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Firmware Upgrades For Everything

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the upgrade-to-toaster-2.0 dept.

Upgrades 285

eggoeater writes "Forbes Magazine has an article discussing how more portable electronics are not only suggesting firmware upgrades, but requiring them in order to get all the features! Apparently the new Lyra A/V Jukebox will sometimes display a message stating that 'this feature will be available in future upgrades.' In addition, the article states that some patches are difficult and dangerous depending on the component. Some cell phone patches require a proprietary cable ($25) that will then wipe out your phone book. This raises concerns over alienating users that aren't tech-savvy and how this could affect perceptions of portable electronics as a whole."

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Dude, where's my shares? (5, Insightful)

monstroyer (748389) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412112)

The concept is called time to market, the price you pay is quality. This is what happens when a society values profits over sustainability. The more faceless, the less accountable. One million marketers can't be wrong. Dude, where's my shares?

Yes, I am cynical.

Let's start the discussion by raising the concern that if the majority of users aren't tech savvy and society is dominated by technology, doesn't this sound like a new dark age? History has shown that when the peasant mass is uneducated, the church and monarchy rule. Are we not heading in this direction again? Technology being the new "power"? How long until the masses catch up and stop being screwed?

Re:Dude, where's my shares? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412140)

The penis: mightier than the sword!

Re:Dude, where's my shares? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412167)

The concept is called time to market, the price you pay is quality.
No, that concept is called "vaporware," and in general, it's the company that pays the price.

1) Announce Product with features X, Y and Z
2) Ship Product with feature X
3) ???
4) Go bankrupt.

About the only industry where people have tolerated the missing Step 3 ("Make people pay, then pay again for the features they wanted in the first place") is MMORPGs. I don't think it's going to work with hardware.

Missing step 3... (5, Interesting)

Cryptnotic (154382) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412218)

3. Make enough money on Product so that they can stay in businness and produce product "V2" that actually does have features X, Y, and Z (or maybe just X and Y).

Hopefully that staves off 4 for a while.

Worked for TiVo, sort of.

Re:Dude, where's my shares? (5, Insightful)

TheLinuxSRC (683475) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412194)

How long until the masses catch up and stop being screwed?

When corporations are held criminally liable for this sort of deceit. Don't hold your breath.(I too am cynical;)

Re:Dude, where's my shares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412206)

Well said. Bravo.

Re:Dude, where's my shares? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412235)

Yeah, while your uninformed opinions are very popular on Slashdot where every corporation is EEEVVIIIILLLLL (except for AMD, IBM, VA systems, and occasionally Novell) the real problem is not really in the EEEEVIIILLL corporations at all, but rather in the consumers that give them all the money. Despite the common knowledge of Slashdot readers, companies do not produce crappy products simply to 'force' you to buy them. They produce crappy products in response to customer demands. It is what the nameless, faceless, CONSUMERS demand that causes companies to put out what they do. When competitive pressures are great, and they are often in the case of electronics, things slip to the floor, one of which is quality. If the nameless, faceless, consumers demand quality and simplicity then there will be companies who respond to those goals. Right now, I'm sure you think that EEEVIL
corporate planners are intentionally breaking their own products just to mess with you, but the fact is that right now consumers want whiz-bang products that come with every feature known to mankind, and they want them last Tuesday. There is no magic formula to get everything they want so the features come out but often with a bunch of bugs.

So how do you as an individual get around this? Easy, instead of rushing in to buy something and then whining about it later, read some objective reviews of the products you buy, talk to people (either in the real world or online) about them, and lastly take all the advertising you see with a grain of salt.

Yes I am realistic.
Yes I do eat meat.

In Soviet Russia : +1, Interesting (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412263)

A special message []
for Geroge W. Bush []

Re:Dude, where's my shares? (5, Funny)

AKnightCowboy (608632) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412315)

History has shown that when the peasant mass is uneducated, the church and monarchy rule. Are we not heading in this direction again? Technology being the new "power"? How long until the masses catch up and stop being screwed?

Historically speaking it would be about 750 years from now. System administration.. it's the new priesthood! Bow down lusers and pay homage to the messiah Simon.


haystor (102186) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412465)

The messiah has spoken, now we must follow.

Re:Dude, where's my shares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412477)

As geeks, we can join the Church and Monarchy, and enslave the worthless tech-illiterate proles as their weakness deserves.

Second post. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412114)

My karma status delayed my post.!!

BREAKING: BOOKER T. NOE DEAD!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412115)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio--Master Distiller Booker T. Noe [] was found dead [] in his Bardstown, KY home this morning. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him--even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to the Art of Distilling Bourbon [] . Truly an American icon.

T Booker dead (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412141)

Good riddance.

T Booker was a crappy wrestler anyway.

Wow (1, Interesting)

Pingular (670773) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412116)

Sounds like an extension of the registering thingy in XP (where you have to register to use it). Nice.

RTFA (1)

DaHat (247651) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412220)

To quote the article: "But even if you register a product online, your chances of being notified of updates are slim, even though some fixes are crucial:"

Re:Wow (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412234)

You got the dates backwards in your sig. It's a common mistake, but those dates should be reversed. Birth first, death next.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412301)

RRrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhttttttttt tttt

Re:Wow (0)

Merlyn MacGreine (739209) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412400)

Birth first, death next. That is how it is arranged. It's BC!

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412426)

I bow to you oh masterful troll

You know what? (5, Interesting)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412121)

I wouldn't have much of a problem with this if it weren't for the fact that updates tend to break stuff as often as it fixes them.

Even mobo manufactures say to upgrade only if the update fixes a specific problem you are having.

Re:You know what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412275)

That's because a freak power outage (mine went out twice today--snow in North Carolina) will render your precious gear useless.

That, and 90% of idiot users fuck it up anyway.

Re:You know what? (3, Informative)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412333)

Even mobo manufactures say to upgrade only if the update fixes a specific problem you are having.

Mobo manufacturers say that because a failed upgrade (say, due to a power failure) will leave you with a product needing a very expensive repair -- you don't get a second chance at upgrading. Most other products, if an upgrade fails, you can try again until it succeeds.

fp - underestimation (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412123)

first post

Sometimes I think /. underestimates non-tech-savvy users. They'll get used to it, trust me.

They're just thinking ahead (5, Insightful)

microbox (704317) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412125)

If this culture develops in this industry, then it will be easy for big business to force customers to accept 'improvements' that they would rather be without.

Re:They're just thinking ahead (2, Insightful)

timmy0tool (756143) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412428)

I would like a mobile phone which is just a mobile phone, and maybe address book. No text, no games, no wap.

Maybe they will get the idea and make a basic device with add on (firmware?) products which can't break the core device by updating.

The alternative is security/safety updates for phones, microwaves etc, requiring more and more processing power and getting locked into an upgrade cycle, like people have been in with their PC's for decades.

Re:They're just thinking ahead (1)

microbox (704317) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412481)

If software freedom starts to encomposs hardware design (but not manufactor), then we may have such a future. We'll also (probably) receive better quality products which are more focus on being sufficient for the purpose, and not a gold plated brick.

Perhaps the mobil device market is suffering the same problems that the early software market struggled with.

firm or soft? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412133)

I thought firmware was supposed to be firm?


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412168)

I'll be over later tonight. If you don't stay in your room while I'm uploading, I WILL KICK YOUR ASS!

Re:firm or soft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412340)

I thought this comment was supposed to be funny?

Sounds like extortion to me.... (0, Redundant)

TheLinuxSRC (683475) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412134)

Some cell phone patches require a proprietary cable ($25) that will then wipe out your phone book.

So, you are sold something that does not work as advertised, and to get it to work as advertised you have to spend $25 on a $2 cable? Only to find out you just lost your address book? Hmmmphh.

Re:Sounds like extortion to me.... (2, Interesting)

Akai (11434) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412316)

The thing is, outside the US (europe), mobile phone shops will do the upgrades for you. Inside the US it's harder to find a shop to do that in the US (I found a place in San Francisco that does it, but that's the exception).

That's probably one of the reasons why companies like Nokia and SonyEricsson release their phones in Asia and Europe before the US.

Re:Sounds like extortion to me.... (1)

TheLinuxSRC (683475) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412359)

That is a great point, and one I admit I hadn't considered. It still seems deceitful to me though. If I buy something for some feature, and then have to go to the shop to get the firmware updated to get that feature, as a luddite that implies to me that my phone was broken to begin with.

Re:Sounds like extortion to me.... (4, Insightful)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412366)

Sounds like vaporware has moved from the soft relm to the hard relm. If the missing "feature" was advertized then I think there's a case for a lawsuit. Then again, I bought my PDA partly on the strength of a feature that is missing [] -- with no firmware upgrade available. Unless there's a class action, I'm screwed and they know it. But unless there's a fix, I'll never buy their [] crap again. If what this article [] says is true, then it's a short-term trend that will get the companies long-term problems.

I see a business emerging! (5, Insightful)

Trigun (685027) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412139)

Sure it's dangerous, sure it can screw up your brand new DVD Player or home theatre system, so why not take it to a professional? Competitive rates assured!

Or let the luddites live without the 'features'. Face it, that's why we became techies in the first place, to profit from everyone else's technophobia.

Re:I see a business emerging! (4, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412237)

"... to profit from everyone else's technophobia."

I take it you decided to get into technology during the bubble.

I, and many people I know, would be very happy if technology was easier to use for the average user.

Re:I see a business emerging! (2, Insightful)

SirCrashALot (614498) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412457)

I know it would save me an awful lot of time. Not that I mind helping out people out, but sometimes i feel its so simple they should just learn.

Re:I see a business emerging! (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412451)

new? it has been standard practice to take the phones to phone shops for flashing if wanting a new firmware(the cables are not usually available even through usual retail channels).

for 'normal people' it sometimes is also standard practice to haul the computer up to the computer shop for gfx card installation, or to get rid of those pesky popups that are making doing spreadsheets impossible.

Slow down (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412143)

and maybe you would get it right without needing to "update/mess about with" every 3months

the consumer is not your beta tester

Re:Slow down (3, Insightful)

happyfrogcow (708359) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412431)

the consumer has always been a tester, maybe not the equivalent to a "beta tester" in computer terms, but a tester none the less. designs just don't improve by themselves, and designers aren't always the typical user of the end product (neither are "focus groups" nor hired testers even). customer feedback after release almost always contributes to the growth of a product. that being said, i still don't like the practice as it relates to most things (especially software, since that's my field) and I agree with you.

Re:Slow down (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412478)

and maybe you would get it right without needing to "update/mess about with" every 3months

And meanwhile your competition brings Whiz-Bang Widget Mark II to the market and you're outta luck. And you're left with 100,000 Whiz-Bang Widgets in a rented warehouse with the landlord at your door....

Bah .. (5, Insightful)

Darken_Everseek (681296) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412145)

"This raises concerns over alienating users that aren't tech-savvy and how this could affect perceptions of portable electronics as a whole."

Frankly, if I'm being forced to pay $25 for a cable to do necessary upgrades, you're going to alienate me whether I'm tech savvy or not. Especially if the 'unavailable' features were advertised as part of the item in question.

Re:Bah .. (4, Insightful)

Eraser_ (101354) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412322)

That is grounds for return right there. If you paid for the item with your evil credit card, VISA (et al.) will back you up on this. No cell phone contract is valid if the phone they so intricatly tied into it does not meet the advertised specifications. $25 more so it can sync to (say) PalmOS, but the box had the Palm logo on it? Sorry, I will go elsewhere, and I won't be out dime one when I leave, save the gas to get to and from the store.

This brings me to another point. Do not ever purchase contracts for a cell phone or anything from those in mall third parties. That is trouble waiting to happen. Go to a retail store and make sure the contract you are signing is with Cingular/Verizon, etc, not "JoesCellphones for Verizon".

Re:Bah .. (3, Informative)

Darken_Everseek (681296) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412358)

From the article, it looks like you can take the phone in, and have it upgraded for free; or pay the $25 to get the cable, and download the stuff yourself. Technically, since they're not -requiring- you to pay for an advertised feature, I don't think it'd void the contract. You probably would be out the money.

Either way though; if something is advertised on the box or in the specifications, and doesn't have that functionality the -first- time I try to go use it, I'm already alienated. If that same functionality requires a hassle to get working, I'm not just alienated, I'm pissed right off.

Kinda sad, really... (4, Interesting)

cgranade (702534) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412148)

I think that this is kind of sad... I like upgradable firmware- witness the iRiver line of products- and hate to see it misused to sell cables. If we could come up with a standard cable scheme for portable device to PC interfacing... oh, wait... it's called USB A to USB Mini-B. Now, if only more manufacturers would implement it.

Crap (3, Insightful)

SteveXE (641833) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412149)

This is just crap, if they wanna do this they should lower the retail price, then charge the difference by feature in the firmware upgrades. Who's to say they will ever release the features you already paid for...why should they since they have your money already?

Re:Crap (2, Insightful)

mcpkaaos (449561) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412448)

Who's to say they will ever release the features you already paid for...why should they since they have your money already?

Maybe because it would be the last time anyone, anywhere, ever bought a product from such a company.

A better idea is to provide enough real features to add credibility to the vapor in order to string the consumer along an endless line of upgrades and replacements. For a great example of this tactic, check out any company at all.

Re:Crap (4, Interesting)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412474)

Exactly. When the first Creative Jukeboxes came out, before the iPod, a big selling point was that they were firmware upgradeable. Right on the box it promised that they would update it to play "all future digital music formats" but it still only plays MP3 and WMA files. If you ask them when they are coding firmware to play Ogg Vorbis files they say "We do not support other music formats." If you point out they promised to support all future formats, they say "I already said, we do not support other formats" and then stop responding.

I'll never buy a Creative product again, because they lied about their features in order to sell them.

release now, patch later... (3, Insightful)

ed8150 (554077) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412150)

we see this trend in many games and to put it quite bluently it must stop. if the product is not of production quality, then dont release it. this attitude is quite frequently expressed in games. Usually the initial release is buggy, suffers from a lack of features, and sometimes is even missing key elements of the game. case and point: star wars galaxies. this is one of the advantages of opensource: in most instances you have no release schedule except the maturity mark is that set by the developers.

Re:release now, patch later... (1, Interesting)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412251)

Like the wonderful quality control that went into Linux 2.4.20. Where it would not sync on umount when using ext3 with data=journal mode, and thus corrupting the filesystem. Ugh.

Re:release now, patch later... (4, Informative)

codeonezero (540302) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412307)

I had this same problem with a couple of games. Most notably, Ray Man 3 for the Mac.

I bought the game for about $50 for my brother. However, it mostly works, if you can deal with the problematic sound bug, which freezes everything at random, bad camera control using the mouse, and the inability to properly set custom keys to stick, among other things....and don't get me started with the Macally Shock II game pad I can't seem to configure to work right for me! (though I think that's Macally's fault)

I'm not very happy with feral (

Halo is another one, where if you use the 1.0 version for mac, and get the health pack, your screen goes completely black for like 10 seconds. Those could be the crucial 10 seconds in which you could just die if the Covenant is chasing after you, and you just stepped in their path because you couldnt see where you are going. I think this has been fixed now, but it was an annoying thing through the game.

Cro-Mag Rally (another mac game) had similar problems on Mac OS X. I even e-mailed the developer and didn't get a very encouraging response. Can't remember what it was or the exact tone...(kind of hard to note the tone through e-mail)

Maybe my problem is that I'm on the mac trying to play games, but from the article this seems to be the trend. I can't remember what other games I've had this problem with but I've gotten into the habit of looking for updates for games as soon as I get them. It fustrates me when it takes a long time for updates to come along.

This is specially fustrating when some games sell at a higher price for a Mac version versus the PC version...

Thank you for reading my rant :-)

Haven't had a problem with firmware updates yet. (4, Insightful)

Sheetrock (152993) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412153)

The secret is to read the instructions and only update when you really need to. A lot of people seem to feel that they should keep firmware up to date for the same reasons they keep updating their software, but in truth very few firmware updates are necessary because they fix problems most people don't experience.

I don't know why anybody would seek a non-upgradable piece of hardware over an upgradable piece of hardware. New features through firmware updates should be quite welcome to everybody who can follow the simple precautions necessary to update.

Re:Haven't had a problem with firmware updates yet (5, Insightful)

TheLinuxSRC (683475) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412261)

New features through firmware updates should be quite welcome to everybody who can follow the simple precautions necessary to update.

Except that the customer has in most cases already paid for these features. At that point, who is to say these "features" won't turn into vaporware.

Router (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412156)

I have a Belkin Wireless 802.11g router that runs a nucleus plus based firmeware. I attempted to modify the firmware and reupload it. However, it went completely dead - not even the "bad firmware fix" thing works. Anyone know what type of flash memory these things include? Why can't they just use CF cards? That way, my free after rebate $10 CF reader could fix it in a flash (no pun intended)

Re:Router (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412229)

bootstrap it :: install linux :: play tux racer :: problem solved

Trust and the missing feature. (4, Insightful)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412166)

I don't trust a feature not included with a shipping version to ever arrive. It's it not there when they ship it, I don't believe them when they say it'll be available in a "downloadable patch"; usually, it appears first in the next major version of software, for which you have to pay - which means that they have every incentive to not make it available for free, because that feature then becomes an upgrade-motivating differentiator.

Likewise with firmware in consumer goods. I don't trust them - if it's not there when I buy, I suspect they'll ship it in a "deluxe" version before they let me upgrade my DVD player/blender/mp3 player to get the same feature.

Same old, same old (1)

RetroGeek (206522) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412170)

Some cell phone patches require a proprietary cable ($25) that will then wipe out your phone book

This could be applied to almost every s/w product:

Some <software name> patches require a proprietary <item, key, dongle> that will then wipe out your <information>.

It is getting better, but there is still a LOT of s/w that will simply overwrite your settings with a new "fresh" file. This is especially bad where the installation process is simply decompressing a distribution file.

As an engineer in the electronics industry... (5, Interesting)

Cryptnotic (154382) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412171)

You ship the product when marketing decides it needs to be shipped, not when it's done. You make all the required features exist so that the bullet points are covered in the specifications, even if they don't work right all the time. The fixes come later, in the order of the number of complalints.

It sucks, but that's the way it is. Your product is either first, or it needs to be 10 times better than the other guy's product.

Re:As an engineer in the electronics industry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412404)

So who do you work for?

Re:As an engineer in the electronics industry... (1)

buhatkj (712163) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412455)

well, we should encourage the ten times better way then yknow? the ipod wasnt the first mp3 player, but it outshined others so well that it became the best-selling. as far as having upgradable firmware, well thats great, but it should be well tested, i would be ashamed to ship a product that wasnt "1.0", that is, all advertised features work, and it has exhibited acceptable stability. i think the damage to your company's reputation would be more damaging than missing the ideal time to market...

Simple Solution (1, Insightful)

Srividya (746733) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412172)

Is for someone to keep a good site with older versions that allows for reverse-engineering and selection of old and new features!

future upgrades? (1)

ejaw5 (570071) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412177)

this feature will be available in future upgrades

..right. If it's a feature you're gonna need TODAY, you're going to buy another device that features it when you buy it. Because how can you be sure the manufacturer will follow through the upgrade?

better than Non-Updatable embedded os's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412182)

Like the HP Jornada 700 series.
IE has major issues with loching the OS just like a real pc and it's unfixable not only because there is no real support but because the os is hard embedded. I suppose a replacement chip could be mounted but they are not cheap. Also Linux for the Jornada 720 is not there yet as there is no Sleep or Power saving mode supported.

Ahhh.... (4, Funny)

SomeOtherGuy (179082) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412183)

This generations "Feature Will Be Available in future firmware upgrades" is really starting to sound like last generations "The Check is in the mail".

Not at all surprising. (4, Funny)

El Cubano (631386) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412185)

Apparently the new Lyra A/V Jukebox will sometimes display a message stating that 'this feature will be available in future upgrades.'

I think that this is happening because vendors have determined it is better, from a marketing stand-point, to got a half-done product first to market and finish it later than it is to bring a complete product where the competition already has gained a user-base.

Thankfully, this is more difficult other industries, like automobiles. But as electronics take over more of our lives, I would not be at all surprised to see this happen in relatively strange places. I can see: "If you would like your SVT Mustang to travel over 50 MPH, please downlaod the latest firmware from"

Alienating Users? (3, Interesting)

Zedek (746741) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412193)

Meh, as user friendly as things are getting now-a-days, flashing is gonna be a matter of a message appearing on the screen that says "new bios downloaded, press yes to flash". Either that or just get your neighboorhood 8 year old to come and do it for you. Granted, this could open up a whole new can of worms for the industry as far as exploits/virii/trojans. I predict we will soon see Anti-Virus software for cellphones/pdas/ect at this rate.

Hold on a sec... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412196)

They've decided to start charging in advance for vapour-ware?

the average (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412203)

person will not tolerate it. If you advertise a feature, and it doesn't work, it's only a matter of time before you are sued.

many of us on /. come from a tme in the computer era where you had to 'fiddle' with stuff to get it to work, IRQ conflicts spring to mine.

When a feature in your blender won't work becasue of a bug, people will stop buying your blender. It should just work without the user knowing anything about the inner workings.

Class action suit, anyone? (2, Interesting)

psxotaku (324786) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412217)

features listed on the box, that are not avilable for months later. I'd say that false advertising. Forced updates, wow, how much more wrong is that. I don't mind bug fixes for minor things, but don't test this stuff at all. So glad my pod has work perfect from day one... I'd flipout if a firmware update trashed it.

Hi I am Troy McClure (1)

RedHatLinux (453603) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412230)

You may remember me from such movies as Firmware1984 and I know where your firmware was last summer.

make firmware open source (2, Informative)

elinenbe (25195) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412239)

If you want to see some incredible open firmware replacements that fix many if not all of the original shortcomings then check out rockbox at and avOS at -- These both have been created in an attempt to fix the god-awful archos firmware. Go on and check it out. Rockbox is amazing!

Drooling Morons (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412242)

This raises concerns over alienating users that aren't tech-savvy

Call them drooling morons instead. There are instances where instructions are no good; there's a lot of vaporware; but above all it's the mentally lazy. They're in abundance like nowhere else in the US.

Re:Drooling Morons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412422)

And are you a:

cooking drooling moron
fashion drooling moron
legal advice drooling moron
car repair drooling moron
house repair drooling moron
financial wizardry drooling moron

or are you an expert in everything and unworried that you look like a complete moron in a field outside your expertise?

Research it. (4, Interesting)

irokitt (663593) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412243)

The lesson to all of us is to carefully research anything we buy to find out if we will need proprietary cables or if features aren't available 'yet'.

None of us are forced into these purchases, with the exception of gift items. And if you recieved a techie gift, do the research before opening the package-you can stil return it, and I just recently found myself wishing I had when I recieved an mp3 player for christmas.

Guffaws aside, companies should theoretically respect users more when people refuse to buy badly implemented products.

Re:Research it. (2, Insightful)

anubi (640541) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412429)

Oh, you know why retailers love Christmas so much.

This is when people have an onus to go out and buy some crap to give you, and you have the onus to do the same for them, before you can even visit for tea.

And, of course, the "present" is usually presented personally, and its kinda in bad taste to not open it up and fawn over it for a while. I mean, you don't really wanna hurt their feelings after they went through all that mad rush to get it for you do you? Its not like you personally have had to experience the same frustration yourself trying to hold up your end of the bargain. So, you open it and drool over it awhile so their feelings won't get hurt. Presto! Opened product!

Now, to add injury to it, if your donor finds out you returned the thing they so "carefully selected" for you, their feelings might be hurt. You wouldn't want that, would you?

Yep, a marketer's dream market.

Damm, I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge!

But before you bah-humbug me as such, I will say I think the holidays are for sharing as much time as you can with others, as our busy worklives, accounted for by the minute, doesn't leave much time for social interaction with loved ones. Its just the horning in of others with the fiduciary interest of milking this occasion for all its worth that irritates me so.

Car stereo (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412244)

The idea of being able to upgrade the firmware in my car stereo is something I look forward to. How hard can it be to implement a USB connection to the faceplate? Upgrading the unit this way would be a lot easer then ripping the whole unit out from my cars console.

Also, getting the whole stero replaced is NOT cheap. And I hate the idea of clipping wires in my car just to replace it.

Re:Car stereo (1)

anubi (640541) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412361)

Yeh, but what they *won't* tell you up front is that the latest "upgrade" contains the latest DRM enforcement for all the workarounds you have been using in order to use the car stereo for its intended function in the first place.

Virgin (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412253)

I can't help it.

The music Britney Spears produces is horrible, but I can't control myself when I watch her latest video, Toxic.

Just watching that well-trimmed body and the world-famous virgin pussy being flaunted with the skill of an experienced hooker is too much for me!!!

fap fap fap fap

Further marketshare gains for Microsoft? (4, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412256)

Something tells me these firmware fixes will soon become mandatory when lax manufacturers decide that it easier to require a firmware update than design the product correctly in the first place. But I wonder how many of these firmware updating utilties will be OS-agnostic? I'd bet most will require Windows to fix the broken firmware of many new products.

Soon a new microwave oven will require Windows and an Internet connection. ARGH!

Are there any OSS projects or standards creation efforts for universal, OS-independent, product firmware updaters?

lovely. (1, Interesting)

chrisopherpace (756918) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412265)

all this means is that crappier, broken products can be shipped out on the market, resulting in a general loss of quality on the market. What will consumers do? Buy the products that *DONT* require you to flash the firmware in order to use the features on the box! Normally, flashes work as they are supposed to, but I've met a few firmware upgrades that didn't work, and ended up ordering an RMA for the device, only to be told that they don't support firmware upgrades, and damage caused because of them. What's a comsumer to do?

Re:lovely. (1)

demo9orgon (156675) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412456)

"What's a comsumer to do?"

I believe they want us all to shut up and keep buying their crap. However, unless working at fast-food becomes a job synonymous with durable-goods manufacturer and fast-food employees unionize to get a better wage there's a good chance that only upper-middle-class and above families/single people are going to be buying their crap.

Of course, for every complainer to the phone-support techs in Bangelore with suspicously Caucasian names and Hindi accents, there's a legion of silent, passive sheeple graciously accepting of the violence visited upon them in an orgiastic fleecing frenzy.

Sounds like business as usual. Nothing new here.

mac support (1)

morcheeba (260908) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412276)

It's interesting that the Player supports Macs [] yet the required firmware update doesn't. [] Theoretically, for this product, you don't even need a computer because it can read the Compact Flash card you use with your digital camera. Well, I guess file rename, create folder, thumbnail views, zoom, rotate & pan aren't thing you'd really need or expect anyway... oh wait, the spec sheet [] sepecifically said "zoom and rotate"!

Alien Nation of Non-Tech Savvy Users (5, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412281)

Actually, I consider myself tech-savvy, but I've just got too damn many things I'm trying to remember how to use, let alone keep a calendar of upgrades and latest versions. Don't get me wrong, it's better to get a bug fix or upgrade (where reasonably necessary), but, like keeping plug-ins up to date (Adobe Acrobat, Real, Flash, to name a few) I'm generally disposed to keep plodding along with what I have until I reach the pain threshold (either it's unusable or the constant upgrading ticks me off and I cast it aside, like Real.)

Now I've found my telescope (Meade ETX-125AC) Autostar computer can be upgraded, but with a special cable for my purchasing pleasure. Hm.

Market for upgrade cable spec? (1)

Helevius (456392) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412466)

Many people have posted that they require a proprietary cable to flash firmware. I have the same issue with my Motorola i90c phone, but bought the cable.

Is there a market for including a "universal" firmware upgrade access port, coupled with a cable that connects to a PC's serial port?

Some newer laptops lack serial ports, so maybe something like USB could be used?


It's crazy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412312)

Even my EEPROM burner needs a firmware upgrade!

Why is this a problem? (1)

26199 (577806) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412317)

There isn't a monopoly on portable devices -- consumers are free to vote with their wallets. And they will. Capitalism at work, isn't it great?

Re:Why is this a problem? (2, Insightful)

Lattitude (123015) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412440)

By the same token, devices that upgrade well will be noted by the buying public and purchased over devices that do not.

Although the article has a negative spin on the art of upgrading, I can see lots of positive aspects as well: new formats emerge could well be addressed with upgrades, security holes could be filled, etc. However, the device *must* do it well!

This trend started with wireless NICs (5, Insightful)

Helevius (456392) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412319)

Wireless vendors are constantly fixing bugs or adding features or trying to meet specs in flux. Developers struggle to code on this uneven terrain.

For example: I spent a day and a half trying to upgrade the firmware on an otherwise useless SMC "PCI" NIC, the SMC EZ Connect 802.11b 2602W v.1 [] , not to be confused with the v.2 or v.3 models with completely different chipsets. I say "PCI" because the NIC is actually the 2632W v.1 PCMCIA NIC in a PLX "riser."

Thanks only to Jun Sun's mini-HOWTO [] and "unofficial" firmware caches on the Web, I was able to upgrade the station firmware. Unfortunately, this did not result in the features I needed.

If vendors begin requiring consumers to flash firmware regularly, it needs to come out of the "underground" and be explained by the vendors. I'd also like to see DOS boot-disk-based firmware upgrade tools, like Dell's BIOS flash disks. I didn't like turning to Windows to run SMC's update program. (Linux and DOS attempts failed with this particular NIC.)

Thanks to the openap-ct [] project's Linux floppy I was able to use prism2_srec to flash a different NIC, though.


Download implies upload (4, Insightful)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412325)

Overlooked in this is that when you connect your product to the 'net to download new firmware, the product could have the ability to be able to upload as well. Who knows what the firmware in your stereo, or TV may report back about your use?

Re:Download implies upload (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412363)

That's why I wrap everything that can possible connect to the Internet in aluminum foil. Even my head! Yeah, you may think I'm paranoid, but when the government's mind control beacons start frying your brains, I'll be the sanest guy around. And if you wrap your house in foil, the black helicopters can't see it. I know it's true 'cause I heard it on Art Bell the other night.

This should be illegal! (4, Interesting)

bluekanoodle (672900) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412329)

Funny this should come up. I just spent the last day trying to wrestle with setting up a 54g bridge. If a promised feature doesn't work right out of the box, it should't be advertised on the box! First I went with d-link, because the box promised 108 mb speeds, using Super G. Only after I bought 2 of these bridges did I find on their Website in the small print that 108 speeds were not available until I downloaded the firmware upgrade, which was due out in the 3RD QUARTER of 2004!!! This seems like a pretty clear cut case of false advertising. I returned those items and bought 2 netgear 54g bridges, only to find out their was a flaw in the firmware and I needed to upgrade it. No problem, except that their upgrade utility for this bridge only works in Windows. This from a device that promises on the box thats it (and I quote) "works under any OS and any platform." I used one of my servers to run the upgrade and it fried the first one bridge. If this is the future of electronics, I'm very worried.

Forbes Trolls (1)

happyfrogcow (708359) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412334)

Everything I've ever read from Forbes linked here at Slashdot has only been a troll trying to bring in ad impressions. I refuse to go read this article as it will only help Forbes.

Thanks for your time.

Re:Forbes Trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8412375)

So you will refuse to buy your local newspaper beacuse the money will go to help your newspaper?

I don't get your logic.

I love getting new features via firmware upgrades (1)

Blinkslowly (532105) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412351)

I love getting new features via a firmware upgrade. It makes me feel like I am getting something for free. And it makes me feel like people are continually trying to imporve the product I invested in. I think the marketing people are recognizing this excitement and are planning on monetizing it.

Firmware Updater Service (5, Interesting)

kburkhardt (664593) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412354)

Consider this: most items that require firmware updates attach in some way to a PC, and get those updates through the PC.

What if there were some kind of a standardized firmware upgrade protocol (kind of like the windows automatic updater service-thingy) that kept track of your devices, notified you when updates were available, and flashed the updates for you?

End user no longer has to be very savvy, but rather just has to have the firmware updater software installed. Updater reaches out to product web services (provided by manufacturers) for each product it is aware of, and checks for updates, and downloads 'em.

Network devices (such as wireless routers) could find their own manufacturer, and update themselves (or not, of course, depending on user prefs)

This happens with graphics cards too... (1)

SmackCrackandPot (641205) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412365)

A couple of times in the past, I've bought graphics cards from leading chip makers only to find out that various features were missing eg. DVI out, TV out. This is even though the circuit boards had solder bumps for the components and the manuals/box said that option was present. So what happened. Surely a DVI/TV out connector couldn't be that expensive to add?

Could be worse... (4, Informative)

Intocabile (532593) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412370)

They could charge extra for updates.

RCA, makers of LYRA, has done worse though they advertised mp3Pro compatibility on their RD1080 but it did not use the psycoaudio data in playback (therefor using mp3Pro was useless). Close to a year later a firmware support the advertised fearture was released.

Another way to control the consumer (4, Insightful)

wrmrxxx (696969) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412378)

Although firmware upgrades could be a very positive thing for users, providing ways to customise and improve a device, they're also open to abuse. Apart from being a means to ship an inferior product earlier, this opens up an opportunity to control the consumer by messing with the normal product purchasing process. By doing this, the traditional rules of competition can be blurred enough for a company to succeed where it otherwise would not have.

The software industry has featured this idea for a while in a few forms: you buy the software, but then you don't really own it because you are just licenced to use it. Or you buy the software, but have to apply a critical update that comes with a licence change that changes it into something you wouldn't have purchased in the first place. Now, the hardware manufacturers can get in on the act, throwing the old rule book out the window. Companies will do anything to get ahead if they think they can get away with it. They're not people and have no sense of wrong or right - just a sense of profit or loss.

Firmware upgrades (4, Insightful)

WorkEmail (707052) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412399)

One of the things that people need to realize is that simple handheld pieces of electronics are getting more and more complex in their features and functions. And as they do this they will start to require just as much maintenance and patchwork as a regular desktop computer does. True, knowledge is power, and I watch all the time as my parents get frustrated with technology, but if you take it slow, read the help files and pay attention, people would be a lot better off. Things like AOL and Microsoft make people dumb, they need to realize that not all computer processes are automated and that sometimes things take some investigation. :)

Nokia did it to me (4, Interesting)

dekker (44510) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412485)

Whether it's necessary or not, the manufacturers should make it easier. I own a Nokia 3560 cell phone and have been having problems with it shutting down randomly on it's own.

After searching newsgroups and web sites, I came to find out that it's a somewhat common problem that may or may not be fixed with a firmware upgrade. I decided that I'd like to give it a try and prepared to backup my phone only to find that I couldn't get the upgrade anywhere on my own. A check on Nokia's site shows that I can either send it in to them at my own expense or call them and try to use a local authorized dealer. Not wanting to lose the phone for 10 days and pay shipping, I called and got two locations here in Austin. I called the first who informed me that they had the firmware, but didn't have the special cable required. The second told me flatly that they couldn't do it.

So, why are these two places listed with Nokia if they won't perform the service and what the hell is the deal with needing a special cable? Why can't I just transfer the firmware upgrade to my phone via IR or bluetooth, run it and have it restart and apply the upgrade?

After all this, I've decided to live with the problem. Not very satisfying at all.
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