Planned obsolescence. This is the reason why we can’t have good things. maybe good things. maybe good things. Instead of making high quality products, manufacturers design them to fall apart or die.

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This practice seems especially arbitrary in the software industry. A new version of paid software is a chance to recharge you again. Updates may be free, or they may be an incentive to pay for a license. The software requires constant support, leaving you out of luck when the developer loses interest.

It’s not just a desktop issue. Unlike a 5-year-old PC, a 5-year-old smartphone struggles to run any modern applications. Smart watches, smart TVs and smart refrigerators are trying to help us with the idea of ​​regularly replacing products that used to have a lifespan of over ten years.

We don’t have to buy this. There are ways to enjoy the benefits of technology without falling into this wasteful cycle. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to use Linux and free software.

What for?

Linux is an open source operating system that is free to use and redistribute. No commercial entity owns the Linux code. Many companies use and develop software for Linux, but most of what they produce is free for any user. Take Red Hat, for example.

Plus Linux adapts. You can place it anywhere from laptops and smartphones to home appliances, robots and medical equipment.

People can use Linux to create closed experiences like what you see on the new Android phone. That’s why you want to check not only that you’re running Linux (or another open source operating system), but also free software. Developers and companies that adhere to the principle free and free code, how generally want to give you the ability to use the software the way you want and for as long as you can, rather than treating yourself as a customer.

If you consider yourself a customer, your computer will always be a reason to spend money. To protect your budget and use software you can trust, we are changing that mentality.


Making the transition may require a change in approach to the concept of computing. Unfortunately, most marketing and sales spaces will push you into commercial decisions that will likely change or disappear in a few years. Many of these options will also try to block you by forcing you to pay in order to keep access. To avoid this trap, you need to know what you want, do your research, and avoid most staples.

There is a free and open source way to do many of the things we see touted in today’s onslaught of tech gadgets and smart products. Let’s go through them one category at a time.

1. Computers

When was the last time you replaced your computer? Was it due to a genuine hardware failure, or was the software starting to slow down and crash?

After a year or two, Windows doesn’t run as smoothly as when you first turned on your new computer. No matter how many new versions came out, this hasn’t changed. This is because Microsoft has little incentive to fix the problem. The company wants you to buy newer versions of the operating system. Microsoft also works with hardware manufacturers who would rather you buy a new PC than refurbish the one you have.

Linux does not have this conflict of interest. Most distributions don’t make money from downloads. There aren’t many relationships between Linux developers and consumer hardware manufacturers either.

Instead, Linux developers focus on creating software that helps them complete tasks. These programs may not be the most stable or fully functional, but you can use them for as long as you wish.

Sometimes a program disappears when no one wants to continue development or maintenance. Even then, the software continues to run until it becomes incompatible with the rest of your operating system. This is something you can plan around.

Free software changes the way you think about computing. Instead of a laptop being a simple device, you can tell how it works. You choose the operating system and choose which applications to use. You control when you upgrade and when you switch from one piece of software to another.

As a result, you can use your existing machines for much longer.

Most computers come with Windows or Mac OS X, and on newer computers, replacing them can be a challenge. Try buying from a company that supports Linux, such as System76, ZaReason, or Think Penguin. They will sell you a Linux computer and let you change the software the way you want.

2. Smartphones and tablets

The mobile industry is more volatile than the desktop market. Apple and Google are doing the bank and other companies want some of the action. New devices continue to flood the market.

Most of these devices will not receive updates for two years. Many will never see a single major update. Manufacturers and carriers are looking at major software changes as a reason to buy a new phone. And since even a perfect device won’t last more than a few years due to rapid technological change, companies see no reason not to speed up the process.

This is wasteful behavior. Replacing mobile devices requires a constant supply of non-renewable resources and money. Phone storage is better for the environment and our budgets.

Breaking free is harder on phones than on PC, but it can be done.

Android is the most popular mobile OS and it’s open source. The communities have used the code to create alternative firmware to replace what’s on your phone. CyanogenMod is the most popular option. Installing this custom ROM will give you more control over the software and can extend the life of your phone or tablet for years.

Sprint launched the Motorola Photon Q in 2012 with Ice Cream Sandwich. Official updates ceased with the first version of Jelly Bean, Android 4.1, in 2013. CyanogenMod users launch Marshmallow on Photon Q three years later.

Depending on where you live, you have a choice of other Linux based phone platforms. Ubuntu Phones Enter the Market Also take a look at Jolla’s Sailfish OS.

Making a smartphone last depends on more than just hardware and OS. Modern phones come with apps that don’t work without internet access. Say goodbye to advanced search, GPS, and music streaming services as soon as companies decide to disable these features.

Open source applications tend to be different. I use free software on my android phone, ditching Google and getting apps from F-Droid. My GPS app allows me to download maps. My music player manages files stored locally.

I may not be able to do the best I can with access to the Play Store, but I have a phone that can continue to do what it does a few years later — without getting another update and no matter who decides to close their servers.

3. Wearable

There is a certain comfort that comes from quantifying aspects of our lives. Do you want to know how healthy you are? Get wearable! With it, you can track your heart rate, count your steps, track sleep, record calories, map your runs and measure your weight. All you need is a bracelet something similar to Jawbone or Apple Watch

Except that these gadgets lose their usefulness when their companies shut down or leave. Some of these platforms integrate with others, but you have no control over the data you store on the provider’s servers. Worse, some of these products are designed to be impossible to upgrade.

The market doesn’t exactly burst with open options. Startups and more established companies are looking to lock you down and sell you hardware regularly. They can then take your money and take it to the bank.

The use of open source approaches for wearables, so to speak, leads to dirty hands. With the Raspberry Pi, you can create your own smartwatch or alternative to Google Glass The Adafruit Flora Developer Kit contains a chip that can be sewn into clothing and bags. Let’s talk about wearables!

4. Smart home

Smart home gadgets are the last big thing. Take any household feature or appliance, connect it to Wi-Fi, and boom, that’s smart! Many people see the appeal of automating every aspect of the home. You can turn off the lights, activate the alarm system and turn on the security cameras with one app on your phone.

Smart home products do not agree on a single unified standard. But unlike wearables, there is more effort. ZigBee and Z-Wave are two competing standards with enterprise support.

Not every product supports the existing standard. Some companies only want to tie you to their product line.

There are several security risks to consider when investing in a smart home. Some of them are directly related to trusting your privacy to a closed source remote service.

OpenHAB is a mature open source home automation platform. It’s far from consumer friendly, but you’re not a consumer, right? This is where you provide your own hardware, be it a Raspberry Pi or Arduino and get to work.

Simpler products are in the works. Mycroft is an open source Amazon Echo alternative currently available for pre-order. It’s amazing and promises to let you control aspects of your home using just your voice.

What’s next?

Planned obsolescence can be good for business, but it’s bad in many other areas. They wreak havoc on our personal finances as we spend thousands of dollars repurchasing hardware that, apart from unsupported software, can last for years. We spend resources creating devices that will only be used a year or two before they end up in a landfill. And we are dealing with the psychological impact of constantly craving the next big thing and forgetting how to respect and appreciate what we have.

Breaking this cycle is not easy. Billions of dollars make us want more, spend more and spend more. You will have to actively resist advertising. Some people might think you’re weird.

But you won’t be alone. Products like Fairphone exist because enough people care about turning the tech industry into something more sustainable. A growing movement is taking shape and that means you will have more room to move forward.

What other ways can open source software free you from planned obsolescence? Have you kept old computers running longer using Linux? I’d love to hear your experience, so please share your thoughts below.

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