Every Once In A While…

… I actually agree with something Richard Stallman had to say.

I was perusing my usual spots today and ran across an article on jalopnik.com regarding that annoying damned Check Engine light on your dashboard display. I’ve been ranting about the monopolization of the auto repair industry by the manufacturers for years now. Jason Torchinsky writes on Jalopnik about his war against the Check Engine light.

From the article Richard Stallman Weighs In On The Check Engine Light:

My fight against the check engine light still goes on, though, like an uncle with an extensive collection of pornography, I’m sure many of you were hoping I’d just keep it to myself. Well, like your pervy uncle, I won’t. I can’t. And, I’m not alone. Among the many emails I received, most suggesting I speak with my clergyperson, I received an email from Richard Stallman, the founder of the free software movement and the man who started the GNU/Linux operating system.

An email from Stallman himself! I’m impressed. Richard never emails me. 😦

Jason goes on to quote Stallman:

I agree with you about the “Check engine” light, but that is a symptom of a broader and deeper problem: the owners of cars do not control, what the car’s computers do.  These computers are running _proprietary_ software, software that controls its users.

Jason asks:

So why should general drivers care?

Stallman responds in typical geek fashion with a bullet list:

1. So anyone can maintain the engine — including your choice of mechanic.

2. To protect against abusive features (see http://www.bostonreview.net/BR33.2/stallman.php).  In this case, hiding information from you.  With free software in that computer, people would make programs to give them more info than the Check Engine light gives.  And you could use them even if you don’t modify your car in any way.

RAH! RAH! Sir Richard! I couldn’t have said this better myself. For years now the automotive industry has been attempting to kill the independent parts and service industries in this country by forcing automobile owners to go directly to the dealers for any and all service/parts that might be needed. How have they done this? With PROPRIETARY TECHNOLOGY, PARTS, TOOLS, TRAINING, etc. That’s how.

Nowadays, you almost always have to go to a dealer for even the most minor repairs or parts. This has killed the mom/pop auto repair/parts business in this country. It’s GREED on the part of BIG AUTO that has driven this to its current state; costing many their small business, and/or employment. How have we let this happen? The same way we let all oppression happen; through ignorance and apathy.

New cars are great if you can afford the maintenance agreements. If not, you better trade-in and get a new one once that warranty is up. Of course, this is exactly what BIG AUTO wants you to do. Vicious circle, huh?

Have a great weekend!


Image credits: check engine light from repairpal.com article – Understanding the Check Engine Light

Richard Stallman courtesy of Wikipedia.org


6 Comments on “Every Once In A While…”

  1. Yes! So glad some folks who are listened to are speaking out about this crap! My check engine light has been on for years….literally.

    • I loved the Trailblazer that I sold my brother, but I dreaded having any issues with it. You just can’t fix much on these newer vehicles yourself anymore these days.

      That’s why I love my old Chevy (1982) truck. When something goes kerflooey on that one, I can fix it myself. There’s nothing on that truck that I can’t fix.

      A couple years back there was a bill introduced into Congress called “The Right to Repair” bill. It was supposed to try and reverse this trend of proprietary parts/tools/data that BIG AUTO has shoved down our throats the past two decades. Unfortunately, the bill just disappeared from sight.

      Lobbyist $$$ make the world go ’round.

      Smash the State! Reboot this country! 😉



  2. http://www.righttorepair.org/main/default.aspx

    I Just signed onto the petition and my first line was: WHAT HAPPENED TO THIS BILL?


  3. Josef says:

    I agree.
    I respect rms (Richard Stallman): Users should be in control of the software they run, and be able to change it.
    Let me repeat: software that people run!

    People do not run car software! They drive the car!!

    Analyse the words of rms:
    “the owners of cars do not control, what the car’s computers do. These computers are running _proprietary_ software, software that controls its users.”
    What a mistake! -> rms: “software that controls its users.”


    If people were to change the software, the results can be catastrophic. rms has no idea when he says: “I suspect people are exaggerating a spectacular-sounding tiny danger. Most of the software in cars is not crucial to being roadworthy […] But if someone changes software that has some relevance to safety, and if it causes a problem, that problem will probably show up in a not-quite-grave situation and he will stop running it. ”

    My my… rms knows very little about automotive software.

    If you have someone messing around with the engine management software… the worst that can happen is that that person gets unwanted accelleration: that person can be killed in a road accident on a public road, and kill other driver’s as well.

    It has to be damn difficult for people upload changed software into the ECU (electronic control unit).
    There is a reason that some car-processors only run on a signed and encrypted hex file!!

    From my point of view, we could in theory make engine management software … free… but only so free, that you can do anything with it, except run it in a real car that will be used on public roads… unless you manage to get the software certified, to fullfill all criteria of crutial safety.

    Dear rms… please think of the car software… as if it were aeroplane software.
    Do you want some hacker-dude to be able to go to a plane you’re about to take, and upload his cool experimental software changes… when no-one is looking? That’s not freedom, that’s like an act of terrorism. It endangers lives.
    While people can exampine the source code of flight-software, I don’t want uncertified people to be able to load their changes onto the ECU of a real plane, that people are about to board.

    The same thing applies to car software. People can examine it, but uncertified people should not be able to load it into the ECU of real cars that will drive on public roads, because then they endanger not only their own lives, but also those of drivers in other cars.

    Yes to free software that I run and use and change! No to being able to change and run safety-critical software of machines, when these changes can cause deaths to the public.

    Freedom is not … being able to kill someone and justifiy it with: “oh I have the freedom to change the moral code that was expected of me”.

    • Good comments, Josef. Thanks for posting them. However, I think you’re missing the point entirely. What Stallman is trying to expose here is the industries further attempts to monopolize all things to do with service and parts for modern automobiles. They have already nearly succeeded in making it impossible to service your own vehicle or have a mechanic of your choice do so. Your only alternative more and more these days is to go to the dealer for repairs. That is WRONG! That should be illegal, in my opinion.

      Let me explain it in computer terms, I run GNU/Linux and Open Source software because I WANT TO CONTROL what it does on my systems… or at least know what it does. I don’t like MS Windows and other proprietary operating systems because I have no control over how they work or what they do on my systems… or I should say, I have minimal control because I do have some, just not much compared to GNU/Linux and Open Source.

      Anyway, when something breaks on my 1982 Chevrolet pickup truck, I can fix it. If something stops working on my new Chevy, I have no idea what to do. I don’t have a $100,000 Sun Analyzer or the $$$ to buy the proprietary GM software to analyze the system in my new vehicle myself. This isn’t progress, my friend. It’s oppression. It’s discrimination. It’s greed.

      Have a great day! Thanks for reading/commenting.


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