In the “Practice of Everyday Life” Michel de Certeau investigates the ways in which users-commonly assumed to be passive and guided by established rules-operate. He asserts:
“This goal will be achieved if everyday practices, “ways of operating” or doing things, no longer appear as merely obscure background of social activity, and if a body of theoretical questions, methods, categories, and perspectives, by penetrating this obscurity, make it possible to articulate them.”
“ReFunct Media” is a series of multimedia installations that (re)uses numerous “obsolete” electronic devices (digital and analogue media players and receivers). Those devices are hacked, misused and combined into a large and complex chain of elements. To use an ecological analogy they “interact” in different symbiotic relationships such as mutualism, parasitism and commensalism.
Voluntarily complex and unstable, “ReFunct Media” isn’t proposing answers to the questions raised by e-waste, planned obsolescence and sustainable design strategies. Rather, as an installation it experiments and explores unchallenged possibilities of ‘obsolete’ electronic and digital media technologies and our relationship with technologies and consumption.
Download DeFunct / ReFunct Publication (ISBN: 978-0-9570777-1-3) ↓
ReFunct Media #5
[Pictures by Phillp Stearns)
ReFunct Media #5
[Work in progress]
Apple has pulled its products off the U.S. government-backed registration of environmentally friendly electronics.
Apple asked EPEAT, the electronics standards setting group, to pull its 39 certified desktop computers, monitors and laptops, which included past versions of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, off the list of green products late last month, Robert Frisbee, CEO of EPEAT told CIO Journal. EPEAT, created through funding by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and manufacturers, awards products a seal to certify they are recyclable and designed to maximize energy efficiency and minimize environmental harm.
In order to meet the standards, recyclers need to be able to easily disassemble products, with common tools, to separate toxic components, like batteries. The standards were created jointly by manufacturers, including Apple, advocacy groups and government agencies. Frisbee says an Apple staff member told him at the end of June that the company no longer wanted Apple computers to be listed as EPEAT certified.
“They said their design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements,” Frisbee said. The company did not elaborate, Frisbee said. “They were important supporters and we are disappointed that they don’t want their products measured by this standard anymore.”
The news complicates the work of CIOs at educational institutions where Apple has a strong presence. Schools often push IT departments to make environmentally sound electronics purchases, as do an increasing number of corporations. But now even older models of Apple equipment are no longer certified.
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment, but referred to Apple’s website which contains reports on the environmental impact of its products. Apple offers several recycling programs through its stores and website.
One of Apple’s newest products, the MacBook Pro with a high-resolution “Retina” display, was nearly impossible to fully disassemble, said Kyle Wiens, co-founder of iFixit.com, a website that provides directions for users to repair their own machines. The battery was glued to the case, and the glass display was glued to its back. The product, released just a month ago, had not been submitted for EPEAT certification, according to the organization.
Frisbee said that the structure of that laptop would have made it ineligible for certification. “If the battery is glued to the case it means you can’t recycle the case and you can’t recycle the battery,” Frisbee said.
Apple was putting design first in an effort to make products smaller and have batteries last longer, said Shaw Wu an analyst at Sterne Agee. “They are not trying to purposely make it hard to open, they are just trying to pack as much as they can into a small space–it’s a design decision,” Wu said.
Many corporations like Ford, HSBC, and Kaiser Permanente require their CIOs to purchase computers from sources that are EPEAT certified, said Sarah O’Brien director of outreach for EPEAT. And the U.S. government requires that 95% of the electronics it purchases be EPEAT certified.
In 2010, the last year the survey was conducted, 222 out of the 300 American universities with the largest endowments asked their IT departments to give preference to EPEAT certified computers. Around 70 of the schools required EPEAT certification for electronics purchases, according to O’Brien.
But though Apple still gets 10%-15% of its revenue from educational organizations, according to Wu, an increasing part of its product mix is made up of iPhones and iPads, which are not currently certifiable under EPEAT.
Wu said he believes Apple will likely soon create an alternate standard for its own products. But in the meantime he believes companies are likely to still buy the products.
“At the end of the day in a business it’s really about what works,” Wu said.
Curtis Palmer/CC BY 1.0
BusinessGreen reports that UK startup WEEE Systems has ambitious plans for addressing the e-waste problem and moving the electronics industry toward a closed-loop system. It plans to involve at least one manufacturer in developing a prototype plant that ultimately would see manufacturers taking responsibility for the full life-cycle of their products by helping companies reuse and recycle more, and more efficiently.
BusinessGreen quotes Bob Clarke, WEEE Systems chief executive, who explains the basic idea behind the company:
“The e-waste industry is bizarre in that firms currently pay you less than the old kit is worth to take it away and recycle it, but then if anything goes wrong and it does end up in an illegal scrap yard in the developing world you are the one that gets in trouble. We want to work with a manufacturer where they agree to give us 50,000 old TVs; for example, we’ll reuse or recycle them as appropriate and provide our partner with the resulting reusable parts and materials.”
The company is not to be confused with the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive in Europe, which introduced regulations for the electronics industry several years ago.
WEEE Systems says it’s trying to help the industry look beyond the minimum legal requirements:
WEEE Systems believes that leading businesses will want to look beyond legislative compliance and embrace changes today in order to realise the tangible benefits available – including releasing the real estate tied up storing surplus equipment, protecting brand value and meeting corporate social responsibility objectives.
With raw material prices increasing, there is a growing demand for the value that can be obtained from re-used and recycled materials, further incentivising progressive businesses to take advantage of the material transformation opportunities available.
The BusinessGreen story says the company recently launched a new software package and service to do just that:
Dubbed Cosvcon – an amalgam of cost versus contribution – the new software and service package audits a corporation’s IT infrastructure, recording information on a wide range of metrics, including the equipment’s age, energy use, utilisation and carbon footprint.
The company then provides clients with regular updates on the status of their infrastructure and identifies the optimum time to retire old servers, PCs, phones and other equipment.
“The aim is to help the client realise the maximum transformative value of their IT, where we can say, ‘At this point the asset is perfect for the secondary market, but if you leave it for a year it will be good for the recycling market’,” Clarke explained.
Why Your Old Super Nintendo Looks Super Yellow
Try as we might, even the most well-protected hardware can’t stay new forever. Coca-Cola spills and accidental drops are ever-present possibilities, of course, but there’s little you can do to stop the inevitable march of time.
However, some hardware ages better than others. It’s the reason why your friend’s Super Nintendo looks fresh and unscathed, while your own console sits forlornly in a corner, tinted yellow to the core. “Cigarette smoke!” some will holler, convinced that’s the reason, but the actual explanation might surprise you.
There are many different types of plastic, but the kind most commonly found in old computer hardware is called ABS, or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. In its pure form, ABS plastic is combustible, however, and not the sort of thing you want in a mass-market consumer product. Thus, plastic manufacturers mix in a variety of flame retardant chemicals — usually involving large amounts of bromine, a naturally brown liquid — to help reduce a product’s chance of catching fire.
The problem is that bromine undergoes a reaction when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation — in other words, most sources of light, both natural and artificial. This breaks the bonds that were created during the manufacturing process, and leaves bromine molecules free to seek out oxygen. This process, also known as oxidation, is responsible for the increasingly brown or yellow appearance of old plastics over time. Nothing — not even the original packaging — can stop it, and added heat and UV light can actually accelerate the rate of discoloration.
If you were to chip away a small portion of an affected case, you could see this process in action. The inside layer of plastic often retains its original color because it has been exposed to little or no oxidation.
Of course, this doesn’t explain why some Super Nintendo consoles age differently than others. Or why only certain sections of a console or computer take on a discolored hue than the rest. Benj Edwards of Vintage Computing, however, offers a very feasible hypothesis:
Perhaps in one of the production runs of plastic, they didn’t get the catalyst or flame retardant mixture quite right and more residues were left over in the top half’s plastic batch, thus causing it to degrade more rapidly over time. And by the time Nintendo produced the later runs of Super Nintendos, they had probably fixed the problems in the manufacturing process of their plastic, meaning that those later models aren’t as susceptible to oxidation as the earlier models are.
Simply put, Nintendo could have used a more stable plastic that would have been less susceptible to discoloration, but chose ABS plastic for its manufacturing simplicity and reduced cost.
What can you do about it?
As you’ve probably gathered by now, not much. There’s simply no way to reverse the chemical reaction that’s taking place. However, there are ways to compensate, and in some cases, restore a plastic to its original color — at least temporarily.
Perhaps the most obvious solution is to use some sort of abrasive material to get past the discoloration. Light products, such as a Magic Eraser, are good for surface dirt, but can only remove so much. A more radical approach would be to use some light-grain sandpaper. But be wary: in both cases, you’re literally removing layers of plastic with each rub — layers you can never get back.
From the Retr0bright Wiki, the shell of a Commodore 64, after being partially immersed in liquid for eight hours.
A more recent and potentially successful approach is to use a high-concentration solution of hydrogen peroxide, mixed with other household chemicals. This is actually quite dangerous — there’s a risk of burns and blindness here folks — and should only be completed with the utmost care. However, if you’re interested, check out the Retr0bright wiki, which offers a number of tried and tested cleaning recipes that, in some cases, can restore old yellowed cases to an almost-new looking condition.
There are potential side-effects, of course, such as fading logos and labels, but the restoration benefits might be worth it for some.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to ensure that cigarette smoke isn’t the real source of your yellowing woes first, especially if your computer or console was bought second hand. Nicotine won’t penetrate any deeper than the surface of the console, and can be removed relatively easily with a light abrasive material or cleaner.
One of these things doesn’t belong. Image via Flickr user Redbeard Math Pirate.
In conclusion, the next time you feel the urge to fret about your old, yellowing electronics, worry not — the blame for this particular problem rests squarely on the shoulders of someone *other* than you.
Original Article available here
In a hidden corner of Hua Qiang Bei there are two large buildings that are primarily dedicated to cellphones. These, however, aren’t the same as the cellphone malls found in the district’s main street. Here cellphones are traded as a commodity or even as a raw material. Hundreds of small companies work with (and against) each other to squeeze every bit of value out of yesterday’s mobile phones.
Due to the vendors’ reluctance to give up ‘business secrets’, it’s hard to get many of my questions answered or to trace the exact source of the devices that are brought here. Some outdoor vendors have so few phones that it looks like they personally collected them from the trash to sell them in the adjacent street market.
Within one of the main buildings there is a large room dedicated to stalls selling these pre-owned phones. Each stall presents a couple of hundred of them. I often see them bundled together in threes or fours, though not always by type. Most of these phones look like they would still function but there are quite a few with cracked screens or other obvious damage. Apparently, they still hold value for whomever buys them. One entrepreneur I talked to, told me he bought his phones in bulk from a wholesaler who got them from garbage sorters in Hong Kong and other major cities in Asia.
I was most intrigued by the building dedicated to the down- and up- cycling of these phones. Outside, I see a guy sorting through big bags of phone circuit boards. I’m not sure but I think he might be picking out the ones with particular chipsets that are in demand right now.
At some, point the plastic shells have already been removed to be recycled in another process. There isn’t much money to be made there, but the low price of Chinese labor makes it worth someone’s time to separate the last bits of metal from the plastic.
Next, the boards are put under a heat gun to loosen the solder on the SMC’s (Surface Mounted Components). Then the components are picked off one by one with a set of tweezers and pre-sorted.
The components are often sold to another company in the building that specializes in the next step of the process.
Next, the solder is removed and the components are cleaned and sorted further. For many of the shops, this seems to be the main activity. With some exceptions, this work seems to be predominantly done by teenage girls and young women.
Some of the parts are so small that they can only be handled with tweezers.
Behold the precious jewels of our information society!
Although the components that are sold here don’t have the best reputation, there are a number of quality control methods used to make sure everything is still in working order. One of them is an optical check for any obvious damage.
More interesting are test setups that use rewired versions of the devices that the chips original came from.
These boxes are made-to-order for specific phones and specific parts. The shop that sells them is one of several tool suppliers in the building. There are others selling soldering irons, heat guns and books with circuit board schematics.
Finally the most valuable chips get reprogrammed or flashed and packaged into trays and tape reels (I’ve seen them do it!) that can be fed into the pick-and-place robots used to build new devices.
The next post will be dedicated to the other activities in this building, such as the (partial) fabrication of Shanzai phones.
Via: Hack A Day by Jeff Katz
Faced with a printer that would stop printing for no apparent reason, Finnish pirate and hacker [Janne] decided he had had enough. After doing a bit of research, he disassembled the drum assembly and replaced some components. The end result? Supposedly ‘broken’ printers started working again.
Apparently, Xerox uses a fairly basic scheme to determine when it’s time to replace your printer drum: An I2C eeprom keeps a count of the number of pages printed. After a certain number, the printer decides that it’s broken and won’t print any more. To fix this, a suitable replacement memory chip needed to be sourced. The original chip was a ST22C02WP. However, this was difficult to find, so the replacement part was selected to be a CSI 24C01WI. Amusingly enough, the replacement part has only half the space of the original chip, but this doesn’t appear to have caused a problem. The chips were swapped, and after some precision soldering the printer was completely repaired. The blank replacement chip functioned… due to the fact that there is no security or encryption involved between the printer and the drum (Score!)
The Junkyard Jumbotron lets you take a bunch of random displays and instantly stitch them together into a large, virtual display, simply by taking a photograph of them. It works with laptops, smartphones, tablets — anything that runs a web browser. It also highlights a new way of connecting a large number of heterogenous devices to each other in the field, on an ad-hoc basis.
Junkyard Jumbotron from chris csik on Vimeo.
By Clay Dillow on www.popsci.com
Orbital Debris The dots on this NASA-generated chart represent known pieces of large orbital debris.NASA
Every now and again someone raises a stern warning about the amount of space junk orbiting Earth. Those warnings are usually met with general indifference, as very few of us own satellites or travel regularly to low Earth orbit. But the DoD’s assessment of the space junk problem finds that perhaps we should be paying attention: space junk has reached a critical tipping point that could result in a cataclysmic chain reaction that brings everyday life on Earth to a grinding halt.
Our reliance on satellites goes beyond the obvious. We depend on them for television signals, the evening weather report, and to find our houses on Google Earth when we’re bored at work. But behind the scenes, they also inform our warfighting capabilities, keep track of the global shipping networks that keep our economies humming, and help us get to the places we need to get to via GPS.
According to the DoD’s interim Space Posture Review, that could all come crashing down. Literally. Our satellites are sorely outnumbered by space debris, to the tune of 370,000 pieces of junk up there versus 1,100 satellites. That junk ranges from nuts and bolts lost during spacewalks to pieces of older satellites to whole satellites that no longer function, and it’s all whipping around the Earth at a rate of about 4.8 miles per second.
The fear is that with so much junk already up there, a collision is numerically probable at some point. Two large pieces of junk colliding could theoretically send thousands more potential satellite killers into orbit, and those could in turn collide with other pieces of junk or with satellites, unleashing another swarm of debris. You get the idea.
To give an idea of how quickly a chain reaction could get out hand consider this: in February of last year a defunct Russian satellite collided with a communications satellite, turning 2 orbiting craft into 1,500 pieces of junk. The Chinese missile test that obliterated a satellite in 2007 spawned 100 times more than that, scattering 150,000 pieces of debris.
If a chain reaction got out of control up there, it could very quickly sever our communications, our GPS system (upon which the U.S. military heavily relies), and cripple the global economy (not to mention destroy the $250 billion space services industry), and whole orbits could be rendered unusable, potentially making some places on Earth technological dead zones.
If you’ve replaced a computer lately—or a cell phone, a camera, a television—chances are, the old one still worked. And chances are even greater that the latest model won’t last as long as the one it replaced. Welcome to the world of planned obsolescence—a business model, a way of life, and a uniquely American invention that this eye-opening book explores from its beginnings to its perilous implications for the very near future.
Made to Break is a history of twentieth-century technology as seen through the prism of obsolescence. America invented everything that is now disposable, Giles Slade tells us, and he explains how disposability was in fact a necessary condition for America’s rejection of tradition and our acceptance of change and impermanence. His book shows us the ideas behind obsolescence at work in such American milestones as the inventions of branding, packaging, and advertising; the contest for market dominance between GM and Ford; the struggle for a national communications network, the development of electronic technologies—and with it the avalanche of electronic consumer waste that will overwhelm America’s landfills and poison its water within the coming decade.
History reserves a privileged place for those societies that built things to last—forever, if possible. What place will it hold for a society addicted to consumption—a whole culture made to break? This book gives us a detailed and harrowing picture of how, by choosing to support ever-shorter product lives we may well be shortening the future of our way of life as well.
Ten thousand songs in your pocket. Ten thousand years in a landfill.
— By Giles Slade