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iFixit CEO launches open Toshiba service guide scheme

If you use lawyers to hide your manuals, we'll write our own

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Kyle Wiens, head of gadget repair service iFixit - an operation best known for its device disassembly efforts - has called on owners of Toshiba laptops to help pen open source repair manuals to make good the computer makers’ closure of an independent Toshiba documentation archive.

Launching Operation Fix Toshiba, Wiens promised to connect owners of unwanted Toshiba kit with folk willing to take it apart and write repair manuals. iFixit staff will work on extending the site’s existing array of Toshiba repair guides too.

The move comes after Toshiba’s Australian wing used lawyers to force blogger Tim Hicks’ to remove Toshiba manuals from his site, Future Proof, which archives documentation for kit to ensure it’s available even after machines have reached the end of their life as products.

Toshiba’s argument is that this violates its copyright. True, of course, but when such documentation no longer has a commercial value companies like Toshiba should become less defensive, just as many games developers, for instance, turn a blind eye to making games long past their sell-by date available to fans.

Hicks’ site does more than keep computer buffs happy. To Wiens, it enables owners of old computers to keep their machines running, ensuring that equipment takes longer to become obsolete and that less of it gets chucked into landfill. Recycling is all well and good, but a lot of computer kit is disposed of sooner than necessary, when all it needs is some extra memory, a bigger hard drive or a new cooling fan.

As Hicks told The Register yesterday: “It has been argued that I am doing a public service. It is better for those manuals to be out there. If the laptop is out of warranty, what does the vendor care?”

Some might say it's yet another desperate act by an industry in decline. Toshiba's operating profit was down 23 per cent in its most recent quarter thanks to falling sales and profits at its semiconductor, TV and home appliance operations.

“Manufacturers always say that providing repair documentation will lead users to hurt themselves, and that’s what Toshiba told Tim,” said Wiens. “But when people do attempt repair, they are far more likely to damage themselves or their equipment if they don’t have a good manual with appropriate safety warnings.”

There are more details about how to participate in Operation Fix Toshiba on its Indiegogo site. ®

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