Bloggy McBlogface

Get in the comments with your own Blanky McBlankface name. Then download my books. It won’t cost you a thing.

Boaty McBoatface was a mildly interesting cultural phenomenon. When the UK’s National Environment Research Council ran a poll to name their new research vessel in 2016, what began as a joke ended up being the most popular name. (Can you think of any other elections where a joke ended up winning?) With hundreds of thousands of votes for 32,000 suggested names, Boaty McBoatface came out on top by a wide margin, winning 124,109 votes, four times the runner-up. In the end this was too important to go along with the joke and they finally named the ship RSS Sir David Attenborough. That’s a good choice given what Attenborough has done for public awareness of nature and the environment.

This reminds me of a similar situation when a territory in the north of Canada was looking for a name and the internet came up with “Bob.” They also let reason override humor and settled on retaining the title, Northwest Territories. It has other names in local languages including Denendeh and Nunatsiaq in Athabascan and Inuinnaqtun respectively. Both Bob and Boaty show that polls are dandy, but not always the best answer for a serious question.

Now it’s the turn of a soccer club. San Diego, California wants to name its entry into Major League Soccer and opened it up to the public. The most popular name so far is Footy McFootyface with two-thirds of the vote. They got it wrong, by the way. It should be Footy McFootface, no “y,” to keep with the form of Boaty McBoatface. But hey, that’s how the language evolves. Somebody’s not paying attention and a little change sneaks in. Something like “The Olde” becoming “Ye Olde.”

That brings us to Bloggy McBlogface, which I thought would be a good title for this post, given the viral, trendy nature of those other two names. Who knows? Maybe it will generate a little traffic for this quiet little site. If it does, I have two requests for my new visitors: First, do me a favor and download my books. They’re free and unencumbered, and people seem to like them. So download them. Take at least one of every format. Then get all your friends to do the same. And so on. Second, let’s see how many names we can make up in the form of Boaty McBoatface. I started with Bloggy McBlogface, now you come up with something. Get thee to the comments!

Thank You.


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Hacking the Tractor

We’ve looked at the way tractor manufacturers are trying to lock their customers in by preventing the servicing or maintainance of their tractors by anyone other than their own approved and licensed shops. This post is about farmers beginning to push back. This one highlights a change in copyright law that allows farmers to work on their own tractors without breaking the law. Now some farmers are going a little further. Some of them are downloading software from the dark web that allows them to hack their tractor’s software. This motherboard article does a good job of explaining it.

A license agreement John Deere required farmers to sign in October forbids nearly all repair and modification to farming equipment, and prevents farmers from suing for “crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software.”

[farmers]…have been pushing for right-to-repair legislation in Nebraska that would invalidate John Deere’s license agreement (seven other states are considering similar bills). In the meantime, farmers have started hacking their machines because even simple repairs are made impossible by the embedded software within the tractor. John Deere is one of the staunchest opponents of this legislation.

Waiting for a licensed technician to show up can put a big dent in your work day, sometimes your work week, depending on how busy they are. Even in a case where you can get a part replaced by a local shop, you still have to wait for the official technician to come and “authorize” it before your tractor will work. Everything is fine but you’re helpless until they collect their fee for unlocking the new part. It doesn’t matter how much it costs you, or how much it sets you back in your work, or even if the delay causes you to lose your crop. That’s your problem, not theirs. Faced with this, some farmers are turning to cracked software that they can download from the internet. They are then able to “authorize” their own repairs and get back to work.

The recent legislation that allows farmers to work on their own tractors would seem to make using the cracked software legal, but the software hasn’t been legally acquired. Versions of the software can be legally purchased from the manufacturer, but you have to sign an agreement that disallows using it to do what you want. It’s not hard to see why some farmers would be tempted by the cracked software when the whole purpose of the company that sold them the tractor seems to be to use its monopoly power to squeeze more money out of them.

This has been about farmers and their tractors, but the same thing is happening with other things that we buy and think we own. The makers of cars and phones and computers and so on are all trying variations of the same thing. They want us to get used to the idea that we don’t own these things, but rather we only get a license to use them. They want us to get used to their idea that we should have no right to repair our own stuff. Thank goodness for the existence of organizations like iFixit.


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