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Why We Must Fight For the Right To Repair Our Electronics (ieee.org) 224

Kyle Wiens and Gay Gordon-Byrne explain via IEEE Spectrum how people in the United States can preserve their right to repair electronics, and why people must fight for the right in the first place. Here's an excerpt from their report: So how can people in the United States preserve their right to repair electronics? The answer is now apparent: through right-to-repair legislation enacted at the state level. Popular support on this issue has been clear since 2012, when 86 percent of the voters in Massachusetts endorsed a ballot initiative that would "[require] motor vehicle manufacturers to allow vehicle owners and independent repair facilities in Massachusetts to have access to the same vehicle diagnostic and repair information made available to the manufacturers' Massachusetts dealers and authorized repair facilities." Carmakers howled in protest, but after the law passed, they decided not to fight independent repair. Indeed, in January 2014 they entered into a national memorandum of understanding [PDF], voluntarily extending the terms of the Massachusetts law to the entire country. The commercial vehicle industry followed suit in October 2015. Now we need right-to-repair legislation for other kinds of equipment, too, particularly electronic equipment, which is the focus of "digital right to repair" initiatives in many states.

Similar to the Massachusetts legislation for automobiles, these digital-right-to-repair proposals would require manufacturers to provide access to service documentation, tools, firmware, and diagnostic programs. They also would require manufacturers to sell replacement parts to consumers and independent repair facilities at reasonable prices. The bills introduced this year in a dozen states have some variations. The ones in Kansas and Wyoming, for example, are limited to farm equipment. The one most likely to be adopted soon is in Massachusetts, which seeks to outlaw the monopoly on repair parts and information within the state. If it passes, electronics manufacturers will probably change their practices nationwide. Consumers would then have more choices when something breaks. The next time your smartphone screen cracks, your microwave oven gets busted, or your TV dies, you may be able to get it fixed quickly, affordably, and fairly. And you, not the manufacturer, would decide where your equipment is repaired: at home, with the manufacturer, or at a local repair shop that you trust.

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Why We Must Fight For the Right To Repair Our Electronics

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @08:03AM (#55429149)

    I bought it. Itâ(TM)s mine thatâ(TM)s the end of it. We shouldnâ(TM)t need new protections. How about 500 years of common law on property? Isnâ(TM)t that enough?

    • by EndlessNameless ( 673105 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @09:32AM (#55429717)

      How about 500 years of common law on property? Isnâ(TM)t that enough?

      How do you repair a device when the manufacturer refuses to sell you replacement parts?

      What happens they refuse to disclose reset/pairing procedures for devices that require it, or disclose that information only to authorized shops under NDA?

      How do you diagnose a problem when the manufacturer refuses to supply documentation?

      Because none of those things are covered under common law. Sure, you can rip it open, but the ability to actually repair modern electronics requires at least a modicum of cooperation from the vendor.

      It's not like the good old days when you could replace a busted vacuum tube with another one off the shelf. Most devices have hardware modules that cannot be built by hand, so either you get them from the manufacturer or you don't fix the device. Manufacturers have shown an unwillingness to make things repairable, so we either suck it up or pass a law to make them do it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Your questions seem to reduce to "I have a Right to Repair my stuff, and HE has an OBLIGATION to help me do so".

        While the first clause is unarguable, the second is a bit iffy - are YOU obligated to help other people repair their stuff?

        • by JD-1027 ( 726234 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @10:25AM (#55430027)
          I might argue the more appropriate quote would be this:
          "I have a Right to Repair my stuff, and HE has an obligation to NOT HINDER me in do so"

          In many of these cases, they are putting extra things in place to make it difficult to track down and solve issues.
          • My first tech job was working for an AC Delco re-manufacturing company. General Motors had a joint venture with Isuzu sharing resources on different models. The Electronic Control Modules (ECM) for those models had dummy circuitry that didn't do ANYTHING because GM was worried about Isuzu reverse engineering a couple of pulse modulating circuits for a fuel injector. To play up the deception if one of these circuits failed they enabled the Check Engine light. I spent an inordinate amount of time repairing du
        • by EndlessNameless ( 673105 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @10:59AM (#55430237)

          are YOU obligated to help other people repair their stuff?

          No one has to repair anything on their own time. In doing business, however, I am obligated to follow the laws of the nation(s) where I operate.

          We the people told American businesses they can't dump sludge in our rivers. We told them that they have to provide clear and honest information to investors. We make all kinds of rules because the country works better when corporations fucking behave themselves.

          We can tell them to post their service documents and make parts available if we damn well please.

          And we know they already have the documents and the supply of parts---their service departments need those things to function.

        • by es330td ( 964170 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @11:12AM (#55430331)
          A friend of mine owns a garage that works on high end cars. He told me that on Mercedes now you can't even replace the battery without the involvement of MB. If you replace it the car literally will not start without being told it is okay by a MB Authorized shop, which of course costs money. He is not asking for MB to help him repair the car and frankly, if a MB owner wants to replace the battery on an out-of-warranty vehicle he damn well *should* have the right to do so. It isn't MB's job to be big brother and make sure the owner doesn't mess something up once MB's warranty responsibility ends.
    • We shouldnae be surprised thata there's a wee number here!

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @08:07AM (#55429175)

    If more people have access to the right tools and parts, more people can offer the service of repairing, thus increasing competition, enabling people with the skills and knowledge to do so to open a business and earn a living.

    Not allowing it would create monopolies that can dictate which and how many places offer the service, much like in a planned economy. That reeks of Communism!

    • we had it with TV's and other stuff up until the 90's or so. Most repair shops charged just enough money to keep you repairing and not buying new because TV's were expensive then.

      I'll take buying new over repairing any day. Especially since tech moves so fast.

      • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @08:27AM (#55429271) Homepage Journal
        Tech hasn't "moved fast" in the last 10 years. Those days are over.
        • 10 years ago, the first iPhone was released. The release of the first Android was in 2008.
          10 years ago, the majority of computer displays were CRTs.
          10 years ago, Netflix was only sending out DVDs.
          10 years ago, when "Meet the Robinsons" came out there were only 600 digital movie theatres in the world.
          10 years ago, the cost of putting 5 tonnes into orbit was $150M, now it's less than half.
          10 years ago, there were no mass-produced electric cars.
          10 years ago, the first HIV retrovirus "cocktails" were being tes

          • I guess if you think Netflix is "tech" then you are even worth responding to. What you are talking about is "models" not "tech". You probably think Siri is "AI" too.
            • I guess if you think Netflix is "tech" then you are (not) even worth responding to

              I'm just going to assume the not there. Additionally, you're totally missing the point with the DVD thing from Netflix. 10 years ago, the "best" model for distribution was snail mail and now it's streaming. That's didn't happen because someone changed their business model, it happened because we made a lot of advancements in Internet speeds and reliability of delivery via the Internet.

              What you are talking about is "models" not "tech". You probably think Siri is "AI" too.

              Having read that, you should really take a look at this. [merriam-webster.com] I have a strong feeling that it applies here.

              • The technology to deliver video over the Internet was available long before 10 years ago. The tech hasn't changed, just money was put in to build out the infrastructure. The technology Netflix uses to deliver your movies is literally 40 years old. You are just talking about new models.
                • Wow. I had no idea. Could you please provide references showing where there was the ability in the mid-1970s to send GBytes of data per hour to tens of millions individual users.

                  • Yes, you have no idea. How do you think the video gets to you? What protocols does it use? You are confusing infrastructure and scale and new models of things with "tech".
                    • Wow well TIL, H.264/AVC was invented 40 years ago. HA! Take that ITU what with your assertion that it didn't get standardized until 2003. Oh and of course, 40 years ago CPUs were way powerful enough to decode that format, that's totally the reason I needed a decoder card when I got my first DVD drive for my PC, because I was using a computer 50 years old.

                • The technology to deliver video over the Internet was available long before 10 years ago

                  Well fuck dude, silicon existed 4.5 billions years ago on Earth, we just got inventive about how we arrange the atoms, so you're just talking chemistry. I mean do you not see how stupid your argument is? I think you need to come up for some air buddy, you've totally lost perspective.

              • by Jaime2 ( 824950 )

                Additionally, you're totally missing the point with the DVD thing from Netflix. 10 years ago, the "best" model for distribution was snail mail and now it's streaming. That's didn't happen because someone changed their business model, it happened because we made a lot of advancements in Internet speeds and reliability of delivery via the Internet.

                Actually, licensing really is the bottleneck to innovation here. Netflix by mail is still a vastly superior service if you are more interested in movies than TV. Also, you can get pretty close to your Comcast monthly cap worth of movies in the mail, so tech really hasn't progressed much for a lot of people.

            • I guess if you think Netflix is "tech" then you are even worth responding to.

              Hi Mr Angry Idiot.

              I agree with you this time. There's been no improvements in networking technology driven by advances in semiconductor manufacturing in the last 10 years at all. None at all, nope. /sarcasm

              You probably think Siri is "AI" too.

              It is. But, if you insist on havbing your own private definition of all of AI as basically strong AI, then you're going to spend a lot of time angry. Actually keep it up. The flames of your ang

          • Because that's how you can make us feel old. /MaloryArcher

          • 10 years ago I could replace my battery on a very expensive phone or laptop

      • Why though? It's not like the newest phone does so much more than a 6 or 7 or even a 5s. Computer you can upgrade parts easily and if I can get a monitor repaired for $100 when it's still a widescreen HD and only needs a new chip why buy a new one for $100s more?
        • if you only call, text and use the basic features. Even the base apps get big upgrades every time a new version of IOS comes out. Same on Android.

          My iphone 6S i can lock some apps behind my fingerprint to keep my wife and kids out of them. Not possible on older phones without TouchID.

          • I have no wife nor kids, you insensitive clod!

            So to me these advanced biometric features are a gimmick. :) My laptop from 2007 did have a fingerprint scanner, mind you.

      • Especially with TVs, I'd take repairing over buying new today. Not despite tech not moving but because it's moving in a direction I really cannot like.

        I dare you to hook up a current TV to an unfiltered internet connection...

    • I think this problem had occurred from the ability for people who tried to "Fix" their beige box PC's.

      During the 1990's we had a glut of generic PC's that hit the market, or you can get named brands that were just the same. These devices were given parts of various quality, and "Upgrades" to parts may not have been as dependable as the old part.

      So say in 1995 someone got a Brand new 486 Gateway 2000 computer. In 1997 they wanted to get a bigger drive, so they had replaced their quality drive with a Death S

      • This is only a problem in the short run until the first cases surface where the exploding phones and BSODing computers were due to crappy repairs. Then you will invariably get people assuming and accusing those with faulty hardware that they got only themselves to blame.

        Frankly, if self-repair was already the case, I bet it would have taken Samsung a LOT longer to recall those S7s, if at all.

    • On the one hand I think this is foolish because somethings can be built more compactly and less robustly if the manufacturer knows they wont' have to insure against some fumble fingered tech breaking their gear trying to repair it. Some items arenaturally better when built that way (cell phones) but some are not (tractors). So a blanket restriction on the use of DRM or lack of parts sourcing to lock in repairs in some case is logical and some cases underhanded.

      On the other hand they might embrace it if th

  • Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by olsmeister ( 1488789 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @08:10AM (#55429187)
    I have a 9 year old LCD TV that has failing capacitors in the power supply. It takes multiple tries to power on, where it turns itself off and on and shows weird things on the screen. I know exactly what the problem is and I spent a dollar or two and got the caps I need, although I don't want to actually do the work until after the World Series is over just in case I do something stupid and break it.

    But I'm sure Samsung would much rather have me go out and spend $500 on a brand new 'smart' TV that I don't want.
    • Re:Yes (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @08:19AM (#55429233)

      But I don't think that's what this is about. Throwing in a couple of capacitors into a power supply isn't really an intellectual property problem. Most competent technicians should be able to diagnose and repair this kind of thing easily.

      What the issue really is about is the massive amounts of digital content contained within these things. Firmware and alignment data that is protected in ways that makes it necessary for the consumer to have access to specialized tools or information to actually perform repairs. Information and tools that would risk intellectual property disclosure.

    • Re: Yes (Score:4, Informative)

      by guruevi ( 827432 ) <(evi) (at) (evcircuits.com)> on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @08:40AM (#55429359) Homepage

      The problem is that the new TV costs only $3-500 and has much higher resolution, much less power hungry and includes all sorts of bells and whistles your 10yo LCD doesnâ(TM)t have.

      Go to a repair shop and youâ(TM)re at $198 for labor before they even know they need $25-100 in parts. There is a brand new TV that saves you energy for the cost of a repair.

      • Re: Yes (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ChunderDownunder ( 709234 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @09:03AM (#55429507)

        I am a software nerd so, yes, lack the skills to fix anything like that.

        My grandfather once made a living attaching new soles to shoes and boots. Nowadays unless it's a premium leather shoe costing several hundred dollars, it isn't worth taking to the repair man given the rate they charge.

        But I'm using a Nexus 4, rather than contribute to landfill every 2 years. If I can help it, I won't buy again a phone without a user serviceable battery. I cracked the glass back on the phone - it really shouldn't be that hard to install a $15 replacement off ebay.

      • Before telling others how they should fix their things, maybe you should fix your own apostrophes.

      • Also, fuck the cost difference. First of all olsmeister said he doesn't want a "smart" TV and secondly repairing his old TV means less electronic waste at the dump.

  • Regulation like this would be wholly unnecessary if we instead allowed small manufacturers to compete honestly in the market.

    Through regulation and taxation, of which this is only a small part of, only really big companies can afford to bring products to market.

    If this were such a problem, people would be buying more repairable machines. I myself havenâ(TM)t needed a âoerightâ to repair anything and I work with Apple products almost exclusively. I know how to repair MacBooks, iPads and even i

    • People are mostly complaining that there is a diminishing market for stolen goods.

      There are plenty of parts for iPhones available on eBay.

      They come from stolen iPhones. Stolen parts are always cheaper than freshly purchased parts. If that wasn't true, there would be no chop-shops for stolen cars.

      Because there is a secondary repair market, it makes it valuable to steal an iPhone. If you make it so those parts can't be used in another iPhone, then the only people stealing iPhones are assholes who don't want t

  • Part A (Score:4, Funny)

    by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @08:26AM (#55429267)
    >> Why We Must Fight For the Right To Repair Our Electronics

    In my day, we fought, for the right, to Parrrrrrrrt A!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You took out the tubes, went to the Drug Store, and used their tester, then bought replacements?
    If you did that before you smelled burning Bakelite or dielectric, chances are you got to watch the entire World Series. If you didn't have to work in the afternoon.

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @08:33AM (#55429303)

    Once autonomous vehicles become the norm, liability and legislation will work to prohibit owning the vehicle, due to the fear that consumers won't maintain the vehicles properly (software or hardware), putting others at high risk on the road. Car ownership will become obsolete.

    Electronics ownership is already becoming obsolete due to the general risk and liability of insecurity. Manufacturers won't offer more than 2-3 years to cover the hardware, and security updates usually stop by then as well. We already essentially lease smartphones these days, placating to some form of forced upgrade every other year due to anything from a lack of support to irreplaceable failing batteries that inevitably mandate replacement. Desktops were something you could actually turn a proverbial wrench on, but no one buys desktops anymore. Repairing portable electronics? Are you kidding me? Wafer-thin designs and sealed chassis aren't easy for anyone to try and work on these days. Often times, it's not even worth the effort.

    SaaS models are consuming our digital lives. We don't own DVDs or CDs anymore; we perpetually rent the ability to stream content. Same goes for many larger software suites that you now pay a monthly fee to simply maintain a usage license.

    It's not the Right to Repair we need to be fighting for. It's fighting to preserve the Right to Ownership and get the fuck away from everything in your life being consumed at the "bargain" rate of only $9.99 per month.

    • +1 insightful. The real threat is the "as a service" model. Companies love it because it is a steady revenue stream. They aren't doing it to make it better for you.
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Car ownership won't become obsolete in US suburbs, which are basically impossible to live in without personal access to a car. Adult suburbanites will either own cars or lease them for their exclusive personal use, simply because adding a few minutes to every trip they have to take will be intolerable.

      Even if you mandate they lease their vehicles, that doesn't magically make them take their car in for service. You might as well require them to take certain mandatory service updates.

      There would be an inter

    • Once autonomous vehicles become the norm, liability and legislation will work to prohibit owning the vehicle, due to the fear that consumers won't maintain the vehicles properly (software or hardware), putting others at high risk on the road. Car ownership will become obsolete.

      I have to disagree with you here. It might become more expensive but car ownership won't become obsolete. Why? Because some of us tow boats, etc. and generic vehicles do not work for such applications. On top of that, there are going to have to be provisions for classic cars, which won't fit into the self-driving model.

  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @08:34AM (#55429309) Homepage

    The problem with modern electronic devices is that the repair shop needs to make a substantial investment in equipment and training for the repair staff as well as documentation/parts approved/authorized by the device's manufacturer.

    A $10 soldering iron and a tape of resistors from Radio Shack being wielded by a well meaning amateur (er "professional") ain't gonna cut it, like it did in the '60s, '70s and a good part of the '80s. I'm not being facetious - there were a lot of products (TVs, VCRs, Computers, Microwaves, non-mobile/cell phones) were this was a reasonable option. Right now, not so much.

    With this legislation there is a great opportunity for somebody to develop a chain of localized repair shops - and, no, I don't consider "Geek Squad" to be a good start at this.

    • by kiviQr ( 3443687 )
      These are no longer $50 phones, they sell for $1000. If local automotive shop can make money while investing in way more expensive tools and owning or renting facility then a person in home can fix a phone. I know a bunch of guys they own these tools already as a hobby.
      • Customizability seems inversely proportional to price. Headphone jack, FM radio, removable battery, SD Card, dual SIM etc are features still found in low-medium end Android models.

        A more expensive phone buys you a lighter, sleeker phone with a better camera and waterproof housing but coming in a sealed unit that encourages trading up to the latest model every 24 months.

        Am I right in thinking that the more expensive a model, the more likely an expensive screen replacement is needed? Just an anecdote but I've

    • I'm not being facetious - there were a lot of products (TVs, VCRs, Computers, Microwaves, non-mobile/cell phones) were this was a reasonable option. Right now, not so much.

      This is 100% pure bullshit. Watch the YouTube channels of independent electronics repair shops, like the Louis Rossman channel, or the iPad Rehab channel. In their videos they show exactly how they repair all sorts of electronics, even those that Apple makes purposely difficult to repair (with glued-in components).

      Please don't spread misinformation. Especially don't spread misinformation with so much misplaced self-confidence.

    • So I have to blow $600 every 2 years or $300 a year just because I can't replace the battery on my phone??

    • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @05:11PM (#55432899) Homepage Journal

      Some things would make more sense than others. For example, phones can be quite expensive. Sure, the things are fairly complex, but the VAST majority of potential repairs all come down to simply diagnosed problems. Worn out battery, cracked screen, damaged USB port or headphone jack. You don't need much in the way of tools to diagnose those.

      What we really need is a right to repairability (but that would be harder to define and enforce). It shouldn't be a big deal to swap out a cellphone screen.

  • Electronics repair you!
  • ..you don't really own it. At best it's a lease, at worst it's a brick.
  • Think of a better economic system, because open capitalism is way too easy for large corporations to game in their favor.
  • by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @09:00AM (#55429489)
    When I heard about farmers whose tractors (John Deere) [wired.com] stopped working because they repaired it with a non-OEM part and the tractors telematics [techdirt.com] shut down because it didn't recognize the new part (non-electronic part BTW). I knew a shit-storm was coming. Then when I saw how John Deere responded [techdirt.com] to the outcry I knew it would be a protracted battle to get companies to do the right thing.
  • Cars/vehicles are a very expensive and infrequent purchase from somewhat limited suppliers. "Lumpy" if you will. There is significant risk of "lock-in" and extending a legal monopoly [pricing power] into other areas. "Right to repair" makes sense.

    Electronics are a whole different kettle of fish. Much less expensive, more competition and dismal reliability after repair. This "Right to Repair" sounds like RMS [Stallman] in the hardware arena. IMHO, not worth the trouble -- let the market decide. When

    • Show me one freaking phone today that I can replace the battery! Just one? Don't cite older phones sold used or refurbished. I just do not want to blow $300 a fucking year due to glued in batteries and screens you have to break

  • It's ridiculous... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by XSportSeeker ( 4641865 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @09:09AM (#55429541)

    ...that we even need a law to pass for something like this, but here we are.
    People might not realize this, but repair shops will be there, doesn't matter if these laws pass or not. They have been playing very important roles for sometime now, like finding out design flaws, being a major part in class action lawsuits for problems that manufacturers fails to admit, and pointing out major issues that big brands keep trying to hide from consumers.
    Then, of course - as pointed out in the article - serving as competition to the overly inflated offerings of extended repair and other forms of ripping clients off from manufacturers.

    I fixed a couple of my own smartphones, a washer/dryer machine and a vacuum cleaner myself... official options, when they were even available, were all priced too high to justify the fix (being a better option to just buy a new one) for most of those. Then there are grievances of authorized/official repair places taking ridiculous ammounts of time to fix some of them. You end up a victim of the worst monopoly practices.
    I just came to the realization that it was worth investing in tools and time to learn just a little bit of how these electronics work, it ends up saving a whole lot of money and time. It's also great to educate yourself better on how these things actually work.

    For the LG washer dryer in particular I'd need to either somehow take it to the shop, probably needing to pay for transport and all the hassle that it means, pay for probably a month worth of dry cleaners if it even got fixed, and then pay for the service which would certainly be priced waaay over what it really cost.
    All it took was buying the faulty part myself and install it pretty easily. Fixed in a week, and only because I had to wait for the part to arrive. Total time spent actually fixing it? An hour at most. It'd be far more work just to take the damn thing down 16 floors, let alone all the rest.

    It's important for the law to pass though because it forces manufacturers to provide schematic and parts for it to be done. Right now, we have to rely on shady sources and grey market pieces.
    And then there's the entire eWaste discussion. One piece of electronic that you fix instead of buying a new one is one less device that will end up in a warehouse somewhere to be shipped to some foreign country with no human rights with people living in the middle of trash and pollutants.

    The single argument that I always see thrown around against the right to repair is always about intellectual property and whatnot. If you ever hear it, it's bullshit. Restricting access to schematics and parts are not enough to stop competition from stealing tech if they want to, because it's extremely easy these days to just disassemble and copy the design if anyone wants to. There's no secret sauce in consumer electronics these days anymore. In fact, most manufacturers uses very common parts that are often not even made by the main brand anymore... it needs to be done that way because of mass production.

    The deterrent for stealing intellectual property has always been lawsuits for violation. Yes, electronics these days are way more complex than the time in the past when electronic makers even included schematics with the product out of the box, but even if complexity has increased, methods of production are more or less the same. Smartphones in particular uses a whole bunch of components that are not proprietary and freely available in the market, and the parts that are proprietary you won't be able to reproduce with simple schematics anyways.

    So definitely agreed. Right to repair is ultimately better in several fronts for consumers in general, and it's also a way to prevent brands and manufacturers to stop exploiting costumers.

  • Why would you want to repair it when you could throw it away and buy another?

    • Why would you want to repair it when you could throw it away and buy another?

      - Epitaph of Planet Earth

      Greed is the true problem mankind needs to solve for.

  • You won't be repairing this on your kitchen counter, unless the manufacturers change a LOT about their products.

    It's not about access to parts and information. My HTC M7 would not come apart without damaging trim parts. These were available, but then I destroyed the screen trying to get it apart to dry it out. And putting it back together? Adhesives were the key part, and very, very difficult to reassemble. The M8, worse.

    An iPhone X? Disassembly? Ha. It's glued up. Galaxy S8? Curved glass = virtually unrepairable. Not many high end phones can be repaired by you and me.

    My Surface Pro 3 isn't coming apart easily, even for a simple SSD replacement.

    The myth of repairability can be stamped out now for a variety of products. Mind you, for many, even BMWs, access to the computers is practical - I watched a guy mod an E36 and an E64 in an hour, with map changes, marrying radios, and resetting antitheft that would have cost $700+ at a dealer. All with a laptop and $35 dongles bought off eBay. If only my '98 Saab could have been handled so easily. Heck, the 04 Impala is impervious to BCM programming, needs the Tech II, blowing $300 for a box, and more and more every time you leap into a new generation of systems. I spent less on my Selectric tools.

    Repairability is becoming a myth for entire types of products. replacing caps on a flat panel TV is possible, but desoldering surface mount chips? Those cute little parts in the power supply? Diagnostics would be a start, but even the best still leave you needing tools. No, we are losing the battle to technology that just cannot be fixed by amateurs.

  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @09:24AM (#55429653) Journal

    In this video Louis Rossman explains [youtube.com] some of the ways Apple uses to make their products hard to repair for NO good reason apart from their own profit. He tells of his colleagues (independent repair shops) having their posts deleted when all they were saying is that such and such CAN be in fact repaired. Apple will not repair most damages even if it involves the user losing his/her data, and even if they are perfectly repairable.
    Moreover, Rossman explains how Apple uses dirty tricks to terminate the warranty even when the user did nothing unauthorized.

    Just watch it and be angry. Be very fucking angry.

  • ... It's [also] about the right to perform user-installable upgrades.

    If we look at the developments in the markets of personal consumer electronics [computers, tablets, phones, and so on] then what we see is that companies have realised that they can sell products more frequently, thus creating much greater profits, if they build in obsolescence to their designs.

    If you look at the evolution in say tablets as an example... There have been 7 generations of [for example] the Apple iPad since the introduc
  • by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <gterichNO@SPAMaol.com> on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @09:55AM (#55429869) Journal

    Volvo sells its DiCE and VIDA diagnostic suite to anyone who wants to buy it. There are no subscription charges unless you want to download new firmware for the car, in which case you can buy a 3-day subscription for cheap.

    The VIDA software is free and the DiCE adapter is a few hundred bucks, and gives you complete manufacturer view of every on-board system in the car. You can modify a surprising number of parameters in the car, perform self-tests, diagnostics, and so on.

    I don't know why all manufacturers don't do this.

  • by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @10:00AM (#55429893)

    There's a subtle distinction here that's often lost - I see it muddled together a few places in TFA and also in the comments -- between the right to repair a device and the right to demand (?) redesign of a device in a way that makes repair easier.

    The former seems quite reasonable, and the auto manufacturers got it done so that dispels the feasibility complaints, even for technology-stuffed modern cars. But I don't see MA (or anyone else) going so far as to say that car manufacturers should be required ex-ante to change the way cars are designed, built and assembled.

    For electronic devices, however, there seem like there are real engineering tradeoffs between repairability and legitimate design goals such as parts cost, assembly cost, weight and size. Replacing all the glue holding a tablet together with screws might improve repairability while adding $0.14 to the cost and a few grams to the weight. A removable battery might be the same cost but add 3mm to the thickness. In some cases, it might be heuristically worth it, but I struggle in vain for any intellectually sound way to make those things commensurable.

    And as an engineer, I surely shudder in fear of someone with no domain expertise in a problem that I spent years solving second-guessing my tradeoffs. Especially since they have no accountability to produce a workable design that can be actually shipped on time. At the same time, I recognize that the engineers with domain expertise are hardly neutral deciders of what tradeoffs are legitimate and which design elements serve no purpose other than to impede repairs.

    So there I have it -- I don't see a scientific way to judge whether it's worth it and my choices for who to ask is either someone impartial with no idea of the specifics or someone that knows but has no incentive to impartiality.

    [ Actually, the latter is kind of a pervasive problem. You can have folks with a ton of experience, or you can have folks that are neutral with no preconceived biases. But you can rarely have the same person with both. ]

  • YES! we should have the legal right

    Unfortunately, the technical ability to do so is rapidly disappearing. I can rework fine pitch surface mount parts with a microscope. BGA is beyond my skills

    We are the last generation of electronic engineers who are able to build our own prototypes and fix our stuff

  • some IP trolls sell rom / restore images at high prices and other places use copyright laws to shutdown download sites.

    Why should I have to pay $30-$50 + shipping for a SD card? when for free you can just download an image? or pay $30+ for a eprom.

  • Title is backwards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @10:53AM (#55430203)
    This is not about the right to repair our electronics. We already have the right to do whatever we want with stuff we own, including trashing it, burning it, running over it with a car, and - yes if you want to - fixing it or modifying it.

    This is about the hypothetical "right" of manufacturers to mess around with and disable stuff they made after they've sold it to you. Because you're not using your equipment the way they want you to. Saying this is about our right to repair implies that manufacturers have this right to meddle with stuff they don't own, when they clearly don't.
  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @12:29PM (#55430845) Journal

    I want to live in a world where all electronic products are sold in bubble packs on hangers next to the cash register. You'd use them until they stop working, and then throw them away and buy a new one.

    No, sorry, got that wrong, I *don't* want to live in that world.

    I've never understood why this irony isn't more apparent to people -- that certain "boutique" electronics are every bit as consumable and non-repairable and throw-away as the cheap crap in plastic bubbles on the impulse buy rack. I was going to say "cheap foreign crap" but then I realized that a lot of it is made in the same place and perhaps the same factory as the "boutique" cra-- I mean products.

    Personally, and for as long as I can hold out, I won't own a phone or laptop or tablet where I can't easily replace that top consumable, the number one part that wears out, the battery. This means I don't buy certain product lines at all. In other cases it means I can buy up to version X, but with X+1 they glued the thing closed, so it's no longer a consideration. (I mean, seriously -- would you buy a car where the hood was welded closed at the factory?) But I'm not the demographic they're selling to, as I tend to use a product until it stops working and I can't fix it, which breaks the 18 month latest-and-greatest product cycle that makes so much lovely money.

    There will probably come a time when I can't find a damned phone anywhere that has a battery I can replace when it stops holding a charge. (To use just one example.) But until then, and for whatever effect it probably doesn't have, I will vote with wallet.

    This goes for cars, too. And refrigerators. I'd rather own something a few years older that I can actually repair or get repaired.

    I think it's Ghandi who said something like, what you do will make no difference. But it's very important that you do it.

  • by greywire ( 78262 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @01:06PM (#55431121) Homepage

    Has the idea of repairing software ever come up? Because that would be a whole other can of worms, but, considering the pervasiveness of software in almost every device, the ability to fix simple bugs (especially security bugs) would be good to have. But then you'd have to access the source code. But how many devices do we all have that are next to useless because we cannot update the software when the manufacturer is not willing to do so (for instance, phones that cannot be rooted..)..

  • by hackel ( 10452 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @01:51PM (#55431463) Journal

    Another, related thing that we desperately need is to outlaw any attempts to "lock" or otherwise restrict what an end-user can do with their own device they have purchased. Such locks are only acceptable on devices being leased or that the end-user does not own outright. This goes beyond just mobile phone modifications, but all IoT devices—anything with on-board firmware, basically.

    After that, the next step is to require manufacturers to release source code to all of their binary firmware packages. Sadly this goal is much farther off, but we still shouldn't loose sight of it.

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