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Comment: Re:Is this legal? (Score 1) 697

by solidraven (#48245873) Attached to: FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.
It is not, I'm familiar with cases like this. Its not like manufacturers trying this sort of thing is new, but its the first time a large one has tried it on this scale and abused Windows Update for it. (Microsoft will have their heads for this by the way based on their response to this.) But in all cases I know about it ended badly for the manufacturer. So yes, when I am stating this I am serious about the legal implications for them. It only requires one large company to have lost a significant amount of revenue because of this and they hang.

And again, you show you have no clue how these "clones" work. They are not defective, the driver on the other hand is... and they admitted this was their goal already so stop bothering to defend them. They lost and now they have to pay for the consequences. I can also tell you that most designers I know have already stated that they will never use FTDI hardware ever again because of this: so not only did they enter very slippery ground in a legal context, they alienated the engineering community.

And then there is another issue, after this one FTDI deserves to die. They broke the gentlemen's agreement within the electronics community about interfaces and bus systems. Bus systems can be patented (see IC), but you should never use that patent in an offensive way except if people are conflicting on your address assignments or are going "too far". Either way, this case does not apply here because we're looking at interfaces, and those are considered free-for-all. Its very common for IC manufacturers to make devices with the exact same specifications and a compatible pin-out in their own technology by going around the patents. These devices are perfectly legal and often support the same software drivers if PC interfacing is involved. A funny side fact is that many of these "clones", as you might call them, are in fact superior in performance compared to the original. It reached the point where claiming pin compatibility is a common marketing goal, this is good for all manufacturers involved because large companies will only use parts that they can source from multiple suppliers. So yes, by doing this FTDI broke the cease fire/gentlemen's agreement. This also means they'll probably be at the receiving end of several lawsuits involving their implementation of competitor's bus systems.

Comment: Re:Is this legal? (Score 1) 697

by solidraven (#48216441) Attached to: FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.
No matter how you wish to claim this is right, they still willingly gained access to somebody else's property and disabled it. This always has been, and still is a criminal offence with jail sentences and heavy fines. In fact considering this qualifies as a severe case of computer crime in many countries they might be looking at sentences of a few decades and fines that are multiple times their entire company's revenue.

And you are simply displaying you do not know the electronics industry at all. All drivers are written for a generic series of devices, any driver not written in this fashion is a waste of developer time and generally quite crappy. (See all those WiFi drivers from 10 years ago.) This is especially the case considering we often modify devices once they're in production, so we need to support several versions with a single driver that supports all. By writing it in a manner that its willing to work with almost anything that fits the specs you save yourself, and above all the user, quite some trouble. And if you have a particularity well working driver it'll be adopted as the de-facto standard. Do you think those Microsoft HID drivers started out in their current shape and form? The nice parts I'm referring to started out as support for Microsoft's own hardware line, they never complained about people using those for a wide variety of reasons. The main reason being that by turning your driver into the standard you gain quite some market leverage, you are the only one capable of signing the new versions of it. So if the functionality needs to be extended you are the only instance capable of doing it while maintaining good support for the older devices.

So no, these drivers aren't specific to a device made by a specific manufacturer. They are specific to a particular hardware-software interface that anybody can freely imitate that infact became the de-facto standard for USB-Serial interfaces. Now if they had stopped at detecting and just saying "sorry, can't work with this" they might have gotten off just fine depending on the jurisdiction, but they went ahead and actively bricked devices. And calling this freeloading is hardly the case, or do we forget that FTDI is "freeloading" on multiple other semi-conductor companies by providing default implementations of their chip-to-chip communication interfaces? If you're going to approach the electronics industry with this mentality you're going to get sued out of existence as a company within years.

This is not an update, this is a very specific modification to damage and disable equipment. There is a very large difference between the two from a legal point of view. So no, they f-ed up and now they have to pay for it.

Comment: Re:Is this legal? (Score 1) 697

by solidraven (#48216161) Attached to: FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.
This is why we can't have nice things. First of all, drivers aren't unique to one specific device. I can name countless devices from major manufacturers that piggyback on the driver originally made for another device. There are various reasons to do this, and it is perfectly legal to do so as well. One of the extreme examples are Microsoft's HID drivers, pretty much everyone uses those and many of the uses are for just about everything except HID devices. They have an excellent Bluetooth implementation, and its quite easy to implement a key for something you won't find on any existing keyboard and use that as trigger for another program. And that is only one of many uses, so yes it is a very common trick to piggyback on drivers to save costly development time and it does not infringe on any rights.

So it doesn't matter how you wish to interpret it, this is willingly and unlawfully modifying and disabling another person's property. Take it from me, I have more than ample experience in both reverse engineering devices and detecting bogus components. You can't accidentally check for this one considering what you have to do to detect these counterfeit chips, they were made to work with this driver. You can't do this by accident, nor can you claim this is in the name of safety since all these devices must pass EM compliance and safety tests. So get your head out of your ass and come back to reality, or stop working for FTDI (which is an awful company to be honest).

Comment: Re:Is this legal? (Score 1) 697

by solidraven (#48215745) Attached to: FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.
It was not malfunctioning, it happened to use the same driver. This is a very common situation, and willingly disabling that is in fact an antitrust lawsuit waiting to happen. Before you wish to claim something is malfunctioning I suggest you learn how the electronics industry works.

What they're doing is in fact even worse than trespassing, they're unlawfully gaining access to systems that aren't their property and changing configuration settings which lead to the system being disabled. That's not only trespassing, but willingly causing damage while digitally trespassing. (The latter has far higher punishments and fines on it in most countries by the way.) And a surgical robot refusing to work with non-OEM instruments is a very different situation. The surgical robot will not modify the configuration of the non-OEM instrument to disable it...

Refusing to work with a device can be legal under certain circumstances, modifying the device to disable it is not and is in fact a crime with a jail sentence attached to it.

Comment: Re:Is this legal? (Score 1) 697

by solidraven (#48215333) Attached to: FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.
You have no idea how the electronics industry works clearly. You go to a distributor and you buy components, you have no clue where they came from, sometimes even the distributor doesn't know. Considering the profit margins they're used to dealing with weird ultra cheap offers, and they can't afford to ignore them. It can easily be that the people who designed and manufactured the device thought they were working with genuine FTDI chips. I've run into a few cases where I bought reels of high end components, and what I got was cheap Chinese knock off components, and this was from a major European distributor that normally doesn't trade in these types of components.

So by all intent and purposes, this is willingly damaging other people's property and they should pay for the damage. They have no right to do this, if they wish to do something they should go after the people who reverse engineered it, since the fab most likely doesn't even know what they made either.

Comment: Re:Is this legal? (Score 1) 697

by solidraven (#48215271) Attached to: FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.
Your assumption being that damage can only be material? This is willingly disabling another person's property. If you' were busy doing something important and I'd come into your house and pull out the power cord you could hold me liable for the incurred damage, and this situation is nothing different from that. In fact I know several production machines that use (fake) FTDI chips, disabling a production machine through a shitty update like this would be a great way to be held liable for economic losses. And no license agreement is going to save your ass out of such a situation, a contract does not allow you to breach a person or company's basic rights.

Comment: Re:Shash-job-vertisement (Score 4, Interesting) 205

by solidraven (#48175527) Attached to: The One App You Need On Your Resume If You Want a Job At Google
I settled on a combination between Python and Perl (depending on if a lot of parsing is necessary or not). But when a lot of data is involved I go for the old fashioned choice of Fortran. It might not be pretty, and it sure as hell isn't the easiest language; but it beats the crap out of everything else when it comes to speed and convenience for parallelisation. People often forget that this is what Fortran was supposed to be good at, and it really is if you take the time to learn how to use it. Throw in Intel's Fortran compiler and a small cluster and you can chew through gigabytes of data at amazing speeds. The only thing it misses is visualisation tools, but you have a few good opensource dataset viewers, and you can always use Matlab or Python when necessary.

Comment: Re:Cold fusion - a hot mess (Score 4, Insightful) 350

by solidraven (#48174615) Attached to: The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real
My main concern with all these cold fusion guys is how they're usually unwilling to respond to requests for more information on the experimental setups. For me that just shouts "fraud", since they have absolutely no reason to keep it under the wraps: you're never going to get it past a patent clerk anyway and if you had something that produced enough power you'd be heading for the market.

"Consequences, Schmonsequences, as long as I'm rich." -- "Ali Baba Bunny" [1957, Chuck Jones]