Ethical capitalism - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Ethical capitalism
Monday, 04 April 2016 at 12:22 pm
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Lots of people don't believe in ethical capitalism, for various reasons. Maybe they think capitalism is inherently unethical as a system and if you participate in it at all you're tainted. Or they think that consumer choices don't really have important ethical consequences. Or they think it's unfair that the extra costs of ethical business practices should be borne by the consumer, meaning that buying ethically becomes a kind of luxury. Or they are Effective Altruists who hold that that the good that can be done by buying the cheapest possible goods and spending the difference on efficient charities that cure childhood illnesses in the developing world outweighs the harm done by increasing the profit of companies that exploit their workers. And all of those criticisms have some merit, but I'm still an idealistic capitalist at heart, so I still worry about these issues.

One place where it's particularly acute is electronics. I am not the kind of ascetic who could live without a smartphone, and I worry a lot about the resource and labour implications of buying the things frequently. But right now my trusty three-year-old Galaxy Note II is on its way to becoming unusable as its battery won't hold charge any more. I am reluctant to replace it with a new shiny phone, though it may come down to that because as mentioned I am not prepared to live without my mobile phone, and if I can only use it when plugged in then I basically don't have a mobile phone any more.

So, I would like some advice:
I'm currently managing by just keeping the phone attached to an external battery, and in some ways I'm minded to just carry on like that, but it's more than doubling the size and weight I'm carrying around, so probably not a long-term solution.

My preferred option in many ways is to replace the battery. I really hate the idea of throwing away an otherwise perfectly good phone because of battery problems, and repairing fits very much better with my values than replacing. Does anyone know if it's possible, or at least how to find out whether it's possible, to replace the battery in a Samsung Galaxy Note II? If it is possible, there is the question of cost; it might be more ethical, but it's not very sensible, to spend the entire cost of a new phone in replacing the battery in a phone that has been far superseded by Moore's Law, and is getting kind of elderly anyway.

If replacing the battery is unfeasible or ridiculously expensive, my next favourite choice is probably to buy a second-hand phone. That way I'm at least not directly contributing to destroying the environment by mining for rare metals, nor to exploitation if not outright enslavement of people extracting the materials, manufacturing the phones, and disposing of the toxic waste when a perfectly functional phone is thrown away because it's not the latest model any more. I mean, it's coming up to Passover, not contributing to slavery is particularly prominent in my mind. The problem is that in a context of built-in obsolescence, a second-hand phone may be pretty much on its last legs even if it's only a year old. And I'm always nervous that many second-hand outlets are really fencing operations; I don't especially want to buy a stolen phone, that's not really more ethical than buying a new one. Perhaps a good compromise would be to buy a manufacture refurbished phone or ex-display one from a reputable company, rather than a rando on eBay or a pawn shop. Does anyone know any trustworthy retail outlets for refurbed phones?

Or I could try buying a phone marketed as ethical, such as the Fairphone. I really like the idea that they're concerned about sourcing their materials ethically as well as having decent labour conditions for the actual manufacture of the phone, though I have heard mixed things about whether they really live up to their hype. But even if they're not substantially more ethical than their rivals in those respects, they do have one clear ethical advantage which is that the phone is designed to be able to be repaired and parts replaced / upgraded in a modular way. That really helps to offset the problem of phones which die after only a couple of years of use. The major downside of the Fairphone is that €500 is quite a bit more than I'm happy to spend on a phone, especially one with a fairly limited feature set. Also, the fact that the phone can in theory be repaired does not mean that I personally will have the skills to repair it, nor that anyone will be prepared to service the phone for me for a reasonable price. And I have heard rumours that Fairphones tend to be unreliable; I would in some ways rather have a phone that just doesn't break, than one that is in theory easy to repair, especially if that 'easy' doesn't translate to 'possible' in the real world.

The other phone that people have recommended as ethical is the OnePlus aka Wileyfox Swift. That's certainly a much better balance of price and features than the Fairphone. But the main reason that it's ethical is that it uses Free software, namely versions of Android without all Google's proprietary bumf and privacy breaking stuff. I am broadly in favour of Free software and broadly negative towards Google, but it's not an ethical principle I'm passionate about. And I'm kind of heavily entangled in the Google Android™ ecosystem for my apps. Now, many of them I could live without; a high proportion are just games, but I do enjoy having pocket games for long journeys, and my partners' children enjoy playing games on my phone as a way of interacting with me that's fairly undemanding for both of us. So, can anyone tell me, how easy is it to use a range of apps on CyanogenMod and similar Free OSes?

I have nebulous thoughts about updating to latest versions of Android or Free equivalent. (I'm probably not going to jump ship to iOS or Windows at this point; there aren't any real ethical upsides to balance the inconvenience of changing.) Like, on the one hand I don't like it when the software I'm used to keeps updating all the time, and I especially don't like the way that contributes to built-in obsolescence as later versions of the OS are designed for newer phones, forcing me to upgrade the hardware when I otherwise wouldn't bother. But obviously there are security considerations against running old, unsupported versions of an OS, so it's not clear cut. It's probably a bad idea to buy a new phone that doesn't have the latest Android, and possibly a bad idea to buy one that doesn't receive updates as they are released.

OK, so however I decide to acquire it I need an actual handset. I'm grumpy about this because I really like my current phone, but it doesn't seem like the Galaxy Note range is really being marketed any more, and I'm in two minds about deliberately buying a slightly less out-of-date phone in preference to a new one. Anyway, I'd be glad of advice on choosing a model even if you don't have much opinion about the ethics.

Desiderata:

I don't care about:

Options in consideration:


Whereaboooots: Keele University, Staffordshire, UK
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ghoti: default
From:ghoti
Date:April 4th, 2016 11:55 am (UTC)
32 minutes after journal entry, 11:55 am (ghoti's time)
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You can get a battery replaced in a phone really easily by going to Timpsons.



YOu can get special stylii for use on non-stylus phones, I have one of each, you should give it a go?

Weird version of Android sets off alarm bells for me. It's probably not GPL compliant and probably won't get security upgrades. You might not care about intellectual property rights, but you probably do care a little bit about security? IDK.
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livredor: geekette
From:livredor
Date:April 4th, 2016 12:07 pm (UTC)
44 minutes after journal entry, 12:07 pm (livredor's time)
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Ooh, I'm really glad I asked, because I was planning to try Timpsons as a first port of call but nobody else I mentioned this to knew whether they can replace batteries. And if I can have a stylus I'll miss my current phone much less if I do need to replace it, so again, you have really useful knowledge, thank you!

The thing about the Honor 5X is that the marketing is really ambiguous whether it actually has a non-official version of Android, or if it just has vanilla Android with its own proprietary UI pasted on top. Which lots of mainstream phones have. I do rather care about breaking the GPL, if it were obvious to me that's what the phone was doing I'd rule it out. I think the issue with not getting upgrades is that AFAICT almost no phones really do apart from the Google Nexus and in some ways I'd rather go to something fully Free Software like CyanogenMod than lock myself even more further into Google, who already own way too much of my life. But I could be confused about this, maybe getting Android updates is the default, not the exception?
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ghoti: default
From:ghoti
Date:April 4th, 2016 12:25 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry, 12:25 pm (ghoti's time)
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I did tell you already that Timpsons change phone batteries! I just said that I didn't know whether it would be cheap enough that you'd think it worth it because I've never had that kind of phone.

A quick google finds the source code for the Honor 5X easily, so that might not be a worry.
I've never had a phone where updates didn't just work, so maybe that is an issue, but I thought it was only an issue with the ones which weren't GPL compliant - J's non Nexus tablet seems to update automatically.
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livredor: geekette
From:livredor
Date:April 4th, 2016 12:37 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry, 12:37 pm (livredor's time)
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I think you're better at Googling than me, I tried to find stuff about which phones are ok with GPL and all I pulled up was a controversy from 2011 about some phone manufacturers not being in compliance back then. I did know from you about Timpsons doing repairs, but I had heard rumours that some phones made so that the battery can't really be replaced. And yeah, I'm still fretting about price, though perhaps I should just not care, I'd rather pay £100 to keep my current phone alive than quite a lot more than that for the difference between an unethical phone and a Fairphone with lower spec.
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ghoti: default
From:ghoti
Date:April 4th, 2016 01:12 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry, 01:12 pm (ghoti's time)
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Colin gave me a magic search term when I was looking for J's tablet - search for the source code online, and if you find it, it's probably OK.

Yes, I can't give you an assurance that it will work for your phone, I think you can only get that by asking Timpsons.
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livredor: geekette
From:livredor
Date:April 4th, 2016 05:43 pm (UTC)
6 hours after journal entry, 05:43 pm (livredor's time)
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Aha, that is much more sensible, instead of looking for articles about whether phones conform to GPL, I can test it for myself. Thank you for passing on that useful tip.

Several people in the other place [don't read, it's muddled in with political discussion] found good evidence that the battery in my phone is potentially replaceable, so hopefully Timpsons will in fact do it and if not I might in fact be able to do it my own self.
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cartesiandaemon: default
From:cartesiandaemon
Date:April 18th, 2016 01:35 pm (UTC)
14 days after journal entry
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I'd maybe like to try a stylus at some point, if you still have them around.
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(no subject) - mirabehn (4/6/16 01:43 pm)



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