I don’t think I ever realized how amazing mechanical watches are until I saw one dissected in front of me—its labyrinth of gears, screws, and wheels untangled and laid out on a worktable. Sure, mobile devices that send information from space to your pocket are pretty amazing too. But old-school watches are mechanical marvels: one-inch-wide, self-propelled machines—exact enough to track something as precise as time, engineered to last for generations.
In terms of slim, manufacturers are having a tough time beating Apple’s MacBook Air. Dell’s new Air competitor, the XPS 13, may have missed the mark by a whole millimeter—but we weren’t too put off. Especially since the XPS is considerably smaller otherwise, and still manages to include a 13.3 inch high definition display that looks like it’s floating in midair. The insides definitely aren’t as polished or streamlined as in a MacBook Air, but you could convince us the XPS was an Air prototype.
A couple days ago, my boss, Kyle, handed me a plain brown box and asked if I knew Bunnie. You know, the guy who (literally) wrote the book on hacking the Xbox. Apparently, Bunnie Huang started a Crowd Supply-funded project to make an entirely open source computer—and iFixit backed the campaign. “And here’s the computer,” my boss said to me, “so go do something cool with it.” All right, then: Challenge accepted.
Under the pretense of enforcing copyright law, manufacturers have been systematically chipping away at our ownership rights. That’s not acceptable. And iFixit isn’t just going to stand by and watch it happen. Today, we draw a line in the sand. iFixit is proud to announce the Digital Right to Repair Coalition—a united front of consumers, environmental organizations, the aftermarket, and digital rights advocacy groups. Together, we are fighting to take back control of the things we own.
Earlier this year, we told you about Keurig’s attempt to quash off-brand coffee by integrating DRM into its newest model of brewing machine. At the time, we thought that coffee barons locking their customers into name-brand coffee pods was the most boneheaded deployment of DRM we’d ever seen. Turns out, we were wrong. You know what else features DRM these days? Kitty litter. Welcome to the future, people. Now, even your cat’s crap comes with a steaming side of corporate crap.
Disposable electric toothbrushes have built-in batteries that can’t be replaced. Sometimes stuff that seems convenient is a big pain in the long run—it breaks, and it can’t be fixed. Buy something more durable and repairable instead.
Thinking about buying a FitBit? Our suggestion: don’t. Online reviews are full of complaints about devices that die, fast. And the FitBit Flex is among the least repairable things we’ve ever torn down. Save your money for something fixable.
Christmas is the high-water mark of new stuff—and a lot of that new stuff is going to be electronic. As Wired’s Christina Bonnington pointed out yesterday, the mounting influx of shiny, thin devices is an environmental catastrophe just waiting to happen. E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. If we’ve got any shot at meeting the e-waste challenge head-on, manufacturers are going to have to start giving a product’s end-of-life a lot more consideration.
Computers have fans that clog and slow long before the computer fails. A small tear in a jacket is not a problem, until the rip catches on a branch and suddenly you’re standing in a feathery nest of down insulation. A phone battery holds less charge before it holds no charge. To be a conscientious fixer is to recognize that repair is an intervention that must occur between functioning and complete failure.
I admit it. I’m one of millions of Americans sporting a slick, wafer-thin cell phone. And, like so many others, I’m rarely (if ever) without it. But if we all knew a little more about our beloved smart phones—found out where they come from and how they’re made—we might discover a tarnish in the gleaming surface of our phones. Our smartphones actually aren’t all that smart: they’re harming workers, poisoning critical ecosystems, and challenging the premise that technology makes the world better.
Keurig’s decision to release a coffeemaker that won’t brew “unlicensed” coffee is the most spectacular corporate blunder we’ve seen in some time. After their CEO let slip that the company is working on a coffee bot that won’t accept off-brand K-cups, the internet exploded in a hot ball of righteous fury. And Keurig’s parent company Green Mountain Coffee rode the wave of public vitriol with all the grace of a warthog riding a surfboard.