Update at the start of the year

Our proud new work surface (photo: Dalia Bohn)

Over the last few weeks, we have been busy preparing our infrastructure for future challenges. Not only do more laptops need to be refurbished, but also compliance-related areas need to be expanded. We can now process up to 75 laptops at the same time and certify data medium erasure. Everything is automated and scalable - just the way we want it.

- Author: Tobias Schär (Founder and President)

The infrastructure expansion

At the end of December, Benjamin and I asked ourselves which challenges were causing the most headaches this year. It quickly became clear that we need to refurbish more devices and also test them more and more for their performance. We want to give pleasure with our devices and not spread frustration. Therefore, a benchmark process was set up directly in the last weeks of the year, with which we can clearly classify all devices.

The next construction site was the entire work area. Because until now we could "only" delete and prepare 33 devices at the same time. Our initial goal was to set up to 100 laptops at the same time. But we were quickly brought down to earth because of the electrotechnical conditions. Nevertheless, we immediately started the conceptual work and aimed to be able to start with 75 devices in mid-January.

View of the wiring under our tables (Photo: Dalia Bohn)

Besides tables, cable ducts and power supplies, this scaling also created some challenges for our network. Benj can tell you a thing or two about the variety of problems that arose during our "upscaling". Not only did we have to deliver the data flow from our server to our end devices at 10Gbit/s, but we also had to ensure communication with other systems - such as our Jira environment. This is our main tool for all the requests we handle on a daily basis.

Certificate of deletion

In future, we would also like to document all data medium deletions. The problem: There are some applications that are suitable for our purposes but do not fit into our ecosystem. We work with specific system images and have to communicate with other applications. The solution: Benj does something!

Benj at the interface work (Photo: Dalia Bohn)

No sooner said than done! After a few hours, a first throw of a verification process and a certificate was made. In future, private individuals as well as corporate donors will be able to download their deletion certificates on our NextCloud. Information on the devices, the data carriers and also the deletion process can then be viewed here. Here is an example:

In this way, we can ensure and identify professional deletion. What others do for expensive money, we do completely free of charge. We are happy to reuse the hard drives of the old devices - for this we gladly take a little extra effort into our hands 🙂

If a device does have to be disposed of, a corresponding certificate is issued confirming the removal of the hard disk(s) and their subsequent destruction. In this way, we leave no stone unturned with regard to data protection. We adhere to the following standards when deleting data:

  • NIST 800-80
  • DoD 5220.22-M

All hard drives are erased individually and then verified. This ensures that the data is not only deleted, but that there is really nothing left on the storage media.

Interface work

I myself have the demand on our work that as little manual input as possible is necessary to handle our processes. This also includes connecting the appropriate tools with each other. To do this, you first have to ask yourself which data comes from which environment. We currently have information or files in the following tools that we need to access:

  • Jira
  • NextCloud
  • Clients (laptops)
  • Server

Here, too, Benj worked very diligently. I was in the privileged position of just saying where we needed what. The combinations of a critical requirements engineer and a bombastic developer came into their own here. Now all our systems talk to each other and we can (almost) completely automate all scenarios of our work.

We will then also publish a series of technical articles this year so that we can provide more insights for those interested here. We are proud of what we have been able to create in terms of software - and the biggest thanks go to Benj!

Distribution windows and cooperations

However, Corona does not pass us by without further ado. We had to cancel our distribution window on 16 January. We would be sending out a bad signal as an association if we were to expose ourselves, but above all also our visitors, to increased risk. We will now see how we can solve this matter for those affected, but we would also like to take the opportunity here to create even more cooperation.

For example, we are noticing that more and more people from migrant backgrounds are coming to us. In order to be able to create as clean and long-term a solution as possible here, we are now examining equipment options with various transit centres and are also working more and more with integration organisations. It seems that there is still a lot of potential for improvement here - even though we can already count on almost 200 partner communities and organisations.

Click here for our partner card!

What is on the agenda for 2021?

Private submissions for our purposes (photo: Dalia Bohn)

We don't really know ourselves yet, because at the moment we are not only overrun by enquiries in all directions, but we are also in the comfortable situation that we will probably soon be allowed to work much more professionally.

Through our partnerships, we are also continuously receiving financial resources that will soon enable us to also establish employment relationships. This would not only be a milestone for us, but also another opportunity to make an even better impact.

As we also receive more support questions from our partnerships, we will continue to work conceptually in the coming months to build a question and answer forum, as well as dedicated training programmes with other partner organisations.

And what will happen next is still written in the stars. But I myself am convinced that we can still make a lot of things happen in Switzerland. And this is not only thanks to me as the founder, but also to the whole team and finally to the dear donors who make our deeds possible in the first place. By the way, the current donor record is held by the school in Uster, which donated about 300 devices to us at the beginning of January! We will inform you about this donation on our other channels in the course of the coming week.

If you have made it this far, we thank you very much for your time. We know what we are doing and we also thank you for continuing to highlight our causes. Never forget that one person's e-waste is another person's new perspective.

- Tobias Schär, Founder and President "Wir lernen weiter"

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