Bradley M. Kuhn

Bradley M. Kuhn at

I think a lot of people treat computing devices like disposable goods. A great example is a toaster: it's been years since I had a toaster that I could easily repair. Most of them are made of plastic and they just don't make spare parts for them. I'm a geek who repairs old stuff a lot, but I wouldn't consider repairing a toaster anymore, even though I did 20 years ago. (There's that guy who built a toaster from scratch to prove a point; I didn't like his conclusions much, but the general point of disconnection from our goods was a good one).

Thus, people seek computing devices the same way. They don't know how to repair them even if they have one that could be repaired. So, from their eyes, an Apple product doesn't look that different from GNU/Linux: except that the Apple is more shiny.

I see a similar culture in dog ownership too, oddly enough. Very few people will spend the time to go to shelters and adopt a perfectly good dog. My wife had a specific breed she wanted to adopt, etc. and we had to look for a while, but we got two (non senior) dogs that were already well trained and well behaved. Yet people still go to breeders for dogs because they want a puppy, even though you can also adopt puppies at many shelters.

I find it all really sad, but the problem for tech devices is getting worse. I thought the new-phone-ever-18-months culture would collapse during the economic downturn, but slave labor building the things plus price wars among data carriers means mobile devices are just modern toasters.

I start to cry sometimes to think about the fact that ironically, because I didn't pay attention to the toaster problem myself, it's likely someday soon I won't be able to find a toaster that doesn't have proprietary software on it. I'm pretty sure I'm actually going to die in a world where more of the software people use every day is proprietary than it was during my lifetime. That's what the Internet of things means.

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