The weather is too chilly for me to start thinking seriously about spring cleaning. But we can all start thinking about our plans for tidying up our server rooms. What do you plan to do with old database machines that have started to lose their luster and are no longer as fast as you require? You might have upgraded some of them, but server and client machines eventually reach the stage where updating them no longer makes sense. Wouldn't it be nice to do something useful with hardware you no longer need? Here's an initiative that might interest you. (This particular information applies to folks in the United States; apologies to our international readers.)

The US government's General Services Administration's (GSA's) Office of Transportation and Personal Property Management (MTP) runs a program called Computers For Learning (CFL). The program helps federal government offices donate excess equipment to schools and educational nonprofit organizations across the country. Schools and nonprofit organizations create a wish list for hardware they need and specify whether it needs to be in working order. (Interestingly, many schools and organizations accept nonworking equipment and teach students how to fix it.) Federal office donors use the CFL Web site to see which schools and organizations need what equipment. Donors can search hardware needs by location, requested hardware, and other filters, then assign hardware to a school at no cost to the donor. Schools and organizations then have the option of accepting or declining the donation. The receiving parties pay nothing other than the cost to transport the hardware from the donor to their location.

Unfortunately, demand far outstrips supply, so MTP is evaluating ways to expand the CFL program so that private businesses and organizations can participate. Such an expansion of the program could help companies dispose of hardware assets that have little value to them but potentially great value to the schools and organizations that receive the equipment. MTP is asking businesses to participate in a survey that will help the agency determine private industry's interest in participating in the CFL program; the agency hopes to receive a significant amount of feedback by the end of January. You don't have much time left to participate! The survey should take you only 5 to 10 minutes to complete. The site also contains more detailed information about the existing CFL program.

Even if you can't or choose not to participate in a program such as the MTP one, before you throw out that old PC or server, think about who might be able to use it. After all, one person's trash is another person's treasure.