Multiple pals on Facebook and Email sent me last weekend's article about Eric Lundgren, spectacled and lightly bearded electronics reuse guru. Friend of Kyle at IFIXIT and other TechSoup sorts, Lundgren has made a colorful career doing press-catchy projects, like building electric cars out of e-waste, and other tinkerer tricks.
I have nothing against Eric and think it sucks he has been sentenced to jail for importing Microsoft Operating System licenses from China. Whether he was going to give them away to poor people without computers, or sell them (as alleged by Microsoft and FBI informants), jail seems like overkill. Here was Microsoft's side of the story, which sounds truthy as well. And here is the view at IFIXIT.
Oh, and here is the petition circulated by PIRG... with a photo at the top looking very Agbogbloshie-like (reminding us that PIRG and Greenpeace still have not corrected their 80-90% primitive ewaste export hoax that put #FREEJOEBENSON in prison for much longer than Eric Lundgren is scheduled to serve).
Ok, I can fix this. Have been trying for 20 years. Had the solution in 1998. Tried to implement it in Massachusetts.
Spoiler in yellow. I solved this over a decade ago. Why can't I get traction?
THE SOLUTION IS FOR GOVERNMENT AND INSTITUTIONAL VOLUME PURCHASERS TO PROCURE ONE "SPARE TIRE" LICENSE ON EVERY PC THEY ORDER.
THE "SPARE" LICENSE KEY WOULD BE GLUED ON THE BACK, AND USED FOR A CLEAN REINSTALL AFTER THE HARD DRIVE WAS WIPED.
THIS WOULD ELIMINATE E-WASTE AND MAKE THE PCS AFFORDABLE.
WHEN I PITCHED THE IDEA TO MICHAEL DELL IN AUSTIN TEXAS, HIS FOLKS ESTIMATED THEIR COST FOR SUCH A LICENSE WOULD BE ABOUT $1.
I made a short career of this when another Operating System company, NewDeal Inc., hired me as a consultant to promote THEIR Operating System as the backup. New Deal collapsed during the "dotcom" crash, and my Spare Tire licensing idea never got off the ground.
More about Lundgren's case and how OEM Operating licenses work below. Wouldn't surprise me if that's Lundgren using Accra's slum as a backdrop.
|make mine a double.|
(I wrote 15 years ago that this was one of the top "drivers" of used computer exports, as emerging markets tend to have plenty of entrepreneurs willing to make "bootleg" copies of the Microsoft Operating System).
Original Equipment Manufacturers get the original license from Microsoft very cheaply (under $10, sometimes as low as $3 I've been told). Two reason:
1) They buy thousands in bulk and install them themselves and offer SUPPORT (biggest cost)
2) They make the license ONE USER ONLY, saying it can't be moved from that machine
Compare that to two other ways of getting the Operating System:
3) The RETAIL consumer version of the same license Microsoft sells for $299 (and no one buys it)
4) Microsoft has an "authorized Refurbishers License Program where you pay to get authorized to provide SUPPORT, and MS provides them at $25
There are red-tape-riddled ways to pass the PC with the OEM license to a second user, but the FACT is that most people want their Hard Drive private information erased, and then don't reinstall the OS, if they can even find the DVD or CD that has it and the license key, etc.
So I've heard two stories about Lundgren's purchase. Last year, before the article and sentencing, I heard he had gotten a few thousand of the disks with the OEM licenses from a Taiwanese recycling company that had some takeout of PCs in bulk. That could be legit - I had a similar opportunity in 2006, when Dell's infamous "Capacitor Plague" led to recall of thousands of PCs that had faulty capacitors. Some were returned for warranty (in which case Dell might have been reimbursed for the OEM license, I dunno but potentially that would mean the disk had to be destroyed). Some were NOT returned for warranty, or the licenses were not reimbursed, and there were legitimately some Microsoft Licenses out there that MS had been paid for that weren't being used.
The other story is that the people Lundgren bought them from made up a story like the one above and were just pirating the Microsoft OEM licenses and selling them to Eric cheap.
Anyway I've already put in bold letters at the top of the blog a better solution. It's at the point of PROCUREMENT, there is a prophylactic measure that would be profitable for Microsoft, keep more second hand computers from being sent far away, and wouldn't involve he-said she-said about the proprietary operating systems traded in emerging markets.