Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
California to Introduce 'Right to Repair' Bill (asmdc.org)
409 points by tambourine_man 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 217 comments

> “People shouldn’t be forced to ‘upgrade’ to the newest model every time a replaceable part on their smartphone or home appliance breaks,” said Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste. “These companies are profiting at the expense of our environment and our pocketbooks as we become a throw-away society that discards over 6 million tons of electronics every year.”

This. Don't know when all this changed ( 80s ?) in the US, but even appliance repairs are sort of a thing in the past here. If a washing machine or microwave stops working people simply get a new one.

I was quite amused to see an "Appliance Repair" van parked in my neighborhood in San Francisco the other day. I started chatting with the guy and turns out he was from Ukraine and told me that in the former Soviet Union countries, they never throw away any appliance if it stops working. They repair it. Same is the case in countries like India (where I was raised), china.

Esp. in India, there are scores of Radio, TV, phone, appliance repair shops in every city and even in villages.

Appliance repair is still quite common in the U.S. The notion that white goods get disposed of as rapidly as they break down is something of an internet-spread cliche.

Most large property management companies employ a group of repairmen, or have contracts with several appliance repair companies. If your refrigerator stops cooling in a large apartment building, the management sends a guy to fix it; they don't Amazon you a new fridge.

Similarly, if your washing machine breaks, your home warranty company isn't going to send out a replacement machine until an appliance repairman says the thing can't be fixed.

I've lived in about a dozen different apartments and houses in almost as many cities in the last 15 years. I've had my appliances fixed by repairmen at least five times.

Interestingly, I had two brand-new GE appliances in brand new apartments that needed to be repaired within their first year of operation. But my current 1999 Maytag washer keeps chugging along without complaint. (Though its companion dryer has been repaired by a repairman twice — once for a clogged exhaust hose that caused a small fire, and once for a dead igniter.)

> Appliance repair is still quite common in the U.S. The notion that white goods get disposed of as rapidly as they break down is something of an internet-spread cliche.

I disagree. The fan in our fridge died recently. I was able to find the motor online for around $150, and I called a few local appliance repair shops to see the cost for labor. They charged between $75 and $100 an hour and estimated the repair at 2-3 hours plus parts. That's a minimum of $300 to repair a 10 year old fridge that I could replace new for $800. Worst case it would be nearly $500 to fix, and the compressor could go out the next day and cost just as much.

You should just replace a 10 year old fridge because it would save you a lot of money just on electricity.

Check with your power company, they might give you a bonus for replacing it.

If you think spending $800 to buy something is a better idea than spending $300 to fix something you already have, I respectfully posit that you may not be average.

but its a gamble - I've seen ppl spend much more than the cost of replacing because they were being stubborn and didnt want to believe that it might be cheaper to replace in the medium term.

Is it truly a gamble?

Yes sometimes you fix something another thing breaks. But does that happen often enough to be a gamble?

Yes, repairing vs buying new is _always_ a gamble. The odds may be more or less in your favor depending on the age of the item. Take a look at the average life expectancy for appliances : https://www.mrappliance.com/expert-tips/appliance-life-guide...

It's not always a binary choice though, in my case I actually ended up buying a used fridge off craigslist. I found one that was a bit of an upgrade, newer, and about the same cost as repair.

I think the notion that "An apple product cannot be repaired" is also an internet spread cliche.

I found that it was pretty easy to replace the battery and screen of the last few cellphones I've owned. Ironically, it was much easier (and cheaper) to find the necessary parts to repair the apple ones than the cheapo android phones which often cost as much as the aftermarket parts.

If you consider the cost of specialized labour needed to diagnose the problem, then repairing quickly becomes unaffordable for a $300-$1000 purchase. This bill will not stop that.

Appliances are physically larger, and therefore are much more difficult to dispose of, ship, and get into place. So if you compare the cost of repair, to the shipping and disposal cost, they probably become equivalent. Goodluck getting a fridge out of your house without damaging the walls for cheap.

I've never had luck repairing Apple products. I've destroyed ribbon cable connectors on an iPad and an iPhone. Without microsoldering skills and equipment that's a hopeless situation.

I had a third party fail to repair the "touch disease" problem on an iPhone 6.

Anything I've fixed that involved replacing glue strips or removing little splintery bits of broken glass left the device in dodgy shape. Things don't quite fit right, they make squeaking and cracking sounds when you touch them. Aluminum enclosures seem to get gouges and scratches in the process, even when using soft plastic spudgers to separate and scrape things off.

You can never be certain of the waterproofing after you've messed with something.

These are thin, tiny devices that are half put together by machines, half by people that do this for hours and hours day after day with specialized tools - and even they don't get it right all the time.

They're not toasters. I think the days where a normal person can fix this stuff are ending if not already long gone.

On an iPhone 5S I have replaced both a cracked screen and an old battery.

The replacement battery was ~$7 USD including shipping, while the replacement screen (all-in-one digitizer/glass/screen assembly) was ~$15.50 USD including shipping.

The special screwdrivers/suction cups/spudgers/etc required to perform the procedure were included with the parts.

The swap process was relatively straightforward & lots of high quality photos/videos detail the entire procedure. Numerous guides are freely posted all over the internet.

Getting parts for a cheap Android device, however, proved more expensive than the cost of replacing the device (ignoring labor costs). The market is so fragmented it seems harder for an efficient parts supply chain to develop organically, let alone the knowledge/repair guides to effectively use those parts.

I mostly agree with you, indeed Apple devices are by far the easiest to repair (or get repaired) because guides and parts are richly available, and in absolute numbers they are always the most sold phone (hence why you can find a repair shop for your iPhone 6S in a yiffy, but your Xiaomi Mi5 will lead to headscratches.)

However, since the iPhone 6 Apple has taken to adhering the battery to the case with insanely strong adhesive tape, which means you have to take out the logic board and heat the device to get the battery loose. It’s not impossible, but it certainly docks some points from the repairability score.

We just upgraded our Apple 6 to Pixel 2, due to it having some Network Not Found issues. Tried all tricks available on internet, but none worked. Eventually asked Apple and they aggreed to replace it with similar phone given we pay $300. I said, why buy again the same phone which probably have some hardware issue which apple is not agree to resolve. As ppl know, they are having the same issue with higher version. I asked the customer representative, and they mentione, hold the phone. If they get enough complaints, they might look into it and offer a free repair. I think most of the users of old phone might have upgraded to new one and so i am guessing not enough ppl will compain and all those phones will go to waste.

YMMV, I've ruined an iPhone5 trying to replace the screen. It's doable, but you have to have a steady hand and a lot of patience.

Often the problem with many modern electronics is not doing the repair itself, but getting the thing back together again or getting it back in to working order, because quite often these devices are not designed to be repairable by the consumer.

Witness the widespread use of "security screws", epoxy on chips, cases which can not be opened without breaking them, and explicit warnings that opening the device would void your warranty.

There's also the ever greater miniaturization of components and the ever greater increase in density of parts inside a case. The former often requires microscopes and other specialized equipment to service them, and the latter results in parts not fitting back in the case after you've completed your repair.

It gets even worse when software is involved, where the user is usually at the mercy of the manufacturer to come up with a software update (if they even ever choose to do so) or require some specialized equipment and authorization to even attempt to do their own repair (as is the case with modern automobiles which have so many computers in them).

When I replaced an iPhone5c screen, the notion of selling the glass+LCD was still new. We used a hot gun to delaminate the cracked screen from the glass, then UV cured epoxy to glue the screen back (don't ask me why we had a UV gun). That was a pain.

Now, the glass + digitizer + LCD (or OLED) are sold as one piece. Sure you are "paying for a LCD/OLED" that "isn't broken", but the cost still comes down under $100 (typically) and saves probably 2 hours of labor.

I've also replaced the charging port on an iPhone; the whole process is quite simple, specially now with YouTube.

I hired an independent repair guy to come to my house to fix my iphone charging port -- they don't have offices, they make house calls -- and I was totally embarrassed that the problem was belly button lint. He was nice and only charged me $20!

It's all about volume. iPhone has volume, so you can get all kinds of accessories and inexpensive repairs for it.

Agreed. I part out old MacBooks.

Because Apple controls the design of all the parts, the number of screws is low and you only need 1 or 2 sizes to do the whole job.

And with a small product count ecosystem, you’ll never sit on your parts for a while.

My neighbor runs a washing machine repair business in a suburban neighborhood in Alpharetta, Georgia. He seems to stay very busy. This is a fairly affluent area so its not that people can't afford to buy new appliances (on average).

It also depends on the brand. I regret getting a Samsung for my area because if it breaks, then I am screwed. A key criteria for me now is the bias towards simple things that have operational support from the community.

I specifically paid more for Whirlpool laundry appliances recently (over Samsung or LG) for this exact reason. I know that spare parts are available online and even locally, and many of the repairs are things I can even do myself (as I did with my previous Whirlpool top loader).

It seems like Whirlpool and Maytag have long histories of repair and general reliability (at least as far as their marketing and the zeitgeist go), so I wonder what's different about them vs Samsung or LG (maybe it's a tech vs mechanical approach to the problem? I know Chevy vehicles through the 50's-70's used a very limited and common set of parts on everything from the drive train to the car frame, whereas modern companies wish to optimize and reduce costs while innovating).

I have no idea about the modern front loaders, but when I had to repair my old top loader, it was all parts that seem to be standard across dozens of models for many years— the clutch assembly, agitator cogs, gearbox, pump, etc.

>I regret getting a Samsung for my area because if it breaks, then I am screwed.

Because of a lack of Samsung-trained/qualified technicians in your area, or something else?

a lack of, and the people that do repair things don't like them. It's like picking a programming language, and you have to pick your stuff based on the available market.

I own two rental units, in one of them very recently the washing machine "stopped spinning". Upon investigation i found out it was just a belt on the inside, which after some struggling with I was able to repair. Belt cost me $75 CAD, but much better for my pocket than a new machine and way easier to coordinate. Not to mention, the environment.

My stove (a 1950s General Motors electric...yes they made stoves apparently) was finally too old for the local repairmen to want to repair it since they no longer had the equipment to replace the outlet which was a different standard at the time.

Frigidaire also used to be a division of GM.

That's definitely not the case everywhere. In my apartment that was in the attic of a detached home, the landlord certainly tried to repair anything as a first step. In my current apartment building things are replaced or just left broken.

My ovens been broken for over 8 months now and is too expensive to replace so it sits unfixed because they don't even attempt repairs. When the water heater had a problem however it was just replaced immediately.

There's about 200-210 units in the building and I see at least 2 items every week in the trash out of a combination of water heater, fridge, or washer/dryer

The only thing I've actually seen them repair has been the air filters and I think that's only because it takes them 30 seconds to replace

I wouldn’t say most companies do it. My complex (owned by a large national property management company with multiple properties in multiple states) doesn’t repair them, they buy new then sell the old one to another company who then does whatever they do with them. They definitely don’t send repairmen in to fix it.

> But my current 1999 Maytag washer keeps chugging along without complaint.

Well, there's a reason the Maytag man is the loneliest repairman. ;)

Probably about the time that it became cheaper to replace a thing than repair it. Labor is expensive in the US, and so are aftermarket parts. It might cost $400 to repair a TV, and $400 to buy a new, 'better' model. I've even witnessed folks choosing to spend a bit more on a new thing rather than repair the old out of fear the old thing will just break again soon and putting them in the same predicament. For most folks, that's a no-brainer. (personally, I would repair it myself, but that's not an option for some due to skills, required equipment, time, etc)

Also, automated assembly lines might be better at producing products that aren't as repairable due to the automation methods.

Yes, these are both good points. People remember the good old days of socketed chips that were easier to repair, but wave soldering is cheaper, produces a more reliable product, and fewer connectors means higher signal speeds and/or margin.

To add on some folks will want the tradeoff of smaller/cheaper packages that aren't repairable.

> It might cost $400 to repair a TV, and $400 to buy a new, 'better' model.

You are correct. This is also uniquely western. Labor costs are almost as much - and in some cases more than - buying a new item to replace the broken item.

I repaired my AV receiver recently with four $1 capacitors and a YouTube walkthrough. The local electronics repair shops wanted $100-150 just to look at it. Ridiculous.

Edit: this repair took 1.5 hours and required only basic tools and skills.

> this repair took 1.5 hours

Yep. You essentially 'ate' the labor costs, which are exorbitant in the US.

I recently had a plumber come in to look at my leaking toilet tank flush.

Cost for parts = 10$ as I later found out at hardware store.

Labor = 236$ (I'm not kidding). It literally took the guy 5 mins to change the flush balloon thingy. I observed him and now do it myself too.

It's almost seems like Plumbers in the city (San Francisco) have ganged up together to set price for any kind of repair. I did call 2 other plumbers and they both quote price in between 220 and 240 USD.

The cost is whatever the market is willing to pay for things. The market is composed of those who are willing to pay for services.

Plumbing parts are cheap in most cases easy to work with and forgiving of screwing up. Turn off the water and start again. This is why poor people fix their own shit. Prices would have to be very cheap to be worth paying for services.

Middle class + are time constrained and willing to pay significant sums to avoid digging into their available time.

Offering a perceptively reasonable price for easy jobs like your toilet would result in lots of people calling them for such easy jobs when they could be engaged in more lucrative matters.

You can see your bill in terms of opportunity cost. Both the value of the middle class persons time saved and the plumbers who could be engaged in more lucrative endeavors.

Since the plumbers time and the average middle class persons afternoon is worth $236 its unlikely that you will find the service for a reasonable price.

99% of the labor was showing up at your house. Fixing the thing in 1 second or 30 minutes is irrelevant relative to that.

So only software developers are allowed to charge "exorbitant" labor rates?

Plumbers (like mechanics) also often have set fees. Sometimes, the repair is really simple, as in your case, and would probably have been very easy to do yourself. Other times, there are going to be complications that can take quite a bit more time.

I'm surprised at comments about the cost of plumber service calls given SF HNers are often programmers commanding 6 figure salaries themselves. Something plumbing and programming have in common is that both are high-demand specializations that most people are not willing/interested in spending their time with. It should be no surprise that these specialists' time isn't cheap.

... especially when you call a skilled specialist to do a low-skill-required "handy-man's" job.

>I recently had a plumber come in to look at my leaking toilet tank flush.

If you go to 'youtube' and search for 'leaking toilet valve' you can find a video documenting how to repair a leaking toilet.


>plumbers and they both quote price in between 220 and 240 USD.

Nash equilibrium?

Probably once or twice a year, I find some piece of electronics out on the curb by the street (stereos, TVs, whatever). It is almost always a blown capacitor on the power board, because we don't have a grid where I live, and so we have pretty unstable power supply (at least by the standards expected by most Americans). Still vastly better power than most places in the world, but it does kill a lot of electronics, which most people just don't fix. So they toss it. And then I come pick it up, replace the blown caps with high quality replacements, and then I have a perfectly good television. It's pretty crazy.

> And then I come pick it up, replace the blown caps with high quality replacements, and then I have a perfectly good television.

Sweet. I think there's a business model in here somewhere...

You're probably right, and I've repaired so many over the years that I've started to run out of friends and family to give them to. I get so much out of the actual repair work that I don't feel like I'm losing out on anything, but your comment has got me thinking that it's something that could be valuable charity. I'll look for a proper place to donate. Thanks for the suggestion.

Not being super savvy with electronics - but enjoying to tinker - is this a visually apparent problem or do you need the test the capacitors to identify the issue?

This is almost universally a visually striking thing to identify. If you google for blown capacitors you'll see what I mean. I should also mention that "capacitor plague" is a different specific issue caused by poor quality components. I've seen a few different kinds of failures, but the majority of them are bad capacitors on the power board. The way these things fail (when it's due to a power issue like we see here), there's a loud "pop" sound, and that's a capacitor exploding, usually on the power board. It leaves black marks, soot, etc. I have very rarely ever needed to use my multimeter, although I do use my multimeter anyway, just to ensure I'm actually doing worthwhile repair work. Other things cause shorts on the boards which can damage something and cause someone to throw it away. I have opened up a TV and found one of those big, tropical, "outdoors-only" cockroaches that straddled the wrong traces. Heh I've seen some weird stuff but yeah, usually the problem is very easy to spot.

It doesn't seem unreasonable for a repair shop to charge $100 for a diagnosis if it might take them a couple of hours. I'd expect them to be charging at least $50/hr. for labor. And that would probably be half of the hourly rate for mechanics at an auto dealer. It's great that you were able to do it yourself for next to nothing but these are exactly the economics that make taking something like an AV receiver into a shop to repair so iffy much of the time.

How much do you charge for your time? The repair shop factors that in. Diagnosis takes time, so does repair.

I charge a minimum of $150p/h for my time - sounds like they do too.

I wonder if it's a combination of a) appliances are now much cheaper as a percentage of our disposable income b) planned obsolescence. The ironic thing is that we now have such easy access to repair manuals for stuff online. Some things have gotten much harder to repair though since the devices have become more compact (laptops and phones).

I have older appliances, and the Internet has definitely made it possible for me to repair things.

I've been using a Macbook Pro with an external keyboard for the past year. The builtin keyboard no longer works:





Notice no E, R, T, or F keys. First the R key went out, and I got around that by leaving "r" in my paste buffer and typing Command-V instead of r. But then the T key went out about a month later.

Apple wants $600 for a logic board replacement.

It's so annoying to lug an external keyboard everywhere I go. Tiny wireless keyboards just aren't as responsive. But it's less annoying than paying $600 on top of a $2k MBP.

Odd that "logic board" replacement is required for a keyboard fix..

The apple repairs timeout. A coworker who was looking at a battery replacement on an "air" was told it was 6+ years old thus "vintage" and no longer serviced by apple.

At that point, you can part it out and get about US$500+ without the battery.

At least thats what i’m doing now with a mid-2011. Still fetching the same prices for parts as last year.

Where do you sell them? eBay? I have a 2010 MacBook Pro gathering dust. I'd be happy to get pretty much whatever I could for it. It's never going to be used.

eBay for parts. If you want to sell as a whole unit, do it locally.

If it's a Macbook with a removable battery, check it for swelling.

I had a Macbook experience similar symptoms and it turned out to be pressure being exerted from the swollen battery. Twice.

I hear about this often, and it happened to my sister's Macbook as well (to the point it was obviously deformed and they tried to tell her she dropped it).

Is this a case of people being more likely to complain about it because Macbooks are generally much more expensive than other laptops, or does Apple really have a battery problem with these devices?

Lithium ion batteries tend to swell when they get old. It's pretty universal. I've replaced the battery in old UPSs as well a very old 4G iPod (in which the swollen battery was keeping the clickwheel from working properly).

I'm surprised that the Apple people tried to make it seem like it was your sister's fault. In both of my cases, I went to the Apple Store and the batteries were replaced without hassle, without charge, and out of AppleCare.

Once I didn't even have an appointment; I just walked in with it and they went, "Eeeew! We'll take care of that for you. Stand right there."

In their defense, it was one manager or something, and the laptop was grossly deformed. I assume it was the battery, as I'm not sure of any other explanation. It was probably 6-7 years ago now, so the details are hazy, but I do recall her being upset and recalling how she actually got into an argument in the Apple store for a good 15 minutes before they finally accepted it. I'm not sure if they finally accepted it because they gave up, or someone looked closer and realized there were no marks on corners/sides to suggest a drop but more towards the center there definitely was deformation of the case. IIRC the tech that initially examined it was fine, but a manager came out after they took it in back.

Apple has had battery problems in the past where they recalled batteries. Haven't heard of anything lately (last 4 or 5 years) though.

If it's a logic board issue, it can most likely be fixed.

Check these guys out: https://www.rossmanngroup.com/

They do excellent work.

That is delightfully stubborn of you. I wonder what really goes "wrong" with those logic boards. Could it be as simple as a bad solder joint needing to be reflowed?

Just buy a new logic board off eBay and DIY. You just need a couple torx screwdrivers.

For many of these appliance repairs, the costs quickly add up to a large fraction of a new appliance. In some of the countries you mention, the labor cost is lower.

>>Esp. in India, there are scores of Radio, TV, phone, appliance repair shops in every city and even in villages.

Indian here.

Our First TV we bought ran a good 25 years. It was repaired at least 2 - 3 times. Often for 1/10th the price of a new TV. It finally totally croaked. I salvaged speakers etc, and put it to good use.

The TV we have now is running for 10+ years and is going strong. Its a CRT TV. I've told my family we will buy a big new LED one once this croaks. But its going quite strong. Given everyone around has moved on these latest LED TVs, my family is quite pissed that the TV is still running strong :)

My friend gave a new LED Sony TV to me to see if it can be fixed. When I enquired the costs came up to 60% the cost of a new TV. At that point you wonder if you want to keep it and repair it, or just toss out and buy a new one. The problem is lack of serviceable part inside.

Also they don't make durable products anymore. Even in India.

Alternate thoery: The repair cost of a new appliance will generally increase/stay fixed over its life (hard to find parts, labor rates remain fixed). The price of an equivalent new appliance will tend to decrease along an expected rate of innovation. Thus, the expected life of a product tends to reflect a pivot point where the repair cost curve exceeds some threshold where a new appliance becomes attractive financially.

The rate of innovation is then the primary drive of expected product life, and if innovation increased in the 90s and 00s, expected product life naturally decreased. If innovation slows, expected product life should start increasing again.

Microwave yes. Not sure about washing machine. And I've both had a service tech in and done my own repairs for a dishwasher, freezer, and an oven.

It's definitely partly about the cost of getting a repair person in, especially for a major appliance where they have to come to your house. (Often twice. Once to diagnose and once to replace a part.) Though I'd note that repair parts, even from third parties, can be a pretty substantial portion of replacement cost even if you can diagnose with some certainty and do your own repair.

>Though I'd note that repair parts, even from third parties, can be a pretty substantial portion of replacement cost

This is so true. I've was shocked to realize that the parts to repair my dishwasher would very nearly equal the price of a brand new dishwasher. And all the 3rd party places seem to have nearly the same prices. Fortunately I talked to the manufacturer and they replaced the parts even though it wasn't under warranty anymore, but if they hadn't I probably would have just gotten a new dishwasher.

I wonder if this is people just not realizing that things can be repaired? Between books and youtube videos I've been able to repair our washer and dryer, refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, vehicles (I once repaired a turn signal switch by soldering on a piece of metal from a soda can), etc. I've replaced many damaged ipad/iphone screens and they've all worked flawlessly afterwards. All of these things are already repairable. It just takes a little bit of research to learn how to diagnose what is wrong, figure out what parts are needed, and do the repairs. It used to be a lot more difficult before the WWW.

We had a washing machine (LG) problem that required the replacement of the drum. The drum was under warranty so no cost but the labor cost put it at around 2/3's the price of a new washing machine with new features and the new warranty.

Same with repairs to our HVAC system. We had to have two visits to replace two in warranty items. The labor each time was just shy of $1000. The third warranty break down the guy gave us free labor because it was just getting ridiculous.

I also hate feeling like such a weirdo for repairing my own appliances or electronics.

"Ending is better than mending."

Who is making you feel like I weirdo? I definitely don't think you're a weirdo.

My wife thought I was a hero when I fixed our washing machine a while ago!

The appliance repair model is as awful.

Call around and wait for someone to come and fail to fix the appliance. Pay way too much for said unskilled labor. Either pay again or wait forever for the original person to come and do it right as they dodge your calls and try to avoid having to finish the job. Oh and you are still on the hook for the cost of parts. And oh yeah they broke something else while they were in there. Good luck getting them to admit they did it and fix it. Also they scratched up your floor and dinged your walls.

Most of the people doing this kind of work are doing it for a reason, and it's not because they are reliable. The barrier to entry is low and there are little to no consequences for doing a bad job. Repeat business is not that important because things just don't break that often.

And then when it is finally fixed you have an old machine and the next thing breaks soon after. Or you could buy something new with a warranty sold by someone with a brand to maintain.

Also see Sam Vimes "Boots" theory.

Since it’s such unskilled labor it ought to be trivial for a rockstar developer to do.

"Ending is better than mending. The more stitches, the less riches."

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, 1932

This is eerily similar to the essay from the Novel 1984.

You just realize at one point in time, the growth of a capitalist society is limited by consuming power of the masses. So after that the only way to grow is to destroy and rebuild.

Or in other words - 'War'.

Just remember this was at least partly due to the high cost, scarce availability of such appliances and a long queue to get a new one.

But even when cheap imports flood the market, it’s hard for a lot of people to shake the “repair-everything” mentality.

In 1980 Richard Stallman found out that he couldn't fix a laser printer they just installed at MIT. That [and other events](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman#Events_leadin...) led 4 years later to the birth of the GNU project. Maybe the tide is finally turning, at least in some aspects.

Reddit markup doesn't work on ycombinator. Use square brackets and a number to designate the link [0] then put the URL at the bottom of your comment.

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/StallmanWasRight/

> Reddit markup

Oh boy.

Please explain why it's markdown. Is Reddit's link format not just BBCode [0]? Honest question, no snark.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBCode

No, BBCode looks like:

    [url=https://example.com]link text[/url]
whereas Markdown looks like:

    [link text](https://example.com)
Compare the BBCode article you linked to the Markdown article [0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markdown#Example

Thanks. Have to admit, I'm still confused, especially after reading the first sentence on that page...

>Markdown is a lightweight markup language

Clearly in over my head on this, I'm just going to stop using the term altogether.

Both BBCode and Markdown are markup languages. ("Markdown" is a play on "markup language".)

BBCode was used on old internet message boards. You'd write something like [b]text[/b] to get bolded text, [i]text[/i] for italics, [img] to embed images, etc. BBCode tags (like [b]) mirrored simple HTML tags usually: since message board posters weren't really trusted, allowing regular HTML was out of the question.

Markdown is a newer markup language that was intended to be easier to read and write. Instead of [i]text[/i], you write

which is actually one of the few formatting options HN recognizes [0]: text. Bold is double stars, links are this [link text](url) format, images are ![url](alt text), etc.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/formatdoc

Cheers for this. I'm old and that's why I thought it was BBCode. Markup is such a loose term that I couldn't figure out what the problem was. You've put it to rest now though, I get it, whew.

Learned something new, pedantry FTW!

It's not pure markdown, they have their own parser.


But the markup in question is pure markdown. There was nothing Reddit-specific used in this thread.

That's just normal markdown... sometimes I wish HN had basic markdown support: italics, `code`, [link](http://), etc.

Edit: looks like italics works...

> sometimes I wish HN had basic markdown support: italics, `code`, [link](http\://)

I like seeing the URL (or at least the domain) before I click. Hovering over is annoying, particularly on mobile.

I think it would be neat if HN were updated to support Markdown formatting, except that links could be auto-converted to a footnote-link as is the convention on this board.

Indentation also works. It's intended for code blocks.

  An indented block.
  Don't use it for quotes.
  People, especially on mobile, will complain.

Stallman is often viewed a weird guy but he definitely has seen a lot of stuff long before anybody else. I wonder how much impact he could have if his presentation was a little better.

I guess that phrase about unreasonable men being the only ones who bring about change does apply here.

I really wonder about this too.

We have this in Massachusetts for cars (car diagnostic info can't be a car company secret):

It was passed by referendum (Voters voted on the law, not legislators...Although when they saw it was going to pass they passed a similar law).

Here is a summary from the referendum: [1] "A YES VOTE would enact the proposed law requiring motor vehicle manufacturers to allow vehicle owners and independent repair facilities in Massachusetts to have access to the same vehicle diagnostic and repair information made available to the manufacturers’ Massachusetts dealers and authorized repair facilities."


From what you quoted, that seems like a reasonable bill. It just levels the playing field for everybody.

Not sure about this California bill though. The devil is always in the details.

Details are important. But usually I find there is always a constituency that opposes things and claims doom if anything changes: In Mass especially because of cynical attitude and proximity to more free wheeling neigbor states (RI and NH are like the wild west of the Northeast). We're a small state but we have enough people that businesses want to be here. California is big enough that business will change to do business there. For cars, "california emissions" was on all the cars they sold here because car companies don't want the hassle of two kinds of vehicles.

Also the legislators here will likely change things if they're dragging down the state (We hope...)

we get a summary of ballot questions:

here is the Con argument for the right to repair: "This measure could lead to the release of sensitive personal information, make vehicle hacking easier, and threaten safety and fuel efficiency innovation. Increased safety threats – including theft – are why law enforcement opposes the measure." [1] http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/ele12/ballot_questions_12/que...

We've had this law for a while and none of it seems to be a problem.

Some other things I remember strong opposition to that now seem like non-issues: 1) Bottle deposits (Grocery stores won't exist!) 2) No smoking in restaurants and bars (They'll all go to NH or RI) 3) Cambridge bring your own bag ordinance (nobody will buy anything here again).

California always a step ahead.

I remember opening watches and other electronics at circa 199x.

Even 10, 15 years ago most electronics used standard cables and standard screws and anyone was able to open, see whats inside and maybe replace 1 or 2 things.

Now it seems the industry moved to a path of making things break fast and hard to replace anything. Resulting in expansive repairs that will push users to purchase a new item that is cheaper than replacing 1 part. Some companies even weld RAM or processor into the motherboard.

The world has limited resources. In the last 60, 70 years after ww2 and industrial revolution, the population has grown a lot and making thing un-repairable will worsen world limited resources. Some day world will run out of required materials.

Some companies create a specific cable that can only be used on their devices. So if one breaks, the owner cannot use his old one because it is incompatible with that new model.

Standarization of cables would good to have also.

Nice move california!

Given that California "joins 17 other states who have introduced similar legislation, which includes: Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia"...

It seems they're not exactly a "step ahead", just trying to keep pace with Nebraska. ;)

Nebraska: Good Life, Great Legislative Innovations.

Nebraska is surprisingly up to date with its digital frontier laws, weirdly enough.

Farmers want to repair their own stuff.

When a screw breaks, I don’t replace just the broken section, but the whole unit. Judgements aside, I think many people who build products are trying (perhaps unconsciously), to achieve this “screw” level of redundancy and flexibility in their wares, hence soldering and the like. The replaceability of something is usually more reliable than its fixability especially in high stress environments like rock concerts or battlefields.

> The replaceability of something is usually more reliable than its fixability especially in high stress environments like ... battlefields.

I imagine that would depend quite a bit on how close you are to supply lines.

My (admittedly amateur) understanding of most military grade devices is that where possible they reduce them not to the level they can be throw away, but to the level that the number of things that can cause a problem are reduced to a level the average soldier can be trained to diagnose and fix. If your AR-15 jams or gets clogged, you're expected to know how to disassemble and fix it. A few replacements for the parts that are most likely to be unrepairable is likely much easier to carry than full replacement units. I imagine the same is done for their communications equipment.

It's one part of the problem. It's so much worse than this though.


While I agree that moving away from the throwaway culture is a good move, it seems like an uphill battle. Resource recovery / recycling approaches, such as systems that separate dead electronics (and more widely, post consumer products) into constituent elements might be more feasible.

I view this as something separate but equally important. "Right to repair" should ideally be something that strengthens such processes and I find it sad that it isn't already in place as a standard.

But I also think for it to work, it should be simple and easy for the consumer. Ideally, they could mail smaller items or put their larger items in a special trash bag on collection day. Less ideally but also somewhat feasible would be requiring stores selling or repairing certain classes of things to accept the same class for recycling regardless of whether or not the customer buys something from them. We could require a recycling fee on such purchases, refundable if there is a trade-in.

Repair requires both easy assembly and easy disassembly of the device, recovery/ recycling greatly benefits from improvements to the disassembly. There is no conflict.

But it's an uphill battle to force manufacturers to make things easy to disassemble/repair as they wish to discourage both in pursuit of more profit. There's a bunch of hairy details about what constitutes "easy to disassemble", and some perhaps more legit concerns about imposing differing requirements to different products, resulting in claims that the government is trying to 'select market winners', etc. Further are the unintended consequences where the manufacturers come up with creative ways to do an end-run around the rules, eg, rental gadgets where you don't get permission to repair it, but still win in the market as they're not subject to repairable rules and thus have a cost advantage.

A step ahead? Didn't such a law already go down in flames in Idaho or someplace?

One of the many reason that I love my 2013 ThinkPad. The service manual is freely available, every single part is serviceable with a bit of know-how, and second hand spare parts are plentiful. It's also built like a tank and hard to break to begin with. You can pick one up for 200-300$ in very good condition.

I just ordered a T480 to replace my aging T410. The T410 is still functional, but has been crashing as of late. I'm planning to repair it (I suspect RAM, HD, or CPU heat), but I decided it was time to upgrade to something faster and lighter. Over the time I've owned it, I've replaced the keyboard twice and the battery at least once, and I've upgraded hard drives (it now has 768GB of SSD) and RAM (maxed out at 8GB, IIRC).

I hope I'll be able to maintain the 7-year refresh cycle with my T480; newer ThinkPads are less beefy, but they still have similar levels of maintainability, so I should be able to fix anything that breaks.

I am very much looking forward to the screen upgrade—even the best screen available for the T410 was mediocre at best. I've heard good things about the WQHD IPS screen I'm getting on the T480 (not quite as good as a MBP, but leaps and bounds better than my T410).

Ugh. Another bill whose largest effect, to be understood only 10 or more years from now, will be to make sure that very large companies stay very large and very small companies have a hard or impossible road to growth.

-- Someone who likes repairability as much as the next guy.

> will be to make sure that very large companies stay very large and very small companies have a hard or impossible road to growth.

Do you mind connecting the dots on this? Apparently you think it's self evident why it would have those effects on companies, but it's not, at least to me.

Not OP, but I believe he means the following:

As a small company/startup, right now, you design, make, and sell a product. It may just be you or a small team. The design of your product may be complicated, but the usability from the user perspective may be simple AND FOOLPROOF. There are no other considerations generally other than the product works, and people like it and my margins are good.

With more regulation, like requiring the right to repair, the task above just became a lot more difficult. You now have to design a product that can be repairable, which can be more expensive from your design/production side. You have to make sure there is documentation to go with that for consumers to repair every aspect of your product, an incredible amount of time. And then you have to have a way to "rescue" a user if they really screw up the product and "brick" in in a sense. This will add to the total cost and the time it takes to go to market and/or iterate on the product. Small companies in many ways, can't afford this. not to mention being in compliance of the regulations and the additional cost/time that will take.

On the other hand, a larger company will have no issue complying with these regulations as far as documentation, user support, return and fix issues, etc. Making sure consumers have the tools available to "repair" the products as well. Because larger companies have economies of scale, both with supplies, manufacturing, and labor costs, it is much less of a burden for them than a small company barely trying to survive.

I haven't read the text of this bill, but the push for Right to Repair isn't that companies need to design their products differently - but they need to provide documentation and components so people other than the manufacturer can perform repairs on them.

Apple doesn't repair logic boards, if you have a bad backlight controller on your MacBook Pro and it's out of warranty you can expect to pay $700+ for a logic board replacement - repair shops can replace the backlight controller for a much more reasonable fee.

Right now Apple products are the most popular market for these 3rd party repair shops exactly because Apple charges so damned much for out-of-warranty repairs, and they work in a legal gray area because Apple won't give out board schematics or sell replacement components. Without schematics troubleshooting issues ranges from anywhere to a pain to impossible, without parts anything that can't be readily sourced from a manufacturer (thankfully they use bog-standard Texas Instrument controllers for the LCD backlight that you can buy reels of, but other components like the SMC, GPU, etc. you are pulling off boards that were dumped from the factory or if you can somehow find "new" ones the chances that they are DOA is dubious since they're often factory rejects).

Nobody wants to make life more difficult for companies designing their products, the Right to Repair crowd just wants to be able to fix their own devices provided they have the skills to do so.

Providing that documentation and the components is a non-zero cost.

Technically it costs bandwidth and electricity I suppose to make information available...

Not suing people for repairing or tinkering with your hardware is also a "cost" I suppose if you want to phrase it that way, because of the lost revenue you would have gotten from locking down the market and only providing overpriced replacements yourself. It's a cost in the same way that a law against stealing purses imposes a "non-zero cost" on all of us, since we don't have that potential source of revenue available to us anymore...

How so? Apple already has detailed schematics, repair shops have been getting them through shady FTP servers for years - making them accessible at this point is the cost of putting them up for download. Hell, ANYBODY making consumer electronics has detailed schematics or at least the gerber file for the PCB.

Components? Sure, but you bake that into the cost you sell them at. You're already buying them in massive quantities, so let repair shops order some from you - nobody is going to complain about having to pay x% over cost of materials to cover your expenses.

>You now have to design a product that can be repairable

No, you don't. Pretty much the only thing you have to do is provide the same information that you provide to your authorized repair centers. If you don't repair a product, and therefore you don't have a service manual or diagnostic codes, you don't need to now create them to satisfy the law.

This is about having things like "secret" diagnostic codes that require you to go to a dealer to pull off.

This is the same for every single aspect of going to market. The large incumbent always has advantages, and yet we still get new companies bringing new things to market, and we have more ways for them to make this happen than ever before (crowdfunding, small run manufacturers, 3d printing).

I see the largest difference this will make is that larger companies won't put extra time and money into locking down devices so they can't be repaired. For example, locked down diagnostic modes, and special hardware to open devices.

> And then you have to have a way to "rescue" a user if they really screw up the product and "brick" in in a sense.

Are you sure? There has to be a sane cut-off for when a device is broken and when it's repairable. A company will not be forced to provide directions on how to fix my device if I've decided to use it in a "will it blend" demonstration, so statements like this are FUD without us getting a good grasp of the details of when and what a company will actually need to comply with this.

How did you go from what can happen to what will happen? In the realm of what can happen, you can pretty much say anything you want.

As an aside.. AFAIK, nobody ever been capable of producing regulations and laws that don't have unintended consequences, or even have guaranteed results. Working off of probabilities, a right to repair law makes sense to me. Maybe it doesn't to you, but your argument is purely your own speculation, which is valuable, but its hard to argue against.

While that's true to some extent it's not that hard. This is a physical analog to the overhead imposed by requiring more generalized code as opposed task specific code.

If your workflow is "move fast and break things" or "just ship it, we won't have to support it in a year anyway" then, yeah, this will be a pain in the ass.

Guaranteeing repairability costs money. As does understanding/compliance with the law, the paper work, the legalities if someone tries to sue, ... i could go on and on

Big companies can afford it, start ups can’t. The alternative for an incumbent is less profit and a higher barrier to entry for ne competitors. The alternative for the start up is not existing

Care to explain what exactly you mean by this?

I can't speak for GP, but it looks like the usual "regulation hurts small business" argument, often used by stakeholders in large businesses.

It's amazing how this discrepancy always seems to pop up. The five corporations with the largest market cap in the United States say SESTA will hurt small businesses more than big ones. Those same companies tell us that net neutrality is important for protecting small businesses. And these giant corporations are investing millions of dollars to fight these changes.

Whenever the largest corporate entities are talking about how bad something is for "small businesses", it really means it is bad for them.

"Whenever the largest corporate entities are talking about how bad something is for "small businesses", it really means it is bad for them. "

Yeah. "Small business" and "family farm" are nice words for the big guys to hide behind.

Do you mean Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, ... are against certain regulations because it's cost them too much?

I mean it does, which is why small businesses are exempt from a lot of them. In our ops unit we employ three full time regulatory compliance officers who make upper-middle tier salaries. Just in terms of compensation it adds half a million annually to our budget. And that's before the cost of the actual compliance.

No small business can afford to just eat that cost so it's either going to be paid in risk or out of the productivity of existing staff.

"Right to repair" sounds good, but I'd like to know more details.

How much documentation are you required to give users? If a device relies on programmable hardware, is it really "repairable" if you don't have the source code? What if there's a security vulnerability in the software, how do you fix that? If the ICs can be replaced but the original manufacturer stopped selling them, what then? Do the electronic interfaces between all the components need to be documented? How do small device manufacturers stay in compliance? Do end-user repairs void the warranty if the user is just bad at soldering and screwed up a surface-mount part? If the original design of the product was defective in some way, do consumers have the right to fix defects, or only to do repairs that return them to the original condition they were in when delivered to them?

I think it's possible to craft a good right-to-repair bill that strikes a reasonable balance between consumer protection and not being overly burdensome on manufacturers, but I can't tell if this bill does that. The description (like most descriptions of bills given to the public by their proponents) is long on all the anticipated positive side effects and short on details of how it's accomplished.

> What if there's a security vulnerability in the software, how do you fix that?

I would really wish for the 'Right to Repair' to be strong enough so that producers of all those trash IOT devices, mobile phones etc. would be forced to provide a guaranteed maintenance period for at least 5 to 10 years or would have to release all the source code and documentation if they stop updating their software so that other companies or users can step in.

As a side effect it might also be possible for the consumer to choose the software separately from the hardware. Because then not only the Hardware designing company would be the only one that can write Software for it. More competition and a level playing field would be good for the consumer and economy as a whole.

> How much documentation are you required to give users?

Ideally any diagnostic tools you have developed and schematics, the same things you should have available yourself as the OEM. Legislation like this isn't usually designed to make companies make walkthroughs for replacing a BGA component on a board, but to make resources available so customers can get their products repaired at a 3rd-party repair center for a lower cost (or optionally themselves if they are capable of performing the repair on their own with the documentation made available to them).

> If a device relies on programmable hardware, is it really "repairable" if you don't have the source code? What if there's a security vulnerability in the software, how do you fix that?

Provide pre-programmed IC's, everyone is happy. Requiring the source code for firmware to be available would have huge ramifications for the protection of proprietary IP, and while I would love for companies to release open-source firmware for components I realize forcing them to do so is a straight up no-go.

The goal of repairing a device is to get it back to (or as close as feasible) the state it was originally delivered, anything else is modification.

> If the ICs can be replaced but the original manufacturer stopped selling them, what then?

Not much you can do here, if you as the OEM can't source replacement parts you say "tough luck" and maybe offer a replacement at a reduced cost if you're a nice guy. Unfortunately this does mean 3rd party shops have to turn away work, but such is life, you can can only control companies you source parts from so much.

> Do the electronic interfaces between all the components need to be documented?

Pinouts and the connections between components should be documented ideally, including any voltage and/or resistance on the line so they can be properly inspected with a multimeter. Knowing the electrical communication details between two chips does me no good, knowing it operates at a certain frequency might me useful though to verify with an oscilloscope.

> How do small device manufacturers stay in compliance?

The same way large ones do. Provide documentation for download, buy spare components and offer them for resale at a markup to cover your costs.

> Do end-user repairs void the warranty if the user is just bad at soldering and screwed up a surface-mount part?

Yes, this is already federal law under the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, manufacturers cannot require they get repairs from certified vendors or even use certified replacement parts - but they can void the warranty if the unauthorized repair caused further damage.

> If the original design of the product was defective in some way, do consumers have the right to fix defects, or only to do repairs that return them to the original condition they were in when delivered to them?

The latter. I mean, as a consumer once you have the device you are free to do whatever the hell you want with the physical object itself - but if you start modifying it beyond the factory state you have no guarantee of support.

Whether this bill implements these is unknown, I can't find the text anymore - but the above answers are reasonable responses to your questions that shouldn't impose more than a minimal burden on businesses.

Here's a relevant video in regards to farmers and their equipment that drove the impact of the ‘Right to Repair’ bill home for me.


My big pet peeve is non user replaceable batteries in devices (phones, laptops). It's very well known that Lithium batteries wear out over time. That means that devices with built-in, glued-in batteries are guaranteed to become useless once the battery begins to fail.

The battery in my Nexus 6P is about 18 months old and it currently only holds about 40% of it's original design capacity (known issue with the phone). Replacing the battery is a very delicate task due to the glue and placement of the battery and the need to replace the glass and LCD.

It’s not too difficult for an independent repair shop with the right tools. We charge $49 to replace a Nexus 6P battery and it takes about an hour. Call some local phone repair shops near you and get some quotes.

If you happen to be in Austin or Houston, contact me :)

You shouldn't need to replace the glass/LCD to replace the battery on the 6P. Once you get the back off (which is definitely not easy, the battery is exposed.

”The legislation would require manufacturers of electronics...”

Seems like there’s a pretty big loophole here in that it’s mandating just manufacturers, not retailers and resellers. There’s a fair amount of electronics on eBay and Amazon that are from US resellers of Chinese manufacturers. Those manufacturers often have no US presence, and so no compelling reason to care about any of this.

Resellers really aren't the problem.

The problem is manufacturers who "lock-down" their products to prevent repairs using things like proprietary software and DRM.

To make matters worse, Section 1201 of the DMCA makes it illegal to break DRM, no matter what the reason, effectively making it illegal to do repairs in many instances.

The "grass-roots" movement for "right to repair" legislation was started in Nebraska by farmers who are sick of being unable to repair their tractors without the assistance and permission of John Deere Inc. John Deere tractors are currently rejecting usable parts because the owner of the tractor cannot tell the software to use the part.

Right. This is not a general loophole, but a loophole for products where the manufacturer has no US presence. Because of portals like Amazon and eBay, there's more of this than you might think.

This bill is a step in the right direction.

The Earth has a limited amount of resources, so we should really start thinking about better resources management because otherwise, we're going to have serious problem in the future.

That's not exactly a good way to look at it. The Earth is enormous, and we have access to plenty of green energy. Wind, solar, nuclear. And with enough energy every other problem is easy. Including waste processing.

The problem is that too short product lifespans close off a lot of avenues for long term utility extraction from products. (Second hand markets, donated stuff.)

The Earth may be enormous, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be more careful about consuming it's resources.

As someone who doesn't live in California, will this bill (indirectly) make available to me the service manual for my Acer Travelmate?

I've search high and low and absolutely can't get my hands on one.

there is a good chance that you will benefit from this step. It's easier for the manufacturer to make the manual available globally than restricting access to only Californians.

EDIT: Is it even possible to restrict access to people from a US state? Even if I wanted to do that I would have no idea how.

Or for someone in CA to make it available outside CA

Which model?

P645-MG, but any P645 will do really.

In Australia I believe around 2011 they made a change to similar law called the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

In case of a major issue with a product, you can:

Repair, replace or refund. And it is the buyer's choice - not the company.

In case of a minor issue:

The company must provide a free repair within a reasonable amount of time. If they don't or can't, you can get it repaired elsewhere and pass on the cost, or get a replacement, refund or compensation for the drop in value.

Also the best bit is it makes no reference to warranty time period. So a company cannot say "6 month, 12 month or 24 month warranty" - if they do, consumer law overrides that condition. The length of time is intentionally vague as "the time you'd expect it to last".

If you purchase a 100" TV brand new for $300, because of the cheap price the warranty may be only a year or so. If you purchase a 50" TV for $4000, you'd "expect" it to last many years - and people have received full refunds for their TVs 5+ years after purchase when they have developed a major fault.

This is great, because it forces manufacturers to bare the cost and not plan intentional obsolescence into their products to force you to upgrade when they break. It's therefore cheaper for manufacturers to build quality products that will last.

Reference: https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees...

I'm a big supporter of this.

I also feel 'right to support' is very important. Copyright law that mandates proprietary service and technical manuals and software should become public domain after x years.

As an example, modern cars are virtually unserviceable by mechanics with no access to proprietary diagnostic software and equipment.

If a company is out of business or their support staff are unfamiliar with old products, publish everything to help right to repair...

The cost to bring any good to market is a combination of: (1) R&D (technical and non technical), (2) Manufacturing, (3) Sales (compensation to intermediaries bringing the product to marketing), (4) Regulatory and Compliance (5) Consumer labor (6) Externalities

New product prices are:


Repair-part costs are dominantly comprised of:


If (2)(3)(5)(6)_oldProduct > (1)(2)(3)(4)(6)_newProduct the market is telling you your time is better spent doing something else and properly recycling the equipment.

If the state inflates (4) to get (2)(3)(5)(6)_oldProduct < (1)(2)(3)(4)(6)_newProduct to be true, all that's been achieved is bureaucracy has siphoned off value from R&D and less products are produced.

If there are negative, socialized costs associated with consumption (externalities) there's a justified argument to allocate those costs on the people who are producing them (recycling tax at time of purchase). Product Management via regulation is not how you get a vibrant market of inexpensive products that people want.

At one point in history we had a "vibrant market of inexpensive products" by allowing child labor, slavery, and polluting the air. We're deciding that there are some things that are not acceptable. Thankfully, more and more people don't care about "vibrant markets" if it means a landfill of irrepairable electronics that gets dumped onto some poor country.

In any case, regulating the right to repair opens up new service markets, new parts supply chains, and a large job market that is local and difficult to outsource.

Are you arguing that opposing regulations that require people to publish manuals online is equivalent to child slavery? If not I have no idea your point as I already discussed allocating externalities of pollution.

I'm arguing that its good to 'leave money on the table' if that means doing something positive for the environment or people.

Does anyone know how this affects the DRM circumvention clauses in the DMCA[1]?

Currently trying to figure out how your stuff works can carry a prison term if there’s DRM involved.

[1]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-circumvention?wprov=sft...

If only it were cost-effective to repair cheaper things. Our vacuum recently stopped working correctly. We only paid $100 for it. Paying someone to repair it costs around that much after parts and labor. So my options are to fix it myself or simply buy a brand new one...

It’s often just the labor that’s expensive (at least in the US). The parts to repair most home appliances and electronics tend to be reasonably priced and available all over the web (my favorite source is eBay—people disassemble old appliances and sell parts separately). The tricky part is often merely access to service documentation, which is what most “right to repair” laws seek to correct.

1. for many appliance, repair is way more expensive (including the hours you spent on calling and scheduling and waiting (forever) for a never-arrived or always-running-late service guy, I had to just throw it away but just buy a new one instead. is this a problem of the design(say, make it DIY fixable with replace-friendly modular design) or something else?

2. easy to document and repair hardware components, what about failure caused by software? is factory-reset the only way?

just some random thoughts, lunch time here

The spirit of this sounds great on paper, but are we not recognizing the reality that technology innovation necessitates an inability to repair?

It happened in the car world when emissions regulations hit the scene and vacuum hoses and check engine lights became the norm. Can’t imagine anyone repairing their own Tesla.

If the answer is to make devices thicker so they can be more easily serviced, I couldn’t be more against.

I would think that the insurance/warranty industry would result in considerable self-regulation. Many people (myself included) purchase 3rd party warranties, and these warranty companies expect to be able to repair appliances. Those that couldn't be repaired I would assume would not be covered, and that signal would get out to the consumer, and then to the manufacturer.

I will have to read the text of this bill before I make any judgements (I haven't found a link to it, I don't believe the bill has been introduced to the Assembly yet.) but I have a hard time understanding what they would legislate. Is it going to be availability of replacement parts? Assembly methods that make repairability easier? Documentation of signal protocols so that if Samsung decides to stop making the washing machine controller, I can make my own?

I've personally repaired a number of home appliances over the past few years including a LCD TV, a clothes dryer, a remote light switch, a juice machine, an espresso maker, and a vacuum cleaner, and I've tried and failed to repair a coffee maker and an electric tea kettle. I've also evaluated a macbook air and a samsung galaxy phone for repair and found that the replacement parts were too expensive to justify.

My perspective is that usually the replacement part is available but the parts cost plus the time/skill to diagnose multiplied by the potential success factor in repair makes replacement a better option in many cases. I don't have a whole lot of confidence that the government can solve this problem with legislation; any rule that would solve repairability issues with your electric tea kettle would make your phone bulkier, for example. So my guess is it's going to involve a lot of lobbying by different industries and ultimately end up toothless, misguided, and ineffective.

Oh well. I guess I'll just keep on replacing fuses and repairing traces.

My Nexus 6P I purchase 1.8 years ago failed, unable to boot into Recovery Mode. I called Google and they said it's a known issue and the one-year warranty expired so...good luck. Called Huwei, they said there is no option for repair.

A known issue bricks a device that is less than two years old and I had to go get a replacement. What the fuck.

I love the idea of "right to repair", but as usual, would require manufacturers of electronics to make diagnostic and repair information, as well as equipment or service parts, available to product owners and to independent repair shops. could have far-reaching negative consequences.

Such as...

…far-reaching ~~negative~~ positive consequences.


Can states also locally repeal DMCA-1201?

More regulation making it harder to produce goods in California / sell goods to consumers. If you want to buy repairable goods, vote with your pocketbook - don't force your preferences on me.

> If you want to buy repairable goods, vote with your pocketbook - don't force your preferences on me.

This only stands true in a competitive economy. We live in an oligopoly, where the highest tech choices are not repairable.

The oligopolists will be able to lobby against the "Right to Repair."

My point is there isn't much ability to have "preferences" (i.e.: nothing to vote our pocketbook on) in the first place.

All this proves is that people are unwilling to make a value judgement. To most consumers, having the "highest tech choice" is more important than having a repairable device. To really put one's money where their mouth is with repairability, one would have to show that they value repairability even if it comes at the expense of other things they value.

It proves that corporations can create small monopolies (over repair of their products, etc.), and use their economic advantage for more economic advantage, leading to true monopolies.

I literally cannot vote with my wallet when there is a monopoly. That is the problem here. This legislation is about preventing a company from claiming a monopoly over repair of the products they sell.

This is the same argument made against any environmental regulation. The governments report released the other day showed us those often have a net benefit to society.

The hard truth is that net benefit is a useless metric. "On average everyone is better off" doesn't mean anything to the person who drew the short straw. And even if you think someone 'benefited' from regulation it's meaningless if it's intangible.

If you say that your environmental regulation actually made people healthier then you'd better be able to point to the dropping health insurance rates.

If you say that your new traffic laws make driving safer then you better be able to point to the dropping car insurance rates.

If you say that your 'right to repair' bill made goods cheaper then you better have data that says that the lifetime cost of ownership of electronics is significantly lower and that the preowned/refurbished market is thriving.

==If you say that your environmental regulation actually made people healthier then you'd better be able to point to the dropping health insurance rates.==

Of course the rest of the world doesn't exist in a vacuum, which makes a simple cause->effect relationships hard. In the real world environmental regulations can be making the air cleaner while at the same time an opioid epidemic rages. If opioid costs outweigh air quality savings we won't see "dropping health insurance rates", but it also doesn't mean that no value exists to better air quality. The reverse of your question is: Would health care costs be the same in the absence of air quality regulations?

If it's anything like the Massachusetts law, this isn't a requirement to produce goods that are easily repairable. Per Wikipedia (and the wording in the OP seems similar) "The Right to Repair proposal was to require vehicle owners and independent repair facilities in Massachusetts to have access to the same vehicle diagnostic and repair information made available to the manufacturers’ Massachusetts dealers and authorized repair facilities."

In other words, the manufacturer can't hold back information but there's no requirement to change designs so that your laptop is easy to take apart and repair.

Enough of the false dichotomy. Regulation is not inherently evil!

Absolutely no one wants to own a product that the original manufacturer takes active actions to disallow them from repairing. These actions are nothing but abusive and wasteful. They are also effective ways to make more money.

Monopoly is not a good thing, or even something that can be "wished away" by spending money elsewhere, because you can't. That's what makes it a monopoly.

These businesses are monopolizing repair, and that is not okay.

I remember many years back California passed a law that restricted what equipment auto parts stores could loan out to owners to diagnose their car issues. Maybe they should lift that law also.

There is no such law in California.

The only concern I have is, as long as companies can exclude portions of a product whose sole purpose is to protect the privacy of the user data. I am worried that law enforcement will use this to end run the current situation mostly with apple products that the secure enclave processor/parts cannot be altered without loss of data/etc.

as far as repairing tablets and such, any design changes forcing easier to repair items will have costs baked into the next generation and do these laws limit how much replacement parts can cost? Because it can take awhile for a 3rd party to make working replacement parts. finally, who certifies such?

On this note, be sure to take the cover off your garage door opener and slab lithium grease on the gears every 5 years.

The gears are plastic and turn into snow once it dries out.

interestingly enough this bill does not yet exist: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billSearchClient.xh...

Does this mean that the source code for web services should be free, so a user can repair it?

first world problems. Really good move considering the amount of e-waste that is generated.

Why not cars?

We already have this for cars. It was passed in 2012 in Massachusetts and applied throughout the country. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massachusetts_Right_to_Repair_...

This is nuts. If people wanted to purchase repairable products, they'd do it. Clearly the market doesn't care, so all this will do is create needless litigation and artificially constrain product design.

No, it would not work that way. If none of the companies produce repairable machines that also satisfy other constraints of consumers, this problem would not be satisfied by the market.

> If none of the companies produce repairable machines that also satisfy other constraints of consumers

Thats the point though. If people actually valued repairability, then they would elevate its importance above other constraints in their purchasing habits.

How does one do that when there is no suitable option?

Companies do lots of focus groups and market research. If there was enough demand for repairable devices to justify it, some company would see there was an unserved niche they could serve.

So because a small sample of people didn't show overwhelming support for it, it's not an option for anyone. Yet "vote with your money" is still touted out as a viable option?

I'm not following this argument.

Sure you are. Why does every phone or car not cost $100,000?

Surely if all the manufacturers acted in their obvious local-maxima best interests and jacked their prices, you'd have no choice but to take out a mortgage to get a phone.

The answer is obvious: the first company to defect and charge $1000 for a phone instead would take over the entire market.

What's the difference between price and features? If repairability is important to consumers, why is nobody "defecting" from the cartel of non-repairable vendors to take over the market?

It's not a complicated argument.

> It's not a complicated argument.

I love it when people end complicated arguments like this. "It's easy you dolt! Just eat your soylent and be happy!"

Just because you get a vote doesn’t mean that you get the outcome you want. If companies don’t think it’s worth the trouble to support the tiny minority of users who care about repairability, the shouldn’t have to. The government certainly shouldn’t foist that minority view on everyone through right to repair laws.

> Just because you get a vote doesn’t mean that you get the outcome you want.

My point is I don't get a real vote because there is no option for me to vote on.

> The government certainly shouldn’t foist that minority view on everyone through right to repair laws.

Except it's not just what a small minority of poor people wants if the government can agree enough to pass it. Also, there are actually and real concerns about waste and resource usage that drives the want to repair rather than purchase new devices.

If there was a bunch of pent-up consumer demand for repairable machines, someone would eventually notice, start doing making those products, and make a lot of money.

We can clearly see from existing markets that that is not true.

There is a vast market for repairable phones that run free software and have unlockable bootloaders, but that market isn't significant enough to convince incumbent manufacturers to stop abusive wasteful practices like built-in batteries, proprietary screws, proprietary drivers and locked bootloaders.

In fact, it's the abusive practice itself that constrains the free market.

The market is "vast", yet "not significant enough" for manufacturers to take advantage of it? Doesn't sound vast to me.

If the market was truly vast, someone would start targeting it by selling such products.

Very few people care about free software and unlockable bootloaders on their phones. Very few people in the world even know what a bootloader is, and among those who do, very few really care about unlocking the bootloader on their phone.

Relatively few people care, yet these things still matter. These practices are still abusive.

Should those of us who care about the problem - which is those of use who understand the problem - wait until a literal majority of customers complain to start solving the problem?

Don't use the ideals of a free market to give corporations a free pass to abuse customers. This ideology that regulation is inherently evil and must be avoided at all costs does nothing to help the free market. It only blinds from common sense.

Isn't there a fundamental free trade problem with selling (not leasing) a hardware product and then not transferring full ownership of the product to the buyer?

Sell a security camera bundled with cloud storage, fine - shut off the cloud and the camera still works.

Sell a John Deere tractor that can't be serviced without buying parts, patches, and paying for access to the engine computer - this seems problematic.

There isn’t. Property has always been conceived of as a bundle of rights that can be transferred separately. I.e. you can sell the air rights to a building while keeping the land, you can sell the land while keeping rights to any minerals underground, you can sell the land while reserving the right to fish on it, etc.

It’s not a problem unless the seller can exercise some other sort of market power (e.g. they’re the only licensed seller of that particular kind of thing).

Thanks for the reply!

How does this compare to the "licensed printer ink only" sort of DRM, wherein companies like Lexmark charged upwards of 10x generic (i.e. cost-of-goods) prices for printer ink? I understand that in legal concept, contracts can be structured however... For consumers at large, however, the burden of savvy-ness starts getting rather high.

For example, I understand paying an expert to help me negotiate the terms of purchasing my home, since the price is high and arrangements (HOA, easements, municipal utilities, etc.) vary wildly. It seems unreasonable to have to hire a lawyer to facilitate the purchase of my printer. Thus, it seems prudent to have certain reasonable assumptions around the exchange of physical goods. Buy it, and it's yours to do with as you will.

The reason this matters is that consumers can be and are sued by the sellers of products for attempting to circumvent such DRM-like restrictions. By ownership of the physical good, shouldn't the consumers have the right to fix it, hack it, or upgrade it, the same as they could with a chair or a table?

Most people buy houses without a lawyer, and things work fine.

I strongly suspect that people _know_ the trade offs they’re making when they buy the cheap inkjet printer with expensive ink, the lowest priced airline ticket, the cheapest bidding contractor, or the unfixable gadget. They just want to eat their cake and have it too. Then the regulators come in and make the decision for everyone, just because a tiny minority of people have buyers remorse.

I appreciate the dialogue. We may have to agree to disagree on the final point. I'm not convinced that there is always a competitive market filled with alternatives that meet customer preferences. For example: I have to choose between iMessage and a headphone jack for my cell phone. There are other phones, but I don't have a totally ala carte menu - there are always trade offs.

This likely won't change your opinion either, but it's a good piece that adds color to this conversation about right-to-repair: Motherboard published a video about John Deere's tractor/maintenance lock-in that looks at the issue from the perspective of 6-figure industrial equipment. [1] It's worth a look.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8JCh0owT4w

This exactly. This will only cause prices to go up if extra work is required to produce products that adhere to this new regulation.

There is no extra work required. They just have to provide documentation and sell spare parts (which they already produce for themselves) to consumers and independent repair services. There is virtually zero extra cost and this will have to impact on prices.

No it's not. It's a rational response to avoid a race to the bottom (tragedy of the commons) problem.

If the problem is the externalized costs of waste, then the solution is to force device makers to bear the cost of waste, not mandate they design their products ina particular way.

The race is to the bottom is the exact reason it's cheaper to just buy new than repair.

at the expense of externalizing all the costs of e-waste etc.

The market feels the incentive to make you purchase more.

The most embarassing thing, if you really think about it is- all these repairers and tinkerers- they want to put work into a product- and you deny them, because of some shortsighted sense of property and a fear of loss of controll.

Look for example at games pre-steam- these where gated-communitys, walled in plattforms and gardens. All those modders, where putting in work anyway.

And instead of taking a percentage, and supplying a plattform - we shut them out.

Cant wait for someone to offer a hardware-steam version for IOT devices and vehicles. Add a simple scripting language like Lua to that - and suddenly - one ecosystem to rule them all, thanks to all those tinkering customers, who basically send you free money.

But hey- lawyers and small sighted software department CEOs will see that it does not come to that.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact