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Business Computers Internet Media News Technology

What’s in Your Computer (and phone, and WiFi)?

gates

Lenovo

This week the news is full of Lenovo, a computer manufacturer that has been selling machines that they have already fitted with what some call Malware or just Adware. Magic in the machine indeed!

The mal/adware in question is made by a company called “Superfish.” The software is essentially an Internet browser add-on that injects ads onto websites you visit. Details here.

Besides taking up space in your computer, the add-on is also dangerous because it undermines basic computer security protocols.

That’s because it tampers with a widely-used system of official website certificates. That makes it hard for your computer to recognize a fake bank website. This means that you are more likely to give all of your personal data away, let nasty things into your computer, and allow people to monitor your use.

No good I hear you say, and all so that they can feed you adverts while you are browsing.

Hidden Extras?

But this news does bring up another question, what else is in the computer? What else is it programmed to do? The simple answer is that I and probably most of you do not know. We have bought a machine that does the things we want it to do, but who knows what else?

Now as I eat my breakfast, I like to read the ingredients on the side of the packet. It is good for language skills as it is usually in several languages. But can I do this with my computer? You don’t get much in the way of documentation with a $400 laptop. Certainly not considering what is inside it.

So the computer company in question have disabled something at their end and the problem is resolved. But if they tell you that they fixed the problem are you going to believe them? After they did something that put your computer and everything saved on it at risk? Or should you put a new operating system on the new machine, wipe the hard drive and start again?

Why do we trust these manufacturers when they consistently do things that are not in our interest? WiFi providers that con your computer into trusting fake certificates so that they can block certain sites (and read your mail or follow your searches)? Samsung that record your voice through your smart TV and send it non encrypted over the Internet to unnamed third parties, social media sites and search engines that collect your data, mobile phone companies that map your every movement, the list goes on.

So if you cannot trust wifi, or computer manufacturers, or Google, or Facebook, or Samsung to treat our data securely and correctly, who can you trust? And more to the point why are we giving them our lives to play with?

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Computers Media News Technology

US Border Laptop Searches

This week in the US many news outlets are reporting a story that relates to how private the data on your computer, hard drive or mobile phone may be when passing national borders.

In a legal ruling a judge has in effect supported immigration officials’ rights to look inside your computer if you want to bring it in to the USA. The court ruling relates to an incident in 2010 when Pascal Abidor, a student crossing from Canada, had his laptop confiscated and searched.

A Laptop Search
A Laptop Search

The student claimed that this was unconstitutional as the 4th amendment states that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated….” The US has long held however that this amendment cannot be upheld when dealing with people entering the country.

The judge ruled however that “The agents certainly had reasonable suspicion supporting further inspection of Abidor’s electronic devices”. What is not widely reported is the circumstances that lead to this decision. Abidor has both French and US passports, and upon entering he chose to show the passport that did not contain Visas that demonstrated that he had visited Lebanon and Jordan,  giving officials the impression that he was trying to hide something.

Agents spent five hours searching his laptop and USB drives, and then demanded that he write down his passwords and hand over the laptop and storage media. The laptop was returned by post 11 days later.

There are rules about what the authorities must do with data seized in these cases. All data that is deemed innocent must be destroyed within 7 days of seizure unless permission is given to keep it for longer. Many blogs however cast doubt upon whether an unregulated and poorly reported system can actually enforce this however, an online search of the story gives many different perspectives. The Homeland securities News Wire has one of the most informative.

I presume that like me many of you keep a great deal of personal data on your laptops, from tax returns, bank details, love letters and personal photos, and all of these things may be accessed in a case like this. One issue that has come to the fore has been brought by researchers and reporters, who may not be able to reveal sources of information for ethical, security or legal reasons, but may unwittingly do so by leaving evidence of their informers’ identities on their computers.

The line is blurred here, as today smuggling must include information smuggling and authorities may need to search information media, but an individual must be aware that all information carried over an international border is open to search. This must have repercussions in terms of industrial as well as personal privacy.

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Computers Technology

Can you recondition an old computer?

There are many ways to deal with old computers. One popular way is to get rid of it. This is because old computers have no value, are slow and take lots of physical space.

The other way to deal with them is to sell them for a super low price so that you can buy a new one without paying too much. However, second hand electronic stuff does not really have any value. For instance, you probably ended up selling a graphic card for $50 that you bought for $200-$300 originally.

So why not keep your old computer and make good use of it.

How to rebuild an old PC

1. Format your hard disk to ensure you have completely remove all the data in it – remember that even formatting your disk might not remove all your data.

2. Install an new Operating System. If you are looking at Windows, XP might be a good choice for an old PC, however 7 also handles low spec hardware pretty well, so is also worth considering. There are several reasons why I think Windows XP is no longer the best choice:

  • License rarity – Windows XP is 3 versions behind the current Windows operating system, meaning few firms still stock XP licenses
  • Support has ended – Microsoft have officially announced the termination of the support for Windows XP in 2014
  • Malware issues – Windows XP is prone to more security risks than more current operating systems, simply because it has been around longer; this means you are likely to need a better antivirus software to keep the PC safe

If you don’t want to go down the Windows route, I highly recommend is the Ubuntu, which is a free Linux OS. There are several free Linux operating systems out there but so far, I think Ubuntu is one of the popular Linux distribution and probably easiest to use.

What is the requirement to run Ubuntu? According to the official site, these are the requirements.

  • 700 MHz processor
  • 512MB of RAM
  • 5GB of hard disc space
  • VGA capable of 1024×768 screen resolution
  • Either a CD/DVD drive or a USB port – or both

I bet you have a better PC than Ubuntu requires 😉 Ubuntu

Uses for an old computer running Ubuntu

No matter how old the computer, it always has uses. Here are some of my suggestions:

  1. Use it for regular web browsing. With a lightweight operating system (which won’t suck up your RAM and CPU usage) your old computer can still perform pretty well for simple web browsing
  2. Use it for data backup. You can always transfer all your important stuff into an old computer, and use it as a backup machine, so you can keep your files safe and access them easily
  3. Home surveillance system. If you buy a webcam or two and install them into your house you could use your old computer to run your own home surveillance system!

So now, if you have an old computer lying around or burred in your storeroom why not dig it out and start making good use of it?

If you have any good idea on how to re-use your old computer, why not share with us below?

Categories
Environment How To Guides

How to be a little greener

We all leave a footprint on the world, just by being alive we contribute to environmental degradation. No matter what you do, you can’t eliminate your effect (offset it maybe) on the world, but you can minimise it.

In this article I am going to look at some very simple things you can do to reduce the impact you have on the planet, making you a greener individual.

Water Usage

The amount of water we use has a big impact on the environment, as well as other people. Last April I posted an article which asked you to question your usage of water. I have included a brief summary of the article

Of all the water on earth, just 0.007% is drinkable, and whilst our usage of water and the number of people on earth are both rapidly growing, water supplies aren’t. Drought is a real issue in many areas of the world and one in nine people don’t have access to safe drinking water.

Rainwater storage tank
Wall mounted water butts are becoming more popular – a great way to collect and store rainwater.

Excessive use (and arguably wastage) of water via things like regular use of hose pipes and using water hungry appliances (like washing machines) when they have spare capacity, can easily be reduced, and can significantly decrease our water usage.

In the comments, there was some great feedback. Jonny suggested using a water butt to collect rainwater to water your garden, saying “it is really shocking to think that many people use drinking water to keep the lawn green“. Shane told us how he plays 5 minute songs when having a shower, so he know when it’s time to get out, and Jean noted how he tries to fix leaks as soon as he finds them, as they are a massive waste of water – and money!

Buy Local

Another step you can take which will reduce your carbon footprint is choosing local. In 2009, I wrote an article on the technology behind food, discussing the journey food takes, and the impact it has on the planet, getting it to our table. Although the figures might have slightly changed, the concept behind the article is still the same: buying local produce significantly reduces your carbon footprint.

Local doesn’t even have to mean that close. Ideally, within 20 miles of the shop you buy is the best sort of ‘local’, however even food that has been grown within 200 miles is much better than food that has been flown across the globe.

Local food not only promotes energy conservation, but it also supports local farmers. Farm shops are a really good place you can get local food, why not check out BigBarn, a site designed to help you find where you can get locally produced food.

Farmers shop
Farm shops are a great place to source local food.

Reuse, Repair and Recycle Technology

It is important to use technology to its full potential, and to keep using it until it is no longer viable. Once something stops working, or is no longer able to fulfil your needs, whenever possible, repair or upgrade it. If your PC is starting to run a little sluggish, try to speed it up again (maybe visit my speed up your computer article) add some more RAM, upgrade the graphics card, and consider increasing the storage capacity.

As Jonny wrote last year, electronic waste is a real problem, computer components can be hard to recycle, and are often toxic. Therefore it is important to try to reduce electronic waste, and when it does occur, ensure it is disposed or/recycled properly.

If you have reused and repaired a device as much as possible, the next step is recycling. Recycling electronic waste is a growing industry, computer recycling and schemes which enable you to recycle mobile phones, so your technology is either properly recycled, or repaired and reused, either resold locally, or distributed to developing countries are becoming ever more common. Many firms (like the one I link to above) are even paying you for your old technology – reduce your ecological footprint, and get paid, what more could you ask for!

Save Energy

There seems to be a growing resistance to nuclear power, fossil fuels are running out and this matched with the lack of investment in renewables, is leading us to a global energy crisis. Every individual can make a difference, by reducing their consumption.

Electrical energyTurning off devices instead of leaving them on standby, switching to energy bulbs, and insulate your home and relatively simple and cheap ways to save energy, which we have probably all heard many times. Steps which involve using smarter technologies, such as getting Remote Heating Control installed and choosing smarter energy using devices are also good ways to save power, and are now also becoming more common.

In Summary

Four of the best ways you can reduce your environment impact are to: be more frugal with water; try and buy local produce; maintain technology for as long as possible, and then recycle it; and reducing your energy usage.

Feel free to critique any of my points, and by all means, suggest your own ideas below.

Categories
Computers How To Guides

How to build a good gaming PC for under £1000?

EDITOR NOTE: Since this article was written, many of the links to computer parts have become outdated, so they have all now been removed – note by Christopher

Computer parts and a computer case - a custom PCGaming is a great hobby to have, but to buy all the latest releases, not to mention the latest console that comes equipped with crystal-clear graphics and interactive gameplay, it could cost a small fortune. Many thrifty gamers looking to enjoy themselves without breaking the bank could do worse than build the ultimate gaming machine, especially if they have an affinity with playing on a PC.

It’s possible to get everything you need for less than £1,000. All you need to do is know what components are necessary, how powerful you want your machine to be, a few basic computer building skills and the right places to go for your bargains. My personal favourites are the technology section on netvouchercodes.co.uk, the Amazon discount emails, or their computer component recommendations and of course eBay!

Motherboard – £135

It’s the most important part of any PC – without it, nothing else would function correctly. This motherboard from Asus is ideal as it has no bottlenecks, slots for two graphic cards, processor slot and has capacity for as much as 32GB of RAM. It’s also pretty cheap considering what it enables.

Processor – £168

Also from AMD, this six-core Bulldozer processor is great for processing large amounts of data at speed. Among its other vital stats include an 8MB cache and impressive power of 8.3 GHz per core for a relatively low price, and is ideal for multitasking when playing two or more games at once. I found this particular bargain from CCL through their online voucher page.

Memory – £137

Combined, these products provide an impressive 16GB of RAM. This amount of memory is more than enough for even the most data-intensive games.

Random Access Memory

PSU – £60

Every PC needs a cooling system, and this PSU with inbuilt heatsinks is sufficient for an extremely powerful custom-built computer. It runs at 1333 MHz and has a capacity of 16GB, and controls your PC’s power output with minimum fuss.

Graphics cards – £228

The AMD Radeon graphics processor is the most expensive part of your PC, but it’s also the most important for ensuring the games you want to play look as vivid and lifelike as possible. They have 3GB of GDDR5 memory, 800 MHz clock speed for quick gameplay and has room for a second card if necessary.

Solid State Drive – £195

A hard drive of some sort is something else you’ll need, and this 250GB drive is one of the best available for gaming PCs. It has a 6GB/s transfer rate and is ideal for games which use up a huge amount of data.

All those components come to a grand total of around £930. Once you have all that, you can spend the remainder on a case to keep everything in its right place. £70 is plenty of money to spend on a case, no matter how wacky and original you want it to look. All it involves is a little shopping around.

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Gadgets How To Guides

How to get great gadgets on a budget

It’s a very easy – and all too common – mistake to see your student loan arrive in your bank account and rush out and spend it all on the latest must-have gadgets. Smartphones, laptops, tablets, printers, they’re all “essential” to student life, (well, in a social capacity in most senses, but to some they’re essential).

Obviously going off to University is an exciting time and you want to go fully prepared for the academic year, and to make an impression on your new friends and flat mates. But you can do all of this without breaking the bank.

For instance there are some great laptop deals for students specifically which enable them to get the computer they want as well as all of the software they’ll need to help with the course, and even discounts on devices like printers and wireless routers.

When you think about it, you can get what you consider to be brilliant deals on your computer, printer and tablet – to name just three you might buy together – getting discounts on all three, but it can still add up to upwards of £1,000. But one of the advantages of being a student is being eligible for a package tailor made for getting you through the late night group projects and the 10,000-word essays that you finish at 4am.

National Union of Students card
An NUS student card

You might not think that some of the devices in the offers are what you would call “top drawer” or even as cool as what your friend has bought, but if you’ve spent £500 and they’ve spent £1,500, you’ve got an extra thousand left in your bank account to enjoy yourself with while taking the necessary “study breaks”, or to keep in hand for emergencies and all-important food shops. There are only so many times you can buy own-brand beans after all!

Budgeting is a key part of Uni life, something you don’t tend to realise until the end of the year (or the end of your third year in a lot of cases) but anything you can save before you start your first term is going to benefit you later on, allowing you to upgrade your gadgets in the future when you’ve got a little bit extra that you can spend without getting into financial difficulties.

The deals on laptops and other tech for students really are worth looking into. A lot of the top brands produce models and packages designed purely for students at prices made for students. If I had one tip, check them out, don’t just splash the cash on the biggest and best because you want to be cool.

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Computers How To Guides

Some simple ways to speed up your Windows PC

According to StatCounter in August 2012, globally, Microsoft Windows XP, Vista and 7 accounted for the operating systems on 87.85% of computers around the world. That means that the majority of people own a PC which runs on Windows, as opposed to one which runs on iOS, MacOSX, Unix or another operating system.

An issue many Windows users often find is that after a while their computer seems to slow down. If this sounds familiar, then you should find this article extremely useful, as in it I am going to give you my personal tips on how to keep your Windows PC (XP, Vista and 7) running fast. This guide applies to both laptops and desktop PCs. 🙂

What Slows Computers Down?

The trick to understanding how to make your machine run faster involves working out what slows your computer down. It would be interesting to know what most people think slows their computer down, so if you have an idea, let me know in the comments.

The first and one of the biggest culprits which slow your computer down are background processes. These are things which go on in the background whilst you are doing things. Say you are trying to open up an internet browser, lets take Firefox as an example, then when you click on Firefox, it is very possible that plugins you have installed also try to start up and do things in the background. Until recently an really good example of this was the Google toolbar, which would start up a process to talk to Google and find out if it was up to date.

There are likely to be a lot of programs trying to do things in the background, whilst you are focusing on your task. Java, Apple, Google, Adobe (Flash Player and Reader) are big culprits, always whirring away in the background. If you have anything Google installed like Google Earth, Google Chrome, Google Talk etc. then the chases are it is taking a lot more resources than it needs. Likewise anything Apple like iTunes, QuickTime etc. are also likely to be slowing your PC down.

Another big culprit is disorganised hard disk files. Every time you delete something, move something, create a new file or folder etc. you change the layout of your hard disk and the structure of your files. This can often mean that related files can be put far apart on the disk, which is not optimal, also in order to get to a file, the computer may first have to locate it via following a redirect from where it used to be – this takes time.

The final major culprit I am going to address is unnecessary visual effects. Your computer can often get really bogged down trying to display fancy effects which you don’t really need, meaning you can’t get on and do what you wanted to do.

Now we know three of the main issues, lets fix them!

Stopping Unnecessary Background Processes

A tortoise with a rocket on its backStopping bad background processes is easier than you might think. There are a few ways to go about it, the way I find the most effective is though a tool named ‘MSConfig’. This can be found on Vista and 7 by typing in msconfig into the search box on the start menu, in in Windows XP by typing msconfig into the Run command box.

MSConfig allows you to make a lot of changes to your system, but unless you know what you are doing, I would stick to just two tabs, Services and Startup. To start speeding up your PC, go to the ‘Services’ tab and click ‘Hide all Microsoft Services’, which will stop you accidental stopping anything you need. Now untick anything you don’t feel you need. An example of a service you might want to untick is ‘Google Update Service‘, whilst an example of one you probably don’t want to is your Anti-Virus software’s one.

Remember stopping a service does not stop you opening a program. Say there is an Office service which you stop, it will not run in the background, but you will still be able to run Word, Excel and Outlook.

Now lets move onto the ‘Startup’ tab. Here you can also remove any service you don’t want to run, but this is specifically when you start up your PC. For example, if you have Skype installed, but don’t want it to run when your computer starts, then untick the Skype service. Likewise if you don’t want Google Talk to automatically start running, untick googletalk.exe – the Google Talk service.

Reorganise Your Hard Disk

Reorganising your files is really easy, it just takes time. A disk defragmenter is what you need for this, and Windows comes with one built in for free! There are third party ones available too, some of which are good, and others not so – your choice.

Simply start Windows Disk Defragmenter via searching for it in the start menu, or open My Computer >> right-click on the hard disk you want to defragment >> click Properties >> click the Tools tab >> click click Defragment now.

It may take any amount of time from 5 minutes to 12 hours (potentially more if you have a really big and messy hard disk) and during the process, I would advise against using your computer. Typically it takes an hour or two to defragment a hard disk.

Turn Off Unneeded Visual Effects

If you are happy to loose some of the sleekness your system has then this tip could really boost your computers performance.

First you need to open the visual effects panel. In Windows 7 right-click Computer on the start menu >> click Properties >> click Advanced system settings (on the left) >> then select Settings under the Performance section. In XP right-click My Computer >> click Properties >> click the Advanced tab >> then select Settings under the Performance section.

From here you can remove visual effects you don’t really need. If you like you can remove them all, but that could really change how your PC looks. Animate windows when minimizing and maximising, Show shadows under mouse pointer and Show window contents while dragging are all effects which really slow down your PC, but you are unlikely to miss. Experiment, and see which ones you can live without.

I hope these tips work for you, and have fun with your fast(er) computer!

Got any tips yourself? Why not share them below?

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Computers Technology

What are the risks of getting infected by malicious software?

Have you ever thought of what is going to happen when you are infected by a computer malware? About a decade ago, computer virus aims were to replicate themselves and destroying key operating system functions. If you got a computer malware infection at that time, most probably your operating system will be corrupted by the malware and you will need to format your hard disk to solve your problem.

Today, malicious software behaves a little different. We have more than 10 types of computer security threats such as virus, trojan, worms, spyware and many more. Each type of malware has their own speciality and here are top 3 risks of getting infected by a computer malware.

1. Having your login credentials stolen

It is very popular today that a keylogger/keystroke logging is used to log a victim’s login credentials. Once the keylogger has a set of your username and password, they can login into the account and do almost everything unless your account is protected by a two factor authentication.

2. Losing hard disk space

Hard disk space today can be very cheap but we should not waste it on storing malicious software. Malware such as worms will replicate in your operating system and take up your hard disk space. You will not feel the burden at the beginning but as the process gets longer, you will start to feel the pain of having insufficient disk space.

3. Spending money on unnecessary stuff

There is also a type of malware where they scare you off by telling you that your computer has hundreds of infections which you actually don’t have. Upon scaring you, they urge you to purchase a bogus antivirus which claims that can clean all the mentioned infections. All in all, you end up actually paying for nothing.

4. Being part of a minion for DDoS attack

Have you ever thought of how DDoS can bring thousands to millions of traffic to a server? It is actually all the computers which are infected with some sort of trojan that explains how the attacker can have such massive amount of traffic. By getting a malware infection, you are at risk of becoming part of this big project which you do not want to be.

5. Losing your privacy

Another form of malware which is known as spyware is built to spy your daily activities. By knowing your daily activities, the attacker will be able to understand you better before attacking you. For instance, if you regularly surf to adult sites, the attacker will probably start off with some fake adult material to lure you into their trap.

Looking at someones internet usageBack to you now, are you able to take all the risks mentioned? If you are not, be sure you have a good habit when it comes to internet and computer security and always remember that having an antivirus and firewall is not sufficient for a good security.

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Business Computers

Back to the Basics: De-cluttering your Computer

If you own a PC or if you are using one at work then you just earned for yourself an extra responsibility of organizing your files and even your folders. This is one task that could sound really easy when the PC is still new until you start accumulating hundreds of different files and see the bad effects of cluttering your computer with both important and useless files. Of course the most apparent effect of file chaos can be seen on the PC’s speed as it tends to become slow as the day goes by and then errors start to appear, and then the PC crashes ultimately. Again, it all began in ignoring a rather simple task – organizing your files.

Saving files, regardless of its size, can influence PC clog up. But this is one convenience of owning a PC; you can create files such as photos, documents, movies, music, and more, store them and retrieve them later when necessary. This is just the way it’s supposed to be, right? We cannot not save files in our PCs, most of the times it is a necessity. Thus, the best way to attack this challenge is to intelligently organize files and folders. When I said intelligently, I meant not just simply arranging files in a specific way, it means de-cluttering both your PC and your life.

The truth is, file organization is not really a complicated task; it’s just as straightforward as organizing paper files. It all comes down to storing files in folders by categories and sequences that make sense.

A Laptop Full of FilesBefore organizing your files though, make a habit of classifying files as important or useless at the earliest phase possible: before saving files. If you can, avoid saving redundant and unnecessary files, then please do. It doesn’t take much time to evaluate a file’s importance to see if you should save it or not. While you master this habit, try another one: design and follow a consistent way of naming your files and folders. For instance, if you are using a PC at work wherein you need to store files related to customers, dealers and even colleagues, you may want to create sub-folders for each group and then store all files and folders related to each group under them. You can make organization more fun and effective by applying related icons to each sub-folder for easy identification.

It may be wiser to group related files together whatever its type. It doesn’t help to create specific folder for Word files, a folder for Excel files, a folder for PowerPoint files and so on. In Windows Explorer, you can set it to arrange files in a folder alphabetically and by type so it is easier to identify each file type. Besides, each file type is represented by distinguishing icons so it won’t be hard to identify a file by its type. It is smart to group files by project though if this makes sense to you or by month if date is an essence.

Another way to organize files is to separate current files to the completed ones. You may want to create a folder named “On-going” for current files and “Completed” for the finished files. Once you are done with a current file, you can just transfer it to the completed folder. Again, you can use this method only of it makes sense to you and your nature of work.

Also, it would be wiser to break a large number of files into separate sub-folders. This would make navigating into a folder easier. You can create sequential subfolders for invoices for instance. Thus, if you have an “Invoices” subfolder, you may want to create subfolders “Invoice_Jan”, “Invoices_Feb”, “Invoices_Mar” and so on within it. The notion is to store files in a group of logical folders instead of having one big folder. It makes sense then not to create subfolders for a lesser number of files. It would only take time to click on different folders if you only store at most 5 files in each folder.

Now, this will be an entirely different story if you already cluttered your PC with files (probably most are unimportant). You may have to spend time cleaning up your PC by deleting unnecessary files first and then reorganize your important files into separate folders. In organizing files, an optimization tool can certainly help. Optimization tools can automatically delete unimportant files and even temporary files that may have been affecting your PC’s speed and performance.

File organization is one task you should not avoid, no matter how trivial or boring you may think it is. This is definitely a prevention task rather than a cure as it could prevent future problems in time management as well as in your PC’s performance. If you want to make your work and your life less complicated, get better in organizing your files. It’s easy when you know how!

Categories
Business Environment Science Technology

E-Waste and Computer Recycling

I am by no means a ‘techie’ as Christopher calls himself, but a quick look round my house reveals a quite astounding history. In various cupboards I find an HP desktop computer from about 10 years ago, very rarely if ever used, another obsolete Hitachi desktop from 15 years ago, my last Chinese laptop (the lid broke off), an IBM Thinkpad, an HP laptop, an old Vaio and even an Ollivetti laptop from 20 years ago.

I have never thrown them out for various reasons, one being security, another being that one day I might need my undergraduate dissertation for something and the third being that I want to know what happens to them when they are taken away.

Recently I have learned that all is not quite what it seems with recycling of computers too, and this makes my quandary all the more difficult.

Chinese workers take apart electronic trash on the street in Guiyu, China.

Several companies offer to recycle your old computer for you, and an enormous industry has grown up around the trade in old technology. In China entire cities have been born that specialize in taking our old stuff, but I feel that recycling is a bit of a big word to use for the ensuing process, as it has positive connotations. The computers are dismantled and all of the re usable pieces taken away, then the rest is dumped in a large pile. People from the surrounding areas scratch a living by doing a bit of home made scavenging, be that boiling components on their cooker at home or dipping cables in acid baths to extract the tiny bits of semi precious metals that they contain. Obviously this is done without regulation, and the results are often poisoning for those involved and the surrounding areas. See this photo essay about the city of Guiyu pictured above, probably the largest e-dumping ground on Earth today, and where a large portion of the products in question end up.

Another possibility is that the computers are shipped as donations to the Third World. These donations come in containers, not packaged in cardboard however but just thrown in, so although some do work, the majority don’t. The recipients have to unload them and try each one to see if it is usable. Those that don’t have to be dumped, and can be found piled up in heaps or abandoned by the roadside outside the larger African Cities, again to poison the ground etc.

This video from Ghana goes into greater detail.

India has some recycling sites and used to import waste for processing but now the problem is that the country itself is now a major producer of waste as it becomes one of the most technology saturated countries on the planet. And India is not alone, consumer societies all over the ex developing world are hungry for new technology, and obsolescence is just round the corner. This short article in Time expands upon the argument.

Large sums of money are involved as we would imagine, but the industry is practically non-regulated in real terms. Government regulation does exist but with the majority of the work carried out in the informal economy it is not adhered to, and dirty job as it may be it provides income for hundreds of thousands of poor migrant labourers.

And we are speaking about a problem that can only get worse. I personally don’t think it has to or should be like this however, it is not fair and it is exploitation, and so my question is ‘what can be done about it?’ Or more correctly ‘what can we do about it?’ We are the guilty party after all.