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The Good Citizen Awards

Inside HP's PC recycling plant.
Inside HP's PC recycling plant.
Imagine a world with Lex Luthor and Dr. Octopus, but no Superman or Spider-Man. Not a pretty image, is it? Well, the computing world has its superheroes, too: people and companies working to eliminate hassles like spyware, spam, and crazy rebate policies. Here, then, are our awards to six courageous annoyance fighters.

The Clean Closet Award to Hewlett-Packard, for its extensive programs to recycle PCs, printers, and ink cartridges. Here's a company that realizes you are more likely to buy new stuff from a company that helps you safely get rid of your old stuff.

The Open Windows Award to Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell, the brainy coders behind www.sysinternals.com. The site's collection of freeware utilities makes it easy to get the kind of under-the-hood info that Windows either hides or doesn't provide at all.

The Inbox Relief Award to Paul Graham and Tim Peters, who developed SpamBayes, the pioneering antispam software that's both free and effective.

The Better Browser Award to the programmers of Mozilla, who have managed to build not one, but two browsers that are faster, smaller, more secure, and easier to use than the one created by the world's biggest software firm.

The Rebate Relief Award to Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, Costco, and other stores that actually make it easier to collect rebates by printing out separate rebate receipts at the cash register.

The Sensible OS Pricing Award to Apple Computer, for charging $129 for one copy of OS X Panther, but a very affordable $199 for a five-license family pack.

Let's Fix This!

Illustration: Robert Neubecker
A couple of suggestions that could simplify computing:

Lose the tiny wires. Building a PC shouldn't require the steady hands of a grizzled FBI bomb squad veteran. A standardized block connector could easily replace those little wires that go from your case to the motherboard. Until then, remember: It's always the green wire.

Stop the CD swap. Product activation works. So why do you have to keep a CD in the drive to play a game?

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