Writing

Fixing the future

Annotation 2020-07-02 171153 2

Imagine, for a moment, a world run by corporations, not governments. A world where everyone is born an employee who is looked after as a company asset and, consequently, where there is no food or fuel poverty, no homelessness. All materials are recycled where possible, to the point that using new materials is reserved for special products. One downside? It is illegal to repair anything yourself or, indeed, make anything yourself. No knitting, no quilting, no soldering, no ScrapHappy. This kind of activity is deemed anti-corporation and is punishable by “credit history expungement”.*

We aren’t at this level of part dystopian, part idyllic (possibly, depending on your point of view) society yet. So far, this is just the world my newest creation, Nathan Xylophone, finds himself in as he is transported to 2088 after a bit of an accident (new novel on its way soon, honest!) .

But how close are we to not being allowed to mend things ourselves?

A few weeks ago, we moved a little closer to such a scenario as Apple won a landmark case in Norway against a repairer, Henrik Huseby, who dared to offer screen repairs for iPhones. His crime? He used imported refurbished Apple screens. He never once said he was using genuine spare parts, because once a screen has been refurbished by a third party, it is no longer considered to be a genuine Apple part, although it basically is, of course. Apple had sued in 2018, claiming an infringement of trademark, a case they lost. So they came at Henrik from a different angle – the screens, imported into Norway they claimed, were illegal copies.

In Norway’s Supreme Court, they won, leaving Henrik with a huge legal bill (one that repairers and supporters of the right to repair movement have rallied to help pay) and the potential for any and every company to prevent what they would see as “unauthorised” repairs. Apple already make their products almost impossible to fix without returning them – now they appear to have a mandate (at least in Norway) to continue that policy.

So, what is the solution? Apple say they reclaim some of the materials from their products and encourage people to return them when they upgrade, but they also render iPhones that are more than 3 or 4 years old useless by making the software run grindingly slowly – they are less than keen on keeping existing tech running!

Perhaps an answer might be to make it law that things have to be repaired at the manufacturers expense thus making the economics shift from throwaway to keep-forever. Or maybe, make things that are completely open source, and allow anyone to fix anything? What do you think? Should something that can be repaired have to be repaired?

As I write this (30/06/2020), apparently the Federal Congress of Mexico have approved the criminalisation of the right to repair or modify the hardware and software of devices, with penalties including ten years in jail. I haven’t found this on a newsfeed, just Twitter, so I can’t verify it – perhaps someone out there can?

Maybe Nathan Xylophone shouldn’t be too surprised what he finds in 2088!

oOo

* “I see this is not today’s software. Isn’t that treason or espionage or something?”

Although he did not look up from his work, Nathan could tell Jay Gee was grimacing, just a little. “Technically, it is both, with both punishable by removal of credit rating. Credit History Expungement, it’s called.”

“Sounds nasty. Can you get ointment for it?”

“After the expungement, no. You can’t get anything. You can’t buy, rent or indeed use anything that is less than two years old.”

“Wow, that’s harsh! Actually, what?”

“In this time, two years old is ancient history.”

“Even food? I mean, can you get food if you been ex, er, sponged then? Can you eat sponge cake?”

“You get the ‘C’ treatment. Charity. Worst thing a consumer can ask for. And you have to ask for it to. That or starve. Most choose the latter although we haven’t had any expungements for nearly five years, so recently people have been very good consumers indeed.”

“So, are you going to expunge yourself then, or in this joyless society, is that illegal too?”

“Ha ha. Joyless? We have none of the plagues that were raging across the planet in the twenty twenties, Nathan, not one of them. Poverty is all but gone, replaced by that most useless of things, fashion. But fashion that everyone has access to and can buy into. And everyone can buy into it…”

“Unless they’ve been expunged, of course.”

“Of course. But then, that’s their fault, isn’t it? With a great credit history comes great consumer responsibility.”

Categories: repair, Writing | Tags: , | 8 Comments

Right to Repair

After my ‘escapade’ with a mirror, here’s an electronics take on the right to repair… I’m off to sign the petition at repair.eu!

Stuart's Weblog

Extending the life

We are at a strange junction of history. We have unprecedented access to technology. The number and capability of single board computers, sensor chips, even things like FPGAs that are available to the hobbiest, is amazing.

At the same time we have a massive removal of normal consumer rights from the ability and the right to access their own technology. Consumer devices are sealed shut with glues, special screws, warning stickers that threaten the user with dire consequences should they have the tenacity to break them. But the main method of sealing goods is to do it with software, and the aid of copyright protections.

The Digital Millennium Copyright act in the US and many similar laws make it a crime to break a software lock that is protecting a copyright work, even if the reason is legal. So we have seen a explosion of software in devices, and as…

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Science and Art (with a couple of Beasties too) Part the First…

… or SOMETIMES WHEN YOU’RE WRITING A NOVEL, IT’S GOOD TO GET OUT FOR A BIT, ER, PART THE FIRST

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Beasties ensuring I don’t get up to too much mischief

As one or two of you* may be aware, I have been working away from home during the week for the last 18 months, back in my old home-from-home Reading. I have friends down here so, whilst it is hard being away from the Snail and the pups, my homesickness is softened by good company (and maybe a shandy or two** from time-to-time).

My contract in the real world concluded at the end of 2019 leaving me with 6 months rental on a flat. I decided to take this opportunity to use it as a base to finish novel number 3 and start on novel number 4 and possibly even number 5. Possibly.

The thing is, I can walk to Reading railway station and be no more than about 10 minutes or so from a train to London, so it seems rude not to avail oneself of that every now and again (back in Wales, I live 20 miles from the nearest station that only has trains that go north).

To London, then, with a nifty backpack filled with a reusable mug, JonBeastie and JanBeastie (see here for more beastie details). Our first port of call was the Science Museum, home at the moment to an exhibition of objects relating to Britain’s code-breaking expertise over the last century.

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Not my old typewriter, honest, but an SG41, a very rare German cipher machine that was, unlike the more famous Enigma device, unbreakable by the geniuses at Bletchley Park.  

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A 5 UCO: a British cipher machine so secret, they were all destroyed after WW2. Somewhere, an old civil servant is being shown this picture and told “You had one job to do…”

There are, of course, millions of items in the museum but I did notice these two on my way out. This is a theorbo, somewhat reminiscent of a guitar I have:

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and this item, that made me feel so old, I felt I should have been in the case with it holding a sign saying “Example of typical owner”:

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Ancient technology, apparently

I saved up and bought my one in 1980 and it still works today, using the same Casio battery that came with it. It has a liquid crystal display with sufficient digits to show how old I am and, when I get home to Wales, I am going to check that it is still on my desk.

I needed something new and artistic to stop me going and taking up residence in the case with the prototype of the Clock of the Long Now, so I and beasties headed to…

TO BE CONTINUED…

oOo

* I reckon two.

** I reckon more than two.

 

Categories: Artwork, computers, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

#8 Beastie

JonBeastie sporting a sporty sports shirt

Some time ago, the lovely Snail bought me my own beasties (from the wonderful Crawford Beastie maker Helen – she blogs here). To celebrate Wales winning the 6 Nations rugby, she commissioned the Beastie-maker to create a magnificent number 8 Wales rugby jersey for JonBeastie.

JonBeastie in a #8 Welsh Rugby Shirt
Was it something I eight?

How wonderful is that? Thank you Snail and thank you Crawcraft Beasties!

Day. Brightened. Up.

oOo

Categories: Artist, General silliness, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Why I walked 21 miles for Wildlife

A week ago (28th April), I completed a 21 mile walk to raise money for Denmark Farm Conservation Centre. Surprisingly, I suffered few ill-effects and was able to drink beer and eat chocolate again some thirty seconds after finishing. Last Wednesday, I strolled around Denmark Farm and tried to capture a little of why I want others to support the place as I do….

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Denmark Farm is a haven for wildlife whose habitats are being destroyed by Human activity…

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… even common not-very-pretty wildlife…

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…. as well as the classic stuff.

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Preservation of these habitats needs some Human intervention, and that costs money, even the dull stuff like fencing

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We also monitor wildlife as best we can to see the difference we are making

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And I have a wonderful place to come and write when there’s time!

If you would like to support Denmark Farm, we have volunteer days, a wide variety of courses, and holiday accommodation (Eco-lodge, glamping, camping). And if none of that appeals, you can always bung us a couple of quid on our donations page. THANK YOU!

oOo

Categories: bees, birds, Sustainable Stuff, volunteering, wildlife, Writing | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

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