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Nebraska farmers vote overwhelmingly for Right to Repair (uspirg.org)
1536 points by howard941 on Dec 16, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 429 comments

What many people may not realize is just how long-lived a lot of farm equipment is. There will be tractors out there still working that are 75 years old and just keep getting repaired.

Obviously the manufacturers would like to sell those farmers tractors more often than that or, in the very least, generate a revenue stream from existing hardware and honestly that's what I see a lot of computing in vehicles as being: nothing more than guaranteeing a revenue stream. It'll get marketed and sold as "efficiency" but the manufacturers are capturing those (alleged) efficiency gains by charging farmers to repair them.

This is also the case with GM crops too. For years, farmers cultivated seeds and replanted them for the next year's harvest. GM crops are typically constructed so they're not fertile beyond the current generation. Why? So the farmer has to re-buy the seed stock from the manufacturer.

I grew up on a citrus farm and I can tell you CAT equipment makes Apple look like an open hardware platform. Parts where unavailable to non dealers they used patents to stop aftermarket and where hostile to hardware hackers that fixed flaws in their design. This was all while they where mechanical. I cannot imagine what it is like owning a CAT machine now that they are computerized. I know my grandfather tended to stick to Massey Ferguson and Minneapolis Molean's for that reason. We only bought CAT and Deere equipment if it was a specialty piece that could not be duplicated with an all purpose tractor like a MF or MM. Which is really CAT's bread and butter. They like the machinery that no one else produces and locking you in to support. They caught onto this long before the automotive and electronics world ever did.

On seed stock it get's even worse, if you are next to a GM farm and get cross pollinated then your stock is tainted and you have to reseed again with clean seeds that will just get tainted in the next spawn.

We did not have this problem with citrus because it is not grown from a seed, all citrus is root-stocked and then hybrid to make sweet citrus. I know it is an issue for corn and grain farmers who do not want to grow GMO crops.

This is why GMOs are a bad idea. The science, in and of itself, is amazing stuff. Unfortunately the science doesn't exist in a vacuum and it's the business and legal structures (globally, not just in the US) surrounding it in which GMOs are problematic. Seeds are fundamental to almost all types of farms and the fact that there are "legal intricacies" surrounding the legality of growing food using seeds on your land is bananas! (Semi-relevantly, Cavendish Bananas are another plant that aren't grown from seeds, similar to citrus.)

That doesn't mean GMOs are a bad idea, it means the legalese surrounding it is.

That’s certainly a reasonable position to take. Unfortunately, there’s no way to escapable the legalese, so my opinion is they are practically bad. They’re not absolutely bad, but they are under our current regime.

>On seed stock it get's even worse, if you are next to a GM farm and get cross pollinated then your stock is tainted and you have to reseed again with clean seeds that will just get tainted in the next spawn.

I see a simple solution here when some farmer gets stung by this: some company needs to make some really cheap GM seeds which exist only for the purpose of "accidentally" tainting the GM field next door, so that the owner of that field can get a dose of their own medicine.

The GM Field wouldn't be collecting the seeds anyway.

  > On seed stock it get's even worse, if you are next to a GM 
  > farm and get cross pollinated then your stock is tainted and 
  > you have to reseed again with clean seeds that 
  > will just get tainted in the next spawn.
Genuine question: If your neighbor's seeds spread into your farm why do you have to reseed? Are you trying to avoid the cross pollination or are you required to do this by something/someone else?

Not a farmer or a Lawyer, but if you collect seeds from the tainted plants then the new plant is too close to the Patented plant, and therefore illegal for you to grow on your own.

Exactly there was a case of one farmer who did not buy GM stock all of the farms around him did, the genes crossed into his stock and he was sued for not buying the stock. GM buyers are not allowed to reseed it is IP theft according to law.


Your comment on GM crops is technically correct but also misleading. Most crops are already grown from hybrid seeds. For reasons of genetics, hybrid seeds cannot be reused in the next season.

It's also quite a time-consuming process to reuse seeds, which makes the whole process less cost effective anyway. GM crops have not had a significant effect on this issue.

> For reasons of genetics, hybrid seeds cannot be reused in the next season.

Can you provide supporting evidence/materials to back this claim?

Cash crops use something known as hybrid vigor (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterosis) which breeds together two distinct, albeit mediocre, blends into a single offspring that is sort of like a super plant. The catch though is that it only works for a single generation, and if you were to replant the crop's offspring you would end up with a highly undesirable crop. For this reason, almost no farmers replant using their harvest. This pre-dates the use of GMO seeds.

Every summer in the midwest you get armies of workers who do something called 'detasseling' where you walk through the seed fields and rip off the male genetalia of one of the two breeds, which forces the seeds to be pollinated in a specific way. The result is the seeds that are used to plant next years crop.

source: I grew up on a corn farm.

> The Bowman case has come about after the 75-year-old farmer bought soybeans from a grain elevator near his farm in Indiana and used them to plant a late-season second crop. He then used some of the resulting seeds to replant such crops in subsequent years.


is this for all farms or just very large ones? i can imagine small time farmers perhaps not having such super seeds / plants?

The case of hybrid vigor I'm familiar with is from camels during the middle ages. One hump camels are adapted to hot desert climates, while two hump camels are adapted to cold steppe climates. This created a divide between central asia and the middle east where you would have to switch camels as you traveled. There were people who learned to crossbread the camels to create a hybrid that was stronger than either and could survive in both climates, and they began to dominate trade routes in the area. The catch was that the hybrid vigor only lasted a single generation, and if you tried to breed them again you'd get runts.

Aside: I grew normal and F1 hybrid courgettes (american = zucchini) as a kid and can confirm the hybrids were proper little triffids compared to the pure-strain plants.

Regarding the camels, can you dig up a link, am curious. Thanks.

I learned about hybrid camels from the work of Dr. Richard Bulliet, particularly this lecture:


I linked to the start of the section where he begins discussing the migration of the Turks into Iran (39:10). Discussion about hybrid camels is from around 45:26 onwards.

Amazon link to his book: Cotton, Climate, Camels.


Here is the entire playlist of his 46 lectures on World History, of which the first link is lecture 13. His lectures are not just him retelling the material in the textbook, but rather gives criticism about how the textbook was constructed (He is the lead editor), and stories from his own research:


Thanks, will follow up.

Smaller farmers have consultants that come out and help plan for seed/herbicide/pesticide. Farming is very complicated now and many farmers just run the equipment.

It's pretty much all farms in the US, since most farms in the US are hard corn or soy farms. It's large and small. Bank owned and family owned. Everyone buys their seed every year. It's not some conspiracy, it's just better business for the farmer.

Heirloom and organic farmers tend to reseed from heritage crops. I will give you they are a small subset of farming but the cross germination is having an effect on them.

Depending on the plant, you'll get either of the two species used to make the hybrid instead of the hybrid itself.

Thank you, and excuse my naivete here. So what makes the hybrid route the optimal way to produce these GM plants, rather than cross-breeding in a way that survives reproduction? Do we know GM crops to always be hybrids of this nature?

The way I understand it (I took a course in this 5 years or so ago but might not remember correctly) it's a matter of ease of matching up certain chromosomes. Like people, plants tend to have chromosomes in multiples (though not necessarily 2). From one generation to the next, for a given set of chromosomes, a parent only passes half on to the child, and this is pretty much random. That means that for a plant breeder it's very undesirable to have parents with genetic diversity: this diversity results in randomness (unpredictability) in the offspring. BUT you don't want offspring that has identical copies for all these chromosomes because those are not strong genotypes (this is where the hybrid vigor comes in, you want plants with diverse chromosomes). The solution that plant breeders have found is that you take parents which have copied chromosomes, but you take 2 different parents and you control who the parents are. That way the offspring gets a mix, but the content of that mix is highly predictable.

Some side issues are that the parents are only suitable for breeding (they don't have strong genotypes themselves) and that if you take this offspring and mix them again you get a genetic shuffle which reintroduces unpredictability. This second generation will also perform very poorly, or at least unpredictably.

For seed companies you can tell that this is attractive in 2 ways: they can produce quality seed relatively easily, and the farmer always needs to buy the seed that they use for production because the farmer does not have the parent plants and the second generation is unusable.

A mule is a hybrid. It's bigger and stronger than either a donkey or a horse. It is infertile. It's the same with your garden variety hybrid corn or tomatoes. Big easily stotable and shippable product (but without flavour or desirable texture), but is infertile or doesn't breed true.

Not all hybrids are infertile. Maize corn was developed from its wild progenitors through centuries of genetic modification through selective hybridization -- it is not a plant found in nature -- and that required viable offspring. The same goes for other major crops developed by scientists in the past few centuries, like potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers (interesting pattern there, they all originated in the same part of the world).

It's incorrect to conflate hybridization with modern direct gene manipulation (GMO). They both have the same goal, and effectively do the same thing, but are completely different approaches. Hybridization requires the cross-breeding of unrelated varieties or species, and involves both genetic and epigenetic selection. GMO is directly splicing genes of a single organism to produce altered offspring. Don;t confuse the two.

Hybrid vigor https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterosis

It lets you create a sort of super crop... but it only works for a single generation. ‾\_(ツ)_/‾

It's not just GM plants. In fact, the GM crops might not even be hybrids at all (I don't really know). But many fruits that we love, like most citrus fruits, as well as bananas, are the result of cross-breeding between different species.

Why is this optimal? Well, I guess it isn't always. I'm willing to bet there are more failed hybrids than successful ones, but sometimes when you combine traits from different species, you get something that's bigger or tastier than the originals.

I have no idea about other crops; I was under the impression that grain and many other common crops could be replanted, but maybe it can't.

Also, as someone said above, this predates GM, its unrelated.

F1 hybrids are the first generation (filial-1) offspring of two homozygous parents, both of which breed true for certain genetic factors.

The F1 hybrid is a uniformly heterozygous cross. They will be a consistent and uniform mix of desired genetic factors, much like clones, but all siblings of parents that are themselves like clones.

The F2 generation will be less consistent. The genes will recombine such that the desired high-producing mix of genes will not be present in all offspring. By the F3 generation, it will almost be back to the diversity of a genetically unmanaged population. Harvest times will spread out, such that by the time the slowest plants mature, the fastest ones may already be spoiling or eaten by birds.

F2 seed can be sold and planted the next season, at a lower price, but the yield will be lower than with F1 seed. F3 seed is not economically viable to sell for planting, as the farmers that habitually save seed probably already have F3 or greater from their last crop, or an heirloom cultivar.

A lot of commercially sold seedstock is F1 hybrids https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F1_hybrid

... first generation crosses between different parent strains. If you sow the seed from F1 hybrids (F2) they don't have a consistent phenotype

Mendel's law of independent assortment.

Have you tried google? This is a very basic fact about hybrid seeds.

monsantos 'terminator' seed comes to mind.


The article doesn't specifically mention Monsanto, though I couldn't imagine them not pursuing this technology.

Also, thankfully:

> As of 2006, GURT seeds have not been commercialized anywhere in the world due to opposition from farmers, consumers, indigenous peoples, NGOs, and some governments.

It's a common narrative that Monsanto did release crops into the wild that caused nearby farms to produce sterile crops after incidental cross-pollination. It seems like this is misinformation?

It's absolutely misinformation, as is almost everything else you read on the subject of GMOs.

I've seen and used farm equipment and machine tools (lathes, mills, etc.) from the 40's and 50's that are still in good serviceable condition.

I think it's been a long time since farmers cultivated their own seed though, even before roundup-resistant and GM crops were commonplace. It's a very different science and skill to growing crops.

Farmers definitely still cultivate their own seed, even in the West, for cereal crops like wheat, oats, rye, and rice where hybrid and GMO variants do not exist or are not competitive.

For these crops, it's not a very different skill. You just have to clean the seed and ideally test germination rates, though many farmers do not even do that.

I still run a 1949 Ford 8N tractor. No heroic measures needed to keep it going. Just routine maintenance.

You can still buy 9Ns from the 1930s around where I live. Also, you can still buy new parts from after-market suppliers. They might not handle 16-bottom plows or even a round baler but they're still damn good machines for basic work and they're simple enough to maintain that even I could do it.

Designed to last forever if maintained properly..

A cool thing I learned from watching AvE's channel is that bearing surfaces are meant to last forever if properly lubricated. The oil in them is meant to take all the load, and the metal surfaces should never touch. If you don't replace the oil regularly, or let it get so hot it flows out of the journal, the bearing will wear and need replacing. The design is meant to last a really long time if properly serviced and not overloaded though. (I'd love to hear from a MechE if I misunderstood, I'm just a dumb programmer who watches YouTube).

Thats pretty much right. Excluding how some types of bushings work, and other similar bearing surfaces.

Side note. There also air bearings which are also pretty awesome but require tight machining tolerances. They are used in the semiconductor industry for some things. Mainly because you dont want lubricant to dirty the enviroment, but the tighter tolerances also help ensure a spindle/shaft dont wobble as much.

I assume this means it's airtight and instead of a cushion of oil, it uses a cushion of (presumably compressed) air?

Yea pretty much. This video starts off with a nice demo of the concept.


Great, thank you. As an aside, I love listening to people with accents explain things, so the video was doubly enjoyable!

Edit some time later: And then perhaps I'll go down an hours-long rabbit hole watching all his videos and learning a ton about machining...

>I love listening to people with accents explain things

Are there people without accents that explain things? Because that would be a video I want to see.

I suppose by "without accent" you mean "with General American accent"? German or French can be spoken without accent, but English doesn't have one universally agreed "standard accent". What's without accent to the American is just an American accent to everyone else.

This isn't completely true: even within America, there's different accents. So people with a "standard American accent" (generally midwestern) listen to Southerners talk and say they have an accent. There's also northeastern accents (such as the famous Boston accent).

Of course, these days, a lot of the accents are disappearing because of mass communications, so the "American accent" is homogenizing, but those other accents aren't completely gone yet.

I take the parent's comment to mean that everybody has an accent. There's no such thing as neutral or reference-frame speech.

The word "accent" implies that it is being compared to some kind of reference. You might be looking for the word "dialect" here.

For example, if you have two speakers with English as a first language and a third from Germany with English as a second language, the native English speakers will probably detect a German accent in the ESL-speaker's dialect.

People get into long internet arguments over this, but the closest thing to a neutral English dialect is General American English, also sometimes called Broadcast English because newscasters, TV personalities, and actors would be trained this dialect so as to not sound like they are "from" anywhere in particular. It used to be common as well for highly-educated or upper-class individuals to hire speech coaches to teach them this dialect in order to "lose their accent". It still may be common for all I know, but I believe the deliberate acquisition of General American is probably on the decline.

That's just an American-centered view-point though. Just because an accent dominates doesn't mean it's not an accent.

Obviously I mean foreign accents when speaking English.

AvE makes a lot of generalizations. What he says about technical topics is generally right enough for anyone who doesn't make a living designing the things he discusses. Those people would do well to understand the underlying theory.

>If you don't replace the oil regularly, or let it get so hot it flows out of the journal, the bearing will wear and need replacing.

It's still going to wear out from cold starts and the entire rest of the engine that doesn't have pressurized lubrication is also going to wear out eventually so there's no point in trying to outlast all those components since you're gonna have to take it apart to deal with them when they reach EOL and you can just deal with bearings at the same time.

I got a '56 Farmall 230. Not a big tractor, but it can do anything I need for myself, primarily used to feed my two cows which I grow for meat, but also for hauling wood out of the woods for heating my house. Very little maintenance really needed. Just two months ago I even got fancy and installed an electric starter! A fine addition when you need to plow the driveway in the winter and don't feel like doing a full body workout just to get the thing started.

It is not always because farmers couldn't produce their own seed, but it is also because growing for viable seeds has a bit different finishing procedure as growing food stuff. You might end up with a loss of seed viability because your primary effort is based on selling food for the highest profit and not storing viable seed in the most pristine way. So naturally a local farm community can evolve into a large number of food producers who don't store their own seeds, and a smaller variety of seed farmers to supply the other farmers with crop seed every year.

Serviceable does not imply profitable (though profitable implies serviceable).

As much as I love lugging around rotary tables and indexing heads a machine shop that makes triple digit part quantities would be stupid to run old machines (too many man hours per part) and a repair machine shop would be stupid to finance a new 5-axis.

Equipment in most industries moves from low margin, high duty cycle operators to operators with either higher margins and/or lower duty cycles.

Yeah but it is great equipment to have in a garage ready to go all around the country. So much shit is thrown away because you need some new little piece machined or repaired that you can't buy. It's not worth it to a machining business, but to some individual at home with a waiting machine and time on their hands? They could make a good deal making simple replacements pieces or parts for things.

The search for an ongoing revenue stream is one of the most destructive forces in the tech industry. It leads to some very customer-hostile experiences.

That along with buying an entire new product for a minor gain. So what if the new car is super green? You are replacing one multiton hunk of metal and hazardous waste with a brand new multiton hunk of metal and hazardous waste, doubling your footprint of extraction of resources from the earth but netting the same utility. Or people who replace their perfectly functioning phone with a completely brand new phone to continuing to use the same exact trio of apps on a screen with darker blacks.

The most frustrating part of tech is how disposable it is by design. It's degenerate and seemingly inescapable.

As annoying as replacing a phone is, I don't think the argument works for ecological dimension. The car produces many times larger carbon footprint in the course of being used, than comes from its manufacturing.

Plus you are not destroying your old car, they are sold onwards and used for decades by someone anyways. You are probably enabling someone to replace a rusbucket two or three steps down the line, possibly in a condition so bad, it does not pass road worthiness tests.

Well, unless you implement the Cash for Clunkers program that just smashes up a bunch of cars for a quick buck, then they don't get used. So many good and valuable cars, and especially car parts, that were all lost. People think "But it was a $500 car! They can't be good!" Except ive fixed and driven many $500 cars for the same amount in parts and put another 100K+ miles on them. $1000 for 28 MPG and 100K miles is a pretty damn good deal if you are poor as shit.

But now those cars mostly don't exist because we smashed them all up and weren't allowed to part them out either. Instead of spending $20 for $150 worth of parts, now I gotta buy all new Chinese manufacturer replacements for 10X as much.

My fave is "subscription headphones": https://www.nuraphone.com/products/nuranow

> Please note: NuraNow is not a rent-to-own program — as long as your subscription stays active, the Nuraphone stays active too.

...isn't that straight worse than rent-to-own...?


I had to double take on this to make sure it wasn't on the Onion. Wow, just wow.

For anyone wondering, these are also sold outright (though not on their site I guess?) for $400. They are essentially a generic pair of bluetooth headphones that don't even have ANC, and use some kind of proprietary charging cable.

Interesting, I've been looking for case studies like this. I'm curious if there has been anything similar that managed to turn a long term profit.

At least you get a free cable with it. With $20 RRP, I sure hope the entire cable is gold plated, not just the connectors.

Completely unsellable to anyone with a time preference extending beyond next month.

But the remaining market is probably big enough.

Well,now I've seen everything.

You mean you don't want a mattress subscription?

Especially in agriculture custom firmware is getting more and more prevalent. I think for many people wanting to be productive products like iCrap and consorts are generally not worth it.

I think John Deere tractors were especially restrictive for any form of unauthorized rapairs. Restricting access for selected partners is a very customer hostile behavior. It is like printer ink all over again.

Still there are high technically hurdles that can indeed be compared with the smartphone market that still supplies crappy software on otherwise decent phones.

I think software broke economics in a way, since that was one of the only products which you could produce once and sell infinitely. No other thing on the planet you could do that with. All other things you need to transform something physical or spend time doing which results in a linear mapping between input and output.

Digital goods (such as music, games, etc) do not count as independent things since they are implemented as software. Also previously things like music you had to perform or distribute physically.

I'd like to introduce you to some songwriter friends of mine.

Before computing divorced the idea of the file from the physicality of the storage medium, music was sold as live performance, printed paper, plastic discs, or magnetic tape.

Those all have a non-trivial cost of reproduction.

Now that music is just files, the marginal cost of sending a file down the network wire is proportional to its compressed file size, which is insignificant in relation to the cost of the human labor of creating a master recording.

Also, now that music is encoded digitally, all copies are (usually) perfect reproductions of the original.

Long before the invention of paper, plastic, magnetic tape, piano rolls, or metal drums with pins, songs and stories and other kinds of "intellectual property" could be conveyed from mind to mind verbally. Such ideas were expensive and difficult to create the original copy (ever write a song or derive Pythagoras' theorem from first principles?), but the marginal cost of each reproduction was minimal and close enough to zero. It it weren't, whoever wrote those earworms I get would be fabulously rich by now.

Centuries, nay millennia, ago there were starving artists who created great works, only to have the economics of zero marginal cost of production take the food from their mouths. The appearance of and democratization of high-bandwidth telecommunication (enabled by computers, but not a property of computers) did not create that situation, it's only multiplied the zero marginal cost by a large constant. An if you've been paying attention, zero multiplied by anything is still zero.

I think you're discounting the cost of pre-network human communication a bit too much.

Before computers, it was nearly impossible to copy a musical song from one person to another faster than the time it took to perform it. And to go that fast, you needed someone trained to perform it well enough (cheap, but not free) and someone trained to memorize it by ear in one take (expensive). To do it more slowly, with more repetitions, you still needed someone that could perform what they had learned, which was cheap, but not free.

The cost of connecting the teacher with the learner was likewise not free. They had to be in the same place, physically. They might meet up, learn each other's repertoire, then split up again, so as to not compete with each other by working the same territory. The invention of written musical notation was a huge leap forward, in that it enabled the profession of composer/lyricist to be separated from that of the musical performer.

Millennia ago, great works were lost completely, because they were not copied enough to survive the deaths of everyone who knew how to reproduce them. That is not a thing that happens when copies are cheap. Even things that were written down have been lost, because copying written materials was not cheap enough until the printing press.

If making a copy takes a specialist four hours, and consumes paper and ink, that is nowhere near "close enough to zero".

Now, you can copy music in a millisecond, using a device that nearly everyone carries in their pocket, to anyone in the world who likewise carries a similar device. The cost is still not zero. It is just now too small to think about, unless you are making millions of copies per second.

That and control of how the product is "mis"-used and data gathering.

I may get tarred and feathered (well, more likely simply digitally snuffed out or whisked away to the digital concentration camp of shadow banning and/or digital gassing) for saying this here, but I think you are talking about two different motivations.

One is the VC/investor trap, where the primary unrealized motivation is actually just finding VCs that will fund some scheme to be the "next {insert hopes and dreams of boundless riches}", where far more often than not the winners are the cunning founders (Adam Neumann anyone?) and the VCs, with everyone else left holding the bag (Hello, WeWork starry eyed people that believed the predictions of alien visitation) if the effort can't be pawned off on someone else, or some "exit" to a corp in a kind of reverse defensive blackmail auction to snuff out or keep a competitive advantage from a competitor.

The other thing goin on here is that very predatory and pernicious and rent seeking nature you are directly referring to that seeks to constantly corral and rope in as many consumers as possible as the whole tech industry is rapacious in its lust to generate "ongoing revenue streams" through dependency or even (what used to be illegal) what amounts to predatory pricing and snuffing out alternatives by reaping havoc on the target industry and society. None of these tech companies should have been allowed to use this predatory pricing model to utterly decimate our economy as they have … Amazon, Uber, WeWork, etc. are just a few examples. At the very least it should not be allowed for public money (pensions, etc.) to be invested in companies that are unprofitable at certain ratios, e.g., over 1/4 of their existence.

One clear example comes to mind in Uber/Lyft and their wake of both immoral and illegal actions that have led to the utter collapse of the taxi industry through unfair competition, predatory pricing, and illegality. What we are now left with is a for-hire transportation sector that is now a far less competitive environment (Uber/Lyft compared to roughly 5-20+ taxi companies per city (Ignore the flaws of the industry that are irrelevant to the anti-competitive issue), but we are now also facing a collapse of competition on a far larger scale, essentially Uber/Lyft instead of literally tens of thousands of taxi companies just alone in the USA.

So what happens when the Taxis cannot keep up under the Uber/Lyft onslaught? Well, we know what happens, they use regulatory capture to limit and prevent competition and they start raising rates as they have and are doing.

The problem is that not having a revenue stream is one of the most destructive forces to tech (or other) companies, and people like to keep their jobs.

Hardly. There are countless firms who built their reputation on and survived quite happily making durable products. You might find pages of their early products filling eBay and the like, still going strong. A few are still adhering to those built to last attributes, most have transitioned into "as cheap as we can get away with, but with our valuable brand and logo" as has most of the whole world, including those offering coffee pod and headphone (ffs!) subscriptions.

The steady progression of new people - some created every day, new homeowners and what have you was enough to give a vibrant business, and ongoing sales.

What changed was the deal.

Pre 1980s most companies tried to balance the needs of all - staff, customers, local area, and shareholders. Post 1980s only the shareholders count, all else is secondary. Products and offerings are made and subscribed accordingly. The few folk still making stuff to last seem to have an anachronistic worldview to go with it. Perhaps still care about craftsmanship, repairability, and reputation, rather than built in obsolescence, subscriptions and DRM'd parts. Now they can sell you the thing 15 times, perhaps 12 of those without good cause apart from greed.

"Pre 1980s most companies tried to balance the needs of all - staff, customers, local area, and shareholders."

I think you have a very strong set of rose-tinted glasses. Planned obsolescence was a strategy long before 1980.

More that I remember the companies I dealt with back then, and the products they made which I bought. Many of which would remain static far longer, with readily available spares available in stores, alongside the new sales. There was some decent effort to use common spares across multiple models, often for decades unless something transformative required a major change.

I could compare and contrast in just about every sector I can think of. Sure there were some abuses, notably some of the car makers come to mind. The needs of the customers -- beyond making the initial sale -- were far higher up the priority list than today.

Could you give some examples of such products?

Kenwood and Dualit kitchen equipment and Linn hi-fi. Still support products they made in the sixties and seventies, and have provided upgrade routes and repairs for later improvements. In each case those flagship products still exist, are still being made, perhaps with vastly better materials and technology almost incomparable with the original, and spare and repairs are still readily available.

Not too different with Hoover vacuums in the era of the Hoover Senior and Junior -- they stuck around, being repaired and reconditioned easily for decades. Had Hoover or Dyson not gone with cheap throwaway plastic for everything when cyclones meant capability improved in post 1980/1990 models we might have those lasting 30+ years easily too. As is they self destruct in a decade or less as more and more bits break. The (cheap plastic) spares that are available are priced such that you're heavily incentivised to replace. One or two commercial brands still make products that might last a while...

Most of the current kitchen appliance brands are mainly now just worthless logos, usually owned en masse in a larger group, probably after a leveraged hostile buyout. Now made in the same single factory and generate churn with new models every year - for the sake of difference not because there is any improvement, just deliberately changed from the previous. Spare parts might be just filter, lamp or element, often deliberately unique to model, and will be available at vastly inflated price for limited time only.

No end of other examples from hand tools, garage equipment, and home goods through to the most complex products.

High end mechanical watches like Rolex and Omega. They keep parts going back decades. If a part isn't in inventory, there are watchmakers that can create just about any part from scratch.

Note that these are products that conspicuous consumers may in fact buy several of, including new models as they come out.

Not exactly "farm tractors that last forever".

As I type this I'm looking at the Onkyo stereo and Polk speakers I bought in college. I'm 50 years old.

I can't help but think they regret making these things that durable.

UBI, more research spending, a flatter wealth distribution, and separating necessities from investment portfolios would help to allow developers to develop without living like stereotypical artists.

You make a thing. You sell your thing. You sell it for more than it cost to make it. That's your revenue stream. But that's not enough (apparently) hence locking down repairs and other anti-end user behaviour.

Now you've shipped your thing that lasts forever. If it's a mechanical object, maybe you can get continuing revenue from spare parts, but those will bring in less than the original purchase. Worst case, someone brings up a factory copying your part design (without doing any engineering work on them, just copies them exactly), and undercuts you.

If you sell software, do you let the old stuff atrophy and become insecure? If not, you are spending salaries on maintenance without any associated revenue. As time goes on, the maintenance costs increase without bringing in another cent.

On the software front, this is why I, personally, am a fan of the subscription model... if done right. And almost no one does it right.

The shining example for actually doing it right is Jetbrains. There is a schedule for new releases they keep to. You get loyalty discounts for long term subscriptions and ending a subscription entitles you to a version that is ~1 year old in perpetuity.

Plus the prices are (IMHO) entirely reasonable.

Almost no one else does this. Other companies will, say, take the MSRP of the software package, divide it by 12 and give you that as the monthly price with a minimum contract period of 12 months. They'll also restrict you to choose platform when you purchase and may limit the number of installs rather than concurrent users.

Another company using this model very effectively is Derivative, makers of Touchdesigner. Licenses are sold at an initial price that includes a year of updates. Once that year expires, the newest version (old versions are kept available on the site) within your update period will continue to be usable with your license - which is freely transferable between machines. They offer a couple license tiers, custom work, and paid support hours. They even provide a free non-commercial license that is minimally limited and great for learning. The other great thing is that they are highly responsive to user feedback and bug reports. I've had a situation before where we found a bug in the course of a project and they fixed it in a matter of days, had a build sent over in time for my deadline, and then the fix was pushed for everyone in the following update. I frequently point them out as a model for the best way to offer a software product to both a professional and amateur market. It's essentially all the benefits of perpetual licensing while still providing a revenue stream for the company and ongoing support for professional users.

No direct affiliation, but I've shared drinks with the devs and am a very pleased user.

> Now you've shipped your thing that lasts forever. If it's a mechanical object, maybe you can get continuing revenue from spare parts, but those will bring in less than the original purchase.

This might be bad for a tractor manufacturer; but an everlasting tractor would be great for society, right?

The incentive now is to innovate in order to create a better more efficient product. E.g.; a more fuel efficient tractor which increases productivity - then you'll get another sale.

Deliberately hobbling your product so that it needs repair or replacement disincentives innovation and is a form of rent-seeking https://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/rentseeking.asp and as such should be treated as a market failure. (I.e., legislated against)

Exactly - it's a perverse incentive against the interests of society.

Yeah, I do own 30 years old tractor and it work just fine as is very simple machine and there are very few things that could break. This is why machines of this grade just keep their price: after initial drop the price just stays the same and demand is strong. I can see tractors from 70s changing hands on regular basis

A "right to repair" is insufficient but a good start.

As you say computers in vehicle are nothing more than holding consumers captive for a guaranteed revenue stream for the lifetime of a product. The first incident that got me thinking about this is Tivoization. The problem is getting much worse and regular consumers are unaware it is happening.

As I said "right to repair" is a good right to fight for. We need a "right to own". I recognise and acknowledge there is significant overlap.

This is why I would never buy a Tesla.

Regarding the reuse of previous harvest's seed, the lobbying of Monsanto and Co have also managed to make it illegal until recently.

> What many people may not realize is just how long-lived a lot of farm equipment is. There will be tractors out there still working that are 75 years old and just keep getting repaired.

I'm going to not try and not infer anything from your handle, but how exactly do you know this?

I personally worked on and with hose 50-25 year old tractors (Renault, Ferrari, Fiat, Massey-Fergueson, Case, Ford) in my apprenticeship in Europe and I can tell you that finding parts for a lot of those were half the problem. So unless you had an in with the few shops that kept them running like they do in Cuba with GM and the like, you were SOL.

Anecdote: In England we had to drop a transmission in the middle of harvest on a 30/40 year old Case and all the spares available after several hours of calls and online searches would have to come in from former yugoslavia nations (Macedonia and Montenegro from what I recall) that had trans from tractors that 'ran when last parked' (before the break up in the 90s?) and couldn't come in by rail/air shipment in 2014 as it was the rainiest year in recorded History and brought everything to halt.

So we gathered the village and did the harvest by hand, our yield wasn't great but it wasn't a total loss as it could have been had we waited for that trans to come in.

But the following season they rented and hired a crew with a massive New Holland and John Deere fleet to help them out instead of buying.

What I guess I'm alluding to is that in the case with farming, especially at the small farm (sub 50 hectare) owning anything but a small tractor for daily tasks is unnecessary, as the cost and maintenance is way out of reach for most people's budget or even needs.

Flash-forward to 2013 in Colorado where the first legal hemp harvest took place, and you'd see a large number of farmers with more requests than they can handle to rent out their combines (with crazy combinations) and haulers out in the fields.

There will always be a 'steady stream' of purchases for tractors/combines etc... its just that they got used to the crony-capitalist profits from rebuilding Iraq, Afghanistan after the invasion etc... and forgot their projected profits should be calculated withing the confines of the production of mainly domestic demand.

As a former farmer, Biodynamic no less, I want Ag to go as automated as it can, but I can't shed a single tear for those manufactures who refuse to see why having proprietary blocks on their products will drive farmers away.

Hopefully this spurs on a lot of the talent in FAANG to do something actually productive and necessary in Society and help an opensource hardware movement in Ag.

>There will be tractors out there still working that are 75 years old and just keep getting repaired.

This is a massive over-generalization.

Those tractors are not being used to farm low margin commodities (which are the people most new tractors are sold to). You can't operate a soy/corn/whatever farm without equipment that has a $/results number similar to everyone else in your market (who are also trying to reduce costs). There's a reason you don't see a lot of combines from the 70s still in operation whereas skidders basically never get replaced until they're broken in half.

I know it's handwavy but basically every aspect of running a farm converts to money at the end of the day and depending the specifics of what you farm and where you farm it determine whether you have to keep up with the joneses or can run older equipment.

Right to repair is increasingly hitting people outside of agrarian/industrial contexts.

This month, Google shipped the last update for my Pixel phone. The hardware is functional and in great shape, but I don't think there are any truly viable ways for me to keep it secure. I have a tablet that long-ago met the same fate. This is in the same world where I can 'apt-get update' my seven-year old desktop and work with aplomb. It is my understanding that the primary blocker to serious open-source kernel development on phones is closed-source drivers for the phone hardware.

>This month, Google shipped the last update for my Pixel phone. The hardware is functional and in great shape, but I don't think there are any truly viable ways for me to keep it secure.

The same thing happened recently with the Chromebook I purchased for my significant other. She's a very light computer user, so we thought it was a perfect device. It was great, until one day she received a message saying, essentially, "this device is no longer supported and is now insecure". Meanwhile, I've got an Ubuntu distribution running on a 10 year old computer in my basement (and soon will on this Chromebook).

I certainly won't buy another Chromebook to have it unsupported in 3 years.

You should get ~7 years of update. Here you can check: https://support.google.com/chrome/a/answer/6220366?hl=en

I think it should be more, but it's on par with MacBooks

Actually MacBooks get 6/7 years from when Apple stops selling them. In contrast, the timer starts as soon as the first Chromebook with that cpu is released. It was a nasty surprise when I found that out

That is terrible. So they'll never create a device that is good enough that they'll sell for for 6 years unless they sell something they don't support.

Or extend the support: https://9to5google.com/2019/11/05/google-chromebooks-extende...

Other than that, few vendors sell 6 year old computers. Since Apple is often put up as model company here: 2013 had the iPhone 5s which was sold until early 2016, and the end-2013 MacBook Pro (based on Haswell) which was replaced by its successor in 2014 (based on Haswell-Refresh).

I think the point was that the product was so minimal and cheap that you would throw it away and get a new one like a phone.

Correct. That's why the vast majority of them are ~$250 or less

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201624 It's ~7 years of hardware parts availability. Software is around 7-10 years.

Made me laugh for some reason.

> Monster-branded Beats products are considered obsolete regardless of when they were purchased.

I didn't realize that. When I think about how many schools have bought racks of Chromebooks and how long they keep them in use I realize that there are lots of kids out there using insecure machines. And all of them have cameras and microphones. Yikes!

>You should get ~7 years of update.

Interesting. Thanks for the link.

It appears that the hardware is older than I assumed (yet perfectly capable for browsing the web), which begs another question: I bought this thing brand new a few years ago. Should it be up to the consumer to ensure that there is life left for updates? I will be certain to now, going forward. But I can't expect less-savvy consumers to do the same. It looks like there are models on that list that will stop receiving updates in less than 2 years for sale as new computers on Amazon...

It's confusing to say it receives updates for 7 years when what they mean is 7 years from launch and not 7 years from sale (of a new device).

The current best practice is to check the manufacturing date of the chromebook you're buying, because the clock starts from when the first unit ships, not when the unit you're purchasing was made. For a part number that may have a 2 year manufacturing run, that can make a HUGE difference.

Given old inventory, you can lose more than 2 years. For example, the chromebit CS10 got a design award in 2015 and can still found on asus' website with a link for where to buy.. About 1 year of support remaining.

Curiosly, which chromebook? You can install linux on some chromebooks.

Already plan on it! But to be honest, the physical hardware isn't that great, and of course the battery is mostly shot. The appeal was ChromeOS. Oh well.

Microsoft products get supported basically forever. But they're not cool/trendy.

Excuse me if I don't believe you.

The Win 7 VM we (sqlitebrowser.org) use for our Windows nightly builds stopped receiving Windows Updates a few months ago.

Microsoft seems to have decided to not honour the (legit) serial from MSDN. With no warning or explanation.

That's still a decade, though - far better than the three years for a Chromebook or Pixel

Microsoft will support you, but for a hefty cost.

Windows 7 is due to stop being updated very soon, all the while the only alternative is to downgrade into Windows 10.j sure don't call that "basically forever".

1. Windows 7 was supported with security updates for over 10 years (2009-2020). Second to only Windows XP (13 years)

2. They offered free upgrades to Windows 10 for a long time (a year?)

3. Replacement cycles for consumer desktops/laptops are short relative to OS cycles, with some internet stats saying ~5 years on average.

4. You can still run Windows 7, you just won't get security updates. You're free to repair it on your own... If you can.

5. Just because you buy an OS doesn't mean you buy lifetime support and updates.

>You're free to repair it on your own... If you can.

You literally can't. It's proprietary software that you have a limited license to. This isn't like a deprecated Linux distro that you can always jump in and patch the security issues yourself.

Hell I'm sure if these tractors ran on free software, there'd be a business out there competing against the manufacturer by fixing old tractor software if it meant pulling in consulting fees from the farmers. But they can't, because we live in a world where you don't own software, you lease it.

As an aside the free upgrade still works. You can get it from http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkId=616447. Just updated my grandma's computer two days ago from Windows 7.

It works, it activates, and Windows will say it's genuine if you ever reinstall windows from scratch on that machine but technically you don't have a valid license for Windows 10. It's a complete non-issue for personal use and Microsoft is blatantly still allowing the upgrade process and issuing digital entitlements, but for a business this would cause you to fail an audit and need to pay up to license Windows 10. Basically it's a free upgrade for home users but no different than pirating Windows for businesses.

>>> Windows 7 was supported with security updates for over 10 years (2009-2020). Second to only Windows XP (13 years)

So basically forever = 10 years as far as you are concerned? I have an elixir of immortality that you might be interested in.

Of course not, but 10 years is a lot better than Google's 3-5 for Chromebooks. Though consistent with their habit of nuking their own products, it seems like a foolish business move by Google--I too was burned by this and will never buy a Chromebook again.

How is your fourth point relevant in this discussion? Nobody is saying that devices are bricked as soon as they're unsupported, just that they become increasingly insecure without support and they contrast this with free and open OSes that keep working forever.

13 years of support may very well be above and beyond the norm in the software industry, but that doesn't make it "basically forever".

The free update to Windows 10 does though. And despite your GP's rhetorical flourish, it's hardly a "downgrade".

Well, it's definitely not an upgrade. There's no way to maintain privacy with Win10 by simply turning off telemetry once and calling it a day.

Sleazy bastards.

It absolutely fucking is. Ads infesting everything on my desktop. Pervasive tracking. Breaking updates pushed against my will. I'm happy that it doesn't bother you, but for me no f*cking thanks.

I've disabled the lock screen ads and most of the tracking stuff. It's possible it's still tracking me in some way that I'm not aware of, but as far as ads.. I don't recall Windows showing me ads for anything. Where are you getting ads?

Relative to software, it's basically forever. At some point you're still riding a horse and demanding that a highway be horse-accessible. It's unreasonable.

I don't think being better than the rest entitles you to abuse whatever superlative you wish. If the tallest man in the world claimed to be "basically as tall as Everest" I'd scoff at him too.

They will also still provide 7 updates for money to corporate users.

"They FORCED free upgrades to Windows 10 for a long time (a year?)"

Fixed that little lie for you. I still have two hard drives with Win10 still half-installed because I sure as fuck did not authorize Microsoft to change my computer, yet somehow they re-enabled automatic updates and forced that shit onto my systems..

4. seems wrong. It would be illegal to repair it on your own for copyright reasons.

Windows 7 is a 10 year old operating system and pretty much any hardware that ran it can also run Windows 10. Windows 10 was a free upgrade for Windows 7 users for years as well. This is wholly different from something like a phone or Chromebook that has no upgrade path at all when the OS support ends.

I have a game written for windows in 1999, and the same exe runs on my Dell xps. That's support.

Would you bet your house on the same happening on any other platform?

Android drops APIs left and right, apps just a couple years old stop working. MacOS is even worse, and Linux graphics stack is beyond comprehension.

In fact, developers make a loss on the unit productivity of their time by using Microsoft products, but make it up on volume because they use those products forever.

I wonder if we can imagine a future where most software is simply released in a secure state, or it's not humanly possible to design sufficiently-advanced software that is anything but a teetering stack of security holes just waiting to be discovered.

I think it's possible to make fairly secure software but it's a massive change from the way software is put together today. Nobody really wants to pay for that.

Even stuff like OS research (which is what we need if we want a proper security model and a system not written in a horribly unsafe language) is virtually dead because the second you bring up some new experimental system, geeks are going to gang up against you with "what about my legacy proprietary applications, and what about drivers! this is worthless! everyone should just use linux!"

That happened to my Chromebook too, so I just installed GalliumOS on it, and it's been getting updates regularly for over a year now.

The problem is even though we can do this, the average user doesn't. They get the unsupported message and they then throw the laptop in the bin and buy the same thing again.

All electronics makers should be required by law to supply security updates and spare parts for devices for at least 10 years after the point of sale (not after the release date).

Another thing I think would have a big impact is requiring all consumer electronics with a battery to have a user accessible method for replacing the battery. This used to be standard with all consumer electronics until very recently.

These laws aren't just needed to protect the customers from corporate bullshit, they are critical for the survival of our environment. Designing electronics to last for 2-3 years is devastating.

> All electronics makers should be required by law to supply security updates and spare parts for devices for at least 10 years after the point of sale (not after the release date).

Let's start by requiring then that chip vendors sell and support their chips for at least that long?

To stick to "10 years since introduction to market" which is a much easier requirement: 2009 was the year of AMD Phenom II (EOL 2012) and Intel Nehalem (EOL around 2012), and Qualcomm MSM7227 (couldn't find EOL date, but its direct successor came out 2011).

How much stock should they keep around for the 10 extra years after 3 years on the market? (and what happens if they underprovision, will they be sued, or overprovision, throw it all in the bin? they can't sell it, or the 10 year clock starts again)

> to have a user accessible method for replacing the battery. This used to be standard with all consumer electronics until very recently.

... and then vendors sold thinner and thinner devices, and customers preferred them over the others. The only way to get the same mileage out of a thinner device is to put batteries in every nook you can find, which doesn't work so well if the battery is supposed to be a single replaceable part. Also, there are two layers of plastic (chassis, battery container) that take away space that could be better used to store energy.

Regulation gets interesting too. What devices does this apply to? Does it apply to smart tvs, thermostats, printers, anything with software? (which will soon be everything). Components?

Can I import a device? What vetting / certification process will be applied? Who does that? What happens when devices are manufactured by subsidiaries which get folded after 3 years? What if "updates" are provided that don't actually fix any vulnerabilities? What counts as a vulnerability for the purpose of the law?

Security updates need to be supplied for anything that can connect to a network. Vulnerabilities are anything that allows remote read or write access to the device without the user's explicit consent. Companies need to open source everything needed for supplying security updates before going bankrupt (perhaps setting up a suitable insurance to make sure there is money for work needed to do so). You can't import products that don't meet these requirements, just like you can't import products that don't meet other safety requirements. If the provided updates don't actually fix the problem the manufacturer is liable for all damages. You can't sell things that depend on external servers for normal operation without also maintaining those servers (and enabling community replacement in case of bankruptcy).

A thermostat that can't be counted on to function properly for at least several times longer than ten years shouldn't be legal to sell in the first place.

I don't mean to suggest that this is a simple problem to solve. But the importance of this is far to great to ignore.

>How much stock should they keep around for the 10 extra years after 3 years on the market? (and what happens if they underprovision, will they be sued, or overprovision, throw it all in the bin? they can't sell it, or the 10 year clock starts again)

There is no reason they need to replace parts with the exact same chip they came with. If newer CPUs/chips are available they could put a new model in. There will likely need to be more standardization so individual parts can be replaced/upgraded but this is not impossible and is very common for parts like GPUs and pci cards.

There are also mountains of these parts floating around after sale. The OEM could encourage the return of unwanted electronics and then gut them for parts to use in repairs after they have been tested. Any leftovers after 10 years can be sent to recycling.

>vendors sold thinner and thinner devices, and customers preferred them over the others.

Customers preferences need to take a back seat over environmental needs. A customer can live with a 1mm thicker phone. They can't live without air and survivable weather.

None of this is trivial and it will be a massive shakeup to the status quo but there is no other alternative. In the end we will all be better off.

> There is no reason they need to replace parts with the exact same chip they came with. If newer CPUs/chips are available they could put a new model in. There will likely need to be more standardization so individual parts can be replaced/upgraded but this is not impossible and is very common for parts like GPUs and pci cards.

The tighter integration of components (instead of routing everything through pluggable buses) reduced power consumption.

Every time a data line passes through a connection (solder joint, connector) you have to crank up power a bit to make sure that the signal makes it. Every time you have to decrease clock a bit, which means more parallel connections (with higher physical requirements == more waste at some point) for the same throughput.

At some point there's a trade-off to be made between inherent eco-friendliness (because it runs on much lower power) and replacability.

> There are also mountains of these parts floating around after sale. The OEM could encourage the return of unwanted electronics and then gut them for parts to use in repairs after they have been tested. Any leftovers after 10 years can be sent to recycling.

Return programmes already exist (although they generally end up in recycling, not as reused parts), and some countries mandate them (e.g. WEEE in the EU, plus RoHS to eliminate troublesome compounds).

Reuse can be troublesome since quality control is so much harder than for parts in factory fresh condition: All the paranoia here (and elsewhere) about three letter agencies tampering with devices during shipment? Multiply that by some large number because supply chain attacks just became trivial.

I'm all for designing products in an eco-friendly way, but a 2019 laptop is so much better in that regard than a 2009 model, that the decision doesn't seem simple to me at which point the 2009 model shouldn't be refurbished any longer.

> Customers preferences need to take a back seat over environmental needs. A customer can live with a 1mm thicker phone.

I agree and a thicker phone has more room for longevity (eg. sufficient shock absorbance built into the frame simply by virtue of being larger than the components inside) than a thin one that I long for a robust device. The majority of customers seems to prefer other aspects though.

> Let's start by requiring then that chip vendors sell and support their chips for at least that long?

You should make laws as close to the desired effect as possible. The market will sort out the most efficient way to accomplish that. Manufacturers will start placing availability terms into their contracts or stockpile as necessary.

Why they should electronic makers be "required" to do supply security updates and spare parts for 10 years? To begin with, 10 years is somewhat arbitrary. Why not 12? 15? 20? These tractors could be serviceable for 50 years or more? So why not 50?

Not every consumer wants or cares about this, but every consumer would be forced to pay for it. How would this even be enforced? Who will be the judge of what updates were important and what were not? What if they provide only cheap replacement parts which regularly fail? What if the company goes out of business a few years later? So many problems...

In my opinion it's one thing to create protections that prevent the stoppage of unauthorized repair, or the development of 3rd party replacement parts. However, it's another thing entirely to force companies to provide these services themselves for an arbitrary length of time.

Security updates should absolutely be a legal obligation. Their absence enables theft, criminal activity, botnets, etc.

For the same reason we have laws on fire safety, food safety, carcinogens and asbestos. Average consumer may not know or care about their existence. But if we get rid if them all, organised society will collapse.

At the very least the manufacturer should tell me in a legally binding statement, for how long a product will be supported.

I can totally get behind them having to enter into a legally binding statement, given that it increases the transparency allowing me to make an informed decision as a buyer.

However I still have difficulty in the grey area between "security" and "other" update...

Well, sure its grey but it's a finite and definable quantity

Addressing known and reported vulnerabilities would be a start - many routers and phones have known vulnerabilities and can be pwned in minutes.

Then I would include degradation of service - example, I have samsung bluray box that came with YouTube functionality. Withing 1 year that didnt work any more because of changes to youtube. Withing a period of time they should be judged to maintain such software degradations.

I'm happy to listen to alternative solutions on how the environment can be protected from needless product waste. And no, recycling doesn't come close to reuse/repairs.

>Not every consumer wants or cares about this

What consumers want or care about is less important than the ability to live on the planet in 100 years.

My argument was from the standpoint of consumer protection. If environmental protection is your goal, then I would point out a few issues.

Newer products are often more efficient. It's not clear to me that supporting older products is always better for the environment. For example, newer tractors may be orders of magnitude more efficient in fuel consumption and pollution control. I don't know this for a fact but I think there is sufficient precedent to make this assumption for at least some products. Many consumers will favor short-term gains (not having to pay the cost of a new tractor) over long-term solutions (upgrading and recycling equipment).

Leaving aside products that fit into the above category, lets look at an example of a product commonly discarded before it's usable life. Laptops, for example.

Here again it's not clear to me that legislating requirements for spare parts and security updates would make much difference. After 5 years or so all the laptops of average users that I've encountered are in terrible shape. Tons of spyware, extremely slow, and almost unusable. In this case I would usually just erase and reinstall. Now add a broken part to the list. Especially on cheap laptops, components are increasingly integrated so a single broken part could mean replacing essentially 50% of the machine. Laptops are so cheap. What do you think the consumer will chose: pay for the repair and cleanup of an essentially useless machine, or just buy a new one? So often it's the later.

The closed ecosystems that have sprung up thanks to the App Store have actually improved this, but still, in my experience, people tend to just buy something newer (and better) rather than deal with (and wait for) a repair.

I'm not claiming there would be no impact in legislating around this, but I believe it would be small, riddled with holes and problems, and that there are better approaches (to solving environment problems).

Just a wacky example but consider the following.

Manufactures typically design for a particular lifespan (such that no more than a certain % of devices would fail within a specified number of years). The idea is to reduce the amount of devices being trashed, so perhaps we could create tax incentives to encourage (a) longer life spans and (b) better recyclabiltiy.

> To begin with, 10 years is somewhat arbitrary. Why not 12? 15? 20?

I think the idea is great, filling your proposal with Xs ans Ys isn't. This is not code, it's a suggestion :)

Maybe I think too much like a programmer but then again I think maybe everyone else should think a little more like programmers too... especially legislators.

> All electronics makers should be required by law to supply security updates and spare parts for devices

I don't think that is feasible and could ruin manufacturers. But in the case they end the support, they should provide access for users to install other sofware solutions and remove protective barriers.

So here is an area where Apple is significantly better than Android.

The original Pixel is just over 3 years old and is now EOL for official releases.

iOS 13 (current version) has minimum hadware of the iPhone 6S, released September 2015. That may only be a year but it will continue to receive iOS 13 updates for probably another year or so at least (rumour has it iOS 14 will be released late 2020 and no one yet knows the minimum hardware spec for that).

Android has always been terrible for OS updates. Google's hardware was at least significantly better than, say, Samsung (for older phones getting the latest Android) but still... not great.

This is still garbage compared to Windows and Linux though. You can take basically any x86 computer from more than a decade ago and install modern Windows or your favourite linux distribution on it and it will work (albeit potentially quite slowly depending on the hardware). Are there any good reasons why Android and iOS are so much worse in this regard?

Tight coupling to binary blobs and proprietary HALs + vendor specific OS changes etc make maintenance a chore - everyone in the chain has to be on board for it to happen.

They are incentized not to, new phones means profit for carriers and new hardware means profit for chip makers.

Maintaining old products costs money, not maintaining products saves money, planned obsolescence prints money

The battery is a big part of that (IMHO). Even laptops, which obviously have batteries, tend to get used on a charger a lot. Mine are almost always on a charger.

Batteries degrade and on a device that is used 95%+ on battery power this is noticeable after 2-3 years such that there's no real point in making the hardware last longer than that.

You can argue the battery should be replaceable but that adds to the size and cost (to have the packaging and interconnects) and who is going to keep making them? I really wish there were standards for lithium batteries like we have for AA and AAA batteries. I'm not sure it's that simple though since there are bunch of parameters like peak power delivery, power storage and so son. But I'm no battery expert.

Anyway, newness of the form factor is also an issue. Back in the 90s, PCs used to be similarly short-lived. Microsoft's whole business model was built around people re-buying Windows licenses even 2-4 years.

I think this will improve as the market matures but we're still in the pioneering days in some ways.

> You can argue the battery should be replaceable but that adds to the size and cost (to have the packaging and interconnects)

This is one of those things which is technically true but practically a red herring. The amount of weight it adds is on the order of grams and the cost is pennies. They stopped making replaceable batteries because they want you to throw away the device and buy a new one.

> and who is going to keep making them?

This is the least of the trouble if the model is at all popular, because the margins on custom batteries can be quite large (e.g. charge $15 for a battery with a $3 manufacturing cost), so as long as the specifications are documented you can expect somebody to be willing to make a buck.

But what would really help is to standardize the batteries. The shape of phones hasn't really changed since the start of the iPhone era and there are only meaningfully a half dozen different sizes.

> as long as the specifications are documented

So this gets tricky and this is another reason why we can't have nice things. People produce things that look like an official thing, behave largely like an official thing but aren't to spec, sometimes with disastrous consequences like the man electrocuted by a shoddy charger [1].

As we've seen from the Samsung Note debacle a bad battery can destroy the device and even cause fires, which could easily result in death.

Imagine buying a phone battery on Amazon for your phone. The listing looks legit. The battery looks legit. Maybe that seller is even legit. But how do you really tell if it's not to spec? Maybe you order something that is to spec and because of inventory comingling you get something that isn't. What then?

You can say that it's not the phone manufacturer's fault and you may be right but it is likely going to result in a lawsuit the manufacturer would have to defend. Was the phone up to spec? Was there a compliance issue? The battery manufacturer and phone manufacturers will each point fingers at the other.

Replaceable parts are huge sources of potential problems so as much as it annoys me (and it does) that I can't upgrade the RAM in may Macbook I sort of get why and how we got here.

[1] https://www.ibtimes.com/man-electrocuted-death-while-using-c...

You can tell if it's the battery manufacturer or the phone manufacturer at fault because if it's the battery manufacturer then the same thing won't happen with the original batteries.

And how to ensure battery quality is a completely independent problem from whether you can buy a battery from someone other than who made your phone. There have been fires with original batteries and there have been third party batteries without any problems.

It's like 1975 AT&T arguing that you should have to buy an AT&T phone because it connects to the phone network. Of course they want you to buy theirs, the issue is that they shouldn't be able to require you to -- or there wouldn't be any iPhones to begin with.

To be fair, the integrated batteries can mostly be replaced. This is even easier than the proprietary casings manufacturers provided before, since you just need to match the correct voltage and a minimum current. You don't need a special casing that holds the battery.

Standardized detachable batteries would have been pretty nice of course.

But even if you buy a new battery from the manufacturer, it may already be 5 years old and degraded as well, since they would only be produced for a limited time frame. Today you just need to find one that is small enough to fit into your device and has the correct specifications.

So there are advantages and disadvantages for integrated batteries.

Except for device-specific fuel gauge / type sense pins. Some devices won't run with arbitrary baterry unless they can successfully communicate with the IC in the battery.

A tablet with a depleted battery and a USB power supply is still a viable computer/display.

One of the devices that started this thread would be a tablet Trello-board/calendar on our refrigerator if not for the fact that the device hasn't had a security update in many years.

The market will bear it. Especially in the age of subsidized phones people didn’t mind the cost as much. This may change with $1000+ flagship phones.

This is the area where Apple now sucks, hard.

Go back 5-10 years ago the the Macbook Air (not the original form ~2008 but the second one from 2010-2011) was an awesome piece of hardware. I mean it still had soldered RAM (I think?) and lacked upgradeability but it was cheap and good.

Apple's current leadership didn't like this so we end up with useless features like the Touch Bar, which exist for one reason and one reason only: to drive up the ASP (average selling price) of Macbooks.

The same thing has happened to iPhones. The last iPhone I bought was the 6S 4 years ago and I think it was $649? Expensive but not ridiculously so. Like paying that every 3 years wasn't terrible.

But now? The 11 Pro is >$1000. WTF?

And these things keep getting worse as they add features no one wants or needs to drive up the ASP (eg Force Touch).

Oh and current iPhones use FaceID which is terrible. The false negative rate is really high and having no home button actually sucks. For example, you used to get to the home screen by pressing it. Now you need to swipe up. But which direction you have to swipe up from depends on the orientation of the app you're using. That may not be obvious. It sucks.

But I don't want to pay $1000+ for a phone with a battery that noticeably degrades in 2-3 years. To hell with that.

I'd be tempted to buy the iPhone 8 (the last one with Touch ID) but for a now 2 year old model the price is unjustifiably high as they want to drive you to buy the 11 or at least the XR.

> The last iPhone I bought was the 6S 4 years ago and I think it was $649 But now? The 11 Pro is $1000. WTF?

Ridiculous argument. Apple still makes a current-generation phone roughly on par with the price that you found acceptable. Just because they also added a more expensive mode does not in any way discount that fact.

I don't think this is true, Apple has definitely been raising prices significantly in the last few years even on the cheapest models. Unless you're counting still being able to buy a generation or two behind for cheaper as "current generation"

Edit: this article has a nice chart https://www.gsmarena.com/price_history_of_apples_iphones-new...

There's a couple of blips with the 5c and the SE but for the most part even the "budget models" are more expensive than the flagships of old, and the flagships are significantly more expensive.

I'm curious how long they can continue this and still sell phones. I wonder if prices being spread out along 24 month contracts with carriers is what's protecting their sales despite the price rises.

I don’t know how you can say “I don’t think this is true”... it’s not an opinion it’s just actual fact. The iPhone 11 is $699 and the person found $650 to be acceptable. That’s roughly comparable prices.

Again, just because Apple added a more expensive model doesn’t mean the iPhone 11 is any worse nor is it “budget” or “a generation or two behind”. It’s actually called iPhone 11 not iPhone 11c or iPhone 11SE or iPhone 11R, the iPhone 11 is the model Apple expects people to buy which is why it’s called iPhone 11 as a follow up to the iPhone XS which was a follow up to the iPhone X.

The iPhone 11 at release was $699, $50 more than the person paid for the 6s 4 years ago. They got the model with 16gb and a 4.7” screen. The 11 starts at 64gb with a 6.1” screen.

Is this raising prices significantly?

Assuming 2% inflation for 4 years, the inflation adjusted price of the 6S is $702. The 11 is actually cheaper.

Coincidentally, I almost broke down and bought my first ever iPhone simply because the 8 is the only phone with a reasonable screen size that can still be bought brand new.

Those are not useful parameters to compare. Even if they were, consider prices of flash memory in the same timeframe, and the answer is yes.

I see the error of my ways now.

The breaking point is already there now that companies like Apple have a leasing plan to obscure the total cost from consumers.

I have to disagree wholeheartedly. The open source android community has kept my android phones going for years after google/the oem stopped supporting them. Meanwhile, everyone knows that if you update your iPhone to the latest version you run the risk of it running dramatically slower or with worse battery life. And there's no such thing as open source iOS. Apple is the king of planned obsolescence. Google isn't any better, but if you know what you're doing you're never locked in.

Community support is not the same as vendor support.

4-5 years doesn't sound significant to me.

I still have an iPhone 6, bought new nearly the day it was released. It plays music, it does podcasts. I can text, answer calls.

It's no longer supported by Apple.

I was planning on upgrading to the iPhone 11 Pro this year, but my current phone still does what it needs to do and does it well enough. It's a little slow though.

> It is my understanding that the primary blocker to serious open-source kernel development on phones is closed-source drivers for the phone hardware.

For what it's worth, Google (or at least parts of Google) agrees that the closed-source drivers are a problem for extended security lifecycle, and they're working with the Linux community to a) extend the kernel LTS cycle to 6 years b) make something that looks awfully like a stable API/ABI for drivers so that Android can upgrade you to a later point release of that LTS without requiring additional work from the hardware manufacturer. https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2019/11/google-outlines-plan...

In this case, my phone is a Google product. Google can make available the drivers if it so desires.

Google doesn't make chips and therefore doesn't own the SoC IP - Qualcomm does. Google may not make unilaterally decide to avail those drivers. They could theoretically play hardball with Qualcomm on the licensing, but I doubt the Pixel line brings in enough revenue for Qualcomm to even consider that threat for more than half a second.

The drivers work fine; the problem is Google dropping OS support. If Google doesn't figure something out soon, a lot of people who bought Google's iPhone competitor since 2016 are starting to notice that Pixels have no longevity and no resale value, and wondering why they are paying more to get less than an iPhone.

The drivers don't work fine when you upgrade the Linux kernel - which is the planned obsolescence that Qualcomm has relied on to push the sales of the latest Snapdragon. I don't know if custom Android ROMs are still a popular, but (SoC & camera) drivers were what forced custom ROMs to stick old kernels.

Project Treble is Google's plan to keep the drivers working - I don't know how well that's going seeing that OEMs were given the option to not support it at the time it was launched.

Hence my "parts of Google" comment - for an organization as large as Google, I don't think that saying that it "desires" anything other than profit is particularly meaningful. There are people and teams at Google who agree that this is a problem. I have no idea what influence they have over the people/teams that make the Pixel, or vice versa.

For a good example of this, see the conclusion of this recent Project Zero writeup of an Android bug (related to old kernel versions in Android, in fact): https://googleprojectzero.blogspot.com/2019/11/bad-binder-an... First, Google Project Zero determined on their own that they would approach Google Android with a 7-day disclosure timeline because of active exploitation - usually a disclosure timeline is a way to force the hand of a software vendor you don't control. Second, their suggestion for fixing it is for Android to change how they approach kernel updates.

For another good example, see the time that Google Ads penalized Google Chrome for buying paid links. https://searchengineland.com/google-chromes-paid-link-penalt...

> For what it's worth, Google (or at least parts of Google) agrees that the closed-source drivers are a problem for extended security lifecycle, and they're working...

I thought you were going to say that they're working to open source the drivers.

Saw this on a YC thread a while back, but I keep witnessing examples of it every couple weeks:


Everything is amazing but nothing is ours.

Librem phones can't come soon enough.

The issue there is that you're missing the app ecosystem. Without it, why not just use a "dumb" phone?

The app ecosystem is just a matter of time, once there exists a solid foundation. We need the breakthrough device that will make it possible to get started.

Consider Linux on the desktop. For about a decade after it became popular (late 90s) ie till late 2000s, the user experience was crappy, and the app ecosystem was sparse. But they developed so well over the next ten years that in many ways Linux today is more user-friendly than Windows/OS-X.

Enough people want it, and it will happen. And as it happens, more and more people will want it... especially since popular mobile platforms provide less freedom than the desktop ones.

95% of the market does not find Linux more user-friendly than Windows/MacOS. While Linux was getting its shoelaces tied, ChromeOS showed up and put the lie to the dream that any user-controlled Linux would satisfy the market's needs.

2020 is the Year of Linux on the Desktop.

It’s not about percentages. Even with Linux users at ~1%, that’s still a large enough number of people (including folks sophisticated enough to write apps to scratch their own itches and share what they’ve built) to sustain a healthy ecosystem.

Since you refer to Chrome OS... when I say Linux I’m referring to GNU/Linux — an environment that promotes user freedom.

While it would be nice to have more people use Linux, I’m grateful for and satisfied with having something that makes my life easier (with enough critical mass participating). “Year of the Linux desktop” is simply a feel-good “nice to have” bonus, as far as I’m concerned — no market share OCD. It’s already good enough (actually fantastic!) for the people that currently care.

> 95% of the market does not find Linux more user-friendly than Windows/MacOS

Who cares? 95% of the market does not find adblock user-friendly, even though they all hate commercials and complain about them, and would clearly benefit from installing it. Most people just don't care about their own experience too much, or just ignorant. The point is that Linux desktop has had a breakthrough critical mass of usage and that has lead to availability of high quality options, so in terms of usability Linux is one of best desktop/laptop options of today already. It is not about getting everyone onboard, it's about critical mass.

Usability is not the only thing that affects adoption. I'd wager a pretty large chunk of that 95% doesn't even know what Linux is. It also doesn't matter how usable Linux is when you can't go into a store and buy a PC with it preinstalled (although that probably falls under the umbrella of "usability" for many).

That was true before, but now 95% of people wouldn't even notice that you replaced Windows with Linux. The only program they typically use is a web browser.

Most of the "app ecosystem" is pure liability. Adware, spyware, and other forms of shitware make up the majority of all the commercial app stores (Apple's, Google's, and Amazon's.)

The original iPhone shipped without an app ecosystem. Was something like a year before they had an app store.

This is correct, but at the time there weren't really any competitors with an app ecosystem. Furthermore, the original iPhone was just a better phone than the dumbphones of the day. The bar is a lot higher in 2019 than it was when the first iPhone launched.

you mean downloadable web wrappers?

You can get really good support from Lineage OS for years to come. Been running it on all my android devices for years. The flagship models like Pixel usually have the best ongoing support.

> The flagship models like Pixel usually have the best ongoing support.

When was the last time you checked on this? As far as I can see, LineageOS support is pretty much restricted to phones that have had it for years. There is no hope if you have a recent phone. There's also no hope if you have an old phone, unless it's already supported.

For example, the most recent Pixel with support is... the Pixel. The original.

Lineage depends on the community to issue device specific builds. For instance, my dual sim traveling phone has no official Lineage support, but is well supported through the community (and indeed, everything works quite well).

I do wish Lineage had a way to promote and adopt community versions more officially.

> I do wish Lineage had a way to promote and adopt community versions more officially.

They do. That's what official support is. https://wiki.lineageos.org/devices/

But they're a dead project.

Last change 4 minutes ago: https://review.lineageos.org/q/status:open

Looks quite alive to me.

An active project that supports no hardware is still a dead project. If you want to run LineageOS, that's not a realistic goal. It's a pipe dream.

I run LineageOS on my phone. I specifically bought the phone to run LineageOS on it. It's only a pipe dream if you want to take any random phone and change the operating system.

Can't have "official" support unless everything is working. "Promoting" beta-level code would be a disaster.

The release model that LineageOS inherited from CyanogenMod included three branches of varying levels of stability. The philosophy that if it isn't already finished, there's no point starting is the problem with LineageOS today.

> There is no hope if you have a recent phone.

OnePlus 6, 6T, 7 Pro - these are not "old" devices. Granted, you might argue that OnePlus doesn't count, lol.

This has been my experience, and I feel like I've been lookding pretty hard. I'd really like to see this problem get solved.

You really can't. Devices get dropped often and kernels are left at old versions with security bugs unpatched. There's nothing in Android that's like a proper Linux distribution that keeps working for decades on the same hardware with full kernel updates.

Are there any flagship models that still have phone jack and an sdcard?

Supposedly there's so many Android phones but all are removing things. You can get phones with these, but then their support doesn't last long and generally no one cares about maintaining a replacement OS like Lineage OS.

My ideal phone would have:

- size that does fit in a hand

- phone jack

- sdcard

- hardware keyboard

- ir blaster

- stereo speakers that actually face the user

- work with frequencies of my cell provider

- easy to root

- good battery life

- easy to open and fix

- recent hardware (I rarely play games but want it to be responsive)

But since then I started giving up on some features though those 3 are still important to me.

It's impossible to find one that has all of those things now, the only phones that I owned and really like and were very close to ideal were Motorola Droid 1, and HTC One M8 and it feels like it only goes downhill.

The ir blaster would be nice, but personally I'm more interested in wireless charging (and having nfc in a us device that _isn't_ flagship... Why is it always only available in eu versions...)

Hardware keyboard isn't something I need personally, but it would certainly be useful; At least add a T9 keyboard, it shouldn't be hard to adapt autocorrect for that.

Good battery life isn't enough: I'd rather have a battery that's twice the size (6-7Ah). This makes it 5mm thicker and 5mm thicker? That's fine with me.

Not everyone cares about the camera on their phone. Dedicated cameras are still a thing, and cheap ones still work better than your expensive smartphone. Being able to read QR and bar codes is enough for me.

And to get it off my chest: give me back my buttons. I want hardware buttons on the side. Give me a home button (I don't care how big the bezel is) and instead of having an assistant button, add a pair of customizable buttons to the side of the screen (scroll for browsers and ebooks, skip/seek media, browser history, launch an app, etc). The best thing about desktop/laptop is being able to set hotkeys

And as someone who likes using tablets, please make your tablets support cases/covers that don't require a clamshell. The Nvidia shield tablet (at least) has magnetic notches in the side, which match up to magnetic tabs on the side of the cover, allowing it to be attached/removed easily. Clamshells are annoying.

Asus 2018+

Idk about rooting tho. That's a maybe. If I could throw down 500$+ I'd be able to find out.

My LG v20 was purchased the week it came out cause I'm an audiophile. This thing is literally bullet proof and 100$ now. Best phone I've ever owned. Still using it. Rooted n debloated stock ROMs are all I'm interested in all the custom ones never get updates correctly.

fxtec Pro 1 hits a most of those, exceptions are no IR blaster, battery life (depends on what you call good) and apparently it's a pain to register with Verizon (mentioning since I don't know who your provider is).

I have a pre-order, but right now I'd give it a few months while they sort out production, they seem to be hitting a lot of issues with quality of components which means orders are delayed.

Oh wow, this looks sweet at least at first sight. Don't use Verizon and IR Blaster is cool but not an absolute must (it worked really well with now discontinued HTC app that combined TV Guide with IR blaster, you clicked on a show and it switched your TV to it).

I ordered a cheap Android phone the other day because installing a non-OEM OS like Lineage mean... banking software doesn't work. I have an older phone but the last stock ROM on it is Android 5, although it is currently running Lineage with Android 9. So I bought that phone to keep at stock and have a phone I can do my banking with.

Come to think of it, I should just switch banks!

Magisk[1] works with Lineage and might be able to fool your annoying banking app.

1: https://forum.xda-developers.com/apps/magisk/official-magisk...

Don't use Magisk, but it allowed me to fool all apps that I'm aware of.

I really don't understand this mentality (doing it with a bank app, I also had it with OTP app), because I have full control over my phone that somehow makes it compromised?

What's next? I no longer will have access to my bank account because I'm less trustworthy?

Good job they don't let you access your bank account via a website if you're an admin user on a PC!

Oh wait, they do...

Honestly, I don't understand the mentality either. Admittedly the phone is more portable than a laptop, but the chances of stealing a laptop and gaining access to any cached banking credentials on it is identical to a phone, surely?

You can side-load firefox and just use the bank's mobile site.

Side loading is unnecessary. Firefox is available on both the play store and Fdroid (not sure if it's in the default Fdroid repo, but I know there's at least one third party repo with official builds)

The app has features using the camera though, and can act as a 2FA for desktop logins, otherwise I'd need my card and a card reader with a PIN pad to input the challenge given during the login process.

The Magisk recommendation should work, but you should put pressure on your bank to stop doing it.

Really? There's been no support for the pixel since the first one. It sucks, I'd love to run lineage on my pixel 2.

Honest question, what use would Lineage be on a pixel? I've used it a few times for older phones, but that was mainly to get rid of a bunch of the stupid restrictions and bloatware those phones had. Pixel phones seem like they wouldn't benefit too much from it. (Again I haven't looked into it in a while so I'm not sure of the benefits)

> The measure adopted by the Nebraska Farm Bureau laid out specific standards for any agreement or legislation:

> Right to Repair: Nebraska Farm Bureau supports the implementation of comprehensive right to repair legislation OR a negotiated written agreement between ag producers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). This legislation or agreement must:


> 4. Differentiate between repair (the restoration of hardware to its original intended function) and illegal “modding,” (modification of original hardware to bypass environmental controls).

To be pedantic, there are mods that are neither restoring originally intended functionality nor illegally bypassing environmental controls. I think that the ability to add functionality that the original manufacturer never intended is an important right that the owners of the equipment should have.

This bothered me as well. Modding to a non-illegal condition should be as equally unencumbered as a restoration of hardware to it's original intended function.

The EPA has always had laws about environmental controls (whether people care about them is a different issue, however...), so it's not something any new laws should really need to cover.

Also, a user may conceivably want to convert diesel equipment to be electric.

It is deliberately specified in order to preemptively counter the industry's argument that their proprietary systems and repair tools are there to protect the environment and the law.

This is a big deal, not only for the farmers using machinery from manufacturers like Deere, but for the rest of society who may now have some precedent for right to repair.

This doesn't establish any precedent - it's not a law or regulation, just an expression of the opinion of an association of farmers. In the equipment market, they're effectively a consumers' rights organization (except B2B? analogies to the consumer electronics market are inaccurate). Equivalent maybe to large corporate purchasers or a Chamber of Commerce endorsing R2R.

(And also, as the article notes, the national Farm Bureau that the Nebraska group belongs to has already endorsed R2R!)

Perhaps not legal precedent, but many people may feel more comfortable pushing for right to repair if they see "down to earth" farmers calling for it. The ideal is much closer to entering the mainstream now that people other than technophiles are calling for change.

Mainstream isn't fighting against right to repair, mainstream doesn't know the conversation even exists.

An economist would say that when considering buying this machinery the farmer would also consider the cost and availability of repairs and that the competition in the machinery market (the primary market) would police the secondary market for repairs. In reality, this kind of policing is hard to come by because of the time and expense of figuring out which company has the cheapest lifecycle1 costs for the equipment (do you figure out how much the blades will cost when you buy the razor). But the real reason is that lots of people just don't think about the long-term costs attached to a purchase.

Farmers are very well aware of repair and maintenance costs, the problem is you can't tell what parts and service will cost 20 years down the line. Nor do you know what is going to break 20 years down the line because none of a new model tractor or equipment is that old yet. The only people who would know would be the manufacturer who did the original stress testing on the design and cut it down to whatever price point/reliability level they wanted to achieve, and they obviously don't want you to know and you couldn't trust them even if they did tell you without seeing the testing data.

I'm pretty sure the farmers know very well the lifecycle costs of their heavy machinery, the problem isn't ill-informed consumers. The problem is the time as well as expense of repairs is controlled by the manufacturers.

The razor example isn't analogous here, you can pretty much plan for when you need new blades. A farmer can't predict when the equipment will break down.

Lifecycle costs of machinery are pretty standard (especially after whatever warranty expires). And, of course, the farmer can avoid the risks of these costs by simply extending the warranty - then all the risk is on the warranty provider.

But the homework the farmer (or any purchaser - this same issue arises for medical imaging equipment, cars, busses, etc) should do is what will the service market looklike for his or her equipment after warranty. It's not easy to do this research - but the flip side is this: if the manufacturers have to sell unlocked service, they will charge more for the original sale. Economically speaking that may be better because the costs will be clearer.

My understanding is that it is not only cost that is problematic, but rather time. If you need to harvest, then you need to harvest now, not in 2 weeks. Whereas the dealer repair shops are not always available in those time frames. Especially not if you are in the field and have to unclog something, and then need a dealer-only code to re-enable the in-failure-mode part.

Your understanding is correct. It doesn't matter if the equipment is free: if it breaks down during a planting window or harvest season you stand to lose significant amounts of money.

Dealers may not have the parts, may not be able to provide the repair without calling in a technician, or may be located far away.

People are talking about R2R making things more expensive but the opposite can be true: service centers can often be lossy operations, so if you have to service machines at a lower rate (because people are DIYing it basically) it stands to reason you no longer have to price that in. Scaling out repair literature and part availability is cheaper than the actual service.

Great comment - the concept you speak of can be described as an "information asymmetry" or more broadly as "bounded rationality" as opposed to econ 101 theories which often assume "perfect information" or perfect rationality.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_asymmetry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bounded_rationality

I think really only a rabid free-marketer (as opposed to all economists as you imply in the first sentence) would expect the market to self correct on something like this.

Thanks, I think the best way to think of this is that with better competition in the primary market, we can expect more information about secondary costs to be available at the time of purchase (and the hope is that the competitors will compete most of these away at the time of sale). I don't pretend this will likely happen at 100%, but there should be some of this in most functioning markets without huge information lacunas (such as healthcare).

When buying, if there are contractual strings attached to the use of the asset then it's more of a lease purchase than actual asset purchase. As it is now, farmers that are purchasing the asset are saying they want to use the asset as they deem fit, including repairs.

The problem is that almost every new device now includes these hidden contractual strings. Your phone will only run software signed by the developer, same with your smart tv, chromebook, your car, many new refrigerators, etc.

As a consumer, it is very hard to determine the restrictions that this imposes on ability to fix as it varies widely between devices.

I haven't seen any manufacturer label these items as a lease nor be upfront with the support lifetime.

agreed. But when they purchased the machines, they should have looked at the services terms and taken that into account when making their purchases. If there's competition in the market (no idea) then presumably someone would try to beat its competitors by offering a better service option (such as unlocked diagnostics).

This issue went to the supreme court on the question of whether a manufacturer could "monopolize" its aftermarket. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastman_Kodak_Co._v._Image_Tec....

Link is missing the trailing period:


FWIW, I had to add an extra period at the end to get the original one to get included as part of the link.

another possible trick is urlencoding the dot as %2E: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastman_Kodak_Co._v._Image_Tec...


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