Users hack their treadmill to watch Netflix, manufacturer says stop

Owners of NordicTrack treadmills have made a habit of hacking into their device, in particular to gain access to administrator rights. The goal is to be able to display the content they want on the giant screens of these rugs. So when the manufacturer decides to block access to this feature, users and defenders of the right to repair cry foul.

Credit: NordicTrack

You may be familiar with NordicTrack treadmills. Their main attraction is to have a large control screen (up to 32 ″) in HD definition. These models represent a significant investment, since they are negotiated between 2000 and more than 4000 €. One would naturally think that it is possible to watch all kinds of content on this screen, especially since these devices are powered by Android 5.1.1.

Only, the manufacturer did not hear it that way. Indeed, users must subscribe to an integrated exercise software called iFit, which includes race routes and various training programs. However, this program prevents you from using the control screen to view other content.

Users have found a way to access administrator rights

In fact, some users were quick to find a way to bypass device limitations. As if rooting an Android smartphone, customers have managed to access the administrator rights of their treadmill. Thanks to this “God Mode”, JD Howard, a construction engineer on sabbatical, obtained full control of his purchased X32i carpet for $ 4000.

In particular, it was possible for him to install additional applications, as a third-party browser, which allowed him to access any content or service like YouTube, Netflix or Disney + from his control screen. Of course, NordicTrack never made it clear that this elevation of privilege could be accessed so easily.

Still, the manipulation was known to users. There are plenty of unofficial guides available on YouTube and specialized forums, and even the support pages of iFit (the parent company of NordicTrack) explain how to access them. It is for this very reason that Howard bought a NordicTrack treadmill.

NordicTrack says stop and blocks access to “God Mode”

However, the company decided otherwise. Since October 2021, the company has automatically updated all of its exercise equipment equipped with giant screens, such as its bikes, ellipticals, treadmills and rowers, in the purpose of blocking access to privileges. “I got my money’s worth. Now they are trying to remove features that are of utmost importance to me. I disagree with that”, denounces JD Howard.

Very quickly, user complaints multiplied on the manufacturer’s forums and on the web, like this customer who said to himself “scandalized ” to no longer be able to watch Netflix and follow Premier League games on your treadmill. “It’s so frustrating because this beautiful screen is to be“, He says annoyed in the columns of ArsTechnica.

Customers denounce NordicTrack’s measure, and believe that they have the right to do what they hear on their device, especially after spending thousands of dollars. In particular, many say that being able to watch their favorite show or series makes them spend more time training. What does not pass for them is the mandatory nature of this update, while previous patches were optional.

nordictrack tapis
Credit: NordicTrack

An update necessary to ensure user safety

For its part, NordicTrack claims to be within its rights and supports the need for such an update. “The privilege mode blocking was automatically installed because we believe it enhances safety and security when using fitness equipment that has many moving parts ”, said a spokesperson for the brand.

He pursues : “Since there is no way of knowing what kind of changes or errors a consumer might make in the software, there is no way of knowing what specific problems accessing privilege mode might cause ”. The company also emphasizes that the privilege mode “was never intended as a functionality for users ”. In addition, it cautions owners who attempt to gain administrator rights via a workaround: the product warranty will be voided on the spot.

Also read: Galaxy Z Fold 3 – Samsung will disable photo sensors if the bootloader is unlocked

A case that echoes the fight for the right to reparation

This case puts NordicTrack at the center of the debate over the right to a remedy, with consumers demanding more freedom with the products they buy. In general, the right to reparation includes the possibility of having spare parts available and in the opinion of advocates, it should include the authorization to modify his device at will.

I should be able to refuse a software update if I find out that it actually makes my use of the product worse than before, because ultimately that product is mine ”, assures Ugo Vallauri, co-founder of The Restart Project, a London-based organization pro-right to repair.

Recently, many governments have mobilized in favor of the right to reparation. This is the case in the United States, where a decree was passed in July 2021. In France, the repairability index has been in effect since January 1, 2021. This pressure from lawmakers has started to bear fruit at some manufacturers, like Apple which finally sells spare parts to repair your iPhone yourself.

Source : ArsTechnica

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