So I am a big believer in repairing things. I grew up in a house hold of fixing stuff. “If it’s broken anyway, might as well try fix it.”

Now I’m a parent myself with many, many, many kids (well five). Things get broken quite a bit.

Recently they managed to break both vacuum cleaners. Both the Henry and the cordless Bush. Stopping them doing their evening vacuum job! (Yes, questionable right?)

The Bush’s carpet head had been broken beyond repair of the duct tape already holding it together. My wife found a replacement for a related model on EBay. With a quick cut of the pole’s connector, it fits! Next was the Henry, turns out they had burnt out the motor after not mentioning until too late “it was making a funny sound”. The full bag was packed impressively hard, with little girl knickers the final bung. I ordered a well reviewed replacement Henry motor from Amazon. Few days later, Henry is up and running too.

This is way cheaper than new vacuum cleaners and way better for the environment.

Lots of kids means lots of washing. The washing machine was slowly going into SUD more and more until it was no longer possible to get a wash through. I pulled it out, looked over the pumps and drain pipe, it all looked fine. Now it so happens that the Samsung Ecobubble has a really cool hidden test mode where you can run stuff individually. Turns out that though the pump was humming, the impeller wasn’t always actually turning. I took the pump out and it was a single glued shut unit. But I could get a generic replacement for £15. It arrived in a day and worked fine in test mode. Only the wash still wouldn’t finish, though this time there were just points it stopped. I thought it was maybe something up with the pressure switch from me having it on its side and ripping the piping all out to check it. Then I read a similar issue being solved by the hidden calibration function. That was it! Back in service. Previously I had to replace the door seal after a bra under wire tore through it.

All sounds great right? Well none of these had all normal screws and details of exact models were hard to find. There are community groups online of tinkerers fixing stuff but it’s so hit and miss. Manufacturers actively try and prevent fixing with things like crazy screws and just gluing, plus a lack of information. Not documenting things like Samsung’s really cool washing machine’s hidden menus.

You learn so much at least by trying to fix things.

One of the things that got me into open source was being able to fix software. The lightbulb moment for me was back in like 2005, there was a video of an F1 race my wife wanted to watch, but the PVR crashed at one point every time. I copied the video off and it crashed every video player, I tried on the computer too. Even VLC, my go to at the time, crashed. So I found a fix broken MPEGs tool, but it crashed too! But it was a Java open thing and gave me a stack and a bounding error. So I just changed the function to deal with that and return 0 for the look up. And it ran through! Then everything could play the video. My wife could watch her F1 recording. I got the maintainer’s email and threw over the problem and my patch. No idea what happened after that, but I was happy and realized open software was the way to go. I have done these “drive-by patches” many times over the years on many projects.

In the future I want, hardware and software that is fixable. That means it’s best open. At Devtank this is the future we push for.