With the revelations that the Chinese government knew about Covid-19 as early as November 2019, and the damning evidence showing extreme abuse of the 1-3 million muslim women, men and children being held in concentration camps in Xinjiang, many are wondering how to cut ties with China or to reduce their dependence on Chinese goods and services. Cheap is cheap, as they say, but the cost at this point is to health and morality.
Unfortunately for computers there's not an easy answer. Most computer components or products are produced largely or in part in China, with both Apple, Google and other major tech companies heavily invested in the chinese tech infrastructure. The supply lines to and from China run so deep that at this stage it would take a war to disrupt them. Add to that the fact that most of the world's rare earth production (magnets, etc) come from China and it's hard to distance tech at large from the abusive power structure in place there.
So what can you do? Well, the three 'R's help: Reuse, Repurpose or Recycle. All three of these reduce income to China. Re-use is easy; computers as a whole have not progressed significantly in terms of performance since 2010. We reached a brick wall in terms of how fast electrons could be pushed and all changes since then have been largely architectural. That means that a computer from 2020 may only be ~50% faster than one 2010, in terms of raw processing power.
But there is one new technology that has dramatically increased overall system performance over the past ten years, and that is the Solid State Drive or SSD. These replacements for regular mechanical hard drives (the storage mechanism in your computer) are roughly 10x faster and greatly improve overall system performance while re-using the rest of your computer. Mechanical hard drives have a median lifespan of about 6 years, and cloning your existing setup to an SSD drive is a 2-hour job tops, so it's a no-brainer really.
Other system components such as power supplies or motherboards in computers may also fail, and they can also be replaced in most cases. If they can't, the second-hand market for computers is currently overstocked on machines as little as 5 years old, so if you want to increase your Reuse of computers, it can be a good idea to get a second hand machine and just replace the hard drive with an SSD.
Older surplus computers can also be Repurposed by tech-savvy individuals as backup servers, media centers for your tv, or educational computers for kids. Kids can actually learn a lot from taking apart and putting back together old computers, with the supervision of a knowledgeable adult. Lastly we reach recycling, for which there are many outfits in or around Hamilton. Some will repurpose or on-sell computer equipment when able, others will simply strip the machines for metal and sell that to metal recyclers. Either way it's better than chucking it in the dump. Of course, most of the metal goes back to China.
Personally I sometimes recommend off-lease computers, such as the ones available through PBtech, as viable replacements for clients if their needs are not high (provided the age of the replacement is < 4 years). I also occasionally build new computers using upcycled cases, power supplies and DVD drives (neither of which age significantly). It's not much, but at this point, anything one can do to reduce dependence on corrupt states such as China will help the world long-term.
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