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Why do companies lock there products down


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Being at student with no money, ill jump at the chance to earn anything i can, so at the weekends i work at a carboot sale directing traffic then after its finished pick up the rubbish that people leave behind. One of the perks (other than getting free burgers from the burger vans) is that some people leave behind some real good crap. i call it crap because no one other than me seems to think its worth takeing. Anyway from the last few months ive brought home 10's of transformers, and plenty of electrical things many of which i have no idea what they are but things that i can strip parts out of.

This week i thought i did really well, i found some nifty looking sercuity thingy (i have no idea what it does its a cool looking case with a keyed switch an led, ill use it for something one day) and a BT vision box. Its basicaly a freeview box (kinda like cable for all the americans) USB and HDMI. I new that it had a subscription based downloadable content service which i wasnt going to pay for by hey ill take it home have a look at it.

After a little bit of googling it wont start unless it has a subscription card and so far there hasnt been any hacks to get passed if for the model i have.

Its a fantastic bit of kit as i said its got a HDMI output, usb, a lan port imagin what it could do if it was open. Sure they have the subscription model (£15 a month) but they also sell just the box with a card for pay as you go for £90. Why then dont they just let you do what you want to do without letting you use the subscription service. As far as i can see they wouldnt loose anything those who want the subscription will pay each month those who dont, wont. Like there business model already. If anything its costing them more seeing as there is a deicated chip for authenticating everything, even just watching TV! Even if you could somehow hack it to stream stuff from the web, its probably wouldnt be the easyest thing to do and therefore 99% of the people would never do it and pay for the subscription.

As for the box i have, i didnt pay for it so im not to bothered but its a £90 piece of kit thats now going to be chucked even though its in perfect working order but wont start without a card. EDIT: having said that ive just opened it up to take the HDD out and it has a nice PSU

So my question is why do companies constantly try and lock stuff down so much?

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Very simple collection of reasons:

Its cheaper to make 2 products with similar hardware and use software to lock one down than it is to make 2 seperate sets of hardware.

They can make more money by re-jigging the software and selling it in a different color box, if it was fully unlocked people would just upgrade the old version to the latest software.

Legal reasons, stuff like HDCP is licensed with certain provisions for security, if you want feature x then you complie with the license or do with out. The DRM in Vista is a good example of this, if MS wants its platform to be a player in the media market then it has to include DRM, otherwise its just another Linux.

Support Reasons: Most people are actually very stupid, so if they by a camera, install "upgrades" because they read about it on a random blog and are suddenly left with a $900 brick, they will automatically associate this with a crappy product, attempt to claim money back and make noise about the appaling customer service they recived. Most people who hear about this won't think "Idiot tried to hack his camera and broke it", they will think "I'm not buying one of thoese, look at the trouble John had with his".

They don't want you buying a box from them, the cost is probally sub'd. They want to sell you programming and content, the box is just a vehical for this. If you buy one and hack it to do other things they are going to loose money on that sale.

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+1 VaKo

Just a side note on the set top box, try and find out who the manufacturer is, some companies just rebrand boxes from companies like TopField and it thats the case you can just stick the manufacturers firmware on it and use the box.

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Simple, money.

Oh and I think you're probably lucky, that thing is bastard noisy. Or at least the one I got my hands on was, I didn't use a card though... Worked fine as a freeview box with record facility. I got one from someone who signed up to the BT package, broadband etc, but had Sky, so kicked it to me.

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Another view: Because if they don't lock it down someone else will take all your hard earned work change a couple bits, call it there own and sell it for half of much, thereby putting you out of business. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of research goes into developing/designing these devices why let the competition have the keys to the kingdom?

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I agree with what the OP is saying. It's really annoying when you come accross a good product only to discover the maker or provider charges an exorbitant fee for it. Another thing that sucks is when a locked product becomes obsolete and can longer be activated. The maker forces you to pay for an upgrade to keep using it. Or worse, the maker has gone out of business rendering the product unuseable.

I just recently experienced a situation like this. I got a new cell phone and it has a nifty application that receives broadcast TV. Could be useful, but my provider charges a ridiculous $15 US a month to use it. Why would anyone pay that kind of monthly fee to get broadcast TV on their cell. I might buy it for a few dollars a month, but certainly not $15. This new phone can do all kinds of cool stuff, but every single little feature demands a premium. So far, the only feature I've been willing to pay for is the unlimited data plus GPS navigator for $20 a month. That's still a rape, but the navigator and web browsing functions are very useful so I'm willing to pay it.

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I tend to side with the businesses on this one...

It's their hard work and inventiveness that's brought the product around in the first place, who are we to complain about how they went about securing the product? It would be one thing if we were talking about a fundamental flaw in the product, but even then, the solution is to not use the product.

Don't agree with the way a company handles something? Vote with your dollar and take it elsewhere.

I just have a hard time getting too in a bunch over "how dare those sneaky developers stop me from re-purposing their hardware I found on the ground." If someone from the company was on the board, their answer would probably be "to stop you from picking up a free copy off the ground and using our service for free," lol.

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