Avoiding the Trip to the Gadget Graveyard

Obsolete Gadgets A healthy support market has cropped up as company's stop supporting older gadgets | Agencies

What if planned obsolescence does not fit into your personal plans? Because of pragmatism, frugality, nostalgia or all of the above, some people just do not—or cannot—upgrade the latest version of a device or program, even when the manufacturer stops supporting its old products to focus on developing sleek new hardware and state-of-the-art software to sell.

For those who fall into that group, there’s good news. There are mechanics who can keep your gear going. Solutions include experts who will pay a visit to fix devices like iPods, as well as mail-in repair services. Plus there are a host of how-to sites so you can solve problems yourself.

Fans of the iPod Classic may feel particularly concerned by the obsolescence trend, especially since Apple quietly discontinued the model last year. If Genius Bar service at a nearby Apple Store is not an option, the company’s support site still offers battery replacement and repairs, but said services for “vintage and obsolete iPod products” were limited to California customers—leaving owners elsewhere to find their own way through an inevitable future of dying batteries, failing hard drives and other symptoms of electronic old age.

Thankfully, there’s a healthy support market, as well as repair professionals who have accumulated years of experience since the original chunky white iPod came out in 2001. Better yet, out-of-warranty enhancements (like swapping in flash drives for hard drives) can bolster the capabilities of the ancient iPods, and it is not hard to find someone to do the job.

“I get a lot of requests for the bigger battery modification, which allows for 100 hours of play time on the iPod,” said Demetrios Leontaris, the founder and owner of NYC iPod Doctor, a Manhattan-based computer and electronics repair service he started in 2004. “Occasionally, I get someone who wants a 240-gigabyte drive instead of the 160-gigabyte drive.”

He charges about $190 for a 128-gigabyte flash storage upgrade and $110 for the bigger battery (or just $90 for the battery if that is purchased with the flash upgrade), and handles other ailments plaguing Apple devices, like smashed screens. Although Leontaris works from home with his mail-in repair service, he has a page of glowing Yelp reviews praising his on-the-spot house calls for customers primarily in Manhattan and Brooklyn, where he arrives with a supply of iPhone and iPod parts.

Although iPod repairs had dipped for a while, he has had a “300 percent increase” recently from customers who want to keep their older models working, he said. One recent customer even sought the revival of a first-generation 5-gigabyte iPod. “His wife has passed away and it was sentimental to him, so we got the player back up and running,” Leontaris said.

For people living in areas where technicians do not roam and repair shops are scarce, consider mail-in services like RapidRepair.com, uBreakiFix.com and iResQ.com. All three handle iPad and iPhone repairs.

Like iPod Classic owners, those still declining to upgrade from Windows XP are also living in a left-behind world, as Microsoft finally retired its support for the system in April 2014. Granted, if the computer is just used offline, it should be fine as long as it has no active Internet connection. People who still need to venture online should take extra safety precautions.

“For users that plan to continue to use XP, consider utilising a software or hardware application to 'sandbox’ your Internet activities from the rest of your computer,” said Andrea Eldridge, the chief executive and co-founder of Nerds on Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair company. She suggested a $35 program called Sandboxie, which puts the Web browser in an isolated environment so that any malicious code from the Internet can’t gain access to the operating system.

“When you’re done cruising the Net, empty the sandbox and it will remove anything that you installed or downloaded during your Web surfing session,” Eldridge said. As an alternative, she also suggested the iCloak Stik, a $50 bootable USB dongle running a secure version of the Linux operating system to use for safe surfing instead of the PC’s browser.

Microsoft may have moved on, but several antivirus programs still support Windows XP machines in need of general protection. Of the available offerings, Eldridge liked Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2015, which promises to continue support for XP until 2018, as long as the computer has Windows XP Service Pack 3 installed.

Hardware repair and upgrades for memory and hard-drive space are easy enough to get from places like Best Buy’s Geek Squad, or even by mail with sites like MailYourPC.com. If a professional repair service is beyond the budget, the do-it-yourself path remains. How-to sites like FixYa.com and iFixit.com or even YouTube videos posted by cheerful enthusiasts can light the way.

The community-driven iFixit.com has free illustrated instructions for repairing MP3 players, computers, cameras and other items. Guides for fixing game consoles also abound, like the one for the infamous “Red Ring of Death” overheating issue with Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

“On the 'Red Ring of Death,' we’ve had 3,000 views in the past month,” said Kyle Wiens, the site’s founder and chief executive. “That means there’s 3,000 people interested in fixing their Xboxes.” To aid the repair work, iFixit sells the parts and tools needed to complete many of its repair guides; the complete Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death Fix Kit is about $30.

For beleaguered owners of aging iPods, iFixit has a whole section of the site devoted to the iconic media players. Wiens noted that the site’s iPod Classic repair guide is popular, even though getting under the hood can take some effort. “You have to basically use a paint scraper to open the case,” he said. “The Classic is hard to take apart, but the people who are fixing them are doing it in a rather determined fashion.” No matter your reason for keeping your old gear around, there’s another benefit: one less chunk in the landfill of unrecyclable materials. Just tell the naysayers your device is not old - it’s retro.

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Topics : #gadgets | #review | #Apple

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