My Visit to the Dump

March 5, 2017 - In Which I Send Three PCs to Recycling Heaven

Three of my computers were end-of-life and I took them to the waste management facility for recycling yesterday.

Dell Venue Pro 8 Tablet

Although it was a tad small at 8", I found this little tablet not only a huge bargain but a useful gadget to have around. Last year it stopped charging and that was that. It seems the micro-USB connector on these units has a habit of failing but that did not appear to be my situation. There was an internal failure of some kind, which meant replacing the whole unit. The Venue Pro qualified for a Windows 10 update and that's what it was running when it decided it no longer liked electricity.

I always remove the mass storage when I take a computer out of service. That was harder with the tablet. I had to completely disassemble it, remove the main computer board, and break off the end that contained the SSD (well, the flash chips). I disposed of the chips separately.

Despite liking the unit, I did not get enough life out of it. A device like this that breaks after two years is low quality and that is not what I expect from Dell, even at the low price I paid. If I want junk, I can always buy a no-name Android tablet.

Mac Mini (ca. 2008)

Those who know me know that I don't have much use for Apple or Mac, making it somewhat surprising that I ever owned a Macintosh.

I bought it almost 10 years ago when I was concerned about building Web sites that would work in any Web browser. Buying a Mac was the only way to test Safari on the Mac (at that time Safari was also available for Windows, but the Mac and Windows versions sometimes rendered differently). The cheapest Mac was the Mini.

As time went on, browsers got better about rendering Web sites properly and there was almost no need for me to test with Safari. I then used the Mini for personal things like games, music, etc. I never used it for work. I invested in Mac OS X upgrades to keep it current.

Then the hammer dropped. The Apple upgrade gods no longer smiled down upon my little Mac. No further OS X upgrade was available and, by extension, no further update to Safari was forthcoming. Just before I learned about all this, I was about to crack the case to add more memory and a larger hard drive, which would have allowed the Mac to run well for several more years. Thank goodness I pay attention.

Taking the Mini apart to get at the hard drive (for removal) was quite the experience. I know that Apple does not build its computers to last, increasingly making all of them difficult or impossible to expand or upgrade. But until my disassembly, I did not realize that Apple's engineering made absolutely no provision for maintenance. It was very tough to get to the hard drive and I was not being careful because I didn't care what I broke. Someone expecting to reassemble would have had to spend twice the time and care that I did. Again, my negative feelings about Apple were confirmed.

It was nice to have a Mac on hand. It took up almost no space on my desk, worked with my KVM switch, and performed reliably to the end. But I'll never buy another one. I want my computer company to be with me for the long haul, not just a couple of years.

Lenovo (nee IBM) ThinkPad T60 (ca. 2006)

This is the one that choked me up.

This excellent laptop was, without question, the best computer I have ever owned. It was better than the DIY desktops I have built. It survived years of me being on the road. It served as my primary development PC until just two years ago, when I built my new desktop. It absorbed upgrade after upgrade without a burp. It was running Windows 7 beautifully. It was still running yesterday, albeit with a physical problem.

I cannot bear to part with quality. Everything wears out, I know, and in technology things get better and bigger and faster at an incredible pace. I just hated to toss its perfect keyboard, great display, and rugged case into that dumpster full of all those crappy other PCs that couldn't hold a candle to it, the riff raff of the computer world.

That keyboard really was perfect. Nobody, nobody, ever built laptop keyboards as well as IBM. Although I used a full-size keyboard when I was at my desk, when traveling I always used the keyboard on the unit. It was smooth, comfortable, and accurate. I couldn't get to full typing speed with it but I came close.

One of the worst things that ever happened in computing was IBM getting out of the PC business. IBM built the ThinkPad line for professionals and executives. Although ThinkPads were expensive, they were backed up with fabulous support (the phone number was on a tag on the bottom). Despite my T60 carrying the Lenovo brand, it was one of the last units designed by the IBMers. I have always wondered if the next generation of ThinkPads from Lenovo had this legendary quality. I'm inclined to doubt it, but I don't really know.

If I find it necessary to travel regularly again, I won't buy another laptop and that means I won't have an opportunity to test Lenovo's quality. I'm more likely to buy a Microsoft Surface because of its size and weight.

One of the interesting stories about my T60 is that I bought it a year after its introduction from a third-party aggregator. Aggregators take excess stock from manufacturers and companies and then resell them, usually at a substantial discount (I got a huge bargain). Sometimes these PCs are used and sometimes they are new old stock (NOS), which means they are new in the box and never used. In my case, the T60 had been owned by IBM. It had never been issued for use, so IBM sold it to an aggregator. Shortly after I got it I registered the product because as a new item it came with a warranty. This resulted in a call, an actual telephone call, from IBM. IBM's recordkeeping was a tad behind their house cleaning, so they had the serial number on file as theirs and thought I had stolen it. That got my heart going a bit, thinking that the aggregator was the thief and that I was going to lose the money and the computer, but it all worked out.

I will truly miss the T60. It was a perfect servant and a great friend. I doubt I will see its equal in technology during the remainder of my life. RIP.

Tags: Mac Mini, Personal Computers