back to article Built to last: Time to dispose of the disposable, unrepairable brick

Last November, as I sat in a cafe penning my book Augmented Reality*, my MacBook Pro suddenly turned off in that very final way that lets you know something has gone very wrong. The Genius Bar confirmed a dead mainboard – and an estimated $1,000 repair. I suggested that it might be better for me to buy a replacement, and they …

  1. Dave K

    It doesn't help that modern devices can result in some downgrades or missing features. I still use an old Lenovo X201 laptop. Why? Because it's the last one Lenovo made with a 16:10 screen before they downgraded to 16:9 on future models. If I buy a new Lenovo laptop today, I can be assured of a poorer screen aspect ratio, worse trackpad, worse keyboard, no status LEDs etc. Given that the X201 still runs fast enough for what I need (and has good battery life due to a recent replacement), why should I replace it with a newer laptop that is inferior in many ways?

    Similarly my phone is a 4 year old LG G4. It still runs plenty fast enough for my liking, has a headphone jack, SD card slot and easily replaceable battery. Many of these are again features I'd lose if I replaced it.

    The modern approach of removing functionality and dumbing bits down is another reason why people are hanging onto older kit longer than they used to do.

    1. _LC_
      Thumb Up

      Hardware specs do matter as well

      Another reason being the old hardware's specs, of course. A device with 8 cores, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB flash (hard disk), would have been considered a mainframe not so long ago.

      It has become hard to slow down such machines. Even the most inefficient of software rarely manages to hog so much RAM or processing power. Therefore, you can safely keep the old, as there's not much of a difference anyhow. ;-)

      1. beecee

        Pigs and troughs

        Yeah I agree, but I start from the other end, upgrading the machine over ten years till it bears no relation to the original, but then I'm always adding pieces, judiciously. I get great pleasure squeezing the pips, got a twelve year old Dell Vostro that Madam had from an OU Maths degree from Vista to Win10Pro x64: cost £75 approx, now that's what I cal value for money. It runs a bit warm but the build I see has not been surpassed. Any firm that offers that I'd look at next time I'm forced to buy one.

        1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

          Re: Pigs and troughs

          I've had the same Desktop of Theseus since 1999. I suspect that the last original part left it in about 2011. I think the current case and PSU date back to around 2007, while the motherboard & processor were swapped as recently as last year. Some of its (removable backup) hard drives are ten years old. Next on the list for change will be the decidedly-mid-range-in-2012 graphics card, which is still coping surprisingly well with driving three screens (two 1080p and one 2K). Old parts usually go on eBay, or, in the case of my oldest, smallest, and squarest monitor, to British Heart Foundation, where it sold for the princely sum of £5.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Pigs and troughs

            Trigger's broom comes to mind here.

            1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

              Re: Pigs and troughs

              That's admittedly an old classic, but Plutarch was a little ahead of Trigger :P

              "The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same."

      2. TonyJ

        Re: Hardware specs do matter as well

        On the one had I agree - I never buy a mobile phone via a contract, it's always N-1, costing no more than a few hundred quid max, and I'd expect at least 3 years of use from it.

        Ditto - my last laptop lasted me 5 years and although it could still handle most of everything thrown at it, it was starting to show its age in some areas. I expect my new replacement to last at least as long.

        But when people talk about the lack of an audio jack, or status LEDs, I can actually see the manufacturers stance on it, to some degree - when you are building units by the millions, a faction of pence for the parts, plus the humans and/or automation required to fit them and drive them adds up to a considerable amount of cash.

        Many, many, years ago I used to repair Sharp equipment (the manufacturer, that is, not stuff that was pointy or bladed!). I cut my teeth on their electronic typewriters and word processors. On the very basic model of typewriter (around 50 quid from Boots or WHS), the chassis used to be held in with two screws.

        Suddenly, they appeared with a case design that had two plastic "clips" built into the moulding. They did the job but were notoriously brittle at first, and would break if you removed the chassis for any reason.

        I asked them why they'd gone down the route - turns out they did the maths. With the human to put them in, the extra tooling station etc, it cost 19p per unit for the pair. In the UK alone they sold 200,000 that year (I am still not sure how accurate that figure was, but they were definitely a popular choice for small offices, students etc).

        Don't get me wrong - I am not saying scrapping features for the sake of saving money is a good thing, just that in some circumstances, I can see why it happens.

    2. RachelG

      I think Apple are the only ones still making laptops with 16:10 screens, and having both (Dell XPS13 and (latest) Macbook Air), I can confirm it Makes A Difference.

      Still with the butterfly keyboards though. Nothing gets everything right.

      1. Malcolm 1

        "I think Apple are the only ones still making laptops with 16:10 screens, and having both (Dell XPS13 and (latest) Macbook Air), I can confirm it Makes A Difference."

        Dell seem to have got the message and have reverted to 16:10 ratio screens on the XPS line.

        Microsoft have pretty much standardised on 3:2 ratio screens too of course.

      2. _LC_

        Not the only ones

        I'm sure that there are sites like this in English as well:

        (preset to 16:10 here)

      3. fobobob

        16:10 monitors are a wonderful thing, especially when one must work on 16:9 content. Trying to work on 1920x1080 content on a same-sized screen is a nuisance. I finally got my hands on a lot of 5x ~7-8 year old HP 1920x1200 monitors for work and home, and couldn't be happier. Heck, I even found the 2x 1680x1050 monitors I had been using previously at work to be significantly less annoying than a single 1920x1080 monitor, as the 30px vertical loss isn't noticeable when you already have to scroll.

        1. Dave K

          Couldn't agree more. I was sad last year when my trusty Viewsonic 27" monitor finally gave up the ghost after more than 10 years of service. Thankfully, Dell do still make 30" 16:10 screens. Not cheap, but it was worth it!

          1. quartzz

            nice to know. I'm on a VX912, at least 10 yrs old. (I've replaced the cap on the power board). it's been giving occasional jip (fleeting horizontal pink lines across mostly the lower right hand part of the monitor when I have a USB hub connected). I'm thinking of a Dell U2419 when this eventually goes

    3. Stoneshop

      Given that the X201 still runs fast enough for what I need

      Hear, hear.

      8G RAM, 480G SSD, Debian. It does what I need it to do, and it does so well fast enough.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Given that the X201 still runs fast enough for what I need

        An AOL style "me too". My personal laptop is a ten year old Dell, albeit with maxed out RAM and an SSD in place of the original drive.

        1. fobobob

          Re: Given that the X201 still runs fast enough for what I need

          Recently upgraded my ~7 year old Latitude E5430 to the fastest Ivy Bridge dual core (higher clock is more desirable than more threads in my use case) I could get my hands on; with 8GB of RAM and a decent SSD, it's more than enough for most tasks. Sandy/Ivy bridge was about the point in time where it seems like Intel stopped trying, until recently, so it has worked out quite well. Sadly, can't upgrade the machine past 8GB, though it seems a factory option was available for 16GB. At work, we have a few Ivy Bridge laptops with 4x DIMM slots, and support for 32GB RAM, good for a few more years running Windows 8.

          1. Wtcher

            Re: Given that the X201 still runs fast enough for what I need

            I can confirm your machine will take 16GB RAM, though I can't promise it won't be picky.

            A pair of Kingston HyperX HX316LS91BK2/16 will work.

        2. MyffyW Silver badge

          Re: Given that the X201 still runs fast enough for what I need

          I still have a 2010 ex-corporate Dell Optiplex as our desktop and it does the job. Bought 7 years ago for little more than 50 quid and I've tickled it's tummy with plenty of RAM. Was careful to choose the better processor.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bought the T480 just for the dual battery, with the second one being hot swappable. Except that Lenovo were brilliant enough to make the internal battery drain first instead of the external one, defeating the hotswap feature. And they also stopped making an external charger for the 72whr battery.

      And this might be the last dual battery type as they march on to the thin and light meme.

      Shame. Would have bought a second or maybe third battery and would just plug the laptop to a wall socket only during gaming sessions.

    5. vtcodger Silver badge

      "has a headphone jack"

      Well yeah. But with a little wood putty, some fine grit sandpaper, and some cell phone colored paint, I'm confident that you can hide it so well that no one but an expert can tell that you are walking around with an unstylish cell phone.

    6. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge


      My pet peeve in many modern laptops is the lack of optical drives. Don't ask...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: agreed

        You can get external USB ones (DVDRW etc) from eBay for about 25 quid.

        1. JohnFen

          Re: agreed

          Yes, but the internal ones are much better.

          1. Mike 16

            Internal Better?

            Depends on the use-case. My "media computer" has an internal DVD drive, but I also added an external drive. Why? Because the public library insists on slapping "inventory control" widgets on the DVDs, and despite their apparent "low profile", they sometimes have issues with the internal slot-loading drive. Plus it seems that player software (or maybe the OS) delights in revving the drive to where I imagine relativistic speeds at the rim, and the imbalance of the stick-on fink-tags can create scary vibrations. If that happens to tear the gizzard out of the external drive, a replacement is cheap and easy. The internal drive? Not so much.

    7. tad atin

      What about X61s?

      You have a pretty new model. This reply I type on X61s.

    8. Anonymous Cowtard

      Shout out to the ageing Thinkpad crew!

      X230 here, SSD & 8GB RAM.

    9. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Not sure what the specs are on your laptop, but I was saying the same about my HP 5910 a couple of years ago. Since then, it's got to the point where it can't handle modern websites anymore. It had a good run, considering I got it as a refurb over ten years ago, and if it could handle more ram it would still be fine.

    10. Lomax


      I still have a Thinkpad 770X from last century (1998). Due to the sluggish CPU (PII 300) and tiny RAM (512 MB) it doesn't see a lot of use, other than for some retro gaming, but the glorious 5:4 13.7" LCD with 1280x1024 resolution is a revelation every time I switch it on. 16:9 is like looking at the world through a letterbox by comparison. That it has the best keyboard of any laptop I've tried (thanks in part to being 6 cm thick!), complete with fold-out feet, a DVD player with MPEG2 acceleration and video input/output as well as SPDIF digital audio, only makes it more impressive. It's definitely a bit of a beast to carry around, but it's a damn sexy beast!

      Personally, I wouldn't mind having square aspect ratio desktop monitors (such as used by air traffic controllers, and sometimes seen on trading floors) - but then I still regard computers as productivity tools rather than consumption consoles.

      My daily driver is a X230 (modded with a X220 keyboard - can't stand the chicklet ones), but I also keep a X220, X201, X61s, T42p, X32 and 600X. And those are not the only Thinkpads I've owned; just the favourites I couldn't part with...

      1. Lomax
        Thumb Up

        Re: 1:1

        The Eizo EV2730Q looks pretty sweet; 26.5" @ 1920x1920 Rather pricey at ~€800, but I still want one :)

  2. Philip Storry

    Reduce, re-used, recycle

    The old adage is to reduce, re-use and recycle - in that order.

    In terms of reduce - my desktop machine is an old Core i7-2700K (I think) in a big tower case which still manages just fine. Bought in 2010, and delivery was delayed due to the motherboard being affected by the Sandy Bridge southbridge chipset bug. (Remember that?)

    It's a bit of a Trigger's Broom today, having had a new power supply, new graphics card, replacement RAM and an upgrade to an SSD. All except the SSD were replacements due to failures, but the big tower case means maintenance is quick and easy. It might need replacing soon - but it'll have served me for 10 years, which means ten years in which I haven't bought a new PC. Or even felt like I needed to.

    For re-use, it's my laptop. It was more for budget reasons than anything else that I bought a second hand Thinkpad. They're reliable and durable, so are excellent candidates for that. Again, performance is just fine and it meets my needs amply. I put Ubuntu on it, all the hardware (except for the fingerprint reader - which I wasn't going to use anyway) was supported without issues.

    I'm sure that the Windows 10 Refurb Edition installation that was on it would also have been OK. But I do have more reservations about running Windows as a sustainable OS on older hardware. Linux just works - no need for manufacturer's drivers. And that's where Windows falls down IMO. I remember installing Windows 7 onto my desktop tower 10 years ago. Windows failed to find almost all the hardware - it booted into a low res, had no sound, no network, nothing. Ubuntu found everything but one of the network adapters (the built in one on the motherboard). I didn't even realise that the motherboard had Bluetooth support until I saw the icon next to the clock in Ubuntu! Then I had to reboot into Windows and spend an hour or two installing drivers for the motherboard - most of the time spent rebooting after each driver install, of course.

    It's no doubt better now. A decade has passed. But as the Sonos issue shows, companies want to sell you new hardware. So sunsetting driver support for newer versions of Windows is going to continue to be a thing. Ironically, hardware support in Linux is now becoming superior to hardware support for Windows, especially if you want to still use old hardware.

    Until we can convince vendors to have longer support periods, anyone attempting to reduce/re-use is probably better off moving to Linux.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

      I replaced my 2007 Core2Quad Q6600 desktop PC in 2017 with a Ryzen 1700, mainly because the old one was limited to a maximum of 4GB RAM - it was either get a new motherboard for the Q6600 or buy a new PC. As I wanted to experiment with HyperV, 8 cores, 16 thread and 32GB RAM were a good selling point. That should last me a good few years yet.

      My 2010 15.6" Sony Vaio was handed down to my wife in 2016 (I put an SSD in it in 2014, which gave the i7/8GB RAM a new lease of life), when I got a more portable HP Spectre X360. The Sony is now working as a testbed for Linux installations. My wife now has the HP, I just use the desktop.

    2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

      Perhaps we might start by persuading software providers to remove some of the bloat? Removing RAM and HD/Flash requirements straight off, and in many cases processor power too.

      I don't do the gaming thing myself - but how much of the upgrade cycle is driven by faster and more enthusiastic video updates?

      1. Philip Storry

        Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

        When the graphics card died, I replaced it with a budget job.

        The original card was a beast. It was close to top of the line in 2010, requiring two power leads and being double height. I don't recall the cost, but I think it was hundreds of pounds.

        The replacement was about £90. Several years had passed, and what I got was basically a revised version of that same beast. Same number of compute units, similar amount of RAM - but half the physical size, only requiring one power lead, and running much cooler.

        I was already happy with the graphical performance of my games. I'm struggling to think of any major graphical advance since 2010 that I simply must have. So any non-budget card will probably be fine.

        Heck, half the budget cards are probably fine by now too!

        Back in the 90's, and around the turn of the millennium, every step forward was huge. Let's put it in terms of games. Command Keen, Wolfenstien 3D, DOOM, Quake, Quake II, Quake III. Each of them is noticeably superior to the previous game in terms of graphics.

        Since 2010, it's been incremental. The rate of progress has slowed. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. I'm still playing Borderlands 2, and it still looks great. It was launched in 2012.

        Reducing the footprint of software would be nice, but the fact is that the hardware has been sufficient for quite a while now...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

          I've also noticed that servers can be held onto for longer now too.

          I remember trying to keep the load away from DB servers 10 years ago in order to get the best out of them.

          Now, with faster storage and faster CPUs even our increased workloads don't stress our newer servers. Memory access has become faster, more cores etc; and now we're pushing more back onto the server to make use of the extra power....

          We're certainly in now hurry to upgrade!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

          Well. You might remember games from 8 years looking not that much worse but if you do a direct A/B comparison on a 4k monitor you'll see that there has actually been quite a jump especially in texture fidelity and the general standard of human models and faces. Plus, there's Ray tracing. Have a look at Control on RTX - 10 years ago this was what architectural (non realtime) renders looked like. I personally think it's pretty incredible.

          1. Muscleguy

            Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

            Way back in the early '90s in Southern NZ the university of Otago compsci dept did the graphics for the Americas Cup then being run in Auckland using ray tracing for the first time. My wife did a compsci degree at Otago so I got the full specs and spiel on it.

            You say 'ray tracing' as though it's some new fangled thing. Sorry youngster, you're wrong.

            1. FlippingGerman

              Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

              Doing it real-time on consumer hardware is new.

      2. Mongrel

        Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

        I don't do the gaming thing myself - but how much of the upgrade cycle is driven by faster and more enthusiastic video updates?

        It depends, it's more about what you're willing to settle for.

        Most games that broadcast how shiny they are, normally, built for consoles then ported to PCs so will fly on moderate systems. Many are also built on gaming engines that are built to scale pretty well on whatever hardware you're willing to throw them on so you can normally get them to run, 'fine' (barring self-imposed shenanigans or crappy ports).

        The advantage of modern components is it's low power usage compared to even five years ago, these past few generations have been really good for efficiency. Here's a Low Power PC build that games reasonably well and has a peak power draw of 106W - 108W

        1. _LC_

          Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

          The energy it takes to build new components swallows that easily, though. :-(

          It doesn't really rent from a "financial perspective" either (that bit of energy is too cheap - compare it to a boiler or the stove/oven).

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

            It depends what you're upgrading from. When it's something five years old, you're right that the power savings aren't particularly notable compared to the other power expenditures. However, when it's something older, the power savings can be surprising. I did the calculation a few years ago on a switch I made. A friend was running a system where people had to fill in a web-based form using a machine running a browser. As this didn't have any requirements other than a simple browser, they had used an old machine from 2002 running a processor using about 130 W. I suggested we replace it with a raspberry pi because XP was getting a bit worrisome around that time, and we did so. The pi we used ran at about 1.5 W, and that was the whole system while the figure for the desktop only included the processor. The fans, hard drive, and ancient graphics chipset probably weren't running low-power either. In addition, I believe there were also some power savings because we swapped out the monitor (the pi only had HDMI, and we found a monitor with an HDMI connector in a closet, so no extra expenditure there). If they ran the old machine for eight hours a day and didn't bother powering off the pi, we still saved 788 WH per week. This could be replicated everywhere else they were doing something similar. Power savings like this can add up to some extent, and it's useful for people to consider that when they decide what hardware they need.

        2. Cynic_999

          Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

          100W less consumption saves about the same amount of power every hour as it takes to make one cup of tea. And in a home during the colder months it probably won't save any energy at all, because the 100W of heat generated by the computer will instead have to be supplied by the the house heating system.

          1. Stoneshop

            Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

            . And in a home during the colder months it probably won't save any energy at all, because the 100W of heat generated by the computer will instead have to be supplied by the the house heating system.

            Only if it's heated electrically. With a gas-fueled central heating system you'd have to compare its efficiency to that of the generating plant, and when using a heat pump you get another factor into the calculation.

          2. BGatez

            Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

            or a sweatshirt

          3. a_builder

            Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

            I used to think like that and then had a cold hard look at the electricity bill. Which had got out of control.

            We halved our electricity consumption by reducing vampire load.

            Our usage is about 550kWh/month which equates to about 760W average load. Our base load is still over 400W (before fridges cycle on etc) average so the majority of this is totally and infuriatingly wasted.

            Idle power consumption on my 8 disk NAS of 27W is a disgrace - no reason for it to be that high at all. With all appliance in idle (fridges cycled off) the kitchen uses 100W. It is nuts wasting this much juice all day every day for nothing.

            I don’t mind paying for running the oven, hob dryer it is the sheer waste of such a high % that is hard to accept.

            Oh, And no our gas bill didn’t go up noticeably.

        3. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

          >The advantage of modern components is it's low power usage compared to even five years ago

          Yes, it is a bit galling that modern computers tend to both consume less power and so are less noisy than those of 10 years back - in my home office, you know when the dual Xeon X5650 workstation is running...

          1. J. Cook Silver badge

            Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle


            I have a handful of old old P4 based dell optiplex machines for an Artemis bridge set up; I have to run power leads to multiple circuit breakers in order to run them and the bridge computer at once, because the entire setup will cheerfully open circuit breakers from over-current.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

              Is it power consumption or earth leakage? Whenever I have had similar problems it has always been all those X and Y capacitors plus the surge inrush.

              If you are running on the pathetic US 110V supply, though, fuggedaboutit. 110V at 10A versus the instantaneous 7.5kW of a UK ring main - no comparison.

            2. ScrappyLaptop

              Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

              Shot in the dark but you may want to look in to making sure your load is balanced between the branches, otherwise you may be feeding too much back into neutral? If it's balanced you should be able to just do the math & figure out if you are truly pulling too much for the main breaker & if so...well, be sure your fire insurance is paid up. But also, that can't be good for your PSU's.

        4. Morten Bjoernsvik

          Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

          I replaced my old "coal burning" i7 2700 homeserver with a rasberry pie4B, it uses around 40W with an 256GB SD card, I have a nuk like casing with a large slow running fan and more than enough to run mediawiki, gogs, ssh and sftp server in a single user mode. I have the sdcard backed up each night via cloud backup, and a simple program that can write it back into another sdcard it if fails. Like it has a tendency to do once in a year.

    3. macjules

      Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

      We have a number of MacBook laptops in my household which are effectively my handmedowns to various offspring. The only one that has recently been completely retired was a 2010 MBP which we traded in for £100 to John Lewis for my (Aug) 2019 MBP. We have a Mid 2012 Retina MBP which my youngest uses, a 2015 MBP which another uses and a 2017 MacBook Air that my eldest uses. My wife has an 2014 Air which she says more than fulfils her needs and can not see the need for anything newer.

    4. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle

      I have quite a few older machines in use average age 6 years or older (Laptops & thin clients).

      Memory bumped up to a minimum of 8Gb, SSD's installed running W10 Pro & perfectly functional for the tasks in hand (In the thin client case case as Windows box for streaming TV content from multiple sources rather than use the "SMART TV" function.

      Over the last 20 years I think I have bought four new laptops (for myself) & one new desktop, all the rest have been cherry picked pulls from scrap piles, refurbs or Ebay.

    5. defiler

      Re: Reduce, re-used, recycle


      I've kept my Xbox from new. My wife, her Megadrive from new.


      The console telly was saved from scrap (just needed a fuse)

      I bought the MegaCD, 32X, SNES, Saturn, Dreamcast, PS/2, Wii, Xbox 360 and the SCART switch all second hand.

      I'm not doing this right, am I? :-/

  3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    my AMD Phenom 4 core 3.2ghz machine I bought/built , ooh its gotta be 10 years ago now , is still more than fine for work and game.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      I gifted my old gaming computer to a friends kids.

      Apparently with the new spectre protections on the intel chips my old box noticeably outperformed a brand new alienware box running a new intel processor at higher graphics settings on whatever that new game that the kids rave about is.

      Picture the kids faces, especially since my old box was as per ye olde days tradition built in a tatty old unassuming beige box with ten years worth of wear and tear on top of that.

  4. werdsmith Silver badge

    What to do about the Leica M 35mm rangefinder camera body that uses film?

    Cost north of £2500. They seem to be holding their value well because of collectors.

    Early digital cameras that were cutting edges cost four figures but now only good for landfill.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      My problem is a Leica R4 and several superb Leica lenses. The bar stewards have simply abandoned their old customers. So far I haven't seen any sensible option to allow the use of my old lenses on a new digital camera. The new Leica S digital range can take the old lenses with an adapter - about £250!

      1. coconuthead

        Leica R

        There are adapters you can get to fit Leica R lenses to Sony FE (their full-frame mirrorless mount, e.g. for the Sony A7 Mk IV). I've seen people use these with excellent results.

        Adaptation to a DSLR is harder because the register distance is less than other brands. There used to be a guy who would machine a new bayonet mount for some of the lenses, but I believe he is no longer active due to ill health. Still. quite a few were converted to Canon EF mount.

        So really your problem was not that the lenses were unusable, but that you didn't know about these boutique solutions. Had you sold the lenses when Sony still didn't offer many FE lenses, the higher price you would have got would have reflected interest from those who did.

        (Please note, I'm not talking about the M rangefinder lenses here. That's a much harder problem, because the steep angle of incidence of the light rays from the rear elements on 35mm and wider M lenses causes problems with the filter stack on top of the sensor. There's a company which modifies Sony cameras to suit these lenses.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There are good chances you can still found people who can repair them - and other mechanical cameras. Electronic cameras becomes dead as soon as electronics fails and spare parts are no longer available.

    3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      I'm outclassed here. I currently have my eye out for a nice cheap Zorki 4K... forty quid or so at most.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        At an antiques fair there was somebody selling a Leica Olympic. I made a note of the serial number engraved on it and sure enough it checked out for 1936. But Leica never made an Olympic - Zeiss made a 180mm f2.8 Tessar lens for the Berlin Olymics, not Leica. It turns out some guy in Poland is taking Russian Leica knock-offs and knocking them off a bit more.

    4. fishman

      I bought a Canon EOS 630 SLR (film camera) back in 1993. When I switched to a Canon EOS 40D digital SLR all of my old lenses worked on the new body.

    5. Cynic_999

      You can always fit a digital camera back. You used to be able to buy a CCD array that fitted in place of the 35mm film without changing the back cover. Battery & electronics contained in a cylinder that fitted in place of the film cartridge.

      1. Stoneshop

        You can always fit a digital camera back.

        If you have a Hasselblad or one of a few other medium- and large-format cameras.

        You used to be able to buy a CCD array that fitted in place of the 35mm film without changing the back cover.

        Which, as far as I've been able to determine, has never left the realm of vapourware.

        There might the I'm Back, but that is a bit more than just a film cartridge; more like a replacement back cover plus an attachment the size of a motor winder for the additional electronics. Or its newer incarnation that reputedly takes a picture of the focusing screen; so usable only if yours is a fully matte screen without split-prism focusing aids. Which I've only seen as Kickstarter campaigns with their current status rather opaque.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          I don't want much - just a 10k per inch sensor for my 4x5 proper camera :)

        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          I love the idea of re-enabling classic cameras with digital backs.

          Problem making the external camera controls like the shutter speed and aperture setting rings interface into the electronics. And the wind-on. Then if the aperture is set on the lens, getting that info into the controller. Leaving these external controls as non-functional decoration is just second-rate.

          And then a mirrored camera with a focus screen? Or a rangefinder? It's not a surprise that they haven't really happened.

        3. jelabarre59

          You used to be able to buy a CCD array that fitted in place of the 35mm film without changing the back cover.

          Now that would be cool if I could do that with my mid-1940's Exacta.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "You used to be able to buy a CCD array that fitted in place of the 35mm film without changing the back cover. Battery & electronics contained in a cylinder that fitted in place of the film cartridge."

        I saw the hype on those many years ago - but I thought they never reached a production stage?

  5. Natalie Gritpants Jr

    One reason to replace and old desktop is power consumption

    A laptop can often be just as powerful, is portable if you need it to be and has a built in UPS. Unless you want terabytes of disk.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: One reason to replace and old desktop is power consumption

      Yes: but what it the total cost of ownership ? Ie how long do you need to run the old, more power hungry, kit before it would have been cheaper to buy a new machine that still uses electricity, but just less of it ?

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: One reason to replace and old desktop is power consumption

        That's the 'how long is a piece of string' question.

        I'd guess it would be anywhere between many years and never for desktops depending on the relative specs and how many hours a day it is powered on.

        Saving 50 running watts over a 40h week would save maybe 25p in electric.

      2. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: One reason to replace and old desktop is power consumption

        Rule of thumb is that a watt is about a pound a year

        8760 hours/year, 1W -> 9kwH, about 13p/kWh seems a reasonable rate at the moment source.

        A duty cycle factor may need to be applied as well.

    2. Dave K

      Re: One reason to replace and old desktop is power consumption

      Thing is, desktop PCs often use less than you might think. I built up a new PC for myself a couple of years ago (previous system was an 8-year old 1st gen Core i5 system). 8 core Ryzen 7, GeForce 1079 Ti, 5 mechanical hard drives, so a reasonably powerful system. Thing is, when its doing basic things like running a web browser, it only consumes around 130w. A laptop will be less, but I'm honestly surprised how little it pulls given its a pretty high end system with lots of storage and a beefy graphics card!

    3. Kernel

      Re: One reason to replace and old desktop is power consumption

      "Unless you want terabytes of disk."

      The hard drive on my Asus laptop failed after about 5 years of use and abuse - it's now got a 2TB hard drive in it, divided into a 1TB Win10 partition and a 1TB Linux Mint partition. If I ever need more I can always remove the DVD drive and add another 2TB in the space that frees up.

      Do you need more than 4TB in a laptop?

      1. Stoneshop

        Re: One reason to replace and old desktop is power consumption

        Do you need more than 4TB in a laptop?

        ... at any time?

        If it's just Lotsa Stuff you need to keep but not immediately work on, there's the NAS box. Usually RAIDed, can run scheduled backups to another box elsewhere, and with a 1000Tx cable plugged in to your laptop you can move the bits your need to take with you sufficiently quick. Or a chunk of storage via USB3; my X201 manages 150MB/s between its internal SSD and one in the docking station, a tick over 100 to some external SSD via an USB3 ExpressCard, and 80..90 to my storage box via Ethernet.

        Good enough for me.

    4. Clunking Fist

      Re: One reason to replace and old desktop is power consumption

      And with a USB docking station ($NZ180-ish) I can run 2 external monitors.

  6. Warm Braw

    The same arithmetic when choosing an automobile


    Cars need regular servicing that costs money, so there is an argument that buying new reduces your cost of ownership. But not a good one - the depreciation significantly exceeds the additional repair costs of an older model in most cases, not to mention the environmental costs of a new vehicle versus one that already exists.

    Even if that argument were valid, you wouldn't apply it to a phone: mobile phones have an ongoing service cost of near zero. You might not continue to get updates for so long, but a lack of updates doesn't stop your phone working. If your phone has a fixed battery or a small amount of memory, you could perhaps argue that it has a fixed useful lifetime, but you're probably still economically and environmentally better off buying second hand or refurbished ones, though you might want to boil it first.

    It's not really a question of durability - most of this surplus kit washing around us has not broken down - we've simply reached the "5 blade razor" mark in mobile technology: manufacturers are struggling to find new compelling features so we're hanging on to the stuff that's "good enough" rather than discarding it for something shinier.

    1. 's water music

      Re: this report found shit all over $artefact$

      you might want to boil it first.

      My takeaway from these reports that clutch their pearls as they trill that 'fa[e]cal matter" or "more bacteria than a toilet seat" was discovered all over smartphones or work desks where all too many of us eat lunch is that I might as well save myself another twenty minutes and combine eating lunch with taking a dump at work since since I haven't contracted food poisoning either from my smartphone or from my (even dirtier apparently) desk so far.

      But don't worry, I know not to verbalise these thoughts out loud at work

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: this report found shit all over $artefact$

        The old "more bacteria than a toilet seat" thing ignores that fact that most toilet seats get a clean at some point, and the idea is that you do your business through them, not on them. Pretty much anything that never gets sterilised (or cleaned with bathroom cleaner) is going to have more bacteria on it.

        The key things here are which bacteria in any case, not how many, and if I were to find, for example, more e coli on a phone than on a toilet bowl I would start being concerned.

    2. Pen-y-gors

      Re: The same arithmetic when choosing an automobile

      Yeah. Bit odd that suggestion of changing a car every five years. Why? If you're being greenish, half the lifetime carbon cost of a car is in manufacture. Unless you're thrashing the mileage a modern car doing average mileage should still be running happily after 15+ years. My little Skoda Fabia is now 9 years old, only done 55K miles, needed a new clutch recently and will need a new timing belt soon, but otherwise should be good for another decade or more,

      I do think about an EV scooter/motorbike sometimes. What I really want is something like a lightweight EV Smart-car type thing. Range of 100-odd miles, a roof and sides for bad weather, seats 2, and ideally under about £5-6K. That would be fine for most local mileage (probably 80% of what I do), leaving the old ICE Skoda for long trips.

      1. Samuel Penn

        Re: The same arithmetic when choosing an automobile

        I just bought a new (1 year old) car end of last year. My previous car was 6 months old when I bought it in 2006.With the addition of a bluetooth adapter and mobile phone holder it lasted fine. I expect this one to last me about the same. I'm hoping electric cars with 300+ mile range will be sensibly priced by then.

        I update my mobile phone every couple of years.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: The same arithmetic when choosing an automobile

          In 15 years, a new car might only be available as electric. They just brought forward the ban on ICE car sales to 2035 and have included hybrids in the ban. Your only option by then will be all electric or a second hand car. I suspect by then that many more petrol stations will have closed as the demand will start falling before then and only get worse.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The same arithmetic when choosing an automobile

            I think your timescale is too short. I suspect we will have a big CNG shift on the way to all-electric.

            As cars have got more expensive (nearly 40% in the last 10 years, remembering the £ decline due to Brexit), it is obvious they will be kept longer since people are not earning more (and many of them are discovering they were persuaded to buy or lease vehicles they couldn't really afford). This tendency is already well under way in the US where the average age of a car is now just under 12 years, versus about 9 for Europe.

            The implication is that a car sold today is going to be expected to last as much as 24 years, and the replacement cycle will slow which will reduce the demand for EVs, which are more expensive than ICE equivalents in first cost. A world economic slowdown reduces oil prices and demand for new vehicles.

            This implies that unless economic magic happens by 2035 (and I think most of us who have ever worked with money for a living are expecting economic decline) the adoption of EVs, especially at the lower end of the market, will be slow. Hence the ban on new ICEs being pushed out to a date at which the current Cabinet will be safely out of politics.

            CNG is a relatively cheap solution and VW and other small car makers like Suzuki are actively pursuing it. At the same time fuel stations are increasingly being built with convenience stores. I very much doubt that lack of places to fill up ICEs will increase EV demand.

            Given that many Brexiters are also climate change deniers, the malign effect of their stupidity is also likely to reduce our national ability to deal with the consequences of global warming, so it's all downhill. Perhaps by 2035, like Cuba with its old US cars, we'll have a roaring trade in restored classic vehicles of the 1990s that don't need built-in screens to operate the controls.

            1. Wellyboot Silver badge

              Re: The same arithmetic when choosing an automobile

              Law of unintended consequences anyone.

              Unless we start building a LOT of new power stations soon1 the old diesel ICE motors will indeed be a roaring trade for powering the home via step up transformers during the rolling blackouts.

              North of 1Tw will be needed, current UK capacity is about 0.05Tw when the wind is blowing and a big chunk is still gas2 powered.

              1 Charging for the eventual 30+ million electric cars has to come from somewhere and 90+% will plugged in overnight every night. Using the plugged in cars as batteries for national grid 'load balancing' won't wash with car owners who find they've only half a charge because it's a cold morning and the country has turned its (all electric by 20503) heating on and soaked up a few hundred Gw/h over breakfast.

              2Natural gas isn't CO2 friendly, it puts out 75% of the petrol/diesel CO2 figure and 50% that of coal (just like smoking 10 cigarettes a day is better than smoking 20)

              3UK gov wants us to be CO2 neutral by 2050.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: The same arithmetic when choosing an automobile

        "That would be fine for most local mileage (probably 80% of what I do), leaving the old ICE Skoda for long trips."

        And there's the problem. You still need something capable of doing many miles with a fast "charge" time measured in minutes for that other 20%. Many people would tell you just to hire a suitablel car for those trips, but considering most people will want hire cars around the same time, ie for the summer holidays, we have to wonder if a) there will be one available and b) just how much will it cost during a high demand period. And peak pricing will only get worse if it comes to that sort of hire availability pattern.

        1. Kernel

          Re: The same arithmetic when choosing an automobile

          'You still need something capable of doing many miles with a fast "charge" time measured in minutes for that other 20%.'

          Going a bit off topic here, but zinc-air cells (yep, those little ones used in hearing aids) have a greater energy density that any of the lithium technologies and, as recently demonstrated by a team from Singapore University, can be built in such a way that they can be recharged by dumping the used liquid fuel solution* out of them and replacing it with new fuel solution - this has the potential to be almost as fast and convenient as filling with petrol or diesel. The used fuel solution can then be regenerated by applying electricity at some convenient (eg., off-peak) time. Zinc also has the advantage of being abundant, cheap and relatively benign environmentally.

          This technology is considered a good (or even most likely) candidate for the future storage needs of electric cars, house sized storage banks and national grid sized storage banks.

          *Zinc-air cells are partly fuel cell and partly battery in their operation, which is why I chose to use the term 'fuel solution' rather than electrolyte.

      3. stiine Silver badge

        Re: The same arithmetic when choosing an automobile

        If you know it will need a timing belt, you'd do well to replace it now, since it can break lots of moving bits depending on the failure. if it only slips a tooth or two, it won't break much, but if it slips far enough, you can bend/break much, much more. I've waited too long 3 times and only one instance didn't bend and break other parts.

        1. DanceMan

          Re: Tlmlng Belt

          Engines are either interference designs (valves hit pistons if belt fails) or non-interference designs (tow the car in for belt replacement.) Porsche 944's being parted out are often due to belt failure (interference design.)

          1. MrBanana

            Re: Tlmlng Belt

            After one incident with the interference design, all my cars have chain driven camshafts.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Tlmlng Belt

              While I agree (I was lucky once with a belt on an interference engine, it decided to give up as the starter engaged and no harm was done, chains ever since), I would just remark that chains are not a panacaea. There are chain drives and chain drives, there are chain tensioners and chain tensioners. Generally a duplex timing chain and an accessible tensioner is about as good as it gets. Simplex roller chain drives with slippers on both runs make me nervous. They are much harder to inspect than belts and it only takes one bad link. A duplex chain will make a lot of noise if an end plate falls off, but it won't destroy anything.

              Non-interference engines tend to be turbocharged ones (for obvious reasons), and turbochargers on petrol engines are a whole additional can of worms.

              Ducatis with bevel drives and desmodromic cams - that's what happens when you gag the accountants and tie them to chairs and let an engineer with a PhD take over.

              1. Wellyboot Silver badge

                Re: Tlmlng Belt

                Ducatis and any other really good piece of automotive engineering (with bevel drives and desmodromic cams optional but very nice)

                - that's what happens when you gag the accountants and tie them to chairs and let an engineer with a PhD take over.

                1. cheb

                  Re: Tlmlng Belt

                  Or do away with as many moving parts as you can, 2T for the win. All those big ship diesels can't be wrong.

                  1. Charles 9

                    Re: Tlmlng Belt

                    Last I checked, ship (and locomotive) engines are build with different design specs. They can be built larger and are designed for lots of raw power given with normal work loads. That said, I don't think ship and locomotive engineers are too concerned with getting the last drop of efficiency out of their fuel, compared to, say, a light aircraft pilot. Have you seen all the knobs and switches on some of those things?

                    Or, to put it TL;DR, if simple really were all that, why don't rotary engines rule the road?

  7. TeeCee Gold badge

    Horses for courses.

    Just updated two desktops. The thing is, unless I actually need a computer that moves with me, laptops are complete shit and tablets infinitely more so.

    Decent size screen, proper, full size keyboard, non rsi-inducing mouse, loads of grunt, easily upgradeable (so no 4k-in-one-hit issues), etc ad nauseum.

    The really big improvement recently has been cross device syncing so I don't have to use the shitty laptop when I don't actually need to.

  8. uro

    It's not just Laptops and Smartphones

    It's not just laptops and smartphones - outside of silicon melting and the whole battery lifetime debacle - most electronics can easily be repaired.

    Usually it will be capacitors, smd-capacitors, or sometimes a fuse that will go bad and are easily repaired if your willing to grab a multi-meter & soldering iron.

    Outfit's like Apple will generally tell you that your equipment is FUBAR because they are trained to expect that you will easily pay up for convenience and rather than have the problem diagnosed properly they will just tell you that "the mainboard is bad we need to replace it", when it's probably only one or two bad capacitors which could be easily replaced.

    I had a 5 year old 24" 1080p monitor go bad a month ago - I knew something was up with it prior to it turning non-responsive when occasionally it refused to power on without disconnecting and reconnecting it from the mains outlet.

    I tested the power supply with a multi-meter and another monitor to rule that out - all good.

    So I opened the monitor up, inspected and tested the capacitors on the boards - one visually bad and another not gaining capacitance.

    I opted to replace all of the capacitors as if one went bad knowing my luck the others would be near EOL too (fyi capacitor lifetime is rated by hours).

    I paid less than £2 for 5 different capacitors rated at 9000h (as high a rating as I could get), a couple of days waiting on the post, an hour replacing caps and I had a fully working monitor, it's been a few weeks and no issues so I'd say it's all good, at least until the next time the caps go.

    The largest issue I found while repairing my monitor was the lack of any service manuals - manufacturers don't publish these anymore, probably to protect their service departments' revenue.

    1. drgeoff

      Re: It's not just Laptops and Smartphones

      Service manuals were prepared for use by service departments, not end-users. But the economics of mass production versus the cost of skilled repair technicians means it is now cheaper to give the customer a new replacement that run a service department that actually repairs things. Similarly for out of warranty items - a new item can often be purchased for less than what a service department would need to charge to cover its running costs. Hence service departments that actually repair things disappear, and the need for service manuals (which if any good are expensive to produce) disappear too.

      1. ILLQO

        Re: It's not just Laptops and Smartphones

        This is the absolute truth, I was once upon a time a TV repairman, and in doing this glorious job I found that most repairs to sets cost at most a few dollars depending on what needed replacement I still remember the STK392-120 (Technically 110 but I replaced with 120s because it had a higher volt range and a more solid heatsink so I wouldn't have to replace it again for the life of the TV) for a whole fleet of projection televisions.

        About the time Flat screens (aka LCD/PLASMA) came out we started getting our certificates to work on the sets so that we could offer repair work for them as well. The availability of Service manuals started dropping if they were even in our language in the first place. Not long after the vendors started turning us into glorified shipping men instead of repairmen (we dropped off a temp unit and put the broken on in a carry case to be shipped back to factory instead of doing repairs) on the sets we were allowed to work on for warranty we were only authorized board swaps (check like 4 test points per manual swap board send board back for repair).

        In the end they were just having the customers cart their own sets into boxes because it was cheaper and we lost warranty jobs left and right. They phased us out because we could repair the sets for less than they could due to being able to do board level repairs but the only customers we could get were out of warranty. Then the whole swap for a new set because the illusion of repairs costing more than replacement occurred mostly because the smaller shops like mine had been closed down due to the over the top requirements we were running into.

        Its nice to see that we may be returning to the days of the skilled electronics repairman, but I don't think that it will spring back up because we still remember how badly we were burned and how quickly.

        1. Cynic_999

          Re: It's not just Laptops and Smartphones

          My son's friend made a fair bit by doing Xbox repairs. He would buy non-working "red circle of death" Xboxes for a few £ each and strip out the motherboard then remove the few heat-intolerant PTH components. I'd take a batch of boards to work, soak them in water-soluble flux and put them through a reflow oven, then rinse off the flux and return them to the lad. He would re-fit the PTH components that cannt withstand reflow heat and test. About 75% would work (I understand that there was a quality issue with the BGA soldering). He could sell the repaired units for a fair bit of money, multiplying his investment in faulty units many times. You can do similar using a hot-air gun instead of a reflow oven, but the reflow oven works better.

          Mind you, removing the board and components took a fair bit of time - I'd say he earned his profits.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It's not just Laptops and Smartphones

            Many years ago my company had a Motorola workstation fail under warranty. When it was returned by the service techician (who IIRC had to restore the OS on site) he told me that they had discovered the motherboard was entirely covered in dry joints. They concluded that reflow was a waste of time as if the original soldering had been that bad, reflow would probably still leave a load of bad joints to cause problems later. Motorola had whined and kicked but eventually supplied a new motherboard.

            The IBM PC (or, to be precise, the Dell 286) arrived just in time to retain my sanity. It is not nice working on software wondering whether this is the moment a joint is about to give up. The Dell chuntered on for years without issues.

      2. Cynic_999

        Re: It's not just Laptops and Smartphones

        The simple fact is that it costs more in skilled man-hours to diagnose and repair most faults than the cost of a new PCB. So repair these days usually consists of diagnosing which PCB is faulty but not going further to component level. Exceptions are with "known common" faults where you can take a punt and replace a known suspect component - so long as it's not too difficult to replace. Changing a BGA chip is time-consuming and requires skill.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: It's not just Laptops and Smartphones

          And these days, it's very very fine work on surface mount boards. That's a whole other skill level than just getting out the "soldering gun" (anyone who calls it a gun is doing it wrong!). It's not really cost effective or practical to do board level repairs on-site.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's not just Laptops and Smartphones

          I started off in electronics and sort of "drifted" into IT.

          If I have a faulty piece of kit (that is out of warranty!), I'll open it up and have a look to see if it's anything obvious, but I wouldn't go much further than that.

          Over the years, I have repaired flat screen monitors (blown caps in PSU), swapped faulty USB cables for various devices, and resoldered SMT components that have fallen off the board/dry joints.

          Draw the line at Apple stuff though. Googled how to swap a busted iPad screen. Five minutes later - googled Apple repairs in local town.

      3. JohnFen

        Re: It's not just Laptops and Smartphones

        > Hence service departments that actually repair things disappear, and the need for service manuals (which if any good are expensive to produce) disappear too.

        For my key pieces of equipment, I'd absolutely pay some exorbitant amount for a good service manual. It would have quite a lot of time.

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: It's not just Laptops and Smartphones

      You got capacitors measure in henry?

      Inductors or farads?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's not just Laptops and Smartphones

        The unit of inductance is the Henry, capital H. He is referring to the hours (usually at 110C) rating for electrolytics.

        Once upon a time in the far past when a piece of equipment from a (deceased) manufacturer came in for repair, whatever the fault we replaced all the small electrolytics on the mainboard with tantalums, and a certain failure prone carbon resistor with metal oxide. The point was that the OEMs crappy product affected our company image, and spending an extra hour avoiding future problems was always worth it in PR terms.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: It's not just Laptops and Smartphones

          Thank you... Completely failed to parse that first time through.

      2. Daytona955

        Re: It's not just Laptops and Smartphones

        I read it as 9000 *hours*, since the discussion is about failure rate...

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The underlying problem is a financial industry that assumes that sales of anything will grow forever. They won't. They can't. That's why we're seeing the likes of Microsoft trying to switch customers to some form of subscription, cloud, anything that keeps the money rolling in irrespective of whether it's of benefit to those customers. If they fail to do that their share price, built on the assumption of growth, will tank. Markets need to price shares on the basis of short term growth, medium term peak, long term ticking over.

    1. Pen-y-gors

      A fair analysis. But, being devil's advocate here, for M$ , and for the customer, an element of subscription makes sense. If we bought a copy of Office 2010, (or earlier - personally I thought Word 2.0 on about 50 floppies did most of what I wanted) then we can still be using it now, but we expect M$ to keep producing security updates for free, indefinitely. How is that sustainable without a massive upfront price to invest to pay the engineers for the next 20 years? And what is the danger of people who don't get security updates? They send me an infected .docx file! I want everyone to be up-to-date and safe. So someone, somehow has to pay for that security.

      The M$ pricing model could be a bit better - £100 p.a. for six devices isn't bad, but only if you have six devices! I could cope with £20 p.a. per device (or just get an academic licence - sign up for a cheap evening class at the local uni and away you go!)

      1. Dave K

        Its the pricing but that is the issue. If there were flexible subscriptions that cost roughly the same over a 10 year period as a standalone Office license, not much of an issue. However if you have (say) 2 computers in your house, the costs are miles higher than they used to be for a couple of standalone licenses. Same with Adobe products as well (not just picking on MS here). I dont have a problem with a limited support limit that is well known when I buy a product, but at least I can use it beyond this time (albeit at my own risk). With subscriptions, stop paying and the software goes away completely, and as long as you do pay you're paying much more once you add it up.

        Hence why companies love subscriptions!

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "With subscriptions, stop paying and the software goes away completely"

          And so does your data if it's in a proprietary file format that nobody's cracked. It's ransomware but subtle.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "but we expect M$ to keep producing security updates for free, indefinitely"

        And why do we expect them to produce security updates? Obvious answer: because they need to. But why do they need to?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As an alternative, they could make docx files not fucking executable.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          To be fair, a docx file isn't executable, it's a zip file full of XML files (you can prove this by renaming it as .zip and opening it).

          The fact that some contents may be interpreted as commands and executed by Word is the fault of Word, not of the file format per se, and I believe later versions fo Office products won't run macros by default.

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "but we expect M$ to keep producing security updates for free, indefinitely."

        If it was secure in the first place, we'd not need security updates :-)

      5. Roland6 Silver badge

        > If we bought a copy of Office 2010, ... then we can still be using it now

        Office 2010 reaches its end of support on October 13, 2020, it's still February 2020...

      6. Joe Montana


        Over time software becomes commoditised, the existing versions provide all the features people actually need so there is no money to be made selling new versions. It's the end of the line for the business model of selling software.

        It's going to be replaced with open source software or services, open source doesn't need to make a profit so it can quite happily go on providing only bugfixes.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Commodity..

          open source doesn't need to make a profit

          Only if you can find some programmers who don't need to eat, clothe themselves, and have somewhere to sleep...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Commodity..

            Many do the programming as a hobby, though there are also a number employed by big companies to make changes, add features, and otherwise maintain open source software that the big company uses. So, a particular open source program doesn't need to make a profit, but it does need access to programmers who are making a living in some way.

  10. DrBobK

    Used cars vs. new ones

    "They'd use the same arithmetic when choosing an automobile"

    I always thought that the instant depreciation of brand new cars meant that the most economic strategy was to buy used, but nearly-new.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Used cars vs. new ones

      Yes, I saved nearly 25% last time we replaced our cars. We bought pre-registered cars, low mileage (my wife's had 40KM on the clock, mine was under 800KM) from the dealer.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Used cars vs. new ones

        "We bought pre-registered cars, low mileage (my wife's had 40KM on the clock, mine was under 800KM) from the dealer."

        Trying to work out whether KM means kilometers or Killo-Miles. Neither seem to make sense in the context. Either your wifes "new" car barely had delivery mileage on it or yours had been absolutely hammered!

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Used cars vs. new ones

          In Germany, everything is measured in kilometres.

          Pre-registered cars have to do "a days driving", before they can be put on the forecourt, which equates to around 40KM, 25 miles and had been sitting in the showroom for around 6 months. Mine had been sitting on the forecourt for a while, so I got a bigger discount.

          I'd normally be a bit wary about an ex-demo, but it was an economy model, which few people wanted to test drive and had mainly been used by one of the sales reps for a while. (A Crossover SUV that gets around 94mpg (Imperial), 78mpg (US) on a good run).

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Used cars vs. new ones

            Ah, thanks for clarifying. I'd not heard of "pre-registered" in that context before. But then I've been driving company cars for the last 30 years or so and am out of touch with the current processes and options of buying cars or paying for tax/insurance/repairs etc :-)

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Used cars vs. new ones

      one-year-old ex-rental is good, assuming the rental company did proper maintenance. You hear the horror stories about people abusing rentals, but taking that into consideration, if it got its regular oil changes and filter changes and so forth, seems to have worked well enough for me.

      that being said... when I buy computer hardware I'm often getting "last year's cutting edge tech" for a similar reason.

      1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

        Re: Used cars vs. new ones

        Rental companies don't do maintenance !

        You hear of cars coming with "several years/several tens of k miles" to first service schedules. The reason for that is that rental companies want to just buy the cars, run them for "some time period", then sell them. If they can avoid a need for servicing in the meantime then that's a significant cost saving for them. The car manufacturers oblige by creating artificially distorted service plans - even though it may adversely affect long term reliability because that only affects future users, not the ones buying the new cars.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Used cars vs. new ones

          I used to have rentals through my company, as I didn't qualify for a company car, but was on contract far enough away to warrant a company provided vehicle. I was doing such high mileage (4,000 miles a month), that the rental company would swap out my Ford Fiesta every 5 - 6 weeks, because it needed servicing, or was being sold on as having reached "end of rental life".

          Although I mostly drove my own car for many years (30K - 60K a year). When I finally qualified for a company car, the fleet manager nearly had a fit, when I told her, that the 3 year mileage would be 90,000 miles (I was doing less miles by that time). She said that that wasn't possible. I said it was, and provided her with the fuel receipts and expenses claims for the previous 4 years to prove it.

      2. Charles 9

        Re: Used cars vs. new ones

        What about a two-year-old ex-lease? Since that's a legal contract, there's an obligation to keep the car in working order, right?

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Used cars vs. new ones

          It depends on the owner. Regular servicing is one thing, being thrashed to the redline contantly, because it isn't your car is another. I've seen company car drivers who drive carefully, as if it was their own and others who think that it is a race/rally car.

          It is pot luck.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Used cars vs. new ones

            Leasing is the reason I buy new nowadays. Modern cars "don't need running in" which seems to mean many leasers put their foot down hard from new, in the period when gentle treatment makes a big difference.

            The last non-new car we bought had been bought by an old guy who had promptly got ill, and died two years later, and when we got it, the engine was still a bit stiff. What I hadn't thought of till it died on us the next year, was that the item that really, really doesn't like being left for ages is the battery. Other than that, it was absolutely fine.

  11. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "something more durable – with upgrade paths"

    Yeah, like we used to have. Once upon a time a fridge was repairable, a dishwasher was serviceable, the TV repairman was a household guest.

    Today ? Nothing electronic is repairable any more, it's all made to just be thrown out and replaced. That's a bloody foolish waste of resources, and it's the companies that have forced this upon us because, up to now, hardware was always progressing at a rapid pace.

    But that pace has slowed to a crawl. Today, a 5-year-old laptop works just fine and almost as well as a brand new one. This year's new phone model has literally nothing over last year's, and may even have something less (headphone jack, anyone ?). But companies still chuck out a new version every year, even if the hardware is practically on a 2-year cycle now, because marketing has to have something new.

    Never mind. We are on the path to a world when a new model only comes out when it genuinely has something new over the previous model. We will, soonish, begin to live in a world where a new phone model will be about as common as a new model of fridge, and we'll be replacing them about as often.

    I'm looking forward to that.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: "something more durable – with upgrade paths"

      My mother's hand mixer ran for over 40 years, before the brushes in the motor burnt out. They could have been replaced.

      On the other hand, the last 3 hand mixers I had lasted at most 4 years, but always burnt out electronics, so a new device.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "something more durable – with upgrade paths"

        Not to mention kettles and microwaves. You would have thought that with both, the ability to handle steam would be a given, but apparently not these days....

      2. Black Betty

        Re: "something more durable – with upgrade paths"

        Truly ridiculous thing is that those brushes are still readily available 40 years down the track, whereas replacement parts for 5 year old kit are generally pure unobtainium.

    2. fishman

      Re: "something more durable – with upgrade paths"

      Back when I was a kid, if the TV stopped working you took out the tubes and went to the local store that had a tube tester. Start plugging in the tubes until you found the bad one, and just buy a new tube.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "something more durable – with upgrade paths"

        Or you took out the middle one from the chain (filaments in series) and checked continuity to each end so you could then check the faulty half. If both halves checked OK you sat there puzzled until the penny dropped.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: "something more durable – with upgrade paths"

        well your tube argument is (unfortunately) not so relevant in this case. Tubes cost $$ and you'll need a LOT of them to do the same job as a small circuit board filled with ICs and so on. They haven't been regularly used in the consumer market since the 1980's, other than picture tubes (and they went away by 2000's). WAY too expensive (but guitar amplifiers, that's a different animal). In many cases the swapout of a tube means an expensive alignment procedure, or the thing wouldn't *quite* work properly after you swap the tube, RF and IF circuits, specifically [sometimes other things, too].

        But the principle is good - swappable available components that end-users could easily repair with.

        I've purchased repair parts for older stuff (replacement DVD for Wii, replacement CPU fan and DVD for Sony Vaio, new batteries and new chargers for other laptops, yotta yotta) and they're still perfectly good. Hoever, I had a bit of difficulty getting a new CD laser assembly for an old Game Cube a couple of years ago. In short I got sent the WRONG part, but the price was so low it wasn't worth returning. I had access to a 2nd game cube though, so "that" became "the solution".

        [and those old game cube games work perfectly well]

        admittedly, though, repairing XBox 360 has been a problem. I ended up buying 2 different "reconditioned" models to replace the first one, which broke its DVD drive. The first replacement started overheating after a year or so but the 2nd one is still working just fine. [at some point I'll go through the hell it takes to swap the DVD between the 2 older ones and get a working unit out of it].

        so yeah - repair the old stuff, it's perfectly good when you do. And I really don't want to DOWNgrade to an XBox One...

    3. David Given

      Re: "something more durable – with upgrade paths"

      A $700 TV in 1970 is equivalent to $5000 today, and I'm pretty sure that $5000 appliances still *are* repairable today. Meanwhile a roughly equivalent modern TV (24") costs $90 2020 dollars, which is equivalent to about $13 in 1970.

    4. JohnFen

      Re: "something more durable – with upgrade paths"

      > Once upon a time a fridge was repairable, a dishwasher was serviceable

      In the last year, I have repaired both my fridge and my dishwasher -- so they're both certainly still serviceable.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: "something more durable – with upgrade paths"

        Yes, my dishwasher has been repaired and rebuilt by me. Most white goods are easily repairable and spares readily available. Same for vacuums and similar.

        In fact most things are repairable if I can be bothered.

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: "something more durable – with upgrade paths"

        A dishwasher is basically a pump and a heating element with some control circuitry. None of that should be hard to fix, if it goes wrong.

    5. batfink

      Re: "something more durable – with upgrade paths"

      Part of the problem is that now things are built as PCBs rather than mechanical components. In the Good Old Days we used to be able to replace the amplifiers in our TV's when they failed, as these were nice glass valves. Then we went through the phase of having semiconductors, which for a while were also replaceable by an average mug who knew what they were doing. However continuing miniaturisation has now made all of this impractical, and it's now more faff to try to replace components on a PCB than it is to simply throw it away and replace it.

      IMO this is A Good Thing overall. My current (several generations old) GPU has a 7.2 billion transistors onboard. That'd be a lot of valve changing.

      However I do agree that there's no excuse for simple stuff like electric motors to be any less reliable than in the past.

      1. JohnFen

        Re: "something more durable – with upgrade paths"

        > However continuing miniaturisation has now made all of this impractical

        It really hasn't. It's as practical as it always has been. The only difference is that you need to learn a slightly different skillset than with the older through-hole components.

        Personally, I find working with modern SMD components easier than working with though-hole components in a ton of ways, and I have poor eyesight.

  12. Steevee


    I've just refreshed my old Dell N5110 laptop to give it a new lease of life as a general email tool/portable entertainment machine for my little boys when we go camping. It was already refurbished when I bought it some years for the wife to do a bit of home-secretary-ing when the boys were babies, and we deliberately went down the refurbished route because it was the only way to get a Windows 7 machine instead of 8.0. Plus it's got front firing speakers, a full size HDMI output and I had already added a Blu-ray optical drive for movies.

    Last month I installed a free upgrade to Windows 10, running on a £15 SSD (120GB is plenty), and even picked up a funky purple replacement shell for a few quid on eBay. Considering that until recently we were still using XP laptops in work for odd-jobs (lots of our gear still only talks via serial ports), I can see us getting a few more good years out of the old girl.

  13. chivo243 Silver badge

    forget the product for the moment

    It's the packaging these devices are "secured" for delivery and display before purchase that will get us in the end. I'm looking at you Apple! I have an old powerbook box full of various cable still kicking around, sadly the computer doesn't boot.

    On numerous occasions, I've supervised\witnessed the unboxing of 400± macbooks, that is a site that really makes ya think...(see icon) The Macbooks went on to a broker who sold them second hand.

  14. Sykowasp

    Certainly I bet a lot of 2015 MacBook Pro owners are hanging on for dear life because the device has USB-A ports and HDMI ports, without needing a dock. The lack of USB-C is an issue going forward however.

    Still, for those who have to upgrade, USB-C docks are getting down to the £25 price range (when on offer at least) so maybe this is becoming less of an issue for some (and at least they have an advantage of only needing one plug in/out action). And some monitors are getting USB-C DisplayPort input now, although monitors have an even longer replacement cycle in the home.

    Soon we might return to where we used to be in the 80s, where a piece of equipment would last 10 years in the living room (TV, stereo) and then another 10 years in a secondary room.

    Regarding computers however, surely a huge factor in the lack of upgrades is because Intel have made negligible improvements in 5 years because of their 10nm debacle? Additionally DRAM stalled in capacity over the past few years as well. The only thing that improved was SSD capacity, which

    AMD have caught up (and with Renoir this month they will exceed Intel in performance, power consumption and cost in laptops for the first time) and look to have a path to 3nm over the next 3 or 4 years, hence performance will increase greatly over the next few years. And DDR5/LPDDR5 is coming online this year.

  15. IGnatius T Foobar !

    Is it any coincidence...

    Is it any coincidence that the slowdown of the upgrade treadmill happened to coincide with the decline of the Microsoft monopoly?

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Is it any coincidence...

      actually it coincided with the laws of physics as related to "Moore's Law".

      CPU speed increases were becoming more difficult due to the distance between CPU and RAM, for starters. Wire lengths and "how small can we make it" started to hit limits. The amount of time it took to cross 3Ghz (after hitting 2Ghz) is an indicator. The engineering was MUCH more sophisticated. So CPUs became "wider" instead, bigger caches, more cores, etc.. But people aren't having to replace their computers ever 2-3 years because "the new stuff" won't run on it properly, either. So I have to wonder how much of a hand MS had in all that, writing crappy replacements for earlier software that was MORE efficient, simply because CPUs and RAM were more powerful now [so they could get away with being SLOPPY[.

      The "downfall" is them NOT being able to be SLOPPY any more, because nothing is perceived to be "faster" with "their latest" on it.

      (and artificially killing windows 7 was more of a mistake than they could possibly realize)

  16. IGnatius T Foobar !

    As for me and my house...

    After about a decade of living exclusively with laptops and bricks (think Intel NUC, or Apple Mini) ... this year I did something I haven't done in many years: I built a desktop.

    So yes, I expect this machine to sit on my desk for the next 10, 15, maybe 20 years, receiving component upgrades as it needs them. Just like in the old days of the upgrade treadmill, except at a much slower pace.

    1. Luke McCarthy

      Re: As for me and my house...

      I have gone from NUC/laptop, to mini-ITX, and back to full size ATX. The reduced size was too big of a trade-off against the reduced flexibility of adding more than one PCI-e card. Mini PCs are cute and look nice, but you can't beat and good old desktop tower.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: As for me and my house...

        "but you can't beat and good old desktop tower."

        Ah, but you can make it much, much BETTER. You no longer need huge drive bays... NVME 1TB/2T and SATA sticks mean no...or FAR fewer drive bays. I have my current "desktop tower" in a tiny case with no 3.5" or 2.5" drives whatsoever. just a MB, a high end graphics adapter, CPU (Ryzen 5 3600 with standard wraith cooler) and a powersupply.

        Incidentally, it is the standard ATX power supply that screws up making a much smaller "tower". that thing is cube (nearly) that doesn't fit neatly anywhere in a case . In fact, if we can make a "flat" power supply and reorient the graphics card to run parallel to the MB, The whole thing could fit in something the size of a cereal box. and retain full desktop power.

        1. Stoneshop

          Re: As for me and my house...

          In fact, if we can make a "flat" power supply

          They're called FlexATX. Or repurpose some 1U server PSU, although those tend to be quite elongated. And noisy.

          I've built two small file servers to fit in a comms rack. 40cm deep, so standard rackmount servers needn't apply. A Mini-ITX board, FlexATX PSU, and a drive bay for 2.5" drives in a 2U rackmount case for audio gear. One has a four-slot bay, the other a six-slot; both bays are the size of a 5.25 HH drive. Even with 1T drives that's 3T and 5T in RAIDz1. The six-slot one also takes a half height PCIe card, the other would too if I modify the front panel.

          1. rcw88

            Re: As for me and my house...

            Thanks for the tip - next time I'm shopping for ATX power supplies to turn into bench PSU's I'll be searching eBay for a job lot of FlexATX units. A day's worth of 3D printing and job done.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The ragged edge

    I consistently run on the ragged edge of technology - the far end from the cutting edge. My phone is a 2016 Samsung J3V, but it works fine. My laptop is a hand-me-up from my nephew, a 2014 model that wouldn't play nice with Windows (but runs Ubuntu 18.04 fine). My wife's laptop is an old Macbook Pro, not sure what year but at least 5 years. Best one is my desktop - not top-of-the-line when built, and then when XP went end-of-life, I bought a new hard drive and upgraded the memory to 8GB. No other upgrades - running Ubuntu 18.04 fine ever since.

    The biggest difference is the software. I thought Linux was pretty cool before I started running it every day - now it's a necessity. Why pay $200+ for an inferior OS, with constantly changing interface and constantly increasing hardware requirements, when I can have one that's more stable, more secure, and runs on cheaper hardware for free?

    1. oiseau

      Re: The ragged edge

      I consistently run on the ragged edge of technology ...

      Indeed ... =-)

      I have just recently retired to its box full of accessories and spare parts a perfectly working Palm IIIxe and replaced it with a mint-as-new Tungsten T|X, complete with all accesories and a portable keyboard, just like its predecessor had. All for less than US$10.

      I have and still use frequently, albeit running Linux Devuan ASCII, a ca. 2009 Asus 1000HE I purchased barely used in mid 2010 for US$300. It runs on 2Gb RAM and a 250gb spinner which I'll eventually replace with a suitable SSD version - it is very easy to take apart and repair (plastic breakage or mobo replacement) and has never let me down.

      It works perfectly well for what I need, just under 3 hour battery time and all.

      Four or five years ago I had to replace my old home built workstation due to the lack of Linux drivers for my two dual monitor Matrox cards and did so with a very well built Sun Microsystems Ultra24 I purchased bare for roughly the same amountas the Asus. It runs Linux Devuan ASCII on 8Gb RAM, four SAS spinners and twin Nvidia FX850s / three 19" LCDs and does all I need to do.

      Pity such beautifully built hardware came with such a shit BIOS.

      Glad to see there are others who think like I do. =-)



  18. Gonzo wizard
    Thumb Up

    A very timely piece

    I'm using a four and a half year old MacBook Pro that was subject to the battery recall in September and has therefore had its minimum life extended by another three years. However I've come to the conclusion that I'm not going to purchase another laptop at the price Apple demand when there is the risk of it becoming an expensive paperweight as soon as it can no longer be repaired out of warranty. Something that could happen to my daughter's perfectly serviceable machine which is now less than six months away from the end of its warranty.

    As an absolute minimum I need to be able to replace the battery, keyboard and screen. Ideally I could also replace the RAM and mass storage. All with parts purchased from somebody other than the OEM. I can't justify the combined price of laptop plus extended warranty that keeps it alive for three years when any of these items going faulty means my only sensible option is a new machine.

  19. cschneid
    1. _LC_

      Re: I hate computers

      Though we cannot start over in the same countries, under the same conditions. Intel Management Engine and the AMD Platform Security Processor are mandated. If anybody thinks that they came as "black boxes with access to everything" by mistake, don't wake them up!

      1. whitepines

        Re: I hate computers

        Of course that's only a problem if you just must have Windows and the latest PC games. For those of us doing real IT work on Linux, you can use other hardware without those black boxes. My main PC is a Power system, and my laptop is ARM -- take that Intel and AMD!

        In the context of this article, having application, firmware, and OS source makes sustainable computing (both ecologically and in the "yes, my required apps still work on the hardware I keep running" sense) possible. The opposite of sustainable computing is the Microsoft/Apple/Intel/AMD model of "throw it all out after a year because we simply decided not to fix the security bugs or allow you to disconnect the thing from the Internet". Just wait for Management Engine and Platform Security Processor chips to come with integrated that point I rather weep for humanity.

        ...what's left of it, anyway, after the Great Computer Virus of 2031...

        Mine's the one with the time machine attached.

  20. LazLong

    $1000? I have three words for you....

    Rossman Repair Group. They do component-level repair. Saving Mac owners from being screwed by Apple is their speciality. (Said in Obi-Wan Kenobi's voice) The owner is a rabid advocate of right-to-repair, traveling across the country spreading the good word to legislative bodies. He also has some cool videos on YouTube.

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      Re: $1000? I have three words for you....

      Yep. iPad Rehab is another one; she's able to recover data from devices Apple says is not possible.

  21. Lotaresco

    Trailing Edge

    A few years ago my office systems were run on a Sun V20Z with ESXi and a handful of Linux and Windows VMs. Over the years, I dropped that idea and replaced the VMs with J1900 NUCs one box per function. It's quieter, doesn't guzzle electricity and works without fuss. The use of separate boxes improves availability since I'm not dependent on one expensive box. I adopted a similar approach with laptops, getting rid of my old MacBook and HP Pavilion and using a single, cheap, Chuwi Lapbook Air with 8GB of RAM and 512GB SSD. That works fine for the limited uses I have for a laptop on the move and it's light and sturdy. Back at the office it's mostly used to SSH into the headless boxes so if anything, way over-powered for its tasks.

    If I need processing grunt, which I do from time to time, I have a Lenovo ThinkCentre i7 which is still fast enough for my work needs. All of this stuff cost a fraction of the amount I once spent on systems, the NUCs are £130-150 each, the laptop was £240, the ThinkCentre was about £250, bought as unused stock from an eBay supplier. The most expensive item in the office network is the 24TB NAS. I'm also finding that I need to do much less maintenance than I used to. Despite being an IT professional, I don't want to spend all my time doing work in my own office. It's better to do that stuff for the paying customers who simply have to have the latest and best of everything.

    I'm very happy to not be on the leading edge, and certainly not the bleeding edge.

  22. Blackjack Silver badge

    My undead laptop and me

    My very very old (It came with Windows XP!) Media Center HP laptop has a faulty video card, the bios battery and the laptop battery is dead. And the hard drive really needs replacing. Yet I installed Linux Mint 19.3 Xfce (32-bit) on it, FINALLY erasing the malfunctioning Windows XP on it, and it works! (But I have Virtual XP on my Windows 7 machine so yes I still use XP stuff).

    I save everything in two sd cards, since the hard disk really is about to go to silicon heaven at any moment, and I am wondering when the thing will just either refuse to boot or the hard disk damage will get so bad that will be it.

    Oh and it also overheats if I leave the screen on for more than a hour.

    Mostly I use it to watch videos and listen to online radios.

    Yes I could actually fix it. The bios battery would be easy, a bit hard to get a compatible hard disk, the battery is a lost cause since they don't make the ones for that model anymore. And of course replacing the faulty video card would be almost impossible.

    Funny enough the DVD Player/DVD Recorder still works well. That's usually one of the most breakable thing on a laptop.

    Maybe because is a Media Center laptop it actually has a non crappy DVD player thingie.

    1. _LC_

      Re: My undead laptop and me

      Warning, both SD-cards and (even worse) USB-sticks are made from "drop-out" flash chips. The ones that don't make it into SSDs, due to faults, end up there.

      1. Blackjack Silver badge

        Re: My undead laptop and me

        That's why I use two of them. Each one has the exact same data. And they are only used for storage. Linux Mint boots from the faulty hard disk.

        If you want SD cards that are actually quite good, use the super fast ones that are sold to use on Digital Video cameras. Of course they are also really expensive and not worth it to use on hardware that's so old that cannot use those at full speed.

        1. Charles 9

          Re: My undead laptop and me

          What about the ones designed for dashcams and other constant-use devices? Those have to be built for write endurance and temperature extremes but not necessarily for raw speed.

    2. CountCadaver Silver badge

      Re: My undead laptop and me

      You'd be surprised about laptop batteries, I've found replacements for some seriously old laptops, how good they are....YMMV

    3. Mark192

      Re: My undead laptop and me

      For the overheating, try taking it apart and removing the fluff from the air vent exhaust.

      Someone in China is probably selling a compatible battery. If not, the existing battery can be prised (or cut) open and all cells replaced.

      The hard drive will be easy and cheap to replace... even if it's an old IDE model.

      Time and money-wise it's better to just get a replacement laptop but there is some satisfaction in keeping old things going.

      1. Charles 9

        Re: My undead laptop and me

        If it's a PATA device, I wonder if there can be some practicality to replacing it with a Compact Flash card and an adapter?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No cutting edge for me....

    At this point, I am running one laptop and one "tower". Both are on "stick" disk drives (either NVME or SATA) , none have built in DVD (have an external device). Due to not needing huge drives or external cards (other than graphics), and due to the CPU only requiring 65watts (Ryzen 5 3600), no huge cooler is needed and the tower/box is mostly EMPTY.

    The laptop gets changed every 8 years now.

    The tower gets incremental upgrades. In a few years, when the current round of GPUs sitting at $500 falls to $150, I'll upgrade my RX580. This current system cost less than $450 (yes... R5 3600 + RX580 + 1TB NVME drive + 16 gb memory), and I have it in a Q500 case which is just about the smallest "tower case" that takes a full sized ATX power supply.

    If I am playing games, I prefer the 3600/RX580 combo to my laptop's I5-7000/1060gtx combo.

  24. JohnFen

    This has always been my expectation

    > We'll still consume lots of kit, but expect it to last out the decade

    I have always expected the kit I buy to last at least 10 years (with periodic minor repairs). I've rarely been disappointed, and the few times that I was meant that I didn't buy more gear from that manufacturer.

    My current smartphone is 6 years old, and my primary laptop is well over 10 years old. Both are still going strong, just as they should be.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: This has always been my expectation

      You must be quite young. Back in the early days of PCs, 10 years of life might of been doable in some cases, but system speed increases and RAM requirements were rolling in much faster than they have been since about 2000. Speed increases were often in to 20-30% range (or more) on an almost annual basis.

      1. Herby

        Re: This has always been my expectation

        Yes, the speed increases were there, but so were the Windows speed decreases as well. What Intel gives, Microsoft takes away.

        Yes, I use Linux.

      2. JohnFen

        Re: This has always been my expectation

        > You must be quite young.

        Why, thank you! But I'm the opposite of young. When I first learned to program, I did so on punched cards (not kidding!)

        > 10 years of life might of been doable in some cases, but system speed increases and RAM requirements were rolling in much faster than they have been since about 2000.

        You're talking about a different thing than I. I was talking about how long the machine will continue to function, not necessarily how long you actually use it. That said, I've never owned a machine that I stopped using before it broke badly enough to not be worth repairing. When I needed to replace it with something faster, I'd just put the old machine to a different use. I still have a couple of machines that were manufactured in the '70s that work just fine today. 10 years is nothing.

  25. David Given

    I just changed the CMOS battery in my current desktop PC. It's a six-to-seven year old eight core i7-3770K, surplus from a defunct startup I used to work for, and it's still a really nice computer capable of doing VR (admittedly I've upgraded the video card a couple of times).

    I've never had to do that before. It was a weird experience. I've never had a computer last long enough for the battery to go flat --- they always go obsolete and get upgraded first. It was weird.

    Sadly, mobile phones are still built to self-destruct after a couple of years, but maybe there's hope.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Sadly, mobile phones are still built to self-destruct after a couple of years, but maybe there's hope."

      Nah. Depends how you look after them. My Samsung Note 2 just got retired[*] but only because the version of android couldn't run a couple of apps I need for work.

      [*} passed on, scrapped.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        [*} passed on, NOT scrapped.

        Oops, FTFMe.

  26. Chris Evans

    Circular Economy

    The Circular Economy movement is all about building stuff that can be repaired

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Main reason why I have buying AMD since the 386DX40

    I'm remember a day not that long ago (Pre-Ryzen) where I was regularly insulted because I chose AMD over Intel. I swear I would have been fired if I even suggested to use Opterons (again pre-Ryzen).

    Also why is it even still allowed to have new phone models (and even laptops these days) that don't have replaceable batteries. I've long been an environmentalist but this idea of anthropogenic climate change if true and everyone believes in it then why are those whom complain the most about them tend to be ones that have less than 3 years usage on any if not all electronic devices.

    Look Fairephone, Librem 5 and a few others (potentially Pine Phone) are what we should be shooting for regarding mobiles. AMD's approach to using a single socket for every class of computing for 5 years should be the minimum.

    Heck Microsoft recently mentions that it will go carbon negative, sure but they are definitely not counting the carbon footprint of forced upgrades over the last 30 to 40 years.

    Simply put not only should hardware be maintained but software as well... in other words if the new version of the OS is just too demanding for the hardware then proprietary vendors should be allowing 3rd party maintainers to keep that OS going. This isn't the early days of IT where stuff could be tossed, code never rots so if Microsoft "cares" so much about its carbon footprint then they should do as what is currently being suggested with Windows 7 ... Open source it, if not then have an agreement with a 3rd party maintainer to keep it going. Microsoft has had diminishing returns on the OS side of things for a long time now, cloud is where it is at for them so this should be a no-brainer if they truly willing to put money where their mouth is.

  28. CountCadaver Silver badge

    Tell that to Panasonic

    Bought a vacuum not 9 years ago, now cannot get the filters for it, so its essentially junk. Local member of Scottish parliament told me last year "the EU are putting through a law on supply of spares, a great reason to be part of the EU and build a circular economy" (Eco bullshit buzzword bingo)

    the law - 9 years of spares, so I'll be no better off even if Scotland goes indy and signs up to the EU. I expect to be able to buy stuff like filters for decades, heck I can still buy bits for a Hoover Junior and those are knocking 40 years old or more...

    Next one might be a Dyson as they seem to have decent filter availability, you can still buy bits for a DC01 released in 1993, which bodes well...

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Tell that to Panasonic

      Depends on the filter, but for the "flat" types it should be possible to buy a sheet of filter material and cut it to size. It might even be possible to get the stuff in washable format so you can re-use it several times before replacing it. Try your local appliance repair bloke or indoor market electrical stall.

      Our Vax has washable filters. Bought a couple of sets when new (at a guess, eight or nine years ago by now) and they're still going. Of course, other bits are looking worse for wear due to being bashed about a bit over the years, but it looks as if most of the bits (including filters) are still available from Vax and at not unreasonable prices.

      We had a Dyson once. Mum's had a couple. Expensive, and not really any better than our current device. Noisy too.

      We're building a house. I totally failed to persuade SWMBO to let me install a central vacuum, but I can see her issues with it :-)


  29. Winkypop Silver badge

    Out of warranty? See YouTube and eBay

    If the unit is borked, what harm can my tinkering do?

    Saved a few old devices over the years from Dysons to iPods to PCs, and I learned a few things along the way.

  30. Steve Kellett

    I've been using the "Put LInux on it and eke out another 5 years" approach to home Desktops & Laptops for year now...

    I manage to still get by on a 12 year old Dell desktop that's on it's 3rd HDD and has even had RAM fail. I had to slot in a cheap used NVIDIA GPU last year because the monitor failed and the VGA/HDMI converter I bought meant that you couldn't ever see the BIOS screens and even 1080p video slowed the refresh rate to a crawl.

    Rendering YouTube videos can be time consuming, but you gets what you pays for.

    1. Conundrum1885

      I have a theory about that

      Seems a lot of older laptops enabled write access to the DDR2/DDR3 RAM and other I2C parts.

      Technically this shouldn't be possible but it could explain why several machines have mysteriously broken BIOS chips, screens and RAM resulting in a black screen of doom (tm) and/or file corruption because the timing gets messed up also serious data corruption typical of bad memory.

      If you want to check, run CPUID and see if the SPD chip data matches. With two identical sticks it should but a single corrupted bit may or may not result in problems over time.

      Its not all bad news, these same machines can often be used to read and write 24Cxx chips including the ones used on software defined radios, digiboxes, digital scales, IR thermometers and other items in a classic example of life handing you lemons.

  31. Nick Porter


    The Sonos story was apalling. It is instructive to compare their repair and service policy with that of Naim, whom they consider to be a rival in the wireless speaker market.

    Sonos: brick your perfectly functional device and we will give you a discount on a new one.

    Naim: we will repair any item of kit, and upgrade the parts if upgrades are available, that we have produced in the past 40 years for a fixed fee of £330.

  32. rcw88

    Another one bites the dust?

    Its not just laptops - how about the tens of thousands of HP Inkjets that have gone to recycling / landfill all for the sake of a .001 cent sprocket that splits and breaks the paper load mechanism. I bought an A3 HP inkjet off eBay, yeah caveat emptor, absolutely, it was dusty, but worked. The web page said it had only done 4000 pages. It stopped loading paper. Following a grainy YouTube video I dismantled almost the entire printer, reassembling cause no end of random 0x6000**** errors, but you still can't get to the paper load mechanism from above... Bit more googling - aha, take the cartridges out, invert, examine. Some HP printers have a window in the bottom of the paper tray and you can see the drive sprocket, alternatively take a guess and enlarge a hole that's already there.. If you can see knurling, the gear has moved on the shaft..

    The fault?, rubbish engineering - there's a knurl on the drive shaft that the sprocket is force fitted over and over time, the lack of material at the root of the gear tooth results in the gear splitting, then merrily rotating on the shaft - so no paper loading mechanism any more.

    The fix?, slide the gear back over the knurling, making sure it aligns with the next gear in the chain, see if you can find the split in the gear and then apply a good drop of superglue, not so much it goes over everything else but just on the sprocket. Leave to dry. Put everything back. Mine's done over a 1000 pages since.

    The precise location of the gear varies by model so YMMV but its worth a try. I'm on a mission to fix the next common fault, broken touchscreens.

    N.B. HP's website has hundreds of 'customers' aka victims, with the same problem, solution?, buy a new printer... OK I can get one on end of line sale for a tenner occasionally at the local supermarket, but that's not the point is it? And neither is HP's extortionate ink pricing, in the race to the cheapest devices, everyone loses, because we are all inhabiting a precious place.

    P.S. I use the Raspberry Pi Foundation's Pixel x86 on ten year old laptops for STEM / Code club - works a treat, and its no biggie if it breaks, I can just reinstall in half an hour.

  33. Edward Noel

    It's "irreparable".

    It's "irreparable", actually!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It's "irreparable".

      Maybe it's my eyes, but I'm struggling to see the difference between your quoted subject and the "correction" in the body.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: It's "irreparable".

        On second thoughts, I'm not sure where you are going with this after all. The original was the correct spelling, ie irrepairable. I can only imagine that irreparable is is either phonetically your local accent or your saying it's not a parable. Or is there some joke there none of us are getting?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's "irreparable".

          I am afraid you are wrong. "Irreparable" is a long established legal term. "irrepairable" is a mistake. Unrepairable is the correct form from repair.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hard to know what to do!

    My laptop is a three year old Acer Cloudbook -- no maintainable parts in the box. It's a nice, useful machine, but it's down at the pathetic end of the hardware spectrum -- 2GB memory, 32GB eMMC hard drive, Intel N3060 -- passive cooling, no fan. It cost £200. It runs Fedora 31 like a champ -- LibreOffice, database, GIMP, browser of choice.

    Here's my problem. The Acer looks like it will last for maybe five years before the software bloat drags it down towards unusable. So....should I have spent twice as much (£400) for a (barely) maintainable laptop which might (or might not) last ten years?????? Right now, my answer is an emphatic "No".

    Any thoughts out there to help me with this?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Hard to know what to do!

      Install a lighter desktop environment. The lighter the better in terms of extending the life of your netbook, but the lighter you go, the more work you may have to do to make the GUI stay up to date, eg adding apps may not automatically update menus or docks.

      A good compromise might be to install a Fedora distro built with XFCE for minimal disruption and manual maintenance.

    2. matt 83

      Re: Hard to know what to do!

      Buy another old laptop with more RAM? If it's second hand it's not like your causing more environmental damage.

      If you're prepared to muck around a bit installing full Linux you should be able to find a second hand Acer C720p with 4GB and a proper haswell celeron for under £150 on ebay.

      I only stopped using my 720 with Linux because I was too mean and got the much more common 2GB version which is just slightly too tight for a modern OS. The CPU was plenty fast enough for typical tasks and outperforms a lot of modern Atom stuff. I'd still be using it today if I'd got the 4GB version. Battery life was good too (4-10 hours).

      The downsides are that there's no caps lock or F12 keys and you have to choose between function buttons (like volume controls) and function keys (F1 etc). You'll probably end up having to open the case to change the bios mode but that gives you to opportunity to upgrade the SSD to a 120GB version.

  35. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    My current desktop, bought 2015, has an i7-4790 , 16GB DDR3-1600 , 2TB SSD & 2TB spinning rust, and a GTX960 with 4GB VRam. For gaming it's perfectly adequate. Runs Outer Worlds with everything at max and although there are no doubt games out there it can't run at optimum, I don't play them, so don't care. I'll replace this PC when I feel the need to do so.

    In terms of reuse, the PC it replaced some 5 years ago is a 2009 bought Q9550 with 16GB RAM, a 120GB SSD & 1TB spinning rust, and a GTX750 ti. That is in the garage where it plays internet radio, displays service manuals and gives me internet access when working on my motorcycles. It runs Win10 just fine but I'm not sure it would run games very well on Win 10 any more.

    In recent years, there has been too much emphasis on replacement rather than repair, re-purpose and recycle but that is now starting to change,.... thank god. Now I just need to persuade the Mrs that she doesn't "need" more shoes or handbags. <LOL>

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Now I just need to persuade the Mrs that she doesn't "need" more shoes or handbags. <LOL>"

      In centuries gone by (like US colonial period), it was standard practice to wear a dress ONCE, carefully remove the lace, bleach and redye the dress, attach different lace, and voila, a "new" dress. Both lace and dress would be reused many times.

      Hmm. Maybe change the shoe and handbag color to make them "new"...

  36. 96percentchimp

    Won't somebody think of the landfill?

    About 3 years ago I bought a Neato Botvac to do the housekeping I hate. It's a mid-range £350 model, just about smart enough to manage a 2-bedroom flat and the pre-vacuum floor clearing is a good way to tidy up.

    After about 2 years it ground to a halt and the usual maintenance didn't help, so I got onto the support line and they lead me to a lot of stiffness in the brush rotation. Their solution was to replace this large lump of plastic. My solution: remove the spindle (an easy part of the regular maintenance routine), gently unclip the cap and - hey presto! - remove the lump of dust clogging it up. A spritz of WD40 and it worked like new. Now it's part of my regular maintenance and has been running smoothly for another year.

    I wasn't really bothered about the £25 cost of a new brush, but the thought of chucking the whole thing in landfill when it was so easy to repair. Consumer tech companies have to move beyond this mindset if we're going to escape the disposable society that has us drowning in mountains of plastic waste. At the very least, make it possible to return the parts and buy refurbished units instead of churning out disposable crap.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Won't somebody think of the landfill?

      Phone support have to deal with people of all sorts of abilities and (lack of) skill sets. Telling a customer to dismantle a device and try to repair it is quite likely beyond the abilities of most of the callers. Having said that, it wold be nice if they could at least offer more in depth advice or access to online service manual for those who want to try "at your own risk". But that word "risk" is what puts a lot of them off, even if they do want to help you. The lawyers would be all over it, especially if it's mains powered.

    2. matt 83

      Re: Won't somebody think of the landfill?

      I'd consider getting some ptfe or silicon dry lube for a job like that. An oil like WD40 will tend to attract dirt and actually cause damage long term.

  37. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    For me the reason in the past to upgrade was incompatibility; back in the day, you'd have an 8088 or 286, but the 386 was such a big step in capabilities that rapidly that 8088 or 286 would not run a lot of new software. Or, once I had a 386 and Linux, finding you can't fit enough RAM. Believe it or not my first Linux box had 4MB of RAM, then 8MB, which was enough UNTIL Netscape came out. You'd have that 386, but one of those old video cards that only do 16-bit color at like 640x480, 8-bit otherwise, and need better graphics for something. Something newer would need a 486, which also had quite a few instructions; or later still, MMX or SSE (Pentium or new enough AMD chip.) Of course eventually Linux went to a 486 minimum (I did not have any 386s by then...)

    Now, for me it's really the same reason -- but anything made about the last 15 years, you'll have USB ports to plug stuff into; 2-4GB of RAM with the possibility to expand to more (usually); full color at whatever resolution you'd like; if you're looking to expand, plenty is available for PCI and PCIe, and for SATA and still for IDE. The main issue still is CPU compatiblity; but you can have a 32-bit CPU with no VT-X (virtualization) and still run Ubuntu 18.04 on it (install server version then the "ubuntu-desktop" package and reboot), the only notable missing package is Google Chrome (no 32-bit linux build, but it does have chromium available.) The cutoffs to me now are 1) 32-bit -- it's fine now but there are packages no longer available 32-bit, and distro makers etc. are in the process of cutting most 32-bit builds for x86. 2) VT-X (virtualization), in Linux this means no 64-bit VirtualBox VMs, and of course no vmware or kvm, which isn't a big deal depending on what you're doing but is the other BIG example of "CPU too old, can't do it."

  38. Intractable Potsherd

    Shark vacuum cleaner fail

    We've had a Shark vacuum cleaner for a couple of years (since the previous Dyson let out a lot of magic smoke). Generally happy with the Shark, it does a great job of cleaning our midden (children and cat influence), to the extent that loss of efficiency was obvious. Took a look at it, and found a split in the flexi hose at the base of the upright. Stuck a bit of tape on it and contacted customer services, who were very helpful and arranged to send out the relevant spare part with no questions asked. However, when the spare part arrived, it was the entire brush assembly complete with motor, LEDs, etc! All for a bit of spring-reinforced plastic tube. I haven't got round to repairing the old assembly yet, but I will!

  39. Conundrum1885

    Re. Shark vacuum cleaner fail

    Incidentally duct tape works!

    Have you gutted the old assembly? Sounds like you lucked out if the motor ever does fail.

    In my experience its usually the simplest thing like (on my DC04) bad switch.

    I am in the market for a good casing as mine suffered an unfortunate accident but unit still runs otherwise.

    Just the thing for my man-cave as no-one else wants to use it with all the repairs and bodged components.

    I am also still using my antique Sony phone circa the early broadband era, alas won't Tweet but still useful.

    Might one day replace it but the battery is still fine and holding a fair amount.

  40. gannett

    Still rolling on MBP 2011

    Rolling on a 17inch MacBook Pro 2011 I did feel twinge of sadness when the machine could not upgrade to the latest OS. After replacing the CD-ROM with an SSD on day two of ownership and recently doubling the RAM to 16GB the system still copes well with research and development tasks. Replacing two motherboards ( one free under recall, one paid for) and putting in a new battery I expect to be using this one for a few years more. I waited for ages before looking at the latest shiny mac toy but would miss the big screen, traditional 3 * USB, external display port and wired ethernet but the firewire not so much.

    Upgrading would also obsolete the Adobe CS5 and office that I regularly use but don't want to buy again from scratch. Despite it's high initial price and spendy repairs to get 9 years (and counting) service out of a laptop proves the benefits of repairability and upgradeability. Retail machine power exceeded most consumer needs in about 2010 and Intel have plateaued since. For my other desktops upgrading the GPU has and storage has kept them from needing a refresh.

    Buying a new mouse/keyboard every few years make a desktop machine feel fresh again and is certainly cheaper / greener then swapping out the whole device.

  41. This post has been deleted by its author

  42. steviebuk Silver badge

    you could...

    ....of taken that mac to an independent repair shop and they wouldn't of charged you anywhere near $1k

  43. Robert Grant

    This is a cool trend, and totally normal. During periods of innovation (and IT has experienced some of the wildest periods of innovation in history) we should expect churn, as in 100 years' time we may well be considered the "early adopters" of consumer computing. As primary innovation (computing power, storage, network, form factor, battery life) lessens, innovation around secondary issues such as durability and sustainability will take hold.

  44. Kev99 Silver badge

    For years I've complained about how you can still get parts for a 1961 Falcon yet you can't get anything for a pc that's two years old. I built my desktop almost 11 years ago and it's doing everything just fine. How much longer I'll be able to find PCIE x16 video card remains to be seen. As to continuing to be able to be able to get HDDs or DDR2 1333 RAM is open to question. Yes, I know DDR 4 and SSD are the latest & greatest but increasing access speed by a few nanoseconds seems like a waste. Plus the fact that when a SSD craps out you're screwed because the data is lost & gone forever. I had a HDD die and I downloaded a freebie that successfully retrieved ALL of the data. Had the drive mote gone, I could have sent it to a shop that would have gotten the data back. SSDs? Ain't gonna happen and I tried.

    Maybe if you're into simulating nuclear explosions you need the latest and greatest, but for common, everyday tasks at home and for business, my trusty Gigabyte GA-MA 770-UD3 based unit does just fine. Now if the software companies will quit making their product such memory hogs, all would be well in the valley.

    1. Mark192

      "Plus the fact that when a SSD craps out..." you're using the local or off-site backup.

      Backups are cheaper than pro-level data recovery and have more use cases (eg theft).

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flibbertygibbets the lot of you

    I'm still using my only "new" computer - a trusty ZX81. Perfectly good enough for anyone, even that whippersnapper Gates - yeaah, him and his "640k is enough fo ranyone" - the cheek of the man.

    I also use both sides of the toilet paper for maximum economy

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Flibbertygibbets the lot of you

      And lemme guess. You get off just fine on ASCII porn, too?

  46. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    The other power

    A significant driving force for me to upgrade has been electric power consumption. Power consumption in a upper-mid level desktop system has fallen from around 600W to about 60W in the past 20 years. That's of no concern if you live someplace cold, but screw that in a hot climate. I'm hoping the year 2020 is the last year I need to buy a spinning rust array too. That's about 8W/disk that's always on, with one extra for RAID5 reliability, and then double it because I need a backup.

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