Categories
Recycling Simplicity

When Older is Better

I took the opportunity to visit the computing section of a major store yesterday. Reader John had posted on Facebook about how laptops have gotten to the point where not even the keyboards are easily replaceable so I wanted to confirm his complaint. To my dismay, every single laptop offered for sale was designed in a way to make replacing the keyboards on modern laptops difficult to impossible. The entire machine would have to be dismantled just to get to that one failure-prone component. Thank you for bringing that to my attention, John!

In the past, laptops were designed so that someone skilled in computer hardware could replace a number of components. Keyboards, hard drives, RAM, and other components could be swapped out–not necessarily with ease, but it could be done. That is no longer the case today; computer manufacturers don’t want us to hold on to our machines so they’ve designed them to be almost impossible to repair. Given the prices I noted during my visit to the store yesterday, it wouldn’t even pay to have a tech replace the components.

Software has reached a similar point in evolution. If you want the “latest and greatest” version of Microsoft Office, you have to pay a monthly fee for the priviledge. The same goes for Adobe and a number of other programs. You can’t even enjoy a simple game of Solitaire without either paying for a subscription or being barraged with ads.

One of the saddest aspects of this reality is that it has gotten to the point where those who possess an older computer have an advantage. With the exception of the Front-side Bus (FSB) and a few other areas, older systems are actually faster and more powerful than the new ones being pushed upon us. The software that came bundled with those older computers didn’t require the payment of a monthly fee just to have access to the programs, either. Even better, you didn’t have to deal with hateful advertising whenever you wanted to relax and play the simplest game.

Software companies realized this. That is why they’ve eliminated the ability for these older computers to go online. It is nigh on impossible to get Windows XP to even go online these days; the last time I reinstalled XP I had to fight just to get it to activate. One of the last safe-havens in Microsoft, Windows 7, will soon face that fate as well.

I refuse to participate in this nonsense. Forcing people to view ads or pay for subscriptions only serves to line the coffers of multi-million dollar corporations. Forcing people to discard computers because they have been designed to be irreparable contributes to the destruction of our environment and only serves to rob the average person of money that they could better use elsewhere.

I started my personal rebellion by deciding to keep my ancient Windows XP laptop in service. It was the only operating system that could support the expensive multi-meter software I purchased for my computer repair business, as well as being the only operating system that could play some very old games I liked to play from the days of Windows 95/98. I’d also invested in an old copy of Microsoft Office and some other programs that I didn’t want to have to purchase again so instead of discarding that old laptop I kept it around. The speakers are shot on it now but I just connect an external speaker when I need sound.

I will use that laptop until it dies. If I have to I will dig up an older XP desktop so that I can avoid having to spend $$$$ on replacing that software because no damn tech company is going to force me to buy their damned subscriptions.

When I decided to purchase a desktop computer, I purchased a refurbished business machine. For under $400 I bought a desktop that blows away the specs on modern desktop computers. It came with Windows 10, which allows me to go online in relative safety when the need arises. I’ve already went through a couple of keyboards since I purchased it so the decision to go with a desktop was obviously a good one.

Thanks to Reader John, I will aim for older refurbished systems should I ever decide to purchase another laptop. I want to be able to repair my systems at least to a degree. I refuse to contribute to the madness by making the tech companies richer than I have to. Even better, it will keep those older systems out of a landfill for a few more years.

If you find yourself in the market for a new system I urge you to consider the purchase of a refurbished business-class desktop or laptop. Those systems are designed to be somewhat repairable. You can locate videos online if you want to do it yourself. If you happen to have an older system already (and have no need for the software it currently contains) you may want to consider installing Linux in it instead of purchasing new. Linux has grown to the point where they even offer it on new laptops these days (the OS in Chromebooks is Linux), so it is easy to install and use now.

Whatever you do, do not encourage the hardware and software companies to continue this madness. Don’t let them bully you into paying for a subscription or buying a new computer. If enough of us boycott them, hopefully they will end this madness. If not, at least we will be hitting them where it hurts–right in their wallets.

Categories
Frugality

Why I Cancelled Netflix

It was the 1980’s. Dad and I were driving along when I spied a video rental store that had recently opened.

“Why don’t we rent a movie sometime?” I suggested.

“Makes no damn sense to pay to use something when you can spend a little bit more and actually own it,” Dad retorted.

“But you can watch more things for the same amount of money,” I argued.

“And have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end of the day,” Dad countered.

Over the years I’ve tried it both ways. I’ve rented movies, used subscription services…. What could be easier than just paying a few bucks to watch your favorite movies or listen to music?

The answer: actually owning the items in question. When you own the items you can watch them as often as you like. You don’t have to worry about the service you subscribe to removing your favorites or lose access to your whole collection because you happen to be low on money.

Even better, you can sell your copies if you decide you no longer want to keep them or need some extra cash.

Because of this revelation I have cancelled my movie and music subscriptions. I would rather own just a few items than pay to have access to a lot.

Instead of sending money to subscription services, I set that money aside for when I get a chance to look through the bargain bins. Some months I don’t add anything to my collection while others reveal so many hidden gems that I force myself to select only a few.

DVDs
My latest acquisitions.

Minimalism is a good thing but it gets ridiculous when you pay something for nothing. Since most of us don’t live out of backbacks there is no excuse for us to throw our money away when it comes to entertainment.

In short: If you’re going to spend your hard-earned cash on entertainment, get something to show for it at least. You can always sell it on eBay when you’re done.