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N. Sivasothi,
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Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. Since 1998 with origins from OneList.

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Sat 21 Apr 2007

"How to Buy a Green PC" and other stories

Category : envt

Jasmin Malik Chua, who once frolicked in mangroves of Singapore, has just written an article, "How to Buy a Green PC" for Computer Shopper. Laptops, the Mac Mini (amongst others) and multicore get the thumbs up in there - its an interesting and relevant read for Earth Day.

Jasmin is now living and writing in New York city, and maintains the blog The Worsted Witch. There is a lot more green stuff in there so hop over for a look!

"They don't make 'em like they used to!"

I've swapped notes with fellow macadddicts on a mailing list called ME@N for a decade now. Old timers there agree that "they don't make 'em like they used to!" We've seen a computer's lifespan degenerate from more than five years to just three. With Moore's and Kryder's Laws, marketing hype and misplaced desires, I've also encountered many pc-users who feel discontent after two years about their computer's processor speed and hardisk capacity - even if it is mainly their computer that waits while they type!

That's one of the reasons I was a Firefox evangelist with pc users - the speed bump this free web browser afforded them effecetively extended the life of their pcs. Besides, it's much more fun using a web browser named after the Red Panda and written by "Contributors!"

My first two laptops lasted five fruitful years before complete breakdown (1991 -2001). They were hardy and survived the rough handling during field trips. Parts I needed to tide me by I found through the internet or through friends in ME@N. My third laptop has just lasted a month past five years and looks to survive a while more - it looks like they still might still make 'em like they used to!

Space in landfills and seeping poisons

I experienced Pulau Sakeng mangroves in the early 90's. Shortly after that field trip, they were destroyed to build an offshore landfill linking it to Semakau. That was a dramatic lesson about the absence of landfill space on mainland Singapore. So I get uncomfortable about computer waste since we consume so much. What we cannot dispose of, we've probably sold for shipping and disposal elsewhere; that hurts to think about!

Scientific publications from the US, Europe and East Asia about heavy metal seepage into the land and the water table from landfills have fueled debates about limiting e-waste in landfills. Scientists are also concerned about bio-accumulation of pollutants up the food chain which can eventually even affect humans! Friends who study the subject are a pessimistic bunch, I can tell you, even as they warn against being alarmist. Read these articles to get a feel of the larger issues; and don't worry there is light at the end of this tunnel:

Recycling computer waste

Its not easy for really old stuff. There used to be some pretty savvy-recycling going on but I don't know where to look these days. I tried recently to get some RAM for a couple of very old pcs and drew a blank. I haven't given up yet, for I hope to resuscitate the machines by installing Edubuntu and Firefox. Since Gmail now has spreadsheets built in, that will be enough for data entry.

Happily savvy consumers in developed countries have wanted greener solutions and companies are responding. This means users here reap the rewards of this changing culture. In August last year, for example, I received a replacement for a faulty MacBook Pro battery - Apple took back my defunct battery for recycling free of charge - I just packed it into the box they sent and the courier took it away!

The HP recycling programme

Until 25 Apr 2007, we can "Recycle IT products with HP for Free". They will take: Personal Computers (inc. mouse and keyboard), Computer monitors (CRT and LCD), Handhelds, Notebooks, Laser printers, Inkjet printers, Multi-function printers, Scanners, Fax machines and Desktop copiers, at participating SingPost outlets.

However, it is:

  • Limited to two products per person per day
  • Products not included in the list above will not be accepted.
  • Eligible IT products should not be stripped and should not contain broken monitors.

I have many odd parts, including 30MB hardisks and numerous ZIP disks that won't be accepted. I could, however, finally send in my dead Macintosh Powerbooks 140 and 1400cs, and a second-hand Powerbook 3400 that only lasted a day in my hands.

If I don't get sentimental, I shall finally let these old work horses go...

Posted at 6:00PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news