[Tinkerphones] ZeroPhone site offline

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Sun Jan 2 01:46:14 CET 2022


On Saturday, 1 January 2022 18:52:40 CET H. Nikolaus Schaller wrote:
> A happy new year to everybody!

And the same from me, too!

> Hi Paul,
> as usually a very insightful contribution and well written so that it is
> difficult to add something...

I thought I was ranting, really. Maybe I should aim to be more constructive, 
and I did notice that my message at the start of last year did have a 
constructive section.

> There is one more aspect to add which I have learned this morning. E.g. in
> Germany we now have changes for the laws about customer's rights which is
> generally good. But not for a volunteer or small project wanting to offer
> something.
> 
> Warranty rules make it impossible to compete with big scale companies who
> can have lawyers to fiddle out contracts etc.
> 
> To give an example: as a vendor you must now guarantee 1 year that all
> offered features are as they were offered. And there are exceptions which
> last 5 years. And, you have to offer software upgrades for 2 years.

And I bet that established companies are great at cheating their customers out 
of those rights. If you find that they are not complying, you probably have to 
dial a number, wait for hours and pay premium call rates, eventually get some 
obscure paperwork done, send it off, hear nothing. Customers need to have 
plenty of time and money to pursue such matters, which is why I have a lot of 
respect for those who have pursued computer manufacturers over things like 
Free Software licence violations and Microsoft product bundling.

> Now you may ask: yes we are doing that since 10 years for the GTA04. But:
> it is not clear what you have to offer to fulfill these rules.

I think that some of this kind of legislation is designed to create 
opportunities for certain kinds of businesses, such as those seeking to insure 
companies against certain legal risks, and those offering compliance services 
or advice. It is like the GDPR which produced an entire industry around 
compliance with that particular regulation, founded on uncertainty and worry 
about its scope and what the necessary practices should be.

Although I think the GDPR seeks to do the right thing, I think that compliance 
should be a virtually formulaic matter and that regulations should be 
prescriptive and offer practical suggestions and measures so that 
organisations may readily become compliant without having to hire consultants 
or embark on some kind of legal review.

> In addition to warranty rules, there are rules for electronic, paper,
> plastics and battery recycling. Doing this correctly means paying fees to a
> lot of organizations before a single unit was sold. And if the venture
> happens to be organized as a Ltd. or GmbH there are also more and more
> rules which just cost money. Next is that tax and export rules have been
> changed making small companies less efficient again.

I am reminded of the remarks about recycling regulations on this page:

https://www.pcengines.ch/recycle.htm

> So this limits such projects economically to sell to a small group of open
> and freedom enthusiasts who would not come with contract laws and ask for
> warranty or return.

I follow some people who develop hardware for older computers, but they are 
mostly doing this as a hobby and are selling to people who presumably already 
have their 1980s computer in pieces on their worktop. I guess that if they 
took it more seriously and, perhaps, sold complete products that brought with 
them some expectations from the purchaser, they would then need to offer 
formal warranties and support. A lot of them wouldn't want to do that, I 
imagine, but a fair few doing this kind of thing probably sell things on eBay 
with all the usual ambiguity that entails.

> All others are a too high risk to be served at all. Unless you can compete
> and stay on the same high level as the big companies.
> 
> As said as a consumer I am happy about these new rules, but as a small
> vendor I have no idea how to fulfill them economically. It would need a
> bigger organization. But organization is against the ideas of a crowd or
> community.
> 
> So I think society has generally changed into a direction where people can
> no longer simply volunteer... There must be a balance of spending time and
> what they get for.

I think there needs to be a pathway to providing something to a large number 
of people, even if one starts out with a much smaller audience. Of course, 
companies are supposed to be the vehicles for this kind of endeavour, but as 
you note, there are overheads incurred by companies that might change the 
viability estimations involved for those at the smaller end of the scale.

As has been said before, hardware raises problems that software generally 
avoids. But I think the world might be changing, and the situation around 
software might also become more troublesome for those wanting to develop 
software and get paid for it in an independent capacity. However, more 
regulations around software quality will be counterproductive if no-one is 
actually willing to pay for them somehow, particularly if various commercial 
interests just find ways of working around them (and still delivering poor 
quality software developed by people on low salaries), anyway.

Well, maybe I can be constructive another day...

Paul




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