But we planned that obsolescence ourselves!
February 21, 2017 7:12 AM   Subscribe

 
Wait, is apple saying we're supposed to be against having a Mecca for Hackers?
posted by odinsdream at 7:23 AM on February 21, 2017 [15 favorites]


Being an old tech and having some hardware modification/repair experience..yea! But, most computing devices today are mostly battery and therefore a different kind of animal. potentially a fire animal...so caution rules.
posted by judson at 7:26 AM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


A Nebraska Cornhusker Hacker Mecca? Sounds like a real tweetle beetle battle!
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:29 AM on February 21, 2017 [15 favorites]


This is simple, apple just needs to stop making parts.

... and voilà - Apple is now the vilian in the movie Robots!
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:30 AM on February 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


And when we finally get giant robots, I bet Nebraska could become a real Hacker Mecca for Mecha Hackers.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:31 AM on February 21, 2017 [23 favorites]


Somewhat off-topic, but is a slightly Islamophobic/pejorative use of 'Mecca' implicit in their statement?
posted by aspersioncast at 7:35 AM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I think this wouldn't be as helpful as it used to be by a long shot, but the whole "mecca for hackers" thing is like--hard to think of as a bad thing in terms of actually getting people to take the whole Silicon Prairie thing seriously.
posted by Sequence at 7:39 AM on February 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


They [Apple] said that doing this would make it very easy for hackers to relocate to Nebraska.

I love the idea that once you can get a repair and diagnostic manual you, the hacker, will physically relocate to Nebraska. "I can't have someone digitize it and e-mail it to me, that would be disrespectful of Apple's copyright laws!"

Also the phrasing says it become "easy" to move, as if hackers cannot enter a land without readily available documentation. They'd be like uninvited vampires until this legislation passes.

This is a quote from an Apple opponent, so the FUD might've made a bit more sense from the lobbyist's mouth but still.
posted by mark k at 7:42 AM on February 21, 2017 [13 favorites]


Many automobiles (and my BMW motorcycle) require a diagnostic tool to indicate problems with a vehicle. Most vehicles these days have sensors throughout that indicate any problems.

I have had BMW and Toyota dealers both tell me, "It is ~$100 to hook this up to your vehicle and tell you what is wrong." Takes them about 5 minutes.

And don't get me started on auto dealers charging to "clear" a warning light on dashboards when noting is wrong!

You can buy a diagnostic device yourself, but they range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. And if you do the repairs yourself, it often voids any warranties.

Apple in my experience is excellent. Take it to a genius bar and they either fix it on the spot or immediately give you a replacement (and will save all information and transfer it for you too). None of that "diagnostic charge" like auto dealers.

Very slippery slope here; agreed that bricking any device/auto for non-dealer repairs is a step too far.
posted by CrowGoat at 7:43 AM on February 21, 2017


Massachusetts is I think the only state where you have the right to read Tesla repair manuals. Tesla charges $30/hr or $100/24hr to see them
posted by zippy at 7:44 AM on February 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


Way back in 1996, it must have been, I was explaining the DMCA to a friend of mine, and when I got to the part about how it could prohibit you from repairing or modifying devices that you own, she didn't believe me. She called it a conspiracy theory and said there was no way that would happen because it was ridiculous.

And now here we are and people are actually debating whether it should be legal for people to use their own legally purchased property in ways that are not authorized by the manufacturer. It's absurd that this is even a question.
posted by ernielundquist at 7:55 AM on February 21, 2017 [41 favorites]


You can buy a diagnostic device yourself, but they range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

I'm pretty sure I got my ScanGauge for $50, long ago, but it looks like they're ~$150 now. I'm looking forward to making the pilgrimage to North Platte to circle anti-clockwise around the Golden Spike Tower.
posted by sfenders at 7:55 AM on February 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


Somewhat off-topic, but is a slightly Islamophobic/pejorative use of 'Mecca' implicit in their statement?
I didn't read it that way; "mecca" has become a pretty neutral term for "the primary place to which people flock if they're interested in a thing", and I think that's how it's being used here.

(They are using "hacker" pejoratively, which is something that I see so rarely that I had to parse the statement several times to understand how this was an argument in Apple's favour. Yes, yes, lots of new repair-related businesses; lots of maker conventions; awesome; Nebraska must be excited... wait, you're saying this is bad?)
posted by confluency at 8:07 AM on February 21, 2017 [14 favorites]


I have had BMW and Toyota dealers both tell me, "It is ~$100 to hook this up to your vehicle and tell you what is wrong." Takes them about 5 minutes.

A lot of auto parts stores will pull the diagnostic codes for you for free, which is convenient. (Also, battery testing, and probably a few other gimmicky free services I'm forgetting.)

I'm looking forward to making the pilgrimage to North Platte to circle anti-clockwise around the Golden Spike Tower.

The Golden Spike Tower is totally worth visiting. Would recommend to anyone going anywhere near Nebraska. However, if there's no retired railworker on the observation floor ready to tell you endless stories and explain everything you're watching in the classification yard, you should probably come back later.
posted by asperity at 8:18 AM on February 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


I've never been much for religion but I think I could get behind this one.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:20 AM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm having a difficult time imagining any sizable migration of techies to Nebraska based on this bill. Geeks tend to like decent high speed internet, various ethnic foods, and other stuff that's mostly obtainable in larger cities. And the total population of Nebraska is smaller than your average city.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm sure Nebraska is a nice place in lots of ways, and Omaha isn't wretched or anything. I just don't see it really pulling people away from Silicon Valley, or Austin, or the other tech centers.
posted by sotonohito at 8:22 AM on February 21, 2017


Totally in favor of the bill, mind you. If for no other reason than it means, thanks to the internet, that all those manuals would instantly become available everywhere. You go Nebraska!
posted by sotonohito at 8:24 AM on February 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


Geeks tend to like decent high speed internet, various ethnic foods, and other stuff that's mostly obtainable in larger cities.

Does Runza count as ethnic food?
posted by asperity at 8:42 AM on February 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


Does Runza count as ethnic food?

Actually, yeah, I think.
posted by brennen at 8:45 AM on February 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


A lot of auto parts stores will pull the diagnostic codes for you for free, which is convenient. (Also, battery testing, and probably a few other gimmicky free services I'm forgetting.)

Note, this is distinct from OBD2 diagnostic codes. This is "huh, my car's computer thinks I have *ding ding ding ding* 4 failed lightbulbs and yet they're all working" *take car to authorized dealer* "Oh, your car's firmware is downrev and incorrectly identifies bulbs as failed. It'll be $100 to hook your car up to the computer to confirm that and another $100 for the software pack to fix it."

Those faults aren't passed to OBD2, and can't be cleared in OBD2.
posted by Kyol at 8:50 AM on February 21, 2017 [6 favorites]


Was it all started by John Deere?

I have no trouble believing this at all. Farmers (and their contractors) need to be able to repair their equipment. This isn't just a cost issue with Deere being piratical about pricing, it's about being able to self repair when you're already running 24-hrs during harvest, or spreading, or whatever.

My BIL runs a custom work operation (i.e. contract services for agriculture). He owns something like three dozen tractors, combines, spreaders, etc... He has his own shop and has to frequently send the shop guys out into the fields to fix a broken piece of equipment---things tend to break when they've been running 4 or 5 days straight. This is what modern agriculture is: intense two- or three-week long periods several times a year when everything has to run full time, no failures, no breaks.

He can't afford to wait for days for Deere to schedule an appointment, get a guy out there, do his magic dance with their proprietary encoder so that the tech back in main office can tell him to replace a part, which, by the way, they need to send out from the warehouse. This is no exaggeration. This is their current business model.

The BIL currently does not own any equipment produced that has these digital restrictions, and has been quite forthcoming with the dealerships---who are used to him dropping a few hundred thousand every year---that he won't until this changes. Right now, he's mostly buying decade-old equipment and shipping it to Canada from Europe.

It makes total sense to me that this is a huge issue in Nebraska.
posted by bonehead at 8:53 AM on February 21, 2017 [48 favorites]


Deere also charges a fortune for that service and for the parts. Farmers are pretty handy and smart, I've seen guys reprogram their own equipment and make all kinds of hacks, those big machines are basically robots these days. It's killing farmers and I think Nebraska is absolutely doing the right thing here.
posted by fshgrl at 8:56 AM on February 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I'm having a difficult time imagining any sizable migration of techies to Nebraska based on this bill. Geeks tend to like decent high speed internet, various ethnic foods, and other stuff that's mostly obtainable in larger cities. And the total population of Nebraska is smaller than your average city.
Omaha actually has a reputation for being a cooler city than most people expect it to be. Relatively low cost of living, decent music scene, etc.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:59 AM on February 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I'm having a difficult time imagining any sizable migration of techies to Nebraska based on this bill. Geeks tend to like decent high speed internet, various ethnic foods, and other stuff that's mostly obtainable in larger cities. And the total population of Nebraska is smaller than your average city.

So the population of Nebraska is a bit shy of 2 million. Bigger than most of the cities on this list. Lincoln and Omaha are, by any reasonable standard, actual cities, and Nebraska gets enough refugees and other immigrants for those places to do better than you might expect on the "various ethnic foods" measure. There's also a certain flavor of actually-having-to-work-for-it to midwestern weirdo culture, which can be really focusing for people with a countercultural bent. The real estate is still cheap as hell compared to a coast.

Don't get me wrong: State politics are super horrible, the culture is profoundly damaged, and there are some infrastructure problems. But I think places like Lincoln and Omaha are actually a lot more ripe for takeover as second- or third-tier tech hubs than I would have expected a dozen years ago.

I don't know if I'm actually a fan of that idea, because I hate the tech industry with an ever-growing passion and want it to burn, but walking around Lincoln these days on visits, I'm pretty sure you can already see the money creeping in.

(I am a fan of right to repair and the hacker ethos, broadly speaking. Good job, Nebraska. Please don't fuck it up the way you fuck nearly everything else up.)
posted by brennen at 9:02 AM on February 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


do his magic dance with their proprietary encoder

This is the other pernicious half of it that I glossed over: Deere does this uplink back to head office and gets access to all the data recorded by the equipment. That means usage and driving specs, of course, but it also increasingly means what you're planting, where, at what time. Their service agreements are structured so that they own this data. Not the farmer, who owns the crops, not the operator, who paid the capex for the equipment (but leases, not owns it), but Deere.

Deere wants to not just sell equipment, they want to control and therefore profit from how fields are tended from spreading/fertilizing through seeding and planting to harvest. They want to essentially own the brain of agriculture, and licence that back to farmers and operators.

It's far more invasive and Orwellian than anything dreamed up by MicroSoft, Apple or Google, if looked at in total.
posted by bonehead at 9:07 AM on February 21, 2017 [22 favorites]


While Apple can deniably state they said and meant "mecca", I have no doubt that they also meant people to hear "Mecca" and be scared.
posted by BentFranklin at 9:19 AM on February 21, 2017


Who Apple is really fighting against here is the family farm.

I don't see Piratebay relocating anytime soon.
posted by bonehead at 9:27 AM on February 21, 2017


Let me just say Epson Inks. The danger of hacker printers setting up printing businesses, using aftermarket inks, call out the guard.
posted by Oyéah at 9:29 AM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm having a difficult time imagining any sizable migration of techies to Nebraska based on this bill. Geeks tend to like decent high speed internet, various ethnic foods, and other stuff that's mostly obtainable in larger cities.

Do you know what a house costs in Silicon Valley?
posted by bradbane at 9:35 AM on February 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


I don't think it'd really end up with Nebraska being an isolated case, at least not long term. As sotonohito points out, if they get the manuals, we all get the manuals. And then, maybe a few shops might open up where you could send your devices to Nebraska to be repaired or modified, but long term, if Nebraska leads the way, they'd probably just be the wedge, and other states, starting with New York, Tennessee, Wyoming, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, and Massachusetts, would follow.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:42 AM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]



The BIL currently does not own any equipment produced that has these digital restrictions, and has been quite forthcoming with the dealerships---who are used to him dropping a few hundred thousand every year---that he won't until this changes. Right now, he's mostly buying decade-old equipment and shipping it to Canada from Europe.


I understand that Mahindra and Tata are both making large amounts of money in the Midwest because their heavy machinery is field-repairable.
posted by ocschwar at 9:50 AM on February 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


We've got a local Mahindra dealership, just opened. The BIL has been checking them out.
posted by bonehead at 9:56 AM on February 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


I have a 30 dollar scan tool (thanks Costco) that will tell me what OBD2 codes a car is throwing. Scan tools like this (and their $150 cousins) are mostly limited to emissions sensors and (often, but not always) ABS diagnostics.

Anything else, and there is a lot of else, from the firmware that controls your windows in MINIs to the on-board systems in Priuses and Teslas and even GM cars, you're talking about a proprietary scanner from the manufacturer that costs $4k and up, with periodic software updates extra.
posted by zippy at 10:06 AM on February 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


... and the manufacturers definitely do not publish their APIs, so third parties that want to offer tools to garages have to reverse engineer the protocols, which can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, model to model, and subsystem to subsystem.
posted by zippy at 10:09 AM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Geeks tend to like decent high speed internet, various ethnic foods, and other stuff that's mostly obtainable in larger cities.

I think, honestly, that people overestimate how much they're really going to Indonesian restaurants, compared to the availability of the things they might be looking for that're available in Omaha. (Which is to say, aside from very fringe stuff, the restaurant selection here is just fine.) And the cable internet here is at least capable of having managed when I was living with four other adults and everybody was streaming video constantly.

But yeah, this isn't REALLY going to do anything, but it'd be nice if it did, because Omaha's seriously a nice place. I'm probably not staying here long-term for personal reasons, but Nebraska could use more tech and generally adopting a stance that's more friendly to smaller tech companies than larger ones seems like not a bad plan.
posted by Sequence at 10:12 AM on February 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


Been twice to Omaha. I would not be too keen on having to drive all the time, but besides that, Omaha is a perfectly nice town for geeks to settle into, if (and only if) it gets a critical mass of independent tech employers.
posted by ocschwar at 10:17 AM on February 21, 2017


Yeah, I think this will play out just like the right to refirmware devices laws did. Nothing changes. I can't get the current Android on my ZenPad. (Already have a Kindle Fire softbricked in an unstoppable boot loop).
posted by Samizdata at 10:18 AM on February 21, 2017


... and the manufacturers definitely do not publish their APIs, so third parties that want to offer tools to garages have to reverse engineer the protocols, which can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, model to model, and subsystem to subsystem.

Note that under the DMCA reverse engineering for that purpose is explicitly illegal and can result in serious jail time.
posted by sotonohito at 10:26 AM on February 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


Scan tools like this (and their $150 cousins) are mostly limited to emissions sensors and (often, but not always) ABS diagnostics.

Not quite that limited, although I fully expect to be horrified to find out how much worse it's gotten if I ever buy a new car. It used to be that you just needed to scour the web for the various manufacturer-specific codes. Having failed to keep those secret, I suppose by now they've moved on to more overtly hostile techniques.
posted by sfenders at 10:29 AM on February 21, 2017


Geeks tend to like decent high speed internet

... and everyone knows you want Kansas for that.
posted by sfenders at 10:31 AM on February 21, 2017


... and the manufacturers definitely do not publish their APIs, so third parties that want to offer tools to garages have to reverse engineer the protocols, which can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, model to model, and subsystem to subsystem.

Might be easier to reverse-engineer the scanner. In a more free country, obviously.
posted by Leon at 12:09 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Kansas City is actually in Missouri...

Kansas City, Kansas is a meh. Not a huge accomplishment, and Kansas sucks overall these days...
posted by Windopaene at 12:32 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Maybe people should just stop buying stuff that they are not allowed to repair.
There must be an alternative!!
posted by Burn_IT at 1:08 PM on February 21, 2017


JD stock has gone through the roof the past year or so, I can't see them abandoning this business model easily. It will be interesting to see what happens.
posted by fshgrl at 1:21 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


a real tweetle beetle battle!
Let's have a little talk about hacker meccas.

Midwestern hacker meccas?  Those are called Nebraska hacker meccas.

And if they attract winter sports fans, we call them Nebraska 'husker hockey hacker meccas.

And if the 'husker hockey hacker meccas happen to attract some friendly workers
    to keep the 'husker hockey hackers happy, we call that 
        a Nebraska 'husker hockey hooker hacker mecca.

But if the hacker mecca's made of wicker
    and the wicker's all in lacquer,
	and the lacquer wicker mecca's Margaret Thatcher's... 

...We call that a Nebraska 'husker hockey hooker lacquer wicker Thatcher hacker mecca.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:09 PM on February 21, 2017 [10 favorites]


Oh, hey, there's another, broader discussion of the wider ranging topic also on Motherboard today. It's a pretty good overview of the issue for anyone who's unfamiliar with the history and extent of the problem.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:17 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


JD stock has gone through the roof the past year or so, I can't see them abandoning this business model easily. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Central control and ownership of surveillance-enabled, rent-seeking, deliberately-obsolescent platforms will continue to proliferate and infiltrate more and more domains. Law will for the most part function to accelerate and entrench the pathological parts of this progress, while the political will to meaningfully curb abuses by corporations will remain lacking. Resistance to these trends will remain the purview of niche markets, hobbyists, and doomed political radicals.
posted by brennen at 3:24 PM on February 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


That seems a bit extreme. Farmers can stop buying Deere equipment easily enough.
posted by fshgrl at 5:51 PM on February 21, 2017


I get what you're saying, and you may well be right, but I think there's potential to create a better informed and more discerning consumer market. More and more people have had their security compromised, and in my experience talking to people, the main reason they're not pushing back is that they don't understand the technology in the first place and don't realize the price they're paying for negligible conveniences.

I certainly don't think it's a given, and like you, I don't expect progress to originate from corporations or government at this point, but I hold out some hope that, with a little awareness, regular people will start to demand more control.
posted by ernielundquist at 6:13 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Apple is just fighting FUD with FUD. The imagined benefits of these bills are largely illusionary in a world where the number of serviceable components in devices continues to shrink ad product life cycles shorten. I think Apple probably hates the bill because it forces them to get into the spare parts supply business and gets the government into their product lifecycles. They'd have to figure out inventory and supply chain for the people who want repairs. They have to support them with technical documentation. Imagine having government lawyers and regulators arguing with Apple over how long they need to keep replacement click wheels for iPod classic. Or having to put an engineer on the witness stand at a trial over their decision to encase a component in resin. Was it really to protect the component from damage or just an attempt to circumvent the right to repair.
posted by humanfont at 9:18 PM on February 21, 2017


The proposed legislation doesn't do that, though. All it requires is that manufacturers make the same information and parts they provide to authorized repair shops to others.

It doesn't dictate how products are designed. They don't have to be repairable at all.
posted by ernielundquist at 7:44 AM on February 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


humanfont The idea that Apple, which already has a worldwide distribution network, would be even inconvenienced by requiring that they allow us to order parts instead of whole products is absurd.
posted by sotonohito at 7:49 AM on February 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


OTOH, the text is pretty much exactly what a mechanic servicing a John Deere combine (or any road vehicle for that matter) would require.
posted by bonehead at 10:31 AM on February 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


That seems a bit extreme. Farmers can stop buying Deere equipment easily enough.

I am an embittered pessimist, and assume that the behavior will propagate until the market offers few viable alternatives.

I might be wrong, and would like to be.
posted by brennen at 2:27 PM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Farmers can stop buying Deere equipment easily enough

This does seem like one of the few areas that the free market should actually be able to correct on its own.

People can certainly stop buying Apple products, and there are still plenty of reasonable alternatives.

This case and Apple's response are illustrative of how intellectual property law can affect seemingly unrelated industries in unexpected ways, and how much influence local laws can have on larger policy. I think it also demonstrates some of the difficult calculation that goes/should go into the heavy IP component of big modern trade policies (e.g. Chapter 17 of NAFTA, big chunks of TPP).

WRT the John Deere element: John Deere is the largest agricultural manufacturer in the world, so there are stark differences with Apple. As brennen hints above Deere makes specialized equipment for crops for which there are no realistic mechanical harvesting alternatives.* In parts of the country they're the only game in town.

Add in a bunch of protectionist trade agreements coming down the pipe (and alienating diplomatic gaffes) that promise to make it more difficult for farmers to buy heavy machinery from Mexico or Korea, and you've got yourself a problem.

*And even fewer economically-feasible alternatives if cheap migrant labor is *koff* unavailable, but that's probably a topic best left to the politics threads.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:11 AM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


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