Friday, July 9, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Woz on Right to Repair

Derek Wise (Hacker News):

Apple is often brought up when talking about right to repair, usually in reference to their anti-repair practices. In response to a Cameo request, Steve Wozniak spoke for almost 10 minutes on the importance of right to repair and how it has impacted his life.

[…]

He then focused on the way that Apple, at its founding, was positively impacted by the open schematics of the time. “When starting Apple, I could never afford a teletype for input and output.” He then spoke about how he was able to use a tv to output the signals. “That all came from being able to repair things, modify them, and tap into them yourself.”

Moving on from his own repair experience, he questioned, “why stop the self-repair community? Why stop the right to repair people? Look at the Apple II. It shipped with full schematics… this product was the only source of profits for Apple for the first ten years of the company.”

The video is here.

See also: Mixerology.

Previously:

Update (2021-07-13): Jesper:

You can do this with multiple ton vehicles, often filled with tens of gallons of flammable propellant just to make things interesting, but also with separate computer networks, tight clearances and miniaturized components out the wazoo.

Why you should not be able to do this with mobile phones and tractors has only ever had one honest answer[…]

10 Comments

freediverx@gmail.comx

I'm all for letting people repair their own devices—provided this doesn't require sacrifices in the security, performance, or design of the products themselves from the end users' perspective This is an important issue that transcends Apple (see: John Deere.)

But I cringe every time someone pulls a quote from Woz on an issue like this. Though he's a brilliant guy who was essential to Apple's founding, he's very far removed from modern day Apple and the qualities customers have come to expect from Apple products. He is a hobbyist at heart—a curious tinkerer. The attributes Woz would find desirable in a modern day smartphone or computer are very far removed from what the vast majority of consumers expect from said products. If Woz were handed a magic wand to transform today's Apple into his own vision for the company, Apple's products would be unrecognizable and limited to a tiny audience of aspiring electrical engineers.

It really is a tricky issue because there are tradeoffs either way. I think everyone could guess what Woz would think on this issue, but part of my reason for linking was his interesting stories.

freediverx: That sounds very FUD-y. Do you think Woz doesn't appreciate the design of the iPhone? What changes, exactly, do you think that Woz's "magic wand" would cause which would cause Apple products to be "unrecognizable and limited to a tiny audience"? I think you're extrapolating to claims he never actually makes.

The only concrete change I heard was the availability of schematics and specifications. I fail to see how the availability of information would harm consumers in any way. With the Apple II, I never saw this information hurt any user, and it benefitted all of them greatly by the third-party ecosystem it nourished.

It's especially hard to defend Apple here since they've not only ceased publication of useful specifications, but have added many completely artificial restrictions to prevent repair shops from replacing failed components. I don't know what you think you heard Woz say, but I didn't hear a single word that was incompatible with a phenomenal customer experience. R2R would save consumers time and money. It has never been about compromising the user experience.

Michael: There do exist engineering decisions which are tradeoffs between user experience and repairability/tinkerability, but Apple is *way* past that point. From where they are now, there are a dozen pro-R2R changes which have no appreciable downside at all for casual users.

For example, the change from torx/phillips to pentalobe didn't improve anyone's user experience of Apple devices, even a little. It was just a dick move.

Apple has at least two very different reasons to fight the right to repair.
1. Repairability will allow people to skip overpriced upgrades from Apple and replace many part with 3rd party options.
2. There is a gigantic industry of counterfeit "replacement" part, often unimaginably low quality yet looking authentic. People in the US and Europe do not realize the size and the spread of this phenomenon. Making it harder to repair can often stir people away from shady sources to proper channels.

and, as a bonus, they probably can make a more compact products if they do not have to think about ease of repairs.

I personally in favor of the more repairability, yet I am not sure if government regulation is the right answer, maybe, it depends on the regulation.

Kevin Schumacher

> People in the US and Europe do not realize the size and the spread of this phenomenon.

People in the US may not realize they know the size and spread of it, but they do, because Amazon US is overrun with counterfeits and low-quality look-alikes for many, many products ever since Amazon allowed sellers in China to sell directly on the marketplace.

the fake-Apple part market makes self-repair in an Asia country a pure crapshoot-hold-your-breath-for-six-months kind of thing. It's horrible, but it's better than traveling 300km to the "authorized service center". there is a middle ground here and Apple could, no should, do a lot better than making this all b+w and claiming they are "protecting the consumer". I really don't think this is about forcing folks into expensive upgrades though either. that's a red herring on the other side of the argument. I think Apple's profit on upgrades is small compared to other divisions, small even to Homepods, it's more like they can, so they do. Apple are control-freaks, fighting right-to-repair efforts is the dark side of their control freak.

> That sounds very FUD-y. Do you think Woz doesn't appreciate the design of the iPhone? What changes, exactly, do you think that Woz's "magic wand" would cause which would cause Apple products to be "unrecognizable and limited to a tiny audience"?

I do think Woz would have set different design priorities for the iPhone than Jobs/Ive did. An iPhone that's easy to repair is not the iPhone that shipped. It would have a micro-SD card slot and a swappable battery, at the very least. Those, however, would've inevitably made the iPhone bulkier and heavier, and harder to make water-resistant.

Which wouldn't have made for a worse product, but certainly one geared towards a different (likely smaller) audience. I don't think that's FUD at all.

As Dmitri said, it's about 1) extra revenues on component replacements, 2) circumventing counterfeits, 3) smaller products. I would reverse that order (I really think there's a design ethos to make the product disappear as much as possible, often to a fault), but I think those are the correct bullet points.

Right to repair has nothing to do with preventing smaller products, or anything like that. Many of the people commenting here are completely misinformed on what the right to repair advocates are actually asking for, and none of the "fair repair" legislation has done anything even remotely like asking Apple to stop making their devices smaller.

This is about making repair information, diagnostic tools, and service parts available, which would actually HELP get rid of fake third-party products. This black market of Apple parts only really exists to the degree it does because Apple doesn't supply these parts.

NONE of this is about telling Apple not to glue the battery to the motherboard.

The fact that people commenting on this blog, whom I would expect to have a basic understanding of these topics, are so poorly informed, speaks to how successful Apple's misinformation campaign has been.

> Right to repair has nothing to do with preventing smaller products, or anything like that.

Sure it does. Sooner or later, a right to repair bill will be floated that mandates criteria (e.g.: components must not be glued), and sooner or later, if such a bill comes into effect, that will affect engineering tradeoffs.

> This is about making repair information, diagnostic tools, and service parts available

What is? The term describes any number of bills. They're not all aligned.

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