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.

A trip across the prairies then is to drive past Deere products in use from most of the last century. They will still supply parts for machines they made before WW2, and farmers will remain loyal to the brand throughout their lives.

Well… That used to be the case.  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”. This has sent the farmers running to illicit corners of the internet to spend their dollars on their own Deere electronic updating kits rather than on call-out fees for a Deere mechanic. Farmers have had centuries of being resourceful, this is simply the twenty-first century version of the hacks they might have performed decades ago with baler twine and old fertiliser sacks.

You might ask what the hack is here, as in reality they’re just buying a product online, and using it. But this is merely the latest act in a battle in one industry that could have ramifications for us all. Farmers are used to the model in which when they buy a machine they own it, and the Deere DRM is reshaping that relationship to one in which their ownership is on the manufacturer’s terms. How this plays out over the coming years, and how it affects Deere’s bottom line as farmers seek tractors they can still repair, will affect how other manufacturers of products non-farmers use consider DRM for their own business models.

Outside the window where this is being written is a Deere from the 1980s. It’s a reliable and very well-screwed-together tractor, though given the subject of this piece it may be our last green and yellow machine. Its dented badge makes a good metaphor for the way at least for us the brand has been devalued.

Thanks [Jack Laidlaw] for the tip.

105 thoughts on “The Icon Of American Farming That You Now Have To Hack To Own

    1. Agreed it should be on moral grounds alone but I think in the end it’s going to bite them in the ass as it their practices will drive customers away.
      The people who decided on this policy are very short sighted as a farmer who had to wait for a JD mechanic to fix his tractor probably will not buy one again esp if it results in lost crops.

      1. Exactly!

        A farmer will loose $100,000 in crop value waiting for a $500 repair to his tractor only because he has no choice when he has already bought the tractor.

        But that that same farmer will never buy a DRM tractor for the rest of his life.

        1. I wont buy –

          1) Any FTDI product because they thought it would be OK to make me look like a fool to my customers because I chose to put a FTDI USB/Serial bridge in a product. I would sooner buy Prolific.

          2) Any Sandisk product because they used Sandisk server dependence to render eye-fi cards useless in an attempt to force customers to re-purchase in order to replace these cards. I used to buy a *LOT* of Sandisk SSD’s for servers.

          3) Any Team-group products because that make false claims (outright lie) about transfer speeds for their memory products.

          All this started with a CD I bought many years ago. I was an avid CD collector and had several hundreds of (purchased new) CDs.

          It was Billie Pipers album “Honey to the bee” and it covertly installed DRM via a autorun.inf file if you put it in a computer.

          That was over 25 years ago and I have never bought another CD or paid a cent for music and that probably indicates that when people are shafted by the products they buy, they *NEVER* go back to that brand or even product.

          DRM is about nothing more than screwing customers over for everything you can deceitfully get out of them.

          DRM was the lovechild of the music industry who not only used it to screw over consumers they also used it to screw over the artists for every last cent. Consumers were paying a high price for artists music. Labels were sitting on their rich fat asses reaping it in while all but the lucky few artists were living in relative poverty.

          So jump into your browser plugins and OS and kill/delete/disable the DRM.

          1. I too am on a DRM free diet, started a CD collection, stopped when DRM came in. Started a DVD collection, ditto… Stopped buying floppy based games back in the day when they wouldn’t install to HDD as a DRM measure, then went back to gaming somewhat, and put up with some of the less intrusive DRM like one time serial number, then cut them off again when they went to continuous online verification. Ditto that with utility software, use as much freeware as I can. Cut off my cable TV when it went digital and I could no longer time shift the few shows worth watching.

            Noticed something disturbing too, copyright trolls don’t want ANYTHING to be DRM free, they’re sneaking Dickens novels and other things LONG in the public domain into DMCA takedown lists. They’re using creative commons pieces in commercial works, or putting them on pay to use repositories and their trolls are then trying to sue subsequent users of said CC works.

            Analogously we will probably expect such vile behavior from concerns such as John Deere down the road, like having police intercept pre-DRM parts offered for sale, shutting down auctions for older parts and whatever they think will make their previously loyal users give up and buy new, instead of incensing them into further rage and determination never to put so much as a bent nickel in their pockets ever again.

          2. “and I have never bought another CD or paid a cent for music”

            Oh, you definitely have. Every time you buy food, you’re paying the royalty fees the shop has to pay for the in-store music over the PA, and the music they use in their adverts on TV/radio and other publicity campaigns.

            Every time you hear music being played in public, someone’s paying money to the copyright agencies for that, and that someone will then roll that cost into the products and services you buy. There’s no escaping the protection money racket of the copyright mafia, and there’s no check or balance or negotiation in how much money they’re allowed to take.

          3. Not just the music in the jingles though. When it comes down to it, those products pay for ALL the music played on commercial radio stations. :-(

          4. >”When it comes down to it, those products pay for ALL the music played on commercial radio stations. :-(”

            And you are not asked how much you want to pay for that music. The price is simply the maximum they can extract out of the advertisers. It has no relationship with how much it costs to make the music, or how much the artists are getting paid for it.

            Same thing for commercial TV stations and TV series/movies. You think you’re watching free OTA channels?

          5. Yes, FTDI shot themselves in the ass with that move. I helped a friend designing the electronics for a small series gadget (the magic shifter, it was featured here) and when it came to the choice of the USB serial bridge I voted against FTDI. At first he wanted to use it because it is the most well known brand – for some people FTDI stands for USB-serial like Aspirin stands for acetylsalicylic acid :-) But we used the CP2102 then. Of course 500 to 1000 pieces are not that big number, but it was also to spread the word.

          6. @[Martin]

            The FTDI was a more expensive chip with more capabilities than most people needed anyway.

            Most USB to Serial bridges are not at all emulating TTL level RS-232.

            TTL-RS-232 has handshaking signals as well as the Tx Rx and the FTDI chip accommodated for some of these where many other chips only broke out Tx, Rx.

            So if you *only* want Tx, Rx then the FTDI was a poor choice anyway.

            There are other cheaper chips that will do the full TTL-RS-232 emulation anyway and even more cheaper chips that only do the Tx,Rx.

        2. Patents are a different kettle of fish and have their own limitations.

          However, I believe that deliberate impediment to “fair use” by DRM, encryption or other means, for copyrighted works, should automatically and immediately invalidate the copyright social/legal contract and put the work into the public domain. Fair use protections need sharp, savage teeth.

      2. I had a talk earlier with a former farmer emphasizing just how important those “windows of opportunity” were when it came to having needed parts and why particular brands were chosen. Interestingly enough things like John Deere and Case construction equipment. I imagined DRMed equipment never entered his mind as another factor.

    2. There was nothing in his comments that “blame America First” so if you want to be taken seriously then you will have to come up with something better than that.

      In my constitution we have the division of power by the separation of three authorities: Parliament, Law enforcement and the judicial system.

      Like your constitution the potential power of media was not recognized at the time of writing so the media continues unabated today. I thought the US would be paying more attention to this with Trump’s new term ‘fake news’.

      We had your US copy-write people come over here and splash money around our parliament, now as a result we have permanent warrantless recording of everything we do on the internet just in-case we *may* download something that is copy-write and our phones are Geo-located every 5 five minutes.

    3. The unabomber was a loony, and his reification of technology a fallacy: it’s not the technology that changes society, but the society that chooses how to wield the technology.

      And indeed here as well – the problem isn’t that it’s technologically possible to lock down tractors with DRM, but in our social and legal framework that says it’s permissible and even correct to do that, because by logical consistency; if a painter/writer/singer/etc. has absolute monopoly over the results of their work by default, then a tractor manufacturer has absolute monopoly over any IP they create just the same.

      They’re well withing their legal AND moral rights to screw you over any way they want – as long as you buy the general argument about Intellectual Property.

      Modern copyrights and intellectual property laws were founded in the 19th century to enable just this sort of abuse, as book publishers realized they couldn’t go to the king anymore to demand a monopoly to print books and maintain their cartels – so they changed the argument to say the creative author has a magical right to dictate rules on the distribution of their “intellectual property”, so that this right could be transferred to the publisher. These IP rights are just about rent-seeking – not fairly compensating the authors.

      The problems we’re seeing today with DRM and the like are just the logical conclusion of that. The solutions are also a logical consequence: abolish copyrights.

        1. @[Dax]

          And *people* are predictable and can be manipulated and that is what big data is about.

          It’s true to define technology as abstract but the same can be said of humans so this is more about the relationship between the two.

        2. @ROB I understand what ‘big data’ implis…but I alwayts had a utopian idea of what big data is: it should be universal access to police records/data by various police agencies, medical data available to any licensed doctor registered medcial facility. I am in complete agreement that people should be fingerprinted and DNA-sampled at birth. The only people with any cause for concern would be those contemplatig a crime.

          Petabytes of ‘big data’ which only consists of :- which websites did people visit today? What adverts did they close rapidly, what clothing stores are they close to, blah blah blah is just bullshit that these large gimpy corps tell themselves is important.

          I don’t particularly care for goggles total integration into my existence. Sure, I like that the calendar is available on my PC and mobile but I don’t enjoy them (goggle) telling me I have an appointment via email, sms message, etc…it is just too all-encompassing.

        3. >”The only people with any cause for concern would be those contemplatig a crime.”

          Always assuming the state and the authorities in question aren’t abusing the data, which would be a legitimate concern as individual people can access to e.g. your medical records via a friendly doctor, and could use the data to harm you.

    4. I wouldn’t blame America. I would just put the onus on corporations. There is NO need for a tractor to be electronically altered to the point that it becomes a financial headache to those who bought one. I would say the same for the car. The ‘reliance’ upon technology has been sub-consciously imposed by the very manufacturers that hold folk to ransom to get a service or fix performed on their personal transport. The general public is an idiot to buy into this enforced shitty business model. Example: while in NZ, I could pay Audi $90 to fix the ‘Service Required’ message that appeared on my car panel – regardless of the fact that regular servicing was performed, or pay ‘Oil-Changers’ $60 to change my oil, filter, adopt the responsibility for disposing of the old oil,filter…and hook a laptop up to the car and fix the message themselves. Being compelled by a purchase agreement to only use a set practice is stupid in this day and age when shopping around has become the norm to reduce costs.

      I would, however, accuse the US farmer of being a moron. Just because you can grow 400 acres of wheat in a field the size of an English county doesn’t mean you should. I have seen no evidence of crop-rotation in any large US farm. Growing the same crop year-in, year-out and then wondering why your crop is suffering, or your topsoil has been eroded, speaks volumes. These twats seem to have forgotten the very methods that their ancestors brought with them when they sallied forth to new lands. I have no sympathy for over-zealous farming practices.

    5. My friends back home tell me they were forced to do this by the EPA and the DRM lock down has to do with pollution mitigation. They may be misguided but they are closer to the issue than most of the people writing these stories.

  1. John Deere? Strange that’s not the tractor I still see running on most farms. It’s the Farmall. These are not modern tractors but they’re still running. I also see a lot of other tractors so I won’t name them all.

    1. I haven’t seen a Farmall in forever.
      There are still a few propane-powered Oliver’s running around here though.

      Tractor brands are very regional. In my area there’s a ton of farmers that prefer John Deere and Case IH. But go 2 hours north and it’s all Massey Ferguson’s. Why? I suspect it’s simply because there are more reputable JD/Case dealers here and more MF dealers there.

      Farmers don’t generally spend time researching which brand will best suit their needs. They are more worried about how quickly they can get support after the purchase. I might be willing to drive several hours to get a good deal on a tractor, but if I’m going to have to drive more than an hour to get parts for it? Forget it.

      1. Yah, ppl kept recommending Subarus and Mitsubishis to me through the years, and I wouldn’t buy them, not new, not used, not $500 trade-ins to goof around with… .., “But X model is just what you’re looking for!!!” … Nope, it can’t be… the nearest dealer is an hour and a half away, and there’s none in the yards around here… Subsequently these brands did get dealers here in last few years… hence they will be on my beater consideration list in the future.

    2. Larger farm, even non-commercial family owned, which still exist and are a large part of agriculture, have pretty much transitioned to machines that can self navigate, get very high fuel efficiency, and can monitor their own systems closely enough to allow maintenance and repairs to be done with minimal downtime. These are the machines that are affected. The concerns come when the inevitable happens: an un-anticipated, often un-anticipatable, failure: a bad connector, a component that just breaks due to circumstances or manufacturing flaw, an accident, or a design flaw.

      The older machines can’t compete when operating cost greatly outweighs purchase and financing. Unless, of course, repair and maintenance are so high as to make up the difference. If you are saving an employee wage and $50/day in fuel, just to pay a much higher hourly and several hundred dollars up front, as well as losing hours or days of productivity, which can be an entire crop for some things, then you gotta find a way around it.

      The killer for a company like Deere is that they will put some of their customers out of business. They may not be worried, since they don’t directly finance most of the equipment, and can expense the losses of that which they do, and they make a good profit all around on each unit so they can absorb a fair loss. The problem is that third parties will make it more difficult to finance their equipment. The big ag companies won’t need to worry, since a machine down won’t hurt them much and if they hold enough equipment, they will get priority service and may even have an on-site rep, but the mid to smaller customer will move to another company.

      1. In the US there is growing resentment towards the large factory farms due to lower quality product and lower safety.
        salmonella wasn’t common in eggs and ecoli in beef until large scale factory farms became the norm and factory farm produce is generally inferior in taste and nutrition to heirloom varieties.
        They also tend to use up the land to the point they need to use a lot of fertilizers to keep it producing which means more water pollution.

        1. Only thing I will dispute here is your claim about salmonella and e-coli. Both were MUCH more prevalent in the past than today. When I grew up (mostly local farms) it was pretty much expected that if you weren’t careful handling eggs, you would get hit with ‘the squirts’. Beef was local, as well, and you knew which butcher to avoid. Many modern varieties of food crops are, in my opinion, flavour deficient. Especially tomatoes, carrots, and apples. They seem to be bred for travel and sweetness, rather than flavour.

          Fertilizers have been in use for millennia, but some modern practices have certainly accelerated the depletion of the soil. In many cases, it is monoculture. Jethro Tull introduced rotation when??? I currently live in an area where the primary commercial crop is sod, and fert runoff is an issue that can also negatively affect the smaller farms that grow food. There are a few aqua farms (tank-grown fish) in the area as well. Properly managed, they should be a net benefit, but improperly, they will add to the runoff problem. That remains to be seen, as they are recent additions.

    3. Since you seem to have more familiarity with tractors than most, are there any companies that are not participating in these shenanigans?

      I also suspect that it is more than just tractors. Combines are pretty big (and expensive) too.

      If I were a farmer, I would avoid any company that pulled this kind of crap.

        1. or barely passable Harbor Freight tractors from China? I’m afraid though that the farmers who vote with their dollars are playing along until they turn to said booming market. Indeed shenanigans must be boisterously declared and without delay.

          1. If they keep adding drmed hardware and designing things to be unservicable by the end user eventually these Chinese tractors will become the more reliable option just because they can be repaired in the field.

        2. Open source farm equipment time…. start with doodlebug tractor design that can bolt in a wide array of engine transmissions and axles, built from common size stock and pipe fittings, and whatever you can pick up in a harbor Freight or Northern Tool type place. Take harrow, rake and other implement designs from pre WWII sources like Practical Machinist, Popular Mechanics etc, and rejig them for modern available materials…

      1. Part of the problem is all the environmental controls now required on Tier IV diesel engines force manufacturers to computerize and sensorize the engines to meet emissions standards. The purely mechanical engines which anybody could fix are now going the way of the Dodo.

        As an interesting aside try googling “deere combine emissions control system fires”

  2. Aren’t there other tractor manufacturers that don’t treat their customers like that?
    Would seem to be a pretty good selling point for their competitors.

    1. If not it could be a good business opportunity for someone with the investment capital as an honest company that treats it’s customers well could easily crush all the companies who act like JD.

      1. I’m waiting to see who’s going to be the first to open-source a production vehicle, and how well it pays off for them. Perhaps build them closed source for 5 years till you’ve paid the R&D cost, then throw the doors open and make all the info available. I could see it being very popular as an alternative to shenanigans like this on longer-lived stuff like tractors and trucks.

  3. This same thing happened almost two decades ago with trying to lock down the internet with respect to music. Remember all the Napster and other “the world will end if the music is given away for free” nonsense? Last I checked, you can go onto Youtube right now and listen to all sorts of music from literally hundreds of thousands of artists, so much of it uploaded and ad wrapped by the recording studios themselves.

    The market, over time, has a way of dealing with this too, with respect to hardware. People will gradually stop buying hardware from companies that put this junk into their products and they will also find ways around dealing with it on their own in multiple ways, most of which John Deer is not going to really like. It isn’t right and it isn’t really even fair to the customer and while I understand that John Deer might be misguidedly thinking this is for the best, it really isn’t. They will eventually figure this out, through lost sales and better competition that opts not to treat their now pissed off customers this way. But it will take them a while to do so and push back like this helps to make this at least somewhat clearer. Plus, it will also allow for other competitors to enter the marketplace that offer the lack of this as a feature.

    Remember the Napster / Metallica scandal?

    Fast forward a decade and a half.
    Napster has been replaced by Youtube and what’s this?
    Official Metallica channel. It’s been there for years.

    They even have tour videos, behind the scenes, new music, etc. It promotes engagement, sells ancillary products, keeps them relevant, sells their tours and helps push their brand far more than the alternative. I guarantee you that Metallica isn’t exactly hurting or any less popular now than they were ten or fifteen years ago, even though the “file sharing” has somehow taken over the world and tried to put them out of business or incur hundreds of trillions of dollars of hypothetical lost sales. I get that it’s not exactly the same as what John Deer is doing here but the concept of a misguided attempt at “PROTECT THE BRAND AT ALL COSTS”, even when the expense is that of the people who actually buy your products is still fairly similar here.

    Also, John Deer isn’t the only brand that does this. Automobiles do as well, which has caused all sorts of issues for independent repair shops. Probably worth another whole article about that.

    Also, [I]f your tractor breaks in the field[,] you can fit a new part as you always have done. Needs a comma there.

    1. True making things more centralized and automated may improve the bottom line but it also makes it more likely a single disaster could shut everything down.
      DRMed software and hardware is inherently more fragile than non DRMed simply because less people can fix it.

      1. “But some of those seeds actually escape test farms and blight neighboring farm crops.”
        Ive heard this has happened with soy especially. There is suppose to be no nonGMO soy left.

      2. Virtually every crop is GMO. Soy, wheat, corn, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, etc are ALL modified from their natural ancestor. This is not new. If you were to try a pre-GMO carrot, you would likely spit it out. Bitter.

        The monoculture issue is a definite concern. Seedbanks, heritage growers, and protected lands with wild varieties provide security, to a point. Plant a wild variety of something in your garden. If you have the climate, maybe bananas? I remember options other than bland cavendish (barely… I was young) being available in the US. I have several tomato varieties in my yard. I just let them grow. If there is a nice fruit, I pull it, but, mostly, the local fauna get them first.

      3. And because they contain additional parts, the DRM components, which are not designed for reliability but for “security”, to prevent the correct function in case they think they should. Basically you pay for software, which does not help your job, but reduces the reliability.

    2. Yes, Metallica the band hated the idea of digital downloads because they made zero dollars off an illegal download. They may have only made pennies off a legal CD sale but at least they got something. Most bands really only make money from touring and merchandizing. But that was then.
      Metallica has been able to regain control of their music by re-recording their entire back catalog and selling those original copies rather than the copies pressed by their former label. They also have control of their music on the internet now. There are fans and pirates who put their music out there illegally, but the band is in a better position to profit off their work.
      James Hetfield went on Joe Rogan’s podcast, episode #887 It was actually pretty interesting to hear his side of he story after the drama has died down.
      I guess the question here is is there an analog between the music industry, farmers and John Deere?

  4. Well the Model A, B, and O tractors I have appear unaffected by this DRM thing… However the model O is affected by the “Try to rip your fingers off” problem if you don’t pull the steering wheel out of the flywheel fast enough.

    Unrelated to the last – Would someone please run for president under the platform of doing away with DRM and the DMCA? I feel like it would be a viable platform at this point.

  5. When I bought a Chevrolet last year I had to sign a piece of paper saying I will not “reverse engineer or modify” the car. When I asked what happens if I don’t sign it they said they can’t sell me the car.

    1. Not only is that ineffectual, as anyone can turn around and sell that car to someone else that is allowed to do all those things for lack of an agreement, but it also means some poor sob is going to retrofit some ugly after market indicator lights to his car, only to discover that he is being litigated into oblivion by a ravenous team of big brand lawyers just to make a point.

    2. Does that mean you can’t paint it a different color? Install an aftermarket stereo? Change the wheels to lowrider rims or whatever the kids are into these days? Seems unenforceable but IANAL.

      1. Next step: having to replace the whole car because the contract says “opening any part of the car that’s not designed to be opened is prohibited because you’ll see some wires and the number of wires and their colors are confidential”.
        We’ll be very happy to throw a working car in a landfill and buy a new one (with our money, no warranty or insurance here) because the side mirror doesn’t work. And if we don’t want to do that, the ECU will detect the broken mirror and erase its firmware, bricking the entire car. Even if there’s no damage, the car will self-destruct right after the warranty’s expiration date, forcing us to buy a new car because “it suddenly stopped working”.

        DRM, unserviceable parts and planned obsolescence are going everywhere, from DVDs to cars, from lightbulbs to tractors. One day these concepts will extend to everything non-electronic (well, planned obsolescence is already everywhere from raw materials to clothes, hopefully DRM isn’t).

    3. I had the same thing put in front of me. I read it, and the wording is such that I can’t even do an oil change, much less replace a burnt out lamp, repaint, or install the accessories that chevy sells for customer installation (about which I get roughly one email per day). I doubt the modify part would hold up, but the reverse engineer might, at least with regards to the software. I lined out both parts, had the dealer rep initial it, and signed. Pretty much all manufacturers have the same these days. The one that makes me want to smash the vehicle is the ads and tracking via onstar, and the demand that I provide a billing credit card for onstar before vehicle delivery (went up the chain and the sales drone got overruled by the manager for show. They apparently get a kickback on the sale there). One day, the antenna line will be cut, since I don’t want or have onstar.

      1. Why do you guys still buy these cars? Walk away. Vote with your valets. The sales drones and dealerships will complain up the chain loudly when they see money they almost got walking off their lots.

        1. I drive an ’80’s Subaru and a ’70’s Triumph, the latter of which doesn’t even have any transistors in it save for the voltage regulator. I just bought my wife a 2016 Subaru, because, while I am able, willing, and equipped to regap points at 2 am in a truck stop, she isn’t. She won’t even buy gas after dark because of bad experiences, so a car with almost perfect reliability is her number one priority, and that pretty much means new.

        2. Cars had been getting more reliable since the early 1980s but then they started getting less reliable after about 2005-2010.
          I’d say a 2017 car typically now is much less reliable than one built 10 or even 20 years ago.

          1. I had to give up on a 1995 vehicle, mostly because the only parts I could get for it in a reasonable time frame, i.e. not waiting 2 weeks, were horrendous quality Chinese ones. Parts you usually think of as lasting several years like balljoints were lasting months. Even if you went to a large parts warehouse, ask to see the 3 they carry, one in a brown box, one in a white box with a colorful label, one in a full colour printed box… $30, $60, $90.. take the parts out.. identical, really identical, same casting from the same machine, came from front, back and side doors of same factory.

    4. I would have look the dealer right in the eye and said no deal and tore up the piece of paper right in front of him and then said well I guess I’ll be taking my bussiness to the Ford or Toyota dealer.

  6. How is it even legal to prevent farmers from suing JD for their lost productivity, when the otherwise perfectly functional tractor they made this way on purpose won’t work until one of JD’s keyholders comes around and unlocks it with a big wad of money?

    1. Because they agreed to give up such rights.

      Honestly I am not surprised. The market is open for buyers to choose alternatives, it is the fault of the purchaser for choosing poorly or out-of-line with reality.

      1. caveat emptor only goes so far, the people that vote for a completely unregulated marketplace are as mad as the ones that want state permission for every transaction.

        as with most other political issues the extremes are ideals, something to aim for and be inspired by, but in any practical sense the pure extremes are impossible to reach let alone justify.

        1. And rights you’re not willing to fight for (even peacefully) are not rights either because all of *your rights* will get crushed if you don’t stand up for them. You do, in fact, have the right to have no rights if you are so ignorant.

    1. Kubota is no better. I’m a Kubota tech, no one wants the newer tier 4 diesels. Parts are obsurdly expensive. 700$ for a urea injector, 1500 for a reformer catalytic converter that has a limited lifespan 1200 for one common rail fuel injector… my cost. Farmer Joe can’t fix his own machine anymore without the kubota digimaster system he can’t buy. Moreover CAN data lines don’t play well with barn dirt and mice that love to chew on wires

      1. Since tractors in the US are not subject to emissions testing someone should make a mega squirt setup for a common rail diesels to allow one to chuck the cat p-ss injection which should not only help serviceability but significantly improve reliability.

  7. > 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.

    You’re ignoring some important American brands who still don’t (or can’t) use DRM crap in their products. One of these is one of the world’s most famous clothing brands (no, I won’t tell the name, but it starts with A and has eleven letters plus five). It’s nearly 125 years old so it’s modern but not that new, though it owns another brand (starts with H) which is just 17 years old.

    Surprisingly, its logo doesn’t look very different from John Deere’s one if you don’t look carefully.
    Does this scare you? It shouldn’t because clothes can’t contain DRM. Yet.

    1. They do.

      The choice of short fiber cotton is a major factor in the longevity of clothing. I handled some T-shirts that were from about 1970, amazing how much more weight and density was there. Mom bought them for a hand painted project. They were cheap for their time.

      1. That’s planned obsolescence, not DRM. DRM in clothes would mean only you can wear the t-shirt you bought and you can only wear it with other “approved” clothes; hopefully this thing doesn’t exist yet.
        Also, planned obsolescence was introduced way back in the 1920s with the “Light Bulb Conspiracy” so it already existed in the 70s.

  8. I’m sure there’s a special circle of Hell reserved for the kind of money managers who come up with this sort of reputation killing extortion schemes. JD already make a very good profit on the sale of their expensive equipment but that is not enough for the money men. They need higher profits every year so the shareholders give them large bonuses. They’d sell their grandmothers to hit the target. Sad!

  9. I’m curious do Massey Ferguson and Zetor up to the same shenanigans as John Deere ?
    I just remembered an old rhyme from many years ago “a massey is classy but a zetor is better”

    1. MF do have drm products, i myself have been contracted to work around such by a dealer because here in the heart of africa its impossible to ‘quick call in the tech’ because he’s two countries away. The drm in question controlled tortoise or hare mode, the drm part was oil pressure system and the two had to be mated to talk, even the new same part required software link up. Solution was to patch f/w to save code on power up.
      Farmers feed the world, lets try not forget that (or suffer chinese fake eggs and plastic rice).

  10. Frankly… not at all surprised. All those years ago when folks like that wouldn’t be bothered believing the shit we were predicting, nay *experiencing,* first-hand in the technological-realm they somehow thought wouldn’t ever affect ’em… Maybe now we, as a people, can start understanding that these problems extend to all of us, and start working together

    1. Right, like first they came for the nerds….in the spirit of…

      First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Socialist.

      Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Jew.

      Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

  11. GAIA has always been prepared for this. The Amish will be our last best hope to rise and inherit the earth once the govt crushes the hacker’s hands for daring to cast eyes apon the sacred DRM.

    1. Their even their works will be shattered as courts deny the rights to their hand grown crops as corporations exercise their scientifically prior claim to ownership of the GMO contaminated crops.

      Euell Gibbons stated that “Almost every part of a pine tree is edible.” Seems we may see.

    1. Unrepairable stuff that is just thrown away when it breaks has to be one of the worst things to happen to the environment in recent history.
      The guy who drives a 1960s muscle car has a much lower carbon foot print than the person who buys a new car every three years since 40% of the lifetime pollution is in the manufacture.

  12. Part of this is media hype, and part of this is Deere just legally protecting their ass. Yeah, I read the EULA on the new tractor’s Gen 4 command center with disgust, but what they don’t know (might not) hurt you. Modified firmware COULD potentially bypass final tier 4 regulations, or cause damage or injury, so proceed with caution. Some software is available for free from Deere to any customer with an internet connection and a flash drive (Greenstar, CommandCenter, etc), but controller firmware still isn’t. Also, if there is an issue halfway through re-flashing the controller, you’re screwed ($1000 controller, upwards of 7 controllers per machine). Maybe someday, it would be nice if the USB command center bootloader could have enough safety checks and CAN bridge to allow free official firmware from Deere. Also, this isn’t just Deere, its most manufacturers. Plus, there are plenty of “DRM” free machines on the used market, and new replacement parts available for machines as far back as the 50’s.

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