Going RoHS Compliant in Canada to Save Money

I don't like to spend more unless I have to, and the Ontario Eco Fees have been sneaking up on me. Out of principle I refuse to pay the Eco Fee, it is a 'sin' tax. Currently the problem that I have is finding RoHS compliant devices that are appropriately marked in stores. RoHS compliant technology is supposed to be exempt from most well though out environmental price adjustments. This means that the $30 to $50 more for an eco-friendly product is balanced by a $30-$50 Eco Fee on a hazardous product.

Unfortunately most of the devices, like LED TVs, are not RoHS compliant. I contacted a Future Shop in my area to find out if they had any RoHS compliant LED TVs, not only were they confused about the question but they dismissed any possibility of an exemption on the Eco Fee on TVs at their stores.

My LED Lights around the house are RoHS compliant. The new server is mostly RoHS compliant with some exceptions, specifically the server was compliant but the SSD that went in wasn't certified, plastic casing. My phone is RoHS compliant.

RoHS compliance snuck up on me - most of these products I originally chose for their low power consumption and competitive prices. I like to calculate TCO (total cost of ownership) on everything. While some people have questioned the durability of biodegradable plastics in RoHS compliant products I'm finding that more of the products are made of aluminum, glass, bamboo, and other materials generally considered to be tough stuff. Not 40 years of use tough but enough that recycling is a worthwhile option at the end of its use cycle. (Recycling is good, we can make 5 refrigeration boxes with better thermal insulation for the same mass of steel from a 1960s model, but that is a rant for another day)

I'm going to be selling off some of my used equipment over the next couple of months. This is a major clear out to meet three targets - the Two (2) Kilowatt by 2/2/2012 Goal, The 100 Things Challenge, and now the RoHS compliance rundown. The hazardous materials are already in the existing equipment being phased out by 2K2012 and 100 Things. This includes my old Dell systems from Niagara College, Two old Samsung SyncMaster 753DF Monitors, and random smaller devices.

Google Places - Support Issues

Every now and then I use the blog to rant about a completely unsatisfying experience - this is one of those occasions. Google Places is usually a great resource for businesses. Most of the businesses that I work with have no major issues, there is one that it all went wrong with. This case that highlights the hands off policy that Google has with most of their services.

The business was a multi-million dollar acquisition that included a name change - same location, same business type, with a new website and new name. Easy solution, change the two variables. Turns out it wouldn't be that easy. Instead there are two listings both with the same new name. One is linked to two other similar businesses (incorrectly) users are getting bad information. The other while completely accurate cannot be verified by Google the usual way (by Phone) because of the duplicate listings. Despite trying to open a dialog to merge, verify or assist us Google continues to remain hands off.

On top of that for the better part of a month there has been a disconnect between the website both profiles use and the site in search listings that constantly put the business on Page 2 of Google search listings. This put small mom and pop businesses on page two while a major employer and venue went unseen by the majority of search users (Page two is apparently a problem that can cost tens of thousands of dollars a month for a business that size). Luckily advertising exposure kept the business on the first page sidebar, although it is pretty sick business to be paying out thousands of dollars to Google when they can't even open a dialog with their customers that also use their public services.

All of those problems were for one business while dealing with Google Places. Add that onto the month-long Analytics nightmare at the beginning of 2011 and I'd almost be willing to pay a marginal monthly fee to Google - for support or at least as a justification to get litigious about public services (remember Places isn't really free, its paid for by advertisers and offered to the public. Although I don't remember seeing advertisements on my analytics pages).

No worries. Google may be slow but they usually respond sooner or later. This time the *-support@google.com didn't work because Places (a division of maps) does not accept email through maps-support@google.com any longer. Call centres don't work that well either when you need a real administrator to solve a real problem.

Surgery

I'll be going to the Welland Hospital tomorrow in order to have surgery to remove my tonsils. They really have been a nuisance over the last couple of months (two years worth of months at this point). My original consultation about my tonsils was in September of 2010, now a year and one month later I will be going under anesthetic to have them removed.

Sedation is the part that could be troublesome, when my wisdom teeth were removed the procedure was fine but the medication was total chaos for my mind and body. Combine that with the possibility that my mouth will be bleeding again and it may be understandable that I'm not excited about the procedure. I'm excited about the results, and I'm glad to have Dr. Tang on the job. When i went in to see Dr. Tang he saw the problem, came to a single conclusion and even dealt with my aggressive nasal allergies by sending me home with a nasal spray.

I'm still left with this lingering feeling that my tonsil problems were caused in part by Symbicort, but there are no details to back up this claim. Symbicort is still an amazing asthma medication, but it definitely needs to be taken with water.

Update 10/13/2011: Tonsil are out, anesthetic was good, there are no stitches, and I'm not bleeding much. The wound was burnt shut and I have two wicked black streaks across the back of my throat that hurt when they make contact with anything. To reduce the pain and inflammation I've been given something with enough kick that I cannot drive and heal. So I'm healing and with luck by the end of this weekend I'll be in the clear to get back to work.

Watched two movies while trying to fight off the physical urge to sleep (due to anesthetic and pain-killers). The first was Interstella 5555 - the feature length Daft Punk music video - no jokes so I didn't have to worry about laughing. The second movie, Gurren Lagann Part 1 was put on once Alie came to the house. Epic rest time, I haven't had a chance to stop in a long time. Apologies the the NPARC Members for having to miss a second general meeting in a row. Hopefully the next couple weeks will see more immediate progress due to the fact that I no longer have to worry about being unavailable.

Fixed it - Display "Defaults" has an invalid style plugin.

Ok this Drupal 7 conversion is getting a little trying but I think I'm almost ready to buy a ticket to DrupalCon. I couldn't get the 'view' for the new 7.3 calendar to work because of the error that went along with the following:

Display "Defaults" has an invalid style plugin.

Unable to preview due to validation errors.

I was completely lost, I gave up grabbed a turkey sandwich and had an idea. Messing with drupal is like messing with the bread, I needed to poke at the turkey - MySQL. The I fixed it and posted the quick fix to Drupal.org because we all need more time for turkey this fall. Here is that post:

Woo- Fixed it manually.

Ok here it is:
1) Disable the Calendar and iCal Modules
2) Go into you DB for under ctools_object_cache you will find your broken calendar despite the disable
3) Drop it, delete it, kill it with fire (leave your other views that work.
4) Re-enable the Calendar module and it will regenerate a clean version of the new calendar system

Until the next Calendar release that should fix your problems, if you're willing to dive into it. 100% success rate.

Kurtis' September 2011 Omnibus Update

Early September Harvest
Plenty of tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers have come out of the early September harvest. It''s surprising that some of the white cucumbers cross-pollinated with the larger green cucumbers to get a nice big white cucumber, a couple red cucumbers, and plenty of green cucumbers. Unfortunately the Parsnips are not coming this time around, so that may be the end of the vegetable garden for this year.

Henniges Automotive
I've finished my work at Henniges Automotive and hope that all of the other employees can transition to new jobs and remain in Niagara. I will be continuing the computer training course offered as a benefit to employees of the Welland plant - on the schedule available at the USW Niagara Action Centre.The USW chose to make use of my experience from the Community Access Program (Industry Canada) and I hope that they can continue to build tech skills in Welland.

Web Programmer Position
My new job is with a very popular and successful hotel business in Niagara Falls, though I wouldn't limit the company to the hotel business. They have on site restaurants, a spa, shops, and are in the centre of the largest venues in Niagara Falls. There is a lot of action, I will be busy.

New Server Online
The new server operates at 12 watts, or 20 watts on high load, and will allow the solar array to have a larger 'margin of error' when it comes to staying at full power through the winter months. Keeping bills low is always a high priority - wealth is not about earning, it is about keeping, saving and investing responsibly. The new server uses a solid state drive to keep consumption low, and still performs its automated off-site backup.

Student Debt Situation
Anyone that has known me personally over the last couple years has known the the elimination of my student debt is a top priority. I'd prefer to remain debt free, and while holding that belief I recognized the value in post secondary education. I do not regret choosing to seek an education before a career, and I'd image that my current employer values the skills I built on while at Unversity. This brings me to the point.

Half way there. The principal on the loan is half of where it was at peak. The current repayment schedule that I put together will see the debt disappear 3 years early. One step closer to freedom.

Welland Service Disruptions - Telecommunications and Power

It has been one crazy month and the latest and most frustrating is the multi-day service disruption in Welland. The City of Welland is upgrading the posts that they use for hydroelectric and telecommunications lines, which is good. They have also decided to perform these upgrades during the day, which is good for families. What the major daytime disruptions are not good for is business. I've received multiple e-mails from partner organizations asking why the unstoppable solar powered server stopped. It didn't. The high speed telecommunications line running to Niagara's first solar powered server stopped.

This wouldn't have been a major problem if I'd been given notice a week in advance, the sites could have been re-routed to an off-site backup server. Giving no notice is completely unacceptable. While adjacent customers reported that notice was given in person, on site, and less than an hour before the disruption the 48 hour propagation period for a new DNS routing wouldn't take effect until after the service disruption.

Luckily the ZA Server hosts community, non-profit, and personal websites for free and will not experience a direct financial loss. All of the partner organizations have been informed that 'fees have been waived for September' to bring humour to the now unavoidable situation.

Also if Welland Hydro gets around to reading this - it was the contractor that worked on Monday September 12th 2011 in the Francophone Heritage District. If the City of Welland gets around to sharing this story - remember that if you can't treat small businesses with respect they will leave. I'm thinking Wainfleet might send out notice when a city block is going to lose power, and there is more room for solar panels.

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