back to article I've got a broken combine harvester – but the manufacturer won't give me the software key

It was the middle of harvest, and Sarah Rachor wasn't happy. Rachor, who runs a farm with her father in Sidney, Montana, was baling hay in the field when the tractor she was using shut down without warning. The culprit was a sensor that detected the tractor was overheating. In reality, it wasn't. "The sensor itself had failed …

  1. AMBxx Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Only half the story

    I can repair most of my dishwasher but it's so badly designed that the plastic matrix that controls the flow of water gradually blocks until it no longer works. Impossible to clean and too expensive to be worth replacing.

    Partial solution is not to use the 'eco' wash as extra water keeps it cleaner.

    We need products designed to last longer, not just a right to repair.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: Only half the story

      We need products designed to last longer, not just a right to repair.

      The planet needs products designed to last longer.

      This story is not really very different from yesterday's one about printer ink being more expensive than Chanel No. 5. It is about gouging your customers.

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: Only half the story

        "We need products designed to last longer, not just a right to repair."

        We used to have them until quite recently.

        Some decades back I lived on a Scottish island, where the local mechanic kept numerous 1950s tractors going for the surrounding crofters. All he needed were some basic mechanical parts and a huge repository of experience and ingenuity.

        More recently, I picked up a 20 year old Bosch washing machine, for which all the parts are still available from secondary sources and I've repaired it myself twice. My parts supplier told me that machines made a decade later are essentially unrepairable.

        Then there's my electronics lab gear. My 36 year old oscilloscope can be (and has been) calibrated and fixed by any competent engineer, but a two year old c. £1.5k DVM that suddenly died this year had to be sent back to the manufacturer for "repair or replacement". Fortunately it was (just) still in warranty, but the next time it fails it'll be scrap as the cost of out of warranty repair will be excessive.

        Most of the problem is, I'm certain, intentional. I just reboxed a quite old Dell computer. All went well as it's a trivial job, except that there are a couple of quite arbitrary and unpublished links you have to make on two pin headers or it complains it doesn't have a front panel. That's clearly done as a restrictive practice, as a missing front panel leaves nothing off except the power and HDD LEDs and some fancy (and pointless) plastic covers over the DVD and USB ports. Found out the required links, fixed them and everything works perfectly. Another case of "when you've got them by the balls <insert advantage>"

        1. Danny 2 Silver badge

          Re: Only half the story

          A £1.5k DVM? Seriously? Wow.

          I've a £370 Fluke 87. Some idiot drowned it in water and it didn't work for ten years, then I saw a youtube video that explained how to fix it. Nobody ever believed how much it cost because it looks like a £30 model. But yours cost £1500, and it broke - ouch! My sympathy, but you had too much money.

          What does a £1.5k DVM even do? Work on astrophysics problems in it's spare time, or is it gold plated and diamond encrusted?

          1. Press any key

            Re: Only half the story

            It's probably a 7.5 digit meter.

            It should have less uncertainty than cheaper meters although I have seen 7.5 digit meters with identical specs to 6.5 digit meters and the seventh digit is little more than a random number.

            I used to automate Keysight 3458a 8.5 digit meters in a manufacturing environment, they used to sell for more than £6k, you can't buy them new in the EU these days as they don't comply with ROHS.

          2. Dazed and Confused

            Re: Only half the story

            > A £1.5k DVM? Seriously? Wow.

            I used to work in a semiconductor lab back in the 80s. I used to buy meters that cost more than that back then. If you don't chose the right meter you can find the resistance of your meter is less than that of the circuit you want to test so all those pesky electrons take the easy path and flow through your meter instead.

          3. Mike 137 Silver badge

            Re: Only half the story

            @Danny2

            It's a Keysight 34465A. Very good spec and performance, but it's really a Windows box with a measurement front end. The fault seems to have been display failure. My old Fluke 8845 is not as accurate and has more self noise, but it's bomb proof.

            1. Danny 2 Silver badge

              Re: Only half the story

              @Mike 137

              I totally get owning the best kit, I just keep on forgetting that life moves on without me. An old Fluke 8845? Sheesh.

              I have a joke for you, but it's true. As a teenager I designed a very expensive, but not as expensive as your meter, VMEbus board. The company had a board meeting to launch it, I wasn't invited because I was a teenager plus I was still busy testing it. The board went on fire. I tried a second board, and it went on fire too. Now in my defence I was a teenager as previously mentioned, hormones and stuff, but I burst into the boardroom and interrupted my managing director, shouting, "You can't release it! It bursts into fire!"

              Turns out I was putting ten times more current into it than it could take. I learned that the "Fully Calibrated" sticker on a meter does not equate to fully accurate. I should have tried a second meter instead of the second board, logic failure due to flames.

          4. XSV1

            Re: Only half the story

            The Fluke 87 is a handheld, battery-powered *Vrms* digital multimeter. It was unique at the time it was launched (around 1996-1998).

        2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          Re: Only half the story

          "£1.5k DVM that suddenly died this year had to be sent back to the manufacturer for "repair or replacement". Fortunately it was (just) still in warranty, but the next time it fails it'll be scrap as the cost of out of warranty repair will be excessive."

          I wouldn't assume that. Actually, you sound like the kind of person that could repair it.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Only half the story

            Actually, you sound like the kind of person that could repair it.

            Rather, would repair it, if the offending part(s) was/were available to buy for a reasonable price. Plus, for that kind of gear you have to consider whether afterwards you can recalibrate it if that needs to be done, or if it has to go back to the manufacturer/vendor anyway because you lack the sufficiently-precise stuff you need for that.

            1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

              Re: Only half the story

              Well, ok.

              I'm sure it would be worth a fair bit on the second hand market, however. Even if broken, or if fixed and uncalibrated. No need to bin it.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Only half the story

          Had similar with HP - they use the same mainboard in the Tower and Small Form Factor cases. I think that uses the link so that the BIOS can tell what sort of case it's in.

        4. Wilseus

          Re: Only half the story

          "More recently, I picked up a 20 year old Bosch washing machine, for which all the parts are still available from secondary sources and I've repaired it myself twice. My parts supplier told me that machines made a decade later are essentially unrepairable."

          Yeah. My 10 year old Bosch washing machine had a worn out drum bearing. Guess what? You can't replace the drum bearing on newer Bosch machines. I ended up shelling out £1000 on a Miele, because you still can with those. The only other make where you can do that is Ebac, which as a nice bonus are also made in England, but I had store credit with a shop that doesn't stock those, so I couldn't consider them.

          It pisses me off because they keep going for higher and higher energy efficiency ratings, yet the poor repairability of modern machines must be very bad for the environment.

          1. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

            Re: Only half the story

            Our Miele washer did a fit and refused to work. Its a 1999 model, over 1000 euro to replace.

            Apparently issue was worn out shocks on drum causes motor to spin up/down as it hits case causing fuse on mainboard to blow.

            Cue online manual, screwdriver and torx bits

            Sent board off to pro electronics guy to replace broken relay and circular fuse (45 €) and me with ratchet/extension bits to replace shocks (with OEM rated ones) whilst waiting for mainboard. Replaced shocks through front panel (machine weighs 90kg) as per tech guide.

            Result: 20 yr old washer now works pefectly for another 10+ years (our last Miele did 26 yrs with only one 30 min fix)

            Thats repairability

    2. Flak
      Flame

      Only half the story of half the story

      Repairs also need to be economical. Had a washing machine a few weeks ago where the bearing needed to be replaced. A standard repair item for many machines at £10-15 for a set. For my model, the combined item included the drum! Total cost £180 (plus labour).

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: Only half the story of half the story

        Our old washing machine had a very long warranty on just the inverter as they're a frequent problem. Problem is that you have no way to determine if the inverter is the problem. You call them out and if it's something else, you pay.

        Last time I buy Samsung.

        1. oiseau Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Only half the story of half the story

          On recommendation of a colleague, I once purchased an 80lt. water heater made by a firm called Baxi.

          Three years on, I decided it was time to purge it like I do once a year but this time, open up, inspect and replace the magnesium anode, something that is part of the usual maintainace schedule and (as an architect) I know how to do blindfolded.

          The heater and element were in good state, with very little deposits and sediment but as the anode had done its job, it was up for replacement as expected.

          Easy, or so I thought ...

          Long story short: it is absolutely impossible to buy a replacement for any Baxi appliance where I live.

          The local rep does not sell them to anyone, not even to their official dealers and if you call to ask about a part, they will not return your calls.

          For most owners of a Baxi water heater, the fix is an absurdly expensive visit from a Baxi tech just to have a look and then another with an equally absurdly expensive bill for a replacement anode.

          My fix was to purchase a same size anode for a different brand water heater and adapt it but this is not up to the average appartment owner.

          Lesson learnt: no way I am ever getting a Baxi appliance again.

          O.

        2. tip pc Silver badge

          Re: Only half the story of half the story

          Our last Samsung bubble wash had a free 5 years parts and labour plus 10 year warranty on the inverter.

          At year 8 I replaced one of the pumps with a replacement from Amazon.

          Year 10 it started leaking, I couldn’t be bothered to work out what seal was shot so replaced it with the newer WiFi model, again with a free 5 year parts and labour & 10 year inverter warranty.

          I think 10 years is long enough for a machine like that, the bubble pump looked like it needed replacing anyway and as I understand things, using the machine cleaning chemicals you can buy isn’t good for these machines (weakens the rubber and seals) and another reason why I didn’t bother to investigate where it was leaking from.

          I won’t get another Samsung condenser dryer though, that got repaired at least once a year covered under the included 5 year parts and labour warranty.

          In each case I could have bought a cheaper less feature full machine but adding on a warranty would have taken the cost over that of the Samsung.

          1. HereIAmJH

            Re: Only half the story of half the story

            Hmm, I bought most of my appliances in 2000. Durable goods and all that. Recently I just bought an old stove on Craigslist to replace the cooktop (broken ceramic) and clock (minute up button failed) on mine.

            Out of washer, dryer, stove, and fridge, all are still functional with a few issues. Replaced the defrost heater on the fridge, and it's icemaker requires patience sometimes. Cooktop and clock on the stove. Replaced the drum belt (under warranty) once, and drum belt and tensioner pulley once (not warranty) on the dryer. And I'm considering just rebuilding the dryer with new heat elements, drum belt and pulley if I can find the parts. Maybe a redesign on the drum belt, it has been an ongoing problem.

            Haven't had to repair the Washing machine in 21 years, so I have probably jinxed that.

            OTOH, I have a John Deere commercial mower that I just scrapped because of a broken planetary gear in one of the hydrostat transaxles. Parts are NLA, and you can't even buy the whole transaxle any longer, even if you wanted to shell out $2k for it.

          2. Solviva
            Facepalm

            Re: Only half the story of half the story

            Does the wifi model load and unload the washing from the app? Or does i just pop up a message on your Samsung devices that the cycle is complete?

          3. Medical Cynic

            Re: Only half the story of half the story

            Surely only two 'features' are needed on a tumble dryer? Temperature setting and duration. Anything else is unnecessary.

        3. Snake Silver badge

          Re: Only half the story of half the story

          "Our old washing machine had a very long warranty on just the inverter as they're a frequent problem.

          ...

          Last time I buy Samsung."

          You never find out, until after the purchase that, as you know, inverter technology devices whilst coined as "efficient" are also the most long-term unreliable. From the manufacturer's perspective inverter tech is cheaper: rather than using separate AC motors for each required voltage and sync, they can use a single DC design and then use electronics to interface to the required mains voltage.

          Sounds good, until that voltage spike takes out that expensive inverter board. The one that they don't bother to continue manufacturing more than 4 years after the product's initial release date.

          Buy local. That is, buy your household devices from companies within your own country, ones that aren't in the mindset of requiring their devices to work worldwide across a variety of AC mains supplies. Their AC motors may be less efficient, but they'll probably last way over a decade of use versus the finicky inverter-driven ones.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Only half the story of half the story

          Samsung makes things for suckers. Once upon a time, I was one of them. Newer again, I’m done with Samsung for good.

        5. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Only half the story of half the story

          Don't forget the waste nozzle, if it breaks outside the machine, there's no way to replace it as takes a magical mystery tour around the inside of the machine through the most inaccessible places until it gets to the pump where it's glued into place.

          Every other tube in the washing machine has clips to attach them, but not this one.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Only half the story of half the story

        >Repairs also need to be economical.

        There are many factors in this, many are to do with design and manufacturing.

        My washing machine (a 17 year old Siemens) has the drum, bearings etc. as a single assembly, so I too had your experience, the two engineers who fixed mine, said that yes they could replace just the bearings however, the extra work involved in disassembling the drum etc. also the drum assembly was balanced in the factory (just like car wheels/tyres) to minimise spin vibration...

        Another factor is replacement price. According to the BBC (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56167505 ) a modern washing machine is 10~20 time cheaper than a 1960's machine.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Only half the story of half the story

          "...a modern washing machine is 10~20 time cheaper than a 1960's machine."

          So with a modern washing machine, they pay you 9-19 times the asking price to take it off their hands?

          Basically put, 100% (one time) cheaper means it's free. Has anyone caught a person on camera saying the "times cheaper" claim and then holding them to that claim on threat of false advertising?

        2. Mike 137 Silver badge

          Repairs also need to be economical

          And it gets worse. I was looking up roof ridge tiles the other day. I found that current building standards advocate "dry" fixed ridge tiles rather than those embedded in mortar as has been done (and worked fine) for a few centuries. But the small print is that every manufacturer's "dry fixing" method is proprietary, so 20 or 30 years down the line when a single ridge tile cracks, you'll have to replace the entire ridge.

    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Only half the story

      I still keep my dishwasher from the 90s. It only broke down once and surprisingly the part was still available new and local trade person fixed it for me for £50. Total cost me £200, which if I added another £200-300 I could probably buy a new dishwasher, but given what's going with the companies pulling all sort of tricks to extract more money, I say no thanks. I'll stick with my old dish banger.

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Only half the story

        My 2006-era dishwasher has had 2 faults in it's 15 years of frequent use.

        Both in the last 18 months.

        Both can be described as gunk accumulation.

        One was gunk on the door seal that lead to the catch tray filling with water and tripping the float switch.

        The other was gunk in the drying vent's drain that eventually stopped the flap from opening. That required a fairly extensive disassembly to access but then just needed a good clean (inside various components).

        Parts cost: zero.

        Earache from the Mrs, however: "well why don't you strip it down and clean it out every year so it doesn't build up"... Well, if it took 14 years to cause a problem and is now completely clean, I won't need to do it again for 14 years and even then it's a fairly easy job. No, I don't think doing it annually is worthwhile.

        1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          Re: Only half the story

          "Earache from the Mrs"

          It's always so simple when someone else has to do it.

      2. Chz

        Re: Only half the story

        For £229, you can buy a perfectly good brand new dishwasher (even Which recommends Beko if you can't afford a Miele) which is probably quite a lot more efficient than your old one.

        It will almost certainly break down after 5-6 years, though. At least ours did. Repair cost was quite similar to a new one, naturally. These things are a tough call - you cannot predict the reliability of a new machine, no matter what it costs. Even Mieles break down, and they don't offer a 10 year warranty on everything. (If you look closely at their prices, you can see that you're paying for just the extended warranty on some devices) So we have another Beko. Knock wood, it's been fine for 5 years and the drain pump that failed on the last one is an improved design.

    4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Only half the story

      The examples of white goods and TVs are very poor ones, as they are trying to fix a problem that isn't there!

      If you had gone on to t'internet even before this bill was passed in the UK, you would find that for a majority of washing machines and cookers, you could almost build the things from the spare parts available from a number of parts sellers who would sell to anybody who had the money. There was no problem in obtaining motors, belts, pumps, heaters, plastic trim and button parts and even the control electronics. This is actually made even more easier by the fact that a lot of white goods from many different manufacturers share parts (Ironically, the more you pay for an item, the less likely that the parts are common with other items, and the more expensive they are likely to be). Sometimes, parts like the drum bearings were cheap, but the work to split the outer drum was just not worth the effort.

      You could not get the schematics without buying them and engaging in some form of training program, but the parts were readily available (I fix all sorts of mechanical things all the time), and as long as you can identify the failed part, it could be replaced.

      With TVs, at the moment there is what appears to be a thriving recycling business, where old TVs, presumably through the recycling centers, are broken down to their individual boards, tested and sold via places like ebay. I have kept a particular TV going (please don't ask why, it's to do with the unreasonable desires of my wife) for over 15 years, and about the only original parts are the LCD panel (which is now finally failing), the case and the CAM board and speakers. Mind you, when you think about it, 15 years would not have been regarded as a long time before first failure with solid-state transistorized CRT TVs from reputable manufacturers from the 80's and 90's.

      When it comes to more electronic devices, the problem is not the availability of the parts, but the integration that is done to make them compact and cheaper to manufacture. Mobile phones and increasingly computers, especially laptops, have most of the parts on single, unmaintainable boards that need special equipment to do board level repair. This is not going to change anytime soon, unfortunately.

      But as long as the components are available and can be replaced by those capable of doing it, there would and should be an alternative route to getting a device fixed without involving the original manufactuer. This is the important thing, not the righr or ability of the device owner to fix it themselves.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Only half the story

        When it comes to more electronic devices, the problem is not the availability of the parts, but the integration that is done to make them compact and cheaper to manufacture.

        No, this is exactly what the problem is. For example if a £5 charging chip dies on a Macbook, you won't be able to buy it from the TI or whoever makes it, because Apple told them they cannot sell it to anyone else but Apple. The chip itself is slightly modified, so that you cannot replace it with a freely available charging chips. So when your laptop dies, only Apple realistically can fix it for a premium - they'll say the whole motherboard has to be replaced and charge you accordingly.

        This chip is very easy to replace at home, you only need a rework station (don't be deceived by scary sounding name) which can be had for under £100, a little bit of flux and solder paste and screwdrivers.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Only half the story @elsergiovolador

          Come on. Not everybody is Lewis Rossman, and I really can't see everybody going out to buy a hot-air re-work station, microscope and ultrasonic cleaner worth much money just to replace a charging chip worth a few units of local currency (you do actually realize how small some of these things are, don't you? The videos on YouTube are always taken through the microscope, and some of the ball-mount chips and SM resistors and capacitors are a pain even for the people who know how to do it)

          I fully support the right-to-repair, and do a lot of repairs down to component level myself , but I'm not going to buy a re-work station to replace surface mount components, because it's a) not a good use of my resources, and b) probably going to be beyond what I will be able to do with any dexterity, as my motor skill and eyesight degrade with age.

          The future for these devices is third party repair, and this is what needs to be protected.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Only half the story

          "This chip is very easy to replace at home, "

          or the motherboard is very easy to mangle at home. Not everybody has the skills to work on electronics, mechanics or keep from killing their house plants. I know, it seems like the easiest thing in the world to me and I can't fathom how people manage to really bollocks things up, but they do. One of my first jobs out of university was working on pro audio gear. I saw plenty of DIY repair attempts and the ones I saw had me ordering a load of parts.

      2. KBeee Bronze badge

        Re: Only half the story

        I remember getting some counter intuitive advice about repairs once.

        My washer/dryer (a make notorious for breaking down) had broken down for the third time just after the warranty had run out.

        I was chatting in the pub to a mate who used to be a domestic appliance repairer about whether to pay for a repair or buy a new more reliable machine.

        He said that if the new reliable machine broke down, there was a good chance that the spare parts would be harder to get hold of, and the repairman might not have much experience fixing it. However, the repairer would probably have lots of experience fixing the the unreliable make, and might even have the spare parts needed tucked away on his van if it was a common problem.

        I went for the new more reliable machine option, and it's lasted about 15 years now, with the only problem being a blocked water outlet pipe due to fibres and gunk blocking the spiggot to my waste pipe which took me about 15 minutes to clear.

        1. Scott 26

          Re: Only half the story

          but your mate was a repairer - it was in his best interest for everyone to get the unreliable model - kept him in a job.....

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Only half the story

          I agree with your mate. Used to spend a lot of time repairing printers (now leased, so not my problem). Can strip down a HP LaserJet 4000 to bits with nary a glance at the manual.

          Zebra 105SL - dreaded any calls with the few that we had. Fortunately most of those calls were user error.

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Only half the story

          My washer has been fixed once. The ratcheting mech broke so the agitator wouldn't. I think the parts were less than a tenner plus shipping. The dryer still works fine. I bought the set second hand about 11 years ago cheap.

          Before I had my own, I ran the numbers and it was cheaper to use the pay laundry than to buy new. I have over 2 weeks worth of socks, skids, jeans and T-shirts. I can go to the laundry, use two big machines and a few dryers to have half a month's of clothes washed and dried in short order. I also get a big table to fold everything properly so when I get home, I just put things back in drawers. If what I have breaks, I'm going to try very hard to repair it or find the same model with a less serious fault that I can fix with parts from my derelict.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only half the story

      > Partial solution is not to use the 'eco' wash as extra water keeps it cleaner.

      I live in an apartment with an oven that works fine until turned off at which point it starts a jet engine to cool itself off. It is so noisy that it is impossible to have a conversation during dinner, so a workaround is to leave it on but at a lower temperature and only turn it off after dinner.

      The entire building complex is brand new and marketed as maximum energy saving, but these ovens...

      1. TechHeadToo

        Re: Only half the story

        and the other workaround is to hit the big red button. No power available to the device = no noise.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: No power

          ...could also = damage and/or fire if for some daft reason the active cooling is actually required. Can't see why it would be required, but what do I know.

        2. Grinning Bandicoot

          Re: Only half the story

          And what happens when the unit built on a design theory with no safety factor? ANS early failure. Today's designs using various CAD and modeling techniques give a feeling of preciseness whereas in the days of yore we knew that the last digit was basically junk. Minimal material used and the accounting people saying to move the failure rate from 99.0 % to 99.1 % will cost more than giving new to those that complain make this a new law of nature.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps the farming equipment manufacturers will learn the valuable lesson of making their equipment user repairable when farmers go out of business. Also how many times: SENSORS IN BATCHES AND HAVE THEM VOTE, farm equipment is damned expensive stop penny pinching.

    I get the manufacturers need to make money, but they seem to have forgotten they make money on selling parts too, so they maybe don't make the record profits year on year so what, you're making profit.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      They can make money by selling

      Repairable farming kit

    2. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Silver badge

      Caterpillar big engines

      Caterpillar puts a time-hold on a LOT of the error/warning signals, assuming that it's probably due to a sensor failure rather than an actual issue. Sometimes 1 hour, sometimes 10 hours (actual "engine running" time, since there is no real-time clock).

      So when actual issues DO happen, they are often missed/overlooked. Only the long-term sensor issues got (eventually) noticed and fixed. But between detection and fixing, the issues usually result in merely an error code on the data busses without affecting engine performance [1].

      1. Especially when you set a certain customer parameter to "warning only; don't derate" because the customer attitude is "don't let my vehicle slow down unless the engine actually breaks." My previous role occasionally involved using our CAT service tool software/dongle for telemetry and customer parameters [2], so it was up to me to build the official list of non-default parameter values to be set at Stryker factories when the engine's control module is powered on for the first time after leaving CAT's factory.

      2. But, in light of "right to repair", we didn't have the "CAT engineer's password" that let us mess with the core calibration/fuel map. (There were also MANY mechanical fixes Stryker HQ couldn't do without voiding CAT's engine warranty.) Some colleagues used vehicle acceleration data to challenge Caterpillar that some engines were being shipped with the wrong fuel map, and they were right -- top speed, max torque, and max power had all tested fine in development; the secret was the transient response during acceleration which was hard to pin down.. Customer was much happier when CAT reprogrammed the mini-fleet of Stryker A1 prototypes to, essentially, "go faster."

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Perhaps the farming equipment manufacturers will learn the valuable lesson of making their equipment user repairable when farmers go out of business sue them for the consequent losses

      FTFY

      Rather than campaign directly for right to repair maybe they should campaign for legislation to ensure contract clauses weasling their way out of liability are not enforceable.

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        That was my thought when I read "$10k" losses.

        It would not take too many claims for that to "educate" manufacturers in the error of their ways.

        In the UK we have the "Unfair terms in Consumer Contract Regulations" (UTCCR) which can make a variety of contract terms automatically void - basically anything which removes a consumer's rights under various other laws is automatically void. And useful they can be if you know your way around and are prepared to make a fuss.

        Unfortunately, UTCCR only applies to consumers - businesses are assumed to know how to negotiate a contract. Unfortunately, if the choice is "own a tractor and be able to farm" vs "not own a tractor and not be able to farm" then negotiation over terms such as "if it breaks and you lose all your crop because we screwed you over, and you agree that we aren't in the least bit liable" is going to be a very short negotiation. We also have a legal principle that it's possible for a court to set aside some contract term if the court is satisfied that the contract wasn't arrived at by a "meeting of minds" because one side had all the "negotiating" power - but I suspect the threshold for that is fairly high.

  3. Dr_N Silver badge

    Not just tractors

    The external temp sensor (AKA a 2p thermistor) mounted in the wingmirror of many cars is now plumbed into the ECU.

    Failure of the "sensor" on some models now puts the car into limp mode.

    Great design work there.

    On some recent Jeep models engine limp-mode = 2WD only. Even better thinking there!

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Not just tractors

      Should also add that it results in an engine management light, which in turn will fail your MOT.

      This is why I spend my life on my back welding and fixing old Japanese cars (from the mid-to-late 1990's). They drive better, are easier to fix, and they don't let you down like all this fancy shite that's infested cars these days.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not just tractors

        Do modern cars have Haynes manuals nowadays?

    2. goldcd

      I do wonder how much it would cost

      to just build redundancy into the cheap sensors - as in stick another one in the other wingmirror and if they don't match, throw a sensor error.

      1. devin3782

        Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

        Well you'd need three, this is the minimum needed for a majority. Two sensors would be as bad as one which do you trust?

        1. parperback parper

          Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

          Two sensors is actually worse than one, because there's now two things to go wrong and if either of them breaks you're stuffed.

        2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

          Two sensors would be as bad as one which do you trust?

          Often a fault is an open/short on the cables, so you will find one sensor gives stupid values like -75C or +125C on a fault, etc, and so a bit of good software filtering could deal with many cases.

          Yes, you at the back! Stop laughing at the "good software" concept!

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

            Murphy potential here. You also have to consider partial failures, like a wire that's mostly cut but not totally such that it returns incorrect-but-still-valid readings due to altered current or resistance.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

            "Often a fault is an open/short on the cables, so you will find one sensor gives stupid values like -75C or +125C on a fault, etc, and so a bit of good software filtering could deal with many cases."

            When I worked on rockets, we used pressure sensors that would fail to .5v. The reading range was 1-5v for most of them. In software, if there were a reading of below 1v, the sensor would be flagged as INOP. A reading of 5v or greater was also flagged. There should never be a reading greater than 5v since that's the voltage being fed to the sensor but it would indicate a different sort of problem such as the 24v buss shorting to the 5v buss somewhere. Many things would have released their magic smoke if that happened.

      2. Flak

        Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

        I don't make this comment flippantly, given the tragic loss of life associated with this:

        Boeing 737 MAX showed that even in a mission critical environment and on an aircraft costing >$100m, sensor redundancy was not implemented.

        If it is not done there, then it is unlikely to be done on other systems where we may be inconvenienced (not killed) when a sensor malfunctions.

        1. Snake Silver badge

          Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

          "Boeing 737 MAX showed that even in a mission critical environment and on an aircraft costing >$100m, sensor redundancy was not implemented."

          And to this day I still have no idea why management wasn't found criminally liable for this decision, considering a long history of aviation precedence (beyond "in America, money buys you absolution", that is).

          1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

            Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

            Look up the number of MCAS incidents. Compare to number of crashes. It was primarily inexperienced pilots that was the problem.

      3. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

        It would cost, therefore it won't be done - end of discussion. Mass production is all about shaving 1/2d off here, 1/2d off there - and over time all those 1/2ds add up.

        That only changes if the manufacturer gets found out doing something that affects it's reputation badly enough to affect sales, or it gets caught out doing something illegal and gets fined, or it simply shaves a 1/2d too far and it's warranty costs explode (perm any one or more of those - bonus losses for a hat trick).

        And don't forget that we also have to thank our governments for some of it. Taking just one aspect - emissions. Over the years governments have screwed down allowable emissions - past the point where anyone who understood reality was telling them that it was going to be either impossible or very expensive to meet them. Result, we've had several manufacturers caught designing systems to pass the tests without necessarily having the same emissions in real use. In practical terms, it was inevitable as the standards are (AIUI) virtually impossible to meet in any generic real-world way.

        And speaking personally, I think it's hard to say any of the manufacturers (whether you include all those doing it, or just the ones who've been caught) have broken the law - because the law simply says "you must meet this spec which requires these emissions limits under these conditions". If the law doesn't say anything about limits under other conditions, then it's not breaking the law to not meet those non-existant limits. But I'm digressing.

        Once over, a regular "tune up" was normal - either the owner or a mechanic would check and adjust the points, the timing, and the mixture, along with replacing some parts (points, plugs) as necessary. Then in teh name of emissions control, we started seeing seals on the adjusting points for carbs. and it's been downhill ever since in terms of sealing adjustments off from those who would tinker with them - and affect emissions. And of course, the modern electronically controlled engine needs lots of sensors to be working properly - so when a sensor fails (no matter how cheap or non-essential) then the control system needs to deal with that. If it puts on the MIL (malfunction indicator lamp, a.k.a. engine warning light) then that's one thing - but when it brings a harvest to a standstill then that's another.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

          WTH is ½d ?!?

          1. SImon Hobson Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

            A half penny, a.k.a. ha'penny, usually pronounced 'hay penny'.

            For those of us with a few years under our belt, a ha'penny would be a token small amount of money - and when I were a lad, it was the smallest coin in circulation. A penny (pre-decimalisation) being one 240th of a pound, or a 12th of a shilling (a.k.a."a bob", equivalent to 5p in new money).

            And there used to be a common phrase back in the day that someone would "spoil the ship for a ha'penneth of tar" - meaning that cheapskating on basics (tar being a material used in waterproofing ships) and spoiling something much more valuable than what has been saved.

            Here endeth todays etimology lesson from a grumpy old git.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

              Ah. ½p but ½ century out of context. People will be using groats next. For the full 4d experience.

              1. ovation1357 Bronze badge
                Devil

                Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

                4d experience... What's the four pence experience then? :-P

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

              2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
                Paris Hilton

                Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

                or goats depending on what services (Icon) you are bartering for.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

                  If it's only 4d then probably it's a greased up alley cat.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              I do wonder how much it would cost

              Close but not quite - ‘ship’ is dialect for ‘sheep’, and sheep are notorious for the many many ways their feet can rot, or infect, or whatever. So a prudent shepherd dabs on a ha’penny’s worth of hot tar after scraping out the rot, to cauterise the wound and save the (relatively) valuable sheep.

            3. finlaythethinker

              Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

              This old git remembers using the farthing (i/4 penny).

              1. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

                Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

                And you could buy one 'chew' for a farthing.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

                I annoy people like you by telling them that I wasn't alive when man walked on the moon.....

            4. W4YBO

              Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

              I recognized the nomenclature, but from a different context. My high school shop teacher spent an entire class period writing "10d nails", but saying "10 penny nails."

              Rest in peace, Mr. Stevenson. I got it, and remembered it fifty years later.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

                Although an American, I was able to suss that the "d" was the abbreviation for pence, owing its origins to the Latin "denarius" (from when Rome had claim to some territory in Britain way back when). I recognized it after reading about the common usage in the past of 2s6d to indicate half-crowns (12 pence = 1 shilling, 5 shillings = 1 crown, so 2 1/2 shillings is a half-crown which becomes 2s6d).

                But aren't you supposed to use "ob" (from "obulus") for the half-penny?

                PS. Even that "10d" thing is off, as it should've been "10/d", as "ten-penny" was actually short for "ten for a penny".

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Pint

                  Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

                  Schooled by an American on throwback, archaic English usage. MmMmMmMmMm. I'm Lovin' It.

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

                  Shouldn't we be using the original Roman numerals?

                  Where ½d => Sd

                  What's the world coming to when people try to erase thousands of years of history with newfangled nonsense, Disgraceful.

                  Around a.d. 1300, Roman numerals were replaced throughout most of Europe with the more effective Hindu-Arabic system still used today.

                  That'll trigger some for sure!!!

                3. Irony Deficient Silver badge

                  But aren’t you supposed to use “ob” (from “obulus”) for the half-penny?

                  I’ve never seen such an abbreviation for the halfpenny, but I have seen “q.” (“quadrans”) for the farthing in some 18th century documents, extending £sd to £sdq.

                  As an American, note that there were five separate £sd-to-Spanish dollar systems in use among the British colonies in North America in the 1770s. Many people in the US continued to reckon in their state’s £sd system as a unit of account until the 1850s (these systems wew even adopted in new states, as late as Texas, according to which states their early anglophone populations came from), when the coins of the newfangled $d¢ system finally became common enough to replace the mishmash of international coinage that made up most of the circulating coin.

            5. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

              A half penny, a.k.a. ha'penny, usually pronounced 'hay penny'.

              For those of us with a few years under our belt, a ha'penny would be a token small amount of money - and when I were a lad, it was the smallest coin in circulation. A penny (pre-decimalisation) being one 240th of a pound, or a 12th of a shilling (a.k.a."a bob", equivalent to 5p in new money).

              And there used to be a common phrase back in the day that someone would "spoil the ship for a ha'penneth of tar" - meaning that cheapskating on basics (tar being a material used in waterproofing ships) and spoiling something much more valuable than what has been saved.

              Here endeth todays etimology lesson from a grumpy old git.

              And the reason a "d" was used for that (half) penny is even more ancient. The abbreviations for coins used to be "L" (libra/librae) for pounds, "S" (solidus/solidi) for shillings and "D" (denarius/denarii) for pence. And yes, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is about LSD, but not the drug. ABBA was a bit more obvious about it a couple of years later with "Money, Money, Money".

    3. DS999 Silver badge

      I had this experience with my car recently

      I started seeing an oil pressure warning - something pretty serious that you can't ignore if its true. Due to when it happened and how intermittent it was I suspected it was probably a faulty sensor, which is unlikely to be diagnosable. At least I didn't want to pay for the dealership to attempt to diagnose it as my car is out of warranty.

      Since the oil pressure switch is a $25 part and maybe $100 of extra labor during an oil change, I just had it replaced last week. I haven't taken my car on a 15+ minute trip yet, which was the length of time required before I'd start seeing it, so I don't know for sure if it is fixed. Knock on wood!

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: I had this experience with my car recently

        Oil pressure sensor is a right bitch on a Chevrolet Avalanche* (Change the mica filter at the same time) & be prepared to lose knuckle skin.....

        After that it's the stepper motor on the instrument cluster, assuming its not a catastrophic failure of the engine**.

        * My last one

        ** I bought the second one cheap*** fully expecting a engine replacement, which thanks to Covid replacement remanufactured engines are a scarcer thing than I originally envisaged.

        *** They sold it to me for less than half the price (Icon) they paid for her, with two sets of wheels, a host of embellishments & recent replacements of the other key parts that usually fail & barely did 2,000KMs with her before they blew her engine up.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: I had this experience with my car recently

        " Knock on wood!"

        You own a Morgan?

  4. ARGO
    Pint

    A beer for the headline writer!

    Although I will now have that Wurzels tune in my head all day....

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: A beer for the headline writer!

      Surely it should be a cider?

    2. steelpillow Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: A beer for the headline writer!

      Personally I think that "I've got a broken combine harvester, you've got the software key" would scan better.

      Some of us even remember Melanie's original hit with her roller skates. >shudder!<

  5. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Late stage capitalism

    This distortion happens when shareholders become your customers, and former customers become your product.

    1. Julz Silver badge

      Re: Late stage capitalism

      Only one up vote unfortunately...

  6. Steve Button
    Stop

    Americans throw away 416,000 cell phone

    "Americans throw away 416,000"

    You sure about that number? There's like 320 million Americans.... Or is that how many each American throws away every year?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Americans throw away 416,000 cell phone

      The amount of waste that our "modern" society produces beggars the mind. I buy a deep-frozen pack of fish. When I open the cardboard box, each piece is individually wrapped in plastic. What for ? The fish is already frozen when they put it in the box, no ?

      And don't tell me that it's a hygiene problem. We all know that when we buy frozen products we need to get them to the freezer post-haste.

      We are going to end up drowning in our own filth.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Americans throw away 416,000 cell phone

        "When I open the cardboard box, each piece is individually wrapped in plastic. "

        Never visit Japan. You'd have kittens. (子猫)

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Americans throw away 416,000 cell phone

          I didn't have kittens down as a typical Japanese menu item. OK, I'll get my coat ...

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Americans throw away 416,000 cell phone

            Sweet 'n sour Labrador.

            Icon - For those old enough.

        2. Boo Radley

          Re: Americans throw away 416,000 cell phone

          I love kittens, the only trouble with them is that they grow up to be cats.

      2. Irony Deficient Silver badge

        What for ?

        Rather than for hygiene’s sake, my guess is that the individual wrapping is to ensure that someone can easily extract a single fish from the box — that is, it’s to prevent multiple fish from becoming frozen together if there were some delay in moving the box from one freezer to another (be those freezers commercial or residential).

    2. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: Americans throw away 416,000 cell phone

      That is, apparently, the number disposed of every day

      1. Steve Button

        Re: Americans throw away 416,000 cell phone

        aha, that makes a lot more sense.

        It's just the article says "Americans throw away 416,000 cell phones every single year,"

  7. Detective Emil
    Mushroom

    I hold no brief for Sonos*, but …

    … as El Reg itself reported, they did, after months of withering fire, stop remotely bricking trade-ins.

    * Indeed, as an early customer for seven of their Things, I won't be buying anything else from them.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ranchor is one of many people who doesn't truly own the products they pay for.

    watch the car industry! As 'electronics' element is becoming indispensable for the automotive, they're VERY keen to extend the 'subscription' model to squeeze even more out of the 'owners' (aka license holders). I expect very strong lobbying to block, or severely curtail the ability to 'self-repair'. There'll be a lot of wailing about 'huge investments made to make the industry GREEN!', and 'proprietary know-how' mixed with the usual FUD (terrorism / hackers, mass road deaths, children harmed, etc, etc.).

    1. EBG

      Re: Ranchor is one of many people who doesn't truly own the products they pay for.

      This. I've just retired from a job close to policy in that field. MaaS - mobility as a service.

  9. macjules Silver badge

    The manufacturer won't have to give you the parts for more complex repairs like a drain pump.

    Had the same dishwasher, washing machine and spin drier now for close to 12 years, none of which have "manufacturer warranties" on them. Most recently the spin drier needed a replacement (manufacturer supplied) filter which they refused to supply direct but a local engineer was able to procure and fit. So presumably the manufacturer might not agree to supply parts to the end user but will supply to the repair and maintenance trade, even for older models?

    1. goldcd

      I think the problem is the outsource of manufacturing

      All brands want to have that full set of white-goods for your kitchen, but a whole lot of them just outsource to different manufacturers - this one'll do my microwave, this one by dishwasher, this one my fridge - and they're all branded to look the same.

      And once you've opted out of manufacture, then managing spare parts is an over-head. Oh, and then the next year you might switch to a different manufacturer - front panel looks the same, but all the innards are now based an entirely different OEM pattern.

      One plus side of this all though, is that a load of the spare parts are now interchangable and widely enough used for OEMs to provide pattern parts. Thing I'd find most useful is simply if all parts had a unique ID number on them - so when I'm squinting at the picture of a dishwasher pump that "works with Bosch and looks the same" - I know it's a drop in replacement to the broken one next to me.

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: I think the problem is the outsource of manufacturing

        I can confirm that (at least in the US) Amana, Maytag, and whirlpool appliances are pretty much the same device, but with different branding and cosmetic panels on them. (Maytag is the parent company that owns all three brands.)

        Several of the 'big name brand' appliances are made by someone else, with the big brand licensed to them- the three windows air conditioners I have are all GE branded, but two of them are made by Haier (right down to the fact that the Haier-branded remote controls the GE devices.) I'm not quite certain if the third one is made by Haier as well, as it's a larger unit, but the fact remains that GE did not make the device, they only had the factory slap their name on it.

  10. goldcd

    The backlash seems to be building nicely though

    I think manufacturers are finally understanding that making products made to last or be repaired is a good marketing point.

    Currently looking to replace a fridge, so looking at Miele (as previous white-goods from have been faultless) - and was just looking at https://frame.work/ for my next laptop (although might follow them for a bit, before taking the plunge).

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: The backlash seems to be building nicely though

      "I think manufacturers are finally understanding that making products made to last or be repaired is a good marketing point."

      Is it? Anyone know where to buy a new Kirby vacuum cleaner? That's the flip side. There's no business like repeat business, and there's no repeat business in a one-and-done. Similarly for allowing the aftermarket to repair your stuff: unless you make the parts, you get no cut of the take, and the money from the original sale by then has already been sunk.

      So you see, the motivation just isn't there. Indeed, the motivation is in the opposite direction: to stymie governments if necessary.

      1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

        Anyone know where to buy a new Kirby vacuum cleaner?

        Kirby does.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Anyone know where to buy a new Kirby vacuum cleaner?

          My mum has two of them.

          Not entirely sure why, as they both work perfectly.

          Kirby make quite a lot of money from regular servicing, which should be a hint to other manufacturers - a "premium" product can attract regular income basically forever that way.

    2. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

      Re: The backlash seems to be building nicely though

      Buy one, seriously

      Bought washer and a drier in 1993, replaced washer in 2017 as high speed spin was noisy ( tech said 6mo to fail).

      Repairs: Replaced electro water inlet valve in 2015 ( washer worked but filled slowly)

      Drier replaced in 2019: repairs none until 2017 when I (me!) replaced door lock/interlock -30 mins total). Only replaced as wife and I live 700 miles from house and kinder to our son who lives with it to replace.

      All replaced with Miele; (our experiences match our friends)

      PPS both machines survived 10+ years washing lacrosse kit including armour...

  11. John Doe 12

    Spelling?

    "...and Sarah Rachor wasn't happy. Ranchor, who runs a farm.........."

    Someone wrote this in a hurry - luckily this isn't an email reply to a complaint as nothing fans the flames more than misspelling the name of an angry customer :-D

    update: I see the article was corrected a minute or so after posting this. I will stroke my own ego and say that my comment was the reason ;-)

  12. 502 bad gateway
    Unhappy

    Right to fleece

    The story here is so familiar. To provide goods at the current price point manufacturers have slashed the margin. This is counterproductive, being part of the reason manufacturers look for other ‘revenue streams’ by for instance locking you in to their parts and servicing. Charged exorbitantly. It doesn’t help of course that many of these corporations are operated by greedy, money grubbing bast***s too.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Right to fleece

      To provide goods at the current price point manufacturers have slashed the margin. This is counterproductive, being part of the reason manufacturers look for other ‘revenue streams’ by for instance locking you in to their parts and servicing.

      True, but if they charged a higher price on the grounds that spares would be affordable, people wouldn't buy them because "they are expensive, and yet they obviously break down". They can't win as long as end-users shop only on price.

  13. Dave 15 Silver badge

    Alas

    Printer manufacturers are allowed to get away with forcing you to use their ink and not refil cartridges.

    Lorry, bus and car manufacturers increasingly use components which have to have 'certificates' to be used within the vehicle - forcing you to buy spares from them.

    The EU are trying to stop people being able to use non OEM parts to repair their cars.

    Personally the farmer should have phoned the supplier and instructed them to come and pick up the machine and repay the cost as it is clearly not fit for purpose. A harvester is there to harvest crops, if it cant its useless.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Alas

      They'll just reply you must have tampered with it. User fault, they're off the hook, they can "prove" it, too, and they're the ones with the deep pockets...

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Alas

        No, they'll reply that the sensor needs replacing, and once it's replaced then the machine will be perfectly fine. And the reason the machine stopped because of sensor failure - we'll that's to protect your investment by avoiding engine damage that could have occurred had the machine continued to operate when it was obviously overheating.

        It's a perfectly valid response to a claim that "a part broke".

        "Not fit for purpose" would come into it if parts kept breaking during reasonable use.

        And the manufacturer not being able to cope with demand for repairs in a timely fashion is also not a valid cause for "not fit for purpose".

        Now if there were (say) a wheel slip sensor and it stopped the machine because a wheel was slipping - then that would be a valid "not fit for purpose" reason given that agricultural tractors need to operate in a variety of conditions, many of which have restricted grip.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Alas

      Unregulated non-OEM replacement parts may mean that a vehicle does not meet safety standards, clean air standards, etc. The OEM parts have to comply because the auto maker is required to meet standards/regulations.

      Brake discs come to mind - probably don't want them made out of pot metal rather than iron.

      Flashing the firmware in the EMS which can improve performance at the expense of clean air and fuel consumption. Of course, if you have a Volkswagen...

  14. heyrick Silver badge

    She waited a week, wiping 10 per cent off her crop yield

    If her tractor fails because it can't handle a faulty sensor, it should be considered not fit for purpose making the manufacturer liable for losses.

    If their asses aren't on the line, they won't care about stuff like this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: She waited a week, wiping 10 per cent off her crop yield

      Really ?

      who's going to end up paying for that ?

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: She waited a week, wiping 10 per cent off her crop yield

        who's going to end up paying for that ?

        In the end you and me (and everybody else).

  15. Bertieboy

    two separate comments

    1) If you think the problem is bad with cars, consider that the powers that be, in their infinite wisdom has declared that all boat engines will be fitted with the necessary software to minimise pollution - a very laudable aim BUT having been stuck at sea with a small boat and engine failure (not fun in iffy weather), I wish they would understand that in extremis, all you need for an old diesel to run is fuel and compression. That will get you safely home as these things are normally fixable at sea. Engine sulking and refusing to operate owing to a software/sensor failure is another thing entirely.

    2) Seems to me that the software "lock-in" market favoured by obscene businesses, is in fact a potential opportunity for (preferably open source) after-market kits which sling out the encrypted sensors and MCUs and replace with parts under the users control. In most cases, the actual sensors are pennies each.

    1. confused and dazed

      Re: two separate comments

      I understand your concern, but sometimes the software might be there to protect the device. Maybe over-riding the software should negate your warranty ? Dunno - you might be back on shore with a goosed engine.

      While I appreciate the legitimate cynicism on corporate behaviour and motivations ....

      1. oiseau Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: two separate comments

        ... might be back on shore with a goosed engine.

        Hmm ...

        Possibly.

        But alive and with your boat in one piece.

        O.

      2. cornetman Silver badge

        Re: two separate comments

        > Dunno - you might be back on shore with a goosed engine.

        I guess that's better than being half dead through exposure. I know what I would choose.

        1. confused and dazed

          Re: two separate comments

          I agree, but if you did hoze the engine - like running it without oil or I don't know without coolant ... is it fair to expect the supplier to fix it fo you ?

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: two separate comments

            If you're in a boat in inclement weather and the engine is showing a coolant or oil problem or whatever is when you want the engine to just the fuck stay running and bring you in. If it's just a sensor fault the engine will still be fine; if it's actual oil starvation or lack of coolant the engine could be knackered, but at least that's preferable over engine, boat plus life knackered and probably lost.

            And expecting the supplier to fix a knackered engine is not what matters here.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: two separate comments

              "If it's just a sensor fault the engine will still be fine; if it's actual oil starvation or lack of coolant the engine could be knackered, but at least that's preferable over engine, boat plus life knackered and probably lost."

              Pushing an engine too hard in such a case could result in an onboard FIRE. Fire at sea is always a Mayday because it's often a cause of boats sinking and lives being lost.

              Two sides to every story, and there are worse fates than being adrift.

  16. Shady

    I remember when…

    … back the very early 80s, my dad treated himself to a very expensive Japanese hifi (my mum wouldn’t let him get a motorbike as he approached his 40s)

    It came not only with schematics but also a parts list, and I pored over it, with the aid of a couple of books from the “big” library (remember them?) trying to figure out what went where, why, and how it all worked.

    A couple of years after that, I leaned about this shop called Maplins….

    If my dad had gotten himself a different hifi I might never have got into electronics and computing

    1. Sam not the Viking

      Re: I remember when…

      My growing-up was very similar.

      Just think, in another life we would have missed the electronics and computing bit and become accountants. And rich! But not better off.

    2. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: I remember when…

      Many years ago, when I purchased my first home box (486SX) I was not a fan of games so I was a tardy arrival to the soundcard market a couple of upgrades later.

      I'm still using the same JP made Sony SRS-PC30 active speaker system I reluctantly purchased (whatever for?, thought I) along with a SB16 ISA card back in 1995. Works great and even have a service manual, complete with a schematic and compete parts list w/specs, in case it ever acts up.

      Works great, as the first day I hooked it up.

      Granted, Sony was a very different (and reliable) beast back then.

      O.

    3. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: I remember when…

      I remember the '60s. When the TV set went on the fritz, my dad and I would pull all the tubes (valves), take them down to Radio Shack or the local hardware store and check them on the tester.

    4. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: I remember when…

      It came not only with schematics but also a parts list,

      I remember my parent's Telefunken tube radio (1955-ish) having an envelope inside with the schematics, as did the 1965-ish B&O telly; with the 1968 B&O tuner/amp it came in the baggy with the manual. Clearly the manufacturers figured that any repair shop could and would be fixing them, and none of this 'send it back to us' for what would often be just a single, cheap and commonly available component that had let out its magic smoke.

      Though when affter some 20 years one of that tuner/amp's channels stopped amplifying I found it easier and cheaper to replace both with 20W amplifier ICs offering overload and short circuit protection (what probably killed that channel) instead of sourcing equivalents for the original parts.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To be fair…

    In 1960s tractors probably were easily serviceable. Modern stuff is faaaaaar more complex. Good luck soldering a fried part in a modern circuit board - that’s before the problem being an unobtanium custom chip.

    Let’s face it, the chances you could jerryrig that sensor in a way the tractor would still work are small…

    Still would be nice if Nvidia would document their GPUs of course….

    1. cornetman Silver badge

      Re: To be fair…

      Modern farmers are very savvy about such things. Replacing a sensor would be well within their capabilities.

    2. dinsdale54

      Re: To be fair…

      Complexity is not the main issue. It's the scummy business practice.

      Even if you can't do rework yourself, there are plenty of companies who can refurbish electronics providing they have access to the actual components and there aren't nasty software locks. Go look on ebay for companies selling reurbished control units for various washing machines etc. The exchange prices are quite reasonable.

      My espresso machine requires a fair bit of servicing which I am able to do myself, however the manufacturer refuses to sell spare parts in this country. As the chap at their authorised service centre apologetically explained, they have all the parts but are banned from selling them so I have to buy them from Australia/NZ. Just like the tractor manufacturer they would prefer me to pay 400 quid for a service rather than send me a £5 plastic hose or a £10 temperature sensor.

      This is the sort of crap that laws need to address.

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: To be fair…

      "Let’s face it, the chances you could jerryrig that sensor in a way the tractor would still work are small…"

      Grab the faulty sensor, yank it off, twist the bare wires together. Computer gizmo notices and adjusts to compensate (having been effectively told "this thing don't work no more"). These machines are supposed to be reliable (hell, my neighbour mows the grass in a tractor his grandfather had to hide from the Nazis by burying it in a big pile of hay), so simply stopping because of a sensor problem will earn a lot of ill will. When the harvest has to come in, it has to come in right exactly then - it's all to do with plant dampness (low enough to not cause mould) and seed moisture content (complex, depending on what you're harvesting for (people, pigs, cows...)), contrary to popular belief you don't want to bring it in after a load of baking hot days, unless the forecast is for a week of thunderstorms that could damage the crop.

      This is why farmers are good at rigging up "something that works". It needs to work and it needs to work now, and no, an engineer coming out tomorrow is too damn late.

      While the local farmers pretend to hate each other and argue endlessly over who has the better maize/cows/wife/tractor/wine cellar, if something goes wrong and a fix can't be made, they're ready to all help each other, because next year it might be them who needs the help...getting the harvest in on time takes precedence over everything except childbirth and field fires.

      [spot who lives in the back of beyond surrounded by farms ;) ]

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: To be fair…

        I imagine that doing that with a modern sensor would just result in an error code and a non-booting (potentially fried) mother board.

        You could get away with that with a 1980s car, but that sort of fix doesn't work anymore...

  18. confused and dazed

    A contrarian view

    Guys,

    lots of moaning here, but most stuff is dramatically cheaper than it was and dramatically ore reliable. My Dad used to carry s socket set and a bunch of spares wherever he drove. A lot of the extra stuff helps make things more reliable.

    The real issue is that stuff is too cheap. 200 quid for a washing machine .... of course it's not going to last 20 years. Try making one that does, and nobody will buy it because it's just too expensive. and that's before feature creep.

    Maybe we should have to pay more tax on new stuff ?

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: A contrarian view

      For 200 quid it better damn well last 20 years.

      1. johnck

        Re: A contrarian view

        And this is the problem that confused and dazed was talking about

        20 years ago a £200 washing machine was 70% isf of the average UK weekly wage (https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/averageweeklyearningsingreatbritain/latest) now its less than 50%, that £200 machine should now be almost £400, but they can still be had for £200 and it will be more efficent

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: A contrarian view

          I bought a Hoover vacuum cleaner in 1992, within months it had fallen apart. I then bought a Mercedes for £125 new and almost THREE DECADES later it's still going strong.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: A contrarian view

      Have an upvote, because however unpopular the view, I agree with it.

      Firstly, too many consumers are concerned with just two things - how many bells and whistles, and how cheap ? Building something that's easily and economically repairable, and which will last (say) 20 years does cost more than something that's designed to be cheap to manufacture - and when consumers will buy your competitors model for (say) 10% less if you do design it to be long lasting, then you are quickly into niche markets where the difference is a lot more than 10%.

      And I agree on the reliability argument. People complain about how the British car manufacturing industry collapsed a few decades ago. You don't need to look hard to see why - "Friday afternoon" cars that did well to make it off the forecourt, "variable" build quality in general, unreliable (hence your dad carrying tools and spares with him), and lets not get into supply issues when the union guy shouted "all out" !

      Then the Japanese arrived with what were pretty boring cars - but which didn't (mostly) fit the description of "if you listen carefully, that's the sound of it rotting away" (which seemed to fit some Italian marques very well), and which you could generally trust to get you from A to B when you wanted to go there and without adding a few hours roadside tinkering contingency time.

      I inherited my late father's car a few years ago, It's a common Japanese model, not very exciting, but apart from the usual stuff (brake pads & disks, alternator, usual service stuff) it's still going reliably at 15 years old.

      So yes, there's a flip side to this "hard to fix at the roadside" stuff - it's also far less likely to need fixing than it used to.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: A contrarian view

      I used to carry a spare fan-belt back in the 70s although, AFAICR I only had to replace it once. OTOH I had a Sierra with an alleged 180k on the clock (alleged because the 60k when I bought it was suspiciously exact).

      The thing is that failure modes now are different and more frequent. I've had two Subarus which had warning lights come on due to a switch failure in the gear selection. It may well have protected the engine in the event of some sort of fault but whatever that might have been the sensor failure was more frequent (for a small sample) than whatever it was protecting against.

      On my current car I've had two wheel sensor failures in about 40,000 miles.

      The modern failures might not be show-stoppers but not only are they likely to be costly to fix they don't leave one with confidence that they actually would protect against a show-stopper.

    4. Peter Ford

      Re: A contrarian view

      This is true absolutely right. However, where it falls over is that the previously 'reassuringly expensive' brands are also on this downward spiral. They are capitalising on their reputations and now make stuff that is slightly less nasty than the bargain-basement kit, but costs 'reassuringly expensive' money. And can't be repaired any better than the cheap stuff.

      So where you previously had the option of 'buy cheap, replace often' or 'buy expensive, last for ever' you now only have the choice of which logo you want on your kit. Nobody makes the reliable things any more - even if it was profitable it's not *as* profitable...

  19. DS999 Silver badge

    There's another reason Apple is linking camera modules to phones

    Theft. Remember when cell phone theft was becoming a huge problem, and 'activation lock' and 'find my phone' became necessary? That fixed the problem of the simple thief, who wanted to steal your phone and sell for someone else to use, but didn't stop more sophisticated thieves from stealing phones and selling the parts. If you lock parts to a certain phone you avoid that, at the cost of making repairs more difficult - you either need an authorized service provider or need a way to move parts between phones for legit repair people while blocking stolen phone parts from being used.

    Not trying to absolve Apple, but it isn't quite so black and white as "Apple is evil". I think everyone would agree that replacing broken camera modules is unlikely to be a big source of income (indeed, I don't know anyone who has ever had a repair made to their phone other than a screen or battery replacement) so protecting repair income is obviously not Apple's sole motivation. But they certainly could do a lot more to make things easier for third party repair shops.

    As cars go all electric I expect we will see the same linkages of parts to the car's serial number unless laws completely ban it. But I think that would be a bad decision - think about it, if a car is worth far less as a set of parts (zero, other than completely mechanical items like tires and body panels) then the incentive for car thieves to steal them goes way down. As would your insurance, especially in areas where car theft has driven up insurance premiums.

    I'd be willing to trade a bit of difficulty when getting my car repaired (so long as it wasn't "only the dealer can repair it") in exchange for lower insurance premiums. If I was a backyard mechanic who did all my own repairs I'd feel quite differently of course, because the savings in premiums could never make up for the extra cost of paying someone else to do the repair.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: There's another reason Apple is linking camera modules to phones

      As cars go all electric I expect we will see the same linkages of parts to the car's serial number

      I've got news for you, you're a decade or two behind the times there - some stuff has been like that for a long time. Modern (and some not so modern) cars are networks of many computers, and some manufacturers have gone down that very route - you can't (for example) just grab a replacement ECU from a crappy and drop it in, it needs coding to the rest of the ECUs so they'll talk to it.

      Again, some of this is security - no (as a thief) overriding the "engine won't run because it's in securely locked mode" by simply swapping out the ECU and then driving away. But some of it is to drive business to authorised repairers.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: There's another reason Apple is linking camera modules to phones

        I've seen that with the stereo/GPS unit, which was nice as it made it worthless for thieves to break into your car to steal your stereo, the value from the parts of an entire car is still quite significant.

        With an electric car almost everything is computerized, so given that the batteries and motors are worthless to a thief then bodywork and tires are about the only thing they can resell. There aren't many old tech parts like windshield wipers left that are common between gas and electric vehicles.

    2. cornetman Silver badge

      Re: There's another reason Apple is linking camera modules to phones

      Perhaps to counter that argument, the fact that there is such a black market for ripped off cameras is due in large part to the dearth of availability of genuine new parts at a reasonable price.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: There's another reason Apple is linking camera modules to phones

        In many cases there's no "legitimate" source for spare parts at all.

        I should be able to call up a reseller and buy a replacement screen/camera/battery/whatever for my expensive gizmo.

        If I can't do that, then buying a too-cheap, possibly nicked spare part or broken gizmo off ebay or the guy down the pub is not only very tempting, it's likely to be the only way I can afford to keep a working gizmo.

    3. Barking mad

      Re: There's another reason Apple is linking camera modules to phones

      There's a good security reason for it. Securely verifying the camera prevents injection attacks into the facial recognition. If Apple phones worked with anything hat claimed to be a camera, face id would not be secure.

      Windows Hello only works with certain cameras for this reason.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: There's another reason Apple is linking camera modules to phones

        The iPhone doesn't use the camera for Face ID, it has an IR dot projector and sensor for that. Though perhaps that's part of the camera module, I don't really know.

  20. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

    End user options

    If we could get all the people buy stuff to (a) not buy anything that doesn't have some minimum iFixit score (and the required score could go up over time) and (b) insist on standard parts, the companies making repairs difficult to impossible might see their businesses shrink or go away in favor of ones that will meet those criteria.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: End user options

      But the majority of users just don't get that. Until you get away from "new phone each year, subsidised by the network, throw (or give) the old ones away" attitude from many people, then things won't change.

  21. First Light Silver badge

    The Wurzels

    Kudos for The Wurzels reference . . .

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: The Wurzels

      Saw them performing live in Swindon a few years ago. Utterly awesome. Together with plenty of scrumpy and pork butties, it was a great evening.

  22. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    If it came down

    to a dodgy sensor that could only be replaced by an authorised repair agent, we'd be out of business within a month.

    Especially since I'm experienced enough to replace most of the sensors in our machines/robots (and have done in the past) and made the point of carrying a common type of relay used is most of the machinery since its frequently 'the relay' mate when we do have a stoppage that needs a service tech.(surprises the hell out of them that they get given a spiffy new one to fit instead of the long drawn out and expensive 2nd visit to fit a new one)

    But to me the situation with the tractor just leads to a new opportunity..... Buy my brand of tractor.... if the engine management sensor goes down, we'll fedex you a new one that any handy mech can swap over and away you go again, saving you 1000's in down time compared to a JD tractor...

    1. cornetman Silver badge

      Re: If it came down

      I think the reality is that a lot of manufacturers are doing what they're doing purely because they can and everyone else is doing it as well. In large part, software copyright has given them the tools to wield enormous power over their customers, in areas that previously would have been hardware only.

      Why should John Deere go to the trouble of making their parts available to Joe EndUser when they can just push it off the their dealers to worry about with guarantees to them that they will have a monopoly?

      The only way this situation is likely to change is a massive ground swell of bad feeling against them, coupled with some legislation to smooth the change, and I can feel that wave coming.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: If it came down

        "The only way this situation is likely to change is a massive ground swell of bad feeling against them, coupled with some legislation to smooth the change, and I can feel that wave coming."

        Since the companies have the deeper pockets, they can usually counter-lobby anything rights groups can throw at it. Usually, it takes something beyond the pale, like innocent death of the privileged class, to provide the necessary push to overcome counter-lobbying.

  23. bjzq888

    I spent 7 and a half years as one of the people writing the software to keep people from destroying equipment...like simply tying two wires together on a temperature sensor and eventually cooking the entire engine. For instance we did heavy underground mining equipment. The operators were being paid by the ton, not by how well their machines worked at the end of the day. They would run them completely out of oil and just keep running, until the engine was totally destroyed. We added functionality that would turn the engine off seconds after a total loss of oil pressure. The sensors themselves were "smart" in that you couldn't just bypass the sensor, you had to actually replace it. On one hand it sucks being stuck in a field, but on the other hand, if your machine is under warranty and you blow it up by bypassing sensors, end-users are going to be angry that their warranty is now voided. Lots of times, sensors are directly tied to things that could kill you or lots of other people if you repair them wrong. The manufacturers don't want their logos shown on the evening news after having driven over a bunch of schoolchildren after someone bypassed a hydraulic sensor somewhere just to get the vehicle running.

    1. cornetman Silver badge

      > The sensors themselves were "smart" in that you couldn't just bypass the sensor, you had to actually replace it.

      What you say makes sense, but I think most of the people pushing for right-to-repair would be perfectly happy to just be able to get hold of a replacement sensor.

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      The problem with JD kit isn't that the sensor prevents the tractor from running but rather that the diagnostic software that says "the sensor is broken" is tightly controlled -- its installed on a dedicated laptop which is in the hands of an authorized service agent. To even diagnose the tractor you have to fly in the repair tech -- remember, America is a big place, you could be half a day or more from the nearest city if you're driving -- who will run the software, identify the problem and provide the spare part. The result is a lot of valuable downtime and the cost of the tech -- $10K ins't unusual.

      People are right to suspect JD's motives. If they were honest then they'd either have the diagnostics built in or available to download and run on any computer. As it is they tightly control the software and use the DMCA aggressively if they suspect reverse engineering. Its actually a good reason not to buy any of their kit but then if you're a monopoly or near monopoly what do they care? (Expect the usual action from Congress when "Happy Flower Tractor Co." sells as good kit in the US that is either cheap enough to buy a spare or you can repair -- its this kind of screwing around that causes people to seek out alternative makes.)

      1. Malcolm Weir

        From a usability standpoint, almost all of the concerns (from both the user and the vendor) could have been simply addressed by a bit of forethought:

        - Build _all_ the diagnostic routines into the machine. Sure, your on-board storage may grow, but that's a trivial cost.

        - In the event of a problem, have the machine generate a full status / result dump internally, then encrypt it and sign with the manufacturer's public key.

        - User dumps the encrypted dump to a USB key, and emails it to manufacturer.

        - Manufacturer sends out replacement part by FedEx...

        Yes, I know many will dislike the encryption, but _functionally_ this allows the manufacturer to retain control (their primary goal) without having to have people travel to troubleshoot, thereby accelerating the repair time (the user's primary goal).

    3. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      I dont have a problem with that, replaced tool arm sensors, position sensors, motion encoders etc etc etc.

      However we have a mangler thats exactly like your customers.... run it regardless. had to explain to him that if I bypass the failed lock sensor on the gate surrounding the robots and one of the operators goes in there and gets wacked by the robot, I'm the one who'll be held accountable.

      That arguement ended up with my purple padlock through that machines isolator and no I wasn't going to take it off unless ordered in writing ,signed by him and the factory owner and had a dismissal threat in it too.

  24. s2bu

    Tractor?

    It would have been nice if the article had stated the manufacturer of said tractor. I'm strongly guessing it was the big green maker, as they have a habit of doing things like this. I was told that some Mennonites managed to reverse engineer the system and they make a living by fixing other people's green tractors.

    I read recently that there's a big market for late 1970s green tractors. I guess they're 'new' enough to have the safety of a modern tractor, but old enough to not be computerized, so easy to fix!

  25. Kev99

    When we had our farm in the early 70s the only time we didn't repair something ourselves was when we didn't have the right wrench. We also didn't need all the electronics so many companies and farmers think they need to plow, plant cultivate or harvest. Who needs a GPS to tell them where they are in the field? Who needs all electronic gimcrackery on the engines that are running at a constant RPM 90% of the time? I had no mechanical training yet I could set up our combine or tune my car just by looking at the manual.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not even concerning yourself about air quality issues or fuel costs, neither of which were of much concern 50 years ago?

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "Not even concerning yourself about air quality issues or fuel costs, neither of which were of much concern 50 years ago?'

        Air quality issues are the manufacturer's problem, but you are correct about fuel efficiency concerns. A farmer's biggest concerns are getting seed in the ground and getting crops harvested in the short window when they need to be picked.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          No, his biggest biggest concern is the bottom line. If, even after everything you say, the farmer still ends up in the red, Econ 101 says it's time to bail out. Fuel costs are some of the deepest red ink these days, and margins are becoming monomolecular thin. IOW, those minor gains may be the only way to stay afloat.

    2. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Bronze badge

      Farming since the 70s

      I think farming has changed a lot in the last 50 years, in the UK anyway. GPS is used to track the vehicle location in the field and coordinate with the seed drill to make sure the seed is planted at the right density to maximise the yield. The seed drill will have all sorts of sensors monitoring and controlling the seed flow rate as well, along with keeping the tractor on the straight and narrow to avoid gaps between the drills. This allows you to leave a special lane clear at regular intervals, to match the wheels of the later vehicles that will drive the fields maintaining the plants without wastefully destroying crops. It's all more consistent than relying on a single user's skill, and it's all in the interest of maximising yields in an industry where margins are already tiny.

      1. Sam not the Viking

        Re: Farming since the 70s

        The whole thing is run by GPS and autonomous vehicles. The driver is only there because insurers expect it, and for those unpredictable events ("...nobody expects the soft cushions...."). It's easier to see the relevance on the great prairies rather than the pocket handkerchief fields in the UK but the technology is widely used.

        It's a bit of change since my grandfather cut the small field by scythe....

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Farming since the 70s

        "GPS is used to track the vehicle location in the field and coordinate with the seed drill to make sure the seed is planted at the right density to maximise the yield. "

        There have been analog ways to do that for decades before GPS. That last Nth degree of precision isn't worth it if your tractor goes Tango Uniform and you lose a hopper full of money via crops rotting in the field or getting planted a month late. Perfection in the natural world isn't possible. All the tech does is remove some of the skill from the process. Gaining in the variables you can control might be completely swamped out by the swing in the variables you can never control.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Other things I'd like to have a right to repair

    (Irony alert)

    My drone won't fly when I am on the LHR perimeter road.

    My AR-15 won't fire full auto.

    My mobile phone won't jam other phones.

    My diesel engine won't run if the urea tank is empty (it's a California thing).

  27. ecofeco Silver badge

    It's all about screwing the customer

    Unrepairable products or ones that are overly expensive to repair exist ONLY to screw the customer. Punter, business or government customer.

    Planned obsolescence wasn't enough. Nor was new style or design. Nor was short warranties and only being able to send the product back to the manufacturer and not the retail store to get it serviced and repaired.

    When it comes to business, just about everything is a scam.

    And yet morons keep buying this stuff.

    (and could somebody PLEASE fix the tiny, tiny font size in the reply box? Thanks)

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: It's all about screwing the customer

      "Unrepairable products or ones that are overly expensive to repair exist ONLY to screw the customer. Punter, business or government customer."

      Never assign to malice what can be explained by incompetence.

  28. ssieler

    Re:

    "If every OEM today did that as they did in the 1960s – published detailed service manuals, made replacement parts readily available, pasted schematics on the back of their products, etc. – nobody would be clamouring for a right to repair, because it wouldn't be necessary," says Paul Roberts, founder of SecuRepairs.org

    While I strongly agree with the "right to repair" (and, my company was/is a member of the first industry organization to push this right in the U.S. Congress), I think I understand one aspect of the economics that got us to this point. In Paul's 1960s (above), manufacturers made a *MUCH HIGHER* profit margin, and didn't need to depend on repair/support costs as much. With increased competition and, yes, our eagerness to pay less and less for cheaper products, the profit margin has shrunk dramatically ... to the point where many companies feel the need (or the greed) to try to profit off being exclusively able to service their products.

    When I started out programming, our mainframe's operating system was always released *with source code*, allowing us to fix problems (and make enhancements) (both of which we'd send to Burroughs to share with them and other users). The good old days :)

  29. ssieler

    One aspect of "right to repair" is the fight against the FUD many manufacturers are spreading about "counterfeit parts". Their argument (particularly to the government, and banks) is something like "what if you got a counterfeit part from a third party maintenance company, and that part has firmware to report to China?". Their underlying motivation isn't patriotic: it's greed, pure and simple.

    A major concern is that if they get a toehold into the government (e.g., a rule for government purchases: no used or third-party parts), that banks will scramble to fall in line, then other major companies, and then our freedom of choice is gone.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "the fight against the FUD many manufacturers are spreading about "counterfeit parts"."

      Most people realize that a non-oem glass replacement on their iPhone is not going to perform exactly like the phone did when it was fresh out of the box. If you don't have a bundle of bank notes and 2 weeks, you may find the cheap and inexpensive repair worth the risk. If the repair shop 'could' get the official Apple part, people might opt to spend the premium for that if they can have the phone back in an hour or so. The alternative is they might have to replace that stupidly expensive iPhone with something from Samsung because they can't wait 2 weeks and can't shell out another paycheck to get another iPhone. In that case, Apple has incentivized the customer to buy something else.

  30. Bob.

    In the 90s and into the noughties, we were a major player in supplying fibre optic installation equipment.

    Our customers (from London, via the Japanese manufacturer) were the telephone, cable TV and our sub-distributors in Europe.

    I joined as an engineer/bench technician.

    Then I was asked to be a Sales Engineer and Training Engineer and answer the phone for Customer Support.

    Admittedly, I/we didn't have to deal with millions of end-user consumers, just a few thousand.

    But there was an Ethos, which I continued, of the Customer is always Right and to keep them happy at all costs.

    We were also in the era of Empowerment instead of scripts and Computer says No.

    I bugged our Japanese Managing Director with day to day questions on charegable items and other stuff. (my Line Manager was often absent, useless and wanted to charge for everything.

    Our MD was more long term "Get the Business. Keep it. Don't worry about the cost, within reason. The profits will follow"

    One time I visited a customer for a Sales Demo.

    My old'ish car wouldn't start afterwards .Knackered battery and I had to phone back to his office to get a push start. Very embarassing.

    My MD heard about this (coleagues were laughing)

    "Bob, you Must have Company Car. You have to be able to visit customers wherever"

    I'm not greedy and didn;t want to cause unnecessary expense so said my car was generally fine, I just needed a new battery.

    He insisted I had a Company Car. My first, I was secretly pleased.

    I ended up as Customer Service Manager.

    What did we do on the way?

    Telephone calls to our Service Dept answered quickly, by me, my assistant or an engineer.No computerised waiting software for us.

    Might be a routine enquiry or customer with problems

    Twice we had our expensive, high tech, high precision machines dropped out of helicopters.

    Once onto an oil rig, then a cab;e laing ship.

    Several that got driven into rivers or otherwise flash flooded.

    Or they just went wrong due to harsh environment.

    Side of the road is dirty and vans are involved in accidents/shunts.

    Microswitches etc don't like those.

    Or they just went wrong/needed repair servicing.

    We didn't charge for site visits, or training our big customers, sub-distributors.

    And we didn't charge for silly, cheap stuff.

    Lost or broke your mains lead or charger/external power supply?

    Here you are or we'll stick one in a Jiffy bag and Post or Fedex it to you.

    Even Courier a whole working 20kg Replacement Courtesy Machine to you.

    Expensive stuff, we should have charged for, We often didn't bother.

    We would chat and they would say they were in the market for several new machines as soon as they could get Purchase Order approval.

    We got a great reputation and very high Market Share.

    We didn't shaft them and they didn't shaft us.

    (For some technical customers I told the Secret Menu and how to open the machine and make simple workarounds. My Line Manager and our Japanese liaisons were worried about that. They wanted Warranty is Void on everything and return machine to us in London.)

    Borrocks to that. We ate the sharp end were on the side of the customer.

    Our Company benefitted in the long run.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "We would chat and they would say they were in the market for several new machines as soon as they could get Purchase Order approval."

      Exactly! Don't give a customer a reason to shop around the next time they need something you sell.

    2. G7mzh

      Lost or broke your mains lead or charger/external power supply? Here you are or we'll stick one in a Jiffy bag and Post or Fedex it to you.

      On the other hand, one previous employer, on getting a call from a customer who needed a new mains lead, tied itself in all sorts of knots trying to work out which department was responsible, which budget it would be taken from, and so on. Taking one off the shelf and posting it - or even getting it sent round in a van, as in central London we had "roaming" emgineers - was beyond their capability.

  31. JohnG

    "The new UK rules, which mirror those in the EU, only force manufacturers to offer a subset of parts to consumers, such as replacement power supplies and remote controls for TVs. If you want to fix your dishwasher's drain filter, you'll be able to get the parts. The manufacturer won't have to give you the parts for more complex repairs like a drain pump."

    Access to technical data and tools needed to repair and/or to manufacture alternative spares are often more important than whether or not the manufacturer will sell specific spare parts. The willingness of some Chinese manufacturers to copy often pre-empts right-to-repair legislation and forces OEMs to supply spares freely or face losing sales.

  32. Ray Foulkes

    Sometimes there is some good news...

    We have an old Neff oven + oven/grill. The grill element failed and the rubbers around the door were sloppy. I got both from Neff, not as cheap as after-market prices, but in stock and quick delivery. Previously one of the springs on the oven door failed; once again the hinge+spring were in stock and arrived in a couple of days. This oven must be over 10 years old.. I was suitably impressed.

    1. IJD

      Re: Sometimes there is some good news...

      Our Neff double oven has a dodgy selector knob on one oven, so doesn't like selecting some common functions -- it's basically a rotary multi-layer cam driving a load of switches, and the cam is worn.

      The one for the other oven has 12 positions (probably common across several models) and is available from Neff (and elsewhere) for about £70.

      The dodgy one has 11 positions and is unavailable from Neff or anywhere else... :-(

  33. AVR

    Recycling issues

    Many of the anti-repair tricks used by manufacturers also help to make recycling uneconomic. It's a double problem, but on the plus side legislation that fixes either is a boost to both.

  34. John Savard Silver badge

    Evidently

    Evidently, from the article and the comments, an effective right-to-repair law will need to be very broadly drafted, as corporations will try every trick they can think of to wiggle out of the requirements of one.

  35. martinusher Silver badge

    This kind of mis-selling is rampant

    I've just returned from visiting an older couple we know who bought an HP printer from Costco to replace the (probably perfectly good) one they've got. We''re all technically savvy on this site, right? So what's the big deal about installing a printer?

    The problem is that HP has turned an appliance into a marketing fest. Installing the printer was a performance because the recommended software isn't interested in the printer, its interested in *you* and your pocketbook -- it wants to sell ink, send advertisements and generally mess about and, oh yes, it might print a page or two. Being modern its got the printer cartridges tied to the machine, of course. In its quest to be user friendly and marketing savvy it comes out as an annoying, dysfunctional, intrusive bit of software. What it says to people like me is "Avoid this manufacturer's products".

    American products are all too often about selling services rather than products. The printer is only an excuse to sell incredibly overpriced ink, preferably by subscription. This might make sense in a business crowded with sales and marketing talent but light on engineering and manufacturing knowhow but its not the way to remain competitive. The only hope is to become a monopoly because that's the only way you can force customers to eat their dog food.

    JD is well known -- notorious -- for making equipment that's very expensive to both buy and fix. Expect a robust market in older equipment. Expect also lobbying and legislative efforts to force customers to toe the line -- it will be all in the cause of being 'green', of course -- and expect Republicans, those champions of individual freedom, to be leading the effort.

    1. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: This kind of mis-selling is rampant

      Hmm ...

      ...expect Republicans, those champions of individual freedom PACs, corporation contributions and (of course) fat brown envelopes to be leading the effort.

      There you go.

      Adjusted to reality.

      The McCain-Feingold Act (2002) was a protective shield for democracy in the US but it was gutted in 2010 when corporations acquired first amendment protection of free speech.

      And the net result is there for all to see.

      O.

  36. TRT Silver badge

    Price

    The price of some spares is utterly ludicrous. I have a gas oven and hob. Now 3 years old. After about 6 months the tiny rubber feet that keep the hob ironwork off the stainless casing burnt away on one burner. I found the spare for that model. £4.95 each. For a different manufacturer on the same spares stockists ( the official parts supplier but they seem to offer spares as a service to lots of people) they came in bags off 10 for the same amount. Even then the feet can't costs more than a penny a dozen to make...

    I got a replacement but it's gone straight away again and so I can't keep replacing them at that price.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Price

      "After about 6 months the tiny rubber feet that keep the hob ironwork off the stainless casing burnt away on one burner."

      I suggest making a simple mold and making your own replacements with a tube of high temp silicone. It doesn't sound like a good design to start with. You could also get some small metal washers, blacken them to look nice and screw them in where the rubber bits are to protect the stainless.

  37. Diez66

    It's not the machine that's the probem

    Bought new Washer Dryer and new dishwasher for a holiday home.

    They are fine, so far. Well it's only been 3 years and well limited use what with Covid etc.

    The biggest problem I have, to date, is finding somewhere to recycle all the mail I am getting from the manufacturer and their cronies about Insurance! It will go wrong, you will never be able to afford the repair without our wonderful product........; argh!

    If they put as much effort into the product, eh?

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: It's not the machine that's the probem

      "The biggest problem I have, to date, is finding somewhere to recycle all the mail I am getting from the manufacturer and their cronies about Insurance! '

      Get a cast iron stove if you still can and put the "flat wood" away until winter. Most printing of adverts is done with soy ink these days so you can compost those mailers and use the result in your garden.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some years ago a farmer burnt out a chip on a fiat agri combine. They told him 2 weeks wait from Italy, so he called me. Next morning the chip arrived and before mid morning it was back on the road. Cost me one days labour and a chip less than £50 from Fiat agri for the whole board £1000 plus fitting and delivery. Its what is called extracting the urine. A Gallus printing machine had an SCR fail, all markings had been removed but I worked out what it was and it was my first day at the company. We went up the road to an electronics store paid £1.00 and away the machine went. Gallus had said that a specialist needed to come over, at £5000 and that was 40 years ago. I totally paid my salary on my first day at the company. They did not care a fig what I did after that! Its legalised fraud!

  39. MachDiamond Silver badge

    The big voices

    Louis Rossman has been a big crusader on this, but Steve Wozniak chiming in made a bigger difference with a 9 minute video. Considering Apple is a big offender, this is significant.

    I think it's the poorly educated people that are churned out of business degree mills that are the problem. If one manufacturer of pro audio gear, something I know about, provides service manuals (nearly free as PDF's) and tricky to source parts, people will repair that brand's kit which means that more of it will be out working. People will see that "everybody" is using this brand's products and decide it's because it's superior. The reality is that everybody is using it due to it being available second hand after being repaired and because it can be repaired far cheaper than a new replacement, sound system owners will have it repaired. When something breaks and can't be repaired, the purchaser has the opportunity to buy another brand if it's something they really need. If I can't get my Canon camera repaired and need to buy a new one, maybe I look at what Sony and Nikon have to offer. If for a tenth of the price I can have the shutter mech replaced, I'll stay with Canon. Bottom line is that being able to repair can mean brand loyalty. It's also good advertising in this day of Yelp and social media. Good customer service and reasonable repair costs can outweigh shiny new (useless) features.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MBK Yamaha

    You all maybe interested in the following, I live in France but saw in the UK a 535 Yamaha Virago. I made sure that the machine was EU certificated. The reason for that was that I had a machine I brought with me to France and had to get a certificate from MBK yamaha that the bike conformed. So I did what was needed and changed the headlamp, and then was told to get the bike inspected by a MBK dealer. I did but they told me the front tyre was worn. I had that done but the cost was ridiculous and I asked for the tyre back. I asked the testing authority what the problem was with the tyre, they checked it and said nothing, it was perfectly useable. I then had to take the bike to a testing authority (la Mines) who counted the wheels (really) and I had to pay for that. I knew that MBK had told lies but could not prove it. So some years later got another bike same model, far later but was in total UE accordance, I had the bike checked by an independent dealer and took photos, yet again MBK said the bike did not conform but the photos confirmed it had all the things and conformed and so did the documents. They wanted me to pay to have the things (nothing) fixed, and the "authority" refused without the acceptance of the MBK agent. I took them to court, neither attended, as a result I no longer have to register the bike in France BY COMMAND OF THE TRIBUNAL and have notified the regional chief, the insurance company etc. that under law my bike will remain on UK plates in France. Better, by order of the court, MBK yamaha cannot prosecute me for saying they are fraudulent because there is a court ruling saying they are. You have been warned MBK yamaha who registered the Yamaha name in France so blocking Yamaha Europe from selling Yamaha products is fraudulent. If you want to check then contact the Prefet of 44 I am sure they will authenticate. MBK Yamaha will not do anything as it will be even more public than this.

  41. fredesmite2

    so the anti-government Republican farmers

    wants big brother to intercede with private businesses and capitalism !!!

    bwhahaaa

  42. martinusher Silver badge

    The true half of the story

    The part that failed was an oxygen sensor, the sort that all engines have. It wasn't a matter of just going out and getting a replacement because the parts have been "HPed" -- set up so that everything is serialized so that a non-official replacement will not allow the machine to operate.

    My son-in-law has just taken up a job with John Deere as a parts manager so I daresay I'm going to find out sooner or later exactly what's going on. In the US JD's distribution is handled by companies that either specialize in agricultural or construction; he used to work for an ag firm but is now at a large construction equipment supplier. Let's find out how bad it is --- but in the meantime I expect there's a healthy market in used kit that just predates the electronic revolution.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The true half of the story

      "Let's find out how bad it is --- but in the meantime I expect there's a healthy market in used kit that just predates the electronic revolution."

      They're also likely to conveniently fail air quality standards set up to force obsolescence...

      Ah, the joys of regulatory capture...

  43. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Lobbyism is just another word for corruption.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But at the same time, horse trading is a necessary evil. Without an answer to the ol' "What's in it for me?" , nothing gets done...

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021