Changelog Interviews – Episode #582

We have a right to repair!

with Kyle Wiens, Founder and CEO at iFixit


All Episodes

This week Adam went solo — talking to Kyle Wiens, Founder and CEO at iFixit, about all things Right to Repair. They discussed the latest win here in the US with Oregon passing an electronics Right to Repair law to allow owners the right to get their stuff fixed anywhere as well as limit the anti-repair practices of parts pairing. They also discussed the history of the DMCA, the challenges posed by Section 1201, the challenges of recycling products with glued-in batteries, the need for producer responsibility, the future of repairability, repair scoring systems to inform consumers, and so much more. Did you know that iFixit funds its advocacy work through the sale of its tools and parts? So cool.



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Notes & Links

📝 Edit Notes


1 00:00 This week on The Changelog
2 01:43 Sponsor: Tailscale
3 03:20 Start the show!
4 05:32 Let's about "Right to Repair"
5 09:37 Kyles role in this and Apple parts pairing
6 12:29 Apple is beloved
7 17:39 Apple vs Motorolla on this issue
8 19:30 We have sunk cost and we're locked in
9 22:26 Sponsor: Sentry
10 26:01 Adam's perspective on this
11 28:46 Starting the movement
12 32:13 Kyle's been doing this a long time
13 33:54 Improving political momentum
14 34:28 Digging into DMCA
15 36:56 What's the git-revert?
16 37:47 When will things change?
17 38:47 OK, redpill us.
18 43:26 Apple and no "end-of-life" standard?
19 47:11 Recycling is a scam
20 48:12 Making companies responsible
21 51:29 Sponsor: CIQ / Rocky Linux
22 55:19 Aligning incentives
23 58:34 Fighting gatekeepers
24 1:00:33 Funding your advocacy
25 1:01:29 What all does iFixit do?
26 1:03:56 How to make profitable products
27 1:05:18 Instructions and parts together
28 1:08:24 The refrigerator epidemic
29 1:10:48 Big issues with refrigerators
30 1:15:13 Where's the communtiy?
31 1:16:46 What's a good next step?
32 1:19:14 Thank you Kyle!
33 1:19:37 This show is done.


📝 Edit Transcript


Play the audio to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧

Well, everybody, we’re here with Kyle Wiens today iFixit CEO. And Kyle, I have to say I’m a customer and a fan. I own some hardware, I suppose, some of your tooling, which helps me really to know and become aware of your brand. I have the Pro Tech bundle; could not live without it, I use it every day. I recently adjusted my kitchen aid refrigerator door handles. I just happen to have this hex wrench nearby, because I had the different bits, and I’m like “Why don’t I just use my iFixit kit?” Because it’s not just computer, it’s anything.

That’s the thing. I use my Pro Tech way more to do home repairs than I do electronics stuff. It’s amazing what just having a nice set of tools around does.

I love the lid, I love that whole kit. There’s a lot you can do with it. I recently needed a pair of tweezers, because my kid put something in his air filter that we have in his room. It’s a fan, it’s an air filter, and you can put something in it going down… And he did it by accident, it wasn’t on purpose, but I was like “Gosh, where are my tweezers at, for like my eyebrows or whatever?” And meanwhile, I’m like “I’ve got this awesome set of tweezers that’s for this in my Pro Tech bundle.” I’m not by any means suggesting people go out and buy it, but it’s very useful to me…

Well, I took a splinter out of my son’s foot with those tweezers yesterday. So…

There you go.

A hundred percent.

Multiple uses. I’ve found great – actually I am, I’ll endorse it. Go out and get it. Their Pro Tech bundle is amazing.

And you can buy it at Best Buy now.

Is that right?

Yeah. as well, but yeah, we’re selling our toolkits – the Pro Tech is at Best Buy, and we’ve got our screwdriver set at Home Depot as well now.

Yeah, I’m looking here in my email, because I had to refresh my memory, but I bought the Pro Tech bundle November 2022, direct from Yeah, okay, so the ad is over for the Pro Tech bundle. I do like it, I do use it. Okay. The Right to Repair movement is a big deal. We’ve talked to Cory Doctorow, I’ve been following Louis Rossmann on YouTube, I pay attention to the concerns around John Deere, I pay attention to obviously being a smartphone owner and a computer guy myself building PCs, building primarily Linux boxes, not so much Windows boxes… Gaming PCs is something I’m trying to get into here soon… And everywhere you turn around in technology, there’s some sort of DRM or gatekeeper or something that stops you. And here’s iFixit. You - I can call you a website; you are a website. But this brand, who you are - is it a movement? I know you sell tooling, I know you have tons of repair guides… I’ve repaired my Mac Mini, gutted it from end to end because you have amazing repair guides. But here we are, in this recent bill getting passed, you’re in the middle of this, you’re the CEO of this company… What is happening around this Right to Repair movement? What’s the true epidemic that’s happening around this? And is it the right word to use?

I mean, this is the war on general purpose computing, this is the war on tinkering… So to step back, iFixit’s mission is to enable all of us to fix all of our stuff. We look at all the things in your life, anything that might go wrong, and say “Well, what are the obstacles to you being able to do that repair?” Maybe it’s you don’t have a screwdriver. Okay, that’s easy; I can solve that. Maybe it’s a lack of repair information. We started – because I was trying to fix my iBook, and I learned that Apple’s lawyers had sent DMCA takedowns to everyone that posted the service manual online.

And I said “This is ludicrous. You’re actually using copyright law to prevent people from knowing how to fix their stuff.” And as a software engineer, as someone who – like, we live off of freedom of information. That just totally struck me wrong. So I said “Well, let’s fix that”, so I bought another machine, we took it apart, took pictures, put them online, and that was the first iFixit repair guide.

So we’re looking across the whole ecosystem, and saying, across every product category, what are the things that are not fixable now, and how can we make them fixable? And so we make repair kits; you can get an iPhone screen that comes with all the tools you need to repair it, step by step guides… So we’re solving the parts in the information piece. But the other side of this is you have to have an ecosystem, a software ecosystem that enables repair. And increasingly, you have proprietary parts pairing, and all kinds of digital locks that get in the way. And I can’t fix those just by making a screwdriver; we have to fix those with policy. And so that drew me out of my happy space sitting in front of the terminal, creating a really intuitive to use repair website, out into the public policy sphere to advocate for laws that legalize some of the repairs that we need to do.

[00:08:19.24] Yeah, it’s funny, that does happen to get back into policy. You would think, I suppose left to their own devices, companies are going to try to protect themselves. I can understand that psyche, for lack of better terms, when it comes to a company. Because a company is not a person, it’s a persons, but very much masquerades as a person based upon just simply how corporate law works. The formation of an LLC is a limited liability company, a corporation, etc. it has its own DNA, but it’s not a person, it’s persons, but it’s ran by people, and they have their own way of thinking… And in some case, they’re very psychopathic when measured against typical psychology and human behavior… But it’s really a shame that it has to go to the policy level to sort of make these folks not be planned obsolescence-focused.

And then recently - this is just days ago, and you’re aware of this, so fill in the gaps for me, but… The State House passed Oregon’s Right to Repair act, SB 1596, by a margin of 42 to 13. That’s a significant margin.

Yeah. We worked hard for that.

Thankfully, we have the right kind of people at the policy level making these choices that are being not just voted in, but also kind of following what the people want. What is your role in this? You said you worked hard to get there. What is this bill, what happened with this Right to Repair Act? What is this act and what was your role in it?

This is the fourth major state that’s passed consumer electronics Right to Repair. We’ve passed some other bills for farm equipment and cars. I was intimately involved with this. So this is based on reference legislation that our coalition wrote; it’s published on, you can go and download the reference bill.

And specifically, the thing that we got into the Oregon bill that was negotiated out of the previous bills in California and elsewhere was a ban on parts pairing, which is Apple’s new invention. Parts pairing is not something that you encounter unless you’re trying to fix an iPhone, really. It’s a new idea that is “Hey, we have software in all the individual parts.” So there’s not just software on the main board, there’s software in the camera, there’s software in the display… And so why not have a serial number in the display, and that serial number can be hardcoded into the mainboard, and the mainboard will only work with that display, or it will degrade functionality if it’s not the serial number that it’s expecting. And in the software world, you look at this like – if I was to ask you “Hey, build me a lock that does this”, you’re like “Okay, sure. It’ll be done tomorrow.” This is not a hard lock to build. But it’s really nefarious, because once you have these parts all paired to each other, now it totally impedes what you can do. It doesn’t just limit the repairs that you can do yourself. What happens if you donate your phone to Goodwill, and Goodwill has two broken iPhones and they want to take the pieces and combine it and make one that works and sell it? That’s the business model that all PC recycling and Computers For Schools charities have operated under for the last couple of decades… And Apple just shot it in the head. They said “No, you can’t do that anymore. You have to have permission from us in order to swap parts in the device.”

So that parts pairing approach has been – Apple has been turning the temperature up on that slowly. We’ve published a chart which shows parts pairing really starting with the fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 6s, and then every model, they’ve added it to more and more parts. With the iPhone 15 they added it to the LIDAR sensors, so you can’t swap the LIDARs between devices.

And so we published this chart, there’s a huge issue, we detailed the parts pairing progression… New York Times actually thought it was so interesting that they ran it in their Sunday print issue right around the time that the new iPhone came out, when we analyzed the 15th in the fall… And that set the stage for the legislative fight, which is always at the beginning of the year. That’s when the state legislators get together and figure out what laws they’re going to pass for the year… And we have a number of states that are looking at bans on parts pairing. The Oregon bill was the first one to get over the finish line.

[00:12:11.19] And Apple does not like this law at all. They were in behind the scenes, and actually they kind of finally popped out in front and testified against it. They threw everything they could at stopping this, and we were able to overcome them. So I feel very good about it. But what a nefarious strategy. Why would you do that?

Yeah. What’s interesting about Apple is they’re a beloved brand . It’s a very beloved brand, back from even the Steve Jobs days. It’s been a brand that a lot of folks have loved, and they are really well known for innovation and pushing the boundary for technology… So kudos to them for all the innovation. But then they also are very privacy-focused, and so they have these different levers in the public zeitgeist, basically, of their reputation, who they are. And there’s this whole other side, where it’s this parts pairing which you say is nefarious, and I would also agree that it seems nefarious. Then I think “What is motivating them to do this?” Obviously, it’s money. Obviously, it’s the stock value going up, shareholder value going up, that seems to be, in the words of Silicon Valley’s TV show, whenever Jack took over Pied Piper as CEO, he said “Hey, the product is not you. The product is not the software, or the platform. The product is the stock value.” The value of the stock, that’s the product. And so if that’s the case, is capitalism to blame? Like, is it this greed mechanism to blame? Because obviously, Tim Cook is out there, with a smile on his face, praising the opportunities and the innovations of Apple, and it’s a beloved brand etc. And I’m a Mac user, personally. I’m also a Linux user, personally. Before the show, I said “Hey, are you using a Mac?” as I was gonna guide you on how to do your local audio, and you’re like “No. I’m a PC user in this case.”

I go back and forth. I mean, I’m primarily on Ubuntu. I switched to a Windows machine for this interview.

Oh, wow.

I guess what I’m driving at really is how much have you examined what you think is motivating Apple to be this nefarious, given its the beloved state with a lot of its Apple fanboys and girls and people out there, that just love Apple, and they have privacy focus, and they have all this innovation? What would make them do this? Why?

Yes, two under underlying factors. One, they’re certainly very bottom line-focused. And the money in this case isn’t really them making money taking your phone, and then paying them for repair. The money is upfront in Apple Care. Apple is the second-largest extended warranty company in the world, and that’s where the profit is, is in scaring you away from other repair options, and making you think there really isn’t another choice. So when you buy the device, “Let me spend the extra money up front and get into Apple Care.” And then you’re in their ecosystem, and then you’re gonna go back in, they’re like “Oh by the way, there’s a deductible then, when you take it in.” So you’re really just paying up front for the option to have a discount repair later. But that’s really where the money is at.

So absolutely, there’s a bottom line focus. But there’s also a cultural component to this that isn’t completely nefarious. I disagree vehemently with it, but it’s not at its core unethical. Apple wants to control the customer experience. They want to really optimize for the best possible customer experience. This has driven a lot of the innovation that we’ve seen from them. And they think that they can deliver a better repair, total lifetime ownership experience themselves, than if you’re fixing it yourself or if you’re taking it to a local repair shop. They think that their Apple Store ecosystem is better. And this is an area where I just really disagree with them. If you look at what is the most optimal outcome for a customer, it’s not happening to live close enough to one of the 500 Apple stores that I can go in and get my device fixed quickly. Right? I’m in Chattanooga, Tennessee right now - it is a two-hour drive to the closest Apple Store. Good luck. I’m not gonna do that. And there’s so much of the world that’s not near an Apple store. And I think them being in Cupertino, they’re in this bubble where they don’t realize what most of the real world looks like. Is there an Apple Store Wyoming? What are you supposed to do if you have one of these devices, and it breaks, and the repair shops can’t fix it because of these parts pairing shenanigans?

[00:16:19.26] So they’re myopically focused on this idea that they can create a better customer experience, and then on the other side they’re basically delivering the McDonald’s of repair; like, it works much of the time, for many people, but it certainly doesn’t deliver what everybody needs.

So you’re saying then you don’t think it’s fully nefarious, it’s really about the Apple brand and the desire to be so focused on the customer experience slash user experience that they, to have this parts pairing it aids them in enabling a controllable world?

Absolutely. And you have to look at it from Apple’s perspective - they’re really good at creating great experiences, and their ethos, their ego is around “We’re going to create the best possible customer experience.” And they’re trying to do 1000 different things. And so they’re going to try to be the best at 1,000 different things. And I would say from a repair ecosystem perspective, they’re really bad at it. They’re terrible at it. But they have to apply the same philosophy to that that they do everything else. And so they have this conflict internally, where they want to control the total experience, but they don’t know, and they don’t have the culture, and they’re not willing to spend the money to build the kind of authorized repair network that would really be required to deliver the customer expectations that their brand proposition promises.

Yeah. How does this compare them to an adjacent competitor? Let’s say like - Samsung is the most well known I can think of; the Galaxy phones that they have… I’m not an Android user, so I’m not well versed in literally Apple competition.

Sure. Well, let’s pick Motorola, because we’ve been working with Motorola for a long time.

So Motorola sells Android phones, they have some small single-digit percentage market share, but they have good phones. So Motorola doesn’t have the Apple store experience. They don’t have the ability to have those stores that you can take them into. And so instead, they have to have a more open ecosystem. And so they came to us and said “Hey, will you distribute repair parts for us?” and we said “Sure.” And we put repair kits together. So you can buy parts from [unintelligible 00:18:16.22] from us, you get the screen, and it comes with the tools… And then we also distribute parts to repair shops. So there’s 20,000 independent cell phone repair shops in the US. So those folks are coming to us, they’re buying Motorola screens, they stock them at their facility if they want, or they order them on demand as they need.

And then look, now - Motorola, who has a vastly smaller market share than Apple, has far more service locations that can service their customers than Apple does. And it’s because they’re more permissive. So they can actually end up with a better customer experience by being more open than Apple. It feels like Apple is trying to control – they want to like really control the baby’s experience and they’re strangling it to death, rather than opening it up and saying “Well, let’s let 1000 flowers bloom.”

But I can’t run iOS on a Moto G or a Motorola Razor, right?

Yeah. But Android is quite good.

And that’s always been the thing. I mean, there was a time back in the ’90s when you could run macOS on aftermarket PCs, but that ended in ’98.

Yeah, for sure. And especially now that Apple silicone is there, it’s like never gonna go back. But you can try to run Linux on their hardware; you can’t run their software on other hardware. So then we get into this scenario where, okay, maybe I’m iOS-focused. My household is iOS-focused because of an ecosystem. It’s not just a choice that I like Apple “better”, or iOS “better”. It’s simply that we’ve now adopted, now we have sunk costs into an ecosystem. We have applications that we’ve bought from the App Store that my kids use to learn piano, or different things. They’re great applications, great things that you can buy, subscriptions potentially even… Just these things that sort of lock you in.

[00:20:05.05] Now we have even this world where apps can’t move around, and they don’t move around very well, or they are only macOS or iOS-focused. And it’s great that Motorola has that story, but I can’t run iOS there, which is an absolute bummer. Do you think we’ll get into a position where Right to Repair becomes Right to Run, I suppose, in a way? I want to run my OS wherever I want, not just on your hardware.

Well, let me take that – let’s just talk about repair first, and we can talk about OS portability.

Well, I think the reason why that’s important is because you get stuck by the hardware and its limitations in repair, but you come for the software. And so you’ve got this lock-in mechanism… Even iMessage. I mean, there’s such a posh posture to iMesage. It’s like, are you a green bubble? Are you a blue bubble? Even from that perspective.

Well, try Beeper. Happy Beeper user over here. It’s fantastic. You can bust outside of the iMessage bubble.

I’m gonna 911 you, Kyle. So… I need you now! Yeah, go ahead. I interrupted you just to sort of like round out my perspective.

No, sure. So I mean, let’s just start and say - like, you have hardware, whether you’re in the iOS or Android camp… Should you be able to fix your thing without having to phone home to the manufacturer for help? That should be a fundamental right that we have across all hardware. Maybe Apple has the right to build a closed operating system, but they don’t have a right to artificially limit how long hardware lasts. And they don’t have a right to have a monopoly and privilege their repair centers over aftermarket centers. So that’s what Right to Repair laws are about, leveling the playing field, enabling competition, and making it so that you, if you have an iOS ecosystem in your house, you should be able to repair the power supply in your homepod if it fails, because Apple doesn’t have a repair plan for that. But there’s an epidemic of homepod power supply failures.

I never bought into it personally, but…

If it hasn’t failed on you yet, just wait. If you have air pods, your batteries are going to die. It’s just a question of whether it’s in the next three months, or six months. I mean, the airpod batteries last about two years, and then they’re toast. And Apple doesn’t have a repair strategy for that. So we have to deal with the hardware, in whatever ecosystem you’re in, finding ways to make it last longer. So I would start with that. And that’s the first set of Right to Repair battles that I’m focused on. Once we get beyond that, then we can talk about OS freedom, and kind of the war on general-purpose computing.

Break: [00:22:22.15]

Here is me - let me just use my perspective. Not really well-versed with iFixit until recently. I bought your tools, love them, used the repair guide to gut a Mac Mini to replace the hard drive. Not because the hard drive was bad, but because it was sort of obsolete. It was not an SSD. And so I replaced the spinning disk that was a three and a quarter or three and a half inch drive, 5,200 rotation speed… Like, it’s not a very fast drive. It was terrible. I gutted this Mac Mini as an experiment to explore the Linux world. Like “Hey, I want to take this Intel 2014 Mac Mini, and - wow, here’s this repair guide on And oh, they have this toolkit that I saw my buddy Luke Miani talking about, and he’s a big fan.” And I’m paying attention these folks out there just like leading the way, and I’m like, you know, I’ve got four of these things sitting here, because at one point those Mac Minis, with those rusty spinning hard drives, and it was how we Skyped everybody for these podcasts back in the day. We used to have a Skype tower where each person would call in on each Mac Mini, we would pipe that audio out into a mixer, and record to a multipole interface. I mean, it was archaic, but it worked.

But I had this hardware that was essentially non-useful to me now. And that’s where I discovered your brand and who you are. Well, not so much you personally, but who your brand is. But I’ve never gone even beyond that until recently, with your involvement, in these bills getting passed, or these acts getting passed, and all the fight that has to happen. So here’s me, saying [unintelligible 00:27:45.14] because they’ve basically built gigantic farm computers… And this whole movement there. Talked to Cory Doctorow several times, again, I follow Louis Rossmann… And just like knee-deep in this. How does someone like you, software engineer, decides that you want to do something with a repair guide? Now you’re part of this change that needs to take place, because I do want to gut my Mac Mini six years from now or eight years when it’s not useful to me anymore and repurpose it if I so choose. I want to be able to run Linux on – if it’s a computer, I feel like you should be able to run Linux on any given computer in the world. Because Linux is open source, and it should be the replacement OS when that OS can no longer work. In this case, thiis macOS version was like on Mavericks, or something like that, for this Mac Mini. So even if I wanted to run macOS, I’m limited to – I can’t go to the newest operating system. I have to go to this older generation that has limited security, no updates - great. But Linux still works. Ubuntu still works on any given thing. So long story short, I’m new to learning about you and your company, but how did you get into this movement? Why are you so passionate about it? Obviously, there’s some steam here, but what makes you be the right person to build the company, to distribute parts, and to be the “advocate” for those who are not advocating, or don’t know how to advocate for their rights?

Yeah, so it started by me getting radicalized by this censorship through copyright law. Like, what gives them the right to prevent me from having access to the information I need to fix my stuff? As we’ve been systematically moving and enabling people to fix more things, we encounter obstacles. And where there are obstacles - I’m an engineer, I’m gonna solve that obstacle. And so one of the main obstacles that has come up is Section 1201 of the DMCA, which is this law that makes it illegal to do certain kinds of math. Yeah, please look it up. So section 1201 says it is illegal to circumvent a technological protection measure protecting access to a copyrighted work. That’s the phrase in the law. And that was intended to make it illegal to distribute tools to pirate DVDs. That was the reason they passed it back in the ’90s.

[00:29:53.08] But now that law is being abused in all kinds of ways. Apple used it to go after jailbreakers; it was used to go after people who are unlocking cell phones. Because the way that it’s being interpreted is a copyrighted work could be any software.

So if you have a cell phone baseband that is made out of software, and it’s on a device, and you want to unlock the cell phone to move it from Verizon to AT&T, you are making a change to that copyrighted work, you’re bypassing a lock in order to do it, and so you’re in violation of Section 1201.

So this is an absolutely ludicrous law, and so we have been fighting to get the law revoked for a long time. And this was actually what brought Right to Repair for ag equipment to the forefront. I applied for an exemption with the US Copyright Office to be able to jailbreak tractors. And John Deere opposed it. And I wrote an op ed in Wired Magazine… This was back in 2012, or something like that… And saying “Hey, this is a problem. Farmers - they need to be able to modify software on their equipment, or to fix them.” And John Deere went nuclear, and they sent a letter to all of their dealers calling me a liar, and calling out my Wired article… And that really was the beginning of the fight for Right to Repair for farm equipment.

And so ever since then, every three years we go back to the copyright office, we go for more exemptions. The Copyright Office agreed with me and the farmers, and they granted the exemption for that. And we’ve been fighting it ever since. We have not successfully fixed the Federal issue, but we have started to make progress on it. So last year, we worked with farmers across the state of Colorado and passed the nation’s first agriculture Right to Repair bill. Huge victory, huge success. It goes into effect soon. And we’re looking to build on that victory in other states.

I look at the whole landscape… I’m looking at the entire material economy, where are all the things in our lives that could break? Is it farm equipment, is it construction equipment, is it your Mac Mini - let’s level the playing field, let’s enable repair across all of this. And what that has meant is that we’ve had to break open monopolies in all kinds of different areas. When I started helping people fix iBooks, I didn’t know that John Deere was monopolizing repair and forcing farmers into paying them through the nose for service. But that was part of our mission, so we identified the problem, and we’ve been systematically tackling it. And we’re going to do that in industry after industry.

Wow. Since you mentioned Wired, I went to your author page on Wired, and I’m surprised to see how far back your byline goes. I mean, you personally, not just – like, wow!

We’ve been doing this a long time… To go back, the first law that I got passed… Let’s talk about cell phone unlocking, because it’s part of kind of the war on general-purpose computing. So my buddy [unintelligible 00:32:33.11] made an unlock tool for unlocking the flip phones back in the day. And AT&T got very upset at him, and others, and so they sued him. He went to the copyright office and asked for help, and in the process, we put together a White House petition. This is in the Obama era. And this is really our first opportunity, or the first time we activated the internet to achieve political change.

So we got the second-highest petition count on the Obama “We the People Petition” site that they’ve ever had for a cell phone unlocking bill. The first most popular petition was to deport Justin Bieber back to Canada, which I think we can also get on board with… [laughs] Obama did not respond to that petition, but he did respond to ours and said that he agreed, and so I got experience flying back and forth to DC, and [unintelligible 00:33:21.15] and we got it done. We went from where the US was the only country in the world where it was illegal to unlock a cell phone, to it had been relegalized. That was the first time that we touched that Section 1201. So that was back in the 2012 era.

And then I’ve spent the deck last decade since then fighting for Rights to Repair laws. And it was a long time kind of wandering in the wilderness working on this. We have introduced hundreds of bills, and we have lost hundreds of times before we’ve won four in the last year.

Would you say that you’re getting better at them? Because – I mean, once you get some experience, you kind of make a network, obviously, gain more friends… And politics is all about who you know. It’s all about the friends.

[00:34:04.14] It’s all about the coalition and the political momentum. I mean, in New York State we had trillions of dollars in market cap registered to lobby against our bill… So it really is “Do we have enough inertia and momentum to overcome these entrenched corporate interests?” And the answer for a decade was “No, we didn’t.” But we kept at it. We kept building, and now we’re at the point where we are overcoming.

How much have you dug into the DMCA act itself in terms of who was personally responsible for its movement of it, and what was their motivation? Like, were they paid, were they lobbied? Was there a lot of golf involved? At some point there’s a version of corruption happening here, or a version of unfairness, if not straight up corruption.

Yeah, I mean, I actually know a lot of the members of Congress who were involved in passing… That law, as flawed as it is, it was a compromise between the technology companies and Hollywood. They really were terrified of internet piracy - this is in the Napster era - and of undermining the creative economy of the United States. And they were concerned about technology getting in the way.

Now, they wrote a law that was bad. And it may have been the copyright industry that helped them write that. But I think it was a genuine mistake at the time. No one at the time had any idea that this law that they were crafting, that they thought was applying to media, would apply to all embedded software, and therefore all products that are manufactured going forward. Anything that’s going to be made in the next century is going to have a microchip, and therefore software in it. And so this is the most accidentally overbroad law in history. So it desperately needs to get fixed. But I wouldn’t say that it was corruption upfront. It was a well-intentioned flawed compromise.

Okay, better words. You’re definitely more of a politician than I am, because you can word better things than I can; even that was totally worded. Okay, so not necessarily on purpose; accidentally flawed, because it was too broad.

I testified – so Congress had a hearing on fixing the DMCA last July, and so I flew out to DC and put on my tie again, and I got to testify… And Representative Zoe Lofgren, who has been in Congress for a long time, she was in Congress when they passed it. She said “Look, I was involved in drafting this thing. We screwed up, and it was not our intent at all to have it impact repair and all the things that it’s impacting today.” So Congress knows that there’s very active interest in fixing this. They had a hearing; it’s this House Judiciary Committee that is looking at this. They want to do it. And honestly, really, the headwinds right now between getting this thing fixed and where we’re at now is just that it’s very hard to get anything done in Congress right now, because of the macro political situation. If Congress could just buckle down and do their job and get laws passed, I think we’d have a shot at getting this thing fixed.

So what’s the git revert then? If we’re going to try to use some software terminology, how do we –

We just need to delete Section 1201. There is no reason for this at all.

Just delete it.

Do you replace it?

It doesn’t need to be replaced. It doesn’t need to be there. Because what Section 1201 says is it’s illegal to circumvent the lock. It doesn’t say – if you took a copy of… Pick a movie. Mulan. You take a copy of Mulan and you copy it and you sell it, you’re violating copyright. There’s a $150,000 per infringement fine, you can go to jail for up to 12 years… There’s serious fines for this. We don’t need to also make it illegal to make the software to copy Mulan. We can just make it illegal to do the infringement. And so there’s a variety of fixes that have been proposed over the years. The simplest thing would be to just get rid of it. Practically, it’s going to be hard to get that all the way through Congress, and so we have a more nuanced fix that has been proposed. That’s what we’re working on.

When will that happen, based upon what you know in estimates?

Yeah, that’s a great question.

In a decade, or when…?

It could be any day.

[00:37:57.24] I mean, a bill could be introduced any day, but actually getting it moved through… It’s unlikely that a whole lot is going to move through Congress until after the election.

Because the Republicans don’t want to pass something and give Biden a win that he can run on… And so you’re probably in stasis with kind of any legislation in Congress through the election.

Yeah, it’s such a weird thing too to be just a person trying to do their thing, and then you’ve got like this ebb and flow; and the ebb is like that last year of a president’s term, and whether or not they’ll be reelected… And that last year really is like a stale year. Even that first year [unintelligible 00:38:28.29] get a lot of stuff done; that last year they’re in before reelection comes in play, or a new election comes in play is like “Well, should we let all this happen? Because that might aid them…” And that’s not cool. For me, Republican or not, Democrat or not, just get something done that helps the people.

Okay, so this goes deep. DMCA, 1201, we’ve been talking about that… I speculated it was nefarious actions, possibly even corruption, you pushed back on that, I don’t disagree… You said things like the material economy… I’ve never thought about the material economy like you have… What else can you enlighten us on? Red pill us. Red pill the entire audience on like this whole thing. What are we not thinking about as just normal people who are just trying to work hard for their families, and advance their careers, and build great software, and build great companies? What are we not seeing? Where are blinders up for us?

Yeah, so I’ve got buddies who do all kinds of construction work… So it was put very well to me one time; he says, “Look, if you build a fence out of wood, you’re renting the fence. If you build a fence out of metal, it’ll last forever.” Like, your wooden fence - it’s gonna rot, you’ve got to paint it regularly… Just build it once, build it out of metal, make it durable. So I would say the same thing. If you buy a thing with a battery, you’re just renting it. The battery’s gonna wear out. That’s a consumable. So anything with a battery has a lifespan of between 500 and 1000 charge cycles, depending on how they configure the battery. So 500 charge cycles on airpods is - how much do you use them? A year and a half, three years, something like that. And there is no path I can – I have destroyed many air pods trying to remove the batteries. There’s no path to pulling the batteries out and swapping it. And so this is really a challenge.

If you look at – most products today come with a battery. This thermostat - it’s got a battery in it. There’s a whole variety of products that have batteries in them these days. And we need to do something about that. Because having a battery glued inside the product is like buying a car with tires welded to the frame. No one would do that. Like “Oh, your tires wore out. Time to get a new car.” That is ludicrous. No one would ever do that. But that’s the world that we are in with batteries. And it’s a real problem. We’ve been like brain-swaggled into thinking that “Oh, your batteries run out. Let’s just get a new phone.”

Yeah, I’m with you on that. I’m an airpods owner, and I have a charger right next to my bed… And so I put them over there on that thing on the daily. Last time I checked, there’s 340… 365 days in a year; I’m joking. I know many days are in a year. So I’m imagining, like every night, I’m like just chiseling down that charge cycle. So like maybe a year and a half or two years I’ve got life in there, if that is accurate to their battery. You can’t replace them. They’re so small. I mean, but at the same time, can we just not appreciate the innovation of like “Wow, there’s so much tech in there”?

Yeah, but it didn’t have to happen. I mean, there’s some products that have so many downstream impacts that they just shouldn’t exist in the first place.

It’s illegal to make something that pollutes the groundwater. It’s the same thing. The airpods flat out as a product should be banned, the way that they are. And I think Europe will.

Go deeper. Tell us tell us the details. What is your reasoning for that?

Well, so I’ll give you an example. You go to Best Buy and you’re like “I want some wireless ear buds.” And you’ve got the Samsung Galaxy buds, and you’ve got the Apple airpods. Same price. You’ll look at The Verge, they’ve got equivalent product reviews… They seem to be functionally equivalent products. And so if you have a Samsung phone, you get the Samsung one, and if you have an iPhone, you get the Apple one, right? Done.

Unbeknownst to you, if after a year and a half or three years, whatever it is, when the battery dies, with the Galaxy buds, you squeeze them a little bit, you pop it open, you go buy $20 new batteries from iFixit or wherever, stick them in, and it continues to operate. And the airpods - you throw them away. And when you throw the airpods in the trash, it goes in the trash, it goes in trash compactor, the garbage truck compresses garbage that you throw in there… And your batteries catch on fire and they set the garbage truck on fire.

[00:42:29.29] And I would encourage anyone listening, look at your local newspaper and search in your community for garbage truck fires in the last year or two. Every community in the country is having a pandemic of fires in garbage facilities and recycling centers caused by batteries in these devices. You cannot put anything with a battery in the trash; you can’t put it in the recycling. It has to be handled totally separately. It has to go to electronics recyclers, who also don’t want to deal with airpods, because they’re not profitable for them to manage. So this is a product that at end of life is hazardous, and it’s screwing you out of money, because you’re gonna spend $179 for airpods that only last two years? This is crazy.

It’s absolutely crazy.

It should have a big disclaimer when you’re at Best Buy and you’re going to make the choice, “Do I go left? Or do I go?”, it should be clear. But it’s not. And I think Samsung is being idiotic by not advertising how easy it is to swap the batteries on them.

It’s a major miss. I mean, wow. So why is Apple not being held them to a standard that says – like an end of life standard. I feel this way about even recyclable product packaging. Like, there’s so much products that are packaged, and things like – why in the world…? I just want the thing, not all the package. Get it to me safely, so it doesn’t break.

I can tell you exactly why.

Tell me why.

There’s a guy named Walter Alcorn. Walter Alcorn works for the Consumer Technology Association in DC. He wears fancy suits, he’s in DC. Probably most states have introduced some kind of extended producer responsibility law that would require products like airpods, companies would have to pay in recycling, it might require more labeling… It would fund recycling programs… Walter spends all his time flying around different states and making sure they don’t pass those laws. And Walter’s salary at the CTA is funded by the tech companies led by Apple. And he’s very good at it. And for a long time, there were states passing more extended producer responsibility electronics recycling laws, and there haven’t been very many passed in the last decade, because he’s done his job very well.

I couldn’t help but ask ChatGPT really quickly, because sometimes when I’m on these calls I will just say “Tell me more about X.” And that’s what I did here. I said, “Tell me more about Walter Alcorn.”

What does ChatGPT have to say?

Well, I’m not gonna read the whole thing. It’s just too much. But it said in particular, in describing who he is, it says “For instance, he has served on various boards and commissions related to environmental policy, urban planning, and community development, reflecting his commitment to environmental sustainability and community engagement.” Now, based on what you said about this person, it seems like maybe that’s a skewed description of what he did. That may be what he does, but that’s not the effects of his actions based upon what you’ve just said. Because if he goes around flying everywhere to ensure these laws aren’t passed, or bills are passed, or whatever, then the problem remains. Like, having an end of life product like airpods go into the trash and set a trash compactor on fire.

Now, at the same time, maybe people don’t care because the person who’s driving that truck is less of a person. Because they are a trash person. I’m not saying that. I’m saying maybe they’re thinking that. Because like, well, you would have to assume they just don’t care about the little people. The people doing the work, right? Just driving the trash truck out there, taking care of these things… You know what I mean? Maybe they think that, I don’t know. But what a shame.

Yeah. Well, and it’s frustrating, because you have a lot of really fantastic environmental organizations and local waste management organizations trying to do the right thing and trying to set things up, and they run the buzzsaw of opposition to new rules.

[00:46:08.08] Industries, the general stance is “Hey, let us do our work. Let’s try to minimize regulation.” And I can empathize with that as a business owner absolutely. But when you get situations, when you get externalities – there was a recycling center in the Bay Area that caught on fire and burned to the ground a handful years ago, and they have video of a consumer electronics device - it kind of looks like a tablet - going through the shredder, and then you have a battery that goes into a shredder, it’s already got maybe a bunch of suspended metal dust in the air, the battery provides a spark and you get an explosion… And in this case, the whole facility burned to the ground. And they have been told that if they have another fire, they will never be able to get insurance again. So now you’re in a situation where you have an entire Bay Area affluent community that might not be able to have municipal recycling anymore because they can’t get insurance to operate their facility.

Wow. Yeah, I mean, that’s a whole other thing that’s I guess several layers adjacent to Right to Repair and the movement you’re a part of, and the bills you’re helping to get passed, and laws you’re getting in place… But is this idea of recycling generally? I feel like it’s – you read headlines, and are the headlines true? And there’s some headlines, for lack of better terms, saying that recycling is a scam, basically.

Well, recycling electronics is not a scam. We can and should recycle electronics.

For sure.

The problem is when you glue batteries into it. Just imagine trying to recycle propane canisters, and you want to take – like, it’s metal, it ought to be recyclable, but it could have flammable gas inside and you can’t take your propane canister and chuck it into a shredder. Really bad things can happen. It’s the same thing with batteries. And I can show you video after video… I love to show people videos of recycling facilities, battery recycling facilities on fire, because it looks like a firework factory that’s on fire. It’s incredible, the energy and what happens as a result. It’s very challenging to manage and recycle these batteries.

So who takes responsibility for those fires? It has to be the folks who made money in the first place making and selling them to us.

That’s what I was gonna ask you, how can we – I mean, we said Apple several times… I’m curious if there’s other brand names, just not to keep slapping them around…

Well, I would pick – the brand name is every single company that sells a phone with a battery that’s glued in. Which is every phone on the market right now.

Wow. How do we make that illegal?

So we’ve done it. So Europe is banning lithium batteries starting in 2027.

And there’s probably two reasons why. One, repairable, but then also the fires.

Right? The responsibility of the end of life.

Yeah. We just have to flat out stop gluing batteries into products.

How can we make companies responsible for the end of life of a product? Like, even if it was a scenario where it does make sense to say “Okay, in this case, a glued in battery just is better.” And let’s just say we buy that, and we’re like “Okay, cool. You won that argument. You got it. But now you have to be responsible.” Fine, this thing end-of-lifes, it has no recyclability to it in terms of like having the battery replaced, or whatever it might be… You’ve got to take it back, and you’ve got to be responsible for taking it back in, properly disposing of the thing, or finding another use for it. How do we do that?

Yeah, so it’s a legal framework called Extended Producer Responsibility. And the idea is you hold manufacturers responsible at end of life for manufacturing the product in the first place. There are 25 states that have electronics extended producer responsibility laws, but unfortunately, those laws were kind of frozen in time two decades ago, and they’re not getting updated.

For example, in California, when you buy a TV, you pay an extra couple dollars that goes into a recycling fund, and that goes to additionally fund recyclers over and above the raw commodity value. Because most of the time recyclers are not funded; like, they pick up your recycling, it’s free, but the recycling is not funded. They have to make money off of the commodity value.

[00:49:57.17] So if my microphone here - if I send it into recycle, they’re going to take the steel and aluminum, and the copper in that, and they’ll make - maybe there’s 50 cents of raw material in this microphone, and that’s the most they’re gonna make, unless there’s an extended producer responsibility funding model from the manufacturer.

And that’s kind of why they say recycling is a scam, because you have to be willing to put the work in to find the value of this commodity that’s no longer valuable to somebody else that originally bought it. Right? Or the company that made it.

Right. Yeah, the term recyclable is really an economic term. The question is, is it economically viable to recycle it? Am I going to get more value, commodity value out of this thing than the effort of collecting and processing? And so there’s some products the answer is yes. Cardboard generally is very profitable to recycle, the output on the other side, and so everybody loves recycling cardboard. Other products, it’s more tenuous. Glass is kind of on the borderline… Recycling electronics, say classic old electronics, the old ones, with lots of like RAM chips with the gold connectors - that’s actual gold. You look inside it, that’s gold; that’s very profitable. They love doing that. But when you get to some of the smaller, new electronics, there’s very little golden copper in it, and you have batteries glued in something like an airpods… What’s the commodity value in the airpods? Far less than the time and effort involved in dealing with that safely. It’s all about dollars in, dollars out. What’s the cost to collect and process, and then what’s the commodity value I’m gonna get on the other side?

Break: [00:51:23.11]

What’s the future of all this? Can you forecast a decade from now? Where are things heading in terms of consumers having quality, high-quality products, to buy and use and enjoy, to how it affects just the long-term economies and even the way that these companies profit and work?

Yeah, so the question is how do we align the incentives better? Because it’s not like these companies are sitting there in smoke-filled rooms, saying “How do I wreck the planet?” They’re not starting from an evil perspective. But their incentive is to sell more products, and they’re also reacting to how people interact in the market. And so right now, consumers don’t have the information that they need to send the signals to the manufacturers to build better products. So you’re looking at the Galaxy buds versus the airpods, and you don’t know; like, I bet the Galaxy buds work fine with an iPhone, but –

I had no idea about this.

I bet some people would love to buy that, and then have a product that would last longer. Yeah, nobody would. So what we need is a repair score next to the price. So when you go to buy a product, it should say “Hey, this is an eight out of 10. This is a three out of 10.” And then you know “Well, I don’t care if this is fixable.” Or maybe I really do care; I’m spending a lot, I’m investing in it, and I want it to last a long time. And so this is not a novel idea. France implemented this law about three years ago, and France rolled out a rule for cell phones and laptops and a bunch of other product categories. It says you have to have what they call the indice of repairability. It is a score card that factors in, there’s service manuals available, can you get parts quickly, how easy is it to take apart… And so if you go to, and you’ll look at an iPhone, look at the price, the repair index is right next to the price on And if you go into the French equivalent of Best Buy, at retail, next to the price, it’s got the repair index next to it.

So we worked with the French government and helped them technically build and develop the scoring system. This is going to be integrated Europe-wide in coming years. It’s going to be built into the European eco index. So there’s gonna be a variety of information available when you go to buy an electronic products in Europe, and that will include repairability. So then the question is how do we do that in the good ol’ US of A? Because all of us are not shopping for electronics in France. And answer there is the Federal Trade Commission. So you know how you go and you buy a water heater, and there’s a yellow sticker on it that says how much energy it’s going to consume over its life?

So that’s a program called Energy Guide, and it’s run by the FTC. So they already are in the business of labeling products and giving consumers information. So along with all of our friends on the internet, over the last couple of months, we’ve gathered 60,000 signatures asking the FTC to do a repair scoring system like this. And just at the end of February, or beginning in February, we delivered the signatures to them, and now the FTC has said they’re considering a formal rulemaking process where they can maybe develop and then require a repair scoring system like this on products in the US. So there’s precedent; we do this for appliances, why can’t we do it for everything else? I think it’s possible, and we’re working on it.

Yeah. I just don’t think it should be that far of a stretch to say, if you want to make a product that has an end of life that is basically dangerous, you should be responsible for taking it back in some way, shape or form. Especially someone at the scale of Apple.

Yeah. Well, feel free to give Walter an email and tell him that.

Maybe I will. We’ll see what happens there.

I don’t think he’ll listen to you, but feel free to give it a try.

Why is that person the gatekeeper to change though? Like, is he a good salesperson? What is it that he’s got that no one else can, where he’s able to like sort of freeze – you’d mentioned being frozen in time… Keep these things frozen.

Yeah, so what happens is – politicians, they’re trying to get things done through consensus. So most of the time, someone comes and says “Hey, we should name our post office after this local war hero”, and hey, everybody’s excited. Let’s do it. So those laws sail through. Then you get one that’s like “Hey, we should require manufacturers to pay up front for recycling.” Manufacturers are like “Well, that’s gonna be an onerous burden. There’s all kinds of reasons we don’t want that.” And so Walter is the guy, and then there’s a bunch of other folks, that show up and fight new regulations that might impact the tech industry, and knee jerk they oppose any ideas, whether they’re good or not, because it’s additional regulation.

[00:59:46.01] So I said that we’ve introduced hundreds of Right to Repair bills over the years… Well, that has meant hundreds of hearing. So I’ve gone and testified to all kinds of these, and just about every single one I’ve been there arguing for Right to Repair, and Walter, and there’s been a bunch of other folks, have been on the other side saying “No, we shouldn’t.” And so now, these politicians have to make a choice, they have to make a value judgment of who’s telling the truth, and do they want to put in the effort of going and doing what we’re asking for, and also potentially upsetting some very large economic actors? And so the answer for a long time was “No, let’s just take the easy path, and we’ll skip it this time.” Now we have enough momentum on our side that New York, Minnesota, Colorado, California, Oregon have now passed Right to Repair laws, and we think more are coming.

So you’re the CEO of iFixit. Does iFixit cover these costs for you? How do you fund your advocacy?

Yeah, when you buy tools from iFixit, that’s what you’re doing, is funding our work. You can tell I spend a lot of time on this… We have a small team internally that works on these issues. We have someone full-time in Brussels working on things like the glued-in battery ban, and then we work on policy here. And then we also have our volunteer coalition and members of that chip in and help… So it really is an industry-wide collaboration. But yeah, I mean, any money that you spend at iFixit goes directly to fund our advocacy work.

Well, good thing I bought mine direct then, I didn’t buy it from Amazon. I bought it from you all directly.

Well, I appreciate that. Bezos doesn’t need it.

Well, I figured, just because it’s available on Amazon, should I buy it on Amazon? Because if I can go direct, why not go direct?

Yeah. Supporting the e-commerce. I appreciate it.

Yeah, for sure. For sure. I’m not even sure of all the things you do… What else do you do as a company? What is your economics as a company? How do you all make money? Is it just simply tools? What else? I know you’ve got maths, but they’re all sort of like some sort of a hardware artifact to repair something. Tell me more.

Yeah, so we think about it as we give away the bits and sell the atoms. So all the information, everything on iFixit is free. We don’t run ads… It’s just like Wikipedia, open free repair manual for everything. We really want to be truly comprehensive, transparent information for everything. And then we cross-link those with parts and tools. And the hope is that that also is useful content. So if you’re looking at “How do I fix the screen on my laptop?”, we’ll link you to a screen, and you can buy that screen from us if you want. And optionally, we can send it to you with the tools you need to do the repair.

So our business is split between the parts and the tools that we sell, but that’s how we make our money. At the beginning we thought about running it as a nonprofit, like Wikipedia, and I could put my face up every December and we could do a fundraising drive… And decided “You know, repair is a little bit different than Wikipedia”, because in order to repair things, you really – like, the information isn’t enough. You also need the parts and tools. So we see providing parts, tools and information all together as part of the service of enabling [unintelligible 01:02:40.14]

Yeah, I’m looking through just a lot of the stuff you have that’s like not tooling. Google Pixel 7 Pro screen, genuine. You’ve got a MacBook Air 13 inch late 2010, 2017 battery, whole kit to do an aftermarket battery replacement if you want to… But if you buy the new M1, M2, M3, whatevers they’ve got… I don’t know, can you replace batteries on current Apple silicone Macs?

You can. You absolutely can. Yeah.

You can. Okay. And so those will be here eventually. What stops –

We’ll have them, yeah. Yeah, so the thing that stops you with those is just the glue. So when we sell battery kits for modern Macbooks, which - absolutely never, ever throw away a MacBook. It’s really worth your while to replace the battery. Unfortunately, the glue is kind of hard to get loosened; because the battery is so thick, it’s hard to heat it. And so we include with the battery, we include a solvent. It’s a chemical that you use to dissolve the glue and make it easier to work on. So when you buy a battery kit from us, it comes with safety glasses, and gloves, and a solvent, and everything that you need to kind of get through the glue, get the whole battery out, and then replacement glue strips to glue the new battery in.

[01:03:56.12] What does it take to make profitable products that you can sell? Like, it sounds like such detail-oriented, high-skill, high-investment… Like you just mentioned, “We include a solvent. We’ve thought about this. We’ve tried to fix it ourselves.” What does it take for you to run a successful company?

Yeah, I mean it’s painstaking detail-oriented work. Figuring out just like what – okay, cool, we’ve got this battery for this laptop… Which different laptops is it compatible with? We sell thousands of different batteries, and so identifying the cross-compatibility is really important. So the objective is to present it to you, you go into iFixit, you plug in your device model, we find you the part and we say “Yes, we have complete confidence this will work in your device. We’ll guarantee compatibility, we’ll put a lifetime warranty on the part.” That’s the experience we want to provide to people. Behind the scenes, it’s a lot of database munging, and spreadsheets, and parsing opaque information…

Sometimes, in the case of Apple products, it involves painstakingly swapping and testing out “This particular antenna or ribbon cable - does it work in the 15 and the 15 Pro? Which different versions does it work in?” And so our technicians are painstakingly testing all that, and then creating compatibility spreadsheets, and then at the end of the day, that just adds up to this cohesive experience where we tell you whether it will fit or not.

I love that you have the part as an option, as well as the Fix It Kit. Because here I’m thinking “Gosh, I’ve got a Nintendo Switch from my son…” Thankfully, we haven’t had a battery issue yet. We primarily leave it as a console, connected to it’s dock on our TV… But it does move around sometimes, so I’m sure the battery will eventually die down. I’m looking through the list and I’m like “Wow, there’s a Nintendo Switch console battery kit”, that gives you all the tooling, which - I own some of those things already, because I already told you I bought your pro bundle… But then you can also just get the part only. I guess I’d just google it. “Nintendo Switch battery replacement.” Would I find you if I googled that?

I hope so. But I would encourage people just – if you have something broken, just go to iFixit and search for it. Google search is so inconsistent. It’s all over the map, and I spend a lot of my life - so what was the result?

You’re first, thankfully. The exact –

If you search for the exact title, we should be first. But I’d also try how you’d normally search for it.

Well, I did… I searched exactly what your title is, which is “Nintendo Switch battery replacement.” Thankfully - and Craig Lloyd is who did this, and nine other contributors… And it was last updated March 6th, 2024. So…

That was yesterday. Someone was tweaking that page yesterday. Alright…

Apparently. Yeah, apparently. Well, my son’s birthday is today, so maybe that’s why. Maybe that’s why.

Oh, there you go. We did it just for his birthday. So that’s part of – iFixit is a wiki. So the original repair procedure that we publish is not the best one. It’s version one, and then over time, it gets better. So if you’re trying to repair it on iFixit, and you know there’s an error or something is different - great; hit Edit and update it. It happens sometimes – manufacturers change [unintelligible 01:07:02.13] with different versions. So the one I opened and read the manual might have had six screws; you might have seven. So having that information is really helpful.

I have not dug this far in. I’ve only dipped my toe in your iFixit waters. I’ve got the badge over there, it’s on my refrigerator. I loved that when I got my Pro bundle, I got some stickers, and then I got a magnet, and I put that immediately on my refrigerator. I’m like “Yes!” I got my fist up. “I’m a fixer, I can do this!” And honestly, now that we’re – I wanted to say this early in the show, but we’ve been so focused on the bigger picture here… I’ve got to credit you all for giving me the courage to… Or part of the many things, you gave me the courage to build my own Linux box and PC boxes, because you guys were so good at dismantling this Mac Mini, that I was like “Well, if I’m doing this, now I have the confidence to actually build one.” Like, I never had that confidence before to say “Let me source the CPU, the motherboard…” I just never did it. I just always bought a Mac computer, or a Dell computer back in the day when I was on Windows. Yes, there was a day when I was on Windows.

[01:08:06.11] And I want to say, you’re a part of the many layers of gaining confidence and trust in the fact that I can do some of the things myself. And now I’m like “Well, if I wanted to build another–” You know, now I’m deep in the home lab, and building my own things, and building up my home lab… It’s just like a gateway drug in a way, or a gateway path to this idea. Are you pretty popular?


Is iFixit – I feel like more of the people in the world should know this, because there’s a refrigerator epidemic… Like, I don’t know how much you pay attention to that – I call my refrigerator a Cadillac, because it cost so dang much. And my sons have remote-controlled cars in the house and I’m like “Don’t hit the refrigerator, because it’s my Cadillac!”

I think it was like three and a half thousand dollars. I mean, it’s our primary refrigerator, it’s the one we have in our kitchen. I think some people have two. We happen to have two, because we have a large family, and people come over, and we need room for Thanksgiving dinner, and stuff like that. But anyways, aside from having two, like my KitchenAid and my refrigerator for my kitchen is – it’s my Cadillac. I don’t want to have to repurpose or rebuy that thing, because it’s so expensive… And there’s a refrigerator epidemic where there’s failure after failure after failure. And some people are gonna say “Okay, well, it was because of the pandemic”, and all the shifting with the parts of manufacturing, and distribution… You’re shaking your head…

Are you in that realm, too? Does iFixit – okay, tell me.

Oh, very much so. No, search for icemakers on iFix it.

Yeah. And then we have thousands of parts for fixing appliances. Actually, what I’m spending much of my time now is parsing through databases of appliance – I think we’ve identified 100,000 fifferent refrigerator model numbers in our database… We’re adding more all the time. So yeah, iFixit’s mission is to enable you to fix everything. We take that pretty seriously. We’re the largest database of power tool parts, of medical equipment, you name it. But refrigerators in particular we’re very fixated on right now. Part of this is just as [unintelligible 01:10:03.09] more and more products, they’re getting shorter-lived. efrigerators used to last 30 years, now they last five. Why is that? Well, it’s because we put tablets inside them. Now you have to worry about security updates. LG’s website says “Check for security updates for your refrigerator every other month.” I kid you not, that’s in their FAQ. And then what’s their plan to replace capacitors when they fail? So these are things that we need to be thinking about.

And I think we in the software and electronics industry bear some responsibility for this. We’re doing the [unintelligible 01:10:32.00] We don’t talk about longevity, and then everyone else wants to make their boring old product hip and cool new gadget, and there’s a lot of shortcomings that come with it.

Yeah. Well, the refrigerator in particular is like - I don’t know, and I’m by no means a freon expert, or how refrigerator works… But I’ve gotta imagine that - we’ve had these things for a while now. And the main innovation has been like windows to see what’s inside, maybe your grocery list added to it, things like that. But like the actual refrigeration - you might have multiple fans, you might have multiple zones, you might have the open drawer which can be either a refrigerator or a freezer… And I get all that. So there’s a lot of high tech things happening in there, or more let’s just say complex; not so much high tech. How do we allow things like this to be manufactured that doesn’t have, I suppose a standard? It seems like planned obsolescence, or just straight up don’t care, sell an expensive thing and just don’t care, because you’re a corporation, and you can hide behind a warranty… I mean, there’s people [unintelligible 01:11:34.12] their warranty, and like you had said before, if I’m in X, Y, or Z, how far away is the Apple Store? Same thing here. How close is a “authorized repair person”?

And I was just watching an episode of – I don’t know if you call them episodes or not. I guess a video of Louis Rossmann’s. It was a Samsung repair person, authorized repair person… He put a box cutter knife through the person’s TV, so that he can get off earlier. Like, I’ll link it up for the show notes…

[01:12:07.14] But is the authorized dealer/repair person or folks even for you, so that you can get your warranty cover? Like, sure, things break. I get it. I totally get it. But shouldn’t it be standardized to be built in a way so that it can be repaired, and not have to be down for months or weeks with a refrigerator?

Yeah. So the problem up front is you don’t know. And so if you’re a company, you have choice A or choice B; which one do I get? And people don’t know. Then it’s random, and there’s no incentive to make the more repairable product. It is more effort, sometimes it’s more cost… And so we have to find a way as a market, as consumers, to reward the companies that do a good job. Patagonia makes products that are really designed to stand the test of time, and they charge a premium for it. People generally reward them for that. Cool. How do we do that in the refrigerator world? Which fridges are more repairable and are going to last longer than others?

So how do we find that out? Consumer reports?

Well, that’s why we need repair labeling. It’s hard. Consumer reports doesn’t factor it in. Wire cutter doesn’t factor it in. I can show you product after product that Wirecutter has recommended that have failed, because Wirecutter’s review is “This is what’s like the first week you have the thing.” And they spend a lot of time in a week, but they don’t spend time longer than that.

So the easiest proxy in a world where we don’t have a repair scoring system is to look upfront and see “Can I get repair parts for that thing?” If I’m gonna buy a $3,500 refrigerator, are they selling parts for it? Are they selling parts for the equivalent of this that they sold seven years ago? Are those still available? That’s how you start to get a feeling of what that company’s ecosystem is like.

I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

Just pick the new thing and just google “blah, blah, blah spare parts”, and see if they’re out there. I’ll give you an example - Shark Ninja makes a lot of plastic blenders and vacuums, and that kind of thing… It’s impossible to find parts for them.

Well, speaking of them, I just went to blend something this morning on one of their things, and the blender didn’t work anymore. I just bought it a year ago. I was so upset about that…

I hope the company comes around, because we’ve written lots of repair guides for their stuff on iFixit… But right now their products are effectively disposable, because I don’t know where to tell you to get the spare part for your blender. They should. If you go with the higher end, if you got a Blendtec, or one of the higher end blenders, those companies do make parts available, and they do sell them. So it can be flip of the coin; you don’t know. And that’s why upfront you have to do your research before you buy the thing. Unfortunately, it’s a little hard to do the research. So we publish repair scores on iFixit. We’ve been scoring things for a while. So we rate all the new smartphones when they come out, and we give it a score from 1 to 10, so we’re trying to help… But I’m not Consumer Reports. I can’t score everything in the world.

Yeah, I know. It’s a lot of work to do the things that The Verge does, for example, which - they do a great job of from a media standpoint, gauging and judging, and their media model, or their funding model’s different than yours or mine might be…

Yeah. And I would give Sean Hollister credit at The Verge, because he will disassemble products and talk about the insides of them. You don’t see very many tech journalists do this. But…

Are there places in – like, in software engineering and software development, and the tech world, so to speak, there’s lots of conferences or gatherings, community gatherings… If someone was listening to this and they want to get steeped in this beyond just simply going to iFixit and following you, and the different things that you’re publishing, and what we point to from this podcast… To get involved into the “community” - where does this community hang out?

If you’re listening to this and you’re a repair shop or a repair professional, I would encourage you to come to the Electronics Reuse Summit. That’s kind of the closest thing. It’s in Austin, in October.

I’m gonna go there then. I live in Austin.

Okay, well come on down.

You’ll be there?

Yeah, I’ll be there.

[01:15:56.24] So

Okay, so I went to the wrong URL. Ereuseconference.

It’s being renamed The Electronic Sustainability Summit, but that really is where the repair shops come to hang out.

Yeah, I’d love to definitely dig deeper into this, because for many, many years now I’ve had like a peripheral… I’ve had an interest, but a peripheral vantage point, I suppose, to this movement. And I feel like even here on this podcast, and what we do around here, especially this kind of conversation - it’s not software developer at large kind of conversation, but it’s very much steeped in the things we care about as technologists. I wear airpods, Jerod wears airpods… I’m sure that somebody’s listening right now with a set of ear pods on. Or air pods, not ear pods. Air pods.

Okay, so lots to do… You kind of red-pilled me a little bit here. I’ve already been eaten the red pill on this movement anyways… What is it good next step? If someone was like “Okay, maybe this conference–”, the Electronics Reuse Conference here in Austin later this year, October 22nd through the 24th here in Austin, Texas… It’s one event, the entire industry is there apparently… That’s what it says on the website; just reading it for you all. Where else should folks go? What’s a good place to go further?

I mean, I think the next thing you have that brakes, just try to fix it. The worst that happens is it stays broken, right? That’s fine. You maybe break it a little more; that’s okay. It’s already broken. Beyond that, if you really want to get involved, get involved with your state Right to Repair organization. So in every state, if you go to, or,, that will connect you with a forum to write your legislator. Just fill out and drop them a note and just say “Hey, I really support the Right to Repair bill.” Right now, 27 out of 50 states have introduced bills so far this year. We expect more are coming. And every single one of those needs support from citizens to get engaged and push their elected representatives.

Who is behind

Yeah, so is a trade association representing repair shops. I’m on the board, there are advocates and folks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, their legal director is on the board… Consumer Reports is very involved… Other organizations that do repair and data centers, there’s folks who do you do ag equipment Right to Repair advocacy… It’s a great organization, and it’s almost entirely focused on advocacy and policy work.

And are they involved at all in this upcoming conference too, or even –

Yeah, they’ll be exhibiting and they’ll be speaking. Usually, we have a kind of Right to Repair State of the Union kind of round table and talk about what’s going on.

Well, what’s left unsaid? What have we not covered that we can – what do you want to stay on the way out?

I think it was pretty comprehensive. I mean, I think it’s just like, we can make the world we want to live in. So decide how important repairability is to you. There are brands increasingly starting to pay attention to this. Lenovo just announced their flagship business laptop has upgradable RAM again. They had taken it away, they brought it back, and they got a 9 out of 10 on our scorecard, which is really good. So companies are starting to pay attention, and we need to reward them for that, and continue to demand it from the rest of the companies we interact with.

Yeah. Alright, we’ll leave it there, Kyle. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk. Thank you for giving me a deep-dive into you. Like I said, I’m a fan of iFixit. I hadn’t gotten the deeper backstory, so I was very encouraged to have this conversation with you… And I’ve got my magnet over there on my refrigerator.


I’m a fixer. I’m a fixer.

Sounds great. Thanks a lot, Adam. It was great to meet you.

Thanks, Kyle.


Our transcripts are open source on GitHub. Improvements are welcome. 💚

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