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Chinese Infinite Magical Hard-Drive (jitbit.com)
522 points by jitbit on Apr 7, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 118 comments

Here's my sad Chinese sd card experience. The state of things there depresses me:

When I was in Beijing I went to a regular store to buy an SD card for my camera. I asked them to let me try the cards in my camera before purchasing, so I did that. As I put a card in, all looked well, however when I proceeded to format the card, the issues arose. Regardless of the size of the card, 2, 4, or 8gb, the card would then instead read as 128mb. I mentioned this fact to them and they said sorry and let me try a new card. About 4 cards later the owner was nearly in tears and I was very frustrated. At that point the owner went to the back stockroom and gave me yet another card. This time it formatted fine and I purchased that one.

It was such a sad experience. I felt very embarrassed and sorry for this owner. I don't know if the owner knew that they were scamming people, or if they were just being scammed themselves.

That's really sad. Yet, it's probably mostly because all of the other stores are doing it and he/she can't compete without also selling the fake products. With no consumer protection or standards, this is what happens.

Also, maybe b/c of a market of consumers who don't know what they're buying. I bet tech-savvy Chinese know where to buy safely. But maybe there are a lot of Chinese with poorly educations or orientation to tech, maybe just arrived in a city, or travelling there to shop. And they get stuck by this stuff, and maybe don't even realize it b/c they don't understand the gear, or because so much of it is banged up. (Maybe the camera is also faked.)

It wouldn't surprise me that if a shopowner _was_ eventually caught at this, they'd simply close up and just move somewhere else.

As a free market type, I have to admit that in those circumstances, I don't find this surprising. The "market response" here is for consumers to become more savvy and cautious, but the population posited here wouldn't have resources for that response. And they're forced to choose between wariness, and participation in this new economy with all this neat stuff. And that participation might be the only path out of poverty and ignorance.

It's a crummy choice, and one that is likely to lead to all sorts of bitterness and suspicion of the merchant classes. It founds a similar ethic in the buyers, once they figure out enough to become sellers.

The likeliest defense I can imagine for my free markets is, China isn't really a free market. Its development is artificially stimulated and guided by government policies, which are pushing investments at levels that aren't sustainable, and into projects that probably won't return. A less hyper development might give consumers more opportunity to get up the learning curve, and lower (and probably more realistic) expectations of what they can afford.

Wow, tldr: Govt. accelerated hyper-growth pushes innovation faster than the least informed consumers can manage.

Wouldn't a valid free-market response be a private militia which is paid by its customers to shut down via threat of force stores which misrepresent their goods?

I think the valid free-market response is ultimately "caveat emptor". Your proposed solution violates the NAP, which most libertarians hold as axiomatic.

I don't know of any libertarians that think fraud should be legal. The doctrine of "caveat emptor" also makes an exemption for fraud.

So, to sum up, poor quality control in the absence of government regulation is the result of too much government regulation.

There are folks who want to solve every problem with government-led solutions. They are often wrong. Then there are people whose response to everything is cutting taxes and privatizing institutions. They are often wrong. What you have in common (and lately I am beginning to think these two groups have a lot in common) is whenever anyone can name an example of your ideology breaking down in some way as it has here, your immediately come out with a No-True-Scotsman style of rebuke. Why is it so unacceptable that a pure free market might not work perfectly?

And, the typical consumer anywhere would fall for this. This isn't an example of ignorant Chinese being duped by unscrupulous merchants. If ignorance alone is the culprit then this should be happening everywhere. Want to take a guess why it isn't?

Yes. How many software bugs are traceable to lousy global design? No one here would be surprised that a system built on lousy principles exhibits many particular problems. Why is it surprising that an economy built on bad principles has all sorts of particular problems?

And if anyone here suggested that the best response to a badly designed system was some additional "bug catching" layer, or just tweaking all the details, well, it wouldn't go over well. Patches might do just to keep things running, but none would suggest that's the right way to build the thing in the first place. And the patching approach would be doubly suspicious if the same crummy programmers that had the bad design where then tasked with patching up the bugs.

And no, this won't happen here in the US. If you think the average US consumer is as ignorant as the average Chinese, you aren't thinking it through. Go look at what passes for a college degree in China, the government has massively expanded the "colleges" past all capacity to actually teach that many people. And the average US consumer has far better access to enough expertise to diagnose the problem. And US retailers make major investments in brand reputation, which they will not simply abandon. US consumers have far better resources for understanding fraud, and far better recourse against it.

Now, my "ideology" is founded in a lot of solid theory and hard evidence. It is a world view that explains a _lot_, and often in advance of events. If you think I'm walking from all that b/c of one unfortunate example, if you think I'm not going to look for some explanation that is consistent with what I already know, I don't know what to say. Here I admit that this cheating is what I expect in these circumstances -- not really a free market advertisement -- and admit that I'm looking for some consistent explanation. And you have a problem with that? My biases are right here on my sleeve, where I can keep an eye on 'em. Where are yours?

With no consumer protection or standards, this is what happens.

Not always, some times a wild market eventually results in some of the strictest standards which also happen to be self enforced.

I say sometimes but some economists believe, in the long term, this will always happen. I think reality is a bit more complicated, and in the very long term we're all dead. So for the duration of any one human life time, amazing self enforced standards sometimes arise form chaos. Those send to be far superior to anything government can do. But government is often quicker to come up with enforced standards.

> some times a wild market eventually results in some of the strictest standards which also happen to be self enforced.

I've seen that in works of fiction, where it seems to function pretty well.

I have yet to come up with any real-life example that stands up to scrutiny.

Somewhat related:

Apparently laundry detergent manufacturers kept on increasing the size of their standard detergent bottle without increasing the washing power in order to make it look more impressive on a shelf. This caused an "arms" race in detergents.

WalMart stepped in and refused to stock detergent bottles past a certain size. At that point, the manufacturers stopped making the large size bottles.

If there's a player with as much power as WalMart then they can dictate pretty much whatever they want - and sometimes their interests are aligned with the customer.

When I was growing up in Taiwan, there was a private consumer-protection agency that actually seemed to work. It all came about after a rash of food poisonings, and a private organization came up with a certification stamp, and somehow (I'm not sure how) convinced most consumers to look for and demand the stamp on packages.

All in all, not at all unlike how government protection agencies work, but in this case entirely private and independent. The neat part is that, IIRC, their safety standards were mostly stricter than the US.

Probably the exception to the rule though.

I believe Underwriters Laboratories and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety would be US examples of similar private agencies.

Funny, I haven't thought about UL since I was a kid. Do many consumers look for a UL stamp, or is it used more for legal defense if the device actually does malfunction?

The American Dental Association is another example. I do look for ADA-approved toothpastes.

I believe it ends up getting enforced at the retailer level; most major chains will refuse to purchase Christmas lights that are not UL listed, so you can be reasonably sure that the cheaply manufactured lights you purchase at Walmart don't burn your house down. They also seem to be providing education [1] and revising their standards [2] to discourage particularly ill-advised appliances such as electric turkey fryers.

[1]: http://www.ul.com/global/eng/pages/offerings/perspectives/co... [2]: http://ulstandardsinfonet.ul.com/scopes/1083.html

Real-life example: The EU allows vegetable oil (instead of cocoa butter) in chocolate. In Germany, nearly all chocolates still contain no vegetable oil.

This is interesting, and it makes sense to me that markets would work this way, but I am not sure I can think of any real examples. Something like Bar Associations comes close, but AFAIK they are legally mandated? Do you have any better recent or historical examples in mind?

How about the standard of putting the name of the product on the outside of the packaging?

How about the gold standard?

Also- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_standard#Examples_of_open_...


The best example I could find is about non-profits: http://nvs.sagepub.com/content/39/6/1057.abstract

But I think the same principles would apply to for-profits. The only other examples I have are anecdotal.

non-profits ==> competition is not exactly red in tooth and claw ==> not a real "market"

> The only other examples I have are anecdotal.


non-profits ==> competition is not exactly red in tooth and claw

Are you serious? Competition for donations between non-profits in my experience is often even more extreme then between for-profits. Do you have any evidence for softer competition among non-profits?

Besides some non-profits are really phenomenally well functioning for-profits, which happen to have chosen a non-profit tax status.

For example, in the US the non-profit AAA will quickly drop any pick-up truck company known not up to its standards. Mind you, all that's needed if for the truck to show up roughly on time and be reasonably courteous. Still that is quite something when you're in a bad spot and need those kind of services.

And the AAA is popular enough that being on their shit list will cause sever financial pain to any pick-up truck services provider.

But to join the AAA you have to pay a regular fee and they have all kinds of tie-ins with piles and piles of 3rd party service and goods providers.

I don't begrudge them their non-profit tax status, but they are a damn well run and huge business.

Idealism aside, do you have real-life examples of such "emergent standards" that are pertinent to this discussion?

Various textile industry associations have labeling standards and trademarks for materials, like Supima®, Seal Of Cotton, Woolmark, etc. These actually give some useful assurance of the quality or type of fiber, and they are private standards rather than government ones.

Nice try, but it doesn't get to my point. How are these "emergent standards"?

Are you arguing that the trademarks are standards? They are completely owned by the company and follow no rule other than arbitrary decisions by one entity (Nintendo could sell Mario toilet paper tomorrow and it would be a Mario(r) product).

Well, like I said, typically they are owned by not by individual companies but by industry associations or coalitions. These consist of member companies which individually compete with each other, but have worked together to define a standard and market it to consumers. For example, Supima is a non-profit organization run by a coalition of cotton growers, which licenses its trademarks to textile manufacturers.

It's a fair point that there is a private entity that owns the trademark and can technically do whatever it wants with it. It doesn't just magically "emerge" from the market without any coordination - but then, nothing does. Market actors come up with mechanisms to communicate standards. Some of these mechanisms happen to be voluntary and reputation-based rather than enforced by law.

I would say the owner was also being scammed, otherwise you wouldn't have been allowed to try the card before buying it, or at least a working card would have come out after the first try failed...

Yeah, though I doubt very many people format the card when trying it (the size did look correct beforehand). Though, he did let me try several cards so maybe you're right.

He was also selling (very clearly to me anyway) fake iPod Nano devices. Did he know those were fake? Maybe he's never seen real ones? To me the whole thing looked so cheaply made and the UI is incredibly ugly.

I once had an experience where i was sold a fake piece of equipment.I proceeded to ask for warranty but the store owner told me they don't give warranties for such type of products.So i insisted for a warranty.Surprisingly he pulled out the original and authentic version and wrote me a warranty.apparently they seem to know that some are genuine and some are counterfeit.

+1 to the try-before-you-buy mentality. Will keep this in mind.

While I know these fake drives exist - wouldn't running the last 5 minutes of a video file utterly fail as it wouldn't have any of the header/codec/video envelope data since that's at the beginning? Have a feeling the story is more anecdotal than anything...


AVI: Index is at the end, so it might play fine in a tolerant enough player.

MPEG-TS: Headerless. Will play fine in any player.

MP4/MOV: Index is sometimes at the end; if so, it might play fine in a tolerant enough player.

MKV: Has a header and index, usually at the start. Probably won't play.

Ogg: Has a header, but is indexless; might play fine in a tolerant enough player. Probably not though, as both Vorbis and Theora (the only things Ogg supports that are ever used) both rely on custom Huffman tables in the headers.

Good to know - haven't kept up to date with the envelopes of current formats as it's been a long time since I have dealt with the nitty gritty of video formats. I believe WMV for example would fail.

VLC will happily play files without any header/TOC or whatever. It has lots of heuristics in it to sniff that info from the stream when it can't find it.

Try it with some broken files sometime. It really is amazing. It may not be capable of seeking properly, but it will have a damn good go at playing the file.

Also - the frame index of an AVI file is at the end. It is only the headers which are at the start, and these are less important.

I can corroborate this. VLC is the one piece of software that will happily play back a movie as it's being downloaded. It's a fabulous example of tolerant software.

Depends on the codecs and the container format. With an Ogg/Vorbis/Theora you should be able to cut it in pieces an it will work. With, say, H.264/AAC in FLV you can't.

A couple of years ago, some USB sticks with a similar "flaw" made it onto the European market. The capacity difference wasn't quite as drastic as this example, which almost makes matters worse: you have to fill it with e.g. 1GB of data and read it back before you notice anything.

My friend said they're still trying to figure out how did the Chinese do that. Because the drive reports "correct" file sizes and disk-capacity. And the "overwriting" doe not touch the other files present on the drive.

I suspect they treat the first N megabytes correctly to preserve file system data structures. For anything above that (the remaining "capacity"), they just let it loop by cutting off the top bits of the offset.

In 2005 a friend brought me a USB thumbdrive he had just bought for a few hundred RMB. It had apparently 10GB on it.

He couldn't figure out why his files were not opening after saving them to the drive. The entire space on the drive was about 100MB but as with this article reported 10GB.

As always, China is great at faking stuff....I loved the line from Kung fu panda, I've only seen paintings of that painting....

I bought one of these in Shanghai last year! Sadly I only realised it was acting strange when I got back from vacation (It had a perfect plastic casing, labels, little paper manual; we even tested it in store!). From my googling at the time, what they did was something like take a standard 128mb stick and flash it with some interesting firmware - there's even a utility out there which can help you figure out how big your flash drive _really_ is.

For the price of the drive I thought it was a good business lesson. It implies the existence of an entire supply chain - crooked engineers/programmers, distributers, retailers, and maybe even government, manufacturers, building managers, etc. All to satisfy the market's "need" for the product to appear to work for longer than someone's visit lasts. An interesting/scary demonstration of total free-market capitalism.

If you've looked around China a little more, you will realize how lean manufacturing can be.

The plastic casing if probably from a commodity supplier, who doesn't know or care what the buyer uses it for. The labels and manuel, likewise. The engineer, manufacturer, and distributer could be one hacker, a few mates flashing the drives, and a couple of drivers.

As for the retailers, building managers, and government, it's likely that you bought it in a tourist shopping area, probably near a long-distance railway station or a tourist attraction. Tourists (generally Chinese tourists from other cities) who shop in those places get ripped off, and nobody notices, because they never complain. They just fly home, and curse themselves for shopping in a tourist trap.

In China, you never shop in tourist traps. You don't eat anything unless its in a side street, where the locals (who prey on the tourists) eat. You don't even get a taxi parked in front of a 5 star hotel, or bus depot. Get a bus, walk out of the tourist zone, or flag a taxi that just happens to be passing by. (Note, the buses can be dangerous if they aren't local buses. Some special tourist buses disgorge the passengers into a small village, where taxi drivers insist on exorbitant fees to take you back to civilization).

I did not buy it in a tourist trap - am very aware of this as family does business there. I believe I was in this mall: http://tinyscreenfuls.com/2008/04/photos-shanghais-pc-mall-5...

Pretty much nothing but locals. If you wanted to buy a PC, they'd sit you down on a little stool and offer you a drink, then fill out a form with you in Chinese. (Surprisingly, it turned out the prices were within 10% of the cheapest Australian importers [MSY/CPL] for many things - even as I was walking away they couldn't go lower!)

I did buy it from a smaller stall similar to photo #6. But it was still quite surprising to find it was dodgy - the mall didn't even sell pirated software! Perhaps if they can tell you're not local they pull out the knockoffs. Good point about the lean manufacturing - although the number of people who've encountered this online is what implied to me that it's a reasonably large operation. Hard to say, really.

I think the high prices are due to import taxes, which can be brutal.

I guess you were just unlucky with the scam then.

Still, it's worth keeping in mind, "you don't get what you don't pay for". If the price is under 1/4 that of a reputable brand, there's likely to be some kind of problem.

>Note, the buses can be dangerous if they aren't local buses. Some special tourist buses disgorge the passengers into a small village, where taxi drivers insist on exorbitant fees to take you back to civilization.

As somebody who has taken a variety of buses in China, I have to question this. Do you have a source?

A lot of times there are jokes about the silly and overprotective American consumer culture. What a lot of people don't realize is the sheer amount of useless mental energy you need to expand in other areas of the world, double checking everyday purchases and never really trusting what you buy.

Sure sometimes it can get a little extreme (I'm looking at you McDonald's coffee) but in a lot of cases it's an efficient system that frees up your attention and focus on more important things then checking whether your milk contains poison.

Personally, I think this over protectiveness is actually a sign of an advanced economy taking specialization to it's logical extent. Not having it is an economic cost in the long term.

Of course, it can be effectively argued that standards bodies can be non-profit rather than government. A truly free market and "regulation" are not at all mutually exclusive.

It's not as technically difficult as it seems - see this discssion somewhere else in the thread. Definitely no crooked supply chain needed, except for the "don't ask, don't tell" mindset.


"Look there's a guy selling heroin over there! An interesting/scary demonstration of total free-market capitalism!"


I don't get your sarcasm. Selling heroin is a very good example of how unfettered free market capitalism leads to circumstances where people sell things that are harmful to their customers. Likewise tobacco. Likewise unsafe cars, Baby clothes made out of plastic that sticks to the skin when exposed to flame, and many other things that we have deemed enough of a harm to society that we attempt to fetter at least part of the free market.

So yes, obviously, heroin is a good example of places where we have decided that the free market is a bit too free. This is another example of a place where the free market might be a bit too free. Is there anything wrong with that?

And oddly enough,

Recreational drugs are a place where I'd say attempts at regulation have extremely counter-productive. IE, look at the massive drug war in Mexico.

That could you buy tobacco/heroin/alcohol if you wanted it is the worst argument against a pure libertarian society.

The better argument against a pure libertarian society is that you might find heroin in your soup and your cough medicine even if you didn't want it.

Sorry, I am not going to be dragged into an argument about recreational drug use in a thread about bogus USB drives. Nor am I going to argue the truth of an argument about bogus USB drives being a necessary side effect of this wonderful free market capitalism the US claims to enjoy.

What I claim is that making arguments about free market capitalism in light of behaviour around selling bogus USB drives is reasonable enough that it contributes positively to HN, and that while you or anyone else might disagree, such an argument does not deserve scorn.

I think maybe the point of the parent comment, or at least the point that I see, is that there is benefit to the consumer in having things like trademarks be enforced.

Copyright and patents are intended to benefit the public by incentivizing creators to make more stuff. Whether that works is debatable.

But trademark is intended (or at least has the effect) of helping consumers identify a product's maker. If I buy an Acme Rocket Sled, it's because I've heard that Acme makes good ones. It sucks for me if I can never tell a real Acme from a fake one; I can't purchase with any confidence. And while maybe the blogosphere could help me find out where to get real Acmes, it really seems more efficient if we just outlaw making knockoffs and penalize those who do. If it's not Acme, I want it to have a different label.

It sure seems like the point was to take a gratuitous swipe at free market capitalism. And if it wasn't the lack of clarity regarding the actual target of the gratuitous swipe deserves at least a modicum of disapprobation.

That is only true if you are if the mindset that there can be nothing wrong with unfettered, free-market capitalism. While it is certainly better than many other economic philosophies, it would be a mistake to pretend it is perfect.

It is also true if you prefer a reasoned argument to a gratuitous swipe.

This is sad, but I read recently that there is extremely heavy demand for Afghanistan opium and that the demand is driven by the Chinese market.

I was at the climbing gym yesterday and saw a notice that Petzl had found Chinese knockoffs of their gear being sold that failed at loads well below their stated safety limits.

Shonky hard drives are one thing, but dodgy climbing gear is another.

Yup, when I caught that story on the climbing blogs, it really terrified me. Petzl has since released this chart for helping identify the knock-offs: http://www.petzl.com/files/fckfiles/file/PetzlAmerica/Counte...

Christ, thats terrible. I'll make sure to tell my climbing friends.

"Lets just make fake stuff and let the climbers die. We'll make like $30 bucks!" How? HOW!?

I don't know either. I couldn't believe it. Apparently knockoff medicine exists, too: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/31/world/asia/31chemical.html...

I'd rather they just got guns and mugged people in alleys like honest criminals.

I guess you never heard about the baby formula issues from a few years ago.


this exists for sport fencing equipment, as well and resulted in some manufacturers from china being banned in europe.

This exists for -everything-

Even razor blades.


I ended up with some of those once. What's annoying is that if they spent half as long making a sharp blade as they did making the packaging look real, I wouldn't even care that it's a fake.

difference here was that they weren't fake or counterfit. they staged and bribed their way into getting their stuff certified, despite the production line being way under quality.

"I've only seen paintings of that painting...."

off topic, but there's an artist[1] that exploits this to really good effect, really makes you think about what place 'the original' has in art especially for pieces that are entrenched in the public consciousness (i.e. mona lisa, warhol, etc)

But that sort of meta thing only works with art i think, not so much thumb drives! :)

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaine_Sturtevant

About a year ago I bought what I thought was a 32GB USB drive - turns out it was only 1GB with dodgy firmware. This was in Bolivia.

I managed to get it exchanged (in itself a story: http://bre.klaki.net/dagbok/faerslur/1263420810.shtml), and got the feeling that the merchant herself didn't even know she was selling counterfeit stuff.

   Again no receipt, this time because the person 
   selling it was avoiding tax...
You should always insist on getting a receipt, so the shop owner has to pay taxes. Withholding taxes hurts the country's economy and only plays in the hands of corrupt regimes.

Theoretically, sure. In practice, things in that part of the world are very, very poorly regulated and people are just trying to get by as well as they can.

If I was going to fight every single social problem I saw on that trip, I wouldn't have gotten very far.

>Withholding taxes hurts the country's economy and only plays in the hands of corrupt regimes.

And paying taxes into the pockets of corrupt regimes?

Interestingly, regimes who can rely on revenue other than taxes (say, oil) are often even more corrupt.

Yes, what you pointing out to is the situation when the beast can't be starved by decreasing of the tax revenue alone. Having abundant source of cheap money, like oil, the beast just grows monstrously bigger and fatter.

IIRC from my time playing with Norton Utilities back when it was a real hacker tool, you only need to format the disk as usual then hand-modify the disk size in the MSDOS (2nd, logical drive's) boot sector. The FAT will contain all the entries needed for keeping parts of the file in correct order, and Windows will happily report the drive size from that field. Assuming the flash drive's firmware/circuit doesn't report errors but rather uses the low bits to address the sectors (laziest way to build a flash controller), explains how "only the last part of the file" gets preserved (i.e. not overwritten).

For the FAT to stay non-corrupt I would assume that Windows writes a full copy from its cache right after writing the file, that would not be an unreasonable assumption.

All in all: extremely easy to reproduce, no special controller needed. Probably just a guy that realized how Windows behaves after changing a couple bytes on the disk, and another that said "hey, we can make money off that!"

The FAT is many sectors long, I'm not sure why Windows would re-write the entire thing.

Now, OTOH, you could just mark the areas the FAT uses, and all their aliases as in-use in the bitmap, that'd prevent them from being overwritten (but chkdisk would notice). You could additionally put a file on all those sectors, then chkdisk would pass, but you'd show a fairly large amount used (for your large file).

This is an old trick. Ebay is flooded with 16gb and 32gb flash sticks, SD, microSD chips that are only a few gb in reality. Complaints and warnings in the feedback forum go back for years.

They seem to format correctly but you have to copy that much in content to prove it's real.

Stick to newegg, etc. for that kind of purchase.

Anyone have experience writing or know the source of the software (firmware) that does this? If not just for the hax, it would make an epic April fools joke.

If you have a device running linux with a usb device controller, you can easily create such a fake.

Linux has an implementation for a 'disk-on-key' (mass storage device). /usr/src/linux-*/kernel/drivers/usb/gadget/f_mass_storage.c

The sample can use both memory and a file as storage. You can easily make it fake the size and rotate around, skipping the first.. 64K or so (forgot the exact number) to prevent your FAT16 from spoiling.

Had my http://www.gumstix.com/ doing that for a while..not intentionally. (PS. I don't recommend that board !)

Here is a guide to doing this very thing: http://elasticsheep.com/2010/04/teensy2-usb-mass-storage-wit...

Well, it doesn't tell you how to do the fakery. But it does give you a good starting place for rolling your own mass storage controller.

It uses the awesome Teensy dev boards.


Not quite the same thing as modifying an existing USB key, but there's a nice swath of Atmel USB chips supported by LUFA that could achieve similar effects:

Home page: http://www.fourwalledcubicle.com/LUFA.php Hardware support: http://www.fourwalledcubicle.com/files/LUFA/Doc/101122/html/

(LUFA is what powers the ATmega8U2 that replaced the FTDI chipset on the new Arduino Uno boards.)

Stuff something like a Minimus USB or Teensy into a usb stick case, and you're all set to cause endless fun for your coworkers. ;-)

Between this and the story about France outlawing hashed passwords, I was starting to wonder if April Fools was hitting HN a week late.

Sadly, it seems like they really are making dumb laws in France.

I love the extra hardware glued inside to give it some weight. Nice attention to detail!

I wish more legitimate gadgets had that. I've taken to gluing some junk into new remotes, mice, etc. so that it doesn't feel like I'm using a toy.

A couple of years ago I opened up a basic "Trimline" style corded phone, and found that there was a decent sized chunk of cast iron in the base to weigh it down.

Logitech gaming mouses actually come with weights that let you do just this. Its theoretically for better game performance but I think it speaks to your point that sometimes weight gives a more satisfying tactile response.


Yes. It's "CORE DUO" as you can see.

Thunderbolt minus the "thunder" ;-)

Except these are nuts, not bolts...

At the risk of getting meta, watching this and the surrounding posts get upvoted and downvoted back and forth has been incredibly fascinating. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Well, "Thundernuts" just sounds like a flattering nickname.

I love the inclusion of the two end nuts. How do you know if something is expensive and built well? It feels heavy/and or dense. You definitely get that feeling when you pick up something like an iPad or a good digital SLR.

After using Samsung Galaxy S for few months and recently playing with my friends iPhone I was under impression that I'm holding a brick. I also played with iPad 2 at the store recently and concluded that I really don't have strong enough writsts to own it.

I have seen a USB flash drive with only a USB connector on it... inside is empty, and yes, I'm Chinese. I don't know I should laugh or not.

Lots of fake 32GB microSDs are also on the eBay market, and function in a similar fashion. I've bought a fake hard drive, I know a few others who have bought hard drives or microSDs... someone musta written a how-to! They're getting tricky with pulling eBay/PayPal accounts and setting up Dutch auctions to throw wrenches in the system to slow it down before the money transfers are reversed/released.

When I was still in college a few years ago, I fell for this on a trip to Guangzhou. I believe those were supposedly 8GB flash drives with 32MB of real memory, selling for less than 5 bucks each. Being the immaculate hustler I am, I bought a sackful of those to haul back home to sell, only to learn that if it's too good to be true...

At Least you get a WORKING hard drive check this http://www.walyou.com/img/fake-usb-flash-drive.jpg

Evolutionary pressure. Tourists now know about the fake USB drive problem, and test-drive hardware in the store. This sort of fakery is much harder to detect, and unless there are easy tools to detect wrongly-sized USB drives, these are going to be the dominant type of forgeries.

Knowing nothing about how USB drive hardware/firmware works, I'm guessing we'll see mainstream Windows software for detecting real drive sizes soon (if not already), and then it'll be a back-and-forth between the two sides.

Ultimately (I hope), the costs of the forgeries and the time needed to verify drive size is going to even out, and you can be assured that even though you're buying a knock-off, it'll very likely have a certain amount of space on it and a certain minimum life span.

I don't know where that came from, but that's not a flash drive and never was. It looks to me more like a D-Link USB wireless adapter. I have a nearly identical one to that, except for a different hardware revision. That one looks like a B1, whereas mine was a revision A.

There's also a MAC address printed on that label.

I'd rather have one that fails obviously in the very beginning, than one that fails silently and subtly.

The best part about the article was the really racist comments at the bottom. People don't like Chinese business practices, I guess.

>he had bought in a Chinese store across the river, for an insanely low price.

and who would say after that that there is no venture investors in Russia? The guy took the risk and it just didn't pan out. :)

Something about this story doesn't seem to add up. An SSD's firmware presents the raw flash to the OS as a block device. The filesystem is at a higher level of abstraction, above that block device. If the device is handling data that doesn't fit by wrapping back around to the beginning of the file, how is it figuring out where that file begins when all it sees is a bunch AHCI requests?

It wraps it around to the beginning of the data area past a reserved MFT zone. It doesn't do it per-file unless it's both very clever and dependent on a certain file system.

Thanks, that makes more sense.

Not as extreme, but when I bought my 1.5 terabyte hard drive, I thought that I would be seeing 1.5TB when viewing its properties. I saw 1.36TB instead. So where did the other 0.14TB go? I thought I got scammed.

Then I looked at the number of bytes on the hard drive, and it listed as exactly 1,500,299,264,000 bytes, and I realized that computers and manufacturers use different metrics.

It's just like spam: it's not the one who asks but he who pays...

It's not about the Chinese magically managing to screw everyone: it's about enough people buying these fakes and not coming back with an angry look on their face and a pickaxe in their hands. That's what keeps this scheme profitable.

How could a program work that can detect such scam-drives? As long as we don't care about crashing the formatting, at least.

It could work by writing a specific pattern in the first few bytes of the device and then reading/writing in 2^n steps to check if the pattern cycles.

I think I have some counterfeit thumb-drives lying around. Maybe I will try writing something like that..

Select a random number known only to you(r program). Seed your generator with it. Start randomly selecting sectors to write to (directly as a block device), writing a psuedorandom sequence based on your first number and the block identifier. Store a set of what sectors you've written to. (You can bundle them into arbitrarily-large contiguous chunks if this gets too large.) As you write, periodically randomly select a sector you already wrote to and verify that when read it returns the same psuedorandom sequence. I don't just read them back in order to prevent the "save the first few chunks" attack. This will slow down detection a bit, but if I'm working my intuition math correctly it doesn't actually slow it down very much, at the gain of making it impossible for a hostile firmware to know which sectors you're going to ask for.

Using this approach, you can write arbitrarily large of data to a drive with very minimal storage requirements on your end (well within even modern-day embedded RAM availability), while still being able to demand any sector back at any moment and verifying it is correct. Theoretically your psuedorandom number generator ought to by cryptographically secure, and given that you're probably IO bound here and they aren't hard to come by, there's probably no reason to use anything less.

I'm pretty sure the only effective defense against that is to actually store all the data. If you issue a predictable read pattern, you open an attack. If linearly-sampling your previously written blocks turns out to be undesirable you could tweak the sampling distribution, but I bet you wouldn't get much improvement.

Also, come to think of it, if the drive is honest this could be done non-destructively (assuming the undo process is allowed to run to completion) by reading the sector and XOR'ing it, so you could then undo it by a second XOR operation. Further cleverness could even make this reasonably safe to half-complete the undo, then finish later, if you work at it.

It's really much simpler than that:

  head --bytes=your_card_size /dev/random > tmp
  sha1sum tmp
  cp tmp /media/your_card
  sha1sum /media/your_card/tmp

Never considered using head to get a bytestream from /dev/random. I've always used dd. Thanks for the tip!

If you are on linux, use /dev/urandom.

Since the compromised flash controller allocates the actual sectors to use, it seems like it would be difficult to make a reliable test without generating a large file and then checking it for integrity, which would take a while to run.

What if (this sort of) Chinese electronics designers spent their (obviously impressive) technical skills on not ripping people off?

I don't think that's a viable strategy for people who rip people off.

Also I'm sure this was a day's worth of work for one dude, and super cheap production. You can't build real hardware on those terms.

so whats the most efficient way to detect such 'infinite' storage drives programmatically ?! :)

This just made my day. Thank you.

"He works at a hard-drive repair center". Ah? A hard-drive repair center yes? What do they do there? Take the drives apart, polish the platters and bolt them back together? Must be a Russian thing no?

The actual hard drive is inside the enclosure (assuming it was real). It's totally normal to open the enclosure to look at the drive inside.

Sometimes the enclosure (SATA to USB converter) fails, while the drive is fine.

That is correct. However, to the best of my knowledge this activity does not take place in a "hard-drive repair center". In fact, there's no such thing as a "hard-drive repair center", with the exception perhaps of an RMA department of a hard drive manufacturing company. That gave me the impression that the story was either made up or badly translated.

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