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Comment: Must have been a fun conference call... (Score 2) 14

I can only imagine that the lucky guy who picked up the call from Redmond about 'so, we understand that you...made a few changes...to the behavior of your WHQL drivers that frankly don't make Windows Update look very good...' got quite an earful.

Even if MS thinks FTDI is on the crusade of the righteous, it certainly isn't to their advantage to have Windows Update involuntarily pulled into the fiasco.

Comment: Re:Performance issues? (Score 1, Insightful) 162

Unless you are the sort of disconcertingly disciplined and organized person who sets up a monitoring and alerting system for their dinky little desktop, you probably aren't talking about 'the hard drive'. At a minimum, you are probably dealing with some flavor of RAID, or ZFS, or an iSCSI LUN farmed out by some SAN that does its own mysterious thing behind the expensive logo, or some other additional complexity. Flash SSDs are also increasingly likely to be involved, quite possibly along with some RAM caches in various places.

Comment: Re:Not "bricked" (Score 1) 669

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48206603) Attached to: FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.
According to the eevblog report, the newest driver behavior involves reprogramming the USB PID of the target to 0, not merely refusing to do useful work with it.

Quite likely recoverable with some knowledge, unless it managed to close the door behind it on any future PID modifications; but munging a USB device's PID is definitely a step above simply refusing to talk to it.

Comment: Re:Is it legal to make code compatible alternative (Score 1) 669

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48206547) Attached to: FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.
It is quite likely that the counterfeiters(at least the ones that actually stamp 'FTDI' on their products, or represent them as FTDI parts, I'm unconvinced that a VID:PID pair is a trademarkable thing) are committing 36 flavors of trademark infringement; but that still doesn't make it obvious that FTDI can just go all vigilante justice on them(much less on random people who may or may not know they were even using counterfeit chips).

Even when something is clearly recognized as a crime, the courts tend to take a somewhat dim view of those who go and dish out some extrajudicial punishment for it (typically with exceptions for things like self defense). Even when the law specifically defines transgressions that create a private right of action, the 'action' usually involves getting to sue the target, not take matters into your own hands.

Comment: Re:They are playing with fire (Score 1) 669

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48206431) Attached to: FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.
A certain amount may end up riding on the meaning of 'component' and 'that component', as well. Sure, for a basic USB -> serial dongle the FTDI chip is practically the only component, with just a couple of cheap connectors and a passive or two; but there are some fairly expensive devices that are 'USB' because the manufacturer shoved a converter IC onto the previous generation serial design.

Even if FTDI finds a court that buys their right to destroy cloned chips by vigilante action(rather than by a copyright, patent, or trademark judgement in the appropriate venue), will they find one that is sympathetic when the device ruined is some fairly expensive bit of gear sold by a third party to a customer who didn't even know a USB bridge chip was involved?

Comment: Re:Why is FTDI the villan? (Score 2) 669

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48206379) Attached to: FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.

As an EE, I will think twice about designing in FTDI products from now on.

Even if you happen to think that FTDI's approach is morally justified and hilarious, it'd still be worth considering avoiding them: some counterfeits don't even bother to pretend; but there are some very, very, convincing fakes that manage to sneak into more respectable parts of the supply chain. It's bad enough that you might get slipped counterfeits that don't meet spec, worse if you might get slipped counterfeits that appear to work and then get destroyed once in the hands of your customers.

Comment: Re:Why do companies insist on producing shit ? (Score 1) 123

I imagine that it also helps (at least in terms of customer acceptance) that most of these RFID tags are probably replacing something that was as bad or worse. Keys are clonable, provide no record of use(much less timestamped logs of individual users) and if one gets into the wild re-keying the place is Not Fun. Magnetic stripe cards are trivially clonable; but on the same level as most RFID tags in terms of access logging and enabling/disabling access. Adequately rugged optical sensors have historically been pretty expensive, so bar codes, hand scanners, and any other biometric gimmicks are likely niche players.

I'd be pretty annoyed if some salesweasel lied to me about it; but it's unlikely that an RFID installation replaced something that was harder to clone, and it's still easier than keys, slightly more robust than mag stripe readers, and reasonably cheap per tag. In some ways that makes it even more obnoxious to harass the researchers, though.

Comment: Any woodworkers around? (Score 1) 44

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48199101) Attached to: The Bogus Batoid Submarine is Wooden, not Yellow (Video)
My experience with boat maintenance is (thankfully) limited; but I do know that wood tends to shrink and swell rather cheerfully as its moisture content changes, and that larger wooden vessels tend to suffer some 'play' from the hogging and sagging induced by wave action and any changes in relative buoyancy as cargo load changes from voyage to voyage, hence the fine naval tradition of oakum, tar, and endless manual labor lest you die a watery death.

Thinking of that, the pictures of a whole bunch of curved ribs(in what look to be several varieties of wood) forming a cylinder/cone thing with loads of joints that is expected to be immersed during use, caused me to immediately start imagining assorted ominous creaking, stress fractures, and hull geometry issues that you'll have a heroic time hammering out.

Is the coating adequate to prevent that sort of thing? Are they using some carpentry-fu of the same type that holds wooden barrels and wheels together? Will it in fact be a disaster in short order?

Comment: Re:DOS version? (Score 1) 100

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48198905) Attached to: Samsung Acknowledges and Fixes Bug On 840 EVO SSDs
Some vendors skip the helpful 'provide a damn bootable freeDOS image, you cheap bastards' step, which is very annoying; but it's pretty common to use DOS for firmware updates. When the vendor is feeling polite, and for more common ones, you usually get a windows executable with some dire warnings about running it as an administrator and not interrupting it; but DOS is a pretty good choice when you want an OS that isn't going to be multitasking behind your back as you scribble over some bit of firmware that will brick the device if handled indelicately.

It probably will be an amusing test of whether Apple's BIOS emulation layer is up to scratch, or whether it was written rather closely against the specific versions of Windows supported by bootcamp and the bootcamp drivers...

Comment: Re:Wonder what brand is best now... Intel? (Score 3, Informative) 100

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48198703) Attached to: Samsung Acknowledges and Fixes Bug On 840 EVO SSDs
They had that one a while back where the drive would mysteriously decide that it had a capacity of 8MB, though that has been quashed for some time.

The tricky thing (and I'm not actually certain where they stand on this now) is that Intel's initial reputation was founded on the superior performance and reliability of the in-house controller design that they used in their x-18 and x-25, especially dramatic back when there was some utter garbage floating around (JMicron controllers, OCZ living up to their reputation) and the safe options were comparatively slow and extremely expensive.

Then, for some reason, they just sat and stagnated on that controller design for several generations, and eventually shipped a Marvell controller in order to have something with SATA 6Gb support. Since then, they've released some Sandforce based stuff, and some of their own; but it isn't as clear exactly what "Intel" on the label means anymore.

Comment: Re:Enough with the concern trolling (Score 2) 756

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48198337) Attached to: NPR: '80s Ads Are Responsible For the Lack of Women Coders
Do remember that 'women in tech' has some very vocal friends among employers of techs.

This is not to say that nobody involved is genuinely concerned; but it should be remembered that complaints about the labor market can come from either side, with the supply side generally having the numbers and the demand side generally having the influence. (And, at times, they even shift remarkably quickly: just remember how fast getting women into heavy industry became a national cause during WWII, and how fast encouraging them to keep house in the suburbs become one afterwards.)

Comment: Re:Solving the problem wrong (Score 1) 756

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48198143) Attached to: NPR: '80s Ads Are Responsible For the Lack of Women Coders
It sounds like your post answers its own question. A burn-and-churn industry in a period of high demand has a strong need for new workers(lest the alternatives of cushier working conditions and/or higher salaries be resorted to to retain and re-attract the existing ones and the burnouts). Since the supply has skewed heavily male for some time now, there is some reason to suspect that finding a way to increase female recruitment is the best hope of locating a new source of human resources.

Comment: Re:Why do companies insist on producing shit ? (Score 4, Insightful) 123

It's seriously difficult to understand the mindset of the organization and how they came into this. Did they even bother hiring a competent cryptographer when designing their product ? Were they duped by someone they hired and led to design a insecure product ? Or is encrypting an RFID communication a difficult and non-trivial task with no known vetted solution ?

I don't think that the problem is difficult in some fundamental way (the problem of verifying a remote host with asymmetric crypto has been reasonably well explored with SSL/TLS, and an access control system has the advantage of being able to trust only a CA it controls, and the advantage that you need to get physical access to an RFID reader pad to attempt attacks); but there are significant practical challenges.

RFID chips are pretty power constrained, since they only get whatever energy they can scavenge from the reader's RF output; and customers want them to be cheap. The industry also has fairly long product lifecycles (since, once you've put in a zillion card readers and integrated it with all your other building security stuff you don't want to rip it out and upgrade in 2 years).

It isn't so much a 'there is no known cryptographic solution to this problem' issue as a 'Why yes, we still have major customers using the 'security' provided by the lousy proprietary cryptosystem that our engineers were able to cram into a cheap, power-constrained, chip using the fab processes available in the mid to late 90s, and we really don't want to fix that' issue.

"Of course power tools and alcohol don't mix. Everyone knows power tools aren't soluble in alcohol..." -- Crazy Nigel

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