My latest Locus column, "Let’s Get Better at Demanding Better from Tech," looks at how science fiction can make us better critics of technology by imagining how tech could be used in difference social and economic contexts than the one we live in today.
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Motherboard's short documentary, "Tractor Hacking: The Farmers Breaking Big Tech's Repair Monopoly" is an excellent look at the absurd situation created by John Deere's position that you can't own your tractor because you only license the software inside it, meaning that only Deere can fix Deere's tractors, and the centuries-old tradition of farmers fixing their agricultural equipment should end because Deere's shareholders would prefer it that way.
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Writing in IEEE Spectrum, iFixit's superhero founder Kyle Wiens and Repair.org exective director Gay Gordon-Byrne bring the case for the right to repair (previously) to the engineering community, describing the economic, technical, and environmental benefits of permitting a domestic industry of local, expert technologists to help their neighbors get more out of their gadgets.
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Here's the list of companies that are quietly lobbying to kill New York State's Right to Repair legislation (previously), which would force companies to halt anticompetitive practices that prevent small businesses from offering repair services to their communities: "Apple, Verizon, Toyota, Lexmark, Caterpillar, Asurion, Medtronic" and the Consumer Technology Association "which represents thousands of electronics manufacturers." Read the rest
The Simpsons, SpongeBob Squarepants, Minions, Pikachu are yellow. So are many, many other popular cartoon characters. Why? The answer lies at the intersection of psychology, color theory, and, of course, aesthetics. (ChannelFrederator)
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John Deere has turned itself into the poster-child for the DMCA, fighting farmers who say they want to fix their own tractors and access their data by saying that doing so violates the 1998 law's prohibition on bypassing copyright locks. Read the rest
John Deere says that farmers don't really own their tractors -- even the ones they buy used! -- because the copyrighted software necessary to run those tractors is licensed, not sold. Read the rest
Tim O'Bryant, aka Cotontop3, is a logger in Mississippi who vlogs daily. In this episode, he uses the pincers on his log loader to toss leftovers from log bucking, which takes a surprising amount of dexterity. Read the rest
John Deere is notorious for arguing that farmers who buy its tractors actually "license" them because Deere still owns the copyright to the tractors' software; in 2015, the US Copyright Office affirmed that farmers were allowed to jailbreak their tractors to effect repairs and modifications. Read the rest
Motherboard says a source told them that "an Apple representative, staffer, or lobbyist will testify" against the state's Right to Repair bill, which requires companies to make it easy for their customers to choose from a variety of repair options, from official channels to third parties to DIY. Read the rest
Section 1201 of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it both a crime and a civil offense to tamper with software locks that control access to copyrighted works -- more commonly known as "Digital Rights Management" or DRM. As the number of products with software in them has exploded, the manufacturers of these products have figured out that they can force their customers to use their own property in ways that benefit the company's shareholders, not the products' owners -- all they have to do is design those products so that using them in other ways requires breaking some DRM. Read the rest
If you've never gone down a rabbit hole of watching tractor videos, that may change after watching tractors topping tulips or planting potatoes on Tractorspotter: Read the rest
Photochrome is a nifty algorithm that generates a color palette based on a keyword you enter. It compiles all images in their database tagged with your keyword and averages the results into RGB and hex values. Read the rest
I'm keynoting the O'Reilly Security Conference in New York in Oct/Nov, so I stopped by the O'Reilly Security Podcast (MP3) to explain EFF's Apollo 1201 project, which aims to kill all the DRM in the world within a decade. Read the rest
In spring, 2015, American farmers started to spread the word that John Deere claimed that a notorious copyright law gave the company exclusive dominion over repairs to Deere farm-equipment, making it a felony (punishable by 5 years in prison and a $500K fine for a first offense) to fix your own tractor. Read the rest