Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Australian PC Recycling Service

I was standing at a Tram stop in Adelaide yesterday on waiting to try the new Glenelg Tram when I had a call from Brenda Aynsley from the ACS PC Recycling SIG, inviting me to see how they refurbish old computers for community use. The Sig is based at Glandore, about 81 metres (according to Google maps) from the South Road tram stop. So I went along to have a look at the operations.

The PC Recycling Sig is a special interest group of the South Australian Branch of the Australian Computer Society. They take donations of old computers from companies and individuals, refurbish them and then sell them to individuals and non-profit community groups for a nominal amount. Those eligible include pensioners and TAFE students.

This is a sophisticated operation, with volunteers taking the equipment through a carefully documented and controlled process process. The computers are assessed, the hard disks erased using a special program, components checked and where necessary replaced. The Sig is licenced by Microsoft to install the Windows operating system and other software (with careful records kept about which machines the software is installed on). Linux is also available as an option. The computers typically have a floppy disk drive (still used by many people) and a CD-ROM drive (DVD burners are harder to come by). Laptops are also provided, but these seem to be in short supply.

The Sig also provides a computer club to help community memebrs learn about computers and provide each other with support.

Apart from providing low cost computers to the community the Sig also has an environmental role in keeping computers running longer and thus reducing the amount of materials going to landfill. At my talk on Green ICT last night there was a representative from the SA Government's Zero Waste initiative. I suggested they look at helping the ACS replicate their PC recycling scheme accross South Australia.

The ACS would be happy to help set up similar groups in other locations. They can provide the procedure and forms to use to manage the process of wiping hard disks on computers, providing a standard configuration, providing help to users. The ACS can provide a package of materials and procedures and also can provide the licence registration for groups.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Three Dollar Linux Compatible Microsoft Mouse

Microsoft Basic Optical MouseHarvey Norman are having a half yearly clearance sale, with the Microsoft Basic Optical Mouse reduced from the recommended retail price of $19.95 down to $8. At the same time Microsoft are having a 25% cashback offer on hardware. The redemption is based on the RRP, so you get $5.00 back, resulting in the mouse costing $3.

I was curious as to how Microsoft could run a cashback offer on low value items, such as mice. The way the system works is that you enter the details into a web page, along with your bank account number. The system gives you a redemption number, which you include with a copy of the purchase receipt and send by mail. This way Microsoft doesn't have the expense of sending cheques or of entering the financial details for the bank into their computer. They may not even go to the trouble of checking the redemption numbers. But presumably the details of what was sold by which retailer for how much is of value to them.

Microsoft had a box to check if I wanted details of Microsoft products. I did not check the box and it will be interesting to see if Microsoft can resist the temptation to send me unsolicited junk mail. The Terms and Conditions state: "The Promoter will only use your personal details for marketing purposes outside those described above if you “opt in” to join the mailing list when prompted.".

Apple MAC OSX Universal LogoThe mouse works fine under Linux. The box has three logos on the side: one for "Certified for Windows Vista", one for "Mac" and the third labelled "universal". At first I thought this third "Yin Yang" symbol might be a Microsoft euphemism for "Linux", but it turns out this is the Apple logo to indicate compatibility between Mac Power PC and OSX Operating Systems.

BAC Strikemasterpps: The terms a little worryingly also state: "There is a risk that injury or death may result from participating in this part of the competition. ". Hopefully this is about the option of winning a flight in a Strikemaster Jet, and not some fatal flaw in Microsoft mice. ;-)

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