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May 6 / The Architect

Upgrading firmwares in the home (updated)

Being a bit of a tech geek, my home has quite a few tech gadgets. Keeping these various devices up-to-date is a challenge, so I decided to make a list of what “firmware updates” I do (or should do!) on a regular basis, and how they are applied. It’s quite a scary list…

Updated September 2012 with some new additions

Internet-updating

  • Logitech Harmony Remote (via USB cable. A few years old, so no new firmwares for a while, but often needs to be reprogrammed when new devices arrive)
  • Samsung SmartTV (can update itself over the internet or via USB – nice, although reports no updates available, despite one being available on their website. Doh.)
  • Popcornhour media player (another device that can update itself over the wire)
  • Sonos music system (each device updates itself via the internet when triggered by user)
  • Internet router/Cable modem (as this is owned by the Cable Co, they control and update the firmware remotely)
  • Nintendo Wii (can update itself over the internet, or via system software bundled on Game discs)
  • QNAP NAS storage (can update itself over the internet, or via uploads via the web admin console)
  • SmartHome automation (software updates itself via internet with no intervention, and the hardware control modules are updated from the controller software)
  • Apple iPad (finally update-able over the internet)
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone (updates itself over the internet from Google)
  • EyeSpy24 security cameras (download from manufacturers website then upload via web interface)

Manual updating via PC/USB

  • Laptops (manual updates by downloading the BIOS from manufacturers website)
  • Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphone (manually updated by USB docking to laptop and running the Samsung Kies application)
  • Yamaha Piano (yes, this has firmware too! Updated by USB, although being a few years old, no new firmwares are likely)
  • Nikon camera (manual updates via USB)

Other updating methods

  • Onkyo AV amp (updates notoriously difficult by playing a firmware WAV file via Audio CD! No, really!)

Can’t be updated

  • Older LCD TV (apparently service engineers have a way of updating it, but it’s not user-updatable)
  • Dishwasher
  • Washing machine
  • Boiler

As more and more devices (TVs etc) become software-updatable, the challenge of keeping everything up-to-date is only going to get harder. Hopefully the “future home” with everything internet-connected via IPv6 will automate and hide this task from the end-user, but at present, it requires constant docking, downloading, copying to USB keys and manual checks via setup menus.

We’re never going to get away from having to update stuff, as manufacturers rush products to market to gain market share and competitive advantage, meet rapidly changing standards and add new features, and then fix bugs once products are in the field. If only they would all update themselves…

And I haven’t even touched on the hardware in the lab yet (fortunately not in my house!)

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