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Hardware Hacking Businesses Apple

New Firmware Fixes Previously Bricked iPhones 182

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the house-that-iphone-built-comes-crumbling-down dept.
drcagn writes "Ars Technica reports that Apple's new 1.1.3 firmware update unbricks iPhones damaged from unlocking and updating the firmware months ago. In September, users who hacked their iPhone's firmware to unlock it found their iPhone bricked when they updated to new firmware, creating a massive upset and internet furor. Although Apple claimed this was not an intended effect of the update, it held the stance that it is not their responsibility to ensure that updates work with users' warranty-voiding hacks, and many cried foul. This update, which provides new features Jobs showed off at Macworld, while not officially unbricking the iPhone, has restored iPhones from Gizmodo and a reader of the Unofficial Apple Weblog."
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New Firmware Fixes Previously Bricked iPhones

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  • I should have gone with BIN on that ebay auction!
  • Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:31PM (#22101780)
    If a iPhone can receive an update that unbricks it, then it was never bricked in the first place.
    • Re:Confused (Score:5, Funny)

      by EggyToast (858951) on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:33PM (#22101820) Homepage
      Obviously, it was only mostly bricked.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by oahazmatt (868057)

      If a iPhone can receive an update that unbricks it, then it was never bricked in the first place.
      Sssh! Don't say that too loud! You'll enrage the mob!

      Don't listen to him folks, they're all still expensive coasters, that's right.
    • Re:Confused (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <[Satanicpuppy] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:35PM (#22101856) Journal
      The phrase "brick" is so overused as to be meaningless these days. It wasn't "bricked"; the firmware update got fubared on the hacked phones the last time it was updated, rendering the device non-functional. This one overwrites whatever chunk of firmware code that was causing the issue, and poof, it fixes the problem.

      Same as if you screwed up a BIOS update on your motherboard. Do it again, correctly and you'll be fine.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by venicebeach (702856)
        For several months the device was about as useful as a brick.

        It wasn't a matter of just trying the firmware update again; for those who bricked there were no options available to bring the device back to functionality --until now.

        I think people splitting hairs about the use of the term "brick" are missing the point.
        • Re:Confused (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jameson71 (540713) on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:59PM (#22102218)
          If this update could fix the iphones, putting it into recovery mode and doing a restore probably would have fixed it too. Anyone calling that bricked shouldnt be messing with their iphone in the first place.
        • Re:Confused (Score:5, Informative)

          by jrumney (197329) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:14PM (#22102372) Homepage

          I think people splitting hairs about the use of the term "brick" are missing the point.

          Bricked is when you need to take out the soldering iron and connect up a JTAG cable. If you can still communicate with the firmware loader over USB, it isn't bricked.

        • It's not splitting hairs. Calling an iPhone that was disabled by a firmware update 'bricked' is like saying someone is dead when they still have a pulse.

          "I'm not dead yet!"
        • by dbIII (701233)

          I think people splitting hairs about the use of the term "brick" are missing the point.

          Just as those who despair at peoplw calling the beige box a "hard drive" and the screen a "computer" are splitting hairs I suppose. This site has a high ratio of Moorlocks to Eloi so we object when one of the latter tries out technical slang to fit in and gets it wrong - that's why we're trying to eat you alive over such a mistake.

          If the reference is being missed I am using Eloi in terms of a person that is only useful

        • by @madeus (24818)
          It wasn't a matter of just trying the firmware update again; for those who bricked there were no options available to bring the device back to functionality --until now.

          That is incorrect. They could have loaded a new firmware image to the device via the USB interface.

          I think people splitting hairs about the use of the term "brick" are missing the point.

          If a device doesn't boot simply because the OS installed on it is hosed, then it is not bricked.

          Software can't be installed on a brick. If it's possible to r
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Same as if you screwed up a BIOS update on your motherboard. Do it again, correctly and you'll be fine.

        Do what again, boot into DOS and... oh wait, it doesn't boot, unless I take the chip out and flash it "correctly" in an entirely different device. It looks like the iPhone "works" as it turns on and does stuff ("in recovery mode"), so it's not really bricked. It just doesn't make calls.
        • by B3ryllium (571199)
          Heh, I screwed up a BIOS flash one time ... the machine wouldn't initialize the video at all after that. It took a few minutes of cold, hard panic to realize that "hrm, the floppy drive is lighting up". Did a bit of research on another machine, and found out that I could make a boot floppy to auto-flash the BIOS with proper firmware. There was an awful lot of swearing involved, however.

          Note to readers: When flashing BIOS firmware, pay careful attention to the *ENTIRE* revision string of your motherboard. An
          • I was thinking of exactly the same experience. Windows, fubar, fix from boot floppy, everything. Forever after in my mind "bad firmware" will equal that never-to-be-sufficiently-dammned motherboard.
            • by B3ryllium (571199)
              In my case, the flash died halfway through (under Windows), and left the firmware in a bad state of being partially-written. I guess it had a built-in recovery system, looking for the bootable floppy with auto-flash (non-interactive) features, and so it was purely by the grace of the BIOS Gods that I was able to get it working again. :)

              Of course, back in the late 90s, there were a few times when all that got screwed up was the MBR, which in modern parlance would be (for the average user) the equivalent of b
          • by bcat24 (914105)

            Don't flash from within Windows (even if the utility says you can do it).
            Good advice, but some manufactures (*cough*Dell*cough*) now only distribute their BIOS flashers as Windows applications. (I guess Linux users are just stuck with an outdated BIOS.)
        • by empaler (130732)
          Actually, my current mobo has a feature that allows me to pop in the original driver CD in case I burn my fingers on a bad fw upgrade... No fuss, no special equipment needed.
      • by Quietust (205670)

        The phrase "brick" is so overused as to be meaningless these days. It wasn't "bricked"; the firmware update got fubared on the hacked phones the last time it was updated, rendering the device non-functional. This one overwrites whatever chunk of firmware code that was causing the issue, and poof, it fixes the problem.

        Same as if you screwed up a BIOS update on your motherboard. Do it again, correctly and you'll be fine.

        That's a rather bad analogy, since if you screw up a BIOS update on a motherboard and

        • by Bert64 (520050)
          Some machines have a hard coded emergency bios, which is only useful for loading a firmware update to restore the proper full bios...
        • Depending on the motherboard, there may be emergency provisions in place that don't require you to resort to an EEPROM programmer (I think your forgot an E ;) )

          For instance, some will check for presence of a floppy and burn that to bios.
          Some motherboards have dual BIOS so you can switch over if one gets screwed up.
          If you've installed a BIOS Savior (I did on one of my previous machines) then you can use it until you boot up, then reflash your other bios.
          Some will check for a PCI graphics card and use that to
      • by nsayer (86181) *

        Same as if you screwed up a BIOS update on your motherboard. Do it again, correctly and you'll be fine.
        But that's the thing - if you can do it again correctly, then it wasn't bricked to begin with. Most of the time, if you screw up a BIOS update on your motherboard, you'll wind up with a computer you can't boot sufficiently to run the BIOS updater. That's what "bricking" means.

      • by necro2607 (771790)
        I love how you replaced one slang term with another, "bricked" for "fubared". ;)
    • Re:Confused (Score:5, Funny)

      by vux984 (928602) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:17PM (#22102412)
      If a iPhone can receive an update that unbricks it, then it was never bricked in the first place.

      Correct. Welcome to the new age of blogger journalism where something is called bricked the moment even a single feature or other stops working.

      My wireless keyboard is on the verge of being bricked, excuse me... ... I had to go put in a new battery before I finished this post. Looks like it un-bricked my keyboard, whew.
      • by gerardrj (207690)
        And every time that information moves around it's being "downloaded". Getting something from the internet: it gets downloaded. Installing software from a CD: downloading.. sending an email: download it to the internet.
        "download" is the universal word for data transfer for the technologically inept.

        We have words for these things people: install, copy, upload, send. Learn the lingo or get off the computer.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      The only iPhone that cannot be unbricked is this one:

      http://www.willitblend.com/videos.aspx?type=unsafe&video=iphone [willitblend.com]

      • by Megane (129182)
        That would be because it isn't bricked. It's powdered.
      • Why do we have this "it's fun to waste shit" culture? That phone could have been used for years. Instead he stuck it in a blender and set it on fire. Now all the bad stuff in the battery is released into the atmosphere or a landfill somewhere, and all those chemical processes required to manufacture that thing are for nothing.

        I swear, sometimes I am ashamed of my country.
      • ... has to be different ... I'd choose the fake Apple bricking method(tm) ...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by greekBruin (998483)
      Correction: the update reanimates zombie iPhones.
    • by p0tat03 (985078)
      There's bricked, and then there's bricked. The colloquial meaning for "bricked" simply means that the device is inoperable, and nothing that commonly available consumer tools could do can restore it to working order. Proprietary and undocumented systems can often be bricked in this sense, since the method needed to restore functionality is not known by the public. In this sense the device IS as good as an actual hardware bricking.
  • by corsec67 (627446) on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:34PM (#22101830) Homepage Journal
    If you can recover a device to a full operational state without opening its case or attaching a jTag cable, it wasn't bricked.

    Flashed with a messed up firmware, or a bad flash, sure, but not bricked.

    If you have to use a boot wait feature to load a new firmware over a network, it isn't bricked either because it was able to access a network and run a tftp server.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you can recover a device to a full operational state without opening its case or attaching a jTag cable, it wasn't bricked.

      Informing the Slashdot community on what "bricked" means is futile. Most Slashdot folks are wannabee computer experts who claim that they are god's gift to computer science and/or information technology.

      I think you should just blindly agree with the statement that "iPhones are often bricked when pursuing your constitutional rights due to Job's stupidity and/or evilness" and move directly onto the viability of flying cars and the IP issues of the Crackberry.

  • They are right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {dnaltropnidad}> on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:34PM (#22101842) Homepage Journal
    "held the stance that it is not their responsibility to ensure that updates work with users' warranty-voiding hacks, "

    They shouldn't be held liable. You buy a product and modify it the manufacture can't, and shouldn't, be held responsible for the results.

    • They shouldn't be held liable. You buy a product and modify it the manufacture can't, and shouldn't, be held responsible for the results.

      No, Apple shouldn't be held liable, but they *should* be strongly condemned for locking it down in the first place and forcing people to resort to these measure so as to have true ownership of THEIR (not Steve's) hardware.

      • by geekoid (135745)
        That makes no sense. If you want to put your own thing on their, fine. But don't change it, and then try to update it assuming Apples knows what you changed.
        Don't put Apple software on it if you don't want Apple software.

    • What freaks me out is the attitude that first we go out and change undocumented things on the iPhone, and second we go for the Apple-supplied firmware update. Either choice sounds reasonable to me, but both at once is foolhardy.

    • Unless they make a determined effort to render the product unusable as a form of retribution or punishment. For instance, you take your automobile to the dealership. They see it has a non-factory radio unit or non-factory wheels and tires. They may not deliberately damage the engine, rendering the vehicle useless.

      Of course the burden would fall upon the owner of the damaged phone to prove in court that Apple set out to render the hacked iPhones inoperative, but that's what discovery is all about.

      Ultimately
    • by Erpo (237853)
      There's a difference between not supporting third party firmware and deliberately expending extra effort to brick the iPhones of people who installed third party firmware.

      If, in fact, that's what Apple did. As many people have already pointed out, if the device has enough of a brainstem left to accept a flash over a USB cable, it isn't bricked.

    • They can't be held liable, because they can't support a different product than the one they sold. If you break your car yourself, why should the carmaker be held liable.

      BUT: Apple knew that a lot of people used a specific hack on the phone to "unlock" it. And while testing they found out that their upgrade would "brick" those phones.
      They could have changed the upgrade so it wouldn't "brick" the unlocked phones, but they chose not to. Now they were even able to "unbrick" those phones.

      To me this looks more li
      • To me this looks more like a plan. Apple wanted to communicate to their users: "Only use our products as we intended or we will simply break them." And now that the users got the message they play good cop and "unbrick" them for the users, so that the now "good" users will keep on purchasing Apple products, but will never try to use them in any way other than the intended one again.

        Funny, it seems to me, that it's an example of Apple fixing phones that third-party unlocking (not unjailing, installation of other apps, but unlocking - modifying the firmware of the cellphone section of the iPhone) caused. The 1.1.2 firmware changed how the OS interacted with the radio - the 1.1.3 firmware made it so phones that worked on 1.1.1 but stopped working on 1.1.2, would now work in 1.1.3. In other words, they _fixed_ those phones, despite having no compelling reason to do that. Yet people

  • If you look at http://www.hackint0sh.org/ [hackint0sh.org] (forums for the anysim iPhone unlock method), you'll see that some iBricks don't get fixed using this trick. So while this method may work for some, it isn't the cure all for all iPhone hacking mistakes.
  • ABout brick (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {dnaltropnidad}> on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:40PM (#22101920) Homepage Journal
    Save yourself some frustration and realizer the term brick changed when it hit the mainstream market.
    Like 'Hacker'. You can't stop it, just sigh and go on, otherwise your just screaming into the wind.

    • Just wanted to drop a reply because I accidentally modded this redundant.

      I was aming for Insightful, but the new discussion system sure makes it easy to kinda 'miss' ;)
    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

      Save yourself some frustration and realizer the term brick changed when it hit the mainstream market.
      How ironic.
    • by Sloppy (14984) on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:31PM (#22102564) Homepage Journal

      I bricked about this happening to "meme" [slashdot.org] a couple years ago, then bricked the solution, [slashdot.org] so I'd like to brick some words of encouragement to anyone who feels bricked by the loss: brick your vengeance. If you can't brick "brick," then nobody can.

      Heretofore, "to brick" can brick anything. You can brick a beer; you can brick a pizza. You can brick a computer; and you can brick your girlfriend. You can brick your hat, except in Soviet Russia, where hat bricks you.

      Go brick something, and then brick somebody about it in the hopes that they'll brick someone else. Brick the word, so the whole world will brick that they bricked "brick." Hopefully after that, maybe they will have bricked that some words are better off left unbricked.

      • by geekoid (135745)
        Do you pronounce 'Knight' with a hard K? how about Knife? I mean thats the way the where pronounce years ago.

        The common use definition has changed. You can be the biggest ass you want, but it still won't stop the common use of 'Brick' use in this context.

        You want to get pendantic? it's not bricked at all.
        a brick is:
        a block of clay hardened by drying in the sun or burning in a kiln,

        bricked is:
        1. To construct, line, or pave with bricks.
        2
      • by tfoss (203340)
        "Verbing weirds language [google.com]"

        -Ted
    • Save yourself some frustration and realizer the term brick changed when it hit the mainstream market.
      Like 'Hacker'. You can't stop it, just sigh and go on, otherwise your just screaming into the wind.

      What you said is true when talking to the general public. But with how these "bricked" articles keep popping up, one can only assume that the slashdot editors are TRYING to piss off it's readers (perhaps to get more comments and indirectly more ad revenue.) When talking to other specialists about their specialty, you don't go around purposely misusing words. I'm looking at you slashdot, home of news for nerds, stuff that matters. Commander Taco and company might just have some atomic wedgies in their n

  • Dempsters releases update for bread that will turn toast back into bread!
  • by Doomstalk (629173) on Friday January 18, 2008 @06:49PM (#22102042)
    I "unbricked" my phone back in October. The iPhone development community built a utility that rebuilt your lockstate tables way back then. Welcome to the party Apple.
  • by Guy Harris (3803) <guy@alum.mit.edu> on Friday January 18, 2008 @07:21PM (#22102446)
    Somehow the link to the story [arstechnica.com] appears to have gotten lost.
    • by drcagn (715012)
      That's weird; I'm positive I included the link when I submitted this story; the editor must have removed it for some reason.
      • by drcagn (715012)
        I see: the link got moved to the "unbricks iPhone" text from the "Ars Technica" text.
  • The TUAW reader who got his iPhone unbricked? Perl guru Randall Schwartz [stonehenge.com]. He posted the info on his Jaiku microblog [jaiku.com].

    I also hear through Chicago Sun Times writer Andy Ihnatko [cwob.com] that he's been able to unbrick a phone.
  • Responsible or not (Score:3, Interesting)

    by s4ltyd0g (452701) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:05PM (#22102996)
    Any company that installs firmware on a system in an unknown state "unintentionally" are morons. They've never heard of checksums? Don't trust your expensive iphone to them for updates because they're obviously not performing due diligence. I they can't detect a hacked phone before blindly installing, they will be unable to detect other problems/conditions which would break the phone when patched. As a matter of fact, were there not also
    a small number of non-hacked phones which got bricked as well?

    • by timster (32400)
      The undercurrent to the entire iPhone story is that the development team has been in a huge rush for months. I think this is fairly obvious to anyone who experienced the 1.0 firmware -- Safari would load an average of 10-20 pages per crash, there was some serious weirdness with the battery charge indicator, and I'm sure that many of the reports of dropped calls or whatever were in fact serious software problems. Honestly, I haven't seen an OS so flaky since RedHat 5.0. Besides that, major features that w
    • by BitZtream (692029)
      There was no reason to check the state of the phone before making the patch that bricked it. The previous baseband was the only baseband in production models, they KNEW what state the baseband should be in because there was only one released. Along come the hacks that modify the baseband. Apple then does patchs to the baseband eeprom. They only change the bytes that need changed, not overwrite the entire baseband. Anyone now has used the hack and then updated now has a corrupted baseband and a phone th
      • by s4ltyd0g (452701)
        More like Toyota installed new break pads, without bothering to check that the break drums are ok.
      • Yes there is. Presuming the firmware is in pristine state is a bad assumption. The firmware could have been corrupted by damage, defect, or malware, and of course intentional modification. Verifying the firmware checksum is correct is the RIGHT thing to do. When it tells you (hopefully) that it can't install and there is a problem with your iPhone, you can call in and get it checked out if you did not modify it. This way a defective/infected iPhone is fixed and not bricked. THAT is a way to build customer l
    • Any company that installs firmware on a system in an unknown state "unintentionally" are morons.


      Or perhaps they just trust their customers not to be morons? After all, what would you call somebody who installs an update on a modified phone in defiance of a prominent warning IN ALL CAPS that the update will damage modified phones? And then complains about it when that happens?
  • Crap! (Score:3, Funny)

    by pizzach (1011925) <<pizzach> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:47PM (#22104006) Homepage
    Crap! I managed to brick my iPhone into a firewall. But I didn't think that Windows CE-ME-NT would dry so quickly all over it! Seriously, the 2000 grade formula drys in XP amount of time. Please, feel free to brick me now with your brick iPhone that I know you think are now just useless bricks now. Mwa ha ha ha ha. Score.
  • I wish someone could do something to recover the iPaq 3670 I half-installed uCLinux on that bricked it.

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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