The history of McDonalds freezer includes technology, trade secrets, internal business transactions, friction of the franchisor / franchisee, and alleged violation of the NDA. In short: a lot of money and lawyers. But it also includes something that matters to all of us hackers – what it means to own a machine.
The summary is that McDonald’s requires its franchisees to purchase a specific Taylor Soft Serve service machine. The machine will go into pasteurization mode and have opaque error codes that are obviously triggered without the owners or operators knowing, after which Taylor’s technicians come to fix them – and of course get paid for their service. A small hardware boot, Kytch, got into a mess with a device that mediates Taylor machine status codes, allowing machine owners to diagnose and monitor it themselves. Heroes, right?
Naturally, Taylor wants to look at a Kytch device, but they are locked under the NDA, which Kytch requires users to sign in to protect their trade secrets. So when Taylor catches them, Kitsch takes them to court for the irony of fate that they re-engineered their device, which they created to reverse Taylor’s protocols.
There are no good guys in this battle: corporate secrecy fights corporate secrecy. By the way, nothing that Hakadey doesn’t particularly like. Why? Because these secrets rob the apparent device owners their ability to inspect, repair and operate theirs machines. It’s like “right to repair“An idea, but somehow it’s even more fundamental – the right to know what your own devices are doing.
This story needs Robin Hood. And as the devices we sell become increasingly packaged in the EULA and NDA and filled with a secret sauce that is beyond our control, we will need many more Robin Hoods. These are McDonald’s freezers, but also your smart thermostat and your inkjet printer and yours – you call it. Come on, Hakadei!
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