Bits & Bytes

Here are the facts on recycling computer equipment.

Bits and Bytes

Some issues never go away. They evolve, sometimes in unexpected ways. Here’s an update on several issues we’ve covered recently ... recycling, UCITA, security and power.

The number of personal computers in landfills has been on the rise. It was a hot issue for a while last year. What you may not have heard, though, is that there have been positive developments.

IBM, Dell Computers and Hewlett-Packard are going green and introducing or developing programs that will make it easier to dispose of obsolete PCs. The terms and procedures vary depending on whether you’re a company of some size or an individual. IBM, for example, will take back any brand of obsolete PC from individuals and small business owners for about $30, which includes shipping costs. All you have to do is call UPS to pick up the device, which is then taken to Envirocycle, a firm in Hallstead, Pennsylvania.

Dell accepts its outdated equipment if your firm has 20 or more employees, and Hewlett-Packard, which already has a recycling program for its large customers, will have one for individual customers soon.

The issue of establishing standards in software licensing negotiations, on the other hand, promises to be hot this year. Proponents and detractors say the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) will face decisive battles. In a previous column, we mentioned that it had been adopted by Virginia and Maryland. A handful of states, including Texas, Oregon and Washington, need to adopt it for momentum to continue.

Once adopted, though, the legislation is proving hard to modify. Reported ComputerWorld, opponents were unsuccessful in reshaping UCITA requirements in Virginia. A study commission rejected many proposed amendments, but it did not approve a provision that overturned a requirement for all software contracts to be renegotiated in the event of an acquisition or merger.

Opponents have major concerns about UCITA’s allowance of "self-help" and whether it would increase costs. These factors could stall or stop this legislation, which may or may not be good news to you.

Self-help is a feature that lets software developers reach in to your computers and disable their programs. They can, in effect, go in, "in the middle of the night," to do this — and you can’t stop them. The act gives developers broad discretion for doing so, regardless of the cost to you. Some software customers claim the costs will be in the millions of dollars, which, of course, proponents question.

Because this proposed law will have such a huge impact on all businesses, it’s important to make your feelings known, pro or con, to your state legislature.

Security issues regarding the Internet are still with us, but now you have to guard your wireless Pocket PCs and Palm Pilots. Wireless security is still in its infancy. And much of the responsibility for it rests with carriers and wireless device manufacturers. The big danger here is with viruses that could disrupt device operation, especially as you’re logging inventory data or fulfilling a pick list. Just-in-case plans are needed for your just-in-time data logging.

And, lastly, while California legislation has contributed to the state’s energy debacle, it’s not the only factor. Internet-based services are also a culprit as they gulp huge amounts of electricity. A data center, for example, can consume 60 megawatts, an amount often used by steel plants. Plus, data centers can be up and running within 60 days, quickly straining the power grid.

Data centers, Web sites, supply chains, wireless connections — state governments need to look into their readiness to handle deregulated energy to meet these business needs. In the Golden State, Intel announced it won’t expand its manufacturing capacity until the state can provide reliable energy. Power companies in the Midwest and Northeast may fare better as years of inclement weather have taught them the need for good load management tools. But don’t forget energy in your Internet-based plans. It will be years before Web-connecting devices are energy efficient and the current spikes of deregulation smooth out.

Leslie Langnau

senior technical editor

[email protected]

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