An Australian security researcher has managed run Doom on a John Deere tractor. The demonstration took place at the DEFCON 30 hacking conference and is seen as a victory for the right to repair because the giant specializing in agricultural machinery has been one of the most active manufacturers against the right.
Doom ushered in the era of third-person shooters and is considered to be the most ported game in history. There are countless platforms and devices where you can play, some really unthinkable. And why not on a tractor?
Australian researcher Sick Codes focused on studying agricultural machines. A segment that almost no hacker has touched and that, like any device today, has its electronics section. The goal was not so much to run Doom as demonstrate its vulnerabilities through a jailbreak to help users freely repair and upgrade their machinery, as John Deere has implemented software level blocks to allow only authorized dealers to do this job.
It is a practice against the right to repair that computer users unfortunately know well and that some governments are finally trying to curb through laws that help combat current industry practices and planned technological obsolescence that forces continued consumerism and every accelerated production of products (and their consequent technological waste) instead of improving their useful life.
Doom on a John Deere tractor
The researcher has worked on the touch screen controllers of some John Deere tractor models, with ARM NXP I.MX 6 architecture chips and Wind River Linux 8 and Windows CE operating systems. Nothing in the code was encrypted properly and all firmware code was running as root.
This made the task easier, and together with a Doom mod developer, he managed to run the classic with a cornfield theme and a rather curious steering wheel as a weapon controller.
— Sick.Codes (@sickcodes) August 14, 2022
Kyle Wiens, CEO of the repair website iFixit and advocate for the right to repair, attended the presentation and recounted the experience in a twitter thread: “Sick Codes has unlocked a John Deere, and this is just the beginning… Turns out our entire food system is based on outdated, unpatched Linux and Windows CE hardware.«.
It must be said that after dozens of lawsuits against John Deere and bills in the US Senate, the company said it would make previously restricted technical resources available to customers and independent repairers. I’m sure the guys at iD Software weren’t expecting their game to run on a tractor, but if you help with the right to repair, you’re welcome.