Make, Do, and Make Do!

good for nothing

We had a great time fixing in the midst of a Good For Nothing event on Saturday.

It was one of the first times we were repairing in the middle of another event – the Good For Nothing network of creatives, strategists and developers was at the Forward Foundation helping three very worthy youth organisations in a 48 hour marathon of “doing, not talking”.

And we were there helping to repair sad gadgets in the middle of the doing. For us, the day was not just “make” and “do”, it was also “make do!”

What was most encouraging was the warm reception we received by the Good for Nothing community. Continue reading

Our Top Fixes of 2012: #1 – Epson, We Have a Problem!

Photo by Flickr user Newtown graffiti

Original photo by Flickr user Newtown graffiti

And the winner is…

It might appear as cheating that we decided to pick the case of the infamous Epson Stylus D68, which we already wrote about back in December as our symbolic top fix so far. In short, it’s the story of a printer which stopped functioning all of a sudden, leaving the owner with nothing more than 2 blinking lights. According to Epson, the problem was that the ink pads of the printer had “reached the end of their usable life and that your printer will no longer work until it is serviced”. Basically Epson has a counter of the number of print-outs produced by a printer, and once a predefined number is reached, the company recommends (actually more than recommends!) that the printer is substituted, or that, in case of expensive high-end printers, the ink pads are substituted. As our volunteer repairer John pointed out, Epson produced its own software utility to reset the counter. However it doesn’t recommend users should use it or even try substituting the ink pads: “Epson does not recommend ink pad replacement by users without technical training or resetting the Ink Pad Counter without replacing the ink pads.” This is a typical case of a company trying to expand its control over the way consumers use a product they have bought, so we had to do something about it. Continue reading

Our Top Fixes of 2012: #2 – Repair and Reuse Before Recycling

Laurence, Ben and the dvd player

Laurence, Ben and the dvd player

Laurence came to our first Restart Party in Brixton, the one we defined as our “Midas moment”, as everything we touched…miraculously got fixed. Laurence’s Matsui 225 dvd player was no exception to the rule: when she brought it to the event, it was a typical case of a sad piece of electronics on its way out, as it would “eat dvds” and not play them. A team of volunteers opened it and took the whole thing apart, making sure that the tray mechanism would get cleaned throughout. Jack, Ben and Alan, took about half an hour to perform the operation, and everyone enjoyed the learning experience: many of us had never seen how a dvd player works from the inside! When they put it back together, the dvd player started working again, as new.

But what is the point of fixing a dvd player, especially when the exact same model can be bought used on Ebay for close to nothing? Continue reading

Our Top Fixes of 2012: #3 – Beware of the “Genius”

Barti, Adrian and Janet in the middle of troubleshooting

Barti, Adrian and Janet in the middle of troubleshooting

Barti brought her MacBook Pro with a “dead screen” to a Restart Party. We troubleshooted her computer and figured that the problem was actually with the video card: the laptop would switch on normally, with the familiar Mac OS X start-up sound, while screen was completely black, not even marginally dim (which is what usually happens when the lightbulb behind the screen needs replacing). We suggested to Barti that she tested the laptop with an external monitor: if that didn’t work, she could know for sure whether it was the video card. After the event, Barti’s tests confirmed our diagnosis, so she took her laptop to the Genius Bar at the local Apple Store. She was quoted £370 to have the video card replaced, but the technician advised Barti that, given the steep cost, it might have made more sense to just resell the laptop for spare parts, and look for another one. When she asked us for further advice, we knew there had to be a better solution. Continue reading

Our Top Fixes of 2012: #4 – Clean Your Fan, Mate!

A whole lot of dust!
A whole lot of dust inside a 6-year-old Macbook!

Janet’s laptop has been a source of inspiration for The Restart Project. Months before planning the first event, we were already “restarting” her old white MacBook, by adding additional RAM, updating some applications and clearing space from the hard drive, in order to speed it up. All of this worked, but was not enough. She kept complaining that the laptop was really hot, and the fan out of control. Having installed smcFanControl, she knew that the temperature insider her laptop was often reaching 80 degrees Celsius, and the fan going beyond 6000 rpm – not good. During our second event, we took her laptop apart following a very detailed iFixit guide. Continue reading

Our Top Fixes of 2012: #5 Not All Manufacturers Are Equally Greedy

We held our first Restart Party back in June 2012, and in exactly 6 months we went on to run 12 events and countless presentations all over London. Our growing community of self-repair enthusiasts has fixed, or contributed to fix, all kinds of malfunctioning electronics: from laptops to electric shavers, from printers to bed-side lamps, from wi-fi cards to dvd players and watches. We didn’t always succeed, to be fair, either for lack of spare parts, tools or simply because we did not know how to – but in every occasion we learned a lot about repair, flawed design, planned obsolescence and alternatives to the mantra of recycle & buy a new one.

As we gear up for a lot of exciting upcoming events in January and February, this week we are presenting you our personal selection of 5 top favourite fixes we performed at Restart Parties in 2012:

#5 – Not all manufacturers are equally greedy

Bob and Ugo troubleshooting the tablet

Bob and Ugo troubleshooting the tablet

Bob came to our very first event, after learning about it during BBC Outriders in the middle of the night. He brought a “dead” tablet: a Elonex Etouch 1000ET, which had failed following a failed software upgrade. The screen was black, with no sign of life. The device was outside of its warranty period, and Bob did not know what to do. We took quite a lot of time with his tablet, and managed to install the new available firmware. However, the tablet’s screen would only blink for a second at start-up, then die. Continue reading