Posts Tagged With: technology

Fixing the future

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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

Mend it Monday: On the phone(s)

Mend it Monday is an occasional post inspired by thesnailofhappiness

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Headphones – comfortable but broken

I have had these headphones for about 15 years now – they were quite expensive in their day and I have used them in what I lovingly (and slightly inaccurately) called my “recording studio”. They are great headphones and, when the rubber earpiece things disintegrated, the Snail made me new coverings that are largely acoustically transparent (that is, sound goes through them like they aren’t there).

Like all these things with moulded plugs on the ends of their wires, something starts to break/come loose in the plug. I have spent the better part of the last three years carefully bending the wire near the plug just enough to get the headphones to work properly.

Well, even that stopped working yesterday, so I was forced to mend them. The wires on headphones are always thin and pretty difficult to work with, and these were no exception. Fortunately, I had an old working plug (from a broken something-or-other) to use, and it all seems to have worked!

Mended and back in action – now back to doing important things such as watching this (which just makes me laugh and cheers me up every time I see it):

oOo

 

Categories: repair, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Shaving the Planet

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A Razor and a tool to take it apart… guess what’s going to happen!

There are many things that irritate me in life. Rather than list them all here, I would just say check out Wikipedia, that covers most of them. One thing that not only gets my goat, but then slaughters it in some satanic ritual after which it claims supernatural powers, is the way electronic devices have non-replaceable rechargeable batteries.

I’ve banged on about this before – Chez Snail’s radio is a prime example (here it is, look). I suppose the issue stems from the fact that, these days, rechargeable batteries last a long time by which point I am supposed to be a good consumer and buy a new whatever-it-is.

Yeah, like that’s going to happen…

I have had my electric razor many, many years now. It has a winter break then is eased back into service as I go from full beard (winter plumage), through a goatee thing (Spring plumage), to no beard at all (Summer plumage), Autumn, much like life, is like spring but in reverse. So, I always knew that one day the internal battery in my razor would stop working properly.

That day arrived.

I psyched myself up to have a battle to get into the thing, let alone sort out the problem. There are two screws on the back that I had to enlarge to see what kind of screws they were – those security star-shaped things, as it turned out. My trusty £1 bargain bin tool was the one to use here. After the screws were removed, the whole case came off very easily so well done Philips for making that bit easy.

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Joy! Easy to get into and nothing complicated to get in the way!

The battery was soldered to the board, which I expected.

The only problem I had was prising the battery off the sticky pad it was on – quite why it was attached like this, I don’t know since the back casing was moulded around the battery anyway. Never mind…

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Old Battery Out…

Thirty minutes later and the job was done. I think the last battery lasted about ten years. I should get another decade out of this one!

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…New Battery In

So, have a look at taking that device apart and replacing the rechargeable battery the next time – your nearest repair cafe/geeky me-type person/teenager will probably be able to help you save the planet, one battery at a time!

oOo

Categories: recycling, repair, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

ScrapHappy June 2018: Got a couple of minutes?

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Start…

A few weeks ago, the Chez Snail toothbrush gave up the ghost. Actually, it needed its internal rechargeable battery replacing but Braun, who make the thing, don’t want you to do that. So I did. And it didn’t work. I have no idea why, I just replaced the battery.

Anyway, we bought a new, less sophisticated toothbrush which didn’t have a built-in two-minute timer, so I thought I would build one out of old bits I had lying around. Yes, these are the things I have lying around – the Snailofhappiness has all the wool and fabric.

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The box contained something (I forget what) and I have had it since about 1990. The metal to make the front panel is off the cover of a hard disk drive, from about 2011. The timer circuit was one I made earlier (2005 or so) for a project that clearly never made it past the “hmm” stage.

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The LEDs are from an old mobile phone system that Motorola tried to introduce in the UK (I think it was called Rabbit or something). It never caught on. I and a friend bought an old roadside box and split the electronics within, in about 1994. These LEDs were a part of my haul.

The on/off switch comes from ever further back. In 1984/5, as part of my university degree, I worked at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories in the UK. It was like going to work in a Sci-fi film everyday – I loved it! During my time there, the old temporary hut (temporary = built in World War II) where I worked was decommissioned (i.e. pulled down) and we all mucked in to fill the skip with old junk – much of which we then fished out when no one was looking to salvage. There were pieces of computing history in that skip, and if I had had a car back then… Anyway, the switch for this scrappy project came from that skip (along with about 100 of its friends that i am still working through today).

The battery clip came from a broken toy.

The buzzer was going to be from an old ultrasonic parking radar thing but that buzzer was rubbish so I bought this one from a company as it was going bust (so bought it half price).

A bit of finagling later and it all works! Flick the switch as you start to clean your teeth, the green LED shines encouragingly, then after two minutes, on comes the red LED accompanied by a buzzer. Unfortunately, the new buzzer is, like the one it replaced, also a bit rubbish and you can’t actually hear it above the sound of the toothbrush. It isn’t a problem but I may try to improve it one day (in the very far future).

Throughout the whole build, I kept singing “Three minute hero” by The Selecter but with the words “Two Minute Timer”. Try it for yourself!

The Selecter – Two Minute Timer (well, OK, nearly)

These ScrapHappy posts are curated by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) ScrapHappy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month. I have sneaked a non-fabric-based Scraphappy in when no one was looking!

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…and Stop

oOo

 

Categories: recycling, repair, ScrapHappy, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , | 19 Comments

What’s in a Cute Mouse?

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Awww…

Let’s clear this up right away – I mean a computer mouse. You didn’t think I would be opening up an actual Mus Musculus did you? Me, who passes out at the thought of blood… uh oh *falls off chair*

One large glass of wine later…

One day last week, the cute mouse for my laptop computer became non-responsive and the light went out of its not-an-eye-at-all. Now, I really do like this particular mouse: it doesn’t weigh a lot, it fits the palm of my hand perfectly and it doesn’t eat its way into my box of breakfast cereal before eating the actual cereal. The night before Christmas, it joins all other mice in not stirring but then it doesn’t indulge in this activity any other night of the year either.

I did a fast diagnosis and decided that it was probably the thin, flimsy USB cable that had probably snapped somewhere inconvenient. In fact, the wires seemed to make intermittent connections right where they disappeared into the body of the mouse.

Time to take it apart!

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What most people see when they take their mouse apart…

I still experience a buzz from disassembling something for the first time. It doesn’t last that long as usually something breaks in the process and a world of sweary pain opens up, but it is there, nonetheless.

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What people like me see when they take their mouse apart…

The difficult bit was removing the cable from the circuit board without melting anything important. Once that was achieved, the difficult bit was reattaching the wire having removed the bit that was broken. As suspected, the wire had indeed snapped at the grommet and, as also suspected, the grommet was an integral part of the wire. The fix here was an old-fashioned knot on the inside of the case to act as a strain relief.

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Notice how the wires had been glued onto the board, making repair that much more irritating… also notice how the letters indicating the colours of each wire don’t actually match up with the colour of the wires. Genius.

 

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In recovery – the patient is doing well

All back together and working well. Hopefully it will be another 3 and half years before I have to do surgery on it again!

oOo

Categories: computers, repair, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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