Random Tech Questions you want answered.

Related - what do people do with old tech they can't be bothered to sell?

I've got a 2012-era laptop to donate somewhere, preferably for re-use rather than recycle.

I recycled some old laptops and an inkjet printer at Best Buy. They take almost any kind of e-waste for free (some exceptions), and they claim that the recycling company they work with will try to reuse/refurbish whatever is donated. I suggest calling ahead though, because they may be overloaded and temporarily unable to accept a donation.

Best Buy Recycling

FAQ

Wait you don't just stick it in a drawer and dig it out every now and then and wonder why you haven't gotten rid of it yet before putting it back in the same drawer?

I still have an old iBook G4 (circa 2005) that I did data recovery on when my sister-in-law broke the screen and my old MacBook (circa 2009). I actually wish I had some of my other old computers like my Performa 600 and the Yosemite PowerMac G3 I had

Jonman wrote:

I've got a 2012-era laptop to donate somewhere, preferably for re-use rather than recycle.

Hang onto it for 25 years until it becomes a desired retro computer.

Rykin wrote:

Wait you don't just stick it in a drawer and dig it out every now and then and wonder why you haven't gotten rid of it yet before putting it back in the same drawer?

That's what I've been doing. First it was my laptop, then the wife's college laptop (she's now two laptops later), then a "we don't care if you break it" laptop given to the 5 year old, and has now been demoted yet further.

I guess that would be your drawer, but I'm explicitly an anti-hoarder.

Jonman wrote:

Related - what do people do with old tech they can't be bothered to sell?

I've got a 2012-era laptop to donate somewhere, preferably for re-use rather than recycle.

I've started free boxing random stuff on the curb (my house is near a bar so lots of foot traffic). Usually someone takes the stuff within a day or so, but if no one does then I'll take it to e-waste because obviously no one wants it. Works for more than tech, too!

Granted, I try to only do that when the weather seems decent and it's not gonna rain.

I used to list items as free on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, but the consistency with which you get stupid questions just isn't worth the hassle. Not even like technical questions, information provided in the listing title level stupid questions.

Regarding the question of electronics recycling, I've got a box of "e-waste" that consists of things like broken headphones, small burnt-out dc motors, a calculator with a broken display, some flashlights, electronics removed out of an old music card, dead circuit boards from hobby-related projects and items, etc... It's a combination of electronics and plastics which don't seem to qualify under the listings of most "consumer electronics" listed at places like Best Buy, Staples, Amazon, or the like. Anybody have any experience finding a way to recycle any of this stuff?

ZombieCoyote wrote:

Anybody have any experience finding a way to recycle any of this stuff?

Goodwill! Goodwill takes electronics, "working or not". They refurbish and resell what they can, and recycle what can't be fixed.

My local YMCA has a thrift shop and they also collect e-waste at the donation drop-off. I guess they figured that people were bringing it to them anyway and it was a service the community needed. Not sure how common that is though.

merphle wrote:

I recycled some old laptops and an inkjet printer at Best Buy. They take almost any kind of e-waste for free (some exceptions), and they claim that the recycling company they work with will try to reuse/refurbish whatever is donated. I suggest calling ahead though, because they may be overloaded and temporarily unable to accept a donation.

Best Buy Recycling

FAQ

Somehow, I think this got missed as the question was asked a few posts after this. I, too have recycled all sorts of stuff at Best Buy.

ZombieCoyote wrote:

Regarding the question of electronics recycling, I've got a box of "e-waste" that consists of things like broken headphones, small burnt-out dc motors, a calculator with a broken display, some flashlights, electronics removed out of an old music card, dead circuit boards from hobby-related projects and items, etc... It's a combination of electronics and plastics which don't seem to qualify under the listings of most "consumer electronics" listed at places like Best Buy, Staples, Amazon, or the like. Anybody have any experience finding a way to recycle any of this stuff?

When I moved recently I had a bunch of stuff like this. If you live in or near a city of any decent size, there should be something there that takes e-waste like this. I was lucky that the one I went to didn't charge anything, but that may not always be the case, depending on what you take there.

I found it by searching the city name and "e-waste disposal" or something similar just in good old Google.

Kinda sorta related to that: Where are people selling their old gaming laptops? An old gaming laptop still has value if it’s in mostly working order.

Usually here in the Trading Post.

Are we going to have to wait another year for RDNA2 powered APUs to be available in mainstream computers? I see some laptops coming out with Ryzen 6000 APUs but they are not at mainstream prices so there’s no way I can recommend my budget limited friends and family buy one.

Anyone know if there is a mesh router product that includes the ability to block websites for specific hours of the day?

I doubt this would be terribly hard to find. I'm using an ASUS RT-AX92U which can be set up for mesh, and I could do that through the firewall (network services filter) settings by blocking ports 80 and 443 from all sources to all clients during the days and times I set up. If ASUS has it standard, I can't imagine other companies that lean heavier into mesh would not have that option.

I'm not pitching to go with ASUS though, as I don't think their firmware would be good for mesh (hence why I don't use it, but I like how easy other settings are), but if it's possible even on their standard software...

It's surprisingly hard to find. Google nest router doesn't allow me to block specific sites, Netgear charges a subscription fee and tp-link lets me block specific sites but not for specific times.

DD-WRT has (a) support for mesh networking, and (b) support for blocking specific URLs at specific times of the day. That said, it looks like Google Nest is not one of DD-WRT's supported router platforms, so you'd presumably have to buy some new hardware to go this route.

FreshTomato is another open source aftermarket router firmware that seems to also support both of the above requirements, but also doesn't support Google Nest. I've used DD-WRT before, but not FreshTomato; I don't know which is preferred/recommended these days.

Hmm I haven't touched dd-wrt since my Linksys says. Can it be side loaded on any of the popular mesh systems? Would be a last resort I think as I need something pretty plug and play that my wife can manage as well.

Chairman_Mao wrote:

It's surprisingly hard to find. Google nest router doesn't allow me to block specific sites, Netgear charges a subscription fee and tp-link lets me block specific sites but not for specific times.

Stuff like this is why I run my wifi as wifi, and a router as a router, instead of making one thing an all-in-one.

I want to choose my wifi solution based on how well it does wifi, not the crappy routing functionality that gets tacked on.

There's too few wired routers in the end user market though.

*Legion* wrote:
Chairman_Mao wrote:

It's surprisingly hard to find. Google nest router doesn't allow me to block specific sites, Netgear charges a subscription fee and tp-link lets me block specific sites but not for specific times.

Stuff like this is why I run my wifi as wifi, and a router as a router, instead of making one thing an all-in-one.

I want to choose my wifi solution based on how well it does wifi, not the crappy routing functionality that gets tacked on.

There's too few wired routers in the end user market though.

I was going to say something similar, so I guess I will second this. You can get a WiFi solution that does mesh with no router built in (or it can be run in bridge mode). Then you can use an old PC to do this (just buy a second NIC if it doesn't already have two network ports). There are a few router images you can use, such as pfsense or OPNSense. There are dedicated devices out there that you can use, but they can be on the pricey end, though worth it IMO (such as Procteli.

I'm loving Firewalla. You put it adjacent to your router and run all traffic through it. It's a configurable policy-based firewall (so services can be turned on and off by source and hours), router, content filter, VPN, DNS server and so forth (with capabilities depending on the model you choose), so it would protect your wired and wireless connections in various ways with just one wirespeed box. It's palm-sized or smaller depending on the model.

Be absolutely sure that the model you choose has all the wired and wireless features you want, and that you have the components to fully set it up. Your control unit is a wireless device that can run the app, and so you need a wireless network to connect to it (as a side-channel so no one can get into the control network from the outside wired uplink).

Anyway it's cool and it works really well. Oh, and there's no fee to use it. It just works once you set it up, and you can change policies with the touch of buttons.

One interesting side effect of Firewalla showed up when I got interested in managed security services (turns out rich people use them to secure their systems, so I wanted to see if any were affordable to ordinary folks). Seemed like a good way to outsource security.

I figured out who was the market leader and looked at their site. It looked interesting; not entirely convincing, but they had a tool to search for vulnerabilities in your network (obvious marketing ploy, but okay). I fired it up and... Every test came back either "You're good with this" or "Technical Error - Test cannot be completed", which I quickly realized meant they had not been able to get past the Firewalla to run it in the first place.

I noped out immediately.

Thanks all--i just need something to block YouTube on a few devices during the day to keep kids off the screens at certain times. I did some digging on services that allow this at the DNS level and CloudFlare has something free for personal use that might work.

*Legion* wrote:

I just set up a pfSense router for my home network, so I shouldn't have any problem setting up multiple WAN devices. Should be able to toggle between them pretty easily and/or set up automatic failover.

Yesterday, I had my first FIOS outage. I got to see my pfSense router do the automatic failover to the Xfinity connection, and with Pushover notifications set up, it pinged my phone to let me know what was happening. It was beautiful: maybe about 10 seconds of downtime before traffic was routing through the Xfinity pipe. I don't think the wife noticed anything.

FIOS was only down for probably half a minute or so, though it took an extra minute before successful ping attempts lowered the packet loss % stat far enough for pfSense accept the FIOS connection back into the "pool" (as is configured, so that an intermittent connection isn't prematurely re-added to the pool).

Pretty great. I think WFH people should really consider a redundant connection strategy.

On a similar note, I have added secondary mobile carrier connections to my wife's and my iPhone, taking advantage of the dual eSIM functionality in recent iPhones. We've been on T-Mobile for a long time, and generally like it. But out at the rural school where my wife teaches, only Verizon's towers reach, and I too will run into T-Mobile dead spots during travel sometimes. So I looked at MVNOs using Verizon's network, and settled on US Mobile. For about $25 a month, both our phones can have unlimited talk & text on secondary phone numbers, as well as a small shared data plan. And the iPhone has a setting for flipping data usage from your "primary" network to the "secondary" network when the primary one is unreachable. So we've been able to fill in a bunch of holes in T-Mo's coverage, as well as give ourselves some redundancy during T-Mo outages.

So basically I've done everything possible to ensure that I am not ever without Internet, because god forbid I can't reach GWJ and ALMOST DIE again.

I bought a WiFi range extender and after I set it up, it created a second WiFi network. For instance, if my main network is called PaladinTom it created PaladinTom_2.

I was able to rename this second network to PaladinTom and it seems to work fine showing up as just one network now. My question is, did I do this correctly? Or was I just supposed to leave PaladinTom_2 as is but continue to connect to the main PaladinTom network?

I think I did it correctly. Just wanted to be sure.

PaladinTom wrote:

I bought a WiFi range extender and after I set it up, it created a second WiFi network. For instance, if my main network is called PaladinTom it created PaladinTom_2.

I was able to rename this second network to PaladinTom and it seems to work fine showing up as just one network now. My question is, did I do this correctly? Or was I just supposed to leave PaladinTom_2 as is but continue to connect to the main PaladinTom network?

I think I did it correctly. Just wanted to be sure.

it will probably mostly work except since it's not a true mesh, devices may be slow to hand off to the stronger connection, or may not hand off at all.

PaladinTom wrote:

I think I did it correctly. Just wanted to be sure.

Yeah, you did it right. I mean you can do it either way. I have multiple access points at my house all broadcasting the same SSID.

As Mao points out, it's up to your devices to switch themselves from a weaker signal to a stronger one as you move around, but that's expected behavior at this point. Most modern devices are OK at this.

The alternative is (as you had by default) to have the extender broadcasting as a separate network, which then necessitates you manually toggling between them. It gives you more control, but it's also annoyingly inconvenient.