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From: "Brian H. Nielsen" <70401.2635@compuserve.com>
X-Real-Life-Name: Brian H. Nielsen
Subject: RIS version 1.5 coming this fall
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   I saw a comment on the LEGOMINDSTORMS site that RIS version 1.5 would be 
released this fall.  Is there any other information on it anywhere?

   (The comment is in the Announcements forum in a message titled "Stormrunner 
& the Proximity Sensor".  The forum is in a member only area so I can't put a 
link to it, and I'm not sure if it would be allowed for me to paste the 
message here.)

Brian

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From: lego-robotics@crynwr.com (Luis Villa)
Subject: Re: RIS version 1.5 coming this fall
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Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 03:54:03 GMT
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Since it has been so long since I've looked at anything other than the 
bot, is RIS the software, the hardware, or both?
-Luis

On Thu, 1 Jul 1999, Brian H. Nielsen wrote:

> Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 03:47:29 GMT
> From: Brian H. Nielsen <70401.2635@compuserve.com>
> To: lego-robotics@crynwr.com
> Subject: RIS version 1.5 coming this fall
> 
>    I saw a comment on the LEGOMINDSTORMS site that RIS version 1.5 would be 
> released this fall.  Is there any other information on it anywhere?
> 
>    (The comment is in the Announcements forum in a message titled "Stormrunner 
> & the Proximity Sensor".  The forum is in a member only area so I can't put a 
> link to it, and I'm not sure if it would be allowed for me to paste the 
> message here.)
> 
> Brian
> --
> Did you check the web site first?: http://www.crynwr.com/lego-robotics
> 
> 

#######################################################################

     Profanity is the one language that all programmers understand.
	                  -Anonymous

#######################################################################
--
Did you check the web site first?: http://www.crynwr.com/lego-robotics

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From: lego-robotics@crynwr.com (Barbour, David)
Subject: RE: RIS version 1.5 coming this fall
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Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 09:45:35 GMT
Original-From: "Barbour, David" <David.Barbour@siemens.ie>
Lines: 47

RIS = Robotics Invention System i.e.: both!!

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Luis Villa [SMTP:liv@duke.edu]
> Sent:	01 July 1999 04:54
> To:	Brian H. Nielsen
> Cc:	lego-robotics@crynwr.com
> Subject:	Re: RIS version 1.5 coming this fall
> 
> Since it has been so long since I've looked at anything other than the 
> bot, is RIS the software, the hardware, or both?
> -Luis
> 
> On Thu, 1 Jul 1999, Brian H. Nielsen wrote:
> 
> > Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 03:47:29 GMT
> > From: Brian H. Nielsen <70401.2635@compuserve.com>
> > To: lego-robotics@crynwr.com
> > Subject: RIS version 1.5 coming this fall
> > 
> >    I saw a comment on the LEGOMINDSTORMS site that RIS version 1.5 would
> be 
> > released this fall.  Is there any other information on it anywhere?
> > 
> >    (The comment is in the Announcements forum in a message titled
> "Stormrunner 
> > & the Proximity Sensor".  The forum is in a member only area so I can't
> put a 
> > link to it, and I'm not sure if it would be allowed for me to paste the 
> > message here.)
> > 
> > Brian
> > --
> > Did you check the web site first?: http://www.crynwr.com/lego-robotics
> > 
> > 
> 
> #######################################################################
> 
>      Profanity is the one language that all programmers understand.
> 	                  -Anonymous
> 
> #######################################################################
> --
> Did you check the web site first?: http://www.crynwr.com/lego-robotics
--
Did you check the web site first?: http://www.crynwr.com/lego-robotics

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From: dbaum@spambgoneenteract.com (Dave Baum)
X-Real-Life-Name: Dave Baum
Subject: Re: RIS version 1.5 coming this fall
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Technically, RIS is the "entire" set, meaning the RCX, the software, and
all 700+ lego pieces (plus manual, box, etc.).  I doubt that there are
version 1.5 lego pieces about to be released, so clearly they could
release version 1.5 of RIS without updating every element contained within
it.

Updating the software is reasonably simple from a logistics standpoint. 
They don't have to worry too much about stale inventory because they can
always make version 1.5 software available for download (or perhaps for a
nominal shipping fee if you bought Mindstorms after a certain date, etc). 
They can also keep existing customers happy by offering upgrades (download
or new CD).  Both are quite inexpensive to implement.

Updating the hardware (RCX) is another matter.  As soon as they introduce
an RCX 1.5, the existing inventory becomes very hard to move.  Upgrades
would be pricey (either for the consumer or absorbed by TLG).  Either way
they are creating a big problem for themselves.  If upgraded hardware were
necessary from a competitive standpoint, then you do it (computer
companies are doing it all the time), but I personally don't think TLG has
any competition in the RCX space right now.  Their next products appear to
be creating a lower tier (Scout, etc), not trying to evolve higher.

Internally, the RCX may have already gone through several updates.  This
is pretty common as designs are refined and cost-reduced.  These types of
updates are typically unannounced and not even evident from the outside of
the product.

We won't know for certain until TLG actually releases 1.5, but personally
I'd expect it to be a software update, not hardware.  

Of course I'd still like to see version 1.5 gears :)

Dave
 

In article <3BD3C821D073D11187C50060973D05629FA78B@sirnt1.siemens.ie>,
"Barbour, David" <David.Barbour@siemens.ie> wrote:

>RIS = Robotics Invention System i.e.: both!!
>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Luis Villa [SMTP:liv@duke.edu]
>> Sent: 01 July 1999 04:54
>> To:   Brian H. Nielsen
>> Cc:   lego-robotics@crynwr.com
>> Subject:      Re: RIS version 1.5 coming this fall
>> 
>> Since it has been so long since I've looked at anything other than the 
>> bot, is RIS the software, the hardware, or both?
>> -Luis
>> 
>> On Thu, 1 Jul 1999, Brian H. Nielsen wrote:
>> 
>> > Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 03:47:29 GMT
>> > From: Brian H. Nielsen <70401.2635@compuserve.com>
>> > To: lego-robotics@crynwr.com
>> > Subject: RIS version 1.5 coming this fall
>> > 
>> >    I saw a comment on the LEGOMINDSTORMS site that RIS version 1.5 would
>> be 
>> > released this fall.  Is there any other information on it anywhere?
>> > 
>> >    (The comment is in the Announcements forum in a message titled
>> "Stormrunner 
>> > & the Proximity Sensor".  The forum is in a member only area so I can't
>> put a 
>> > link to it, and I'm not sure if it would be allowed for me to paste the 
>> > message here.)
>> > 
>> > Brian
>> > --
>> > Did you check the web site first?: http://www.crynwr.com/lego-robotics
>> > 
>> > 
>> 
>> #######################################################################
>> 
>>      Profanity is the one language that all programmers understand.
>>                         -Anonymous
>> 
>> #######################################################################
>> --
>> Did you check the web site first?: http://www.crynwr.com/lego-robotics
>--
>Did you check the web site first?: http://www.crynwr.com/lego-robotics

-- 
reply to: dbaum at enteract dot com

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From: "Todd Lehman" <lehman@javanet.com>
X-Real-Life-Name: Todd Lehman
Subject: Re: RIS version 1.5 coming this fall
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On Fri, 2 Jul 1999, in lugnet.robotics, Dave Baum wrote:
> Technically, RIS is the "entire" set, meaning the RCX, the software, and
> all 700+ lego pieces (plus manual, box, etc.).  I doubt that there are
> version 1.5 lego pieces about to be released, so clearly they could
> release version 1.5 of RIS without updating every element contained
> within it.
>
> Updating the software is reasonably simple from a logistics standpoint.
> They don't have to worry too much about stale inventory because they can
> always make version 1.5 software available for download (or perhaps for a
> nominal shipping fee if you bought Mindstorms after a certain date, etc).
> They can also keep existing customers happy by offering upgrades (download
> or new CD).  Both are quite inexpensive to implement.

You know, I think I'm starting to get nervous about this 1.5 business.
Let's say they do happen to ship a 1.0->1.5 software compatability upgrade.
The first question that comes to my mind is:  Is the upgrade reversible or
irreversible?  Any why or why not?  What's going on behind the scenes here?

Maybe I'm just paranoid, but here is an anecdote:  At my last job, I worked
for a company which manufactured dedicated print servers on a proprietary
hardware.  Some of the software upgrade paths were strictly one-way:  once
you installed Software Release 7.4, there was no way ever for you to go back
to Software Release 7.3.  This was in part simply a software architecture
decision, as it made the installation and setup software much less complex;
but it had an important strategic side-effect:  it was a way to crack down
on third-party exploitation of loopholes, bugs, or intellectual property
theft.  For example, one employee who left the company actually stole a
valuable piece of firmware and took this to a competitor who illegally used
the information.  The theft was eventually proven in court, and I believe
a preliminary injuction stopped the competitor's illegal sales after a few
months, but of course the courtroom isn't the only way to fight such a
battle.  Long before the case was ever decided, the "secret formula" in the
firmware was changed and sent out with new software.  The idea is that you
fight a battle like that on two fronts simultaneously -- both in the
courtroom and in the product itself via upgrades -- in case one or the
other fails.

I'm sure there must be thousands of similar stories; it goes with territory
when you're selling proprietary hardware/software combinations.


> Updating the hardware (RCX) is another matter.  As soon as they introduce
> an RCX 1.5, the existing inventory becomes very hard to move.  Upgrades
> would be pricey (either for the consumer or absorbed by TLG).  Either way
> they are creating a big problem for themselves.  If upgraded hardware were
> necessary from a competitive standpoint, then you do it (computer
> companies are doing it all the time), but I personally don't think TLG has
> any competition in the RCX space right now.  Their next products appear to
> be creating a lower tier (Scout, etc), not trying to evolve higher.

This is what's making me nervous too.  The trend toward dumbing-down the
robotics offerings -- more toward kids and less toward adults.  Hey, if
that's their chosen target market and they need to do that, then more power
to 'em -- that's great for kids!  (But I worry where it leaves us adults.)


> Internally, the RCX may have already gone through several updates.  This
> is pretty common as designs are refined and cost-reduced.  These types of
> updates are typically unannounced and not even evident from the outside of
> the product.

What do you suppose the chances are that TLG will alter the firmware
slightly in the RCX 1.5 so that the firmware can no longer be altered, or
so that it can only be altered by official TLG software?

Can that be done -- technically?

Perhaps not 100% literally, but suppose that in order to download new
firmware to RCX 1.5, the host software communicating to the RCX via IR had
to supply a lengthy password.  That would certainly be very easy for TLG
to implement, yes?

But then what?  Well, then if anyone tries to ship a third-party add-on to
download new replacement firmware, they're now committing an alleged act of
copyright infringement because they've shipped a copy of this proprietary
copyrighted password/encryption bitstring.

So this is totally my own speculation and fear -- and take it with a grain
of salt -- but I fear that the RCX 1.5 may not represent sunshine and
lollipops for the open-source software movement here on the net, but rather
a step backwards towards a more closed system.  Again, I *really* really
hope I'm wrong and just being paranoid, but it would certainly be consistent
with something that a hardware company would think of doing.

(At this point, I'm almost tempted to start saving up for a few dozen RCX
1.0's in case this scenario comes true.)


> We won't know for certain until TLG actually releases 1.5, but personally
> I'd expect it to be a software update, not hardware.

Given what was said in the August 9 Forbes article, I kinda would almost be
surprised now if 1.5 didn't include both new software and a slight new twist
on the hardware:  a proprietary encryption/password chip or sequencer which
would allow TLG considerably more leeway in the courtroom if they ever felt
that replacement firmware was truly getting under their skin.

I don't know what it would actually take before things really get under
their skin, but note that the recent Forbes article mentioned that TLG
executives had "thought about" suing (presumably with regard to the reverse-
engineering efforts last year).  Now I think they're savvy enough to know
that they wouldn't have stood any chance in court with such a lawsuit,
since reverse-engineering is legal in the U.S., but the mere fact that they
even thought about suing, or wanted to mentioned it publicly for whatever
reason, tells us that at least some of the people high up at TLG are, how
shall we say, "nervous" about third-party add-ons.  And that doesn't give
me a warm fuzzy feeling.

Am I just over-reacting?


> Of course I'd still like to see version 1.5 gears :)

More worm gears!!

--Todd

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From: kekoa@pixel.Stanford.EDU (Kekoa Proudfoot)
X-Real-Life-Name: Kekoa Proudfoot
Subject: Re: RIS version 1.5 coming this fall
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Todd Lehman <lehman@javanet.com> wrote:

> You know, I think I'm starting to get nervous about this 1.5 business.
> Let's say they do happen to ship a 1.0->1.5 software compatability upgrade.
> The first question that comes to my mind is:  Is the upgrade reversible or
> irreversible?  Any why or why not?  What's going on behind the scenes here?

It has to be reversible from the RCX brick's point of view, since there is
no hardware on the RCX to forcibly reprogram its ROM.  Perhaps on the PC
side it is not reversible, but there is always the uninstall new, reinstall
old process, which I presume will work, since Lego would have to be
purposefully obnoxious for it not to.

As for compatibility, OCX compatibility is almost guaranteed.  If the new
RCX software is truly an upgrade and not a replacement, then ROM
compatibility is also a given.  If the software is an upgrade and something
changes, it can only be the byte code and/or the firmware, to add new
functionality.

If not an upgrade but a replacement (new everything) then anything goes.
But this has been known to be somewhere down the pipe anyways - I at least
never expected Lego to keep compatibility forever.

> This is what's making me nervous too.  The trend toward dumbing-down the
> robotics offerings -- more toward kids and less toward adults.  Hey, if
> that's their chosen target market and they need to do that, then more power
> to 'em -- that's great for kids!  (But I worry where it leaves us adults.)

Whatever happened to "spread the wealth" and "others first"?  Younger kids
deserve their Mindstorms also.  Moreover, I think Lego wants to get as many
people involved as possible, and as early as possible too.  (Get a young
kid hooked on Lego and hrm, some of them keep on buying when they're older
too...)

> > Internally, the RCX may have already gone through several updates.  This
> > is pretty common as designs are refined and cost-reduced.  These types of
> > updates are typically unannounced and not even evident from the outside of
> > the product.
> 
> What do you suppose the chances are that TLG will alter the firmware
> slightly in the RCX 1.5 so that the firmware can no longer be altered, or
> so that it can only be altered by official TLG software?
> 
> Can that be done -- technically?

They can make it difficult to download new firmware to a completely new
RCX, yes, but they cannot make it impossible.  But it doesn't matter.  The
RCX 1.0 is out and completely safe from anything Lego might want to change.
Also, from a practical standpoint, I don't know of anybody who might be
willing to reverse engineer the successor to the RCX 1.0 to the extent that
the 1.0 brick was reverse engineered - no matter if it is as easy to hack
as the 1.0 brick - and that is certainly a prerequisite for anything
substantial to come out of future RCXs.  (If somebody already knows they
are interested, I'd like to hear from them.)

> Perhaps not 100% literally, but suppose that in order to download new
> firmware to RCX 1.5, the host software communicating to the RCX via IR had
> to supply a lengthy password.  That would certainly be very easy for TLG
> to implement, yes?
>
> But then what?  Well, then if anyone tries to ship a third-party add-on to
> download new replacement firmware, they're now committing an alleged act of
> copyright infringement because they've shipped a copy of this proprietary
> copyrighted password/encryption bitstring.

I believe something like this is possible.  But why would TLG do this?  Are
there other concerns so deep that they want to limit what half (was that
the figure?) their potential buyers might do with their product?  I find it
somewhat possible that the next RCX will be as easy to crack as the current
one, so that TLG can try to take advantage of the same enthusiasm that
raged (rages?) on with the current RCX.

> Given what was said in the August 9 Forbes article, I kinda would almost be
> surprised now if 1.5 didn't include both new software and a slight new twist
> on the hardware:  a proprietary encryption/password chip or sequencer which
> would allow TLG considerably more leeway in the courtroom if they ever felt
> that replacement firmware was truly getting under their skin.

Why?  The Forbes article almost praised Lego for being so bold with their
decision not to hinder the reverse engineering effort.

I think perhaps, like you say, you are being a bit too paranoid.

> I don't know what it would actually take before things really get under
> their skin, but note that the recent Forbes article mentioned that TLG
> executives had "thought about" suing (presumably with regard to the reverse-
> engineering efforts last year).

Presumably then they realized that the reverse engineering effort actually
got them sales and that made them change their mind?  The article is vague
on this point.  From a legal standpoint, I would guess that they cannot
outright encourage reverse engineering - should some contingency come up
(e.g. a competitor does something with the information) where they need to
sue, that might stop them from doing so.  But not discouraging it is also
acceptable; my suspicion is that they still reserve the right to do
something later should they need to do that.

> Am I just over-reacting?

I think so.  But maybe not unjustifyably.

-Kekoa

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From: lehman@javanet.com (Todd Lehman)
X-Real-Life-Name: Todd Lehman
Subject: Re: RIS version 1.5 coming this fall
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In lugnet.robotics, kekoa@pixel.Stanford.EDU (Kekoa Proudfoot) writes:
> Todd Lehman <lehman@javanet.com> wrote:
> > You know, I think I'm starting to get nervous about this 1.5 business.
> > Let's say they do happen to ship a 1.0->1.5 software compatability upgrade.
> > The first question that comes to my mind is:  Is the upgrade reversible or
> > irreversible?  Any why or why not?  What's going on behind the scenes here?
> 
> It has to be reversible from the RCX brick's point of view, since there is
> no hardware on the RCX to forcibly reprogram its ROM.

OK, that's what I thought.  But from that, doesn't it follow that this
statment would be true?--

   It is possible to write replacement firmware which, when downloaded
   and executed, still allows new application code but prevents the
   downloading of further new firmware.  (?)

How about this statement?--

   It is possible to write replacement firmware which, when downloaded,
   permanently disables the RCX's software functionality, effectively
   "killing" the brick.  (?)

I don't see any sort of "factory reset" switch in the RCX, nor even any type
of physical switch or even jumper on my Rev. 71748.003 JDP6141-2/LAY 4
circuit board.  How about passing a voltage across two special connectors
somewhere to cause a factory reset?  (heh heh, probably not.)  Is there a
real ROM chip anywhere on the board (as opposed to EEPROM or whatever it
uses)?

Short of heavy hardware voodoo, is there truly no way to apply a reverted
ROM image back into the ROM except via IR?


> Perhaps on the PC
> side it is not reversible, but there is always the uninstall new, reinstall
> old process, which I presume will work, since Lego would have to be
> purposefully obnoxious for it not to.

OK, so LEGO would have to be purposefully obnoxious before an uninstall
would be prevented, but however unlikely it may be, it is indeed
theoretically possible for LEGO to lock out reinstalls of the RCX ROM to
older versions, yes?  (Whether they would actually do this, and what their
motivations might be, is, I think, a totally separate paranoia issue.  :)


> As for compatibility, OCX compatibility is almost guaranteed.  If the new
> RCX software is truly an upgrade and not a replacement, then ROM
> compatibility is also a given.  If the software is an upgrade and something
> changes, it can only be the byte code and/or the firmware, to add new
> functionality.
> 
> If not an upgrade but a replacement (new everything) then anything goes.
> But this has been known to be somewhere down the pipe anyways - I at least
> never expected Lego to keep compatibility forever.

I agree:  Certainly not when their product lifespan has been shortening and
shortening over the past 10 years to something now around 18 to 30 months,
sometimes even a little as 12 months.  And certainly not when the product
missed their original intended target market in a major way.  (I wonder if
this is a minor point of embarrassment for TLG?)


> > This is what's making me nervous too.  The trend toward dumbing-down the
> > robotics offerings -- more toward kids and less toward adults.  Hey, if
> > that's their chosen target market and they need to do that, then more power
> > to 'em -- that's great for kids!  (But I worry where it leaves us adults.)
> 
> Whatever happened to "spread the wealth" and "others first"?  Younger kids
> deserve their Mindstorms also.

I simply meant that dumbing-down the offerings is great for kids -- at the
expense of adults.  If the offerings were instead smartened-up, then they
could still be great for both camps -- all they'd need to do is dumb down
the high-level software for kids' use and keep the hardware and firmware
smartened-up for adults.  I certainly didn't mean to suggest that kids
shouldn't embrace LEGO MINDSTORMS products!  :)


> Moreover, I think Lego wants to get as many
> people involved as possible, and as early as possible too.  (Get a young
> kid hooked on Lego and hrm, some of them keep on buying when they're older
> too...)

Hmm, so you don't think there's any chance that LEGO views the adult
movement as nothing but a nasty, noisy thorn in their side?  I would like to
believe that LEGO is ready to embrace the adult market any day now, but I
think realistically that is still a few years away.  The "adult condition"
is not something which TLG has even remotely demonstrated and understanding
of yet -- nor is the Internet, for that matter -- and most companies tend to
fear or ignore that which they do not understand.  Of course, TLG is no
ordinary company (group of companies, rather).  They are the greatest toy
company in the world -- so they'll wake up and smell the coffee when they
feel the time is right.

I like to think that the layoffs in April have resulted in a belt-tightening
which, going forward, will allow TLG to, among other things, refocus and
hire fresh new young talent over the coming months -- bright young new
talent which understands the adult condition and the dynamic nature of the
Net.  I think it's going to be slow process of change, though.


> > What do you suppose the chances are that TLG will alter the firmware
> > slightly in the RCX 1.5 so that the firmware can no longer be altered, or
> > so that it can only be altered by official TLG software?
> > 
> > Can that be done -- technically?
> 
> They can make it difficult to download new firmware to a completely new
> RCX, yes, but they cannot make it impossible.  But it doesn't matter.  The
> RCX 1.0 is out and completely safe from anything Lego might want to change.

Well, OK, so let's say RCX 1.0 is safe...  Now assuming that MINDSTORMS/RCX
is not a "glitch" and is actually the tip of the iceberg of something much
greater over the next 5+ years, where does RCX 1.0 really fit into that?

I cringe at the thought of 1.0 bricks showing up in auctions simply because
they're more powerful/reconfigurable than later offerings.  (Again, probably
just unfounded paranoia.  I hope I'm wrong!!!)


> Also, from a practical standpoint, I don't know of anybody who might be
> willing to reverse engineer the successor to the RCX 1.0 to the extent that
> the 1.0 brick was reverse engineered - no matter if it is as easy to hack
> as the 1.0 brick - and that is certainly a prerequisite for anything
> substantial to come out of future RCXs.  (If somebody already knows they
> are interested, I'd like to hear from them.)

Can we assume that once 1.5 is released, production of 1.0 units will wither
away?  If so, and -if- 1.5 ends up needing any reverse engineering in order
to replace the firmware, then isn't it virtually guaranteed that someone
will pop up who's willing and able to do it -- and then do it?  Mother
Necessity rules!  :)


> > Perhaps not 100% literally, but suppose that in order to download new
> > firmware to RCX 1.5, the host software communicating to the RCX via IR had
> > to supply a lengthy password.  That would certainly be very easy for TLG
> > to implement, yes?
> >
> > But then what?  Well, then if anyone tries to ship a third-party add-on to
> > download new replacement firmware, they're now committing an alleged act of
> > copyright infringement because they've shipped a copy of this proprietary
> > copyrighted password/encryption bitstring.
> 
> I believe something like this is possible.  But why would TLG do this?

Well, why TLG -might- do this is because TLG -might- view the adult market
not only as something it wants to ignore (for lord knows what reason) but
also as a noisy sub-culture which causes their legal counsels to lose lots
of sleep.  (That's just my personal take on it.  Why else wouldn't TLG
embrace the adult market?  Adults have been aggregating on the Net in
progressively larger numbers for over 6 years.  Can TLG truly be blind to
that?)


> Are there other concerns so deep that they want to limit what half (was
> that the figure?) their potential buyers might do with their product?

I have to ask, how on earth did TLG not understand when the product was
first released that it would appeal *majorly* to adults and not really much
to children?  (Sure, children see it and want it, but as packaged with the
software they provide, it's too hard for both children to do anything "real"
with.  That is, as factory-shipped, it has very little "staying power" IMHO
for children.)

I also highly doubt that TLG expected the brick to be reverse-engineered so
quickly (perhaps even at all) and for a nearly cult-status following to pop
up on the net so quickly.  I also think they may have expected that their
www.LEGOMINDSTORMS.com website would be the One True Place for all things
LEGO MINDSTORMS online, but looking back of course, it never worked out that
way for them.

Also, think back to when the LEGO MINDSTORMS website first went up last
year...  Nearly all of the photos of MINDSTORMS creations were examples of
cool and complex things built by MIT students, not by children.  So IMO,
there's no way TLG could not have known that MINDSTORMS wouldn't appeal at
least to adult technogeeks.  And there are lots and lots of adult
technogeeks in the world -- many with deep pockets and eager to buy one or
more programmable bricks.  TLG would have to have been completely blind and
stupid not to have known that the adult MINDSTORMS market would be capable
of bringing in beaucoup bucks for them.  (Right??)

Since we know that TLG is neither blind nor stupid, the only conclusion I
can come to is that TLG knew all along that it would appeal to adults in a
big way but purposefully tried -- for whatever reason -- and we'll probably
never figure out exactly what -- to make it less appealing to adults and
more appealing to children.  They are, after all, a childrens toy
manufacturer.  Their stated branding goal:

   "Our goal is, in 2005, for the LEGO logo and name to be known among
   families with children as the strongest brand in the world..."  [1]

That's an *extremely* bold and striking statement -- and a very long uphill
battle for them.

So I also have to ask, now that there's absolutely no possible disputing the
fact that TLG definitely understands that MINDSTORMS appeals to adults in a
big way, why on earth aren't they milking this to their maximum advantage?
Not only (AFAICT) are they not milking it, but they're actually downplaying
it by continuing to focus only on the child aspect!  I suspect that they're
somewhat afraid of MINDSTORMS products being labeled as "for adults."

I think what they're much more likely to do than up-playing the adult aspect
is to completely redesign the product over the next 18 months so that it
actually appeals to and works for kids!  They failed miserably the first
time at creating a good robotics product for kids, so they're certainly
going to try again:  they set up LEGO MINDSTORMS not just as a product line
but as a whole separate division of their conglomerate, so they're committed
to MINDSTORMS long-term.

But LEGO products have always been designed for kids -- sometimes they just
also happen to appeal to us crazy adults.  This is quite unfortunate for us
as a whole when things like Town-Jr come out, but we really can't blame TLG
for juniorization *if* they truly want to focus on kids rather than adults.
(It's their company, after all.  :)

More open-ended questions...  Why has this page:

   http://www.lego.com/computerlego/

been up for so long and still says only "child" and "children"?

Why do the only webpages for adults on the official site consist of the
Parents section?

   http://www.lego.com/parents/

Why no 

   http://www.lego.com/adult-fanatics/

section if they want to increases both sales and market-sector penetration?
I think there is only one logical explanation.


> I find it
> somewhat possible that the next RCX will be as easy to crack as the current
> one, so that TLG can try to take advantage of the same enthusiasm that
> raged (rages?) on with the current RCX.

I think so too, but I think it's important to be as prepared as possible for
any possible "countermeasures" which might get introduced in 1.5.  (Again,
I'm just speculating based upon what -could- be done -- and I hope I'm quite
wrong.)


> > Given what was said in the August 9 Forbes article, I kinda would almost be
> > surprised now if 1.5 didn't include both new software and a slight new twist
> > on the hardware:  a proprietary encryption/password chip or sequencer which
> > would allow TLG considerably more leeway in the courtroom if they ever felt
> > that replacement firmware was truly getting under their skin.
> 
> Why?  The Forbes article almost praised Lego for being so bold with their
> decision not to hinder the reverse engineering effort.

What was bold about that decision?  They'd be idiots to try to fight it in
court -- mostly from a PR standpoint but also from a monetary standpoint.
It seemed to me like a purely logical decision that any reasonable company
would have made.

Fortunately for the adult/hacker movement, the exposure in Forbes represents
an extremely powerful playing card -- and an important steppingstone toward
greater and greater cards.  What I mean by this:  The "outside world" is now
on alert that something intriguing is going on in this area, and if LEGO
were ever to try to jeopardize the third-party adult/hacker movement -- via
legal means or via technological means or otherwise -- then the potential
for a big stink in the popular media is now much higher than it was just a
few months or even weeks ago.  The more visibility that projects like legOS
gain, the more difficult it is for TLG to do anything to stop them (because
of the PR factor).  I speculate that TLG understands this quite well and
that it may start influencing their product decisions.

I think the only possible legal case they could have against any of the RCX
add-ons is some allegation of trademark dilution with regard to the title
"legOS."  Fortunately, Markus has always been careful to provide visible
disclaimers and has capitalized the name carefully, and fortunately, TLG
does not seem to feel that "legOS" represents trademark dilution against
their flagship mark "LEGO."


> I think perhaps, like you say, you are being a bit too paranoid.

I hope so!  :)

I love LEGO as a company and as a product, and forsee that I will always
have undying loyalty to both.  I also think very highly of TLG corporate
counsel.

But I just can't help wondering what's going on inside the minds of the
marketing execs who still choose not to acknowledge the adult market and
community.  I think it's something they just don't yet understand; I
certainly don't think they're stupid or evil.


> > I don't know what it would actually take before things really get under
> > their skin, but note that the recent Forbes article mentioned that TLG
> > executives had "thought about" suing (presumably with regard to the reverse-
> > engineering efforts last year).
> 
> Presumably then they realized that the reverse engineering effort actually
> got them sales and that made them change their mind?

That certainly might be part of it.  But more so, how can you sue somebody
in the U.S. for reverse-engineering something unless you can prove that they
obtained and used information illegally?  (Maybe the laws are different in
Germany and Denmark.)  IANAL, but IMHO the 5-byte RCX password string
doesn't represent anything that TLG could plausibly claim copyright or
infringement on.  I think what changed their mind is that the corporate
counsels understood that a lawsuit would be completely futile, while it was
the non-attorney exec's who had had the gut reaction to possibly bring suit.


> The article is vague
> on this point.  From a legal standpoint, I would guess that they cannot
> outright encourage reverse engineering - should some contingency come up
> (e.g. a competitor does something with the information) where they need to
> sue, that might stop them from doing so.  But not discouraging it is also
> acceptable; my suspicion is that they still reserve the right to do
> something later should they need to do that.

Also, (heh heh), surely someone at TLG at some point imagined the
hypothetical scenario in which hundreds of people on the net downloaded
broken replacement firmware, permanently trashing their RCX's and causing
much bad press.  I'd expect TLG would want to control the firmware as
closely as possible to minimize this (among many other reasons).  But yeah,
the potential for competitors to pick up the technology would have any
company's panties in a knot too.


> > Am I just over-reacting?
> 
> I think so.  But maybe not unjustifyably.

What part or parts do you think might be justified concern?

--Todd


[1] http://www.lego.com/info/pressspecific.asp?PressReleaseId=2&Year=1997

Xref: lugnet.com lugnet.robotics:5900
Newsgroups: lugnet.robotics
Path: lugnet.com!lugnet
From: lego-robotics@crynwr.com (John A. Tamplin)
Subject: Re: RIS version 1.5 coming this fall
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII
Reply-To: "John A. Tamplin" <jat@liveonthenet.com>
Organization: None
X-Nntp-Gateway: lego-robotics@crynwr.com
Message-ID: <Pine.A32.3.91.990729180743.23306g-100000@cyclone.liveonthenet.com>
References: <37a0b98d.96213295@lugnet.com>
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Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 23:22:20 GMT
Original-From: "John A. Tamplin" <jat@liveonthenet.com>
X-Real-Life-Name: John A. Tamplin
Lines: 65

On Thu, 29 Jul 1999, Todd Lehman wrote:

> OK, that's what I thought.  But from that, doesn't it follow that this
> statment would be true?--
> 
>    It is possible to write replacement firmware which, when downloaded
>    and executed, still allows new application code but prevents the
>    downloading of further new firmware.  (?)
> 
> How about this statement?--

That is true except for removing the firmware by removing the batteries.
Since the only alterable storage is powered by the batteries, there can
never be permanent changes to the brick that survive a hard power-off.

> I don't see any sort of "factory reset" switch in the RCX, nor even any type
> of physical switch or even jumper on my Rev. 71748.003 JDP6141-2/LAY 4
> circuit board.  How about passing a voltage across two special connectors
> somewhere to cause a factory reset?  (heh heh, probably not.)  Is there a
> real ROM chip anywhere on the board (as opposed to EEPROM or whatever it
> uses)?

The ROM is in the CPU chip.  It is not EEPROM.  It is manufactured with
the Lego code in it.

> I cringe at the thought of 1.0 bricks showing up in auctions simply because
> they're more powerful/reconfigurable than later offerings.  (Again, probably
> just unfounded paranoia.  I hope I'm wrong!!!)

You already have that with Cybermaster -- I would personally prefer a 
radio interface but I have zero interest in a unit without replaceable 
firmware.

> I think so too, but I think it's important to be as prepared as possible for
> any possible "countermeasures" which might get introduced in 1.5.  (Again,
> I'm just speculating based upon what -could- be done -- and I hope I'm quite
> wrong.)

I doubt they made the RCX flexible because they wanted people to download
replacement firmware.  I think they did so because it made it easier for 
them to do things in the future that they didn't think of when it was 
designed.  I see no reason that motivation will disappear.  Any sort of
security to prevent download of other code is easily defeated, because the
PC is an insecure platform.  You can always decipher the code used to 
communicate with the RCX, so you can always duplicate that functionality.
There is simply no way around allowing others access to downloading 
replacement firmware if they wish to do it for themselves.  (I am speaking
only of technical considerations, obviously they could try to restrain it
legally).

> ... But yeah,
> the potential for competitors to pick up the technology would have any
> company's panties in a knot too.

Would they really care if a competitor purchased Lego RCX hardware and sold
it with their own firmware?  The hardware design can certainly be protected,
but if someone did their own hardware and used replacement firmware, what
of TLG are they using?

John A. Tamplin					Traveller Information Services
jat@LiveOnTheNet.COM				2104 West Ferry Way
256/705-7007 - FAX 256/705-7100 		Huntsville, AL 35801

--
Did you check the web site first?: http://www.crynwr.com/lego-robotics

Xref: lugnet.com lugnet.robotics:5905
Newsgroups: lugnet.robotics
Path: lugnet.com!not-for-mail
From: kekoa@pixel.Stanford.EDU (Kekoa Proudfoot)
X-Real-Life-Name: Kekoa Proudfoot
Subject: Re: RIS version 1.5 coming this fall
X-Newsreader: trn 4.0-test69 (20 September 1998)
Organization: Stanford University
Message-ID: <FFnrGJ.9zx@lugnet.com>
References: <37a0b98d.96213295@lugnet.com> 
<Pine.A32.3.91.990729180743.23306g-100000@cyclone.liveonthenet.com>
X-Nntp-Posting-Host: pixel.stanford.edu
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 00:45:55 GMT
Lines: 41

John A. Tamplin <jat@liveonthenet.com> wrote:
> > I think so too, but I think it's important to be as prepared as
> > possible for any possible "countermeasures" which might get introduced
> > in 1.5.  (Again, I'm just speculating based upon what -could- be done
> > -- and I hope I'm quite wrong.)
> 
> I doubt they made the RCX flexible because they wanted people to download
> replacement firmware.  I think they did so because it made it easier for 
> them to do things in the future that they didn't think of when it was 
> designed.  I see no reason that motivation will disappear.  Any sort of
> security to prevent download of other code is easily defeated, because the
> PC is an insecure platform.  You can always decipher the code used to 
> communicate with the RCX, so you can always duplicate that functionality.
> There is simply no way around allowing others access to downloading 
> replacement firmware if they wish to do it for themselves.  (I am speaking
> only of technical considerations, obviously they could try to restrain it
> legally).

Certainly they chose to allow firmware downloads to allow for future
upgrades.

For a new RCX, if they really wanted to prevent us from writing new
firmware, the best solution, and one we could not defeat without
extraordinary means, would be to include a firmware checksum somewhere in
the object code data file that only the ROM and people at Lego know how to
compute.  The software on the PC would not have to be involved.

Hence previous statements that if Lego really wanted to make things
difficult for us in the undoubtedly eventually forthcoming replacement to
the RCX, they can.

I personally do not expect to care one way or the other if they decide to
do make the successor to the RCX impossible to crack - it certainly is
their right to do so.  Moreover, I do not expect to spend any more time
reverse engineering another RCX-like device from Lego.  Reverse engineering
something like the RCX is only fun once.  In some ways, RCX 1.0 is golden
in my eyes, both because it is a reasonable platform to develop for (as far
as RCX-like devices go) and because it is the only such product I expect to
know so much about.

-Kekoa

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