Open sourcing problems

Let me set the stage here. I own an older Apple iBook 12" G3 laptop. It runs Kubuntu quite well (much better than it ever ran OS X actually.) But for the last year the screen had crapped out and to get it working I had to press here and bend there. It was a nightmare. It had happened once before when it was still under warranty. No problem - I sent it back to Apple to get fixed free of charge.

Fast forward three years later, and no warranty, and Apple says it'll cost me around $329.00 to fix.

$329.00!!!??? You have to be kidding me.

So in the spirit of open source I decided to fix the problem myself. I sat down to rip the laptop apart, piece by piece, and replace what I figured was a faulty motherboard. So after I had the little beast in hundreds of pieces, I decided to look into a replacement mother board for my now dissected friend. After poking around in Google long enough I found out what was really wrong.

It seems the solder joints between the GPU and the motherboard on the G3 units were well known to be bad. Apparently the joints would heat up and, because of the placement of the GPU, they would start to come loose. Apple knew this and extended the warranty on the units an extra year or so. Unfortunately, for those of us just now finding this out, it was way too late (the warranty ended in 2005.)

So I googled some more and found that the fix  required one only to place shims under the GPU and close the laptop back up. I did it and it worked like a charm.

And this got me to thinking.

Why is it that companies who have a well known problem with a piece of hardware don't just own up to that problem and, instead of worrying about saving so much face, worry more about saving customers? Here's what I propose.

Say a company -- we'll just use Apple since that's who we're talking about -- realizes a piece of hardware has a problem. They also know there are two ways to fix it: The "ship it in and pay some money solution" and the DIY solution. I think what they should do is this. On their Web sites they should say, "You have problem XY with your ABC? Click here to find out what you can do." So you click, and it takes you to two possible solutions. The first, and the one most people would take, would be to send the hardware in to get fixed. The second solution, the open source solution, would say something like: "For those of you DIYers, click here." When you clicked that option, it would take you to an agreement that stated something like, "I know that by attempting this DIY method of solving problem XY, I am voiding my current Warranty on my hardware." You agree to that and it takes you to the DIY solution (such as I used when fixing my G3.)

I know of plenty of people that would rather DIY their problems instead of going through the hassle of sending off a piece of hardware -- especially hardware that's older.

Open source solutions. Now that's customer service!


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website


As an IT teacher, I make a point of taking a PC apart and putting it back together to show the pupils how to do it, even though it's not on their syllabus - too many users seem to think it's a magic box nowadays and showing the pupils that it's a machine with parts that can break and be replaced makes them panic less when things go wrong. On the other hand, as a female IT teacher who used to do tech support, I am so sick of seeing a little knowledge go a long way and do a lot of damage as "blokey blokes" who know less than they think and view hardware repair as just another bit of Home Improvement try to "fix" things.