New Canon 5D3 firmware announcement

Started Nov 26, 2012 | Discussions thread
Henrik Herranen
Senior MemberPosts: 1,658Gear list
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Re: Real example from real life
In reply to bronxbombers4, Nov 29, 2012

bronxbombers4 wrote:

yes but what if a company used your IC in two products and took the many months to perfect it (and how would you have known exactly how long it would have taken to make it handle FLAC?) and then released the firwmare.... but only for one camera even though the other camera was said to use the identical IC and what if there is another format that your company had working on the IC to begin with but was locked out....

Not activating all possible hardware features happens. It is often also the natural order of things. If this sounds offensive, please first read below.

Most of our audio IC decoder formats can be easily switched off. "Why would you want ever to do that?" you might ask.

Well... With our ICs, only the MP3 license is included in the price of our products. If a consumer product manufacturer doesn't want to pay for the WMA license to the respective patent holders (in this case Microsoft) and doesn't want to break the law, just flick one bit after starting our IC, and WMA decoding is gone. Same is true for AAC-HC, AAC-LC, WMA and MP2.

Now, if a consumer buys a product using our IC, and doesn't pay for any extra licenses, he literally needs to change exactly four bits, all documented in our public datasheet, to disable AAC-LC, AAC-HC, WMA and MP2 decoding. If the microcontroller controlling our IC is well-known, and the firmware is not protected, it would be trivial for some "Magic Lantern" -style people to find where the disable command is and change those four bits or remove the whole disable instruction.

So, was the product crippled? Some may say yes. But the truth of it is that if the end product had had all those features to begin with, it would have been more expensive because of license reasons. As an consumer I would of course love to install a hack that enables some features I never paid for in my product (or which circumvents artificial use restrictions like DVD area codes). But as a manufacturer you just cannot enable features without paying for the licenses if you expect to exist for years to come.

We could of course have an in-depth and lengthy discussion on the validity of the whole concept of software patents and digital format licenses. I have some pretty strong opinions on that, but let's leave that topic for another discussion. Nevertheless, I just wanted to point out with this example that there are real reasons why even existing and fully working hardware features are not always activated.

Finally, here's yet another real reason not to activate all features I've seen with our customers: every new feature needs to be tested. And with every new feature, the number of test cases increase significantly because the number of combinations very soon gets really huge. That is a real problem from an end product quality point of view, as much as I'd like for all end products to use all the fine features of our ICs.

Kind regards,
- Henrik

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