Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Best April Fool’s Day Pranks & Ideas

Have you ever heard of the Spaghetti Harvest? Back in 1957, via their TV show Panorama, the BBC pranked viewers into believing that spaghetti could now grow on trees; that it could be easily harvested. Because spaghetti was a lesser known food in the UK at the time, the Spaghetti-tree hoax aired on April Fool’s day was a great success, with a many viewers asking for advice on buying or growing ‘spaghetti trees’!

On April Fool’s day in 2008 the Beeb tried to convince poor unsuspecting souls that penguins could fly (oh, that dry British wit!). A few years ago, Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad reported an alien sighting in the desert close to Jafr town. The Mayor was not best pleased by the prank however, when reports of 10 ft alien pilots and communication disruptions caused public panic.

Origin of April Fools’ Day

There are many theories about the origin of April Fool’s day – there was the medieval festival, the Feast of Fools, the ancient Roman observances of Hilaria or even the Indian festival of color, Holi that could have been precursors to the modern April Fool’s day on the 1st of every April.

Many of the world's harvest festivals are celebrated around this time of year and this is also the time of year when people celebrate the beginning of summer. It could be the general feeling of exuberance among people around this time of year that started the tradition of playing pranks and creating humorous situations.
While there may be some who disapprove of April Fool’s day pranks, most people enjoy them; even the victims are typically good sports about pranks that aren’t malicious. If you want to join in the fun, here are some ideas you can use:

Edible (not!) April Fool’s Day jokes 

Brown Es Brownies Trick Image Via Treehouse Parents
Mock sushi rolls, baked potatoes that aren’t potatoes at all, rubber eggs and bacon for breakfast, the fake worm in the apple (your child does not want to see this in their brown bag), there are so many options here! Get store bought versions of food or get creative with some DIY fake food – get started on the family at breakfast in the morning and continue with colleagues at lunch or surprise the family at dinner just as they think you’ve run out of crazy ideas!

Serve some brownies – a covered tray that reveals brown colored E-shaped cut-outs (brown Es, get it?). Offer people a caramelized sweet treat – enjoy the look on their face when they bite into a caramel covered onion! Dish up a frosted balloon cake – this is just a regular balloon covered with frosting, so when you try to ‘cut’ it, it explodes! Hilarious, but good luck getting any help cleaning up from any of those startled people you just pranked…

More April Fool’s Day Pranks For The Home and Office

How about a helium balloon in the toilet at home? Your child lifts the lid and finds a floatie of a very different kind! Fill their shoes with toilet paper; sew up their socks or just turn up to pick them up from school in a funny wig. Switch their cereals, freeze their cereals or put some edible blood colored dye in there!

april fools prank
Balloon Prank Image Via Mashable
You can tape up their shampoo bottle or their toothpaste or ‘paint’ a bar of soap with clear nail polish – watch while a sleepy kid tries to lather up or brush their teeth! You can switch mouse settings on their computer, or if you really want to be cruel, you could tape-up the TV remote sensor!
In office, you could decide to prank a co-worker by flooding their cubicle with balloons, streamers and/or toilet paper. And about covering their car completely in post-its? Or just take a bunch of plastic cups, fill them with water and cover their cubicle floor with them. In the office washroom, swap the hand-wash liquid with personal lubricant, or even glue. Simple and silly, but 100% hilarious!

Printable April Fool’s Day Tricks

Print out scary (or scared, take your pick) googly eyes and paste them on to food – who wants to eat something that stares up at you! Put a print out of a human head in the cookie jar and remain close-by when your kid or a colleague strolls around for a light snack. 

Startle your kids with a “For Sale” sign in your front yard when they get back from school. Print out fake signs for the washroom (you can switch the Ladies and Gents signs) or the storage room, and so on at office (this may only workout with the office newbie though). Or print out some “Out Of Order” signs and place them strategically – on the photocopy machine, the washroom etc. Print out an office memo using its mirror image; enjoy the fun as everyone tries their best to decipher it.

So here’s wishing everyone a Happy April Fools’ Day! What ideas do you plan to use from these? Or do you have some ideas of your own that you’d like to share with us?

Monday, March 23, 2015

E Waste Recycling: What Is The Solution For Combating Pollution?

e waste recycling
Electronic waste or ewaste / e waste is a serious global issue. We are all surrounded by electronics; we use them all the time. When these objects reach the end of their useful life, they get tossed into the trash – quite simply there is a newer, niftier, faster gadget out there that is more interesting and will possibly get the job done better. According to the EPA, e-waste is the fastest growing segment of the world’s trash problem.

What is E-Waste? Some Startling Facts About E-Waste

E waste is all the discarded electronics and gadgets that we have used – mobile phones, computers, TVs, stereo systems & other entertainment devices, printers, printer cartridges, gaming consoles, cameras, refrigerators etc. An estimated 80 to 85% of e waste ends up in incinerators or landfills and only about 12.5% of e waste is currently recycled. While electronic waste comprises just 2% of what lands up in American landfills, e waste is about 70% of all toxic waste generated – some scary recycling facts here!

Much of the so-called ‘waste’ isn’t waste at all; electronic equipment and parts can very easily be recycled or reused. Copper, silver, gold and palladium are some of the precious metals that we throw away along with our e-waste – we could be throwing away as much as $60 million each year in gold and silver alone. To put this into perspective, as much as 75 lb gold could be recovered from every one million phones recycled!

Retiring vs. Reusing

We want the new gadgets – faster, with superior looks and features and advanced capabilities. But we don’t know what to do with the old stuff, so it languishes in our basements or finds its way to landfills. This is both wasteful (as we saw above there is a lot that can be retrieved from it) and it is also toxic to the environment. Heavy metals, mercury, lead, chromium and so on can leach into the ground and get into our water ways.

One excellent local initiative in the Kansas City area is worth replicating on a nationwide basis. Some non-profits in the area buy discarded electronics and recycle them. Nonprofit for Connecting Good is one such organization – they buy your old stuff, sanitize it of personal data, refurbish and resell these items to people who may not be able to afford the more expensive gizmos.
e waste recyling
E Waste Recycling Image Via Forbes
 This nonprofit has refurbished about a thousand computers and for about $75 has made it possible for people to own a computer loaded with Windows 7, and even antivirus software. Buyers are also educated about how to get the best out of their device. Surplus Exchange is another nonprofit that performs this useful recycling function.

When a device cannot be reused, it is disassembled, components are salvaged, precious metals recovered and hazardous items safely disposed of.

New Life Electronics Recycling in Oswego performs a similar function, recycling thousands of pounds of ewaste. This is a way to address the issue that waste management systems don’t accept ewaste by law. This trash would have be left on curbsides but can now be dropped off at specified locations for recycling or reuse.

Recently Forbes ran an article about how recycling ewaste can benefit US national security.  Counterfeit electronic parts (read failure prone) apparently pose a significant threat to the country's defense system. Experts are of the view that recycling can help control counterfeits getting into the system.

What You & I Can Do to Help With Recycling

While it is true that the government can implement initiatives that encourage recycling – foregoing tax on refurbished electronics, offering incentives for recycling and so on – there is much that you can I can do as well.

We can also dispose of our ewaste responsibly.  We can decide to buy refurbished items rather than brand new ones; they are cheaper too! Let us all resist the urge to buy shiny new gadgets simply because we can. When you need to buy ink cartridges, opt for re-manufactured ink cartridges and toner cartridges to support the initiative to prevent exhausted cartridges ending up in landfills.

If you have any more ideas about reducing e-waste, do share this information via the comments section below. Comments on the official Facebook and Twitter pages are also welcome.

Monday, March 16, 2015

5 Myths about Non-OEM Printer Cartridges – Separating Fact & Fiction

non oem ink cartridges
So your printer just ran out of ink or toner...again. As you look for the best price, you might stumble upon compatible or non-OEM printer cartridges. Original equipment manufacturers (OEM), which would be brands like HP or Canon, typically issue alarmist warnings about non-OEM printer cartridges - also known as compatible or generic cartridges. They claim that the quality is inferior, that they could damage printers and even their printer warrantie would be voided as a result of using non-OEM products. Let’s examine these claims individually and see if they stand up to scrutiny.

1.    Non-OEM Ink and Toner Cartridges are of Inferior Quality

MYTH – Non-OEM products are created by third party companies (i.e. not the original brand you bought the printer from), and this fact alone sometimes scares people away. However, that doesn't mean they don't print just as well as OEM products from brands like Dell or Brother. Just read reviews online, and you'll many people commenting that non-OEM printer cartridges have the same print quality and the number of pages printed as OEM ones. More of then than not, OEM companies are the ones who claim non-OEM don't print well or might damage your printer. The truth is, non-OEM printer cartridges all have to meet certain standards and go through a number of quality tests before going out in the market.

2.    But They Look Different!

TRUE – The packaging is different in compatible printer cartridges, and yes, they may even be less attractive and look "cheaper". That said, why should you care about the packaging? You’re not using the packaging but the cartridge inside, so the packaging shouldn't sway you away from making a purchase. In fact, you don't even see the cartridge once in it's the printer, no one will know. Plus, certain packaging sometimes even makes prices higher and can harm the environment - less is better!

Just as a reminder, the real reason why compatible cartridges look different is because they are designed not to because of copyrights from the original product manufacturers that you'll find in major stores like Best Buy.

3.    Only OEM Cartridges are Built to Precise Specifications

MYTH – No, not true. Compatible printer cartridges are also made to meet exact specifications and requirements for the printer they're made to work with. No matter what printer brand or model you have, you will find a compatible product that matches the exact requirements of your specific printer.

4.    Reviews Reveal All

TRUE – All  compatible printer cartridges compatibles are not created equal. Sometimes you'll find really great quality compatible ones from a certain company, and the not-so-good ones in terms of quality. Our advice is to always check out reviews first  - that may be on their Facebook page, Google + page, Yelp, Go through the reviews first, and then make up your own mind about what works and what doesn’t.

5.    Using Non-OEM Products Voids the Printer Warranty

MYTH – When OEMs issue such warnings, these are couched in ambiguous language - “could”, “may” are some of the terms used. This is because printer warranty is not and by law cannot be voided by using a different brand of cartridge so long as it is made to specifications. Congress enacted the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act in 1975 precisely so that company monopolies would not thrive; so that consumers would have access to competitively priced products rather be forced to buy monopolistic products with inflated pricing.

6.    Compatibles Will Damage Your Printer

MYTH – Not true, just because a printer cartridge is non-OEM doesn't mean that it will damage your printer or be defective.Yes, sometimes you will find a "bad" printer cartridge, whether it's OEM or non-OEM,  but that's most likely due to human error or a glitch at the factory. "One bad apple ruins the batch" doesn't apply here. This has nothing to with the brand or lack thereof.  Any ink or toner cartridge may damage your printer if it is defective or is used incorrectly. The occasional defective product may be produced by OEM companies as well as by manufactures of compatibles.

7.    But the Studies Say…

You'll find many OEM companies often talk about studies that say compatible ink and toner cartridges are less reliable. However, if you look closely, you'll see that these so called ‘studies’ are usually funded by those OEM companies themselves! When you examine studies not funded by OEM companies, such as this 2004 study on using a compatible ink, you will find that it's been proved that there is little or no difference in quality between the compatible and OEM printer cartridges.

In fact one study conducted by PC World and the Rochester Institute of Technology (a highly respected research university) found that the third-party ink cartridges used in the study test group actually created more prints per cartridge and cost less. For small businesses and home offices this factor can result in considerable savings and may make a significant difference in your savings or "bottom line".

 8.    OEMs Cost So Much More,  So They Must Be Better

People often think price and quality go hand-in-hand. When we look at brand-name and generic medicine, we'll see that the generic medications often cost less but they work the same as the name-brands. Similarly, a lower costing cartridge may not have a popular and well-known name attached to it but it can still work just as good (or even better) than a household brand name. Yet, we often automatically think it will be poorer quality. 

The fact is that the pricing of printers and OEM cartridges doesn't just happen accident or randomly. The OEM Company reels you in with a cheaply priced printer – a one-time purchase. It then makes you pay ridiculously high prices for their toner and ink cartridges - a frequent purchase.

Now that we've looked into the different types of  claims, which are often untrue, made by OEMS - why shell out so much more for a brand name product when it makes all round good sense to go with compatible products? If you have a different opinion based on your personal experience, please share this with us and our readers.