Ask Hackaday: Are Unlockable Features Good for the User?

There are numerous examples of hardware which has latent features waiting to be unlocked by software. Most recently, we saw a Casio calculator which has the same features as its bigger sibling hidden within the firmware, only to be exposed by a buffer overflow bug (or the lead from a pencil if you prefer a hardware hack).

More famously, oscilloscopes have been notorious for having crippled features. The Rigol DS1052E was hugely popular on hacker benches because of it’s very approachable price tag. The model shipped with 50 MHz bandwidth but it was discovered that a simple hack turned it into the DS1102E 100 MHz scope. Tektronix has gotten in on this action as well, shipping modules like I2C, CAN, and LIN analyzation on the scope but requiring a hardware key to unlock (these were discovered to have a horribly insecure unlock method). Similar feature barriers are found on Rigol’s new reigning entry-level scope, the DS1054Z, which ships with protocol analyzation modules (among others) that are enabled only for the first 70 hours of scope operation, requiring an additional payment to unlock them. Most scope manufacturers are in on the game, and of course this is not limited to our tools. WiFi routers are another great example of hardware hosting firmware-unlockable features.

So, the question on my mind which I’d like to ask all of the Hackaday community is this: are unlockable features good for us, the people who use these tools? Let’s take a look at some of the background of these practices and then jump into a discussion in the comments.

Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: Are Unlockable Features Good for the User?”

20,000 Hackers

20k-hackers

What a pleasant thing to wake up and realize that we now have more than 20,000 Hackers on Hackaday.io. It wasn’t even two months ago that we celebrated passing the 10k mark. While we’re talking numbers, how about 2,075 projects, and 148 hackerspaces?

But what’s in a number? It’s what this stands for that really gets us excited! You took the leap and decided to show off what you’re working on while you’re still working on it. This is the key to pollinating ideas. One concept can result in many awesome spin-off projects. So if you haven’t yet written about that killer idea bouncing around in your head, do it now and be the inspiration for the next iteration of amazing hacks.

Much more to come

Our crew has been refining an overhaul of how the feed works to make it easier to know when and how your favorite hackers are updating their builds. You should see that functionality live in August. We’re also working on improving interactivity so that you can better find others with similar interests whether it’s just for casual conversation or to undertake an epic build as a team.

We’re certainly not above pointing out our own weaknesses. The Stack never took off. The idea seemed like a good one, but we need your help figuring out how to make it shine. Leave a comment below telling us what you think The Stack should be and how you think it should work.

Answers.hackaday.com is LIVE

Quick, go to answers.hackaday.com and sign up for an account. Ages ago, we announced that we would be bringing a community driven question and answer system to Hackaday. We eventually got tired of waiting for the feature to be provided and improvised. Well, the wait is over. You can now post your own questions and answers. Go nuts, post away, but remember to be respectful. We’re still figuring out this system ourselves, so be patient with us as well.

Be warned, we’re going to be pretty strict on trolling.

It is worth noting that there is a money system integrated into it. This means that you can offer a real reward for answers to your questions. You certainly don’t have to though.

iPad teardown

Its been quite a while since we’ve featured something from iFixit. But when we saw they had torn apart the next greatest Apple product, the iPadreleased today, and how everyone on our team loves it, we thought why not also let our user base enjoy the destruction informative teardown as well.

In both the original and the FCC teardown, we see some awesome features and tricks Apple implemented. Most notably the two separate 3.75V lithium polymer cells, not soldered to the motherboard, allowing users to easily replace the battery if need be. However, in the opposite respect, more components than ever are being epoxied to the board, making the iPad much more rugged.

We’re left wondering, with everyone able to see the beautiful insides, does it change anyone’s mind on getting an iPad? Or would you rather make your own?