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back to article Snap suggests Apple out to 'screw' hardware hackers

Apple is designing its own, entirely proprietary screw-head in a bid to prevent punters and repair shops getting inside its future iDevices. At least, it is if - and it's a very big 'if' - you take a piccy posted on the interweb at face value. Captioned "a friend took a photo a while ago at that fruit company, they are …

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Re: Does it matter? @ TheOtherHobbes

Top-end Apple laptop? 4 or 5 years, easy.

Umm, I don't think so - it depends which part fails. Batteries, for instance, are known for a short life (that's why you can never get them under extended warranty), and hard disks run AFAIK a close second.

Having said that, I tend to have a machine cycle time of about 2..3 years so I never get the extended warranty - also because I tend to take good care of my machines. It makes sure it keeps running reliably (in my experience, if electronics fails it tends to do in the first 3 months), it makes it easier to resell, and it's in general much nicer to work with a good looking machine..

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Mushroom

Re: Does it matter?

You are not limitied to two years in the UK. SOGA says it must be durable. For premium goods that is commonly taken as 5 years or so....

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Meh

Re: Does it matter? @ TheOtherHobbes

Apple extended warranty ALWAYS covers the battery. I always go and get a new one right before the warranty runs out, just for futureproofing.

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Happy

Universal screwdriver

A few moments with a Dremel and everything takes a flat head screwdriver

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Mushroom

Re: Universal screwdriver

Have you seen how small the screws are on crapple devices? Good luck trying that fix...

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Re: Universal screwdriver

Have you seen how small the bits are on a Dremel? Or any similar non-branded miniature power tool set for that matter.

I don't think it'll be a problem. 0.5mm milling bit, perhaps?

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Mushroom

Re: Universal screwdriver

I think it most definately will be a problem:

http://i.ytimg.com/vi/WlMVScG-3sc/0.jpg

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Re: Universal screwdriver

You know how small 0.5mm is, right?

Of course if you really think half a millimetre is too big a groove, you could go for anything down to 0.01mm. That's a hundredth of a millimetre in plain english. In the words of the site, "as fine as the antenna of an aphid".

Still a problem?

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Anonymous Coward

why not just go the whole hog and use

exploding bolts

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Yet another use for Fimo

... but Rameses(.*)'s comment above does make me think that a *very* slightly oblate circle would make quite a good security head, since copy-moulding tolerances aren't that great and any slop would make it slip.

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Facepalm

El-Reg's extreme addiction to Apple stories?

Do you hear me El-Reg; stop licking the arse of the fruit or actually setup a subsite (regapple.co.uk/.com which is available!) to dump all these crap stories. They'll never respond for comment either, ever!

Can see the pill is getting harder to swallow from the fruit based writers on El-Reg.

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Go

Re: El-Reg's extreme addiction to Apple stories?

I have a better place for stories like these: /dev/null (or NUL for Windows sufferers).

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Happy

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

I love all the Apple stories, 'cus they're a nice easy piss taking target for my crap jokes about rounded rectangles and I have literally got about 1,000 upvotes to 50 downvotes thanks to our fruity friends! I think that speaks for itself!

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Re: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

"and I have literally got about 1,000 upvotes to 50 downvotes thanks to our fruity friends!"

Make that 1,001 ;)

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Happy

@LinkOfHyrule "nice easy piss taking target for my crap jokes about rounded rectangles"

Plus the fact that that section* of Apple's customer base that actually deserve the appellation "iPhanboi" are so wonderfully easy to wind up. -:)

*Note that I am not tarring all Apple customers with the same brush, that in itself would be "fanboi" behaviour.

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Trollface

Re: @LinkOfHyrule "nice easy piss taking target for my crap jokes about rounded rectangles"

"that in itself would be "fanboi" behaviour."

Note that you can no longer use the term "fanboi".

Since Applytes copied the idea of using "fan" at the start of a word as a derogatory term to describe users of alternative platforms - specifically "fandroid" - it has officially become an Applyte innovation to do so. Using the term "fanboi" is therefore copying them, even though they weren't first to do use "fan" as a prefix.

This is why I now call them Applytes (Apple Accolytes).

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Happy

@VinceH Re: "Note that you can no longer use the term "fanboi"." I abslutely refuse to allow......

......them to set the agenda. That section of the Cupertino Posse remain iPhanbois - like it or not. -:P

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Pint

New name for diehard Apple lovers...

I suggest we call them "Apple Victims"

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Anonymous Coward

@ you can no longer use the term "fanboi".

Excjuze me bwana, I have been waving this banana leaf for a whooole lot longer than Apple exists - it meanz I am prior art.

Yours, a fan boi from the colonies

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Re: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

And I have 302 downvotes from Winsheep. Your point? Smiles indeed.

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Assuming this is true...

...there are two points to not.

1) Head. Sure, a small flat-head might do it, but all they would have to do is re-jig a few of the spokes or make the design more curved to solve that. It also looks rather shallow, so not much purchase.

2) Thread. It does not look like a convention screw, much more rounded. This means that is the screw were drilled-out it would be hard to replace as normal screws probably won't work/hold with that thread shape.

Ah - but what about the fakes/pattern parts. Simple. Patent and copyright that design, then sue that arse out of anyone who is selling them to non-Apple bods. Apple is highly, highly litigious; so this is probably the path they'd choose.

If I was renting and iDevice, I wouldn't really care. If I rent a TV, fixing it is not my problem. But if I buy an iDevice then is in mine and I can do what I want with it. Or I should be able to.

Time for the regulators/consumer protection bodies to have a word with apple.

If this is true of course.

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Re: Assuming this is true...

That patent / copyright technique probably fails, for the same reason that anyone is allowed to make 3rd-party car exhausts that are (on the outside) exactly the same shape as the manufacturer's registered design. It's allowed, because no other shape is possible: if it were a different shape it would not fit the car.

IANAL, but any other shape of screwdriver head would not fit the screw. As for patents, it would be hard to think up anything that could be patented about a driver shaped to fit a socket, although I suppose a company that thinks it can patent a rectangle with rounded-off corners might try.

In passing if Apple really wanted tamper-proof screws they could choose one of several designs already on the market, that engage an appropriate screwdriver when twisted clockwise but which cam out when twisted anti-clockwise. However, as someone comments above, a Dremmel tool will convert any screw into one that can be twisted with a flat bladed screwdriver. Far more tamper-proof are plastic cases that snap together and require mechanical contrivances with fifteen thumbs to un-snap them (or which can't be un-snapped at all, short of breaking them).

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Re: Assuming this is true...

Ford did try to patent the bolt pattern for their wheels and said they had to do it because some after market wheels were unsafe. Failed.

Even if Apple got a design patent (I expect they could given how things seem to work now) you would only need to use about 3 or 4 of the slots for a screw driver to work.

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Re: Assuming this is true...

@Nigel 11 - "That patent / copyright technique probably fails, for the same reason that anyone is allowed to make 3rd-party car exhausts that are (on the outside) exactly the same shape as the manufacturer's registered design. It's allowed, because no other shape is possible: if it were a different shape it would not fit the car."

It would be nice if such logic and common sense were applied to the world of IT. Unfortunately....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Assuming this is true...

If you are on a phone contract the phone is not yours until you complete your contract. This is effectively like hire purchase.

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Stop

Time for a new law

As part of a wider directive on field-maintainability of consumer electronic goods, I would require that manufacturers using non-standard screw heads must either supply a compatible screwdriver with the appliance, or else make such a tool generally available for mail order at a fair price.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Time for a new law

There's drivers available at fair prices for all screws.

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Re: Time for a new law

We all love car/PC analogies, so here goes!

IMHO they should apply similar tests to cars, nothing it more annoying than being stranded because you need a garage to do what should be a simple job.

"Req 1: The driver must be able to change any bulb within 5 minutes. Only tools forming part of the standard toolkit may be used."

And so on.

For PCs/Laptops? How about something along these lines:

"Req 1: The owner must be able to replace the battery using standard, off-shelf tools within 10 minutes."

"Req 2: The owner must be able to replace the HDD with a standard driver within 10 minutes."

"Req 3: The owner must be able to upgrade/replace RAM within 5 minutes."

And then the kicker

"Owner repairs will not void any manufacturer warranty unless the manufacturer can prove that the owner acted below the level of a 'competent person'."

Or something along those lines at any rate. (Pretty much how it is with cars really)

A Dyson vacuum cleaner is expensive, but I can strip that myself to get at the offending part and replace it. No need for a repair engineer or anything.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Time for a new law

Law? There are circumstances where it is widely desirable for there to be rare (if not proprietary) screw heads. Those star-bolts on Ford vehicles, for example. Your mechanic will have plenty, you can buy them cheaply if you want to repair at home- but they prevent idle thumbs from tinkering with essential parts of the vehicle. In consumer electronics, it is desirable to prevent curious children from taking apart items that contain high voltages- or are expensive.

I was in the pub the other evening, and one builder was asking another if he had a tool for a type of security fencing he was erecting. He had buckets of the fasteners, but not the 'hollow star' driver he required for them.

The other reason for strange heads is mechanical - it limits the amount of force that can be applied. Take a Pozi-drive screw- it will slip against the driver (or against the adjustable clutch in your power-driver) before it rips itself out of the material it is being screwed into, or damaging the head or driver bit too much. 'Allen' keys (hex) allow vastly more torque to be applied, so are generally reserved for fixing into a pre-tapped metal thread. The standard length of the Allen key gives a rough clue as to how much torque to apply with stripping the thread.

http://www.theonion.com/articles/poll-finds-americans-would-be-open-to-third-type-o,27070/

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Re: Time for a new law

'not the 'hollow star' driver he required for them'

Torx sockets then. Man I was annoyed when I first came across those (on the differential of a BMW). Hadn't come across them before, so didn't have any. Easy enough to pick up, but had the car been mine I would have had to put it back together to drive and get them!

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Re: Time for a new law

Similar to a Torx, but has a spike in the middle of the screw makes them "Tamper Proof" http://www.toolspot.co.uk/product/7pc-precision-torx-screwdrivers-in-case

I guess it stops the old "Use a flat blade" trick.

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Re: Time for a new law

"Req 1: The driver must be able to change any bulb within 5 minutes. Only tools forming part of the standard toolkit may be used."This is a joke isn't it?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Change bulbs?

All of the 6 cars that I have owned would meet this criterion.

On the Golf everything is just plastic clips and lids that you undo by hand, don't even need a screwdriver.

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g e
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Obviously

Take-downs and patent infringement suits aplenty when someone makes a driver to do this to keep the control freakery firmly in the red.

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Ultrasonic Welding

IF <-(Big if) the Fruit making company want to keep the proles out of their electronics, I would expect them to go down the ultrasonic welding path. Permanently seal the device closed so the only way to reopen it would be to destroy it. Easy for the Apple shop to fix faulty hardware, by getting a new iDevice off the shelf and given that to the customer. The only problem is the environmental factor - unless they provide a 'cut-here' template to EOL recyclers, their green credentials could take a further hit.

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Re: Ultrasonic Welding

Don't confuse the device with the case/box/shell. If welded, a market would spring up to provide boutique versions of the same shells, with either snaps at the edges, or judiciously-placed magnets, or ... to keep things in place.

On control freakery: the issue is that someone else wants to be a control freak, too.

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WTF?

Hmm, not much of an issue... A bic lighter, the end of an old biro, and presto! Custom screwdriver. Or Dremel it, sure. Oh, and for the wag who mentioned untra-sonic welding... well, for THAT, I have a sonic screwdriver...

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Product marketing diversification opportunity...

Bic should package both the lighter and Biro together and sell them in B&Q shouldn't they!

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Joke

Has no one realised yet....

that all you need is a hammer to access the inner workings of an Apple device.

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Ford used to try doing this kind of crap all the time, people always got round it.

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FAIL

Fake

I call fake.

Just think of the impracticality of actually mass-production assembling anything with screw that has only 1 degree of rotational symmetry.

And that thread... it won't thread-form in plastic or thread-cut in metal.

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FAIL

well that'll keep the device secure for two weeks until you can buy a tool on dealextreme

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It's probably fake,

Apple haven't got a patent on the screw, or the screwdriver.

Knowing Apple, they would have patented the lunch the process workers where having during construction.

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Why do I have the strange feeling someone dug this up

from under Stonehenge?

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Back in the day

IBM used roundhead screws (no slots, holes or aything else) on the power supplies (some were slightly ovoid, others used a breakaway screw head)

It didn't take long to get past those either.

In the worst case, cut a slot with a dremel, extract srew, throw away and replace with something serviceable.

Assuming you don't care for the warranty, obviously.

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WTF?

W@NK£RS

Still would not stop me smashing it with a hammer!

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Bronze badge

The thread would work, but it would have to be going into some sort of insert, and that would push up the manufacturing cost.

I also have my doubts about the head design. Reliable assembly sets some limits on the head design. It's not good if assembly damages the screw heads.

This design doesn't make sense.

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Silver badge

Meh, uninterested.

A set of flat-blade jeweller's screwdrivers and a small pair of pliers for extra force... I've broken a few blades in my time, but I've yet to find a screw that defeated me. I say ditto to this one here. The asymmetry is irrelevant so long as you can get a blade between any two of the 'teeth'.

Perhaps Apple should consider the type of screw that can be screwed up without problem, but has 45 degree edges to the other side so cannot be so easily unscrewed...

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Doing it for years

I had a Mac SE for a while that I wanted to dismantle (IIRC so I could get the floppy drive out). The back was held on with a deeply recessed star shaped screw to stop people getting inside of it including myself since I gave up.

Aside from some of their workstations Apple just don't like people getting inside their computers or devices. They have constantly attempted to lock them down so you need a special tool or even a jig to open them.

And the reason for this is simple. If someone can't change the battery in their device it means they're more inclined to buy a replacement or at least pay Apple a lot of money to service it. It's a racket pure and simple.

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