Welcome to the world created by the environmentalists

Yesterday my Macbook’s charger failed: it’s blowing fuses faster than I can put them in the plug. It is also four years old. As, I hope, the now mute MacBook is still OK I am in a visit to the Apple Store in Manchester this morning en route to the Co-op Practitioners conference to talk about tax governance.

Am I getting old and rough, or is this built in obsolescence? Apple’s repair pricing policy certainly suggests they have no interest in products of this age and I can’t be alone in wanting to keep otherwise functional IT going.

The EU banned the use of lead in solder (for general usage at least). Manufacturers did it globally, might as well.

Solder without lead in it grows tin whiskers. There is no cure, other than to add lead to solder, and tin whiskers will, with an average lifetime to failure of 3 years or so, short out electronic equipment.

Welcome to the world created by the environmentalists.

44 thoughts on “Welcome to the world created by the environmentalists”

  1. Part of the strategy they developed some years ago to achieve mass prohibitions by focussing on chemical elements rather than specific compounds; lead, mercury, chlorine, carbon, etc.

    Lead-free solder is ghastly stuff. Whether this is the cause of these Apple failures, I have no idea. But it’s horrid stuff to work with, even ignoring the whisker problem. But then, that’s why the alloy contained lead in the first place, because it made a better solder.

    It’s rather like the continual banning of pesticides and herbicides which has gardeners tearing their hair out. The products are basically prohibited because they dare to be effective.

  2. Who would ever have guesses that the charger on Murphy’s Macbook would give up the ghost before the Macbook itself.

    I thought when -according to the old ham himself – it started composing words independently of its owner that it was seeking deliverance from the poundings of the professorial fist.

    And lo! The charger rides to the rescue.

  3. Your’e barking — up the wrong tree. A pound to a pinch of snuff this is nothing to do with tin whiskers or those lousy environmentalists. The proper assembly of electronic stuff is complicated – too complicated for economists. Just go buy a new charger and or MacBook, it will be the most useful thing you do today.

  4. Nah. If that was true, I’d have at least one amongst my pile of electronicara futzed.
    Macshite.
    They’re making stuff for a closed market. Macidiots will only buy another Mac. So where’s the incentive to build to last?
    Just looked at chargers on E-bay. Cheap enough. But how many Macidiots will buy one there rather than go to the Appleshop to be stitched up?

  5. Doubt it is tin whiskers I haven’t seen those for a few years. The latest lead free solder isn’t as bad as the old stuff. Early switch mode power supplies used to be less reliable than the larger linear supplies (one that contain big transformers). But these days that seems to have changed so the switch modes are both cheaper , smaller and more reliable.

    Usual cause of failure in a phone charger is that it has had a knock or the cable has been pulled.

  6. “Apple’s repair pricing policy certainly suggests they have no interest in products of this age and I can’t be alone in wanting to keep otherwise functional IT going.”

    No, they don’t have any interest in older products. If you wanted that, you shouldn’t have bought Apple stuff. I’m not getting onto a Mac vs PC argument, that’s the bold truth. It’s not even just that Apple stuff is hard to maintain. It’s also about their customers. I can get a spare PSU for my Thinkpad pretty easy because the people who buy Thinkpads are the sort of people who generally want to keep them going. So there’s other companies making Thinkpad compatible stuff. Apple customers will happily go out and buy a new Macbook. I suspect it’s even what they want. “Sorry, love, need to get a new shiny iThing because this has died”.

  7. “Apple’s repair pricing policy certainly suggests they have no interest in products of this age and I can’t be alone in wanting to keep otherwise functional IT going.”

    Apple are too busy trying to make money by registering a patent on the look of their shops to worry about repairing things. (according to the world’s self-proclaimed leading expert on everything)

  8. Tin whiskers could well be the cause. Politicians and Greens have no sense of scale.
    To prevent tons of lead in the environment via lead pipes and petrol additives, they ban all lead. Even the beneficial traces added to solder.
    “There is no safe level of lead/radiation/salt/sugar/nicotine/alcohol.” etc.

  9. It’s rather like the continual banning of pesticides and herbicides which has gardeners tearing their hair out. The products are basically prohibited because they dare to be effective.

    Amen to that, we’re being forced to go organic. One likely result of which will be that a lot of people new to gardening will give up after their first failed efforts. So fewer gardens, less urban wildlife and a lot of people denied the pleasure of acquiring gardening skills.

  10. The capacitor cancer was a phenomenon around the year 2000, so it’s only old equipment. It happened because somebody stole the electrolyte formula from a manufacturer (I think it was a disgruntled employee thing) but got the formula wrong, resulting in the people using the ersatz electrolyte making zillions of caps that failed in short order. It was a particular problem for the high frequency power caps on PC motherboards which are under a lot of electrical stress. Shouldn’t be happening in modern equipment though.

  11. 4 years isn’t bad for a heavy use charger like a consumer laptop. His MacBook at 4 years old is likely to have an end of life battery.

    It’s not obsolete anyway, he can just buy another charger the tight cunt. It’s a MacBook Air so the MagSafe charger is still available. Or buy a new mac and Apple will take your old one and recycle the aluminium, glass, plastic and battery so you can feel all green.

    In fact Ritchie if you don’t buy a new one you are avoiding all that lovely VAT you could be paying.

  12. @ IT Boy
    My anecdata would tend to disagree. I’ve got stacks of the stuff & it always amazes me how reliable it all is.

    Looking at the Apple power supplies, I’d say thermal shock. It may be awfully stylish to integrate the plug with the transformer but you really don’t want to be rough handling hot electronics circuits. And yanking a plug out of a socket imposes a lot of mechanical stress on something that’s rapidly cooling from operating temperature. Kettle leads & P/S blocks may not be pretty but they’re very forgiving.

  13. Nice background article on Tin Whiskers on Maxim Integrated’s site.

    https://www.maximintegrated.com/en/app-notes/index.mvp/id/5250

    This quote is quite telling about their feeling towards the environementalists actions: “In the end, there is no evidence that lead in electronics presents a health risk or causes environmental harm. However, many of the proposed lead-free solutions do pose environment problems and many are much worse for the environment.”

    As is usual for Greenies, they are stupid, and their actions are usually counterproductive and there are always unintended consequences.

  14. My first laptop was an Acer. It eventually became obsolete just because it was too slow for modern software, but it never had a single hardware fault in years. So I’ve bought more Acers since, and they’ve all been rock-solid.

    Also got a couple of Macbooks, back in the day when they were made of plastic. Useless flimsy shite — and I mean the construction and the internals, not the plastic cases, which were actually a good idea. Lovely OS (back when the Windows was still mere XP), but they were built to break. And the batteries are not only shite, but, after I complained, turned out to be shite by design. They run down so that they hold literally zero charge — which, combined with the Magsafe adapter which is designed to pop out easily, leaves you with a laptop which shuts down utterly and instantly if you shift your weight or someone jogs you or the dog walks past. Compare to an old knackered Windows machine: it’ll have a shite battery that only lasts for a minute or two — but that doesn’t make the machine effectively useless. An Apple engineer (not a “Genius”) assured me that this is a feature, not a bug, caused by the superior design of Apple’s batteries. I responded by never ever buying another of their fucking laptops.

    Now Apple go on and on about their tough aluminium casing, which is idiotic. It’s designed to transfer all shock to the internal components. The casing isn’t supposed to be tough; it should absorb impact. This is why car manufacturers don’t boast about their revolutionary new cast-iron bumpers.

    I used to be a real Mac fan, but Apple have got worse while Microsoft have got better. Have a Surface now, which is a seriously excellent machine. Ain’t competition wonderful?

  15. I read that as Tin Whiskas (having just got rescue kittens). The pouches are much better but I guess must be worse for the environment, do they recycle?

    I’m with S2 on this. My Acer has lasted 8-9 years and has never failed, even with spillages and drops, and that’s with Vista. The battery stopped holding a useable charge a year ago but it works through the power supply quite happily.

    My daughter’s Mac Air died on its first drop. Got that swapped, there was no obvious damage. The power supply socket broke next and getting the thing apart became too difficult for an amateur like me.

    It’s a great machine to look at, and the OS works well, I believe (all my specialist software is PC so never compared) and the audio and graphics are supposed to be better, but my £350 Acer (even then) still does the basic just fine.

  16. Having worked in and around electronic manufacturing for most of the last 20 years, I’d say it’s unlikely to be a simple case of tin whiskers. Early lead-free solder had problems, but to suggest all electronics that use it have a life of only 3-4 years as a result is wrong. Much more likely to be fatigue failure on a cable connector or a passive component that has died.

  17. Doesn’t anyone else find it a bit of a worry for the Out campaign that Worstall can link his obvious ignorance –

    “The EU banned the use of lead in solder (for general usage at least). Manufacturers did it globally, might as well.

    Solder without lead in it grows tin whiskers. There is no cure, other than to add lead to solder, and tin whiskers will, with an average lifetime to failure of 3 years or so, short out electronic equipment.”

    – with an attack on the EU; the calibre of argument coming from Ukip’s favourite fallacy inventor, failed candidate and ineffectual comms man, may leave a lot to be desired?

  18. Arnald – no.

    There will inevitably be instances of ignorance and false attribution on both sides.

    You will note however, how many regular commentators on this site are willing to correct Tim, instead of letting it pass because he’s ‘on our side’.

  19. I am surprised that Murph doesn’t know that Macs become obsolete every 4-5 years, at least according to the 3 people I know who use them. It seems they start running very slowly and eventually grind to a halt. It seems that the views of people in this thread seem to be similar. I wonder if anyone will make such a comment on Murph’s blog.

  20. Ah, a welcome return to form from the Arnster after an unfortunate lurch into sentimentality and gentleness brought on by an association with kittens.

    Ahhhh!

  21. @Arnald “My Acer has lasted 8-9 years and has never failed, even with spillages and drops”

    Too much information.

  22. “They run down so that they hold literally zero charge..”(Apple batteries)
    Why do i suspect that’s actually zero voltage available at the terminals rather than zero charge in the battery?
    Couldn’t possibly be to make “reconditioning” a battery by cycling from full charge to full discharge a few times, & extending its useful life nigh on impossible, could it?

  23. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Funny, my 2007 MacBook is still going strong, and my 2012 Mac mini likewise. I’ve had two PC laptops go south on me in that time, one an HP and the other a Compaq. The MacBook has had one replacement battery in its time.

    All four of my Linux boxes continue to chunter on undaunted, even if they are Frankenmachines for the most part…

  24. It’s rather like the continual banning of pesticides and herbicides which has gardeners tearing their hair out.

    I’ve had a problem with the dreaded Japanese Knotweed. As many will know, it’s almost impossible to eradicate* with modern garden weedkillers. Luckily, a friend has a company which needs to handle all sorts of noxious chemicals, and he has provided me with some simple stuff that has sorted it out. It used to be available over the counter, but the manufacturers can’t justify going through all the hoops needed to certify it. It is still widely used as fire retardant in soft furnishings (and so is certainly safe for humans).

    * I know a farmer who had an infestation and simply turned his pigs out onto the area for 18 months. Sorted it out a treat, but not really practical in my circumstances.

  25. Arnald – why do you hang out here being a troll one minute and all matey the next when you seem to consider us all to be evil ? Just asking. It’s a bit unsettling. I almost yearn for the old days when you were a consistent troll.

  26. MacUser for 20 years. Former evangelist for them, now would happily use ANYTHING else if my chosen profession/software would allow it.

    OT but a friend just gifted me an unwanted 8 year old utterly geriatric Windows PC laptop (to write on).

    I bunged a minimal Linux install on it, and it’s pretty nippy now.

    My first time with Linux. Pretty impressed.

  27. BiCR do you use your Macs heavily? Do you keep them updated? From what my friends say, they slow down with every update. The apps get larger and slower etc etc.

  28. @theo

    I’m more concerned that Arnie has bred a daughter. I am hoping my son grows up gay, lest we end up as in-laws.

    Aside from that though, He’s being very agreeable today.

  29. I love you all and I now admit that Murphy is a complete and utter loon. I am embarrassed I ever admired him. Timothy Worstall is my new hero.

    Gotcha! This is a joke post from Fred 😉

  30. Bloke in Costa Rica

    diogenes: yes, of course. I use them in active development. My MacBook is maxed out at Lion but the iMac is running El Capitan which feels slightly faster than Yosemite.

  31. Did he rescue the kittens or did they rescue him.
    If there isn’t a kids to show about kittens rescuing people there should be, maybe a spin off “wonder pets-the kitten squad”

  32. Does anyone else find it unsettling and creepy when Ritchie responds to an arse licking comment with a smiley?

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