Monthly Archives: October 2013

Every electronic item has built in obsolescence

– Thank the EU

There is indeed planned obsolescence in electronics and its not “designed in” by the manufacturer. It’s all due to something called “tin whiskers”.

Solder is used to attach electronics components to circuit boards. If solder is made from pure tin then that solder will, over time, grow those whiskers. They look like exactly what they sound like: a long hair or filament of pure tin grows out of the solder itself.

Clearly and obviously, given the ease with which tin conducts electricity, this isn’t really something you want happening on a motherboard or inside a piece of electronics. For when the whisker grows long enough it will short out that piece of electronics. And yes, this does happen and the mean time before failure (MTBF) of a board built with a pure tin solder is some 3 to 4 years.

Now, we do know how to solve this: we add lead to the tin to make the solder. But what has happened in the past few years? Correct, led by the European Union, who banned the use of lead solders in consumer electronics, the world now uses pure tin solders.

So by deliberate design we’ve had the entire consumer electronics industry building boards and devices with that “planned” obsolescence. There are those of us who did warn about this before the law was passed but sadly we weren’t taken note of. The major reason why consumer electronics now has a shorter working life than it could do is simply that the EU and thus the law says it must be so.

So there is planned obsolescence in consumer electronics not because it’s been planned by the consumer electronics companies. You can thank the EU and especially green and environmentalists activists instead.

Why I don’t like tablet computers – there I’ve said it but its not completely true.

Actually it’s not that I don’t like them, I just can’t justifying using one, They do everything you want – almost, and thats the problem the almost bit.

Let me explain:

If you look at what you use any form of IT for it falls into a few categories, work, play, research and presentations. You could argue that there is just work and play but that would sound like a Mars bar advert, especially if I put “Rest” in, but to me rest is sleep, not watching a film or TV, so I will go with my four groups.

is composing letters, working on spreadsheets, examining accounts and performances, dealing with staff, customer reationship management and of course email. Only the latter really works on a tablet, but then a smartphone is good too as you can write twitter-like immediate replies and leave the deep thought replies for the office, So I am afraid that my smartphone and Desk PC win that round.

But before we leave work lets see what a tablet does that a phone and desktop can’t do. If I was an insurance salesman, Estate agent or similar I can show you things on it. If you are medical or an engineer you can take it with you for viewing things and making comments. In meetings it’s good but as a  consultant I need to keep eye contact, look at the client and make notes. For them it’s a tablet, for me pen and paper.

lets get this knocked on the head quickly, I  don’t care how angry the birds are, I don’t play games, I watch TV and films on a wide screen with cinema surround sound, I don’t need a navigational system for boats, If I YouTube, Facebook then I need a keyboard or I use my phone. If I need to research on Google or Wikipedia then I need a keyboard, I am impatient and a non tactile tiny keyboards are not my friends.

This is for Google or finding things that pop in your mind when working. If I am watching a film then I immerse myself and don’t need to be tapping away, OK I know there is a picture of me using a laptop in the same room as the family were watching TV but I was being sociable, I was there and not enjoying the film, so I did some research to save the results on the server for later.

Yes I do them, yes I have to use PowerPoint but a). you need a mouse, keyboard and good screen to create it and b). You are stuffed when it goes wrong. My favourite pastime at 6:30 am business meetings, apart from the breakfast, is seeing people reading from a tablet and then rotating the tablet like they are trying to reach launch speed for a frisbee.   

I recently had the agony of watching someone with a tablet try to connect it to a projector and after 30 minutes delay he gave up, he then had to proceed using a 7″ screen to a room of 30 people and he did the frisbee launch speed trick too, three times. Not good.

In case this turns in to a PowerPoint blog I would like to point out that I prefer using the power of my speech, visual aids, like the items I am talking about or handouts at the poignant point. I love technology but as the MD of a leading 30year old IT company that covers two counties from two centres the last thing I need is to be let down by technology. It happened once, a presentation to the University just at the point that Microsoft thought I needed an update in a non broadband site.

My real point really is; I don’t dislike them but every time there is an offer such as a Hudl at £60 worth of Tesco vouchers and Carphone £49 while stocks last I think “now is the time”. I then do the justification exercise and think, do I really need a desktop, a laptop, a mobile phone AND a tablet? The answer is no, I can’t justify it, I wont use it and I lug enough stuff around anyway, even my own mustard but thats another story.

So the laptop lives in the house, my desktop in the office and the phone in my pocket with me at all times. My phone? its my satnav, mp3 player, I wat films on it when I am stuck in a waiting room. Its battery lasts two days, its a Samsung S3, why the hell would I want another gadget which isn’t a replacement for the others, besides raising a large package to my ear to take calls woulds be silly.

Sorry I have no need for a tablet and I am reminded of a clients response when I told her we had bought a pasta maker “Oh everyone bought one years ago, took a while to work out it wasn’t much good, they are all gathering dust in a cupboard now”, she was right too but I didn’t think so at the time. Anticipation is always better than acquisition.

Funny how prices go up rapidly when business picks up or Clients are forced to upgrade.

Take in the following information:
Business is recovering
The “fun” of Tablet computing has peaked
Windows XP is soon to be end of life.
Microsoft have discontinued Small Business Server
Microsoft Server 2003 is nearing end of life and there’s still plenty of it out there

I’ve noticed IT hardware prices are rising faster than electricity bills! – Obviously cashing in on the end of XP & Small business server.

Just had some quotes back and checked on a few prices such as Dell. It would appear that now things are picking up in IT and the fun of Business Tablet computing has peaked (Have you really tried making an excel spreadsheet on one?) coupled with the fact that there are lots of creaking Server 2003 systems out there, let alone dying XP machines and you have an upswing all gives you a chance to boost prices.

We are looking at putting our prices up too as our supplies are coming in at higher prices. We, like everyone, kept our prices on the low side, usually undercutting Dell with a better machine for £5 less. When the pressure on pricing eases and your supplies go up the you have no choice. It’s just when and how much. We are looking at putting ours up before Christmas as most businesses are focused on parties (£150 per employee tax free I read on Linkedin). We think we will go up around 10% but one of the quotes I had back for a standard i5 system with poor upgrade and small power supply from a large national competitor are going up a wacking 25%, yes 25%. That’s an extra £152.