Who owns our modern stuff?

In my posting War on DIY Electronics I already told that that the trend is that electronics is heading to be less and less hackable. Wired has an opinion article Forget the Cellphone Fight — We Should Be Allowed to Unlock Everything We Own that has many good points that I can agree on. USA Congress is working on legislation to re-legalize cellphone unlocking. The copyright laws that made unlocking illegal in the first place and it makes many other things you might like to do illegal in USA.

Who owns our stuff? The answer used to be obvious. Now, with electronics integrated into just about everything we buy, the answer has changed, because in digital age even the physical goods we buy are complex (usually run by complex software that runs on embedded computer or many of them). Copyright is impacting more people than ever before because the line between hardware and software, physical and digital has blurred. We really don’t own our stuff fully anymore – the manufacturers do own at least some some important parts of it.

Because modifying and repairing modern objects (home electronics, cars, etc..) requires access to information (manuals, error codes, and diagnostic tools) that manufacturers don’t like to give out. Property rights issue is turning many regular people into criminals: When they try to do something manufacturer don’t like, the manufacturers claim those people are illegally “reproducing copyrighted material.” Fixing our cars, tractors, and cellphones should have nothing to do with copyright. We should be allowed to unlock everything we own.

Manufacturers have systematically used copyright in this manner over the past 20 years to limit our access to information to create information monopolies at our expense and for their profit. Most manufacturers seem to like to have a closed platform, walled garden or closed ecosystem.

Fortunately there are nowadays some exceptions to this rule, for example open-source hardware companies and open-source software companies. Open doesn’t conflict with money although it often appears to.

I do not think open conflicts with making money and further I think there are ways to make more money by being open rather than closed. Think about for example Internet, PC, Linux and Android. Open source software has created many well working businesses. Economic growth occurs whenever people take resources and rearrange them in ways that are more valuable.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nvidia says upgrading a Grid VCA server will void the warranty

    Jeff Brown, GM of Nvidia’s Professional Solutions Group, said that the firm will sell the Grid VCA to be treated “as an appliance”. When Nvidia or any other hardware vendor says something will be treated as an appliance it usually means that customers simply buy the machine, install it and perhaps pay a subscription fee without being able to open the box.

  2. digital cameras says:

    Fantastic blog! I don’t think I’ve saw somebody who has so much points about this topic as you do.This is for sure a highly recommend site!

  3. Hunter says:

    That was a great write-up. I like individuals that actually go to the trouble to generate top notch stuff – it’s all an education at the end of the day. Quite nicely engineered and put together. Brilliant.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Google Is Forbidding Users From Reselling, Loaning Glass Eyewear

    Google is barring anyone deemed worthy of a pair of its $1,500 Google Glass computer eyewear from selling or even loaning out the highly coveted gadget.

    The company’s terms of service on the limited-edition wearable computer specifically states, “you may not resell, loan, transfer, or give your device to any other person. If you resell, loan, transfer, or give your device to any other person without Google’s authorization, Google reserves the right to deactivate the device, and neither you nor the unauthorized person using the device will be entitled to any refund, product support, or product warranty.”

    Welcome to the New World, one in which companies are retaining control of their products even after consumers purchase them.

    It was bound to happen. Strange as it may sound, you don’t actually own much of the software you buy today. You essentially rent it under strict end-user agreements that have withstood judicial scrutiny. Google appears to be among the first to apply such draconian rules to consumer electronics.

    The company knows if the eyewear was transferred because each device is registered under the buyer’s Google account.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Google Glass will SELF-DESTRUCT if flogged on eBay
    Techno-specs are for life, not just for Christmas

    Buyers of Google Glass have been warned they cannot sell their pricey new techno-spectacles on eBay or anywhere else.

    In terms of sale posted on its website, the advertising giant said a Google Glass was for life, unless you wanted to give it away for nothing. Anyone who failed to follow the rules will have their devices remotely shut down.

    Google stated: “You may not commercially resell any device, but you may give the device as a gift. Recipients of gifts may need to open and maintain a Google Wallet account in order to receive support from Google. These terms will also apply to any gift recipient.”

    Google Glass is about as powerful as a mid-range smartphone.

  6. Bill says:

    This is more important than ever in a world where there are dozens of different audio formats.

    It was an entertaining radio program that played the music people wanted to hear combined with his groovy upbeat personality.
    Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: The Duke Red Matter (Part One;
    CBS, 1956)’Abbott Stables’s Duke Red is a thoroughbred destroyed over a serious injury in an accident, and
    Dollar (Bob Bailey)’asked to review a $65,000 insurance claim on the horse’smells trouble when the stable’s business manager is dismissed after filing the claim, and its veterinarian may have destroyed the horse a little too swiftly.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Beyond Unlocking: Don’t Let Them Kill the First Reasonable Copyright Reform Bill

    A funny thing happened on the way to Congress yesterday. For once, lawmakers introduced a common-sense bill: the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013.

    If passed, the bill would give Americans freedom to do what they need — unlock, repair, maintain, modify — with the devices they own, whether cellphone or car. “Own” being the operative word, because, as I’ve argued here before, it’s no longer obvious who owns our stuff when we live in an age where physical objects are also digital and require access to information such as service manuals or code.

    But don’t kid yourself: this is an uphill battle.

    Technology advocates don’t have a great record of legislative wins compared to the deep-pocketed carriers and content lobbyists who are masters of playing the long game.

    This isn’t the first bill in Congress to tackle the problem of cell phone unlocking.

    The Unlocking Technology Act, however, is not a band-aid: It’s a solution. It’s the first serious effort by Congress to make a permanent change on the unlocking front. And, instead of eschewing the problems with copyright as the Leahy bill does, it meets them head on.

    Here’s how this bill really is different from the others: It would allow all consumers to circumvent the digital locks on their mobile devices. Anyone could access and modify software on their devices, in the same way they already modify and repair hardware.

    Importantly, it would also protect the engineers and entrepreneurs who create tools that allow consumers to unlock their phones.

    Without the changes in the current bill, the developers who make such software face harsh penalties — up to 5 years in jail and a $500,000 fine for distributing unlocking software. “There is little point in making a technology lawful for personal use but keeping it illegal to develop,”

    In fact, the careful wording of the proposed law makes sense for stakeholders on both sides of the debate. It doesn’t just protect object owners — it protects copyright holders from threats, too. The bill states that unlocking is only allowed “if the purpose of the circumvention is to use a work in a manner that is not an infringement of copyright.”

    Violating copyright by bootlegging movies and music will remain illegal, as will bypassing digital locks for the purpose of copyright violation.

  8. Resell Rights Membership says:

    I’ve got exciting by using, bring about I came across just what exactly I became trying to find. You have wrapped up my own a number of time long quest! God Appreciate it person. Possess a good working day. Cya

  9. We Need a Fixer Movement? « Tomi Engdahl’s ePanorama blog says:

    [...] This would be a huge cultural shift. In the 20th century, U.S. firms aggressively promoted planned obsolescence, designing things to break. Buying new was was even once considered a patriotic duty in USA, but [...]

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Consumer Device Hacking Concerns Getting Lost In Translation

    “Hackers who hack insulin pumps, heart monitors, HVAC systems, home automation systems, and cars are finding some life-threatening security flaws in these newly networked consumer devices, but their work is often dismissed or demonized by those industries and the policymakers who govern their safety.”

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Lost In Translation: Hackers Hacking Consumer Devices

    New grassroots movement aims to fill the gap between security researchers and the consumer industries that are the subject of their hacking projects

    Insulin pumps, heart monitors, HVAC systems, home automation systems, and cars — white-hat security researchers are now regularly discovering dangerous and often life-threatening security flaws in networked consumer devices, but their work is often ignored, dismissed, or demonized by those industries.

    The real message of this research often gets misconstrued or lost in translation–misunderstood by consumer product manufacturers new to cybersecurity issues who mistakenly perceive it as troublemaking or joyriding. The makers of these increasingly smarter and more networked devices traditionally just haven’t had much or any interaction with the world of security research.

    Until now. Yet security researchers rarely get the attention or response from the medical device, building systems automation, or automobile manufacturers in whose products they poke holes. So a pair of security experts has launched a grass-roots effort to help bridge this wide gap between the researcher community and consumer product policymakers and manufacturers.

    “If you have a hacker who’s an expert on a flaw [in a consumer device] and you put him in front of a policymaker, they see a hacker, someone who can’t be 100 percent trusted,”

    “We need … to find spokespeople for our industry who have a knowledge of the hacking and security community, but are well-seated in the medical device or automotive industries,”

    “If we demonstrate that we’re [security researchers] doing great work and it’s serious, and not just fun and games [hacking] .. and it benefits [consumers], it’s going to become more difficult for [these industries] to criminalize security research. We want to find people who will work with us” to make this happen, such as attorneys or other professionals who can bridge the two worlds, he says.

    Percoco says the car-hacking research was a good example of finding important security flaws in consumer products. “It’s even better finding flaws plus presenting fixes, and the best [scenario] is finding, fixing, and advocating with the right representation, people with specific, trusted industry experience” in the automotive or medical device industries, for example, he says.

    With more embedded IP capability for automation and convenience, consumer devices are also becoming more exposed security-wise. It’s a shocker to those industries that their products can be hacked: “They always made the assumption that you can’t modify the device unless you’re in front of it,” he says. “But now they are interconnected … and connected to corporate networks, and they are getting more exposure. I don’t think they fully understand the risk that this represents.”

    Just this week, the InsideIQ Building Automation Alliance, an association of independent building automation contractors, announced that it had teamed up with Cylance to provide its members with building automation security practices and security training as well as certification to the customers of the systems.

    Legislators also need to be brought up to speed on white-hat hacking. There’s a lack of depth in the technical understanding of cybersecurity issues in Congress, for example, Percoco notes, so getting lawmakers better schooled on the risks and issues is also needed via intermediaries, he says.

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Are you giving your loved ones holiday gifts they can use freely, or gifts which put someone else in control?

    Electronics are popular gifts for the holidays, but people often overlook the restrictions that manufacturers slip under the wrapping paper. Companies like Microsoft and Apple can and will use Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) to prevent your loved ones from sharing apps on the laptop you got them or remixing the songs on their expensive new iPad. If the recipient of your gift is as unlucky as one woman last year, Amazon might even block all the books on their Kindle and refuse to explain why. Companies want us to accept this kind of intrusive control, but when you think about, it’s unethical (and annoying!).

    The good news is, for every device that uses DRM or has a remote “kill switch” like the Kindle, ethical companies have made a better one that doesn’t, one that your loved ones will be free to enjoy however they wish. Here’s a list of these smarter gifts, compared with their more well-known, but more restrictive alternatives.

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Kyle Wiens / Wired:
    Farmers seek DMCA exemption to modify or repair high-tech proprietary agriculture equipment that is making DIY repairs impossible

    New High-Tech Farm Equipment Is a Nightmare for Farmers

    I’m a computer programmer by training, and a repairman by trade. Ten years ago, I started iFixit, an online, DIY community that teaches people to repair what they own. Repair is what I do, and that I was being rebuffed by a tractor was incredibly frustrating.

    Every time the sensor blew, the onboard computer would shut the tractor down. It takes a technician at least two days to order the part, get out to the farm, and swap out the sensor. So for two days, Dave’s tractor lies fallow. And so do his fields.

    Dave asked me if there was some way to bypass a bum sensor while waiting for the repairman to show up. But fixing Dave’s sensor problem required fiddling around in the tractor’s highly proprietary computer system—the tractor’s engine control unit (tECU): the brains behind the agricultural beast.

    One hour later, I hopped back out of the cab of the tractor. Defeated. I was unable to breach the wall of proprietary defenses that protected the tECU like a fortress. I couldn’t even connect to the computer. Because John Deere says I can’t.

    Farming Goes High Tech

    Dave is a DIY kind of guy.
    Most of all, he’d like to be able to repair his equipment himself—because it’s what he’s been doing all his life.

    In the tech industry, we tend to talk about the exploding Maker Movement as if tinkering is something new. In fact, it’s as old as dirt: farmers have been making, building, rebuilding, hacking, and tinkering with their equipment since chickens were feral.

    There’s even a crowdsourced magazine, Farm Show, that’s catalogued thousands of clever farming inventions over the past three decades.

    Of course, the world is changing, and that’s especially true in the world of agriculture.
    equipment is infinitely more complicated and proprietary.

    High-Tech Tractors Are Increasingly a Liability

    Aside from using it, there’s not much you can do with modern ag equipment. When it breaks or needs maintenance, farmers are dependent on dealers and manufacturer technicians—a hard pill to swallow for farmers, who have been maintaining their own equipment since the plow.

    “[DIY repair] is cheaper than calling out the technician. But that information is just not out there,” Dave explained to me.

    The cost and hassle of repairing modern tractors has soured a lot of farmers on computerized systems altogether.
    “There’s an increasing number of farmers placing greater value on acquiring older simpler machines that don’t require a computer to fix.”

    The problem is that farmers are essentially driving around a giant black box outfitted with harvesting blades. Only manufacturers have the keys to those boxes. Different connectors are needed from brand to brand, sometimes even from model to model—just to talk to the tECU. Modifications and troubleshooting require diagnostic software that farmers can’t have. Even if a farmer managed to get the right software, calibrations to the tECU sometimes require a factory password. No password, no changes—not without the permission of the manufacturer.

    John Deere, in particular, has been incredibly effective at limiting access to its diagnostic software.

    There’s a thriving grey-market for diagnostic equipment and proprietary connectors. Some farmers have even managed to get their hands on the software they need to re-calibrate and repair equipment on their own—a laptop purchased from some nameless friend-of-a-friend with the software already loaded on it. There are even ways to get around the factory passwords that block access to the tECU to effect repairs.

    But under modern copyright laws, that kind of “repairing” is legally questionable.

    Manufacturers have every legal right to put a password or an encryption over the tECU. Owners, on the other hand, don’t have the legal right to break the digital lock over their own equipment. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act—a 1998 copyright law designed to prevent digital piracy—classifies breaking a technological protection measure over a device’s programming as a breach of copyright. So, it’s entirely possible that changing the engine timing on his own tractor makes a farmer a criminal.

    Instead of wrestling with proprietary systems, other farmers are starting to go open source.
    “Knowledge wants to be free,” Cox told me.
    “We are actually adapting and taking ownership.”

    Unfortunately, when it comes to modifying existing equipment—like Dave’s tractor—it’s that same idea of ownership that’s most contested. Dave paid for the tractor; he owns what’s tangible: the wheels, the metal chassis, the gears and pistons in the engine. But John Deere owns everything else: the programming that propels the tractor, the software that calibrates the engine, the information necessary to fix it. So, who really owns that tractor?

    Even if he could, would it be legal for Dave to fix his machine? Right now, we don’t know; and that ambiguity is disturbing. So, we’re trying to find the answer. In conjunction with USC and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, we’ve asked for a DMCA exemption for farmers who want to modify and repair their equipment.

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Automakers To Gearheads: Stop Repairing Cars

    Automakers are supporting provisions in copyright law that could prohibit home mechanics and car enthusiasts from repairing and modifying their own vehicles. In comments filed with a federal agency that will determine whether tinkering with a car constitutes a copyright violation, OEMs and their main lobbying organization say cars have become too complex and dangerous for consumers and third parties to handle. The dispute arises from a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

    Automakers to gearheads: Stop repairing cars
    Car Companies Say Home Repairs Are ‘Legally Problematic,’ Seek Copyright Restrictions

    Automakers are supporting provisions in copyright law that could prohibit home mechanics and car enthusiasts from repairing and modifying their own vehicles.

    In comments filed with a federal agency that will determine whether tinkering with a car constitutes a copyright violation, OEMs and their main lobbying organization say cars have become too complex and dangerous for consumers and third parties to handle.

    Allowing them to continue to fix their cars has become “legally problematic,” according to a written statement from the Auto Alliance, the main lobbying arm of automakers.

    Every three years, the office holds hearings on whether certain activities should be exempt from the DMCA’s section 1201, which governs technological measures that protect copyrighted work. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for individual rights in the digital world, has asked the office to ensure that enthusiasts can continue working on cars by providing exemptions that would give them the right to access necessary car components.

    Complex Software, Increased Risk

    Industry concerns are mounting that modifying these ECUs and the software coding that runs them could lead to vulnerabilities in vehicle safety and cyber security. Imagine an amateur makes a coding mistake that causes brakes to fail and a car crash ensues. Furthermore, automakers say these modifications could render cars non-compliant with environmental laws that regulate emissions.

    But exemptions from the DMCA don’t give third parties the right to infringe upon existing copyrights. Nor does an exemption mean consumers don’t have to abide by other laws and rules that govern vehicles passed by the National Highway Traffic Administration, Environmental Protection Agency or U.S. Patent and Trade Office.

    “It’s not a new thing to be able to repair and modify cars,” said Kit Walsh, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It’s actually a new thing to keep people from doing it. There are these specialized agencies that govern what vehicles can lawfully be used for on the road, and they have not seen fit to stop them from repairing cars.”

    Aftermarket suppliers and home enthusiasts have been modifying ECUs for years without dire consequences. By tweaking the ECU codes, a process sometimes known as “chipping,” they’ve boosted horsepower, improved fuel efficiency, established performance limits for teen drivers and enhanced countless other features. These innovations have contributed to a “decades-old tradition of mechanical curiosity and self-reliance,” according to the EFF.

    GM: Telematics Industry Threatened

    For their part, manufacturers say they’re more concerned about potential losses than new revenue streams. Tinkering with the ECUs can void a car owner’s warranty, but automakers remain concerned with their liability if third parties make changes that could result in physical or financial harm. They noted unsavory mechanics could easily manipulate odometers, and make cars appear to have fewer miles on them than they actually do, a problem for unsuspecting used-car buyers.

    Automakers: We Know Our Cars Better

    Manufacturers and their lobbyists have submitted comments on six of the 27 proposals. The specific topics cover: unlocking mobile connectivity devices, unlocking consumer machines, jailbreaking all-purpose mobile computing devices, vehicle software diagnosis repair and modification, and software security and safety research.

  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Ask Hackaday: Fixing Your Tractor Could Land You Behind Bars

    Your crime – hacking your dad’s tractor.

    John Deere is trying to convince the Copyright Office that farmers don’t really own the tractors they buy from them. They argue that the computer code that runs the systems is not for sale, and that purchasers of the hardware are simply receiving “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”

    In order to modify or “hack” any type of software, you have to copy it first. Companies don’t like the copying thing, so many put locks in place to prevent this. But because hackers are hackers, we can easily get past their childish attempts to keep code and information out of our hands. So now they want to make it illegal. John Deere is arguing that if it is legal for hackers to copy and modify their software, that it could lead to farmers listening to pirated music while plowing a corn field. No I am not making this up — dig into this 25-page facepalm-fest (PDF) written by John Deere and you’ll be just as outraged.

    Trying to keep hackers out using the DMCA act is not new. Many companies argue that locking hackers out helps to spur innovation.


  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    America’s crackdown on open-source Wi-Fi router firmware – THE TRUTH
    El Reg looks at why and what the FCC wants to do. Plus: How you can get stuck in

    America’s broadband watchdog is suffering a backlash over plans to control software updates to Wi-Fi routers, smartphones, and even laptops.

    In a proposed update [PDF] to the regulator’s rules over radiofrequency equipment, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would oblige manufacturers to “specify which parties will be authorized to make software changes.”

    In addition, it proposes that “modifications by third parties should not be permitted unless the third party receives its own certification.”

    While the intent is to make the FCC’s certification of the next generation of wireless equipment faster and more flexible, open source advocates were quick to notice that the rules would effectively force manufacturers to lock down their equipment and so remove the ability to modify software without formal approval from the US government. Such an approach goes directly against the open source ethos.

    As a result, many are unhappy about the plans.

    Earlier this week, however, the FCC approved a one-month extension to the deadline and an additional 15-day reply period after consumer groups and equipment manufacturers made it clear that they needed more time to look at what was being proposed.

    The current rules were put in place 15 years ago, long before the explosion of smart phones and laptops and widespread use of Wi-Fi.

    Every product approved gets its own FCC ID, which the manufacturer is then obliged to stick on the product itself (something that the FCC acknowledges is getting harder as the devices get smaller).

    In recent years however, this system has become impossible to manage effectively. Smaller and cheaper chipsets have led to huge numbers of new devices and a shift to the wireless world. Today’s phones, for example, can operate at several different radio frequency bands and include 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC (near-field communications).

    In order to handle the jump in requests, the FCC changed its rules to allow for some self-certifying by companies, and some third-party certification. But it now feels this approach is also outdated, thanks to the fact that the latest devices often allow changes to wireless frequencies through software updates, as opposed to hardware/firmware.

    The regulator notes that the shift to software updates has proven extremely useful, since “it allows manufacturers to obtain approval of products with an initially limited set of capabilities and then enable new frequency bands, functions, and transmission formats to be added to already-approved equipment.” However, it is concerned about things getting out of control, especially if it opens up its certification processes to allow more devices on the market.

    And the solution?

    And so, to the FCC’s mind, the answer is simple: put control requirements back onto the manufacturers themselves.

    In order to make sure that a new product doesn’t appear on the market that enables people to instantly use, for example, emergency police channels to communicate, require the manufacturers to only allow updates from authorized companies, i.e., those with something to lose from breaking the rules.

    At the same time, it also proposes that this update process be locked down so others can’t easily access and make their own changes to new devices. If companies do this, then the FCC argues it can open up its rules and “make it easier for manufacturers to implement software changes.”

    The logic is seductive but it leads to the situation where all devices with radio transmission capability – i.e., your phone, computer, home router and many others – need to be locked down. That won’t bother the vast majority of consumers, who simply buy a product and let the company do what it will with it (even when that is incredibly frustrating – we’re looking at you, Apple).

    In a sign that the plan may be going down the rabbit hole, it then proposes a “personal use” exemption where the rules would not apply to people entering the country with devices not approved within the United States.

    Under the current rules, there is a personal use exemption of three devices. But if the new rules came into effect, US border police may effectively be obliged to stop and search everyone entering the country to make sure they didn’t have more than three non-approved devices on them. That is clearly an unworkable situation.

  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Why Patent Law Shouldn’t Block the Sale of Used Tech Products

    Lexmark is best known for its printers, but even more important to its business is toner. Toner cartridges are Lexmark’s lifeblood, and they’ve been battling hard in court to protect their cashflow. The NY Times has published an editorial arguing that one of their recent strategies is bogus: making patent infringement claims on companies who refill used cartridges. Think about that, for a moment: Lexmark says that by taking one of their old, empty cartridges, refilling it with toner, and then selling it somehow infringes upon their patents to said cartridges. “This case raises important questions about the reach of American patent law and how much control a manufacturer can exert after its products have been lawfully sold.”

    Patent Law Shouldn’t Block the Sale of Used Tech Products

  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    No user Serviceable Parts Inside? The rise of the Fix-It Culture

    I assumed that my fix-it bug made me part of a dying breed of cheapskates and skinflints, but it appears that I was wrong. The fix-it movement seems to be pretty healthy right now, fueled in part by the explosion in information that’s available to anyone with basic internet skills.

    “If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it.”

    Back in the old days, if you really needed a schematic for a TV you’d have to buy a Sam’s Photofact manual, and a service manual for your car came in either the Chilton or Haynes flavors.

    Some sites are beginning to bring order to the chaos of DIY tutorials and repair information. One of my favorites is iFixit, a wiki-based site which boasts over 16,000 community-created repair guides. Their repair manifesto really resonates with me, and the stretch goal of creating a repair manual for every device in the world is a lofty but noble one. The site is very much a work in progress

    There’s the rub, though: time. For all the money and resources DIYers save by keeping fixable gear out of the landfill, the trade-off is the hours spent on the repair. Adding more hours to the repair in the form of documentation is sometimes tough to justify. And yet, the videos and tutorials just keep piling up, not only on iFixit but also on sites like FixYa and RepairClinic.

    From Fixer to Builder

    All these meetups and the wealth of online repair information seem to be having a positive effect on the repair movement – witness this recent Wall Street Journal feature where a reporter and admitted DIY-newbie undertook a repair on a friend’s TV. The fix turned out to be a simple re-capping of the power supply, but the skills that the reporter learned from his experience might just encourage him to try another repair. Nothing builds confidence like success.

    What about the next step, though? What about the step from fixer of existing devices to builder of new and wondrous things? That’s where the growth of the fix-it movement can really start to pay off to the hacker culture. I think that in a lot of ways, fixing feeds hacking

  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    David Kravets / Ars Technica:
    Volkswagen scandal shows why tinkering with vehicle software should be exempted from DMCA restrictions, despite objections from automakers and the EPA

    VW scandal highlights irony of EPA opposition to vehicle software tinkering
    EPA says public can’t be trusted to tinker with vehicle software. So who can we trust?

    “I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public,” Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn said in a statement Monday, addressing the so-called “defeat device” software the automaker built into its vehicles to deceive US air pollution tests. “We will do everything necessary in order to reverse the damage this has caused.”

    What led up to this mea culpa? Researchers from the International Council on Clean Transportation and West Virginia University performed all kinds of tests on VW vehicles, discovering that when the vehicles were on the road they polluted substantially more than when they were being tested for pollution emissions. Nobody could make any sense of how that could be. So the US Environmental Protection Agency threatened not to approve the automaker’s 2016 models for sale. In response, the automaker said its software was designed to hoodwink emissions tests, the EPA said.

    “Only then did VW admit it had designed and installed a defeat device in these vehicles in the form of a sophisticated software algorithm that detected when a vehicle was undergoing emissions testing,” the EPA said in an action letter to VW on Friday. The EPA wants VW to recall about 500,000 vehicles dating to 2009.

    In the wake of the scandal, VW’s stock has plummeted. It also leaves a black eye on the EPA, the agency that is supposed to regulate air emissions, as VW’s shenanigans played the EPA for a fool.

    Strangely, however, the EPA is standing alongside automakers, including VW. They all oppose proposed regulations that would allow the public to circumvent copyright protections measures attached to vehicle software. Also known as “technological protection measures” (TPMs), automakers employ this copyright ruse toward the goal of making it a Digital Millennium Copyright Act violation to examine or tinker with the code in vehicle software. And, for the moment, it’s all legal, and the EPA wants to keep it that way.

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation says forbidding tinkering is an abuse of copyright law.

    For obvious reasons, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers opposes the EFF’s vehicle software exemption proposal. The alliance, which includes VW, recently told the US Copyright Office that such an exemption would “create or exacerbate” (PDF) “serious threats to safety and security.”

    The vehicle software proposal would allow the circumvention of TPMs “in relation to computer programs, databases, and devices for purposes of good-faith testing, identifying, disclosing, and fixing of malfunctions, security flaws, or vulnerabilities.”

  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Electronic Frontier Foundation:
    US regulators grant exemptions to DMCA’s DRM rules for jailbreaking, remixing DVDs and Blu-rays, preserving video games, researching and modifying car software — Victory for Users: Librarian of Congress Renews and Expands Protections for Fair Uses — The new rules for exemptions …

    Victory for Users: Librarian of Congress Renews and Expands Protections for Fair Uses

    The new rules for exemptions to copyright’s DRM-circumvention laws were issued today, and the Librarian of Congress has granted much of what EFF asked for over the course of months of extensive briefs and hearings. The exemptions we requested—ripping DVDs and Blurays for making fair use remixes and analysis; preserving video games and running multiplayer servers after publishers have abandoned them; jailbreaking cell phones, tablets, and other portable computing devices to run third party software; and security research and modification and repairs on cars—have each been accepted, subject to some important caveats.

    The exemptions are needed thanks to a fundamentally flawed law that forbids users from breaking DRM, even if the purpose is a clearly lawful fair use. As software has become ubiquitous, so has DRM. Users often have to circumvent that DRM to make full use of their devices, from DVDs to games to smartphones and cars.

    Still, as long as its rulemaking process exists, we’re pleased to have secured the following exemptions.

    Car Security Research, Repair, and Modifications
    Jailbreaking Phones, Tablets, and More
    Archiving and Preserving Video Games
    Remix Videos From DVD and Blu-Ray Sources

  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Editor’s Repair, Reliability Rant Oblivious to Product Reality

    “Products should be repairable” is a nice thought, but how practical is that objective for today’s high-performance, tightly packed consumer products?

    I recently read a column “We need the right to repair our gadgets” in The Wall Street Journal (you can read it here or here) in which the author was angry about what he saw as the “planned obsolescence” of so many electronic devices, and how we should demand that they be repairable. The example he used was a friend’s TV: when it failed, the estimates to get it repaired were on the order of $200-$300, which was too much for a $350 item.

    He decided to seize control for the situation, opened up the TV, found a visibly blown component that turned out to be a capacitor (now that’s luck!). Calling on some friends for help, he got a replacement part, bought a soldering iron, and watched a YouTube video on how to solder. Soon he had the unit working fine, at a cost of only a few dollars and a few hours.

    I’ll say: good for him. What he did was sensible and worth trying. But that’s where my accolades stop. He went on to use this incident as an indicator of the broader example of how vendors are cleverly and deliberately using unrepairability and high repair costs as their planned obsolescence tactic, so that as soon as something fails, we might as well buy a new one.

    Part of that statement is true: these days, when something fails, it very often is not repairable, and that’s unfortunate. But the rationale for it is not planned obsolescence. Instead, it’s that if you want a product that is small, lightweight, and low cost, it usually has to be designed and built as a tightly packed device with little opportunity for disassembly, repair, and re-assembly. Today’s smartphones, for example, would not be possible in their size and price if removable boards and replaceable components (active and passive) were used.

    Further, despite his bad experience with the blown capacitor, today’s electronics are actually fairly reliable; in fact, many of the “failures” are really due to software bugs and physical repair isn’t the issue.

    I wonder, rather than the capacitor, would he have been able to identify, remove, and replace a bad IC in the power-supply subsystem or the communications core? Of course not: having a visibly blown capacitor is really just one the many things that can go bad. Changing bad bulk- capacitor is one thing, but I don’t think a soldering-iron novice could find and replace pin-head sized passive on any of today’s board or an IC with hundred of contacts underneath.

    Let’s face it: part of the “deal” we as consumers made to pack so much functionality into such a small box at such a low cost was to give up “something.” That something was the option, in many cases, to diagnosis and repair a failed unit (with a few exceptions).

    I like repairability as much as anyone: I have often taken apart products that were never designed to be opened, and even managed to repair some of them. But I know that if we want that option in our products, we’ll have to go back to the days of discrete transistors, large passives, and wide-pitch PC boards or even hand wiring. It’s a wrong assumption that there is planned obsolescence in our products via hardware failure, when the reality is that its most obsolescence is due software upgrades or new standards which render the hardware obsolete.

  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    On iFixit and the Right To Repair

    Motherboard sent a reporter to the Electronics Reuse Convention in New Orleans to investigate the important but threatened world of smartphone and electronics repair. As manufacturers start using proprietary screws, offer phone lease programs and use copyright law to threaten repair professionals, the right-to-repair is under more threat than ever. “That Apple and other electronics manufacturers don’t sell repair parts to consumers or write service manuals for them isn’t just annoying, it’s an environmental disaster,”

    How to Fix Everything

    The aluminum next to the Apple logo was visibly, obviously dented.

    My options were few. $600 for an LCD replacement at the Apple store. $500 to get an independent repairman to do it. On a whim, I searched eBay and was shocked to see that I could get a new LCD for $50, if I was willing to find out whatever the inside of a MacBook Pro looked like. I pressed buy.

    And then I saw the screw.

    If you’ve tried to open any iDevice—iPad, iPhone, iMac, any of them—within the last four years, you’ve come face-to-face with Apple’s very small, five-pointed Do Not Enter sign. It’s an overt declaration that your phone, or your computer, or your tablet is not really yours to tamper with, a public statement that you are not qualified to fix your own things.

    There is a solution to this “pentalobe” screw, however. A screwdriver engineered by iFixit, a California startup that has been simultaneously antagonizing Apple and making sure that, as electronics get more and more complicated, the layperson will still be able to learn how to fix them. (Other companies have since begun offering pentalobe screwdrivers.)

    I spent a few days with iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens and professional repair experts at the Electronics Reuse Conference in New Orleans earlier this month to learn more about how your right to open, tinker with, and repair devices that you own is under attack from the very companies that make them.

    “Normally if I purchase a hammer, if the head of the hammer falls off, I’m allowed to repair it”

    Manufacturers have attempted to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to claim that they own the software that makes an electronic an electronic, and tampering with that software is a copyright violation.

    “For a lot of these newer devices, manufacturers want to say ‘We want to be the only ones to repair it’ because they make more profits off the repairs. They’ve found lots and lots of way to do this. Intellectual property law, contracts, end user license agreements, lots and lots of ways to try to make sure you can’t do what you want with your stuff.”

    So, Apple has lots of ways to keep you out of your devices. But the screw is a good place to start.

    The Electronics Reuse Conference was full of people who reject the idea that manufacturers should have control over consumer devices. And, though there are industry secrets and advanced repair strategies that some don’t share, they’re here primarily to learn how to convince consumers that repairing your electronics is often superior to replacing them.

    “Your competition is not each other,” Wiens tells the 100-or-so repairmen and women (though it’s mostly middle-aged white men) who showed up to his introductory talk at the conference in New Orleans. “We’re competing with the garbage dump.”

    “The first time you open an electronic, it stops being a magical black box and you see it’s just a bunch of things plugged together”

    “Even in our community of repair people, people think that [logic] board repair died out when things started getting microscopic,” Jones, who has started a logic board repair school, said. “It’s just not true. The more we have people doing higher-level repairs, the more devices we can save, the more data we can recover, the more we can be ambassadors of repair to the public.”

  23. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Before I Can Fix This Tractor, We Have To Fix Copyright Law

    How many people does it take to fix a tractor? When the repair involves a tractor’s computer, it actually takes an army of copyright lawyers, dozens of representatives from U.S. government agencies, an official hearing, hundreds of pages of legal briefs, and nearly a year of waiting. Waiting for the Copyright Office to make a decision about whether people like me can repair, modify, or hack their own stuff.

    Before I Can Fix This Tractor, We Have to Fix Copyright Law

    How many people does it take to fix a tractor? A year ago, I would have said it took just one person. One person with a broken tractor, a free afternoon, and a box of tools.

    I would have been wrong.

    When the repair involves a tractor’s computer, it actually takes an army of copyright lawyers, dozens of representatives from U.S. government agencies, an official hearing, hundreds of pages of legal briefs, and nearly a year of waiting. Waiting for the Copyright Office to make a decision about whether people like me can repair, modify, or hack their own stuff.

    But let’s back up—why do people need to ask permission to fix a tractor in the first place? It’s required under the anti-circumvention section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act—a law that regulates the space where technology and copyright law collide. And boy, do they collide. In 2014, Washington had to intervene to make it legal again to unlock your cellphone, after the Copyright Office disastrously ruled that the practice violated copyright. Phones are just the beginning.

    Thanks to the “smart” revolution, our appliances, watches, fridges, and televisions have gotten a computer-aided intelligence boost. But where there are computers, there is also copyrighted software, and where there is copyrighted software, there are often software locks. Under Section 1201 of the DMCA, you can’t pick that lock without permission. Even if you have no intention of pirating the software. Even if you just want to modify the programming or repair something you own.

  24. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Samsung reportedly remotely deactivating recalled Note 7 units in France after Sept 30

    As we hear more and more about Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 recall, it’s becoming clear that this is all one big mess. Between not originally doing things officially with the CPSC and more units exploding, Samsung is in trouble. Regardless of what the company does, with the CPSC’s involvement or not, there’s one massive obstacle to face: stubborn customers…

    Already we’ve seen several people online saying that they won’t send back the phone, but in some cases, they may not have the option. According to a Reddit user in France, Samsung is essentially forcing customers to exchange devices.

    While this apparently only applies to France (for now), it seems that Samsung is just outright shipping customers a brand new, non-explosive Galaxy Note 7 in the color they already own.

  25. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Steve Dent / Engadget:
    Updated DMCA exemptions provide legal cover to Americans who reverse engineer products or repair their own electronics, but are limited to a two-year trial run

    You can now legally hack your own car or smart TV
    The FTC’s “security research exemption” to the DMCA has kicked in.

    Researchers can now probe connected devices, computers and cars for security vulnerabilities without risking a lawsuit. Last Friday, the FTC authorized changes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that will allow Americans to do hack their own electronic devices. Researchers can lawfully reverse engineer products and consumers can repair their vehicle’s electronics, but the FTC is only allowing the exemptions for a two-year trial run.

    The FTC and US Library of Congress enacted similar legislation in 2014 that allows you to unlock your own smartphone. Until today, however, it was illegal to mess with the programs in your car, thermostat or tractor, thanks to strict provisions in the DMCA’s Section 1201. That applied even to researchers probing the device security for flaws, a service that helps both the public and manufacturers. For example, researchers commandeered a Jeep on the road to show it could be done, an act that was technically illegal.

    You could have also been sued just for trying to repair your own electronics.

  26. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware

    Tractor owners across the country are reportedly hacking their John Deere tractors using firmware that’s cracked in Easter Europe and traded on invite-only, paid online forums. The reason is because John Deere and other manufacturers have “made it impossible to perform ‘unauthorized’ repair on farm equipment,” which has obviously upset many farmers who see it “as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time,” reports Jason Koebler via Motherboard.

    A license agreement John Deere required farmers to sign in October forbids nearly all repair and modification to farming equipment, and prevents farmers from suing for “crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment [...] arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software.”

    Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware
    A dive into the thriving black market of John Deere tractor hacking.

    To avoid the draconian locks that John Deere puts on the tractors they buy, farmers throughout America’s heartland have started hacking their equipment with firmware that’s cracked in Eastern Europe and traded on invite-only, paid online forums.

    Tractor hacking is growing increasingly popular because John Deere and other manufacturers have made it impossible to perform “unauthorized” repair on farm equipment, which farmers see as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time.

    “When crunch time comes and we break down, chances are we don’t have time to wait for a dealership employee to show up and fix it,” Danny Kluthe, a hog farmer in Nebraska, told his state legislature earlier this month. “Most all the new equipment [requires] a download [to fix].”

    The nightmare scenario, and a fear I heard expressed over and over again in talking with farmers, is that John Deere could remotely shut down a tractor and there wouldn’t be anything a farmer could do about it.

    “What you’ve got is technicians running around here with cracked Ukrainian John Deere software that they bought off the black market”

  27. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Icon Of American Farming That You Now Have To Hack To Own

    If you wanted to invoke American farming with colour, which colours would you pick? The chances are they would be the familiar green and yellow of a John Deere tractor. It’s a name that has been synonymous with US agriculture since the 1830s, when the blacksmith whose name appears on the tractors produced his first steel plough blade. The words “American icon” are thrown around for many things, but in the case of John Deere there are few modern brands with as much history to back up their claim to it.

    In recent years a new Deere has had all its parts locked down by DRM, such that all maintenance tasks on the tractors must be performed by Deere mechanics with the appropriate software. If your tractor breaks in the field you can fit a new part as you always have done, but if it’s a Deere it then won’t run until a Deere mechanic has had a look at it. As a result, Motherboard reports that American farmers are resorting to Ukrainian-sourced firmware updaters to hack their machines and allow them to continue working. An icon of American farming finds itself tarnished in its heartland.

    We’ve reported on the Deere DRM issue before, it seems that the newest development is a licence agreement from last October that prohibits all unauthorised repair work on the machines as well as insulating the manufacturer from legal action due to “crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software”.

  28. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Supreme Court Just Handed Consumers and Small Tech Companies a Big Win

    In what legal scholars are already calling a precedent-setting ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court handed consumers and tech companies a big win on Tuesday in a hackles-raising, pulse-pounding case about the juiciest of judicial issues: patent law.

    The case, called Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc., hinged on the question of how much control companies maintain over their products after they sell them, both domestically and abroad. It bubbled up to the highest court in the land about a year ago after Lexmark, a Chinese-owned printer company headquartered in Kentucky, sued Impression, a West Virginia-based “remanufacturer” company that refilled and resold Lexmark ink cartridges both in the U.S. and abroad.

    The Supreme Court decided 7-1 in favor of Impression on both counts, ruling that once a company has sold a product, it can’t dictate how the product is used—meaning that consumers have free rein to refurbish, repair, or resell items they’ve lawfully bought. “The purchaser and all subsequent owners are free to use or resell the product just like any other item of personal property, without fear of an infringement lawsuit,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority opinion. The court also found that this so-called “first sale” doctrine—which holds that companies forfeit their patent rights once they sell a specific product to a consumer—applies to purchases made outside U.S. territory.

    “An authorized sale outside the United States, just as one within the United States, exhausts all rights under the Patent Act,” the majority opinion went on to say.

    The decision is a boon for consumers, the New York Times wrote late Tuesday, because it protects those who repair or resell products from being sued for patent infringement. In loosening corporate giants’ iron grip on the products they make, it may also inject greater competition into resale markets, giving consumers a wider array of purchase options and bringing down prices.

    By targeting the pillars of Lexmark’s patent-hawkish business model, the Impression case predictably polarized the private sector, Ars Technica reported Wednesday. Smaller, more user-friendly outfits like Vizio, Dell, Intel, LG Electronics, HTC, Western Digital, and Costco Wholesale supported Impression while corporate giants including Qualcomm, IBM, Nokia, and Dolby—along with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies—backed Lexmark.

    Supreme Court overturns Lexmark’s patent win on used printer cartridges
    Since the 17th century, restricting resale has been “against Trade and Traffique.”

  29. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Impression Products V. Lexmark International: A Victory For Common Sense

    A few months ago we reported on a case coming before the United States Supreme Court that concerned recycled printer cartridges. Battling it out were Impression Products, a printer cartridge recycling company, and Lexmark, the printer manufacturer. At issue was a shrinkwrap licence on inkjet cartridges — a legal agreement deemed to have been activated by the customer opening the cartridge packaging — that tied a discounted price to a restriction on the cartridge’s reuse.

    It was of concern to us because of the consequences it could have had for the rest of the hardware world, setting a potential precedent such that any piece of hardware could have conditions still attached to it when it has passed through more than one owner, without the original purchaser being aware of agreeing to any legal agreement. This would inevitably have a significant effect on the work of most Hackaday readers, and probably prohibit many of the projects we feature.

    We are therefore very pleased to see that a few days ago the Supremes made their decision, and as the EFF reports, it went in favor of Impression Products, and us, the consumer. In their words, when a patent owner:

    …chooses to sell an item, that product is no longer within the limits of the monopoly and instead becomes the private individual property of the purchaser, with the rights and benefits that come along with ownership.

    In other words, when you buy a printer cartridge or any other piece of hardware, it is yours to do with as you wish.

    This can only be good news for our community, as so much of the work we see involves the modification or reverse engineering of products that might fall foul of such licences were they to be allowed to be used without restriction.

  30. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How Proprietary Software Lets Companies Cheat

    “Proprietary software makes it possible to design products to cheat ordinary users…” writes Richard Stallman — linking to a new essay by Cory Doctorow:
    Carriers adapted custom versions of Android to lock customers to their networks with shovelware apps that couldn’t be removed from the home-screen and app store lock-in that forced customers to buy apps through their phone company. What began with printers and spread to phones is coming to everything: this kind of technology has proliferated to smart thermostats (no apps that let you turn your AC cooler when the power company dials it up a couple degrees), tractors (no buying your parts from third-party companies), cars (no taking your GM to an independent mechanic), and many categories besides.

    Cory Doctorow: Demon-Haunted World

  31. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Will John Deere Finally Get Their DMCA Comeuppance?

    When it comes to activism, there are many different grades of activist aside from the few who you may encounter quietly and effectively working for change in their field. There are the self-proclaimed activists who sit in their armchairs and froth online about whatever their Cause is, but ultimately aside from making a lot of noise are pretty ineffectual. Then there are the Rebels With A Cause, involved in every radical movement of the moment and always out on the streets about something or other, but often doing those causes more harm than good. Activists can be hard work, at times.

    a group of Nebraska farmers fighting for the right to maintain their farm machinery, in particular the products of John Deere. Since all functions of a modern Deere are tied into the machine’s software, the manufacturer has used the DMCA to lock all maintenance into their dealer network. As one farmer points out, to load his combine harvester on a truck and take it on a 100-mile round trip to the dealer costs him $1000 every time a minor fault appears, and he and other farmers simply can’t afford that kind of loss. We’re taken to the Nebraska State Legislature and shown the progress of a bill that will enshrine the right to repair in Nebraskan law, and along the way we see the attempts by lobbyists to derail it.

    This video is quite important, because it is a step towards the wider story becoming more than just a concern to a few farmers, hardware hackers, and right-to-repair enthusiasts.

  32. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Tractor-Hacking Farmers Are Leading a Revolt Against Big Tech’s Repair Monopolies
    Farmers across the country are fighting John Deere’s repair monopoly—and winning.

    The plan is to hook the laptop up to a gigantic John Deere combine, which, like all farm equipment, has become increasingly difficult to repair as companies have introduced new sensors and software into nearly every component. Schwarting has found a hacked version of John Deere’s Service Advisor software on a torrent site, which he can use to diagnose problems with the equipment and ultimately repair it. Without this software, even minor repairs will cost him thousands of dollars from a licensed John Deere repair person and more importantly, time.

    “To get it on a truck is $1,000, and by the time you get it hauled somewhere and hauled back, you’re $2,000 into getting something minor fixed,” he said. “You have a real small window to get [a harvest] done in the year, and the tractor broke down. I had to find the software to be able to repair my tractor and make my customer happy and make a living.”

  33. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Rian Wanstreet / Motherboard:
    American farmers, threatened by big data, proprietary systems, and restrictive EULA agreements, hack their own machines to fight back

    America’s Farmers Are Becoming Prisoners to Agriculture’s Technological Revolution

    Big data, proprietary systems, and restrictive EULA agreements threaten farmers, but the right to repair movement shows they are fighting back.

    Farmers should be able to fix their tractors. This seems so obvious, that the very idea that corporations like John Deere are telling farmers that they can’t resonates as a gross violation of fair play. Indeed, the right of anyone to fix, tinker, modify, or even just access their own stuff—their phones, cars, washing machines—seems basic, yet it’s something that has been quietly eroded by corporations trying to corner the lucrative repair market.

    Americans are starting to realize just how important these rights are, which is why we’ve seen a boom of state legislative initiatives tackling the issue in recent years.

    This delights me as a long-time supporter of the Fair Repair movement.

    What I’m learning is that the more farming equipment goes high-tech, the greater the potential implications for farmer independence, financial agency, and even national security. Prohibiting farmers from repairing their machines is simply a manifestation of a larger systemic tightening of control.

    Agriculture has entered the era of Big Data and “Precision Agriculture.” Some estimates say this industry will grow to $43.4 billion by 2025. All of the BigAg companies are on board, and most (if not all) of the new machinery being released incorporates sensors. This means any new farming equipment is built to be interconnective and to scoop up data wherever it can, which is then combined with historical information like weather reports. The company can then provide “prescriptions” on where, when, and how much to plant, fertilize, and chemicalize.

    But while all these pieces of equipment are simultaneously creating and uploading this data, large questions have not been answered: Who owns the data? Who is controlling it? How is it being shared?

    The American Farm Bureau helped construct the “Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data,” which addresses issues of data ownership, portability, use, and sharing. Companies like Deere and Monsanto were early signers, but questions remain about how much these principes protect in practice.

    If these farmers can hack their devices, who else can?

    Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data

  34. Tomi Engdahl says:

    California becomes the 18th state to introduce right to repair bill
    But it’ll be an uphill battle to get it passed into law

    California has become the latest state to propose the Right to Repair Act, which would require electronics manufacturers to make repair information and parts available to product owners and to third-party repair shops and services.

    California joins 17 other states — Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia — which have proposed similar legislation.

    That said, it’ll be an uphill battle to get right to repair legislation to pass. Most major tech companies, including Apple and Microsoft are opposed to the idea of letting users fix their own devices on the grounds that it poses a security risk to users. That means that the bill will almost certainly have to face the full force of these company’s considerable financial and political capital that will be used to lobby against any new legislation.

  35. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Microsoft sends e-waste recycler to PRISON for a YEAR!

  36. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Apple’s New Proprietary Software Locks Will Kill Independent Repair on New MacBook Pros

    Failure to run Apple’s proprietary diagnostic software after a repair “will result in an inoperative system and an incomplete repair.”

  37. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Adam O’Camb / iFixit:
    Lab test shows Macs with T2 chips can be repaired independently and remain operational as it seems Apple hasn’t activated its rumored software “kill switch”

    Apple’s secret repair kill switch hasn’t been activated—yet

    Well, stop the presses. Turns out, ‘Apple makes your MacBook inoperative if you get it fixed at local repair shops’ isn’t quite true—not yet, no matter what The Sun says. Our lab testing has found that independent (and DIY) repair is alive and well. But it is under threat.

    Even though the Mac line has grown less repairable over time, fixers have still managed to develop techniques for performing essential screen and battery repairs—until now.

  38. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Genius Bar caught ripping customer off ON CAMERA by CBC News

    This Macbook has no backlight due to a common F’up – pin 1 of the LCD cable is bent. Pin 1 is for the LCD backlight. The board’s current sensing circuit on backlight output will notice that pin 1 is touching the connector housing itself, shorted to ground, and not send power through to the circuit. Bending the pin back fixed the problem.

    At Apple, this issue would have cost the customer $1200. You might not believe me, which is why we have it all on tape. :)

  39. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Apple’s war on refurbishing.

    The war has already begun:
    1: You do not own any movie, It’s licensed to you, even if you purchase the DVD or BluRay legally
    2: You do not own your games that you legally purchase and paid for, you are only leasing them
    3: You do not own any music you buy, whether it be CD’s or ITunes, you are merely renting them
    4: You do not own your laptop or computer if it’s running Windows 10, you are merely renting the license to use it, but it does not belong to you
    5: You do not own your IPhone, or any Apple product, even if you purchase it legally, for the above mentioned reasons
    6: These retarded laws also apply to some car models you buy….soon this madness will spread everywhere, where you WILL NOT own anything, no private property, no land, no cars, no purchases
    These scum bag pieces of shit who are doing this (all companies, businesses, corporations etc) are vehemently opposed to ANYONE being able to own anything, so make your vote known voice your protest

    What Louis is exposing here is merely the tip of the iceberg and it’s going to get worse

  40. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Printer Makers Are Crippling Cheap Ink Cartridges Via Bogus ‘Security Updates’

    Printer maker Epson is under fire this month from activist groups after a software update prevented customers from using cheaper, third party ink cartridges. It’s just the latest salvo in a decades-long effort by printer manufacturers to block consumer choice, often by disguising printer downgrades as essential product improvements. For several decades now printer manufacturers have lured consumers into an arguably-terrible deal: shell out a modest sum for a mediocre printer, then pay an arm and a leg for replacement printer cartridges that cost relatively-little to actually produce.

    Printer Makers Are Crippling Cheap Ink Cartridges Via Bogus ‘Security Updates’
    Epson is just the latest company to wage covert war on consumer choice.

  41. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Do You Have a Right To Repair Your Phone? The Fight Between Big Tech and Consumers

    Eric Lundgren got 15 months in prison for selling pirated Microsoft software that the tech giant gives away for free. His case cuts to the heart of a major battle going on in the tech industry today: Companies are trying to preserve aspects of U.S. copyright law that give them enormous power over the products we own.

  42. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Tractor Hacking: The Farmers Breaking Big Tech’s Repair Monopoly

    When it comes to repair, farmers have always been self reliant. But the modernization of tractors and other farm equipment over the past few decades has left most farmers in the dust thanks to diagnostic software that large manufacturers hold a monopoly over.

    In this episode of State of Repair, Motherboard goes to Nebraska to talk to the farmers and mechanics who are fighting large manufacturers like John Deere for the right to access the diagnostic software they need to repair their tractors.

  43. Tomi Engdahl says:


    As anyone who repairs electronics knows, keeping a device in working order often means fixing both its hardware and software. But a big California farmers’ lobbying group just blithely signed away farmers’ right to access or modify the source code of any farm equipment software.

    Farmers can’t change engine settings, can’t retrofit old equipment with new features, and can’t modify their tractors to meet new environmental standards on their own. Worse, the lobbyists are calling it a victory.

    The ability to maintain their own equipment is a big deal to farmers.

    Repair is a huge business. And repair monopolies are profitable. Just ask Apple

    The press release describes how equipment dealers have agreed to provide “access to service manuals, product guides, on-board diagnostics and other information that would help a farmer or rancher to identify or repair problems with the machinery.” Fair enough. These are all things fixers need.

    But without access to parts and diagnostic software, it’s not enough to enable farmers to fix their own equipment.

    California’s Electronics Right to Repair Act was introduced in March. Right-to-repair bills have proved overwhelmingly popular with voters

    distinction between a right to repair a vehicle and a right to modify software

    four restrictions:

    No resetting immobilizer systems.
    No reprogramming electronic control units or engine control modules.
    No changing equipment or engine settings that might negatively affect emissions or safety.
    No downloading or accessing the source code of any proprietary embedded software.

    These restrictions are enormous.

    When electronics control the basic functions of all major farm equipment, a single malfunctioning sensor can bring a machine to its knees. Modifying software is a routine part of modern repair.

    Where California farmers go, the rest of America follows—and in this case, that’s dangerous.

  44. Tomi Engdahl says:

    In Groundbreaking Decision, Feds Say Hacking DRM to Fix Your Electronics Is Legal

    The new exemptions are a major win for the right to repair movement and give consumers wide latitude to legally repair the devices they own.

  45. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Kyle Wiens / iFixit:
    New DRM rules allow jailbreaking of voice-assistant devices and unlocking of new phones, but don’t allow game consoles to be fixed or HDCP to be bypassed

    Copyright Office Ruling Issues Sweeping Right to Repair Reforms

  46. Tomi Engdahl says:

    New DMCA exemptions will make it easier for archivists and museums to preserve video games, provided they acquire original game and server codes legally — In a series of rulings, the Library of Congress has carved out a number of exemptions that will help the movement to archive and preserve video games.

    Copyright Law Just Got Better for Video Game History

    In a series of rulings, the Library of Congress has carved out a number of exemptions that will help the movement to archive and preserve video games.

  47. Tomi Engdahl says:

    From today, it’s OK in the US to thwart DRM to repair your stuff – if you keep the tools a secret
    Selling toolsets is a no-no, distributing them for free a gray area

    This week the US Copyright Office ruled it’s OK for Americans to break anti-piracy protections in a bunch of home and personal devices, and vehicles, in the course of fixing or tinkering with said equipment.

    Mechanisms put in place to thwart unauthorized repairs or changes – such as firmware code that disables third-party replacements – can be legally circumvented to fix or adapt – deep breath – smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, routers and other wireless hotspots, digital personal assistants, and cars, trucks and tractors.

    Up until now manufacturers have tried to lock out unofficial repairs for various reasons: partly to stop people fitting dodgy or backdoored replacements, and mostly to ensure customers fork out for official expensive parts and services.

    DRM is also used to ensure people use only official printer ink cartridges or ground coffee beans.


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