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Give iPod Thieves an Unchargeable Brick 338

Svippy writes "Apple has patented a technology for new generations of iPods that would detect when a user tries to operate the iPod on an unauthorised machine ... and will refuse to charge. Indefinitely. From the article: 'Every portable gadget with a rechargeable battery has a charging circuit that recognises when the external mains charger has been plugged in. It then manages the transfer of current to the battery. Apple's patent suggests that by attaching a "guardian circuit" to the charging circuit, it would be possible to block the charging process. When a device is plugged into an unauthorised computer, software would compare a security code in the device to a code buried in the software in the computer. Apple already employs a similar technology to "pair" iPods to iTunes running on a specific Mac or PC. If the codes do not match, then the guardian circuit could be triggered to prevent any further charging.'"
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Give iPod Thieves an Unchargeable Brick

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  • False positives (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sleekware ( 1109351 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:25PM (#20015807)
    I can imagine this will raise a lot of false positives. It reminds me of Windows Genuine Advantage, only nastier...
  • weeee (Score:1, Insightful)

    by notque ( 636838 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:25PM (#20015811) Homepage Journal
    I hate that feature, you should be able to use your ipod on multiple machines. It's interesting as a lock out mech for thieves, but is the main reason why I sold my ipod, and have no intention of using one.

    If I can't add, remove, edit songs on any machine I am not interested. I tried open source software for managing it, and that didn't work well at all.

    Also, how would this work for reselling? I guess you resell with the same charger, or something.
  • by Paxton ( 24233 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:26PM (#20015827)
    ... if car chargers won't work.
  • Not the only use (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:28PM (#20015857) Journal
    I'm sure the usefulness of this technology in other areas has been considered as well. Specifically, things like bricking a device because a subscription has run out, or disabling it because DRM rights have been violated. After all, once the hardware is in place, it can be used for other purposes by simple software "upgrades".

    Dan East
  • Bad idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes@xmsn[ ]nl ['et.' in gap]> on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:29PM (#20015871)
    I've recharged friends' iPods on my computer (which is obviously not authorized for that iPod). If that were to result in bricking the iPod, I'd be pissed.

    Unbricking the iPod when it's connected to an authorized computer would mitigate, but not solve, the problem.
  • Thieves? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by muellerr1 ( 868578 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:29PM (#20015881) Homepage
    This may be marketed as a theft-deterrent, but it's also enabling Apple to exert more control over when and how you listen to your own music. This would also make it very easy for Apple to brick your iPod for doing something they don't approve of. Not that I'm saying they'd abuse that power that way, but it would be technically possible.
  • by metlin ( 258108 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:30PM (#20015883) Journal
    I've already had hell with the ridiculous interface of iTunes and trying to sync my music across more than one machine (work + home + notebook).

    Now, on top of everything, it's going to refuse to charge unless I show that I am the owner on all three? Or maybe, I can only charge it on one?

    Either way, this is only making a bad problem worse.

    Bad enough that iTunes has more than once destroyed my music backup because I tried added music from another machine. Now it's also going to not let me use my iPod?

    Nice. And here I thought Apple was about usability.
  • Re:False positives (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:31PM (#20015913)
    Why would you need "authorization" just to charge your iPod on any box, I wonder.
  • Re:weeee (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EvanED ( 569694 ) <> on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:31PM (#20015925)
    Wait, forget using it on multiple machines. Does this suggest that you need to plug your iPod into ANY machine to charge it? You can't just plug it into the wall?

    If this is true, it seems like a really retarded idea to me. The times when I want an iPod the most -- when I'm on a trip -- are exactly the times when I'm not going to be near my machine and exactly the time when I'll need to charge it more.
  • In other words.... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:34PM (#20015959)
    Now Apple can make sure all of those third party docking pods have paid the Apple tax. Apple must have had a meeting with the ink jet makers.
    Oh please, twist the story and prove to me why this is really a good thing for the vast majority of users.
    OMG, think of all the stolen iPods!!! Do that many iPods really get stolen where this is needed? If so, wouldn't a lock function where some type of password or some specific thumb wheel action is required be a better option like all cell phones have?
  • great idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brunascle ( 994197 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:35PM (#20015989)
    uh oh, your PC stopped booting? congratulations, you iPod just did too.
  • Um... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GoodbyeBlueSky1 ( 176887 ) <joeXbanks@h o t m a i> on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:39PM (#20016041)
    What about the (old-fashioned!) method of charging via wall-outlet? Do I have to register my apartment with Apple now?

    Something in this article seems fishy and I don't think we're getting the full story of Apple's intentions, because the whole thing makes zero sense to me.
  • by realthing02 ( 1084767 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:44PM (#20016113)
    What happens when it's given as a gift? I don't expect the receiver to hold onto a piece of paper for very long... I don't like this idea. Unless you can definitely determine that someone else is using the ipod improperly- this seems like a bad idea. But if anyone can figure this out, it's apple.
  • by TrebleJunkie ( 208060 ) <> on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:45PM (#20016137) Homepage Journal
    Anyone with a soldering iron and a little time on their hands would likely be able to bypass this. You've got to have a battery somewhere, and you've got to have leads to that battery.

    Yeah, it means cracking open the device, but if you've stolen it, there's a good chance you're not going to care all that much about some pry marking on the case.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:47PM (#20016167) Journal
    There are dozens of vendors like belkin selling simple chargers for iPods without using the USB ports. So they all wont be able to charge iPods? Apple can at best thwart iTunes/iPod link on devices reported to be stolen. But preventing charging? Nah.
  • this is horrible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SolusSD ( 680489 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:47PM (#20016169) Homepage
    can you imagine the consumer outcry when thousands of iPod owners can't get their iPods to turn on simply because they didn't understand the concept of pairing their iPod with their machine?
  • by amigabill ( 146897 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:47PM (#20016171)
    Say I have my music library stored on a large hard drive in a desktop. But I go on vacation and take my laptop, and try to charge my ipod from the laptop via the USB cable because that's smaller than the wall-wart? Is my own laptop recognized as a different PC and does that lock me out of my own ipod? Maybe I'm at a friend's house and want to charge up my ipod before we go on a long bike ride or run together, and I left my own authorized laptop at home? He has a USB cable but not a wall wart. Does his computer lock me out of my own ipod even though I had no intention of even running itunes or transferring files, I just wanted some fresh electrons?

    I hope they have a plan in mind to make sure people are not locked out of their own devices.
  • by wiresquire ( 457486 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:50PM (#20016213) Journal
    What a great way to stop people selling their iPods to someone else and instantly making 2nd hand market for iPods impossible!

    1. The device is 'attached' to a particular person's computer(s)
    2. The device and user is known to the manufacturer, eg via iTunes
    3. As the iPod can be effectively rendered useless if someone else buys or uses it, you can't buy one 2nd hand, so you have to fork out for a new one.
    4. Profit!

    I suggest buying AAPL immediately!
  • Re:weeee (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Poppler ( 822173 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:51PM (#20016243) Journal

    If I can't add, remove, edit songs on any machine I am not interested. I tried open source software for managing it, and that didn't work well at all.
    Has it been a while since you tried? This has gotten a lot better lately IMO. I use Amarok to manage my iPod; I use it on as many computers as I like, and it lets me pull songs from my (or any) ipod into my collection. It's as seamless as running iTunes, only without the restrictions.
  • by Luke Dawson ( 956412 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:52PM (#20016257)
    Otherwise should your charger break, you're screwed. There has to be some sort of unlock mechanism available for legitimate times when using another charger/computer is needed ("oops, I dropped my charger/laptop in the bath"). Of course that means there'd be a way around the lock mechanism. Which means it will be cracked. Which essentially renders it pointless to all but the Google-impaired.
  • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @04:58PM (#20016351)

    Why would you need "authorization" just to charge your iPod on any box, I wonder.
    I can think of multile ways this could be implemented.
    option 1) the ipod requires you to enter a password to charge or access it on a "foreign" computer. Not sure why charging matters here however.

    option 2) the ipod simply won't charge on a foreign computer IF you opt-in to that feature. One would make that default off. But if enough people used that aspect, it might become a theft deterrent. plus it's something that could be enabled later on, even if there's no great ipod crime wave right now, and thus no perceived need.

    For example, one could do it like the firmware password protection all macs have but is off by default. Of course it's not very effective for hardware theft because it can be overridden by anyone with possession of the computer. It's mainly for highetened data protection from people with casual opportunistic access. But if one were to implement it so that it could not be overridden except by apple, then I could see this working on ipods. Since ipods are seldom as mission critical as laptops, having one get locked and have to be sent in for repair is not as great a burden as it would be for the laptop.

  • Er, Stupid idea? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geoff lane ( 93738 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:01PM (#20016395)
    Concider the failure modes of such a scheme. Apart from the ones where the thief gets to use the iPod, they all result in the legitimate user losing the use of their iPod.
  • Re:False positives (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:02PM (#20016399) Homepage Journal
    If they *did* think about implementing this on all pods then it would be unusable by me legally from my car or my homemade battery pack.

    I could only imagine it working only if you try working directly with an iTunes aware computer.
    If you connect it to an in-car charger there is no iTunes running from the car battery, so no comparison is possible at all.

    Developed right it wouldn't be a big deal and really could work.

  • Re:False positives (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hijacked Public ( 999535 ) * on Friday July 27, 2007 @05:09PM (#20016511)
    You might want to update your conspiracy theory: Apple doesn't include the first charger either.
  • by The_Wilschon ( 782534 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:03PM (#20017099) Homepage
    It is interesting that Apple products' aesthetics seem to be a much better deterrent to tinkering inside the case than "YOUR WARRANTY AND LIFE ARE VOID IF YOU REMOVE THIS STICKER"...
  • Re:Bad idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aallmighty ( 839195 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @06:55PM (#20017625)
    it wouldn't "brick" the ipod, it just wouldn't allow you to charge it with that computer
  • by astrosmash ( 3561 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @07:04PM (#20017707) Journal
    If the device detects that it has been stolen, through any number of means such as plugging in to an unauthorized computer or by geographic location, the device disables its charging circuit so that it can't be charged from any changer.

    It has nothing to do with the iPod only working with specific, Apple-branded, chargers. That would be stupid.
  • Re:False positives (Score:1, Insightful)

    by dhavleak ( 912889 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:23PM (#20018451)
    Much much worse - what if I'm trying to use my ipod with a linux computer? This is like a DRM infection all over again..
  • Re:False positives (Score:3, Insightful)

    by donaldm ( 919619 ) on Friday July 27, 2007 @08:31PM (#20018523)
    If this is designed to stop thieves then it is a poor way of doing it since it is going to inconvenience legitimate purchasers. Basically a thief will steal the ipod and sell it to some sucker in the pub rather than keep it. If you use the IMEI code in a mobile as an analogy it is actually possible to change the number (try using Google with "imei unlock" - you will get over a million hits) however the average thief does not have the facilities to do this so he will sell the mobile as soon as possible.

    When I read the article I was struck how this this technique was not that novel or even innovative since this technique is really all about what to do when two supposed mating devices detect that their codes do not match (sort of like modern car keys) and for this they get a patent? Talk about obvious but then again it appears you can get a patent on just about anything in the US. Sorry I did not look at the actual patent, I don't really want a headache since all patents are written in legalese which is not really compatible to a professional engineers thought processes.
  • iPod been stolen? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Meccanica ( 980734 ) on Saturday July 28, 2007 @12:28AM (#20020169)
    Well, worry not. You may have lost $250 in electronics, but at least you know the thief won't be able to use it either. Just imagine the bumbling bandito's frustration when he discovers he has a useless lump that merely looks like a functional iPod, and wear a smug grin of satisfaction as he sells it to some chump over the internet for $200.

    Ha! You really showed him. I'm willing to bet that soon, with more and more advanced technology, crime will be completely impossible!

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