Pluralistic: 08 Mar 2020

Today's links

  1. EU airspace is full of empty planes: Flight slots are use-em-or-lose-em.
  2. European Right to Repair for phones is finally on the horizon: Will the EU finally defy Apple?
  3. Patagonia offers tutorials and supplies to fix your clothes: Companies that guarantee their products for life have different incentives.
  4. This day in history: 2005, 2015, 2019
  5. Colophon: Recent publications, current writing projects, upcoming appearances, current reading

EU airspace is full of empty planes (permalink)

In the EU, airlines that do not fly at least 80% of scheduled flights risk losing their spots to competitors, so Europe's skies are filled with largely empty "ghost planes," burning tons of fuel for no reason.

Covid-19 has crashed aviation demand, but not flights themselves. Miraculously, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps – an otherwise useless idiot – has led on this, asking British aviation regulators to relax the 80/20 rule.

European Right to Repair for phones is finally on the horizon (permalink)

The EU has led the world on Right to Repair, with extensive regulation mandating both easy-to-repair designs and manufacturer cooperation with the independent repair sector. But there's been one glaring omission in EU rules: smartphones. Though the official reasoning for not mandating Right to Repair for phones – which are universal and a major source of e-waste – is that the sector is too fast-moving to regulate, it's far more likely that the EU shied away because were scared to pick a fight with Apple.

Apple, after all, is the most repair-hostile manufacturer in the world. It's official reasoning on this is laughably terrible and transparent.

Especially when considered in light of its investor disclosures, which make it clear that the company views the tendency of customers to fix and keep their phones (rather than buying new ones) as the major threat to its profitability.

Apple is a one-company environmental apocalypse, with the industry's worst practices for old/broken electronics. Others fix systems, re-use parts, and keep parts available. Apple literally orders its partners to shred it all and turn it into landfill.

This has the major advantage (for Apple) of curtailing the used equipment market, which means that potential customers are herded into buying new. It also means that those new devices have a hidden drain on their value, because they have no aftermarket commercial life. It's no wonder, then, that Apple led the industry coalitions that killed all twenty state-level Right to Repair bills in 2018.

Which brings us to today, as the EU is contemplating a new set of Right to Repair rules, including rules for electronics, including – possibly – phones. The new rules will be published this week, and Apple has lobbied heavily against this outcome.

If the new ecodesign directive covers mobile phones, the Commission will finally be addressing one of the great e-waste sources worldwide. If they do, though, expect Apple to squawk, as they did when the EU mandated a single charger for smartphones, which Apple publicly freaked out about as though it was an extinction-level event.

Patagonia offers tutorials and supplies to fix your clothes (permalink)

People buy Patagonia not just because it's long-wearing, but because it comes with what amounts to a lifetime guarantee.

Companies that offer lifetime guarantees want their customers to be able to effect their own repairs and maintenance – unlike companies whose profits depend on you throwing away and replacing your purchases every 18 months.

So it's delightful (but not surprising) that Patagonia have partnered with iFixit to produce detailed repair and maintenance documentation for its products.

The official Product Repair Guide fits right in with the company's longstanding ethic and messaging (after all, these are the people who ran an anti-consumerism campaign called "Do Not Buy This Jacket!").

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Waxy and his mom trying to save journalism program in SoCal's Oxnard College

#5yrsago Stomach-churning details of CIA waterboarding crimes

#5yrsago Imaginary ISIS attack on Louisiana and the twitterbots who loved it

#1yrago The media company paid by the EU Parliament to make a video promoting a copyright law it stood to make millions from once sued a photographer for complaining that they'd ripped him off

#1yrago Thanks to audiobooks, reading's popularity still strong in America

#1yrago Millions of Americans have left Facebook, led by young people aged 12-34

#1yrago A machine-learning system that guesses whether text was produced by machine-learning systems

#1yrago Towards a general theory of "adversarial examples," the bizarre, hallucinatory motes in machine learning's all-seeing eye

#1yrago Chelsea Manning has been jailed for refusing to testify at a grand jury about her whistleblowing

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Slashdot ( and Naked Capitalism (

Hugo nominators! My story "Unauthorized Bread" is eligible in the Novella category and you can read it free on Ars Technica:

Upcoming appearances:

Currently writing: I'm rewriting a short story, "The Canadian Miracle," for MIT Tech Review. It's a story set in the world of my next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. I'm also working on "Baby Twitter," a piece of design fiction also set in The Lost Cause's prehistory, for a British think-tank. I'm getting geared up to start work on the novel afterwards.

Currently reading: Just started Lauren Beukes's forthcoming Afterland: it's Y the Last Man plus plus, and two chapters in, it's amazeballs. Last month, I finished Andrea Bernstein's "American Oligarchs"; it's a magnificent history of the Kushner and Trump families, showing how they cheated, stole and lied their way into power. I'm getting really into Anna Weiner's memoir about tech, "Uncanny Valley." I just loaded Matt Stoller's "Goliath" onto my underwater MP3 player and I'm listening to it as I swim laps.

Latest podcast: Disasters Don’t Have to End in Dystopias:

Upcoming books: "Poesy the Monster Slayer" (Jul 2020), a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Pre-order here:

(we're having a launch for it in Burbank on July 11 at Dark Delicacies and you can get me AND Poesy to sign it and Dark Del will ship it to the monster kids in your life in time for the release date).

"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a very special, s00per s33kr1t intro.

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