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Copyright Office Ruling Imposes Sweeping Right to Repair Reforms (ifixit.org)
1064 points by sinak on Oct 25, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 343 comments

As an automotive mechanic, this is awesome. You have no idea how many sensors/controllers in a car can only be reset by violating the DRM.

Example: the suspension control computer for newer fords (so far just raptor and newer commercial F series) is separate from the ECU, and if it faults out you need to buy a new $2500 computer and sensor pack. You can, however, replace a commonly blown diode or fuse on the computer but opening the case causes the device to stay "in fault/service"

With a raspberry pi and a bit of python however you can reset this tamper code once the whole assembly is closed. but since it "violates the DRM" most shops generally just bill for the part and labor.

> With a raspberry pi and a bit of python however you can reset this tamper code once the whole assembly is closed.

This sentence is interesting to me. It tells me that now mechanics need to learn programming skills to be successful. Software really is eating the world...

I'm convinced most successful mechanics could be successful programmers. The skill set of looking at a problem and debugging until you really understand the architecture and design of what you're looking at is very similar in both fields.

American McGee is probably the most famous example of this.

> Dead-end jobs followed – washing dishes, polishing rings at a jewelry store, ringing orders at a record store and, finally, fixing Volkswagens at Uncle J.O.'s auto repair shop.

> The tinkering that's required of mechanics appealed to the teenage hacker. The $6-an-hour job "was the first time I ever felt like I accomplished something at work," McGee said.

> On breaks, covered in grease, he'd write inventory and customer tracking applications for the shop.


A lot of software engineers around me love poking in their cars

I'm a software engineer and I do most of my own car work. Can't do everything though, I don't have a lot of room for tools that I'd rarely use.

Paid someone to fix my air conditioning vents though because I'd have to half disassemble the interior of my car to do it and I knew it would take me longer to do than I could have the car out of commission. I really hate the vacuum controlled vents in mid 2000's Ford trucks. I had a vacuum leak - somewhere.

Motorcycles are great for that. Except for a few really high end modern bikes (mostly BMWs) they are mostly repairable with nothing more than common tools and a little ingenuity.

I really should just be riding my bicycle to work...

Before I bought my first computer, at 16 - 22 I was repairing and thus disassembling and assembling back my motorcycles and cars on a monthly basis. I didn't have enough money to buy a good working one so I had to tinker with it very often.

The most extreme I did was to replace the car body after an accident I had (slippery road) in my own garage. After a week or something I got a running car again, with a different color and car body number but whatever ^^.

My nerdiest friend and myself have done engine swaps in our driveway, ranging from LT1s to VG30DETTs. Once we got the grease off, it was Wow time!

I'm not interested in cars, but I built my own house. There are plenty of program-a-like jobs and hobbies to go around.

Are they not afraid of regressions?

With car it much easier to provide a decent test coverage though :)

I'm convinced most successful programmers can be successful mechanics for the same reason!

Most programmers I know tend to be handy in some way, whether that's fixing their own cars (myself), wood working, or some other skill which requires them to think through problems and work with their hands.

I actually view fixing cars as not only a hobby of mine, but as a fall back career should I ever become bored of software or need some quick cash.

> Most programmers I know tend to be handy in some way, whether that's fixing their own cars (myself), wood working, or some other skill which requires them to think through problems and work with their hands.

I can relate to that. In fact, I find it downright relaxing being able to work with wood (I like to restore mid-century furniture as a hobby) and compared to all those digital, virtual tasks and projects it's so refreshing being able to physically touch, feel, see and use the result of one's work.

My brother is a mechanic and both worlds have so many similarities.

We joke that the big difference is that I got AC during the summer and he doesn't.

That's what I thought, and then I fragged a Ferrari engine. Dunning-Kruger is not a river in Egypt...

I leveraged my embedded systems knowledge into a cottage side business rebuilding the old Magneti Marelli ignition modules in 308/328 models with new ARM Cortex based electronics. There's nothing magic about Ferrari engines.

It's funny, I've met a lot of people that thought dsp and algorithms engineering to be magic and yet I find those fields to be a straightforward and fun. On the other hand I have a year of professional experience in ARM Cortex M4 programming and I find it to be magic that any somewhat complex embedded system works. Flip one bit the wrong way and the whole fracking system won't even boot. It took me six months and a significant chunk of my professional reputation to get some biomedical algorithms to interface with offline data on a fat16 formatted USB device.

> I find it to be magic that any somewhat complex embedded system works. Flip one bit the wrong way and the whole fracking system won't even boot

Absolutely agreed. I think "what if this fails?" a lot in situations that most likely really don't require it.

Had to look this up. Denial, is a river in egypt. But thats just a meaningless pun. The Nile is a river in egypt. What do you mean by your saying?

I think it's just supposed to carry the same meaning as "Denial is not a river in Egypt," which is: hey, denial is a real thing, and you're facing it right now.

I'm not the OP but I hope that helps.

Dunning-Kruger Syndrome is basically a manifestation of denial that you suck at something.

Programming prepares like almost nothing else to pay attention to details and to actually read and follow directions, it's like surgery in that regard one little distention and the programs malfunction or die.

This translates very well I in most task oriented jobs, like, maybe your average programmer won't be able to invent a new gourmet dish but I expect most of them to be very competent cooks with a recipe on their hands.

I am commonly told I am a good cook when I make stuff and I just say I follow the instructions. I guess when you spend a lot of time writing instructions you come to appreciate when people write them for you.

For me, if this software developing thing doesn't work out, my dream job would be to purchase, restore and re-sell classic cars. I already love tinkering with them, but there is only so much I can do with a full time job, and living in a flat.

I grew up working on cars and motorcycles. The mindset is very similar. Since I work more in DevOps than as a developer, I often think of myself as a software mechanic.

Interestingly, I find the musician mindset is also very similar, particularly musicians who compose or improvise.

Software Mechanic is a pretty good term. A lot of people out there claim to be software engineers (creatively design solutions to problems), when really they are mechanics (apply technical skill and knowledge to already solved problems). Web development is an example of a largely solved problem, the answer to every problem in webdev is to look it up in the manual (Google it). Adoption of this term would clear up a point of mass-confusion in our industry.

Exactly, my debugging is so much stronger than my architecture skills that I've been calling myself a software mechanic for a while as well!

Software Mechanic is a great brand. I'm stealing it :)

"Software Janitor" is my personal favorite. I should probably carry around a bag of pencil shavings on principle.

Yeah, I used to say CTO = main janitor of tech.

Software mechanic says: I don't mind getting my hands dirty while doing intricate work (computers, who understands 'em?). Janitorial work seems to be regarded as lowly drudge work, even though being a good caretaker/warden means preventing problems from occurring in the first place, like watering the garden and keeping leaks in check.

Everyone is trying to keep a cupboard in order somewhere :).

In my enterprise dev mgr role in maintaining a legacy codebase while introducing new features I used to talk w/ my team in terms of "software gardening".

Most mechanics are hardware hackers. Instead of searching for the problem on stackexchange/stackoverflow, they search service bulletins and automotive message boards.

I'm sure that the software in modern cars causes all manner of stupid problems that never existed before, and could be easily eliminated by giving the mechanics access to the source.

Its almost as if you could call programming 'software engineering'

As someone that grew up with mechanical stuff and ended up in software I agree :)

It tells me that I really shouldn't buy a Ford car, since apparently billing for repair parts is more important to them than building a robust and repairable car. Adding a tamper resistant circuit to random bits of your car's electronics is adding cost while reducing robustness - who wants that in their car?

I hate to break it to you, but that's about every manufacturer now. Imagine how it's going to be once "drive-by-wire" becomes the standard. I'm right there with you though, wishing stuff stayed a little more repairable and maintainable.

Ford is basically stopping production of cars anyway as they found that trucks are more profitable. But yeah, don't buy one of their trucks either. But what manufacturer is an alternative? Tesla set up DRM to artificially limit the driving range of their cars until you pay them a ransom to simply let your car drive longer distances!

> Tesla set up DRM to artificially limit the driving range of their cars until you pay them a ransom to simply let your car drive longer distances!

I think the effect of this sort of DRM is underestimated in many conversations about post-scarcity.

People don't seem to appreciate that cryptography will create programmatic scarcity where previously we only had scarcity due to physical laws.

The bright side is that it's easier to crack software than it is to find new mineral ore deposits

In the past tesla sold the same hardware & number of batteries in two car models, but saved 10k in price for the shorter range one; and you could upgrade to the longer range by paying more. Just like for CPUs. In the new mid-range m 3 they have fewer batteries than the long range. Tesla eventually stopped selling the software upgradeable one, maybe because they bugged people.

> Tesla set up DRM to artificially limit the driving range of their cars until you pay them a ransom to simply let your car drive longer distances!

That's a lie. Yes they have DRM in place to artificially limit the range of certain models, everything else you said is mischaracterization, misrepresentation, and lies.

They saw opportunity in offering different ranged batteries of the same model, however the cost to produce two different battery capacities was too high. Instead of hiding this fact from the consumer, they instead offer it as an upgrade path if you one day have a need for the additional range.

This sort of thing is done all of the time in manufacturing to streamline costs. They even do it with their Autopilot system, all Model 3s come with the same sensor package but the feature itself is unavailable unless you pay to unlock it.

There's an advantage to doing this in that you do not have to guess at what consumer demand will be because you can lock/unlock features as needed in software based on consumer demand.

>(parent) That's a lie

OK let's see where is this lie...

> (grandparent): Tesla set up DRM to artificially limit the driving range

> (parent): Yes they have DRM in place to artificially limit the range of certain models

OK no lie here. So it must be in the second part of GP's comment?

> (gp): until you pay them a ransom to simply let your car drive longer distances

> (p): they instead offer it as an upgrade path if you one day have a need for the additional range

So you just confirmed everything from GP's comment, where are the "mischaracterization, misrepresentation, and lies" you speak of?

The word ransom.

I think it's more accurate (certainly more charitable) to call his statement hyperbole. Calling it a ransom seems like an exaggeration but not really a lie. But if you accuse him of lying when he's not then you are lying :)

Ransom is when someone takes from you and only returns what they took when you meet their demands.

Tesla didn't take anything from the buyers of the car owners who paid for 60 kWh capacity. It gave them what they wanted, it just happened to delivery it in a vessel that could hold 75 kWh.

Rather, the car buyers were offered the option to purchase the exact same car at a reduced price because it was artificially limited to 60 kWh.

I'm not clear what people are upset about. Are they saying Tesla should have made 60 kWh packs or sold the 75 kWh packs at two prices and hoped most people would opt to pay more money?

In the former scenario an owner of a 60 kWh car would have to replace the entire battery to upgrade or trade in their car to a higher capacity if they found they needed it. In either case their costs would be higher than just paying to unlock the restricted capacity.

In the later scenario Tesla loses money because no one opts for pay them more money for the same product.

The ransom part is when someone says that you have to pay them in order for them to release something that otherwise costs them nothing to release (you're not paying them for work or for resources that they want for themselves).

In some cases, someone takes something from you and then offers to return it for a ransom. That sentence wouldn't make sense if the entire thing, including the initial taking was itself "ransom". Ransom is just the second part.

People are rightly upset at the very concept of artificial limitations. The more stark it is that a price has no connection to costs but merely to a marketing game, the more offensive it is.

I'm not saying the answers are easy, but there's a level of transparency and honesty we can rightly expect in our system.

So, if to produce products economically and satisfy market demand, we find we must rely on some people paying extra money and others paying less (because such a setup allows the low price to be lower and thus to reach more customers), then we can flat out say it. We can say, "this is the same product, same features, same cost to the company, but by artificially limiting the features, we can get some people to pay extra and then pass on some of that as a reduced starting price".

At least then people won't feel like they are being marketed to dishonestly. Of course, people can see reasons to object to the idea of artificial limitations, such as how they privilege the wealthy in ways unrelated to actually needing to use their wealth to cover additional costs (it's different to have rich people have extra software features than for rich people to have more land or other actually scarce resources).

Anyway, "ransom" is indeed a framing, but it's not crazy, it's reasonably honest. For example, people describe running a crowdfunding campaign to pay for existing software getting freed under an open-source license as a "ransom".

We could accept that Tesla's ransom approach is a good solution. Or we could suggest something else (maybe some sliding-scale pricing?)

In general, prices in our market are screwy and people intuitively get that. The more screwy or manipulated or dishonest they seem, the more annoyed and distrusting people feel.

Yes, people would feel different about literally getting cars with physical differences, but you're right that purposely producing a worse product at very-little cost savings just to hit the lower price point isn't actually better in the big picture.

So what you're saying is that it's ransom because it's functionality you want but didn't pay for the right to use?

And that a company should either not sell a product at all, or only sell it completely without restrictions or limits?

Otherwise it's dishonest and ransom?

If you hire a man to mow your lawn do you have a right to be upset that he refuses to clean your septic tank for the price you paid him to mow your yard? You are after all paying for labor from a tool that's capable of doing more than just cutting grass.

Seems like a stretch to (repeatedly) characterize your parent's post as a "lie". You're both characterizing the same practice in different ways. I'm inclined to agree with everything else you said (although I dislike the barriers to independent maintenance of Teslas in general), but the parent's post was a spin, not a lie.

Calling it ransom isn't spin, it's disingenuous.

They paid for x range and received x range. They were given a standing offer to increase that range for a cost significantly less than the cost of replacing or physically upgrading the battery.

Now if they had paid for 120kwh batteries and received 120kwh batteries that would only deliver 100kwh of range then we'd be having and entirely different conversation.

For what it's worth, I disagree with you but don't think you should be down voted for this reply, since you're explaining your position clearly.

FWIW, if HN would offer a disagree and flag button as two options, we would have far better conversations here.

Flag / downvote is essential, or we would just get spam or become Reddit. But currently there is no way to disagree without punishing.

As it is, many are afraid to post anything other than echo-chamber because they might get downvoted.

Yeah, it's an idea. Either that or they could more enthusiastically push the idea that if you disagree you should explain why, rather than down voting.

Generally if someone makes a solid argument or valid points, regardless of whether or not I agree with them then I upvote them. If I disagree I try to reply and explain my perspective.

I reserve downvotes for absurd or baseless remarks, attacks, and other noise.

People like to downvote off topic or sarcastic remarks, I generally ignore them (neither upvote/downvote) because I think making light of topics isn't necessarily a bad thing and can engage people in a discussion.

* I say generally because no one is perfect and I don't strictly adhere to the above.

That's pretty much exactly how I operate as well. I think it would be a good thing if HN tried to encourage this behaviour, perhaps by reinforcing the initial guidelines on signup with things like reminders when down-voting controversial comments.

We all know the theory of down voting and practice of dwon voting are quite distinct by now.

But they did. They paid for and received larger capacity batteries in their vehicles that are artificially hampered to a lower capacity.

They also stopped doing this practice, the new mid range m 3 have fewer batteries and are not software upgradeable. Is this better? Not sure.

Net-net probably? Less batteries, lower weight, better performance, lower environmental impact from the waste of mining and throwing away that extra lithium you didn't pay to unlock...

If you buy a 4 piece of chicken nuggets at McDonalds and they're out of 4 piece boxes so they put your 4 nuggets in a 9 piece box for you, have they cheated you out of 5 nuggets? No.

Then why, if you pay for 100 kWh capacity, and they give it to you in a battery capable of 120 kWh capacity are they suddenly cheating you?

Did you pay for the higher capacity? No.

Did you get the capacity you paid for? Yes.

Are you able to buy up to the higher capacity? Yes.

They put 6 nuggets in the 4 nugget box.

You paid to eat 4.

Those other two cost a little extra to eat.

You can't eat them, until you pay for a catalyst that renders them edible.

That's one way to look at it but it belies the fact that the box was designed and intended for 6, not 4. They didn't force and extra 2 in the box, it's not out of spec.

Actually, the box is either 4 or 10, but just a quibble.

I do not care that Tesla shipped more battery personally. Just got sucked into the analogy here.

I actually looked on the McDonald's website but couldn't find anything but the 4 pack. I remember working their in the 90s and they had at least 4 different sizes (like 4, 6, 9, 20).

Mine has 4 and 10.

Source: granddaughter orders nuggets any chance she gets

I don't have any problem with them giving me extra capacity if they are unable to deliver what I paid for. What I do object to is them giving me extra capacity, but trying to prevent me from using it. And then claiming it is illegal for me to take a hacksaw to their lock they left on my car.

It’s a purely artificial limitation. You’re not getting anything new when paying for the upgrade, just effectively flipping a boolean.

Yes. And the person paid for 60 kWh of battery capacity. They didn't pay for 75 kWh of battery capacity. The true capacity of the battery is irrelevant so long as it delivers the capacity the person paid for.

Tesla didn't sell the vehicle as having a different curb weight, or a specified number of 18650 cells contained in the battery pack. They sold it based on having a 60 kWh capacity which it does.

Why do you feel entitled to the additional 15 kWh?

It's not about entitlement, it's about the fact it's there. It's about how it feels. It's different when someone sells you something that does 2 things, then tells you that unless you pay them more it'll only do one, forever. It's a nagging feeling. It's mine now, not theirs. Then they ask for tons of money, don't give you anything new or different, just enable the product to do what it could already do -- what I "already paid for." Cost to deliver: $0. Charge: $$$. It's not rational, but it's how people behave and think.

You're not getting downvoted because you're wrong. We know you're right. But you're telling us our feelings are wrong, and people don't take that well haha. We all agree on the facts.

I'm not telling you that your feelings are wrong. Saying "I don't like that Tesla sold a 75 kWh capable car as a 60 kWh car" is perfectly acceptable. Saying "Tesla sold me a 75 kWh car that performs like a 60 kWh car" is also valid though misleading because it belies the truth that the buyer wanted a 60 kWh car.

Calling it ransom or extortion isn't just misleading, it's an outright lie.

You're free to feel what you want about the situation and express those feels but I feel that it's harmful and toxic to then make false assertions because you feel bad about a situation.

Its the opposite of the hacking spirit where you make something do more than it is supposed to. Something many people here take an interest in - its in the name Hacker news.

That's probably the most accurate way to describe it, nice work. You get an updoot.

> They sold it based on having a 60 kWh capacity which it does.

The thing is, it was their decision to give a battery capable of 75 kWh, not mine. And it's OK that they have software to limit it to 60 kWh. But it's not OK (obviously in my opinion) for them to prevent me from modifying the software to bump it up to 75kWh. I bought the car, I should be able to do what I like to it.

I actually don't really even have a problem with them including some sort of DRMish thing to prevent me from changing the software, but it shouldn't be illegal for me to try to circumvent it. Again, I bought the car, it's mine now, I should be able to do what I like with it.

I understand that Tesla didn't make the IP laws. What bothers me is that they use those laws in this manner.

Because the fact that they can do such a thing at a profit means the market is inefficient.

Imagine that instead of having a single Tesla, there were two identical companies each selling half of what the actual Tesla does.

Now one of them could offer an unlocked 75kWh version at $1 more than the locked-to-60kWh version (since they cost the same to make and they are profitable) and would capture all the market, so the cost of those two products should be the same.

So Tesla essentially can only do this because they have a monopoly on Tesla-or-functionally-identical cars.

Tesla isn’t really profitable right now, is it?

> This sort of thing is done all of the time in manufacturing to streamline costs.

A good example is Intel and chip manufacturers locking their cpus to a specific frequency when they are capable of higher so they don't have to manufacture the same cpu with different frequencies.

That's a bit different, right? CPUs are binned based on their ability to perform at higher frequencies / not be defective. They're turned into different 'products' so that less-than-ideal parts can still be sold instead of thrown out. 4-core CPUs may be 6-core CPUs where 1 or 2 cores are physically defective pieces of silicon. Sometimes, especially as a process matures, there's too few defective parts, so they take some of the higher performing parts out of the good bin and throw them in with the lower performance ones to meet demand.

This seems more wasteful because you have to mine extra lithium, manufacture extra batteries, install them, haul them around -- and this makes your car perform worse. All on the off chance someone later decides to buy up to the extra-power version?

One's a great way to use extra parts that would have been scrapped. The other's just wasteful...

Intel and AMD have sold hardware as lower SKUs than binned in order to meet demand too. Intel’s also sold upgrades [1] that unlocked features that were already in the CPU.

I guess the closer analogy to CPU binning would be if they found a fault in a P100’s batteries and sold it as a P85 instead of replacing the battery. CPUs aren’t a great analogy though, since the unused material in a Xeon-E that failed binning and became an i3 is pretty minimal.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Upgrade_Service

also battery packs have nom trivial weight that affects both performance and range.

And the car was sold by weight and battery capacity. No one was mislead about the curb weight were they?

> That's a bit different, right?

Sort of... sometimes CPU manufacturing processes are too efficient or mature and they produce more higher spec parts. They don't then lower the price of higher spec parts, instead they under clock the CPUs and lock them so they can't be clocked to their higher spec.

People caught wind of this fact and began overclocking their CPUs beyond their rate specifications. This started an arms race between CPU manufacturers and buyers. Intel at one point was, and possibly still is, laser cutting the CPU PCBs to physically prevent changing the clock multipliers after they're set.

Cobalt is likely more controversial the lithium.

What you wrote basically confirms what GP said, you are just judging it differently.

The behavior isn't ransom. The customer didn't buy a 100kwh battery and only received 80kwh. They never had a 300 mile range and they didn't suddenly lose 50 miles of range unless they paid extra.

They received the performance they paid for and the option to increase that performance for a cost less than full replacement of the battery.

For some reason I can appreciate the adaptive cruise control being an optional extra, as they've had to build and maintain the software for it.

The battery / range thing no so much.

If half your potential customers are unwilling to pay for a higher range option but will purchase a lower range model for a reduced price that still nets a profit for the same fixed battery cost, what do you do?

Offer a lower range option.

If the cost of retooling a line to make 2 battery types, or setting up a new line from scratch results in a greater cost per unit, regardless of capacity, than 1 line producing the single high capacity battery then why make two battery types?

Are you saying they should just offer only the higher capacity battery at a lower price or just tell the lower range customers to fuck off with their money?

What if you could satisfy both potential customers and offer the lower range customers the option to upgrade in the future at a cost lower than replacement of the whole battery?

What if you could also offer them a good will gesture of added range if they're fleeing natural disasters?

Is that ransom?

Would you be outraged to discover your printer's print speed was artificially capped to not erode the market for a faster model?

Or that your CPU wasn't running at it's maximum potential?

Does it only become outrageous or random when the manufacturer offers you the option to unlock it's full potential?

What about Labor? If you pay a yard service $50 to clean your property and they do it in 4 hours but your neighbor, with a 2x larger yard pays $75 and they still complete the work in 4 hours. Do you demand a lower rate? Faster service? Both?

The fact of the matter is if you paid for 100kwh battery and they give you a 120kwh battery that will only put out 100kwh are you being cheated or held at ransom? Or are you just getting what you paid for?

Why are you entitled to get anything more than what you agree to buy?

I upvoted this comment, just so you know. You've made some good points, food for thought for me.

I agree with his points - logically.

That doesn't make me less upset that my chip has wasted potential artificially locked away.

Sometimes, how you treat your customers doesn't have to be unfair for it to make a negative impact on customer vibe/relations.

I don't understand how their customers were mistreated.

Tesla produced two identical cars that cost exactly the same to manufacture. They offered one at a cheaper price but with a restriction on the battery capacity. They sacrificed their product margin to offer customers a vehicle they wanted or could afford.

They also said "hey if you want the additional capacity you can pay the difference to unlock it."

I upvoted you. And them.

Good, solid discussion. Nice to see.

Every company does this. It reminds me of Casio and their calculators. You can "hack" some of them just by painting a wire with a pencil, and it unlocks features of more advanced ones.

How would you feel about a regular petrol car having extended range as an option, but you knew the shorter range model had exactly the same tank but the fuel gauge was calibrated differently, and the fuel pump stopped pumping before the tank was really empty.

The differentiator the consumer is paying for is range, not # of cells in the battery.

If you buy a 2ghz CPU and it turns out it can run at 2.5ghz but is locked at 2ghz, are you being cheated or getting what you paid for?

If you buy a car with a speed limiter are you being cheated or can you remove it ?

This ruling says you have the right to remove that limit.

I'm not arguing your question. I am calling it a lie to say Tesla was ransoming extended range.

They weren't ransoming anything. They gave the customer the range they paid for and never took anything away.

I said in another comment: ransom is the part you do after you took something. It doesn't describe the taking part.

The context here is more like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Threshold_pledge_system#Ransom...

And my point is that nothing was taken, therefore it cannot be ransomed.

This isn't a Threshold Pledge System either because there's no contracted good being withheld.

> The differentiator the consumer is paying for is range, not # of cells in the battery.

It's not that simple. If your battery breaks out of warranty or starts loosing charge, you can't go to Tesla and say, "hey, I paid for X range and I'm not getting it anymore, fix it." If you do, they'll say, "sorry, physical batteries decay, not our problem", which most of us would agree is a reasonable response. Tesla gave you the hardware, it's not their responsibility to make sure you take care of it.

So in this scenario you're not just purely paying for range, you're also paying for hardware, which has its own warranty period and physical constraints/downsides that Tesla is not responsible for.

In the same vein, if somebody came out with magical tires for the Tesla that managed to effectively increase your range by a substantial amount by having better grip or less friction or something, you wouldn't expect Tesla to go to drivers and say, "hey, you're paying for range. You can't install those tires because they would cause you to get more range than you payed for!" Most of us would call that reaction unreasonable.

So in that scenario, you're also not really paying for the actual range you get, you're paying for a kind of "potential" range that could be increased or decreased depending on other factors outside of both yours and Tesla's control.

The reality is you're not really paying for the range or the # of cells. You're paying for a kind of bizarre combination of both. The physical hardware is your responsibility to take care of, but also you're not allowed to use it in a way that Tesla doesn't like. If you come up with an unrelated way to increase your range, you can do that. You haven't signed a contract that says, "I will stop driving if I've gone more than X miles without a refill, period."

It's understandable to me that different people have different opinions about how those two things should be combined and where it's reasonable for each party's responsibilities to end. For example, the CPU scenario you've listed is fairly common, but most people don't mind because it's not illegal to overclock your CPU. That's a big differentiating factor.

I understand that you disagree with the word "ransom" but it seems pretty obvious to me that that's an opinion, not a statement of fact. The original poster was using a shorthand to suggest that Tesla's attitudes toward consumer rights were unreasonable. I don't see a problem with that.

Technically you're paying for a battery capacity measured in kWh, not range or # of cells.

You do raise an interesting point though about failure. Cells don't fail at the same rate and packs are designed to disable cells (possibly groups of cells) that aren't performing within acceptable operational parameters.

So given that these "ransom packs" are capable of 75 kWh but only deliver the 60 kWh the customer paid for, how do failing cells impact overall capacity?

Since over charging and completely discharging lithium cells shortens their life does that mean because they're never allowed to use their full potential would they actually last longer than a true 60 kWh pack?

> Since over charging and completely discharging lithium cells shortens their life does that mean because they're never allowed to use their full potential would they actually last longer than a true 60 kWh pack?

I am not a mechanic, but off the top of my head, they should last longer, depending on how Tesla has implemented the limit. If Tesla put the artificial charge limits in the middle of the actual capacity, then that would mean you never discharge the last 7 kWh or overcharge the last 7 kWh. If they just make the battery shut down 15 kWh early, then I doubt the gains are as significant, since plugging in your car overnight will still charge it all the way to the top (which from my understanding is the more harmful thing to do).

I'd be very interested to see some research done by someone who knows more about batteries than me, would make a cool technical breakdown. It seems to me that (just like CPU throttling) battery "throttling" could potentially be a useful way to decrease failure. Of course, if you think back to Apple's kerfuffle with throttling iPhones as batteries aged, you can have a good, justifiable customer result that still makes customers angry if they're not informed or suspect you have other motivations.

To bring this conversation back to the original point of the entire thread, it is (for now) legal to circumvent DRM for maintenance. So question: your battery starts failing on your Tesla car -- you buy a completely new battery from a non-Tesla producer that supports 75 kWh. You get a non-Tesla mechanic to install it. As part of the installation process, you break the DRM and allow the battery to be used to its full capacity.

Problem? No problem? When you bought a Tesla, were you paying for a 60 kWh rated battery or were you paying for a 60 kWh car?

Followup question, suppose you find out that Tesla (or any other electric car company with similar policies) has implemented battery throttling poorly for your car. Rather than rotating cells or putting a limit on how full cells get, the battery throttling just disallows a few specific cells from getting power -- so effectively, its as if you literally have a 60 kWh battery with a few (disabled) extra cells stapled on. Your battery range starts decreasing over time, and a mechanic breaks the DRM, which restores most of the failed capacity, which puts you back up to close to your original range.

Problem? Have you violated your contract if the car battery never got above 60 kWh?

And of course, finally you have obvious question, which is, 'if you buy a Tesla car and immediately break the DRM as soon as you get it home to get extra capacity, is that a problem?' Which, yeah, that's a problem. Tesla will not be happy with you.

The difficulty of looking at Tesla's policy as if it's a pure contract is that the physical constraints get in the way -- in other words, it's not a completely encapsulated system. If you look at something like being charged per-mile in a taxi, it's easy to completely divorce that from the physical process. You're charged per-mile that the taxi drove. Doesn't matter how it drove, doesn't matter what the actual cost of driving it is, doesn't matter what the implementation details are -- you're being charged for a result.

Similarly, if you buy something physical, then the physicality provides a reasonable set of consistent restraints and rules. Doesn't matter if it breaks later, doesn't matter why you bought it. In that case, only the physical reality matters and very few contractual things get in the way.

But with Tesla, you've got both systems clashing with each other. It makes sense to say, "okay, you payed for a 60 kWh battery and got a 60 kWh battery." But you didn't really get a 60 kWh battery. You got a 75 kWh battery that has extra restrictions. So you can't completely ignore implementation details, because you're still buying a physical battery, but neither can you take the entire system apart or universally mess with those implementation details.

In the scenario you proposed I think this law would apply, however I don't think that's how it works.

I think the capacity limit isn't a function of the car itself but rather the battery pack installed.

In other words, if I bought an after market 200 kWh battery pack 5 years from now and installed it in my 60 kWh Tesla and it registered as a 60 kWh battery pack, I would burn Tesla to the ground.

Even if I buy a CPU that will melt at 2.5GHz and I can't[0] overclock it to 2.5GHz I'm being cheated. Nominal clock rate is just that: nominal.

0: given sufficient digging around in low-level settings and availablity of a appropriate clock source on the motherboard

Will this ruling now allow Tesla owners to fix this firmware range limitation of their cars?

I don't think so because it's not a fix because nothing is broken. Now if the 75 kWh battery pack degrades to say 59 kWh of capacity and you only get 47 kWh then I think it becomes a question of:

Did Tesla sell you a 75 kWh pack that will only deliver 80% capacity?

Or did Tesla sell you 60 kWh of power?

I would say it's the later and you're with-in your right to circumvent the DRM and boost your failing pack back up to 60 kWh or less.

So, you agree with everything quadrangle said, and that means he's lying?

It's not ransom, it's giving the customer what requested at the price they agreed to pay. And the added bonus of a cheaper than replacing the whole battery upgrade option in the future.

They didn't sell them a 300 mile range then knock it down to 250 when they rolled off the lot. They didn't send them a letter saying "if you want your range back send $$$ by 10pm tomorrow."

The customer paid for 250 miles, they provided a car that could go 250 miles and additionally said "if you would like to upgrade to 300 miles we can do that for less than the cost of a full battery replacement."

So DRM to artificially limit the driving range of their cars?

I'm not a lawyer but I would say so. The question isn't what they did but rather is it ransom or wrong?

Let's clear up a misunderstanding: ransoms aren't necessarily and always wrong. There's indeed some implication that way, but you could just as well argue that this type of ransom is justified.


Is this true? There are mechanics everywhere, so why would every one need to learn to program something that could be made by one and sold as a commercial (or open source) project? Sure, there are many types of cars and situations that need handling, but there are far more mechanics than that.

I'm genuinely asking this because I often question whether it's true that "everyone should learn to program", or it's more like, "we have a programmer shortage".

I think in cases like this they mean "programming" in the same way we use "cooking". Almost everyone can 'cook' at least a few things but only a few people are actual "cooks".

You could buy a commercial product to do what's fairly trivial (write to a couple of HW registers) that only support select models (because they all have their own registers/addresses). You could also just learn what HW registers are and some general techniques to change them and figure it out for any model that rolls in the shop as you need it. The better mechanics can even extrapolate fixes to completely new but related issues.

> I often question whether it's true that "everyone should learn to program", or it's more like, "we have a programmer shortage".

I don't think the parent was saying either of those things. Cars are no longer mechanical devices; they're full of computers now. In order to service any modern car, you need an increasing level of computer tools & training. This has been a growing problem for a long time for independent mechanics who have had no choice but to refer people to the dealerships, due both to proprietary digital systems in the cars, and to the copyright laws that prevented legal home and third-party repairs.

> so why would every one need to learn to program something that could be made by one and sold as a commercial (or open source) project?

Maybe this is a theoretical question, as opposed to a practical one? Car manufacturers today are, by and large, not shipping open source products, and until now it has been illegal to reverse engineer those products, so no open source project could legally exist.

* BTW, total tangent of a side note, but might be interesting to you: the US Department of Defense (and I think other branches of the government too) define "commercial" software in a way that includes open source, in other words open source is commercial. The reason is that OSS comes with a license, it's not to do with whether the software costs money, nor whether the source code is distributed with the software. https://dodcio.defense.gov/open-source-software-faq/#Q:_Is_o...

i started learning python in my spare time after I attended a training course for shop software that ran on Linux. As for the pi, theyre awesome. for $30 or so I have a computer powerful enough to pull OBD codes and do pretty much anything else in the shop wirelessly. And if someone drop it, backs over it, or splashes it with friction modifier or something I can just ask my boss for $40 to replace it instead of $1400 for a new laptop.

Can you point me at some good tutorials on making a pi read ODBC codes?

Did you mean OBD(2)? There are Bluetooth, wifi and usb controllers available that you can use to read and write data. Some of them are very cheap, not sure how well they work though.

In order to change the brakes on the rear of a Volkswagen you need a computer in order to retract the electronically adjusted calipers. This doesn't answer your question but it does exemplify the current situation. Cars aren't purely mechanical devices anymore. Computers play a large role in their operation.


I find this a bit scary --- mainly because I'm used to cars where the (mechanical) parking brake also can be an emergency brake, and the solid linkage between the lever and the braking mechanism means it is still usable even if all other power is lost. (It's also analog, unlike the "push to set parking brake" on/off behaviour --- especially useful for modulated emergency braking.)

That's certainly true for common problems on common vehicles, but I imagine there is a growing niche of mechanics understand the computer systems behind modern cars more deeply.

Will that commercial product still be sold in 30 years to help repair a "classic" Tesla?

I'm a biolermaker¹ with 20 years experience in the trade.

Now I operate a laser cutter, have a fairly extensive AutoHotKey script, can navigate my way around the post processor that generates the particular dialect of G-Code our laser prefers, and know a touch of python.

I'm definitely an outlier, but I'm not the only computer-nerd-come-metal-fabricator I've worked with.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boilermaker

* boilermaker, I thought the italics meant it was intentional and was really interested in what you did. I still find it fascinating but wonder what a biolermaker would do?

The Bio/LeR industry is very innovative but also very secretive so I doubt you will find very much about it.

It’s an antiquated term that nowadays just means metal fabricator.

I’ve never made a boiler. I probably could, but I’m not even qualified to weld pressure vessels. I’d pass the weld tests with a couple of days practice though.

I got serious enough about metalwork to start buying machines about three years ago, but became interested in such things helping a friend who bought a used CNC wood router on a bit of a lark. Spent about a month generating gcode in Perl, and then decided to learn how to use Inventor.

And now I have several machines that one generally doesn't find in a second-story urban walkup. (Getting a 400-ish-pound lathe up the steps was how I found my limit there.)

There are very few mechanics who will actually fix parts unless it is for their own vehicle. Most will just quite the price with a replacement part and move on. Even those that know how to do stuff like this rarely will agree to actually repair anything.

I noticed going from my first second hand car probably built in the early 90's or earlier, to my next one from 2000 that there was a lot less stuff that i could fix myself - due to the computerised nature of many things.

I wonder of there would be a market for a purely mechanical (modern) car like the old days.

(One of the beauties of mountain biking I see being lost is the ability to fix maybe 90% of problems with a small pack of tools that you can carry about with you. I can see electric bikes being problematic for that. They will get you further from civilisation and fail worse).

Or just be savvy enough to use what others put out there.

Then again, when I put it that way I begin to worry about mechanics unwittingly infecting cars with malware...

This is very interesting indeed. Please keep talking ;)

If it was legal to do, I'm sure there would be a market so they don't have to, but can readily buy a cheap tool that can do it.

mechanics don't need to learn programming, but there is a growing industry of people making tools for this kind of thing. It has been around a long time in the aftermarket performance world. People have been reprogramming ecus or attaching add on ecus that intercept signals for a long time.

And with hybrid and electric cars, mechanics and auto body shops have to know 3-phase electricity too.

Perhaps you can use a raspberry pi and a bit of python on the current version, but maybe they will be able to improve the "security" on future versions? Having a legal right to bypass DRM doesn't help if nobody knows how.

Also, I wonder how much that $2500 computer and sensor pack costs to manufacture. Perhaps replacing the entire unit with a raspberry pi version would ultimately be the way to go.

Raspberry pies can't deal with sudden power cycles, that corrupts their storage. I don’t think they are suitable for use as a critical part in a car.


Congrats, you presented the one and only case where the manufacturers are right: Nobody should tamper with critical control systems.

I don't want a DIY arduino-hacked suspension control chip or ABS. Neither would your clients. Unless of course your client understands this and it goes into the service logbook and you take full legal responsibility for any accidents this might cause in the future.

However I couldn't care less if my mp3 player has it's EMMC swapped or if my laptop has a third-party LCD replacement.

> I don't want a DIY arduino-hacked ...

This is a professional service being done by the same professionals who you're paying to actually replace the suspension, brakes, brake lines, or other life-critical components. If you can't trust them to make a good judgement on how or whether to reset tamper detection, then how can you trust them to replace your brakes or suspension in the first place? Surely the idea is that some company would develop and test a process for resetting the tamper detection now that it is apparently legal, and then this tool would be provided to mechanic shops.

> and you take full legal responsibility for any accidents this might cause in the future.

Do mechanics take full legal responsibility for any accidents caused by replacing your brakes or other things? I'm sure in cases of egregiously negligent behavior, they could probably be sued, but most of the time it would be very difficult to prove that they were the cause. I don't think this would be any different.

> Nobody should tamper with critical control systems.

If you believe this, it sounds like you buy brand-new-only cars the moment your existing car turns on any kind of fault light. But, assuming you're okay with them swapping in a $2500 replacement instead, do you believe in this idea so strongly that you would pay 10% to 20% of the vehicle's MSRP any time a fault triggers? Keeping in mind that a vehicle's MSRP has very little to do with its used market value. $2500 could easily be 30%+ of a vehicle's actual value at the time that this occurs.

I get where you're coming from, but I think the strength of your language is out of proportion with the suggested repairs.

He has a point though... Cars are manufactured in such way that when something fails, the failure is not catastrophic. Car might not be operational, but it is very rare that malfunction causes a crash. With SW I'm not convinced that the same can be accomplished. If you add 3rd party maintainers to the mix, it gets even worse.

I still think the right to repair is worth the risk, just pointing out that it's not so clear cut.

I think your and OPs logic has a fatal assumption: that the quality of work done by a mechanic for a fix is worse than the manufacturer's replacement.

There is a possibility of failure in either one, right? It's people doing the work either way.

The mechanic's professional responsibility is to repair the car. If we're assuming they are too ignorant to do that job, then why go to a third party mechanic in the first place?

When ABS systems fault, they just turn in to non-ABS brakes.

What's the worst that would happen with a malfunctioning active suspension system? It wouldn't lower when going highway speeds, so you'll get more drag.

The only computer that absolutely needs to work to keep your car running is the one that's controlling the EFI system. If that's not running well, it's pretty obvious since the engine will stall out. If you have a modern automatic transmission, then you'll need that one too, and that's pretty obvious if it's not working correctly. Everything else is an accessory, non-essential and part of planned obsolescence.

ABS not working as intended could be a surprise to the driver and cause a crash, especially if you become dependent on it.

It's just like that AF 447 crash, they stalled from 38,000 ft to the ground because they never expected the computer to let them stall the plane.

But I mostly agree, the only software things I would see as absolutely life critical on a car would be drive-by-wire controls. All the rest will just either stall it, reduce performance or break something.

>especially if you become dependent on it.

Nobody is ever going to become dependent on locking up their brakes during normal driving. Power brakes would be dangerous if they failed because without them you get very substantially reduced braking but in no way would the lack of ABS be any more dangerous than driving a car without ABS to begin with.

An ABS failure could easily become fatal if it increased your stopping distance beyond what you'd achieve without it. After all it works by modulating the signal you send to the brakes.

That's irrelevant and it doesn't change the fact that no one drives with the intention to brake hard enough that ABS activates. There's zero chance of anyone becoming dependent on it.

My point is that ABS failure isn't equivalent to not having ABS at all - it can fail in a way that is actively harmful.

I'm not sure that's even possible. I could be mistaken but brakes are designed to be resilient to failure to the point that there aren't really any common single points of failure in a modern car. Brake circuits are actually kept separate from the master cylinder on down so that if one of the seals blows out on the master cylinder there's still another seal for the other circuit. If there's a cut in one of the brake hoses and the fluid leaks out, the brake fluid reservoir splits into two sections at the bottom so that even if one leaks to the point of being bone dry the other side still has some fluid left. The brake booster is designed so that it's a solid piece going all the way through it so if the brake booster is totally broken it works like a linkage. The brake booster is also designed with a check valve so that even after the engine is turned off you still have some vacuum stored in the booster for a couple presses of the pedal before the brake assist stops.

I'm not saying that there couldn't be a failure mode that would prevent someone from using the brakes but due to the attention to detail for everything else about the design and redundancy of the braking system on a car I think it's doubtful that the ABS actuator would be designed in such a way as to allow a software error or broken part to potentially prevent the brakes from working.

There is a lot of snow where I live and the ABS triggers all the time and yes some people just slam the brakes expecting their ABS to optimally slow down on ice.

Yep, and those people are dangerous idiots. Even with ABS it is improper to slam on your brakes on low-traction surfaces. The purpose of ABS is to prevent wheel locking under hard braking, but it is not intended to respond and recover from pure idiocy.

The correct way to apply the brakes is the same with or without ABS, you should always do it smoothly with increasing force as necessary. Doing this would allow ABS to function properly, and in the case of no-ABS, will allow you to feel and respond when locking may occur.

Even if your ABS were to fail, that does not absolve you of the responsibility of driving like a complete moron. It's an unfortunate reality that most of the people on the road in the US frankly should not be driving.

> ABS not working as intended could be a surprise to the driver

That's why there's a warning light for this

In this case the only thing that is changing is a fault state and standard circuit components, not the code running on the device or the device being used. As long as the components are within spec the only problem could be environmental damage from the device being unsealed. I agree with some of the points you made, but not in the context of the previous post.

Great decision, though it'd be better if it was embedded into law and couldn't go away down the line. At the least DRM and legal protection should be either/or, like secrets vs patents. Part of the return the public is supposed to see for granting legal protection to IP is that the IP is then made widely available (as well as eventually entering the public domain) and can be built upon for personal use, commentated upon, etc. If somebody wants to just try to keep something secret or protect it with technology maybe that's fine to try to do indefinitely, but they shouldn't be able to do that and then also get the full benefit of IP law that was originally created around non-technically restricted information.

This is also a good starting balance in that legal subsidies are removed but it doesn't require manufacturers to nerf their tech either, which is an area that needs to be navigated very carefully in law given the security implications and the risks of unintended consequences. I still wish "right to repair" was "right to have work" but this seems like an unalloyed Good Thing regardless. Maybe it can catalyze a bit of renewed fight against the worse parts of the DMCA and the like.

> Part of the return the public is supposed to see for granting legal protection to IP is that the IP is then made widely available (as well as eventually entering the public domain) and can be built upon for personal use, commentated upon, etc.

That's really well said. A bit of a tangent, but it's similar to how software patents should be as well. If you want to patent a software feature, then you have to include a working code sample and that sample code loses copyright protection forever.

Patents are already supposed to do that. They are required to describe embodiments of the claims, which can be used by anyone to implement the invention. However they are always redacted in the vaguest, most obscure way possible as to provide the legal protection without the disclosure part. That should be reason to reject any patent application in my opinion, but I'm not a patent examiner.

I don't think they use convoluted language to avoid disclosure. I think they use convoluted language to hide the fact that what's being patented totally fails the obviousness test. But I might have a biased sample here :p

Not denying what you said but I guess an even bigger reason might be to cover as much ground as possible.

The legal term is "enablement". Not tested for prior to patent grant:

>The PTO does not have laboratories for testing disclosures for enablement



This sounds interesting, but I don't completely understand.

Does this mean that only that specific implementation may be used without a 3rd party infringing copyright?

I read that as, you would be able to use the sample code verbatim once the patent expired and would be able to read and understand the principle behind the patent.

It’d mean you have to provide a library which would just work when the patent expires in seven years, at the very least

I would argue this is better than congress passing new legislation because congress is broken and corrupt. If congresss were to write new legislation on DRM it would make things worse since they always take the copyright maximalist position since that's what corporate lobbyists want.

Err, you like non-democratic rulings because they AVOID corruption? Worked great for the FCC!

Something being non-democratic does not mean that it is corrupt. (Many companies are not democratic but also aren't subject to corruption). This is very much like a democratic ruling does not protect it from corruption.

Both the corruption and lack of it can happen in most systems of creating rulings.

Maybe. It’s easier for me to imagine corruption stopping if it’s tied to an election. Who votes over changing out the patent office? Nobody. What comes out of that office might as well be random in the best case, and openly corrupt in the worst (again, see the FCC).

Its cute you think US congress/government is democratic.

Well the US[0] has a democratic government in the same sense that it has a capitalist/free market economy, namely <five straight minutes of mocking laughter>.

0: And the EU/most European countries/Australia/anywhere else that calls itself 'democratic' in a attempt to imitate the US rather than as a fig leaf for a dictatorship.

> though it'd be better if it was embedded into law and couldn't go away down the line

I'd go further and say that there's nothing of any significance in this decision since it will likely go away down the line since it was not codified in law.

>I'd go further and say that there's nothing of any significance in this decision since it will likely go away down the line since it was not codified in law.

I don't believe you're correct here. If down the road the LoC and USCO did not continue this exemption, it still would have applied for the whole intervening time and anybody who took advantage of it during that time would be in the clear. At a bare minimum this is a specific material benefit to many people, and any knowledge, tooling and techniques developed to aid that during that time would still be valuable. That's not insignificant.

More long term, ultimately this is politics and that can definitely be influenced by "temporary" measures which later become permanent. In general in politics it's much harder to take away something specific granted to people who gain a concentrated benefit from it then it is to not offer it in the first place. Before having it people may not be able to visualize a future benefit, but after getting used to it they'll resent having it removed if it was at all useful. Constituencies develop. So if for 3+ years some people were more easily and cheaply able to get something dealt with or saw more competition for it and in turn better quality/reliability/price, and then all of a sudden one day they walk in and get told "well the politicians just rescinded this so suddenly you can't but only because they said so" well that tends not to go over so well. Particularly if it seems like "common sense" and there is no harm any general member of the public can see from it either. Appeals to distant corporate profits tend to be curiously unmoving...

Case law is law in our system, and having explicit legislation doesn't protect you anymore from future changes than case law does.

The US legal system is based on English common law, which uses precedent to make decisions. Companies will submit test cases to be judged to inform whether what they're doing is likely to be found legal or illegal.

I believe that the idea that patents are necessary for creativity and invention is false. I think patents are actually very detrimental to new invention since people often can't use past patented ideas.

Like licenses in professions, the only true reason we have patents is to reduce competition for incumbents. This is why VCs like them so much... It creates a moat.

At most patents should give a short head start in the market, not be a guaranteed competition crusher.

You don't need to believe, those are verifiable facts.

You can see the exact same cycle go through as industries develop. They start with no copyright/patents, they develop successful companies and business models, those companies lobby to increase protections for themselves resulting in lower amount of new competitors and a decrease in creative/technological development while increasing profits for existing entities.

You saw it from the early beginnings with Watts engine, you saw it in the film industry in the US, you saw it in the German, Japanese, South korean development, and now you see it happening in China.

Make a list of the most famous composers in the 1800s. How many of them made most of their work prior to the introduction of copyright in their place of business? How many did it after? You can see it clearly there.

Breaking DRM should be legal to begin with if done for any legitimate purpose. Stuff like DMCA 1201 should not even exist.

It doesn't mention it in this article but this could also have a profound effect on John Deere and allowing farmers to fix their own hardware.



It is actually mentioned:

“Repair of motorized land vehicles (including tractors) by modifying the software is now legal. Importantly, this includes access to telematic diagnostic data—which was a major point of contention.”

Along with this flabbergasting detail:

“You may find this hard to believe, but one major point of discussion at the hearing was whether letting people repair cars and tractors would allow them to pirate music and movies using the vehicle’s entertainment systems. In their 2015 filing, John Deere speculated that farmers might pirate Taylor Swift music using their equipment. Fortunately, the Copyright Office saw through that argument.”

I know an anti-SLAPP suit doesn't address this kind of thing, but I would like to see an actual SLAP for the attorney willing to make that argument.

I'm terrified. I saw John Deere code, and its tortuous. Nobody should try to fool with it without serious study.

"If it's not broken, don't touch it"

For the longest time Zara used an MS-DOS based POS system, and hey, it worked.

I agree with this philosophy. I also believe "when it breaks, it'd be better if it's easy to fix".

Is POS point of service/sale or piece of <expletive>?

The former is a strict subset of the latter.

All of the above

And then you get hacked. Pos code is junk, and the os they run on is outdated and unsupported. It's amazing any of it actually works.

OTOH - DOS probably has a pretty low vulnerability profile and it's _very_ well known. Most modern POS terminals run Windows 7. Which is more secure?

Win 7 if you are lucky, most run xp. Modern ones run Android or iOS.

But to your point you can basically go back to the archives of the 90s internet and go on a shopping spree of vulnerabilities for dos looking at Trojan/virus code.

and it's ugly.

costco still does

I'm wondering which part? Theres a lot of weird stuff going on on the prescription side of things but thats more about the weird formats that get used.

Most of the internal and data stuff is pretty solid but never saw any of the systems stuff from the machines themselves so unsure how messy that might be.

They've always been big on contractors so it wouldn't surprise me on the readability of some of that stuff.

How is that fact making you terrified in the context of this discussion?

JD uses desktop simulators, then simulation using real hardware on test stands with recorded data, then field trials, then controlled trials with partner operators. THEN they release to the public.

I'm terrified somebody will think their tweak is 'obviously safe' and share it online and before we know it a combine will run through an elementary school.

Ah, so you are afraid people that people who use and repair tractors, and can already break them in many ways that you don't understand (e.g. mechanically), will break them in a way you do understand (using software!), and so you would rather have those ways be illegal to keep you from worrying.

Using your line of reasoning, we should close down repair shops altogether. How can we trust people without engineering degrees work on something like brakes? Before we know it, we'll see buses full of schoolchildren on fire or something.

The fearmongering aspect of "combine running through an elementary school" aside (although perhaps the fact that schools aren't usually located in corn fields and have walls could warrant a reminder), I personally find the general approach of "I am afraid of X, so let's make/keep X illegal" terrifying.

Make up any story you like, but please don't attribute it to me. That's just a Strawman and we expect better here.

I won't respond any more, since I'm pretty sure that's trolling.

To be honest statements like "before we know it a combine will run through an elementary school." could be considered a bit extreme / trollish don't you think?

GP is phrased pretty poorly and disrespectfully. Though I think there is a decent underlying point.

People are generally pretty good at not putting questionable, critical parts into vehicles. Hopefully that holds for the software "part" as well. Maybe if software engineering moves towards better testing practices, we'd have reliable methods to test whether firmware was safe or not.

Many states already require vehicle safety inspections to address concerns such as yours. I could see states requiring manufactures work with the state to provide a way to inspect the firmware for safety, (not just checking the hash against the manufacturer code).

Ad hominem attacks are frowned upon here

How would the combine run through an elementary school? Is it automated - no driver in the seat?

This is also true of elevators. The vendors intentionally write awful code so that only they can fix it.

Used to work in the centre point tower on Tottenham Court Road.

The lifts had no buttons inside the car, your security tag would program in the floor, so you had to get in the right one otherwise you’d be stuffed.

There was a restaurant open to the public at the top, so in the evening the lifts would be full of forlorn diners trying to find their way out.

The computer would often crash and reboot mid journey - the lift would stop, the lights would go out and the screen would run through a boot sequence, before starting up again.

I once saw a technician tinker the system and he genuinely had a bunch of five inch floppy disks.

I live in central London in a 3-4 years old building (24 floors) and the elevators are truly a joke. Every 3-6 days they somehow get out of sync with which floor they are currently on, especially if you go first to -1, after that pretty much every floor will be wrong :) I always wonder who wrote it.

I know a guy who built an elevator system single board computer to control it. The big problem was the power to the board - the motor turning on and off and the old electrical system made it very spiky, which would cause the computer to glitch. He built in a lot of self-checking in the computer, but it would still fail once a day or so. He eventually fixed that by having the computer just hardware reset itself regularly.

Was there any particular reason that the problem could not have been resolved through hardware since the hardware was a new development?(i.e. a UPS or better filtering?)

The customer refused to resolve the issues with the electric power. My friend did add lot of filtering, but said he'd reached a limit.

It's probably trouble with the sensors in combination with bad capacitors, which cause the motors to not accelerate the elevator at the rate which it is programmed to expect, so it doesn't quite exactly know where it is. Tldr it's glitchy.

This is quite horrifying. I am not sure if the elevator ride will be the same again for me.

My building replaced its elevators last year, and one car still has an “activate Windows” overlay in the corner of the screen. A recent change to the floor selection wallpaper has somehow resulted in the button font in another car mysteriously reverting to Verdana.

All I can do is remind myself there’s a mechanical interlock to keep the car from free-falling.

Escalators have mechanical interlocks and they've been failing a lot recently. Time to take the stairs.

I've never seen a lift controlled by a touchscreen. Is there any way for blind people to use it?

There’s a secondary interface at wheelchair height with a Braille-equipped keypad where you can type in a floor.

Other than the space shuttle, by measuring deaths vs distance traveled per person, the elevator is the safest form of transportation.

https://www.reddit.com/r/theydidthemath/comments/2qbjw2/requ... though I recommend reading more into it and doing your own math.

The post you link actually states the opposite, that Elevators are more dangerous than all the other listed methods of travel except the Space Shuttle.

Isn't soyuz better than space shuttle on this metric?

Not if we account for the "lost cosmonaut" ;)

How bout deaths per person-trip? After all, you’re mainly going in circles.

Don't be horrified for your safety. The software controls where the empty elevator goes. Many of the safety features, like the brakes, are tested regularly under the law and separate from the technician/programmer's work.

The article said this has already been the case for commercial farm equipment since 2015.

This is nice, but it isn't as nice as it should be. This is a section 1201 exemption[1] which is where the Library of Congress decides there needs to be an exemption to the law and puts it into place for a period of 12 months. Every year they review these exemptions and they often fall off. If you go to the link below and replace 2018 with 2008 - 2017 you can see exemptions for the last 10 years that have been added and removed. If it isn't on the list in the following year, it is no longer an exemption.

What we need is Congress to update copyright law to make these exemptions permanent.

[1] https://www.copyright.gov/1201/2018/

What we need is for software that attempts to impose restrictions on its users to become ineligible for copyright protection in the first place!

The output of a compiler is a mechanical result, not the creative work itself. A company should not be able to purportedly license a copy of a creative work to an end user under the copyright regime, while then stripping away the ability to utilize/service that copy via computational complexity.

Exemptions last for three years I believe (your link doesn’t work for the other years, BTW), and the law has recently been changed to make them more permanent, requiring significant change in order to prevent automatic renewal.

That is awesome, I didn't know they had upgraded the exceptions to 3 years.

For folks who want to look at previous exemptions

2015 - https://www.copyright.gov/1201/2015/

2012 - https://www.copyright.gov/1201/2012/

2010 - https://www.copyright.gov/1201/2010/

2008 - https://www.copyright.gov/1201/2008/

2006 - https://www.copyright.gov/1201/2006/

2003 - https://www.copyright.gov/1201/2003/

2000 - https://www.copyright.gov/1201/2000/

This sounds like a niche for a small Pacific island. Islands like Jersey and the Cook Islands tailor their legal systems to cater for those who want a looser financial system. A small state could tailor their laws for those who want to repair things and potentially make a very nice "high tech" economy out of reverse engineering, importing broken stuff and exporting fixed stuff. Copyright holders might try and block an import, but they would be fighting a harder battle against "parallel import" laws.


Edit: And they could set up a network of embassies around the world, with integrated repair shops. Instead of visiting the Kiribati embassy to get a visa, you might visit to get your device fixed.

Apple already has some sort of sweetheart deal with US Customs that gets Apple parts shipped from China rejected at import time unless they're part of an Apple-tracked shipment. This blocks devices have been third-party-repaired in China from being re-imported; but also blocks "ghost-shift" (but otherwise first-party!) Apple parts from coming into the country. Literally, anything that looks like an Apple part, but isn't an Apple part according to Apple, gets blocked. Think about the implications of that.

If you can't even import a real part into the US from the very same Chinese factory that the "officially-supplied" parts would be shipped from, then I doubt you'll be able to import those parts from the Cook Islands.

> "Literally, anything that looks like an Apple part, but isn't an Apple part according to Apple, gets blocked. Think about the implications of that."

The implication is that we are correctly enforcing trademark law... Or are you saying that anyone should be allowed to import anything with anyone's brand on it? Because congratulations, you have now destroyed the value and purpose of every single trademark.

Remember, the issue was NOT that they "looked like" Apple parts, the issue was that the parts had an actual Apple logo printed on them when they were not parts sourced through Apple.

This is just the stupidest issue. All Louis Rossmann had to do is purchase his non-genuine third party laptop batteries without an Apple logo printed on them, and he would have been legally entitled to them. He could have his batteries, he could perform the repairs, everyone would be happy.

With his complaint he is effectively saying is that trademarks mean shit and anyone can use anyone else's brand whenever they want. It's absurd. And it's a loser case. If he tries to fight Apple, he won't win.

> The implication is that we are correctly enforcing trademark law... Or are you saying that anyone should be allowed to import anything with anyone's brand on it?

I think what's being said (well, implied) is that the first-sale doctrine states that those trademark rights are limited, and that by blocking imports, those right may be being violated (specifically, the right to resell).

If that's the case, that would mean that we are incorrectly enforcing trademark law.

Edit: To make it absolutely clear what I'm talking about, if I as a U.S. citizen go to China, and I have some used iphones, and I try to ship them to the U.S. after people buy them from me, does Apple's special handling prevent me from reselling Apple products? If so, that may be violating my rights.

I agree with the first sale doctrine.

In the cases which have been popularised in the media recently, we're talking about products where a "first sale" has not occurred.

> we're talking about products where a "first sale" has not occurred.

Well, you seemed to distill the initial point to that, and then reject it, but I didn't interpret it as something so specific at all. Essentially it looked like a Straw Man argument.

If the details of this are specifically linked to that case, and there's no indication that it's happening to other types of shipment (a weakening of the original points presented that you responded to), that should have been specifically noted (is it? I don't know. I haven't been following this). Otherwise, you aren't really addressing the same thing as the comment you responded to (unless derefr is specifically talking about this incident, without mentioning this incident. That's possible).

I'm responding specifically to the cases which have hit the media in the past few weeks and months.

I'm not interested in arguing hypotheticals. If there's a specific incident that you want me to remark on, I'll be happy to provide my opinion on it.

According to the phrasing of the complaint, it was the use of the Apple logo on the batteries and not the batteries themselves that CBP took issue with. “It is assumed that if something has that Apple logo on it, it must be counterfeit,” Rossmann said. “It couldn't be that someone who has these batteries sold them to me. It couldn’t be that someone took these batteries out of machines that were on demo in stores….machines that they owned, packaged them up and sent them to me,” Rossmann said. “No, they must be counterfeit. There’s no other explanation for it.” [1]

It is possibly the items were counterfeit. But the information as presented does not make that case. They've been called refurbished. Until a case is made that they are counterfeit that includes more evidence than "it has an Apple logo on it", it makes sense to assume they were not given the statements about their providence.

So all my arguments to this point can be taken to apply to this specific case, and you can feel free to provide your opinion.

1: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/a3ppvj/dhs-seized...

I'm not familiar with Rossman's battery case, but those same laws have been used to stop shipments of refurbished Apple parts. I believe it was iPad Rehab this happened to most famously. They would disassemble an iPhone, send the display assembly (broken glass, LCD intact) to China, they would replace the glass and send it back. Because the LCD had an Apple logo on it, it was seized. But the LCD was genuine - it came directly out of an iPhone. That's equivalent to stopping the sale of a used car, just because it had the tires replaced with third-party ones, but still bares the maker's logo.

To my knowledge they had Apple logos because they were Apple products.

Maybe there's more to it but that's what I understood so far.

Removing the Apple logo from Apple products in order to ship them to the states so they can be used to fix Apple products seems unnecessary.

Louis Rossmann has said himself that he commissioned the batteries from a factory in China that was no longer authorized to make those batteries, because likely they lost the bid/contract to do so.


That makes the parts counterfeit if they bear an Apple logo. All Louis had to do is source the exact same parts without the Apple logo printed on them. That's not difficult, nor is it unreasonable.

> "Removing the Apple logo from Apple products in order to ship them to the states so they can be used to fix Apple products seems unnecessary."

Putting an Apple logo on something that is not an Apple product seems unnecessary.

These parts are not Apple products. In order for a product to be an Apple product, it has to have been sold by, through or under license from Apple at some point in its life.

These were not, which makes them counterfeit by definition. They might be perfectly identical to the real thing, they might be slightly inferior, or they might be dangerous junk. You don't know.

Wasn't the whole point of the Louis Rossmann imports and similar stories with LCD screens a few months back that these were in fact refurbished Apple products? From what I've read they had the Apple logo on a connector or something because that part of the product was original. In the car analogy, if I repair my car by replacing or refurbishing a broken part and clearly stating that fact when I resell it, would that make it a counterfeit car?

The purpose of trademarks should fundamentally be to ensure the consumer is fully aware of just what they are buying, it should never be to prevent purchases.

A consumer should always, 100% be able to purchase a "counterfeit" product should they so desire it.

”Literally, anything that looks like an Apple part, but isn't an Apple part according to Apple, gets blocked”

If importing Apple-labeled products that aren’t Apple‘s property nor have been sold by Apple were legal, Apple couldn’t outsource production, as it would be undercut by its own manufacturers.

So, I don’t see why, in general, you should be able to ”import a real part into the US from the very same Chinese factory that the "officially-supplied" parts would be shipped from”, if you didn’t buy it from Apple.

> If importing Apple-labeled products that aren’t Apple‘s property nor have been sold by Apple

That's moving the goal post. The original statement said "looks like an Apple part", and now you're assuming it was never sold by Apple.

How is customs to know the difference of whether it's original unsold inventory or refurbished inventory? I have a well defined legal right to sell an iPhone I own (whether bought from Apple or some other entity, as long as it originated from an Apple sale). I'm not sure why it should matter if I ship it internationally or not (that is to say, it should not matter, as long as it's an original device and not a copy).

> Apple couldn’t outsource production, as it would be undercut by its own manufacturers.

My rights should not be curtailed because the market needs of a single company.

> So, I don’t see why, in general, you should be able to ”import a real part into the US from the very same Chinese factory that the "officially-supplied" parts would be shipped from”, if you didn’t buy it from Apple.

As a separate issue, since it's a specific sub-part of the original claims, if the parts are not patented and do not display a trademarked logo, they should not be blocked, but I don't know if the specific case you are alluding refrained from adding a logo.

That said, if the batteries were repaired at the factory, and it was refurbished equipment being shipped, there is no reason that I know of they should have been blocked, logo or not. News sources are saying they were refurbished batteries. Why should those be blocked?

”My rights should not be curtailed because the market needs of a single company”

That’s at the root of the problem. Many customers want to have access to spare parts, but is it their right? I think car manufacturers are required to provide spare parts for a reasonable time, but I’m not aware of laws or regulations requiring that for other products.

Even if they exist, I don’t know enough about the examples involving Apple to know whether they are in breach of any regulations.

>> My rights should not be curtailed because the market needs of a single company

> That’s at the root of the problem. Many customers want to have access to spare parts, but is it their right?

That's not what I was saying. If counterfeit items are blocked, I don't care. The law specifically makes an allowance for organizations to block copies of products at the border. But legitimate Apple products that are used (i.e. have been sold and refurbished by Apple) are blocked, as was clearly noted in the original comment, preventing those at the border if they are being sold by (and maybe bought by?) a U.S. citizen, that seems to clearly infringe on their rights.

> I think car manufacturers are required to provide spare parts for a reasonable time, but I’m not aware of laws or regulations requiring that for other products.

It's not about the right to get or buy something, it's about people's rights to resell things.

> Even if they exist, I don’t know enough about the examples involving Apple to know whether they are in breach of any regulations.

I don't know a huge amount either, but they are noted in the news as "refurbished".

That said, the agreement Apple has, if it functions as described in this thread, clearly seems to infringe on people's right to resell Apple products if they happen to pass through customs.

Solutions to this that don't require US customs to act as Apple's personal vetting service:

1. Manufacture, or at least assemble, in the US

2. Have better oversight over the factories in China

Well, #2 isn't really feasible because of the scale at which they now have to operate in order to meet customers' demand for products (IOW, you can't catch everyone).

As for #1, this gets thrown around a fair bit, especially with the current GOP Congress. However people constantly forget that regardless of where final assembly takes place, these jobs are the lowest of the low on the tech food chain. Ripe for automation, a human can easily be replaced by a machine that costs less and can work 24/7/365.

Unless people have no other alternatives, these jobs should be avoided at all costs.

Maybe I misunderstood, but didn’t Tesla just prove this level of automation is still too far out? Or am I comparing apples and oranges?

All they've proven is it's not here today, really.

" ... as it would be undercut by its own manufacturers."

Perhaps - but the whole reason these parts were getting imported from China in the first place is that Apple refuse to sell them anymore because the machines they fit in are "too old".

I'd kinda accept an argument that "you should buy it from Apple", but only with the necessary rider that says "Unless Apple refuse to sell it to you any more, in which case they've forfeit all import protection rights".

(Also, if Rossmann _did_ intentionally or unwittingly order known "non-Apple suppled parts with counterfeit Apple logos on them", then it's pretty dumb of him to complain and threaten to lawyer up. He shouldn't have ordered 3rd party batteries with Apple logos, and he should now just order another batch without the Apple brand/trademark on them and argue about the payment for the first batch with the supplier if he thinks it wasn't his fault...)

Only from China? If it were from any country for any kind of shipment, it would mean I wouldn't be able to sell my old Macbook Pro to an American and ship it to them. Nor would I be able to ship it to the US if I ever decide to move there. I hope I can still take it with me as carry-on, but at this point I wouldn't dare to rely on it.

I don’t think that’s so much a sweetheart deal going on but good old money + lawyers

Brilliant. This is indeed a huge opportunity waiting to be taken by an otherwise stable country that is in need of some cash. Botswana, perhaps?

A tribal nation makes more sense for the US market.

>Copyright holders might try and block an import, but they would be fighting a harder battle against "parallel import" laws.

They can claim that it's counterfeit, have customs seize it, then force you to file legal action to reclaim your property. Not really the best place to be TBH.

Given that Apple doesn't sell its batteries or screen assemblies to anyone in any country, it's therefore impossible for them to be legitimately parallel-imported and therefore trivial for Customs to suspect them of being counterfeit or stolen. That's why they're getting caught.

But I don't get why anyone is complaining because the solution is INSANELY simple: if you want to parallel import parts from China, make sure they don't have Apple logos printed on them. That's an absurdly low bar to clear. It's so low that it makes me wonder if these controversies are being—pardon the pun—manufactured.

> Given that Apple doesn't sell its batteries or screen assemblies to anyone in any country, it's therefore impossible for them to be legitimately parallel-imported and therefore trivial for Customs to suspect them of being counterfeit or stolen.

It might surprise you, but Apple does sell all of those. The products that you are looking for are called for example iPhones and MacBooks.

Apple doesn't sell these parts in bulk quantities and encased in protective plastic films and shims, that for all appearances appears to have come directly from a factory.

If Customs sees that, then it's reasonable for them to—let me quote myself—suspect them of being counterfeit or stolen. I didn't say they should assume they are.

Good thinking, but US courts have established that you can’t use tribal nations for IP shenanigans: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/10/judge-throws-out...

(The linked case concerns “evil shenanigans”, in contrast to your proposed “good shenanigans”, but I doubt that argument would carry much sway in court.)

I'm aware of the case, just think the courts may take a different stance on "can US copyright law prevent tribal nations from repairing devices" vs "can tribal sovereign immunity be used to preempt US patent law outside of the tribe itself"

Can a country set up an embassy to conduct trade in violation of the host's laws?

Strictly speaking, diplomatic immunity (if granted) would at least allow this hypothetical country's designated diplomats to ignore the consequences, but their diplomatic status would likely simply be revoked.

I feel like openly running an illegal business out of your embassy is a quick way to get your diplomats expelled.

The business wouldn’t be illegal, because no physical good or money going in or out would be in violation of the host country’s laws. And exactly what happens inside the embassy isn’t under the host country’s purview, since the embassy grounds belong to the diplomat’s country and are subject to its laws only.

If the host country doesn’t like what they suspect is happening inside an embassy, they can go through diplomatic channels to request it be terminated (perhaps with a threat of some kind, like expulsion of the diplomat).

Give me a place with good reverse engineering/copyright laws, legal medical cannabis (long story) and I'll move tomorrow (if only)

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