Fixfest 2017 was a blend of practical advice with technical information, teeming with renegade action to bring about an international seed change and freedoms the consumers right to repair, in a fight back against the product “service contracts” which are all part and parcel of many goods which we purchase now, especially with the advent of the internet of things, eg wi-fi fridges and more worryingly pacemakers.
We went in a spirit of naivety and curiosity and were repaid with the gentle coaxing of the coaches and the amazing contributors who gave their expertise in abundance. It was a humbling experience to realise how much there is for us to learn in the world of repair but equally how fortunate we are to have plugged in to this wealth of open source resources and guidance.
We caught the end of the mornings lighting talks, were we heard of a company salvaging smartphone screen digitizers which are often discarded in phone screen repair process.
After lunch we were lucky to hear a talk from two leading repair activists, Kyle Wiens, CEO of Ifixit and Alison Powell, lecturer communications and media at L.S.E. Part of Alison’s work is collating repair manifestos from community repair movements in an attempt to create influence policy change whereby we take back ownership and right to repair of our stuff. Alison spoke about “Alexa” Amazon’s personal assistant device, which listens and monitors your every word round the clock predicting your shopping needs then automatically purchasing. She also talked about a strong backlash from the original tinkerers, our Farmers, who have been reeling since John Deere tractor company began making un-serviceable and un-modifiable tractors.
Kyle Weins introduced us to his open source Wiki-style bank of repair manual and schematics the latter are often officially illegal to share, this problem is one of his main lifes work, his aim is to create for us the rights for: devices that can be opened, to have repair documentation for everything, to repair things in the privacy of our own home, to have error codes and wiring diagrams, to repair our own technicians, to replace any all consumables ourselves and to reasonably priced serviceable parts.
One of the exciting workshops during the course of the day was the introduction to 3D printing, held over at the Makerversity at Somerset House Holburn, this walkthrough of Autodesk Fusion 360 cad software, by Paul Sohi, was highly inspired us to provide 3D printing services at our own repair cafe. We were shown how to with just 4 tools, pencil, paper, calipers and laptop, replicate a spare part.
We were totally in awe of the amazing, 3d printing, metal, woodwork and textile workshop facilities which are offered as permanent hire or weekly hot desk style, reminding us of our goal for a southend Makerspace.
Later we were invited to a repair party over at the Museum of London which as the name suggests was and opportunity to witness some pro repair action with experts from all over the world including Australia, Italy and Uruguay. Sarah took her 70 year old Robert’s radio set, which provided a refreshing vintage twist amidst the ipads and laptops. My linuxed laptop which had crashed provided a three hour fix-off attracting many computer wizards who collaboratively and amazingly unravelled the mystery, which culminated in a Semos battery fault, Ten (unique name eh?) the main fixer on my laptop produced a suitable replacement semos battery which are found in watches and small devices and drumroll ………….horaaaay celebrations. After much debate and analysis it was agreed by the stream of repairers who admired Sarah’s vintage radio that the paper capacitors were definitely passed it, a common problem with pre-silicon capacitor electronics which were the norm before the 60’s. With this knowledge we shall be able to purchase some suitable replacement silicon capacitors and practice our pcb soldering skills.
Meanwhile Sarah also slipped in a repair for her faulty iphone 6 screen which had lost it’s ability to type numbers. We watched in awe at the speed and deft at which our repairer, a man with one arm and no legs, was able to tear down and remove the after market replacement screen and replace with an original apple screen.
Begrudgingly we made our excuses for forgoing the afterparty pub visit and said cheerio to our new friends before embarking on a nerve racking EV journey home, on 29 miles range with 39 miles journey and no charge up london cards. Suffice to say with some app wrangling we overcame our technical administration issues and a embarrassing late night EV fail was spared with a charge up at Thurrock services.