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Hardware Hacking

CCC Mods Rent-a-Bike To Allow Free Rides 384

Autoversicherung writes "Germany has an activated by phone bike rental system across all major cities. At 6 cent a minute quite pricey, germanys famous Chaos Computer Club thought a free ride every now and then couldnt hurt. Optimizing the original system in the process, modifying the blink code to be easier found and changing the logo. About 10% of Berlins bikes are patched already. A detailed description of how they did it, and how the system works."
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CCC Mods Rent-a-Bike To Allow Free Rides

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  • What Happens When... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NotTheEgg ( 839387 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @03:53AM (#11145140)
    What happens when you lock your bike to something that doesn't belong to you and someone (i.e. store owner) gets pissed?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:07AM (#11145198)
    the store owner calls (telephone number on the bike), service personal removes the bike, last person[1] that rented the bike pays the fee.

    [1] in case that the bike was hacked and left there by another person ... shit happens
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:10AM (#11145212)
    The mods are so hopped up on crazy glue and sugar that when they stop masturbating to horse porn long enough to moderate they tend to be a bit random. Basically a -1 means "I don't like it" and the label means fuck all.
  • by phr1 ( 211689 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:14AM (#11145229)
    someone tries to convert the streets of a city into their private retail space without paying anything for it?

    If I run a bike shop and pay rent and/or taxes on the property, so anyone can come look at the bikes but if they want to use one, they have to pay, that's a normal retail situation. I'm entitled to control what happens with my bikes within my private space.

    What happens, though, if I just start locking the bikes up to lampposts and advertising that anyone can call a phone number to pay to unlock them? Am I not trying to convert the public lampposts into private retail space without paying any rent or tax? Who is taking what from whom? Perhaps some philosopher could conclude that I've really just abandoned the bikes, and rather than hacking 10% of them, CCC might have done better to hack 100%.

    BTW, the public bicycle concept AFAIK started in Holland, with the Witte Fietsen ("white bicycles" in Dutch) project. Hippies scrounged up old bikes and parts during a transit strike, got them working and painted them white, and then just left them all over the place for people to use for free. Sort of a bicycle version of the GNU project. If you needed to get somewhere, you'd just find a white bike, ride it wherever you were going, and leave it for someone else to find and use.

    This was several decades ago. Witte Fietsen actually worked as envisioned by the hippies, and was successful enough that local government decided to pick up the expenses. It is still active today in some parts of Holland, though in the big cities, sadly, the bikes get stolen too fast.

    The dial-a-bike thing seems like a pale imitation. Witte Fietsen didn't need to be hacked.

  • I must be backwards (Score:4, Interesting)

    by deft ( 253558 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:15AM (#11145235) Homepage
    I found learning about this very cool bike system that works for another country more interesting than some losers hacking it.... all to circumvent a 6 cent fee.

    I wish this would work in Los Angeles. It could really be useful. It wouldn't work though... too many "hackers" with wire cutters. (alot like the "hackers" above, but with less technical school clases).
  • by tmk ( 712144 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:19AM (#11145244)
    According to there are no bikes in Berlin today. The Deutsche Bahn has collected them all for a winter break and will check if anybody has manipulated them.

    Btw: The CCC will meet from December 26th to 29th for their annual congress. Motto: "The ususal suspects".

    P.S.: I submitted this story on Saturday.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:49AM (#11145344)
    Alot of these modern bikes have tires that come not with bolts that you need a wrench to remove, but with something you can remove by hand without need of a wrench(I do not know the exact word for this piece...). It is more convenient when you want to remove and put on a tire, but it also more convenient for thieves. Also there are bike seats that are clamped in a similar way and require no wrench. I have seen several bikes securely chained but missing a seat or tires.
  • by Trurl's Machine ( 651488 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @05:40AM (#11145487) Journal
    Let me guess - having published your praise of all the nice German hackers, who hack the system to get the "free joyride" on someone elses' property, you will then write yet another complaint on some mainstream media "improper usage" of the word "hacker" - "Dear Editors, you confuse us, the oh-so-ethical hackers with the bad nasty crackers"?
  • by upside ( 574799 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @05:57AM (#11145526) Journal
    Go these in Helsinki. [] They're even free to use, you only need a 2 euro deposit, just like with shopping carts. They're provided by the City's local transport dep't.
  • by taxevader ( 612422 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @06:09AM (#11145563)

    I read the part that said:

    "About 10% of Berlins bikes are patched already."

    Hacking for fun, yeah sure. But doing what could ultimately cause the demise of this whole concept.. thats just Wrong.

  • by gnalle ( 125916 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @06:27AM (#11145617)
    Copenhagen (capital of Denmark, North of Germany) has had free bikes [] for a few years. Each spring the city buys a set of bikes for the turist season. These bikes last for about 6 months, and in the autumn most of them have been destroyed. The advertisers pay around 200$ [] for placing an ad on a bike, and the city takes care of repairing the bike.

    If I remember corectly the bike repairing is taken care of by an unemployment project (training the unemplyed to have a job), so in the effect the bike are partly being paid for by social help :)

  • Re:witte fietsen (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rwjyoung ( 674310 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @08:21AM (#11145900)
    Zürich, Switzerland operates a free bike rental service. Turn up at one of the many bike rental places throughout the city, with proof of identity (normally your passport) and they will give you a bike, scooter, tricycle or roller blades for the rest of the day. Pretty cool and gets used a hell of a lot.
  • Re:I'm impressed. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bigman2003 ( 671309 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @10:24AM (#11146621) Homepage
    I lived in Germany for 3.5 years (military).

    In the town I lived in (Wurzburg), the Germans usually didn't lock their bike. They had a quaint little idea that nobody would steal it.

    That was generally true...except that drunk Americans had the quaint little idea that a bike not locked, was a free ride.

    Eventually there would be a collection of about 20-30 bikes behind the barracks, that we would have to ride back into town, and drop at different locations, hoping the original owner would find it.

    Soon, our unit got the idea to buy a couple bikes, paint them red white and blue, and have them available for free.

    Of course OTHER Americans stole them.

  • by Mr. McGibby ( 41471 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @11:37AM (#11147420) Homepage Journal
    when you park a car on a public street, and lock the doors, you must be abondoning that fine set of wheels, I guess, right?

    Well, in my town, we have an ordinance that allows the town to tow your car if you park it on the street overnight. They don't usually enforce this until about a week has passed, but the point is still made. I'd imagine the company isn't taking the bikes back to their warehouse every night for storage.

    The original poster's point is still valid. This company is using the city streets as their personal retail space. No taxes, nothing. This is like a company parking "cars" around the city with vending machines conveniently located on the passenger side. They're creating a retail space that isn't their property.

    It's abusing a priviledge of convenience that has been given to all. When a single company abuses it, then it becomes detrimental to all.
  • purdue stupidity (Score:1, Interesting)

    by usernotfound ( 831691 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @12:16PM (#11148024)
    This was done at purdue this year, the BoilerBikes. Painted gold, signs that say "free to use, ride at your own risk" etc. And then a girl ran into a bus or something, and they got rid of all of them and gave her a full ride shcolarship to make up FOR HER STUPIDITY.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @01:07PM (#11148809)
    In Copenhagen, read about how it works, in here []
  • by Linuxathome ( 242573 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @03:24PM (#11150661) Homepage Journal
    One of the reasons, I surmise, that this rent-a-bike concept may not work here in the US is because of local mandatory helmet laws []. I don't know about the European laws. However, I can see why in Europe, helmet use is less of a concern---less cars on the street, more pedestrians, more public transportation-friendly, shorter distances needed to travel from point A to point B. But here in the US, with the SUVs sharing the streets, helmets are a must. And to implement a rent-a-bike system would also mean co-implementation of rent-a-helmet program. But that adds the difficulty of renting the right helmet size, and putting on a helmet that a previous (sweaty) biker was using. So how is the use of helmets handled in Europe anyway?

  • Re:Repercussions? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by netsharc ( 195805 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @11:21PM (#11155527)
    Well, finding some of the stolen bikes should be easy. as the article says, the dispatch has a database of where each bike is supposed to be, e.g. bike 0001 is in station X, because the customer tells them where they've been parked. But if one of the hackers unlock the bike from X and takes it to station Y, and then an ordinary user calls up and says "I'm at station Y, I'd like to use the bike 0001, can I have its code please?", the dispatch would see the conflict -- Database says the bike's at station X, but caller says it's at station Y -- and they would know the bike's been moved illegally.

    Of course if the customer just says "I'm at station Y, can you give me a bike (tell me the number) and what is the code for it?", the dispatch wouldn't give the customer bike 0001, because 0001 isn't at Y in the DB. OTOH, if they're at X, and dispatch says "take 0001" and customer says "but there's no 0001" here, that's also a hint of trouble there.

    Then again, if a hacker just takes a bike from home (X) to go to work (Y) and back again (X) everyday, there's very little chance of him getting caught.

    Also, I wonder if they can use the DB inconsistencies to triangulate where the hacker might be located, because I assume they'd just take bikes from stations near their place of operation. Although of course hacked bikes can show up all over the place after being used by many people, so, well, interesting mind-exercise there.

The number of computer scientists in a room is inversely proportional to the number of bugs in their code.