Scenes from our dystopian cyberpunk present

How is this headline for real?

Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware

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. [...]

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." The agreement applies to anyone who turns the key or otherwise uses a John Deere tractor with embedded software. It means that only John Deere dealerships and "authorized" repair shops can work on newer tractors. [...]

And a reminder to never trust a man with a pig farm:

Deere sold farmers their tractors, but has used software to maintain control of every aspect of its use after the sale. Kluthe, for example, uses pig manure to power his tractor, which requires engine modifications that would likely violate John Deere's terms of service on newer machines.

"I take the hog waste and run it through an anaerobic digester and I've learned to compress the methane," he said. "I run an 80 percent methane in my Chevy Diesel Pickup and I run 90 percent methane in my tractor. And they both purr. I take a lot of pride in working on my equipment."

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13 Responses:

  1. Web Guy says:

    US farmers have so much clout that it isn't even funny. If this brings home the value of software freedom and hackability to them, this is great news in otherwise dark times.

  2. Andrew says:

    Embargo on!

  3. Matthew Platte says:

    Those with whom the US farmer must deal — Monsanto, Deere, USDA, insurance companies, fuel-sellers — have clout. US farmer has little influence.

  4. Extra benefit of using this mod: your tractor's location is automatically reported to the GRU.

  5. Biff Tannen says:

    How does requiring only John Deere service not violate the Magnuson-Moss warranty act? Maybe it doesn't apply to off road vehicles? Or I know the answer, suddenly its "job-killing" so we can overlook it.

    • yet another nathan says:

      The Magnuson-Moss warranty act (15 U.S.C. §2301) is still on the books, but each clause providing any recourse or standard of behavior has individually been negated piece-meal or overridden via amendments introduced and resolved via conference committee, so that while act as a while still is exists, the scope of what a "consumer product" has been reduced as well as minimizing the burden of responsibility of the warrantor.

      • James says:

        Do you have a link describing this situation for the activist inclined to advocate a rollback of the weakening? Which organization(s) are doing the best for consumers in this area?

    • Aristotle says:

      The software industry got a pass on the “you don’t own the shit we sold you, you only bought a narrow right to use it” model, didn’t it? And now software is apparently eating the world, so…

  6. Ian says:

    The article doesn't ask the real question: Do the tractor keygens play country music chiptunes?

  7. thielges says:

    Good luck Preventing farmers from fiddling with anything. These folks won't bother with a 100 mile drive to the repair shop when they've got well equipped workshops and some wintergreen chaw to keep me going. They're America's Proto hackers and makers.

  8. o.o says:

    Harley-Davidson came up with a similarly odious way of locking in consumers (and locking out shadetree mechanics/mechanically inclined owners). They use a proprietary format to communicate with the ECM, and even if you manage to get your hands on the tool to do it, the tool shuts down if it can't communicate back home every six weeks or so to authenticate.

  9. Rich says:

    It's only going to get more Tesla.

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