325: Is the Right To Repair A Privilege?

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Right To Repair a Car

The right to repair question centers around one seemingly unlikely tech company: John Deer. It turns out that tractors are some of the most sophisticated machines (dare we say, robots) with hundreds of sensors, computer components, and software to run all facets of the machine. As a result, repairs have become more complicated and companies like John Deer are choosing to lock down their software to prevent unauthorized repairs.

Of course, this presents a problem for farmers. Not only do authorized dealer repairs tend to cost more, they’re also not always conveniently close to the farm. To them, it feels like the big companies are simply trying to squeeze them for more money.

It’s a debate that has implications on all hardware/software devices: your phone, computer, washing machine, refrigerator, car, and more. This week we dive into it… and spoiler alert… we don’t really come to any hard conclusions. It’s complicated.

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Right To Repair Show Notes

Hacking Your Tractor With Ukrainian Software Jason Koebler, Motherboard

How things used to be:

  • You bought a tractor from John Deere
  • It would break down
  • You could take it an authorized John Deere dealer
  • You could bring it to an authorized John Deere repair shop
  • You could take it to an unauthorized John Deere repair shop
  • You could have your neighbor who used to work at a John Deere repair shop look at it
  • You could look at it.
  • Replacements were available widely because they were easy to make
  • Extra competition drove down prices

How things are today:

  • A computer is involved in almost every step of running your tractor
  • It would break down
  • You could take it an authorized John Deere dealer
  • You could bring it to an authorized John Deere repair shop
  • A lack of competition drives up prices prices

What owners want:


Why Apple Hates The Idea Of Farmers Fixing Their Tractors Craig Lloyd, How-To Geek

The legislation is always written in such a way that it won’t just affect tractor manufactures, but all software driven hardware. This includes TV’s, cars, refrigerators and iPhones. Many tech companies object to these laws on the basis that:

  • it will force them to give away too much proprietary technology
  • The internal diagnostic software is not designed for consumer level use, and as such it’s not stable enough for non-trained technicians to use it safely.
  • The regulation will be onerous and way to expensive.

Legally, Those “Warranty Void If Opened” Stickers Are Meaningless


Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash