This is a pretty all over the place post about the quarantine in NYC, budget cuts and E-Waste recycling, old Macbooks, RSS feeds and the history of podcasting. If this sounds fun, please read on. It was originally published as a Twitter thread.
We’ve been at home in Brooklyn for two and a half months now. We’ve been lucky and privileged to stay healthy and employed through this crisis. Among other things, as a form of coping I’ve turned to an old and slightly pointless passion of mine: repairing outdated tech.
I used to do this a lot while in college. Get a broken device and fix it, try to sell it on ebay (unsuccesfully). It was fun, but required lots of time and space and money, so hardly compatible with living in NYC. And eventually I ended up in tech so stopped doing it altogether. Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I’m throwing out recycling, and see a box full of laptop parts near the trash chute. A Thinkpad, a Dell and a black Macbook. Screens ripped off. Someone tried hard to make these unusable. Basically an aftermath of the Office Space printer scene.
I tell myself no, I will not get into this. Drop off recycling and go back to apartment. But I can’t resist and go back, just to take a peek at that Macbook. I’m a primarily a PC/Linux user, but that black Macbook always looked so cool and special. Ughh.
So I go and pick it up. The screen’s toast, and the keyboard’s ripped out but seems intact. No HD or RAM or battery of course. I don’t have a charger so can’t check if the motherboard is working. Here we go
A few days later and $40 down I have a replacement screen, 2GB of DDR2 memory and a MagSafe charger. Throw in an old 2.5″ drive from an external HDD and the thing seems to boot up. Need an OS, and it’s missing a whole bunch of screws hence the rubber band on the right.
Now, Apple put the Snow Leopard ISO on @internetarchive so I get it working pretty quickly. I find out the keyboard/touchpad aren’t working because the little ribbon cable connecting them to do motherboard is bust. Maybe that’s why the previous owner was so angry at this machine?
Anyway, as I’m sourcing a replacement ribbon cable and battery, I’m thinking about the rest of the laptops and how they should be properly recycled, even if they’re unfixable. So I go check what’s the deal with e-waste during the pandemic.. SUSPENDED (amny.com/coronavirus/co…)
During normal times, NYC hosts seasonal SAFE events where you can safely dispose of e-waste and other dangerous trash. They also do scheduled pickups. They assume everyone drives to them, but otherwise they are great events.
@NYCSanitation suspended all e-waste recycling until at least June 30, 2021! This is with all the other horrific budget cuts like cancelling summer camps, #SYEP, composting, education and health cuts, basically everything other than @NYPDnews
The impact of these cuts is hard to comprehend. Just the composting suspension will redirect 59,000 tons of residential scraps to landfills, and it affects both community (e.g. Greenmarket) and mandatory composting. Sign a petition to save it here: (bigreuse.nationbuilder.com)
Meanwhile, the efforts to save e-waste recycling are getting much less attention. In the middle of all this, @lesecologyctr was forced to close down their Gowanus e-waste warehouse after 9 years. They are having an appointment only sale through June: (lesecologycenter.org/electronics-sa…)
So I made the though call and didn’t grab the rest of those laptops as there is nothing I can responsibly do with them. At the moment it is both illegal to throw out electronics with trash in NYC, and impossible to recycle them unless you’re a business with $$ to spend. Back to the 2006 black Macbook… After getting it running, I was thinking of what to do with it and figured this might be a good chance to pair it with my 3rd gen iPod from 2003! I got this from a friend in 2008 and never got to use it with a Macbook, so, why not?
Now, an interesting thing about these is they primarily used FireWire to charge and transfer music. They came with two cables connected to a single port, one USB, one FW. So you could connect it to a charger with FW, and USB to computer. Or just FireWire to computer.
I was excited to charge it and transfer music using a single FW cable! I never got to do this when I used this iPod with a PC. However, no luck. I had to upgrade iTunes to get it to work, and Apple disabled FW support on later versions (discussions.apple.com/thread/3802750)
The FW port is sort of useless for an iPod in 2020. Interestingly, the iPod does seem to detect it and shows the “Do not disconnect” message, but the computer doesn’t mount it or indicate it’s connected in any way.
So I come up with another challenge. Can we get this 2014 version of iTunes to download a podcast and then sync it to this 2003 iPod? It’s how the podcasts got their name, so it has to work, right!? A bit of personal history. My first intro to podcasting happened in 2007 when I attended a podcasting workshop in Zagreb hosted by @MaMa_Zagreb and led by @bicyclemark and @timpritlove. Podcasting was such a strange and DIY thing back then!
@bicyclemark is one of those rare podcasting pioneers who is still on air after almost 17 years. I remember listening to his amazing stories from around the world and feeling like I’m getting to experience something unique and special. His dispatches still have that quality! Anyway, back to 2006 Macbooks and 2003 iPods. Podcasts are, or rather, podcasts used to be just audio files published with an RSS feed, that wonderful web 2.0 technology that brought us blogs and news and was then promptly obliterated by Facebook and Twitter
Now, many podcasts still have an RSS feed somewhere, even though so many are moving to centralized platforms like Spotify. And of course @bicyclemark has an RSS feed right on the website! Here’s what those look in Chrome which doesn’t read RSS anymore (citizenreporter.org)
So, even though by 2014 (the version of iTunes I installed) Apple already had their podcasting walled garden, they still had a legacy function of manually subscribing to a podcast by pasting their RSS URL… And it still works!
And here we go. With just the RSS feed I downloaded the latest episode of @bicyclemark‘s show. He’s been putting out many episodes during the pandemic and I feel so privileged to hear from him and dispatches from his guests from around the world.
Now, why am I downloading the podcast onto an iPod? Well, the way you used to do this whole thing is you would sync your iPod every day, or every few days, and the computer would download the latest episodes for you! Hence — podcasting
In any case, I’m now going to enjoy this episode of @citizenreporter and for those of you who’ve made it to the end, I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey through my chaotic pandemic electronics repair hobby. (citizenreporter.org/2020/05/tony-p…)