An unlikely pair of congressmen politicians -- Bob Barr (Libertarian Party) and Ralph Nader (Green Party) -- are jointly supporting Right-To-Repair Act of 2009 (H.R. 2057), a law that would make it legal to break the DRM on automotive systems so that independent garages can repair cars even if the manufacturers try to lock them out and then charge high rents to a select few mechanics who are given the crypto keys necessary to read the engine diagnostics:
We're all for promoting competition and consumer choice. But this bill points to a much bigger consumer issue. The problem that this law attempts to fix is the direct result of the use of computers in cars, accompanied by proprietary diagnostic tools and "lock-out codes." Sound familiar? It should, as it's the very sort of thing that can also make it difficult to repair computer systems, sell replacement garage door openers, and refill printer toner cartridges. One underlying legal problem here is the DMCA, which prohibits bypassing or circumventing "technological protection measures."
So while the Right-to-Repair Act of 2009 is legislation that deserves our support, it doesn't help those who repair things other than cars. For example, it won't help Joe Montero, who treks to the Copyright Office every three years to argue for a DMCA exemption to permit the repair and replacement of obsolete and malfunctioning software "dongles," those little hardware devices purportedly intended to prevent software piracy, but which often end up frustrating perfectly legitimate customers.
Craiglist has something wonderful on it: a vast collection of more than 600 vintage Smith-Corona typewriters, including accessories and marketing literature. Yours for a hundred grand. My collection consists of over 600 typewriter items including the company’s first typewriter in the 1880’s to one of the company’s last typewriters in 2000’s and all models in […]
We’re huge fans of portable power gadgets, but this one isn’t going in my pocket to help me keep my phone topped up after lunch. Anker’s Powerhouse is the size and weight of a concrete construction brick, and at $500 and 120,000mAh, by far their largest power pack yet. It’ll charge your laptop 15 times […]
Why buy one of those expensive and confusing universal remotes, clogged with enough buttons to launch a space shuttle, when you could accomplish the same electronic control right on your favorite mobile device? The Blumoo Universal Remote, now just $52.99 in the Boing Boing Store, harnesses the audio power of all your household equipment right […]
You may not love Microsoft Word, but you’ve definitely used it. Other than being one of the most ubiquitous programs on the planet, it’s been the go-to word processing system for more than a quarter-century because it’s as basic as it gets. But occasionally, you’ve got assignments that beg for a lot more options than simple […]
Almost everyone has their smartphone in a case of one kind or another. Beyond simple protection, finding a case that can charge your phone on its own, but doesn’t feel like it’s also adding a couple pounds to the phone’s weight is the tricky part. Billed as the world’s thinnest battery case, the ThinCharge iPhone […]