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iFixit Moves Into Console Repair

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the red-ring-of-rebirth dept.

Hardware Hacking 75

sk8pmp writes with news that iFixit, a website known for Apple gadget teardowns and repair guides, is expanding into the game console market, launching a series of troubleshooting and repair guides to help gamers fix their own machines. They're also starting to sell replacement parts and the tools necessary to work on them. "Right now there are repair guides for 24 gaming consoles, including 206 repairs and upgrades. Some of these fixes deal with major issues, such as the infamous Red Ring of Death from the Xbox 360, but others are simpler. For instance, right now there is no easy way to clean out the fans inside your console. 'I think this is probably the number one cause of overheating these days now that manufacturers have mostly gotten their act together,' Wiens said. 'This is routine maintenance, and it's mind-boggling that the manufacturers don't provide people with an easy way to open the case up and blow it out.' You'll also learn how to replace broken LCD screens on your portables, replace the motherboard on your PlayStation 3, and do just about anything else you might want to do to these systems, from the simple to the harrowing."

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Planned Breakage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33424692)

'This is routine maintenance, and it's mind-boggling that the manufacturers don't provide people with an easy way to open the case up and blow it out.'

Maybe its mind boggling to those of us who expect a quality long lasting product for a reasonable price... An idea that seems fairly obsolete these days. :(

But from the mfg's point of view... If it dies after heavy use clogs the fan with dirt and kills the console..

You're most likely going to buy a new one. Or the new model.

Especially since most consumers are not capable of working a screwdriver.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#33424748)

Mostly obsolete in consumer electronics, where small is a big selling point and "user-serviceable" is "not user-friendly".

Pop open just about any but the absolute cheapest and nastiest of servers, say, (which is usually a toolless operation, unless you've locked the provided lock) and you'll see the fans right there. Often in convenient hot-swap mounts, no less.

Re:Planned Breakage... (5, Insightful)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#33424778)

Maybe its mind boggling to those of us who expect a quality long lasting product for a reasonable price... An idea that seems fairly obsolete these days. :(

Modern electronics are so miniaturized that everything is pretty packed in. And people want it that way, they want "slim" devices. Your "easy to service" products are going to be a lot bigger and cost a lot more. People want cheap and small.

Also, having the average person open up their devices is ultimately going to result in screw-ups and an increased volume of customer support requests, which is expensive.

I don't think it's some kind of conspiracy to make your products break. It's just the result of economics and demands of modern technology. If you want long-lasting quality products, you'll usually pay more. But when has that ever not been true for most things?

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#33424926)

And people want it that way, they want "slim" devices.

I must have been absent the day it was put to a vote that we want "slim" devices that cannot be serviced.

When it comes to consumer products, people want what they're told to want by the marketers (or maybe "marketeers" as in "racketeers").

Re:Planned Breakage... (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#33424944)

I must have been absent the day it was put to a vote that we want "slim" devices that cannot be serviced.

you were there, you were simply outvoted.

I would far prefer sealed slab style electronics (heat-conductive epoxy FTW) that don't have so many problems, but we're not there yet for most devices.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#33429178)

I would far prefer sealed slab style electronics (heat-conductive epoxy FTW)

Maybe it's a generational thing. I don't trust what I can't open to get a peek at the noodles.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 years ago | (#33432446)

Maybe it's a generational thing. I don't trust what I can't open to get a peek at the noodles.

If it's cheap and it has a bunch of surface-mount stuff that I'm not going to service anyway, then I don't care. If it is wickedly expensive and has components I am likely to service, I care. So far I own no hardware like that. I used to when I could barely rub two pennies together to buy an Amiga 2000, but now you can get machines that make it look like a palm pilot for free out of dumpsters.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#33424994)

I must have been absent the day it was put to a vote that we want "slim" devices that cannot be serviced.

So, let's see... which would you prefer to use?

  1. 3.5" Floppy drive and disk
  2. 8GB Flash memory card in either SD or CF format

The Floppy drive is easy to service. Big parts, you can fix the mechanics and solder the components. On the other hand, you are not going to be able to fix your 8GB Flash memory if something internal goes wrong.

Same with things like motherboards and components. Would you rather a machine with discrete transistors or vacuum tubes, or would you rather something with surface-mount devices and microchips? There's a massive difference in performance.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

Tongsy (1188257) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425250)

Not true! This drive was run over by a car and the chip (containing the only copy of someones PHD thesis) was broken off. It was later soldered back on ad the data was successfully removed. http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3417/4566207262_201cbabeaf_b.jpg [flickr.com]

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#33429398)

I wouldn't exactly call that fixing the "internal components." That's just fixing the external connectors, not the Flash memory itself.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | more than 3 years ago | (#33430476)

If the Ph.D. student only had one copy on their thesis, which was on a USB stick, and they broke the USB stick, they deserves to fail.

All of my work gets archived twice on 2.5inch USB hard drives, one taken off site, a copy put online where it is stored at a data centre, and I also send copies via email. It's not hard work, and relatively cheap.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

Schadrach (1042952) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425260)

That depends, do I get a 3.5" Floppy drive that can store 8GB of data, so that we're actually talking size/form factor and not asking whether you'd rather have a thimble of distilled water or a gallon of tap to drink for the day?

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#33429316)

That depends, do I get a 3.5" Floppy drive that can store 8GB of data

No, you don't. You don't get such high data densities and get to service them by hand. That's the point. Progress relies on miniaturization, which relies on industrial processes and tools beyond the individual's means.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

Schadrach (1042952) | about 4 years ago | (#33439406)

You can service an optical drive, and an optical drive can handle those kinds of capacities. You specifically chose an example that encourages "You can have something effective and tiny, or something accessible and potentially fixable, but not both" while leaving out the accessible, potentially fixable, but not tiny option.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

dangitman (862676) | about 4 years ago | (#33440386)

Why would you choose an optical drive over solid-state technology, just because it's "potentially fixable"? It's also a lot more breakable with all those moving parts and scratchable media surfaces. Not to mention a lot slower in transfer speeds.

Also, an 8GB optical drive is in the realm of the surface mount device, with finely tuned lasers. It takes a lot more skill and precision to fix than an old floppy drive. Just not practical for the average tinkerer.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

Schadrach (1042952) | about 4 years ago | (#33471510)

Just to make a point (if late), an 8GB optical drive is a DVD drive (dual layer) and isn't *that* difficult to fix.

Re:Planned Breakage... (2, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425272)

Would you rather a machine with discrete transistors or vacuum tubes, or would you rather something with surface-mount devices and microchips?

Don't change the subject.

I'd rather a box with 4 screws that I could open up and service instead of one that's glued shut.

This story is about servicing game consoles that have been designed specifically not to be serviced, not whether or not those consoles should use microchips or vacuum tubes.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#33429346)

Don't change the subject.

I'm not.

I'd rather a box with 4 screws that I could open up and service instead of one that's glued shut.

But that's not what's being discussed. Would you want your laptop designed that way? Because that's going to be one huge and heavy laptop. Nobody is gluing these things shut. They are just complex and difficult to work with because that's the only way to get so much power in a small space.

This story is about servicing game consoles that have been designed specifically not to be serviced,

No it's not. You're just reading that into it. The consoles are serviceable - how else do you think the companies' technicians service them?

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#33430108)

They are just complex and difficult to work with because that's the only way to get so much power in a small space.

Think about that statement.

Tell me that the only way to "get so much power in a small" iPhone was to build it so that the battery could not be changed by the owner.

Tell me that the only way to "get so much power in a small" game console was to build it so that dust could not be cleaned out of cooling ducts.

Tell me that the only way to "get so much power in a small" iPod Touch or MS Zune(or pick your favorite MP3 player) is to build it so that the audio jack could not be replaced when it inevitably gets a short and one side of the stereo output goes out.

I understand that you're trying to deny that "planned obsolescence" or even "planned breakage" is fundamental to the design of most consumer electronics, but if you talk to someone who designs consumer electronics or someone who works in what used to be called "quality assurance" you will learn that you're wrong.

I'm not trying to pick on Apple, in case that's what caused your hackles to become erect.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#33430766)

Tell me that the only way to "get so much power in a small" iPhone was to build it so that the battery could not be changed by the owner.

Right. To add a removable battery, you'd either need to use a smaller battery (less battery life) or have a bigger and heavier device.

Tell me that the only way to "get so much power in a small" game console was to build it so that dust could not be cleaned out of cooling ducts.

But dust can be cleaned out of the cooling ducts. This article has a link to a site that tells you how to do it. (or you could just blow it out without opening the device.

Tell me that the only way to "get so much power in a small" iPod Touch or MS Zune(or pick your favorite MP3 player) is to build it so that the audio jack could not be replaced when it inevitably gets a short and one side of the stereo output goes out.

Not sure what you're talking about there.

I understand that you're trying to deny that "planned obsolescence" or even "planned breakage" is fundamental to the design of most consumer electronics,

It may or may not be, but none of your arguments or examples support that conclusion. If planned obsolescence is built-in, then why is it that so many of my devices that are 3,5 and even 10 years or more old are working just fine? I haven't had a single piece of electronics die (except for hard drive failures) in the last decade.

I'm not trying to pick on Apple, in case that's what caused your hackles to become erect.

When did I mention Apple?

Apparently, you're ignorant of technology. As it progresses, it gets beyond just needing a screwdriver and soldering iron to fix. If you're so against gluing things shut, then I assume your computer's processor can be opened with four screws so you can fix a faulty logic gate? No? Then why aren't you outraged about that?

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 4 years ago | (#33431608)

But dust can be cleaned out of the cooling ducts. This article has a link to a site that tells you how to do it. (or you could just blow it out without opening the device.

But while violating the warranty.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

dangitman (862676) | about 4 years ago | (#33432174)

How does blowing the dust out from the outside violate the warranty?

I'm sorry, but your whole notion that manufacturers deliberately make their products to break is absurd. Yes, there are many easy to break items, but they are that way because consumers want cheap things, so they use cheaper components to meet that demand. A company that makes products to fail deliberately is not going to last in the market for very long.

Also absurd is your notion that the design of modern products is deliberately intended to remove accessibility. That is simply a byproduct of their function and form factor. They consist of hundreds of tiny components in a small space. How can you assemble something like that without it being complex? Do you think they do it for shits and giggles?

Maybe if your way is so much better, you should start up a company and make these amazing advanced products that are also simple in construction and easy to take apart by the end user. You could make a lot of money. But I'm guessing you don't know the first thing about it.

I mean, some of your examples are completely backwards. The removable battery thing for one. That decreases longevity, and adds points of failure, creating a product that fails sooner. How often have you seen phones and laptops where the battery retaining latches have failed long before the end of life for the battery? And removing the complexity of a battery bay and casing allows for greater structural integrity, again, increasing the chance the product will last longer.

You also forget that we're talking about (in consoles and phones) cheap consumer appliances here, not rackmount servers or tower computers.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 3 years ago | (#33430436)

Because that's going to be one huge and heavy laptop.

My OLPC likes to disagree, that thing is easy to open up, in fact so easy that children can do it with a single screwdriver. It also comes with a few additional unused screws in the case, in case you lose some.

The consoles are serviceable - how else do you think the companies' technicians service them?

With special training and equipment. Just look at a disassembly of an Xbox 360 Slim, that thing is way more complex to disassemble then it would need to when properly designed.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#33430800)

My OLPC likes to disagree, that thing is easy to open up, in fact so easy that children can do it with a single screwdriver. It also comes with a few additional unused screws in the case, in case you lose some.

And it is very underpowered. Thanks for making my point. And what can you do once it is open? Not much.

With special training and equipment.

Apparently not. Did you even read the slashdot summary? It links to a site that shows you how to do it.

Just look at a disassembly of an Xbox 360 Slim, that thing is way more complex to disassemble then it would need to when properly designed.

So, instead they should should make it a huge beast so tiny percentage of users can conveniently open it? People mocked the 360 on release because it was so huge - what do you think the reaction would have been if it was 50% larger in volume?

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 3 years ago | (#33430970)

And what can you do once it is open? Not much.

Replace the LCD backlight for example, the display hinge or the keyboard or whatever else is broken. You can't take the motherboard apart, but pretty much everything else on the OLPC.

Apparently not. Did you even read the slashdot summary? It links to a site that shows you how to do it.

That's what I called "special training", you are not going to take these things apart without damage unless you already know what to expect. And of course you might need to grab an unusual triwing screwdriver or torx security bit or whatever, which basically serves no other purpose then making disassembly harder.

So, instead they should should make it a huge beast so tiny percentage of users can conveniently open it?

The by far smallest piece of electronic I have is my wrist watch and I can take that apart by simply unscrewing four screws. On a device the size of an Xbox360 there would be tons of room for some proper screws, instead of all those snap-in plastics stuff.

Re:Planned Breakage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33433894)

While the tri-wing is likely just to prevent disassembly by the average consumer, the torx screws are actually superior for assembly, it it easier to securely fit the driver into the screw which makes automated assembly easier.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 4 years ago | (#33451748)

The other big advantage of torx is it either fits or it doesn't.

There are at least two types of cross head screws common in the west (philpps and pozi) and afaict there is a japanese standard that is different again. Bits from one family will sort of fit in the others and bits the wrong size from the same range will also generall sort of fit.

Screwdrivers that appear to fit but don't fit very well are a BAD thing, they lead to damaged screwheads which in turn can make it virtually impossible to dismantle a device.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 4 years ago | (#33431614)

And it is very underpowered.

Only if you want to play Crysis on your laptop.

The OLPC is not underpowered for its intended purpose.

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

dangitman (862676) | about 4 years ago | (#33432200)

No, but you could get a lot more power into something that size. Again, do you not understand that there are tradeoffs between price, power, quality of construction and form factor?

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425426)

Also, having the average person open up their devices is ultimately going to result in screw-ups and an increased volume of customer support requests, which is expensive.

How ever will the watchmakers deal with such a flood of customer support requests?

Whatever would someone do if they opened up their watch, and crushed a gem or lost a screw? If they went complaining to their neighbor, do you think they would get any sympathy? "Oh no, I just bent that escapement. How dare WATCHCOMPANY allow me to make such a mistake. I will now demand a refund or replacement."

Stick a warranty seal on it and be done with it.

Re:Planned Breakage... (0, Troll)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#33429386)

Stick a warranty seal on it and be done with it.

And that's exactly what they do. But then people like PopeRatzo whine about it being unfair.

I'm not getting your point, as you seem to be making much the same argument as I am, but stating it as if you disagree..

Re:Planned Breakage... (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 3 years ago | (#33429322)

Actually most Xbox failures result in warranty replacement. Also there is not a new console out. The New version of the 360 doesn't add anything useful.

Can you hear that? (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#33424722)

It's the sound of continuity/anti-tamper sensors being added to the external housings of the next generation of consoles...

Re:Can you hear that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33424864)

Can you hear this? it's the silence of my money NOT being dropped on stuff they'd like me to buy and not actually own.

BTW i had overheating problem on my acer laptop. Opened it up dusted off a bit, nothing happens. The bios was already updated to fix a problem with fans. While googling for a way to programmaticaly turn the fan on all the time i find a couple of forum posts that strongly suggested to unmount the fan too. Did it and crap comes out, fixed.

Should it be so difficult? 20 years ago you could take completely apart an apple //gs without a screwdriver. While now replacing a DIMM proves to be difficult, beneath the ata ribbons and with the video card 1 mm too close to one bank slot.
It's the same thing that happened with cars:replacing a light should be a 3 minutes issue, it's not.

Re:Can you hear that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33424890)

It's the sound of continuity/anti-tamper sensors being added to the external housings of the next generation of consoles...

If consoles can be circumvented to run illegal backups, I'm certain that circumventing an anti-tamper sensor won't be a problem.

Re:Can you hear that? (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425536)

It's the sound of continuity/anti-tamper sensors being added to the external housings of the next generation of consoles...

If consoles can be circumvented to run illegal backups, I'm certain that circumventing an anti-tamper sensor won't be a problem.

I'm sure you're right but I have to ask, "illegal backups"? Is that some fancy way of saying "pirated" or just the de facto standard for backing up games thanks to the DMCA? If you never had an original it's not a backup, it's just a copy.

If all buying a shiny disc does is give me a license to use the data then I'll use it however I damn well please, and here in Canada it's perfectly legal for me to use burnt discs in my console while the originals are stored out of reach of my kids and careless friends. So for what it's worth, I look forward to seeing a workaround when the day comes.

Re:Can you hear that? (1)

Achra (846023) | more than 3 years ago | (#33426352)

Yep, it's the de facto standard for backing up games thanks to the DMCA. Modifying your own console so that you can execute backups that YOU CREATED from original discs YOU OWN is illegal in the USA and punishable under the DMCA. This is because the game manufacturers have found that it is much more lucrative to let children destroy originals than it is to let consumers make backups and possibly never by a 4th copy of that $60 game.

Re:Can you hear that? (1)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 3 years ago | (#33427700)

Modifying your own console so that you can execute backups that YOU CREATED from original discs YOU OWN is illegal in the USA

No it's not. Not even a little bit.

Modifying your own console...punishable under the DMCA.

That's not correct either. It is the backup copy of the software that violates the DMCA. Buying the game disk grants you a single software license that is limited to the media, the backup is considered a new unlicensed copy.

I can do anything I want to modify my console. It is copies of licensed software that get people in trouble. When that copy is distributed and used by other people who never paid for the game we call it piracy. When the copy is used by the person who paid for the game because they want to preserve their original media we call it a backup. In the US these backups are grouped with pirated copies. To me this seems dumb.

Re:Can you hear that? (1)

Achra (846023) | more than 3 years ago | (#33428106)

Modifying your own console so that you can execute backups that YOU CREATED from original discs YOU OWN is illegal in the USA

No it's not. Not even a little bit.

I can do anything I want to modify my console.

This is an unbased argument which is often espoused by console modders. Please have a look at Title 17 Chapter 12 (which was added by the DMCA): http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/1201.html [cornell.edu] "No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title. "

My friend, opening up your console and installing a modchip is a circumvention of a technological measure that effectively controls access to a copyrighted work. Ever wonder why it is that modchip sellers & manufacturers in the united states no longer exist? They've been raided for selling something that is now illegal in our country.

Re:Can you hear that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33433700)

But that conflicts with your fair-use rights to make backups of games you own. Yes, selling mod-chips is illegal, but it should be okay if you do the circumvention yourself and only use it to exercise your fair-use rights.

Re:Can you hear that? (1)

Achra (846023) | about 4 years ago | (#33436230)

Sorry, a law which criminalizes the act of modifying your console to play your legitimate(legal) backups sort of trumps fair use. Anyways, fair use is not a law.. it is a court ruling. Laws trump court rulings.

mostly for out of warranty (1)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 4 years ago | (#33424972)

I suspect that most of their business will be on stuff that's out of warranty anyway. I've used iFixit for years and years when I've had or inherited an Apple product that needed repair. It has always been old stuff because if the product is under warranty, it's quicker and easier for the user to send it to the manufacturer (well Apple anyway, not sure about how well console manufacturers honor their warranty). iFixit comes in when the product is old and out-dated, or you've voided your warranty by e.g., spilling liquid on it, or some other user behavior that's not covered. So I doubt the console manufacturers will care very much.

All in all, this is good news. I think that we're starting to reach that point now that electronics aren't improving so rapidly that old products are completely obsolete before their hardware fails. So it's good to see people like iFixit encouraging a culture of repair and reuse, especially for electronics which are 1) made from some heavy metals that are in limited supply, and are toxic to mine, 2) completely awful for water quality and human health to throw out and/or recycle because of all the heavy metals (children that live in recycling town in China grow up with elevated levels of Cadmium in their blood).

Re:Can you hear that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33425098)

What decade are you living in?

Don't you remember the VOID sticker on the Playstation 2?

Re:Can you hear that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33426754)

I think the OP is implying that some sort of sensor would also disable the console from working if tampered with, rather than just ruining your warranty.

Re:Can you hear that? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 years ago | (#33431884)

That would be the thinking. Basic "tamper evident" switches, with BIOS logs, have been a standard feature in corporate desktops for years. They aren't totally foolproof, some clever knife work will usually get you past them; but they are simple, cheap, and make unauthorized opening pretty tricky for somebody who doesn't know exactly what to expect.

In consoles(which aren't designed for trivial toolless repair) you could presumably build rather more robust ones for a similarly low price and potentially do much nastier things(like burning them against further XBox Live play, or deleting the AACS keys required for Blu-Ray playback...)

Re:Can you hear that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33425160)

I thought each console cost the company selling it money they would have to make up on games and $278154823645789 flash drives. Shouldn't sony and ms be pleased that someone can help same them some $$ by keeping a console they already lost money on from dieing?

Coincidence (1)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 4 years ago | (#33424754)

That's a stroke of luck, as my brother gave me a broken Playstation 3 yesterday. It's an original "fat" model suffering from the flashing red light of death, which means I'll need to replace the power supply, and the iFixit site has a guide for doing just that.

Re:Coincidence (1)

Nunavut (1662173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425592)

FYI - The PS3 cannot suffer from RROD (Red Ring Of Death) but it can get YLOD (yellow light of death). RROD refers to the Xbox and YLOD is for PS3. I too had just recently fixed a 60 GB launch PS3 from YLOD using guides from YouTube. The power supply was fine, your power supply may working just fine too. I just needed a heat gun to re-flow the solder points on the BGA for the Cell BE and RSX chips. I think its great there is information available for those that are willing to try fix it themselves.

Re:Coincidence (1)

LizardKing (5245) | about 4 years ago | (#33449936)

There's also a "red flashing light of death" on the PS3, which indicates that the power supply has overheated, and it requires a similar amount of work to fix as the YLOD (about ten minutes). The difference is that with the YLOD the fix is often temporary a further damage has often occurred to the motherboard, which will eventually require replacing.

But how long will iFix be around? Or ANYONE ?? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33424758)

I predict a theme of consolidation, buyouts, mergers, and a general public decline in enthusiasm for tech this year. In fact, if Apple isn't doing something, nobody will care. As a columnist, this bothers me. Ever since Sarbanes-Oxley was passed in 2002, the tech scene has deteriorated. Small companies have been restricted from getting public funding. This has prevented them from the kind of normal growth path that was once allowable. The normal path companies got to take is now gone. There will be no more Intels. And there will be no more Ciscos or AMDs for that matter.

Startups have unique product and sales hurdles to overcome to make IPOs (initial public offerings) worthwhile. Over the last decade, very few companies have managed this. Google and Netsuite come to mind. Before Sarbanes-Oxley, there would have been hundreds. Instead of having small, competitive companies all over the place, we have a few behemoths making all of the money. And all of the little companies get bought up by the aforementioned behemoths. That brings us to Skype.

Skype intends to do an IPO, but there's now a rumor that Cisco wants to buy it. Once that rumor surfaced, more appeared suggesting that Cisco itself was up for grabs. It's one big fish eating another.

The Temptation Eyes to not do an IPO has to be compelling for any company. Whatever the case, because of mergers and consolidation, Skype's competition has already shrunk. For example, Google bought the Gizmo VOIP service even though it had already developed Google Talk. Somehow Google merged another purchase--Grand Central--into Google Voice and into Google Talk, Gizmo, and some Gmail lash up I can't understand. The end result is a Google phone service that is very compelling.

Combining five or six companies into one scheme stifles competition, however. This is a problem across the industry. I have seen plenty of good little companies get dissolved into larger firms before their original vision was ever achieved. This is happening more and more.

I can't tell you who the big dogs will be when all is said and done. It could be IBM or HP or even Dell. You never know what is happening with companies like Intel, who just bought McAfee and are buying wireless chipmaker, Infineon. Intel has had its eye on wireless for years, even trying to make routers. The company has a lot of avenues to explore--and I suppose that both Intel and AMD are buyout candidates themselves.

All of this reminds me of another boring business: hotels. Once upon a time, a company would build a hotel and put its name on it. It would keep that name, unless the whole company was sold. No longer. Now hotels seem more like playing cards. One company will own a hotel for a few years before selling it to another. I stay at a hotel in London that has been there forever. I think it's been owned by at least five different management companies. The facility keeps getting passed around.

It's like the ThinkPad brand once owned by IBM, now owned by Lenovo. Food companies do the same thing. Nestle owns this and that, and so does Kraft. Your favorite brand of cheese or soap--or just about anything else--goes from here to there and back again. The quality may change drastically. It seldom improves things from my experience.

The tech industry wants to adopt the Kraft/Nestle model, but it hasn't quite found a way to do it yet. The Skype situation, whereby the company is independent, then owned by eBay, then spun off, then trying to operate as an IPO or maybe get bought by Cisco, may all be part of the newest iteration of the consolidation process.

This would mean that, for all practical purposes, the products would be cut loose, and all the tech companies would actually be holding companies and management companies. Cisco, Sun, and Xerox have all tried to do something like this over the years. But if the little companies they bought began to fail, they didn't launch them out for bid, sale, or separate IPOs, they let them fail and at swallowed the losses. Xerox was notorious for buying companies and letting them fail.

A new way must be found. Compaq bought DEC and now where is that brand? Where is the Alpha chip? The way I see it, tech companies could learn something from Kraft, Nestle, Hilton Hotels, and Starwood. People like variety. They don't want one brand. Tech companies have not learned that lesson yet.

Re:But how long will iFix be around? Or ANYONE ?? (1)

kwiens (604321) | more than 3 years ago | (#33430276)

We are not big and public, and never will be. And if you don't trust us, fork the content and go build your own manual. We need one place for repair information, and it doesn't have to be iFixit. We've chosen to sell parts rather than ask for donations like Wikipedia, but our approach is otherwise quite similar.

Similar place for fixing LCDs: badcaps.net forum (3, Informative)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#33424800)

Not as packaged as iFixit sounds, but I've found the Badcaps Forums [badcaps.net] a great place to learn about LCD monitor repair and electronics operation.

Mind-boggling? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#33424900)

it's mind-boggling that the manufacturers don't provide people with an easy way to open the case up and blow it out.'

I do not think that word means what you think it means. Or your mind is defective.

You can blow most game consoles out by spraying them with compressed air. There's two strategies for this that I know of. One is to do it in the reverse direction of flow, with the system turned off. The other is to do it in the direction of flow, with the system turned on. I could see doing the reverse and then the forward. Use a can of air, or turn the regulator way down on your compressor. You do have a regulator, right?

Re:Mind-boggling? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#33425138)

The other is to do it in the direction of flow, with the system turned on.

Works better the closer the can of duster is to the fan... Until you knock a blade off the fan, either by hitting it with the tube of the duster or overreving it. Of course you can work around that by shutting off power and shoving the duster tube inside the device, until it starts knocking (poorly/barely attached) connectors off.

Its the type of task you can usually hack your way thru and doing a half-way job does well enough most of the time usually without damage, but actually doing it right is apparently harder than you expect.

Re:Mind-boggling? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425170)

Its the type of task you can usually hack your way thru and doing a half-way job does well enough most of the time usually without damage, but actually doing it right is apparently harder than you expect.

I have more than a little experience doing this. You don't HAVE to do a great job, and indeed there is no point, because it will just get dusty again right away. "Good enough" is good enough.

Crappy advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33425068)

Well, the first article I read, about how to replace the hard drive in the original XBOX is just plain WRONG. It's not as simple as opening it up, taking out the defective drive, and installing a new one. The hard drives in the XBOX are locked first of all. Second, the hard drive contains the dashboard OS, which if you don't have a backup of that, you are screwed.

I have done it, and it's not easy. First I had to take out the EEPROM and dump it to get the hard drive key. There is a program that will read the key for you. I had to buy a used XBOX at GameStop (who no longer sells them) and take the drive out of it, unlock the drive, and backup the dashboard files onto a CD. There is a Linux LiveCD to do this with. I then restored the backed up files to the new drive and locked it with my original key. It works.

Re:Crappy advice (1)

whoop (194) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425910)

It isn't that difficult, with a little Googling. The one questionable item (which you can find on the Internet) is that drive signature file. But I did it all recently in about 5 minutes. Bought an XBox360 Arcade with no hard drive. Bought an hd case from DealExtreme, a HD from newegg. Run a simple command-line utility, pointing it to the signature for the right size hd (up to 250GB). Put the drive in the hd case, put it on your Xbox, and you're done. Connect to the net, install updates, you want, etc. The core Dashboard is in the Xbox, but perhaps just updates are on the HD. Backing up an existing drive takes some time, but this was my first Xbox, so I had nothing to backup.

Re:Crappy advice (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#33426700)

The above AC is talking about the original Xbox, not the 360. Changing the drive on an original Xbox at the least requires softmodding, so you can get the EEPROM key. Then you connect the new drive to a PC running Xbox HDM, build the filesystem, and lock it with the original EEPROM. It's easy, but not a 5 minute job unless you have a hard modded system which can disable drive locking entirely.

Re:Crappy advice (1)

kwiens (604321) | more than 3 years ago | (#33430244)

You're right, we don't have complete information on how to deal with the drive firmware yet. We would absolutely love help writing up an authoritative document on how to deal with this. The easy approach is to swap in the board from your existing drive, but that only works if you are installing the same (ish) drive. This is a little bit of a tricky area for us (as a legal entity) to document because of the piracy implications, but there is no issue at all with you posting what you know. I don't think it would take too much effort to gather all the drive compatibility / firmware information in one place-- and you clearly know what you're talking about, so we'd appreciate the help!

How do they get around ban's from swapping parts (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425494)

How do they get around ban's from swapping parts?

yes M$ likes to ban you for swapping the HDD (some times) and the DVD?

Pretty cool (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#33425580)

I like this. Video game console repair and mod tutorials are scattered all over the internet. It will be nice to have them all in one place. The PDF download option is a bonus.

My question is, who owns the contributions? If I write up a guide to fix a console, what's to stop iFixit from taking that and locking the best features (like PDF download) behind a paywall like Instructables did?

Re:Pretty cool (2, Interesting)

kwiens (604321) | more than 3 years ago | (#33430140)

Fantastic question! You own it. This information is *never* going behind a paywall. Everything is CC-licensed [ifixit.com] , and original authors retain ownership of their own stuff. We are a free, open repair manual wiki. We're finalizing an XML schema for the manuals, and we are going to do regular data dumps to archive.org. If you want to take all the manuals + PDFs and post them on your site, please do. This is too important to risk someone locking it down-- the world needs an open repair manual. We're doing our darndest to make that happen, but we can't do it alone!

Re:Pretty cool (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#33430422)

We are a free, open repair manual wiki. We're finalizing an XML schema for the manuals, and we are going to do regular data dumps to archive.org. If you want to take all the manuals + PDFs and post them on your site, please do. This is too important to risk someone locking it down-- the world needs an open repair manual.

I love it. Too bad that's not mentioned in the summary, it might have gotten more attention. Next time I fix something I'll do a write-up for you. I have a couple SE/30s that need recapping here heh.

Re:Pretty cool (1)

kwiens (604321) | more than 3 years ago | (#33430600)

Thanks! I was planning on submitting a story myself, but OP beat me to it!

Oooh! (1)

Halifax Samuels (1124719) | more than 3 years ago | (#33426092)

Wow, I'm glad I found out about this place. This reminded me that Nintendo was completely useless in repairing my DS (one shoulder button wasn't working, sent it in, got it back and the broken shoulder button somehow switched sides). I just hope they have a how-to for keeping dust from getting under the screen - my house is FAR too dusty...

Repairing own gear is cool, but... (2, Interesting)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#33426280)

...one reason it's cheap is it's disposable.

Me lubs MilSpec equipment, but would hate to pay that much for rugged repairability when not required.

Re:Repairing own gear is cool, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33430118)

...one reason it's cheap is it's disposable.

Me lubs MilSpec equipment, but would hate to pay that much for rugged repairability when not required.

Yeah, but when you dispose of your electronics so quickly. A lot of that e-waste winds up hurting 3rd world countries.

Mind-boggling...Really? (1)

Caviller (1420685) | more than 3 years ago | (#33426498)

'This is routine maintenance, and it's mind-boggling that the manufacturers don't provide people with an easy way to open the case up and blow it out.'

Really? It seems pretty simple to me:

1. Build product.
2. Make product so that it's life is artifically gimped by not being able to do the easiest of things like 'blow it out'.
3. When product dies early, customer spends more money to replace originaly gimped product.
4. Rinse, repeat.

Seriously, they seem to build most 'consumer electronics' to die on a predetermined schedule. If they built them to last, then the companys would not get any extra money from multiple purchases...and well...they can't have that now can they.

Re:Mind-boggling...Really? (2, Insightful)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 3 years ago | (#33427736)

This doesn't make sense for consoles as they sell them at a loss hoping to make up the money in software sales. So every new console a user would ahve to buy would mean another $100 or so the company would be in the hole. It is far more likely the case that they do this to make modding more difficult. Granted, it's not going to stop someone dedicated to modding their console, but it'll stop a lot of curious kids that just want to try cheating or pirate some games (Yes, the "omg I just want to make some backups because I have a version of Terrets where I uncontrollably break game discs over my knee" people get screwed in the process). Small inconveniences often prove to be very effective psychological barriers. Like all that plastic wrap over the leftovers in your fridge. Who wants to mess with that shit when you can just throw something new together? You'll throw it out when it gets moldy.

Great idea (2, Interesting)

John Pfeiffer (454131) | more than 3 years ago | (#33427730)

I like the idea of putting all this info in one place. I see this more as being a place to put info about repairing older hardware, though. Since not everyone has the know-how and tools to work on today's super-small electronics. If I find the time, I shall endeavor to consolidate all my NEO-GEO arcade hardware repair knowledge and add it to the wiki. It'd be cool to see them including usability mods too, if they haven't already. Like RGB video mods for older consoles, to compliment the regular repair info.

Re:Great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33429678)

Cool. Looking forward to it. But let me tell you what I already search for old console mods and repairs: YouTube. Don't underestimate putting you cam on a tripod, pointing it at the bench, and just showing & telling me what you've done.

Sure, many vids have a lot of mumbling and confusion (plus a good number are pure gold) but one only has to watch two or three on the same problem to get an excellent idea of what's really involved, and get on with it at home.

Takes less time than organizing stills and words too. If you find yourself still not finding time to put it all together, please don't hesitate to just fire off a few YouTube uploads. I for one will am looking forward to hearing your tips.

Re:Great idea (1)

kwiens (604321) | more than 3 years ago | (#33430210)

We welcome anything on iFixit that enables repair. We define repair as anything that makes something work longer. Useful upgrades certainly fall into that category, and we'd love your contributions!

AC, you're right, Youtube is useful-- but it's not a replacement for a service manual. It would be much better to have one, trusted place to go to learn how to work on something than to search through videos. The other side of this is that this information needs to be easy enough that your mom can follow it. Mumbling videos don't always inspire confidence. :-) The easier we can make it to fix things, the more people will do it.

Re:Great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33430760)

AC back for a moment. Note I didn't suggest one was better than the other, but encouraged people not getting around to organizing their tutorials into stills and words to upload vids -- to the same end: "The easier we can make it to fix things, the more people will do it."

You're working on the same problem. You're making experience-upload easier by supplying format and pointers. Good on ya. I like the idea, and I like that you went CC.

I have _quibbles_ about your site organization, and the idea that it's "much better to have one (etc)", but I appreciate that's where you're coming from & you're putting that inspiration into making something. Go for it! Make it the best you can. You're going to learn an awful lot about structuring information (I hope) and in say a year may have something rather new and marvelous. (Don't ever forget Wikipedia was something of a joke for the first few years, then finally morphed into a respectable tool 'overnight'. Keep at it. There will be an 'adolescence' stage before maturity for your project. It's always a weird time for both 'parent' and 'child'. Just take that as a heads-up and hold your perspective through it when it comes later.)

Re:Great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33431536)

to compliment the regular repair info

That regular repair info sure is nice.

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