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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Owners resort to hacking smart treadmills after NordicTrack blocks them

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It is natural to expect that if you buy something, you can do whatever you want with it. However, the complexity of the laws around intellectual property has made this difficult. The right to repair movement is gaining traction even with Apple loosen restrictions on handling your own hardware. However, NordicTrack is not that bright. After customers started installing their own apps on the company’s $ 4,000 X32i smart treadmill, released a software update that blocked them. The owners are not happy.

Exercise equipment is smarter than ever. Companies like Peleton have made huge amounts of cash integrating subscription training services with hardware, and that’s what NordicTrack does. The X32i is an expensive treadmill with a huge 32-inch touchscreen, offering fitness content from NordicTrack’s iFit, a service that costs $ 39 per month. You are probably familiar with these services, if only because of their reputation. There are suspiciously cheerful coaches urging you to get involved, online leaderboards, one-on-one help, and more.

Until now, anyone who wanted more from their $ 4,000 treadmill could simply unlock the device’s underlying Android operating system. According to the owners, the process was simple and documented in the NordicTrack help documents. Just tap the screen ten times, wait seven seconds, and tap ten more times. With access to the Android user interface, you can download the apps of your choice and even use the browser to access a world of online content.

NordicTrack uses the displays on your smart exercise equipment to offer a variety of workouts for $ 39 per month.

In October, NordicTrack began rolling out an update that removed the so-called “privilege mode” from all of its connected training machines. According to NordicTrack, it’s just about safety. Since the software can control the mechanical components of the treadmill, you don’t want people to install third-party applications in a public environment (the X32i is available to both consumers and commercial buyers). Owners who relied on side loading have suddenly discovered that their expensive treadmills are far less useful and are scrambling to find alternative solutions. So far the best they have come up with is the factory reset of the treadmill. Reboots with older software that includes privilege mode. Then you must block the NordicTrack update servers at the network level to prevent the new software from asserting itself.

NordicTrack says that anyone who has used a workaround to access privilege mode could have their warranty voided. That hasn’t stopped owners from trying to recover some of that lost functionality. NordicTrack can swear this is a safety issue, but there are smarter ways to protect machines in public settings. For example, an administrator account for personal use, which is simple to implement on Android. If anything, it seems that NordicTrack is doing its best to get people to pay $ 39 every month for content on that big 32-inch screen. Do you know that it has no content restrictions? A TV. You can put one of those in front of a cheaper treadmill, just like our ancestors did.

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