Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Vendor Lock-In


  • Please log in to reply
11 replies to this topic

#1 systems_glitch

systems_glitch

    Dangerous free thinker

  • Moderating Team
  • 1,641 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 06 July 2012 - 07:23 PM

I spent five hours today un-bricking my HP Mini 110 netbook. Why? Because I botched an update to the BIOS that removed their hardware whitelist. For those who haven't encountered the BIOS whitelist, it's a fairly common practice with laptops. Vendors "customize" their BIOS with the HW IDs of the add-on options /they/ sell for a given system, and restrict things like wireless cards, bluetooth modules and WWAN cards through this facility. The result is, you've either got to run with a hacked BIOS or buy devices approved/branded/sold by the device manufacturer.

Srsly, why do manufacturers think this is a good idea? The majority of users will either buy add-ons and features through the manufacturer anyway, or are bright enough to figure out how to get around the restriction. It's absolutely insane to restrict one's choice of wireless card to the approved /versions/ the company sells, especially once the product is out of support. Of course, if they hadn't shipped a shitty Broadcom card in a Linux machine to start with, I wouldn't have had to find out.

Also, does anyone know of manufacturers that /don't/ do this? I know IBM/Lenovo was doing it with their (R,T,X)40 series machines...that's the last I encountered it.

#2 tekio

tekio

    5(R1P7 |<1DD13

  • Binrev Financier
  • 1,095 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Blue Nowhere

Posted 06 July 2012 - 10:06 PM

I've never had any problems with my HP 110. I use a Ubiquity mini PCMCIA card in it with an external antenna. Maybe we have different subversions of the 110. The thing I liked abou the HP BIOS, at least in mine, is that it will boot from the sd card slot! Very convenient feature.

FYI: If you didn't know (took me a while to find this out), the broadcom can be used in linux. The problem was the firmware that is stored locally on the hard-drive and is executed by the broadcom chip set is proprietary and could not be included in the Linux kernel. There is a utility to extract the firmware from other broadccom drivers. I think it's call B43-cutter, not sure though...

#3 systems_glitch

systems_glitch

    Dangerous free thinker

  • Moderating Team
  • 1,641 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 06 July 2012 - 11:43 PM

I've never had any problems with my HP 110. I use a Ubiquity mini PCMCIA card in it with an external antenna. Maybe we have different subversions of the 110. The thing I liked abou the HP BIOS, at least in mine, is that it will boot from the sd card slot! Very convenient feature.


Indeed, we must have different models. Mine is the 110-1000, which from what I'm able to tell is supposed to be the "low end" model. I guess they wanted you to buy the higher end model for nicer features! Mine also lacks an external card slot, except for SD.

FYI: If you didn't know (took me a while to find this out), the broadcom can be used in linux. The problem was the firmware that is stored locally on the hard-drive and is executed by the broadcom chip set is proprietary and could not be included in the Linux kernel. There is a utility to extract the firmware from other broadccom drivers. I think it's call B43-cutter, not sure though...


Sure, and I'd gotten that working, as well as it can be expected to work anyway. It's not an elegant solution for a wireless driver, and it requires that I build the firmware from source every time I upgrade my kernel...which, since I run Arch Linux, is fairly often. Aside from its driver licensing problems, it's just not that great of a card...generates a lot of interrupt load when heavily utilized, doesn't do Wireless-N, et c.

#4 tekio

tekio

    5(R1P7 |<1DD13

  • Binrev Financier
  • 1,095 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Blue Nowhere

Posted 07 July 2012 - 12:14 AM


I've never had any problems with my HP 110. I use a Ubiquity mini PCMCIA card in it with an external antenna. Maybe we have different subversions of the 110. The thing I liked abou the HP BIOS, at least in mine, is that it will boot from the sd card slot! Very convenient feature.


Indeed, we must have different models. Mine is the 110-1000, which from what I'm able to tell is supposed to be the "low end" model. I guess they wanted you to buy the higher end model for nicer features! Mine also lacks an external card slot, except for SD.

FYI: If you didn't know (took me a while to find this out), the broadcom can be used in linux. The problem was the firmware that is stored locally on the hard-drive and is executed by the broadcom chip set is proprietary and could not be included in the Linux kernel. There is a utility to extract the firmware from other broadccom drivers. I think it's call B43-cutter, not sure though...


Sure, and I'd gotten that working, as well as it can be expected to work anyway. It's not an elegant solution for a wireless driver, and it requires that I build the firmware from source every time I upgrade my kernel...which, since I run Arch Linux, is fairly often. Aside from its driver licensing problems, it's just not that great of a card...generates a lot of interrupt load when heavily utilized, doesn't do Wireless-N, et c.


Just googled. Mine is a lot older than yours. I have one of the first HP 110's, with the aluminum shell.

Broadcom chipsets are actually better than most. The B43 are decent. They do most processing on the chipset, and not the CPU. Broadcom is the only manufacturer I know of that puts promiscuous mode support in their drivers (of course only on Windows and OS X, i think). They do have other chipsets that are great for Linux. I'd rather have a broadcom chipset than a high end Intel.

Getting a netbook, you can't expect too much. They were crappy designs aimed at consumers that already had a desktop and notebook. So sub-$300 was what they had to work with.

I mean you can't expect to pay $300 for a complete system and have a wireless chipset with two radios (to support A/B/G/N) or even wireless N at 2.4Ghz. I mean a USB adapter with two radios to support 2,4Ghz and 5Ghz is gonna cost in the are of $50, easy. Thats 1/6 the price of a brand spaninking new netbook.

#5 Rift

Rift

    n00bie

  • Members
  • 10 posts
  • Country:
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:In front of my computer

Posted 07 July 2012 - 04:34 AM

I spent five hours today un-bricking my HP Mini 110 netbook. Why? Because I botched an update to the BIOS that removed their hardware whitelist. For those who haven't encountered the BIOS whitelist, it's a fairly common practice with laptops. Vendors "customize" their BIOS with the HW IDs of the add-on options /they/ sell for a given system, and restrict things like wireless cards, bluetooth modules and WWAN cards through this facility. The result is, you've either got to run with a hacked BIOS or buy devices approved/branded/sold by the device manufacturer.

Srsly, why do manufacturers think this is a good idea? The majority of users will either buy add-ons and features through the manufacturer anyway, or are bright enough to figure out how to get around the restriction. It's absolutely insane to restrict one's choice of wireless card to the approved /versions/ the company sells, especially once the product is out of support. Of course, if they hadn't shipped a shitty Broadcom card in a Linux machine to start with, I wouldn't have had to find out.

Also, does anyone know of manufacturers that /don't/ do this? I know IBM/Lenovo was doing it with their (R,T,X)40 series machines...that's the last I encountered it.


I've run into the same issue too when swapping out my broadcom for an Atheros based mini-pcie card on my HP tx1420. I also spent as many hours fixing my bricked machine and luckly I had a crisis recovery disk on hand. From what I know of IBM/Lenovo and HP seem to be the ones who do this the most and I have not run into this issue with my Asus laptop.

#6 systems_glitch

systems_glitch

    Dangerous free thinker

  • Moderating Team
  • 1,641 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 07 July 2012 - 06:30 AM

Getting a netbook, you can't expect too much. They were crappy designs aimed at consumers that already had a desktop and notebook. So sub-$300 was what they had to work with.

I mean you can't expect to pay $300 for a complete system and have a wireless chipset with two radios (to support A/B/G/N) or even wireless N at 2.4Ghz. I mean a USB adapter with two radios to support 2,4Ghz and 5Ghz is gonna cost in the are of $50, easy. Thats 1/6 the price of a brand spaninking new netbook.

Actually, I think overall, for what it cost when new, the Mini 110-1000 was built pretty well. I do understand that the low-end Broadcom chipset was chosen to keep costs down, and for a lot of users it isn't an issue. But that was in 2009 -- I picked up a replacement Intel Wireless Link 5100 ABGN card for $4.99 off eBay, and wanted to upgrade. It's not high end, but it's better than the BCM94312 that was there and the (Intel-provided) open source drivers are included with most distros.

What I /can/ expect though, is to buy a $300 system and be able to use hardware that's compatible with it without having to install a hacked BIOS. I /can/ expect manufacturers not to actually go out of their way to cripple an otherwise pretty good product.

#7 systems_glitch

systems_glitch

    Dangerous free thinker

  • Moderating Team
  • 1,641 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 07 July 2012 - 06:33 AM

From what I know of IBM/Lenovo and HP seem to be the ones who do this the most and I have not run into this issue with my Asus laptop.


Acer seems not to whitelist hardware either...I'd forgotten that I'd swapped out the Mini PCIe card in my Aspire One.

#8 tekio

tekio

    5(R1P7 |<1DD13

  • Binrev Financier
  • 1,095 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Blue Nowhere

Posted 07 July 2012 - 06:53 AM

there and the (Intel-provided) open source drivers are included with most distros.

What I /can/ expect though, is to buy a $300 system and be able to use hardware that's compatible with it without having to install a hacked BIOS. I /can/ expect manufacturers not to actually go out of their way to cripple an otherwise pretty good product.

True that. I'd go so far as to say, that should be posted on the box and disclosed in advance of purchase. That's really an antitrust issue, IMO. As it does by definition "prevent competition".

I've never even heard of that until reading this post. Been reading up on it all night. I've read some forum posts from people who need to replace hard-drives and have this problem.

Crap, Apple doesn't even go to that extreme. :-/

#9 army_of_one

army_of_one

    SUP3R 31337 P1MP

  • Members
  • 282 posts

Posted 10 July 2012 - 01:15 AM

I spent five hours today un-bricking my HP Mini 110 netbook. Why? Because I botched an update to the BIOS that removed their hardware whitelist. For those who haven't encountered the BIOS whitelist, it's a fairly common practice with laptops. Vendors "customize" their BIOS with the HW IDs of the add-on options /they/ sell for a given system, and restrict things like wireless cards, bluetooth modules and WWAN cards through this facility. The result is, you've either got to run with a hacked BIOS or buy devices approved/branded/sold by the device manufacturer.

Srsly, why do manufacturers think this is a good idea? The majority of users will either buy add-ons and features through the manufacturer anyway, or are bright enough to figure out how to get around the restriction. It's absolutely insane to restrict one's choice of wireless card to the approved /versions/ the company sells, especially once the product is out of support. Of course, if they hadn't shipped a shitty Broadcom card in a Linux machine to start with, I wouldn't have had to find out.

Also, does anyone know of manufacturers that /don't/ do this? I know IBM/Lenovo was doing it with their (R,T,X)40 series machines...that's the last I encountered it.


I didn't know this was happening. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. That said, it's far from insane: it's a side effect of capitalism and makes things even more profitable. It's usually software companies doing lock-in via weird formats, protocols, etc. Software being easier to bypass, it troubles me to see laptop hardware manufacturers following suit.

#10 nyphonejacks

nyphonejacks

    Dangerous free thinker

  • Members
  • 793 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:718

Posted 12 July 2012 - 09:24 AM

i think this is probably done more for a customer service prospective.

you have to understand that most users are idiots, and a company limiting the stuff that can connect to their hardware limits the problems that users are going to call in and flood their customer support lines with questions about..

while i do not care much for the walled-garden type of approach (which is one of the factors preventing me from ever owning any apple products) in the companies that are doing this with their hardware, i am sure the driving factor is reduced costs for customer service/support not necessarily increased sales of their add-ons, (although that is a nice added benefit) - even a call or email that the company has to tell you that the problem is not on their end still takes man hours, which cost the companies money..

#11 systems_glitch

systems_glitch

    Dangerous free thinker

  • Moderating Team
  • 1,641 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 12 July 2012 - 09:31 AM

you have to understand that most users are idiots, and a company limiting the stuff that can connect to their hardware limits the problems that users are going to call in and flood their customer support lines with questions about..


Probably true to some extent, but how many unskilled users are going to completely disassemble their netbook to change a wireless card? Now, on some of the other HP notebooks available, the wireless card is under a little panel on the bottom, just like RAM, which means that even relatively unskilled users /can/ change it out. But what gets me is that you can, without modification, change out the wireless card with one that HP supports and has whitelisted. You /can't/ install the exact same model of card that doesn't have the unique HP vendor ID programmed in. So, you buy a HP-branded Intel IWL5100, or you have to modify the BIOS.

That's what bothers me about this. I could fully understand not whitelisting (or blacklisting, the better option) incompatible products. But to limit options to a subset of compatible devices that have been programmed with /your/ Vendor ID is, IMO, breaking hardware on purpose.

Naturally, that's their choice as a business. But it's also my choice not to buy from them again.

while i do not care much for the walled-garden type of approach (which is one of the factors preventing me from ever owning any apple products)


Same here. We use Apple products for development exclusively at work, but I won't own one for personal use.

Edited by systems_glitch, 12 July 2012 - 09:34 AM.


#12 BayouBilly

BayouBilly

    Will I break 10 posts?

  • Moderating Team
  • 7 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Elevated

Posted 15 July 2012 - 04:56 PM

I spent five hours today un-bricking my HP Mini 110 netbook. Why? Because I botched an update to the BIOS that removed their hardware whitelist. For those who haven't encountered the BIOS whitelist, it's a fairly common practice with laptops. Vendors "customize" their BIOS with the HW IDs of the add-on options /they/ sell for a given system, and restrict things like wireless cards, bluetooth modules and WWAN cards through this facility. The result is, you've either got to run with a hacked BIOS or buy devices approved/branded/sold by the device manufacturer.

Srsly, why do manufacturers think this is a good idea? The majority of users will either buy add-ons and features through the manufacturer anyway, or are bright enough to figure out how to get around the restriction. It's absolutely insane to restrict one's choice of wireless card to the approved /versions/ the company sells, especially once the product is out of support. Of course, if they hadn't shipped a shitty Broadcom card in a Linux machine to start with, I wouldn't have had to find out.

Also, does anyone know of manufacturers that /don't/ do this? I know IBM/Lenovo was doing it with their (R,T,X)40 series machines...that's the last I encountered it.



Never had hat issue regarding a white list but these days anything is possible. Although I remember something called project blackbox, but maybe that was a rumor or something, where all the major companies were teaming up and implementing these security measures so that they could have control over every aspect of a machine. Fine I can see windows having a general hardware whitelist and anything else you will need to provide 3rd party drivers as it is now. But blocking at the bios level?? I can see this turning into a black market... we can start selling unlocked HP computers for a 400% markup and throw in a 3 piece ginsu knife set for 19.95. CALL NOW!!!




BinRev is hosted by the great people at Lunarpages!