(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
ad injections, plex, smart tvs

Companies:
samsung



Samsung Ad Injections Perfectly Illustrate Why I Want My 'Smart' TV To Be As Dumb As Possible

from the get-the-hell-out-of-the-way dept

Samsung has been doing a great job this week illustrating why consumers should want their televisions to be as dumb as technologically possible. The company took heat for much of the week after its privacy policy revealed Samsung smart TVs have been collecting and analyzing user living room conversations in order to improve voice recognition technology. While that's fairly common for voice recognition tech, the idea of living room gear that spies on you has been something cable operators have been patenting for years. And while Samsung has changed its privacy policy language to more clearly illustrate what it's doing, the fact that smart TV security is relatively awful has many people quite justly concerned about smart TVs becoming another poorly-guarded repository for consumer data.

But it's something else stupid that Samsung did this week that got less press attention, but that I actually find far more troubling. Numerous Samsung smart TV users around the world this week stated that the company has started injecting ads into content being watched on third-party devices and services. For example, some users found that when streaming video content from PC to the living room using Plex, they suddenly were faced with a large ad for Pepsi that actually originated from their Samsung TV:
"Reports for the unwelcome ad interruption first surfaced on a Subreddit dedicated to Plex, the media center app that is available on a variety of connected devices, including Samsung smart TVs. Plex users typically use the app to stream local content from their computer or a network-attached storage drive to their TV, which is why many were very surprised to see an online video ad being inserted into their videos. A Plex spokesperson assured me that the company has nothing to do with the ad in question."
Now Samsung hasn't responded yet to this particular issue, and you'd have to think that the company accidentally enabled some kind of trial ad injection technology, since anything else would be idiotic brand seppuku (in fact it does appear like it has been working with Yahoo on just this kind of technology). Still, users say the ads have them rushing to disable the smart portion of Samsung TVs, whether that's by using a third party solution or digging into the bowels of the TV's settings to refuse Samsung's end user agreement. And that raises an important point: many consumers (myself included) want their TV to be as slack-jawed, glassy-eyed, dumb and dim-witted as possible.

Like broadband ISPs and net neutrality, Samsung clearly just can't help itself, and is eager to use its position as a television maker to ham-fistedly inject itself into a multi-billion dollar emerging Internet video market. But that runs in stark contrast to the fact that most people just want their television (whether it's 720p or 4K) to simply be a dumb monitor they hook smart devices of their choice up to. Just like people want their broadband ISPs to get out of the way and provide a quality dumb pipe, many people just want a traditional, dumb television to do a great job displaying the signals sent to it and nothing more.

Dumb TVs just make more sense for most users: many people own televisions for ten years, and the streaming hardware embedded in these sets quickly becomes irrelevant even with updated firmware. Dumb TVs, with less sophisticated internals, should also be cheaper to buy. And if you're any kind of respectable audiophile, you've got game consoles and devices like Roku hooked into a receiver and a decent 5.1 (or above) system, making the set's internals redundant. Swapping out a crop of the latest and greatest (not to mention relatively cheap) Rokus or Chromecasts every few years just makes more sense for most of us.

Last I saw, around 50% of people who buy connected TVs aren't using the connected portion of the set. Yet if you peruse the latest sets (especially the ongoing standards minefield that is 4K or UHD) you'll find that buying a dumb television is getting increasingly more difficult. I won't even get into the problems with HDCP 2.2 DRM stifling 4K growth and confusing the hell out of consumers on the bleeding edge, as that's another article entirely.

Bottom line: I want my pipes dumb, my TVs dumber, and my choice of a full variety of intelligent devices and services without bull-headed companies stumbling drunkenly into my line of sight. Samsung's clumsy week simply couldn't have illustrated the growing need for dim-witted television sets any better.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 10:41am

    I've always found Smart TV apps to be slower, more cumbersome and harder to navigate than their various counterparts. For this and other reasons (Hulu requires Plus sub, many apps just don't have a use for me) I never use them.
    It's far easier to just plug my laptop in and hit play.

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    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 10:57am

      Re:

      Like car infotainment GUIs or Audio receiver GUIs I've historically found them cumbersome and annoying to the Nth degree. Another reason to leave that stuff to companies that actually know what they're doing.

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      • identicon
        JEDIDIAH, 11 Feb 2015 @ 1:00pm

        Eat my dust.

        Anything pre-loaded in a car is gauranteed to be out of date based on turn around time to produce a car. Even the more bleeding edge electronic options from luxury car brands will seem inferior to what you can throw into a cheap car after market.

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    • icon
      ltlw0lf (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 1:36pm

      Re:

      I've always found Smart TV apps to be slower

      I'd agree, up until you talk about Plex. The Plex app that runs on smart TVs seems to be built right, in that it is as easy to navigate as NetFlix and is pretty fast too. About the only issue I have with it is that it still relies on DLNA updates, which result in File Not Found messages when new stuff is added to the library and you have to exit and restart the Plex App to avoid these errors.

      It's far easier to just plug my laptop in and hit play.

      Maybe, though the problem there is that you have to have your laptop running and set up to output to HDMI, and a cable long enough to plug in while you are sitting some distance from the TV. I use the Plex app mainly because I don't have to turn on another device. Luckily I am not using a Samsung TV, and I've been monitoring my Smart TV for the same stupidity and have not seen it (no callback to home, no injecting ads, and no listening devices or monitoring devices.) It does have a stupid non-disableable and non-configurable WiFi Access Point, but that seems to be its only stupidity in this current iteration of the firmware.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 8:34pm

      Re:

      That's why they are trying to take away general purpose computers and replace them with desktop smartphones for running apps that they can change at will.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 10:53am

    Dumb: Yes

    > many consumers (myself included) want their TV to be as slack-jawed, glassy-eyed, dumb and dim-witted as possible.

    I agree with dumb. But I like some degree of brightness control (so not just dim), I prefer LCDs over the old glass tube-based sets, and I worry that a slack-jawed TV will just drool all over my TiVo sitting on a shelf beneath it.

    :-)

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  • identicon
    Jake, 11 Feb 2015 @ 10:53am

    Last I saw, around 50% of people who buy connected TVs aren't using the connected portion of the set. Yet if you peruse the latest sets (especially the ongoing standards minefield that is 4K or UHD) you'll find that buying a dumb television is getting increasingly more difficult.


    Not if you buy a PC monitor instead, which is what I plan on doing in the unlikely event I feel the need for a traditional living room TV setup.

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  • icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 10:53am

    Multipurpose TV's

    "multipurpose" is an engineering term used to describe anything that performs many functions, none of them well.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 10:55am

    Dumb and Dumber

    I've always hated smart TVs ever since they came into being. All I want is a simple set of controls for calibrating the picture and nothing more but apparently they just have to layer on an endless amount of junk and now they're pushing in Ads?

    The only option is to switch to a Large Format Display or those flat screens you see in the windows of shops...Which all used to be pretty expensive but now that I've 'just' taken another look, they're actually getting pretty cheap now?

    Hmmm...

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  • identicon
    bob, 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:01am

    I like them dumb

    Although I agree the current efforts are all sorts of whacky from a consumer standpoint.. the 'I want it dumb" was said by a lot of people about their phones, their phones tracking them via GPS, their phones being able to listen to them, etc..
    just like amazons living room smart speaker, this is just twists on similar tech that will find it's way into useful profitability or go the (current) way of google glass, where consumers don't really want it although it might live on in some niche markets.

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    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:04am

      Re: I like them dumb

      I'm not sure cell phones and TVs are an apt comparison.

      Some people like their phones dumb, sure. But unlike the phone, the TV is a gateway to other devices (game consoles, cable boxes, streaming video hardware, cameras). The TV's role is to simply display content from other devices. The phone isn't just a screen, it's a portable computer. I feel like they're quite different.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 3:11pm

        Re: Re: I like them dumb

        The TV's role is to simply display content from other devices. The phone isn't just a screen, it's a portable computer. I feel like they're quite different.

        For you.

        I have two kids aged 7 and 5, both of them use the smart features on our Samsung TV. They simply do not get why you need to connect a console, laptop, whatever to the TV just to get internet access or watch a film, or play music etc.

        I personally don't need, or even necessarily want, a smart TV (I still prefer my desktop with a physical cable for internet access), but that doesn't mean the future isn't smart TVs.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 3:41pm

          Re: Re: Re: I like them dumb

          The content industry much prefers appliances, like smart TV's to any general purpose computer, as the appliances are much easier to control. Depending on the installed OS, the computer may become in effect a graphics terminal to "cloud" based services, and under the control of the vendor rather than the person who posses it.
          Increasingly corporations are establishing ownership of peoples technology, turning the more into serfs that citizens.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:15am

      Re: I like them dumb

      I have to strongly disagree that smart tvs will ever be accepted in the same way that smart phones have given the fact that display savvy people like myself who constantly recalibrate their display every other week don't need or want any of the extra bells and whistles since we're all well aware that their only purpose is to woo Joe Average into spilling his cash.

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    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:15am

      Re: I like them dumb

      In addition to the other differences already noted, here's a really huge one: right now, you can make most sumb TVs into smart ones for under $100 using hardware that you actually have control over (and can upgrade independently of the TV). Additionally, those solutions are far superior in terms of performance and user interface than any smart TV on the market.

      With cell phones, there was no other way to get the same functionality.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bob, 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:04am

    cars will go through the same backlash

    when self driving cars arrive on the consumer scene, there will be a similar backlash when they find out that the driving data, locations and times are being recorded and sent back to the maker company. of course, this is so they can better understand driving habits, traffic patterns, etc.. but there is a privacy component which people won't like, and god forbid it comes out the NSA is getting their hands on the data from Toyota, Ford, etc.

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    • identicon
      Rich Kulawiec, 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:53am

      Re: cars will go through the same backlash

      "god forbid it comes out the NSA is getting their hands on the data from Toyota, Ford, etc."

      Of course they are -- with or without Toyota's/Ford's/etc.'s knowledge and/or consent. Haven't you noticed? The NSA has a rapacious appetite for every data source it can acquire. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for them to pass this one up.

      If a vehicle can be tracked, it will be tracked.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 2:56pm

      Will they?

      So far BMW's "connectedDrive" does not...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:07am

    The only kind of smarts i could see myself wanting is smart detection of other technologies and interactions with outside devices plus a smarter use of tv ui

    I.e.

    Another device if connected can turn on tv

    a standardized and more inovated use of pip i.e. many pip boxes and faster pip response.....hell, how about a one button shortcut on the damn remote for starters

    an intuative tv scheduler with some sort of deep intergration with something like imdb

    Etc etc

    I can attach the smart bit from a device i have more, maybe not enough, but still, more control over then the closed source tv firmware.......tv manufacturers need to improve the tv aspects first and foremost

    Android tv has the right idea, i like the aspects of a unified os, but i hope theres competition there in all fields.......i want to start seing competition from new players, ones that take privacy/security seriously

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:09am

    A more troubling aspect of this is why does a product manufacturer feel injecting advertisements is appropriate? On ANY level? It's despicable behavior, and if Samsung gets away with it unscathed, other manufacturers will surely follow. Will we be forced to listen to an ad before our cars will start? Before making a phone call?

    I will never, ever, own a Samsung product.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:10am

    Please keep the SMART out of the TV

    (Repost from two days ago)

    I hope I never have to buy a Smart TV. I just want an ordinary TV thank you.

    Reasons why:

    Competition and open market. I can buy whatever choice of "smart tv" box that I want. Amazon Fire Stick. Chromecast. Google TV. Roku. PS/3, Xbox, MythTV, Etc. I can even have more than one. Even with overlapping functions. Or even no smart tv at all for those who don't want one.

    Competition for the smart TV boxes is important for the future. Just think of what happens if there is a new "Microsoft" of smart tv boxes, and maybe then only one major streaming platform (think "Comcast" of streaming platforms).

    The price of the TV is cheaper without building in the smart tv.

    If the smart tv box is spying on me, it is not part of the TV and I can get rid of it. It probably cost about $100 which is way less than the cost of the TV.

    The Smart TV box becomes obsolete long before the expensive TV does. In fact, the TV might last multiple generations of smart TV box. (This is why I also think buying a computer built into a monitor is a dumb idea.) I can replace the inexpensive smart tv box without throwing out the expensive TV part.

    If I don't like the EULA of a smart tv, I don't have to forego the nice TV just because it has a smart TV component with a ridiculous EULA.

    Keeping the prices unbundled prevents various pricing games that are played when things are bundled.

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  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:12am

    Smart TVs are a step of modern progress

    . . . toward the Telescreen.

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  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:13am

    Samsung has responded

    http://www.cnet.com/news/samsung-smart-tvs-forcing-ads-into-video-streaming-apps/

    This was a result of an error that occurred as part of a recent software update that was not intended for the Australian market.

    We can confirm that the issue has now been rectified and that there are currently no plans to introduce this type of advertising in Australia in the near future. Samsung Electronics Australia would like to apologise for any inconvenience that this has caused to our customers.


    There are two takeaways from this. First, that this wasn't intended to happen in Australia. Who knows where it was intended for? Also, there are "currently no plans" to do this "in the near future", which means there are absolutely plans to do this at some point later than the near future.

    All in all, their response supports the premise that people should not be purchasing smart TVs.

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    • identicon
      Rich Kulawiec, 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:59am

      Re: Samsung has responded

      "Also, there are "currently no plans" to do this "in the near future", which means there are absolutely plans to do this at some point later than the near future."

      Absolutely. Nobody spends the engineering time and money required to implement this functionality unless they intend to use it.

      So now the question must be asked: what else have they installed in those systems? They've already laid proof on the table that they're willing to turn them into audio surveillance endpoints, what's next?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:22am

    First thing I'd like to mention, is that I'm like the rest that like their TVs to be dumb. I believe I read somewhere and I am not sure who the maker was, that if you don't agree to the TOS, the smart tv, is a dumb one. You buy a smart tv and don't agree to be spied on you just payed a lot of money for something you won't use for the purposes you bought it for. So just as well save money and not go for the smart tv.

    It's not just tv's either. Remember the flap about Xbox and Microsofts' idea of the camera and microphone in it to check out how many are watching the tv set and spying on what's said by who in the room? Or how about the Google Nest, a thermostat that connects to the net, reporting the owners electricity use?

    My lady got a new Kindle Fire. Know what? It doesn't come with a manual. Know how you get it? You have to create an account with Amazon to get it, online. Amazon wants to load it with ads as well as spy on your usage. Well, here's news. I don't allow this house hold to work on wifi for just these reasons. Anything that connects to the net is going to have to be hard wired. That means Amazon will never get one tab of info out of that spy device called a Kindle.

    I'm to the point that if it requires the internet (other than a computer) I don't want it.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 6:36pm

      Re:

      "My lady got a new Kindle Fire. Know what? It doesn't come with a manual. Know how you get it? You have to create an account with Amazon to get it, online. Amazon wants to load it with ads as well as spy on your usage. "

      No, this is not correct. You can buy them at Best Buy and other places (or ebay). You can use them without connecting to the internet by connecting to a computer via USB and copying your ebooks to them. You can convert ebooks to kindle format without Amzn knowing about it. I have 2 kindles that have never been connected to a wifi network or to Amazon, and can copy files to them through USB.

      If you do buy from Amzn and buy one with 'special offers' (you can buy one without at the outset) you can later pay extra to remove the offers. And if you do have the ones with 'offers' (aka ads) they display only as the sleep screen unless you choose to look at them (basic kindle) or on the HDs if you play games that provide them (so don't play those games, you have the choice).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:22am

    I have enough smart already.

    If I want to watch anything, on any TV and anywhere I want, I use my smartphone with an adapter. Mirroring is becoming fairly common and most smartphones can pull of high resolution, with 4k rumored to be arriving with the next generation of phones that will be here in a couple of months. There is an app for almost any streaming service out there and if you have a NAS box, as I do, you can even stream your own personal library anywhere (requires a fairly good connection though).
    Do you have a bluetooth keyboard and mouse? Then you just use your favorite remoting software or VPN + RDP and then you can work at your home or work computer as if you were sitting right at it.
    In my opinion, smartphones will beat any smart-tv by a mile in a one mile race.

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  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:49am

    Perhaps I'm confusing something here.

    The article says both Smart TVs should be dumb but 50% of people disable the feature.

    How is this Samsung's fault again? If the APP being used is running NOT on the TV and is displaying a Pepsi ad, I'm extremely confused how Samsung is inserting the ad on a TV that supposedly has its "smart" disabled.

    Because if the "smart" is disabled, and the ad was injected regardless, this presents a much, much, much more damaging problem about to befall us consumers.

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    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 12:32pm

      Re:

      "How is this Samsung's fault again?"

      Because it was the TV itself, not an app, that was doing this. Even if you're playing your own videos from local storage.

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      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 12:34pm

        Re: Re:

        Ack, I'm too quick on the submit button.

        "Because if the "smart" is disabled, and the ad was injected regardless, this presents a much, much, much more damaging problem about to befall us consumers."

        True, it would be a much greater problem in that case. But that in no way means that it's not a great problem when it happens with the "smart" enabled.

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    • icon
      Lord_Unseen (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 12:34pm

      Re:

      Here's how it went. People were using the Plex app on their TV to stream from a computer on their network. They were using the "smart" portion of their TV. In fact, that's probably the main reason they bought a "smart" TV, for native Plex streaming. Seeing as it was all local content, really the only unexpected ads could have come from the internet connected TV itself.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 1:36pm

        Re: Re:

        "Seeing as it was all local content, really the only unexpected ads could have come from the internet connected TV itself."

        You draw a good point...unless the ads were pre-cached?

        Is there any clarification on where and how the ads were loaded?

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        • icon
          Lord_Unseen (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 1:50pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Looks like the ads were streamed from the internet, somewhere around 20-30 minutes into playing content off the local network. Not entirely sure how it was done other than they have some agreement with Yahoo! for streaming ads. Given that they control the entire TV with very little user control, it's not much of a stretch for them to be able to insert ads anywhere they feel like.

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        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 2:27pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Samsung has acknowledged that they came from the TV, and are part of a targeted ad program that they're planning. So they ultimately came from a Samsung server, in all probability.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            tom (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 2:45pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Short term way to safe guard yourself from "smart" gizmos:

            1. Purchase a real firewall/router and install between your home network and the Internet. Skip the cheap consumer grade ones.
            2. Add a default rule that blocks all traffic to everywhere. Both for inbound and outbound traffic.
            3. Add specific rules for whatever gizmos you have that you want to allow to talk to the outside world. Limit the traffic to just the specific IP/Domain name needed to enable the functionality desired.

            With this setup, even if the smart TV is allowed to report back to 'Smart TV Central Command' via a specific firewall rule, it would not be allowed to access ads from websites other then 'Central Command', so the streaming Yahoo ad would fail.

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            • icon
              John Fenderson (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 3:03pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Yes. Firewall off everything, and only open specific holes when you encounter a problem. This is the process I have been following for everything I have in my house that is connected to the internet (both software and hardware), and I strongly recommend it.

              But given that smart TVs aren't actually bringing any real value to the table, I think it's easier just to not connect the TV up to the internet at all. If I ever have to buy one of these things (which I doubt I will ever have to do), that will be the approach I take.

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            • icon
              Cynyr (profile), 15 Feb 2015 @ 6:06pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              works fine as long as central command isn't on an amazon S3 host, the same with the ad, and if it doesn't check that it can load it's ads before allowing any actions. This has happened with android apps, but in that case they were checking for entries in /etc/hosts to make sure that their ad network wasn't blocked.

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    • icon
      soillodge (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 2:34pm

      Re:

      You are right, that is troubling. Because people were saying it was even happening with home movies, and on 3rd party applications. Which suggests the TVs were preloaded with advertisements to feed into whatever signal that hit the screen. And if they are preloaded with that, what else has been preloaded? Or what plans do they have for this in the future?

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  • identicon
    New Mexico Mark, 11 Feb 2015 @ 11:59am

    What I want?

    I want my TV to be smart at connectivity (local ports/connections, and subscription services), but a complete moron when it comes to interactivity and "learning". Buying a TV that tries to enter into a sales-based intimate relationship with me is creepy. If I wanted that, there are seedy locations in most downtown areas, and frankly, hookers are probably better at protecting secrets than most corporations.

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    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 12:36pm

      Re: What I want?

      "hookers are probably better at protecting secrets than most corporations."

      No "probably" about it. Hookers are much better at that than corporations are.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 1:38pm

        Re: Re: What I want?

        "No "probably" about it. Hookers are much better at that than corporations are."

        Until you get your blood test results...

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        • icon
          ltlw0lf (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 2:09pm

          Re: Re: Re: What I want?

          "No "probably" about it. Hookers are much better at that than corporations are."

          Until you get your blood test results...


          Uhm...doesn't that kinda prove the point?

          Independent discovery doesn't change their secrecy handling skills. It's kinda like getting upset with, and suing someone for disclosing one of your Trade Secrets when you didn't tell anyone about your Trade Secret to begin with.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 12:33pm

    Preach it!

    Amen to everything you said. I couldn't agree more.

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  • identicon
    PW091, 11 Feb 2015 @ 1:11pm

    HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2

    Very pleased you mentioned the copy protection and a link to an article that walks through the pitfalls of this.

    I had bought an HD television back when they first came on the market. At the time it was DVI, HDCP hadn't yet made it into production cycles. I didn't know what it was.

    Simply I got screwed because of this. Lesson: Read all articles on HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2 before making any purchase. Backwards compatibly should be key in mind when considering all-of-your-equipment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 1:12pm

    One result I expect to be unforseen by Samsung

    Jailbroken smart televisions.

    This falls into the same category of malware as DRM in that it places a limit on how the end user can use the product (e.g. you must submit to another one of our revenue streams).

    And this will lead to open source smart-tv software and ultimately barebones tellies on which you are free to choose your OS.

    I suppose product manufacturers and venders being dicks is how we test ans build our society's autoimmune system to such bullshit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ltlw0lf (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 2:18pm

      Re: One result I expect to be unforseen by Samsung

      Jailbroken smart televisions.

      I hope sooner than later.

      I suppose product manufacturers and venders being dicks is how we test ans build our society's autoimmune system to such bullshit.

      Still waiting for someone to jailbreak my Buffalo PC-P3LWG/DVD. I hate proprietary auto-updating firmware, but unfortunately it is so pervasive these days.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 3:59pm

        The nest vengeance.

        Still waiting for someone to jailbreak my Buffalo PC-P3LWG/DVD. I hate proprietary auto-updating firmware, but unfortunately it is so pervasive these days.

        Enthusiasts have learned to code for less.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          ltlw0lf (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 8:46am

          Re: The nest vengeance.

          Enthusiasts have learned to code for less.

          I've got two of them, both bricks after an automatic update after the vendor decided to stop supporting them, at some point when I get some time, I'm going to crack open one of them and start playing. Luckily, I didn't pay $449 (list) for either of them, but I wasted way too much money on what I did pay for them.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 1:29pm

    Ya know?

    Iv shown a few people that Smart TV's arent smart...
    1. They dont update the software
    2. they dont update the selections
    3. They can do anything with the software, and if you dont what they did...

    Its asif they put another hardware part in the TV, that they forget about.. And when they DO remember, the only thing they place on it, is PAY FOR channels..

    What Iv shown and told a few, is HOW to use the computer, Roku, Smaller computer to DO with the TV, as they would want..Wonder the net, play games, Watch FREE HULU, get Netflicks, Amazon, Any service the computer can run..

    Setup to your Stereo, and have REAL audio..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 1:41pm

    Cinavia DRM

    Although people complain about Samsung and LG, these companies are far less evil than Sony, which also sells Smart-TVs. I don't know about Sony's TVs specifically, but it's been a longtime complaint that Sony's PS3s, Blu-Ray players and media centers all check for and enforce Cinavia DRM in video streamed from a hard drive/flashdrive, and will then cripple any video that fails the test. It's a sure bet that Sony TVs, like all of Sony's other devices, will also act as unwelcome self-appointed copyright-infringement police, either now or in the near future.

    At least there's a chance that -- unlike Sony -- LG and Samsung TVs will never enforce Cinavia or other DRM in streamed media (Unless, of course, they buy a movie studio).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 2:34pm

      Re: Cinavia DRM

      "Although people complain about Samsung and LG"

      Only because they've been in the news most recently. Your point is correct, though, that this is a problem with all major TV manufacturers -- which is one of the main three reasons I recommend that people avoid buying "smart TVs". The other two reasons are that you can inexpensively turn any modern TV into a "smart" one that works better using any of a number of dongles, or Roku, etc., and that if you use the right dongle, you'll maintain complete control over the "smarts" and will be able to upgrade the "smart" and the "TV" separately.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techflaws (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 10:18pm

      Re: Cinavia DRM

      So why don't people stop buying Cinavia infested players, media?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 3:21am

        Re: Re: Cinavia DRM

        Most of these devices did not originally have Cinavia, but then one day, after a firware update from the manufacturer -- bwaaa haaaa haaa haaa -- people shockingly discovered that their entire downloaded video library suddenly no longer works.

        That's why it's strongly recommended to disable automatic updates, and research beforehand if any hardware manufacturer's update contains a Trojan Horse such as Cinavia, Macrovision, or other "poison pill" -- they often do.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 3:06pm

    Stallman was right

    What were minor inconveniences before are becoming increasingly malicious. How much more power do we want to grant these abusive companies? Or maybe it's time to change our thinking for good and become active citizens instead of passive serfs.

    Free software=free society.

    https://archive.org/details/EbenMoglen-WhyFreedomOfThoughtRequiresFreeMediaAndWhyFreeMedia

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 3:10pm

    Jailbreak = Jail?

    Could you go to prison under the DMCA for jail-breaking your TV or disabling it's snooping features?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 7:56am

      Re: Jailbreak = Jail?

      It all depends. The maximum penalty for a first-time violation of the DMCA is $500,000 and five years in prison.

      The real question is are you violating the DMCA if you jailbreak? The answer is "it depends". It is a baseline DMCA violation, however there are exceptions. If you're doing it in order to engage in legal reverse engineering or as part of encryption research, then you aren't in violation.

      There is nothing illegal about disabling or interfering with its snooping measures. Whether or not that's a violation of the ToS is a different question.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      BernardoVerda (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 5:20pm

      Re: Jailbreak = Jail?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 9:18pm

        In the unlikely event...

        ...that my household or my company were subject to a Samsung smart television...

        That is a felony that I would commit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 10:25am

          Re: In the unlikely event...

          I suspect that pretty much anybody would. Even if it is a felony (and it's far from certain), there's essentially no way that you could get caught doing it. And if you were caught, there's almost no way that anyone would actually press charges unless you were doing it for other people.

          I can't see any real risk here.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 4:08pm

    What a marvelous question.

    At the moment it seems to be legal to circumvent the DRM of your coffee maker and litterbox.

    The anti-circumvention clause is allegedly about distributing or altering copyrighted content. Can you circumvent in order to opt out? Can you block your Kinect camera legally?

    When it's counting faces can you put a diorama in front of it showing an empty room with a dog laying on the remote?

    Are they going to criminalize off switches?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stephen, 11 Feb 2015 @ 4:49pm

    Smart Appliance Lifespan

    Smart devices are indeed a dumb idea! Here's why.

    As a general rule, anything with a computer in it in this online world of ours has a shorter lifespan than the same thing without a computer in it.?

    Why?

    Because computerised stuff requires the manufacturer to issue periodic updates and upgrades, especially security ones to patch security holes that keep being found. Security holes which, if left unpatched, would allow hackers to invade your smart device.

    The problem is that providing such a service costs the mabufacturers money. So as a consequence all modern operating system have a predefined lifespan. After that you can keep using the device but there will be no more upgrades. You can still keeping the device but you will do so at your own risk.

    For example, Microsoft has stopped updating Windows XP and Apple has stopped updating its Snow Leopard system. While you can still keep using such using a computer with such a system, you do at your own risk.

    How imagine you own a SmartTV whose OS has reached its end-of-life cycle but which you want to keep owning because you don't want to upgrade to a more recent model, either for cost reasons or because it comes with new features you don't want. Like popup ads you can't disable.

    But the thing is do you really want tyo have a device in your living room (or bedroom) which is now an open target to anybody, be it a private hacker or a government snoop, who can find an unpatched security hole? A device which may come with not just a microphone but a camera too.

    This problem is not confined to SmartTVs. Think about all the cars with built-in (and poorly secured) wi-fi systems. What happens when the manufacturers decide not to bother updating the software for them (even supposing they are bothering to do so right now)? I recently struck a not-unrelated problem with Toyota. I need to get a a replacement part for my car's doorlocking system only to discover Toyota was no longer making. If I wanted a new one I would first have to buy a brand new third party doorlocking system to replace one tiny component.

    Welcome to the future!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 5:05pm

    "respectable audiophile"

    Did you just use those two words in the same sentence? Respectable audiophile is an oxymoron.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 5:28pm

    If only that were true

    Dumb TVs, with less sophisticated internals, should also be cheaper to buy.
    You'd think that ought to be true, but sadly it's not. I had exactly the same thought when I recently needed to replace the TV - "Why the hell do I need anything but a big monitor?" Reality is that anything much above 30" is either non-existent or counted as "specialist panel displays" for advertising etc and priced way higher than much more complicated "Smart TVs"

    Unfortunately, most people don't seem to know of care about the implications of "Smart TVs", they just want a single simple box to do all their thinking for them. By the time enough people notice it's a bad idea, they'll be ubiquitous enough for it to be too late and the internet connection will probably be as mandatory as a bad computer game.

    And yes, I caved and bought a "Smart" TV to use as a screen, though the only things connected to it are (non network) HDMI cables and the wall.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2015 @ 5:42pm

    We just bought a new TV for our bedroom, as the old one died.
    I considered briefly getting a Smart TV. However it appeared the store we went to didn't sell them at our price point and size (cheap, and 46"). So we bought a dumb monitor.
    I'm glad I chose it.

    Here's what I want my screen to do:
    brightness control, volume, and suitable inputs
    On my wishlist are off-timer (NOT sleep timer, I mean turn off at X o'clock each night, my LG has this), and custom names for inputs (even if it's hardcoded DVR/Cable, still more descriptive than HDMI1).
    Anything more than that I don't need or care for. I have other devices for streaming Netflix.
    As much as I like linux, I don't need or want it (or any other OS) running on my TV.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Phoenix84 (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 5:43pm

      Re:

      Well, apparently I wasn't signed in for this comment.
      It would be nice if Techdirt didn't sign me out randomly, especially since I made another comment a few hours ago.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DocGerbil100 (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 6:17pm

    Ick...

    That's really unpleasant. My household has an older Samsung smart TV. They're quite handy for some things, but increasingly, I wish we'd gone for a standard TV instead. We could presumably have bought a standalone multimedia box like Roku, but I didn't really know anything about it at the time. It's been a learning experience, I suppose.

    I have generally been ambivalent about recommending them to others. On the plus-side, they deliver a better service than none at all and they're very good for gently introducing older and more conservative family members to new forms of viewing, such as online streaming and watching films stored on hard drive.

    On the downside, performance is far too slow (why do manufacturers always think that we'll be impressed by technology when they've designed it down to a price, rather than up to a specification?), the UI is unintuitive, there's no way to upgrade the smart hardware without replacing the whole unit and I have yet to find anything on the system that can't be done better by standalone, ugradeable third-party boxes.

    After watching Sony, LG and Samsung repeatedly shit in their own soup in the intervening time, I'm not nearly so ambivalent. A standard TV and a Roku (or similar) is clearly the way to go.

    I think, as time passes and technology gets cheaper, it will only become more difficult to obtain a TV that isn't smart-capable, or even smart-dependent. If the latest slew of invasive, cretinous manufacturer decisions is anything to go by, it won't be something to look forward to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 9:57am

      Re: Ick...

      "My household has an older Samsung smart TV. They're quite handy for some things, but increasingly, I wish we'd gone for a standard TV instead."

      You could just disconnect the TV from the internet and treat it as a normal TV. You can even connect any box you like to it for your smart features.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DocGerbil100 (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 1:41pm

        Re: Re: Ick...

        Disconnecting it is not the problem. Weaning the previously-mentioned old and conservative member of the household off the thing and onto a new box with a new OS - that's the tricky bit. :)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 10:27am

          Re: Re: Re: Ick...

          Old has nothing to do with it, and if the family member is really that shy of things, then why go to the effort to get them to use a smart TV in the first place?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            DocGerbil100 (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 10:07pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Ick...

            Because I like them? The smart TV, for all its faults, allows access to a wider range of services than is otherwise available. They're very set in their ways, but that's no reason not to try to introduce them to things that will ultimately make them happier.

            It's also cheaper than their preferred option, which is a horrifyingly overpriced Sky TV subscription. The UK's free and legal services aren't great, but a combination of those, plus a low-cost Amazon Instant sub should be able to replace 98% of everything they currently pay through the nose for, at a substantially reduced cost.

            Once they're comfortable enough with the newer OS's, convincing them to stop throwing money away on Skys substandard service should be just a matter of time. :)

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2015 @ 9:50am

    Disconnect the "smart" TV from the internet or don't buy them and/or stop watching TV.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 10:24am

    Dumb TV For Me

    The sad thing is that even after we ignore the "smarts" in the TV, and supplant them with a Roku, the Samsung TV will still continue listening in and spying on us...

    https://www.techdirt.com/blog/innovation/articles/20120221/03352017827/smart-tvs-not-such-smart -idea.shtml

    "It seems the obvious solution is already here: keep the TV dumb, and provide a set-top box (STB) that has the smarts. The STB can thus be replaced cheaply, once out of date. Consumers can easily have more than one STB, not committing to any one company's ecosystem. Do people really want to buy their TV's by ecosystem?"

    "Even those actively looking for a TV may resist if there is a price premium...The TV OEMs are going to have to bundle in the smarts for free, and hope that they can make money back on the content ecosystem."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Roland, 13 Feb 2015 @ 10:45am

    OLEDs

    OLED big screens are the next technology. They will be produce with the equivalent of a dot-matrix printer, and they will be inexpensive. Maybe by then manufacturers will have wised up. Best bet: wait a bit, if you aren't desperate. But that's true for all tech these days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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