Do I own the hardware I paid for?

I usually do not get involved in things like this but this one really bothers me. Allowing others to innovate their software on a hardware is in everyone’s interest. Unfortunately, some companies want to be in your home telling you that you can and can’t do on the hardware you paid for.

Can you be sued for hacking a device? Yes you can!

Do you know what is the first thing I wanted to do with my iPhone? Yes you guessed it! Run NETMF on it. Apple prohibits any sort of virtual machine to run on on their devices. So, scrap that idea!

I am glad it is over for the guy and hope he didn’t get hit hard by their lawsuit.

Big companies have been pulling this non-sense for years. One of the first jobs I had out of school was repairing office equipment: PCs, copiers, fax machines, etc. The really big copier centers could run in the $30k range and came with equally expensive maintenance contracts or $150/hr fees (plus travel time!) This was in the late 80’s!!

Some enterprising souls realized that most of the maintenance was rather simple stuff and formed service companies to offer those services at reduced prices. One of the big copier companies, let’s call them company ‘X’ responded by designing their machines so that you had to use a lap top to service them, and of course nobody but they were allowed to use the software, not even the machine owner! Imagine, you just bought a $30K machine and your not allowed to even change any of the settings.

Some of the independent guys ‘obtained’ copies of the software and were then sued for having ‘illegal’ copies of the software, even though there was no legal method to obtain it. When it got to court the company ‘X’ was told they had to sell licenses for the maintenance software as it was an integral part of the machines they were selling. So company ‘X’ said fine and charged several thousand dollars per license, in effect still screwing over their customers and any potential competitors for service.

An analogy would be buying a new $30K car and being told that only the dealer can service it because it requires a special computer program to talk to the cars embedded controller. (Newer cars have a common service interface that anyone can use.)

As a manufacturer I would not want folks publishing ‘cracks’ for my products, that is methods for folks being able to copy my work, etc., thereby illegally obtaining something they would have otherwise had to pay for (like playing game copies). But what a independent guy does with a product he has paid for, who cares.

There can be another side to this discussion.

Once upon a time I worked for a manufacturer of optical switches. These switches had up to 512 ports, each with speeds of up to 10gb per second.

The architecture was based upon circuit cards with up to 8 ports each. The speed and frequency of each port was determined by a plugin module.

The plugin modules cost up to a few thousand dollars, while the circuit cards, without any modules, cost in the tens of thousands.

One of the customers desires was that expansion was more or less linear. With the high price of the circuit boards, expansion cost would be more like a saw-tooth rather than linear.

To provide the customer with a more or less linear expansion option, the circuit boards were sold around cost, while the plugin modules were sold at elevated prices. This allowed for minimum initial capital costs, and a more linear expansion cost.

When thinking about adopting this pricing strategy, it was soon realized that a customer could go directly to the plugin module vendors to purchase modules, so technology was put in place to disallow the usage of outside modules.

Were we bad by not allowing a user to buy modules from anyone and plugging them into the equipment they owned?

Often vendors have a pricing policy of selling the equipment near cost and making there profit on service. Does this make them bad?

The game manufactures often sell their equipment at near cost and hope to make their profit selling games. Are they bad if try to protect again users buying their equipment and not a buying games?

Are the wireless companies bad because they sell you a smartphone at a subsidized price and then stop you from using the phone on another network?

Automobile dealers could not survive if they only sold cars. I suspect most of the profit at an auto dealer is through maintenance. Are the automobile companies bad in trying to protect their dealer network?

:smiley: :smiley:

[personal opinion, not speaking for my employer or anyone else]

It seems to me that this is a basic matter of property rights. If I create something, and offer it for sale, it is my right to choose the terms under which I am willing to sell what I created. It is the buyer’s right, if they do not like the terms under which I choose to sell my creation, to choose not to purchase said creation.

I really do think it’s that simple, though obviously in practice, many will do their best to complicate it.

I’ll turn it around with a question for Gus…

You’ve made a clear choice in the case of things like Hydra to open-source both the software and hardware that runs that board. But you’ve chosen not to do so for all your products, and that’s your right. Would you really be OK with it if someone reverse engineered all of the hardware and software/firmware that GHI has invested in over the years, and started making their own versions?

@ Jeff_Birt

In my view, the solution to a manufacturer who completely closes their products and charges exorbitant fees is for a competitor to release a comparable product without those same limitations. If customers are really demanding that level of access to their equipment, then there will be a market for such a competitor to exploit, and the more expensive and closed vendor will lose out eventually.

Again, just my 2 cents and my personal opinion. I am a believer in strong property rights, and in openness…but that openness should be at the option of the creator of the content. Having the consumer of the content or item choose how the content will be used (if that use is contrary to the intent of the creator) is just backwards.

I agree with devhammer. I will add that it’s almost humorous that one can be sued for hacking a product but I’ve yet to see anyone be tried for treason for publishing to

Companies should have the right to put whatever restrictions on products they want as long as the agreement is clear and understandable to the consumer when he purchases the product. The internet and the information that’s quickly distributed by it has certainly changed the rules. Now that people are more aware of the licensing terms they are putting pressure on companies to be more open and they are doing so [somewhat] willingly. This is the way the market should work. The best example was last year when Microsoft tried to give grief to the Kinect hackers. The public demanded was so high that they ended up reversing their stance and offered up software to make it easier to hack :slight_smile: XBox & Kinect sales ended up dominating the game market last year. Coincidence?

FEZHacker? I must say that I was surprised to see Gus be so accepting of that product.

For me, as someone that publishes software for a living both as a main and a side job, I think the issue isn’t that he made mods to the box; which has been defended by a new law since 2010 or early 2011; it was posting the code. I don’t think anyone is ever really going to get sued over modding out an XBOX, PS3, etc unless they go around sharing the code.

Which, granted, is still stupid to an extent but what can you do?

When the latest Skewworks software [italic]finally[/italic] rolls out the door there will be an embedded reward system that grants the user freebies for certain accomplishments…I certainly wouldn’t be pleased if the control module that was cracked and the access code placed online; even if there is a redundant web system on our servers to protect against cheats.

There is stealing work and there is stealing ideas. If someone hacked into spider and ported linux for example to it then why would this matter to GHI? Or someone used the board as a door stopper :slight_smile: This is their hardware to do whatever they like with it. This doesn’t require GHI to make anything open but also doesn’t require a user to use spider only with gadgeteer core.

Also, if someone loved GHI stuff and decided to make something similar/identical then why is this bad? This happened already with FEZ Domino. The idea is of seeing another device like domino was not very exciting but it came at a great benefit to you (customer). We made our stuff better and lowered our prices. So in general, this was good.

Now, if you took the board to a lab in china and copied it then this is pure stealing and we all agree this is bad. Same is to making memory dump of firmware.

@ Gus

Again, I don’t disagree with your choices regarding how you allow customers to use, hack, etc. GHI’s products. But IMO, it should be your choice.

If we start from the position that the consumer gets to decide what they can and cannot do with something that they’ve “bought” then there’s a whole host of IP that simply cannot be protected.

The way I see it, you (and every other creator or manufacturer) already have the ability to make your platform as open as you want. You’ve chosen to be largely open to the notion of others hacking and creating new stuff from your products. But why is it wrong for others to choose otherwise?

You draw the line at taking the board to a lab in China and simply reproducing it, or doing a memory dump of the firmware. But what if the consumer thinks that’s too restrictive? Do they have the right to do it anyway? Clearly you don’t think so, but the difference between your position and the one I’m taking is simply a matter of where we draw the line, not whether there should be a line at all.

Does that make sense?

There was an almost similar topic today on Adafruit : You Bought It, but Do You Own It? « Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers!

That reminds me of the kinect story from microsoft. At first, they were close to be suing everybody hacking at their device. Same thing as the idea from Gus to install netmf on an iphone… But they were clever enough to see all the benefit they could get from it, and they are now fully participating into the share, with their SDK.

I used once to be very frustrated about Microsoft, a few years ago. But I think that is a particulary good example of a company that took a sharp turn, including with NETMF :wink: and many other products, and really adapted themselves to the new world. Without letting go everything and still making money. I think this is a very good example and a strong hope for the future of our industry. If Microsoft can change, why not others :slight_smile: ?

@ devhammer - I generally agree with you. My point of contention is with companies that mislead their customers so they can lock them into an expensive single source arrangement. As long as the buyer is informed and both parties are happy then yes, let them agree to what ever terms work them. There is no one ‘right’ way.

@ Jeff_Birt

I guess my take on the scenario you describe is that a business that operates that way will not stay in business over the long term, because customers won’t tolerate it. There are plenty of other suppliers in most markets that would be more than willing to step in and meet the customers’ needs.