Going to Macworld? We Are

January 23, 2012 Events, Site News — Elizabeth

This weekend, we’ll be in San Francisco at Macworld | iWorld, the annual Apple fan convention held from January 26-28 at the Moscone Center. We’ll be presenting at three events on Thursday and will have an informal meet-up in Oakland on Friday evening. If you’ll be attending, come say hi!

Thursday, Jan. 26, 10-10:45 a.m.
TechTalk: The Doctor is In!
Room 2011

Have a broken iPod lying around? Bring in your broken Apple hardware. Kyle, Luke, and the iFixit team will be joined by folks from the Fixit Clinic to diagnose, troubleshoot, and repair Apple devices. We’ll help diagnose your issues and figure out what needs fixing. We’ll provide a workspace, troubleshooting tools and equipment, expert advice, and even parts for some common repairs. Come pick the brains of our Apple experts, or share your repair victories with like-minded DIYers. We’ll bring a selection of parts to fix many common iPod and iPhone problems on the spot, including failing batteries and cracked screens.

Thursday, Jan. 26, 11-11:45 a.m.
Hardware Repair Showcase
MacWorld.com Stage (in the expo area)

Come learn how to do some cool and easy upgrades on Apple devices! We’ll show you how to replace the back of your iPhone with a transparent rear panel to show off its beautiful insides, how to put a second hard drive in your Mac Mini, and how to replace your laptop’s optical drive with a hard drive.

Thursday, Jan. 26, 5-7:30 p.m.
RapidFire: A Crash Course on Apple Repair—iFixit Shares the Basics of Repairing Your Apple Hardware
Room 2006

RapidFire is a series of five-minute talks, each of which will teach one thing quickly and effectively. In our five-minute RapidFire talk, we’ll show you the best tricks and tips to troubleshoot, get inside, and repair your Apple products. We’ll demonstrate how to handle water damage, bad reception on an iPhone, and ways to get inside devices with the right tools and tricks. Come join us for a quick, visual demonstration to better inform you with the basics of Apple repair knowledge.

If that’s not enough iFixit for your weekend, we also invite you to join us Friday, January 27 at 7 p.m. for shop talk, food, and drinks at the awesome Oakland technology salon Tech Liminal (268 14th St., Oakland, CA 94612). Fixit Clinic people will be there, too. No worries if you don’t have a car—Tech Liminal is pretty close to the 12th St. Oakland City Center BART stop.

Hope to see you there.

Announcing iFixit.org: The People Who Are Fixing the World

January 19, 2012 Activism, Repair Stories, Site News — Kyle

iFixit has been helping people fix their stuff since 2003, with free, easy-to-use, step-by-step repair guides for all sorts of hardware—from electronics to automobiles. We believe in taking control of the devices you own by opening them up and tinkering with their insides. Our vision? A world where everyone has free access to repair manuals for everything. We make it easy, with our guide-creation software, for people to share their repair knowledge with the world.

On this new site, we, the iFixit team, will share the philosophy behind our work, some of the repair stories that we’ve historically been posting on iFixit.com, as well as posts from guests on similar sustainability issues.

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STOP SOPA+PIPA

January 18, 2012 Activism, Site News — Bob

Many of you are already aware that many of your favorite websites have gone dark or posted censorship warnings today. Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, Imgur, and Craigslist, among a slew of others, are protesting U.S. legislation that would significantly impact the freedom of the internet.

iFixit stands with them.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are pieces of legislation currently under consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, respectively. Both bills lack the correct technical language to do what they intend (you know, actually stop piracy), and instead are vulnerable to overly broad interpretation that could seriously impact the innovation, freedom, and secure operation of the internet.

There are plenty of places where you can get an in-depth analysis of what’s wrong with the bills, so we’ll keep it simple. These are the ways in which SOPA and PIPA would directly impact our operations here at iFixit:

  • Blocking our free, open-source content.
    For censorship purposes, SOPA/PIPA define sites as “domestic” or “foreign” based on their domain name, not their actual base of operations. While iFixit.com is a U.S. domestic domain name and company, we use a Content Distribution Network (CDN) to serve you images and other page content when you view a guide. The CDN finds the geographically-closest server to you so the page loads fast. Based on the loose definition in the bill, some of your guide may be “domestic” and some of it may be “foreign.” Guide images and other content could be inadvertently blocked by blanket domain blacklisting.
  • Teaching repair could be rendered illegal.
    According to the language in the bill, facilitation of criminal violations are enough to get you in trouble. This means that helping users with troublesome DVD region restrictions or tearing down an FBI tracking device could get us in legal hot water. Worse yet, we’ve opened up our site for users to submit and edit their own guides, and we’ve built a community of people who love to help others fix things. All of the work, content, and contributions would be put in jeopardy if the two bills are enacted. Since teaching the world how to do stuff is kind of our bag, this would significantly stifle our mission of teaching the world how to fix everything.

In fact, it’s questionable that iFixit could have even succeeded in a post-SOPA world. We started in a dorm room in 2003 by writing repair manuals for electronics made by a certain big Silicon Valley company because they weren’t publicly available. If we’d chosen a hip “Web 2.0″ domain like iFix.it (FYI, not us!), our site would be considered foreign even though it hails from the U.S. If a certain big Silicon Valley company didn’t like what we were up to, they could have filed a complaint and had our website blocked in the U.S. Game over.

Please take the time to call or write your representatives and let them know how you feel about SOPA and PIPA. It’s difficult for them to make the best decisions for us if they don’t know how we feel, so take a step back from the keyboard (Reddit’s down anyway), pick up your phone, and SPEAK UP!

Correlated Magnets

January 16, 2012 Hardware, Site News — Phillip

You probably didn’t know that we here at iFixit have a knack for magic. Today, you’ll bear witness to that fact. We’re going to share one of our greatest feats of magical genius with you. Drum roll, please… Behold! Levitating magnets! (ooh, ahh.)

Hovering magnets!

What, not impressed? What’s not impressive about magnets repelling each other? Well, if that doesn’t impress you, check this out.

Hovering magnet, upside down?

Ta-Da! That’s right: those magnets are hovering, yet not completely separating; now that’s impressive! But how’s this possible, you may ask? Shouldn’t the magnets either stick together or completely repel each other?

This isn’t an optical illusion (or Photoshop magic), but science! The pictured magnets are not the ordinary kind you’d get at the local hardware store, but correlated magnets developed by Correlated Magnetics Research, or CMR. But before we delve into the details surrounding correlated magnets, let’s revisit how good old-fashioned magnets work.

A quick lesson in magnet basics: there are two sides to a typical magnet, a “North” pole and a “South” pole. Putting opposite poles together will cause an attraction force (akin to Paula Abdul and a tomcat). Putting same poles together will cause a repulsive force. And proximity affects the strength of these forces—the general rule is that the closer the magnets are, the stronger the forces. These forces can sometimes be so strong that it is impossible for the average person to cause contact between same poles, or separate opposite poles. And the vast majority of magnets out there have one North and one South pole.

A correlated magnet has the unique characteristic of having alternating North and South poles on one side, resulting in simultaneous attract and repel forces. The poles can be built such that we achieve our “magic” above, where there is enough repulsive force to prevent contact—but still enough attractive force to keep the magnets close. Check out how different they can appear from standard magnets when viewed on magnetic viewing film:

Standard (left) and correlated (right) magnets. The light green lines are pole boundaries.

Levitation isn’t the only thing these magnets are good for, however. CMR provided us with several different kinds of correlated magnets, each with unique pole designs that gives them varying attractive and repulsive properties. For example, some magnets were designed so that when two red dots on the handles were aligned, a great amount of force was required to separate them. But when we twisted the magnets and misaligned the red dots, the magnets were much easier to separate.

The attraction force between the two magnets is several magnitudes higher when the red dots are lined up.

The attraction force between the two magnets is several magnitudes higher when the red dots are lined up.

Different pole designs result in different magnet interactions.

So these magnets can make a fun “magic” trick for the kids and would probably make a decent conversation piece in the living room of physicists and engineers, but what are their application in the real world?

Take a home deadbolt lock as an example. When you turn the lock with your fingers, it pushes a rod into the door frame to prevent the door from opening. But you wouldn’t need a deadbolt lock with correlated magnets. They could be used so that two disks would hold the door in the “open” position with a 5 lb force. But when the magnet on the door was turned 90 degrees, it would align more attractive poles and fewer repulsive poles, resulting in a 500 lb force “locked” door.

Too humdrum for you? Instead, how about using them in levitating vehicles? A properly programmed correlated magnet can provide enough repulsive force to keep the heaviest vehicles afloat, but simultaneously provide an attractive force that could mitigate undesired takeoffs. This magnet technology is also under research for use with NASA telescopes, and even the medical world is looking into using correlated magnets in joint replacements.

While not in mass production yet, this cool technology has the power to significantly affect how we construct mechanical systems. We’re excited to see how correlated magnets will be implemented in future products!