Flipside of More PC’s: Vista Factor

Here’s something I have written for more than a month now. Obviously it spent a lot of time in the heap of blogging todo stuff. Thankfully I can post a something substantial on the subject already.

A Technology Perspective

When there were noises about Microsoft Vista as early as 2 to 3 years ago, I knew it was not for me. Back then I was already pretty adept at the normal use of Linux just as I was contented with XP. Linux was not that resource hungry and demanding in terms of hardware requirements so the computer geek that I am, (oh the redundancy,) found the OS just right for me. XP on the other hand served other purposes for me such as:

  1. As a full-time developer, I am involved with a lot of proprietary technologies officially supported under windows that ditching the operating system would almost be synonimous with suicide.
  2. I have a notebook that other human beings who understandably find windows more intuitive, also use.
  3. The same users from (2) use the notebook for gaming—a realm that’s still seriously dominated windows.

Given my bias against a platform becoming more and more power hungry, what came out in inquirer.net early last February from Joey Alarilla didn’t surprise me at all. Thanks to an exposure in Linux and a concept paper on Electronic waste for an elective on Environmental Management the past semester, that is. In the inquirer article, Alarilla cites Greenpeace’s opposition to Vista saying that Microsoft “could effectively hasten the obsolescence of half the world’s PCs, especially in the absence of fully-functioning global take back systems for PCs.” The stand isn’t really surprising given that longer life of electronics and computers is typical of Greenpeace’s drive for responsibility among electronics and computer manufacturers.

According to Alarilla:

In the first place, many Filipinos don’t even have access to a basic PC, let alone one powerful enough to run Windows Vista… what’s worse is that this “forced upgrade” that could have a negative impact on the environment is not even the result of software innovation. We can already do many of the things Vista is touted to do with Windows XP and the service packs and patches that are already taking up a lot of space on my PC. I don’t think that our problem with bloatware can be solved by upgrading to new bloatware.

Many of us have dutifully upgraded with every new OS, even when we had doubts that it was worth the hassle. Isn’t it about time we learned to say no?

An Environmental Perspective

So what’s the negative impact of speedy obsolescence of computers with the advent of Vista on the environment? With the higher specifications it requires from hardware intended to run it, environmentalists see more users giving up a lot of computers to acquire those which can accomodate the power-hungry Vista. From an environmental perspective, the introduction of Vista will mean more of the same equipment adding to the problem of e-waste management–something I should add is practically non-existent in this country except for a few ISO-compliant companies which have the budget to spend on it.

Apart from the said corporations and industries however, Philippine society for the most part has no idea on how to go about with the proper disposal of computers which have reached their end-of-lives (EOL.) What would happen when the digital divide becomes less of a social issue and more of the same people who are currently deprived of access to Information Communication and Technology (ICT) equipment?

Perhaps a certain Chinese province called Guiyu provides a glimpse of a very possible scenario. In 2002, Basel Action Network (BAN) brought to international attention the environmental and health hazards caused by exporting disposed ICT equipment. The findings of the study document the “environmental injustice” in Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia. In effect the worldwide attention resulting from Exporting Harm had the Chinese government implementing stricter measures to prohibit the export of discarded electronics as noted by this National Geographic feature on the topic. The latter read on the other hand, primarily focuses on Ghana, a country in western Africa.

As I have written in my concept paper:

A look at present sociocultural indicators among the lowest income members of Philippine society point to a seriously impending e-waste issue… A lot of the factors at Guiyu and Ghana are already present… the still prevalent primitive processing of solid waste and the lack of health precautions and measures among waste workers, and the presence of child labor in the waste trade are all too glaring parallels to ignore… the fact that there are good reasons to believe that given the tighter measures taken by China, the Philippines has already been the destination of illegal e-waste export.

And add to that a large coastline in an archipelago which the authorities have difficulty in securing and one will not find it difficult to understand where the environmentalists are coming from.

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  1. […] Flipside of More PC’s: Vista Factor […]

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