Monthly Archives: December 2011

Acer Giveaway: Aspire S3 Ultrabook

Acer Aspire S3 (courtesy Microsoft)

Acer is giving away its new Aspire S3 Ultrabook everyday until Dec. 31 from the Acer Facebook page. Super quick and easy entry, so its worth visiting and entering, which you can do every day.

This is a gorgeous Windows 7 PC, meeting very specific Intel criteria to be categorized as an Ultrabook, weighing less than 3 pounds and only 13 millimeters. The new Acer Aspire S3 Zenbook is one of the thinnest notebooks on the market. It ships with Windows 7 Home Premium and takes advantage of low-voltage Intel Core i-series processors to deliver real processing power, a 1.5-second wake-up time from sleep, and up to seven hours of battery life.

Check it out: https://www.facebook.com/Acer?sk=app_297878640224800

The Gadget Afterlife: Sell, Donate or Recycle Old Electronics

Give new life to your old devices this holiday season. 

Like many families, we have a gadget drawer, which recently morphed into a gadget closet, bursting with random cables and power cords, prehistoric gadgets, archaic mobile phones, old-school PDAs (remember the Palm Pilot?) and obsolete computers the size of baby elephants. So, before we whipped out the wallets this Christmas for our next “gotta have it” gadget, my husband and I agreed that these old devices deserve an afterlife.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that over 200 million pieces of computer parts are being generated annually — and growing. Yet, only 18 percent is being recycled, leaving over 150 million pieces of equipment (e-waste) in our landfills every year. I’ve seen how toxic this waste can be if it isn’t managed properly, so I did some digging and learned how to do it safely.

Generally, we have three options: sell, donate, recycle. Craigslist and eBay are great options for selling, but it’s too time-consuming for our crazy busy family, so we’ve opted to donate some and recycle the rest.

Donate: Giving Back One Device at a Time

My husband and I both work in the computing industry, where innovation happens fast. As soon as we bring home a new device, technology advancements lure us to the next shiny object. So most of the gadgets we have in our household are still considered current and can easily be donated to charity.

My favorite charity is Goodwill Industries, and we make a run at least twice a year. I recently learned that Dell partnered with Goodwill to develop the Reconnect Program, which fosters responsible e-waste recycling by keeping electronics out of landfills and preventing them from being dumped overseas. The program also goes a long way to create green jobs, provides training and educational programs, and helps employ people with disabilities or other barriers to employment. Dell says the Reconnect Program offers more than 2,000 donation locations for all kinds of used computer equipment and they accept any brand in any condition, including just about any computing peripheral. You can get a firsthand look at your impact by using the “Calculate Your Impact” tool located on the Goodwill site. I checked, and donating a working computer to this program amounts to 6.9 hours of training and education for someone in need. If you itemize your taxes, you may also be eligible for a tax deduction through qualified programs. Check with your certified tax specialist to get details if this is the route you go.

Other charity options include Recycle for Charities, an eco-friendly site with a “give back” mantra. Just round-up your donation (old cell phones, PDAs, iPods, digital cameras, etc.), select your charity, print out the ready-made shipping label and tax donation forms, then ship. Similarly, Close the Gap makes reused and refurbished computers available to underprivileged people in Africa and other developing countries. And Digital Links has distributed more than 50,000 reused computers to the developing world and provided access to technology for over 125,000 people.

Recycling: It’s Easier than You Might Think

All electronics, working or not, should be recycled properly if you decide not to sell or donate them. Throwing away any electronic device is dangerous and hazardous. Most electronics contain significant levels of toxic materials like mercury, lead, sulfur, and silicon and beryllium oxide that may be harmful to the environment, animals living in it, and to us.

As you might imagine, Dell is a big proponent of recycling computers, too, and has a full-page dedicated to the options. From store credits to refurbished PCs, this site gives you many options for doing the right thing. Sony has conveniently located boxes at select store locations and will take your old computer and any of their own products. HP offers a trade-in allowance for new HP products. For Apple products, including iPads, you should always return them directly. Apple will give you a gift card to use at their store with the estimated value of your product. If you live in Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, or Virginia, fill out this request form to participate in Apple’s recycling by mail program. Most of the other leading device manufacturers have some kind of program with benefits, so worth checking them out.

For a one-stop shop, Best Buy accepts most electronics for recycling and will offer a Best Buy gift card for your used video games, musical instruments and select used electronics, including TVs, DVD players, monitors, cell phones and more. Restrictions apply, so be sure to check with Best Buy directly. They also have permanent drop boxes for cell phones, rechargeable batteries and printer cartridges. Target said they would buy back my old HTC phone for as much as $50, offering me a Target gift card. Check out AT&T retailers, eBay, Office Depot, Staples, and other retailers for more info on their programs, many of which have tons of information and guidance for recycling tech gear on their web sites.

Never Throw Out Batteries, Even the Little Ones

Most rechargeable batteries contain metals that are harmful to the environment, but when recycled properly, can be reclaimed and used to make new products. Funded by a consortium of leading device manufacturers, the Call2Recycle program keeps millions of pounds of batteries from entering landfills each year, preserving natural resources and helping to fulfill their mission for a more sustainable earth. Consumers just collect their rechargeable batteries and cell phones, then log onto Call2Recycle.org or call 1-877-2-RECYCLE to find a nearby public drop-off location that accepts them hastle free.

Be Safe and Protect Your Privacy

One last thing: Before you sell, donate or recycle, be sure to move your personal files and media from your old device and erase (or wipe) your hard drive. In spite of all the good intentions of each of the programs and services I’ve shared here, you never want to neglect your digital privacy and security by putting it in someone else’s hands. There are a number of products and services out there to painlessly wipe your computer, including WipeDrive and KillDisk, and it’s easy to move your photos and personal documents to a USB flash drive or to the cloud for temporary storage using products like Microsoft’s SkyDrive or Dropbox. And some retailers will offer to transfer all your personal data from one device to another when you’re making a purchase.

Call to Action

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, each household in the United States has on average at least 24 electronic devices ranging from alarm clocks, computing devices and TVs to refrigerators. As our device portfolios grow, the amount of e-waste we’ll generate will be astounding. Visit Earth911 for a massive amount of interesting information about the impact our connected lifestyles are having on the environment. And if you’re still looking for more information, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to find all sorts of additional data and guidance on where and how to recycle and ways to nurture our planet.

So, if you find yourself hoarding electronics and gadgets like my family has because you just don’t know what to do with them, now you know…and you no longer have an excuse. Take action, and report back here on what you dropped off and share your overall experience. Easy? Rewarding? Pain in the neck? We want to know.

Is Your Living Room Connected?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yesterday, my 4-year old and I had a very active and sweat inducing game of Fruit Ninja with Kinect for Xbox 360. Slashing fruit and dodging bombs, he was having a great time, and I was getting a great workout. But we’ve only recently introduced our kids to the world of connected devices, and have limited their exposure to traditional video games in favor of toys and games that don’t have flashing lights or sounds. That said, Xbox rules our living room and keeps us connected to our entertainment and the people we care about.

Last year, Kinect for Xbox 360 introduced controller-free entertainment by letting you use your body and voice to play your favorite games and access entertainment, turning you into the controller. This amazing innovation changed my view of the gaming world and consoles, seeing that Xbox isn’t just for gaming anymore. In our household, it’s our entertainment hub, enabling us to access new release movies exclusive for Xbox, our Netflix video library, see live concerts and access our favorite television shows, as well as a growing library of family friendly gaming. And we use the device for live video chat with family and friends in other time zones and on different continents.

In fact, we’re so connected that our family was “forced” to invest in two consoles (one for the Man Cave and one for the family room) to prevent the boys from arguing, and by boys, I mean my husband and our 2- and 4-year old kids.

And now I’m getting in the game. Microsoft just launched perhaps its biggest software upgrade for Xbox 360, refreshing the interface, deeper voice integration, stronger social capabilities and more robust integration across devices. With these updates, we’ll get more TV programing, more movies, more music and of course more games across new third-party applications, expanding our entertainment options. And Microsoft is further enhancing the connected experience by broadly integrating Kinect with Bing search technology across the Xbox Live dashboard for smooth and seamless navigation using voice and gestures to simplify search for content and services. With Bing on Xbox, your voice becomes the ultimate remote control to find the games, movies, TV shows and music you’re looking for. Though voice control isn’t new, the deeper integration with Bing creates a completely new experience. Tell that to my kids, though. My 4-year old son already speaks to Xbox and waves his hands around, commanding it to launch Dinosaur Train, and my 2-year old skips Xbox altogether, commanding the TV to launch Team Umizoomi. Now we’ll see our devices actually respond to them!

For me, the story is about the updates that push our connected experiences further, and devices are central to this scenario. Though using my voice as a controller sounds like a fun option, it won’t always be practical. So Microsoft has also released a mobile app exclusively for the Windows Phone that enables it to control the console, services and content. The free Xbox Companion app uses Bing to search for content, access and launch programing, and turns your smartphone into a wireless remote control for media playback and for purchase transactions. I can’t wait to try it out.

Another cool feature is how Xbox leverages the cloud to create a more seamless experience across our device portfolios, including other Xbox 360 consoles. Got to run out before finishing your game or movie? This new feature will allow us to log into any Xbox 360, then play our saved games or watch our in-progress movies from other consoles. This update enables us to take our entertainment with us when we’re on the go. Parents rejoice!

Though some of the major network and entertainment partners won’t be ready to launch their content this week (see GeekWire for a complete rundown of who, what, when), you can bet my family will be bundling all our digital content and subscriptions through this one device, simplifying our experiences.

If you’re intrigued and want all the details, the folks at Engadget have a super solid review of the new features and functionality. So check it out.

What do you have to say? Do you think Xbox 360 is on the right track regarding the future of connected entertainment? What are the barriers to drive this concept forward?

UPDATE: The updates are live in many households this morning, and I see that Microsoft has updated a variety of parental controls, which will likely be of interest here. I’m told that parents can manage their child’s console activity, sharing on social networking sites as well as regulate access to games, movies, television, and music. Additionally, the update brings enhanced navigation to Xbox 360 Family Settings to better integrate with Kinect. I’ll check those updates out and report back. For more reading, check out Microsoft Xbox and Kinect Newsroom

 

%d bloggers like this: