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Fighting for the right to repair your own stuff (cbsnews.com)
92 points by doener 12 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 72 comments

My daughter smashed screen on her 4 year old Lenovo laptop, taking out panel and putting in new one took about 2mins.

If I'd done same thing on my retina MBP you'd be looking at a serious repair, either by me or Apple (= $$$). Making me seriously consider where I'll buy my next laptop from.

Yes. Retina MBP screen pop nearly cost me £450 a few years back. When the option was presented I bought a second hand Lenovo T470 for the same money and sold the broken MacBook Pro as is on ebay and took the kids out for a couple of days with the change.

How did I break the screen? Well I dropped it three inches onto my sofa. Yes that fragile if you get it at the right angle. No thanks!

I've had several thinkpads and nearly beaten them to death basically and they just keep going. I poured an entire cup of coffee in one a couple of years back and fell over with it while running and it had a cracked keyboard footprint which was replaced for £15 from ebay. It still worked fine when I sold it.

Yeah, Apple’s fixation on tight manufacturing tolerances is absolutely nuts with their screens. They give them zero room to warp or bend so they just shatter. It was not fun when I had to manage a fleet of them. With around 200 laptops total we constantly had a stack of 10 rotating in/out of the Apple store for broken screens.

The only thing worse is the fact that the duty cycle on the USB-C ports is so stupidly low. We ended up getting everyone these little port saver things because we got tired of sending laptops in for worn out ports.

Oh dont get me started on USB-C. My T470 has a broken USB-C after my wife tripped over the cable. Fortunately it has an old style thinkpad charger hole. My T495s has two USB-C ports which I'm hoping will last out the lifetime of the device.

All are soldered directly to the motherboard :(

The past 3 phones I owned had to be replaced due to the USB-C port. I my current phone somehow doesn'tlike it and only charges with USB-C if I use a USB-A to USB-C. These are all Pixel phones.

I've had several IBM and Lenovo Thinkpads, and even replaced a motherboard on one, and I agree that they're generally repairable, but the part is going to be $$. It gets better once the laptop is older and parts start showing up on eBay.

Are you comparing an old-style low-def laptop panel against a modern retina one, though? Of course it'll be more expensive to replace and probably require a most specialised part.

Not really. Swapping just the screen out on a Lenovo unit takes about 5 minutes with a screwdriver and spudger. It doesn't matter what screen you put in it really so I don't get this point. If they did a retina one that fits in the hole then it'd work.

I have done this numerous times on older Thinkpads to put 1080p IPS screens in.

On top of that the entire lid assembly is 500% less of a shit show than the MacBooks are (I have repaired several of them as well) for 2mm or so of extra thickness.

> If they did a retina one that fits in the hole then it'd work.

Do they do that?

That's the point. The Apple retina one is non-standard because it's more modern. That's why it's harder to replace. That's why it's more expensive to replace.

> I have done this numerous times on older Thinkpads to put 1080p IPS screens in.

Yes... I'm saying that's the easy one. The hard one is the modern retina MacBook.

Look for 5D10V82348. 14" UHD. Just drops in.

No. A Full HD replacement screen for a last year's Lenovo Thinkpad can be had for as little as $59 on Amazon.


> No. A Full HD replacement screen for a last year's Lenovo Thinkpad can be had for as little as $59 on Amazon

What are you saying no to? That's what I said - an old-style low-res Full HD screen is cheap and standard. A modern retina screen is not. That's why they're harder, and so more expensive, to replace.

It's probably this bit:

  old-style low-def
"Old style low-def" sounded more like the common super low-end 1280x768 panels. "Full HD" is at least reasonable, though people used to retina screens might not agree. ;)

Fair enough that the parts will be more costly but why should they be more difficult to replace?

They're non-standard parts so may need non-standard connectors and mountings.

One of the best way to fight for right to repair is to avoid buying products that make it difficult to repair.

Not sure this can be solved at personal level. I always put emphasis on repairability when buying tech, but my tech still gets less and less repairable every iteration.

That's a good idea, but not nearly enough. I haven't bought a single smart TV, but despite this, non-smart options have nearly disappeared from the consumer market. The only way to win this battle is through collective action in the form of legislation.

the farming right to repair case is a different case than phones/laptops case imo. farming tractors are much more expensive and much larger. You can't mail a tractor in a bubble-wrapped envelope. I support right to repair for farm equipment because its their job on the line.

the mechanisms are much simpler in a tractor and mechanical in nature.

trying to do the same with other appliances could be dangerous or fatal if mistakes are made. farmers are literally hacking their machines (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPYy_g8NzmI ) likely voiding warranty.

What's the influence of an item being small or possible to send on whether people should repair it?

The mechanisms in a tractor are different, not necessarily simpler. Replacing a keyboard on a Thinkpad is both mechanical and as siple as it gets.

Messing up a mechanical repair can absolutely be dangerous: it's a few horspower you could suddenly have out of control.

Most farm implements are dangerous even when under normal operating conditions. Farmers must be self reliant and able to repair there equipment or else the farm can fail. And a failed farm can take years to come back - if ever.

Computers are machines in a very similar fashion, and it's also people's jobs on the line when they can't complete their work with their machine.


Consider the question of "something went wrong and the field was over-fertilized and will not be able to grow anything for 5 years" or "something went wrong and 5x the legal limit of pesticide was sprayed on the field."

If this is stock equipment with stock software, the manufacture would be at least partly liable (probably fully liable).

If you modify the equipment/software so that it plants seeds at a different density than the settings and inadvertently make it so that when the fertilizer runs it also overfertalizes the field - who is at fault?

You own it. You can modify it. Is the manufacture still responsible for the functionality of the device after you modify it? If the modification is software and after the "oops, I screwed up" do a factory reset of the software - is the company properly able to defend itself from changes to the software?

Who is at fault if you try to repair your car's brakes and they fail, killing a pedestrian?

Simple: you are.

In theory this is true.

In practice someone facing liability for having done something at the level of killing a pedestrian or illegally poisoning a field will be doing everything they can to reduce their exposure.

Claiming the problems result from the original design and not the changes may be their first step in their defense.

Once that defense has been raised, it won’t necessarily be simple to prove whether the repair was the cause of the problem or not.

But, this is an interesting issue. Perhaps the right to repair would be more palatable if it came with a blanket indemnity from legal liability for manufacturers once the device is repaired or modified in any way.

...which is exactly what a manufacturer would do if they were sued. what you are describing is a problem with the legal system and not with repairing our on property.

Which is kind of interesting - because farm equipment doesn't have that sort of protection.

Product Liability in the Farm Equipment Industry - https://youtu.be/NdN577BbnSY?t=1166

Also: https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/agriculturallaw/2019/05/pr...

> When purchased equipment is altered, the manufacturer is generally released from liability unless the manufacturer could have reasonably foreseen that purchasers would alter the equipment in the manner that resulted in injury.

So if you could have modified a tractor in a way that was not obviously bad and the manufacturer didn't try to stop you from doing it, the manufacturer could still be liable.

Is it reasonable to believe that if the purchaser has the ability to modify the software, they will? If so, how does one rewrite the liability laws for farm equipment?

And while physical modifications may reduce manufacturer liability - what about software? And the ability to reset the software so that evidence of the changes are no longer present?

There's a challenge with the law for repair and liability for farm equipment that needs to be reconciled. That liability issue doesn't exist for other domains (modifying a personal computing device). You aren't likely to find a $6M claim against Apple for ripping someone's arm off - that is an issue with farm equipment.

That depends on what you mean by ‘right to repair’.

If you are only talking about banning terms and conditions that forbid repairs or modifications, then I agree.

If you are talking about banning design choices, then clearly we are not just talking about repairing our own property.

Before I read this article, I was thinking about how repair shops are making a come back. uBreakiFix has about 600 stores in the US that repair phones, tablets, computers, gaming systems and other devices every day.

Just a sidenote that to build stuff that is "also easy to be repaired" is not that easy.

You need another new skilset from designers and mechanical designers to not only make small, beautiful and "easy to build and durable things" but also easy to fix things.

You also need more from the production chain to be able to ship parts and instructions how to change them. And ship them.

Things needs to be recyclable and should be fixable. Just saying, IMHO, that it is harder and I understand why in some stage it's not done.

True, but John deere makes a ton of money from selling spare parts. (despite what you hear, tractors are repairable)

Deere Employee, but not speaking for my employer.

While I certainly align with the sentiment, it's almost surreal to watch in action.

If you don't buy products with these conditions you never once face these problems.

The title really should be: "fighting for the right to repair products I happily bought when the EULA clearly said I couldn't do that"

Maybe stop buying these products and the companies will change their tune like the wind.

> products I happily bought

I think this (emphasis mine) is somewhat disingenuous. Sometimes there are no other options, or they have significant tradeoffs (in ways that aren't due to that clause in the EULA).

I think a better phrasing would be something like, "fighting against the ability of EULAs to restrict the buyer's right to repair".

Drawing a parallel to an extreme, to show where the argument comes from: we also don't allow people to sign themselves into slavery, even though in some circumstances people will "happily" do just that.

Collective-action solutions for collective action problems? Nah, let's just wait for everyone to simultaneously sacrifice for the greater good. Any day now... any day...

"if you don't want to shop at the company store[1], don't shop at the company store"

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_store

> Maybe stop buying these products and the companies will change their tune like the wind.

That requires quite a high level of market efficiency to work. It might work if this was enterprise-enterprise trade, but it is unrealistic to assume the end user will compare (or even read) the long lawyerish EULAs and determine which will be more beneficial in the long term.

I do agree that a specific law can feel like "a hack" and less elegant than a free market solution, but I don't really see how to achieve that here.

You mean the EULAs that no one ever reads because if they did, it would practically constitute a part-time job?

More to the point, EULAs companies insist they can change at will and without notice, with your continued use of the service constituting your assent to the changed terms. The courts might say it doesn't work like that — again — but that's rather cold comfort when you're locked out of the system on Wednesday for something which was allowed on Monday:




> If you don't buy products with these conditions you never once face these problems.

Until they're the only kind of products left. See smart TVs.

Buying a product with an illegal EULA and then refusing to adhere to the illegal EULA is in actuality one of the highest forms of protest around this topic that one can carry out. Otherwise you're complicit via fear.

The right to repair is in my opinion a controversial topic. It basically boils down to costs of labor in western societies. Essentially it is too expensive to store parts, manuals and trained labor to repair products.

It is way cheaper to just produce a new product from scratch.

Your assessment is off the mark. The point of right to repair is for manufacturers to simply stop being hostile to repairing. Using screws with special/custom heads, forcing authentication of spare parts, etc., are all hostile. One could argue more about the use of glue in everything, but that’s more about the limitations of a specific design and not necessarily intentionally hostile (though in some cases it is).

The cost of labor has absolutely nothing to do with this. A single person who wants to fix their own phone or tractor should be able to do it without having to jump through ridiculous hurdles or being outright blocked from doing so by the manufacturer.

>The point of right to repair is for manufacturers to simply stop being hostile to repairing

I'm all for right to repair that allow consumer freedom to repair their own device, i.e the manufacturer can't sue you for repairing your own device.

What I won't support is if it require the manufacturer to design the product differently, i.e forcing apple to make thicker device/using different screw in order to make battery replaceable.

Why not? Why can we not require companies to design their products differently?

I'm sure car manufacturers would love to exclude all those pesky expensive safety features from their new cars, but they're not allowed to do that. We've required them to design parts of their product in specific ways.

Or how about airplanes? Boeing sure seems enthusiastic to get rid of safety features on their airplanes, should we really allow them to do so?

Or how about the phone you might have in your pocket? It talks to a cell tower right? We've restricted the designs of the radios in the phones and cell towers such that they don't emit more EM than a set limit. Surely Verizon could get much better coverage if they just crank up their signal, drowning out everyone else?

Point is, we regularly and consistently restrict how manufacturers can design, manufacture and eventually operate various goods. Why should Apple get a pass?

> Why can we not require companies to design their products differently?

of course you can, you can make any law, if you can gain enough support. Its matter of preference. I'm okay with safety regulation, even then there is a limit with that, I'm not okay with too much safety regulation.

Apple doesn’t get a pass when it comes to health and safety regulations.

That's missing the point. The point is there is precedent to control how companies design and manufacture products when it suits us as a society to control them.

As such, I do not see why it would be wrong to impose additional controls on Apple (and other companies -- I'm not singling out Apple) to such effect. If you really need a way to spin this as a net positive to society, how about that we would throw away fewer phones and thus do less damage to the environment?

It’s not missing the point you suggested Apple gets a pass where other companies don’t. That’s false they have to comply with the same kinds of safety and environmental regulations as you mentioned.

As to the government controlling design of products, the precedent is narrow and scoped only to prevent direct harm to consumers for a reason - liberal democracy is based on the principle of freedom as long as you aren’t harming anyone.

If you broaden the scope to the government imposing arbitrary design decisions on companies, you stop having a liberal democracy, and move into fascism.

I know that’s an inflammatory word to use - but state control of companies is a defining feature of fascism, and limiting state control to only what is needed to prevent direct harms is a defining feature of liberalism.

So I think we must oppose the generalization.

The environmental argument is reasonable to consider, in the sense that it is within the scope of liberal democracy to control environmental harms, because those are ways we harm other people through our actions.

By this logic, design changes could only be required if they had a substantial impact on reducing waste.

Apple themselves are investing an enormous amount in increasing the life of their products, especially phones.

I think it’s likely that if they had to compromise their designs in arbitrary ways, there would almost certainly be more broken phones and more waste, not fewer.

This is where the rubber meets the road for me.

Does making a phone easier to repair make it last longer? I’d say most likely not.

Things that make phones last longer are more robust physical designs so they can withstand heavy use, and everyday use without breaking.

Reasonable people may disagree on this, but for me this is where the argument gets interesting.

What designs lead to the most sustainable products?

Spare parts is about theft protection. If you can't put in spare parts, that means theives won't steal a tractor and sell the parts on eBay.

It should be easy and cheap to recode eBay parts, but only once they are verified not stolen.

Here we're not asking them to use a different screw, but to use the regular screws. Clearly they went out of their way to design a new screw which no one else uses. Please don't

Explain to me what is the danger of this things:

- make public the schematics of electronics

- let your users buy spare parts, don't use lawers or DRM to prevent using an un-official part as long is a choice I am making ( who would like that his car won't work if you replace the stereo or a light bulb with an equivalent or better one but that is not from the approved companies)

- let anyone use the debugging software and ports, I should not have to travel and pay so some guy would use a proprietary tool to read and translate an error code.

- let people salvage parts from broken devices and fix with them other broken devices, don't be evil and DRM stuff or destroy good parts because you want to sell new shiny things.

- if you sell a device you should not have the right to brick it with an update, if you can't support it anymore you should be forced to unlock it and if is IoT thing open it up enough so people can use their own server alternative.

I am sure someone will say something about batteries exploding but from my memory we had devices with batteries for a long time and we could change the batteries, we could mod the cars, we could mod the computers and no precious billion dollars companies "shiny" image had to suffer for it.

Perhaps we should add - once a device has been modified or repaired, the manufacturer is indemnified against all consequences relating to its use.

See: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24810868

There are laws that are forcing the manufacturer to explain why me changing the mirror on a car would void my warranty of the engine. And is fair, if I changed something in the engine and the engine got destroyed because of it they will not have to pay anything. Is it impossible that 1 guy could abuse this system , yes it is possible, should be screw everyone else because of this possibility instead of finding a way to prevent the abuse? sure we should do this instead of screwing everyone and by "coincidence" making more money for the companies that are against right to repair.

This is true for cars - but not farm equipment.

It’s really not clear what you are trying to say here.

We have already in most countries laws for warranty. My warranty is not just voided because I opened my laptop and cleared the dust and it is a good thing.

Ok, but the right to repair goes beyond just opening the laptop and clearing dust.

Your warranty should be voided and the manufacturer should no longer be liable if you make unauthorized repairs.

Read Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This is why car manufacturers cant pull this type of shit https://www.mclarenlife.com/threads/psa-mclaren-is-trying-to...

So what?

That’s a piece of legislation about cars.

It doesn’t apply to anything else, nor should it.

There are similar laws for electronics, at least in EU, you need to have a good reason to void my warranty, if I say upgraded the 512Gb SSD with a bigger one and then the keyboard broke you just need to put an effort and invent some plausible reason before you void my warranty.

Though let's be honest, most people that end up in third party repair shops are there because the warranty expired already and for example Apple charged them almost the full price of the device to have it fixed.

“Apple charged them almost the full price of the device to have it fixed.”

What kind of repair are you talking about?

and by amazing sheer coincidence the main topic, and the poster you try to argue with both talk about CARS.

So what - we’re talking about the more general right to repair. The original posting also talks about Apple.

If you want to talk about things that only apply to cars, this isn’t a very useful conversation to be having on Hacker News.

If you want to explain how this law would be applied in a more general way, that might help.

The only danger is to the companies profit margin. Why buy new when you can just fix old?

I 100% agree with your comment.

I generally support the sentiment.

However the biggest arguments I can see are around security and counterfeiting.

I don’t want to worry about whether the device I’m buying has been compromised with replacement parts that leak data, or render otherwise render the device insecure.

Buy a new device or buy a second hand one from the approved companies.

Second hand always has a risk and the price reflects that. I know the stress my family had before deciding what second hand car to buy. But I also know the fact that they could replace a car mirror,body parts and even an engine with parts from cars in the junk yards - in the future your Apple/Tesla car will not let you start it if you replaced the windshield with one from a different car, you will need to use official replacement parts and use an official dealership that will remove the DRM locks for a big price. In this future a car with a broken engine will be scrapped instead no part will be reusable because it will be more profitable to make a new car or only fix the cars in the official dealerships.

That doesn’t solve the problem.

If other people buy insecure or faulty devices, I can be harmed.

>If other people buy insecure or faulty devices, I can be harmed.

How can you say that I should not repair or upgrade my phone / laptop without Apple blessing because my device could harm you WHILE at the same time I can repair my car at a third party mechanic and fucking cars have more potential to cause damage then electronics and tractors, though car manufacturers are hating this are against right to repair and pushing this FUD campaigns. As long as you have the choice to repair your phone at an official place then is not your bussiness that some guy is capable to cleanup the water from the device itself or he is competent to fix is speackers or his car and fix it itself.

When I was a kid I was "fixing" digital watches by replacing broken parts from other broken watches(most of them were using compatible displays or bracelets) but in future this evil corps want to make it illegal, make proprietary scres and copy right them so I can;t open the device, put DRM in them so I can't change a display etc the result would be a lot e-waste and more money for the corporations. And who knows maybe if you see a kid that opened up an electronic device you will call the police to handle the dangerous situation.

“How can you say that I should not repair or upgrade my phone / laptop without Apple blessing because my device could harm you WHILE at the same time I can repair my car at a third party mechanic and fucking cars have more potential to cause damage then electronics and tractors”


The work of third party mechanics is not remotely comparable to diy repairs. They are:

1. Are strictly licensed

2. Are strictly regulated

3. Are liable for safety problems they cause.

4. Are required to carry insurance because of #3.

Stolen parts are the danger. Theives steal cars and strip them for parts if they can get away with it.

And cars get in accidents and parts could be re-used and sold. I assume stolen parts are profitable only in the market where this parts are hard to find, like for expensive limited edition cars. Make the parts available from multiple vendors , have them cheaper and less people would risk their liberty for cheap parts.

Maybe we should also solve the crime problem more directly by catching the criminals or giving them jobs and not by screwing the society with making things un-repairable (and what I coincidence this is also very profitable for the big companies and affects only the small business and citizens, but yeah coincidences happen I am sure Tesla and Apple were thinking about theft and not about money)

The price threshold for repairing stuff in the west is simply a bit higher. Would you like to be limited to just the car shop that's certified by your car manufacturer for car repairs?

I had a phone with a user-serviceable battery. It took no special parts to replace it. And so I used a machine that otherwise would've gone to electronic waste for several more years.

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