Monday, July 10, 2006

Disposable digital camera hacking

Say hello to the Dakota Digital disposable camera

Please don't crack me open!

So the Dakota Digital folks are sitting around one day trying to figure out how to make more money, and they came up with this disposable digital camera.

People take pictures with it, and turn it in for "processing" when it's done. We plug it in, take the pictures off, give them to the owner, then erase the camera, repackage it, and sell it again! It's fool proof! No added cost of photo processing, we can reuse the cameras, and make lots of money.

Genius. Except that some people resent paying
for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons
. These people saw hardware that was built with capabilities that the manufacturer saw fit to debilitate and cripple in order to make more money off of it. They took a fully functional, inexpensive, reusable camera, and made it proprietary, made it single-use, and cranked down the amount of pictures it could take. If there's one thing hackers hate, it's not being able to use our own hardware.

So this fellow started reverse engineering (though there wasn't much to do to get basic functionality) the camera, and found the pinouts for the port on the side of the camera. He also wrote the windows drivers (the drivers already existed for linux). A new firmware for the camera broke the 25 picture limit, and many other hacks which add functionality to this $10 camera can be found around the internet, including the use of an old palm III cradle to connect to the camera.

After Ritz found out about this, they started releasing new versions of the camera with new firmwares and more reverse engineering protections. These same hackers have successfully broken many of these new firmwares and protections, and will continue to do so.

I've picked up two of these cameras, and have a cradle on the way (since my soldering skills suck!). Couldn't I have just bought a similar camera for almost the same total price? Yeah. But that's just not as cool.


Some may argue that the company is losing money if the people buying the cameras are not turning them in for processing. Well, I'm all for capitalism, but I'm also for helping businesses realize that their business models are becoming obsolete.

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