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The right to repair

The right to repair

This is a very complicated issue. With the advent of computers and software now controlling almost everything we use so many items that fail are tossed out because it costs more to repair. For larger and much mores expensive items, like an $800,000 tractor, the right to repair has its problems, far too many to detail here. However, this article touches on some of those issues. Australian farmers are fast learners and clever, they have to be.

It’s a modern dilemma — a customer wants to fix a broken smartphone, tablet or laptop, only to be told by the manufacturer they will have to pay top dollar at an “authorised repair centre” or fork out for a replacement. But for farmers like Paul Green, who grows grain in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt, the stakes are a lot higher than a broken iPhone.
“In my view if I’m paying $800,000 for a tractor then I own the tractor and I can do what I want with it,” he said.

Source: ABC

Farmers driving ‘right to repair’ issue as legislative battle unfolds in US

Mr Green is one of many growers across Australia anxiously watching a legal battle unfold in the United States between the ‘Right to Repair’ movement and manufacturers, like Apple.
The ‘Fair Repair’ bill would give individuals the ability to purchase software diagnostic tools that would allow them to take their equipment to a dealer of their choice to fix the problem or try to repair the machine themselves.
And it’s not disgruntled city consumers, frustrated over the lack of options for fixing personal electronics, but farmers who are spearheading the movement.
Nebraskan Senator Lydia Brasch, a farmer with a background in computer science, is sponsoring the bill in her state, last Thursday California became the 18th US state to introduce a similar bill.

Monopoly on repair hurting farmers
Grain growing is big business in Australia, with about 22.3 million hectares planted by farmers annually.
Wheat is the dominant crop, with Western Australia accounting for around half of Australia’s total production, and it all needs to be harvested using built for purpose equipment.
After Australia’s local agricultural machinery industry fell by the wayside in the 1980s, grain and cotton farmers have become tied to overseas manufacturers such as John Deere and Class.
“We are such a small market for the machinery of the whole wide world so we are stuck with what happens in America and what happens in Europe,” said Mr Green.
The tractor of today is a complex computerised system that relies on embedded software to function, and as they’ve become more hi tech the ability to fix them has become increasingly complex.
The world’s biggest tractor manufacturer, John Deere, requires customers to sign a license agreement that forbids them from performing any software repairs, as non-profit digital civil liberties group the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported.
For independent agricultural mechanics like Brendon Kupsch, who runs a repair shop in Geraldton, there is little he can do.
A matter of free choice
“With most modern machinery you’re going to need some sort of software update, whether it’s autosteer or the tractor needs an update or the harvester needs an update, once, twice, three times a year at least so you’ll have a [authorised] technician on your farm,” he said.
“The machinery companies, they want their people to do that sort of work. They don’t want anyone touching their computer stuff.
For Mr Kupsch, the issue boils down to a matter of free choice.
“I think the farmer has the right or anybody has the right to choose who they have repair their tractor, their car their motorbike,” he said.
“If you want a dealership person out on your farm that’s great [but] if you don’t you should [be able to] choose who you want.”

Aside from having to adapt to machines built and tested in overseas conditions, Australian farmers are also faced with being among the most remote in the world.
When one of Mr Green’s machines has a technological fault the callout to the small WA farming town of Hyden could cost him $1,000.
“It’s not like in America where there’s a dealer around the corner who can get on with their computer and sort the issue out for you,” he said.
“What we’re left with is being 120kms away from the dealer, it’s an hour and a half trip for a dealer to come out with his mechanic, plug his computer in, do his little stuff [then] five minutes later turn around and drive for another hour and a half to go home.
While the callout fee may sound excessive, Eastern Wheatbelt farmer Colin Penny said it’s the loss of productivity where they really start to feel the financial pinch.
“If a mechanic is available they could be two [to] three hours away to get on your farm. During a seeding and harvest operation it’s all go and any downtime can cost you,” he said.
Although companies have developed technology that would allow remote software repair sessions, Mr Penny said that was simply not an option in rural Australia.
“I’ve no doubt that the machinery dealers will be saying the telematics [the] new information sharing between machine and factory will solve the problem but given our mobile network out here, it’s just not going to happen,” he said.

Manufacturers cite safety concerns
Manufacturers have cited safety and intellectual property concerns as the reason for the strict controls over software.
In a statement released to the ABC by John Deere, they stated that “unauthorised modification of the embedded software code” could lead to equipment that no longer meets “industry and safety standards, or environmental regulations”.
But for Mr Green, who is due to start seeding in the coming months, time is running out.
“If the tractor manufacturer says they own the software then that’s fine but if they own it they need to be able to fix it and service it and here in Western Australia in particular.
“No matter what they say there is a time lag in there and production is lost while we are waiting for those issues to be resolved,” he said.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Zoltan 12/03/2018, 8:03 am
  • luk1955 12/03/2018, 8:04 am

    What those makers are afraid of is that the farmers will find out all their equipment movements are being tracked and logged by the CIA and NSA. Part of the movement amongst the large international companies to track all movements of everyone and they hand over or sell that info to governments. After all it is the large international companies that are directing western governments around the world. It’s also representative of the loss of liberty being propagated by these large companies as they fight for control of your finances. After all, agenda 21 has as one of its goals, “the end of all private ownership of property”.

    • Pensioner Pete 12/03/2018, 9:02 am

      luk1955: I don’t know about the CIA/NSA claims, but one thing for sure, the quote ‘the end of private ownership of property’ as applied to land and improvements, has already become reality in Queensland. At any time, the Qld government can move and resume your property including the family home if they so choose. Just ask anyone in Brisbane where a new road or tunnel is being built, or ask any farmer who’s land has been taken over by a coal mine – for example, the Ackland Coal mine near Toowoomba, or perhaps, what was prime black soil cropping land between Clermont and Nebo – now turned into mining wastelands.

    • Biking Voter 12/03/2018, 10:17 am

      Stop drinking the bong water, it’s not doing you any good. Neither the Creepy Intelligence Agency or the NSA have any interest what you do with your tractor. Now had you said that USDA were collecting all the data then you may have had a half a chance that I believe you. The USDA is probably an even bigger spy agency than the Creepy Intelligence Agency or the NSA.

    • Neville 13/03/2018, 2:38 am

      Yes, PP and BV, I know I’ve also been guilty of being annoyed enough to comment back, but really, we should all take a breath and note the net aphorism “Don’t feed the troll/conspiracy theorist/agitator/one-track-minder/bong water drinker/etc.”

  • Biking Voter 12/03/2018, 10:12 am

    While you may own the tractor and all of its associated hardware you probably only have a licence to use the software and never actually own it.
    It isn’t that different to many computer programs that you have on your system, you pay a yearly access fee to get all the upgrades and updates while ever you are in credit with the vendor.

    • Pensioner Pete 12/03/2018, 12:08 pm

      Or, have a Linux system, that stuffs ’em right up.

  • Clarion Call 12/03/2018, 3:08 pm

    PP: I’m close to ditching the mongrel Windows 10 system in favour of Linux Mint or other variations of that operating system. Can you/anyone in MM Land recommend the change. Microsoft Windows and the wifester are conducting a version of cyber war at the moment. She mistakenly believes she has the right to operate Windows without constant interference and unwanted changes by Microsoft as they see fit. Comments, peoples?

    • Pensioner Pete 12/03/2018, 3:20 pm

      CC: Personally, after trying a number of different ‘flavours’ of Linux over many years, I would strongly recommend Ubuntu LTS. If you wish to keep your Windows for any reason, you can install Ubuntu (like most Linux flavours) as a dual boot system. Refers: https://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop

  • Clarion Call 12/03/2018, 3:56 pm

    PP: Thanks for the info. Wot’s a dual-boot system? (Computer-speak isn’t my thing). We say Windows is now out the window, quick smart. Does Google get replaced by Yahoo or something similar (hopefully)? Finally, who inserts the Linux system and emma chisit for the new PC resident?

    • Pensioner Pete 12/03/2018, 4:05 pm

      Dual boot = choose to either boot into Ubuntu or choose to boot into Windows, thus you keep all your Windows stuff if you wish, and away you go. The link will give you a good deal of info, and the Ubuntu blogs are a good place to go for info. The first step is the one where the brow becomes sweaty as it is new ground being broken, but once it is up and running, and you have been using it for a while, you will wonder why you didn’t take the step earlier.

    • Pensioner Pete 12/03/2018, 4:28 pm

      CC: Take a look here for a bit of info to help your journey Refers: https://ubuntuforums.org/

      • Zoltan 12/03/2018, 6:05 pm

        If you want the ultimate simplicity CC and only use the PC for browsing, email, letters etc you can certainly do a lot worse than checking out chromebook, especially refurbed ones on eBay for about $250, I’ve got 2 and I love them. They’re greatly relied upon for my work.

  • Clarion Call 12/03/2018, 5:32 pm

    PP: Nice work fellow oletimer. Will follow up ASAP before the Windows police find out that we’ve absconded and they try to hunt us down. These cyber-communications new-world thingymejigs may be better than my loyal carrier pigeons, megaphone and 50 year-old Remington typewriter, but the old ways of doing things were uncomplicated and a lot of fun (at the time).

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