Fraud, Waste, and Abuse
The Company Line
Anyone who has worked in the Government or the Military has seen the phrase Fraud, Waste, and Abuse plastered about. Builtin Boards have large posters with hotline numbers and ways to contact your Inspector General so that the US Government can prevent the waste of money (as if).
One way or another this phrase has been stuck in my head the last few days. We are living in a society of fraud, waste, and abuse. While the government is playing a part the biggest culprits are consumer technology companies.
Before I say more I want to admit that I have been a part of the cycle. I have purchased device after device, wanted after the new shiny, and spent more money on products than reasonable. The issue is not the past. It is what am I going to do about it now that I know?
Until about the mid 2000s every computer or laptop I purchased was repairable and upgradable (to at least some extent). Need to replace a failed drive, or need more RAM? It was as easy as finding the needed parts, removing a few screws and popping them in. Cell phones while not really repairable or upgradable where tools that you did not really need to upgrade often as they simply let you make phone calls or send text messages (and do push-to-talk if you had a Nextel Phone). No matter what the consumer device was people had them fixed, you did not toss out a TV you had it repaired.
Then, as far as I can tell, came the smart phone revolution. Systems on a Chip that could not be upgraded and components that where so custom people had no choice but to go to the vendor for repair. Early on, in the US, we bought these phones "on contract" masking true price of the device, and people still thought about them the same way as they did their Nokia flip phone. Eventually that stopped and the true cost of these devices was in the face of consumers.
At the same time laptops became the norm, and manufactures began to build them like phones, soldering on everything they possibly could, gluing the battery inside the chases, etc.
All of a sudden we could not fix things and people had been conditioned to always want the newest and the best(est).
Right to Repair
Along the way people started to notice how absurd this was getting and they started to take action. Without spending too much time on the history of this, individuals and companies started to make waves in the halls of the American legislature. As with many things in American when guilty parties took note that something was happening they made changes to appease the "powers that be". Companies like Apple and Microsoft recently made small changes to show that they "support" Right to Repair in what I am sure is an attempt to prevent real legislative changes that would force their hands.
Much more progress has been made in Europe on the legislative front but I am not as fully aware of it. So I will not expand on that any more than to recognize that they are miles ahead of the US on this.
Open Source and Open Hardware
As someone who has used Linux for 20+ years at this point I have always watched the open source hardware and software space. I used a Sharp Zaurus and watched as Openmoko released the Neo 1973. Early netbooks ran Linux because it worked well on the low powered hardware. And Linux still runs great on hardware from decades past as long as you find a distribution that still packages software for i386.
Recently, companies like PINE64, Purism, and System76 have been working to create hardware solutions that are open and repairable. Each one of them working on their interests, but contributing to an ecosystem of devices that can be supported by anyone should the company go away.
On PINE64's store, you can buy replacement motherboards, frames, ribbon cables, etc for their devices. They also sold upgrade kits for older hardware to let people get more out of their devices, and all of this has been with the help of the open source community.
Another new entry to this market is Framework with their laptop that was meant to be fixed and upgraded by the end user. They are building devices like other companies used to build them, and from what I have read online they are doing it without sacrificing the thin, light, and beautiful designs that others say can't be done this way.
Open source software in conjunction with hardware that is easy to repair, or even better open itself, gives people real ownership of their devices. A phone from PINE64 is yours, you are in control of it and if you need something for it you can buy and do the work yourself or pay someone else to do it for you. Likewise you can make changes to the software without the blessing of corporate overlords who approve anything and everything you do on your device.
My personal changes
I am done buying hardware that restricts me. In 2022 and beyond I will not purchase another laptop with soldered on components that should be upgradable. I will not buy hardware that requires users follow strict corporate rules. I will only buy things that look to improve people's ownership of their devices and help to keep things out of the landfill.
I hope that within the year I will be able to use a PinePhone Pro as my full time cell phone. While it will mean some changes and sacrifices up front in the long run I hope it will pay off. I also want to get more involved in improving the software story on Linux Mobile devices. I have used and enjoyed Sxmo on my PinePhone, but that is not something most people would use and so my time would be better spent working on something like Plasma Mobile, Phosh, or writing applications that people need on their phones.
Most importantly I need to remember that consumer electronics are tools that should be used to improve my life and as such I don't need to have device envy, or lust after the cool new thing. What I have works for everything I need and if it is lacking my first step should be looking at how I can help make it better not rushing off to buy the next thing; adding to the ever increasing pile of electronic waste in our landfills.