“I can’t talk right now, I have several thousand updates to install.” – Sheldon Cooper (referring to Windows 98).
I recently picked up another LIFX light bulb (see my original post here). As always, the first thing to do after taking it out the box is to run the firmware update program from LIFX. The devices seem to ship with v1.1 of the firmware which had some rather unpleasant security issues. That’s not a major concern however – the chances of someone driving down the street that’s even heard of wireless mesh networking is slim enough – let alone someone with the skills to eavesdrop. Nonetheless, a security issue it is, and like all security issues it should be dealt with.
In this case, the firmware update fixes lots of other little bugs too apparently, including slow wireless connect times and so on.
The firmware updater is available for several operating systems. You can see the interface below running on Windows. It takes some time to run, but seems to work very smoothly – this is the second bulb I’ve updated now. I assume the devices play nicely together when operating at different firmware levels, but for this bulb I powered off my other bulb first so that they didn’t talk to each other until they were at the same firmware level. Probably not necessary, but oh well.
From a developer’s perspective, one of the key changes in the new firmware version is the move away from TCP to UDP – and UDP broadcast at that. Basically when you want to send a command to the bulbs, you send either a unicast or broadcast UDP packet. When you want to find out what the bulbs are doing – their status etc, you simply listen for the broadcast UDP status packets from the bulbs. I must say I’m not a huge fan of moving everything to broadcast – that’s very much a backwards move – especially given the original firmware version seemed to work quite nicely with unicast.
It’s getting to the point where it’s not just our operating systems that need to be updated, but also our infrastructure. Whilst I’m a big fan of the Internet of Things – I worry about the normal home user managing to keep their myriad of technologies updated/patched. Whilst for most home users, unpatched devices will not necessarily be an issue, but all it takes is for one to live in a busy street or busy apartment block with someone who knows a little about these technologies, and you might find your lights, air conditioner, alarm etc inexplicably turning on and off. Unfortunately the skills required to break into these kinds of devices is also decreasing over time and the care exhibited during the development of these products – in terms of security – is very lacking.