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Benjamin Oakes

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Hi, I'm Ben Oakes and this is my geek blog. Currently, I'm a Ruby/JavaScript Developer at Liaison. Previously, I was a Developer at Continuity and Hedgeye, a Research Assistant in the Early Social Cognition Lab at Yale University and a student at the University of Iowa. I also organize TechCorridor.io, ICRuby, OpenHack Iowa City, and previously organized NewHaven.rb. I have an amazing wife named Danielle Oakes.

Filtering for the Sustainability category. Clear

10 simple ways to use less oil

by Ben

This entry comes by popular request. A lot of people have been asking what they can do to use less oil, and reduce demand for the sticky stuff ruining beaches everywhere. Here’s my top ten, feel free to add to it in comments:1. Carpool, cycle or use public transport to go to work.2. Choose, when possible, products packaged …

Source: 10 simple ways to use less oil | Greenpeace International

Wood waste alcohol converted to jet fuel, used in Alaska Airlines test flight

by Ben

Airlines are slowly experimenting with alternative fuel mixtures to reduce greenhouse gases.

Source: Wood waste alcohol converted to jet fuel, used in Alaska Airlines test flight | Ars Technica

Face This Prospect: The End of Electric Car Incentives

by Ben

Plug-in vehicle sales un the US hit an all-time record of 159,000 units in 2016. That’s encouraging, but we are still in early days with EVs representing less than 1 percent of the new car market. It’s hard to know if the upward trend will continue, especially considering the many unpredictable factors, most notably gas prices. But what unfortunately seems very likely in the coming years is a systematic attempt to reverse incentives and other legislation that supports cleaner transportation.

Source: Face This Prospect: The End of Electric Car Incentives

Replace Battery in the 1st Edition Barnes and Noble Nook

by Ben

If necessary, the battery can be replaced. A replacement battery must be of the following type:

Barnes & Noble Lithium Polymer battery
Model Number BNRB1530
Rating: 3.7V, 1530mAh, 5.66Wh

You will need a small Phillips head screw driver (size 0 or 00).

Source: NOOK 1st Edition – Replace Battery – Barnes and Noble

I recently picked up a 1st generation Nook for $20. I was a little weary of the age of the battery (6 or so years old?), but it turns out that this Nook is one of the few consumer electronics released in recent memory that was built to be repairable. (The battery was meant to be replaced! There are even official instructions.) This is in stark contrast to my 2nd generation Amazon Kindle which had hardware problems and became unusable right after the warranty period ended. That experience soured me on the Kindle, understandably.

At any rate, the only Nook that has a user-replaceable battery is the 1st generation model. Also, it seems that Barnes and Noble doesn’t seem to sell the replacement anymore. (I could only find one outdated listing). Fortunately, the batteries are easily found online for about $10. The steps are pretty obvious to replace it: pop off the back with your fingers, unscrew a screw, put the new battery in, and then reverse the process.

Between the replaceable battery and the free 3G internet included with the device, hopefully these devices stay in use for quite a long time!

City of Iowa City waste minimization proposals approved in November 2016

by Ben

The Iowa City City Council has approved several proposed changes that will expand the city’s current recycling program. This includes the addition of multifamily units, like apartments, and curbside food waste collection. The final reading of these changes to the City Code was unanimously approved by City Council at its meeting on November 1st, 2016.

Source: Waste minimization proposals | City of Iowa City

We’ve needed multifamily (apartment/condo) recycling and food waste composting for quite some time. Glad to see progress on this!

Styrofoam Alternative: Mushroom Packaging

by Ben

Americans may not think much about what goes into the plastic packaging material they take for granted in everyday products. Most modern packaging materials are made from polystyrene and other synthetics that are not only made from petroleum, but also take a lot of energy to make.

2017 Best Green Car To Buy nominee: Toyota Prius Prime

by Ben

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The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is a far, far better plug-in hybrid than its predecessor. It defaults to electric-only operation, it has 25 miles of EPA-rated electric range, and in electric operation, it is by far the most energy-efficient vehicle you can buy this year in the U.S. And when it reverts to running as a standard hybrid car, it’s rated at 54 mpg combined.

Source: Green Car Reports 2017 Best Car To Buy nominee: Toyota Prius Prime

While the Prius Prime still isn’t out yet (and might not arrive in Iowa for quite a while), it deserves serious consideration if you’re considering a Prius. The original plug-in Prius basically only got 6 electric miles, while this one gets 25 EV miles, costs less, and looks better. We’re still very happy with our 2nd generation Chevy Volt, don’t get me wrong: since purchasing, we have done a 71 mile trip only using electricity and are averaging about 65 mpg on longer highway trips, while not paying a ton more than the Prius Prime will eventually cost when it becomes available for purchase in the Midwest. Regardless of that, I would definitely encourage anyone considering a Prius to opt for the Prius Prime. If you do, you’ll be a part of helping drive demand for the public charging infrastructure, something that any EV driver will appreciate. Thank goodness that Toyota seems interested in selling a lot of these.

UN report: climate goals rapidly moving out of reach

by Ben

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Getting from a 3°C path down to a 2°C (or less) path would require a course correction in the very near future. Even with the pledged emissions cuts, the “budget” of greenhouse gas we can emit without going above 2°C will be nearly spent by 2030—and the 1.5°C budget will be gone.

Source: UN report: climate goals rapidly moving out of reach

Where do laptops go when they die?

by Ben

The rest of the e-waste entering Wistron’s recycling plant has a different fate. Cables go one way to have their copper recovered. Steel frames go another. Lithium-ion batteries go to dedicated lithium operations. Case fans might even be saved and reused. Any components that can be yanked off circuit boards are, and then it’s on to precious metals.

[…]

“In some ways, it’s gotta start on the front end, in terms of consumers wanting products that are more recyclable,” Huang said.

That’s a particularly tough sell since consumers get almost no information about how recyclable any given product is. A company may improve its image by advertising “green” programs, but there is little financial incentive beyond that to put the work into solving these problems and designing for recyclability. It’s hard enough to match competitors’ progress on all the characteristics consumers know they do want.

The closest thing to an Energy Star label for recyclability is the EPEAT registry, where companies can verify that their products meet an IEEE standard.

Source: Where do laptops go when they die? | Ars Technica

Remember: a working computer can almost always be used by someone.  While recycling is important, re-use is also an important part of the solution.

Apple’s Phil Schiller thinks it’s sad that people use 5-year-old computers

by Ben

Apple’s big on being green, and their commitment to the environment is beyond question at this point — which makes you wonder why Schiller would casually take a shot at one of the greenest computing practices of all: getting absolutely everything that you can out of the devices that you purchase.

Source: Phil Schiller thinks it’s sad that people use 5-year-old computers | Apple | Geek.com

Related: A Commodore 64 has helped run an auto shop for 25 years | Tech | Geek.com