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Ask a Repair Shop (yurchuk.com)
307 points by liquidcool 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 132 comments

If you ask an enterprise vendor if their software has feature X, the answer is always, "Yes!" You'll find their software is infinitely customizable with just a bit of configuration. What they're not telling you is that their configuration tool is really a poorly implemented, proprietary programming language. You won't be able to configure the software yourself and must now hire consultants to read your watch and tell you the time.

The good news is that the enterprise sales folks know all the best restaurants in town. Cocktail bars, too.

> If you ask an enterprise vendor if their software has feature X, the answer is always, "Yes!" You'll find their software is infinitely customizable with just a bit of configuration.

Or, like it happens in smaller B2B deals, they'll say "Yes!", and then after the meeting go to the dev team and say: "we just signed a contract in which we promised feature X; you need to implement it in two weeks".

>"we just signed a contract in which we promised feature X; you need to implement it in two weeks".

This hits wayyyy to close to home.

You also got two weeks? You guys are both lucky.

I knew a CEO once who honestly believed that any feature he could conceive of could be implemented in two weeks.

He was quite successful....

Any before anyone asks what the logic was behind this - there wasn't any - he just chose to believe it and ignore any evidence to the contrary.

Optimism beyond the reasonable may be a critical trait for a successful CEO. Not necessarily what you want in your own manager, of course, but company leaders need to chase risk in order to do well and that's hard to do if you're ready to believe all the (reasonable) opposition that new ideas face.

Add survivorship bias to unreasonable optimism, and you get a culture of celebrating CEOs who demanded the impossible and got it enough times that the companies made money.

Meanwhile, CEOs who demand the impossible and don't get lucky are not celebrated, but are also not widely publicized as failures, so people don't learn from those lessons.

So there's the idea of 'depressive realism'. Basically, that depressed people may have more accurate judgements of the world than non-depressed people, since they're more willing to recognize the frequency of bad stuff.

I've always sort of wondered if there's a reverse effect - if the kind of person who can eagerly commit a big chunk of their life to a task with a 95%+ risk of failure is significantly less likely to be in touch with reality than others.

They wait for the signature?

I thought it was always "in the bag, last couple of redlines to get sorted, but that'll be sorted by the end of the week, no worries."

But yeah, 2 weeks to implement, then it sits there whilst they sort out some overlooked complication

Wait for the signature? Ha. Ahahaha. That's the best case. On some tasks, they wait until two weeks after the due date before telling the team about the feature.

(One contract job I did a while back, the first thing the client asked me for some was some documentation. The forwarded email trail explaining exactly what documentation also contained an email sent two weeks prior, apologising for the delay and saying 'their programmers' were working on it.)

I had this happen also with a particular customer once. They were a large financial institution who bought our product to replace their previous software package that had been way past EOL.

Because they already had software to do this task, my boss assumed that determining the custom requirements for them would be very straightforward, and would only take a week or two. We ended up spending the next 3 months in very tedious conference calls preparing requirements documentation that their obnoxious internal processes required.

Just when we finished that, the customer came back and said, "That's great. Government-Alphabet-Agency gave us a hard deadline to switch to the new system in three weeks." By that point the scope of the project expanded to about 3 months of work.

We still managed to ship something for their deadline, somehow, and we're still providing maintainence for that, oddly enough.

If you ask an enterprise vendor if their software has feature X, the answer is always, "Yes!"

FWIW, not all enterprise software vendors do that. We don't, for example.

Just last night I was running through a demo for a prospective customer, and my contact asked about some new features. The answer was "we have some of that partially implemented, another is trivial, and another one is going to take some research. Ballpark estimate is probably 6 weeks or so to do all that".

Of course maybe it's different when you're a founder who has spent his entire career as a developer and got sick of that exact bullshit routine. :-)

> who has spent his entire career as a developer

If I'm right, this means you're selling to software companies, or companies doing in-house development?

As much bullshit as there is in selling software to software companies, it seems to be so much worse outside of this. Enterprise vendors selling to non-technical firms seem far more willing to promise the moon and stars on the basis that they can hand-wave it as "a job for the software guys". Whereas I think most devs hear that claim and translate to "six months of work", opening up a bit more room to do business by being honest. Congrats on not taking the common approach!

If I'm right, this means you're selling to software companies, or companies doing in-house development?

Not really. We're not doing developer tools or anything like that. Well.. not like an IDE or anything. The products we're talking to this prospect about are an Enterprise Social Network product and a Document Management product.

That said, we do have a machine learning /cognitive services platform in development, so that's borderline a "developer tool", but we're not in the same space as like an Atlassian or anything.

"... another one is going to take some research. Ballpark estimate is probably 6 weeks or so to do all that."

One of these things is not like the other.

"some" research. Not talking "fundamental research" stuff (like particle physics) here. Just looking at the API's provided by a 3rd party product to see how the integration would work.

That said, I did change that answer to "more like 8 weeks" after we spoke further. And that was still just a rough estimate. Anyway, regardless of how accurate that is, the point is that we don't do the "anything can be done in two weeks" thing. :-)

I've been burned far too many times by tasks that started as, "glue this API to that API", only to discover that "that API" anything remotely like what I needed.

I hear ya. Same here.

Did you close the sale? (Not being an ass. Curious)

Not yet. The conversation is ongoing though.

I did this when I was choosing a laptop. I called up a few laptop repair shops. It as so helpful! They could tell me what was junk and what was OK.

I also do something like this this when choosing a new ISP. I call the support line instead of the sales line. Somehow ISPs can answer sales enquiries instantly while support calls take 45 minutes to answer. This strategy has led me to use some of the smaller (slightly more expensive) ISPs, because I know they'll answer almost straight away.

My best customer support experience was calling an American ISP (I guess a small regional one but I have no good way to judge their size). I had been emailed billing details for a customer - the customer had presumably mistakenly entered my email address. I was expecting the usual 40 minutes on hold but it was answered promptly and politely by someone who understood the problem as I presented it.

This contrasts greatly with my experience calling any UK ISP.

The only other phone support I've experienced that has come close to that was (the now sadly defunct) Icesave, which I believe shared their phone support with Newcastle building society.

If you're not having luck with UK ISPs, try https://www.aaisp.net.uk/

They have technical people running support who talk to customers as peers. Also you can use IRC if you don't like the phone.

Yeah, they're not the cheapest by a long stretch, but if your connection is something you NEED rather than something you just LIKE... Andrews and Arnold are worth the premium.

If you will be losing productivity if there's any outage, you'll probably save the price difference the first time you use their support.

I've had good experiences with Zen too, on their FTTP product. (I'd have used AA, but they didn't offer that specific setup.)

+1 for Zen - they really know what they are doing. Unfortunately FTTC still requires intervention from Openreach who are still terrible.

I find Zen is a good middle ground between a reliable ISP with good features (like static addresses, IPv6, etc) and good support, and a provider like Andrews * Arnold who are excellent but will cost 2-3x the price. A&A are just not really suited to home use, and price a lot on bandwidth, which in the age of Netflix isn't great.

+1 for AAISP. I use them for mobile and they're awesome - no contracts, no marketing BS, no fine print, just voice and data at a fair price.

I'm paying 5€ extra per month (Germany) for more upstream, a crappy sla and most importantly a dedicated support hotline. Whenever I call, it's a waiting time measured in seconds and the people answering have technical knowledge.

It must be nice to have a choice of ISPs. I have exactly one to "choose" from.

I have two if I count 4 mbit DSL from ATT as my second option.

Yay for monopoly!

You aren't reaching enough. You've also got satellite and dial-up options.

I would love to have something other than DSL, satellite, and dial-up as an option.

I only have three medias to choose from. Dsl, cable and fiber. No idea how many companies to choose from on each of them though. You plug in your computer to the wall outlet and get a list of offers in the browser, sorted on price, contract time (3 month all of them). Click a button to choose and off you go surfing. Pretty ok for a socialist country :)

Plenty of space if you feel like moving.

What country?

And is the scenario you described available everywhere in the country? I'm imagining that the cities must manage whatever infrastructure there is that connects your wall outlets to the various ISPs – is that right?


Most houses connected to the central heating system has also access to fiber. The selection of ISP is more or less the same way but in smaller villages a phone call is usually needed but this is slowly moving in the same direction as the cities. Dsl can be chosen pretty freely everywhere there still are copper networks but they are shutting down that in the less populated areas. Still might have access to fiber though even if the village only have 30 houses.

Either the powercompany, citywide housing company or the state takes care of the fiber network. Dsl is some former state owned company taking care of I believe. Havent had to use dsl the last 20 years so not so sure how it works there now.

We had an excellent shower repair guy who probably saved us £1500 by managing to fix a badly installed shower valve in place rather than requiring the entire show unit to be ripped out.

I did ask him if they recommended particular makes of plumbing fittings but he told me their company policy was never to make recommendations :-(

Hard to do with laptops if you prefer the newer ones. They don't have much of a track record when I usually buy one.

Not only that. There are so many models out there that even if they have been around for a while, the small group of people you manage to ask does not make up a statistically reliable dataset.

Buying laptops is really scary that way. Half the time you get some shit yuo have to outlive, and the other half it's fairly decent. Only once or twice have I heard people hit the jackpot.

I agree it would be hard to ask about specific models. I just asked about which brands were the most reliable and easiest to repair.

You're right regarding sales/support responsiveness.

I've found the quickest way to get a Comcast rep on the line is to select the menu option that states "I'm having trouble submitting my bill payment." :)

So how's your new Macbook Pro?

My experience is the opposite. Spoke with two system integrators regarding an implementation of a marketing automation tool. In both cases, the proposed lead on the project made statements that I knew were incorrect regarding the software. We also had a challenging requirement that was not part of any out-of-the-box solution and was told by both that it wasn't possible with one of the vendors we were considering. Simply using Google, I was able to find a solution.

I'd add (and the author mentions this) that most system integrators have a bias (whether financially driven or not) towards particular software. That makes it challenging to assess "is this the best software or what they pushing me to"?

I don't see how this is that much different from buying from the vendors.

For me, I usually take a vendor's customer page and start calling people myself. I also reach out to my network to see if anyone has an opinion. And if I can find a list of companies using the software (vs. who the company says they work with) then I call/reach out to them as well.

A lot of SI's are married to a particular software platform, and it's been that way for a long time. We all know the big player who owns 70-80% of the market, and most people will implement via them (or that's at least what they make most of their money off of).

Some of us (I work for an SI) actually find the correct solution for the problem. We use all 4 major players, build our own stuff when appropriate, and would look at other solutions if the opportunity arrises, we love what we do.

Let me know if you're still looking for a solution and I'd be happy to give you another opinion.

Appreciate the offer - this was a past company so I'm not in the market right now.

Not a problem, if you ever need anything, you can reach out and I'll help if possible Dave@CorsoSystems.com

SIs are tough. It depends on who you are, who they are and the space that you are buying in.

If you're not huge, the integrator may be your best option as the OEM may not be able to support you. This all depends on your vertical, location, etc.

OEMs with market power like Cisco treat integrators like mini Cisco salesmen -- you must go with the first one you registers the deal with Cisco to get the best backend price. In other markets like identity, the SIs traditionally have been more subject matter experts who know the products. Cloud changes a lot of this stuff on the infrastructure side as your often held hostage to whatever your provider of choice uses.

Worth noting that you can hire consultants—often SIs—to help you with software selection: to answer the question of what software is best for you.

Most companies don't want to pay that cost, so ask SIs to make recommendations in their RFPs for implementation services. Not only are you going to get bias from pitching the software they're best positioned to implement, but the requirements gathering process is never as good because a) companies won't share as much during a competitive procurement and b) SIs won't invest the time to do all that work for free.

Standalone vendor analyses are another ball of wax, as SIs with true experience with all the leading products will give you great advice. You have to make sure you get the right people. And then you have to walk to the line of "objectivity": either you exclude the evaluation vendor from implementation (so SIs won't bid because they want the more lucrative SI work), or you give the evaluating SI a leg up over competition in the competitive implementation process. You also have to come to terms with some duplication of requirements gathering if you have different evaluation and implementation vendors.

The other consideration is that the "best" software is completely subjective. Software X may have more features out of the box, but has 2x support costs. Software Y may lag on a particular feature you want, but is the market leader with better integrations. This is part of proper software evaluation.

> ask SIs to make recommendations in their RFPs for implementation services. Not only are you going to get bias from pitching the software they're best positioned to implement, but the requirements gathering process is never as good because a) companies won't share as much during a competitive procurement and b) SIs won't invest the time to do all that work for free.

I mean I'm sure there is solid economy theoretic reasoning in favour of RFPs in general but I've never understood why anyone would want to do things that way.

The way I hear it, you're basically saying, "Hey, from a group of people who are willing to work for free – I'll pick the one willing to cut the most corners!" Quality just cannot arise from that kind of process.

Author here, great feedback, thanks.

My ultimate goal would be, if possible, to ask one of the SI's professional services developers out to lunch and pick their brain in an informal setting. Someone who has been there for a couple years and has seen some things and is ready to talk.

One of the challenges with the SI model is because people go to the vendor, they give you a lot of business and help keep payroll going, so you never want to badmouth them in public. But you don't have to badmouth anyone to say, "We think for your needs, this is the best solution." Problem is, you're not allowed to say even that when the lead comes from the vendor.

Perhaps the best question is, "Who has the best developer experience?" IMHO, that's the best sign of a quality product. Granted, still might not have the features you need out of the box like a bigger, older vendor. You need to weigh all pros and cons.

This is mostly the result of our checkbox-grid comparison shopping culture. "Features" like extra coats of paint and thicker metal cost the manufacturer more than they increase the market value. On the other hand, throwing in a dozen cheap bits of plastic with every vacuum cleaner pays for itself because it can now ostensibly do a dozen more things.

This frustrates me to no end. I don't mind voting with my wallet and paying for more expensive things if they are better and built to last longer. However it seems a lot of things these days are just more expensive to be fashionable, to sell you a lifestyle full of expensive things that break easily and are not actually built better. I would love to be able to buy more simple, well made things.

> I would love to be able to buy more simple, well made things

Problem is, if we are a minority of folks thinking this way, it won't make sense financially for manufacturers. What's happening with the buy-and-dispose generation is that nobody really cares about quality anymore - which is why the market is going in this way.

I don't think we are in the minority. I think most people would prefer to buy a better-made product that lasts even if it costs a bit more as in the long run it ends up being cheaper. This isn't in the manufacturer's interest though. They would rather sell you 5 or 10 vacuums over your lifetime rather than just 1. This puts more money in the manufacturers pocket and they have zero incentive to keep repair shops in business.

These days it is problematic to even know what products one should be buying because the quality of more brands than not is bad and many of these were well-designed products in the past that come from trusted name companies.

Minority or majority, to me the problem is the impossibility of determining what's quality anymore. "buy the expensive one" gets you plastic crap with more frills. "buy a trusted brand" doesnt' work when all the infinite brands - even formerly reputable ones like GE - are now just stickers for Chinese factories.

Impossibilty is a strong word. Sure, there are no standards bodies rating the quality of a product (those that exist tend to rate it as a "pass/fail" sort of thing.) But there's this thing called the internet where for any item you can think about you can find a tiny group of people obsessed about that item and ask them. It's the modern day "ask a repair shop"!

I wish there was like a rating system for how well-built appliances are. I guess the poor man's version of that is looking at how long the manufacturer's warranty is.

Even better would be to get ahold of the price list of a 3rd party warranty company.

The manufacturer warranty is just as likely to be a financial product as it is to reflect product quality.

Well these days, with Amazon, that's what the reviews are for. I've passed on lots of purchases because I looked at the reviews and saw too many negative ones, and bought other things after seeing almost all glowing reviews. A bad-quality product can lead to poor reviews, and this can affect sales.

Manufacturers' warranties are only so useful; a lot of companies make you jump through hoops to actually make use of them. If the product isn't that expensive, you'll end up paying so much in shipping that it just isn't worth bothering with when you can go buy a new one. And you always take the chance that they'll simply deny your claim and then your recourse is to sue them (not worth it for anything under a few thousand dollars) and to post bad reviews.

I'd like to point out an addition to this. Always read the negative reviews. Don't just count them. I put much more weight on the negative reviews than the positive ones. You can frequently tell if the bad experience is due to a user error or if it's a systematic fault in the product.

If a product has 70% negative reviews, of which 90% are operator error, I'll probably still prefer that product to the one with only 30% negative reviews where only 30% are operator error.

That's a good point. A lot of bad reviews are clearly user stupidity: I even see ones where they obviously bought the wrong thing, had unrealistic expectations, etc., and then gave a poor review based on this. Or reviews where the merchant (usually Amazon) screwed up somehow, so they give a poor review to the product.

On the other hand, positive reviews are frequently either lies or fluff, so you're exactly right to weight them much less. A lot of them look like they're written by shills, some of them even clearly say they got the product for free or cheap in exchange for a review, and many are written shortly after acquiring the product so they really haven't had enough time to fairly test it and see if it's reliable long-term.

Also, well-written negative reviews will go into great detail explaining exactly why the product is crap, so look for those. I'm remembering a great (and long) review I read for an automatic cat litterbox which attaches to a toilet here, and sometimes ends up cooking cat turds...

I'd look for the repair manual.


I'm actually on the market for a new kitchen range and I bought a CR subscription last night. I was disappointed. Almost none of the ranges have textual reviews, just a 5-star rating on about 6 different feature points. They each have a User Reviews section, most of which were unpopulated, and the remainder having one or two one-star reviews cursing it for falling apart in the first month. CR has a short blurb about reliability across entire brands, but the range was between 10% and 16% expected failure rate across the small subset of brands that were listed; most of the manufacturers were not even on the list. I'm left about as clueless as when I started.

This reminds me so much of my experiences working in a computer repair shop ~15 years ago.

Funniest thing about it is that as a sales rep I sucked, but once I got moved into repair, I was absolutely destroying our sales team in sales often by 4x their best rep without even trying.

There were a couple of Black Fridays where the store made all computer sales take place at the repair center because of it.

> Funniest thing about it is that as a sales rep I sucked, but once I got moved into repair, I was absolutely destroying our sales team in sales often by 4x their best rep without even trying.

I find this incredibly interesting because it's telling us something about how to make people perform at their best. I believe I'm the same way regarding making pitches from a repair bench.

Do you know why it happened that way to you? I'd share my hypothesis but I don't want to prime you.

My goals were different and I wasn't worried about making sales anymore, just telling them what I thought was best for them.

I wasn't expected to sell anymore either, so my approach to dealing with people in the store could be different too.

Loosely related, here's a great Reddit AMA with a vacuum repair technician...


One of the best threads Reddit has produced in a very long time.

Ask the company for other customers you can talk to and then take a few members of the system engineering team responsible for supporting it out for dinner to learn the real story.

In truth though, a lot of enterprise software sucks and it sucks to support but there are usually few better options. Often velocity is the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd priority so it's easier to pickup some shitty software and spend some engineering resources to 'make it work' than it is to try to internally sell investing the resources needed to build a better bespoke solution.

The difference between doing that and talking to 3rd party integrators is the ability to compare across vendors.

    I got a full education on washers, including a lot of industry dirty laundry. 
Please tell us more.

What's interesting to me is that for all my appliances in my house (different brands), I've been able to repair each of them (microwave, air conditioner, washer, dryer, dishwasher, and wine fridge) on my own, using some basic instructions on the internet and a part that at most has cost $50.

I believe we're in a golden age for self-repair (particularly with YouTube videos), but I keep hearing about how everything is throwaway. Just the other week I repaired an iPhone 3GS we had been using as a baby monitor until it was dropped, for $4 (including shipping!) to replace the screen. That's amazing!

For those that do a Google search, and buy some parts on eBay (although I got an obscure a/c part via Amazon Prime), it's never been easier to repair your devices.

The problem is that companies (especially Apple) are explicitly trying to make their devices harder to repair -- which is the reason for the whole Right-to-Repair movement[1]. If you want to see how much dodgy stuff repair shops have to go through to figure out how to fix Apple products, check out the channels of Louis Rossman[2] and Jessa Jones[3].

[1]: http://ifixit.org/right [2]: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl2mFZoRqjw_ELax4Yisf6w [3]: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPjp41qeXe1o_lp1US9TpWA

Apple aside, there is anyway an issue with a broken market for spares and repairs.

A single data point:

I recently went shopping for a replacement pump for a (professional) dishwasher, and while I was at it I was looking for a spare "programmer" (which is an electromechanic thingy, a motor with reduction gears and three cams that operate switches at a given timing).

I was given an estimate from the local repair shop for the repair between 500 and 600 Euros (the machine, new, can be bought for around 1300 - 1500 Euros), the actual machine being some 9 years old (though just fine, apart the pump sometimes not starting at first try) it plainly means "get a new dishwasher".

The pump (which is common enough, used in some 8 or 10 brands of dishwashers) is made in Italy, the actual factory is no more than 150 km away from where I live (but of course they don't sell directly).

The parts were quoted (another local spare parts shop) around 400 Euros.

I quickly found the same parts on e-bay and similar in England or in Germany for around 350 Euros (+ shipping) and finally found a dealer in Sardinia (which is a large island, a region off the coast of Italy) from which I got the parts (including shipping) for 290 Euro (this fact alone makes no sense whatsoever, we are talking of the stupid pump traveling for more than 800 km, partially across the sea going forward and back from Sardinia).

BTW I found the same pump in Spain, Polony and Romania at a much lower price but when you added the shipping it was more or less the same total.

We are not talking of an "aftermarket" or "compatible" spare, we are talking of exactly the same pump made by the exact same factory.

Then it took me around 1 hour time to replace the parts, and I am not a specialized dishwasher technician.

> the actual factory is no more than 150 km away from where I live (but of course they don't sell directly).

You probably tried this already, but in case you didn't: see if you track down and speak directly to one of the people on the factory floor. Ask them if there's any chance they have a unit lying around that's been used for demonstration purposes, testing, or maybe there's a cosmetic fault that made it unshippable, whatever. When things are used or manufactured at an industrial scale, individual units tend to end up in storage rooms and gather dust.

However, you have to be aware that the employee would probably have to jump through some hoops to help you (talk to their manager, ensure the right people are compensated, assist with physical delivery and so on), so

1. You may have to badger them a lot to get it done. Not because they don't want to help, but because if you're not showing initiative, they'll do more important things with their time.

2. And this should probably go without saying but they won't be sales people. You'll owe them, not the other way around!

Well, yes and no, we are still talking of the diffence between 400 and 290 Euros, it wouldn't have been worth it, though for buying costly appliances I have done what you suggest in the past, of course.

Do you think though that this is Apple actively trying to reduce your ability to repair, or is it that they pursue other goals and the ability to repair is waaay down on the list?

I would assume, from experience in large corporations, that it is the latter.

Do you think though that this is Apple actively trying to reduce your ability to repair, or is it that they pursue other goals and the ability to repair is waaay down on the list?

Another vote for intentional.

By the time you 1. add sw to detect repairs as mentioned elsewhere 2. don't use standard screws like posi or torx 3. make the screws similar but make sure one is longer and will short circuit the device if you put it in the wrong place (IIRC)

- then it is intentional.

It's intentional.

They do not provide schematics to anyone outside of Apple and FOXCONN. They only provide diagnostics tools to "authorised repair shops" (which actually don't repair devices). They provide no information to repair shops on where they might be able to buy replacement chips (aside from searching the chip name on AliExpress). It's not as though they don't know how to repair devices, there is mountains of evidence that Apple gives refurbished devices (the boards they provide clearly are not new) even though they call them "re-manufactured" whatever that means.

The most glaring thing is that there are instances where third-party repair shops have figured out why a defect was occurring before Apple did (the graphics card fiascos were shown to be caused by a heat-sensitive tantalum capacitor used near the graphics chip that is damaged due to thermal stress). We know Apple didn't know why the boards were failing because they would give customers refurbished boards that would fail a few months later because they didn't fix the issue. Not to mention that Apple doesn't tell its customers about recalls of their products (which happens almost every year) which is actually illegal in Australia.

You might say all of the above is laziness, but once you have a company which specifically writes software to detect whether an "unauthorised repair" has taken place[1] then I consider them to be malicious. They've also threatened to sue repair shops, and are constantly attacking third-party repair shops (the term "unauthorised" comes from them and is not a term used in any other repair industry).

If you compare this to how other companies operate, this is completely at-odds with the entire industry when it comes to repairability. Microsoft is trying to copy Apple (in all of their negatives) but the rest of the industry doesn't work that way. You can get schematics for other consumer laptops or electronics equipment. In the automotive industry there are laws that make sure that schematics, tools, and parts are available for any third-party repair shop.

tl;dr: Apple is intentionally trying to gain a monopoly on the repairs of their devices.

[1]: https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/techandscience/apple-busted-m...

As far as I know, no manufacturer supplies laptop circuit diagrams to outside parties, except Panasonic for the Toughbook series. All the other schematics out there are leaks. Automotive manufacturers only supply wiring diagrams of the body wiring harnesses. The only electronic assemblies in cars you can get a circuit diagram for are radios; ECU internals are jealously guarded. Even in the consumer electronics industry, manufacturers don't tell you how to buy parts through components distribution. They either sell you the parts at humongous markup or direct you to their authorized parts dealers who buy them from the product manufacturer, not the component manufacturer, again at huge markup. Most of the chips in a laptop aren't available through components distribution at all because the distys would never be able to sell enough pieces to justify a minimum order from the chip maker.

Ugh. This makes me so sad. I was very close to buying a Fairphone 2 or something for its repairability, but I ended up getting a recent Samsung model anyway because it beats the crap out of everything else in almost all categories – especially ones I value highly, like nonexistent shutter lag, weather sealing, battery life and such.

But they're also very anti-tinker, from what I understand. The more I read about stuff like this, the more I'm thinking about rooting my phone just because I want to be in control. I hate handing over my security and system maintenance to a large corporation who barely has my interests in mind. However, rooting a recent Samsung phone is a one-way operation and they can detect it and refuse service under warranty in some jurisdictions. I don't know what to do!

Wait until warranty is expired or you have saved enough to replace it.

Next time: consider buying second hand if that is an option where you live. Should give you more options wrt 3rd party sw alternatives.

Louis Rossman has an axe to grind, and from the recent iFixit teardowns, other manufacturers, particularly Microsoft, have been worse than Apple for repairability.

But there are trade-offs... fixing my iPhone 5S back panel was a huge pain. But - I could do it! And it was cheap! And I get a device that's tiny, resilient, and generally a wonder. I've seen devices and repairs evolve from the 80s through to now, and I still firmly believe we're better off now (in general), than we were, simply due to economies of scale and the reduction in information asymmetry.

Louis's axe grinding is not without justification. But I don't disagree that these days repairing your own devices is much easier than it was 50 years ago. My point was that companies are trying to counteract that by creating devices and instituting (possibly illegal in some countries) policies that are anti-consumer repair.

What's the justification? Yeah, I'd like more easily repairable devices, but I also get the trade-off. Why is he so angry about it all? (from what I can tell - because he knows how to fix stuff, rather than replace parts wholesale, and fundamentally believes this should be the norm, without taking into account the economics)

The longer rant is here[1]. In short, it's because Apple is unique in its hatred of third-party repair and they are trying to gain a monopoly over repair of their devices. This is not normal, it's actually very abnormal if you compare it to how repair industries normally work for electronic or mechanical components.

The problem is not that Louis (and the rest of the right-to-repair movement) want them to go out of their way to be accommodating. They want them to follow how the rest of the repair industry operates, and to stop going out of their way to make repairs more difficult. Louis has a very strong personality, but he does actually have a point.

Economics is an excuse, especially since we know the Apple explicitly has spent money on trying to thwart third-party repair shops. The automotive industry went through this song and dance in 2012 (before the 90s it was the norm). All they want is the ability to purchase legitimate chips from wherever Apple sources them and have access to the same schematics their technicians have access to. They're not asking Apple to become a wholesale supplier of repair parts.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14759763

A lot of it isn't even about changing their design (which is terrible in terms of repairability), but basic ethics. Apple actively prohibits third party repair, as-if they own the device I paid full price on. I couldn't imagine being forced to only service my car with a particular dealership. I prefer being able to change the oil myself or having the option of going to the local mechanic.

You couldn't imagine being forced to only get service at your dealership, and you don't: you buy a car that isn't like this (which today means you don't get a Tesla).

I'm sure your attitude isn't that unusual; a decent portion of the general public is savvy enough about auto repair to know dealerships are a big rip-off.

However, much of the population doesn't think twice about getting this treatment from Apple, and are happy to buy their iDevices, even though there's viable alternatives for all of them.

The justification is its a huge waste to replace a $350 (or more now if SSDs and stuff are soldered in) logic board or throw away a computer over a 10 cent busted resistor or surface mount fuse that can be diagnosed and replaced in an hour.

And he doesn't have any good things to say about the Surface either https://youtu.be/yswp0Bio4Oo

Couple of recent attempted fixes:

Food mixer - resin washer instead of metal, without tools to machine a purpose fit washer is irrepairable.

TV - 4 years old, needed new main board, nothing at less than 50% cost of a brand new (better) TV. No parts from named manufacturer (re-badged).

Kettle - plastic in switch, clearly a weak point, suspect it was designed in, double thickness and the kettle would probably go forever. 3D print would fix, epoxy glue kept detaching.

Multimeter - battery flat, no compartment. One triangle security screw, one stripped head. Had to mangle the case to change the battery.

Mobile phone - Acer, case impossible to open without damaging: screws + one-way plastic security tabs. Just screws or a redesigned tab would make it repairable. No 1st party battery for sale of course.

Lawnmower - push mower can't detach drive for blades as they've used circlips on rods where bolts would have served. Need to buy circlips pliers, if clips break replacements not available.

Rechargeable shaver/trimmer - battery soldered in, shell glued shut. Battery is non-standard cells. Plenty of room for a battery compartment FWIW.

With more popular items where company hasn't actively hobbled the repairability then I agree, information to make repairs is often widely available.

Aside: I'm building a mental list of home items designed to fail too - like all plastic dustpans having a narrowing of the handle at the stress point; they all are thinnest at that point and all break at that point. We could probably cut the demand to 10% with a cm^3 of extra plastic.

I have had sever successful hack repairs. A weak kettle switch strengthened by construction glue and hanger wire drilled through the plastic.

A washable force air filter frame reinforced by a glued on plastic sheet.

The $80 car antenna that broke off in an unfortunately time garage door close also fixed with glue and museum putty(just for stability till the glue dried).

I am a maker, breaker and a fixer. Keep it out of the trash.

> TV - 4 years old, needed new main board

The whole board was trashed? The PSU on my previous TV failed (due to capacitor plague); I ordered a complete part replacement kit from eBay for like 10 bucks and swapped the bad caps using a wood burner as a soldering iron.

Did you check for broken/for parts listings for the same TV? At 4 years old, I'd expect a lot of 2nd-hand supply.

Lightning damage! Couldn't track the fault, only that it appeared to be on the main board: part fried chip I think. I don't keep things any more as I tend towards hoarding and live in a small house with an unexpectedly enlarged family. I found similar main boards from differently labelled TVs but all with subtly different layouts (and codes) and prices just too large (for me) to warrant giving it a go.

Bad caps, I feel like Dr House trying to find Lupus, it's always suggested but never appears ... waiting for that one time to show up.

> Lightning damage!

lol, not what I expected!

Bad caps are obvious, they bulge out or their resistance is shot.

FWIW, Harbor Fright sells pliers for retaining clips. They're not the best, but like everything from Harbor Fright, will either suffice for the occasional job or demonstrate that you use the tool enough to buy a better version.

Yeah, there are many appliance repair videos on Youtube.

They're often service guys with a penchant for showmanship. They love what they do and genuinely want to be helpful, they'll even play techno music over the boring parts.

I troubleshot and replaced my dryer's drum by following a youtube video. I had been expecting it to be a nightmare job, but it was remarkably low-stress after seeing someone do it on youtube and finding the parts online.

After doing this more than a few times, it quickly becomes easier as one gets familiar with how things are put together and where to find parts. Espresso machines, coffee grinders, monitors, washer/dryers, radios, automotive stuff, PC's and even laptops... none of this stuff is rocket science to repair with a bit of patience and study. More folks should try it.

>Yeah, there are many appliance repair videos on Youtube. They're often service guys with a penchant for showmanship. They love what they do and genuinely want to be helpful,

They're not just being helpful; the ones I've seen also include links so that you can buy the replacement part from their online business. It's great salesmanship: "look, you can do it yourself and save a bundle! We'll sell you the parts for a great price!" (even though their price probably isn't really the best, but it's probably fair.)

Repairability varies: it depends on what broke, and how much the parts cost to fix it. I had a first-gen Maytag Neptune washer for about 17 years; it had some problems (including the infamous mold problem they mitigated under warranty), including a failed pump and a belt that slipped off. But finally, the main bearing gave out. The replacement part for this is $400; that just isn't worth it for a machine that old. I can get a newer machine secondhand for less than that, which is exactly what I did.

Also, as we're seeing now with mobile devices, sometimes they're glued together so it's quite impossible to disassemble them without damaging them. iFitIt complained bitterly about this with the new Surface notebook. Luckily, appliances aren't (yet?) built like this.

Amazing is the price you paid for the screen. Maybe iPhone screens are in such high supply - but with modern Android smartphones, we're usually talking about ~$100 for the screen package. Whether or not you'll be able to replace that without specialized equipment depends on the manufacturer (I did one such repair myself on Samsung Galaxy S3 without problems, but with my S7 I'd have to first cut it apart - and Samsung phones are on the "more repairable" end of the spectrum...).

The reason we're talking about throwaway economy is because quite often, the parts that fail are not available in any reasonable quantity (phone screens, appliance motherboards), and paying for repair (or acquiring them yourself and doing the repair on your own) costs about as much as a new device. At which point most people rightfully ask, why bother?

Also, when comparing to 1960s - 1980s, one has to remember that it's not just that the devices were simpler then. They also often came with technical manuals, and they were intended to be home-repairable. OTOH manufacturers today seriously screw up repairability even when not necessary. I get that screens are best made as fully-integrated parts, but compare e.g. Kindle 3 Keyboard, which is as close as you get to swappable screen (pry it open, screw out some screws, pull the screen out...) vs. devices which are internally glued together, so that trying to take it apart risks destroying some components.

Most modern smartphones have the LCD, digitizer and glass all fused together. It improves image quality and reduces the distance between the glass and the image. This, however, greatly increases the replacement cost since you would then have to replace the entire unit when you break it. Also, higher resolution screens are more expensive.

I think the 3GS is old enough to have these layers as discrete components that you can replace one by one, hence the lower cost.

yes, the 3gs didn't have loca, although the 4 and beyond did. Android phones tend to have much more expensive LCD's which since about 2013 are all loca'd to the glass and digi, so when the screen breaks on your s7 it's a very pricey fix.

At the shop I worked in, in the case of broken glass but fully working LCD, on a galaxy s3-s5, we would spend about an hour holding the screen assembly under a heat gun and slowly peel the glass off the LCD with a playing card. The we could put on new loca and glue a new piece of glass on, which cost ~$10. We charged like $120 for the because it took forever and there was like a 1/4 chance you broke the LCD and then replacing the assembly was like $110.

In my experience only Screen with a resolution above 720p are expensive, for my Moto G2 I paid around 15$ for Screen and it got send with a fitting screwdriver for the phone.

(I never went making a comparison of prices of different phone screens, I only know from 3 other phones with 1080p+ screens that they are way more expensive)

Sure, there are some items which are not repairable in a reasonable way. Classic example - my wife's Apple Watch, after she broke the screen on that. However, my point was I own a wide variety of appliances from different manufacturers and my default experience has been thrifty and simple repair.

I dropped my s7, getting quotes of $170 for the screen + digitizer :( The phone is worth like $250 new on eBay, but it's $170 to have someone fix it.. so frustrating.

My experience has been mostly different. I recently broke something on my gas stove (by being an idiot) that made the two front burners unusable. I looked for replacement parts online and turned up nothing, so I called a repair shop and was told that the broken part isn't and never has been made available by the manufacturer. So I'm totally out of luck on that. On the plus side, the stove was made in 1994 so it worked pretty well for over twenty years.

A friend asked me the same, so here's my info. It is dated, and you're best calling a repair shop before buying, but likely still some nuggets of truth here.

Big trend is consolidation in the industry. Whirlpool, Maytag, and Kitchenaid are all the same company now. For dishwashers (and I got this info recently), repairman said they all have the same motor and core components, which is the most important. They differ on the control panel, aesthetics, and price. He also said that LG dishwashers have a problem with hard water, which is problematic in SoCal.

BTW, this was a call for a dishwasher problem on a Kitchenaid my brother bought used. The door kept popping open during washing (just enough to stop the cycle), and he said the problem was that the frame was slightly bent, probably during transport. My brother got a great deal buying a matched set of appliances used (you nearly always do), but sadly there was nothing he could do for a bent frame and it had to be ditched.

For washing machines, the guy said "Buttons and knobs, the simpler the better. No electronics. When these things have problems, it's always the electronic control panel, which is expensive to replace." He also suggested Whirlpool and Maytag, so I went with Whirlpool since again, same company, cheaper price.

Some years ago, a vacuum cleaner shop explained that everyone is racing to put out a lighter vacuum, and hence they switched from metal gearing and components to plastic. This greatly diminishes their lifespan. He had a number of used models he personally serviced and felt good about selling used. Afraid I forget the model he was really excited about, but again, your local vacuum shop will likely have something.

And thanks to all the nice comments, this really made my day!

I've been told the same thing about dishwashers; all the pumps are the same and you're just paying for more buttons. They did add that sometimes the top-of-the-line model will still actually clean better due to some added sensors that will extend the cycle if the water through the pump is still getting dirty, but it sounded like the improvement was negligible.

Unfortunately everything is getting more complex. Even my dirt cheap "buttons and knobs" washer no longer has a batch size knob, instead incorporating some sort of sensor that determines the "optimal" water level.

That's somewhat driven by regulation. The hot water is a big chunk of the energy use of a clothes washer.

I've had a suspicion that was the reasoning behind it. Ironically it actually ends up using maybe 20% more water than on my old washer where I'd set the water level manually. I suppose it is possible that a large segment of users would always use a large batch no matter what, so overall having the sensors results in a net conservation. But I'm skeptical that this is really the case.

> Big trend is consolidation in the industry. Whirlpool, Maytag, and Kitchenaid are all the same company now.

You might be indirectly referencing this site (and article):

https://recraigslist.com/2015/10/they-used-to-last-50-years/ (ffs - just saw this link was posted below)

...which essentially says the same thing, but in more detail.

> For washing machines, the guy said

Another thing: Stay away from front loaders (unless health or other reasons prevent it) - the door seal always goes, and makes a huge mess when it does.

> Some years ago, a vacuum cleaner shop explained that everyone is racing to put out a lighter vacuum, and hence they switched from metal gearing and components to plastic.

When I was in high school, my friend's mom had an old Kirby upright bag vacuum - probably dated from the 1950s. All steel, everywhere. Sounded like a jet engine when it was running. But the thing could pick up the moon if you positioned it properly.

One day, being the dumbasses we were, we decided "hey, let's put it to the test!". So we started vacuuming things up. Bits of plastic, legos, pennies, washers, nails - all of it, no problem. There had to be something that would stop it dead (we had no clue what we'd do if it did die - like I said, we were dumbasses)...hey, how about a roll of quarters!

It made the most horrendous noise imaginable. The lights flickered in the home as the motor struggled. But it kept going. Eventually, the whole thing was sucked up into the vacuum. No damage to anything in it, and it continued to run and work like always...

I'm pretty sure that old Kirby is still running somewhere.

His mom never knew (we weren't so dumb as to do this when she was home, though)!

Hadn't seen that article, but will take a look.

Friend sold Kirby vacuums and had a very high opinion of them, but of course they are extremely expensive, something like $1,500.

but sadly there was nothing he could do for a bent frame and it had to be ditched.

Some carefully applied force might've fixed it. We used to do that with cars too.

This was an interesting read on why many appliances are no longer built to last: https://recraigslist.com/2015/10/they-used-to-last-50-years/

Previously discussed on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13909365

Honestly the answer to the appliance problem is to just buy Miele. I'm not really a huge fan, because you do pay a lot for the brand and they're not always as technologically advanced as, for example, Siemens, but you do get a long warranty and high quality.

My father has sensitive skin, so my parents wanted a washing machine with excellent rinse performance. They consulted independent reviews, and brought an £800 ($1000) Miele washing machine which was reviewed as having good rinse performance.

Except it didn't. The rinse performance was mediocre, even with all the 'extra rinse' settings enabled. After several engineer call outs, they returned it and brought a £450 ($580) Bosch instead. The rinse performance was still mediocre, but at least they hadn't wasted so much money.

Later, I learned that the reviewers had dropped their rinse performance standards, because modern water- and energy-efficient washing machines couldn't perform and they didn't want to publish a review that panned every single machine.

My point is: Buying a Miele isn't a silver bullet.

The apartment we rent has Miele appliances. Recently, a plastic screw widget broke in the range hood. I tried to repair it myself, as it looked simple to change, however was just out of reach and I couldn't figure out how to take the side off. It was CHF350 ($350) for the hour we had the technician over. Maybe they don't break often, but when they do...

That's my experience with them as well. We got three 10-year-old machines (clothes washer, drier and dishwasher), and they all lasted 10-15 years more with minimal problems, but when a problem did arise, just getting an official Miele rep to look at it was damn expensive, and the estimate to fix it was the cost of a new mid-range machine.

Luckily we found an non-affiliated technician who was much cheaper and got the part from an old machine for a small fraction of the cost.

We have a fancy Miele dishswasher in our current house, which was installed by the previous owners. This is the most unreliable dishwasher I've ever seen. It fails at least once per year, with a new thing every time. There is only one repair shop in our area that will service Miele, and they are backed up weeks sometimes.

Our old house had a cheap, builder-grade GE dishwasher. We lived there for 10 years, and it never failed.

> Our old house had a cheap, builder-grade GE dishwasher. We lived there for 10 years, and it never failed.

The fewer bells-and-whistles, the longer it will last.

We bought our house - pre-owned, built in 1973. We wanted block construction (not stick frame, chicken wire, styrofoam and stucco), copper plumbing and wiring, and no HOA (because I want to be able to wrench on my cars out front while having a beer, and leave them up on jackstands temporarily as needed, without some busybody measuring the height of my lawn). We decided to (mostly) buy pre-owned appliances while we were at it.

So we got this "package" of a washer, dryer and refrigerator from a local used appliance store. Nothing fancy about any of it. Of all of them, the washer died first after about 12 years (started to leak, probably could've been repaired, but it had already been repaired once before). The dryer is still running strong (15 years), the fridge works fine, but the water and ice-maker no longer work (not really worth repairing either, since we didn't use them much). Our washer at the time we bought a "builder special" - same with the range. The washer died about a year back (14 years) - can't recall why. But we were re-doing our kitchen, so we decided "why not" and got a new one (also got a new sink - hand-hammered copper, and I have no clue how much it cost because my wife paid for it).

The range is still going strong, although we've had to replace the heating element in the oven. That's about 15 years old too. We'll probably keep repairing it, because it is dead simple to do, plus it has actual electric burners (not that flat-top junk), which is something you can't seem to find any more, even at the budget end (when we bought it, it was the budget end itself, and the only one that had that feature).

If I really had my way, I'd get my wife a restored O'Keefe-Merritt Grillevator, but our neighborhood doesn't have gas, and to get it run is so expensive (nearest line is about a quarter-mile away at the end of our block), it'd be cheaper to move.

> that flat-top junk

Recently we had to stay in a series of short-term lets: every flat-top electric range was hot garbage. Turning on the elements for more than 10 minutes caused the electronic controls to flake out & not recognise fingerpresses, so we couldn't turn off a burner without disconnecting the whole unit from mains.

An even better tactic, if applicable in your area is to buy used Miele appliances. All my appliances at home are Miele, all used from the local Craigslist equivalent. I usually pay 70%-90% off the sticker price because people are stupid when the remodel kitchens and bathrooms - "everything else is new, we should have a new dishwasher as well!".

Do I get the warranty transferred? No. Do I care? Not in the slightest. Even if something breaks after a year I just buy a new used one and still come out ahead. The cost of transportation and looking it up is the same as for a new appliance.

Interesting to see the parallel drawn with the mattress industry and its practice of confusing models and brands. Over the last few years there have been a few companies (Luxi, Tuft & Needle, Casper, etc.) that have been somewhat disruptive by offering very straightforward options.

Aside from washing machines, there's a vacuum cleaner repair guy on Reddit that regularly answers questions like this https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/5seq5t/i_ama_vacuum_r...

Another bit of advice I can give from dealing with a few particularly shitty vendors is that if you can't actually download a copy from their web site or extract one from their sales team and see it in action yourself, they have something to hide.

This is usually cost escalators, a really poor deployment and management story, an upsold incomplete product or just a wall of lies.

Also refuse to buy a license until you trial it on your own kit.

It's interesting how ways to combat any bias in sales pitches and marketing (i.e. 3rd party review websites) don't quite seem to be hitting the mark, if it takes a repair shop to give you the honest approach.

Enterprise hardware and software seems to have a fundamental difference to the original post: interoperability. With a washing machine, I don't care how well it interoperates with my tumble dryer, or my cooker. I just care how well it works within itself.

Enterprise hardware and software on the other hand may well have the features listed (so the marketing isn't actually lying); but if it doesn't interoperate well, then that doesn't help me with the existing kit I've got. The enterprise approach that can both say "Greenfield deployment? Here's the absolute best" and "Brownfield deployment? Let's see what you've got and what we can reuse" /without bias/ would be the ideal solution.

Always nice to read a post from someone with a) experience and b) succinct writing style.

> “Oh, we don’t repair GE anymore. They’re pretty much throwaways now. When they break, you just buy a new one.”

Reverse engineering of motive. If it were only that simple.

Although this 'business response' could be correct I wouldn't assume that is the case as if the repair shop has no axe to grind or other reason to make that statement.

Could have also lost their authorization or access to parts to repair GE appliances. Or perhaps they aren't listed on the approved list of repair shops (could be for various reasons).

Way back when you used to buy a fair amount of products that were typically repaired there were certain vendors that the manufacturer shuttled the most repair work to. The other shops could get access to parts however it wasn't typically cost effective for them to do so.

A bit late to the party, but yes, I agree that there could well be other motivations. I worked in one PC shop where the owner had refused to take a mandated course to become an authorized Apple reseller. When they, in turn, refused him, he started telling every customer similar tales about Apple, and some of it plain invented.

Aside, not wanting to derail the comments: When I say "invented stuff" I mean like how Apple switched to Intel chips, because "the industry" got together and said that if Apple didn't, they would make a new internet just for Apple. There was also the line about all Apple developers being jealous of Microsoft's success, so they were the ones developing all the viruses and malware to take down Microsoft's OS, and there were fewer and fewer of these developers because they were all being put in jail with the Linux developers, who were busy doing the same thing.

One day, a Mac-based publishing shop foolishly decided that they needed our help. They got a lecture on how Microsoft Publisher was the industry standard and they should just get with the times. They never called back.

Incredibly enough, 10 years on, the repair shop is still in business and hasn't been sued.

The multi-vendor/best-of-bread system integrator has been for the most part replaced by exclusive partnerships. The platform owner's demand for 'loyalty' has grown significantly over the last decade.

This was a great article and I love how the author related it to a common purchase most people have made in their lives already.

The caveat to this approach on the software side is that some SI's including some of the biggest names are just effing awful; custom proprietary frameworks, low quality development, etc. Fortunately if you talk to their customers you can get a realistic assessment of quality..

It's actually much simpler than that: Never rely on the opinion of someone who can make immediate profit off your decision.

Exactly. It's a pretty obvious concept, and I don't understand why I have to explain it to so many people in real life.

Particular context, in which I have to explain this often: when needing advice about which computer/phone/appliance to buy, never ever ask the salesman in the very store you'll be buying in. It's literally their job to give you bad advice - to suggest a deal good for the store, not for you.

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