new phone, new e-waste

I really enjoyed my iPhone 5S, to be honest. I liked that it was small enough to fit into any pocket I had. Part of Apple’s business plan appears to be to force older products into landfill by prematurely making them obsolete. And one aspect of that plan seems to be to strong-arm carriers like Comcast to not allow transfers of service onto older phones like mine. It’s too bad, really, because the phone otherwise works well for me.

The reason behind the carrier switch

I’ve recently moved and my Metro PCS (now T-Mobile) service is terrible here. And at $45/month that’s just not something I intend to keep.

Comcast’s up-sell attempt

So in Comcast’s retail store, the guy’s telling me that they can’t won’t transfer my phone number to an iPhone 5. “So how much is your used iPhone 6?“, I ask. (They want $450 plus tax which is so not going to happen.) He then gives me the hard-sell by suggesting that he could only give me the $100 transfer rebate by the end of tomorrow.

Somewhat-frantic used phone search

The next couple of hours involved me trying to find a local business which would sell me a used or refurbished iPhone 6 (noting of course that the iPhone X is the current model). I managed to find that Fry’s Electronics at the local branch had a refurbished one. And of course the sale ends by the end of that same day.

The purchase

So in this world-wind period I immediately jump into my car and visit Fry’s. Indeed, the sale ends on the same day so I’m reasonably forced to make the purchase on-the-spot. Of course, the phone has zero charge so I can’t even really verify that it’s not bricked. The price tag out the door is something like $180, less than half what Comcast would have charged me.

Metro PCS

I get the iPhone 6 home, charge it up (“100%”) and the next morning visit Comcast Metro PCS. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just go straight over to Comcast. Because Comcast won’t just help me in this situation; they insist that the iPhone 6 be provisioned by my losing carrier first. So the Metro PCS people must be told by me that I’m innocently just upgrading my phone on the day before my new payment is due. I’m charged $15 for the changeover.

Comcast

Next stop is Comcast again and they can transfer the phone number. While the number is transferring, the iPhone dies from lack of battery charge. Er, what? It was 100% when I left this morning and I’ve barely used the phone. The iPhone 5S would go days before needing a recharge.

Research time

Back home—and with the phone on the charger again—I discover that Apple had a recall and a class action lawsuit regarding this particular phone with respect to the battery. I contact Apple Support to determine whether or not I can get the battery replaced for free. They indicate that they won’t pay for it but they can assist getting me into the service queue for the local store.

Apple Store

So I arrange the support visit at Apple only to find that I and many other people will be sitting here waiting to be helped for some time. I took the option to drop off my phone and to pick it up the following day.

The next day arrives and I find that I and many other people will be waiting some more to be helped for quite some time. I find it odd that a simple pickup like this took well over an hour. What I find even odder is that Apple would replace a battery and not charge it; the phone arrived with literally 0% charge and no way to determine whether the battery’s health was verifiable. The overworked support person—holding literally four products at once to deliver almost simultaneous to four customers—essentially put me on “ignore” when I indicated that it would be nice to know if my phone was working after the service-related activity. I think I paid $45 plus tax to get out the door.

New phone

So, now I have a new, working iPhone 6. Honestly, I didn’t need a new phone. I felt coerced into the upgrade to be honest.

Of course, then, I designed a new-and-improved holder for this one using Autodesk Fusion 360. It will clip onto the shoulder strap of my laptop bag and suitable for playing music while walking somewhere. I’ll print it on the 3D printer as soon as I get that unboxed and back in action.

Screen Shot 2019-07-05 at 11.29.29 AM

What next? (a.k.a. Combating e-waste)

I really have a hard time with this disposable-technology mentality. If we’re tied to a single operating system like iOS and it’s under Apple’s Machiavellian business plan then we’re left with two viable options: throw it away or change the operating system.

Having searched the Internet, I see no solutions in which someone has replaced iOS on an iPhone with anything like Linux. In theory, an older phone could be hacked as an amazing IoT device of some kind since the camera technology, RAM, processor and storage is killer compared to a Raspberry Pi, for instance. The street price two years ago for a used iPhone 5S was a mere $100 as I recall. So today, the street price of an iPhone 5 should be sub-$100. (I’ve just reviewed an eBay iPhone 4 ad which asks $7 as the price!) Imagine the supercomputer which you could build from a boxful of discarded iPhone 4’s and 5’s.

[Assuming that we’ve replaced iOS on each…] imagine the supercomputer which you could build from a boxful of discarded iPhone 4’s and 5’s…

  • I’m sure the average phone retailer has a stash of these in their back office and would be delighted to remove them from the playing field.
  • You wouldn’t need it to be a phone anymore or to have a carrier.
  • At it’s heart, the average (old) smartphone is a very fast computer with lots of RAM and an amazing camera and hard drive.
  • In the average supercomputer scenario, you wouldn’t worry about batteries since it would be tethered to power. Most battery-related issues could then be ignored.
  • In theory, you could create low-cost projects which involve sending multiple old phones up into the stratosphere via a helium balloon, collecting a 360° views and transmitting them back.
  • Similarly, you could create a drone submarine with a dedicated old phone at every porthole to capture and forward live, streaming video.

I’ll continue to look into this as an option. There has to be a way of hacking these phones. Just imagine the possibilities if you could.

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save the bees, save ourselves

Bee colony numbers have been in decline over the last 70 years. I’d suggest that coverage maps like this are behind one of the reasons.

verizon

Now imagine that you’re a bee and that those signals from the cellphone towers disrupt your ability to navigate. Just like the way that water molecules are targeted to spin in a microwave oven (by carefully tuning the frequency of the radio waves), the tiny magnetic beads in the abdomens of honey bees are the accidental victims in this “marvel” which we call wireless communications. Bees depend upon their own ability to interpret the “feeling” they get when those magnet beads orient themselves in the Earth’s magnetic flux; they are flying compasses if you think about it.

For every particular antenna length, there is a corresponding center frequency upon which it may communicate. The higher the frequency, the smaller the antenna. Conversely, the higher the frequency, the smaller the antenna which will pick up that signal on the receiving end. Today’s race for higher bandwidth and “coverage everywhere” means that wireless communications in the high frequencies used create perfect resonance for those tiny beads and that there’s nowhere for the bees to hide to escape this magnetically-noisy confusion.

History of the cell phone

The real history of the cell phone begins in 1946 when Bell Labs used WWII technology to commercialize wireless telephone in the states. Here is a graph indicating the number of cell phone subscribers from the period beginning in the mid-80s to about 2003.

EstimateCellPhone

Compare this to a graph of the count of bee colonies since 1940, noting that the cell phone was introduced commercially in the year 1946 and would represent the year that cell phone towers started being erected here in the states.

bee-colonies

Where’s the nearest cell tower?

There was a time when you could drive out of the city and immediately be frustrated by a lack of cell phone signal. That’s not so, today. You can drive almost anywhere in the U.S. and get a signal from either your own carrier or someone else’s if you have roaming turned on.

But in our own quest for always staying connected with friends and with work we have really hurt nature this time. We’ve hurt the honey bees’ ability to navigate successfully and they’ve attempted to move away from the disruption, flying further from cities and into zones which are dryer (less irrigated by humans).

Reviewing Verizon’s coverage map above, you realized that there’s nowhere to hide now if you’re a bee. They’ve been pushed to the brink. The further they travel, the less likely there is that there will be water to keep the hive alive and a steady supply of water is crucial for honey production.

What bees mean to us

If you think that bees are only good for creating honey, then think again. Bees are important for our own survival. It is estimated that a third of all food that we eat is pollenated by bees. But then, what about the feed for the chickens and cattle which represents the meat that we eat? The bees pollenate the wheat and the corn as well.

In short: when the bees die off, we’re next.

It’s in our best interest to help the bees as much as we can. We need to learn from our mistakes and to make the tough decisions required for the bees to return in number so that our future will have enough food to eat for our ever-increasing population.

1940-present

Speaking of which, more people means we need more pollination for the food crops and the feed crops, right? There are about three times as many people in the states since 1946 so we’d need the bee colony numbers to increase at the same rate or we’ll be hit by ever-higher food prices, one could suggest. The decreasing bee colony numbers mean that food prices will have inflated more than other consumer items over that same period. If you’re older like myself, you would reasonably agree with me on this one.

Solutions

Lose the towers, change the technology

The best solution would be to radically change our wireless strategy and to ban the use of frequencies which negatively impact honey bees. Given the US$272B which the carriers alone will make in 2018 and the untold amount received in the sales of the phones themselves, it should be impossible to wean these vendors from this business model. Even if you presented the data to them, they wouldn’t believe it. They are simply making too much money from our own daily “need” to take selfies in the Grand Canyon and to instantly upload them to FaceBook or Instagram or similar.

They [the carriers and smartphone manufacturers] are simply making too much money from our own daily “need” to take selfies in the Grand Canyon and to instantly upload them to FaceBook or Instagram or similar.

We’re to blame in this one. A corporation has no soul nor a conscience. We did this to ourselves.

Help the bees in other ways

Perhaps the best thing that we could do is to attempt to help the bees in other ways. This is the approach that I will be taking personally since it’s something that I can hope to accomplish in my lifetime.

Varroa mite

At the moment, hives are under attack from an aggressive mite by the scientific name of Varroa. I am designing prototypes which should hope to help prevent the mite from entering the brood chamber of a typical hive.

A little help from us

Beekeepers typically introduce a foundation sheet of pressed beeswax to make things easier for the bees to start a frame. These sheets may only be shipped from spring to fall since the cold weather will result in frames which have become cracked and brittle. It would be good if beekeepers themselves could create either the foundation sheets themselves or an even better solution.

I’m currently designing 3D-printed molds so that the sheets may be cast in place in the frames in beeswax in the beekeeper’s home (and even during the winter months).

Lowering the cost of beekeeping

Finally, if we as volunteers can introduce free designs into the open source space, beekeepers may take advantage of these designs and to make their own solutions locally. The honey-producing industry includes many vendors who hope to solve the beekeeper’s many problems as they try to remain profitable only these solutions can be quite expensive.

My approach is to provide free solutions and let the beekeepers benefit from my help. By helping them, I’m helping the bees. And when I help the bees, I’m helping myself. I don’t see this as lowering the cost of honey production; I see this as saving the human race, to be honest.