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Bricking - Why is it possible?

Discussion in 'Android Lounge' started by hark8751, Aug 3, 2013.

  1. hark8751

    hark8751 Lurker
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    **I'd like to clarify exactly what I mean by bricking here. The way I am using the term, it means that the device is totally unresponsive and will not work again (except with JTAG, proprietary external jigs, manufacturer repairs, etc.). Methods of bricking a device that involve physical destruction or modification (e.g., smashing the device, replacing the flash chips with physical bricks, melting the device, etc.) are specifically EXCLUDED from this discussion.**

    I'll also make clear that I do not currently have any bricked Android devices.

    Please excuse me if this is a silly question, but why has bricking continued to be possible?

    To me, the solution to the bricking problem seems simple: Design the device so that, upon powering up (or perhaps inserting a charged battery), it will always execute some 100% read-only code. This code would check for some pre-defined recovery combination (e.g., home + volume up + camera + power). If this combination is detected, the device will go into into a special recovery mode that is stored on the same 100% read-only chip as the key detection code. A device in this mode could be plugged into a computer and recognized by some special recovery software running on the computer. This software could then flash a 100% stock image, including the normal Android firmware as well as any lower level code that might be required for normal device operation.

    Now, it seems that Apple has done something very similar to this with DFU mode, so why have the manufacturers of Android devices not done the same?
     

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  2. cvic

    cvic Well-Known Member
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    Legal reasons im guessing. Id bet that Apple probably has patented such a process to keep others from even trying to do the same.
     
  3. nickdalzell

    nickdalzell Android Expert
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    Bricking is often the result of user error, as well. Though the slang term is more recent, the actual practice dates way back. If you run a new car without any oil, it ends up 'bricked' as well. Why not design a vehicle to make sure that in the event of a low-oil condition, it would automatically drive to a store which sells oil? See the problem here?

    Of course we have made products harder to brick, so much of it now is termed 'soft-bricked' which means the device is inoperable but fixable. Today, even cars are made that won't drive if the tire pressure is too low, for example as well
     
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  4. Rxpert83

    Rxpert83 Dr. Feelgood
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    As nick points out, its usually due to user error. Flashing the wrong files or to the wrong partitions.

    Many times it is also an issue that could be fixed, but the manufacturer hasn't released the stock images to properly restore it.
     
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  5. divinebovine

    divinebovine Android Expert
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    The only difference between this and what exists now is that the special recovery mode isn't read-only and folks like us enjoy writing to it. If these devices were built for the hacker market they'd have your proposed setup, but they're not; in fact they generally try to prevent us from hacking. Once we start hacking, we are taking our own risks, including the risk of bricking.

    We run much worse risks hacking other things. We hack our cars, our houses, and even our bodies. Hackers are comfortable with risk, and some even enjoy it.

    Actually, small equipment engines often come with a low oil level sensor that prevents starting if there's insufficient oil, and have for 30+ years. Many modern cars have started coming with an oil level sensor in the past 15 years or so, but all they do is light up a dashboard indicator...you'd think they'd at least activate a chime too, being quite important.
     
  6. nickdalzell

    nickdalzell Android Expert
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    Except for decades, most folks dismiss the warning light with black electrical tape, or remove the bulb. My Pontiac Bonneville is quite revolutionary for a 1992 model. It has a graphical display in the dash that aside door and trunk ajar indicators, also monitors exterior lamps and vital engine fluids, and if a warning comes up, it displays it, and does a four-time ding in the chime module. That, of course, won't stop folks from either disabling it or removing the fuse. Same for tech folks who don't pay attention to words of warning, like those unfortunate souls who buy a generic tablet and wonder why it isn't working
     
  7. funkylogik

    funkylogik share the love peeps ;)
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    I worked as a valeter in a used car showroom and part of valeting the car was removing the engine warning LEDs :D
     
  8. Hadron

    Hadron Smoke me a kipper...
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    Any trading standards personnel reading this? ;)
     
  9. nickdalzell

    nickdalzell Android Expert
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    I cannot count all the used cars I've seen on the lot with either black tape over the "check engine" light or some fuses being MIA for things like airbags or the chime, or on some more cool rare vehicles such as the Buick Reatta or the Oldsmobile Toronado Caliente the voice-alert system.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zb3gYvJpDK0
     
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  10. Slug

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    Some have; Sony's PC Companion software allows a firmware repair as well as the usual updating, and I think Samsung's Kies offers something similar. I suspect that the main reason though is that a true 'brick' (a completely DOA, unresponsive handset) is a pretty rare occurence and invariably requires a more drastic low-level solution than a mere "repair" of the firmware.
     
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  11. out of ideas

    out of ideas Android Enthusiast
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    Zte has a dfu mode that can save bricked devices, and im betting some others do as well.

    an actual "brick" is such a rare occurrence that it is of probably zero concern to google.

    one of the reasons phones don't come pre-rooted is so people who dont know what they are doing don't brick.
     
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  12. funkylogik

    funkylogik share the love peeps ;)
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    Yeah man. Id go so far as to say its pretty hard to brick a phone (via root access). Like youd have to know what you were doing to be able to kill a phone without doing anything physical :thumbup:
     
  13. mikedt

    mikedt 你好
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    Cheapo Androids can brick themselves just by breathing on them. Even if you get to recovery mode, no dice, because so often there's nothing to recover the things with.
     
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  14. ocnbrze

    ocnbrze DON'T PANIC!!!!!!!!!
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    i think we use the term bricked too easily these days. to me a bricked phone is just that. if you have soft bricked or un-bricked your phone then it was never really bricked in the first place.

    and to the op, people brick their phones, not the phone bricking itself. most of the bricks are on rooted phones. the case for a bricked phone on an unrooted phone is very rare like it has already been stated.

    for me i will always root my phones. there are plenty of ways to trouble shoot with rooted phones then non-rooted phones.....so i have no worries of bricking my phone...unless i get careless.
     
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  15. OverByter

    OverByter Resident Slide Rule Guru
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    Actually the opposite, if you don't know what you're doing and flash the wrong bootloader you can be pretty well screwed. :rolleyes:
    OB
     
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  16. damewolf13

    damewolf13 live~laugh~love
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    I can only relate my own experiences here.
    I have never rooted a device in my life. Never needed to.
    When the first amazing Evo was released a few years ago, within a month or so they sent out an update to the phone. After the prompt to download the update, I downloaded it per ota instructions. At the end of that update I recieved an announcement that the update was unsuccessful and another prompt to download the update again. Now some of you who have had a bricked phone for whatever reason can probably feel my pain and horror when there was no, and I repeat NO sign of life within seconds of starting the redownload of that update. At that time, Evo's were on backorder and folks were waiting weeks for their first Evo, much less a replacement. I was fortunate enough to find a caring rep who put my name on one that was coming in the very next day. After doing some research through Sprint and various Evo sites, there were dozens of us that recieved the double prompt to redownload the update, and dozens of bricked Evo's. One of the scariest times of my Android life. I guess you could put the blame on me, but I wasn't the only one who recieved that prompt, so I tend to think it was some developer glitch with the update.;):rolleyes:

    I also agree with Ocnbrze that a soft bricked phone is not really a bricked phone at all, and we do indeed use the term rather loosely.
     
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  17. Hadron

    Hadron Smoke me a kipper...
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    One reason I feel more comfortable rooted is that I have more options for fixing things. ;)

    As OB says, messing up the bootloader is the easiest way to brick, but I suspect even most rooters never touch that. I certainly would advise people to leave it alone unless they have a good reason, have checked the md5 and know what they are doing.
     
  18. divinebovine

    divinebovine Android Expert
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    Can you point me towards useful information on this? I did a search but the signal to noise ratio was awful. It sounds like something I'd like to know about my Venture, if it has that feature.

    [​IMG] I can't agree enough.
     
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