compact or portable, so there weren't even any good excuses for making it that way.

A given? (0, Troll)

jamesl (106902) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163214)

It's also a given that e-waste is currently a huge problem
Your authority for this statement?
... pieces of glass ...
Recycling glass (especially the small amount in an LCD) is a fool's errand. The volume of LCD glass "filling landfills" is vanishingly small and the main resource used in manufacture is energy (heat) used to melt the glass during production. The energy required to use recycled glass is almost the same as used in new manufacture.

Buzzword Quotient (3, Interesting)

mpapet (761907) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163554)

The advertisement is a buzzword masterpiece. You only mentioned one of many flaws.

The goal in this team's Ivy League education is to learn how to string buzzwords together to generate interest in fundamentally flawed ideas.

Good to know the ruling class is staying busy.

Re:A given? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163650)

Its the expensive indium they're trying to recycle, unless they are complete idiots. By expensive, I mean a couple bucks per gram. At a rate of a couple grams per screen. So, a dumpster full of dead LCDs has maybe "thousands of dollars" worth of Indium in it, more or less. The hard part is separating it from thousands of pounds of polymerized dinosaur and plate glass without spending more than thousands of dollars of labor, energy, and capital expense..

What a cool class! (1)

nickybio (1458399) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163326)

Sounds like they basically got free reign to buy some cool laptops, take all their best parts out from inside, and build them into a custom case. To me, it seems like nothing more than a redesigned mac, but I would definitely take that class.

An Advert Disguised as News (0, Flamebait)

mpapet (761907) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163436)

It's an Auto*desk advertisement and more Ivy League B.S.

If a team at a State College did this, then it would be an Auto*Desk advert that would be discarded. But because it's an unworkable idea from STANFORD it deserves consideration?

-Thin, light and modular assembly are conflicting demands in portable computers.
-Multi-purpose, generally powerful portable computers with modular assembly would resemble a 10 year old laptop.

what we need (2, Insightful)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163556)

...is a new paradigm, one not based on commodity electronic devices that you throw away when they cease working or upgrade bi-yearly to the next semi-greatest thing. Besides being extremely ecologically unfriendly, it's a scam participated on the consumer designed to maximize profits. (The consumer is as much at fault for falling for it, but that doesn't make it less a scam.)

As responsible consumers, we should be looking at devices designed to last significantly past the next design cycle, that are designed to have (at least) the parts replaced that are most likely to fail (screens, drives, batteries), and that meet our current needs, not just elevate our "cool". And then keep them for a long time.

Manufacturers will resist this because they've built their business model on regular forklift upgrades. They'd have to be different companies to evolve beyond this. Probably smaller companies.

eWaste eRecycling is not the answer. It mitigates the problem but does not solve it. Tossing your old device in a recycle bin is not an excuse to replace it at every incremental improvement.

Re:what we need (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34163600)

I hit submit too soon. I wanted to conclude with: As consumers, we need to be less affected by hype and spend more thought on what our actual requirements are and what they might be over the projected life of a device. We really need to lengthen the upgrade cycle, and companies need to get used to the fact that if they're going to come out with tiny incremental improvements every year, we'll only be buying their devices every fourth or fifth year.

Re:what we need (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34164012)

...actually expecting consumers to be thoughtful about what they want and what they buy.

You better be careful. Some fanboy might screech at you for being a geek and for having inflated expectations of mere mortals.

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