Hacker News

61 Comments:
userbinator said 11 days ago:

Don't forget leaked schematics and other engineering documents --- which once upon a time were supplied with any moderately complex piece of equipment. It's not surprising then, that the majority of sites where you can find this information are hosted in Asia, former Soviet, or eastern European countries.

I wonder if Google's noticeably worsening search quality in this area has anything to do with where this info can be found, or the legality of it. I remember it used to be far easier to find a PDF someone shared, but now it's very insistent that you're looking for the user manual even if you search for "service manual", and commercial spam has taken over much of the results.

"If you outlaw repairs, only outlaws will have repairs."

segfaultbuserr said 11 days ago:

> I wonder if Google's noticeably worsening search quality [...] commercial spam has taken over much of the results.

On the contrary, I believe the systematic effort from commercial spams is also responsible for degrading the SNR for everyone.

A common tactic is pretending that you have the files. For example, you can enumerate all the books from a directory and create a single page for every book that claims you have them or tries selling them, while all you get is unwanted software. You can ever create PDF spams, so that even if you filter "filetype .pdf", you'll still see them. Meanwhile, all the genuine files are being taken down.

dbuder said 11 days ago:

And google won't let me tag those pages that don't have the datasheets as useless.

AmVess said 11 days ago:

I tried to Google a service manual for a 6 year old washer, and all I found was the same page hosted on different websites of questionable reliability trying to sell me the full manual.

I used to be able to find even the most arcane manual out there, but it's getting difficult to impossible. Sometimes it seems Google purges and blocks searches for things older than a year. I know this isn't the case, but it seems like it, sometimes.

I have a Dell laptop, and they provide a service manual for it on their website. Parts are inexpensive, ubiquitous, and easily replaceable. No small wonder why I've been a customer since their PC's Unlimited days.

amatecha said 11 days ago:

Yeah, trying to find technical manuals of any sort on the web is now a pretty futile process. It's pretty disappointing as the web used to be the optimal place to find this stuff.

Tade0 said 11 days ago:

My washer is from the mid 00's, and just last year I was able to find a manual for it - this year no such luck.

eitland said 11 days ago:

Did you try DuckDuckGo?

Tade0 said 9 days ago:

Tried, to no avail.

toast0 said 11 days ago:

Have you tried opening the washer? It's common to tape service manuals inside large appliances.

philpem said 11 days ago:

Toshiba... why doesn't that surprise me.

I've had a couple of them, they've been some of the least reliable machines I've ever had. Even getting a set of nubs for the Trackpoint was an exercise in futility - three hours on the phone, followed by finding a local Toshiba dealer (local being a good hundred miles away), only to pay £45 for three clearly used Trackpoint nubs. That was my last new Toshiba, but I do have a Libretto 110CT for programming old radio gear (old enough that the programming software only runs on DOS or Win9x).

My last two laptops were both Thinkpads and I've never looked back. My battle-scarred and heavily-stickered (to cover the scratches) X220 has had a mountain of parts. Heck, I once replaced the DC jack on the table in a convention hotel restaurant, using a friend's iPad to read the service manual...!

The only thing locking down repair manuals and parts will achieve (at least for me) is to make me look at what the company's competition is selling.

tomxor said 11 days ago:

Because you have likely heard a version of this story before, i'm picking out the unusually actionable part buried at the end here:

> We’re raising funds and hardware on Indiegogo [1] to collaboratively write open source manuals to replace the ones Toshiba forced Tim to take down.

[1] http://www.indiegogo.com/toshiba

kwiens said 11 days ago:

Author here. We raised the money, bought the laptops, and published the manuals.

Fix away! https://www.ifixit.com/Device/Toshiba_Laptop

tomxor said 11 days ago:

Awesome! I failed to notice the year of the article. Well done for following through.

philpem said 11 days ago:

Sadly it looks like Indiegogo has pulled this :(

kwiens said 10 days ago:

Looks like they just changed their link structure: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/operation-fix-toshiba

But we don't need your money—the project was successful and we've been teaching people to fix their Toshiba's on iFixit for years now.

davidhyde said 11 days ago:

I can understand Toshiba’s move if had the monopoly on selling laptops but they don’t. If I had to replace my laptop because it was unrepairable because Toshiba forcefully removed all the service manuals from the internet I would be unlikely to buy another laptop from that manufacturer. However, if I could fix it and but I eventually desired an upgrade then I would be more inclined to chose a model that I was familiar with. Seems like they have not thought this through properly.

bootlooped said 11 days ago:

I think people who look for or read laptop repair manuals is an insignificant percentage of their customer base.

Case study: Apple starts using pentalobe screws on the iPhone 4. This did not correlate with a decrease in sales, in fact sales have gone up a lot. Ask random iPhone users what the word "pentalobe" means to them, they probably don't know, nor care.

AnthonyMouse said 11 days ago:

Apple is never a central example.

If your iPhone breaks and can't be repaired and you want another one, you have to buy a new one from Apple, because Samsung doesn't make iOS devices. Meanwhile the fact that old iPhones get minor damage and then cost more to repair than they're worth increases the "I can afford an iPhone" signaling value of having one because they become less common and cost more to maintain in a state of good repair. In other words, it's a Veblen good.

That doesn't work for commodity markets like Android devices and PC laptops because it's all fungible commodity hardware and it all runs the same software. And then even if the user has no idea what "pentalobe screws" are, they do know that their laptop broke after the first year and all the repair shops told them it was unrepairable junk and recommended a different brand.

Meanwhile even Apple is playing a dangerous game here, because eroding repairability increases their new sales in the short term, but it also damages their reputation with technical people over time. So you get more sales, but more of the sales are to douchy investment bankers who then stand around holding your logo in their hand while telling girls they're fat and firing people's dads and bloviating about how much better they are than you because they drive a BMW.

And on top of that, there is a trade off between more sales and more users. When your platform's devices don't last as long you may get more sales, but it lowers your installed base because the devices fall out of it faster. The fact that a used iPhone is more than a new Android phone pushes more people away from your platform. But the number and quality of the apps people make for your platform is proportional to your installed base. This is how Windows got so sticky on the desktop -- it's Office, but it's also the long tail. That line of business app which is only used by 2% of people except that there are sixty of them and they're each mostly a different 2% of people, so 90% of people need Windows. Apple has a long-term problem if that's what accumulates over time with Android, but it's a direct trade off against short-term exclusivity.

brokenmachine said 10 days ago:

Agree 100% but unfortunately it seems that lots of other manufacturers are emulating the same bullshit.

They took my removeable battery but they will never take my headphone jack! Oops, I mean freedom!

away_throw said 9 days ago:

Even Samsung took away the headphone jack recently :(. I might as well buy a classic iPod for music listening now-a-days.

brokenmachine said 9 days ago:

I have a separate mp3 player already, but I use the headphone jack to watch youtube videos on the phone.

I'm waiting a bit to upgrade my phone. I've always had a Samsung up until now, but I won't be buying one without a headphone jack. Hopefully they'll come to their senses. Bluetooth is a painful joke.

davidhyde said 11 days ago:

Good point about Apple. Self repair seems out of the question.

About your first point, maybe it is naive of me to assume that repair shops acquire laptop repair manuals as soon as they come out and then keep them in case they need to repair a certain model. If this were the case then the only people affected by toshiba’s actions are self repair individuals of which there are few as you point out. If the repair shops rely on databases of these repair manuals then I guess that they are unlikely to tell their disappointed customers that they cannot repair their laptops because they can’t get hold of the manual because the vendor removed them all from the internet.

kantium said 11 days ago:

For me, it would be better to focus on drastically reducing the duration of copyrights. At the speed things are going, 2 to 4 years would be good. It would be beneficial for everyone. Drugs, Manuals, Seeds, Arts...

jtreminio said 11 days ago:

It takes over a decade for most major pharmaceuticals to go through all required research and clinical trials before they ever reach the general population.

Costs can easily go past tens of millions of dollars. A 2-4 year copyright period would require new medications to either be prohibitively expensive, or not be researched at all and only the most profitable diseases would ever get looked into.

okcando said 10 days ago:

It's alright, copyright doesn't govern pharmaceuticals anyway. That's what patents are for and they expire much more quickly than copyrights do though it's longer than four years.

Functional ideas or features are explicitly excluded from copyright or trademark protection.

yummypaint said 11 days ago:

Just bringing our duration in line with the rest of the world would be a massive improvement. Star wars and anything from that era should be public domain by now.

repairisntcheap said 11 days ago:

Laptop repair companies are disappearing for another reason, too... Brand new laptops are cheap. If your product is cheap to buy, it's harder to make money repairing the product.

yoz-y said 11 days ago:

This is the case not only for laptops. I was renting a place a few years back and the on/off button on my electric heater broke. A technician came in, brought a new heater and replaced it. I asked him why not repair something that seemed like a completely trivial fix. The answer was that the unit costs about 100€ whereas any technician would bill way more for the short time it would take to open it up, fish out the connector and replace the part. So to the landfill it goes.

gambiting said 11 days ago:

Well, that's what happens when labour is expensive. My friend's Amplifier broke in the UK, we got a few quotes for repairs but most places were asking for like £80-100 just to diagnose the issue. I happened to be driving back to my home country(Poland) at the time so I took the amplifier with me and had it fixed by a qualified repairman for £30 in parts + £20 in labour(the rate was an absolutely insane for Poland 50PLN(£10)/hour). Brought it back with me on the drive back.

heavenlyblue said 11 days ago:

>> The answer was that the unit costs about 100€ whereas any technician would bill way more for the short time it would take to open it up, fish out the connector and replace the part.

Well, of course they would bill more. You're essentially paying for all of the neurotic clients who are going to be fussy about the whole process. On top of that, what if it's not the heater and something else? Means you've just wasted extra time trying to fix it.

cyberjunkie said 11 days ago:

Stuff You Should Know did a podcast episode on Planned Obsolescence - https://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/podcasts/planned-obsolesc...

jokoon said 11 days ago:

Can't play the episode, no idea if ublock is a problem, but it doesn't work.

Is that a paid podcast?

segfaultbuserr said 11 days ago:

Not the original poster, but I'm not sure what is going on either, and it seems to be an interesting podcast I'd like to listen. Here's an alternative link I found, it works for me. There are some ads and greetings at the beginning, actual content starts at the 3 minute mark: https://player.fm/series/stuff-you-should-know-2151878/plann...

Raw MP3: https://dcs.megaphone.fm/HSW5294478445.mp3?key=ff7d10535b175...

Chris2048 said 11 days ago:

If their stuff is copyrighted, maybe we can write our own manuals? with blackjack! and hookers!

asdf333 said 11 days ago:

what can we do? don’t buy toshiba.

dredmorbius said 11 days ago:

Boycotts are one form of pressure.

Right to repair and right to information though are another.

This also means guaranteed minimum supported lifetimes, access to documentation, system upgrades, and the like.

As for laptops: I've been actively putting off upgrading for numerous reasons including the fact that no current offerings really seem to suit my needs, wants, or reasonable expectations, but bullshit games (factory-installed spyware, Lenovo, craptacular ergonomics (Apple keyboards, strips), and BDSM bootloaders (Android) leave me feeling physically ill.

I was reminiscing earlier that in his 1976 book Imperial Earth, Arthur C. Clarke more-or-less pressages the smartphone, with his minisec, though with some glaring distinctions.

There's a physical keyboard (the 'E' key is mentioned as being worn), devices are durable enough to be intergenerational hand-me-downs (the protagonist inherits his father's old device), and apparently the economics and business models of manufacturing, servicing, upgrading, and developing for the platforms have been solved, as they're never mentioned.

It's the business models of hardware, software, and services which are killing us. To the point of creating actively shitty products and business practices.

segfaultbuserr said 11 days ago:

> BDSM bootloaders

Upvoted for this, lol. I think using a lot of products are essentially becoming a BDSM game nowadays... i.e. It has some broken useless features because of some bullshit due to the marketing department. To improve something, you would need to hack it to bypass some arbitrary restrictions first, and many enjoy this process of hacking...

Those hackers are heros, but it would be the best if some arbitrary problems are not deliberately introduced by the manufacturers in the first place.

antisemiotic said 11 days ago:

The main difference is that BDSM is supposed to be consensual and have a safe word.

leiroigh said 11 days ago:

We even have a universally agreed upon safe-word for this kind of thing ("sudo").

cptnapalm said 11 days ago:

Not in OpenBSD by default! doas or die!

krapp said 11 days ago:

>Many desktop applications also don't open nearly as quickly as the average website.

That's not as true if you count the browser as part of a web application, which you should.

Filligree said 11 days ago:

Why? The browser is always open. Time spent opening it amortizes down to zero.

dredmorbius said 10 days ago:

Oh that I could bypass bootloader locks with "No. No. No." or "Red"....

crankylinuxuser said 11 days ago:

> It's the business models of hardware, software, and services which are killing us. To the point of creating actively shitty products and business practices.

Do you know how to keep your stuff from being easily cloned by Chinese?

You make it 'cloudy' by baking all your features in a closed and proprietary API on your premises. That's great for the company as it provides significant leverage against external competitors AND naughty customers. Bans can be instilled by "block user and hardware_id".

Of course, when that API goes away, so does utilizing any of that hardware. And what does that mean? Your $X00 device is now worthy of a doorstop or a space-filling-device in the trash.

foldr said 11 days ago:

>craptacular ergonomics (Apple keyboards,

I love the new Macbook keyboards. At least, I prefer the keyboard on my 2019 Macbook Air to that on my 2015 Macbook Pro. There's obviously an element of personal preference there, but I don't think it's fair to say that the ergonomics are "craptacular".

(The reliability issues are another matter, of course. We'll have to see if the 4th gen has finally fixed those.)

dredmorbius said 10 days ago:

Tastes vary, though reliability is also a massive concern.

cptnapalm said 11 days ago:

My first laptop was a Toshiba. It died a month after the year long warranty and would have cost more than a new laptop to get replacement parts for. So, I'm already on the don't buy Toshiba bandwagon.

segfaultbuserr said 11 days ago:

And salvage all the service manuals online, and host them anonymously on IPFS and Tor onion sites. Try taking that down, lawyers.

Tinfoilhat666 said 11 days ago:

Archive.org could also host them. Their mission is to provide universal access to all knowlegde.

I have never understood why they can host so much copyrighted material.

philpem said 11 days ago:

You know, I've wondered about this too. I wonder how effective their DMCA process is -- but while they host some of my stuff, I actually want them to. Obviously I don't have standing to try and find out on someone else's material.

I just wish their archive (Wayback Machine specifically) was easier to fulltext search.

colejohnson66 said 9 days ago:

They been designated a library. Libraries have a lot more leeway with copyright laws

dredmorbius said 11 days ago:

LibGen might meet this niche.

segfaultbuserr said 11 days ago:

Yes! It's exactly what I was thinking about. But uploading them as normal books would make them difficult to find, at least we need an index. If someone is going to do it systematically, contacting LibGen is surely a possible way to go.

dredmorbius said 11 days ago:

There are several existing special collections. A "Manuals" collection might serve the purpose.

brokenmachine said 10 days ago:

I agree about Tor, but IPFS provides no anonymity.

jokoon said 11 days ago:

What alternative is there? It seems all brands only sell cheap stuff.

I wonder if Thinkpads really survived this after it was bought by lenovo. Maybe high end Dell laptops are durable? ASUS? System76? Honestly I don't know what brand to choose from, and I think I would prefer not to invest in a new laptop if it's not durable, and keep using desktop PCs.

ollie87 said 11 days ago:

I mean they make nothing I'd buy any way, so I'm already doing my part.

chendragon said 10 days ago:

I personally feel that repair manuals and documentation are not the worst problems facing repair at this point.

What I've noticed in consumer electronics over the past few years is increased part integration - pretty much every device is just a logic board with a case and display, along with some support components. Pretty much every logic board is just a collection of switching power supplies, soldered ASICs, mem/disk, and connectors.

Even things like power supply ICs are becoming proprietary,with customer-specific part numbers that are hard or impossible to source. Furthermore anything with a microcontroller and firmware on it is perma-bricked should something go wrong on that. This is something Louis Rossmann (the famous MacBook repair guy) talks about a lot.

Now don't get me wrong, I totally support repair documentation, but being able to get replacement parts and materials is probably more of an issue to those "reasonably skilled in the art" than manuals teaching how to mechanically open something (usually possible to figure out) or even what's connected to what (worst comes to worst, you "beep it out" with diode mode and compare with a working exemplar [REWA technology on YouTube does this]).

The issue with parts and materials is that since we're moving towards proprietary ICs, the motive of manufacturers to not provide documentation/parts is even greater as they don't necessarily want to talk about the technology they are using, whether or not it was really novel. It provides a decent excuse for the manufacturers to fight Right to Repair. Furthermore, security issues and proprietary interests come into play, since you don't want hacked fingerprint sensors and Apple probably doesn't want to sell A-series processors.

Futhermore complicating matters is that component and board level repair remains more of a science project than a process. It is logistically difficult for many companies to bother dealing with selling parts (should they sell just subassemblies at 70% of the replacement cost of the product? Resistors for ten cents?) especially to people outside their network of people. And it's hard to deliver consistent experiences when you actually need to try to fix stuff; a lot of people I know are happy with Apple store service because they DON'T try to fix stuff and instead give you a NEW one, without all the warts and scratches, and it's hard to compete with this if you have to swap parts over and over again with subpar or defectively-designed "refurb" parts like I sometimes see happen with the PC manufacturers.

So I'm sort of half and half on Right to Repair every time it gets brought up. People seem to be warming up to first party repair. I think the biggest realistic benefit to RtR at this point is going to be pressure on first party repair to lower prices and improve service. And that's a good thing.

I think the other issue facing RtR discussions is, not that it's anyone's fault or anything but often it is very difficult to have the perspective of actual design and business challenges faced by the engineers and people delivering products. This makes it easier for companies to refute the claims being made. The people actually working on this stuff from the companies' side usually and understandably never talk about it - so we're only representing largely the end user side, or the reverse-engineering side.

ackfoo said 11 days ago:

This week I added two iPads to the massive pile that have come into our donation program locked and useless. But, miracle, I was able to find an email address for the donor.

It took me two goddam days of emailing instructions and encouragement to the owner to get them out of Find My Phone and unlocked for reuse. For ordinary folks the process is akin to AP Calculus.

Apple are the most craptacular, greedy, anti-environmental assholes on the planet. Of course they will protect service manuals and software with copyright.

I'm an Apple Developer with many commercial apps in the store. I started when Steve was CEO and I dearly loved and supported Apple for not being complete corporate assholes.

Now I'll die before I buy another Apple product. And they want to extend iCloud lock to laptops with a T2 chip.

Fuck them. Fuck those monsters.

blograbbit said 11 days ago:

I have always followed wired.com though and this is quite a very good topic treated here although i did not understand the full concept.

Blogincomes.com.ng