Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Farmers versus John Deere for Computer Autonomy

The farmers want the freedom to modify the software on their tractors and other farm equipment to economize and all manner of reasons.  This looks like an open and shut case of all power to the people but you know we're not going to let it go that easily.  (CNET Road/Show:  Farmers are hacking their tractors so they can actually fix them)

The general situation is John Deere insists on performing the maintenance on the kit they sell while the farmers maintain they're too expensive and this arrangement is effectively a form of price-fixing.

American farmers are increasingly turning to hacked firmware in order to repair their John Deere tractors, Motherboard reports. The reason they're doing so is because John Deere has a license agreement wherein only Deere dealers and "authorized" shops can perform work on tractors.

- CNET

Just what kind of repair are they talkin', li'l goslings.  Whenever there's a software problem with your car, the mechanic will usually just pull the appropriate brainbox to throw it away so he can replace it. The problem the farmers want to repair is seriously unlikely to be the software or the kit wouldn't work at all.


These issues aren't limited to farm equipment, either. Right to repair has been a hot topic in the automotive industry, especially as computers play an ever-increasing role. For the longest time, tinkering with a car's software was a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Late in 2016, an exemption took effect that allows "good faith security research" and "lawful modification" -- so, basically, as long as you're not skirting emissions regulations, you should be fine when adjusting parameters in a car's ECU.

- CNET

Unless you have been on Paul Ryan's Greenland weather station for years, you know the right to repair for autos is for tricking out cars to race like "The Fast and the Furious" and / or override emission controls.


This right to repair is smelling like fish but still we know the evil corporation will charge whatever it can because it can so now we have a standoff.

How about a hypothetical with Farmer Joe who found a way to beat the security and changed the performance characteristics of the motor for his tractor to get more work out of it and he blew it up.  Then he went back to John Deere and said, "Your shitty tractor just blew up.  Fix it for free."

We also have a hypothetical with Innocent Farmer Jane who honored the security of her tractor's system but the goosis blew up anyway.  John Deere wanted to charge her a zillion dollars for another one so who's the good guy.

Note:  prices may have been exaggerated to slander the innocent.


Unless the Rockhouse misses its guess and, of course, it never does ... Washington will be able to make an utter disaster of any law pertaining to the matter of a right to repair farm equipment.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

How about I just want to save the $80/hour that any mechanics charges me

Anonymous said...

Or I just want to change the torque curve. Or the programming on the active suspension
This just relates to a passenger car what the farmers want seems very reasonable as the individual farmer is almost his own eco system

Anonymous said...

Or I just want to change the torque curve. Or the programming on the active suspension
This just relates to a passenger car what the farmers want seems very reasonable as the individual farmer is almost his own eco system

Peas InOurThyme said...

I do see it but there's also Deere being required to fix something if the farmer pushes it too far and blows the motor or some such. This is some squishy territory and there are no particular rules to it. They seem to go after it the Motie way since they have some law about right to repair for cars and now they will patch up something for farm gear.

Anonymous said...

Deer can easily do what the auto industry does which is void the warranty if unauthorized modifications are made.
Just as most electronic equipment manufacturers void a warranty if the case has been opened.
This is just another corporation trying to prevent anyone else from working on their equipment.
Similar to MB not having seperate diagnostic codes and equipment from the rest of the industry.
I should not have to pay big dollars to do a simple job

Anonymous said...

Such as resetting suspension software after replacing intelligent shocks

Peas InOurThyme said...

Dunno if you can take this down to binary. IBM took the position if you modify their software then they won't fix it. I see their position because it's a blinding bitch to debug someone else's code but, as a code monkey, I liked screwing around with their systems.

Both sides have rights to protect and lawyers can likely play this for years.

Anonymous said...

How do you not see this as more intrusion by big business and government in areas where it has no right. Not really much difference than buying a piece of electrical equipment and the manufacturer refuses to allow access to any wiring diagrams or pin assignments on any IC boards

Anonymous said...

How do you not see this as more intrusion by big business and government in areas where it has no right. Not really much difference than buying a piece of electrical equipment and the manufacturer refuses to allow access to any wiring diagrams or pin assignments on any IC boards

Peas InOurThyme said...

I don't see the government has much to do with it and I don't see much of a change in big business either but the computers changed the game and now people want to get around warranty work while they did not in previous times. The rule has been clear back to dinosaur times, if you screw with the parts yourself then you void the warranty.

Anonymous said...

So void my warranty and let me work.
If there is a law against or for it how is government not involved

Peas InOurThyme said...

The warranty is more like a law the seller makes and traditionally we have accepted it. I see people are not much accepting of it now but I don't see that as necessarily a failing in the original system, only that it now needs to evolve. The other answer is the shoppers go somewhere else so it's on the corporation to make a move.

I'm still sympathetic to Deere in some ways. If you put some second-rate after-market part on your tractor and it breaks causing great destruction, why should Deere fix it? Will the farmers walk away from warranty support altogether?