[sdiy] Getting over eBay (rant)

Batz Goodfortune batzman at all-electric.com
Wed Jun 12 09:15:43 CEST 2002


Y-ellow All.
         I'm well on the way to being a reformed eBay addict. I'm in rehab 
now and will soon be cured. Yes I know that wasn't an entirely sane thing 
to do but of all the things I could be accused of, saneness isn't one of them.

So anyway. I started looking on fleaBay because I foolishly thought I might 
be able to find a little LCD monitor that would solve a problem. The 
monitor I'm using on my music/audio rig is unreadable and I have a space 
problem. More fool me. But what really got me was all this talk about 
techno-trash.

There was a segment on "CATALYST" (Our weekly does of Science on TV) about 
the environmental damage caused by all manner of toxins and heavy metals 
leaching into the environment from old used computers and other discarded 
electronic junk. Since then there's been several news paper articles and 
it's all over the web on TheReg and Wired etc. But what really drove me 
nuts was they were showing all this stuff going into land-fill or to be 
scrapped for raw materials. Pallet loads of brand new monitors. I pile of 
older IBM notebooks, at least P100s if not P266s, dumped in a pile out in 
the rain and mud. All of this stuff was better than I can afford to buy and 
these guys are just dumping it? I mean I'm struggling with an old KTX 
badged sanyo crap-top of 486 variety which is rapidly falling apart faster 
than this crappy microsoft keyboard and here's these guys just ditching IBM 
notebooks. What's wrong with this picture?

To US linux heads and hardware hackers in general, there's pretty much 
no-such-thing as an obsolete computer. And here they are trashing this 
stuff and then complaining that about the obsolescence problem and the ecology.

So I went on a hunt around the net looking at electronics recycling. 
Computer recycling mainly but this is where it gets bent out of shape 
totally. There are lots of organizations round the world who recover old 
computers, rejig them and give them to schools and community groups. A 
noble cause. You may have heard the stories about the Beast of Redmond 
trying to close these groups down because they weren't paying the microsoft 
tax. Most of them these days install linux  now and I'm not sure what 
infuriates Uncle Bill more. The fact that they're not paying for products 
already bought and sold or the fact that kids are becoming more and more 
exposed to Microsoft's Nemesis. It's funny to watch a corporate giant 
dancing around like it's about to wet it self.

But anyway. So I went in search of seeing if any of these recyclers would 
sell to the public. I'm not asking for fully referbed computers here you 
understand, I'm just looking for bits. And older bits at that. So imagine 
my surprise when I discover that the few local recyclers who do this stuff, 
are actually charging around new price for bits that were basically thrown 
at them. Surely this is not how it should be. Why would I buy a recovered 
monitor  for 250 when I could buy a brand new one for 260? Or a flat one 
for around 300? This just doesn't add up.

Many months ago I had this dream. (No I really did have a dream. This ain't 
no Martin Luther King speech right.) Anyway I drempt that someone had built 
a gigantic overpass thing over the top of one of the local god-bothering 
institutions. Around the base of this church was just stacked up shelves of 
consumer junk. Lots of old computers and bits. The odd fridge and toaster. 
You get the idea. There was no fence and the place was a bit weird. Quite 
dusty in places as I recall. But basically the idea seemed to be that the 
community dumped all their old consumer trash there. But they could also go 
there and look for bits to fix their consumer trash. A junk yard. Community 
recycling. Whatever. But it was just the way things were done in this 
community. Looking for that old bit to fix your toaster? Maybe they've got 
what you need at the community junk yard.

OK. It's only a dream but isn't this the way things SHOULD be? I don't know 
on what basis it would work. Perhaps you pay a small fee to rummage so that 
you could employ a curator. I don't know. But it seemed to me that rather 
than me stock piling old stuff, which I often end up giving away to people 
who need it, but in the mean time clutters my house up, why not everyone 
stock pile their old junk and then anyone who needed something could go 
have a bit of a scratch round. Hell when ever I need something I have to 
scratch round anyway. It's no big deal.

Up north, the Aboriginals do this kinda thing and it works brilliantly. 
They do it with their cars mainly. They have these spots where they just 
dump old cars. If they need a bit to keep one of their cars going, chances 
are they'll find it one of these places. They drive their cars into the 
ground and then dump them in these places. That kinda thing. Their cars 
aren't anything to look at but this is the bush we're talking about. Who 
cares. And their cars are actually engineering marvels. The way these guys 
keep their cars going is amazing.

I've always recycled. Most of us have. Some of us because we have to. But 
in Australia or anywhere else where it has always been traditionally 
remote, we have to make do. But it seems that the whole thing is a 
conspiracy of a kind. Many years a go I was after a keyboard for a synth. I 
couldn't afford to buy a new one but someone told me about this organ 
dealer who was offering trade-ins on old organs for new ones. The guy was 
basically chopping up the old organs and scrapping them because no-one 
wanted to see them back on the market. They were having enough trouble 
selling new ones as it was. And that if I asked him nicely, he might give 
me or sell me at a cheap price, an old manual or two from one of them. Sell 
became the operative but it was cheap and it did the trick. And here in 
lays the conspiracy with computers. Companies are dumping this stuff 
because they don't want this stuff back on the market. They know that it's 
still useful but if people are still using it, they're not buying the 
latest software and operating systems. All of which are designed to require 
the power of a new computer. It fuels the beast of Redmond but it certainly 
doesn't help the planet. Nor does it help the increasing numbers of people 
who can't afford to play the game but are locked into it.

And then you hear stories about how NASA are going round trying to buy up 
all the old 8088 processors they can get hold of for use in the space 
shuttle program. Why? Because a certain number of support devices (Not used 
on the actual shuttle) use this old stuff. The devices do the job. There's 
no need to spend millions designing new ones to do the exact same job. But 
now they're having trouble finding the parts to fix them. I could give 'em 
a few but I think they're after thousands.

Nor would you throw away your baby grand just because some Japanese company 
has done an excellent job or replicating the sound and feel digitally. And 
then I was reading in Terry's WWN the other day about certain community 
groups who specifically use old technology. The main reason is that the old 
boxens and software are tried and tested. Easy to fix, easy to change. And 
someone at  TheReg pointed out that hackers generally only go for the 
latest stuff. There's nothing sexy about hacking into some old box that's 
probably been patch all over anyway. They're only attacking the latest 
boxens and usually those running the latest Microsoft monoculture.

So the question is, why can I (Or we, whoever wants them) get hold of this 
junk? Gimme all your old 386/486 crap-tops. I'll bolt them to the walls 
with displays in keeping with my science fiction mad-scientist theme. I'll 
mount them at my door for a message display. I'll run a linux router on 
one. (Hell I'm doing that now with an old 486 box.)

I've decided therefore... Read My Lips. "No New Software" What the hell do 
I need more bloat for anyway? Until I can no longer do the things I need to 
do with the software I've got, why would I need the latest? Any more than I 
need the latest digital synth to do what my old analogue gear can do.

I might get a faster mo-bo from time to time to run the same stuff faster. 
But I'll sure as hell recycle the mo-bos down the food chain. So here we 
are. Consummate geeks and nerds who would happily extend the life of these 
things immeasurably and yet we can't get access to this stuff. What's next? 
little time bombs in motherboards so they only last the rated 9 months 
before they break down and you have to buy a new one. I realize this is all 
just basic economics for the big end of town but then we all complain about 
the state of the planet and wonder why. And it certainly isn't good 
economics for the rest of humanity. Such as it is. The software industry 
once thought of it self as very green. I love the term "The paperless 
office." I've never seen one but it sounds good.

So that's my big rant. My big dummy spit for this month. There no point. No 
moral to the story. It just drives me insane when I see this shit. Well Ok 
"Drives me more insane." But the shear volume and usefulness of this stuff 
being scrapped makes even me look sane.

Be absolutely Icebox.

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