Saturday, January 21, 2012

Doing My Part

I was disappointed reading articles in the Toledo Blade about the new I-Phone 4. It reads as if it would be reasonable to drop a few hundred dollars upgrading from a 3 to a 4. You can talk to the phone and ask questions. It's got a dual core processor. Blah, blah, blah. Aren't commercials supposed to be for the advertising section? An I-Phone 3 is a lot more than the phone I have. Where I stand I wasn't even going to go out and get a 3. And yet it's reasonable for people to consider upgrading from a 3 to a 4?

Why is it even considered rational to make such a move? I'll tell you why. Because our economy is structured such that we must consume more and more, even if that means disposing of perfectly good stuff. And so we are bombarded by propaganda that tries to convince us to make this irrational choice. And that propaganda works.

Is this sustainable? Absolutely not. We are going to have to figure out a way to have an economy that doesn't rely on this kind of thing. Right now we extract the equivalent of 112 Empire State Building's worth of material from the ground EVERY DAY to meet our consumptive needs. This can't continue. Don't fall for the propaganda. Do you really need a new phone or computer every year? Most people don't.

It's probably bad for the overall economy to fail to consume. But it's good for you personally. And it's good for the environment. Here are a few of the ways I try to resist temptation and keep my old crap working.

This is what I drive. A 1995 Ford Windstar. About 160K miles. Does the A/C work? No. Passenger window? No. Washer fluid pump? No. How about the heat? Not really. That's my own fault. I put the wrong thermostat in it. In fact the speedometer is a bit flaky. OK, this is maybe pushing it. I should make sure it's safe. My wife doesn't drive it. But let me tell you. I love this vehicle. Why? It's paid for and it works. Monthly insurance is nothing. It gets me to work every day. I don't need a new car even though a new one would be nice. But why waste the money and resources?

1995 is a long time ago and there's a lot of technology that this van lacks. But that can be remedied. For me GPS and an ability to plug in an audio device via an aux jack is nice, so I've added that as you can see. Not done in an especially pretty way, but it works. There's something about just continuing with this POS that gives me a thrill. I love parking it at work. A lot of people where I work are well paid. Most drive nice, newer cars. I'm paid decent. I make enough to get something nicer. People that make less than me and have more debt than me drive nicer cars. But I don't want to because I don't need it.

I splurged and bought an ipod touch on my birthday. Two and a half years ago. It works just exactly as it did when I bought it. Just as fast as it ever was. You can watch Netflix on it. Youtube videos are crystal clear. Do people think they need a new one to replace something like this every time an upgrade is released? The phone next to it does need to be replaced. It's 2 years old and apparently the processor can barely handle the OS. I've literally had the phone fail to ring because the processor can't keep up. So I'll get a new one shortly. But if in fact it worked now as it did when I got it I wouldn't replace it. It's a really great device.

Recently I was concerned that I'd need to get a new desktop computer. That kind of annoys me because I would think it should be easy to just buy components and upgrade. But it seems they are designed in a way that encourages you to discard them.

I bought mine in 2007 and it runs Windows Vista, which is flaky. I just had to wipe the HD 2 months back, and it's already acting strangely again. I was afraid I'd need to get a newer one. Five years is probably a typical lifetime for a desktop computer. But I was pricing new ones and to get one that has the kind of hardware I have was still going to be $400. I realized I can just buy Windows 7 for $120 and I think it should be good to go. This hardware can last a good length of time. But you do need to keep it clean. Every now and then take off the side panel and use the vacuum cleaner to get the dust out of there, especially in the CPU area. My CPU fan was kicking on constantly trying to keep the CPU cool. Now that I've cleaned it it never turns on.

My laptop is the same story. I have a Sony Vaio. I bought it in 2002. It has a 1.2 GHz processor and 256 meg of RAM. Not enough to run a modern Windows operating system. But an OS can be upgraded. Like with Ubuntu, which is not too processor intensive. As is the case for the desktop I think you can keep it running for a long time if you keep the dust out of it. Here's my processor fan prior to cleaning. It had been shutting down because it was overheating. Now it runs full tilt indefinitely. So now I can use this 10 year old laptop and it can still do most of what I need a computer to do.

This is my old GPS. Bought it in May of 2007. Still runs great. See the little USB port? That connector broke. I'm really not particularly good at fixing stuff like this, but a friend of mine happened to have access to the right connector for the board and another friend pried the thing apart and soldered the new connector on. Some of the trim broke in the process, but that doesn't bother me a bit. It's still going.

I hear a lot of people say "I'm the kind of person that really likes to have the latest and greatest, so that's why I've spent money on this upgrade." Yeah, you are that kind of person. And so are most people. And the reason we are that kind of people is because we are bombarded with advertising that is just really good at convincing us that we want and need the latest and greatest. Even when upgrading is not really necessary. We're subjected to this because it's profitable. But it's not good for us or for the environment.


HispanicPundit said...

My car is 12 years old. Paid for too. And unlike your fancy iphone's, I actually have the Hero. The phone there pictured next to your fancy iphone.

Yeah, you rich limousine liberal you! :-)

Jon said...

Way to go man. Fight the power.

My phone is the Hero. Next to it is my 2.5 year old iTouch. I don't have an iPhone. The touch works amazingly. I love it.

But I'm due for a phone upgrade and considering the iPhone. They screw you with these upgrade plans.

HispanicPundit said...

Hahaha. Same here. Even (probably) going to get the misses one.

I'm weak, I know.

Jon said...

So I went to get a new iPhone. It's $200 + $36 activation. I was going to do it. Then they tell me "Also $10/mo for 'premium data' when you make this upgrade." That was it. I had to draw the line and this crossed it. I stick with my old phone.

William said...

Hi Jon, Loved this article as I also like to get my value out of purchases. As it happens I did recently got the latest iPhone, but it is my first such device, which I got because its functionality is a help to me. I will use it until it breaks. Have to say going my your comments the USA networks really screw you if you use an iPhone. Over here in the UK while the phone may cost more than other handsets the actual monthly contracts do not. My car is a 1997 Skoda Felicia. I get laughed at my my colleague most of whom drive BMWs or similar, but in 15 years of use my little Skoda has never broken and is simple enough that I can do the servicing myself (which I do for enjoyment not cost).

William said...

Oops sorry about the bad English in my last post!!! Looks like it was typed by a chimp.

Jon said...

Hi William. I had to look up your car because Skoda is not sold here. Actually I'd never heard of it. Glad you enjoyed the article. Just keep driving that thing. I'll be driving this van for a long time hopefully.