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Restart Radio: Apple’s T2 Chip and ownership rights after the first owner

Locked laptops with T2 chip unable to be refurbished

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On May’s show, we discuss limits placed on refurbishment and reuse by a notorious manufacturer through its T2 chip. We consider their responsibility if millions of devices go to waste prematurely. Janet and Ugo are joined by friend of the show John Bumstead, a Minneapolis-based laptop refurbisher and owner of RDKL, Inc. who has experienced many – if not all – of these limitations first hand in his work. 

Repairing and saving lives

At the top of the show, we return to the topic of ventilator repair during this pandemic. We highlight the relative silence around the work of biomedical engineers. Refreshingly, a recent op-ed by US biomed Leiticia Reynolds, co-authored with Kevin O’Reilly (US PIRG), tells the story of those facing the pandemic every day. And it calls out all of the barriers to repairing medical equipment imposed by manufacturers.

The T2 chip: responsibility in reuse

Next, we talk to computer refurbisher John Bumstead to hear about the growth in interest in his glitch art business since we first talked to him a couple of years ago.

But our main interest is Apple’s T2 chip and laptop repair, is one that Bumstead is absolutely familiar with. We ask about his recent experience of going viral on Twitter and spreading his knowledge to skeptics and those in need.

Bumstead has years of experience in refurbishing laptops at scale. But recent developments — the T2 chip and its relationship to “Activation Lock” — combined with complacency or lack of resources of companies, are forcing refurbishers to scrap machines that sold less than two years ago for $3000. Bumstead believes

If the inevitable result of a design is that thousands or millions of devices get scrapped; then to me it’s self-evident that there’s a problem with that design.

Then, we discuss the various arguments around this topic: who should take responsibility for enabling the reuse of devices; the supposed trade-offs between reusability and security; and the degradation of property rights for customers of secondhand products.

(We did not discuss on the show, but noting here that Bumstead and others have figured out how to restore some of these machines. It’s not clear if this procedure is viable at scale. Video shared below.)

At home improvement

Finally, we take a look at a selection of Google Trends relating to “How to Fix” searches over the past couple of months. There are some surprising trends. Some are to be expected, like people fixing game consoles and bikes. But what becomes clear is that being in lockdown is incentivising us to repair at home to keep us both entertained and connected. 


[Image courtesy of John Bumstead]

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