back to article America's crackdown on open-source Wi-Fi router firmware – THE TRUTH

America's broadband watchdog is suffering a backlash over plans to control software updates to Wi-Fi routers, smartphones, and even laptops. In a proposed update [PDF] to the regulator's rules over radiofrequency equipment, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would oblige manufacturers to "specify which parties will be …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm astonished, how on earth could they implement or even apply these rules?

    Phones/Routers etc.. as we have found recently need and should have the ability to be updated, if this is applied then they will be locked down from the start so a whole hatstand of vulns would never be corrected.

    or maybe (Tinfoil hat time) that's what they want?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Once upon a time...

      A long time ago, when men were men and they hacked into satellite TV systems, there was a certain bit of hardware often jammed into the Smartcard slot. A long gangly PCB with wires and things hanging out. As it happens, the circuit emitted spurious signals on the emergency beacon frequency of 121.5 MHz.

      Such signals will eventually attract a large helicopter. Such search and rescue helicopters are obviously equipped with precisely the sort of highly sensitive beacon receivers and DF/Homing equipment needed to place the noisy thing hovering directly over one's house at about 11 PM.

      Just a bit of history.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Once upon a time...

        As it happens, the circuit emitted spurious signals on the emergency beacon frequency of 121.5 MHz

        Only if it had been made by a blind, tetraplegic colour blind hedgehog whilst in a bag.

        Other than that it emitted no such RF or harmonics.

        Or at least the few hundred or so I made didn't!!!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Once upon a time...

          You're probably not in the continent to which I was referring.

          Even if you were, there were hundreds of versions of which - presumably - only one had this fault.

          It's a true story. Supposedly.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Once upon a time...

            "You're probably not in the continent to which I was referring."

            Why? Are harmonics and RF leakage dependant on your geo location???

            Does a circuit simply start emmiting spurious RF simply because it's located elsewhere...

        2. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Once upon a time...

          Whilst at Uni I had a house with a dish on the wall and I thought I'd get a receiver and see what was available free to air. For the record I was not doing anything related to Star Trek or any of the Seasons of the show, not that I wasn’t tempted for educational purposes. I tuned into VH1 UK and found the picture scrambled but VH1 Germany on the same satellite was FTA. A mate came round and saw the fact that I had free music television, Eurosport and a few other channels that were worth watching. So he went home and having borrowed a ladder from the uni hooked up a dish and the Sky Videocrypt Integrated Receiver and Decoder (IRD) a hand me down from his dad after he'd got a new one. On this box however both VH1 channels were scrambled (although the Germany one was clear for about a second) and he was perplexed as to why mine worked. I went round and it was only that channel that didn't work all the other FTA channels were watchable. So I called directory enquiries got the number for MTV Networks Europe called them and asked.

          Nice lady says she doesn't know about that but gives me the name of the person I need to speak to who does. The bloke I ended up speaking to says that they have flagged the German version as encrypted so that the IRD scrambles the picture. This is down to the rights being for different countries and the adverts etc. So my mate unpluggs his IRD and with his driving licence + other ID buggers off to Cash Converters and sells it. He buys a bog standard analogue receiver from the same shop with the money and then had free music television like me. I never got round to installing a motor on my dish (did have to do some academic work) but I did have a positioner box knocking around.

          Good luck to the CBP checking all the items I bring to the USA for FCC approval.

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: Once upon a time...

            I don't get the Star Trek reference, but their "deflector dish" makes a fearsome weapon whenever they set it to transmit handwavium radiation on this week's frequency. You could probably shoot satellites down with it. And, no, you'd better not.

            1. JimboSmith Silver badge

              Re: Once upon a time...

              "I don't get the Star Trek reference......."

              The original reason (allegedly) for sky being hacked was when they decided to encrypt SkyOne when they were about to show the final season of Star Trek The Next Generation. Someone wanted to watch the final season and supposedly hacked the videocrypt to allow this without needing to be a subscriber. It became known as the Season hack as a result.

    2. RobHib
      Flame

      @A.C. - Astonished, why?

      'I'm astonished, how on earth could they implement or even apply these rules?'

      Why not? The Digital Millennium Copyright Act and other laws already ensure you can't snoop on–or even worse–alter software, so why is it so surprising the same rule is now being applied to hardware? (Seems to me the timing has come about now as this is the first 'plausible' excuse the 'Establishment' has had to raise the issue of control.)

      As I perceive it, any such control by The State would be utterly disastrous and it needs to be resisted and fought at all costs. There are many, many reasons for fighting this, most too detailed to mention here but probably the least of which is security and interference.

      Clearly, safety regulation is necessary in specific instances such as the possession of radioactive materials, x-ray equipment etc., but banning the altering and tweaking of general electronic equipment is another matter altogether. With respect to spectrum management (non-ionising EMR), effective and workable regulation has long been in place so that mutual interference between services is minimised to acceptable limits. This regulation has worked well for most of the 20th C. without need to lock out the general (technical) public.

      Consider this: since about the time of the introduction of the PC in 1980, access to the workings of technology has inevitably been reducing. The original IBM PC came out with full circuit diagrams and BIOS source code (I know I've still got the manuals) but nowadays we can't even get access to the boot information of our PCs let alone circuit diagrams of our domestic PCs and other electronic equipment. Circuit diagrams were once commonplace and the accepted norm, now they're extinct.

      Essentially, the citizenry is rapidly losing access to the working and control level of many different forms of technology: from software, PC hardware to chemical system, to pharmaceuticals, one's vehicle, etc., etc. Both industry and governments use excuses such as security, safety, the equipment's too complicated etc., but the real reason is for industry and ultimately The State to have full control over the technology.

      Technology is ever-increasingly important to our modern lives, but locking away knowledge of its operation not only deskills the citizenry but it's also a major threat to democracy.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "They" had a Dream - of a New World, Where Every.Single.Device designed is also a Weapon, protecting and, when needed, defending The American Way of Life (and Graft).

      For The Dream to come true, "They" can't have people go around and tampering with Strategic Assets!

      1. Preston Munchensonton

        "They" had a Dream - of a New World, Where Every.Single.Device designed is also a Weapon, protecting and, when needed, defending The American Way of Life (and Graft).

        Based on your definition of the American Way of Life, America would wind up full of nothing but looters/moochers who never do anything useful or productive. But I suppose that's the ultimate goal of virtually every government on earth.

        Surely, Jefferson, Voltaire, and Adam Smith are spinning in their graves.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given the open-source tinkerers are responsible for providing the core code used by the vast majority of the routers out there (which companies then take, and plonk security-flawed UIs on top of), this would seem to be a very ill-conceived move.

    If the tinkerers can't explore the hardware and get things working properly, that is going to bite us one way or another.

    1. choleric

      Completely agree.

      And not just the routers but the user devices too. Most internet enabled TVs (Linux), most phones (AOSP, clue is in the name), embedded systems.

      Yes there's a discussion to be had regarding an improved approach to security from OEMs and end users alike, but this policy suggestion from the FCC is not answer. It would put the brakes on the whole process of innovation and stifle the future of the tech sector.

      I have resolved my own phone's exposure to unintended use of radio frequencies (thanks to recently disclosed bugs in Android) by flashing a community ROM. The OEM still hasn't moved to patch the flaws, but I'm covered now thanks to the open source movement.

  3. LDS Silver badge

    Software Defined Idiots

    It looks another Pandora's Box is opening. If operating frequencies can be easily modified at the software level, it will lead to too many idiots doing every idiot thing they could think about (just like we see with lasers and drones), and thereby they will hamper the opportunities of those people actually knowing what they're doing and doing it without causing no harm to everyone. Just, improvements in hardware capabilities and software is making idiots capabilities broader too.

    Is Software Defined Idiots the next wave, and how could we control them?

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Software Defined Idiots

      Radio hardware that can be arbitrarily reconfigured in software has been the norm for at least a decade - by now, there isn't ANY vaguely current radio equipment left that ISN'T some form of SDR. Many of those have enjoyed open-source support for a very long time now. It's not impossible to misuse them, but usually you really, really have to be trying. Curiously though, the sky hasn't fallen yet. So let's either back off and regulate actual misuse on a case-by-case basis or start banning things like knives, considering how widely they can be misused as well...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Software Defined Idiots

        Not even LTE radios? Last I checked, retunable LTE radios aren't here yet due to physical considerations.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Software Defined Idiots

        It's like drones. As long as most flying hardware was for very interested people, and usually available in specialized channels, at not so low prices, there were usually very little issues. The day every idiot can find one, and prices are low, it will get one and find an idiot way to use it.

        People listening to police/firefighters and ATC frequencies have been doing it for a long time. Just nobody ever thought to interfere (but in very rare cases)

        The issue is exactly this, how to identify the idiots. Knives are dangerous, but it's easy to identify an idiot branding a knife. And we're told since childhood knives are dangerous. It's worse when people act without thinking about the consequences. Drunk people do kill people driving. Is it driving or drinking bad per se? No it's the combination of both, idiots who can't think about the consequences of what they do. That's why car have a plate, to be identified. Too often, without accountability, some people may too easily become irresponsible..

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Software Defined Idiots

          "The day every idiot can find one, and prices are low, it will get one and find an idiot way to use it."

          This assumes there are no rich idiots.

          If something can be misused, it will be, no matter, the affordability, availability or legality, those are just hurdles which some individuals find easier to leap over than others (or merely "trip over when they are running around shouting"*)

          *Ahh, another Prattchet ref.

      3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Software Defined Idiots

        "...there isn't ANY vaguely current radio equipment left that ISN'T some form of SDR..."

        Software in the IF strip is slowly getting more common, but it's hardly universal.

        The rest of the RF circuitry is still almost universally hardware.

        Even those $10 USB SDR sticks contain a *hardware* tuner chip in front of the ADC section. They certainly do not sample directly at L-band (~1 GHz area), I can assure you of that.

    2. Smooth Newt

      Re: Software Defined Idiots

      I am just wondering if this is an actual problem, or just an imaginary one. There are plenty of things in the environment which have actually been observed to interfere with essential radio communications on numerous occasions, like rain. I am just not sure this is one of them.

      1. Mark Allen

        Re: Software Defined Idiots

        Clearly there is a case that all rainfall, clouds and general precipitation needs apply for a licence in advance of the event.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Software Defined Idiots

        Yes there is a problem - well from the regulators perspective. From what I've been told, it appears that quite a lot of WiFi enabled devices don’t work very well on the listen before talk function (essential for avoiding other legitimate users of the band like weather radar) and the associated frequency hopping and transmit power control functions. Therefore the FCC are trying to crack down on the matter

        Another problem is that (as far as I can see from the proposal) it will only apply to new devices. Those that are out there already - think of how many DSL models / domestic APs that are already out there and gathering dust under a table in the lounge are going to keep on going with very little support from the manufacture.

        A partial solution (and not going to solve poor coding / self declaration by the manufacturers) is the regulatory wireless database which attempts to keep to up to date all those SOHO devices (and other peces of kit) with world wide regulatory rules but relies on people knowing it exists and then contributing (and the kit using it properly).

        I fear (as the article has pointed out) that FCC policy people have made a poor call on this matter, but like all "unlicensed" spectrum, once the rules have been relaxed, its very hard to regime them in again.

        AC due to my employer

        1. Smooth Newt
          Pint

          Re: Software Defined Idiots

          @anon "Yes there is a problem - well from the regulators perspective. From what I've been told, it appears that quite a lot of WiFi enabled devices don’t work very well on the listen before talk function ..."

          A very good and clear explanation. Thank you :-)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Software Defined Idiots

          From what I've been told, it appears that quite a lot of WiFi enabled devices don’t work very well on the listen before talk function (essential for avoiding other legitimate users of the band like weather radar) and the associated frequency hopping and transmit power control functions. Therefore the FCC are trying to crack down on the matter

          It's not quite that simple. Weather radar (the stuff used at airports for safety of inbound aircraft) uses frequencies that fall in three specific channels in the 5GHz ISM (wifi) band (in the US, not sure about other countries). No wifi device is allowed to use the three channels that cover those frequences unless they have dynamic frequency selection (DFS) enabled, which is supposed to monitor continuously for other signals. The problem isn't so much that DFS doesn't work on some devices but that some of them, possibly intended for non-US markets, don't implement it, or don't require it to be enabled in order to select the channels in question.

      3. Anonymous Blowhard

        Re: Software Defined Idiots

        The trouble is, the FCC has got to try and anticipate problems before they happen; once the genie's out of the bottle it will be hard to put back in.

        There's also the potential problem of deliberate misuse of SDR devices to create a denial of service on radio frequencies. We currently have any number of examples of malware that targets home routers for malicious purposes (DNS redirection for example) so there's a real possibility of criminals or foreign agencies deliberately targeting SDR devices.

        Those who want to tinker have a definite point, so the mechanism for control has to take this into account; one option could be that only updates from authorised sources can be delivered over the network but anyone with direct access (presumably the owner) can apply an update from a hardware i/o device (e.g. USB).

    3. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Software Defined Idiots

      Yeah, that "software level" adjustment is a real "Pandora's box" of problems.

      It makes those home soldering kits, aerials, wires and manual dials and knobs pale into insignificance.

      /sarcasm.

      So if the old systems were used mainly in the norm by the majority, the same will happen here. Though software allows a quick distribution, it's about the same as a flash mob tricking a community into retuning their two way radios into the local police chatter frequency. Scale of the problem, often scales with the solutions. In this case, it's general virus scanners/software warnings, or general limitations to the hardware.

  4. Ragequit
    Unhappy

    So it is true...

    I remember catching wind of this a while back but when I didn't see the expected coverage hit the major sites I figured it was a bit of FUD. I don't envy the FCC on this topic. I can understand their need to enforce certification, etc but at the expense of BYOF (bring your own firmware).

    If only the radio firmware/stack/driver could be abstracted and reside on another piece of flash. Easier said then done on the software side I imagine. That and it would increase the cost of the devices. At any rate perhaps a middle ground could be found where the layers further up the stack were user modifiable without having direct access to the radio itself? Sorry, tired probably not making sense.

    Now what are the odd's that companies will start updating their firmware due to these proposed rules? LOL. Let's enforce who can update the firmware! No one ever does....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So it is true...

      This could be a reasonable compromise. Allow the thing that talks to the device, and the device's interface to the outside world to be freely publicly available.

      Make sure the stuff inside the device does what it's designed to do no matter what. The firmware could be open-source, but perhaps only signed updates by the vendor are accepted by the device.

      While not as good as a vetted all-open system, it is better than an all-closed system where you can't even fix things higher up that are either broken or missing. More than once I've telnetted into a router and used the Busybox version of vi on the device to hack a few shell scripts to work around deficiencies in the web UI. (I'm looking at you, Netcomm. There's a couple of NTC-6000 series routers on defence bases that have had such treatment.)

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: So it is true...

        But what is the regulator banning?

        Specific frequencies, or specific language on those frequencies?

        Specific use of the frequency? If so, is it not allowed to own knifes, even if some use it for the wrong use? So why ban opensource wifi and not just improper use?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So it is true...

          So why ban opensource wifi and not just improper use?

          The software stack that runs most consumer kit would evaporate overnight. The industry would then have to spend cash to replace said software stack and the industry would miss out on any innovations that come about as a result of the current system's openness.

          There's already a lot of kit out there that is more open, and some of it is built well enough to run for many years.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: So it is true...

      @Ragequit - I was thinking the same thing.

      If the device and its firmware are properly designed, the low-level RF controller should be encapsulated so that is in control of the frequency, and anything that uses it cannot request a frequency outside of the allowed bands. I see no problem in that part of the firmware being regulated, certified, and locked down. Anything above that on the tech stack doesn't need regulation (at least not for this purpose).

      1. theblackhand

        Re: So it is true...

        The problem with the acceptable bands is that they vary by country. i.e.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_WLAN_channels#5.C2.A0GHz_.28802.11a.2Fh.2Fj.2Fn.2Fac.29.5B16.5D

        So the issue is that effectively the radios can be used in any country and are software selectable for the chosen country. If the firmware allows the country to be set, then setting the AP to Russia gives more available frequencies without that DFS/TPC reducing your signal strength.

        They really need a solution would be providing a way for the radios to work out their location and restricting how they operate

        i.e. while I can think of how to identify your country if you have Internet access using GeoIP, how do you do it on devices that have limited or no Internet access or incorrect GeoIP details? And while DFS/TPC can help with restricted bands, they rely on detecting an active channel so if a channel is used infrequently you still have the possibility of interference

        And this is ignoring any issues with software quality from manufacturers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So it is true...

          They really need a solution would be providing a way for the radios to work out their location and restricting how they operate

          … Or the governments can recognise that unlike 50 years ago, devices do regularly cross international boundaries, and that unified worldwide spectrum allocations could save everyone a lot of trouble.

          1. theblackhand

            Re: So it is true...

            The problem with a unified worldwide spectrum allocation is that either:

            a) the allocated range is significantly smaller than what is currently allocated limiting potential uses (check the wiki page for the common frequencies that are unused by all regulatory domains)

            b) move or remove existing users to free up space. As a lot of the usage is weather/military radar I suspect the time frame for doing that is measured in decades.

  5. L05ER

    i guess...

    I suppose it would be selfish of me to demand the flexibility of buying a $30 router and making it as capable as a $150 with custom firmware... But I'm relatively poor.

    Whatever... All my game consoles are modified, DMCA be damned. I wont be caught mucking about with emergency services coms... So I guess I needn't worry.

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: i guess...

      Does your modified router transmit wifi signals any differently to the $30 original, or are the changes related to the UI or the way it routes network packets? If you increased the signal strength or transmitted on different frequencies, that would be a problem, but having more control over packet filtering and forwarding should not be a problem.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: i guess...

        Anecdotal evidence here...

        Locally, someone accidentally wired the live mains into the telephone with through their sky box. No idea how, why or what, but they did. Everyone had no internet for about 8 months until the local utility company finally admitted the entire street being down might be considered a "fault".

        So, if something like that can happen, on a massively distributed commonly used piece of hardware, why such a worry about one or two wifi routers?

        If this was about cars, and speed limits. We would make the modifications illegal, not put key and lock on every bonnet!

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: i guess...

          "Everyone had no internet for about 8 months until the local utility company finally admitted the entire street being down might be considered a "fault"."

          Two things come to mind here. Firstly - surely mains on a phone line would only affect the subscriber that the line belongs to? The phone lines are designed to be pretty resilient, dealing with surges from lightning and nearby electric lines, plus the POTS ring signal itself is an AC of around 90V. When lightning nuked my Livebox (burnt it out inside), everything "just worked" after plugging in a spare. There's no way an engineer could have been out and fixed the hardware in that short time, so I assume the exchange either failed over to a backup bit of hardware or it absorbed the energy in a less destructive manner than the Livebox.

          Secondly - there are a lot of diagnostics in a modern exchange. I'm surprised it took that long for the exchange (or an engineer) to probe the line and notice the mains present. If nothing else, I would have imagined that it would have presented a fairly distinctive hum...

          ...assuming that it didn't cause the phones of the subscriber who put the mains into the line to ring continuously. [back in my youth I made an effective phone ringing simulator by stepping the mains down to 110V (a UK to US (isolated) transformer) and then routing the output via a relay controlled by a BBC Micro; put that into the phone and it'll ring - used that for a school play]

  6. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    I have some sympathy for the FCC

    Taking a certified product and turning it into an uncertified product does present potential problems. I am not convinced the open source movement can claim any moral right to be operating equipment in a non-certified manner.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: I have some sympathy for the FCC

      I think you missed the point. Currently the Open Surcers are working within the rules/certification process and things are going fine but the proposed change completely blocks the ethos and working methods of open source.

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: I have some sympathy for the FCC

        I think if you look at the proposed rules in detail, what the FCC are concerned about are changes to the operation of the "radio" part of the device. The FCC wouldn't really care if hackers can change the rest of the software, provided that the software-defined characteristics of the transmitter can't be mucked about with. And I can see some merit in that.

        The issue is that a lot of current hardware isn't really designed in such a way you can easily separate the ability to update the RF-related firmware from the ability to update the rest of the firmware - and it would probably add to the manufacturing cost if that capability were added - so I don't think it's the FCC's intention to shut down open source developers, but it may be an unintended consequence.

        1. DanielN

          Re: I have some sympathy for the FCC

          "The issue is that a lot of current hardware isn't really designed in such a way you can easily separate the ability to update the RF-related firmware from the ability to update the rest of the firmware - and it would probably add to the manufacturing cost if that capability were added ..."

          The cost would be trivial. It just takes a few logic gates to carve out a block of address space for the radio processor, and another shared block for the user processor to drop updates in. The reckless vendors need to be stopped in their race to the bottom.

          The real justification is that their router firmware is so crap it can often be hacked over the network. We are one malware away from having millions of wireless gadgets turn themselves into jamming bricks. This problem is a good justification for regulators to cram proper infosec isolation down the throats of device manufacturers. If some Chinese garbageware vendors go out of business, so be it.

          1. Conundrum1885

            Re: I have some sympathy for the FCC

            Quite right, to be fair if this does happen (read-Wifocalypse) it will probably be the cheapest manufacturers who will suffer.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: I have some sympathy for the FCC

        Just it make also very simple for someone to modify the radio controlling parts. It would be just like the malware kits, if you had to implement it from scratch it would require a lot of expertise, if most of the hard work is already done, it takes very little to implement your bad app.

  7. Fuck the Nazi USA

    The Nazi empire has been busy

    EU regulation 2014/53/EU came into effect last year.

    http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX%3A32014L0053&tag=Fuck.the.Nazi.USA&from=EU

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Nazi empire has been busy

      Really do you think that Nanny Britain or any other EU country is any less of a Nazi? Your handle is objectionable and should have been moderated.

      However that link is for PDF documentation dated two years ago and comes from the EUC and covers harmonization of the radio frequency aspect specifically. You should already know how touchy governmental agencies are about radio interference especially since none of them can ever agree which frequencies are for public and which specific to governmental use only.

      Far be it for ANY government entity for ANY country to have a clue about anything technical or how it affects anything. So they write rules and regulations in an idiotic manner and many times let manufacturers of equipment insert language that favors their viewpoints.

      Methinks someone is so distrustful that not even wire mesh AND tinfoil is enough to keep the crazies from promoting distrust when the simpler explanation is just laziness and stupidity. I hear if you put your head in a microwave oven on high for 20 minutes, you won't hear the voices anymore.

      1. SteveK

        Re: The Nazi empire has been busy

        I hear if you put your head in a microwave oven on high for 20 minutes, you won't hear the voices anymore.

        Ah, except to do that you need to circumvent safeguards to operate the microwave with the door open. Or remove the head. Either of those requires unlicensed 3rd party modifications.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Nazi empire has been busy

          Not if you cut it off first.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Nazi empire has been busy

        He or she , at least, has the balls not to hide behind an icon of "anonymity".

        YOU took offence at their handle. Why should it be moderated to appease your sensibilities??

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: The Nazi empire has been busy

          >He or she , at least, has the balls not to hide behind an icon of "anonymity".

          Really? So you can identify that person by that name then?

          I've no problem with the name or the post, but that really is a bit of a silly comment.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Nazi empire has been busy

        > Really do you think that Nanny Britain or any other EU country is any less of a Nazi?

        Starting your response with an insult to the rest of us makes your entire post worthless.

        And it's totally misguided. Come now, which country restricts drinking of alcohol to over 21? Which country has huge restrictions on alchohol sale? We can buy it 24/7 in 'nanny' Britain.

        And what's with that nanny 'jaywalking' law? You can't be trusted to cross roads safely that you need nanny laws to keep you safe?

        So how are we more nannied over here? According to Fox news it's because I can get to see a doctor or hospital for free. just think, instead of having to pay through the nose, I can just walk into whatever surgery I want, and won't get charged.

        Are you a similar Fox news-tard that equates this increase of freedom as nannying?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Nazi empire has been busy

          Don't forget that the yanks have to have ID cards too!

  8. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    phones...radio frequency...include 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC

    Just for clarification, are there any phones out there that transmit on GPS frequencies and is NFC an FCC licensable technology? I'd have thought the range of NFC would drop it into an exemption list of one sort or another, maybe even Bluetooth too.

    I don't see any certification stickers on my NFC enabled debit card :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: phones...radio frequency...include 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC

      NFC has an active and passive bits. The active can be subject to regulation depending on the specification.

      With GPS the issue is usually of generating interference - RF is an inexact beast. When something says it is transmitting at X MHz. it is almost never the only frequency being used. Most people however apply that logic to understanding topics like this. the emergency beacon story above is a good example.

      Note that it mentions wifi fw in particular, it is quite a problem with dd-wrt, tomato, et al. Allowing open source is fine, but I think it was intended for a SW only world where a change would at most crash, or worst just fry you machine. If a SW change has wider consequences, and in this case it most certainly does, then this needs to be corrected.

      Working in this field, hobbyist modified FW in field is quite a problem, you get people with no more test equipment than a scope, thinking the change they made is all fine because it compiled. These changes get checked in with very tempting change history of "Doubled device range, faster gaming performance"

      Put a spectrum analyzer on it, and you see a 5 MHz BW rated device using 12MHz and killing other users on its own and adjacent channels.

      Just supporting open source because it must be allowed with a no matter what attitude isn't correct and is what a lot of people here in the comments seem to be eschewing. They ought to be understanding the problem too and propose how open source changes by a hobbyist can coexist with ensuring it doesn't kill a person with a pacemaker.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: phones...radio frequency...include 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC

        "Put a spectrum analyzer on it, and you see a 5 MHz BW rated device using 12MHz..."

        Any bandwidth spec requires a -dBc amplitude (at the bandwidth edges) to go along with it.

        E.g. -3.0 dBc, or -60 dBc.

        Else it's meaningless.

        1. peter_dtm

          Re: phones...radio frequency...include 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC

          um - in the radio world the default meaning of the term Bandwidth is the frequencies contained between the -3dB (power) points. Using an un-weighted power meter referenced to peak signal power (Yes, yes; we know an un-weighted power meter is a theoretical machine; just like an isotropic radiator).

          It's in the ITU definition of what bandwidth means. So even your definition is not good enough if you are not using the standard ITU one - which weighting curve do you mean when specifying dBc ? One of the many audio weighting curves ? Or something more esoteric ? Does it specify whether it is voltage or power dB ? These all need noting else it's meaningless. Which is why the ITU specifies what bandwidth means.

          Of course some people have this strange notion that bandwidth (and so many other standard descriptors; like Power) needs to be re-defined to some non-standard and arbitary definition peculiar to their own weird and wonderful concepts. Normally to look good to politicians and/or in sales brouchures.

    2. Fraggle850

      Re: phones...radio frequency...include 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC

      NFC - very short range but RFID is a similar technology with a longer range, however the chips/tags are passive so I suspect no need for certification? The active readers on the other hand are, I'd guess, fully certified.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: phones...radio frequency...include 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC

        NFC & (HF) RFID both use 13.56 MHz (carrier) with data sidebands.

        13.56 MHz is an ISM (industrial scientific & medical band) i.e. 'open' frequency.

        NFC & (HF) RFID are defined in ISO standard 14443, regularly updated - the trend is to higher data speeds - (there are other RFID's that use frequencies from 127 KHz up to gigahertz, historically not all RFIDs have used licensed or ISM frequencies, look-up Theremin/US Embassy in Moscow)

        from the ITU here's a list of the other ISM bands (2014)

        6 765-6 795 kHz

        13 553-13 567 kHz

        26 957-27 283 kHz

        40.66-40.70 MHz

        433.05-434.79 MHz

        902-928 MHz

        2 400-2 500 MHz

        5 725-5 875 MHz

        24-24.25 GHz

        61-61.5 GHz

        122-123 GHz

        244-246 GHz

        If you wish to play with ICT modem/Wi-Fi firmware then F R I T Z B O X is quite a nice approach, I even (eventually) managed to make a German only Fritzbox into a UK Fritzbox (much Linux & firmware mods required)

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: phones...radio frequency...include 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC

          " I even (eventually) managed to make a German only Fritzbox into a UK Fritzbox (much Linux & firmware mods required)"

          Details, please.

          Enquiring gnomes wish to mine.

          I love my 7390 but it's getting a bit long in the tooth.

          1. Hans 1 Silver badge

            Re: phones...radio frequency...include 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC

            Get a raspberry pi 2 with a USB wifi adapter ... learn a bit about PPPoE, disable ports on ethernet adapter, and your done with it.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: phones...radio frequency...include 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC

            @Alan Brown . . "Details, please."

            the procedure is detailed in German somewhere on the web and relies on Russian apps!; I was able to meld a 7490 Artikel-Nummer 2000 2584 = German Edition (Annex B) into a UK Fritz, started I think, by using #991*15901590* as the reset code, typed into a DTMF phone. . .then basically it is first tricked into running telnet & then the internal Linux image is changed to not cause errors with english firmware, then re-imaged before flashing to the ‘box

            the UK FW came from http://download.avm.de/fritz.box/fritzbox.7490/firmware/english/ [ I was successful with VERSION FRITZ.Box_7490.en-de-es-it-fr-pl.113.06.20.image 2014-10-18]

            a typical Deutsch mention of the mythical rukerneltool Zitat Zitat von cedric1982 Beitrag anzeigen

            Mit dem rukerneltool das branding von "avm" auf "avme" änderen, box neu starten und anschliessend mit einem international recovery flashen. etc, it did eventually work - I had a 0.5 second window in which to launch via telnet the new english F/W into the very firmly DE Fritzbox, lots of little tiding up needed

            read http://rukerneltool.rainerullrich.de/FAQ.html via ChromeBrowser for the (nearly) correct info in translated English and an article from 2007 does some slight hacking [using the correct meaning of the word] & guiding http://www.ip-phone-forum.de/showthread.php?t=97250

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The FCC wants to be just like Germany used to be

    Where in the days of Dial-up internet even the modems that you used were owned by the PTT.

    You could not connect any non PTT owned device to the Telephone Network.

    So we used their external modems rather than internal ones because they wanted to fully test the whole system just because the modem was inside the PC case.

    This was a long time ago but it seems that the FCC want to do something like this.

    I have to wonder if someone from a well known Software company that has not long released their new OS with automatic updating might have influenced some the the FCC arguments. After all if the FCC says that you can't disable their (sometimes dodgy) updates then a good proportion of their customers will be shafted for life.

    1. Lyndon Hills 1

      Re: The FCC wants to be just like Germany used to be

      In the Uk in the days of modems, the modem didn't have to be PTT owned but it did have to be approved - actually anything you attached to the phone system had to be approved. IIRC the main test was whether it was possible for an electric current to jump a gap and make the phone line live. This would be a lot of the reason my first modem cost me about half as much as the computer it was attached to...

  10. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Looks like the FCC is now run by Apple - who else locks down their hardware/software/firmware and refuses to allow open source near their kit? Come on Google, get your act together or are you also abandoning AOSP because it's (often) better than any Android flavor?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Apple...refuses to allow open source near their kit? "

      Much of OSX is based on open source. xBSD based userland, for example. Apple bought and has continued development of CUPS. Apple switched from AppleTalk to SMB and use the Samba open source code.

      Much as I dislike Apple, there are plenty of facts to dislike them for without making stuff up.

  11. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Computers

    Presumably computers would be affected by this legislation too, because unless you house the mainboard in a Faraday cage any card that gets put in the back of it e.g., an extra monitor card, will affect the RF profile of the overall box.

  12. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Define 'software'

    Good luck, you'll need it.

    Oops, you just included installation of apps. I don't think you meant to include that.

    Oh, your mk2 definition fails to exclude settings changes.

    Ah, your mk3 definition fails to include gate array 'code'. Harder than you expected, eh?

    Nope. The OS contains data, data that changes. A 'Registry' if you like. A 'Harvard Architecture' would be handy about now.

    I'll fetch a chair...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Define 'software'

      Call it Harvard if you like, but fundamentally it's just another implementation of the Von Neumann architecture we all know.

      That architecture is that it's all data. Doesn't matter if it resides in a special "program memory" area, it's still data all the same, and can theoretically be changed.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Define 'software'

        Reviewing the basics here...

        The Harvard architecture has separate Instruction and Data memory. The former was called the 'Program Store' back in the day. With such an architecture, it's trivial to make the Program Store read-only, and it's also easier to define 'software' as those bits that are in the Program Store. As opposed to 'data' which is in the Data Store.

        Once you mix the software and data (nearly universal these days), it becomes difficult (impossible) to even define 'software' as distinct from 'data'. Maybe 'software' is what's listed on the VDD, but that's not real time.

        In the real world, even deciding how to implement DO-178 on 'software' becomes actually entertaining, as senior staff attempt and predictably fail to define where the 'software' stops and where the user-loaded data and software settings and FPGA begins.

        Recent example saw an airplane crash when three of the four engines were incorrectly field-loaded with operator controlled tables of data. A crystal clear example of EXACTLY what I'm ranting about. If you're tempted to argue, then first read up on the A400M crash in May 2015. It's the perfect counterexample to most rebuttal attempts.

        Define 'software'. The edges, not the easy middle.

        Good luck.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Define 'software'

          And that's not counting when you really hit gray areas like recompilers and JIT compilers that blur the line between code and data because they're code that produces or alters other code by design. That's why you can't really do JIT compilation on a Harvard architecture.

        2. phil dude
          IT Angle

          Re: Define 'software'

          I believe the finite-state machine does the trick. Changing the state is an operation so it doesn't matter how you do it. That's what I got reading my books...

          A possible intellectual problem is that software is "digital" (always gives repeatable answer, in theory) whereas the universe is analogue (e.g FPGA's more analogue than CPU's - including the users!! )

          I would suggest that the plasticity of one, defines the cultural insensitivity of the other...

          P.

          PS (Undergrad EEE)

  13. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    I intend to write the fcc

    I intend to write (E-Mail or whatever) the FCC. What can I say? First, every AP I've used (except some Ciscos and Ubiquitys) the stock firmware has ranged from poor to piss poor, I wouldn't buy ANY AP DD-WRT can't run on. I've also had several phones where the carrier never did release updates fixing critical bugs on the phone, I updated it with Cyanogenmod. Second, with enough interest any device can be cracked and updated, all forms of DRM (Digital Rights Mrestriction) are a waste of developer time that could be spent on something useful, and this type of attempted restriction is a prticular waste.

  14. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Idiots on the loose

    The proposed solution is in search of a problem that does not exist. Very few people have the technical knowledge to rewrite the firmware for a phone or router. Also, firmware updates to phones, routers, etc. can bork the device. Thus, almost all users should be updating the firmware with an official update from the vendor only. In fact most users probably will not update the

    Yes, there is a potential problem.But the problem exists now and appears more theoretical than practical. As the "exploit" requires sideloading of a firmware patch onto a device that has a fairly narrow, specific purpose.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Idiots on the loose

      Sorry you are utterly wrong I'm afraid, this is a very real problem. I don't think you have any real knowledge on the state of affairs with open source wlan router fw.

      You are right that few people have the knowledge to *correctly* rewrite the fw. But there are plenty who can *incorrectly* change it. There are lot more of the latter, and so they also happen to be the ones who contribute more to open source initiatives.

      The experts tend to work with the official firmware to begin with and that's why the first cut of the open source firmware wouldn't have some of the changes made to being with.

      I think until the open source community comes up with an alternative solution, the RF and radio of the FW should be locked down, even signed and encrypted. It is a RPITA to deal with these hobbyist FW, some of the changes that get mainstreamed are right down stupid, and clearly reflects ignorance. This happens even in the official fw world, but that's where the certification process sends you back to fix it.

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Idiots on the loose

        The real issue is the an iron of bureaucracies (I think Pournelle) which is bureaucracies look for "problems" to expand their power. It is not that the problem could occur, if one is willing to risk borking a router or two, but that most are not going to sideload an update of this nature. The FCC has found what is likely a very minor problem mostly affecting probably a few dozen idiots and has made it a "major" issue to justify their power grab.

        The normal update pattern is for the user or the device to contact the official source for an update and to install it. Official updates have been shaky at times (MS looking at you) and unofficial updates are definitely shady.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Idiots on the loose

          The problem is mainly the (low) chance of 5GHz radios interfering with aircraft weather radar systems and doppler weather radar systems.

          It's unlikely to actually occur unless the kit in question is outdoors, but when people are strapping high gain antennas to domestic kit without RTFMing, anything's possible.

          2.45GHz stuff used to be retunable into the ham bands with appropriate firmware loads but I don't think that's an option anymore.

          Personally I tend to agree that this is a solution in search of a problem. The number of interference cases is so low that DF equipment should be more than sufficient to locate and LART the miscreants. After all, APs tend to be sedentary and 24*7

          The radio side of APs is already subject to regulatory control and signed firmware (manufacturers insist on it, as it's the only way they can get regulatory approval for the devices), so I'm not quite sure what the FCC is trying to achieve.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Idiots on the loose

            >> The radio side of APs is already subject to regulatory control and signed firmware (manufacturers insist on it, as it's the only way they can get regulatory approval for the devices), so I'm not quite sure what the FCC is trying to achieve.

            I'm not sure where you got this fact from. The OSS community would beg to differ.

            https://wiki.debian.org/ath9k_htc/open_firmware

            Here is an example of wireless lan fw, radio and all, available to compile (and change) and no one certifies any of the changes.

            "cp target_firmware/*.fw /lib/firmware/"

            This is not the driver, this is the FW itself.

            This FW is not used by any manufacturer officially. (The proprietary binary is used)

      2. Hans 1 Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Idiots on the loose

        >This happens even in the official fw world, but that's where the certification process sends you back to fix it.

        BS, go look at the other article on Seagate wireless disks, "certification process" (whatever that means) "allowed" root/root telnet logins.

        Proprietary code is just of too low quality to be published, as simple as that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Idiots on the loose

          "certification process" is RF testing!

          That's spectrum analyzers and anechoic chamber. They care fuck all about the sw.

          The FCC don't test SW security. You admit you don't know what the certification is, so how can you call BS on it? lol

          If I face-slapped myself, I'd turn all kinds of colors.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Idiots on the loose

      "The proposed solution is in search of a problem that does not exist."

      Sounds like downlike t'rrorist talk to me. If you're not with us, you're against us.

      There never has been and never will be a day when we don't need more regulation...

  15. westlake

    What's mine is mine and what is your's is mine too.

    Godwin seems alive and well here.

    I know this is new concept for the geek but the FCC exists because the early days of radio were chaotic and threatened to destroy the usefulness of this new means of communication. Sometimes there has to be a lock-down and sometimes the geek can't have everything he wants.

    1. Old Handle
      Thumb Down

      Re: What's mine is mine and what is your's is mine too.

      But where's the evidence this has been a problem with open source firmware? I can't say it doesn't happen, but I've never heard of a problem. If there is one, punish the people who cause trouble (severely if on purpose, mildly if through carelessness) but don't just lock everybody out when the vast majority of them are playing nice.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I've also had several phones where the carrier never did release updates fixing critical bugs on the phone" - so if the FCC is going to regulate that you can't do that, they'll obviously require carriers to release fixes immediately each bug is discovered. Only fair.

    yeah right.

  17. Ole Juul Silver badge

    Just checking

    Has anybody here actually measured the output of any of these commercial wifi routers where the power is programmable? I've got a number of them here and it doesn't look like there is much increase in output when the software numbers are increased. It certainly doesn't look linear. In other words it may say milliwatt, but doubling the number does not double the output. Checking output from one radio to the other, and I see very little increase in signal received. Also, practical experience with any transmitter would tell you that output is very much limited by the hardware and the output stage will simply burn out when pushed very much beyond it's intended power.

    So. Anybody have any real numbers on the actual dBm increases we're talking about here?

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Just checking

      Since the output power is limited by hardware, which is true of all transmitters, you are correct in that there is a upper limit. Most wifi devices are low power devices by hardware design and trying to push more power out will at best do nothing or at worst fry the innards.

  18. alain williams Silver badge

    FCC is going after the tail rather than the nose

    Let's look at what is out there:

    * most users don't update or just accept whatever their device vendor pushes to them. Ergo: no problem, modulo a few bugs

    * a few will install a new OS/firmware, eg: Fedora Linux on a PC, Cyanogenmod on a phone; ie popular & responsible sources. Ergo: no problem, modulo a few bugs

    * a handful will want to tinker. Some will screw it. Potential problems, small in number

    * criminals & similar will try to do what is illegal for, errm, criminal reasons. Not vast numbers, but no amount of FCC regulation will stop them - so little point in trying, leave it to the police (if they care).

    It seems to me that the greatest incidence of problems will come from bugs in big name vendor software and popular open source replacements thereof. So the FCC would get a greater return on effort by setting up a unit that works with these people and helps them to become aware of and then kill bugs.

    What they are proposing will just get up everyone's noses and will be counter productive.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Land of the free

    Because the lawmakers say it is. In reality, the world laughs at the Americans that just do whatever the TV or internet tells them to think.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Land of the free

      But it really is the land of the free as long as you're a person, and by a person I mean incorporated in Delaware. Really does seem to be heading that way where the corporate "citizens" can rewrite the laws as they see fit buying the government in the process while the actual biological people are shafted all ways but still maintain the illusion of democracy.

      Romney said corporations are people too and the Supreme Court agree, as had been said elsewhere I'll believe that once Texas execute one.

      1. Fatman Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Land of the free

        <quote>Romney said corporations are people too and the Supreme Court agree, as had been said elsewhere I'll believe that once Texas execute one.</quote>

        OK, now just HOW do you execute a corporation?

        Enquiring minds want to know?

        Because if you propose that executing corporations may be accomplished by confiscating their assets and shutting them down; I can imagine the outcry from those of a certain business aligned political persuasion.

        In the plaintive wail of a female voice over talent that THAT political party has used in the past, one can mentally imagine the whining about "Hurting the job creators". (The refrain that inspired me to spout this post was along the line of "Taxing the job creators".)

        1. Down not across Silver badge

          Re: Land of the free

          <quote>Romney said corporations are people too and the Supreme Court agree, as had been said elsewhere I'll believe that once Texas execute one.</quote>

          OK, now just HOW do you execute a corporation?

          Enquiring minds want to know?

          I suppose the shutting down and confiscating assets, as you suggested, could be one way. That would probably be too much like communism in the land of the free.

          Given people, as opposed to legal entities, cease to live when executed then perhaps closest thing to executing a corporation would be executing the board members.

  20. porcus pious

    and you promise there are no self serving us commercial considerations here.. of course

    1. Busby

      I'm assuming your in the UK like most of the readership, in that case I would say of course commercial powers have influence over our government but not on the same scale as seen in the US.

      We have our own issues, the big accountancy firms "gifting" staff free of charge to the policy units of the 3 main parties for example. Can no one see the problem with allowing Deloitte et al free reign in drawing up Tax policy and laws, this way it doesn't matter which party forms the majority since they get their laws passed with any of them. People wonder why the rich can exploit the tax code so well in this country there's no mystery behind it the the people they hire to minimise their tax bill are the same ones "helping" politicians draw up the very laws they then seek to exploit.

      This is bad for UK citizens but still not on the scale seen in the US. There lobbyists don't even hide the fact they draft their own legislation and then pass to their bought and paid for Senators and Congressmen to have submitted. Then you have the crazy situation with the Super PAC's and American politics now seems to be a contest between Billionaires to audition candidates to find the most pliable then pay to have them elected. They have pretty much legalised bribery on an industrial scale and now laws are drafted not according to National need or to further the interests of the people but instead based on which group can spend the most on lobbyists and PAC donations. Which is why I'm surprised the likes of Google haven't been more vocal in opposition to this move by the FCC but there is probably a reason obvious to Google this is in their favour.

      This little rant has little to do with the topic of the article so apologies for anyone who did read it I'm feeling a little self righteous this morning.

  21. Tubz

    and soon the NSA/GCHQ will invite router manufacturers and ISP's to route all the data via their big slurping machines, just in case they spot naughty traffic and what is deemed naughty, will be classified by them and kept secret.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Tubz

      More likely that the router will detect any attempt to torrent and send the MAC address of the connected device to the RIAA, or maybe just block all torrents.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can't help thinking that everything would be ok if we all bought Apple products.

  23. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Remember the FCC wifi connector directive?

    FCC mandated that wifi equipment have unique connectors, such as RP SMA.

    That way "nobody would ever be able to" install a different antenna.

    Now it's easier to buy SMA connectors, cables, high gain Yagi 2.4 GHz antennas with the 'Reverse' connectors than with standard SMA. Any special adapters are on eBay for $1. Trivial, and free shipping.

    Silly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Remember the FCC wifi connector directive?

      ah yes, I remember that.

      On a related topic, I own an HP netbook which is crippled by the lack of a decent dual band or even 3G card despite having the slot to install it.

      HP have seen fit to lock the BIOS so not only does it refuse to recognize an identical card that wasn't shipped with the machine (also from an HP) but it will not POST properly if the wrong card is in the slot.

      It would be trivial to write a piece of malware that maliciously rewrites this information thus DDoSing a whole range of such machines running Windows 10 or otherwise.

      Are they going to be checking for "Evil" (tm) modifications at borders, so that $50 hacked netbook might get you fined or at worst imprisoned just because you decided to cheap out and not buy the FCC approved $999.95 NSA certified Windows 10 Extra Added Spyware (tm) with new improved 20 minute battery life thanks to the IATA approved NiCads.

  24. EastFinchleyite

    Not a router

    You don't need a router to run a wifi network. When my router blew up I reverted to using a wired broadband modem direct to a PC and then used a combination of Redmond's finest operating system and a wifi hotspot application to use the PCI wifi card as my home network access point.

    The way the new regulation is reported it means that I have to get permission to both load my OS (be it Windows or Linux) and to make any further changes. This seems like a piece of very low key thinking from the FCC.

    Ignore them They'll go away. Either that or extradite you to the US of A. I wonder if FCC agents are armed?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Then there's the security angle

    If anybody is at all concerned about security, then control of routers and firewalls is important (assuming you've not installed stuff inside your cordon that sends all your secrets home). The only way to be sure you are secure, or, rather sure that there isn't embedded spyware and malware, is to compile and install all your firmware and software.

    Naturally, if everybody used open source firmware and software, it'd be more difficult for the spooks to operate. So, though this is the FCC, it would be surprisingly useful to the spooks.

  26. redneck

    ham radio

    This is the first thrust by the FCC to get rid of all ham radio bands above HF. If this FCC proposal takes effect, we can kiss broadband hamnet goodbye. Goodbye to all the HSMM links between hospitals in Texas; time to downgrade your speeds to winlink speeds. No more self training of hams with new technologies. (The US government really doesn't want any more local STEM graduates.) If US hams want to play with hardware, they'll just have to dust off their soldering irons and create a tried and true superhet transceiver (coming up on a century old).

    PS:

    I think I'm gonna go buy some Ubiquiti hardware to supplement the hardware that I already own, and use after modification, which runs openWRT. Anyone want a FUFCC t-shirt?

  27. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Sir

    "require the manufacturers to only allow updates from authorized companies, i.e., those with something to lose from breaking the rules."

    That rules out any government agency then, since when have they ever lost anything from breaking the rules?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All stand for the National Anthem

    ..... Yadda yadda yadda...

    O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?*

    *Subject to terms and conditions, exempting management from all liability and class action, your data may not be yours, expectations of privacy may vary from reality, 'Free' is not a legal term and has no bearing on the aforementioned citizenship license

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    None of you foreign muck!

    " Following its line of thinking even further, the FCC recognizes that devices not made in the United States would be outside its influence, and so proposes a ban on any devices that don't meet its requirements (or don't have a named company within the US that is responsible for compliance). "

    Seems a bit protectionist.

    Think Samsung and Huawei's lawyers might have something to say about this.

  30. Spamfast Bronze badge
    FAIL

    Huh?

    I can go to RS or Farnell (is Radio Shack still going in the States?) and assemble the parts to build a radio transmitter to generate all sorts of frequencies and powers. Should I therefore be disbarred from buying components?

    There is a control - if I start spraying EM where I shouldn't I'm subject to criminal proceedings in the same way as if I spray paint a set of traffic lights with an aerosol.

    Legislation should encourage people not to indulge in anti-social acts. Trying to have it prevent people from having the capability so to do ends in bureaucratic meltdown at best or a police state at worst.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Huh?

      "is Radio Shack still going in the States?"

      Essentially, no. Apart from a few sections of Sprint stores, all the Radio Shacks in the US ceased business about six months ago. Kind of a shame, though, as it makes it hard to buy electrical components in a hurry.

  31. Terje

    With no real idea of how this looks like in the field I wonder if this is a real issue or a case of this might possibly be bad in the future. I would guess that if we do some guestimates number of wifi things that run a non vendor firmware is probably somewhere in the order of 1%, then we look at that one percent and ask ourselves what kind of non standard firmware are they running? 95% is probably running a well known drop in replacement that is unlikely to cause problems. with the remaining 5 percent running whatever hacked firmware there is left, say half of those do stuff to the radio part that put them out of spec.

    The gives us 0,025% of the kit spewing out stuff it should not do. this is of course a very rough estimate but if anything I feel it's probably on the high side. Now of the 0,025% of kit doing bad things how many of them will actually cause problems? Most of them will probably be quite unlikely to cause issues to anyone but the person running the dodgy firmware.

    I strongly believe that this number is a lot smaller then that caused by dodgy vendor firmware that never gets updated.

  32. Joe Gurman

    Erm....

    "[A] deeply held philosophical view among many that there should always be the ability to modify computing equipment that you buy"

    Parn me, but when did a deeply held philosophical view among many geeks (certainly not among many of the general electronics-purchasing populace, much less the entire electorate by any stretch of the imagination) become a concern for a federal agency charged with protecting public access to the airwaves? I'm looking for case law or FCC decisions.

    The convenience and ability to add new features of some RF-emitting designs (and c'mon, folks, you know that even receivers emit some, if only at intermediate frequencies; that's what the standards are for) are good counterarguments to this sort of regulation, but that's a very different argument to/from one based on the geek philosophy.

  33. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    FCC offline for a firmware upgrade?

  34. martinusher Silver badge

    Not Fir For Purpose

    One of the fundamental laws about regulators is that they should at least have some idea about the technologies that they're regulating. Whoever proposed this was basically clueless, they have no idea about what's going on in an access point.

    The FCC would be better served by freeing up some more spectrum for the myriad users of radio devices. Both 2.4 and 5.2GHz aren't particularly good slices of the spectrum to start with - that's why they've been free to unlicensed users -- but as the technology has improved to make them usable the bands -- particularly 2.4GHz -- has got more crowded. The resulting data loss can be anything from a glitch in a movie to a crashed model aircraft. Marketing types have responded by upping power and spreading modulation over even more of the band but this isn't a solution. The FCC's proposals are trying to regulate the unregulatable -- what we need is more of *our* spectrum, and not just some minuscule slice at some near-light frequency which is offered because nobody will buy it.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just wait

    Until the FCC start going after motorbikes, because they are well known for extremely high levels of EMI due to the unshielded spark gap transmitters aka spark plugs.

    I still say that a solution to a lot of problems would be to abolish the FCC and let the market decide which bands to use and protect, result: win all round.

    Same with the FDA, aka Medical Mafia (another topic entirely)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just wait

      Abolish the FCC and all the bandwidth will be held hostage: including the emergency and military bands. You can't trust the market to regulate a needed but limited resource: capitalism will cause cartel behavior.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just filed my objections through ECFS, on Docket No. 15-170.

    If you're concerned about this issue, don't just fume over it: file a comment.

    http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. HP

    good news folks:

    I extracted the E2PROM image, hopefully can now see how this dastardly card locking works so this laptop can take an SSD in place of the WiFi card without throwing a hissy fit.

    I

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