John Deere Doesn’t Want You To Own Stuff

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Wovax is a mobile app developer, so it makes sense that we all like technology. That’s why we use our blog to talk about it every week. We’ve enjoyed doing that so much that I was given the task of starting a weekly podcast. Now we’ve got Tech Blitz up and running to bring you even more tech news every week. One of the major topics I discussed yesterday was John Deere’s recent copyright fiasco.

Because of the computer software so prevalent in their equipment – and just about any piece of automotive machinery these days – it’s become nearly impossible for the people who bought these machines to fix problems when things break down. Farmers are some of the most industrious and hard-working people around (they kinda help everyone stay well-fed and alive) so these guys are gonna roll up their sleeves and do it anyway. This article’s author talks about his friend Dave who was prevented from working his field – his cash crop – for two days because he had to wait for John Deere’s Official Part And Technician to get to him. Now imagine this happening every time you every time your car battery or tires needed to be replaced. Because if these companies could figure out how to prevent you from replacing those without their paid assistance, they most certainly would. GM has taken the same stance, arguing that people shouldn’t be able to modify their cars or make them faster, which is something that kind of defines the word “car” for most people.

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And the word “fun.”

Computer software integrated into products should make life easier for the consumers who purchase them, not make their lives more frustrating and expensive. These aren’t new startups trying to change the rules that people are switching over to, either. These are established and trusted brands. John Deere is the world’s largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment and at this point their yellow and green is classic Americana.

Here’s why this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed now instead of later. The Internet of Things – a world with “smart” computerized appliances everywhere – is the hot new tech trend at the moment. But if all that’s accomplished is loading everyday objects down with so much unfixable code then things will be a mess. Let’s use houses as an example. For most people, a house will be their main asset. And unlike a car, the value of a home has great potential to increase greatly with repairs and remodels over time. But if, in the near future, the components of your smart house are for all intents and purposes DRM-locked, then the simplest of repairs are going to spiral out of control cost-wise.

Spinning off of this, it is interesting to look at how much in the way of tech is based in the cloud now. I personally have mixed feelings about it. I have a Kindle Touch and I really dig it. I’m admittedly part of a generation that processes information quickly over a screen, and I can actually read a book faster that way. (No shame!) I also like the fact that it’s less clutter in my house. I don’t like having a lot of stuff to deal with. But what happens if Amazon ever goes out of business? Sure, it’s unlikely at this point, but no one lasts forever. It’s a question I wonder whenever I download another e-book.

When your media collection is comprised of digital files then backing up your books, music, and movies is a necessary safeguard. That takes time and money for hard drives. I’m more comfortable with e-books than e-movies primarily because of the quality difference that still exists between a digitally downloaded file and a Blu-ray disc in true 1080p HD as well as the fact that it’s physically on my shelf and not in danger of being zapped if something goes wrong. And if I do ever feel a weirdly strong need to watch them on my iPhone there are, uh, ways to do that.

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“That bastard just put ‘Ferris Bueller’ on his iPad. Time to go save America!”

There’s also the subscription model that’s been taking hold over the software industry, including two very popular titles; Microsoft and Adobe’s respective suites of productive and creative software. With Microsoft’s Office 365 and Amazon’s Creative Cloud, you no longer buy the software outright; instead you pay a monthly fee to access as little or as much as you like. There are some advantages and disadvantages to this. On the one hand, updates are included in this fee, so you always have the newest software. For professionals who have a budget for these expenses, that’s great. On the other hand, when your needs are basic, paying for somewhat updated software over and over isn’t ideal for most. Ramen-feasting college students don’t want or even need to plunk down an extra hundred bucks every year to keep Word working.

A fairly common bit of advice is to buy rather than rent. This is because at some point, the amount of money that you’ve spent on something large, like a house, is equal to what you would have spent in buying it outright. There are some great advantages to be had in cloud-based software. A few inconveniences, but nothing too terrible. Personally, I love having Adobe Creative Cloud and use a variety of the programs on a daily basis. But when the restrictions are applied to physical real-world products like cars and farm equipment, it gets impossible to defend. John Deere is already losing customers over its new way of dealing with things. People are more aware of copyright law than ever before, and it’s going to make it harder for these companies to pull crap like this in the future. And for those of you who don’t want to wait three days to change a lightbulb, that’s a good thing.

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