What does it take to turn the lights on in poverty-stricken, rural communities? According to a group of researchers from IBM, the solution just might be e-waste. And they’re proving it by turning old laptop batteries into new, low-cost lights that can power homes and shops in the developing world. They are calling the project UrJar—and, sold cheaply, they hope UrJar will light up the world.
I’m in the heart of Big Sur—a massive region of mountain and forest in Central California—and it’s my first time backpacking. And I’m prepared. I have a hodgepodge of belongings including a tent, a water filter, and an extra pair of socks. But also strapped to my back are three packs of sugru. Despite my novice efforts to trim every unnecessary ounce off my pack, I brought the self-setting rubber for two reasons: A) I wanted to put some of sugru’s wilderness hacks to the test, and B) working at iFixit has taught me that when things break—which they inevitably do—it’s best to have a tool around. Here’s the tale of my 20-mile, weekend backpacking trip—and why sugru made me a backpacking boss.
Here at the iFixit offices, most of us Reddit… hard. And while the “front page of the internet” is great for aww-some animal gifs, it can be a good resource for other things, too. There are around 70 million users on Reddit every month, and they can teach you how to make, build, hack, and fix just about anything—you just have to know which subreddits to look in.
We somehow managed to miss this brilliant TED Talk by Vinay Venkatraman when it came out, but it’s a great testimony to the ingenuity of tinkerers around the world. These people can hack together vital resources out of practically anything. In places where supplies are scarce, that can make all the difference in the world. Check out the full video on our blog.
This year, the iFixit team has launched the repair pledge. Thousands across the globe have already taken the pledge. They’ve committed to foster repair education, combat throw away culture, and stand up for our right to repair. Now, if adding another resolution to your list sounds a bit daunting—that’s alright. Diving into a repair can be daunting if you don’t know where to start. So I’m going to help you out: Here’s a list of 5 easy repairs to help you keep your repair resolution.
One of the best examples of adaptation and creative repair is jugaad. The term refers to the process of engineering or repairing through frugal means. For fans of the jugaad approach, this outside-the-box method of problem solving isn’t just for repairing a pothole or a phone—it’s an innovative business model for large or small corporations. But many argue that jugaad repair is a short term solution that’s riddled with limitations. What do you think?
A funny thing happened on the way to Congress yesterday. For once, lawmakers introduced a common-sense bill — the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013. If passed, the bill would give Americans freedom to do what they need with the devices they own, whether cellphone or car. You might assume that Congress will make a rational decision to guarantee our rights. But don’t kid yourself: this is an uphill battle. It’s important that we voice our support, now.
I’m lucky enough to own an Apple Extended Keyboard II, which belongs to my Macintosh SE. Unfortunately, it wasn’t doing much good connected to my rarely used SE. So, I figured it would find a better home on my desk at work, where I spend the day pounding away on a crummy keyboard anyway. The internet revealed two possible solutions: An expensive and sometimes-hard-to-find adapter by Griffin, or a $16 microcontroller and some DIY elbow grease. Naturally, I chose the latter.
Who owns our stuff? The answer used to be obvious. Now, with electronics integrated into just about everything, the answer has changed. We really don’t own our stuff anymore (at least not fully); the manufacturers do. This is a property rights issue, and current copyright law gets it backwards, turning regular people—like students, researchers, and small business owners—into criminals.
It’s been a little over a week since the White House threw its support behind the effort to legalize unlocking. Almost immediately, cell phone unlocking became a hot button political issue. Congress clamored to throw its hat into the legislative ring. In the last week, Senate members have penned no fewer than three bills to legalize unlocking. Unfortunately, none of them go far enough. Want to protect your right to repair, hack, modify, and maintain the stuff you own? Keep being noisy.
In October, the Library of Congress canceled an exemption that protected unlocking cell phones without carrier permission. The decision, which effectively banned legal unlocking, sparked public contention: More than 114,000 people signed a petition demanding that the ban be lifted. Yesterday, the White House added its name to the ban’s list of opponents, declaring “It’s time to legalize cell phone unlocking.” So, what’s next for unlocking?