B&N nook hacked ... but for how long?

B&N nook hacked ... but for how long?

Summary: Barnes and Noble's nook ebook reader has been hacked, turning it into a full Android-based tablet with free cellular connection to the internet.

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Barnes and Noble's nook ebook reader has been hacked, turning it into a full Android-based tablet with free cellular connection to the internet.

Over on nookDevs there's a whole raft of information on hacking the device, from teardown to how to gain root access to the device.

Now, modders love this stuff because it gives then the opportunity to turn a $259 ebook reader into something far cooler and multi-featured. On the flipside, I'm pretty sure that B&N hate this sort of thing because it wants you to be buying books with the device, not freeloading an internet connection on their coin. Without a doubt this sort of thing goes against the terms and conditions, invalidates the warranty and risks the device from being exiled from the B&N mothership, but that doesn't stop people doing it, especially if they get something for nothing.

Note: I expect B&N to release updates to try to make the modding more difficult, or at least make freeloading the cellular connection harder.

How many people exactly are going to mod their nook? Even the widely popular iPhone isn't as has jailbroken as widely as some people suggest. The same is likely to be the case for the nook (unless the lure of free internet gets around), because the majority of buyers won't feel like taking their device apart and invalidating the warranty.

I like following these kind of mods because it highlights the ingenuity of some folks, and the lengths they are willing to go to in order to find out what makes things tick, and how to make it tick a little differently.

Topics: Hardware, Browser, Mobility

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15 comments
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  • This is what happens when

    technology is deliberately crippled to control a market. Frankly, I do not feel sorry for them. It is like selling a car with four wheels, but you are only allowed to use three.

    I am sympathetic towards piracy and "getting paid" concerns. I despise deliberately crippled HW.
    Economister
    • I understand what you are saying but ...

      B&N is able to sell the product at the offered price specially because of the deal they have made with the provider for internet access.

      If you are brilliant enough to buy a car with the restrictions you have noted and do the engineering required to enable the 4th wheel, good for you. You paid the car company for the parts when you bought them, and it is hard to make a case that they are being harmed.

      In the case of the Nook you have paid for access to the cell network specifically and only for the purpose of downloading books. If you start abusing your access to the network to do other things, I hope they come after you with full power of the law and charge you for your usage above and beyond the agreed upon contract. Otherwise you are freeloading and others are paying more for other services which subsidize your use of the network.

      I cannot wait for the day when my 'data plan' from the network company comes with 25 access cards that I can stick in my devices. One for the nook, one for my phone, one for my GPS, one for my netbook and so on. Treat my use of data like a utility and allow me to pay for exactly the amount that I consume. There's no need for B&N to be in the business of purchasing data on my behalf for a specific device. Then, if others want to hack the device and browse the web, more power to them. They will be charged accordingly for their use of data.
      sfcanuck
      • access cards?

        Access cards? That seems like a huge step backward to me. Last thing I would ever want is another magic card which only works with X, Y and Z for 3 months in the next fiscal year until the product is cancelled for underselling or overselling or marketing deemed the color too dreary........... No, no more cards. Ever.

        I have a better plan:
        1) Restrict the cellular network access of the nook at the network provider to access only the nook book store(s?).

        2) Optionally, allow the user to replace the factory book-only SIM card in the device with their own (presumably one with a full data plan).

        3) Enable wifi with full Internet access and allow people to use it as a full Android device over wifi. Voila, power users can have net access and the masses can have their free cell access for books. This functions the same as your "card access" system except that instead of a card you'd provide a wifi access point (say, from your Android cell phone).
        cabdriverjim
        • Yup, more is better. Less is annoying. (nt)

          nt
          Economister
        • um ... right ...

          so you said exactly what I said ... replace your word 'sim card' with my word 'access card' and we're good to go.

          i'd like 10 of them from at&t and i'll put one in each device that i have that requires wireless internet.

          and sure ... it'd be great if they provided me with the browser that i want and the features i want ... but if they don't i'll go buy a kindle or a sony or ...

          no?
          sfcanuck
      • I am not defending...

        stealing carrier bandwidth, (at least I did not mean to imply I support it). What bothers me is the crippling of the HW. It is not just the Nook. It happens all the time. I piece of HW comes out, restricted to a limited function, then it is hacked to enable additional functions. It seems to go totally against technological progress. I want HW to do more, not less.
        Economister
        • well, the excuse is sound-ish

          I can understand why they do these things. They are afraid of relying on someone else's hardware to be a good book reader. So they build the "perfect" book reader device in their view. It never occurs to them that (in this age) its insane to have one device that does nothing but read books. Especially when the hardware is well suited to other things. Rather than spending a little extra time making the other features of the OS work right so the hardware can be generally useful for other things they just slap it together enough to read books, hide all other features and slam it onto store shelves before the holiday rush. On the upside, they can always release a firmware update and correct their myopic viewpoint. My guess is they won't. They'll probably go off the deep end trying to lock down the device wasting more of their time than it would take to just give people fully functional hardware/software.
          cabdriverjim
          • Ever see how product requirements are done?

            It's - ridiculously inadequate to the task. People hold meetings to guess what the customer will want, then get a consultant to write up requirements for the product or service to do exactly that. And nothing more. Then the PM budgets the project based on those requirements and the developers do nothing more than what's in the requirements document, because they're not getting paid for it.

            That's why most IT developers look like they hate their jobs. They do. Because they can see what the technology is capable of doing for people, but they're chained to doing only what they're told to do.
            dainsmail-1@...
          • Yes

            As an IT developer myself, I think for the most part you are absolutely correct. Most development shops don't implement proper SDLC practices. The _real_ requirements end up being defined after the product has been fully developed and handed off to testers. This is simply because the development lifecycle is too long, in most cases. The product is due out in 8 months. There's almost nothing to show for it until 7 months. Google's approach, for example, is often decried as delivering a poor experience up front but the incremental nature of the changes mean they can put up functionality, test it, and then get feedback on where to go in the next cycle.

            Here we have agreed to standardize on unified process for all future projects. Unfortunately, UP is complex and takes time to learn in itself. However, if you are using tools like Eclipse you have most of the actual work already done for you. (Eclipse has a full UP subproject that was developed and donated by IBM/Rational software.) Eclipse's UP support and our continuing release problems prompted us to make that change. But there's still a TON of learning to do to actually implement it. Even if you have all of the tools, templates, documentation, etc handed to you it takes time to understand. A lot of time. A lot of time most development shops are not willing to spend because the management doesn't perceive the value. (They never perceive the value until you show them the disastrous results of not following them: for example, your competitor releases a better product faster than you with fewer developers.)
            cabdriverjim
  • Protest by not buying it!

    If it's proprietary, I won't buy it. Everyone should do the same. Then see what happens.

    No, I don't have a cell phone and never will unless things change. Maybe Google will be the catalyst.
    ron.cleaver@...
    • really? do you own a car?

      I bet you can void your warranty by installing
      non-approved parts in it.
      lostarchitect
      • Read the Magnuson-Moss Act

        Anyone who owns a car that has after-market performance parts available for it knows the manufacturer can not automatically void the warranty due to unapproved parts. The owner/modifier does have certain guidelines they need to follow, however.

        This act applies to warranties outside of vehicles, too.

        http://dynosources.com/dept.asp?d_id=203&l1=203
        ejhonda
  • RE: B&N nook hacked ... but for how long?

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  • RE: B&N nook hacked ... but for how long?

    Wow! B&N has invented an ultra-cheap tablet netbook (netlet? tabbook?) that is booming in popularity after customers have opened it up to internet access. B&N could easily offer net access for an additional fee, allowing them to essentially offer a big-screen smartphone. This would open a massive market for them (students, field workers, fsalespeople, people like me who want to keep their lunchtime emailing and browsing off of the corporate network) and provide a very desirable service (according to this article) for many customers.

    However, since in our society we promote people until they become incompetent and then leave them there, how much does anyone want to bet that B&N will instead spend tons of time, effort and money on iron-fist tactics to force their customers into doing what B&N wants them to, instead of going with what their customers obviously want and becoming a success in a surprise market?
    dainsmail-1@...
  • Well hopefully these are just dev units...

    I can not imagine any Embedded Engineer designing a system where the OS is on a Micro SD card. This mainly from a cost point of view, let alone the potential warranty issue's if the SD card were to vibrate loose.
    mrlinux