June 14, 2008

How to recycle old PC hardware, freaky style

Here is a scenario: At your organization you have just finished a forklift upgrade of all your old enduser workstations.  You have wiped the drives (using DBAN or some other great software) and now want to be green and recycle the machines.  Since you've nuked the operating system and software off the machines, they are totally useless now, or are they...

(Photo Credit: Michael Surran - Extra Ketchup on Flickr

FreeGeek of Portland, Oregon has come up with a distribution plan that they call the "Freekbox".  Using donated parts, they build machines that have a similar range of processing power and load up Ubuntu Linux, which is rich with multimedia and productivity applications.  So a box that wouldn't run Vista in a corporate environment is now screaming along running Linux and keeping it out of a landfill.  Huzzah!  FreeGeek's criteria for their "Freekbox" machines are this:

  • Processor speed: 1.5 - 2.2 ghz
  • 256 MB RAM
  • 20 - 30 GB hard drive
  • CD-R/RW drive
  • Floppy disk drive
  • 17 inch color monitor
  • 56k internal Modem
  • 10/100 Network card
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Speakers

For the people that they've adopted to receive these machines, this is a real godsent.  Since almost all of this hardware is most likely not ROHS compliant (i.e. this stuff is usually full of lead, arsenic and other toxic stuff), it keeps it out of the landfills for as long as possible.  Having a similar operating environment on all the machines keeps the support for this volunteer organization very manageable.  They also hold clinics on how to build computers, which helps expand their volunteer base and gives people marketable skills.  Kudos!