* Another good article on PC World. Many of the devices used in mobile environments (such as our Sailing and Motor Yacht customers) run software called firmware. The Cellular Mobile Broadband 3G Routers, Wireless Access Points, WiFi Systems and more all run a software. Many of the manufacturers release firmware software updates in which they fix problems and update features. You should check periodically and see if you your equipment needs a firmware update. Consider it kind of like Windows or Mac OS X updates. It’s something that should be done – whenever you can. If any of my customers need help with firmware updates I’d be happy to assist you. Sometimes the firmware upgrades aren’t so easy to do, and sometimes there are perculiarities to doing them that only an experienced person could get past. A firmware upgrade gone bad could possibly “brick” your device (in other words turn it into a worthless brick-like box.)
Note: Sometimes even devices that you wouldn’t expect can have firmware updates. DirecTV Satellite Boxes run firmware software as well. I have been a member of a special group for awhile called “Cutting Edge” and getting advanced firmware updates for an HD Satellite Receiver box that I have. Often cutting-edge features are in these updates. These updates however are not for everyone. DirecTV automatically does their “standard release” updates to most users boxes. Cutting Edge releases, they will tell you, can be a little risky so should be done only by technically minded people willing to take the risks.
So here’s the article that I found on PC World.
Firmware and You: A Comprehensive
Guide to Updating Your Hardware
David Murphy, PC World
Monday, June 29, 2009 3:15 PM PDT
Utter the word “firmware” to the average PC user, and you’ll likely elicit a blank stare in return. But the concept isn’t really that hard to understand, and once you have this knowledge, you can quickly improve your PC and any number of other devices, making them faster, more stable, and supplemented with features that didn’t come in the box.
Firmware is a set of permanent instructions on a piece of hardware, stored in the device’s read-only memory. It’s analogous to a driver file that’s embedded in the device, providing the hardware identical information each time it powers up. While you can modify the hardware’s interaction with your operating system via software drivers, certain lower-level functions of a device remain constant and unchangeable. That’s firmware.
But even though we call it “unchangeable,” it isn’t necessarily so. Some firmware, located in the device’s PROM or EPROM (programmable read-only memory or erasable programmable read-only memory), can be altered, or “flashed.” You do this by running software applications from the device’s manufacturer; such programs load new firmware onto the device to extend its feature set, life span, or performance, as well as to correct significant errors.
Firmware isn’t a PC-only concept. You can (and should) update the firmware in external devices such as network-attached and external storage hubs, as well as wireless routers and portable media players. You can even upgrade the firmware on your phone, depending on the model. (That’s how people hack the iPhone–and how Apple tries to outsmart them. Firmware updates from Apple overwrite the customized firmware that some people use to jailbreak and unlock the devices, sending hackers back to the drawing board to search for a new, deployable approach.) Other products in your house–like Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which gained features such as native 1080p HD support and a new user interface via a single download–can also benefit from firmware updates.
(More at the link above.)
Alan Spicer Telecom / Alan Spicer Marine Telecom
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