A few days ago, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) came out with a 5-0 unanimous vote on its position on right to repair. (PDF) It’s great news, in that they basically agree with us all:
Restricting consumers and businesses from choosing how they repair products can substantially increase the total cost of repairs, generate harmful electronic waste, and unnecessarily increase wait times for repairs. In contrast, providing more choice in repairs can lead to lower costs, reduce e-waste by extending the useful lifespan of products, enable more timely repairs, and provide economic opportunities for entrepreneurs and local businesses.
The long version of the “Nixing the Fix” report goes on to list ways that the FTC found firms were impeding repair: ranging from poor initial design, through restrictive firmware and digital rights management (DRM), all the way down to “disparagement of non-OEM parts and independent repair services”.
While the FTC isn’t making any new laws here, they’re conveying a willingness to use the consumer-protection laws that are already on the books: the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair competitive practices.
Sometimes we are rebuilding a RAID array or replacing a BIOS chip and we wonder how ordinary people keep their computes running. Then we realize that most of them come to someone like us for help. But what if you don’t have a family member or friend who is computer savvy? No problem! Plenty of stores — including big box office stores such as Office Depot and OfficeMax — will be glad to help you. Why most of them will be willing to test your computer for free. Sounds nice until you find out that at least in some cases these tests were showing problems that didn’t need fixing so users would pay for services they didn’t need. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has fined Office Depot (who owns OfficeMax) $25 million and plans to use the funds to issue refunds. In addition, a vendor, Support.com, will pay $10 million to support the refunds.
The free check used software to detect problems on a PC. However, during the scan the user is asked if their computer has any of the following symptoms. For example, if their PC has become slow or frequently reboots. If you said yes to any of these questions, the software would produce a report claiming to have found evidence of malware and offering fixes that could cost significant amounts of money even if there was no other evidence.
In 2003, nothing could stop AMD. This was a company that moved from a semiconductor company based around second-sourcing Intel designs in the 1980s to a Fortune 500 company a mere fifteen years later. AMD was on fire, and with almost a 50% market share of desktop CPUs, it was a true challenger to Intel’s throne.
AMD began its corporate history like dozens of other semiconductor companies: second sourcing dozens of other designs from dozens of other companies. The first AMD chip, sold in 1970, was just a four-bit shift register. From there, AMD began producing 1024-bit static RAMs, ever more complex integrated circuits, and in 1974 released the Am9080, a reverse-engineered version of the Intel 8080.
AMD had the beginnings of something great. The company was founded by [Jerry Sanders], electrical engineer at Fairchild Semiconductor. At the time [Sanders] left Fairchild in 1969, [Gordon Moore] and [Robert Noyce], also former Fairchild employees, had formed Intel a year before.
While AMD and Intel shared a common heritage, history bears that only one company would become the king of semiconductors. Twenty years after these companies were founded they would find themselves in a bitter rivalry, and thirty years after their beginnings, they would each see their fortunes change. For a short time, AMD would overtake Intel as the king of CPUs, only to stumble again and again to a market share of ten to twenty percent. It only takes excellent engineering to succeed, but how did AMD fail? The answer is Intel. Through illegal practices and ethically questionable engineering decisions, Intel would succeed to be the current leader of the semiconductor world.
Here’s a challenge tailored to our community if we’ve ever seen one. You know those delightful unsolicited prerecorded calls you get from time to time? They might be political, but they also come from companies trying to sell you vinyl siding, or promising improvements in your business. Well they’re against the law in many cases, and complaints to the Federal Trade Commission have been piling up. So now the FTC is offering a $50,000 bounty to anyone who can find a way to block the calls.
It’s called the Robocall Challenge and you’ve got until January 17th, 2013 to get your entry submitted. The great thing is, this doesn’t need to be a fully working solution. Your entry may be: “proposed technical solutions or functional solutions and proofs of concept “. Even better, you retain ownership of the solution even if you win. This type of recognition will surely have telco related companies beating a path to your door.
Ars technica is reporting on the ruling from the FTC about the software shenanigans of Kmart and Sears. The marketing geniuses behind the parent company of Sears and Kmart decided they needed more information about the users of their website. Their solution? Offering $10 to users who install their custom software which phones home with data on just about everything they do on their computer. Not content with just browsing habits of webites, the software apparently recorded everything the user did online, including secure sessions. Under the settlement (PDF) with the FTC, Sears says they will stop collecting data and promises to destroy any and all information they’ve collected so far. Selling what websites you’ve been to, how much money you have, which prescriptions you take and what products you’re interested in for the low low price of $10 seems like a bargain.