The looming software kill-switch lurking in aging PlayStation hardware

Found on Ars Technica on Thursday, 13 May 2021
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This ticking firmware time bomb has been known in certain PlayStation preservation and hacking circles for a while. But it's gaining new attention amid Sony's recently announced decision to shut down the online stores for PS3, PSP, and Vita software.

Sony could render the problem moot relatively easily with a firmware update that limits the system functions tied to this timing check. Thus far, though, Sony hasn't publicly indicated it has any such plans and hasn't responded to multiple requests for comment from Ars Technica. Until it does, complicated workarounds that make use of jailbroken firmware are the only option for ensuring that aging PlayStation hardware will remain fully usable well into the future.

Planned obsolescence. It would probably require a law that forces the industry to untie hardware from online services when these a shut down, so the customer can keep using the product, at least with reduced functionality.

Apple Planning Switch to Randomized Serial Numbers for Future Products Starting in 'Early 2021'

Found on MacRumors on Sunday, 28 March 2021
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Apple's current serial number format has long allowed both customers and service providers to determine the date and location that a product was manufactured, with the first three characters representing the manufacturing location and the following two indicating the year and week of manufacture. The last four characters currently serve as a "configuration code," revealing a device's model, color, and storage capacity.

So much for transparency. That's one way to cover up the bad reputation it has with problems related to Foxconn.

Synology to enforce use of validated disks in enterprise NAS boxes.

Found on The Register on Thursday, 11 February 2021
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Synology has introduced its first-ever list of validated disks and won’t allow other devices into its enterprise-class NAS devices. And in a colossal coincidence, half of the disks allowed into its devices – and the only ones larger than 4TB – are Synology’s very own HAT 5300 disks that it launched last week.

So to cut a long story short, if you want to get the most out of Synology's new and future enterprise NAS devices, you’ll need to buy Synology’s own SATA hard disk drives. Any boxes you already own will work just fine with any drive.

Or just buy a NAS from someone else.

Backdoor account discovered in more than 100,000 Zyxel firewalls, VPN gateways

Found on ZD Net on Saturday, 02 January 2021
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More than 100,000 Zyxel firewalls, VPN gateways, and access point controllers contain a hardcoded admin-level backdoor account that can grant attackers root access to devices via either the SSH interface or the web administration panel.

Installing patches removes the backdoor account, which, according to Eye Control researchers, uses the "zyfwp" username and the "PrOw!aN_fXp" password.

It's hard to believe that this was just a stupid accident, since the account in question required a patch to remoove it.

Apple Researching Keyboards With Adaptive Displays on Each Key

Found on Mac Rumors on Tuesday, 29 December 2020
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Apple is researching keyboards with small displays on the keys to dynamically change the label on each key, according to a newly-granted patent filing.

This system would allow the entire keyboard to be "reconfigurable" with labels that can change as needed. The patent highlights that keyboards could be reconfigured "for different languages, to temporarily convert a standard keyboard into a gaming keyboard in which keys correspond to particular in-game actions, or to otherwise modify the behavior associated with pressing the keys in the keyboard."

Changing keyboard layout will make typing without looking much more fun.

Booting from a vinyl record

Found on BOGIN, JR. on Wednesday, 02 December 2020
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Most PCs tend to boot from a primary media storage, be it a hard disk drive, or a solid-state drive, perhaps from a network, or – if all else fails – the USB stick or the boot DVD comes to the rescue… Fun, eh? Boring! Why don’t we try to boot from a record player for a change?

The turntable spins an analog recording of a small bootable read-only RAM drive, which is 64K in size.

It's amazing what people come up with.

Your Slingbox Will Be A Useless Brick In A Few Years

Found on Techdirt on Saturday, 21 November 2020
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This week, Sling Media announced that all Slingboxes will effectively become useless paperweights in a few years. In a company announcement, it says the technology will no longer work at all as of November 9, 2022.

It's yet another example of how in the modern era, you simply don't really own the things you buy. Firmware updates can often eliminate functionality promised to you at launch, as we saw with the Sony PlayStation 3. And with everything now relying on internet-connectivity, companies can often give up on supporting devices entirely, often leaving users with very expensive paperweights as we saw after Google acquired Revolv, then bricked users' $300 smart home hub. Now it's the Slingbox's turn to head to that great gadget graveyard in the sky.

So, more perfectly working hardware that's being turned into junk, just because.

Alibaba Cloud says it has robot sysadmins that swap faulty disks in four minutes

Found on The Register on Sunday, 15 November 2020
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Revealed was the fact the Chinese cloud super-platform has robots capable of finding and replacing faulty disks in four minutes.

At the 25-second mark of the video you’ll see a Seagate Constellation ES.3 disk drive, a 3.5-inch unit [PDF] that packs both SAS and SATA interfaces and rotates at a modest 7200 RPM.

If they are using Seagate drives, they sure need robots to swap the failing drives fast enough.

The Battle for the Soul of Digital Freedom Taking Place Inside Your Printer

Found on EFF on Monday, 09 November 2020
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Since the turn of this century, the company's changed its name to HP and its focus to sleazy ways to part unhappy printer owners from their money.

The company's just beat its own record, converting its "Free ink for life" plan into a "Pay us $0.99 every month for the rest of your life or your printer stops working" plan.

With the HP Instant Ink program, printer owners no longer own their ink cartridges or the ink in them. Instead, HP's customers have to pay a recurring monthly fee based on the number of pages they anticipate printing from month to month; HP mails subscribers cartridges with enough ink to cover their anticipated needs. If you exceed your estimated page-count, HP bills you for every page (if you choose not to pay, your printer refuses to print, even if there's ink in the cartridges).

Buy from a competitor. This will only work until someone decides to file a lawsuit.

Apple's T2 Security Chip Has an Unfixable Flaw

Found on Wired on Wednesday, 14 October 2020
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The flaw is one researchers have also been using for more than a year to jailbreak older models of iPhones. But the fact that the T2 chip is vulnerable in the same way creates a new host of potential threats. Worst of all, while Apple may be able to slow down potential hackers, the flaw is ultimately unfixable in every Mac that has a T2 inside.

The T2 also contains a vulnerability, known as Checkm8, that jailbreakers have already been exploiting in Apple's A5 through A11 (2011 to 2017) mobile chipsets. Now Checkra1n, the same group that developed the tool for iOS, has released support for T2 bypass.

Perfect security does not exist.