DIY Linux

6 Ways to Defend Your Right to Repair With Linux and Free Software

Bertel King 05-05-2017

As more tech products become impossible to repair ourselves, more people are demanding a change. Now a growing movement wants the right to repair the things we buy What Is the Right to Repair and Why Should You Care? When old technology broke, you could fix yourself. If that failed, you could find a repair shop. With newer products, those options are disappearing. Let's talk about the importance of the Right to Repair. Read More .


Changing the status quo is difficult. There’s a great deal of money to be had shortening the life of products and limiting our ability to extend usage by making repairs. But in the software world, there’s one big step you can take to stand up for your right to repair and gain a fair degree of freedom right now: install Linux. Here’s why.

1. Give Old PCs a New Lease on Life

Linux works better on old hardware. The longer a machine has been around, the more likely someone will have figured out how to get all the components working. So while that unused PC you’ve kept around for years may reject the latest version of Windows, it’s likely to welcome Linux.

There is no one single version of Linux that you can download and put on your machine. Instead, there are many Linux operating systems, known as “distributions,” that all do things slightly different from one another. Some of the more popular options may have reached a point where your machine doesn’t meet their system requirements, but there are numerous others that specifically target ancient hardware 14 Lightweight Linux Distributions to Give Your Old PC New Life Need a lightweight operating system? These special Linux distros can run on older PCs, some with as little as 100MB of RAM. Read More .

2. Repair Your Own Software

One advantage of free software is that you’re free to edit and fix programs yourself. This is actually considered a fundamental right Open Source vs. Free Software: What's the Difference and Why Does It Matter? Many assume "open source" and "free software" mean the same thing but that's not true. It's in your best interest to know what the differences are. Read More .

But you will be able to fix some things. When there’s a visual defect in your interface, you can often make it go away by editing a text file Changing Linux GNOME Desktop Fonts Is Easier Than You Think The GNOME desktop is easy to customize, but one thing people often overlook is the font. Fortunately there's a way to change GNOME Shell fonts, without editing files or using the terminal. Read More . With enough searching, you can often find ways to change crummy icons, fix sound issues, or stop glitches without waiting for a developer to push out an update.


Honestly, you’re not going to fix most of the bugs you encounter yourself. Linux founder Linus Torvalds complains often of bugs or inefficient design that he isn’t able to fix on his own. But it’s great knowing you have the freedom to at least try without breaking some EULA 8 Ridiculous EULA Clauses You May Have Already Agreed To Here are some of the most ridiculous terms and conditions in the EULAs of popular services. You may have already agreed to them! Read More and risking legal trouble.

3. Reuse and Recycle Code

In the free software world, apps rarely die. Old software may sit in repositories long abandoned, but you can still install them.

With the right skills, you can use the source code to create something new. Many well known open source projects began this way. MATE is a desktop environment born from the ashes of GNOME 2 A Review of MATE: Is It a True GNOME 2 Replica for Linux? The world of Linux desktop environments has dramatically changed since then. Gnome 3 was born, Gnome 2 was essentially thrown to the side, Gnome 3 was forked to create Cinnamon, and so on. However, Gnome... Read More after GNOME 3 launched. It’s now used in one of the more popular variants of Ubuntu, the most well-known desktop Linux operating system.

This is just one example of how you can reuse and recycle old code to make new software. This is the right to repair on display in the digital world.


4. Avoid Software Vendor Lock-In

Software vendor lock-in doesn’t merely trap you into using specific programs What Is Software Vendor Lock-In? (And How to Avoid It) Software vendor lock-in is considered by some to be a big infringement on your rights as a consumer. But what is it? Why is it so bad? And how can you avoid it? Read More . It may lock you into buying specific hardware, too!

If the application your business relies on stops supporting your version of Windows of macOS, you have to update to a new release. If your computer can’t handle the transition, you’re pushed to toss it out and get a new one. What you buy will have to come with an OS that is the application supports.

Software vendor lock-in is one of the barriers preventing some professionals from using Linux Why Linux Is Great for Freelance Professionals I've managed to build a career writing online, using just a Linux computer. Let me show you how you can use Linux to manage your professional life, from managing finances to finding clients. Read More . If you aren’t already locked in, try switching your workflow to free and open source programs Everything You Need to Migrate Your Home Office to Linux It's for this reason why many users are looking to make the switch to Linux. If you're one of them, you're going to want to read on. We're going to talk about how to move... Read More . Then you’re all but guaranteed the ability to access the applications you need for the foreseeable future.

5. Build Your Own Gadgets

If you were to design a computer from scratch today, you wouldn’t write the operating system. More likely, you’d create something on top of Linux or one of the other free UNIX-like OSes 3 UNIX-Like Operating Systems That Aren't Linux Recently, people started to confuse "UNIX" with "Linux." Linux was influenced by UNIX, but UNIX systems have no relation to Linux. Here are some important UNIX-based systems worth knowing about. Read More . This is what Apple did with Mac OS X (and continue with macOS). It’s what Google has done with Chromebooks. Amazon uses Linux for the Kindle and its Fire tablets. Samsung is now sticking Linux inside of fridges Samsung's Smart Fridge Just Got Pwned. How About The Rest Of Your Smart Home? A vulnerability with Samsung's smart fridge was discovered by UK-based infosec firm Pen Test Parters. Samsung’s implementation of SSL encryption doesn’t check the validity of the certificates. Read More .


When you’re deciding how to reuse materials to create a new device, do what everyone else is doing and use Linux. Doing so is easier and cheaper than ever. The Raspberry Pi costs as much as a fancy lunch for two, and the recommended operating system is Raspbian Jessie, a version of Linux 23 Operating Systems That Run on Your Raspberry Pi Whatever your Raspberry Pi project, there's an operating system for it. Here are the best Raspberry Pi operating systems! Read More .

You can use the credit card-sized computer to create many cool projects, including wearables 5 Wearable Projects You Can Build With a Raspberry Pi Have you ever thought about wearing your Raspberry Pi? Well no, of course you haven't. After all, you're perfectly normal. Read More . Here are some ways to get started if you’re a beginner The 11 Best Raspberry Pi Projects for Beginners These Raspberry Pi projects for beginners are great for getting started with the capabilities of any Raspberry Pi model. Read More .

6. Stay Up-to-Date

There comes a time in a Windows PC’s life where it’s time to upgrade to a version it wasn’t built for. The transition might go smoothly, but it often doesn’t. Whether the new system requirements are too high or drivers are no longer available, you’re left out of luck. Microsoft and the computer’s manufacturer would rather you buy a new PC with a new Windows license than invest in improving your experience.

With Linux, your machine is much less likely to become outdated overnight. While the version you’re running will stop receiving updates someday, upgrading to the next release is free. Not only that, the system requirements are usually the same. Linux operating systems have gradually started to depend on stronger hardware than before, but the transition has happened over a span of ten years, with the difference between individual releases being hardly noticeable.


If your computer does hit a point where it can’t handle the next release, you have the option to switch to a different distribution that will still allow you to run most of the same software. And you can speed up the experience by using lightweight alternatives to your favorite apps 12 Lightest Linux Software and Programs to Speed Up an Old PC Switching to Linux is a great way to breathe life into an aging machine, but it's also a lot of work! Need to lighten the load on your Linux-powered machine? Try these apps! Read More .

What Can Linux Help You Repair?

Linux isn’t like commercial operating systems. You don’t buy new hardware to get Linux — you put Linux on the hardware you already have. Whether the machine is old or new doesn’t matter, though Linux is much easier to install on old machines. While that’s not necessarily a good thing How You Can Help Make 2017 the Year of the Linux Desktop It doesn’t matter if Linux achieves world computing domination. What matters is that we can use it today, and it’s awesome -- and now is a great time to take the plunge! Read More , it’s great if you’re trying to repair a machine you’ve owned for years!

Whether you’re advocating right to repair legislation, pushing right to repair programs, or want to repair more things yourself, Linux can be a big part of the solution. What do you think?

Image Credit: Aha-Soft via

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  1. Zhong
    May 6, 2017 at 3:33 am

    I wouldn't say repair the computer physically as there's not much depth to it. I was debugging the kernel in FreeBSD and it's been fun in aspects of trying to uncover all the clues.

  2. Howard A Pearce
    May 5, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    "Now a growing movement wants the right to repair the things we buy."

    Arrangements you make when you buy or exchange things are called CONTRACTS ! Not rights.

    I am sick and tired of greedy political people wanting all their needs expressed as political rights.

    • Curtis James McConnell
      May 6, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      TL;DR Human rights should always have ascendancy over corporate rights.

      Mr. Pearce, perhaps you can see as well that corporate greed in almost every instance exceeds human political greed.
      For instance, John Deere's greed compels them to lock down software and mechanical repairs on its tractors. This has led to interruptions in the food supply.
      I submit that corporations should be prevented from creating contracts which may result in an interruption of the food supply. and that if they do. human need should void the contract. They should also be prevented from lease-only options in said contracts, so that a farmer at least has a chance to own equipment and its concomitant right to repair the equipment he now owns.
      Since this is not a political right that sickens and tires Mr. Pearce, but rather a human right that should override corporate greed, perhaps he will then have time and energy to combat other issues which threaten humanity's very existence.

      • Howard A Pearce
        May 7, 2017 at 10:40 am

        The biggest problem is that equation is that political greed translates into laws and rules imposed on everybody in society. Business at best can only affect those that voluntarily decide to do business with them and hold an edge of threatening to go elsewhere while the state is a coercive monopoly that doesn't allow competition in any form.

        You statement that businesses associations should be regulated and prohibited from from engaging in certain types of agreements is inherently discriminatory and class-ist by singling out business associations to regulate over associations in general. This violated the concept of equality before the law

        Like someone who wants to regulate blacks but not whites.

        • rudy
          May 7, 2017 at 12:34 pm

          Howard is right, consumers have the ultimate power of changing vendors. Free markets will correct inefficiencies, not the government.