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.

Cleaning on the Cheap

For most surfaces, Ivory soap and water cleans just fine. For heavier cleaning jobs I use Fels Naptha soap or Octagon Soap.  Lather it on, let it sit for a few moments on really grungy stuff, then scrub a bit and rinse.

For windows, take a bucket of warm water, add a small squirt of dishwashing liquid and swish to mix.

Wipe on windows with a cloth, then either use a squeegee or another cloth to dry. I generally clean all of my windows and mirrors at once using this mixture.

Back in the old days people used just regular soap like lye soap or Ivory Soap to clean almost everything, so I’m trying to learn from them and save money in the process. While I have discovered that Ivory soap is an excellent all-purpose cleaner, for tougher jobs Fels Naptha of Octagon Soap are MUCH better. 

I no longer use paper towels, and instead use cloth.  A wash with a cup of ammonia in the water instead of bleach really gets them clean!  Ammonia also makes for a good color-safe “bleach”—it really helps to clean your clothes, and it does not leave a scent! Also, ammonia only costs about a dollar per half-gallon, half the price of the equivalent in bleach (less than half for the color-safe variety).

Instead of fabric softener I use a half-cup of vinegar in the rinse for my whites.  I still have a lot of fabric softener left from where I purchased a gallon last year, so I dilute it half and half with water and use it sparingly in my colors.  At this rate that gallon will last me another year or longer!

I wash dishes with a bar of Octagon soap these days.  A bar costs 79 cents and lasts a while!  I’ve been using this bar for a month on my dishes as well as for general cleaning, and it is still over halfway intact! Considering that a bottle of dishwashing liquid costs several dollars anymore that is a considerable savings!

To deodorize my home I take used coffee grounds, dry them and place them in old socks that I place around like sachets to absorb bad odors.  Fresh coffee grounds actually work better, so occasionally I mix a little in with my used ones, but used grounds are much more frugal—it is something you would normally throw away or compost!

To freshen my carpets and keep insects at bay I sprinkle Borax on them and use a broom to rub it into the carpet.  I like to leave this on at least for an hour, but I frequently leave in in the carpet for a day or more. Not only does this help with odors in the carpet, but if insects walk on it, they will lick it off of their feet and it will kill them. Not sure of the science behind it, but I did use it to eliminate a flea infestation in this place when I moved here.

To treat my laundry stains I dip a bar of Fels Naptha in water then rub it on the damp stain.  It works really well—if not better than all of those expensive pre-treaters they have in the laundry section.

I do use Bon Ami scrubbing powder on tough spots on the stove—it seems to have a bit more power than baking soda or salt, but otherwise those two things are what I use for scouring powder.

My floor is washed in a vinegar and water solution, but I tend to mix this up with a borax and water solution to continued insect control.  Living out in the county I feel prevention is better than dealing with an insect infestation.

I do have some commercial cleaners that I purchased the other year.  I occasionally drag them out to try on this or that, but my current cleaners tend to do better than the fancy commercial stuff I’m afraid.  I’m not sure what I do with the leftover cleaners as a result—I hate the thought of wasting them!

One commercial product I still use is OdoBan.  I keep it diluted in a spray bottle and use it for serious odors or whenever I want to kill some germs.  I worked  for a cleaning company once and they used it to even kill smoke odors for a fire, and in daycares to eliminate the urine smells in the bathroom.  You can buy pre-mixed bottles at Wal Mart but I get it by the gallon at Sam’s Club because it is much cheaper this way and lasts a long time.

What frugal products to you use for cleaning?