Combating the Recycling Crisis: The Lies, the Truth, and EPC’s Promise to You

In December of 2018, we published “Combating the Recycling Crisis,” a blog post written to inform readers of the unfortunate realities of plastics recycling and to offer advice on how best to prevent your waste from ending up in landfills. Our post was based on extensive research and the information available at the time.

However, on Friday, September 11th, 2020, NPR published an article revealing harsh truths about the plastic recycling industry—an industry that has lied to the public for decades. The truth is, most of our plastic, whether we follow the appropriate guidelines or not, will end up buried in a landfill or dumped into our oceans.

While most of us have been somewhat aware of plastic pollution and its devastating effects on our ecosystem, plastic companies such as Exxon, Chevron, and Dow concealed the full extent of the damage through “eco-friendly” messaging, which lauded plastic as easily recyclable. Their goal? To sell more new plastic while avoiding condemnation from environmental activists.

The depressing truth is that out of all the plastic manufactured over the last few decades, less than ten percent has been recycled; and the plastic that does achieve new life can only be reused a couple times before its structure breaks down. This means even the most environmentally responsible consumer’s efforts have been mostly fruitless—at least when it comes to plastic.

For our customers, this news may raise a few concerns. When I drop off my electronics, does EPC really recycle them?

Here’s the honest truth: EPC is committed to recycling 100% of its plastic e-waste, regardless of cost. We believe in protecting the environment and giving your electronics new life, not tossing them away to pollute our planet. As a customer of EPC, you can rest easy, at least when it comes to your phones, laptops, and other devices.

Maybe skip the bottle of soda, though.

Mobile Repair: Not Just Phones and Tablets

You are likely familiar with our Mobile Repair department. Our mobile technicians work hard every day to give our customers’ phones and tablets a longer life. This is good for multiple reasons: it saves the customer money, and it keeps old devices out of landfills.

But phones and tablets aren’t the only thing we repair in the Mobile department. We also repair another device many customers have but don’t even attempt to have repaired: gaming consoles.

By nature, gaming consoles are hard not to replace. When a new iPhone model comes out, you don’t necessarily have to replace your phone to keep using it. However, once a new gaming console comes out, many times you must buy it to keep up with new games.

Replacing a console doesn’t necessarily contribute to the growing e-waste problem. Online marketplaces on Facebook and Craigslist are full of used but working consoles at a reduced price, giving others who can’t afford the newest model a chance to enjoy some games. But what happens when your console is broken?

You may be tempted to throw it away, especially if a new generation is coming soon. But getting it repaired would allow you to continue using it or pass it on. EPC’s technicians offer video game console repair services. We work hard to diagnose the issue and fix it to get the controller back in your hands.

If your console is truly gone, you still shouldn’t throw it away! Bring it in, and we’ll recycle it at no cost to you.

Call today at (636)443-1999 or come to our St. Charles showroom to take advantage of this service!

A Different Kind of Virus

Twenty years ago, a dangerous virus emerged from Asia and made its way across the globe. The world had never seen anything like it before. People panicked, businesses closed, and governments tried and failed to stop the spread. Over one million were infected in a matter of hours. How, you may ask, did this virus spread so rapidly?

The ILOVEYOU virus, also referred to as the “Love Bug,” was a computer virus unlike any other at the time. An innocuous subject line, “ILOVEYOU,” seemingly sent by a contact. A short message: “kindly check the attached LOVELETTER coming from me.” A file titled “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.” Many opened this file, expecting a heartfelt message from a relative, or possibly an awkward romantic gesture from a coworker.

What they didn’t realize was that the file wasn’t a text file at all—it was a Visual Basic script file, its .vbs extension hidden from view. The document, once opened, unleashed a worm that wreaked havoc on the system, seeking out and replacing media files with copies of itself. The worm then accessed the user’s Outlook address book and sent an identical email to every contact, many of whom would go on to open the file themselves, repeating the vicious cycle.

Although the United States had prior warning, it failed to protect its government and businesses from infection. The virus hit the Pentagon, nearly every major military base, AT&T, Ford, and other corporations throughout the country, overloading mail servers and shutting down vital operations.

Worldwide, the virus infected over 45 million computers and caused around $10 billion worth of damage. After an investigation, the man believed to be responsible was Onel de Guzman, a college student from the Philippines who had submitted a similar code for his final thesis. Although there was plenty of evidence against de Guzman, he ultimately faced no charges, as the Philippines had no laws at the time concerning cybercrimes.

The ILOVEYOU virus may not have gotten very far had it been sent out today; automatic spam filters and antivirus software often catch such emails before they ever reach a person’s inbox, especially in corporate settings. But that is no reason to become complacent. In fact, users need to be vigilant, because as protections become stronger, hackers become craftier.

Computer “viruses” earned their name for a reason—much like human viruses, one person’s actions have the potential to infect thousands. To further the analogy, antivirus software is like a mask, shielding yourself and others from transmitting the virus; running frequent scans and keeping your software up-to-date is like washing your hands, ensuring threats are eliminated before infection occurs; and practicing common sense cybersecurity habits is like social distancing, avoiding situations where you put yourself and others at risk. This includes not opening attachments—even from people you know—that you are not expecting, not clicking on strange links, and never giving your password to anyone. Just as it is important to protect your physical health, you must also keep yourself safe from threats to your virtual security.

References:
https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/01/tech/iloveyou-virus-computer-security-intl-hnk/index.html
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d73jnk/love-bug-the-virus-that-hit-50-million-people-turns-15

Edit 7/14/2020: This blog post made the mistaken claim that de Guzman was arrested after the virus was released, when in reality, he was never arrested for the crime. This detail has been amended.

Fireworks and Computers: How Modern Programming Revolutionized Pyrotechnics

Throughout their long history, fireworks have served a variety of purposes. The first “fireworks” could be found in China around the year 200 B.C., where bamboo reeds would be tossed into a fire; the air pockets inside the reed would expand and eventually explode. These controlled blasts were likely used to ward off evil spirits. Between 600 and 900 A.D., an alchemist combined saltpeter with sulfur and charcoal, creating the first recipe for gunpowder. The bamboo reeds would be stuffed with this mixture and set alight, creating larger—and more dangerous—explosions. Soon, China used their invention to create weaponry. In the 13th century, it is believed Marco Polo brought fireworks to Europe. The spectacle became quite popular during the renaissance, and fireworks have remained popular ever since. They have been used to celebrate USA’s Independence Day from the very first anniversary on July 4th, 1777, and since Italian pyrotechnicians figured out how to add colors in the 1830s, fireworks displays have stayed much the same to this day.

The technology for running these displays, however, has changed dramatically. It was not until the 1980s that pyrotechnicians created computer programs to choreograph, simulate, and run shows automatically. Before this, calculations had to be done painstakingly by hand, and timing shows to music involved a lot of guess work. Now, computers could do these calculations in minutes rather than hours, and pyrotechnics designers could spend less time worrying about logistics and more time on the creative process. Computers such as the Atari 800XL and the IBM Personal Computer ran some of the first automated fireworks shows, sending signals through a firing box to light the electric matches (known as squibs) with precise timing.

Today, pyrotechnics design has gone even further, with 3D programs that render extremely accurate simulations of a show and communicate with firing devices. Some of these programs are even capable of pulling real 3D models from Google Maps to simulate displays in specific locations. Designers can watch their shows before a single firework is lit. Although fireworks in their construction have remained largely the same over the centuries, the days of guesswork are over, thanks to computers.

If you are planning to set off your own fireworks this year, stay safe and practice common sense. Happy Fourth!

References:

Technology; Fireworks by Computer

Atari Sets Off Fireworks!

https://tedium.co/2019/07/04/fireworks-technology-simulation-history/

EPC Continues to Provide Affordable, Certified Workstations Around the Globe. Check them out now at EPCUSA.Com

E-Waste Disposal is About More Than Just Cleaning

If there’s a pile of e-waste building up in the back of your building, it’s certainly time to call an ITAD company. Haphazard e-waste storage is ugly at best, and dangerous at worst. Old, broken electronics can leech hazardous materials into your work environment; but there are other potential dangers with not disposing your electronics that are less obvious.

About 87% of companies who recycle their e-waste do so to clear up clutter. While this is a good reason, it is not the only reason you should be creating an ITAD plan. Every asset not properly disposed of poses a security risk to your company. If sensitive company info gets into the wrong hands, it can lead to major security breaches and lawsuits.

When choosing an ITAD provider, it is important to make sure they securely dispose of your data prior to resale or recycling. The best way to ensure your data is safe is to make sure your ITAD company adheres to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) guidelines for proper data disposal. Certifications to look for include NAID, e-Stewards, and Blancco Gold.

Clutter is a pain, but it’s not just mess you need to worry about. Make sure your company data is secure and safe in the hands of your ITAD provider.

EPC offers e-Stewards, NAID, and Blancco Gold-certified data disposal. Call today at (636)443-1999 or visit https://www.epcusa.com/about-us/contact-us/ to get more info.

What We Can Learn About the Environment From COVID-19

Mere months ago, the biggest threat to the health and wellbeing of our planet present in the public sphere was climate change. Now, as COVID-19 presents the more immediate danger, climate change has been overall set aside in the media. However, as we continue to observe social distancing guidelines, travel has reduced significantly, and more people than ever are working from home, scientists have noticed a positive change in the environment. While some of these alternative social practices are unsustainable in the long run, they still can be a learning opportunity and teach us how we can progress toward a healthier planet in the years to come.

Change is possible. With a global decrease in energy consumption, there is a noticeable difference in our carbon emissions and pollution levels. In China, scientists observed a 25% decrease in CO2 levels over a four-week period. That is a significant for the largest country in the world. Italy showed a similar decrease in pollution during lockdown. This data shows that widespread action is not only possible but can be effective in reducing the negative impact of energy consumption on our environment, and with scientists claiming we have only a decade to save the planet, that news is encouraging.

What’s less encouraging is the threat of emissions rapidly rising after the COVID-19 crisis subsides to meet industrial demands, similar to the aftermath of the 2008 economic recession. Although the drop in pollution is nice, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed to create a lasting positive impact. Still, it’s reassuring to know that our actions matter, and that people and businesses can rise to combat a threat to humanity—it’s a lesson we shouldn’t forget.

A Brief History of Video Games

There is, perhaps, no time like the present to understand the importance video games have in our modern society. With most people stuck inside, our collective playtime has increased drastically over the past few months. Consoles are sold out everywhere, and it seems like you can’t log on to any social media platform without someone discussing the price of turnips—whatever that means.

Just kidding, we know all about the stalk market.

Video games serve as a portal to a world outside our own. But where did they come from? And how do they relate to the development of computer programming?

Many mistakenly cite Atari’s Pong as the first video game, but this simply isn’t true. While Pong was the first successful arcade game, the first interactive electronic game was patented in 1947 by Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and was known as the cathode-ray tube amusement device. According to the patent, the “player” would physically attach images of targets such as airplanes to the face of the tube onto preprogrammed coordinates. Using a set of knobs, the player would have a limited amount of time to manipulate a beam of light to fire at the targets. If the beam successfully “hits” the target, a crudely simulated explosion would occur. While Goldsmith’s device was never commercially produced, and it’s likely no prototype was ever built, the patent is the earliest known concept of an electronic device designed for interactive entertainment.

Goldsmith’s original design, US Patent 2455992

The first playable games were created primarily to demonstrate a computer’s programming capabilities. Early games such as OXO (an electronic version of tic-tac-toe) and Tennis for Two, both developed in the 1950s, helped garner public interest in the advancement of computer technology, though neither were ever released publicly. The first game designed specifically for the computer was a PvP—player-versus-player—game known as Spacewar!. Computer programming students at MIT, eager to test their department’s brand-new $120,000 PDP-1 computer, designed a game inspired by science fiction novels where opposing players would attempt to blow up each other’s spacecrafts while fighting against unpredictable elements such as gravitational effects and a randomized “hyperspace” function. The spectacle was a huge success, but like OXO and Tennis for Two, it was never released to the public. It was, however, introduced to college campuses across the country, including the University of Utah, where it inspired student Nolan Bushnell to create a single-player, coin-operated version called Computer Space. While this game flopped, Bushnell’s career did the opposite—he went on to found Atari, which released Pong to the public in 1972.

Home video game systems followed soon after with Magnavox’s unsuccessful Odyssey console, which had extremely limited graphics capabilities and required players to tape images to their television screens (not unlike Thomas Goldsmith’s original 1947 concept!). Atari soon released an at-home version of Pong which proved extremely profitable, though Magnavox eventually filed a lawsuit for patent infringement which settled out of court. Soon, both the Fairchild Channel F (1976) and the Atari VCS (1977) offered removable game systems, allowing for multiple games to be played on the same device. Just as success began to wane, however, and the industry wondered if home gaming was destined for obsolescence, Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985, which single-handedly revitalized the home console industry, and video games have thrived ever since. The evidence is likely on your shelf—or in your hand.

File:Wikipedia NES PAL.jpg
We have the NES to thank for the success of today’s consoles.

Video games began as merely a tool to demonstrate the capabilities of computer programming and hardware. However, they have evolved into an industry of their own, not only exhibiting but inspiring new technological advancements in the field. As you spend this time on your couch picking fruit or fighting zombies, be thankful for those early programmers who paved the way; what they did with their free time is now filling yours.

EPC’s mobile repair department offers repair services on gaming consoles. Contact us for more info.

Introducing Curbside Pickup

In order to protect our customers and employees, EPC has made the decision to close our retail showroom doors to the public until further notice. However, as of April 1st, we are offering online shopping with curbside pickup. This will allow us to provide our community with necessary equipment at this time.

Here’s how you can use curbside pickup at EPC

  • Buy online or over the phone: Go to epcdeals.com/curbside and select ‘Curbside Pickup’ or call 636-443-1999 for in person customer support
  • Look for an email before you drive to the store: We’ll let you know when your order is ready, then you can drive to the store and pull up to the main entrance curb.
  • Call us at 636-410-0484 when you arrive at the store and a sales associate will deliver your order to your vehicle’s backseat or trunk.

TERMS & CONDITIONS:

  • Most items available for store pick up are available within one hour of placing your order. After placing your order, we will send you a confirmation email, followed by a second email when your order is ready for pick up.
  • Orders containing items which are NOT marked CURBSIDE may be cancelled.
  • All pick-up times are estimates. While we strive to meet all pick-up times as quoted, EPC does not make any guarantee that your order will be available at any specific time. EPC will not have any liability for any order delays.
  • Please have your order number with you when picking up from our St. Charles, MO. location.
  • Orders placed after 4PM, Monday thru Friday, or 1 PM on Saturdays will be processed the next business day.

Our hours are the same,  8-5 Mon-Fri, 9-2 Sat.

If you have any questions, please call at (636)443-1999.

How to Make Your Electronics Last—Even When Companies Don’t Want Them To

Buying a brand-new device is an exciting prospect. The latest iPhone or Samsung, the newest generation of a beloved gaming console, or the sleek, speedy laptop you’ve been eyeing can be a worthwhile purchase for your professional or personal life; and with so many options and new innovations, you’re sure to find something to fit your needs.

However, the same innovations that make buying new tech so exciting can become irritating when your device becomes obsolete in a matter of months. The high-quality camera on your phone, with features considered revolutionary last year, is now overshadowed by Apple’s newest product. Your gaming laptop no longer meets the system requirements for new releases. And that console? The next generation is already in production.

Worse still, sometimes companies intentionally create this frustration using a business practice known as “planned obsolescence.” Planned obsolescence is when a company intentionally designs a product to be replaced at a certain point after release. Not only does this make you spend more, it also contributes to e-waste as old devices get tossed.

You can help combat the effects of this on the environment and your wallet by keeping your electronics working for longer. Here are some tips on how to do that:

If you want to buy new, keep an eye on the market.
We’ve all been there. You’ve finally got some money to spend, and you want to treat yourself. After going through your mental list of Things You’ve Always Wanted But Could Never Justify Buying, you decide on the latest iPhone, and your shiny new toy arrives in the mail. Then, just two weeks later, Apple announces the next model and its rapidly approaching release date. Suddenly, that shiny toy doesn’t seem so shiny. If only you had waited just a few more months.

When buying a new device, it’s important to do some research. While it’s not always possible to know just when new devices are coming out, rumors and leaks often circulate in the year prior to release. If there’s talk about a new model in the works, it may be best to wait.

Buy what you need.
This may sound obvious, but it’s important to know what you need, and which device is right for you. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop, don’t buy a non-gaming laptop that barely meets the typical system requirements for the games you want to play. This could put stress on the hardware, making your system more likely to require repair or replacement sooner. A phone that lags performing your everyday work tasks will inevitably end up being replaced and tossed quickly. Make sure you are familiar with the technical specifications you require in a device.

Repair when you can.

Some companies, as part of this “planned obsolescence,” purposefully manufacture their devices with brittle parts designed to break quickly. While these designs aren’t always intentional, companies have little incentive to fix them. Fortunately, while some repairs are difficult or even impossible, many can be done. Have your device evaluated by a repair shop. These consultations typically come at little to no cost, and a specialist can help get your beloved device up and running again.

Know when to give up.

Sometimes, it just isn’t worth it.

While it’s good to make your device last as long as you can, eventually it will reach the end of its life. Sometimes, repairs on old devices are more expensive than replacements, or they require so many new parts that you may as well replace the whole product. Other times, your devices are no longer compatible with the software or operating systems required. For example, many older computers are not compatible with Windows 10, meaning those devices don’t get important security updates that protect your device. While repair and maintenance are good things, they aren’t always the right answer.

Remember, you don’t have to buy a new device the minute something goes wrong. Taking steps to maintain and extend the life of your devices can save you money and help the planet. Before you buy that new iPhone, take a second to think, first.

You Can’t Afford a Data Breach

In June of 2005, a multinational financial services corporation announced that in early May of that year, UPS had picked up a box of computer tapes containing the sensitive information of 3.9 million customers to be shipped to a credit reporting agency. The box never reached the destination. In 2006, the US Department of Veteran Affairs lost a laptop containing information about 26.5 million veterans. The department ultimately agreed to a $20 million settlement, avoiding the potential $26 billion payout.

Through the years, hundreds of companies have experienced data breaches, placing millions of customers and employees at risk of fraud and identity theft. Causes of data breaches include hacking, insider leaks, poor security, accidental uploads, and—as in the aforementioned cases—lost or stolen media. Organizations that fall victim to data breaches can be liable for millions of dollars in damages, and most don’t have taxpayer money to bail them out.

Cases like these highlight a major threat to any organization’s security: storage devices. Assets such as laptops, hard drives, phones, and USB drives with sensitive data pose a great risk in the wrong hands. According to recent research by Blancco, “A third of the world’s largest enterprises use inadequate data sanitization to prevent data breaches at end-of-life,” and four percent use no data sanitization method at all. Assets which have not been properly sanitized are dangerous in the wrong hands.

Deleting files and formatting drives aren’t enough. In order to protect your data, you need certified data sanitization and destruction. Finding an ITAD vendor to keep your company safe shouldn’t be a challenge. EPC offers certified data sanitization and destruction according to NIST standards. Give us a call at (636)443-1999 for more information.