2017-03-31

Why I get rid of stuff on Freecycle, eBay, and Craigslist.

Sometimes I have something that is old, worn out, or even broken, but I -know- that someone in the world could use it.  For instance, the heating element of my coffee maker broke, but I knew that someone could use the coffee maker's carafe and filter basket.  I listed those two parts individually on eBay, and they sold right away.  I didn't get a lot of money for them, but I got enough to cover my costs.

Why bother? 

Yes, I didn't make a ton of money selling my defunct coffee maker's carafe and filter basket.  So what's my logic for selling them on eBay?
  • It's better for my stuff to be used, instead of it being thrown into a garbage heap.
  • It's better for my stuff to be used by someone who needs it, instead of having it sitting idle in my attic to rot.
  • It's better for someone else to be able to fix their own thing with an inexpensive used part, instead of them having to throw away their old thing and buy something new.
  • It's better to repair stuff than to buy new stuff.  Manufacturing new stuff takes a lot of energy and creates a lot of pollution.  Minimizing the production of new stuff is good for everyone.

What's the savings?

When I sold my carafe and filter basket, these things did not go into the garbage heap:
  1. My carafe
  2. My filter basket
  3. The coffee maker of the buyer of my carafe - with a new carafe, its buyer was able to use his coffee maker again.
  4. The coffee maker of the buyer of my filter basket - with a new filter holder, its buyer was able to use his coffee maker again.
Also, these things didn't have to be made:
  1. A replacement coffee maker of the buyer of my carafe
  2. A replacement coffee maker of the buyer of my filter basket
So in all, two fewer coffee makers had to be manufactured.  Two fewer coffee makers went to the landfill.  I got some money.  And the people who bought my used parts saved some money to help reduce their credit card debt.  WE ALL WIN.

Why not just give it to Good Will?

Good Will is great.  They take your stuff and turn it around to help people in need.  But it is bad for them and bad for everyone if we just dump them stuff that they don't know how to deal with.  That includes weird coffee maker parts of unknown manufacture and unknown quality.

The beauty of me selling this stuff instead is that I know exactly what this stuff is and I know exactly what's good and bad about it.   For instance, I know the exact model number of my old coffee maker, and with that someone can be reasonably sure to find it on eBay.  A firm like a Good Will doesn't have the time or ability to assess and research every minor thing that comes in their door.

eBay is likely best for stuff like this, because the market place is enormous and because just about anything can be listed there.  Need a karafe for a Krups model 37G125 coffee maker?  Only eBay and maybe the manufacturer is likely to have something available.

Very common items, like computer parts and iPods have a robust local market, and therefore these parts can be listed on Freecycle or Craigslist.

So if you have junk, think twice about throwing it out - you might be able to stop a whole lot more junk from ending up in the landfill.

2017-03-20

The best Mac laptop ever

We all love our Macs, but one Mac laptop was the best ever.

What was it?  It was the late-2009 through mid-2010 white plastic MacBook.

What?  That piece of ugly white?

Yes!  Here's why:
  • They are powerful.  It was nearly as powerful as the MacBook Pro of its day, and can still run a modern OS well.  It was faster than many more modern MacBooks.
  • It was inexpensive.  It was under $1000 when new, and today they are under $400.
  • It is tough.  People could only ruin them with water or with serious abuse.
  • Unlike today's Macs, it is standards-based.  It uses standard memory, drives, and dvd.
  • The memory is replaceable.  The memory can be inexpensively expanded to 16 GB (the same limit as today's most expensive MacBook Pro).
  • The hard drive is replaceable.  A MacBook today can easily use an off-the-shelf 2 TB SSD drive.  Try a 2 TB drive in today's MacBook Pro.  Haha, see you at the bank.
  • The battery is long-lived.  I have many heavily used 7+ year old MacBooks, all still running their original battery.
  • It's still useful.  It can still use the latest Mac OS.
There are a few downsides:
  • The white plastic case can show micro-abrasion scratches.
  • The machine doesn't have USB3, as seen on modern laptops.  Then again, the iPhone and iPad don't support USB3 either (?!)
  • With the built-in DVD drive, it is quite bulky compared to modern laptops
  • On misused machines
    • cosmetic white stress cracks can emerge on the back plastic of the display clam shell
    • liquids spilled into the keyboard can ruin the keyboard, preventing typing, or in some cases, starting.

So there you have it!  The 2010 MacBook.  The best Mac laptop ever.

2017-03-18

WTF is going on with Fiber to the Home?

A few years ago we were all excited that Google was getting into the Fiber Internet business.  And before that, Verizon was getting into the game with its FiOS brand.  Now they've all pretty much stopped. What happened?

Part of the issue is that Comcast and its industry brothers have strong monopoly-like powers and the ability to direct Congress and the President.   The Cable TV industry, operating as a single monopolistic business, is a very powerful force despite extremely poor ratings and ever-rising high prices.

The other death knell to Google Fiber and Verizon FiOS is Wireless Internet.  Not today's wireless, but next year's wireless.
With Comcast working towards a monopoly of wireless spectrum, it is financially irresponsible for any wire-based ISP to continue to build out their services. - Lloyd Emerson
It takes a ton of money to string up wires along the street and drag them into a house.  Even a simple thought experiment shows that  a reasonable $200 per house would turn into a lot of money in a region with a million homes.  What if you could transition that cost from $200 per house to $3 per house?  That'd be a HUGE savings.  Why spend $200 million per city today, when you can spend $3 million per city in a couple years?  Sure, you'd lose two years worth of revenue, but you'd save $197 million. 

And that's the future of wireless.  This isn't WiFi, and it isn't Cellular.  Instead, its 802.11af and related technologies, which promises that a handful of access points will cover a city.   The ISP would set up 802.11af access points strategically, ensuring good, high-speed coverage throughout town.  Then you'd buy an inexpensive 802.11af transceiver that you buy at BestBuy, plug it into your router, and configure an account at your ISP.  You'd get to chose your plan for a monthly fee.   You'd get Internet at your house immediately, and there would be no wires to string up, route, or repair.

Bye-bye Comcast?  Not so fast!  Congress is planning to set this up as a monopoly.  Those wireless signals would be on non-public frequencies, and so the highest bidder would likely gain control of the airwaves.  Who has a few billion in the bank so they can buy wireless rights?  Oh yeah, your local cable TV monopoly and multi-billion-dollar firm that has Congress and the President in their back pocket .... Comcast and their industry colleague.

Fiber to the Home is dead.  So is Coaxial cabling and twisted pair.  Wireless is much cheaper to deploy, and so wireless ISPs will have significantly lower costs.

2017-03-05

Buying a Cable Modem to Stop Comcast Modem Rental Fee

I really hate the idea that honest and upstanding Americans continue to spend good money to RENT a cable modem from Comcast when they can save a lot of money by buying a great modem for very little money.  So I aim to help you avoid these awful rental fees.

Comcast usually charges about $10 a month for you to rent a cable modem, which is $120 a year, and Add the "taxes and fees" that Comcast layers onto your bill and maybe the cost is $140 a year.  Wow.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  STOP!!!

Cable modems are inexpensive!  You can buy a new, modern, blazing fast, Comcast-certified cable modem for less than $40 from Amazon.

But How?
  1. Buy this cable modem, the TP-Link TC-7610-E
  2. Unplug your Comcast rental cable modem
  3. Plug in your modern, newly purchased cable modem
  4. Restart your WIFI router (unplug it for 30 seconds, and then plug it back in)
  5. Wait a couple minutes
  6. Go to any website
  7. Comcast will put up a page instead of the website
  8. Log into Comcast using your Comcast account to enable the new modem
  9. The modem will be ready to go in minutes.
  10. Return the crappy rented modem to Comcast so they will stop charging you for it.
  11. Make sure you get a receipt when you return the modem.  Keep that receipt.
  12. Verify that Comcast stopped charging you a modem rental fee on your monthly bill
  13.  After four months, buy yourself a nice $10 gift each and every month.

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