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Amazon Sidewalk (amazon.com)
586 points by encryptluks2 on May 11, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 667 comments

If anyone is interested, I wouldn't mind collaborating to create a privacy oriented SmartTV or PC for devs or simply an industrial grade dumb TV. I have experience designing and building 70" industrial displays that utilize Samsung LCD panels. These "industrial" panels are normally twice the price of consumer grade ones but are designed to operate 24/7 with a MTBF of 100k hours (approx. 11 years) and are usually twice the brightness of normal ones (a very noticeable difference). I also have direct relations with Samsung for sourcing. Displays I've designed and built: https://bit.ly/3vV9jVm

I think there’s a market for this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26290427

“Make it OLED, dumb TV, instant on, Apple TV box plugs in. Separate box with front facing ports that connects to screen with one cable. A remote designed by someone who thought about it for ten seconds (why do modern TVs have dozens of buttons no one ever uses?).

This entire market is in desperate need of someone to make something decent. The best available option today is LG and it’s still laden with ads and takes a few seconds to boot up.”

I would buy one at least, there’s definitely some low hanging fruit.

I'd probably even lean into it and name the company 'dumb electronics', plus there's a nice sort of symmetry to the word 'dumb' and 'db' would be a decent logo.

Define a standard form factor for a box that can have attachments to it. (Say approximatly 1 x RPi or 1.5 x RPi), that has a secure modular connector that is fed HDMI IN/OUT, Power, a data bus (Ethernet?), and space so custom connectors can be on the other side. Offer panels with a 'startup' block, and maybe 1 or two others for other devices. Ensure there is enough ventilation for passive/silent cooling.

Set up partners to make custom boxes. Things like SSD's in the same form factor storing media to be shared with other media block devices, (HDMI would be unpopulated), a Roku in the secondary/primary position. DTv Tuners with a Coaxial F-Connector for the antenna, etc.

This "Standard media block" connector could even be retrofit to legacy panels by means of an external box, and one master upstream connector.

Does anything like this exist yet? If not, what would be preventing it?

Existing manufacturers make more by locking their hardware into their platform for ads.

This is not a show-stopper.

You can buy a simple office keyboard for $25, but there is a market for custom mechanical keyboards 10x as expensive.

You can watch YouTube for free, but a lot of people buys the premium subscription to remove ads.

Sam thing here: there may be enough people wanting to buy an ad-free, surveillance-free premium TV with user-inspectable, user-updatable open-source firmware, latest HDMI, and in interface for network boxes to taste. Given that it has a good panel, is well-built, has a minimal but premium look, and the producer offers a modicum of tech support, it can easily be sold for at 150% or even 200% the price of an ad-ridden smart TV from big names.

Such a business can be a good business, even though it won't show hockey-stick growth.

>You can buy a simple office keyboard for $25, but there is a market for custom mechanical keyboards 10x as expensive.

Or 100x even

I am 100% in on making this. Another recent thread where I chimed in on making something with fewer buttons. I also lament about the latest LG offerings. I even propose ditching a first party remote in favor of just connecting with your favorite one. Why add to the problem of too many remotes by adding yet another one?


I would love to chat with someone who knows more about the hardware side. How do you get a panel with a "dev kit" where you can load on the copy protection and all the modern stuff needed to play DRM content? I would be up for building a new OS from scratch.

My 2020 Samsung TV remote has only 3 or 4 buttons (I still don’t use it)

Yes thats why I am saying just get rid of these remotes :)

They exist[1]. The pricing is likely out of your budget though.

The included ads, large volumes, and low margins all drive down the cost of consumer displays. Your dream might also end up quite expensive. [1] https://pro.sony/ue_US/products/broadcastpromonitors

As noted elsewhere, broadcast hardware has much higher manufacturing and performance requirements, so it's not an apples-to-apples price comparison.

I'm sure there's a market for $600 (or $1000) TVs that don't have all the "price-lowering" (I'm skeptical) features of $300 TVs.

I mean, maybe the prices of ad-TVs are so low as a loss-leader to get a new advertising vector into your house? Yes, of course TVs already have ads, but they don't have this particular pipeline, one that benefits the manufacturer/brand more than normal OTA ads.

How much is a less-annoying TV worth to people? I'm guessing more than is usually estimated, and at any rate probably pretty close to price+ad revenue of a "consumer display."

The last time I bought a TV, >10 years ago, a high end, but not top of the line quality dumb TV was ~$1000. I'd gladly pay that again, especially if I think it's going to last 12 years or so.

Ironically, they sell those $300 TVs at a profit of about $500, after advertising deals.

Do you have a source for this? Not that I don't believe it but that sounds like a really good deal for them.

I think that's a different product/market? Aren't those displays targeting high end video/movie production that requires perfect color correction? I'd also guess they're marked up a lot given their customer (movie studios/enterprise). They're also small.

I think there's a middle ground 'good enough' panel that's still high end (think like LG E6) that doesn't have the extra crap and where someone has thought through the design elements (input box, remote, industrial design of case).

I'd expect that to be possible for around $5k - maybe that's just not feasible?

Are they really that expensive? I looked up the device that I probably would want, and that would be the 55 inch 4k TV. Searching for a place to buy it revealed this link, that gives a price: https://www.uk.insight.com/en-gb/productinfo/lcd-tvs-and-dis...

It seems pretty reasonable to me. Is there a catch with that device that makes it not appropriate to use as your main TV?

Unlike the broadcast OLED displays, those Bravias use normal LCD panels. They're closer to consumer TVs, but lack the TV tuner for legal reasons.

If you're just using it over HDMI, it would work fine as a main TV. The added brightness would may be appreciated.

The gotcha is that it already runs an outdated version of Android(9.0). Sony consumer TVs that released back then didn't have ads. It was only a later Google update that added ads to the UI.[1] No guarantees these signage displays will be safe if you updated them over the internet.

[1] https://www.rtings.com/tv/tests/ads-in-smart-tv#remove-sony-...

> I would buy one at least

Would you? At 2x the price (based on the last time I bought one of them) for just the panel, plus an apple tv ($200) plus a speaker/soundbar (let's say $500) - and you're not getting an OLED with ARC at that either.

Doesn't Spectre fill basically all of these requirements? For example, this 4k offering on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sceptre-U550CV-U-Ultra-2160p-60Hz/dp/... There is no smart functionality, just some HDMI ports. I haven't owned one myself, but I plan to when it's time to eventually replace my 10-year-old TV.

It's not OLED, also looks pretty cheap?

I don't want a crappy, cheap, panel with no smart features. I want a premium panel without smart features.

Think like Apple Pro Cinema Display in TV form.

Exactly. That's my biggest struggle with finding a TV these days.

I want to make sure that the networking functionality is what I attached to it, not something built into the TV that I have no way of possibly disabling or removing entirely. With some of the relatively recent PiHole posts, it's become clear that some of these smart TVs are including some level of DNS resolution on their end to get around ad blocking functionality. They'll say it's for ensuring they can always download updates, but it's really for retrieving ads.

I want a display that's going to last longer than 3 years. This is one of my concerns with Spectre displays. I'm not sure of their longevity.

I want that display to have a great picture. I also don't think Spectre displays looked particularly great when I looked at them in the past. Maybe that's changed over time.

As I commented below in another thread: If the demand is high enough, a custom controller can be developed to match controller on-board Apple Pro XDR while keeping the price point significantly cheaper.

Just don't give it your network password, don't connect it to the wifi.

Ironic advice given what this post is about :}

I find the easiest way to make the TV dumb is to reject every EULA and ToS I'm presented with. Basic TV functionality can't really be disabled (not without making the device unfit for the purpose it was sold), and any further collection of data would expose the manufacturer to some massive legal liability.

And turn off 99% of the picture enhancement options

I have two tvs from them, bottom of the barrel Black Friday deals and they work great and seem fairly durable (they've both been through a few moves)

Picked up a few of these, they look fine and work great.

I have a Sony x90ch, it has no ads, just a thin panel with some content suggestions which we ignore. It may be because I run it through pi-hole but I don't think Sony tvs do ads in general. I had to make to not accept a particular option for a service, don't remember the name, which does tracking. Pretty stock Android from what I can tell.

Compared to what I've been hearing about Samsung and LG it's been rather nice in this respect.

The controller in my industrial display accepts serial commands for control and has a fairly simple IR remote you can use as well. For customer application, we developed a simple .NET utility that they use to control approx. 240x individual displays at each facility from a single control room. Knowing that RS232 can be controlled using NodeJS these days, I'm sure more creative solutions can be developed for a personalized remote control.

I'm not sure why TVs still use IR - haven't all other forms of wireless moved past that to much better performing standards that don't require direction or line of sight?

Nobody is pointing their xbox controller at the console.

My Roku remote takes several seconds to wake up and connect (over bluetooth?) every time I turn on the TV. It's infuriating. Give me back IR with its line of sight limitations!

It's simple and it works. It's cheap, it's responsive (button presses are responded to instantaneously, all of my game controllers take several seconds to power on and connect before they're useful), it's completely passive when not in use and gives you great battery life, in regular use (i.e., one TV per room) there's no practical issues with pairing or interference.

The only limitation is that you need line of sight to the TV.

Which might be an issue except generally if you're using a TV, you have line of sight to it because... it's a TV and that's its function.

I guess I've had more issues with it.

Line of site is often a pain with things in front of the TV or appliances in TV stands behind a cabinet.

The responsiveness is often slow (granted this is the fault of the TV's UI/software more than it is the fault of the infrared).

Having to point the remote at the TV is annoying - often it doesn't register unless you're sticking your arm out (takes a few tries for me most of the time).

The Xbox controllers work instantly and it doesn't matter what's blocking them. Latency is also low (latency matters in game consoles).

I'm not sure I'm persuaded to IR benefits.

The latency is low once the controller is on and connected. How long does that take? With all of my game controllers (switch, ps3, xbox 360, steam link) it's several seconds.

Latency to register a button press at the other end doesn't really matter for a TV remote unless it goes to extremes. It doesn't matter if you try and turn the volume up and it takes 50ms instead of 10ms. It does matter if that jumps to several seconds.

And since your remote can now travel through walls (and your TV can now receive remote controls through walls!) you now need to worry about security and pairing since there's no longer isolation being provided just by the simple act of having walls. I definitely don't want to try and support my mother in pairing her remote after the batteries need a change every three months.

Have you tried replacing the batteries in your remote? Is your entire room covered in mirrors? It could be something silly like that or maybe that your remote is just terrible. The basic technology has worked for pretty much everyone for decades now without much issue.

I generally just leave my remote sitting on the floor when I'm down there playing with the kid or resting on the arm rest of the chair or something and press buttons on it without picking it up. If it's pointing anywhere within like 60 degrees on either side of my TV whether at the floor or the ceiling it registers every time. This has consistently been my experience across pretty much every TV I've dealt with in 20 years (and I still have a 20 year old LCD TV here I use frequently whose batteries I've replaced maybe 3 times now).

Because an LED to transmit and a photodiode to receive cost essentially $0.00 at volume. The rest is software.

Cheap IR supply line?

When you finally do make such a TV, you must sell it for more than a smart TV to be taken seriously, and only use the highest quality materials.

I think the market for this product is very small.

A disconnected roku works well once you fumble around and bypass the mandatory setup then activate HDMI-CEC so Google TV can simply and easily power, unpower, and switch inputs without issue.

The remote is simple enough only containing maybe 6 unused buttons.

Roku has ads built into the UI? I'm also not sure how it meets the qualifications of everything else I listed?

What I find amusing is that I never noticed the ads on my cheap Roku TVs until they were mentioned on HN. I never spend more than a few seconds on the home screen, and that's the only place they appear.

That’s interesting. Can you make something that’s higher end than the most high end consumer TV?

(If Tesla had to be “a better car that’s also electric”, I think this would need to be “a better TV that’s also private”.)

Higher-end can mean a lot of things, especially when talking consumer grade. I generally translate consumer grade high-end as being more aesthetically pleasing vs operationally. My expertise are more aligned with industrial grade equipment where size is typically not the limit. I've deployed a 16ft x 9ft high-res LED display for a customer in the past. That's something you don't normally find at BestBuy or even at their Magnolia outlets.

Let's say: Something that can match LG OLED CX 77 2020 model priced $3,099.99

I'd be happy to pay at the same price without the smart features.

Fun fact: some LG displays use Samsung panels internally and vice-versa

Another fun fact: When Samsung started in 1938, they specialized in trading dried fish. They came into the electronics industry in 1960s.

Don't knock it. Salted, dried fish can be delicious after you fry it with onions and chili peppers :-)

There is the rub, the smart features subsidize the price instead of adding to it as it becomes an expected revenue stream.

You can already get dumb TV, they are often used for signage or other commercial purposes, but they cost a lot more than consumer equipment.

They're not more expensive _just_ because of the lack of ads subsidization.

They also generally are just better built. The expected hours of operation and MTBF of the components is generally much higher than consumer displays. Many of the ones I dealt with had metal cases and stronger glass.

They're expected to stand up to much more abuse or often be installed in places where they're inconvenient to service.

If you wanted to build a non-smart panel with the expected lifespan of a typical consumer TV a significant portion of the current cost could likely be cut if it were done at scale.

I did not know that.

Is the "smart features" actually making money for the TV manufacturers?

A good question to think about. How can we, as consumers, incentivize the TV manufactures to focus on building good product that actually liked by users, and still making good money.

Very difficult to answer though...

It is quite well know ( mentioned multiples times in this thread and in every other TV discussions for he past years ) the smart features collect data and shows you ads which earn the manufactures a continuous stream of revenue.

You can't undercut LG, they control the oled tv market.

How much does something like that go for?

approx $75k with control system for a 5mm pixel pitch. The control system is required for source input mapping/transformation onto the display. Here's footage from 4ft away https://bit.ly/3y5AuhW running at 30fps 60hz.

I was involved with a project that had an approx 2m x 7m LED sign as part of it, and that portion cost roughly $500k.

It used the same components that you'd find in the LED billboards alongside highways in the US.

If you make this happen consider making them more easily serviceable too. My guess is TVs are a big landfill problem because they are too inexpensive for most people to bother getting repaired.

Personally my ~8-10 y/o Samsung LED has a periodic problem that I’ve been diagnosing with YouTube, it seems like a lot of issues are caused by something simple like loose connectors inside.

Except for the LCD panel itself, everything else (the controller, PSU, wire harnesses, connectors, etc) are already easily serviceable. If you can build a computer, you can service this display.

A big bonus with my industrial design would be that the casing itself is made out of metal and harder to damage than plastic casing of most large format displays.

For your specific case, is that a consumer grade panel? What issues are you having?

My LG display went black. The panel itself was working fine because the logo shows up when it powers up. When I checked online it said it’s the controller. I looked into the cost of replacing it - it was more expensive than the price I paid for the tv itself. Ended up replacing the tv entirely.

I don’t care much about the panel issues - a few dead pixels I can live with and anything worse I’d rather replace it. But everything else should be easily swappable.

Also, I’m assuming you’d at the minimum support HDR and preferably Dolby Vision and Atmos. How easy/hard is that?

I believe that consumer grade displays are inherently designed to be replaced vs serviced whenever they go bad. But, if your mind is wired-up to learn more and tinker with things, you can generally figure out a way to prop it open and fix it yourself. I don't know much about your exact LG model but I am pretty sure you could drive it with another more generic controller off AliExpress.com. What makes consumer grade displays a bit more interesting is that they generally come with the audio component. If that wasn't a big concern, you could easily drive it using another generic controller or an LVDS compatible mini-itx motherboard.

Awesome! Yeah it’s a super thin, dumb TV and other than the fact that black shots always revealed some inconsistent lighting on it it’s decent. The recent problem is that once in a while a vertical segment (probably 1/5 or 1/6 of the width of the screen) is discolored and mostly black.

Well, any LCD panel requires 2 things to work: a controller and a power-supply/inverter specifically designed to light up the display LEDs. In consumer grade displays, these components can be 3 different things (ie controller, psu, and inverter) and are fairly cheap to replace. You can generally find them on eBay. The only way to really damage an LCD panel is by dropping it and if that is not the case with your display, you can bring it back to life by identifying which of the 3 components might be bad and replacing it. Don't be scared to get surgical with your display. In the end, you will most likely learn more than you will regret.

If you get weird colours or it's black but fully lit up, then its the TCON board (the LCD controller). These are easy to replace as they're usually on their own board and you can just swap it out for a new one.

If you get the full image but its dark (you can hold a flashlight to the panel to see), then it's the LED strips. You simply take off the panel and replace the strips that are broken (though you should probably just replace them all). Fairly easy to do.

Rarely it could be the PSU that drives the LEDs, but that would usually mean the entire screen is dark.

TVs are actually quite nice to work on. They usually have big circuit boards which are nicely labeled and enough space that you could easily replace a capacitor or two with a soldering iron. :)

I don't know if this falls in your vision or not, probably not, but I'll say I would pay top-dollar for an Android TV that was veritably privacy focused.

I purchased a Sony TV that runs Android and adore it. I initially purchased it because it was a no-nonsense take on Android with high-rated privacy support. Sadly, over the past year they have begun introducing ads, promotions, and privacy policy readjustments that I don't agree with.

An unlocked Android store would be great value. I can currently sideload Android apps on my TV. I can SSH into it if I want to, run my own server, etc. It has a high powered processor and good RAM so I can even multitask apps in it. I love everything about the TV except the privacy changes.

Anyway, best of luck - I love the idea of dumb/privacy focused TVs :-)

Keeping PRIVACY a top priority, my ultimate vision would be to move away from these so called app stores. Considering the current state of things, I know that sounds very unrealistic. However, something inside me still tells me that if you create something of value, they will come!

No no no, stick to your vision!!

½ of these comments asking for AirPlay, the other ½ asking for Android TV or wtf Google is calling it these days. Next someone will want Roku, while someone else wants Amazon, and we’re right back to where we started.

The purity of your idea is in the dumb TV. Don’t put a Raspberry Pi on the back, don’t build a mini-ATX PC in.

5 HDMI ports. Power. That’s it. People can bring their own set top boxes and everyone will be happy.

Exactly. There are probably two groups of people in this thread who are interested in the pitch:

* people who want a completely dumb display with a bunch of inputs, as you say

* people who want a display with some smarts but that is "open", can be "hacked", etc

I totally understand the desire to have more things to hack, but there are already numerous little boxes, pucks, sticks, etc to scratch that itch. What's really missing is a way to get a display that doesn't have any of that at all and also doesn't cost 5x because it's made for commercial entities. (Incidentally, my early research suggests a lot of commercial displays actually have "smart" BS in them already, it's just more targeted at device management than serving content-based ads, so that inflates the cost if I'm not going to use it.)

EDIT: formatting

To be clear, I am ALL for this group below:

* people who want a completely dumb display with a bunch of inputs

This leaves the option to hack it with whatever input device the user sees fit.

I like the idea of one cable to an external box of many inputs that lives in the tv stand.

It separates out the input box from the display (makes it easier to plug things into) and allows just one cable to come from the TV. You can also have a lot more ports this way (8 HDMI?)

Samsung has a TV that implements something like this (of course it has all the rest of the smart crap too that you could nix).

Also this makes it easy to potentially have upgradeable/future input boxes with new ports without having to modify the display.

It's still 'dumb', but I think breaking out the inputs is a better design.

I agree with your vision. Keep it simple, or even better: keep it dumb! ;)

I don't think it'd be that hard. There are these cheap Android chips from China all over the place from companies like Allwinner which can be bought in almost any quantity (even extremely small quantities from an industrial perspective).

You take one of those (which currently have reverse-engineering efforts for drivers ongoing with Sunxi project) and simply run a stock Android AOSP without any code signing. The end user would need to install the Play Store and video wouldn't play above HD for the lack of Hardware-supported DRM, but then you would just model your remote control to work like a Game Controller (which Android supports decently).

Also, further thoughts on this, an example would be the Pine64 series of Boards. They're open source, they've got reverse-engineered drivers coming slowly, they've got Android support already. Basically just take their board, wire the HDMI connector and instead wire that into the TV controller, and you've already got stock Android as long as you can get CEC over HDMI working (for the remote).

> The end user would need to install the Play Store

At that point you're back to square one though right?

How could they introduce anything if you don't connect the TV to the internet at all?

My Sony OLED smart tv works the same way it did when I got it.

Is that something like this: https://displayy.studio/

I remember seeing them on HN a year ago, I assume that they haven't moved that far because COVID etc?

> "Designed for the smart-phone generation; we removed all the hassles and added simplicity."

> "This TV has everything you need, to start streaming your favourite content, from your favourite devices."

This sounds like exactly the opposite of what I want. Just give me a dumb display, ffs.

Completely unrelated but this hanging lamp in the second room pictured in the backgrounds on that page looks vaguely creepy to me due to my arachnophobia

A while back it was called ironcast! The rename confused me a bit


Sure, that use case can easily be satisfied. For digital wall art, we'd need to use a different model LCD panel which has a very small bezel all around (approx. 0.125in)

I meant their IronCast display that's designed to be basically just a display that takes whatever feed you want.

But they don't seem to have updated their info for a year.

What I'd like is a 55" 4K monitor display that is minimal bezel and has a bunch of HDMI inputs and support HDCP etc.

Displays should be to video like speakers are to audio. I can connect multiple sources to speakers without the speakers imposing their own idea of what to do other than make sound.

Yes, that's easily doable. However, unlike consumer grade displays, it's much harder to find dumb controllers with multiple HDMI inputs for industrial displays. A new growing trend in the industrial sector is to move towards dumb controllers having 1x HDMI input and 1x IPTV (ethernet) input. This might fit your requirements as you could easily put the display and your streaming devices on the same VLAN and stream directly to your display.

1 hdmi input is fine for connecting whatever a/v receiver you want to it that can have multiple hdmi inputs and outputs, as well as speakers and audio zones and such. the only problem is now the receiver becomes the privacy/speed bottleneck. i have an older receiver that doesn't require internet, but now receivers are going down the same invasive road as smart tv's. so while i like my current setup, i think the tv would need multiple hdmi inputs to bypass this issue (and not require a receiver).

I did some research for you and multiple HDMI inputs won’t be an issue.

awesome! to be clear, i'd be fine with a single hdmi input since i route everything through my receiver first (which also manages cec and essentially provides a universal remote), but the larger market would want multiple due to receivers having become too "smart" nowadays.

I might be odd, but even the hint at having some form of tuner (or whatever iptv is) could scare me off. A pretty frustrating experience with the LG TV is the prominent placement of broadcast tv features and connector assuming it would be the primary use of the display. No distractions please just dumb hdmi.

Take my money!

Seriously, I don't want any screens in my home that don't respect the user.

This means privacy. It also means I don't want any branding. I don't want any logos visible, either on the case or when the screen powers on.

I want the screen to be completely controlled by my Apple TV. It should implement HDMI-CEC or whatever protocol is necessary such that it does not ship with a remote control of its own. (I have had trouble with various displays requiring me to keep their stupid remote control around.)

It should have no visible lights on the case. When the screen is off, I don't want any lights at all distracting me.

How much do I need to pay for this? Every time I ask a genius at an Apple store, they have no idea.

To you and all the people replying to you: have you actually searched for this already? Sounds like a lot of MOM Test fails in here. For example, [1].

[1] https://helpatmyhome.com/best-non-smart-tv/

MOM test?

Maybe this? https://www.amazon.com/Mom-Test-customers-business-everyone/...

You shouldn't ask your mom about the viability of an idea because she will be biased towards thinking good things about you (and your ideas). Similarly (sort of...), Hacker News will be biased towards wanting your product and not say anything bad about it.

Out of curiosity, how much would such a thing cost?

I'd love a 'dumb' display, but it would be hard for me to justify dropping thousands to have one, when I'm perfectly satisfied just leaving the internet disconnected from my $400 'trash tier' TV.

This isn't knocking the idea, it's a genuine question that also kinda ties into the question of how much money mfgs are making from this privacy invasion.

Would this dumb tv support things like eARC and HDMI CEC? It would be nice to buy a TV without the builtin streaming apps (and the inevitable advertising and phoning home that comes along with it), because I prefer to use a separate device like an Apple TV anyway. But there are some useful features in modern TVs that do seem to require the processing power of a smart TV.

I'd buy one. Is this something you can do like Drop where you take orders and only release if you get enough orders to make it worth while?

I guess you have to deal with bad units and other stuff but just wondering.

I think people will have different ideas of "dumb". For example.

* A TV with only 1 input. If you want more inputs get an external switch etc...

* A TV with no audio. If you want audio use external speakers

* A TV with no remote. With the 2 things above all you need is on an off? And/Or maybe just support whatever the protocol is so that other devices can control it.

Just thinking out loud, I'm sure there's a big disagreement on what's the minimal features.

I could be wrong, but I would imagine most people consider a dumb TV to be exactly how pre-smart TV's worked: Screen, speakers, multiple inputs, and a remote.

I think a survey would be needed to correctly understand definition of a dumb tv. To me, a dumb tv is actually equivalent to a dumb monitor but with a remote and without a tuner or audio IO/speakers.

All that stuff is easy to not use. Anecdotally, everyone I’ve spoken to wants a fully functioning TV that they can plug their own devices into since they’re going to plug an AppleTV/XBox/PlayStation/Roku/Chromecast into it anyways.

If you want to use your own speakers or external video input switcher or whatever then you can still do that, just like you could before, but not including multiple inputs or speakers on a dumb set makes it an incredibly niche product.

The TVs coming out today are great if they just ditched the smart aspect of it.

I just want a display. No speakers please. No buttons or menus to fiddle with to select output.

I like your list. A lot! Yes, possible. We’ve manufactured approx 3000x 70” industrial displays since 2015...since then, we have yet to run into any bad panels. 2 of the panels did get damaged during the handling process but generally, a panel being bad from the factory has never been an issue. I’ll keep monitoring your list for any updates. Thank you!

Sign me up too!

I have a 48" RCA dumb TV from like 10 years ago and I live in perpetual fear of it dying. My list would be: HDMI input and some kind of speaker, although I'd be willing to buy an external speaker if building one in made a bare-bones setup impractical.

An extremely interesting prospect you've got here. What's stopping you from doing it right now?

Nothing. I just realize that as I age, there's only so much a single person can do ;)

I would definitely spend time and money contributing to a "Universal Dumb Display" (UDD?)

Consider making this a kickstarter!

I agree, Kickstarter seems the way to go!


I would guess the massive investments needed for a hardware startup.

Most of the upfront cost for hardware is usually setting up tooling and assembly lines for manufacture. In this case, I'd assume most if not all parts already exists and can be sourced. That negates a lot of it.

Kickstarter could solve this no?

That's very interesting. I wonder if you would consider doing something like the (unicorn) new Google TV devices which have the ability to turn off the smart features entirely - except with Kodi or stock Android for the UI. Heck, even if it was a Smart TV that could run an open-source Android build instead of the proprietary bootloader-locked stuff there'd be a niche for that too.

Sure. I think it would be best to keep the solution platform agnostic by utilizing an embedded PC and developing a browser based portal (which could work offline as well) for managing playback of various services. With WebRTC in play these days, I'm sure some very interesting solution could be developed.

Yeah, or perhaps build it on Ubuntu Core (their transactional/IOT version of the OS)

Ubuntu actually made a "Ubuntu TV" almost a decade ago that was based on Unity. It never had a TV actually go for sale with it (as far as I know) and the project was abandoned.

Now that you mention it I remember! But Ubuntu core is IMO better suited for this. I find it sad to see it go nowhere (visible to me at least), the value proposition is pretty clear to me, coupled to the snap store and with easy rollback and transactional updates it has all the tech to take it up with Android and WebOS.

Why does anyone want a smart TV at all or any other device? Almost everyone I know has an old tablet or laptop that they don't use at home. Get a dumb tv / projector (or even a smart tv but don't connect it to your network and use its smart features), plug the old laptop/tablet in using HDMI and use a bluetooth keyboard with a trackpad as a remote. You get everything you want with it - browser to login and watch whatever you want to, much much better experience typing in login/passwords than your tv remote, install whatever adblocks/security software you want. Added bonus, instead of buying another device you'd be using an old laptop/tablet you'd discard otherwise.

An interesting product could be a TV with swap-able boards. One could be a simple dumb board with inputs, or you could switch it out for a board with privacy oriented smart features. There could also be a gaming targeted board with more even more power. I don't know much about driving LCD/OLED panels, but maybe it could also be useful for updating specs, like you could just upgrade the board when there's a new HDMI version or HDR standard, or to add hardware acceleration for a new codec.

The gallery I showcased is already semi-swappable in that sense. You are able to change the driving board out for another board or LVDS compatible PC/RaspPi. However, if I'm understanding what you're saying, I think you mean swapping capability similar to a rackmount server hard-drive. Sure, that can be designed and implemented with some effort...let's say 2-3 weeks time.

Search for "Universal LCD TV Controller" or similar, it's sometimes already possible.

1) you should have some contact info in your profile so that people can actually contact you.

2) I'll suggest you setup a website with info regarding this with more details and so on, again so that people can get in touch with you, you can measure interest and perhaps even build a few one off TVs for some people to kick start.

Rest will follow..

my apologies. i thought my email was visible in my profile. i updated the about section. thx

Throw up a Patreon or Kickstarter and I'll commit immediately to a set from the first run production.

I think I would be interested in a dumb device to plug some Apple TV in.

Would it not be hard to secure licenses for HD-playback for a small player with privacy focus for a smart tv?

One concern on “dumb” though. It’s one thing to skip apps and streaming, but I suppose some smarts are required to support things like upscaling or advanced frame interpolation ( https://blurbusters.com/frame-rate-amplification-technologie... )

Display controller solves that part. If the demand is high enough, a custom controller can be developed to match controller on-board Apple Pro XDR while keeping the price point significantly cheaper.

I think successfully partnering with streaming services might be the tricky bit of a "privacy oriented SmartTV" project? How will you get Amazon, Netflix and Hulu on board?

You might consider talking to PlayOn. They've found a way to record video from streaming services locally and stream encrypted video to DNLA/UPnP devices without encryption for over a decade - despite operating in the US. The Video Stream is only 720p, but it's better than nothing.

With their software, you can record Netflix/Hulu/Peacock/Disney+/Whatever to your computer or stream videos from those services to a Kodi box. They've never been sued from any of these services because of their (interesting) legal argument.

If you could integrate their services or techniques, you wouldn't need any approval from the streaming services.

PlayOn on the PC is on life support at this point it seems. It uses Internet Explorer and may still have dependencies on Flash, though I think that was more a provider dependency.

It's very fragile and almost like they use Selenium or some other automation tester for UI then just screen cap the whole thing. I say this because it breaks frequently when providers change their UI.

Plugins constantly come and go and stop working.

They amount of support required to keep it going is tremendous and they're pushing the cloud as a service to support and maintain it.

I'm 100% in to buy this.

Even better if you can do an OLED copy of this without all of the crap, I'm 150% in:


They already exist (I'm sure you probably know about them). About 10 years ago I bought one from Panasonic, essentially a display with swappable input boards, including an embedded PC. No speakers, no legs. I bought it because back then I wanted DVI on my TV.

Dealing with industrial panels for a large fast food chain menu system was pretty enlightening. There was a surprising amount of management and environmental/telemetry information available from the embedded system on the panel.

Based on the application, some manufacturer do create custom controllers that monitor/capture environmental data in order to safeguard the equipment from experiencing catastrophic failure or performing triggered/scheduled reboots, brightness adjustments, etc based on specific events like local temp, fan speed, on-time hours, etc.

These were NEC MultiSync panels and yep, had a fairly rich set of op codes (page 26) - https://assets.sharpnecdisplays.us/documents/usermanuals/ext...

Can it support AirPlay? I hate how AirPlay enabled devices can be so expensive.

Sure, I'd just use a $99 Apple TV for that whenever needed.

edit: I am getting old. AppleTV used to be $99 and it seems prices have gone up a little since. Either way, AppleTV would be my goto method whenever AirPlay is required.

You can't set up an Apple TV without providing a phone number to Apple (because it requires an Apple ID, and Apple IDs require a phone number during setup).

I think OP was concerned about AirPlay which would assume he already has an AppleID. You could setup a Raspberry PI with AirPlay capabilities as well...or, use one of the many SMS receiving sites online to setup a new/private AppleID ;)

This subthread is about avoiding the privacy issues of smart TVs. They're worse with an Apple TV and Apple ID.

Is there a good Raspberry Pi SD image for the Pi 4 that can be used to receive 4k airplay streams and output to HDMI?

I ask because I don't think that is a viable solution compared to the ATV4k.

This looks promising: https://bit.ly/33E4CmS

you'd have to plug in an AirPlay-capable device, most likely. For a device to support AirPlay natively, you have to sign up to a complex and expensive licensing process with Apple that includes a ton of validation testing.

I was hoping that someone out there has reverse engineered it

Grab anyone else in this thread interested, and pitch it to Wyze as a new product division.

Granted, their products aren’t dumb, but they seem to be very consumer and quality focused. I have loved everything they’ve done.

That does sound interesting! It's a bit outside my wheelhouse, but I'm looking for a new project. Feel free to send me an email (in bio) if you want to chat about this more.

i'd be interested in collaborating. I'm a data engineer but familiar with toying with raspberry pi type work as well.

Currently just really frustrated using my roku, which has insanely bad latency and occasionally reboots for no reason.

How would one go about contacting you?

My username at gmail

I’d buy one

So, if I buy a so called Smart-TV (not because I like it but because traditional ones are getting harder to find) but don't set up it on my home network so it can't phone home, it could scan around anyway and find other open devices more than willing to participate in my personal data exfiltration? If the Amazon project succeeds, I would expect in a few months most home devices manufacturers, to partner to implement it so they have a way to circumvent users choices.

IMO. There should be a market for:

- Dumb panels (not monitors). Perhaps stripped down recycled smart tvs.

- Smart tvs but with user replaceable firmware. Think OpenWRT for TVs. Maybe the same guy who does the dumb panels could sell those but with a raspberry pi in place of the logic board.

Of course a monitor solves these issues but these are normally smaller and more expensive.

There is a huge market for 'dumb panels', under the moniker of 'digital signage'. Nearly every major TV vendor has 'dumb' displays SKUs on offer in many different configs. The only problem is that they aren't always easy to get one's hand on, as they usually are sold through b2b channels instead of consumer-facing retail outlets.

This might be out of date now, but 10 years ago I purchased a couple of monitors for a digital display. IIRC the monitors were more expensive because the screen wouldn't "burn" in images if left on the same image for a long period of time.

This is significant. Current OLEDs at full luminance burn in within 100 hours. The problem is mitigated somewhat by the variety of details displayed during typical TV programming, but if you use an OLED TV as a daily driver computer monitor or with a gaming system to play the same games for hours you will notice burn-in quickly.

I have an OLED TV and after thousands of hours of use, sometimes hundreds on a single game, there is no burn-in. However, I do not set the TV to full brightness.

Edit: I suspect an OLED digital sign WOULD burn in though as I imagine that content is much more static and displayed many more hours per day. I just wanted to make the point that I do not fear OLED for common consumer use cases.

Anecdotal but I had burn in on my LG B7 within a year or less of usage. Chrome and windows start menu button in the taskbar.

They are oftentimes way more expense, I'm guessing because you aren't subsidizing the cost with your data.

No, your average home tv is not designed to run 24/7. These Digital Signage Monitors are supposed to do this. Try running your average costumer tv 24/7 for half a year and see how the color & sharpness is. Also they are repairable (normally).

Sharpness? How does sharpness go down on an LCD panel??

There's regular dumb TVs around too, and reasonably priced.

Walmart's site lets you filter for "Smart = N". Sceptre and RCA are the main brands.

For example https://www.walmart.com/ip/RCA-65-Class-4K-Ultra-HD-2160P-LE...

To offer a non-walmart option, I've been using the Rtings table tool to find consumer TVs are potentially more respectful of privacy. Although I get the impression a number of sets aren't captured here (maybe walmart has some listed that Rtings doesn't), they are fairly thorough.


The trouble with looking at a "no ads" rating is that smart TVs can always put more ads in later: https://twitter.com/JobPlas/status/1235537095755739136

You could say "I'm not installing software updates" and be safe from ads as long as you don't need any bugfixes, but then you're also missing out on security updates. If you keep it off the internet maybe you're ok, but your TV might start connecting to a neighbor's wifi to give you more advertising.

And with a smart TV, in addition to ads you may also want to be on the lookout for Automatic Content Recognition: https://www.consumerreports.org/privacy/how-to-turn-off-smar...

I'd be much happier just not having a wifi antenna in my television.

I don't understand - every set listed on that page has a nonzero score for "Smart Features".

More likely market segmentation- it's a lot easier to sell a panel to a business for $2000 than it is to sell the same panel to a consumer for $500.

I don't believe for a second that data is subsidizing anything. It's a revenue stream, sure, but prices haven't gone down as data collection went up.

I worked at a company that was attempting to sell software to consumer electronics manufacturers as per the divx model - some of us remember when you couldn't buy a dvd player without that logo. But when streaming began to replace physical media, I was told that services such as Amazon and Netflix began paying to have their software in the devices. I'm curious whether that's still a revenue source for manufacturers.

Prices haven't gone down? So before smart TV's were a thing 70" 4K TVs could be had for $650?

That's the usual price drop as these SKUs achieved mass market and got economies of scale.

I think the bigger factor is that they are b2b, though certainly selling the crapware helps subsidize the consumer models.

Its even getting hard to find digital signage that isn't connected at this point. IIRC all the samsung stuff moved to having little fleet management computers some time ago.

"Dumb TVs" would cost more. It's hard to market something that costs more and has what most people would perceive to be fewer features.

They would cost more because post-sale content sales and advertising generate revenue for TV manufacturers, which they use to subsidise the device sale price, because it's such a competitive, low-margin, market.

I may be living in my own small little bubble but I don't know anybody shopping for anything because their smart TV showed an ad. Everything ads seem to do is just piss some people off.

Then again I remember that if commercials weren't successful, TV as we know it would not exist. People gobbling up ads and buying stuff because of that is why ads are still being used after all.

After all... https://www.nytimes.com/1981/07/26/arts/will-cable-tv-be-inv...

>> Everything ads seem to do is just piss some people off.

This is an eternal sentiment. For the more analytical, there are many examples of advertising millions demonstrably doing nothing. Ha, BMW turned off their ads for a year and nothing happened. So and so blew squillions on ill conceived ad campaigns, etc. It's very easy to cherry-pick advertising stories. To bastardize the adage, "half of the advertising tree is always cherries."

And yet, advertising is one of the biggest economic forces of our time... as you say. It literally rivals oil, shipping and other traditional giants. FB & Alphabet are, as businesses, $trn advertising businesses. That's the market proof that advertising does affect your choices.

The simple proof is easily visible to anyone on the advertiser side of the advertiser-consumer relationship. You open an online business. No one shows up. You advertise. People show up. It may or may not be profitable, but the causality is plain. Even without tracking/analytics/snooping... it's a plain fact that many or most customers for many businesses or even whole sectors are attributable to ads.

Consumers only notice that ads piss them off. Advertisers only notice that ads make consumers do stuff. Both are extremely dismissive of the others' intelligence.

Ads are not primarily about making the user consciously _like_ a product. They are about making the user _know_ a product or brand. Once they are in the mood or need of buying something, product X "feels" vaguely familiar. This is supposed to give them more confidence in the potential purchase.

To be honest, if it was just "hey, here's this show on Netflix!" or "Try this new streaming platform!" type ads, I could deal. I've never had too much trouble disabling this sort of thing on my Sony TV.

The thing that always worries me is that it's essentially a low end smartphone with a really sweet screen. I still don't know what will happen if the OS/firmware ever gets borked. Will it just fail over to the last input I used, essentially rendering it a monitor? (not the worst thing that could happen)

Or will it just boot up to some error screen and become useless because the "smarts" broke and now I can't use a perfectly good display anymore?

I know a lot of people prefer the ease and convenience, and that's why they sell so well. But I'd always prefer to have the display be the display, and then use whatever box or dongle or PC I choose to provide the content. Those can be swapped and upgraded. The 2014-era smartphone SoC built into the TV can't.

There's also the factor that whoever owns the platform showing the ads doesn't care whether the ads are effective. So long as your eyeballs are tracking it, they'll get paid anyway.

Only in the sense that restaurateurs don't care if the food is good. If it's selling... sure, they'll keep selling something that sucks. But generally, advertisers aren't quite the fools everyone thinks they are. There are always fools around, but prices tend to be rational enough long term. If ads aren't effective, revenue will dry up eventually.

All that effort to track people for ads... these are all attempts at improving effectiveness.

I don't entirely agree. A better analogy might be that a restaurant's landlord doesn't care if the food is good. I've run into the problem that sellers of adspace will often prefer to work more with customers who have lower conversion rates. Makes perfect sense when you think about it, people with the crappiest products need advertising the most, while the best products can lean on word-of-mouth.

Edit: Come to think of it, the fact a product is advertising at all might come to be seen as a negative signal of value by the public at large.

There are 20 equally good product brands for 99% of things you buy and use everyday. But you have a clear favorite amongst those 20 that you have already chosen to buy and use consistently. And you don't change your preference unless you are repeatedly reminded of those alternatives. This is advertising 101. Then there are products that you don't yet use because you don't yet think you need or want them. And you don't feel you need/want them until you are repeatedly and subtly/overtly "sold" this product.

Alternatives as well:

- There are things you buy infrequently or on a whim where the options are equally good, and the advertisers just want their product to be the last of the competitions' logos to be associated with a positive feeling. For example, I rarely drink soda, but when I do I'm choosing between Coke and Pepsi with no real brand connection (other than both companies feeding feelings into my brain on occasion). How can I know whether the advertising is some part of what influences me to pick one?

- Products whose function is partially social signalling, where the advertising can serve to establish the signal/brand connection. I care virtually not at all about pickup trucks, but I have a mental connection between Ford and Denis Leary's voice talking about "toughness". Ford pays for all that because you're much more likely to buy an oversized truck for your grocery runs if your community's overriding association with the F150 is "tough" than "small hands".

Please don't act as if you know me. Advertisers don't know me nearly as well as they'd like their bosses to think and neither do you.

Please don't take it personally. I obviously don't know _you_ and the "you" in my sentences isn't referring to you specifically. With that "you", I was referring to the typical user in general.

Fair enough. I intentionally cultivate a preference for novelty which is at odds with that description. Between that and the presumption a lot of the hype around advertising has, I can get defensive around the subject.

Your last statement runs contrary to centuries of business evidence. "Build it and they will come" is a myth.

That is only true while people don't know your product exists. Once they know it exists they try to get an unbiased review; advertising can't provide that.

This isn't how regular people think though. When presented with X products, with different features but generally good quality, people choose with their gut. You are an extreme minority if you deviate from this pattern.

Not to mention, most products can't carry themselves by word of mouth. Only a select few. Advertising prevents concentration of mindshare.

I don't think advertisers are dumb. I think they're immoral, unethical, despicable jerks.

> I may be living in my own small little bubble but I don't know anybody shopping for anything because their smart TV showed an ad. Everything ads seem to do is just piss some people off.

I don't think you're living in a bubble, but I do think that advertisers will pay for completely ineffective ads. Therefore, Samsung and LG have to compete to make the worse product so they can win the free money these naive advertisers are handing out.

I assume that investors simply won't accept one-time sales as a business model anymore. They want continuous growth with no employees on payroll to grow things. Ads are that. (You can see this everywhere. Apple wants 30% of Spotify subscriptions just for making the iPhone. Games are designed for esports and the associated sponsorships. Amazon wants $99 a year for shipping, rather than $10 on top of each order. Easy money, and people say "yes!!!!" to it all.)

for every 10 people like you, one is affected by it and buys something.

economies of scale and all that

That seems extremely unlikely. The "smart" portion is hundreds of dollars in most TVs. A quick search proves that out:



No, it's common industry practice that "Smart TVs" (i.e. ones with built in ad tracking) are sold at-or-below cost and companies make up the difference by showing ads.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18905408 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21781481

So, maybe a business model of buying a bunch of smart TVs, pulling off the wifi module and reselling them?

Perhaps better yet, install a switch -- a big red toggle on the rear, with even bigger lettering -- to physically dis- and, if desired, re-connect it?

I suppose that the smart part's hardware is below $10, it's not much more advanced than a RPi. OK, $20 if it includes a decent camera for video calls.

But its presence can be sold for a hundred more, because the consumers apparently... want these features? Things like YouTube, Netflix, video calls, etc. And, of course, voice control.

> I suppose that the smart part's hardware is below $10, it's not much more advanced than a RPi. OK, $20 if it includes a decent camera for video calls.

Citation? Because I find that assumption outlandish.

I've watched them replace the control board in my 7 year old Vizio TV, the hardware is significantly better than anything but the highest end current RPi. Dual core cpu, quad core gpu, AC wifi, 8gb of memory, and the ability to push 4k HDR video at 120hz.

You keep saying they're all selling personal data for hundreds of dollars, citation?

> You keep saying they're all selling personal data for hundreds of dollars, citation?

Since you are talking about a Vizio tv, here's some straight from their CTO's mouth:


"So look, it’s not just about data collection. It’s about post-purchase monetization of the TV.

This is a cutthroat industry. It’s a 6-percent margin industry, right? I mean, you know it’s pretty ruthless. You could say it’s self-inflicted, or you could say there’s a greater strategy going on here, and there is. The greater strategy is I really don’t need to make money off of the TV. I need to cover my cost."

My idea is that chips themselves, sold in bulk, are but a fraction of the cost of the complete control board. Assembly and testing easily double the cost. For a consumer device like RPi, also shipping, packaging, and markup add, say, 50% on top.

For a TV manufacturer, most of these costs don't appear because they just need to add a few components to an existing PCB, and add more tests for them.

The other part of costs is licensing and/or development of software, its ongoing maintenance, extended tech support (online, phone), maybe sometimes content deals (a free month of Netflix, or something).

Must be nice to be a corporation so when 6o7 hack into people's computers and wiretap their homes you only pay a fine of $1 per victim.

Let's imagine the bill of material is about $30, and that's cheap knowing they have mid to high end embedded SoCs or DSPs being able to move 4K video.

To that price, you also need to add a continuous software development for the OS and some apps (even if they are Open Source, because they need to do at least some modifications). Minor bugs will happen and you would need to solve them.

Also, more complex hardware and software usually equals more complex testing and debugging, and with this more person-hours and a bigger cost. At the end, it might not be $100, but it will be near enough to round it for $100.

To be clear, this is said without having ever worked in a TV manufacturing company, but knowing how this kind of things are made, I think I'm not too far from reality.

That was a part of my point: BOM is not dominating the difference in the price.

The bill of materials for the "smart" parts in a smart tv costs less than $20-$30 US. Nothing more than that.

> It's hard to market something that costs more and has what most people would perceive to be fewer features.

I'd pay for privacy and control.

The other option like I've said is to recycle and mod smart tvs and rewrite their logic so that the user can do wathever he wants. Maybe marketing the modding kits. That would be more akin to those people who install custom open source bios on IBM Thinkpads.

I'd rather be protected by regulation than pay more for what I shouldn't have to pay for in the first place.

When was the last time regulation protects anything?

The Security Act of 1934 created the SEC and look at the past 20 or so years and see how many scandals has happened under their watch. All big players. Look at Madoff. Whisper blower after whisper blower to the SEC and what did SEC do? They looked the other way.

You're not engaging in good faith, but I'll offer this: I have not died of botulism thanks to regulation.

Do you seriously need someone to provide a laundry list of all the ways government protects you and your interests? Or are you just being obtuse?

> I'd pay for privacy and control.

Then buy a monitor. They have HDMI ports so they can get whatever video feed you need. Some even have speakers.

Monitors are designed to be used closer to your eyes. Probably have more pixel density.

So I believe there would be a huge price gap between a huge 50"+ monitor and a TV that is more expensive because some extra work on software had to be made.

Monitors lack remote controls.

A lot of functions you would use a remote for can be managed by the connected device.

HDMI-CDC (Consumer Device Control)

I, my wife, her parents, as well as the majority of people buying TVs, want a remote.

If you're using a dumb TV (monitor), and a device feeding it (Apple TV, Roku, Firestick, Chromecast), they typically come with a remote which will handle those needs.

I will admit, OTA TV (that is, via an antenna) will be... harder.

Recycling and modding would be great, but I'd also like to be able to buy a new high-end TV without smart features.

You can, sceptre makes a number of models, all of which have no smart features at all. Aimed for the home market

Thanks for the tip. Sadly it doesn't look like they sell in the UK but for the US market this might be a good option.

I disagree that it's hard to market. There are plenty of privacy conscious people that would pay extra. I see billboards every day for duckduckgo that advertise their privacy features. I think a privacy focused TV or IOT device would do well.

Privacy is only one angle, a lot of it is about selling you content like TV/Films that can be promoted via the TV. Often goes hand-in-hand with advertising that has privacy issues, but much of the money comes from the consumer not advertisers. That's a more subtle one to market: buy this device that has fewer choices about buying content.

I think you might be underestimating the cost of developing or licensing smart TV software.

It isn't hard to market something that costs more and lacks a flaw.

This is why I saw "what most people consider". It's easy to market this to HN but most people don't know or care about this sort of control over their devices.

Well, they might cost more, but TV/monitor prices have dropped so much over the past couple of decades that it can't be that much of a deciding factor.

Some years ago SamyGO was started towards replacing TV firmware, not sure how far they got though:


Since most TVs probably run Linux it probably isn't hard, but will have the usual problems of non-mainline drivers, blobs etc.

I don't know about OLED and other fancy panels (like Micro LED, QLED, etc.), but for common LCD panels there are plenty of controller available to use them, even with 4K resolution [1]. And panels aren't difficult to find because they are used to repair other television. The problem here is to protect it about dust and dirt, also not having a convenient and easy to use user interface.

IMO the best middle point is buying a LG Smart TV. They have Amazon Prime, Amazon Alexa, Netflix, and other platform installed, but IIRC you can uninstall this apps and you can't use them until you accept the terms and conditions. If you don't accept them you shouldn't worry about them.

I haven't used Wireshark to know if that apps use the network even without using them, but at least isn't the same to some Samsung TV that insert ads in the menus when your TV is connected to the Internet.

[1]: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/33001887592.html

I've been buying "Sceptre" -brand LCD TVs for use around the house the past several years. They're "dumb" with just a basic remote and basic settings firmware like TVs from a decade or two ago, and they tend to be reasonably priced, and of reasonable quality. Plug a streaming stick or your RPi in the back for your choice of $Streaming_TV service. They now also make units with Android TV built in, but so far they're still making non-smart models as well!

https://www.sceptre.com/ has a nice selection of dumb TVs at reasonable prices

I replaced my TV with an LG 43” 4K monitor which cost AUD$700 (similar price to a TV of the same brand/size here). It’s not quite the 50” my TV was but it’s big enough for my purposes.

It has 4 HDMI inputs and zero smart features. Turns on in under a second, etc. Before that I had a TV that required almost a full minute to start up before I could change AV input or change channel or do anything because it had to load it’s bloated smart crap.

There’s a Samsung firmware hacking community: https://forum.samygo.tv/

Here's a company that sells dumb panels with a HDMI input and Pi Compute Module attached to them: https://www.distec.de/en/products/monitor-solutions/iot-moni...

"Smart tvs but with user replaceable firmware" THIS, I've never thought about it before, but I'd definitely pay extra for a TV that has a open firmware for users to replace.

In addition to the privacy benefits, you could potentially build a controller that actually turns on Really Fast. Modern smart TVs just feel slow in every way.

Maybe finding a line of televisions we could reliably lobotomize would work in the short term (a la Librebooted ThinkPads).

Privacy paradox at work.

People say they cared about privacy and then don’t if it’s more expensive?


That move is just one step further in removing control. They now have sealed devices that can have who knows what functions but are confined to the network. Next step is to have a concealed upstream. After that they will somehow get a legal mandate to force such devices on you (like the EU did with cars). Maybe they will use smoke detectors or "emergency" services. In the end, this is exactly like in 1984.

Less 1984 and more Fahrenheit 451. There is no central authority imposing this to exert control on the masses: consumers are imposing it on themselves willingly and industry is just giving them what they want. Juvenal redux.

> consumers are imposing it on themselves willingly

Without reasonable alternative and without consent is like a LEO version of 'willing'.

The existence of "reasonable alternatives" is largely irrelevant. Firefox is a reasonable alternative to Chrome, and yet very few of the people I tell about Chrome's tracking switch - they just don't care. Same for Protonmail/Gmail, iOS/Android, Linux/Windows (yeah, yeah, not everything runs on Windows - nobody I know will even attempt to dual-boot and do what they can on Linux), dumb/smart TVs (yes, reasonable dumb TVs exist - the Spectres, most notably). This is a willingness issue, not a lack of reasonable alternatives, in the majority (not all) of markets.

You can buy commercial displays (ie. the ones used for signs). It's worse and more expensive, but it's still an alternative.

This is similar to saying, if you don't want to be filmed in the street move to a private island. Doesnt solve the problem for most people. Brands don't care about the few exceptions that know their dark side. What they care about is that tens of millions don't.

TVs without smart features used to be priced like TVs still are now; the one I'm still using cost me something like $300 several years ago.

Those commercial displays are priced for businesses to afford. It's not something the average consumer is going to reasonably buy - especially not lower-income people.

(As an aside, it's fucked that the cheaper devices that low-income people can afford are always the ones with the most surveillance.)

I never own a tv, I don’t plan to own one ever.

I tossed out my OTA TV in 1992. I've never had Cable TV.

I don’t remember much backstory in 1984 for how the surveillance state came to be, but I think it’s totally plausible that a government could co-opt this self-imposed setup and use it for 1984-style control.

IIRC there wasn't much backstory on how it came to be other than a war between continents.

It's 1984 and we're the proles

So armed Amazon goons kicking down your door and bringing you to the dungeons of the Ministry of Customer Obsession to be tortured with fake cattle prod knockoffs?

Nope. Much more like this:

You are legally obliged to install a smart meter, smart smoke detector and smart heating control in your home. If you rent, your landlord will install these things. If you own the authorities will inspect the presence and operation of these devices and fine you if you don't comply.

All these devices will be offered by companies like amazon. Coincidentally, amazon lobbyists shape the laws that make these things mandatory.

I don't think they have to make it mandatory, all they have to do is remove all the other choices. Simple to do if you have amazon or google amounts of money. Politicians are surprisingly cheap but they aren't as reliable as narrowing customer choice behind a mask of competition. Once the barrier to entry is lifted sufficiently high the job is done.

Mandatory installation comes 3-5 years after insurance discounts for smart smoke detectors or whatever, to prod the last few hold-outs into "compliance".

"We find that tracking the smoke levels inside a house using the smart fire detectors gives firefighters an early warning system. For the safety of your pets and your children, who may not know how to use 911 or may not have a phone they can reach, and since you don't have a landline they can use, we are requiring all houses to be equipped with a FireProtection 2.0 capable smoke alarm."

I would get worried when the FAANG companies start buying insurance businesses. Since a lot of have "smart speakers" and mobile phones listening to us and whatnot lying about our houses we installed voluntarily, lobbying for something like this seems completely unnecessary.

I really think the fears of government over-reach are something that has receded into the past. We didn't need to be forced into a surveillance society, we willingly paid for and installed it ourselves in exchange for "likes" and "upvotes" and being able to discuss big budget TV shows in real time with our fake internet friends.

Big brother turned out to be our dopamine circuits.

Rural life never looked so good...

> You are legally obliged to install a smart meter, smart smoke detector and smart heating control in your home

If that's all they do, what's the problem here? All three have big and direct positives for everyone ( you, your home, your community) - a smart heating control saves energy ( climate catastrophe incoming, so could be useful), a smart smoke detector can alert the fire department if smoke is ongoing for more than X time, and a smart meter can be used to accurately predict, distribute, reduce and bill energy consumption. And if they all stay in their lane, there aren't many privacy downsides.

Edit: I'd appreciate a response to go with the downvotes and tell me what i'm missing

What you are missing is the motivation of the seller. The company is not interested in making your house a safer place and helping you living your life. Instead they want your data. And they want your data to essentially extract more money from you. This setup sees you as an obstacle that needs to be overcome and it is just a short step to sell that data to a third party. And no one, repeat: absolutely fucking no one, that collects your data clandestinely is doing this because they think you would agree with their motives. In the end, they always want to get an advantage over you.

And nobody is talking about a company, the whole premise was that there's a mandate to have a smart meter/smoke detector/etc.; if that were to happen, it isn't a company selling you something for their interest, it's a government telling you to get something for everyone's interest.

E.g. in France the smart electric meters are mandatory ( they don't belong to you but the utility in the first place), and are of a specific type that does nothing but collect electric consumption. I'm sure that if it were left to a private company there'd be a microphone or two just in case, but that really isn't the scenario we're talking about.

You're missing the whole concept of choice.

Being forced into something "for your own good" is still being forced, and is anathema to some.

And yet people are generally fine with seat belts, driver's licenses, etc. being "forced" "for your own good" in modern society.

A seat belt isn't capable of spying on you. Pretty sure people would have an issue with "smart" seatbelts that contain microphones and cameras.

Which is why i explicitly qualified that the smart stuff in question should only be smart to do its job ( e.g. a smoke detector to alarm you and the fire department, not to have a microphone and camera to spy on you), like the French smart electric meters, which only report consumption to the utility ans nothing else.

Except even if they can only do that, it's still possible to spy on the consumer's habits through their electricity consumption. What time do they sleep, are they really sick at home or did they they leave town, are they on holiday,...

And since they are connected to the internet, they're vulnerable to hacks, so this information could not only get into the hands of governments and energy companies, but all kinds of random people.

Btw in reality it's much worse than that. Many of the smart smoke detectors have microphones in them, which is a really smart idea. Sometimes companies even "forget" to tell the victims, er... I mean users about it: https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2019/02/googles-nest-securit...

Do the amazon knock off cattle prods hurt more or less than genuine ones? Like, do they just not work? Are they just bricks in boxes? Or do they instantly cause death? I’m joking, but I go through this logic each time I regrettably make an amazon purchase: what’s the knock-off failure mode. Vitamins? Heavy metal poisoning. No go. Pens? They don’t write well. Acceptable for amazon purchase.

Time to invest in companies producing faraday's cages for houses.

You jest, but all I'm thinking about is just how unpolluted the 2.4GHz spectrum would be if everybody's house had a built-in Faraday cage, and how nice that would be...

And as long as the faraday cage wasn't in interior walls, wifi would work really well on 2.4 inside your house, with such a nice low noise floor. You'd need it though, since cell service would be rather poor.

Couldn't you have a cell antenna outside of the cage?

My father used a foil as part of insulation and the wifi in that house is amazing.

The fact that you can say this without being hauled off to Room 101 and tortured until you recant proves that this is in fact not exactly like 1984.

I just got a 65” UHD sceptre brand TV with no smart features at Walmart for $329.

It’s pretty great that such a desirable feature is at the bottom of the barrel

100%. We just got a sceptre from walmart. Stupid big for the price, great picture, and did I mention the low price. Oh, and not one smart feature; just television with various inputs.

I haven't TV shopped in literal decades. It astounded me that there was (a) a market for more advertising on your television via smart features, and (b) seemingly low-end models are the only ones that are available as 'dumb'. Other manufacturers have regular tv's, but they are never available, and cost as much as the smart versions. The whole thing is weird.

Low end TVs also skimp on HDMI ports. I didn't think of this, purchased a cheap LG (with only 2) and then had to buy an HDMI hub. Obviously still cheaper than paying $2-400 more on the TV itself, but next I'm I'll count the ports.

Fun fact - I got the sceptre because it listed 3 HDMI ports. Opened it up, and it has 4. No idea why the difference.

How are they vs. LG OLED panels? Lack of dumb option is what's stopping me from getting a LG :(

Compared to any OLED, they're just as good. A bit bright, but everything else is solid. The speakers are what are often complained about, in that they're small and not that loud. Ours is loud enough that we keep it on 7 (out of like 50? I've never gone above 10) for a room that is 14'x28'.

I'm sold on them for future purchases.

Sceptre picture quality was pretty shit though, last time I checked...

Coming soon, YouTube video guides on how to locate the rf ICs on the motherboard of your smart tv, and take a Dremel cutting disk to the section of the PCB that has the copper traces for the antenna.

And then the tv bricks when it can’t access the network for 10 days.

Is this true? The GUI on my smart TV is so slow and laggy, that I planned on getting a Roku and disconnecting it from my network.

Makes me want to sniff the traffic and see what kind of replies it's getting. Maybe just spoof it.

That's what I did with my newer Samsung smart TV. Really would like to just kill the network capabilities of it physically, though.

Don't forget to cut the HDMI Cable too :)

Dystopic cable cutting is weird

I know you jest, but a simple x-acto knife will usually do the trick

Most have a dedicated WiFi board that is separate from everything else.

There is nothing stopping TV manufacturers from putting a 3/4G modem in their products. The billing is likely insignificant compared to the value of the data they can exfiltrate.

Wasn’t the entire point of 5G to reduce the cost so that this dystopian ‘internet of phone home day bypassing all your security controls’?

Our only recourse at this point are very strict laws that require all devices that do this to periodically and very explicitly state they are doing so, also providing the option to turn the 'feature' off.

The important part then is that failure to comply needs to result in personal liability for retailers, distributors and manufacturers.

That second part is the one that will probably never come true but it is the only thing that would bring any sort of meaningful change.

The first part will probably happen in Europe, but I can't imagine it in the USA, the lobby is too strong.

I disagree... can you honestly tell me that you absolutely require to have an Amazon device? Or a smart TV?

I can understand if they were putting microphones into the electrical sockets when your house was being built... you need to have electricity.

The solution is don't fucking buy the items... when they see a drop in sales, even a few percent, they'll take notice. Or, god forbid, get your old TV repaired!

Mandating that the government steps in is crazy... we're talking about governments that are paid, openly, by lobbyists from these organisations.

Repair is not always possible.. Consider a TV with a shattered panel. You'll have to depend on the manufacturer to make this party available, which usually they won't because they'd much rather sell you a new one.

I don't think there's anything wrong with government regulations. Yes they listen to lobbies too much but it's a different issue that should also be addressed.

This is definitely one of the more naive free market takes I’ve seen recently…

Amazon Sidewalk has a huge radius, so many people's neighbors likely have these devices. So if _any_ of your devices talk to them, you have no control even if you don't have an amazon device.

I own amazon devices (none that have sidewalk) but if my neighbors came to me and told me to remove them for their privacy. I'd probably laugh them to the door. I live in a building with 500 units, and its almost 100% chance that i'm within sidewalk range (I also live near to the alexa office in seattle so there's that too).

Point is: You can't control your neighbors.

Not everyone can afford to or wants to move to the middle of no where such that their neighbors are out of radio distance.

Can't wait for when aluminium foil wrapping your TV is the new normal!

Your comment is less facetious when you realize how many people (including tech-savvy ones like Zuckerberg) put a piece of tape over their laptop cameras. Yet, the industry doesn't care.

I figure that this scenario is all but inevitable at this point. Most people just don't care -- and those that do can go live in Faraday cages like weirdos.

queue the need for ifix to show how to remove 5g antennas.

Well there is a cost and the challenge of having to deal with all the various carriers across the world. Wifi is mostly universal.

I mean, sure, but my TomTom 5000 which I bought like 8 years ago for £200 has a sim card that works worldwide, I've used it all over Europe, briefly in North America and in Martinique, it just has seamless GSM connection wherever you go. If a small satnav manufacter can produce such a device for £200 and clearly afford to pay the subscription fees for nearly a decade(I don't pay anything for having this) then I think it's literally a matter of time until we start seeing this in TVs.

There's a lot of carriers around the world, yes, but they're often "subcontractors" to some of the bigger ones like T-Mobile and Vodafone, which often operate a network covering a whole country. Those are more than happy to offer a long term data contract for purposes like this.

If Amazon Kindles can do it, it's probably not too hard for the likes of LG, Samsung, or Sony either.

They don’t work worldwide though.

Good point.

If data from TVs is so valuable, manufacturers will just include 5G modem and phone home directly.

This isn’t tech problem. This is legal and regulatory issue.

This is totally plausible and I imagine some manufacturers will try it. Alternatively they can simply make the TV not work unless it has been connected to WiFi...I believe there may already be some sets that do this.

My answer is a home projector. It’s not 4K but it’s cheap and puts out a great display. It’s also just a projector without any applications or network access.

This is the route i went (though admittedly mostly by accident), unfortunately do have a "smart AV receiver/amp" but the functionality there's too convenient for me to kill all networking.

If i had to buy a TV now I'd avoid a smart one like the plague.

Yeah but the instant you plug in a chromecast to watch netflix or disney+ they got you. Blu rays are drying up at an alarming rate, at least it feels that way.

That tracking is limited by account and/or access device. It is not bound to the display. I use a Roku and who knows what data they share with the channel providers, but at this time I doubt they are giving unfettered network access, outside of content request/response, to the channel providers.

I think I can accept the tracking Chromecast does when I stream Netflix through it. I have it behind a remote switch so that Chromecast only gets electricity while I'm watching something, then it just gets switched off again.

Or am I underestimating the tracking Chromecast is doing?

4K projectors are getting cheaper, although some reviews doubt the quality improvement.

I know Apple has rejected offering a TV panel, but to offer continuity of privacy into this domain I suspect they still may need to.

Maybe the future is having some kind of Faraday cage around your devices.

Or maybe even around the house. This might be possible in apartments.

A faraday cage around a TV kind of defeats the point. Although it would improve some films a great deal :-)

I think this has to get sorted out in the wash with regulation. If you collect data about someone, it needs to be treated at HIPPAA levels of paranoia. That just makes so much of this rubbish go away.

It might increase the costs of TVs. Certainly there are many areas of global markets that have incredible deep tech that just are not seeing expected market pricing.

(Off topic but eye-tests. In the UK there are branches dedicated to performing a medical test by post-graduate trained operators, for token cost, just so they can upsell me on expensive frames. I mean I would rather pay for the eye test and buy online.)

Perhaps people will start covering their homes in copper mesh.

But then give it a network.. just no public internet access :)

I tried that on my LG tv. The result was a 60 second timeout before I could use the tv when turning it on. I ended up figuring out how to factory reset it and then never set up the wifi. No firmware update, but I don’t care since I only want a dumb monitor.

My advice: connect it to a restricted network, where it can successfully ping home and assert internet connectivity, but everything else (except maybe updates or whatever you want to allow) just fails.

A better, more useful approach is to have a DNS server on the home network (something like a pi hole), where all analytics go nowhere, Youtube isn't capable of downloading ads, etc., but you can still use the smart TV features you want. IIRC some TVs have internal DNS servers and only use those, so an ARP spoofing may be also needed.

I thought most TVs overwrote the network dns settings?

fwiw you can often update the firmware via USB anyway—not sure about LG specifically but Samsung TVs support this. It's often worth updating the firmware as, like a lot of software these days, it sometimes ships half-broken.

Shhh the first rule of wifi black holes is that you don’t talk about wifi black holes.

“Smart devices” have been trying to phone home for awhile now. I don’t have any stats or research to cite, but my own evidence from reverse-engineering TVs and other IOT devices.

I suspect the business motivation by Amazon is to become the “middleman” between these devices and the manufacture.

Amazon is known to sell the ring data, i suspect this could give amazon more data that they can sell and make more money. It is almost like a mesh tracking in a neighborhood if this is enabled.

I think amazon might be more focused on owning the middleware for smart home devices to improve the features available (compared to say zigbee) and improve the experience... and sell chips to device makers for $$

Edit: I was wrong. Please disregard this comment. Someone links the comment below. And the sub thread that I remember being removed appears to still be present.


I commented the other week about enjoying my LG oled smart tv. Someone mentioned what about the evesdropping. (Which I’m aware of) and it started a small thread of people discussing that. These replies were removed about 24-48 hours later. I found it odd the comments about smart TVs evesdropping were removed. So I’m commenting to bookmark this, and see if this discussion is also removed.

Removed from HN? I have some doubts. It’s not impossible but I don’t think HN’s reputation would survive if they’re removing comments in service to … anyone else.

Edit: this[1] looks like what you’re talking about. Has anything been removed (by HN) from this conversation?

1 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26996739

Thank you! I am going to edit my original comment, but I was completely wrong. I see the conversation that I thought was deleted. My mistake.

It's much more likely it was removed for some unrelated reason (flamewar, spam, or just a mistake - btw you can email the mods if you think it was a mistake, it seems they're very responsive)

HN is full of discussions on these matters and I've never seen them get removed.

And you can always use Archive.org's Wayback Machine to periodically save the page.

I run pihole on my network. I monitored requests made from my tv and blocked the ones to LG one by one.

That’s a great move and I applaud you and also I wonder whether LG would start disabling TVs unable to get their requests through if they noticed a critical mass of them doing that.

“We noticed you’re using an ad-blocker” ...

They probably wouldn't be allowed to disable the basic functionality of the TV, at least not without marketing it as "online only TV", which wouldn't look good (your internet may fail, or you may want it in a place without internet). LG will disable your "smart features" if you refuse the EULA. But that's actually the optimistic and desired outcome.

The undesirable outcome is that they just hardcode some IPs or DNS in which case PiHole would be of no use. At best you could create a NAT port forward to redirect DNS requests to the PiHole, assuming it's not DoH.

And the worst case scenario is if they build in 5G connection and take the whole connectivity aspect out of your control.

You can fix the hardcoded dns IP addresses.

I just blocked all DNS traffic outside of directed to a dnsmasq container allowing only whitelisted hosts (I just allow netflix on smart tv)

Next step is to block all traffic to IP Addresses that have not been resolved by that. That would fix DoH but it seems overkill for now.

You're right but as I said above:

> they just hardcode some IPs or DNS in which case PiHole would be of no use. At best you could create a NAT port forward to redirect DNS requests to the PiHole, assuming it's not DoH.

The idea is that you'll need more than just a PiHole for all of this which further reduces the pool of people who can pull it off. You have to redirect DNS requests to your own DNS server, and/or block 443/DoH completely, neither of which the PiHole or a regular ISP router can do on their own. At this point if you can you're probably better off blocking all outside connectivity from you TV anyway.

I strongly recommend everyone to just reject any and all EULA screens ever presented. At this point at least legally the manufacturer can no longer legally do much which is why they'll disable almost every smart feature, which is essentially "dumbifying" the TV.

As well as this, there are simple ways around things like pihole. Such as DNS over HTTP or even just hardcoding IPs as a fallback. I expect these to become more common as usage of pihole and similar methods increase.

I have a smart tv but never signed into my wifi from it, does it still have privacy issues. I use firestick to access netflix etc.

I assume the next versions of the tvs internet connection may be mandatory for it to work.

Have a look at big "business monitors" like NEC E657Q [1]. I was able to find some 55, 65, 75" 4K monitors without smart functions. It is probably not THAT bad after all...

[1] https://www.nec-display.com/ap/en_display/e657q/index.html

I had assumed with was happening with Comcast's wifi option already. Manufacturers just have to have credentials and someone nearby to have a comcast network device.

I think I've already heard of TVs connecting to the available open wifi networks.

Any examples? I recall HN convos discussing this as an eventuality but no examples yet.

I am starting a startup which builds (stylish) Faraday cages for household appliances!

I read the wikipedia page on shellcodes a few days ago.

It said the first thing they do is find a way of phoning home.

Use tinfoil wallpaper.

No need... the builder used tinfoil-based insulation when they built my house.

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