Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dēclīnātiō

Dēclīnātiō - Latin - third declension masculine noun - a swerve, a step to the left; a grammatical construct to indicate the relationship of the noun to verbal phrase; the name of this blog

All roads lead to Berkeley

For a digression on the Silicon Valley, I don't seem to talk much about life on US-101 between Bernal Road in San Jose and Brannan Street in San Francisco.


I have always lived in the Silicon Valley, which may have been done much to influence my outlook on life. It's why I embrace minimalism (in spirit more-so these days than practice). The excesses of being surrounded by the top 3% of income earners on a daily basis affects the way we think. It's no wonder that so many successful techies embrace libertarianism, what with the echo chamber rooting them on the whole way.


My first real foray outside the confines of the bubble occurred in college, when I went fifty miles north, up the east bay (gasp!) and spent four years at UC Berkeley as an undergrad in some engineering discipline or another.


I confess that I once thought that being a libertarian was a clever and thoughtful political position. I am also the co-founder of Lydon Larouche's on-campus club. Such are the vagaries of college fortunes.


I don't want to blog about politics, but I suspect it will color my dēclīnātiōnes. Also, too, there's no such thing as free will.  But we'll get there, one swerve at a time.



Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reuse

While scouring the Internet for inexpensive fiber-optic transceivers (for work), I found that I can buy the parts used at half the price.  I would have preferred to use our old transceivers, but such is the pace of technology that even two Cisco switches, because they are different models, can't share hardware.

The technical details are usually what I try to avoid writing about, so don't worry about what a network switch is, or what a fiberoptic transceiver is. The point is, in order to make sales, Cisco has to change standards to force its customers to buy new hardware, even with incremental upgrades. The trade is so lucrative, that there's a site devoted exclusively to reselling used Cisco parts.  Which means someone, somewhere, upgraded (or dissolved, or looted, I can't know) and then someone, somewhere sold it to this company, who then test that it works, warranties it, and resells it at half the cost.

This amazes me. It's a very different world than home electronics. Laptops are rarely repurposed outside of DIY hobbyists. Desktops aren't even upgraded anymore. Every part is sent to the e-waste dump (or worse, the landfill) and is replaced by nearly identical--if judged by constituent molecular elements--hardware. It too will be junked after it is obsolesced.

I'm also doing a upgrade on my home PC, and like the old-school tinkerer that I am, I'm reusing whatever I can. But this is a major upgrade. Just by replacing the mainboard, I'm shoved down a path of new memory, CPU, and cables.  I even need to get get a different DVD player, as the IDE standard isn't even implemented on newish mainboards.  The only constant is the case and the harddrive. It's like I've gutted it, replaced the organs, but left the skin and memories intact.

Where does this technology take us? The disposable nature of our flatware, phones, and Ikea furniture is changing the way we think our habitation and its environment. Minimalism is difficult in the modern world precisely because its easier in terms of time and treasure to replace than to covet.

I'm not nostalgic for the family television or making the car run despite all signs that it needs to be parked at Pick'n Pull. I'm OK with change. But the massive amounts of usable but useless garbage we're generating boggles my mind. There are no incentives in the system for the frugality. We reward destruction.

Now I think I'll go find a rock to crawl under until the next big thing comes along.