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Into/Why

Greetings and salutations internet person! Have you ever pissed off a customer so much they bought a domain and stood up a website to shit on your asinine and boneheaded business practices? GE just did.

I just wanted a tall, cold, refreshing glass of water at 3am only to be greeted by a fucking atomic countdown on my trusty cold water and ice dispensing pal.

What happens in seven days? I have seen filter alarms before- this was new. I have never had a count down on my fridge before. At this point in the story I figure this is a “Please Reorder Soon” alarm. Then I made a mistake- I googled this when I was in bed. My fridge was going to disable its own ice and water system if I did not succumb to its strong-arm appliance extortion tactics. (UPDATE:After this article has made it around a couple people let me know that the fridge would, in fact, continue to work just would roll over to a days-past mode. That said I can now buy 15$ filters on Amazon vs 50$ DRM filters. Oh and no more triangle of doom on my fridge HMI)

I knew that I had to dig, I was willing to bet that there was just some analog enable signal I could trip to bypass this stupid thing. I dug through the schematics… Nope the entire appliance has its own communications bus. The dispense board/main board interrogates the drm/rfid board and asks questions about filter status before it will command parts to do their fucking job and send signals to the relays that run the water/ice maker relays.

So my fridge has a water-nazi-mini-hitler circuit board in it, I just had to see it.

The Filter Compartment:The RFID Circuit Trapdoor of Shame:General Electric’s Integrated Führer Board(IFB):

The Anti-Freedom GE “Tech”

What gives? Well some asshole at GE thought it would be a good idea to include a fucking RFID DRM module in select refrigerators.

From the patents it looks like I can thank inventors Mr. Krause and Mr. Chernov for their freedom sucking, major appliance disabling, communist, 1984-esque idea. From what I am reading- with every press of the dispense switch the control board asks the drm board “Please sir, may I dispense some water for my loving owners.” See the advanced dramatization below.

Thank you memegenerator for your advanced GE appliance bus traffic analysis.

For anyone reading this who is unaware DRM is short for digital rights management it’s the sneaky way that your coffee machine refuses to make coffee without “approved” coffee or music from a vendor will only play back in their media player. In shot, it’s a quick way to piss customers off and remove choice! Always with some lame ass excuse like “Oh if you don’t use our ink in your printer it will catch-fire-explode-boom-poof.” Or “Only our water filters are made to xyz magical standards with pure unicorn piss and rainbows.”

No one ever told me about the filter counterfeiting consortium, I really doubt authentic filters are a huge problem, never have been for me anyway. However, I do know a thing or two about how companies have been trying to do shit like this since the dawn of the automobile. I am sure Mr. Edisons’ GE would have loved the idea that no one could sell parts but him! Since he basically monopolized the entire motion picture industry.

Take a peek at Magnuson Moss; From the wiki “Warrantors cannot require that only branded parts be used with the product in order to retain the warranty.[7] This is commonly referred to as the “tie-in sales” provisions[8] and is frequently mentioned in the context of third-party computer parts, such as memory and hard drives.”

Bypass
Methods:

The Bypass, Bypass method: first described here With this method you take the rfid stamp from a “bypass” cartridge and simply slap it on whatever filter you damn well please. However when I attempted this it would seem that the evil empire GE has modified their manufacturing technique so tag extraction will be a little more fun now.

First Extraction Attempt (Failure)
a) As noted elsewhere on the internet the tag is located under the “Back” Label:

b) The tag was able to be lifted easily with a knife.

c) Sadly the actual rfid chip is encased in glue and what I just ripped out was the antenna:

Second Extraction Attempt (Success)
a) This time I took a dremel to the bypass cartridge

b) Then I took the only tools you will need for this job
c) Now to simply remove the one phillips screw covering the pointless DRM board cover

d) Now we will tape our little RFID bypass tag to the back of the board. Cool thing is that the compartment for the RFID board has a huge void that perfectly fits the tag we cut out.

e) Now we just reinsert the board

f) For the last step you need to remove the RFID tag from the old filter if you intend to continue to use it.

g) Enjoy your filter freedom.

The Swap-a-roo method: With this method you simply keep one old filter- I have been told that some folks just take an old filter and swap it with their new one. The tag memory would appear to be extremely limited.

Links

Read more about the evils of DRM and the right-to-repair movement.

Many people in the comments on HackerNews and Reddit have mentioned Cory Doctorow’s story “Unauthorized Bread”- I bought a copy of the story in print on Amazon.

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