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Auto-Suicide for Grey Market Electronics? 293

Atomic Snarl writes "For those of you breathing fast and hard about user rights after the purchase, what would you think if your TV/VCR/Cellphone/Dishwasher would die if you moved it out of an "authorized usage area?" Got a great boom box bargan on your last visit to Hong Kong, but now it won't work in Cleveland? Yuk! Read the New Scientist article to find out about a GPS chip design intended to kill your unit if it isn't supposed to be marketed in your area!" The implications are wide-ranging and unpleasant.
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Auto-Suicide for Grey Market Electronics?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hey, sorry to jump in with an Offtopic post (how ironic!) but I was curious about your sig:

    Moderating trolls and flames as "Offtopic" is Unfair and will be metamoderated as such.

    You're only referring to trolls and flames that are actually Ontopic, right? That is, if they're Offtopic along with these other shining qualities, it doesn't matter which you pick, correct? I don't really understand why you care what anyone calls it. It's a nice distinction, but is it really that important? I guess the way I see it is this: Crap is crap. If nothing else, I'd prefer my post be Offtopic and insightful than being Ontopic and a troll or a flame. Which, I guess, is what I'm hoping this post is.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And what happens when there's a sun flare and your nuclear missiles think they're in China?

    Goodbye, USA, that's what.

    Mind you, no-one outside the USA would particularly miss it.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    A number of companies make very small, very cheap GPS receivers which are meant for OEM-style use in other devices. SiRF [] makes a number of tiny, inexpensive receivers; here's a picture [] of one the size of a quarter. I believe Motorola's GPS division [] makes a very small Oncore receiver [] as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I agree, it should also kill you for being anywhere near a computer.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Better yet, leave a bunch of these gadgets lying around near your local Best Buy or Circuit City, and none of the spiffy GPS-restricted gadgets they are demonstrating in the store will work. The salesmen will have to tell the customers "the demo model is being jammed by vandals. This goes on all the time with these things, because of the GPS circuits."

    See how well they sell after that!

  • Fun happens >:)
  • I think you're right with your complaints about the erosion of property rights here in the United States. Once upon a time, if I bought it, it was mine. I could farm it, strip-mine it, burn it, whatever. Now it turns out that I bring home this piece of software that I bought at the store, just like buying a book or album or whatever, and what? There's this little slip of paper in here that says I did *NOT* buy this software? It says I'm merely *leasing* this software? And oh, if I don't do this, this, and this, they can take this legally purchased software *BACK* without refunding me any money?

    If the software industry was a car dealer, every major software publisher would be in jail for fraud. Misrepresenting a lease as a sale *IS* fraud in every jurisdiction in the country. It puzzles me how "content owners" can claim that they are protecting "property rights" when it appears to me that they are intent mostly upon removing *MY* property rights. The Constitution provides for copyright law. Copyright law grants "content owners" the right to restrict duplication and redistribution of copies, but does not otherwise infringe upon my property rights. But it appears that these bogus "shrink wrap" licenses (after-the-fact post-sales "click this" deals) are soon to be legally enforcible as the law of the land.


  • When I began my electronics career 25 years ago, Motorola was the premeir supplier of semiconductor devices. They also made some of the finest VHF radios available. The first microprocessor I worked with was the 6800. Their applications notes were top notch. To say that I had immense respect for Motorola was an understatement.

    By the mid 90s, all this changed when Motorola was taken over by bean counting MBAs who began to jettison less profitable product lines. They all but abandoned the power semiconductor market, announcing their intent to focus on the more lucrative CPU market. This was a harbinger of things to come. Now, it seems they are searching for new ways bolster their profits.

  • The funniest thing I find about it, is that it causes me to always flush twice!!

    Yeah...but you probably take a piss more than a dump, especially if you are like my wife. That way it's 1.5L instead of 6L or whatever each time that you whiz.

    Sure, a "killer application" may take a couple of flushes, but overall, it still works out to less water.

  • Pfft. Capitalism is great, but the players in it suffer from feedback.

    Remember, the goal of society permitting a capitalistic system (there may indeed be a better, though undiscovered one - never know) is to encourage efficiency through competition.

    It's a lot like free speech; rather than declare any one idea right, it must compete against other ideas, expecting that good ones will bubble up. (of course a student of memes will expect slightly different results) Even if MS were the best software house ever, it would be foolish to trust that it is the best software house possible, or that this was caused by it's monopoly.

    The goal of the businesses operating in a capitalistic system however is to make a profit. Generally at the expense of the competition. Eliminating them entirely is in fact ideal. Not for the system of course, but for the self-interested person in the system.

    Without systems in place to encourage competition, and supress monopolies, they will triumph.

    What happens when a group of companies forms a cartel? Well, they can pool their resources. And they can employ natural or create artificial barriers to entry to deny the market to competitiors. Tactical lawsuits certainly would seem to be a good method if nothing else works. Make your competitors burn through all their money and establish legal precedents to keep the rest in check.

    Not to mention that even if the small competitors (which are tolerated at best like tickbirds and never normally allowed to grow) do manage somehow to be a real threat to the monopoly, it has no interest in helping you. Better if it too is part of the monopoly, or destroys the first only to install one of its own.

    I agree that the government has been culpable, but your precious businesses are acting as expected. Using ANY means necessary to succeed. If that means buying off the government, they'd be happy to do so, and are known for it historically anyway.
  • So all they need is a module that'll detect that the VCR is connected to a cable system that offers 100+ channels but nothing good on any of them and it'll know it's in the U.S.?
  • They can force you to buy it the same way that they'll force you to buy all those internet connected refrigerators and microwaves that'll order groceries you don't want. They won't make any other kind and they'll make replacement parts for the older ones prohibitively expensive.
  • It is more accurate to say that technology tends to serve the interests of the party that develops it. "Good" and "evil" aren't very useful concepts in that analysis.
  • Remember, most people don't know about country coding for DVDs now, because most people don't travel overseas very often.

    I wouldn't go so far as to say that *most* people buying DVD's in Australia understand CSS, but a fair proportion do, as ordering DVDs from the US well before video release here is quite popular. It's gotten to the point where even the chain stores were openly advertising some of their units as "multi-zone" ;)

    New Zealand have gone even further, every DVD player shipped there *must* be multi-zone, IIRC, because the monopolies commission could smell the distinct odor of rat coming from the movie industry :)

  • Toast: You may toast bread slices or bagels not exceeding 44 mm in width in this device. Waffles are not allowed in this device without the purchase of the WAFFLE EXPANSION LICENSE.
    How about POP TARTS???


  • Ah, but when WWIII comes and the military blocks the signals, you'll get automatic energy conservation for the war effort. Probably get a good deal of scrap metal too as people toss the shit out.
  • One potentially useful applications might be in devices that broadcast RF, like cellphones or wireless networking stuff. A particular RF band licensed for use in one country might be reserved for, say, medical devices in another. With built-in GPS, your device could automatically switch frequency bands or shut off if it is moved into an area where it is prohibited.
  • Wouldn't that be more like:



  • Sorry, the consumer looses again.

    No, the American consumer loses again.

    For all the bullshit that is spouted about these corporate marketing restrictions existing to "foster innovation", the truth is anywhere outside the US you're pretty likely to come across a TV that takes PAL/NTSC/SECAM, a region-free DVD player, a Macrovision-free VCR, and a multi-mode cell phone with global roaming (not to forget the dirt-cheap HDTV flat widescreen TVs we are told are "prohibitively expensive")...

  • This article [] on the New Scientist [] web site discusses marine parks to preserve fish stocks. It demonstrates how marine parks increase fish catches in areas outside the parks and advocates an increase in their number.

    Fishing vessels could have this GPS chip installed in them. The chip could then shut down the fishing equipment when the vessel was within a marine park, or in an area where the vessel is not supposed to be, such as the territorial waters of another country.

    Governments could make it mandatory as a condition of the fishing licence for this chip to be installed and working properly. There is the likelihood that old vessels without the chip could fish illegally. The best way of deterring and combatting this would be for such vessels to be scuttled when detected, and only catches from certified compliant vessels having access to the best fish markets.

    Such measures may sound draconian, but they may ultimately be necessary. At present fish stocks the world over are being overexploited: one estimate I have heard recently puts the annual catch of the world fishing fleet at 40% more than the level needed to maintain stocks.

    However, installing this sort of technology in consumer electronics to serve no higher purpose than protecting the profits of the manufacturers will ultimately result in lower profits for the manufacturers. Not all manufacturers will opt to licence this technology, and they could gain market share because of it. There are also countries in the world with a good manufacturing base who would not allow this technology to be employed. Globalisation and free trade could also see such technology being made illegal, so expect a lot of bribes^H^H^H^H^H^H^H lobbying by major corporations to ensure that such technology is legal.

    We seem to be rapidly moving towards a corporate-run police state, with all the dire consequences that such a state will bring. A worst-case scenario would see the majority of the Western world's population enslaved by profiteering corporations within 50 years. (You Must Spend All Your Income To Make The Corporation Richer. This Is Where You Will Go Today. You May Not Do Anything That May Compromise Corporate Profit. Work Shall Make You Free.) The sooner the general public is made aware of all this restrictive technology, the better off we will be in the future.

    Finally, I have a short reading list that you may find useful.

    George Orwell, "1984".
    Ray Bradbury, "Fahrenheit 451".

  • But you don't mind me using the word "kaflooey" in the same sentence?

    Funny thing is, you don't get to decide what is and is not a word. If I use it and you understand it, it's ia word whether you like it being one or not.

    Kevin Fox
  • Fact is, if something like this is implemented, within a week you'll see "GPS Signal Squelchers", and / or "Short Range GPS Transmitters" to fool your dishwasher into thinking it's still in Cambodia. I think development of this type of gps technology is good, as is most development. But if it's being used for no-good, then people will just take the power back. That's our theme here at Slashdot isn't it?
  • GPS is going to be ultra cheap very soon. I worked for a company that has a one chip + antennae gps solution, and the antennae can be wound pretty tight if you're willing to give up some performance (which for simple needs devices like this would be acceptable). You can get the whole package into about a 2x2 inch area for a cost that will come down into the $5 range as soon as they produce them in large numbers. $5 is still high for an addon to consumer equipment, but at least for high end gear (anything over $300 retail) it is probably feasible, and the cost will
    obviously keep coming down, particularly once they can wind or fractal the antennae onto the chip.
  • Actually, my understanding is that the low-flow toilets are 1.5 gallons per flush... and when I've done some major, uh, business, two flushes is lucky...

  • We don't even need to do that. If Sony puts it in the PS2's, Saddam's weapons program will be set back years.

  • ... things like this only work where there is a very strong monopoly on a particular technology. the fact is, if all major producers of TVs band together and support this technology in a do-or-die fashion, there will be hundreds of upstarts from china, korea, even the US, who will happily jump in and provide what consumers want.

    because the big companies are usually not willing to risk everything (literally) for a relatively small gain like controlling grey markets. what surprises me is that they try it over and over again.

    the RIAA's/Napster conflict is different. the RIAA (thinks it) becomes obsolete with Napster, so it has to stage an all-or-nothing war. and even there, Bertelsmann is there to try and spoil the party. capitalism - sometimes it works.


    ps: Motorola, get back to speed up those PowerPCs! God, this company is lame...
  • Doesn't snaptrack inherently depend on information sent and received from servers through the cellular network (i.e. what satellites are up, etc?)
  • Sorry, GPS doesn't work indoors.

    It might work for the cell phones, but not
    for the TV's. The TV's would require off-air
    antennas for the broadcast signal.
  • Let's look at DIVX.

    I'm sure Motorola,, have. They will be smarter with the introduction. They will not advertise the presence of the devices. This will not be a problem for most people, and the first few who complain will find a call to tech support will get them a replacement. Remember, most people don't know about country coding for DVDs now, because most people don't travel overseas very often. Only after the use of these devices have become very ingrained in business will Motorola open discuss what they are doing.

    I always thought the American environmental regulations controlling toilet flow creating a black market in old toilets was the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of

    The funniest thing I find about it, is that it causes me to always flush twice!! That is, I use more water with the new 'water efficient' models than I did with the old 'use enough water to make sure it all goes down' types. Mark this down to the laws of unintended conseqences. Not only will the market for used A/V equipment open up, but people will be a lot more willing to buy an off brand TV made in some no-name Mexican plant using dated technology.

  • True.. in the grand scheme of things, aircraft navigation and auto crashes are more important than the operability of my toaster, but if there was a problem with the GPS system, my airbag would still inflate and the pilots would still manage to get the plane to its destination.

    And this doesn't even get into more likely problems. I've never owned any GPS devices before, but how well do they work when you're inside a building, or underground? My CD player doesn't care where in the world I am, but if it had as much trouble operating as my cell phone does when I'm in the basement, we may see other problems even when the GPS system IS functioning perfectly.
  • what, did Talkie Toster meet a lawyer?
  • Indeed. I'd buy a crippled product (this applies more to one-time-use-MP3s), if:
    • The price is fair (only 40% as useful? then 40% the price)
    • An uncrippled version is available for purchase at the original price
    But I'm pretty sure that as soon as crippled songs/dishwashers/kitchen-sink become available, the costs for the crippled versions will be unreasonable if you stop and think about it for a second (but few people will), and the uncrippled version won't be available except through questionable vendors.

    My point is... the use of technology to produce "lesser" products isn't evil... but the use of technology by large companies to gain more control over consumers and squeeze more money out of them is. Just don't knee-jerk about a particular technology.

  • Unlike software, where most companies routinely get away with "license" terms that deny the implied warranty of "fitness for a particular purpose", hardware manufacturers have to see to it that what they sell you works, and if it doesn't you get your money back.

    SO, if you buy a Sony walkman in Tokyo, and it torches itself when you step off a plane in Vancouver, Sony owes you a refund, and you can take it up with your local consumer protection agency. Every US state and Canadian province has them.

  • If the company in question has any presence in the US, you can sue them here. It's just like the French government suing E-Bay to prohibit the selling of NAZI memorabilia.
  • Government-regulated crony capitalism is the problem, where the government either steals taxes to enforce laws which would not exist in a free market (e.g. against people who choose to make their own DVD players without signing the DVD consortium agreements), and to raise the price of entry to a market so that competitors cannot afford to enter.

    Moderate this up. I am still amazed by those who believe that government is the solution to corporate abuses, when these abuses are only possible because the government rewrites the law to favor itself and certain businesses at the expense of consumers. Region coding and CSS would be non-issues if they weren't legally enforceable with the DMCA. Many privacy concerns today would not exist if the US government had not prevented the widespread use of encryption. Then there's the Sonny Bono copyright extension act, the Communications Decency Act, Echelon, and the list goes on. The government and both major parties have a very poor record of protecting our rights, and giving them more power is the last thing I would do.

  • Yeah, but why would anyone buy something that had such bad reliability?
  • First DVDs, now electronics.


    If I bought it, *why* can't I *use* it wherever I go?!

    Can someone explain the rationale for dvd region codes? (Aside from the obvious answer of "money" :-(
  • You are missing my point. Just by silently boycotting, you aren't getting your point across, whatever your particular point is. The RIAA and MPAA folks are misinterpreting your actions and that leads them to doing things that aren't going to address your concerns.

    It's sort of like the Florida vote. I've cast blank ballots in protest before but I'll think twice about doing it now since it's been labelled OK for some tea leaf reader down at county election to 'interpret' my blank ballot as really voting for X.

  • in a freak accident takes out one of the GPS satellites. Every bit of consumer electronics in the 'North American Marketing Region' immediately shuts down

    Nice joke, nice theory, but that's not how GPS works. There are up to 30 satellites, including spares, in orbit. The receiver needs to have line of sight to three of them to pinpoint latitude and longitude. My receiver usually can see six or more, giving altitude and redundancy.

    Also, to the other jokester who commented that military scrambling could break devices who depend on GPS, the military SA (Selective Ability) feature just degrades the accuracy, it would not render GPS totally offline. It could, in extreme scenarios, but too many USA forces depend on non-military-enabled consumer GPS units.

  • No, I did say that in severe cases, they can turn it off. It was in fact during Operation Desert Storm that they tried tuning SA for best military advantage, but they reversed themselves.

    First, our own forces didn't have enough milspec GPS units available, so they had relatives mailing over civilian Garmins and Magellans. Second, the Iraqis didn't have much in the way of GPS, so they decided to kill SA so our forces could use civilian GPS signals.

    SA is also targetable to terrain: if they want the satellites to remain mum over Bosnia, it won't hurt your Garmin receivers in Texas one bit. That's the "selective" in "SA".

  • Everyone crys out foul whenever some scheme like this is hatched. But everyone always forgets that WE, the technology lovers, the ones who are the first in line to buy (or at least take a look at) new devices, are the ones that determine the success or failure of new technology. We adopt these new things early on and (if they are good), reccommend them to out non-technology-saavy friends are relatives. Where would DVD be if, back in 1997, we weren't first in line to buy both consumer and computer DVD players, drives, and other hardware? It would be a niche product that wouldn't have the sales volume it has today (sort of like laserdisc), despite all of Hollywood's hype.

    So, the solution is not to buy new products that have restrictions on them. Pure and simple.

    And, if by change, they work their way into existing products, BUG THE HELL OUT OF THE MANUFACTURERS with constant "It doesn't work" calls and letters. Make it no longer cost effective to produce them.
  • There's one major difference between technologies like this and DivX. DivX was intrusive, annoying and obvious. Something like this is not advertised, except in fine print somewhere that says you can't use it in a country outside where you bought it.

    Further, the difference between DivX and something like this is that DivX affected what most people did normally. I don't know that many people that transport dishwashers between countries. Most people I know buy their dishwashers in the US and use them there. These people would not care if their dishwasher would not work in Hong Kong because they don't intend to take it there!
  • They want the best of both worlds. They want to be able to use cheap third world labor and slack third world environmental laws to cheaply create products that they can sell in different parts of the world, for the maximum price that that part of the world will pay.

    They want to stop us from importing electronics, movies, CD's and such from parts of the world where they sell the exact same items for 1/2 the price.

    Free trade is not something the common man is supposed to be able to take advantage of. It is supposed to be something the corps can use to increase their profits.

    Against intellectual property [] chapter three of Information Liberation []
  • Putting these chips in phones sort of kills the idea behind international roaming doesn't it? I can't see the mobile phone service providers being happy with this.

    International roaming is one of their highest profit activities.
  • I agree it seems like it should be easy to jam. Which would then make these little jamming devices (which would probably be programmable for any area) ubiquitous. That would then cause a lot of havoc for the ever more legitimate uses of GPS, which in turn, would lead to the knee-jerk reaction by government, to outlaw the GPS jammers. So we would end up criminals again, just for trying to use legitimately purchased electronic equipment. Sucks to be us.

    Definately not a pretty scenerio.

    My guess is that the regional encodeing will not be integrated into larger chips (at least at first) so it may be possible to by-pass them on the circuit board, without having broadcasting a pirate GPS signal.

    Also isn't there some type of encryption/error checking, etc involved with the sign itself? Otherwise what is to prevent a rogue nation from intercepting/jamming/spoofing our GPS signals?

    I image a scenerio where the little broadcast chip is taped onto a watch battery, and put into some type of "buckshot" arrangemnt dropped over urban areas, or some other strategic place.

    I cannot image the engineers who built the system would have made it so vulnerable. But since I know abosultely nothing at all about how GPS works, I am just speculating, and so I am probably way off base. So if someone more knowledgable would enlighten me I would be gratefule.

  • You don't have to "cheat" in order to be aware of many of these limitations. All you have to do is attempt to use these devices in anyway other than their extremely basic functions. Which means that probably > 50% of the people will never know about it, but enough will, and hopefully they'll be enough to persuade the others not to use/buy the new devices.

    Man, stuff like this keeps moving me closer and closer to just buying a hi-fi stereo integrated-amplifier instead of a surround receiver.


  • Check out what Qualcomm (SnapTrack) and their competition are doing. There are a number of companies working on GPS which will get embedded in cell phones, two way pagers,... and it's designed to work indoors. Qualcomm spent $2B on SnapTrack so they obviously believe in the technology.

  • TVs/VCRs/Cellphones/etc. already do this. NTSC vs. PAL takes care of TVs and VCRs. CDMA vs GSM takes cares of your cellphones.

    Except in the case of NTSC vs. PAL and CDMA/TDMA/GSM/CDPD, etc., the fragmenting was haphazard and the result of different areas using incompatible standards. The difference here is that it's NOT an incompatible standard, in fact, it's a very uniform, world-wide standard on how to artificially create regions. The first has no clear malice of forethought, while DVD encoding and this Motorola GPS system are very specifically designed with the malicious creation of artificial market segments in mind. The former is bad for consumers, but not illegal. The latter is bad for consumers, and highly illegal. I just wish someone in Washington would figure that out, since they seem to have missed the threat to free trade that AOL/TimeWarner/Netscape/Mirabilis poses, and that other cartels such as the MPAA and RIAA pose. Yeah, Microsoft is up there, but the cartels are even more dangerous.


  • What the DVD Consortium, Motorola et al, and just about every other group that is pushing a regionalization scheme is doing is supporting a cartel. A cartel is illegal in the United States, according to the Sherman Anit-Trust Act, the same one that restricts monopolies.

    For the record a cartel is defined as "a combination of independent commercial or industrial enterprises designed to limit competition or fix prices." (Mirriam-Webster Online)

    Now, regionalization schemes do what? (Be it CSS, Motorola's GPS system, or something else.) They divide up the market so that companies can charge different prices in different areas. That is, fix prices. The fact that we haven't broken up the MPAA and RIAA is already a disgrace, as they are some of the most obvious and blatant cartels in American history, but if we allow companies to now segment ALL products into market regions? Californians have more money than Kentuckians, on average, so lets charge twice as much for a washing machine in California than Kentucky, even though it's cheaper to ship them there. "What the market will bear" and all of that jazz.

    "Free market" capitalism is one of those things that works really nice on paper, but in the real world fails miserably. What's to stop competitors from joining forces into a cartel? Absolutely nothing. Oh, wait, except the government who can stop them through the legal system. But we can't have that, that would be socialism which is synonimous with demon spawn, right? And no, you can't "vote with your dollars" and go elsewhere, because there is no elsewhere to go. That's the whole point of a cartel. And no, you can't start up your own company, because the cost of entry in the modern marketplace is so high. Add to that the licensing costs of using technology to be compatible, and you have yourself an impenitrable cartel. (You don't like CSS and want to make DVDs without it? Sorry, they won't be compatible unless you sign agreements with the patent/copyright holders, the MPAA, who will require you to play by their rules and become one of them.)

    I know there's a strong anti-government sentiment in this country and on Slashdot in particular, but I offer you a choice: The government you pick in the voting booth (buying an election only works if people like you are dumb enough to vote for the best commerical rather than the best candidate) and have control over and is YOUR GOVERNMENT, or a consortium of a few rich individuals who are answerable to no one but their own bottom line and who are indoctrinated to screw you over if they possibly can.

    I don't know about you, but it's an easy choice for me. It's time to start busting some trusts left and right, starting with the MPAA, moving on to AOL/TimeWarner, any company that incorporates this "market division" technology, and just keep right on going. Splitting the compaines up should encourage competition, which is supposedly a good thing, right?

    Ah, Teddy Roosevelt, where are you when we need you?


  • For those of you breathing fast and hard about user rights after the purchase, what would you think if your TV/VCR/Cellphone/Dishwasher would die if you moved it out of an "authorized usage area?" Got a great boom box bargan on your last visit to Hong Kong, but now it won't work in Cleveland? Yuk!

    Sounds a lot like region coding on DVDs. Take your DVD outside zone X, and it won't work any more. Just imagine what an uproar there would be if TVs/VCRs/Cellphones/etc. did this as well.

    Check in...OK! Check out...OK!
  • Quite too slow for safety, though. What is needed is something to break it up so it's tougher to salvage.

    Tell me what makes you so afraid
    Of all those people you say you hate

  • What if your DVD movies wouldn't work if you took them away from where you are supposed to use them... Oh wait, they do.

    Honestly, this technology could be used for many other things. Military electronics and the such could be set to self destruct over time, so that things like The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy can't take place when terrorists find things lying around. However, this technology should stay out of the civilian area.

    Tell me what makes you so afraid
    Of all those people you say you hate

  • Injecting neutrons could help a bit...

    Tell me what makes you so afraid
    Of all those people you say you hate

  • There are TVs and VCRs that work with both types of signal, and some cell phones do the same thing. This auto-suicide feature would be aimed more towards restricting things to actual regions, not inadvertent differentiation such as these differing standards have.

    Tell me what makes you so afraid
    Of all those people you say you hate

  • The way I see it, a lot of people here seem to think that content controls on devices (this, or encryption, or whatever), is somehow infringing on their rights. How so?

    When the industry does something like this, you have two choices. If the equipment, along with its restrictions, is worth the price to you, then you go buy it. If not, then you don't. Simple as that. I've never heard anywhere that anyone somehow has a god-given right to equipment without content controls.

    If this poses a problem to enough people, (which companies will notice by people not buying their products), then somebody will get the bright idea to manufacture the machines without the controls. It's obvious that hardware manufacturers don't particularily care about maintaining control; they just want the money. Maybe they'll charge more for equipment without content controls; it will be up to you consumers to decide whether it's worth the price or not.

    The biggest argument I see here is that, "But soon, I won't be able to buy [insert topic of slashdot article here] without [insert control being discussed here]." So what? Even if that's true (and I tend to doubt it, as for the most part companies haven't had much luck convincing consumers that they need to be controlled more), that shouldn't effect you. If the reduced utility or infringement on your 'rights' makes it not worth having, don't buy it.

    The problem is that most of the posters here won't follow up on what they say. Not only will they not make their thoughts known to the hardware manufacturers, but when the newest toy shows up, who will be first in line? Businesses exist to make money, and the people here provide a substantial amount of what goes to any sort of tech industry.

    Sorry for the long and probably senseless ramble ... but I think it has to be said once, so you'll all have something to jeer at.

  • Heh ... now what would be useful would be if weapons manufacturers started using something like this... "Sure, Saddam, we'll sell you any missiles you want." Then, as soon as the weapons are fired...
  • Cookiecutters they would work better and not be nearly as messy and we should give them to the "elected" people to same conditions. :)
    If you don't get the above go read "The Diamond Age" and then talk to me.
  • While I don't generally like the idea of this, I think you'll see hotels and corporations warm to the idea to reduce the loss of certain assets. But I don't think it is appropriate for the consumer market.

    I can just see it now... All hotel towels will have little tags reading Warning: This towel will burst into flames if you remove it from the hotel.

  • Great, let's all boycott controlled devices! Sounds good to me! Only it's A.D. 2048, and there ain't no such thing anymore. So, what are you going to do? Give in and get one, or keep up your boycott at all costs? You can probably do without a TV, given the crap that TV programming has turned into, and you can even do without a dishwasher if you don't mind getting your hands dirty every once in a while. But how about your fridge? Will you walk to the store every day for your food--not that you'd have anything to cook it on except your old charcoal grill--or will you build yourself an "unencumbered" bicycle and hope that the authorities don't come and take it away before it breaks down of its own accord?

    Or will you just give in and get a fridge with one of those nifty two-way TV screens on it?


  • From reading the article, it seems that Motorola has come up with a general scheme, and is seeing how the world reacts. It is a simple fact that some things are more expensive in some areas than others, and they are attempting to keep that situation through technology.

    They aren't just using GPS, however. It sounds like they are contemplating other signals to determine location. TV signals, radio signals, or some other kind of signals could be used, if the signal is different enough to determine the area it is being used in. Don't think of the weaknesses of GPS reception, think of radio and TV reception.

    What is the impact? If you want to buy cheap electronics from some other country, electronics you could buy in the U.S. at a higher price, you'll have to take other actions, such as modifying the equipment, sheilding your house, or other drastic measures.

    It seems a little counter-intuitive. Only the "cheaper" version needs protection, but the cost will go up with the addition of protective devices, lowering the demand for the cheaper version. Free-trade areas like WTO and EU seem to be against it. The only benefit seems to be in the area of consumer electronics like Playstations, where regional sales tactics may already be in place, and there is already a healthy market in moding these boxes. Healthy, but it is a minority market - most people won't go through the trouble of ordering from China and waiting a month if they can pick up the same thing, 10% more, at the local store.

  • Just the problems this would cause the government. At least in the cases where they move their employees around. Not to mention the private sector.
  • It is a bad idea to make devices fry themselves permanently if they do not constantly recieve a GPS signal. Realisticly, at the very worst the device will cease to operate until it begins recieving the GPS signal again. This still sucks, but it's not QUITE as bad.

    I seriously doubt a system in which devices permanently fry themselves as soon as there is a lapse in the GPS signal are what they intend to implement.

    I don't see them getting away with this one though. There are far too many things that could go wrong.
  • If they can make a GPS engine cheap enough to throw into a VCR to enable this scheme I think I will buy one just for the engine ;)
  • i didn't purchase the travel license.


  • I foresee a boom in the analog toaster market.

    Just think, we'll be driven back to using stuff in antique stores, simply because the greedy bastards won't sell us one without some chip. Back to the future.


  • 1. As the author includes in the article, this would encourage price fixing. Easily contested in court by any grey-marketeer willing to put up his/her dukes.

    2. Put this crap in your product and suffer an end around by industries who don't play ball the way you want them. Sony would be able to flex some muscle, as they own music, TV and motion picture rights to a sizeable catalog, but see how well the Mini-Disc is doing if you want a preview of this poorly thought out logic.


  • I sincerly doubt that this type of system would pass the legality test in the United States. I can see this being taken all the way to the Supreme Court (possibly in a class-action suit). Importers could argue that they are illegally fixing prices by creating devices that won't function. Consumers could argue the devices are defective; they abided by all laws, paid their import dues, did everything correctly, yet their device won't work because it is in the wrong region.

    We still have a few sane people left in our court system. I really don't fear it; let them introduce it, then we will take the bastards down in court and make a public example of them, and perhaps other corporations will take notice..... at least, that is my hope.

    The IHA Forums []
  • Now Motorola's European research laboratory has found a way to thwart these grey imports by fitting equipment with a device that secretly checks where it is.

    Not any more it doesn't.

  • Or short those companies as they get sued to death!
  • Let's look at DIVX. Now there was a product that was needlessly complicated and overly restictive and Circuit City probably lost a bundle when it failed. Who, in the tech community _didn't_ see it coming? Not many, I imagine. I have a feeling that this kind of application of technology could backfire immensely on any companies that choose to use it.

    If only it always worked that way. DIVX was stupid. Here's how people play the game now:

    1. "Industry standards". Actually a form of collusion, all the makers of HDTVs or DVDs or whatever get together and agree to incorporate anti-consumer technology into all their products. This is illegal, the Justice Department should sue their asses into oblivion, but that isn't gonna happen.

    2. Stealth mode. Windows XP will keep playing all my MP3s until MS sends the signal to cut off the "illegal content" - the MP3s I got from and my own CDs. You can do this with anything - just install a clock that the user can't modify and give it a fixed date to switch to "control mode".

    3. The DMCA. Ruthlessly hunt down anyone who tries to give us our rights back, and declare that they are thieves.
  • Motorola's [] on to an interesting marketing gimmick enforcement mechanism. But what about the legal/contract law implications?

    For example, If I buy a CD player, will I be required to agree to a license? If I don't agree and the device suicides, will I be able to sue the manufacturer, the distributor, or the retailer? After all, if I buy the device at the local Circuit City [] but the sales clerk didn't point out the agreement to me, or I bought the device on the gray market, I shouldn't be bound by the terms of the license, should I?

    This looks like one more insidious possibility of UCITA [] shrink-wrap licenses causing grief in the marketplace.

    Don't forget to read the unbiased news about UCITA, also (Not that Stallman's opinion doesn't explain enough...).

  • &nbsp

    Just imagine...

    ...Having to go back to your slimey neighborhood auto dealer to buy a 1 month "Vacation License" so you can drive your car out of your "Designated Purchase Region".

    Give's a WHOLE new meaning to the term 'lube job', don't it?

    "A microprocessor... is a terrible thing to waste." --

  • No way, the EULA's bundled inside the toaster so by the time you read it, you're already screwed.

    A piece of paper inside a toaster box isn't a license, or contract. It's just a factually incorrect statement. Presumably, the arguement behind EULAs holds because the user "signs" the contract by clicking a button.

    A contract must be agreed to, for it to be valid. If you don't agree with the contract included in the box, don't accept its terms. The vendor may ask you to return the product; if it does so, simply refuse. If they want it back, they have to pay for it, like you did.

    All men are great
    before declaring war

  • Or something
    I can See It Now(tm).
    It's 2012, we get hit by a bad solar flare. A Payload Assist Module accidentally ignites and in a freak accident takes out one of the GPS satellites. Every bit of consumer electronics in the 'North American Marketing Region' immediately shuts down because it is 'out of the authorized market area'. The crowds do go wild - but not in a nice way. The heads of the networks will go up on pikes right alongside the heads of the government for letting em foist the technology on us.

    Now that would be a real plot for a disaster movie. But don't come a calling if you are a member of the MPAA. I'll sell the screenplay (already in progress) to an indie.
  • As long as there are acceptable alternatives, the market will avoid stupid products.

    If I have a choice between two similar cellphones, one that works everywhere, and one that self-destructs if I take it to Canada, I'll probably choose the non-self-destruct one. But if I'm offered $100 off the self-destruct phone, I might be willing to live with that limitation.

    How much of a discount would typical consumers need in order to purchase a limited product? Is the manufacturer's gain in market control worth it?
  • She should die when she attempts to leave the kitchen.
  • battery-powered GPS, all it needs to do is detect while it's on the truck to the store or your taking it home in the back of your pickup.

    And if someone spoofs it once, goodbye? I can just see driving round with a spoofing unit set to, say, india, and trashing every appliance in the neighbourhood. It'd be worth doing just once for the sheer havoc you'd cause. How about grand final day, about noon?

  • There are a couple of ways to deal with that problem, but the easiest would be to require the user to wire the house with a GPS antenna. The device could simply refuse to work if it couldn't find a GPS signal.

  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <pig DOT hogger AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday February 22, 2001 @01:32PM (#410128) Journal
    It's 2012, we get hit by a bad solar flare. A Payload Assist Module accidentally ignites and in a freak accident takes out one of the GPS satellites. Every bit of consumer electronics in the 'North American Marketing Region' immediately shuts down because it is 'out of the authorized market area'. The crowds do go wild - but not in a nice way. The heads of the networks will go up on pikes right alongside the heads of the government for letting em foist the technology on us.
    - And one by one, the [atomic-powered] washing machines, automobiles, radios, autocookers will cease to function. The people will get angry.

    - What are you expect? A jacquerie? The peasants shouting "give us back our roto-zoom cleaning machines!!"? I'm afraid that it takes more than that to instill a revolution!!

    Salvor Hardin to a planetary king's advisor, in The merchant princes (Foundation), by Isaac Asimov


  • by Erik Hensema ( 12898 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:28PM (#410129) Homepage
    Yeah, imagine that! The American president can switch off GPS for civilian use any time he wishes, so now he can turn off televisions and cellular phones worldwide ;-)

    How 'bout that power?
  • by redhog ( 15207 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:20PM (#410130) Homepage
    Hm. Won't this upset these orgs. I mean, this is hindering of free trade...

    Btw, someone will probably _quickly_ find out a standard way of bridging over these chips if they aren't integrated into some other chips ine one dye.
  • by DiningPhilosopher ( 17036 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @01:44PM (#410131)

    DIVX consumers were likely to understand how the system worked ("what's that phone line for again?") Newer right-restricting technologies are more cleverly hidden. What percentage of American DVD purchasers do you think understand what region encoding is? I'd wager it's about 20% and getting lower every day. Everything they see for sale is R1 - they don't have to know about it.

    Devices like MP3 players are already incorporating content controls - nobody knows they're there. The same will be true of content sensitive HDTVs, speakers, etc. The average consumer will never attempt to "cheat" and will never even be aware of the limitations.

    Under these conditions I really don't think consumers will reject content controlling devices.

  • by rw2 ( 17419 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:40PM (#410132) Homepage
    That might be fun to build one even if this tech doesn't see the light of day. Useful for hiding it near one of those GPS game spots. hhehe

    Yeah. Hang them from trees and lead folks around in 4K circles in the woods! Then make wierd noises from off in the distance and leave bundles of twigs and stuff outside their tents every night. :-)


  • by Restil ( 31903 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:34PM (#410133) Homepage
    What would happen if for some reason the GPS network developed a... problem. Say we have an unusually heavy meteor shower, which would cause no undue damage to earth itself but could reign utter havoc on satellites in orbit. Its not inconcievable that enough of the GPS satellites could be disabled that would cause GPS devices on Earth to become disabled. If this were to happen, does this mean that all consumer goods would fail to function until the sats were repaired or replaced?

  • by Christianfreak ( 100697 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:54PM (#410134) Homepage Journal
    I'm really hoping that your post is sarcasm. True criminals would be hurt by such an application but to state that people don't move is ludicrous! I'm 21 and I've moved 15 times in my life, across two continents. People in today's society move all the time and that will only increase. Such an application will defenately affect everyone who owns electronics. There are better ways to deter crime.

    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • by john1 ( 106860 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:33PM (#410135)
    Hmm, if devices 'are programmed to identify the signal transmitted by national broadcasters' then just think what fun you could have with a small radio transmitter and a bit of hacking. Drive around town transmitting codes from another country, and cause everyone electronics to self destruct. Now, better get shares in those electronic manufacturing and retail companies first... then as people rush out to replace their old stuff, sit back and rake in the money.
  • by JesseL ( 107722 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @01:21PM (#410136) Homepage Journal

    Yes, I propose a system whereby unused plutonium and other weapons grade radioactive materials are destroyed by rapid and perfectly symetrical implosion. That should solve a lot of problems.

  • by Tassach ( 137772 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @01:18PM (#410137)
    Technology is neutral. For any given piece of technology, there are pro-freedom and anti-freedom applications. Take guns: in the hands of tyrants, they are wonderful instruments of opression; in the hands of free men, they are the last defense against tyrrany.

    Power comes from understanding how the technology works and being able to bend it to your will. This is the essence of being a hacker.

  • by wmoyes ( 215662 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:24PM (#410138)
    GPS won't work? Why? Ever try using a GPS unit inside your house? If you have a metal roof you are SOL, and if you have ever tried using a cheap GPS, they are lucky to lock on even under a clear sky.

    National broadcast signal? How hard would it be for me to either a) block the signal by clipping the antenna so it does not know where its at, or b) jam the signal so none of my nebigors equipment knows where its at. If the unit must know where its at so it can operate all my nebigors will complain when someone jams it, and if it will default to functional then a pair of wire cutters should do the trick.

    This scheme will never work.

  • by wmoyes ( 215662 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:44PM (#410139)
    True, you would not need a full-blown GPS engine, but you would need a sizeable portion of one. For sake of argument, lets say you just wanted to identify which hemisphere you are in (this can be done by identifying which satellites signals can be detected, no phase comparison needed to identify the exact location).

    You would need an antenna capable of receiving the signal, the necessary amplifiers, at least one CDMA correlator, and a microprocessor to drive the show. You would need to find at least one satellite and then download the satellites almanac (keep in mind GPS satellites are no geo-synchronous). From the almanac downloaded from the satellite, and the satellites PN number you could computer a rough idea (probably about 300 miles, I would have to look closer at the specs) of where you are.

    What more would you need for a full-blown GPS? Just multiplex the use of the one correlator, and keep track of the relative locations in the PN code. That's mainly just software. So cost wise, there isn't much difference. Sorry.

  • by jabber01 ( 225154 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:27PM (#410140)
    How intriguing.. Now you can be insured only for certain States or areas... If you cross the State line into New Jersey, where you are not insured... putt, putt, sputter, stop!

    Better still, your premium can be billed by how much, and how fast, you drive. If you think that having your telephone billed by the second was neat, wait until Allstate and Geiko make GPS transcievers a mandatory feature of being their client.

    Things to watch for: A deal between Microsoft and Toshiba that renders Office XP useless on Toshiba laptops when taken into countries where Microsoft software is known to be pirated.

    How absolutely fascinating.

    The REAL jabber has the /. user id: 13196

  • by KFury ( 19522 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:35PM (#410141) Homepage
    DVDs will work in any geographic area. They just wont work on players made for that region. If I have a portable Panasonic DVD player, I can take it with me to Europe and still watch my Region 1 discs. If I had one with a zap chip in it, I couldn't use the unit at all outside the area (and depending on how you interpret the article, anywhere else after attempting to do so).

    Kevin Fox
  • by rw2 ( 17419 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:29PM (#410142) Homepage
    I'm just going to mount a few antenna's in my attic and broadcast pirate GPS and make my house think it's in Korea!


  • by KFury ( 19522 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:43PM (#410143) Homepage
    This is terrible. First off, what happens if it can't detect a GPS signal at all? Will it operate? I know GPS doesn't come through many buildings, or any basements.

    If the GPS system hiccups, or there's a bug like the 'thousandth week' GPS bug that could have wreaked havoc in 1999, do the boxen all go kaflooey?

    Worse yet, considering DGPS uses ground stations, could someone set up a few local area transmitters to give out false readings, selectively destroying hardware in a localized region?

    Even worse, what would stop a foreign power from doing the same thing, sending out false GPS from a few of their sattelietes at a specific moment before an attack. When a pager sattelite went down in 1998, US productivity went down 6% (if you really want me to find the link, I will, but this is an statistic). what happens if 70% of the cellphones, radios and televisions all went out at the same time? This sounds like just the FUD tactic any superpower or terrorist organization would love to have.

    Bomb an embassy? Bad. Knock out half the TVs in the continental US and you'll have serious consequences.

    I'd be as likely to buy something with one of these cips inside it as I would to install a utility on my Linux box that wipes the drive if someone tries to SSH in with the wrong password.

    Kevin Fox
  • by ywwg ( 20925 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @01:34PM (#410144) Homepage
    I shake my head whenever I see things like this. Companies seem to have the idea that they need to maintain control over products after they have been sold to a customer. Do we need a consumer's bill o' rights? It's obvious that we are basically helpless as consumers to enact any change. All the WTO protests in the world aren't going to change the fact that people _need_ a refridgerator.

    I think part of this new concept of control stems from the basic idea of selling software: when you buy software (when you _do_ buy it) you are buying the right to use the software. This is slowly being extended. Now we don't buy the music, we buy the right to listen to it. Soon, will we buy the right to open a fridge?

    The concept of ownership is slowly being erroded. We need to do _something_ to ensure that in this next century we have the right to use the products we buy how we choose, even if it doesn't fit into the scope of its intended usage.
  • by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:32PM (#410145) Homepage Journal
    We are hearing more and more about technology that will impose capricious and draconian restrictions on what we consumers can do with the products we buy. From the DCMA and its offspring like SDMI, to built-in GPS for region control, to the alleged new CD format that will prevent copying, to digital TV that won't allow the signal to be recorded, to speakers that won't allow unauthorized signals to be played, there are so many new ideas being floated about of ways for companies to "protect their rights" (which also means artifically increase profits and take advantage of helpless customers). The industry's reaction to things like Napster could end up having a terrible effect on people who have never even used it.

    When these technologies become incorporated into new CD players, DVD players, VCR's, etc, those products had better offer something so new, so cool, and so revolutionary that people will be willing to submit to Soviet-style restrictions on fair use in order to get them. If that doesn't happen, you can guarantee that savvy customers will boycott the products.

    Let's look at DIVX. Now there was a product that was needlessly complicated and overly restictive and Circuit City probably lost a bundle when it failed. Who, in the tech community _didn't_ see it coming? Not many, I imagine. I have a feeling that this kind of application of technology could backfire immensely on any companies that choose to use it.

    I always thought the American environmental regulations controlling toilet flow creating a black market in old toilets was the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of, just wait until we see old analog A/V equipment becoming more and more of a prized possesion, so people can make reasonable use of the products and software (i.e., music, movies, etc) they buy.

    Big Brother is alive and well, but he's currently employed in the private sector.

  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:35PM (#410146) Homepage Journal
    I propose implanting these chips into lobbyist's heads, along with a small charge of TNT. We then program the chips to detonate the charge whenever the lobbyist gets within a mile of an elected official.

    This, of course, requires we chip elected officials, and continuously monitor their locations. Since this seems to be what they wish to do to us, they should have little problem with experiencing it themselves.

    This would also have the side effect of allowing us to locate the positions of bars, brothels, and gambling houses with unprecidented accuracy.
  • by scoove ( 71173 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:37PM (#410147)
    Now we'll be required to read the fine print of a EULA before unpacking that toaster, waffle iron, hair dryer, etc:


    Congratulations on your purchase of a ACME Toaster 1000. Prior to opening and using this toaster, you must read and accept the terms of this agreement.


    The EULA gives you the following rights:

    • Toast: You may toast bread slices or bagels not exceeding 44 mm in width in this device. Waffles are not allowed in this device without the purchase of the WAFFLE EXPANSION LICENSE.
    • Multiple Use: Only one household user is allowed per toaster. Use by other parties is prohibited and is a violation of this agreement (see SERVER TOASTER OPTION in the user manual for details on multiple use toasters).


    1. Limitations of Reverse Engineering: You may not disassemble, open, or otherwise alter this toaster.
    2. Rental: You may not rent this toaster. Stuck, wedged or otherwise immobile toasted objects require removal by an authorized service technician.
    3. Transfer: ACME has sold you a limited license to the use of this toaster. You may not transfer this license to another individual and are required to destroy this toaster or return it to ACME at your expense should you not require use of the toaster.
    4. Location: Use of this toaster has been granted per the license for use within a limited geographic region, not to exceed 30 miles of the site at which the toaster was purchased. ANY MOVEMENT OF THE TOASTER OUTSIDE THIS LICENSED REGION, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO MOVING RESIDENCES TO ANOTHER CITY OR LOCALE, SENDING THE TOASTER AS A GIFT, OR USE OF THE TOASTER IN A MOBILE VEHICLE/CAMPER, WILL INVALIDATE ITS LICENSE AND CAUSE THE TOASTER TO CEASE OPERATION.

  • by ( 121677 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:14PM (#410148) Homepage
    I think this is a great idea, especially for things like aircraft components.
  • by wishus ( 174405 ) on Thursday February 22, 2001 @12:27PM (#410149) Journal
    hrmm.. except that I can't receive GPS signals indoors on my Garmin GPS receiver. I doubt they're going to put a higher powered receiver in my dishwasher than I've got in my standalone, dedicated GPS receiver.

    So I'll just unplug it if I need to take my dishwasher outside for anything...

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.