Apple's extension of "Activation Locks" to laptops will turn refurbishable electronics into e-waste

"Activation Lock" is a tool that uses Apple's trusted computing hardware to render systems inoperable if you don't have a login/password; nominally, this is used for theft-deterrence, but when Apple product owners fail to disable Activation Lock when they dispose of their equipment, it becomes effectively impossible to refurbish or repair, dooming it to become e-waste. Read the rest

Debullshitifying the Right to Repair excuses Apple sent to Congress

Apple's response to the Congressional committee investigating monopolistic behavior by tech giants contains a chapter on Right to Repair, whose greatest enemy is Apple -- the company led successful campaigns to kill 20 state level Right to Repair bills last year. Read the rest

What's inside the AirPods Pro? Here's a teardown

Our friends at iFixIt took apart the new AirPods Pro to see what's inside. An awful lot is stuffed into a very small package. Unfortunately, IFIxIt deems the AirPods Pro to be non-user-repairable: "While theoretically semi-serviceable, the non-modular, glued-together design and lack of replacement parts makes repair both impractical and uneconomical."

Image: IFixIt Read the rest

Video teardown of the Nintendo Switch Lite

iFixit took apart a Nintendo Switch Lite to see what was inside. It looks pretty easy to take apart, but it uses more adhesives than the original switch making it less repairable. iFixit gave the original switch a 8/10 for repairability, and the Lite gets a 6/10.

Image: iFixit/YouTube Read the rest

Seize your right to repair by learning a few basic skills

I've been repairing my phones and computers for years—I don't like being at the mercy of hardware vendors, especially when there's a sea of original and gray market replacement parts out there to be had. Upgrades? Same thing. While companies like Microsoft and Apple are making it almost impossible to tinker with the toys they make, it feels good to know that I can still at least install a fresh battery or increase the size of an old laptop's on board storage for hundreds less than it would cost me were I to take it into one of their repair centers. As I plopped a replacement battery into my 2012 11" MacBook Air earlier this week. I found my self feeling a lot of gratitude for the folks who talk me the fundamentals of puttering about with electronics. However, I know that not everyone has access to folks that can help them learn the skills they need in order to diagnose or correct a problem with their laptop, game console or other devices. This can make getting started with repairing you gear feel pretty intimidating.

You can get around this intimidation in a couple of ways. You can, if you're lucky enough to have one where you live visit a repair cafe or other similar business. They have the tools and instructions you'll need in order to learn how to do it yourself. And of course, there's the Interwebz. You'll find no end of videos that suggest how to tinker out a technical problem. Read the rest

Apple discourages iPhone self-repair with a dirty trick

Once again, Apple has demonstrated its disdain for people who want to do simple repairs on their equipment. This time, Apple has changed the iPhone's firmware so people who replace an old battery with a new Apple-branded battery will see a "Service" message on their phone that won't go away. The Service message says "Unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple battery. Health information not available for this battery." The phone also will also refuse to show any diagnostic information about the health of the battery. The only way to avoid the message and be able to see the health of the battery is to have the battery replaced by an Apple Authorized Service Provider who has access to Apple's proprietary internal diagnostic software.

From iFixit:

Technically, it is possible to remove the microcontroller chip from the original battery and carefully solder it into the new battery you’re swapping in, restoring the Battery Health feature—but the procedure isn’t for the faint of heart, and it’s an unreasonable requirement for any repair, much less something as simple as a battery swap.

Fortunately, your replacement battery will continue to work perfectly fine, and you’ll get all of the benefits that come with a new battery—we’ve confirmed that this doesn’t throttle the iPhone’s performance on a healthy battery, for example. But you won’t be able to easily see your battery’s health and know when it’s time to replace it.

Then again, this is a huge problem for iPhone owners who may not know about this new, sneaky lockdown, and it will undoubtedly cause confusion: they’ll replace their own battery and notice the “Service” message, then begin troubleshooting a problem that isn’t there.

Read the rest

Small but meaningful progress towards a federal Right to Repair rule

The Right to Repair movement has introduced dozens of state-level laws that would force companies to support independent repairs by making manuals, parts and diagnostic codes available, and by ending the illegal practice of voiding warranties for customers who use independent repair services, but these bills keep getting killed by overwhelming shows of lobbying force from members of the highly concentrated manufacturing sector, particularly Apple, whose CEO, Tim Cook, warned investors in January that the number one threat to Iphone sales is that customers are choosing to repair, rather than replace, their mobile devices. Read the rest

Folding phones are an unfolding disaster

Damon Beres notes that the situation with folding displays is quickly going to hell.

Enter Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, a kind of metal and glass taco that could define a new category of personal device — provided the company can get the thing to work. Several tech writers accidentally broke the gadget’s foldable display shortly after receiving review units, which led Samsung to delay the Galaxy Fold’s launch indefinitely. On Monday, the company said it would provide an update in the “next few weeks.” (Samsung’s official preorder link for the Galaxy Fold now leads to a 404 page.)

But even if Samsung eventually says it has worked out the kinks, you shouldn’t buy one. Not yet, anyway. There are the obvious problems that go beyond the breakable display. The Galaxy Fold is gut-blastingly expensive at $1,980, and review units contained design flaws that were revealed in a teardown by iFixit. (Facing pressure from Samsung, iFixit later removed its examination “out of respect” to the partner that leaked the phone.)

Unrepairable at any cost short of buying a new one, too. Read the rest

Not just Apple: Microsoft has been quietly lobbying to kill Right to Repair bills

Apple pioneered the use of dirty tricks and lobbying to kill Right to Repair legislation, but they're not the only tech player who's putting lobbying muscle into ensuring that you can't decide who fixes your stuff (and when it is "unfixable" and must be sent to the landfill). Read the rest

Leaked Apple docs describe support program for 3rd-party repairs, just as right-to-repair bills in 20 states would require

Documents from Apple leaked to reporters describe a program of support for third-party repairs, and the details sound like it was intended to comply with the requirements of a slew of new right-to-repair bills proposed in some 20 U.S. states. Read the rest

New Macbooks and Imacs will brick themselves if they think they're being repaired by an independent technician

Last year, Apple outraged independent technicians when they updated the Iphone design to prevent third party repair, adding a "feature" that allowed handsets to detect when their screens had been swapped (even when they'd been swapped for an original, Apple-manufactured screen) and refuse to function until they got an official Apple unlock code. Read the rest

California farm lobby's sellout to John Deere will cost its members their right to repair

As I wrote last week, the California Farm Bureau (which lobbies for the state's farmers) struck a deal to gut the state's Right to Repair legislation, a move that will cost farmers their right to fix their own tractors and other heavy equipment. Read the rest

Meet the people who went to the US Copyright Office to demand your right to repair, remix and preserve!

Every three years, the US Copyright Office undertakes an odd ritual: they allow members of the public to come before their officials and ask for the right to use their own property in ways that have nothing to do with copyright law.

It's a strange-but-true feature of American life. Blame Congress. When they enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, they included Section 1201, a rule that bans people from tampering with copyright controls on their devices. That means that manufacturers can use copyright controls to stop you from doing legitimate things, like taking your phone to an independent service depot; or modifying your computer so that you can save videos to use in remixes or to preserve old games. If doing these legal things requires that you first disable or remove a copyright control system, they can become illegal, even when you're using your own property in the privacy of your own home.

But every three years, the American people may go before the Copyright Office and ask for the right to do otherwise legal things with their own property, while lawyers from multinational corporations argue that this should not happen.

The latest round of these hearings took place in April, and of course, EFF was there, with some really cool petitions (as dramatized by the science fiction writers Mur Lafferty, John Scalzi, and Cory Doctorow [ahem]), along with many of our friends and allies, all making their own pleas for sanity in copyright law.

We commemorated the occasion with a collection of short video conversations between me and our pals. Read the rest

Apple robot that disassembles iPhones

Apple has unveiled Daisy, a robot that can disassemble nine different types of iPhones, as part of their program to try and recover and recycle more materials that go into their devices. It can apparently handle 200 iPhones an hour.

It's pretty mesmerizing to watch at work, I must say. As Eyewitness News writes:

According to the Apple report, Daisy can recover 1,900 kilograms of aluminum (used in enclosures), 770kg of cobalt (a material crucial for making batteries), 710kg of copper (crucial in circuit boards) and 11kg of rare earth elements (which play a role in controlling magnets, and also are used in the cameras and haptics devices). That’s just a partial list.

The company plans to install Daisy in multiple locations, starting in the United States (she’s already in Austin, Texas) and Europe. Here’s the list of products the system can handle: iPhone 5; iPhone 5s; iPhone SE; iPhone 6; iPhone 6 Plus; iPhone 6s; iPhone 6s; iPhone 7; and iPhone 7 Plus.

And here’s the caveat: Right now, Apple can only work with end-of-life devices that are returned to it directly. So the company is putting considerable muscle behind the Apple GiveBack trade-in and recycling program. That includes offering credit toward a future purchase.

I'm glad Apple's working on upping its recycling game, but they could have an even bigger impact by better designing their devices to be repaired by third parties, or even customers themselves, in the first place.

As the folks at iFixit have discovered during their wonderfully forensic teardowns of high-tech devices, Apple products can sometimes be a bear to unbuild and fix. Read the rest

EFF and iFixit are hosting a Reddit AMA on jailbreaking TOMORROW at 11AM Pacific

Join me, EFF attorney Kit Walsh and iFixit's Kyle Wiens -- along with special guests! -- in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session tomorrow (Thursday) from 11AM-3PM Pacific; we'll be talking about the upcoming Copyright Office hearings on creating exceptions to the DMCA to make room for independent repair and security research. We'll be live here at 11AM tomorrow! Pass it on. Read the rest

To do in LA, April 24: come hear from the people fighting for Right to Repair, freedom to tinker and the right to know

Update: due to popular demand, we've moved to a bigger space! We'll be at UCLA Moore Hall, Room 3340 (Reading Room), 457 Portola Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095. There's 20 new spaces open: RSVP today!

A law intended to stop people from making off-brand DVD players now means that security researchers can’t warn you about dangers from the cameras in your bedroom; that mechanics can’t fix your car; and that your printer won’t take third party ink. Read the rest

Ifixit flunks Apple's new educational Ipad as nearly un-repairable

Apple's education-centric new Ipad is meant to be used in rambunctious classrooms where drops and other abuse will be commonplace; it is also meant to compete with relatively easy-to-service Pixelbooks that school district IT departments can fix themselves or get repaired by a wide variety of independent, local service depots whose community-based technicians do repairs onsite and also keep local tax dollars circulating in the community. Read the rest

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