Skip to content

Repair Economy

Detroit Metro Times:

That’s why Barnes says he’s trying to help create a “repair economy.” The benefits are numerous — discarded tech makes up what is called e-waste, which contains materials that are hazardous to the environment. Not only that, but tech repairs create jobs, and can be cheaper for the consumer.

I’m all in favor of that – the last time I had a computer die, it was because the display (it was a laptop) got shattered. I was told that the manufacturer couldn’t repair it for less than the cost of a new one – inexplicably, the display panel cost more than the entire laptop. I looked into getting it repaired, found a distinctive lack of options, and instead broke it down for parts. The memory went to a friend upgrading his laptop, and the hard drive to another friend who was repairing someone else’s broken laptop.
Sure, it wasn’t a perfect fix, but it got some use out of it. Pretty much the same logic as to why I’m an organ donor, and I think everyone should be.

The Birth of Linux

“I was testing the task-switching capabilities, so what I did was I just made two processes and made them write to the screen and had a timer that switched tasks. One process wrote A, the other wrote B, so I saw AAAA BBBB and so on. The first two months the amount of code I wrote was very small, because it was a lot of details, totally new CPU, I’ve never programmed Intel before.”
Remarkably, that very simple task-switching program turned out to be the seed that grew into the Linux kernel:
“At some point I just noticed that hey, I almost have this [kernel] functionality because the two original processes that I did to write out A and B, I changed those two processes to work like a terminal emulation package. You have one process that is reading from the keyboard, and sending to the modem, and the other is reading from the modem and sending to the screen. I had keyboard drivers because I obviously needed some way to communicate with this thing I was writing, and I had driver for text mode VGA and I wrote a driver for the serial line so that I could phone up the University and read news. That was really what I was initially doing, just reading news over a modem.”

No idea how interesting anyone else will find this article, but to me, it was a fascinating read.

Ad-Hoc Bus Systems

Individual matatu buses and routes are privately owned and operated, which means schedules and ticket prices can change at the whim of whoever’s in charge. Even finding the right stop can be tricky. You just kind of have to…know. If you choose the wrong line, you could waste half a day on an already long trip. Since most routes run through the city center before going back out, the roads—not designed for the megacity that Nairobi has become—are flooded with matatu congestion. One or two accidents on the main thoroughfares can shut down traffic for hours.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of this Wired article, for me, was the entire concept of an ad-hoc bus system. I’m used to the government-run systems in all the towns I’ve lived in.
Still, it’s interesting to hear about how the public-transit data wound up in Google Maps: I distinctly remember seeing the local busses appear in Google Maps a couple of weeks after I got a paper copy of the bus schedule – it was handy, because in Google Maps you can actually see where the stops are, whereas the paper schedule was only accurate to the ‘somewhere near this intersection’ level.

Thanks for reading!