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Android Cellphones Handhelds Hardware Hacking Operating Systems Security Build

Motorola Says eFuse Doesn't Permanently Brick Phones 294

Posted by timothy
from the too-little-distinction-for-my-taste dept.
radicalpi writes "Motorola has responded to claims that eFuse is designed to brick your device if you attempt to mod it or install unauthorized bootloaders. Yes, the device will still not operate with unauthorized software, but it will only go into recovery mode until you reinstall the authorized software. According to Motorola: 'If a device attempts to boot with unapproved software, it will go into recovery mode, and can re-boot once approved software is re-installed.'"
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Motorola Says eFuse Doesn't Permanently Brick Phones

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  • by noidentity (188756) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @12:50AM (#32935198)

    Motorola Says eFuse Doesn't Brick Phones

    There, fixed that for you. Bricked is permanent. Non-permanent "bricking" isn't bricking at all. If you can revive it, it was never bricked in the first place.

  • by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @12:55AM (#32935214)

    but I will decide what software is "authorized" to run on my phone!

    No sale for you.

  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gazoogleheimer (1466831) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @12:58AM (#32935222) Homepage
    ...and yet, nobody has ended up properly explaining what eFuse is. In fact, from reading this and other articles, some low-level fuse, like fuses in microcontrollers, doesn't seem to apply to the functionality they describe. This sounds much more complex and much higher-level...so what exactly is everyone going on about? Wikipedia says "In computing, eFUSE is a technology invented by IBM which allows for the dynamic real-time reprogramming of computer chips. Speaking abstractly, computer logic is generally 'etched' or 'hard-coded' onto a chip and cannot be changed after the chip has finished being manufactured. By utilizing an eFUSE (or more realistically, a number of individual eFUSEs), a chip manufacturer can allow for the circuits on a chip to change while it is in operation. The primary application of this technology is to provide in-chip performance tuning. If certain sub-systems fail, or are taking too long to respond, or are consuming too much power, the chip can instantly change its behavior by 'blowing' an eFUSE." What does that have to do with authorized software? Why would they use such a system rather than the other systems that have been used in the past? How is this different than some sort of half-FPGA ASIC? Anyways...
  • by syousef (465911) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @12:59AM (#32935224) Journal

    Motorola Says eFuse Doesn't Brick Phones

    There, fixed that for you. Bricked is permanent. Non-permanent "bricking" isn't bricking at all. If you can revive it, it was never bricked in the first place.

    It all depends on how easy it is to reinstall the software. MOST "bricked" devices could be recovered at a service center with specialised equipment for a fee (that may not make it a cost effective proposition). If an end user can make the phone unusable but can't reverse the situation using the same equipment (or at least readily available affordable - as in a few bucks - equipment) I would still call it bricked even if it can be revived.

    I have no idea if in this safe mode it's easy to install the authorised software. If it is easy I wouldn't call that bricked either. I'd just call it nasty DRM that I'll steer well clear of.

  • by gcnaddict (841664) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @01:02AM (#32935238)
    offer a free opt-out for those willing to take the risk. I'm not sure if the capability is even there, but if the owner is willing to sign a waiver releasing Motorola from any damages in the event that anything goes wrong (a la Malware), Motorola should do it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 17, 2010 @01:06AM (#32935242)

    Yet apple does it every day.

  • So... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by alters (1647173) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @01:07AM (#32935246)

    ...it's about as locked as the iPhone then, and still requires jailbreaking?

    Go go open sou....waitaminnit...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 17, 2010 @01:18AM (#32935280)

    They haven't succeeded in selling me a phone either, though I would welcome the change.

  • by Barrinmw (1791848) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @01:25AM (#32935306)
    And nobody forces you to use Windows - you can use Linux or Apple with emulators for all PC software you need.
    And nobody forces you to use Google - yahoo, bing, askjeeves lol.
    The biggest reason I think that there is reason for investigation is that you become locked into a contract if you so choose to use a motorola phone.
  • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Saturday July 17, 2010 @01:29AM (#32935314) Journal

    No. Bricked is forever, as defined by perception and ability -- both of which are subject to change.

    A few years ago, I really fucked up a WRT54G when playing with software. I was going to throw it away, when I stumbled across a process for programming it using its JTAG interface and a parallel port. (Which worked fine.)

    So was it a brick? The answer is simple, but flexible: It was a brick until I learned that it was possible for me to recover it, at which point it ceased to be a brick.

    And now that I know how to deal with these issues, I can't successfully brick a WRT54G in the same fashion.

    A dozen years ago, I fucked up a PC by flashing the wrong BIOS. Was it a brick? Again, it's a matter of perspective. In this particular case it was not a brick, though most folks would have reasonably considered it to be completely and totally bricked. Why was it not bricked for me? Because I already knew how to fix it: Enable shadow ROM on another computer, and plug the improperly-flashed BIOS into it hot. Then, just re-flash with the correct image, put the hardware back where it was, and move on with life.

  • by Nitewing98 (308560) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @01:34AM (#32935330) Homepage
    If this was the iPhone they were talking about, there would be front page stories in all the major newspapers and websites saying what a crappy company Apple is for locking down their device. Kind of funny when the shoe's on the other foot, isn't it? As Jobs pointed out today, the iPhone 4 has only been out 22 days and the news media was having a conniption making the antenna issue "major news." (hint: "Major news" is the war in Afghanistan and the Gulf of Mexico mess). In fact, since the whole point of Android was to be open-source (as opposed to Apple's "Death grip" on developers), it's kind of funny that Motorola feels also that there are limits to what you should be able to do with your phone.
  • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) * on Saturday July 17, 2010 @01:53AM (#32935360)

    It is sad, that's for sure, but at the same time it's unfair to blame Android for this debacle. Android is the OS, and it's not Google's fault that Motorola is so blatantly circumventing the spirit of the OS. Apple, on the other hand, controls the entire system, hardware and software. Thus, anything you don't like about the iPhone can be squarely blamed on them.

    Personally, I just hope the rest of the industry doesn't think Motorola has had a bright idea here, and try to follow suit. I also can't see myself getting any of the Motorola phones in the future... I love my Droid, but damned if I'm going to support a company that's pulling stunts like this.

  • by robmv (855035) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @01:59AM (#32935378)

    When you get hours and hours, lot off news pages of free advertisement before lunch, and you as a company has a culture of overhyping and nurture others desire to hype your product, do not cry when the contrary happens: exaggerated or great emphasis on your mistakes or what you do not delivered

  • by jamesh (87723) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @02:18AM (#32935428)

    Bricked is permanent.

    Well then by your definition it's pretty much impossible to "brick" a device without otherwise destroying it, as it's always possible to "unbrick" it by replacing code (whether via JTAG, secret button presses or other means) or swapping components.

    Back in the real world, it's a relative term. If you can't unbrick your device then as far as you are concerned it's bricked, even if the manufacturer or someone with a bit more brains could actually fix it for you.

  • by Kaz Kylheku (1484) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @02:19AM (#32935434) Homepage

    No approved software -> one kind of brick.

    Approved software -> another kind of brick.

    Any questions?

  • by randomsearch (1207102) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @02:24AM (#32935452) Journal

    You're right - the iPhone would get more press and more criticism for this.

    This is because Apple are so good at marketing and manipulating the press. Great when it helps the company sell products, but not so great when things are going wrong.

    There is plenty of "real news" going on when Apple launch their newest product line, but they still get an amount of press out of proportion to the importance of their products.

    RS

  • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Saturday July 17, 2010 @02:34AM (#32935482) Journal

    Breaking in? It's not like it took prybars and hammers to open the thing. A WRT54G opens with a quick tug using no tools other than a pair of reasonably-strong hands.

    Modifying the hardware? A little. But the JTAG header was right there on the board, IIRC it was even labeled. All I had to do was solder some pins to it to be able to plug a cable into it. And I could have done it without even going that far: after all, I just needed electrical continuity, and nowhere is it written that this must involve physical modification. (Soldering is easier for one individual device, but if I had a lot of them to fix I'd have come up with something less invasive.)

    Breaking into the JTAG interface? To reprogram the PROM? You've gone off of the deep end. JTAG is a bog-standard and rather simple interface for dealing with flash at a low level. And PROMs aren't reprogrammable.

    Another reason why the device was not bricked was that it was not physically damaged: No eFuse was blown, no parts had turned to smoke, and never was it in any particular danger. It just had a bad firmware load. In other words, it was experiencing a software problem. So I loaded new software that worked, once I learned how.

    *shrug*

    In other news, some layfolk also think that a PC with a crapfested install of Windows is bricked beyond help. This opinion is, of course, wrong. But it is based on their perspective and ability.

    To use a car analogy: I have a dead GM 4L30E automatic transmission out back which died suddenly in my BMW. I fixed the car by replacing the transmission, which I knew how to do, so at no time was the whole car a brick. Now: Could the 4L30E be fixed? I guess so, but I don't know how to do that, so the tranny itself is still bricked. To someone else with different perspective and ability, it might be a quick fix, but that someone ain't me. If the day comes that I gain the ability to understand and fix automatic transmissions, or I give it to someone else who already understands these things, then it may cease being a brick.

  • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Saturday July 17, 2010 @02:53AM (#32935526) Journal

    A "bricked" PSP that can be recovered using a Pandora battery is not bricked at all. It is far more useful than a brick. All it takes is a widget to tell the device to boot from whatever it is that is in the card slot instead of its internal flash. This widget happens to be known as a Pandora battery, and the only thing that is special about it is that its serial number consists of zeroes.

    Bricks don't do any of that stuff: I have a pile of them out back, and none of them possess these abilities. A genuinely bricked PSP would resemble a brick, not an electronic device that can easily be brought back to usefulness.

    Regarding "user perspective," I have bricked a lot of things (both electronic and mechanical) that I was simply unable to fix myself while being unwilling or unable to pay someone else to do it.

    Nonetheless, I am a PSP user. And I am a WRT54G user. And a Droid user. I use them all in ways other than what the instructions say that I should be able to, but that doesn't make me less of a user -- I'm just a user with a different perspective than most have.

  • No excuse (Score:2, Insightful)

    by The Hatchet (1766306) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @03:08AM (#32935566)

    As long as a device or any part of a device is sold with a feature that says "you are prohibited from doing what you want with something you paid disgusting amounts of money for" Then something is wrong.

    When you buy something, it should be yours to do whatever the fuck you want with it. There is no reason that someone else has any right to tell you what you are allowed to do with your possessions. Hell, if someone came into my house and forced me to stop using super glue to attach everything to everything else, I would have him fucking arrested for trespassing. If they are going to tell you what to do with your devices, then they should replace the word 'buy' with the word 'use until we decide otherwise, within the bounds of what we think is ok' I bet people wouldn't pay such shit-tons of money for every little gizmo if it said that instead.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @03:40AM (#32935652) Homepage Journal
    i am buying a DEVICE from you. that is a mobile phone. i am not buying a device AND a software. i dont care about your reasons, your justifications, your logic, this that and shit. if you force me to anything after BUYING a device, i will fuck it and do what i want. if there is no possibility of doing that, i wont buy your product, and you can gleefully shove it up your ass.

    how do you like this as the opinion of customers ? distasteful isnt it ? well, you asked for it.
  • by Kenja (541830) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @03:57AM (#32935692)
    Frankly, I'd be interested in knowing how they rooted the phone and then changed the boot ROMs without using a USB cable...
  • by RoFLKOPTr (1294290) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @04:32AM (#32935770)

    Bricking means the device is hosed and cannot be recovered without breaking in and modifying the hardware.

    No, you seem to misunderstand the meaning of the word "brick". As defined by Wiktionary [wiktionary.org]:

    Noun
    brick (countable and uncountable; plural bricks)
    1. (countable) A hardened rectangular block of mud, clay etc., used for building.
    This wall is made of bricks .

    A brick is something you build houses with. A device that is in a state of non-function is called a "brick" because that's about all you could do with it. A device that I don't know how to return to a functioning state to me is a brick. If you know how to fix it, then to you it is not a brick, and if you offer to help me fix it then it is no longer a brick to me either. That's what adolf is saying, and I agree. Take a second to let that sink in and maybe you will understand.

  • Re:So... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by beelsebob (529313) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @04:56AM (#32935824)

    Much more locked than an iPhone in fact.

  • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @05:19AM (#32935870) Homepage Journal

    Even more broadly, the engineering time they waste maintaining an undesired feature is time not spent making the product line better. So far, the MOTO Droid line isn't pulling the company back to profitability last I checked.

    I thought GPL 3 forbade this kind of activity of preventing firmware changes, it undermines one major point of open source while still exploiting open source code. Maybe that language didn't make it into the final license.

  • by dbcad7 (771464) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @06:05AM (#32935972)

    http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=164034

    Android has saved their bacon. And this new model is doing very well, and probably will continue to. The numbers of people who are into running custom ROM's is not enough to make a dent in the sales.. The custom ROM users will go elsewhere, and there will be awesome alternatives for them.. and they will turn their technical noses down on the people who purchase the phone, because they (those idiots) can't do something that most of them would not do anyway.. It's bad for Motorola, as it was these very type of people (the geeks into doing ROM installs) who where a large part of the successful launch of the Droid.. they are the type who brag with enthusiasm about their phone and what it can do to the people with glazed over eyes who don't know the best way to spend their money on a new phone.. but the Droid brand already has made it's dent, and the sales of the newer version show that the brand has worked.

  • by Blue Stone (582566) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @06:05AM (#32935974) Homepage Journal

    You say the term 'bricked' got warped, which is true enough etymologically, but the reality is also that it got appropriated to fill a gap.

    There isn't a punchy little word that's quite as appealing and new and appropriate to technology (specifically) that describes a device getting temporarily but catastrophically ... um .... hosed/trashed/corrupted.

    People were wanting a word to fill that gap and they grabbed the handiest, sweetest-sounding one around. If there's a beter sounding (and definitionally more sound) word for catastrophically failed tech, we better start using it before it's too late!

  • by karlandtanya (601084) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @07:59AM (#32936308)

    If this works--which is to say that the phones still sell and Moto suffers only tolerable humiliation, expect to see more.
    And if it does fly, look for it be in your general-purpose computer, soon.

    Let's hope the popular blogs make a big stink about it.
    'Cause nobody is listening to the crackpots on /.

  • by crow (16139) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @08:28AM (#32936444) Homepage Journal

    Too late. I don't know if I'll ever need to root my phone, but I want to know that I can. I was considering the Droid X and the HTC EVO 4G, and eFuse was the leading reason for selecting the HTC phone.

    It's my phone, if I didn't want control, I would get an iPhone.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 17, 2010 @09:35AM (#32936738)

    Whilst his attitude is troll-y (I'm a different AC), he does have a point.

    You, a representative of the people on the internet, were addressing Motorola. The AC played what the non-human entity Motorola would say back the random strangers that make up the people on the internet.

    And the glib remark about consumers taking what they are told is pretty true. People just accept wankily implemented features and anti-features as they don't know any better, or they believe the BS marketing info from corporations, just like the corps. have taught them to. People seem to accept that computers and gadgets will just crash sometimes, or need rebooting, as that is all they have known. This allows companies to cut down on testing or design that leads to stability, which feeds-back to customer expectations, and into software design and tools. And people don't seem to question things, or want to make themselves more informed about the products they use. This is very frustrating if you want genuinely open gadgets, especially when some people who do see the shortcomings, but get suckered in by the shiny-shiny, and/or fashionableness.

  • Re:No excuse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nethead (1563) <joe@nethead.com> on Saturday July 17, 2010 @12:20PM (#32937660) Homepage Journal

    When you buy something, it should be yours to do whatever the fuck you want with it. There is no reason that someone else has any right to tell you what you are allowed to do with your possessions.

    So I guess that you also have issues with laws against use of fully automatic machine guns.

    It's also illegal to use a spark-gap transmitter these days. Hell, I have commercial Motorola radios that I hack but it's still illegal for me to use them on frequencies that I'm not licensed for. But hey, I bought it and should be able to use it as I want.

    Your comment is over generalized, immature and selfish.

  • by zaffir (546764) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @01:29PM (#32938036)

    We aren't talking about people loading Linux on their phone to get a shell, the primary reason people want to hack their phone is theft of software.

    [citation needed]

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