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Old 05-02-2021, 02:57 PM   #1
business_kid
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Right To Repair? ROTFL


I find news items like This_One funny, because that was specifically what I did.

Back in the 1970s,1980s, & into the 1990s, the majority of Industrial Electronics boards were repairable, with through-hole components. Designs were modular, and a market in Service Exchange Boards was envisaged. Nobody thought that anyone would be successful repairing a board he had hardly seen before. But that was what I did until 2006, aided and abetted by some smart specialised diagnostic hardware, magnification and a highly sensitive 'seat of the pants' approach.

By the 1990s, consumer electronics were un-repairable and have only gotten worse. Some reasons are
  • All devices are now Surface mount, and the same device is sold in smaller and smaller packages. So large scale SMT is also obsolete.
  • You have to be able to get parts fast in small quantities for a repair to be viable. They are not available.
  • The range of available devices has mushroomed, but component suppliers have dwindled due to shrinking demand. They only buy what turns over rapidly.
  • Cost has plummeted. If a replacement pcb didn't cost at least 200, any repair was marginal.
  • High complexity (e.g.pc motherboards) also make repairs non viable as there's too much to check.
  • The software component (firmware, software, VHDL) of any device is understandably never divulged. How to reprogram?
  • Usually manufacturers don't even keep spare hardware components for themselves, but use up stock.
  • Integration has mushroomed, with devices having their own inbuilt computers running them. So you can check inputs and outputs, but it tells you very little about whether a device works. Previously, it told you everything.
  • These large surface mounted chips we see everywhere can only be soldered in wave solder machines, and not desoldered. You have to put ≅250C on a pin to de-solder it, but the junction it's connected to melts at ≅150C

So it's funny to see that 15 years too late for me, this right to repair movement has started. Funny because people are finally getting fed up with manufacturers deciding what you can and can't do with their products. But funny also, because if Big Tech actually gave out the parts to repair your circuit boards, you'd need a manufacturing plant and a fresh pcb to fit them. Hand tools (Like I used) are no longer up to the job. And buying parts to order in unit quantities was always very expensive. I presume some compromise will be arrived at anyhow. But the market wants small, and small ≠ repairable.
 
Old 05-02-2021, 07:18 PM   #2
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In the field of electronics, it is indeed true that fewer and fewer devices can be repaired (or, perhaps more accurately, repaired economically). Heck, you can't even replace your cell phone battery any more unless you are a tech with your own repair lab.

The issue is larger that electronics though. For just one example, John Deere is making it difficult for farmers to repair their own farm equipment, and some of those things cost several hundred thousand USD.

Last edited by frankbell; 05-02-2021 at 07:21 PM.
 
Old 05-03-2021, 01:47 AM   #3
ondoho
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Quote:
Originally Posted by business_kid View Post
I find news items like This_One funny, because that was specifically what I did.
Of course! And of course even more "repairability" would be better. But it rightly points out that
 
Old 05-03-2021, 04:33 AM   #4
business_kid
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frankbell View Post
In the field of electronics, it is indeed true that fewer and fewer devices can be repaired (or, perhaps more accurately, repaired economically). Heck, you can't even replace your cell phone battery any more unless you are a tech with your own repair lab.

The issue is larger that electronics though. For just one example, John Deere is making it difficult for farmers to repair their own farm equipment, and some of those things cost several hundred thousand USD.
John Deere are not the only ones. Near the end of my business, I remember walking into one guy selling tractors. He told me that when a tractor fails, they go to it, with axle stands, a laptop, and a mobile. The tractor goes up on the axle stands. The repair man plugs the laptop in & phones Germany, from where a techie runs a test routine. He could run it through the gears, brake, reverse, steer etc. Once he diagnosed the fault, appropriate spares would be dispatched from Germany (mechanical or electronic).
 
Old 05-03-2021, 04:49 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by business_kid View Post
So it's funny to see that 15 years too late for me, this right to repair movement has started. Funny because people are finally getting fed up with manufacturers deciding what you can and can't do with their products.
Well, technically, the right to repair has always been around and (in the US) it was even enshrined in law as the Magnuson-Moss Act as P.L. 93-637 federal law (15 U.S.C. 2301 et seq.) from 1975. It's not a new thing. It "just" needs confirmation as most people around now have forgotten it or, indeed, never learned of it. There could also a little about it which could be clarified in the context of today's products which are a nasty mixture of hardware and software.

Either way, there's a lot that can be repaired even if it is small. Though sometimes you need the right equipment and in that case, with repairable equipment, it would be possible to take it to a local shop. Batteries, SSDs, chargers, screens, etc. fall in that area easily. Larger stuff, such as farm equipment does too.

So I would not scoff.

I would instead say that there is a lot in common with the Free Software movement in so much that everything has firmware nowadays. And I'd say that in regards to firmware, that the Four Freedoms are more important than with general purpose computers.
 
Old 05-03-2021, 09:11 AM   #6
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Good that a theoretical right to repair exists in the Excited States. Now lets get practical.

What I was doing was component-level repair. I would diagnose & replace faulty components. Quite often these were High voltage power components (e.g. FETs) which had blown low voltage stuff through the gate.
So a few parts would be replaced, and off we would go again.

What you are talking about is modular repair, No technical knowledge required, so it would seem. But anyone handling a mobile phone pcb or intelligent screen should have an anti-static earth strap. This repair-ability would restrain designers and probably enlarge parts. Currently, a hd ribbon cable can be soldered to copper pcb, and fed to the lcd. It will be bent during manufacture, & maybe once or twice more. With repairability, the copper pcb would have to be gold plated, and a plug fitted, etc. Also, manufacturers set prices, and it costs to store stuff. So:
  • New phone €$500
  • Replacement screen €$375, With lead time, p&p & tax
  • Replacement pcb €$399 with tax, p&p.

Would you be tempted by those prices? I know I wouldn't.

The lead time might leave you with no phone for X months, and the costs might be real, because of the phenomenon of "Shrinkage." Shrinkage is the accounting term for employees(and shoplifters) stealing stock from the company. Why manufacturing is cheap is because items are purchased in bulk, run through manufacture, and used up. There are often very significant Minimum Order Quanties (MOQs) attached to electronic items.

Last edited by business_kid; 05-03-2021 at 09:17 AM.
 
Old 05-03-2021, 09:35 AM   #7
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When choosing what to buy, take the purchase price and divide it by the number of years of expected service. This rewards products that last for a long time.

For example, I am willing to spend more on a desktop PC with a service life of 15 years than a cellphone with a service life of 4 years. By this metric, major purchases need to last for 10-20 years.
Ed
 
Old 05-04-2021, 10:24 PM   #8
ondoho
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Quote:
Originally Posted by business_kid View Post
  • New phone $500
  • Replacement screen $375, With lead time, p&p & tax

Would you be tempted by those prices? I know I wouldn't.
But if it's only the glass it costs ~10-20 to get a new one.

I understand your "ROTFL", but you should "ROTFL" at the smartphone industry as such, and the waste it produces (though it doesn't make me laugh), not at attempts to mitigate. Yes, there's some laughable PR around it (even the name itself), but the Right To Repair as such is Good and Important.

BTW, you have yourself admitted that your amazon- and ebay-chi is weak and you suffer from some sort of highly localised unavailability of cheap offers, so I'd take the numbers above with a grain of salt.
 
Old 05-04-2021, 10:29 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by business_kid View Post
I find news items like This_One funny, because that was specifically what I did.

Back in the 1970s,1980s, & into the 1990s, the majority of Industrial Electronics boards were repairable, with through-hole components. Designs were modular, and a market in Service Exchange Boards was envisaged. Nobody thought that anyone would be successful repairing a board he had hardly seen before. But that was what I did until 2006, aided and abetted by some smart specialised diagnostic hardware, magnification and a highly sensitive 'seat of the pants' approach.

By the 1990s, consumer electronics were un-repairable and have only gotten worse. Some reasons are
  • All devices are now Surface mount, and the same device is sold in smaller and smaller packages. So large scale SMT is also obsolete.
  • You have to be able to get parts fast in small quantities for a repair to be viable. They are not available.
  • The range of available devices has mushroomed, but component suppliers have dwindled due to shrinking demand. They only buy what turns over rapidly.
  • Cost has plummeted. If a replacement pcb didn't cost at least 200, any repair was marginal.
  • High complexity (e.g.pc motherboards) also make repairs non viable as there's too much to check.
  • The software component (firmware, software, VHDL) of any device is understandably never divulged. How to reprogram?
  • Usually manufacturers don't even keep spare hardware components for themselves, but use up stock.
  • Integration has mushroomed, with devices having their own inbuilt computers running them. So you can check inputs and outputs, but it tells you very little about whether a device works. Previously, it told you everything.
  • These large surface mounted chips we see everywhere can only be soldered in wave solder machines, and not desoldered. You have to put ≅250C on a pin to de-solder it, but the junction it's connected to melts at ≅150C

So it's funny to see that 15 years too late for me, this right to repair movement has started. Funny because people are finally getting fed up with manufacturers deciding what you can and can't do with their products. But funny also, because if Big Tech actually gave out the parts to repair your circuit boards, you'd need a manufacturing plant and a fresh pcb to fit them. Hand tools (Like I used) are no longer up to the job. And buying parts to order in unit quantities was always very expensive. I presume some compromise will be arrived at anyhow. But the market wants small, and small ≠ repairable.
https://www.ethicsforge.cc/is-planne...-to-intervene/
 
Old 05-05-2021, 04:14 AM   #10
business_kid
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@ondoho: In most smartphones, the touchscreen is a very sophisticated piece of kit. Sorry if I was unclear. But they are cheaper in bulk than in ones.

In fact the smart way to do it would be to specify a percentage of spare modules to be kept as spares, say 5%. The idea is that the 'right to repair' would be discharged if 5% (or maybe 10%) of phones issued were kept for spares. That would facilitate bulk purchase of items, allowing cheaper spares. When the spares ran out, the manufacturer would be entitled to raise a middle finger.
 
Old 05-05-2021, 11:50 PM   #11
ondoho
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Maybe you are unaware that some manufacturers are deliberately trying to keep people from repairing their devices, regardless of prices or availability of spare parts, simply saying "you must not do that and we will sue if you do it anyhow." This current initiative has to be seen in light of that.
 
Old 05-06-2021, 05:59 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ondoho View Post
Maybe you are unaware that some manufacturers are deliberately trying to keep people from repairing their devices, regardless of prices or availability of spare parts, simply saying "you must not do that and we will sue if you do it anyhow." This current initiative has to be seen in light of that.
Suing them is a bit much, I agree. Refusing to cooperate and letting them (inevitably) bungle it would be a better approach.


Business been the same since the middle of the 19th century. Business short-sightedly exploiting the world's resources and wrecking it for short term gain. All driven by the profit motive. So refusing the right to repair suits big business, and they will do it if they can to boost the bottom line. What's more, new phones devalue so quickly the economics of repair probably make it uneconomic after the warranty expires anyhow, using [Cost of replacement - (cost of repair + cost of delay,risk, p&p etc.)].

My line of work was electronic circuit boards, & onsite maintenance. When I came at it, companies had an approved Service Agent, who hired techies to repair the boards. They had all the company information & programs that I didn't. In the end, all these were dispensed with, and instead of repairable through-hole components being used, they all moved to Large Scale Integration (LSI) devices, and repairs were done by giving the board an Assembly line pcb test in their subcontract manufacturing site. If it failed, it was binned, and a new one returned, because it wasn't possible to repair them. Now, repair is much less possible. And that's before we consider issues like static sensivity.

So, from my POV, repair (certainly pcb repair) will never be economic again. I can see why Samsung reserve the right to repair to themselves. So I (the career repair guy) am not upset to see disposable phones. Replacing any phone pcb or anything attached to it without an earth strap would be fraught with risk. Let them improve the warranty, or set up a repair house per area.
 
Old 05-06-2021, 08:26 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by business_kid View Post
Business been the same since the middle of the 19th century. Business short-sightedly exploiting the world's resources and wrecking it for short term gain. All driven by the profit motive.
I believe it was Adam Smith who said that it is impossible to have two men of the same trade together in a room without them hatching some kind of conspiracy against the general public
Quote:
So refusing the right to repair suits big business, and they will do it if they can to boost the bottom line.
It's called built-in obsolescence and it was already an issue back in the 1960s.
 
Old 05-06-2021, 10:28 AM   #14
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Some very interesting links and thoughts on this thread.

Yes, Ireland is a 'bargain black spot' because the market is just too <expletive> small here; it always was & will be. Too often, there isn't an Irish distributor (with bulk discounts from manufacturers), but an Irish agent, who buys smaller quantities from a foreign distributor with smaller margins.

I believe in obsolescence, planned or not. I was made obsolete more often than I care to remember .

And costs are high here. Much stuff is bought online there (=anywhere) and shipped here, so much so that traders run a real risk of getting stuck with any over-zealous purchasing. Many even advertise in what are normally private channels.
 
Old 05-07-2021, 12:22 AM   #15
ondoho
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Quote:
Originally Posted by business_kid View Post
Suing them is a bit much, I agree.
Yet that's exactly what some companies did/do, most notably Apple.
Quote:
Originally Posted by business_kid View Post
So, from my POV, repair (certainly pcb repair) will never be economic again.
As you pointed out, a new screen assembly costs 50-75% of a new phone. I think it's up to the consumer to decide whether they want to spend that and continue using their current phone (and help reduce landifll/CO2 etc.), or pay 100% for a new phone.
But many repairs can be much cheaper, even if you don't carry them out yourself - replacing the aforementioned glass, or a USB port, both common cases with smartphones.
This "laughable" step would significantly reduce CO2 emissions & landfill. That's just smartphones!

No, it's definitely a step in the right direction - although I can understand how it just makes you shrug on a personal level.

BTW, that BBC article is clearly geared at very young people. Spreading this sort of awareness in young people is important.

Quote:
Originally Posted by business_kid View Post
I can see why Samsung reserve the right to repair to themselves.
You can?
I believe the new legislature is specifically making this sort of practice illegal.
 
  


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