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On iFixit and the Right To Repair (vice.com) 250

Jason Koebler writes: Motherboard sent a reporter to the Electronics Reuse Convention in New Orleans to investigate the important but threatened world of smartphone and electronics repair. As manufacturers start using proprietary screws, offer phone lease programs and use copyright law to threaten repair professionals, the right-to-repair is under more threat than ever. "That Apple and other electronics manufacturers don't sell repair parts to consumers or write service manuals for them isn't just annoying, it's an environmental disaster, [iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens] says. Recent shifts to proprietary screws, the ever-present threat of legal action under a trainwreck of a copyright law, and an antagonistic relationship with third-party repair shops shows that the anti-repair culture at major manufacturers isn't based on negligence or naiveté, it's malicious."
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On iFixit and the Right To Repair

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  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @11:13PM (#50999025) Homepage
    If they want to offer a lease (with the right of the customer to return the leased object to the legal owner at no cost to the leasee), that's one thing.

    But if you own something, you have all legal rights to not just repair but to modify as well. The most the manufacturers should be able to do is cancel the warranty on modification.

    • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @11:41PM (#50999155) Homepage Journal

      > The most the manufacturers should be able to do is cancel the warranty on modification.

      Wrong. Only failures as a direct result of any modification should be denied. See: Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Installation of a third-party part should not void the warranty. If Apple could get their way they would probably void the warranty if you use third-party headphones/earbuds with the iPhone.

      Some PC manufacturers tried to pull this crap when users added RAM or peripheral cards with a sticker on the chassis sealing it shut, reading "warranty void if removed." Um yeah... people always chose PCs with 8 slots to not expand them.

      • Warranty on what exactly.

        If you purchase a pre-assembled computer, you have a right to warranty on the way these parts are assembled in on top of the warranty of each single part. You can actually go and claim damages if, e.g. the cooling isn't sufficient and the CPU gets damaged because the fan was improperly installed. This is of course out the window if you open the case because it's no longer possible to determine whether you have tampered with it and hence whose fault it is that the heat sink wasn't pr

        • If you purchase a pre-assembled computer, you have a right to warranty on the way these parts are assembled in on top of the warranty of each single part. You can actually go and claim damages if, e.g. the cooling isn't sufficient and the CPU gets damaged because the fan was improperly installed. This is of course out the window if you open the case because it's no longer possible to determine whether you have tampered with it and hence whose fault it is that the heat sink wasn't properly installed on the CPU.

          NOPE. At least, that's not how it works in the US of A, and if that's how it works in your country, you are getting a hard sandpaper fucking. The PC is a modular product made to be upgraded. If they don't want you tampering with stuff inside of it, they need to put a tamper seal on each thing they don't want you touching. And if I need or want to replace it, so long as the replacement item meets specifications, then I can do that without voiding my warranty. Then the issue of what claims were actually made comes into play. The system is sold for example as having PCI slots and a certain CPU socket, so if you install cards which comply with the PCI spec then they can not void your warranty for that.

          Cars work the same way, everyone likes an automotive example. As long as I use fluids and parts which meet OE spec, I can interchange them freely without voiding my warranty. If I should replace an engine part (say, the intake manifold) with a part which is outside specifications (like a supercharger) then I'll void the warranty only on parts which are affected by the change, in this case the engine and maybe other powertrain components. But if a switch in the cockpit fails, that's still covered.

          TL;DR: No sane warranty system voids warranties on modular products just for opening the case.

        • by mysidia ( 191772 )

          because it's no longer possible to determine whether you have tampered with it

          Sorry, NO. It is not legal to deny your customer warranty, because you can't determine they did not tamper with it.

          If they claim they didn't touch it, then you actually have to be able to prove that specific device was abused by the consumer to deny warranty.

          They can still claim damages against the CPU, even if they broke a sticker and opened the case.

          The consumer has a legitimate right to inspect the unit, and the sy

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        Wrong. Only failures as a direct result of any modification should be denied. See: Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

        Yes, unfortunately Magnuson-Moss is not strong enough.

        What we really need is a law that says if the manufacturer creates an electronic device that is not readily- accessible to repair shops for economically available fully-functional replacement of every physical component and electronic component or module, then the manufacturer is required to warrant the device against defects in the devic

        • by dave420 ( 699308 )

          If we apply those rules to, say, phone manufacturers, we'd end up with massive, phones (as modularity takes lots of space - screws, sockets, etc.) which will be obsolete 40% of the way in to their mandated warranty period. The suppliers will have to keep massive stocks of parts, driving up the cost of each phone.

          You've not really thought this one through, have you?

          • I've torn down my S4 completely to replace a shattered screen. For an early large-screen smartphone it is remarkably slim. The new glued-together-to-render-unrepairable model hasn't really saved any space; it is only contributing to the e-waste problem. I hate that we have become such an irresponsible society where everything is becoming disposable.

    • Playing the devil's advocate... Where exactly is our "right to repair" granted? Is it in the constitution? Is it a bill signed into law?

      Judging by the lobbying efforts that are taking place now, we actually don't have a right to repair. We would like one though.

      • It's in the definition of the word SALE.

        If I buy something I OWN it. That means I get to do with it what I want, barring government restrictions. The shcmuck that sold it to me does not have the right to say "HEY! You can't DO THAT!"

        They gave up that right when they sold it to me.

        When I sell you a house, I can't then complain and say "Now wait a second, I may have sold you that house, but it's still mine and I don't like that new garage you are building!"

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          It's in the definition of the word SALE.
          If I buy something I OWN it. That means I get to do with it what I want, barring government restrictions. The shcmuck that sold it to me does not have the right to say "HEY! You can't DO THAT!"

          They gave up that right when they sold it to me.

          When I sell you a house, I can't then complain and say "Now wait a second, I may have sold you that house, but it's still mine and I don't like that new garage you are building!"

          Correct. The real reason we see this is twofold - fir

          • The real reason we see this is twofold - first, because of manufacturing and second, because of fraud.

            No, you missed the third -- and most important -- reason: if the corporate oligarchy can abolish the concept of property rights (only for "consumers," of course), they can turn us all into serfs and force to rent everything from them in perpetuity.

  • exaggerate much (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The Apple Recycling Program offers free and environmentally friendly disposal of your iPod and any manufacturer's mobile phone.

    http://www.apple.com/recycling/ipod-cell-phone/ [apple.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Fair enough, but does not solve the problem. I should be able to have the device repaired, not disposed of.
      • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

        If it's worth fixing, Apple will fix it and sell it as refurbished. Only applies to Apple hardware, obviously.

        • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

          What they won't do is necessarily repair shit for me when it is broken.

          I haven't had a problem with any of their phones, but I had an ipod with a loose headphone connector. They simply told me they couldn't repair it. Not "it's not under the warranty so it will cost X", but just "nope, can't be arsed to pop open the proprietary screws we used and solder it down". They offered me like a 20 dollar credit on an entirely new one- which at the time was a couple hundred bucks for a model that was not particula

        • Except that now you have to go buy a brand new device for several times the cost of repairing it might be (especially if you can do it yourself).

          It is a lock-in technique, obviously.

          At some point down the road, when there are no more cheap labor pools, resources become more scarce and landfills are overloaded, we will see a return to re-usable stuff... but I guess for the next few hundred years at least, stuff is going to get more disposable due to the short sightedness of greedy corporations.

    • Or you could keep that hardware out of African smelter and running perfectly with a few cents' worth of copper:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVAmnV65_zw

    • Re:exaggerate much (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Wednesday November 25, 2015 @12:17AM (#50999269) Homepage Journal

      thats veeery generous of them.

      oh wait, 99% of countries they offer it in already have consumer laws that dictate that the shops that sell the stuff have to accept used electronics and dispose of them properly(and as apple is doing direct sales, this puts them on the hook). who wants the hassle of going to the place to dispose of them though... not surprised of apple branding legal requirements as 'bonus' though!

      the problem is more along the lines of apple not providing parts for fixing(3rd party pretty much) and their move to non-fixable at all on purpose devices. now this wouldn't suck so much if for example your ipod classic 160gb broke it's headphone jack(like all of them do, eventually).. since uh, what are you going to replace it with? a 16gb ipod touch?

      thats the real problem, you find a device you like and you can't keep it running and you can't buy a replacement.

    • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Wednesday November 25, 2015 @12:58AM (#50999349)

      No. It's a million times worse than this article could ever possibly suggest. Unrepairable products are worse than Hitler and they will cause a plague of giant, unkillable kitten-eating spiders to build hidden nests in your home and workplace to covertly drain your blood little-by-little when you're distracted -- possibly by the crippling fear that your gadgets might break and you might have to buy the new improved one for yourself. The only thing worse than unrepairable products is people who exaggerate.

  • here's why: 1. digitally, it's 0 or 1. on or off. do or do not. there is no TRY. 2. it will work day one or not. USUALLY, if it works out of the box, it's good for a while. 3. if failure occurs soon enough, your credit card provides additional compensation. 4. if it appreciates in value: buy it. if it depreciates: lease (rent) it. 5. finally, proprietary screws open opportunities for the after-market.
    • by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @11:46PM (#50999169)
      Here is a repair scenario that you forgot:

      You buy a phone, and like it. You use it. A lot. Over the course of using it, the usb charging port starts to become intermittent. It's a part whose value is $.50 or less, but if it can't be repaired, you have to throw the whole phone away. What a waste of money!

      Another one:

      The battery in your phone is no longer holding a useful amount of energy to power the phone all day. You could replace the battery and bring the whole phone back to "like-new" condition, but the manufacturer has glued the case together. This is the malicious intent: The manufacturer *KNEW* that the battery would not last forever, and still welded the case shut. You would not stand for this if it were your car.
      • The battery in your phone is no longer holding a useful amount of energy to power the phone all day. You could replace the battery and bring the whole phone back to "like-new" condition, but the manufacturer has glued the case together. This is the malicious intent: The manufacturer *KNEW* that the battery would not last forever, and still welded the case shut. You would not stand for this if it were your car.

        I really don't like defending cell phone companies, but I have to play devil's advocate on this one. Gluing all the components together may be the only, or most cost effective, way of giving the phone enough structural integrity to not bend when put in your pocket. These things are /always/ malicious, sometimes it is a really engineering problem that needs to be solved in a way that balances the different things the consumer wants.

        • by MyAlternateID ( 4240189 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @11:55PM (#50999199) Homepage

          The battery in your phone is no longer holding a useful amount of energy to power the phone all day. You could replace the battery and bring the whole phone back to "like-new" condition, but the manufacturer has glued the case together. This is the malicious intent: The manufacturer *KNEW* that the battery would not last forever, and still welded the case shut. You would not stand for this if it were your car.

          I really don't like defending cell phone companies, but I have to play devil's advocate on this one. Gluing all the components together may be the only, or most cost effective, way of giving the phone enough structural integrity to not bend when put in your pocket. These things are /always/ malicious, sometimes it is a really engineering problem that needs to be solved in a way that balances the different things the consumer wants.

          Did you intend to write "these things are NOT /always/ malicious"?

          Anyways, with the wide variety of fasteners, case designs and manufacturing techniques, all of which are a small fraction of the total cost of a smartphone, to suggest that this really is the one and only viable and cost-effective way to make a study phone requires a burden of proof.

        • I would buy that, except early smartphones had much the same components and did not have that restriction, as some newer models do not. This would indicate an industry trend rather than an engineering problem.

        • In that case, kick out your designers and engineers and hire better ones.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The manufacturer *KNEW* that the battery would not last forever, and still welded the case shut. You would not stand for this if it were your car.

        In my car, the battery was on the trunk, under the spare tire, connected to a sensor that would trigger a light on the dashboard that only a service center with the computer specific to the car could reset (and no, you will not pass the SMOG test to get registration with that light turned on). Hence, Autozone declined to sell the the battery of the car, and I had to pay 150 extra dollars to an authorized mechanic to do a job I could have done myself otherwise. Thank you BMW.

  • The declarations of someone who is complaining that others are making it harder for him to make a buck need to be taken with a large grain of salt. iFixit for all their merits sells spare parts & repair kits. It is thus clearly in their own interest for everyone else to make it profitable for them to sell their products. iFixit would be very profitable if all phone manufacturers did everything they could to make it easier for them to sell their repair kits & repair/upgrade instead of replacing.

    Their

    • Actually, demanding more easily repairable devices wouldn't be in their best interest if they sell repair kits. If the phones are easier to fix, nobody needs the repair kits anymore.

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday November 25, 2015 @08:04AM (#51000379)

      The declarations of someone who is complaining that others are making it harder for him to make a buck need to be taken with a large grain of salt. iFixit for all their merits sells spare parts & repair kits. It is thus clearly in their own interest for everyone else to make it profitable for them to sell their products. iFixit would be very profitable if all phone manufacturers did everything they could to make it easier for them to sell their repair kits & repair/upgrade instead of replacing.

      I disagree. iFixit would be out of business if all phones and laptops were easy to take apart to repair. I don't have to visit iFixit to repair most Windows laptops because their disassembly is (reasonably) straightforward. I do have to visit iFixit to repair most Macbooks because Apple tries to make it as difficult as possible. Most of the spare parts and repair kit tools iFixit sells are only necessary because of the proprietary and weird things Apple has done to make their products difficult to open up and take apart.

      So iFixit is actually advocating something which would effectively put them out of business. A true sign of people who value the craft more than the money they earn from it.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Their contention that do-it yourself repairmen are better for the environment it is completely unsupported. iFixit does not recover the broken parts that their clients are replacing and old parts are typically tossed in the trash. Manufacturer repair shops like Apple's have recycling policies that do recycle broken parts as well as old devices that people turn in when upgrading.

      You are missing the point. When faced with a broken device and a very high Apple repair bill (have you see how much they charge for things like new keyboards, screens and batteries?) many people will just throw the device away and buy a new one. In fact that was Apple's original policy on iPod batteries that died after 18 months [youtu.be]. Buy a new iPod.

      Repairing is almost always better for the environment than making a new one.

    • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

      Their contention that do-it yourself repairmen are better for the environment it is completely unsupported. iFixit does not recover the broken parts that their clients are replacing and old parts are typically tossed in the trash. Manufacturer repair shops like Apple's have recycling policies that do recycle broken parts as well as old devices that people turn in when upgrading.

      You believe this? No, seriously, you think this crap actually gets recycled, and disposed of in an environmentally-friendly way?

      Bull. Shit. It gets shipped overseas to "recycling partners" at which point Apple and Co can wipe their hands clean and say they did their part. But where does it actually go? To Africa, where children burn cables and other electronics in fires to try and smelt off the metal. Or it just goes to China, where it's buried in a landfill. Apple and others

      You really think that broken IC

  • If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
  • by fafaforza ( 248976 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @11:44PM (#50999163)

    https://www.youtube.com/user/rossmanngroup

    There's really no reason for Apple not to give more information on their hardware, other than forcing you to forgo a $50 repair in lieu of a $700 motherboard from Apple. So many of this guy's fixes are very simple. Just fixing some contacts with a few pennies' worth of solder.

    But because Apple doesn't want anyone to track down these little issues, the whole thing gets shipped to some country with no environmental and labor laws, where noxious gases are released into the environment. This is how Apple became so wealthy, I guess. Good for them.

    • There's really no reason for Apple not to give more information on their hardware, other than forcing you to forgo a $50 repair

      • - Don't feed competition with detailed manufacture information
      • - Ensure a constant and high level of service
      • - Keep the same components in all devices
      • - Image preservation: don't look like some other cheap brands

      Not a fanboi, just trying to find relevant arguments (plus the obvious ones you gave) that help Apple to stay at the top of the standards...
      (NB slashdot please fix your css)

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom ( 2244874 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @11:48PM (#50999173)
    For the past 20 years the automechanics of my family would lament the computers in the cars make parts of the car impossible to fix without a hookup device. Then over time they would complain that doing something that would be easy to do on an older car was almost as if the engineers designed the cars not to be worked on. And just on Slashdot in the past 2 years, an article was posted about how some car companies were thinking of making a TOS that says you can't work on your own car. I understand about liability and them not wanting to be responsible if you get hurt working on your car, but for that to be a reason to take it away from you isn't right. I don't care if it gets 5mpg less, but a car or truck that could be worked on could be a marketable thing if you could get around liability. Of course this idea is probably just as bad as The Homer Simpson Car. Liability laws are out of hand, and one of the reasons we have to pay for costly insurance.
    • I was buying headlamps for my (2007) car and complained to the salesman about how I had to look up the instructions online because the manual said to take it to a dealer. He told me that many newer cars required the bumper to be removed to change the bulbs out. I've since heard the EU made or is making some laws about serviceability for bulbs and filters. I'm on my original cabin air filter in that car because you have to remove the glove box to swap it out. Some of it, though, is clearly just done beca
    • As someone who works on cars and motorcycles as a hobby, I'd say yes and no.
      1. Plugging into your car to find out where the faults are is fantastic. Emission laws have resulted in cars being much more complex. With all of the sensors all over the vehicle (MAF, MAP, O2, CPS, ABS, etc.) it's great having a computer tell you which one is sending voltage outside parameters. If there was no computer telling you where the problem was you'd spend quite a bit of time with a multimeter.

      2. When someone says that s

  • by AndyKron ( 937105 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @11:52PM (#50999191)
    I've hated Apple WAY before they came out with that damn patented screwdriver.
  • by LVSlushdat ( 854194 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @11:52PM (#50999193)

    I supported Dell corporate systems for the last 10 or years of my working career, and recall that you could go out to the Dell website and download service manuals for all of the Dell models we had, namely Optiplexes and Latitudes, I've been out of that world since about 2010, and when I bought my current laptop, a Dell Precision M4400 in 2012, I, naturally went to download the service manual for it, and found there was no such thing anymore.. All there is now is a quick-reference guide for each model... Pretty fucking sorry, Dell... And now I see they're pulling the same shit as Lenovo with the MITM certs... Now all I can say is FUCK YOU TOO, DELL... No more new Dells for me and mine.. Used only..

  • by BrendaEM ( 871664 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @11:55PM (#50999203) Homepage

    Soldered on this, glued in that. Now, we can make hardware that won't go obsolete after a few years, but now also, people want to make everything so it can't be repaired.

    Like they say, we are just borrowing this planet from our children.

  • by macraig ( 621737 ) <mark DOT a DOT craig AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 25, 2015 @12:03AM (#50999231)

    Sounds like Apple and other arrogant manufacturers are playing the odds of running afoul of California's so-called Lemon Law. It's about much more than just automobiles. It's very much about "right to repair".

    • say more...

      • by macraig ( 621737 )

        I wish I could, but too many details have fled since I researched it for my own encounter with such abuse. I had an awesome Nokia monitor - back when Nokia still made such awesome things - but the time came when it failed. In trying to get it repaired, I discovered that Nokia had sold off that business to Viewsonic, which had promptly cancelled the manufacture of spare parts for that model. I learned of the Lemon Law and how it requires manufacturers to keep repairable all products sold for more than $10

  • Apple is among the worst for this situation. I believe that almost every Apple device today is sealed and unserviceable. The disk drive in my old iMac died years ago but it is such a pain to get inside I just use an external drive. I'm a hardware/software hacker and I like things that I can mod and upgrade. Sorry, that's so last century. Unfortunately the time I spend hacking is not as productive as the time I spend using my devices as a tool to get real work done.

    On the upside, every time I bring my stuff

    • It's expensive to enjoy cutting edge tech

      Why does this fact belong in a discussion about Apple? Apple has only once had anything like cutting-edge technology. We called it Altivec, and now every processor has one or more vector units. Their advantage lasted about five seconds. Remember, Apple's original "make it big" products are the Apple II, which was little better than kit computers of the day (and for good reason) and the Macintosh, a fully-graphical computer system with no hardware graphics acceleration. The Amiga made it look like a squashed

    • I'm sorry, I cannot buy into the statement

      "If we keep our 10 year old tech and expect it to serve our current requirements we are not optimizing our experience."

      I know I'm a grumpy old man and a full time cynic but...

      Over 25 years ago, I used a 286 based PC with under 1MB RAM and a word-processor loaded from floppy. I could start the wp in a few seconds and create documents.

      Fast forward to today. My employers have dropped the latest MS Office on us. With a 4 core processor and 8 GB RAM it takes Word over

      • by shmlco ( 594907 )

        "My employers have dropped the latest MS Office on us. With a 4 core processor and 8 GB RAM ...."

        About 1.7 seconds from launch to new empty document on my quad-core i7 MBP. 'Course, it has a really fast SSD, which is from where most of the speed benefits are derived.

  • by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 ) on Wednesday November 25, 2015 @12:47AM (#50999329)

    Weird screws are nasty, but not impossible to circumvent with this one weird scientific trick that you will never believe actually works...!

    OK ok.... here's what it is:

    All you need to do it get a bic biro pen, pull out head and shaft, and then melt the plastic case tip in a flame.
    Then place the molten plastic bit over the "impossible to open" screw. Hold it there until the plastic becomes solid again.
    Et voila.... you now have a screwdriver, moulded from the weird screw you need to open. Have fun.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Except that the manufacturers have transitioned from screws to glue to screw with us.

    • by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Wednesday November 25, 2015 @01:40AM (#50999453)
      You're right, I *DON'T* believe that actually works. That custom Bic screwdriver of yours will break its tip the first time you try to turn it. It may be fine for screws that have already been loosened, but you need to apply enough torque to break the screws free, and that would just strip your pen.
    • Weird screws are nasty, but not impossible to circumvent with this one weird scientific trick that you will never believe actually works...!

      I won't believe it because I've taken things apart and I know that they use thread locker. I've destroyed the tips of REAL screwdrivers trying to take screws out of hardware.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      If the cheap plastic they make BIC pens out of was adequate for making screwdrivers don't you think they would use it? Why go to the expense of a metal screwdriver when plastic will do just fine?

      Actually, they do make plastic screwdrivers for turning things like potentiometers. They are used for calibrating things since using a metal one would affect the system being adjusted. If you try to use them on normal metal screws though, you will strip them and need to buy a new one.

  • enterprise user needs the right to remove storage / have the right destroy it and get it fixed. Dell and others are good with this. Apple not so much soldered in storage in a laptop is going to far.

  • I always wanted electronic products that I can fix (or have it fixed) if something went wrong, or change a component. I can vote with my money, sure, but we are running out of options. That's why I'm still using my HTC Desire Z phone, but I also can't find new battery now.

    When we had the Project Ara for discussion some times ago, there were so much negativity in this forum. If a forum full of geeks is so negative towards this project, how would you expect the general populace to do?

  • should be mandated from the top...
  • Parallels to IBM (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps it is time for a class-action lawsuit against these anti-repair offenders.

    In the 1970s, IBM was playing a similar game, attempting to prevent third-parties from building accessory hardware for their mainframes (i.e hard-drive consoles). A legal dispute followed and a court ordered IBM, when then dominated the computer market, to open up their products.

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