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A “right to repair” movement tools up (economist.com)
928 points by edward 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 305 comments

I hope at some point we'll start including recycling/disassembly and replacement externalities into price somehow. I don't know how you would do that in a fair way, but it is frustrating that there aren't a ton of corrective market forces to encourage manufacturers to make highly reusable, repairable, recyclable devices.

All of this electronics churn is environmentally terrible, and it's frustrating that, as with carbon energy products, the entire world is forced to pay for the environmental externalities rather than the actual tech users.

You can make an accelerationist argument about not discouraging tech development and dealing with the problems using more efficient tech in the future, I guess. But I'd honestly rather have electronics cost a bit more and know that manufacturers had a financial interest in maintaining rather than replacing.

The main issue is this: We need to reduce consumption overall!

It is well known that Americans consume far more natural resources and live much less sustainably than people from any other large country of the world. “A child born in the United States will create thirteen times as much ecological damage over the course of his or her lifetime than a child born in Brazil,” reports the Sierra Club’s Dave Tilford, adding that the average American will drain as many resources as 35 natives of India and consume 53 times more goods and services than someone from China.

Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/american-consumpt...

In Europe, any thing one buys must be guaranteed by the supplier for 2 years. If one could just push that up to, say, 4 years, it'd nice....

Warranty for 6 months, right to complain for 18 months after that.

The difference is the burden of proof. For the initial 6 months, the manufacturer/store has to prove the item was not somehow defective from the beginning, due to manufacturing errors or similar mishaps, even if it broke 5 months and 29 days after the sale.

In the following 18 months, the burden of proof shifts to the buyer, to prove that the fault did not happen to due mistreatment during (ab)use of the item.

That's how it is in Denmark, at least.

In theory maybe. In practice handing it in to a seller with for example a faulty PSU or dead backlight your implicit claim as the buyer is that it was not manufactured to spec (to last at least those two years) and they would have a hard time fighting that claim unless there are obvious traces of mechanical abuse.

I don't know the detail, but the way you put it, "prove that the fault did not happen to due mistreatment" basically means that user has to prove the he didn't do something. I can prove that I did something, but prove I didn't do, that's a whole lot different.

That's why some manufacturers put water "sensors" in cellphones; once water enters, the "sensor" (in quotes because it's not an electronic part) changes its state forever revealing that water poured into the phone even well after it has been cleaned and dried.

Doesn't that make sense, though? If you have a physical product that you use daily, I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to ask how a failure after 700+ uses (or many, many more) can be confirmed as a manufacturing issue and not use [over|mis|ab]use.

I don't think overuses should be a reasonable cause for defects within 2 years. If 99.9% of users use it less than X, then covering the last 0.1% is not a significant issue.

The top 5% on the other hand are IMO within normal usage patterns.

The exceptions seem to focus on using consumer products like a coffee maker in an industrial setting. But, 2 years is rather short term to be replacing these devices not to mention the overhead of a regular breakdown > replacement process.

Yes, I think it does. I find it a reasonable balance between weeding out early failures and not letting customers get away with abusing their devices and still claiming a warranty repair.

How can a user prove they didn't misuse an item, though?

That would depend on the specific item, I'm sure. For example you can tell if a phone has ever been wet because there will be signs on the interior. No situation will be perfect but at some point the burden of proof has to shift from the company to the user. I think six months is probably a bit soon but sometime between that and two years seems reasonable to me.

Six months, not two years. I personally tend to ignore warranty periods of under a year anyways, since products with such short warranty periods (30-90 days is common here in the US) tend to be cheaper to replace than to get warranty service on anyways.

On the other hand, warranty here in the US can be annoying to deal with anyways--I've failed twice at getting replacements for Samsung flash memory cards that have been in production for less than their warranty period. There a some problems (microsd becoming read-only) that can't be caused by user misuse. That might be more reflective of Samsung as a company, however I've had similar issues with other companies as well.

In isolation, maybe, but those 2 additional years are hardly free.

... controlling for income distribution?

This is a very bad extrapolation that doesn’t acount for the constant increase in consumption in those countries, whereas the US consumption leveled.

I actually don't even want to compare numbers or countries directly. I just want to remind that consumption in Western countries exceeds available resources by far. We're bankrupting the planet, it's the wrong path and it simply can't last.

Well, yes and no.

We've finally cracked the nut with renewable resources. Its cost a great deal of environmental damage, but I see no good progression to go from hunter-gatherer to high tech. That's just entropy laws.

Now, it could certainly be argued that certain trajectories should be followed and aren't. But progress costs.

Make trees drop fewer leaves for the environment!

In Poland, and I believe it's an EU regulation, every seller is obligated to take your old appliances when you buy new ones in the same category. For example when you buy a freezer you can drop your old one for recycling free of charge (so the cost is included in the retail price).

Sometimes it's even used in marketing ("bring your old TV, get new one 10% cheaper"), maybe because they need to meet some quotas so they have to actively convince people to bring their old stuff.

I'm not sure what happens with the items they collect, but hopefully it's shipped to some recycling center instead of getting dropped in a landfill, which would be the case when consumers didn't have this option.

Nope. A directive is not a regulation. A directive means the member states must implement into their own law a comparable version of the directive. A regulation is when the countries must enforce the EU regulation as if it were their own law.

(The difference is marked in the case of the General Data Protection Regulation, which will become enforceable in a few months. There is no wiggleroom in interpreting it, compared to its predecessor, the Data Protection Directive, where each member state has implemented their own version, with varying levels of data protection.)

This is very common in the US, although there is no regulation governing it. Most places will take your old appliances away when they deliver your new ones.

Heck, our power company will pay you $35 if you recycle a working fridge or freezer through them. With them coming out to pick it up for free. The idea being that a lot of people stick their old, inefficient fridge in the basement or garage when they get a new one and it sucks down a lot of power.

I'm surprised they don't want you to pay for more electricity. Good on them

In Michigan at least, these programs are funded by the taxpayer. $Power_Company gets to make a profit on every crappy fridge they haul away or every LED lightbulb they install.

They didn't start doing that of their own accord.

If the truck has to come back after making deliveries it's usually better to load it up with scrap metal than to send it back empty.

It's a pretty damn good example of the market solving a problem by itself.

This only really falls apart when the cost of new stuff is less than the cost of recycling. High wages are not good for recycling/repair businesses.

When you get new tires on your car most places will take the old ones for free. They get recycled into filler for lower quality rubbers (you can't re-vulcanize rubber, it's like un-baking a cake)

> In Poland, and I believe it's an EU regulation, every seller is obligated to take your old appliances when you buy new ones in the same category. For example when you buy a freezer you can drop your old one for recycling free of charge (so the cost is included in the retail price).

In Italy is the same. Keep in mind that the retail price includes a tax to cover the costs of recycling, so it is not really free :-). The amount depends on the type of appliance. This too should come from an EU directive.

> Keep in mind that the retail price includes a tax to cover the costs of recycling, so it is not really free :-)

They didn’t say they thought it was free. In fact they said

> so the cost is included in the retail price

And you quoted that!

Ops ! You're right. Too little coffee I guess :-)

What happens if you do not want to return your old appliance when you buy a new one? Do you still pay the recycling tax?

The recycling tax is for the product you're buying, so it doesn't matter if you're bringing one to be recycled or not.

Yes, but you also have the value of the old device.

yes :(

I think in Belgium they specify how much the recycling premium is when buying something new.

I always thought that a regulation along the lines of "if you sell it, you must give the customer the ability to dispose of it" would be nice. And, yes, I do think that means Amazon would have to have some sort of bricks-and-mortar operation: at minimum there must be a shop owned by someone, which Amazon has a deal with, that you'd be able to drop your discarded Amajunk off at.

Also, I also think we should have a carbon recapture tax added to gasoline, but no one I know really wants to pay an additional tax of 7-10$/gallon.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_producer_responsibili..., which, in the EU, led to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restriction_of_Hazardous_Subst... and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste_Electrical_and_Electroni..., which puts the responsibility on manufacturers, rather than sellers. That takes care of that Amazon problem.

As always in the EU, the exact effect of these differs by country (EU directives describe goals, and leave the means to get there to member countries)

Amazon wouldn't need a brick-and-mortar operation. Just log into your account and print out a postpaid shipping label. They keep your purchase history; so, you could look up the order and click a link next to the item. There are far more Post Offices than any shops they could make a deal with.

Wait, does Amazon ship the junk back to China too and then China disassembles it and ships the elements back to their respective holes in the ground?

It seems like a better idea would be to just have Amazon give you a voucher for the recycling fees in your local community.

Most "Recycled" electronics are sent back to china at least in part

Edit: summary at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_waste_in_China

China is trying to shut this game down because it is bad for their own environment.

This is good. It also appears that a larger share of US e-waste is actually handled in the US then I remembered (its been trending up since the 1990s i think). I have no idea of the numbers but environmental regulations be equal (which they are not but we can one day they are) this seems more efficient to my brain.

Actually, that is more about rare earth elements being recovered, ever since the Chinese supply scare a few years ago (which is also related to the environment as rare earth processing is incredibly dirty if done cheaply). Anyways, there is a lot more effort to recycle and re-use these elements for economic reasons.

Sure but it seems a little inefficient to send them individually is my point.

You never ship them individually, you use containers. And it's probably quite efficient: the shipping boats have to return to China anyway to get more stuff.

It's basically free.

There's far more stuff coming from China to the west than vice-versa. A ship can't travel empty, but needs to be ballasted with an appropriate weight of cargo. If there isn't enough booked cargo on the return leg to China, they'll make up the weight with scrap metal or rubble.

I'm referring to the shipping of the broken goods to amazon individually. That's the part I'm critical of.

Sure, send them back to China, I don't care, it just seems silly that we would all just mail our broken junk back one piece at a time to AMazon who then puts it in a container and sends it to China.

Better to take it to alocal recycling facility for them to send it en masse. Have Amazon give you a voucher to handle the recycling fee.

Trucks coming from the Amazon warehouse also have to come back.

Still, Amazon just gifted me an item when I tried to return it since I ordered it by mistake (and I was honest on the form). I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to avoid recycling returns too.

> Also, I also think we should have a carbon recapture tax added to gasoline

That can't work for any country that has "country".

In the US, the vast majority of goods are delivered using trucks that burn diesel.

You can't have a gas tax without a diesel tax. Everyone would just switch over.

If you tax gas, you effectively tax everything, and that's not okay for any economy.

> If you tax gas, you effectively tax everything, and that's not okay for any economy.

Why? The purpose of the carbon tax is to capture the negative externality of carbon pollution, and to encourage more energy-efficient industries. Not all parts of the economy use equal amounts of energy, and we should encourage the energy-efficient ones.

I burn carbon when I drive my car to work. I burn much less carbon when I take the bus to work. We want to encourage the latter - carbon taxes let the market do this encouragement. The alternative is doing so by government fiat.

> I burn much less carbon when I take the bus to work.

I understand that. It's the obvious reasoning behind a gas tax.

My entire point is that there are also other effects.

If gas prices raise significantly, then the price of everything - groceries, medication, clothing, cleaning supplies, solar panels, everything - raises, meaning simple things that everyone relies on suddenly become unaffordable to low-wage workers, so their employers suddenly need to raise profits to accommodate the price hike, and raise wages for the bulk of their employees, or (more likely) simply fail, resulting in a significant unemployment increase.

You can't just magically fix climate change by putting the poor out of work, nor should you.

> encourage more energy-efficient industries.

This can be done with much more reasonable methods. Don't forget that transportation is not the only significant source of carbon emissions. The best legislative efforts we can make are to support clean energy (nuclear, wind, solar).

I'm running some code through the profiler right now. I'm working on improving that function that is using 17% of CPU, rather than the dozens clocking in at less than 1%.

If I can get that 17% function to run in 94% of the time, that is a greater gain from less effort than making any of those <1% functions run in 50% of the time.

The same principle applies to air pollution. Focus on the container ships burning bunker oil and the power plants burning coal first. Personal transportation using internal combustion engines is one of those 1% things, and even then, just taxing the gasoline won't help all that much.

As parent mentioned, it will also stifle the economic activity that could allow ordinary people to afford capital investments like at-home solar energy systems. And while one presumes that a "carbon tax" on gasoline fuel should be used to combat air pollution elsewhere, that is not necessarily how it will be spent.

> that is not necessarily how it will be spent.

British Columbia has a revenue-neutral carbon tax [1]

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Columbia_carbon_tax

> that is not necessarily how it will be spent.

Especially in the US, where we are likely to raise the defense budget from $500 billion to $700 billion per year.

Makes me think about how much carbon is released for "defense".

"If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

-Thirty Ninth President of the United States of America Ronald Reagan.

> If you tax gas, you effectively tax everything, and that's not okay for any economy.

Why not, we already tax everything as it is right now? And lots of places have carbon taxes, it works fine.

Because everyone would have to suddenly react.

Businesses that rely on low wage workers suddenly have two major problems:

1. They have to find more profit to accommodate shipping expenses

2. They have to pay their workers more

Both of those problems are incredibly difficult to some, and both of them together are deadly to business.

A gas tax would significantly harm the livelihood of poor hard working people.

Tax on gasoline like that would only affect the poorest of citizens. Charge it on shares of gasoline producing companies and car companies so their share holders scream at them to move to less carbon-y energy creation mechanisms.

Not really, we have exactly those gasoline prices in Germany and Denmark, and it's actually quite okay.

The poor just take transit or bike.

The problem with the US is that outside of a handful of the biggest cities, transit is extremely lacking and the roads aren't bike-friendly at all. It's very difficult to hold down a job without access to a car, especially low wage jobs like retail that change the schedule around on short notice all the time and are often outside the operating hours of transit. You can also get a used car for around $1000, insurance can be had for $30/month, and gas is cheap so owning a car isn't nearly as expensive as some countries. I still drive a car I bought 5 years ago for $1500, it's over 20 years old now but runs fine.

Even some of the big cities (like LA) have woefully lacking transit and everyone just sits in gridlocked traffic for multiple hours every day.

While everything you wrote may be true, the US still seems to be exceptionally bad by international standards. We have a lot of rural communities here in the UK as well, where people also need private transport because the public alternatives are lacking. But our vehicles are a fraction of the size (and have a fraction of the fuel consumption) of some of the giant monstrosities that seems to be much more common in the US, and so even though our fuel prices are much higher (almost entirely due to higher taxes), people living in rural communities still manage to get around. The same is true across much of Europe.

While running a car may be cheap in financial terms in the US, environmentally and in terms of scarce natural resources it is anything but, and at some point the US is going to have to deal with the social acceptability of one person driving an enormous vehicle for long distances many times per week or within our lifetimes there are going to be serious problems.

The poorest citizens don't own cars.

It does depend on where you live. In US they probably do. In EU countries they probably don't.

But they get their groceries from stores that deliver goods via trucks.

The poorest citizens certainly don't own the most extravagant of all luxury items, homes near (decent) transit.

A metro's most car-dependent are its working poor, who need to live the furthest away from the downtown core to afford housing.

Actually they are the only one owning them because they need them

They live outside the cities where housing is more affordable but there's no public transport

The end result would be the same, they would just pass the costs to the consumer.

That already happens, but on a different scale. When Apple has to repair or replace an iPhone, they're giving you a remanufactured iPhone using reused internal parts like screws or shielding. This is factored into the costs of an iPhone which keeps them 'lower' / profit margins higher.

> they're giving you a remanufactured iPhone using reused internal parts like screws or shielding

And, unless something changed recently, batteries. My iPhone 5 had a faulty charging socket, which got worse. A month after unboxing, it would no longer charge at all, so I handed it in for repair. Got back a unit with half the battery life and a faulty charging socket.

I gave it to a good GSoC student across the world after a second unsuccessful trip to service

Consumable parts are and have never been reused. Just sounds like you had a faulty part, rather than a reused one.

> Consumable parts are and have never been reused

Are phone parts "consumable"? I thought "consumable" meant refers to things that get "used up" like milk, ink, pens, etc., not storage media or LCD screens or the like...

Batteries can be consumable after a fashion, as they lose capacity with each charge cycle. The effect can be reduced via certain techniques (depending on the battery chemistry involved), but so far never completely eliminated. Just consider it entropy in action, really.

Is there any way to reclaim the resources in a "used up" battery to reintroduce them to the production chain?

You absolutely can, but it's currently not cost-effective. On the other hand it looks like it's cheap enough that making it mandatory or putting a recycling deposit on batteries would be viable.

Are battery recycling programs near you not feasible? Our local Home Depot and Best Buy stores will take back rechargeable batteries for recycling for free.

Do they recycle all of a lithium ion battery?

Very little of the physical (the lithium). However all of the precious materials (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_recycling#Lithium_ion_...).

It's not worth it to extract the lithium, monetarily speaking.

> Consumable parts are and have never been reused

Can you substantiate that? It's clearly at odds with my experience, neither of my two replacement units had a battery life that even came close to unboxed unit.

I just don't buy that every serviced device gets a new battery.

(I am in Europe by the way)

I thought the iPhone 5 had a pretty good iFixit score. The Teardown was a 7 out of 10 [0], which is one of the highest scores they've given.

[0]: https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iPhone+5+Teardown/10525

Unfortunately, what ends up happening in most cases is that people make products, give them a ridiculous 1y or 2y warranty, then claim that if there're any problems after that time period you'll have to pay to repair or replace.

In our country we have a law that states a product has to live up to it's reasonably expected life time. So while a manufacturer might give it a warranty and the retailer might give it some special warranty, ultimately, the retailer (which in some cases is the manufacturer if you buy directly) is responsible no matter what. That doesn't go for consumables or software, or if you break it yourself obviously, but a phone or computer for example is of course expected to work for at least 4 or 5 years or so. So if it breaks, you are entitled to support and/or repairs, which also has a limitation on any administrative fees that might apply. It pretty much applies to everything, from cars to washing machines to faucets to electric toothbrushes.

What country? This sounds like a great way to poison a court system with bullshit lawsuits.

Non common law countries don't tend towards lawsuits as much. They tend towards legislation and then administrative enforcement.

The UK has this law, and I believe it's standardised across the EU.

In Europe I think it's 2 years, which is quite low.

The main EU rule is that you have to have a minimum 2 year warranty. A number of electronics vendors, famously including Apple, had to up their game as a result of this.

However, that is in addition to various other statutory consumer rights about fitness for purpose and being of appropriate quality, which EU member states might have in their national laws as well. Here in the UK, for example, those obligations can run for many years beyond the initial warranty, and can result in repair, replacement or (full or partial) refund for faulty products depending on the circumstances.

In most cases, it's the vendor who took your money who is on the hook legally for these kinds of responsibilities, though in practice of course manufacturers often offer their own warranties to the final customers and/or make supporting arrangements with vendors selling their products.

Unfortunately at present most of these rules only apply to private individuals, and with business purchases caveat emptor and expensive service contracts are often the norm even if a purchase is being made by a small business with no more real leverage against a vendor or manufacturer than a private individual. When it comes to electronic devices like phones and laptops, this is potentially quite a big stumbling block in terms of forcing up standards of maintainability and promoting a "right to repair" to reduce waste.

i think I understand it different, they must give you 2 years warranty, but maybe he is saying they must help you with repair/support (with your own money) 4-5 years

kinda similar like car parts, warranty is like 3-5 years (or 100K km) but parts must be available like 10 years or something

Sounds like New Zealand and the consumers guarantees act

Norway also has this law.

How is "reasonably expected life time" defined?

The same way 'reasonable' is defined everywhere in the law: it's up to the interpretation of the court.

A digression, but I doubt screws are one of the parts the retain for re-manufactured devices, is that really true? I thought those screws they use with the thread-lock coatings were only rated for one insertion.

This is exactly what the EU WEEE directive is. It makes only a very small difference, although it did result in action against anti-refill ink cartridges.

> All of this electronics churn is environmentally terrible, and it's frustrating that, as with carbon energy products, the entire world is forced to pay for the environmental externalities rather than the actual tech users.

Well, let’s see what a leading company is saying about that:

”We believe our goal should be a closed-loop supply chain, where products are built using only renewable resources or recycled material”[0]

It’s not quite the cyberpunk dream of being able to repair anything with a soldering iron in 30 minutes, but it’s a very critical step to reach. We’re slowly getting there.

[0]: https://images.apple.com/environment/pdf/Apple_Environmental... (page 16)

It's not just cypherpunks and hardware hackers. We in the occult communities also very much believe in the same ideals. In fact, this saying is what this discussion reminded me of:

Nidhogg's Rule: Recycling. There is no such place as Away, so be careful what you throw there. Recycle, give away, don't waste, find a place for it somewhere else. This includes people as well as things.


Current policy overemphasizes recycling. Recycling is the last resort. First reduce or reuse, which are far superior. Throwing away would normally not even be a serious option, but this world's people are kinda brain damaged.

Indeed. But I would set the blame at manufacturers at this view.

The last time I got a circuit schematic was with my Icom radio. And even with that, still received none of the firmware. "Proprietary".

Ideally, mechanical drawings, circuit schematics, and firmware would enable a great deal of repair and 3d party parts replacement. But the idea of allowing that isn't capitalist - in fact it goes directly against selling more to replace (planned obsolescence).

I would heartily like to have a library of parts I can refer to, designs I can 3d print parts as needed, firmware access to correct issues. But this all flies in direct opposition with "commercial" opportunities, save a very few.

It's also why I highly prefer free/open source hardware, with as much details how it works available. That's the only way to guarantee that your hardware doesn't get abandoned - there's always someone who has a similar problem.

You mean, like, recycling people and giving them away? :o.

(Also, nitpick, but cypherpunk != cyberpunk; the former won't care about repairability of the hardware, unless you put your private key on it.)

Can't you just chuck all your rubbish into Satan's bottomless pit of despair? ;-)

In the Netherlands there is a extra cost for certain products because of the pollution / disassembly costs. Its called the disposal fee, https://www.milieucentraal.nl/energie-besparen/apparaten-en-...

Just require all manufacturers to charge a disposal deposit when selling any consumer electronics. Consumer gets the deposit back upon returning the device to an authorized center for disposal or recycling. A $15 deposit would probably give most people sufficient incentive to do the right thing.

Post-Moore, that argument of acceleratism is done for anyway.

You can thank Louis Rossmann, in part, for this one.

His livelihood does depend on it (although he has acknowledged that, as electronics get more disposable, he will inevitably end up having to shift into something like software or hardware design), but he has made a really admirable effort of actually going boots-on-the-ground and lobbying at political hearings.

His videos on YouTube when he teaches people how to do board-level Macbook repairs, for free (while advertising his own business of course): https://www.youtube.com/user/rossmanngroup/videos

Even though I'm a programmer and not really a hardware guy, I find watching him repairing stuff very interesting and oddly satisfying. He often even does all this on a live stream.

PS. For some reason most of his videos get a "do you want a website" preroll ad, which is already a running joke on his streams.

> PS. For some reason most of his videos get a "do you want a website" preroll ad, which is already a running joke on his streams.

Just got that ad... in Polish. Seriously, what's going on with that? Why always this ad?

He's freaking awesome. Have you seen the videos he has on the kinds of arguments Apple makes to prevent the right-to-repair become a thing? They're quite eye-opening and really gets to the heart of how ridiculous the whole situation is.

could you share one?


Listen from that timestamp till 13:10.

Went for the rant, stayed for the 60fps.

it was pain to watch with audio out of sync with video

They basically all boil down to trade secrets and "it's dangerous to let people repair these sensitive products".

Personally, I don't see how gerber files with board layouts and selling replacement components violates any trade secrets, considering the former is readily reverse-engineered (even if you can't easily determine exact routing for things in layers not on the board surface) and the latter poses them no risk either.

As for what boils down to the "people are stupid" argument, that's just BS and they know it.

> They basically all boil down to trade secrets and "it's dangerous to let people repair these sensitive products".

Not sure where you saw that (link?), but no, they don't. Watch the video I just linked above on what their lobbyists say.

> "it's dangerous to let people repair these sensitive products"

One has to ask what's really more likely to destroy my life - the glass of the iPhone I clumsily tried to repair, or the shit I wrote on that iPhone...

Louis is just an awesome guy. Very smart and just has a way of talking that really captivates me.

YES. And what an awesome channel he has. Very captivating and relaxing to watch him repair equipment.

I love his personal philosophy videos. Really sharp guy.

Only if you agree with a simplistic "taxes bad, equality bad, free markets good" philosophy.

I find it rather tiresome and not very thoughtful.

I'm neutral on his political stances. I think either a strong shift towards extremely free markets (i.e., healthcare and education highly privatized and non-subsidized), or towards highly regulated markets (i.e., healthcare and education fully publicized and price-regulated) would both be a step in the right direction. Either case seems like it lends towards cheaper services. There's something to be said for age old Adam Smith principles, but I think the "FEWER REGULATIONS!" statement requires more nuance than most people who espouse it tend to afford.

I feel like we're at the very bottom of a parabolic curve right now where everyone is getting fucked due to fake money being injected into these systems. I think above all, what everyone can agree on, is that the individual should come first, and policy should follow. The amount of large businesses with their hands in politics is really the struggle he's crusading against.

I can definitely see where he comes from as a small business owner -- it seems like the same injustice that individuals feel towards certain sections of the upper class is magnified. I think it's helpful to hear small-business owners' side of the argument, because they really are the ones who stand to be hurt most by moving further left, unless done with careful tact.

Denmark is very left-wing compared to the US (still, though our "dear" government is trying to undo that), and yet has been rated one of the best countries to do business in.

"Left-wing politics are anti-business" is a huge fallacy.

Right. His philosophy is "anti-regulatory capture" which is a great philosophy all around.

He opened up my eyes too. He's honest, and seems like a moral person.

He seems to love what he does, but we need people like him in politics.

It's too bad just being honest is so rare these days.

I've been thinking recently that there is exists a completely unxplored market in tech. Local shops based around FOSS / open hardware where designers, hardware and software people work together to build custom projects for their clients. I would call this person a "technology artisan", because the closest analogue I can think of is a tailor or a carpinter.

So, for example, a family would go to their local technology artisan to put together a smart home system tailored specifically to their needs. Or perhaps a local band would commision some custom-made Raspberry Pi-based synthesizer with fancy lights for a show (https://youtu.be/_nBK8sAl9nw)

To the consumer, it would mean not only devices tailored to their needs, but also ones that are cheap and simple to get repaired and extended, because they would be based on open standards. No lock-ins, no secret surveilance.

What makes me think this is possible is how big the hobby space is around all these hackable technologies (raspberry pi / arduino, 3D printing, electronics)... people are already building home media centres and farm bots in their back yard just for fun. Hacker spaces are already a thing -- make them a service!

Custom software development is not an unexplored market. There are literally thousands of companies, many of them small & local, offering those services. It's just that we do so to other businesses, since it's way too expensive to develop custom stuff for single individuals.

I've built a coin-operated electric candle stand[1] for a local theater group. I'm just an amateur at electronic circuits, and I'm sure a professional would have spent less time on it, but even at half my hourly price, I would have blown half their production budget.

You could say some builders would be willing to take a pay cut to work within your community, but frankly, doing one-off toys to upper-middle-class people is not my idea of community service. I'd rather have a well paying job writing B2B software and then work for free for people in actual need.

[1] a copy (with extra features) of something commonly found in catholic churches around here: https://www.nextnature.net/app/uploads/2010/05/led_candles.j...

Completely off-topic but you sure don't want to work for free (hint: the problem with that has nothing to do with the money)

I've heard that before, but I'm not convinced. Supposedly clients treat you better if they're paying, but in my experience, the correlation doesn't hold. At least by not charging I feel freer to walk away when I'm not being respected.

Yeah. I'm not convinced either. I do little things for various small non-profits/volunteer organizations and I've basically never had anyone bug me because it took me a bit longer to get to something than I anticipated. If I'm paying someone market rates to do a task, you can be sure that I'll be doing the "when will it be done?" thing if they get behind schedule.

My specific problem was : client claiming intellectual property over my work. If I work for free, my work is my work but somehow the claim was made.

Then you have bugs, months after delivering, and you can't say "no I won't fix it". So although you don't want to work anymore, you still have to.

Then you have new functionalities. You are burned out with the project but there is this little thing that your friend/customer really needs. And you don't want to do it, and since you've never been paid, you'll do it for free again and you'll get burned out some more... So no compensation.

Now you can argue that the problem here is not the money, but the lack for a proper contract, that'd be right. But the money question automatically brings the contract question. That's why I say : don't work for free, ever.

Your instincts are correct, you're describing the future. But there's a problem preventing it from working today.

Your idea only really works if you can get a large number of these artisans on board, across many disciplines, and keep their "dance card" stocked.

The issue is that solving any problem in software costs about $1000. And typically if you want to solve one problem you need to solve 2-20 others first.

Your mention of open source is key here. Every pizza place in the world probably has a dozen information problems that would be worth solving, but most of them aren't going to be willing to spend $100,000 to do it, even in 10 installations.

But of those 10 problems, 9 or 10 of them are not core IP for them. So something like 95% of the budget could be split across like 1000 pizza places, driving that cost to $1-20 which is a much more manageable cost.

So you need some sort of bond to finance these projects across 1000 clients.

And second, when you split the design work across 1000 clients all paying in a different moment, you end up with 990 little gigs and 10 big ones and the 990 are too small to be worth the overhead for your artisan. To make those worthwhile you need some infrastructure for turning those contracts into 5 minute non interactive (no customer support) deliveries, and packing them into a stocked queue that can pay the artisan'a rent. I.e. If there's one new pizza joint on a Tuesday afternoon, there are 50 other 5 minute tasks that they can also do so they aren't waiting around for pizza joints and getting nothing done.

And when a pizza joint needs analytics while that artisan is on vacation, you need another artisan who can step in.

So that's a two sided market, which is a notoriously hard startup problem.

And lastly, these information problems are not all code problems. There is design and stats and customer service and other stuff mixed in there. So you need a stable of design artisans, customer service artisans, etc. which means we're talking about an n-sided market.

Which the startup world has, as far as I'm aware, no known examples of.

It'll happen. It's just messy.

There are plenty of small companies doing exactly those kinds of projects for SMBs; I worked for one for five years (it's still doing fine, I just moved on).

Rather than a bond, which would be unwieldy to implement, we'd take a risk: we develop it for the first few customers for a percentage of the cost, but keeping all rights to the code so we can then reuse it. Some projects pay their bills and some more, others not so much.

As for the n-sided market, we used the typical solution: having employees.

In our case, we used an open source platform (Odoo) which comes with the generic business modules - CRM, Accounting, Invoicing, ERP, etc - and which allowed us to build integrated functionality for the specific industry. We had clients of all sorts, from one-man dental offices to international clothing manufacturers.

(Disclaimer: I still work with Odoo, but I was never an Odoo SA employee)

A risk is a bond you sell yourself.

I would argue the issuance of the bond and the separate market for holding risk is key.

Developing a market is key to being able to fund smaller and smaller client segments. This is what I talked about above... with a single origin of corporate ownership there is an upper bound on the number of managers. You need to separate into two markets to meet the entire demand. It's just a matter of graph traversal distances. N corporate boards cannot manage N^2 managers.

But N^2/10 agents can manage N^2 managers. And they take 25%.

Wouldn't that be insanely expensive compared to off the shelf solutions and result in a hodge-podge of insecure, half baked solutions?

> a hodge-podge of insecure, half baked solutions?

That's exactly what the commercial market of Internet of Things devices is so far. You couldn't really make it worse by putting a replaceable ESP8266 or BeagleBone at the heart of each of these gadgets.

After two or three similar people have had their custom thingy build the next person could use the "off the shelf" open source solution with a little customization.

Off the shelf solutions are already insanely expensive, because companies are still milking people on the "smart" label.


> So, for example, a family would go to their local technology artisan to put together a smart home system tailored specifically to their needs.

I am a software developer and consultant and you do not figure how insanely expensive I am - when your family comes through the doors of my artisanal soldering boutique and demands a custom built home automation system, I would suggest them to invest the money in a long, long vacation with the whole family instead.

Sure but you wouldn't pay a chainsaw sculptor to cut down a tree, you'd pay a lumberjack. You can already go to a hackerspace and pay a guy a couple hundred bucks to build you something basic so long as it's mildly ineresting.

With kids growing up playing with Raspberry Pis, in 10-20 years I don't think your comment's parent is such a farfetched idea.

Unfortunately, that's also the story of how Internet of Things (well-known by other nouns) was born.

This works perfectly well for non-so-smart stuff (thermostats, automatic cat doors, etc etc) but when you increase complexity (smart home system) you need engineers with higher qualifications and better expertise. And that's expensive (unless someone volunteers and works for pennies, but that quickly gets stressful - literally not worth it).

(Not like off-the-shelf solutions are any better. They were also born that way - by lowest spending necessary.)

> So, for example, a family would go to their local technology artisan to put together a smart home system tailored specifically to their needs.

I'm getting a bit tired of the smart home system example. We've seen projects for smart home systems in DIY magazines since the 70s. These projects never really took off, and turned into businesses (Nest being a notable exception). It's something people don't really need or even want.

If people don't really want it, why do they keep paying for it? IoT products are selling like crazy.

"So, for example, a family would go to their local technology artisan to put together a smart home system tailored specifically to their needs."

... and the artisan would refuse, and explain how much simpler and functional their lives would be without any "smart" systems or appliances ?

Hackerspaces / makerspaces are full of this already even if it's not their primary focus. For example, I know two people at hackerspaces who make large interactive art pieces for concerts and festivals.

Anyone in this thread know or should know THE GUY who tackles these considerations from the orthogonal position — AvE ("Arduinio vs Evil").

He cracks gear open before he's ever turned it on to look for build quality and/or any janky crap, then reassembles and runs it after. (No, he's not batting 1.000, but he's good.)

Classic teardown here of some sweet gear from the <hint> fourth smallest country (area) in Europe (0m37s, 1m06s & 1m21s are +1 moments, btw.)

URL, https://youtu.be/Yt2z6hEnQBs

I'm behind on the comments but I hope someone linked back to the "It Should Last Fifty Years" thread from the past ~12 mo or so: highly relevant to the topic at hand.

That's the one. It's action packed mech eng banter, in a good way.

Honorable mention to the coffee grinders' manufacturer Baratza. They publish detailed instructions on how to repair their grinders, make videos showing how it's done, sell replacement parts and recommend service centers.


This actually factored into my purchasing decision when I got a baratza grinder. I'd been using a hand crank burr grinder for about a year, and figured it was worth getting an electric one. Mine is pretty easy to disassemble, there's mods available (mostly ways to trick it out) and I've taken it apart to adjust the grind already (plus to clean it and so on).

For me, it was youtube videos of the grinders being used / reassembled / cleaned that made up my mind. I mean, if you're going to spend $200+ on a grinder, it's nice to know ahead of time that you can fiddle with it.

Didn't know this, and I have one of these. They're expensive but worth it, and even more so know that I know this!

A long time ago I read a Science Fiction short story about a society where everything was unrepairable, throwaway and came with expiry dates.

Does not seem too much like Science Fiction nowadays...

EDIT: I wonder if anyone might remember the name of the story: The basic plot is a business man living in a throwaway society manages to convince a dying man to sell him his personally developed car. A car that has been built to last for decades. The business man eventually succeeds by promising to respect the philosophy of the dying man and the manufacturing of machines built to last. As he is driving the magnificent car away he starts thinking of the "improvements" he will make. That loud analogue clock on the dashboard could be replaced by a digital clock and that gear lever knob that could be made from a modern plastic....

You could always ask at https://scifi.stackexchange.com/ and tag your question “story-identification”.

It isn’t your story, but I am reminded of Philip K. Dick’s Pay for the Printer from 1956: https://web.archive.org/web/20150509063736/http://www.americ...

Dont know that particular one, but Janusz A. Zajdel (one of the best Polish sf writers, up there with Lem of Solaris fame) wrote a short story about total planned obsolescence society "...et in pulverem reverteri" (published in https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7539053-ogon-diab-a )

You can read it thru google translate if you are brave enough :) https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=pl&u=http://...

TLDR: Someone invents a catalyst able to revert any product back to dust after precisely set lifetime, every country adopts it to ensure steady employment across whole planet. Pants? 3 monts, wrist watch? 1 year, car? 2 years, etc. Can you guess what could and did go wrong? ;)

That seems like somewhat of a weak ending, because there's no reason digital clocks and plastic gear levers can't also last for decades.

Also I'll link a sort of inverse to that tale: http://www.eldritchpress.org/owh/shay.html#line01

> "That seems like somewhat of a weak ending, .. "

I hardly think I gave the story justice, since it is based on my memory from something like 20 years ago or more and I am sure I am misremembering the specifics.

But to address the points that were raised:

It is a convertible and plastic does not do well in the sun. Then next year the company decides that they can save 50% on manufacturing cost by using a cheaper and thinner plastic, which would only last 10 years, rather than the decades of the alloy it replaced originally, but that is more than enough time for any car. Then soon after that the company decides that 10 years is still too long and they can save even more by.....

First a digital clock, then a digital clock that gets wifi updates, then a digital clock that tracks and transmits your locations, then a digital clock that won't work unless the company sends a heartbeat code, then...you get the idea...it is a slippery slope.

I've read the story, but frustratingly can't remember its title or who wrote it.

The ending works well because everything in the car is handmade and overengineered, and the "improvements" are all cost-saving measures. In doing so, he ends up making the car nothing like the original and nearly the same as the cars the maker was reacting to.

I am the proud owner of a Laptop, that I can enjoy for years to come, since I can upgrade and replace disks, RAM and battery (hint: it's the last Macbook Pro that allowed this).

Recently my smartphone battery died and I could order a new one for less than $10 and replace it in 20 seconds.

Both devices are more that four years old but I am not going to replace them with something, that does not have at least this amount of repairability.

Smartphones and laptops with soldered batteries, RAM or SSD? Come on, these things are not throwaway devices - even if this is what marketing wants you to believe.

I think the trend of reclassifying popular commodities or opportunities as "rights" is pretty tacky, and ultimately counterproductive.

What you should really want, if you like reparability, is a market for reparable goods. In general, it will be more costly than mass-produced integrated goods, but foisting repair opportunities onto every consumer product will ultimately make people less satisfied with the products on the market, and it will make those products less accessible (and more expensive).

As for cars, I think there's a real market opportunity to make your cars exceptionally open to repair, but I don't think mandating it is a good idea. Especially as powertrain designs become more and more complex, the likelihood that you will be able to correctly reassemble them dwindles. The onus must remain on the customers and technicians to meet the technical demands of repair.

A line in the sand must be drawn between "difficult to repair" and "illegal to repair". The first is at the hands of the customer, the second, the legislature.

As for software, sure, the DMCA is unfair, it should have been struck down long ago. It is being abused constantly, and serves little or no practical purpose except to enable abuse.

Nothing is being "reclassified." Look at John Deere tractors - thanks to the licensing of the software running on those tractors, combined with the DMCA, people do not have the right to repair them. Yes, they bought the tractor, but they will be breaking the law if they fix the tractor themselves.

Being able to work on a machine you own sounds much more like a "right" than an "opportunity" to me.

I'm specifically not arguing for the DMCA provisions which legally protect physical objects based on the copyright on data encoded in them. That is not the whole of what is being argued for, though.

Repair is not a right, ownership is. The problem here is that the DMCA allows something that you consider your property to be ultimately owned by somebody else even after you purchase it.

The problem with smartphones is entirely separate, it's a question of convenience and practicality for third-party repair shops and people who can afford repair tooling for their own devices.

I object to the idea that manufacturers should have a duty to package and sell separately replacement parts for their goods on the open market.

It is natural to phrase it as a right. People have been able to do this for the entirety of human history, every moment in every civilization repairing things has been legal. In fact, it has been celebrated, respected as something obviously good. It is not good for the profit of some large corporations so it is now, for the first time, being banned.

It was never thought of as a right before because it is so obviously acceptable and good that nobody had even conceived that somebody might try to deny it.

Planned obsolescence is why I will never invest more than 100 euros into a phone. I will always wait to buy low-priced, fast enough for me hardware.

I still remember how my macbook pro started to be slow and unusable after OSX updates.

My real wish is that one day, computer or smartphone hardware might last at least 5 or even 10 years. I know software is evolving quickly, but there comes a point where I don't think you need to upgrade your hardware, the hardware is just fast enough to do certain things with today's software. At one point, software should stop changing so often. Then maybe we won't need to toss hardware anymore.

I don't like Apple products, but it surely is funny that they realized they were making durable products and started to see it as a problem.

In my recent experience, my Mac has got faster after each macOS update. They seem to be putting a lot of effort into performance.

I'm just not seening the evidence of this "planned obsolescence". I would put it on the level of a conspiracy theory. Little hard evidence in favour, but anecdoes accepted as fact by those inclined to believe them.

As a counter-anecdote, as it happens I'm typing this on my 2011 Mac mini, my main work machine, which is still going strong. Just upgraded to High Sierra - the seventh major OS version this machine has seen. It's working well and and no sign of Apple trying to force me to buy anything new.

It is a documented problem [1]. That does not mean that every company does it though.

[1] http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/g202/planned-obso...


What? Apart for ink cartridges, for which some manufacturers are know to have some hard counters, this list is beyond ridiculous. Planned obsolescence means a conscious design to fail at a certain mark, a carefully evaluated MTBF in order to extract financial gain.

1. Just a description: "planned obsolescence" is wilful design into failure that makes one turn a greater profit at the expense of consumers.

2. Some ink cartridges are know to have hard counters, so that's one OK, but the recommendation is about taking a risk: third party ink might not be up to spec and clog things up (happens).

3. Backwards compat on SNES would have meant including the NES hardware into the SNES, driving costs up. Plus this happened in a modular way with addons such as the Super Game Boy. Also, the PS2, X360 and PS3 shelf life are a testament to the dedication of keeping things up and running. Also also, suddenly not keeping the old hardware around to throw it away somehow contradicts later claims of "buying used instead of new".

4. This is only valid with the cooperation of lazy teachers: "refer to exercise 4 on page 32". I've been using 10+ years old books to learn and teach math, physics, french, history... New editions strive to streamline the experience, fix mishaps, and comply with legal requirements and state-mandated education programs.

5. Fashion, by definition, is zeitgeist. Culture and style evolve, there's no conspiracy at play, this is human nature creatively plowing forward.

6. What's the benefit for MS to make people buy new computers? I don't see the logic here. If anything, people are less inclined to buy new software if it makes them buy a new computer. Do you really think there's a shady deal between Adobe and Dell so that Adobe makes its software hungrier and receive a cut on sales because Dell sales would go up? Maintaining old versions has a cost, and unless you want to ceaselessly accrete dead weight like a black hole you have two choices: go forward and cut dead weight at some point, or not go forward and be stuck in the past (because obviously everything was better back in the day, y'know). Also, software is made by people, and those people need to eat (even FOSS folks!), plus increasingly said software rely on services that need to be kept up running, and that has a cost too. Nothing entitles you to receive a lifetime of upgrades after paying a couple bucks (if at all). Expecting (almost coercing!) people to do what you want for free has a name: exploitation.

7. Nothing prompts you to buy a new car every year. People would be surprised at the number of common parts cars share if they were even remotely interested in mechanics. Not only the whole statement contradicts 3. but how would you buy used if nobody bought new cars and resold them? Also, there's not just old cars pollute more and are less safe.

8. I've yet to see a battery that outright disables itself after a set number of cycle use. Batteries are designed to last at least a given number of cycles, not at most. LiPo, which has taken the world by storm due to its lack of memory effect and outstanding performance and durability, is extremely dangerous to handle. Requirements as well as improvements in hardware have been plateauing, which makes it less appealing to have things componentized for upgrades. Hardware durability has dramatically increased too. The whole thing contributes to people changing stuff less often instead of more because it just works, for longer stretches of time. Again there is no wilful intent to cripple things. There is one egregious case that can be made about Android phones, but that's got more to do about lack of focus, misguided bullet-point differentiation strategy and subsequent lack of resource to keep phones up to date than a grim large scale scam.

9. Ah, light bulbs. Great example. You know, if you get cheap, badly engineered crap, it has a high probability of both being less efficient and not last long. That's not a grand evil scheme, that's just "Want cheap? Get crap."

So, we get it, turning a profit is bad, corporations are evil and conspire to exploit the masses. Because that's what "planned obsolescence" is about: wilful design into failure that makes one turn a greater profit at the expense of consumers. How cynical a view is that, pushed by people that have no clue about what engineering is: designing within terrible, unfathomable physics, monetary and human constraints the best product you can. Abusive practices do exist, but seriously, most of the time it's just cost pressure or bad design (probably one driving the other). This kind of list is way too superficial and does nothing to make things better.

"New editions strive to streamline the experience, fix mishaps, and comply with legal requirements and state-mandated education programs."

True story: I was ICDCS '98, perusing the textbooks with my advisor and some of his ex-students, and see the new (6th?) edition of Silberschatz's OS book. "Oh, yeah", one of my advisor's older students says, "Avi does have another kid going to college this year."

Apple products don't really seem to display this much. Maybe it's why (or because) they cost twice as much as products from other manufacturers.

My laptop (Thinkpad X60) is over 10 years old and still works well for what I use it for. There's even an FSF-approved free BIOS for it.

My desktop is approaching 8 years, and I haven't found it limiting either, only buying more storage for it over time.

I also have a backup server that's nearly 20 years old. All it does is serve disks so it doesn't need to be very fast either.

It really depends on what you do and how you do it. Someone with more hardware demands or just using more bloated software would find systems of my specification unbearably slow, but they'd probably say the same of the very latest today.

Once you ditch largely inefficient commercial software, your hardware requirements drop significantly.

So many applications written under the pressures of business are just such crap.

I have found that dual-core+ desktop machines from the mid-2000s last quite awhile. Laptops can be a mixed bag depending on how upgradable the internals are / how powerful the internal GPU is.

I gave my sister recently a T420s that I had lying around, and the thing still screams.

> My real wish is that one day, computer or smartphone hardware might last at least 5 or even 10 years. I know software is evolving quickly, but there comes a point where I don't think you need to upgrade your hardware, the hardware is just fast enough to do certain things with today's software. At one point, software should stop changing so often. Then maybe we won't need to toss hardware anymore.

I just sold a 4.5 year old 15" MacBook Pro for A$1550, it was originally A$3500. That makes the TCO equation look very nice indeed. And we only replaced it because my wife got a 12" for travel.

I have the next model along 15" MBP (still 2013) and I'll keep it until it is a year out of macOS updates, then sell it. It's done pro-level photo and video editing, still plays Starcraft etc just fine, and is a great dev machine.

I just repaired a 2009 iMac (hard drive failure), and it's also still supported by the latest macOS.

Just got a 4 year old iPad repaired for $A90. It's stuck on iOS 9, and slow for web browsing, but still works fine as a PDF reader, note taker, and a few games for the kids.

I can see a day coming where the same will be true of phones. But I get new iPhones now: to play with the newest tech, it's my primary camera for documenting family life. The "newest hardware" in iOS devices is supporting stuff like running neural net image recognition over entire photo libraries, doing 4K video capture and editing, and of course running whatever latest web monstrosity is out. People who don't want those features are fine to stick with older phones; I know quite a few family members still on iPhones 4S and 5.

My desktop is 7 years old, admittedly that is a 3.3GHz Phenom II X6 with 16GB RAM, the highest available configuration on that socket/motherboard. It's still going strong, though of course it struggles with some newer games, which isn't as relevant to me as it used to be.

My laptop is a refurb T420, around 5-6 years old. Runs Linux Mint and all the apps I need with no issues at all, still gets 5+ hours on battery.

Computers have been "fast enough" for a long time.

My desktop is an old Optiplex 760, apparently made in 2008, and its my main "home office" computer. I bought it from a public auction web site from the local university for around $20-30. I wiped Windows XP and installed Ubuntu. I upgraded the RAM to 6 GB for next to nothing (the limit is 8, I think). I've used it for nearly 3 years for daily use, general computing, and sometimes computationally intensive, days-long numerical experiments for research. Is it a top-of-the-line machine? No, but for grad student with virtually no budget, it suffices quite nicely.

My current MacBook Pro is at about seven years; feeling like about time to replace it, just to be able to stay current.

> At one point, software should stop changing so often.

Save for security fixes, but I agree. Sometimes software is "done".

My previous MacBook worked 8 years - needed a battery replacement and an upgrade to a SSD. Granted it was a sluggish last year using it.

My current MacBook has lasted me 3 years already and unless something drastic happens I can see it lasting another 3 easily. Only issue is the battery replacement might be more costly (old MacBook had a removable battery). HDD performance shouldn't be a bottleneck for me either, but who knows what's around the corner in tech.

Obviously a gaming computer or something meant for advanced computing isn't going to last that long.

"My real wish is that one day, computer or smartphone hardware might last at least 5 or even 10 years."

My current System76 Gazelle is going on 6 years old. The battery has been mostly dead (I can change outlets without shutting down but not much more) and the NVidia graphics have never actually worked right under Linux, but with 16GB and a 2800MHz i7 it's fine for development and I haven't found anything to replace it with.

I'm going on 10 years with my gaming rig now. I've given it 2 video card upgrades. (It has a i7 965 Extreme, and cost a lot new, but I only paid $150 for it, and it's been amazing.) I do resent that I can't do such things with a laptop.

"In the future, repairability is likely to become even more of an issue, says Kyle Wiens, iFixit's chief executive. Not only do firms want customers to use authorised dealers, but a growing number of products are also no longer stand-alone devices, but rather delivery vehicles for services that generate additional revenues."

Gee, I wonder who started that trend?

Hey, you think this is bad - look at enterprise networking gear. Cisco and Juniper try to convince people it's illegal to use "grey market" (resold) equipment because the software license is "non-transferrable", so even if you "own" the hardware you don't have a license for the software attached to it. Of course, this flies in the face of the first-sale doctrine and established case law, but they don't care.

Just wait, somebody is going to try it with consumer devices sooner or later.

So MegaCorp A buys a huge amount of Cisco gear to modern their internal networks in all their infrastructure.

Two years later OmniCorp B enters into a deal to add them to their portfolio for whatever price they agreed upon. OmniCorp B now owns the physical Cisco gear but doesn't have a license to use it?

how big of a customer is OmniCorp?

Someone on the scale of Atlas Copco



Having started to use a safety razor recently, I'm starting to think that the impetus for moving to cartridge razors was just to make the refills harder to interchange and less of a commodity.

I said "fuck it" and bought a $30 corded trimmer, 5 years ago. It's still perfectly sharp enough to take of my beard and hair, it just needs a drop of oil once in a while.

Since male-pattern hair loss runs heavy in my family anyway, I decided to just buzzcut myself once a week on the lowest setting. For the limited shaving I do (sometimes my head, but usually just the edges of my beard), safety razors are so much better than cartridges.

They're cheaper, they last longer and it's so much easier to do accurate beard edges.

Along similar lines, if you get isopropyl alcohol (I use 90% grade, but 70% may also work), after using your razor, dry it off, and spray your razor with the alcohol, the alcohol displaces any remaining water and sanitizes at the same time. It makes the razor last longer. Works on electric razors, too.

Way back when, someone in school did some sort of senior project along these lines. Yeah, as I recall, most of the accumulated damage to razor blades is associated with corrosion rather than wear from cutting.

The interesting bit for me is that safety razors are nearly impossible to find in normal shops probably because they would be less profitable for the shops too.

Sell a pack of 5 cartridges that last MAYBE a week each (pushing it, you suck it up because they’re so expensive even though they’ve already lost their edge after a single use) for $5-10, or a box of 500 blades that you can change for every shave for over a year for $5. Yeah, retailers love this garbage

A week? What are you shaving with them? Yaks? :-)

My cartridge razors last at least two months before I need to change them. Do you clean and dry your blades after use?

It's still doable, and lots of great online guides and videos on how to repair smartphones, laptops etc.

I replaced my smartphone earpiece, following an ifixit.com guide. Was initially daunted, given the expense of the handset, but it just took a set of mini screwdrivers and a wedge, 20 minutes, and has been working good as new for the last 3 months. Very satisfying experience.

I had a similar experience, with my iPhone 6 wifi/bluetooth/GPS antenna. Started seeing degraded connectivity and Googled around till I had it narrowed down to that antenna. Was nervous about ripping it apart so first took it to the Apple store with my diagnosis - they said the only choice was to buy a new phone.

So, I borrowed my buddy's pentalobe driver set and about an hour later had pulled the logic board out, replaced the antenna, and buttoned it all back up. That's been about a year ago and it's still working perfectly. And the new antenna was something like $6 on Amazon...

...and chances are that was simply a solder joint or similar that cracked from the vibration of normal use, since antennae absolutely do not "wear out" from just transmitting or receiving.

Oh absolutely, it uses an attachment that is kind of like a very tiny 9-volt battery terminal, with a nub on one side and a circular spring clip on the other. The one of the four spring clips on the antenna broke off and remained attached to the logic board as I recall, so just had to pop the now-orphaned clip off the logic board after removing the antenna and snap the new one into place.

Yep. I replaced my Nexus 4's USB connector (and the separate little PCB it's mounted on). It was really easy. The hardest part was getting the case open, which took some patience.

I really get frustrated at how many small appliances I end up throwing out. It just doesn't make sense to repair a food processor that breaks. This stuff that's made with a plastic housing doesn't last more than 5 years in my house.

Then I look over at my Kitchenaid mixer. You know the iconic one that would look right at home in the kitchen of the 1960s. It's constructed durably, it's repairable, and people go out of their way to spend more to get it. I can get it repaired if it breaks. Why can't all appliances be like my Kitchenaid mixer?

At this point, I'd be glad to pay double for a washer, dryer, refrigerator, or microwave that lasted more than 7 years. But no matter the gamut of models available at Sears or Lowes, they're all made by the same few manufacturers, and they're all crap. The only option is to pay TEN times as much for commercial-grade units.

And I'm considering it.

Supposedly Miele's white goods are better than most other brands. They're on average 3-5x times more expensive, so they have plenty of margins to make durable products.

> Why can't all appliances be like my Kitchenaid mixer?

Because people don't like to spend extra for quality products. For most appliances, there are brands that sell quality versions which will last for years, but lots of people just look for the lowest priced one with the features that they want, and buy it.

Because people have been bitten by products and brands being milked, keeping higher price but not higher quality.

Also most stores prefer to stock lower priced items.

Then why do they pay for the Kithchenaid mixer.

That's why I preferentially buy old used tools. Not everything made in the past was good quality, but the things still around are.

Because people would complain at spending Kitchenaid mixer prices for a toaster.

But, that being said, I completely agree with you.

You could sell a Kitchenaid-mixer quality toaster for much less than a Kitchenaid mixer.

Try to find a Repair Cafe near you. https://repaircafe.org/en/visit/

They do repairs for free (voluntary donation appreciated) to keep items out of the landfill.

Why don't we just pay for services instead of buying products? This pushes the problem of maintenance to the service provider, thus making it more efficient and thus cheaper and more environment-friendly. Also, it completely eliminates the problem of planned obsolescence.

There are some downsides, such as that usage of the service outside the contract becomes impossible, so contracts should be sufficiently broad (and not targeting just the average people). And you don't "own" your product (which could be a psychological problem). But I guess that's about it.

Now, when Steam decides that you have violated their ToS in some way, they will close your account and lock you out of everything you bought. This happens, rarely, but happens.

Do you want to be dependant on an idea of a corporation that they will treat you fair?

Are you OK to give away your washing machine and oven just because you had troubles with finances and you missed one payment?

We're more dependent on corporations when we buy things, since we have given them all the money upfront. A service model gives us more leverage.

As someone who had to throw away a washing machine because the company wouldn't service it, I would have very much preferred a rental model where the loss would have been theirs.

To flip your question: Are you okay not being able to buy a washing machine because you couldn't make a significant one-time payment? Are you okay with your investment going waste because the company wouldn't service it? I would say no to both.

> We're more dependent on corporations when we buy things, since we have given them all the money upfront. A service model gives us more leverage.

No, we aren't and no, it doesn't. Buying things up-front means your interaction with a corporation is brief and to the point. With service model, they get to gouge you for money and restrict the things you can do with the item you now don't own, but rent.

> Are you okay not being able to buy a washing machine because you couldn't make a significant one-time payment?

There are plenty of ways to amortize that using third parties that have no interest in limiting your control over the washing machine.

Also, it's you who get to choose when to do the purchase. Once you enter a contract, you'd better have a stable paycheck for the entire duration of it, or you'll be SOL.

That's wrong. A service model gives me leverage — I stop paying the rent whenever I want and return the washing machine. Maybe you have a different service model in mind, like a contract, in which case we'd naturally disagree, but I'm not talking about such a model.

Neither do I care about my flexibility to modify my washing machine. All I care is that it washes my clothes well.

BTW, what's "SOL"?

> That's wrong. A service model gives me leverage — I stop paying the rent whenever I want and return the washing machine.

It's more inconvenient to you not to be able to use a washing machine when you need it than it is for a service provider to have a random customer unable to pay them on time.

> BTW, what's "SOL"?

Shit Out of Luck.

It seems that I didn't explain the model I have in mind: the washing machine would be installed in my house, and I pay them a monthly fee, which I can discontinue any time, at which point they'll come take away their washing machine.

In this model, I have the washing machine to use whenever I need it. If it breaks, or if I need a bigger capacity model, or I'm not happy with its performance, I can immediately switch to another supplier. Paying for the entire machine up front closes my options. They already have my money, so they can offer poor service and get away with it.

The entire point of the article is that you (or a local technician) should be allowed and able to repair your washing machine and not rely on the company exclusively to fix it. Having to throw it away is exactly because you don't really own it without the right to repair. You "own" a machine that it is impossible and illegal to fix or modify, which is not ownership at all, which means you already are renting it as a service, the company has just lied to you by redefining ownership in a way that makes them more money.

Not true — it's neither impossible nor illegal to get someone to fix my washing machine. It's just that I don't know who's reliable, and will it cause severe problems, like a flood. Or will it break up when rotating at high speed, hurting whoever is next to it? I merely chose to throw it away and buy another one.

The point of my comment above, and amelius's if I understand correctly, is that a service model eliminates this risk from the buyer. I'll be able to get another washing machine without incurring a financial loss.

What matters at the end of the day is having a working, safe, reliable washing machine. Having a right to repair is only a means to this end, and not an end to itself. A service model is another means to this end. Don't confuse the means for the ends and entertain only one means.

You have a point, but if the law catches up with this idea, then I don't think this should be a problem.

I.e., stronger rights for people who use services.

Goods and services are always (and will always be) separate for those at the top of the economic food chain. Why should it be different for those who are less privileged? Looks like a likely avenue for exploiting or at least taking control/power/freedom from other people.

Don’t count on service quality laws to make up the disparity caused by losing the right to full ownership of one’s property.

> Goods and services are always (and will always be) separate for those at the top of the economic food chain. Why should it be different for those who are less privileged? Looks like a likely avenue for exploiting or at least taking control/power/freedom from other people.

Can you come up with a concrete scenario?

> Don’t count on service quality laws to make up the disparity caused by losing the right to full ownership of one’s property.

Yeah, but now we're fighting for the "right to repair". And we need to fight for the "right of a clean environment". And a "right of no planned obsolescence". Seems much more complicated to me than just getting the incentives right in the first place.

I am afraid this solution could kill second-hand market with "service providers" not happy to dispose of old products to keep the prices high.

Would iPhone allow the second-hand market for their phones? Not likely, thus keeping a huge part of the less fortunate population out of the possibility to get hands-on premium products.

Your model could be an addition to the current service model, not a replacement.

> Can you come up with a concrete scenario?

The current events cited in the article serve as examples.

There aren’t a lot of universal human “rights” that are self-evident in the context of common law, but the few that are ought to be held as absolutely sacred and inalienable. Property ownership is one of them.

> There are some downsides.

You can say that again. Just look at the John Deere debacle that's been happening for an exceptionally good example of why this is a terrible idea. Physical good = ownership = full end-user control. Anything less is dangerous for consumers.

The problem is that keeping things the old way apparently doesn't work out too well for the environment. Moving to services aligns the incentives such that the environment can benefit, and the use of products can become cheaper too.

So, imho, what we should do is give customers who use services better rights.

Yeah, companies forcing people to buy new crap all the time because the old stuff is discontinued and customers are locked out from fixing it themselves is definitely good for the environment.

I don't know why you are being downvoted for asking a question, but I think it's incredibly important to educate people on the dangers of your proposal, i.e. to answer it.

A short answer is "everything Stallman has ever warned us about (most of which has already come to pass)."

A longer answer contains many, many reasons, so I'll just throw out some paragraphs.

Ownership is more than psychological, it's about your right and ability to do what you want with your stuff. It's also about whether your stuff is designed to help you or to work against you. "Do what you want" includes modifications, repair, and any usage that you might want even if not officially sanctioned by the company. If you don't own your stuff, you can't control whether it's tracking you and sending back data about you. You can't control whether one day the company goes out of business, or gets bought by a new owner, or decides for liability reasons or whatever that they should remotely disable or recall the product (maybe at the moment you need it most).

There's also a reason that "rents" are a hugely important concept in economics. In general, the renter is open to exploitation by the rentee who continually makes money not by creating additional new welfare/value but due to a historical circumstance, i.e. being the one who originally owned the thing being rented.

More issues: paying for services actually accentuates the problem of planned obsolescence, because it gives the service-provider the ability to terminate or alter terms of the deal at intervals (or immediately via software update) thus virtually forcing an upgrade.

When products are built to actually last, buying is perfectly environmentally-friendly. If you look at a mid-20th-century family's home, almost everything in it was built to last for decades -- furniture, appliances, vehicles, even clothing (with appropriate repairs). That was a result of the purchasing equilibrium. Many people have had to move toward the renting equilibrium where they don't expect to own things permanently, and the stuff they own is crap.

I'll stop there, but reiterate that the number 1 issue is ownership and control. I suggest you try the thought experiment of placing goods on a scale from "most ownership" (purchased for long-term reasons, customizable, repairable) to "least ownership" (comes with terms and conditions, may be updated or changed by the company at any time), and evaluate each good by how long it lasts, environmental-friendliness, how much it respects the rights of the user versus the wishes of the producer, and how much it is subject to planned obsolescence. (Starter: the iPhone is on the far end in all categories.)

So you don't think that we can capture all of what you said in laws that protect the consumer?

Also, how is using a service different than paying someone to do a job for you. E.g. paying someone to do your laundry instead of buying a washing machine. The person you hire can choose any means of doing your laundry, including putting a washing machine in your home.

If that's causing problems with exploitation, isn't that a fundamental flaw in our economy, rather than with the idea of preferring services over products?

> Also, how is using a service different than paying someone to do a job for you. E.g. paying someone to do your laundry instead of buying a washing machine. The person you hire can choose any means of doing your laundry, including putting a washing machine in your home.

It isn't, and this illustrates another problem: with service model, you're much more tied to having a stable income source. If you're temporarily not able to pay someone, they won't come to do the work for you. If you're not able to keep paying for the service, the provider will remotely suspend or terminate it. Whereas, if you own a device, you can keep using it even though you're 3 months out of a job, with no new one in sight.

> So you don't think that we can capture all of what you said in laws that protect the consumer?

I'm not saying it's impossible to picture a society where this happens, but it's not very reachable from where we are now. We're struggling to get down basics like repairing your own devices. Nor is it a particularly desirable society compared to a society where everyone owns and controls all their own stuff.

> how is using a service different than paying someone to do a job for you

I'm not sure what this question has to do with what I wrote. I don't want either one. I want to pay once for a quality washing machine that I can repair, use when, where, and how I want to. For another example, I want a bicycle that fits my exact size, style, speed, and safety preferences, that I can pay for once and keep repaired and in good condition and resell later on, rather than throwing money at some company year after year to ride awful one-size-fits-none rent-a-bikes. Those bikes are useful for many scenarios but a bad replacement for long-term ownership.

(edit) For example in the washing machine scenario, the service I employ to launder clothes can easily decide to hike their rates for all clothes not purchased from Banana Republic, or they can sell data about my clothes preferences to advertisers, or they can make me sign terms of service that give bad compensation for damaged clothes or delayed washing. Their incentives are often misaligned from mine; they aren't usually acting in my best interests. I guess you'll say "but competition will magically fix that", however, if we look at the real world, most markets don't have enough competition for that to be true.

> If that's causing problems with exploitation, isn't that a fundamental flaw in our economy, rather than with the idea of preferring services over products?

I don't understand what you're saying here. It sounds akin to arguments that roads should all be privatized, where the fact that nobody would build roads to rural homes gets written off as some problem with the economy rather than a flaw in the idea itself. Or similarly, sounds like you're advocating a system that you know clearly wouldn't work because you are able to picture some idealized version of society where it might.

I had this album on Spotify or Deezer, one of my favourites. One day something happened and it became un-listenable. It's like Sony came and picked a CD from my shelf. Well luckily there is YouTube. But with actual tools, like tractors, it's different. Tools tend to get personalised/modified to fit the particular routines of their users.

Because then there would be no products. And no, it would not eliminate so-called "planned obsolescence" (which isn't a real issue with quality products like Apple's anyway); it would just shift any such motives and actions to a different income stream and a different company.

Does anyone know what the best, most-serviceable laptop is in 2017? Looking for something with decent hardware and Linux support. It seems like the trend is toward soldered-on parts.

Look into Clevo/Sager resellers. Places like System76. They can be hit-or-miss - I've had one excellent machine that lasted 6 years, but also one terrible experience with a borked GPU that put me off of them more or less permanently. Getting any sort of support or repairs for parts that you can't replace yourself is difficult.

Still, they tend to have highly modular, easy-to-swap-out parts. Hard drives, wireless cards, RAM, keyboards, battery, it's usually all removable and they sell spares for custom parts like the keyboards. Many of their devices even have a full CPU socket on the motherboard, so you could keep a good one running for a very long time.

If you luck out and get a good one.

Those also tend to be very large, gaming-oriented, desktop replacement "laptops", so not ideal for everyone looking for something they can actually keep on their lap for any length of time. They're so modular because they're designed like a desktop, with lots of full-size parts and little emphasis on thinness.

If by "borked GPU" you're referring to the nVidia BGA failures, those weren't the fault of the laptop manufacturer. HP and Toshiba, among others, were affected severely by that too.

It's been a little while since I looked, but they did used to make smaller and more portable models even though their lines definitely skew towards hulking powerhouses.

I remember the 11" W110ER fondly; it was tiny, but it still had a discrete GPU. Those were the days...as much as I love the small ARM Chromebooks, they do lack power for most sorts of realtime rendering applications.

I'm not sure what the exact issue was, but I got a new machine with a card that hung under reproducible conditions (as well as seemingly random ones) over several operating systems and use cases. I thought that BGA issues mostly came after a little while of thermal stressing on the boards and the footprint. But you never know; shit happens.

In general, it has to be a "regular" laptop, and not an ultrabook. The ultrabooks have gone to soldered in RAM and SSDs to save space.

Try looking at ifixit for repairability scores. They take the laptops apart and show you the internals on the reviews they do. https://www.ifixit.com/laptop-repairability

Of course, cross reference the repairability score with your desired performance and price. Pick any one.

Thinkpads still seem to be the best. The documentation is still amazingly thorough, and there is a wide range of models from ultraportable (parts soldered on) to "portable workstations" (big thick chassis).

They are coming out with an "anniversary edition" Thinkpad that looks like it's a refresh of a T400 series chassis. It seems promising.

I have a Thinkpad T-430 and the thing's great. I can strip it down to just the motherboard and display in less than 5 minutes.

I don't know if suggesting a laptop from a company that uses DRM to lock out 3rd party batteries is something suitable in this thread.

You can 'fix' that at least: https://github.com/hamishcoleman/thinkpad-ec

I don't think there is a company on that market that doesn't do something anticonsumer. It's a "pick the least bad" problem.

If you're not scared of dropping some more cash on it, you should look into the Dell XPS line. The basics are very serviceable and it has very decent specs and performance.

Mine's been running Arch for almost a year without any hardware issues so far. I also manage to pull roughly 8 hours of development out of a full battery.

I can recommend my HP Elite X2 1012 G1. Clunky name but user-replaceable SSD, battery, and screen, along with no moving parts, makes me a happy camper. They have a newer faster version now too.

These are complex consumer taxing drip feeds of information, upgrades, service faults, repair services and so forth. It seems to mostly feed dumps.

Slightly industrial grade hardware is often field repairable. I go for new or refurbed durable low depreciation tools worth mastering. Emacs, weather sealed camera gear or even cookware are examples.

Otherwise I use low power almost disposable Chromebook, Chromecast and Moto-G away from a Linux box with cheap reasonable dumb screens and bluetooth speakers.

The haptics of consumer tools are churned far too easily for business models. Windows XP showed how too slowly depreciating good enough assets in the field upset vendors. Constant maintenance and futzing are taxes outside actually advancing any state of the art. I don't drive living in a midstory DC building together saving about +50% of typical American transport and HVAC power budgets. And I don't sport shop or even eat energy intensive packaged food mysteries.

Good and operationally efficient habits can go well enough with software and city living.

DRM anti-circumvention provisions also should be repealed for good.

Can't read the article, but for the folks in London or around in the UK, you should check out this company, they organize events to promote repair culture and workshop (also as company events) where experts will teach you how to fix common problems: https://therestartproject.org/

This is really cool, the data collection part reminds me of those water fountains at airports that tell you how many plastic water bottles they've kept out of landfill - that kind of feedback is very motivating.

Would love to know if something like this exists in New York.

Won't the issue take care of itself if: 1) Companies are taxed for the all the environmental pollution they case and 2) The minimum warranty period is 5 years. If the device fails before that, the company should lend you a replacement for the remainder of the warranty period, or refund a prorated amount.

> The minimum warranty period is 5 years

Why 5 years? Why not 4 or 6? Actually, I think the warranty period should increase, always. For example by one month every year. So a product sold in 2017 has a warranty of 2 years (24 months). A product sold in 2018 would have a warranty of 25 months. A product sold in 2019 would have a warranty of 26 months. And so on... This would encourage (force!) companies R&D to always improve products, but at a sustainable speed.

Of course the figures given above should be tweaked better, maybe start at 3 or 4 years warranty very soon, increase by 1, 2 or 3 months per year, I don't know.

> Why 5 years? Why not 4 or 6?

Maybe it can be 6 instead of 5. That's an unnecessary detail for you to obsess about at this point. Instead focus on the larger issue, which is that governments should force companies to give a much longer warranty period than the typical 1 year. That will make companies design for longevity, reducing costs for customers and environmental damage.

How about right to use your stuff how you want?

Like not paying 10s of thousands for a Tesla that has a clause against using autopilot with ride sharing services other than Tesla.

Where do I find all this mythical stuff that I want?

I want a new car with no software, no computers, no GPS, no radio, no power windows, no keyless entry, no thermostat. Where do I find it? Realistically I can only chose between crap I don't want.

And if I buy an older car, not only I have to deal with problems that would otherwise be avoidable if I bought a new car, but the government doesn't want me to use old cars. Great freedom of choice. What a life.

You know what? I got your answer, I have this beautiful 0-mile device without all those gadgets and crap. No keyless entry, no GPS, no radio, no (power)windows, no thermostat, minor software and computers (just to control the engine and emmissions). If you want add-ons you add them yourself:

- GPS -> mount your smartphone

- Thermostat -> more/less clothes

- Radio -> get a bluetooth headset for your helmet

- The list can go on and on...

You just described my motorcycle! Beautiful 0-miles engine (took it out of the dealership this week). It has no unnecessary stuff and that's what I love the most about it. I do pretty much all the maintenance myself and the community of motorcycle riders is very supportive and helpful to do so.

Now... Why isn't there a car company that builds cars on the same level of complexity? I know comfort/luxury sells. But there should be a tier of cars that are easily serviceable.

Meanwhile, I highly recommend you get a motorcycle :)

I also ride a motorcycle. Just got a new sportster and love it. I'll agree that it is wonderful not ever having to adjust a damn radio, roll windows up or worry about broken AC. It's great for all the reasons you described.

I also agree with your point that there __should__ be a market for a no-frills car of the same design philosophy.

However, I would NEVER recommend that someone get a motorcycle. You and I both know the risks. Literally every time we roll out we can be killed or maimed brutally. I think it's actually pretty irresponsible to recommend them to other people.

> Per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists' risk of a fatal crash is 35 times greater than a passenger car. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorcycle_safety#Accident_Rat... (the official sources are cited in the article)

Now, I could totally be missing the humor in this, in which case, ignore me.

I think it's actually pretty irresponsible to recommend them to other people.

I disagree. It's the old freedom vs. security/safety argument. I have no qualms about recommending motorcycles or even just older and simpler cars, because safety is not the only factor and a lot of the time it's used as an argument to take away freedom. You can be perfectly safe by spending your entire life locked away in a jail cell... and you'll still die.

It's not that I think people should not ride motorcycles. It's that WE are aware of the heightened level of danger, extra things to watch for, etc. Most people are not and recommending motorcycles casually to people who may not grasp the risks is setting them up to get fucked, pardon the language.

I do think an amendment to my original statement is needed, though: I would NEVER recommend them to other people without firmly impressing upon them the value of safety courses and the risks involved.

Thank goodness they didn't manage to compromise motorcycles yet!

The base Jeep Wrangler looks like that, but in fact, it has anti-skid braking, stability control, and electronic engine control. Everything is too integrated. In the first year, I had a bug where the software would crash and restart going uphill in hot weather. The engine would stop and restart, the transmission would downshift, all the lights on the dashboard would light up momentarily, and the CD player would reset.

Not sure about the US but in Europe there are some cheaper cars that have basically no "extras" in the cheapest model. You'll end up with some softwares and computers but probably close to what you'd get in any 10y old car. And it's cheap, the Dacia Sandero costs <£6,000 as a new car (~$8,000).

But you'll also end up with a less secure car probably.

Build your own car that fits your dreams perfectly. You have plenty of freedom to choose to do that

Actually, no, you don't. Where I live it's almost impossible to make any kind of artisanal car street-legal.

Has anyone tested this clause? Tesla can write whatever they want into a contract; that doesn't mean it'll be held up in the courts.

When Tesla sues you over it, can you afford a lawyer to defend yourself?

Claim:Tesla institutes a strict no suit policy in tech to promote adoption of electric cars.

Supporting evidence: + all their patents are open for that reason. + Elon has said personally that it is of no use to be the last human standing on a sinking ship.

Personally, I think they may actually fancy people doing their own repairs.

I'd be willing to replace my one-off expensive tech purchases with a subscription model for a specific hardware manufacturer instead. The subscription would get you your device (smartphone, car, fridge etc.) and ongoing support & servicing. You'd be entitled to an upgrade at a predetermined interval.

I'd hope this scheme would be good for the consumer as they'd find it easier to budget (spread out regular payments), good for the environment as manufacturers would no longer have any incentive to make things hard to repair (forced upgrade cycles, ecosystem lock-in), and good for the manufacturer as they could focus less on forced upgrade cycles and more on a quality product to keep the consumer subscribed.

You're describing the traditional cell phone financing model in the US. It's not good because it costs more and locks you into the provider.

I will admit that I am not a fan of the "right to repair" movement in terms of what I've seen from it so far when it comes to actual legislative proposals, and I also find a lot of the way it talks down to current consumers and market forces distasteful and short sighted. I can absolutely see how in some areas of production narrowly tailored rules might be beneficial in terms of efforts manufacturers make to prevent repair purely for anti-competitive reasons. But there are at least two critical, legitimate benefits/tradeoffs (and in turn questions) that more broad based efforts have to address in my opinion. I'm going to use Apple as an example here given they're a legitimate example of both and also big and broadly well known.

1: Security. The fact is that there is an absolutely enormous (and growing) amount of value in a fully trusted hardware stack. Apple has taken a lot of flack from "right to repair" over issues like not being able to "repair" the Touch ID, but I haven't seen any great answers over how to allow any random 3rd party to repair Touch ID without also meaning any random malicious 3rd party (including legitimate repair shops in some scenarios) could replace it with something hostile too. I actively do not want anyone but Apple to be able to mess with the hardware authentication chain on my iPhone, even though I do support legislation to (and have written to my reps in favor of) require manufactures to allow users to additionally add their own master keys for running software on top of it. Having the option to minimize the number parties who can alter your hardware is something that has value.

I think a well crafted system might be able to square this via dual chains that an owner could pick on purchase and appropriate manufacturer liability mitigations. So for example you could choose "only Apple may ever modify the trusted core of this device" or "anyone with the key can" and in each case Apple would utilize a separate root private key. In the former case it'd be like right now where Apple never shares that, in the latter they'd offer signed leafs to anyone who asked so any 3rd party could make the repair (and sign off on it) instead. In the latter case Apple would also be relieved of all liability for any damage ever done due to a 3rd party Touch ID repair, though I suppose in practice they might still face legitimate PR damage (but that should be able to be minimized if it's clear enough that the owner willingly gave up protections).

2: Active/Dumb Matter ratios and dynamic flexibility: The other issue is that "repairability" in many of the formulations I see in HN and other tech community discussions comes with a lot of costs of its own that aren't address. A trivial, super common example is the battery. It's hard to go a single mobile phone discussion without somebody complaining about how they want the trivially replaceable batteries of yore. However, there are fundamental tradeoffs there in terms of actual basic physics. A user swappable battery has to have physical connectors capable of repeated usage. It cannot be soldered on. The battery itself must have its own safe case. The phone case must be altered to allow the swapping which requires structural compromises vs a solid piece. The battery must generally be a reasonably simple geometric shape, rather then whatever arbitrary shape the manufacturer wants to maximize volume in relation to other facts of the internal design.

All of which ultimately boils down to lots of extra matter that isn't battery or phone. There isn't any way around that with current technology. A smartphone using a non-swappable battery will always fundamentally have more single capacity, be lighter, or both, and of course can still just utilize an external battery pack if bulk is not an issue and more between-charge run time is necessary. Swappable has its own use case, but it's not a slam dunk at all nor is it a conspiracy nor are regular consumers "stupid" for preferring a different balance of trade offs.

This same sort of tradeoffs happens elsewhere, where more integration allows for fundamentally more efficient and superior performing designs at the cost of making it harder to repair. And this too is an environmental issue: across billions of phones, extra dead matter adds up all by itself.


I'm not saying that there isn't abuse, that complaints about John Deere and the like aren't justified, or that there is no room for better rules. But particularly with electronics a lot of these questions really do seem like they're best answered by the markets, and that legislation should first be focused purely on making those more efficient (by ensuring that externalities from total lifecycle costs are all in the price up front for example). Any legislation directly interfering should be treated cautiously and given a lot of careful consideration. I'm worried that much of the movement I've seen so far is too focused on its own narrow use cases rather then the general population, and not giving a sufficient level of thoughtfulness to how different areas of the overall world market face different use and threat scenarios. A lot of tech people have a bad habit of calling incredibly smart people "dumb" for sharing different priorities wrt technology, and failing in turn to consider whether their cases can be addressed without it being a zero-sum game. I don't want to see the proverbial baby thrown out with the bath water here is all.

"I actively do not want anyone but Apple to be able to mess with the hardware authentication chain on my iPhone"

If you give something away to repair you allways have to trust them. If they are evil, there are almost unlimited ways to manipulate and plant spyware etc. Apple devices might indeed be harder to manipulate, but I doubt an expert will have much trouble with it, if he has physical access to it.

So in the end, by locking it more down, you are just locking yourself more to apple. If that's what you want, fine. But don't expect to be really more secure because of it.

> If you give something away to repair you always have to trust them.

I got confused about this initially too, but that's not relevant to the argument being made here. The argument isn't about repair -- that's something you can always avoid. The argument is about others (thiefs, etc.) messing with security-related components and bypassing security. He doesn't want that to be possible.

" He doesn't want that to be possible."

But it is and allways will be. You can make it harder, yes, but in my opinion the benefits are way smaller than the disadvantages.

Possible != practical. His threat model most likely doesn't include the NSA, and for normal adversaries hardware security can be plenty sufficient.

I think there are other options regarding security, such as detection rather than prevention, and I unless all inter-component communication is encrypted then ultimately it still can't guarantee security (or even then, although this is all varying degrees of unlikely, at least at the moment)

Really the crux of this is whether this is best answered by the markets like you say, or by regulation. I see plenty of issues with it being answered by governments, but I have absolutely no faith in the market coming up with a good solution for this, as the players have too much power and the consumers are uneducated. I worry, of course, that governments will stick their oar in but paddle in the opposite direction.

> The fact is that there is an absolutely enormous (and growing) amount of value in a fully trusted hardware stack. Apple has taken a lot of flack from "right to repair" over issues like not being able to "repair" the Touch ID, but I haven't seen any great answers over how to allow any random 3rd party to repair Touch ID without also meaning any random malicious 3rd party (including legitimate repair shops in some scenarios) could replace it with something hostile too.

A trusted hardware stack isn't one that's been locked down by a company, it's one I can modify and control.

In short, I trust that Apple will control any hardware I buy from them, and I trust Apple will always work in Apple's best interests. I cannot trust that Apple's best interests will always align with my own. I cannot trust that Apple's best interests currently align with my own.

> I think a well crafted system might be able to square this via dual chains that an owner could pick on purchase and appropriate manufacturer liability mitigations. So for example you could choose "only Apple may ever modify the trusted core of this device" or "anyone with the key can" and in each case Apple would utilize a separate root private key.

Only if I could revoke the manufacturer's ability to modify my hardware.

> In the latter case Apple would also be relieved of all liability for any damage ever done due to a 3rd party Touch ID repair

This is obvious.

I agree with the rest of your post.

Oh look someone being reasonable on HN.

There is a distinct pattern in the tech and engineering world of people who assume that what they want is what everyone else wants, and if they don't want that they don't know what is good for them or they've been duped.

Then they get presented with a cogent argument like yours and realize their neat world view isn't so clean cut after all.

> I actively do not want anyone but Apple to be able to mess with the hardware authentication chain on my iPhone

Why doesn't encryption sidestep this issue for you?

How does encryption sidestep this issue at all?

The whole point of the security of TouchID hardware is to prevent someone else from authenticating as you by messing with the hardware. But that becomes a non-issue when your data is encrypted, since a thief wouldn't have the password to decrypt it anyway.

Your fingerprints are given in clear, from your fingertips to the sensor surface. You can add all the security in the world after the sensor, but you need to be able to trust it, because it has access to the raw data. Same for face ID - the very first piece of hardware capturing the data has to be trustworthy or the whole chain cannot be trusted.

What I'm trying to say is that you should be using software security rather than hardware security.

What I think they're trying to say is that using software security with no hardware security doesn't fix the issue of what happens when someone modifies your device to add hardware that is capable of skimming your software encryption keys.

Isn't that an entirely different threat than the one we're worried about here?

The issue here is what happens when someone gets a hold of your phone and tries to get your data off it. This is NOT even remotely the same threat as someone secretly getting your phone, secretly opening it and installing a backdoor touchscreen reader, then sealing it back up perfectly and leaving it somewhere for you to find it with no trace without you realizing anything has gone wrong. The latter is far harder to pull off and far less likely to occur. Even CBP officers who take your phone wouldn't do this sort of thing. I don't really know of any evidence that this is the threat that Apple has been trying to mitigate, let alone that they have had any success in doing so. It's a non-argument as far as the discussions about Apple's existing security measures go.

The argument for (1) fails to make a point in how there's value for the user in having a "fully trusted hardware stack". More specifically I don't see a reason why a user shouldn't be able to disable or re-key the signature validation of the hardware after providing his login and acknowledging the risk.

As far as I can imagine, the only theoretical user benefit comes from being able to protect the device even with user cooperation, assuming he's being forced or a danger to the product. However if it's possible to circumvent the security mechanism anyway through a security bug in the implementation, this becomes a moot point. The consistent availability of jail breaks for iOS shows that the system is inherently insecure and considering the vast attack surface that's not a surprise either. There is no guarantee against the stack having been compromised.

The real leverage from the locked hardware is very much on Apple's side - they force the user into their ecosystem after purchasing the device to apply arbitrary restrictions and extract additional revenue from purchasing applications or media.

Regarding Touch ID, the sensor input (fingerprint) has been shown to be forgeable without professional tools shortly after each revision was released. The technology is insecure out of the box and my original point applies here too. You'd have to argue why the user shouldn't be able to trust the new sensor after authenticating with the primary method (pass code) and how that substantially improves device security.

Liability is btw. hardly a concern, the EU has had implied warranty that doesn't get voided by 3rd party repairs for a long time. Damage from repairs isn't really any different from just dropping the device and thus can be handled equally.

Point (2) is not well justified either. For once every battery has a connector as it's fragile and dangerous - including Apple's. You can't run it through the reflow oven with the main board and you generally don't want to add it to the assembly at the same time. The argument about repeated connector uses is absurd, we're talking about very few replacements in the product lifetime. There are plenty of cheap low footprint options that are specified for at least several uses and almost(?) every battery uses one of them.

There have been high end phone that supported toolless battery swapping in the past without showing huge tradeoffs for it. Going beyond toolless many phones can be fixed without being destroyed in the process - no tradeoff whatsoever. Not using excess amounts of irreversible glue or substituting some with screws goes a long way. It can be assumed that the actual reasoning is more along the lines of not caring to save some marginal cost or deliberately preventing repairs.

Using less glue or a slightly different design is no dead matter, other means are hardly comparable to manufacturing the high tech components. For recycling it is fundamentally important to be able to separate the components easily and any extended lifespan is vastly more beneficial than recycling to start with. The presented argument about any environmental advantage for unfixable designs is exceptionally weak.

As the era of high interest rates is about to return, this 'right to repair' will be more pronounced. Not because of some ideology, but because people will have to repair electronics.

If I want my laptop to be a lighter thinner appliance glued together in an aluminum body so tightly that it’s super tough and resistant to damage, will I still be able to have that?

In reality, most parts will still not be glued but use screws. And even if it's glued, replacing it shouldn't be an issue if the company sells the equipment?

You get more bulky and expensive device for the right to repair. Would not want that.

I think you are confusing two different problems with repair (the article does not do a great job distinguishing them).

1) Difficulty to repair because of physical design, e.g. goods that are physically challenging to open and modify or require specialized tools. This is often a reasonable side-effect of making devices as small or light as possible. I.e. making it physically difficult to repair.

2) Erecting legal barriers to repair by asserting that people may not legally attempt to repair or modify things they "own", using DMCA or copyright laws. I.e., making it illegal even to try.

As far as I know, the right to repair movement is centered around #2 and does not address #1. If it does address #1, I would guess it's only for cases where a company purposely makes something physically more difficult to repair for a reason unrelated to functionality, e.g. invents a new fastener with no functional advantage over a screw but that requires a multi-thousand dollar device to open.

But again, right-to-repair is almost exclusively about #2 as far as I know.

(edit) actually, a lot of people in the thread are making the same conflation.

In addition to legal barriers, #2 can also be about specialised parts that are not documented and not sold (officially). E.g. inventing new screws just to make it harder to open a case.

Some people would, and do want that.

Is there something a consumer electronics company can do allowing people to update or upgrade components or firmware in such a way that we are not basically forced to void the warranty?

Provide breakout headers or pogo pads to the relevant chips. Like, if your pebble had its STM32F439's SWDIO and SWCLK pins broken out, you could probably flash it just like an Arduino if it weren't for the copy/write protection stuff that they likely used.

I dunno, what about others? Make several small and removable boards rather than one a single large one? Don't use BGA components whenever possible? Publish your layout schematics, or at least pinouts?

But as a manufacturer, why would you do any of that if you don't have to? It'll just let your competitors easily steal your hard work, and 99.9% of people will never use it. The problem comes when Apple makes that sort of thinking part of the zeitgeist when talking about iPhones, and before you know it fucking tractor companies are decides that 'licensing' a product is much better than selling one.

I tell you what, I'm just waiting for a high-tech lathe that is 'owned' by some manufacturer to accidentally tear someone's arm off. Or worse, a semi-autonomous warehouse/assembly robot goes haywire around people. If the operator was just licensing it, the owner had better have good insurance.

Most of these chips can actually be flashed no problem. They just have a fuse/bit that disables read over JTAG and to disable that you have to zero the entire device memory. This means that you can put whatever firmware on that you want, but you'll never have access to the old binary code that was running it, so making patches is impossible unless you can either A) rewrite all the firmware from scratch, B) find a way of tricking the existing software into dumping firmware over a port via some sort of overflow, etc or C) glitch the chip into allowing JTAG access with the bit/fuse set (used to be pretty common, more rare these days)

In the United States, a company cannot necessarily void your warranty for repairing a device yourself. See the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.


Of course, that doesn't stop them from trying, and usually succeeding, because the FTC has been de-clawed and no one bothers to sue.

Note, in this case I am the one on the manufacturing side. If our smart power outlets get a firmware update that for example destroys the current soft fuse or thermal protection, we would be screwed. How would we be able to give the people the ability to tamper, but without incurring the risks that come with that?

I will say I particularly enjoy the Jeep communities DIY or die attitude about fixing their vehicles. The dealership may not support them anymore, but plenty of great individuals pick up the slack and sell parts that often improve on original flaws.

Mr Blaine from Black Magic Brakes is a great example. http://www.blackmagicbrakes.com/

My 1995 Jeep Cherokee is the reason why I'm weary of too much electronics in cars. And I'm a serial electronics tinkerer. Need a new engine? Do it yourself. Need a new alternator? No problem. Install larger tires? There's a million kits out there ready for anyone to do it.

And since there's so many enthusiasts out there it's really cheap. I needed a new door so I bought one for a hundred bucks and installed it myself in 20 minutes.

I did not read the article. However with the rise of denser technologies and mass assembly by machines in order to achieve a price point and manufacturing volume it is inevitable that we won't be able to repair items ourselves. That is just the way it is. I wouldn't want to overanalyse it.

You might want to repair something yourself but you are in a minority and the market wants to buy products for cheap and throw them away at end of life.

The market is not God, and what it wants is not cast in stone. The current market practices are wasteful, antisocial and unsustainable, but the market only gives a damn if there's enough pressure for it.

Well, i love Mercedes as a car. I only don't like the electronics.

Some franchise here in my neighboorhood ( belgium) has bought every garage in 50 km's. Since they are ridiculous expensive ( eg. my uncle got charged 80 € for grabbing a part from the garage, that was excluding the part cost ...). It's me last Benz, my cousins also.

Except if i can find one without electronics.

Get an old 1977-85 240d or 300d. It will be slow (like, seriously slow), but will run basically forever with maintenance that is mostly very DIY friendly, and it will be surprisingly frugal, partly because of the diesel engine and partly because it will kill any ambition to speed.

The OM616 and OM617 are some of the most reliable car engines ever produced.

This article taught me about Liam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYshVbcEmUc "It is also investing in technology that makes it easier to recycle its products, such as Liam, a robot for disassembling iPhones."

Very cool!

Why do links to paywalled articles get posted here?

The real issue is that consumers are stupid and want to stay stupid which means modular products, being more complicated, are not something they are going to shell out for.

It's a lot easier to say "buy this widget for $x a month for 48 months" (classic US example) than to say "what computer do you have? oh you don't know. why don't we arrange for me to have a look at it another day. uhuh. ok well i've taken a look and if we upgrade the graphics card, hard disk and ram we can probably get that working really nicely for you".

People just don't care. They want a result now, they want it to have a name, they want it to be marketed, they want to show it off and lord it over their proverbial neighbor.

Petty, stupid consumers are the real problem.

Fixing this situation, which has accelerated under the influence of commercial media and dwindling state education budgets in many western countries essentially must begin with education and regulation.

Or maybe they aren't stupid and they're simply acting in their own self-interest, which means not wasting their time with unnecessarily more complicated products that offer little to them in return. Or maybe they do want the products they use to be status symbols. Or maybe they simply don't share your point of view.

This doesn't mean they're necessarily stupid, it means they're different from you.

I disagree; there is some definition of 'stupid' that exists in the same shape and form in most consumers. It stems from laziness, desire for showing off and instant gratification, and lack of critical thinking when being bombarded with marketing BS like cool visuals, gimmicky features and awesome keywords. The same self-interest leads to them being stupid and, usually, staying stupid.

The stupidity of the average consumer manifests itself in not wanting to "waste time" with some "nerdy tech thingamajig" (boohoo muh computer is slow, must be the viruses and need more RAM, lemme buy myself a new one, ooh look the slimmest model, lemme get that. Soldered everything? Non-user replaceable battery? Huh, wtf are those. It's slim and pretty tho) or comparing products on the shelf to make the best, most practical choice (it has X famous brand name that's associated with cool and expensive, great to show off to friends, especially on social media because everyone on there cares. Oh there's a vocal bunch speaking about bad reliability, poor quality that falls apart 1 year and 1 day after purchase and terrible price/performance ratio? Must be lies spread by dem haters).

Yup, pre-purchase research and post-purchase diagnostics (not even asking for much, just googling a problem to see if it's unfixable/too expensive to fix) are things today's consumers would rather not 'waste time' with because they clearly have better things to do that aren't a waste of time, like taking more selfies for Snapchat, raking in likes and loves on Facebook and Instagram and surfing the internet (anyone up for more shopping and getting 'inspiration' from friends on what to buy next to one-up them?) on their $2000 Facebook/web browsing machine and $1000 phone.

The best part is very few of these people learn from others and their own mistakes. They'll continue to buy the same crappy products because they saw a cool ad or all their friends are talking about it without any thinking or research. They'll stay loyal to overpriced brands with poor reliability because 'dat brand name doe' and continue with their need to see and be seen having/doing/wanting cool things. Simple reading to make an informed buying decision? Too uncool! F-that!

On the other end of the spectrum, you have people who spend so much time agonizing over which PC/phone/blender to get that they end up in a circle of not being able to decide.

I've spend more time than I'm willing to divulge, deciding which portable speaker to get, because every option is flawed in some way. Most of them seem to follow the Apple school of thought, "why would you ever want to take this apart?", and are glued or even plastic welded together.

In the end, I'll probably go with the Marshall Kilburn, simply for the fact that it's relatively easy to replace the batteries (standard 18650 cells) behind a panel that is simply screwed on, not glued or otherwise "permanently" sealed. I may not be able to service the class D amps or the Bluetooth module, but at least I can replace the batteries or the drivers if one should fail at some point.

As a drawback, it is somewhat bulkier and heavier than most other options.

OK so it was a strong choice of words, but anyone who doesn't care about the environment and waste is really shortsighted by definition. Is that 'stupid'? Maybe not. Maybe you can make an edge case and claim they are self-interested and that's OK from your philosophical stance. But I firmly believe that, in a world most intelligent people would like to live in, it is stupid.

Ignorant is the correct word, not stupid.

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