Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
My Sony "smart" TV has updated itself and tried to force me to use a new app (twitter.com/buro9)
557 points by DyslexicAtheist on April 1, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 436 comments

I'm the author and linking to my tweets is a bad idea because they auto-delete after 14 days.

For future HN context, as the author I'm reproducing them here in full:

My @Sony "smart" TV has updated itself and tried to force me to use a new app from https://samba.tv and boy oh boy... this is worse than recent @facebook stuff.

From their own privacy policy: https://samba.tv/legal/privacy-policy/ … they track what you watch, when you watch it, your location, your interactions with other apps. And they share this with... well, everyone basically.

This information is then used to market to you within the TV and offer you a "hot list"... but it is also used to "Detect, investigate and prevent fraudulent transactions and other illegal activities and protect the rights, safety and property of Samba and others"

If you have a "Smart TV" from any brand and it's doing an update you will 100% want to disable Samba.

Samba is not a feature for you, it is a snitch in your living room, snitching on everything you watch on your TV, it's a feature for corporations only.

To disable Samba the soft way... don't agree to their T&Cs post OS upgrade.

To disable Samba the hard way... use Android system settings to disable the app.

This is a good time to say that if you own a "Smart TV" from any company you should run it on a different network than your NAS and other computers. And that all other devices best require passwords to connect to them.

Ideally you run a TV on a different VLAN.

And this is where I wish that dumb panels were all the rage, and that the only "smart" functionality was external to the display itself. But when @netflix and other content providers decline the use of their apps outside of integrated devices this is the hell we live in.

I really wish that @Google provided a TV box that was the full Android TV, but that was vanilla Google with the ability to install @netflix, @BBCiPlayer, @mubi as apps. That I could just plug this into any display panel, including dumb displays.

Perhaps @Google could even call it Pixel TV.

HN replying to myself with some context outside of the tweets.

I actually trust stock Android over Samsung, Sony, etc Android. Hence my "if we're going to have Android TV perhaps Google could supply it without the forced add-ons". I see this similar to installing Windows yourself rather than having "Windows with added vendor crap"... like if you know you want Windows, a stock one is better and same with Android.

I'm now looking at purchasing the Nvidia Shield and disabling all network connectivity on my Sony TV.

The Sony TV is a recent one, about a year old. A Bravia something or other. I have disabled the Samba app using the Android Apps system.

One thing I didn't include in the tweets was Samba's patent list, because it's too deep a topic for Twitter. The patent numbers are on their site though... go take a look: https://samba.tv/legal/patents/ Some of those are downright scary and have no positive application for privacy conscious users.

Feel free to ask anything.

I've bought a Sony Bravia TV set around this time a year ago, too, but mine doesn't seem to have Android TV. Or does it? The firmware only has basic TV, EPG, and recording capabilities, plus Netflix but no "apps". It's an absolute joke compared to PlayTV on PS3 of ten years ago. I was about to reset/update it because the recording software is stuck in a state where it can't delete a scheduled recording in the past and won't take programming for new recordings.

So I'm selfishly asking if you could look up the version number of yours, so that I can identify mine and avoid updating it?

Why Android over Linux or MacOS? It feels like at this point, Android and Windows are surveillance systems. If you don't want a surveillance system, you need to go with Linux or MacOS (or iOS.)

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Mubi, BBC iPlayer... in Hi-Res, UHD or 4k mode.

The apps with rich capabilities are restricted to the platform.

Android is the one with them all.

(caveat on Amazon vs Google stupidity)

Is there any concern with a smart TV that isn't connected to the Internet (using a chromecast to connect to netflix)?

Depends how disconnected it really is.

If it's doing some kind of "always scan WiFi in the background" shenanigans then it's still a computer slowly going out of date without security updates and occasionally exposing itself to the local area.

I wish I could take a "smart" TV and flip a switch and have it gracefully fall back to "dumb" TV where the Android device is physically disabled.

My Philips start TV can connect wired or wireless. Using Netflix native on it, goes quicker than via Chromecast. The EPG data contains an ad (!!!). I cannot even pay to remove it. So I just use my settopbox to watch & record. Advantage to that is that I am allowed to skip ads on local recordings (if I use remote recordings though, only on public broadcast TV, and they only last for a week).

Chromecast is basically a smart TV on a stick, controlled with a remote from smartphone (and partly, even the remote control of the TV). You can run a Chromecast wired as well. Same with Steam Link. It can run over wireless or wired.

I find on all of these wired far more reliable, and I keep more bandwidth for my wireless applications. Even my printer is wired. Then again, I got a 8 port gbit switch for connectivity and barely any wires visible.

The caveat is that my smart devices, although wired, are currently NOT on a VLAN, and that Chromecast is a data resource for Google, and as I mentioned the EPG data on the TV contains commercials. Instead of the Steam Link I could even just run a HDMI cable straight from computer. I can also plug in a Bluetooth USB adapter on my USB hub to listen via Bluetooth on the couch to the TV.

Other than that, its a great TV for its price. Make sure your TV has enough HDMI ports. You might also wanna have a look at Chromecast alternatives such as Miracast devices or Amazon Fire Stick (the ethernet adapter came free with Chromecast Ultra but for the other Chromecasts it costs 20 EUR extra).

I know its pushing the problem onto another device, but I dont use the "smart apps" on our bravia anymore. It's just an HDMI dumping ground. Right now a blue ray player has all the smarts

Edit: mainly cause they'd stopped working years ago...

Don’t give it the Wifi password?

Not giving it your WiFi password doesn’t make it immune from a nearby open/Mifi/phone access point that may allow the TV to exfiltrate data or become exposed.

Maybe give it a password to a honeypot network of yours?

I realize it's a bad solution, but that might work…unless it's "smart" enough to realize it has no connection and try other networks regardless…

Android tracks you less than iOS. You don't even need to create an account to use an Android TV or an Android phone.

Google Android tracks you the most.

How do I even turn off location services without breaking Android Device Manager?

I have location history off but I still get notifications from maps that say things like "X place you're at is popular, click here to see reviews or something"

You've intentionally confused several things.

1. You don't need to use Android Device Manager. Unlike iOS, Android gives you a choice of device finders.

2. Location services is different from location history. Location services is an AGPS service that does not track anything tied to your account. iOS does the same thing, and worse, used to send your location to a third party AGPS provider (Skyhook).

3. Google Maps is separate from location history. Google Maps on iOS will tell you to see reviews as well, and it is a setting in both. Unlike on iOS, on Android, you have a choice not to use the default maps application at all and instead use an entirely offline map.

The above three points when support my initial claim that Android is a better privacy-focused system than iOS.

If it's Maps then I presume it is aware of Google's knowledge / collecting of hotspots and is then able to guess where you are. Probably some other voodoo as well. Point being, even with location off you're still trackable.

If you turned off wifi so you think that would help?

ha Android does not track you less than iOS and google can infer who you are using your ip address

And you have to 'activate' an iOS device with a SIM card. No such need for any android device.

Clearly not the case for Apple TV, which is the product being discussed here. See:


The only device that requires a SIM is an iPhone for obvious reasons.

And Apple is in the forefront of pushing for a integrated "SIM", effectively going back to the CDMA days...

Would this be similar to the eSIM in my Pixel 2 XL?


Is also worth remembering that all phones track you and that people who have access to the mast data can do stuff like this - https://ubicomplab.cs.washington.edu/pdfs/wibreathe.pdf

I've had the Nvidia Shield for a couple years now, and highly recommend it. It's a bit expensive if you're not using it for gaming or Plex server (I'm not) but I find it worth it because it's reliable, still gets updated, and generally "just works". It's literally the only content used for my TV now: Netflix, Plex, YouTube, weather, Tinycam (baby monitor), Google Music, and I can also cast from a phone/computer/etc without changing inputs.

Weren't Sony caught spying with the TV camera a few years back? I keep well away from Smart TVs.

Don’t know about Sony, but Samsung was definitely vulnerable to an NSA backdoor (ffs, probably front door put in for them).

I've paid for streaming for a number of years, while more than half worrying I was just making myself a sucker.

And, sure enough, the libraries have gone downhill while the prices have gone up, and my money seems to just be going to lawyers and technology to ever-more lock things down, while content is balkanized to maximize what I've come to consider rent-seeking.

I'm not interested in a "smart TV". I want good hardware with a lot of hardware connectivity -- preferably open connectivity, but that ship has already sailed in good part. Nonetheless, connectivity I set up and control.

If I'm going to stream, it's going to be out of a separate box, that I can segregate and replace when it's warranted.

If I can get off my duff and do it, it's time for me to stop paying for streaming content and put the money instead towards purchases where I end up with a physical copy, more or less in perpetuity. If, because the media degrade or the playback devices abandon functionality or get more locked down, the lifespan of what I've purchased is limited, I no longer have any qualms -- other than "lead pipe" law enforcement -- about breaking protections and making a sustainable copy.

I feel like a sucker for having put my money into a system that perpetuates these schemes, for too long.

Time to hit eBay for those boxes of DVD's I've heard about, before everyone else catches on and they dry up.

My parents have a somewhat older "smart TV" -- Samsung. Recently, it received an OS update. The UI responsiveness did pick up -- it was halfway abysmal, before. But the picture quality took a major hit. (I'll let Dad fuss with that, as is his wont, if he gets around to it. He doesn't use that TV much.)

This just reinforced for me, that you can't trust these updates nor the software on these things. If it works well as a display device, keep it unconnected and so "dumb" and just pipe stuff in over HDMI.

By the way, it was on a separate "friends" subnet that their wireless router provides. But performance seemed marginal, at times, so it ended up on an Ethernet cable. The router only has physical ports on the main subnet; there went that protection. Ironically, after the OS update, it defaulted to the wireless connection and seemed to perform significantly better with it. It got switched back to the Ethernet connection, but maybe they should undo that, now.

Really with all this stuff, it's coming down to the very basic... "truism", it's proving to be: If they can, they will.

It's up to us, individual users and consumers, to stop them. No one else is.

Considering this:

> Ideally you run a TV on a different VLAN.

Why don't you go with a pi instead of a shield ?

Android app support most likely

Also 4K and H.265/HEVC video support

An RPi can handle 720p at best, and no Netflix/Prime. Certainly not at 4k with HDR.

Um... running 1080p on Pi for years over here.

On which RPi? With hardware rendering? Which codec? Cause whenever I try it, I get stutters. I first suspected it'd be the wireless of the Chromecast, but that wasn't it.

OpenElec/Kodi, RPi2, never once a stutter

I don't use Kodi, I find it terrible. I use Emby. More important though, is the ffmpeg version and compile options.

Ok, but you're telling me you have studder and performance issues. So... Kodi then.

We don't know why. I use Raspbian; not Openelec.

Please don't call Samba.tv just 'Samba'. We (the Samba project) have trademark on Samba, which is for the file server, authentication and print server that runs on Unix boxes and allows interoperability with Microsoft Windows.

Samba.tv is... Something else. It has nothing to do with us.

Unfortunately, I don't think it's very useful to call out the consumer on this -- it might make sense to go after Samba.tv in court to prevent them from using the trademark.

(BTW, I do really appreciate all the work done on samba over the past few decades, so thanks!).

Have you considered a cease and desist? I think the name is sufficiently similar to cause confusion.


>"Infringement may occur when one party, the 'infringer', uses a trademark which is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark owned by another party, in relation to products or services which are identical or similar to the products or services which the registration covers"

this basically means that in order to have an infringement case, you need to show that both the name/brand/logo are confusingly similar, and also that the product/service/domain are close enough to each other. I don't know that "software" is a sufficiently narrow category to count.

Might be along shot, but both seem to be relevant in the whole "watching digital video" space.

(I'm imagining an a scenario in which an elderly version of myself becomes confused...

Me: "Honey, I think we should watch a movie over the samba!".

My elderly wife: "Did you mean the samba on the smart TV, or the samba on the PC?"

Me: Dag Nabbit!)

That's exactly the scenario I was thinking of. I've run samba in a household with a (non-smart) TV, back in the day. There's definitely some overlap there.

When I first read this, I assumed Samba had started a file streaming service/app for Android TV to stream movies from Samba shares.

Admittedly, a few seconds of thinking made me realise they'd never do that... but it's easy to see why people are getting confused, which is EXACTLY where Trademark stuff comes in.

I was sorely confused as I thought Samba was legitimately doing this at first. It's literally Samba's name with .tv appended, and one can play files using sambda + VLC..

Yeah, ditto.

"Oooooh, some sort of media centre software based on samba? Count me in. Oh, wait ... :("

"Software" is a a WAY narrower category than, say, Cars vs Washing machines.

Absolutely. I nearly choked when I saw the name.

I wound up having to change my wifi password.

Without thinking about it I configured my current TV to join my wifi network. After it so kindly started putting ads on the screen while watching things I turned it off. A few months later, ads again. Somewhere in the bowels of the settings the wifi was reenabled, so I shut it off. A few months later, more ads. In a new place in the settings it was back on. Repeat a few more times.

Changed my wifi password and that took care of that.

I temporarily set my SSID to some long random string and connected my TV to it. Then I turned off my TV's networking and changed the SSID back to normal. Even if my TV wanted to silently re-enable networking, it wouldn't have a network to connect to.

Just wait till they start trying every wifi in range with the saved password!

Wow. No way to opt-out of the ads?

Do they have a in-hardware or in-app purchase to remove the ads? <- That would be a horrible trend to start.

Actually I take it back, that is what kept changing location. They'd have an opt out but bury it in increasingly arcane places, and of course since it was "different" I was opted back in.

Then I started disabling my wifi and that kept magically re-enabling.

And that's the point I took the nuclear option.

What brand of TV?

Samsung, from about 4 years ago I think

I had a Samsung plasma TV about that long ago and it started to show notifications every time it turned on that some service I never used was being decommissioned.

Same experience as https://us.community.samsung.com/t5/TVs/Annoying-notificatio... but with a different notification.

I don't think I'll buy a Samsung TV again after that, and I don't connect any TV to the internet anymore.

LG does this too. I had to black hole its MAC address in my router.

> linking to my tweets is a bad idea because they auto-delete after 14 days.

I feel like you should mention that in your bio, it's not standard and breaks conversations. People should know that they should cite you if they want something to be preserved in conversations or when linking.

> People should know that they should cite you if they want something to be preserved in conversations or when linking.

If people are worried about that they shouldn't be relying on a third-party (twitter) for record keeping.

Link rot is something we can't avoid, but that's wholly different from actively going back and deleting things.

The bio space is too short. Meh, I can delete if I want to :)

Much as I hate linkrot I'm not sure we should be using Twitter as a archival source. But people do and you're not making future historians happy. ;-)

So - why are you using Twitter at all if you want to delete stuff so quickly?

You sound the kind of chap who would much prefer their own platform. Heard of these things called "blogs"?

Many years ago I used Posterous as my blog, in good HN fashion.

Aaaaand it went away.

Walled gardens are always going to be a massive vulnerability for link rot.

This time with Medium will be different! /s

Although I couldn't see a way to do it when I first looked at Medium, I'm told that there is now a way to use it with your own URLs.

I haven't bothered to examine how it works, but if you can do that and you have a disaster recovery plan that replicates your entire output to a different service (e.g. GitHub Pages) while retaining the link structure, then perhaps Medium is now superior to Posterous's original offering.

There used to be a way. The user had to fill a form and pay (less than 100usd, IIRC) and they would set up a custom domain for you.

The last time I googled it they had it discontinued this option.

Self-host - or at least use a platform that you can easily migrate away from without breaking urls.

Cool URIs don't change and all that... Thank heavens for the Internet Archive.

Twitter is not exactly a walled garden, though. AFAIK it's perfectly indexable.

Doesn't Twitter gate high volume access behind contracts for money?

In any case, if Twitter allows posy deletion, then it's standard. You may consider deleting bad form, but that's just another case of someone's perception of a platform not matching reality.

The internet makes it hard to definitively remove something, but a large percentage has already been lost to churn and bit rot due to lack of care.

If you think this will upset future historians, just wait until you find out that this is something that journalists like to do with their Twitter accounts too, and I would be entirely unsurprised if there's an overlap between the journalists who do this and the ones that start dubious but widely believed viral claims using their Twitter accounts.

Every so often I just delete all my tweets. It's not automated, because I do it when I feel like it. The first ever twitter app I made was a delete-all-tweets app just for myself to use.

I purge content from my law firm website all the time.

I completely trash and start over my personal website every few years, too, and I've never kept anything in a purge. I have personal archives of it, and the various archiving sites have been snapshotting my stuff since 1999, so, meh, if anyone wants to find my old work product, there's a way, without me having to archive it all for the whole world for all eternity.

Sometimes it's nice to start over.

I like to purge my real life too. De-cluttering is fun. My zen would be to have nothing left.

Regarding link rot, the walled garden comment above/below is spot on. When you're dealing with a bunch of walled gardens, link rot is so far unavoidable.

Don't worry about it, some people want everything for free, if they want to cite you they should plan that the internet is temporary and there is no guarantee that content will be there in the next 15 minutes let alone a few years. Keep deleting your stuff and don't worry about the people who think you should do this or do that with the way you handle your internets.

Downvoted for not contributing to the conversation. It's basically a personal attack on me and others sharing my opinion: saying we want everything for free, that we should not assume Twitter to be there in 15 minutes (when there is all the reason to assume the contrary), calling OP out to keep doing what I said I thought was not a good idea (without explaining yourself further) and not to worry about people like us. This isn't a logical argument and doesn't help the conversation, and that's besides the fact that you make it sound very personal.

It's interesting how this post gets more downvotes, as the front-page post "delete tweets older than X days" gets more upvotes. I wonder if this is due to priming.

That seems perfectly explainable by the fact that they're both correlated with time passing, given the possibility that the average HN voter agrees with the deletion of old tweets and disagrees your comment. This explanation has the added advantage of not being decapitated by Occam's Razor, the way your priming proposition is.

Can someone explain this tweet to me?

> But when @netflix and other content providers decline the use of their apps outside of integrated devices this is the hell we live in.

I don't understand. I can just open a web browser on a little media center PC, connect it by HDMI, point it to Netflix and play a movie, right? (Admittedly I haven't tried because our Panasonic has Netflix and no ads or spy apps that I've noticed)

But what exactly does Netflix forbid that @buro9 is referring to? And does anyone know what their reasoning is for doing so?

I ask because I'm rather interested in the concept of buying a dumb TV once this one breaks (hopefully long from now), but I do like me my Netflix. Lots of people in this thread suggest buying a dumb TV but I don't understand why Netflix and friends would disallow customers using that.

Content owners dictate in contractual terms the availability of their content in high definition (UHD, 4k, etc) be determined by the app securing access to the content.

The result is that the higher quality content is only available on apps on closed platforms.

So if you got a dumb panel and wanted high definition content, you'd still need to hook up something like the Nvidia Shield... essentially a closed platform (Android again in this instance).

This is totally subjective but I find UHD/4K to be painful to look at on a large screen. The contrast is too high, everything is too focused. I don't need to see skin pores from across the room.

1080p is by far "good enough" to watch anything on TV, IMO.

I don’t have much experience with 4K but I’ve had to disable some motion enhancing features on 120hz screens because the movements seemed too fast and it was weird.

> The contrast is too high, everything is too focused. I don't need to see skin pores from across the room.

I re-watched a couple of episodes of "Friends" recently (apparently the series is now available on Netflix) at a couple of friends' house, on a huge tv set, and I had a totally different experience compared to what I remembered from last watching the episodes ~15 years ago because I could only focus on looking at the actresses' faces, asking myself: "Did Monica's face really looked like that? Did Phoebe's?". I'll stick with 1080 or even with 780 from now on.

Right! Ok this makes sense. Any clue on why content owners do this? It seems a bit arbitrary.

Fortunately I'm the opposite of a videophile - I don't even know how High the Definition of our TV is. But I see your point, so indeed, a 4k dumb TV won't be able to show most Netflix content in 4k, correct? That's a major shame and pretty ridiculous.

edit: I just noticed that Netflix actually supports UHD on the Windows 10 app and on Microsoft Edge[0]. So running Windows on the media center PC appears to be a practical option.

[0] https://help.netflix.com/en/node/13444

> Netflix actually supports UHD on the Windows 10 app and on Microsoft Edge

Still a closed platform :)

It's the DRM problem. They insist on these limitations as an anti-piracy measure. Fundamentally the only way to decode 4k in real time is to pass it fairly-unmodified to the video hardware, and at that point in a non-closed system a driver could steal it. Or just record it off the screen from the inside.

> Still a closed platform :)

Sure, but not a smart TV and that's the part I personally care the most about. I doubt Microsoft, even with all their telemetry nonsense, will ever include something as ridiculous as samba.tv. Also, they employ more than 0 UI designers.

Thanks for the explanation btw. So it's basically the 4k video version of copy-protected CD's. And that was a great idea that totally worked!

> will ever include something as ridiculous as samba.tv

Pleasant surprise:

Microsoft Store -> "..." button -> My Library.

Sadly it just drives people to piracy instead when they cannot watch what they paid for.

>a 4k dumb TV

Is there even such a thing ? Honest question, because i looked for a "dumb" 4K with HDR10 support TV and i haven't found anything.

There's a lot of projectors that support 4K (see http://www.projectorcentral.com ) You can usually turn a smart TV into a dumb TV by not setting up the internet.

The 4K quality is tied to some pretty specific hardware and drivers as far as I remember. And 1080p is also different in my experience in the Windows 10 App and in Edge. I was able to get 1080p for some content in Edge, but not everything. The only way to consistently get 1080p quality was to use the rather crappy App. The search and filter features were worse than the website in my experience, and I ran into quite a few bugs when I used it.

The Windows 10 Netflix "app" is utterly abysmal

I had it running on my second monitor as background noise while I was working on a project

Every time I'd use Alt+Tab, the entire window would go black. Presumably as part of its inane DRM

Unfortunately, the only way to get it to work again was to close and relaunch the entire app!

Drifting off topic, but fwiw their Windows app got a bit better lately. I think there's finally a team on it again.

Right, but a HDCP 2.2 capable graphics device is required which currently is only nVidia GTX 10 series and newer Intel graphics.

Which the insane video card prices recently getting 4K output is an expensive issue.

You can definitely watch netflix on a computer connected via hdmi, running either windows or macos. You can watch netflix with a chromecast, with nvidia shield, there are endless choices. I like these external devices because i feel they are less likely to spy on me than crapware in a tv.

But netflix is tracking the same exact information that this Samba app is tracking

Take a look at the Samba patents.

Samba have patents for how to communicate and track across the boundaries of security sandboxes for example.

Whereas Netflix on my Android that has NetGuard really is just talking to netflix.com and apparently not doing anything else bad.

I have zero expectations that an app won't track in-app use for that app... but Samba is (with the consent of the hardware provider who owns the local instance of Android) tracking everything it can across apps.

You have just hit upon why HDMI is stupid.

If you used a DVI cable you could indeed do that. But HDMI was pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed despite no real benefit (having sound and video separate is an ADVANTAGE if you want to easily handle sound with different hardware..)

and now, well, you can't.

Huh? If you're coming from a PC you can definitely direct the audio separate the video. If you're using a set-top/streaming box you typically just send the audio back out the TV.

The number of people with dedicated audio equipment is too great for any TV manufacturer to break this.

Fortunately, there are 4K torrents.

Netflix uses DRM so they control the hardware and software it runs on.

I'm specifying hardware too because of HDCP - you can't just connect it to some random monitor because it might not support 'DRM for monitors'.

High-quality streaming doesn't really work outside of their dedicated apps, IIRC

So run tbe app on whatever device you want and play it on the TV. The web browser wasn't really a hard requirement.

> If you have a "Smart TV" from any brand

...you should turn that crap off and replace it with a Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, or anything else external. The Amazon app on our Vizio was so out of date that it literally couldn't connect to Amazon's API. Later updates fixed Amazon but enabled some flat-out 1984 level spying: https://consumerist.com/2015/11/09/vizio-smart-tvs-are-watch... . That's when I hard reset the TV, banned its MAC from our Wi-Fi, and started treating it exclusively as a dumb display for other devices.

Under no circumstances would I give any smart TV Internet access. It's not that I have great trust for any of the settop box manufacturers (although Apple's been doing a great job here), but I actively distrust all TV manufacturers.

I really do not know why you (and other commenters later) place such great faith in the add on devices, Roku in particular.

Just from a couple months ago: "And that’s where streaming TV company Roku comes in. Today, the company is introducing a new measurement suite called Roku Ad Insights that lets brands and agencies measure how effective their marketing is on OTT in four ways."

You really should assume that any app you run on any device is gathering data about what you are doing. Could be used in house and/or sold to third parties.

I run my Roku TV behind a super-duper locked down VLAN because of this. I wish I didn't have to, and I no longer recommend them because of the things you've mentioned.

When you see that Roku announcement, you can unplug the Roku from the TV and replace it with something different.

I said that I don't. I definitely mistrust them less than I mistrust any given TV manufacturer, though.

> you should turn that crap off and replace it with a Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, or anything else external. [...] Under no circumstances would I give any smart TV Internet access.

I totally agree, though my only exception is for Roku TV devices. They're essentially a flat-panel LCD with a Roku permanently stuck in the case with software that supports different inputs as "apps." I've been doing some packet sniffing and, so far as I can see, my TCL Roku TV doesn't do anything different on the wire that my Roku Premiere does.

Solution: don't ever purchase a smart TV.

Preferably, no one would ever purchase a smart TV. When smart TV sales go to zero, the makers would get the message.

Sadly, too many folks don't know, or if they do know, they don't care.

Try it.

I did.

I couldn't find a non-smart TV. They are everywhere. If you want the 4k, then you have a smart TV.

The best alternatives were super large monitors (way over the price of a TV, and with no decent sound built in), or corporate display panels (for advertising, signage, etc) whose prices are also way above a TV and include no sound system at all.

The best alternatives were super large monitors (way over the price of a TV, and with no decent sound built in), or corporate display panels (for advertising, signage, etc) whose prices are also way above a TV and include no sound system at all.

I wonder how big the market is for "dumb" TVs priced lower than smart ones --- given that the development costs, if any, for one would be much lower since you're basically just asking an OEM to combine existing parts (panels and electrics), perhaps it could be a startup opportunity to sell "the TV you watch" --- essentially big monitors with speakers and tuners and nothing else. Some things they could advertise:

    - absolutely no data collection
    - zero boot-up time
    - near-instant control response
    - no software requiring constant upgrades or maintenance

What you say makes sense, but I wonder if the amount of money they make re-selling our data would allow them to actually undercut the cost required to produce a "dumb" TV. So it's possible it would cost more for a dumb TV because it isn't subsidized by data reselling (I'm purely speculating here. I would guess dumb TVs would drive down the cost of smart TVs as they eat into their profit margins to maintain market share, which is important to the value of their data).

Nevertheless, a dumb TV marketing to me like that evokes an immediate "take my money!" response.

Not only selling data, but selling pre-installed app slots as advertising. Sure they won't be able to convince Netflix or YouTube to pay to have their apps pre-installed on the home-screen, but other wannabe streaming platforms would probably be happy to cough up

I doubt that would be any cheaper. Something like that would already have an ARM processor inside for all the digital housekeeping, the cost to bump specs a bit and make it run an embedded OS and GUI are likely extremely low.

The boot time is something that has irked me forever, and it seems the culprit is the HDMI protocol itself, so that wouldn't be improved either.

They would be more expensive, same as buying a laptop with no bloatware is more expensive than its loaded equivalent. Manufacturers/Labels/distributors get kickbacks from the bloatware companies per install so they can afford to reduce the price of the machine vs a 'clean' system.

Why would a dumb tv cost less than a smart one? Presumably the manufacturers are making money on each sale because of the ad tech. So wouldn't TV's without the tech cost more?

> I couldn't find a non-smart TV. They are everywhere. If you want the 4k, then you have a smart TV.

Or, hmmm... How about simply not buying that 4k if it is "smart".

The only feedback channel you have to the makers about your displeasure over the TV offerings is to simply not buy one.

They listen to nothing else. If the unit sells, they don't care about any other expressed dislikes (it sold, after-all). If the unit does not sell, and none of the units sell, only then do they listen.

But as I said at the outset, too few folks care enough to make a dent in their sales figures. So those of us who do care are left with simply not buying a new TV.

Or a projector.

Consumer projectors have built-in sound but you'll still want to hook up surround sound. And if you care about hi-res that much, you'll want it on a nice big screen where you can see the difference. I project onto a 100" screen.

Not really.

There a plenty of dumb 4K Blaupunkt TVs sold in Germany pretty much everywhere.

Interesting, what model(s)? Also UHD OLED?

No, they are not OLED, just LCD and LED.

Specific models I don't know by heart.

" ... or corporate display panels ..."

Exactly. A commercial display / signage display is indeed what you need to buy if you want a "dumb" TV.

Not only are they as dumb as dumb gets but they are highly reliable and usually fairly rugged.

Many of them have an expansion card slot which allows you to change the inputs - you could remove your 2x HDMI card and insert an SCART card instead, for instance.

Finally, if you get a video wall model, you'll get near-zero bezel.

They're not that expensive - how could they be if they are being purchased twelve at a time for display walls ? Yes, they are more than $399 + mail-in rebate from Frys.

It's worth it.

My intention -- the next time I buy a TV -- is simply to never tell it my wifi password. Do these things refuse to work without internet access?

they do work without internet access. You can also tell your TV to try to access the internet via Ethernet (w/o having it plugged in) and that will usually shut down all the intrusive BS (at-least on Samsung "smart TVs")

I use a DNS blacklist to prevent my Samsung TV from displaying ads in the UI


The non-smart 4k tv's exist and can be found for relatively inexpensive prices. I just got one, an off brand Technicolor TC5580-UHD.

That particular model number is apparently exclusive to Shoppers Drug Mart (store-exclusive model numbers are a pretty common problem; in many cases the actual difference from a "standard" model is something trivial like a slightly different remote or bezel). There's an interesting forum thread about the overall product family / platform / whatever [1].


Optimum points are really nice for stuff like this. Just hold onto them until something nice shows up. It would be very interesting if some details of the FW came out. Not going to reverse engineer my new TV but the service menu gives me the feels of something that is very customizable.

And, which make/model is it?

It's a technicolor tc5580-uhd. Not expensive at all. It's the same company as curtis and rca.

Having worked at Technicolor a while, they just licenses the brands to 3rd party OEMs. So the hardware is not from the same company.

I know, but it did what I wanted and didn't cost a lot($399CDN minus store points). Picture is acceptable too.

I’ve only been able to find industrial ones designed for applications such as theme parks where they’re basically in kiosk mode. Also not cheap.

Could you offer a brand/model or some link?

I also haven't been able to find a decent non-smart tv to no avail :(

Where did you find one?

On sale at Shoppers Drug mart in Canada. But Costco sells models like it too

I bought a Vizio P65-C1, excited to have found a modern TV without smart features. Then, a couple months later, an OTA update made it smart. I had to read the fine print to realize that this came with some bullshit "feature" where Vizio auto recognizes whatever I'm watching. I disabled it deep within some totally nonintuitive menu.

> I disabled it deep within some totally nonintuitive menu.

Have you monitored it's network activity?

If not, how can you be certain the "disable menu" was not actually a placebo?

It very well may be.

I did this by following the instructions I found at https://www.consumerreports.org/privacy/how-to-turn-off-smar...

You can find non-smart panels or monitors in most common TV sizes, but they aren't TVs because they lack TV tuners. Of course, unless you are doing OTA or no-box cable (is that even a thing anymore?) you aren't going to use a builtin TV tuner anyway.

Prices, though, are usually higher than TVs.

Is it dangerous to open a modern TV?

Might be worth finding the network chips and disconnecting or breaking them off.

To a rough approximation, a "smart TV" consists of a computer, laptop-style, connected to the display and speakers.

From various places online, you can buy "scaler" boards that take HDMI/VGA/etc. to whatever interface the panel uses (LVDS is common), i.e. they comprise essentially all the electronics inside a standard non-smart monitor. They are intended for laptop display conversions but can drive much bigger displays too, as long as the interface is the same. That might be an alternative to buying a much more expensive "dumb TV", i.e. buy a smart TV and "dumb it down" yourself!

For example, this particular one is configured for an iPad's display but the sellers usually have other configurations available:


It's not as dangerous as a CRT, but there are some dangers; however it doesn't really matter. They're tightly integrated, you can't just pull out the smart bits and leave behind a tuner.

Generally most modern TVs are gonna have a power supply, a main logic board, a display driver board and maybe another control board for stuff like backlights or sound. The logic board is basically gonna be an embedded mini computer running a full embedded OS that orchestrates the UI/smart features, decoding the inputs and generating the control signals for the panel driver. This will all be highly integrated on a single board, probably with almost all of the functionality in one or two main chips. Point being, you can't just yank out the smart stuff and still have a functioning TV. It'd be a bit like trying to remove a feature from a computer motherboard.

The ideal way to go about it would be to write your own firmware for the chips, but that's a practical impossibility because almost always there's no data publicly available on the chips or the other parts like the panel. You might also be able to get something working if the actual panel uses a standard interface, but it'll be a ton of work.

There aren't that many teardowns of televisions online that I can find, but this article has some to give you an idea.


Or just don't connect them to the network?

Thats what I did, it popped up after first power up asking for wifi password, to quote Snowden "lol no.".

Any of them automatically connect to open wifi networks or maybe cellular networks?

You may be able to check that by reviewing FCC documentation online similar to how people sleuth out new phones, though I've never looked at what precisely is required in terms of filing.

> maybe cellular networks

Now you're getting me paranoid.

That would probably cost too much. At least I hope so.

Amazon used to provide free networking for its readers... I think that it is very cheap to transfer text/"meta-data"... It might even be sponsored by the government...

It's usually a single-board highly integrated solution; CPU, RAM, Flash. You might be able to disable the wifi (if present).

Funny how they do this with TVs, but even on a Macbook Air, the flash and wifi cards are still separate components.

Or just don't connect it to the internet

This. I use a "Smart TV" but never ever configure any Internet connectivity to it. An old Mac mini serves as a media server connected to TV via HDMI. Everything works like a charm with a wireless keyboard and mouse.

Unfortunately if you’re in the market for a high quality TV, your choices are restricted to smart TVs.

You can then avoid connecting it to the internet at all, providing you a TV with all the beautiful looks and dumb insides.

The problem I've run into: the buggy software that's 3-6-9 months+ out of date by the time you get it out of box. Offline sofware update is not always an option. Maybe update once and then disconnect? As someone mentioned, only until they have autoconnect built in through partnership with mobile providers

I remember hearing about some smart TV that remembers your WiFi password even if you tell it to forget the network.

I plug my TV into Ethernet to update it and disconnect it immediately.

Does open smart TV software exist?


Disregarding the fucking awful campaign against them because some 3rd party developers make piracy-focused add-ons, as someone who never owned a smart TV, Kodi seems pretty feature-compatible.

I could be totally off though.

Look into LibreELEC, I use that and buy android tv boxes. You can dual boot, LibreELEC from an SD and android from NAND. It's stable enough that I've began to just flash nand and run soley LibreELEC, but you'll be limited from the wide availability of android support for most major content providers apps

the ones from the vendors are all closed source. Best bet is to buy a good TV and use another device to run software that makes it "smart" - ie. AOSP / Kodi

The only thing to gain from "smart tvs" are apps that can be controlled w/ the TV remote, if you're privacy coincious, you should know by now that it will take a bit of effort to secure your data.

In theory Android is open-ish. So lineageos or something might work.

> Solution: don't ever purchase a smart TV.

Not much of a solution since it will never happen. The best TV's are "smart", and people like nice things, myself included. You're much better of simply never connecting them to the internet. They get the same message and you don't limit yourself to a small set of poor options.

> They get the same message

If by "they" you mean the manufacturers, no they don't get the "same message".

The message they (makers) got was: "A smart TV sold". They interpret that to mean "purchaser wanted a smart TV".

And if you never connect you're device the message they get is "the consumer wanted our TV, but not our software." What's hard to understand about that?

Nothing hard to understand about your logic. It is the underlying assumption that is flawed.

The makers are not tracking that statistic (number of units sold that were not connected to the internet). They don't care if you connect it to the internet or not. Anything that happens after the initial sale (beyond returns and warranty repairs) is simply irrelevant to them, because there is zero income stream (unless they are charging an 'upgrade fee' later for something).

They care only about that initial sale. The only feedback channel they listen to is "units sold".

But too many people are addicted to the upgrade cycle and as a result not enough will simply turn away and say "no thanks, I'll stick with my dumb TV" (or go hunt down those few dumb TV's that still exist, so the sales numbers shift to dumb TV's).

> The makers are not tracking that statistic (number of units sold that were not connected to the internet). They don't care if you connect it to the internet or not.

That is absolutely wrong. They are making money off of the data; of course they care! That's the whole point!

Or, the "smart" TV is cheaper than a technically comparable flat screen that just comes with HDMI-In.

How is the current situation possible? Shouldn't some company be able to buy the same panel, put minimal electronics and casing around it and sell it cheaper?

What if... Work with me here... The "Smart" TV company is paid by malicious hackers to include malware that snoops on its customers. That would allow them to lower the price of the TV to below the cost of the dumb TV. Mind you, they might have to call the malware "apps" and call the hackers "partners."

Ok, snark aside, what if the makers of Smart TVs call them "platforms," and they get a subsidy for bundling apps, and maybe even a revenue stream from people who sign up for things like Netflix through the TV?

Again, they will be able to make a cheaper TV if there's more money in apps than margin on hardware.

This is analogous to the situation with phones. For most companies, there's more money in the telecommunications service than in the hardware margin, so most phones are subsidized by the service providers.

So-called television is going there: It's just a platform for advertising, tracking, and services that generate revenue on subscription. This is going to relentlessly drive hardware margins deep into the negative, which makes it impossible to sell a "dumb" display for a reasonable price.

I fully expect that it won't be long before leaving a smart TV unconnected to the internet won't be an option: They won't work unless they can phone home.

Samsung's partners don't want you hooking a 4K TV up to an AppleTV and routing around their platform in favour of Apple's app store, not if you bought that TV at a discount thanks to their subsidies.

Right on. It's the same way a windows computer is often cheaper than the same computer without an OS. The seller doesn't get paid by McAfee, Microsoft Office, Norton, and so on for bundling their crapware and has to make up for that by charging more. All that crapware probably covers the license cost of Windows and then some.

You can bet Sony didn't put this app on the TV because they wanted to give consumers an improved experience for free out of the goodness of their hearts.

Sounds plausible. Is there any evidence that this is what's going on?

Presumably, the issue is scale.

If most people prefer the TV with 'more features' then they'll take it. The savings of using a dumb TV are probably not a lot, I'd ballpark it at $50. How many consumers are going to think "$50 dollars more to get netflix straigt on my TV? Great!".

Besides, that $50 advantage could well be lost in the smaller scale costs.

A smart any device, honestly.

I just want to understand how people believed all these services worked previously

for example,

did you know that when you purchase an ebook using kindle software amazon knows exactly what page you've read to and how long you've stayed on each page. They also know exactly what books you have purchased.


Did you know that whenever you use a smart tv app that every time you "hover" over a tv show an event is logged that you hovered over it? Same with every click and every time you rent a movie.

This all seems pretty scary but these services could not function without this information.

I kind of get where you are going with it, but yes, I'm aware of how things work when buying a product.

I don't consider my Kindle Paperwhite as an always-on tracking-my-reading device, I consider it as an e-ink screen that I can transfer my books to via USB.

I still buy books from Amazon, but that's because I know how to de-DRM them, which is something I don't know how to do with books from... for example, Microsoft Store, or Google Play Books.

I don't own a smart TV because I don't need a TV at all, I need a screen to plug an HDMI cable into.

I don't own Alexa / Google Home because fuck that.

I've refused to own a smartphone until August 2016.

> did you know that when you purchase an ebook using kindle software amazon knows exactly what page you've read to and how long you've stayed on each page. They also know exactly what books you have purchased.

Yea :'( That's why i always purchase ebooks with my Laptop, then use Calibre + DeDrm plugin to send the ebook to my Kindle through usb. Also, my kindle is ALWAYS in airplain mode and has never been connected to any wifi.

It's so sad we are forced to do these things, and most people probably don't even realise they are being spied on and have their info/profile sold...

By the way, i hope my Pi-hole blocks all the smarttv trackers... but i'm not sure.

I already paid for my TV and it wasnt cheap. It doesnt NEED to spy on me to make extra buck, but sure it can so it DOES.

> these services could not function without this information

Why does Kindle NEED to know how long I've stayed on each page?

Why does a smart TV NEED to store hover events in a persistent DB?

>Why does Kindle NEED to know how long I've stayed on each page?

It doesn't, but every page turn event has a time stamp. Using that info it's pretty easy to know how long someone has been on a page.

>Why does a smart TV NEED to store hover events in a persistent DB?

When the company is doing AB testing to decide on the optimal page layout this information is important.

The nvidia shield is pretty much what you’re looking for. I just don’t hook my tv to the network and just rely on my shield for everything. Works great.

Learned my lesson a few years ago when my 3,000+ Samsung tv decided one day they were going to spam advertisements for GameStop in the notifications. Of course they deny that ever happened but I have proof on my twitter. Too lazy to look it up right now though.

Ha, I have the same setup, samsung tv and a shield.

The tv's never been updated since I bought it, never configured wifi and there isn't any open wifi around for it to try to connect to.

Smart tv's aren't smart enough to come with their own internet connection... yet. God I hope they don't put something like cellular connections in these things, then I'd have to find the damn radio and desolder the antennae.

Inb4 "your TV failed to turn on because of a timeout while trying to access manufacturer.com for checksum verification."

>I really wish that @Google provided [...]

Why though? If you're concerned about privacy and freedom (as you should well be) then why jump out of the fire into the frying pan? Grab a dumb TV, grab a small form-factor PC (like an RPi) and install whatever you want on it (kodi, etc.)

@buro9, I'm Ashwin Navin, co-founder of Samba TV. As a company, we start from the principle of putting the consumer in control of the data he/she shares, and how it can be used. Samba TV’s analysis of viewership data follows a clear opt-in prompt when you setup your TV and settings to disable at any time from within your Smart TV settings.

By opting out of our service, we will no longer collect your TV viewing information, and our functionality we’ve built to enhance your TV experience – like content recommendations – will be disabled.

We believe there is a need for more guidance to discover new shows or be notified when a new season of your favorite shows come out. We also believe there is a need for better insights to guide the media industry, which is stuck with an antiquated system of measuring TV broadcasts. Our apps may not be for everyone, so when you disable Samba TV, your viewership data is not used in our media research or ad targeting offerings.

As far as advertising, we like the privacy model Apple has for iOS: If you want to continue using the functionality, but prefer your data not be used for advertising, you may reset your advertising ID and/or choose to limit ad tracking at any time through your TV settings. Your Samba TV advertising ID is a device ID used to serve targeted ads. By resetting this advertising ID, we will remove the link between your Samba TV advertising profile and the content you previously watched, so interest-based advertisements will not be served based on such content. Limiting ad tracking will opt your Samba TV Advertising ID out of receiving targeted advertising based on your TV usage.

As your product shares its name with an open source product that was created in 1992, will you be renaming your product? Assumedly there are no barriers to going to your prior name, Flingo.

I do put TVs on a separate VLAN and also cameras, phones, IoT stuff (those get the SEWER VLAN). I run a pfSense router and am seriously considering SSL splice in Squid in transparent mode for some of that lot. SSL Splice is nearly a MitM but does not need trustable faked SSL certificates, but you do get more logging and the ability to make certain URLs vanish. Now if the security of the device is crap enough to believe faked certs then why not try the full Bump and see what the bloody thing is really up to ...

If nothing else my SEWER VLAN has a very strange view of DNS (thanks pfBlocker) and a rather limited view of the internet as a whole.

Squid docs on Bump etc: https://wiki.squid-cache.org/Features/SslPeekAndSplice

Is it possible to do this and have samba shares available on this VLAN and the standard VLAN at the same time ?

>> That I could just plug this into any display panel, including dumb displays.

Do you mean Chromecast? You can just plug it into your TV's hdmi port and use netflix/youtube/twitch/mubi android apps to control your streams on TV.

I have a Chromecast but I meant more like an Android TV box, like the Nvidia Shield. To separate the TV display capabilities from the internet capabilities.

Now I know the Shield exists that's what I'll be doing.

Really an amazing thing you describe for us, there are many peoples who actually not well aware of this site. everyone needs to know the actuality of the things, thanks for your drastic article that creates the very good impact on the mind of the peoples and get them inspire more about this.https://babasupport.org/microsoft/windows-media-player-servi...

> Samba is not a feature for you, it is a snitch in your living room, snitching on everything you watch on your TV, it's a feature for corporations only.

Serious question: so what? Lots of things don’t benefit me. Lots of things benefit corporations only. Why am I supposed to get outraged by this?

> My @Sony "smart" TV has updated itself and tried to force me to use a new app from https://samba.tv and boy oh boy... this is worse than recent @facebook stuff.

In what way do they force you to use it?

> And this is where I wish that dumb panels were all the rage, and that the only "smart" functionality was external to the display itself.

Could you not simply turn off WiFi on your smart TV and use an external device anyway?

Google did the Nexus Player with Android TV, and I haven't heard anything about it since it came out.

There was also the Nexus Q a while ago but that was before Android TV and also a massive failure.

1. How is this in any sense even a fraction of how bad facebook is?

2. I can not fathom why anyone would connect their "smart" TV to the network at all.

You can find Nexus Players at some retailers and as used merchandise. Highly recommend the device!

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact