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Upgrades Hardware

Firmware Upgrades For Everything 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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Firmware Upgrades For Everything

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  • by monstroyer ( 748389 ) * <devnull@slashdot.org> on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:56PM (#8412112) Homepage Journal
    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?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • by TheLinuxSRC ( 683475 ) <slashdot.pagewash@com> on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:02PM (#8412194) Homepage
      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;)
      • by hamsterboy ( 218246 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @07:26PM (#8412869)
        Where's the criminal act? Say I make an electronic gadget, and you buy it. Even if my gadget doesn't work very well, I haven't committed a crime. You chose to buy my gadget; I didn't make you, and you probably should have done more research.

        There's also the issue of how to send a corporation to prison. Jail all the employees? (Is the front-desk receptionist responsible for a product defect?) Or just those responsible? (Of course, every product has an engineering team, etc. etc.) If we're punishing a corporation for an incomplete product, how do we define "incomplete"?

        Yes, the ignorant masses are being duped by the marketing dollars of large corporations. This has happened throughout history (ask any woman if Victoria's Secret underwear is actually comfortable), and it's not likely to stop.

        I've got to admit that I'm a bit awed at the sheer volume of ire aroused about firmware upgrades. Aren't there better things to be angry about?

        -- Hamster

        • by TheLinuxSRC ( 683475 ) <slashdot.pagewash@com> on Friday February 27, 2004 @07:32PM (#8412901) Homepage
          Where's the criminal act?

          False advertising.

          There's also the issue of how to send a corporation to prison.

          Pressing charges against the board members and advertising agents would be a start.

          Yes, the ignorant masses are being duped by the marketing dollars of large corporations. This has happened throughout history (ask any woman if Victoria's Secret underwear is actually comfortable), and it's not likely to stop.

          Doh! I've been trolled!
          • False advertising? If the product performs as advertised (even at less than optimum) you'd have to work pretty hard to prove it.

            Which advertising agents? I freelance to a marketing firm who works with the salespeople for a particular gadget. Who's liable?

            Marketing is a fact of life. Without it, companies have to wait for consumers to come to them. No one has that much time or money. And without that, no gadgets.

            It's kind of like that line from from "The Right Stuff": What makes this spaceship go up? Fund
            • False advertising? If the product performs as advertised (even at less than optimum) you'd have to work pretty hard to prove it.

              I agree, however my point was that they were selling features that did not currently (and may never) exist. This is not a performance issue, this is snake oil.

              Which advertising agents? I freelance to a marketing firm who works with the salespeople for a particular gadget. Who's liable?

              Another poster had what I consider to be a great idea. Professional engineers, architects,
        • Criminal Act? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Sleetan ( 679171 ) *
          Not if someone was just ignorant and thought "Oh that looks pretty, maybe it will work well".

          However, advertising that a product does X Y and Z, when it only does X is a form of what we call "Fraud" specifically "False Advertising" that *is* a crime [state.mo.us] most places.

          I do however agree that companies get blamed more than they should because more often than not problems people have with products are from assumptions they've made about the product without investigating to see if their assumptions prove true.
        • by SagSaw ( 219314 ) <slashdot@[ ]ss.org ['mmo' in gap]> on Friday February 27, 2004 @08:29PM (#8413323)
          Where's the criminal act?

          Well, start giving advertising the legal weight of a contract. If I buy a product which says "Supports Feature X" only to find out that it doesn't support feature X out of the box, I can go to small-claims court and attempt to recover whatever portion of the purchase price I feel feature X was worth.

          There's also the issue of how to send a corporation to prison.

          That's a very tough issue. Assigning guilt is going to be very hard to to in many cases. If you fine the company into oblivion, you are going to hurt many of the companies employees, customers, and suppliers who had nothing to due with the problem. Here's my thought: Doctors, Lawyers, Professional Engineers, and may others can be sued for malpractice if they perform their job in an incompetant or illegal manner. I think we need the concept of a Professional Manager. If you fail to keep your employees within the law, you can be held responsible. Extend the liability all the way to the board of directors. To extend the previous example, if a company has a habit of listing "Supports Feature X" on the box without actually supporting feature X, let the FTC (or their equivalants) go after the company. Determine who approved the working "Supports Feature X", and divide the fines equally among the approvers manager, the manager's manager, ..., the board of directors.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:06PM (#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.
      • Definition of evil (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Tony ( 765 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:57PM (#8412665) Journal
        I guess it depends on how you define "Evil." If by evil you mean they are willing to screw many individuals for their own profit, then most corporations are indeed evil. If you mean they are willing to use superior market share to destroy competition (thus hurting "consumers," who are really just individuals), then some are evil (I'm not convinced most, just a fairly large number).

        If by evil you mean allow others to die so they can profit, then a slightly smaller number are evil.

        The point is, there is some definition of "evil" for which a lot (if not most) corporations are evil.

        My definition is simple: if a corporation is willing to harm others in its pursuit of profit, it is evil. By this definition, quite a few are evil. Since this is condoned (and encouraged!) by our government, it seems to get worse.

        Now, you can argue that corporations don't make these decisions, individuals do, but that is simply prevarication. Groups of people will do things indivduals will not; this makes the group culpable. (Now, defining the individuals within the group may be difficult.)

        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.

        This is excellent advice, and I certainly agree with it; but that doesn't change the economic reality that sometimes, there is only Hobson's Choice, at best. In some areas, if you want phone service, you must use the single provider in your area. This is just one example among many.

        Further, consider how people have been reduced to "consumers." Between that and, "worker," that is our role in society-- to work, and to consume. Who profits most from this? I'll bet you dollars to donuts (Mmmmm.... Krispie Kreme....) it isn't the individual.

        I don't take exception to your arguments. I take exception to the reference to the "uninformed opinions" so popluar here on /.. Simply because someone holds an opinion different from yours does not make them wrong; nor does your naive analysis of the corporate economy of America make you wrong. (Our economy is Capitalist like the Soviet Union was Communist-- that is, in name only.)

        Just because you are right about unthinking consumerism driving shoddy workmanship in the electronic gadgets sector does not negate the evil nature of many corporations. Enron did not happen in a void.
      • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @07:03PM (#8412698) Homepage
        Corporations aren't evil. They're simple. They will do anything they legally can get away with to increase their profits and the value of their shares. Most will not break the law. But if they don't pursue the most straightforward legal avenue to near-term profit, they will incur the wrath of shareholders and lose out to competitors.

        Shipping vapor with promises is the best way to make profits in the long term. People have short memories. At least enough of them do. The ones who don't ship until they have all the features they promised will suffer in the marketplace against those who ship with vapor, and the fact that there's a handful of discriminating consumers out there won't change that.

        The answer, then, is sensible regulation, so that even those corporations who would act ethically do not work under a competitive disadvantage against the others. One of these sensible regulations would be insisting that any manufacturer that ships a product with extensible functionality, when that functionality is not yet available, be committed to providing that functionality for free *if the product was marketed with that extensible functionality as a differentiator*. No more bait and switch.

        It's why we have regulation in, for example, the food industry - we don't want a situation where producers are "playing chicken" with standards in order to reduce costs. Consumers could very well drive down the quality of food that way by being too willing to take risks in order to save money: I'd rather the law of supply and demand *not* work so well in that case.
      • This is BS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @07:08PM (#8412733) Journal
        I don't think that the general public wants to be lied and cheated. They want features, yes, but they want to actually get those features. The current "it's normal and expected to get shafted" situation is not normal, and not what that public was asking for.

        In fact, it's the textbook study of why society needs laws, and why they have to be applied. Because otherwise what happens is that the crooks create a pressure on everyone else to be a crook too.

        E.g., if you let some merchants sell contraband or counterfeit goods, it will create a pressure on the other merchants to start selling contraband or counterfeit too. Otherwise their prices won't be competitive. So everyone starts trying to outdo the others in how much of their merchandise is from dubious sources.

        The same happens here. Once a company is allowed to cut costs by shipping non-functional products, it just puts a pressure on everyone else to do the same thing. Because otherwise someone who actually spends the time to finish and thoroughly debug a product, can't compete with the snake oil peddlers on either price or time to market. So everyone starts trying to outdo the others on cutting down quality.

        That kind of thing doesn't go away by itself. Never did, never will. You need a legal system to stop it.

        And saying that everyone needs to waste countless hours of their life trying to avoid getting screwed is, if you'll pardon my saying so, completely idiotic. It's as idiotic as saying that your only recourse to spam should be sorting your mails yourself by hand.

        There are laws and courts of law for this kind of thing. If I sell you a house which isn't even built yet, you'd sue the pants off me. If I sell you a car, except what I can give you is just two wheels and a spoiler, you'd sue the pants of me. No "EULA" will let me say it's OK to shaft you, in any other industry.

        It's time the same applied to software too. (Yes, including firmware.)

        Because this kind of generalized thievery and snake oil peddling is already too high a cost for society as a whole. Not only hundred billions of dollars per year are lost to basically legalized scamming in this industry. We're also talking billions of hours total shaved off people's lives, where they have to work around bugs or to read reviews to make sure their new product will even work at all.

        Those hours by themselves are too high a cost.

        A murderer can be put to death for... what? Shortening someone's life by, say, 20 years? That's approximately 20 * 365 * 24 = 175,200 hours.

        Well, these scammers cost society as a whole a thousand times more hours off everyone's lives. Each year.

        Now I'm not asking to actually give those marketroids a death by firing squad. But throwing some of them in state jails would be a damn good start.

        Either way, again: history has shown again and again that this kind of thing needs laws. And it needs them actually applied.
    • by AKnightCowboy ( 608632 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:15PM (#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.

    • The concept is called time to market, the price you pay is quality.

      What's your point? Where is it written that this compromise must be made if you're to have upgradeable firmware? It just makes updates possible after a product has shipped. There's nothing inherently bad about that.

      Products that support and responsibly apply upgradeable firmware capabilities are better in every way. Products that ship early with buggy firmware "because they can" will still suck, just like there are sucky products that do
  • You know what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) * <skennedy@AAAtpno ... inus threevowels> on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:56PM (#8412121) Homepage
    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? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Carnildo ( 712617 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:17PM (#8412333) Homepage Journal
      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.
      • Re:You know what? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Eraser_ ( 101354 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:43PM (#8412545)
        You're right, because popping off the EEPROM is so expensive. I had to do this to a bunch of computers back when that chernoble virus decided to erase their BIOS. Back In My Day cpu upgrades came with a small booklet on how to do it, and a leverage rake thing to pry the old chip out.

        I must say Mac users have been doing firmware updates for a long while now, and I don't hear many of them screaming about toasted computers. It is mainly the conception that is has to be hard and difficult to do. ASUS has a nice little utility to update its motherboards.

        Does the power really go out that often around you that a 15 second process risks failure? If so, buy some batteries and a generator. Don't do it in a rain storm. My internet gateway shows 120 days since my last power failure. People throw $5 away on a hand of blackjack with worse odds.
    • I mind it for the simple fact that a good portion on the time the updates never arrive.

      If a product doesn't ship with the advertised features, its a good chance that the company simply didn't have the money to put them in their in the correct time frame. Who's to say, then, that the company has the money to implement them at all.

      I'm sure the hope is that they can release to generate some revenue. However, when the user gets their hands on a shoddy product, it doesn't take long for negative reviews to cr
    • Re:You know what? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by afidel ( 530433 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @07:23PM (#8412850)
      Yes and some of the time things don't go so well. I bought the first CDRW drive available (Ricoh MP 2600A) and when the Multiplay standard was finalized there was an incompatibility between the standard and something the Ricoh did. So they put out a firmware upgrade. Well being a person who likes my equipment to conform to standards I upgraded the firmware, only when I rebooted the unit couldn't be found, not by windows, not by linux, not by the SCSI card's firmware and not by Ricoh's diagnostics. Of course this was 13 months after I purchased the unit so no waranty support. I lucked out and found a hack on a support site, you needed to unplug the power connector and replug it before the SCSI bus was finished initializing. This wiped the firmware update area and put the unit back to origional factory code. Turns out even Ricoh's senior support engineer didn't know about this! That was NOT something a normal person would have done but the power didn't frighten me in the least and I figured I had nothing to lose.
  • by microbox ( 704317 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:57PM (#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.
    • 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.

  • by Trigun ( 685027 ) <{xc.hta.eripmelive} {ta} {live}> on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:58PM (#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.
  • Slow down (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:58PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by happyfrogcow ( 708359 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:29PM (#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.
  • Bah .. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darken_Everseek ( 681296 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:59PM (#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 .. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Eraser_ ( 101354 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:15PM (#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 .. (Score:4, Informative)

        by Darken_Everseek ( 681296 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:20PM (#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... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cgranade ( 702534 ) <cgranade@NOsPaM.gmail.com> on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:59PM (#8412148) Homepage Journal
    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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SteveXE ( 641833 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:59PM (#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 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcpkaaos ( 449561 )
      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 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by canajin56 ( 660655 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:34PM (#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.

  • by ed8150 ( 554077 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:59PM (#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.
    • 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.
    • by codeonezero ( 540302 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:14PM (#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 (http://www.feral.co.uk)

      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 :-)
  • by Sheetrock ( 152993 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @05:59PM (#8412153) Homepage Journal
    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.

  • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:00PM (#8412166) Homepage
    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.
    • This happened to me when I bought a Clie a few years ago. It was the first color model (N-710)and only supported 4096 colors. However, I bought it anyway because they promised a forthcoming upgrade to OS 4 that would support a more robust 65k colors.
      Sure enough, a few weeks later the upgrade came out--in the form of a newer model (N-760). The upgraded OS was the only appreciable difference. A firmware update for the 710 never appeared. I will never again trust a promise of forthcoming features, at least not
  • by Cryptnotic ( 154382 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:00PM (#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.

  • 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?
  • Ahhh.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by SomeOtherGuy ( 179082 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:01PM (#8412183) Journal

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

  • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:01PM (#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 ford.com."

    • Funny you should mention the SVT mustang.

      Most people aren't aware, but a lot of components in cars change year-to-year, even on what is ostensibly the same "model". It isn't major stuff, but a fuel pump, for example, can be obtained from a different vendor for a lesser price, and that's just smart business.

      Anyway, in the '98 or '99 model year (I can't remember which), the SVT mustang was "firmware updated", so to speak. A bunch of people who were buying them were noticing that the performance wasn't nea
  • Alienating Users? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zedek ( 746741 ) * on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:02PM (#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.
    • Re:Alienating Users? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dasmegabyte ( 267018 ) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:37PM (#8412499) Homepage Journal
      They already have it. anti-virus [avast.com] for PDAs, despite there being no really worthwhile vectors for viruses to spread over the PDA format. After all, you never really sync more than one PDA to the same computer (though you likely sync multiple computers to the same PDA).

      I especially enjoy the sales verbage..."The importance of PDAs is growing every day and it is quite likely that these devices will soon become a target for new virus attacks." In other words, "there's currently nothing for the this product to do, but if it ever does become worthwhile, it'll do it after you download something else." Begs the question: why not wait until it becomes an issue, THEN download it? Seems you'd save some money that way, eh?

      Oh, and the cost? $20 for a year of nothing. Tell you what, guys...if you're in the market for PDA antivirus protection, I'll beat that price. I'll do nothing for only $10 a year.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:02PM (#8412196)
    They've decided to start charging in advance for vapour-ware?
  • the average (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:03PM (#8412203) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • Re:the average (Score:3, Insightful)

      by naarok ( 102579 )
      I disagree. Think of the crappy quality consumers are prepared to put up with in computer software. I think that as things become more complicated (along with people being trained to expect the occaisional glitch in "computer" stuff). the average consumer will just accept it the same way they accept "Windows Update" (I'm not bashing Window's here (OK maybe I am), but the fact that people have been brainwashed to accept the sad state of the art)

      Perhaps that fact people who are not technologically literate a
  • 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.
  • 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 http://rockbox.haxx.se/ and avOS at http://avos.sourceforge.net/ -- These both have been created in an attempt to fix the god-awful archos firmware. Go on and check it out. Rockbox is amazing!
  • Research it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by irokitt ( 663593 ) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (ruai-setirdnamihcra)> on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:07PM (#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. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by anubi ( 640541 )
      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 exper

  • 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.

  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:09PM (#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?
    • Soon a new microwave oven will require Windows and an Internet connection. ARGH!

      Not so! The manufacturer of my new microwave oven makes firmware upgrades available for download on their Web site. You grab the firmware and burn it to a standard ISO filesystem. Then you put the CD-R into the microwave and zap it for exactly three minutes. You can tell the upgrade is taking place because of the flashing lights. And then, voila! Your microwave is upgraded with new features. The latest patch for my model upgr

  • It's interesting that the Player supports Macs [rca.com] yet the required firmware update doesn't. [rca.com] 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 [rca.com] sepecifically said "zoom and rotate"!
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:11PM (#8412281) Homepage Journal
    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.

    • 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?


  • 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?

    • 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!
  • by Helevius ( 456392 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:15PM (#8412319) Homepage
    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 [smc.com], 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 [junsun.net] 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 [collegeterrace.net] project's Linux floppy I was able to use prism2_srec to flash a different NIC, though.


  • by Smallpond ( 221300 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:16PM (#8412325) Homepage Journal

    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?

  • by bluekanoodle ( 672900 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:16PM (#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.
  • 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.
  • by kburkhardt ( 664593 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:19PM (#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)
  • 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... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Intocabile ( 532593 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:21PM (#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.
  • by wrmrxxx ( 696969 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:22PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WorkEmail ( 707052 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:25PM (#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. :)
    • Beauty in design.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by msimm ( 580077 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:50PM (#8412593) Homepage
      As a techy I agree with you in concept but no matter what we do we are NEVER going to change Joe Sixpack. This is where it falls on the software engineers and the hardware engineers to design better. As our technology becomes more complicated (and more heavily depended upon) it should become more transparent, not require more unnecessary technical reading for the user.

      The true beauty of technology should be judged in its apparent simplicity.
  • Nokia did it to me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dekker ( 44510 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:36PM (#8412485) Homepage
    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.
  • by gbulmash ( 688770 ) <semi_famous.yahoo@com> on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:36PM (#8412486) Homepage Journal
    Every time I've rushed out to get the latest, coolest, neatest gadget, I've paid through the nose for something with a high learning curve and limited features.

    • I bought a 4x DVD burner less than a year ago and had to firmware flash it. I can get an 8x now for less.
    • Firmware flashing an 802.11g laptop wireless card went wrong and broke wireless networking on my laptop. As I hadn't set a system restore point, I had to re-install windows.
    • I rushed out and bought SuSE Linux 9.0 for AMD64 as soon as it came out. Had to wait months for drivers to support my SATA drives and the onboard ALN on my MoBo.
    I'm done.

    Video jukeboxes... I'll wait until trailer-park mamas are trampling each other at Walmart to get the $35 Christmas special model made by Kwok-tek or some other manufacturer you never heard of before.

    - Greg

  • by msimm ( 580077 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:37PM (#8412497) Homepage
    its a flaw NOT a feature. User-hostile features like DRM and the miriad, complicated upgrade schemes, authentication and registration hurdles will either have to dramatically improve (ie benift the user directly) or go away.
  • by miffo.swe ( 547642 ) <daniel.hedblom@NOSpaM.gmail.com> on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:40PM (#8412520) Homepage Journal
    This is hardware in software style and i dont like it, not one bit. Hardware have up until pretty recently been fairly free from these kinds of problems. If i buy a product i assume its tested and works. If it dont work i just return it and i wont spend any time fixing something that was broken when i bought it. I dont like to become an engineer on the behalf of the company that got my money.

    Software has been sold with insane conditions that people take the responsibility off of the manufacturer but that is because software has been treated as art and not as real products. Hardware on the other hand do not have those conditions so when you buy something and it doesnt work, return it. The only way to remedy this problem is if enough people stay away from companies following the path of almost ready hardware. If its broke, they should fix it, not us.
  • Of course, there's also all those time where firmware updates won't work since the numbskulls that made the device were fresh out of college...


    The only thing necessary for Micro$oft to triumph is for a few good programmers to do nothing". North County Computers [nccomp.com]
  • by rMortyH ( 40227 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:49PM (#8412582)
    This is an interesting trend.

    If you buy something at a store in cash, the can put those 'by opening this you agree' contracts on them, but those don't mean much and they still can't identify you.

    By making you get an update they can collect information on you, which has dollar value, and more importantly, get you to click and EULA on the firmware which extends to other things as well as saying that it can be ammended at any time and remain binding.

    This is creeping into everything. I just sent away for my credit reports today. If you get your credit report from a credit agency through the web, they make you click an agreement which covers all sorts of things in addition to making you waive certain rights under the FCRA in some cases, as well as asking for all sorts of information in order to give it to you which is not required. If you send for it by mail, you only have to give the information required by law and you waive no rights.

    If you make enough noise, you can probably get them to send you the update in the mail, but you still must identify yourself to them and the effort is not worth it.

    The article doesn't mention it, but it's not about time to market, or cutting corners or anything. They want to 1) identify the customer 2) get them to enter into some sort of agreement.

  • by thrill12 ( 711899 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:52PM (#8412611) Journal
    ...for some devices is what makes me not buy those devices in the first place. Forget the less technical: they won't ask for the features most of us ask for (or when they do, they can find out about updating on the net).
    The main type of devices I am unpleased about are the mainstream DVD-players. Lack of features, wrongly implemented features, plain old hangups.... Who ever invented a DVD-player that can't do MP3 in random order ? Why should I want to see a JPEG building up on the screen while you could double-buffer it ?
    Sure, sometimes it's just lack of hardware support. But it's also just lazyness I guess.
    I have a Yamada DV-6000 now (divx-capable), which has regular firmware updates. Simply burn a CD-Rom and stuff it in the drive. If you are careful (and don't go updating your drive in the middle of a lightning storm or anything) you will gain more functionality for the same price. Easy as that.

    Big companies still have this lesson to learn.
  • by sprior ( 249994 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:52PM (#8412617) Homepage
    Something I learned a long time ago. Don't EVER make a purchase you'd find useless if a promised future feature/accessory/upgrade doesn't actually happen! I've seen companies promise accessories down the road that don't actually happen. Features that should only require a firmware upgrade turn out not to be possible without a hardware change. My personal favorite for a while not has been HDTV upgradable TVs - a couple of years after you buy that new TV, are you SURE that company would be happy developing new accessories for "last years model" or do you think they'd MUCH
    rather sell you this years model... Are you sure that new DRM standards aren't going to cripple the possibility of that future accessory upgrade you were promised?
  • Hiptop (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RzUpAnmsCwrds ( 262647 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @06:57PM (#8412660)
    The Danger Hiptop (T-Mobile Sidekick) has a particularly good way of doing updates. Updates are downloaded over-the air (using the GPRS connection) in the background. Because the device is always-on, a 2 megabyte update can be recieved over an otherwise slow GPRS connection without disrupting the user. When the update is finished downloading, the user is prompted and can choose to apply the upgrade or wait until later. If they choose to install, the update is verified (signed hash) and installed, and the device reboots. All data is left intact.
  • by dschl ( 57168 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @07:51PM (#8413047) Homepage
    I avoid firmware upgrades unless I really want the feature, or can add enough new functions to avoid buying more hardware. Last thing I want is turn a working digicam into a dead one. I wish manufacturers would follow a few simple rules, as I would be more willing to update firmware:
    1. Always make the original firmware / bios available. Keep in in some form of ROM if possible.
    2. Always permit a fallback to the original firmware / bios (because the original should be available, as noted above). You almost need a pin or switch to do it, similar to the dip switch on some motherboards which restored default settings. Ideally, it would be nice to see a firmware loader in ROM, which could then manage and select among different firmware versions on a device, accessed through some key sequence, available for a second or two on power-up.
    3. No extra tools or hardware should be required. I don't even have a floppy drive hooked up anymore.
    4. No special operating system should be required (Windows-only firmware upgrades, anyone?). For firmware upgrades to be robust enough to make me feel all warm and fuzzy, all that should matter is getting the new firmware file into the device, over an industry-standard protocol, and you then automatically load the new firmware the next time you boot (including a check for corruption in the firmware upgrade file).
    5. User data and settings should be maintained through the upgrades. If new settings are available / old options are removed, then it is the manufacturers job to avoid screwing things up, not the device owners job to reset / reload everything.
    Oughta cover it. In a perfect world.
  • by rickthewizkid ( 536429 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @10:59PM (#8414111)
    Think about it... user buys product now, with a hot new feature promised within a short time via firmware download.

    Now, three months later, the download that enables that feature comes out, but lo and behold - the download also includes a bunch of "features" you don't want - such as DRM or embedded advertising.

    It's happened before... my sound card (A SB Audigy) has a digital 5.1 output ... but the software running on the computer can disable it, so you can't get a perfect digital copy of that music file you're playing.

    Or, take the case of ReplayTV - most people don't know or realize this, but the OS in the ReplayTV can be set up to display advertising on the pause screen - it was only used once IIRC, but there's nothing saying that the owners of ReplayTV can't do it again. The ReplayTV is particularly nasty in this since the files that run the ReplayOS are in fact digitally signed so you can't "tinker" with the operating system.

    What am I afraid of? The general public is getting used to paying monthly fees to have things that were previously "free" - Cable TV, for example. Radio will probably end up going the same route - check out XM and Sirius Radio. Now, imagine if you bought a hardware device - for example a PDA. Right now, I can go to Best Buy and drop a few dollars on a Palm Tungsten something-or-other... and it's _mine._ I don't have to pay Palm one red cent over that initial purchase I made if I don't want to.

    Now imagine 10 years from now - you go to Best Buy to pick up that PDA. But now, instead of paying a few hundred dollars once for a Palm Pilot, you now have to pay to purchase the unit, PLUS subscribe to some sort of subscription service if you want your PDA to, for example, connect to your PC.

    Already the world of personal gadgetry is heading this way. Check out the "Get it now!" service from everyone's favorite cellphone carrier. You have to pay to download a game, PLUS you have to pay a monthly fee (if the author of the game wants you to) - and many cell phones now have the ability for the carrier to "turn off" certain features on various cell phones.

    The same thing goes for my ReplayTV - two exact same models hardware-wise - the exact same software inside! Yet, on the newer "5500" series units, two features (commecial skip and Internet Video Sharing) are disabled. One option bit in the internal "registry" turns these features off. Now, this was in response to a settlement with Hollywood, but what is to prevent hardware manufacturers from doing the same thing for profit? Or, charging you a monthly fee to enable certain features - if you don't pay, the features are disabled! It's not like a service is being provided, since all you are paying for is a little "command" to be echoed to your device to enable whatever it is you're doing - similar to cable boxes of old that could have their IR receivers disabled by the cable company if you weren't renting a remote from them - so you couldn't use any universal remotes for free.

    The long and the short of it ... Whenever a company does something like this, dollars are involved....

    Just my pissing-and-moaning-about-companies-trying-to-make -people-dependant-on-them's worth....
    -RickTheWizKid ..."You can NOT leave the magic!"

No extensible language will be universal. -- T. Cheatham