Category Archives: Service Dirt

Apple Doesn’t Want You To Be Able To Fix Your iPhone—Here’s Why

This applies to consumer goods from Apple, but it also applies to many medical devices.   Pat

 

The cure for planned Apple-escence

BY Kendra Pierre-Louis

 “It’s not just Apple,” says Gordon-Byrne. “Any manufacturer that doesn’t want to provide parts and tools can instantly, without any difficulty, refuse to repair equipment and say that your only choice is to buy a new product.”

Twenty-five years ago, my family’s television, a sturdy mass of wood and tubes, went on the fritz. The curved glass screen had taken to displaying everything from the Smurfs to Peter Jennings in shades of green. Shipping the massive box to the manufacturer was out of the question. Instead, a call to a local, independent repairperson was placed. For a fraction of the cost of replacement, he restored our set to its Technicolor glory.

Just 20 years later, when an errant elbow cracked my family’s three-year-old flat-screen, no repair calls were made. What was the point? Replacing it would be cheaper, so that TV joined the 41.8 million tons of e-waste discarded around the world in 2014— much of it toxic.

A generation ago, the idea of tossing out a broken television would have seemed wasteful, or just plain stupid. Conventional wisdom suggests that rapid advances in technology—your average smartphone, after all, has more computing power than NASA used for the original Apollo missions—combined with the declining costs of offshore labor, means the culture of repair is losing the free-market battle against cheap replacement costs. Right?

Wrong, says Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the Digital Right to Repair Coalition. The coalition of tinkerers, used-equipment sellers, e-waste reduction groups and concerned individuals came together in 2013 to serve as the public voice on issues of the digital aftermarket: what we’re allowed— and increasingly not allowed—to do with our products.

“The lack of repairability is deliberate on the part of manufacturers,” says Gordon-Byrne. It takes proper construction to create devices that can be repaired, as well as basic support to allow those repairs to happen. Many items are unfixable by design, like Apple’s 2015 Retina Macbook, which uses proprietary screws, and solders and glues components in place. But many items could be repaired, with the right parts and knowledge. The local repairperson of my childhood was aided by manufacturers’ providing manuals and selling parts. Those are two things that, for the most part, no longer happen.

“Their business model now,” says Gordon-Byrne, “is: You ship the TV back to them. They fix it, but they charge you whatever they want. They don’t allow Mr. Bob’s TV repair to buy the parts, the tools, or to get the manuals.”

Companies often simply urge customers to purchase a new device. “I heard this story recently,” says Gordon-Byrne. “A teenager’s headphone jack on his iPhone didn’t work, so he took it to the Apple Store for repair. The store told him that his phone was off warranty and, regardless, they don’t repair headphone jacks.” Instead, he was given the option to trade in for a new phone at a hefty cost of $275. In this case he was lucky: The headphone jack is a common component across smartphones and can be purchased in bulk for as little as 10 cents. A tinkerer was able to fix the supposedly irreparable phone for $25. In 2014, however, new manufacturer guidelines released by Apple prompted rumors that the company may phase out this standard connector for its own proprietary “lightning” port. (Apple did not respond to a request for comment.)

“It’s not just Apple,” says Gordon-Byrne. “Any manufacturer that doesn’t want to provide parts and tools can instantly, without any difficulty, refuse to repair equipment and say that your only choice is to buy a new product.”

That doesn’t mean repair is impossible—just difficult. For parts, one must typically turn to Asian suppliers that skirt intellectual property laws and often lack quality control. For information, one must depend on individuals who dissect devices on YouTube and websites like iFixit, a crowdsourced part of the Right to Repair Coalition that provides instruction manuals and ranks products by ease of repair.

Increasingly, companies create barriers in the form of proprietary black box software. Gordon-Byrne tells the story of a woman with a broken refrigerator who was able to identify which part had broken, procure the digital part, and successfully replace it—despite a lack of official documentation—only to be stymied by the need for a reset code. The only way to get the code? Paying for a technician to come out and enter it. Gordon-Byrne calls such practices “abusive.”

 The tractor company John Deere has said that owning its products is little more than a license to use them. It argues that any modification of their software—say, to fix a broken harvester in a rural place where a technician may not arrive for days, but crops can spoil in hours—would violate copyright law.

Such policies mean that the next generation of engineers won’t be able to tinker as children without risking a lawsuit. Imagine if the Wright Brothers had been prevented from reengineering the bike.

In addition, the net result of such restrictions is higher repair costs, fewer jobs and more toxic waste. As of 2011, Americans were generating 3.4 million tons of electronic waste annually, 75 percent of which wound up in incinerators, according to the EPA. Electronic waste is a toxic stew of more than 1,000 materials. A typical tube television includes up to 8 pounds of lead, according to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition. Newer flat screens have less lead, but more mercury. These chemicals contaminate soil and drinking water. If burned, they foul the air.

Recycling is not the answer, either. We ship about 40 percent of electronics earmarked for recycling to countries like China, India, Ghana and Nigeria. Because so many electronics are not designed to be repaired, taking apart these products is hazardous. It frequently involves burning them or using corrosive acids to melt away the plastic and extract the gold, silver, copper and other precious metals that, combined with low wages, make electronics recycling profitable. In Xiejia, China, with more than 3,000 registered recycling businesses, the money comes at a cost: Lead levels in children’s bloodstreams have been high enough to cause irreversible brain damage.

In New York and Minnesota, the coalition has gotten legislation introduced—though not yet passed—that would require manufacturers to provide service information, security updates and replacement parts. It’s based on a Massachusetts auto repair bill, passed in 2012, that requires auto companies to standardize their diagnostic codes and repair data by 2018. The bills in New York and Minnesota, however, are more expansive, encompassing anything that contains a microchip, from medical equipment to tractors to cellphones.

“We’re losing jobs in the state of New York because these large corporations are mandating repair work be done by their own companies,” says Republican state Sen. Phil Boyle, who introduced the bill in New York. “The more vertical integration there is, the less free market there is. The small repair shop down the street needs to stay in business.”

Kendra Pierre-Louis

Kendra Pierre-Louis is a member of the Rural America In These Times’ Board of Editors. Kendra is a Queens, New York-based journalist. Her work has appeared in, Newsweek, Earth Island Journal and Modern Farmer. She is the author of Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Green Planet (Ig Publishing 2012).

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Boston Scientific AngioJet – No Options Besides Manufacturer Service

I received an email from a BMET asking for assistance finding a service manual for a Boston Scientific (formerly Bayer / Medrad) AngioJet Ultra Perhipheral Thromectomy System.  (See the unit HERE.)  I decided to call the company directly to see what they had to say.

According to Tech Support at Boston Scientific, They do not have a service manual for the AngioJet. Upon further discussion, they did admit that they have manuals, but that they are proprietary and are restricted to use by their internal employees.   They maintain that the hospital does have options for service. These options consist of either time and materials or a service contract.

The individual I spoke with tried to tell me that this is very common, and that most medical equipment manufacturers do not provide manuals. Even GE does not provide service manuals for ultrasound machines.   I corrected him.   But he did not sway at all.

I recommend that complete service manuals be made a part of the purchase conditions of every medical equipment purchase, and that the manufacturer’s warranty (both parts and labor) be extended until both service manuals and technical training are provided to hospital-designated staff.

Boston Scientific Technical Division can be reached at 1-800-949-6708.

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Which Companies Don’t Want To Share Service Manuals?

By Patrick Lynch

One of my favorite websites is Frank’s Hospital Workshop. It is chocked full of videos and written material that covers the scope of medical equipment. The material ranges from educational offerings, operator’s manuals, service manuals and some do-it-yourself test equipment. But what I want to focus on are the service manuals. Frank has a pretty good selection, but I notice that many of them are not downloadable and bear the message “Download prohibited by name of company.”

I decided to go through Frank’s entire service manual library and record the names of all of the manufacturers who will not share their manuals. What you decide to do with this information is your own business. This is what I found:

tables 1 Patrick Lynch

tables 2 Patrick Lynch

– See more at:

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Apple Watch is Based on “Planned Obsolescence”

Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is ‘planned obsolescence’

Tech website iFixit found that Apple had ensured that the technology would eventually fall out of use, forcing customers to buy new products

Jamie Campbell

Saturday 25 April 2015

Tech repair and upgrade website iFixit has claimed that the Apple Watch won’t be a long term option for those hoping to continually upgrade their device.

CEO Kyle Wiens has always been a vocal critic of Apple’s obstructive policies on third parties fixing and upgrading iOS devices and his company provide an online “free repair guide for everything” where methods to repair or improve electronic devices are posted.

Upon the release of the Apple Watch, Wiens’ company immediately got down to the business of (iBuffs look away now) tearing the brand new product open and evaluating it from the inside.

Their prying work has discovered that the “overall device construction limits further repair options”.

“The S1 SiP [internal system in package] is encased in resin, and is further held in place by a mess of glue and soldered ribbon connectors. In short, basic component replacements look nearly impossible.”

The s1SiP is custom-designed Apple technology that integrates a number of subsystems like the chip into one package. It is encased in resin to increase its durability.

Read more:
iFixit: A million little pieces
Apple watch goes on sale
Apple watch: First version unlikely to be a measure of success

Therefore, according to iFixit, the Apple Watch has intentional obsolescence built into it as it will become technologically redundant as processors become faster and apps are supported only by the newest models.

This tactic is known as ‘planned obsolescence’ and has been an accusation levelled at Apple for a number of years.

The current operating system for iPhones, for example, only supports some of the newer models and it appears that the Apple Watch will find itself in a similar position.

This revelation may trouble users, who will have paid £479 for the standard model or even up to £9,500 if they bought the 18-Carat Rose Gold Case edition.

The exploratory work by iFixit revealed that the device includes a 2-5mAh battery, compared to a 300mAh battery found in competing devices, like the Motorola Moto 360 and Samsung Gear Live. The device also includes an ARM Cortex mj3-based touchscreen controller.

The research also interestingly found that, although Apple has promoted the device’s heart rate monitoring feature, it is actually bundled with a plethysmograph that could act as a pulse oximeter. This could allow users to measure their own blood oxygen levels.

Apple has never commented on claims that this is policy that they pursue.

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Ortho Clinical Diagnostics – outrageous charges?

I recently was sent a letter from Ortho Clinical Diagnostics by a friend in a hospital.  I publish it below, with my highlighting.  It is a glaring example of how a company can use obscenely high charges to pressure customers into signing a service contract.  I’ve had problems with Ortho’s customer service and pricing for many years.  I guess they haven’t changed.

To summarize, they say in the first sentence that the purpose of this letter is to encourage customers into signing contracts.They profess LIMITED TECHNICAL SUPPORT over the phone, but even that is at prevailing labor rates – up to $1,580 per hour, with a 2 hour minimum.  So a 10 minute phone call is going to cost a hospital between $1,580 and $3,160!

Zone charges are $1,530 per trip. without regard to how far they must travel, or haw long it takes them.  A trip across town would incur a $1,530 charge!

Adding the minimum labor, the minimum charge for an onsite visit would be $3,110, even if the service engineer were across the street.

I believe that these charges and rates are flagrant attempts to place undue pressure on hospitals to sign contracts,which themselves are very lucrative for the company.

Please factor these after-purchase costs in when deciding which medical equipment to purchase.                          Pat Lynch

Ortho Rate Sheet

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Appliance Warranties: Wasteful or Worth It?

Are you in the market for a new appliance? You’ll likely be offered an extended warranty by the salesperson, which may sound like a good way to cover any mishaps, but it’s not worth the extra money. Here’s why.

According to a recent study from Consumer Reports, most products seldom break during the two to three year window covered by an average service plan. Then, when they do break, your repairs tend to cost as much as the plan itself. Keep in mind that the manufacturer will sometimes cover out-of-warranty items, as well.

If your appliance breaks down within a short amount of time or because of a known issue, the manufacturer will usually offer free discounts or repairs, if you contact them for help. Another thing to consider is the extra charges associated with extended warranties. Some repairs call for the item to be shipped to the manufacturer, which typically isn’t covered by the company. In other cases, you may be required to pay a service charge when someone comes to repair your appliance.

Extended warranties aren’t the best deal for consumers, but salespeople have a reason for pushing you to buy one. Consumer Reports says that most retailers keep 50 percent or more of what they charge for these kinds of plans.

Bottom line: extended warranties aren’t worth it. Keep these things in mind the next time you’re shopping for an appliance and save yourself from unnecessary expenses.

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$25.00 for a shipping box!

From TechNation . . . .

Albert Hardy said 2 hours, 19 minutes ago:

AMPRONIX

So, I sent out a display for repair to Ampronix in the original Spacelabs/ELO box with all the correct foam, when I received the repair estimate it included SHIPPING MATERIALS. I decided to call and inquire and was told that I should have told them to save my box to ship my display back in or they throw it away and sell you one of their boxes for $25.

Sorry, but this is utterly ridiculous

 

Followup comment from the company:

Marketing Department replied to the forum topic “Wall of Shame Nomination” in the group “Wall of Shame”:

“This was a repair completed within 2 days and returned to customer on 08-02-13. The customer service representative had communicated with Mr. Hardy with regards of disposing his original box, unless we are instructed prior to servicing the unit, we discard the used / damaged / torn, etc. boxes for recycling. It was explained to him that our standard service process set by ISO standards (ISO9001:2008, ISO 13485:2003 & ESD20.20-2007) is to send the serviced unit back to the customer in a new, double walled, ESD pre-molded foam. This will eliminate any denied shipping claim by the carrier as well. We feel that $25.00 for the white Ampronix box, pre-molded ESD foam, ESD bag to protect the unit & labels is more than reasonable of a fee.

Failure to follow ISO standards will only jeopardize our company’s medical certifications, something that is very difficult to achieve. We also let him know that if he wishes for us to send his units back in the original received boxes; we can accommodate this as we do this for various contracted customers. We had no indication by him that this needed to be escalated further. We are more than willing to waive the $25.00 fee in this instant. An attempt to reach out to this customer is underway.”

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