Thoughts on the Kinect hacks and iPad Hacks

Wow, wouldn’t it be nice to have tools like XNA Game studio to  build an application that used Kinect on the Xbox?  I think it would be a great idea.  On the other hand, using Kinect hacks outside of academics?  Waste of time.  Focus on Windows Presentation Foundation, learn XAML, learn HTML5, better use of your time.

I like it when people (Mark Bolas not included in this group) come up to me and ask: “How many people are using Kinect with open source?”, with a smirk or a gleeful smile on their face.  All I can say to them is: “No one”.  Really why would anyone?  The games are structured and well written for Kinect on the Xbox, can you say the same for Linux or Windows?  Would a normal person (which includes App Devs) go out to buy a Kinect to use with Linux or Windows?  Seriously, I just don’t think so.

Of course the hackers are serious developers who like to lead the curve and give Microsoft a poke in the side.  Hacking for the general population of users, even most app developers, might be interesting but follows with a big “So What?”  Unless there is a security hack, then it is followed with an arrest warrant, but a security hack is different than the Kinect Hacks or an iPad Hack.

Frankly, I think these hacks are a waste of time outside of academics or research.  If you do an interesting hack these days, are you going to be able to monetize it?  Are you going to save the world?  Not likely, most people (and this includes app devs) are no longer using stuff that lone hackers create, mainly because it is could be a security issue or not easily/safely obtainable.  Face facts, commodity prices are going up, the opportunity to work for free is going to decrease, you need to make money.  Who is going to pay for a Kinect Hack?  Ok, a teacher or professor might give you a grade if you use the Kinect hack, and that is a good learning experience.  Are any companies going to pay for your work?  I doubt it.

The old world of hackers, like the legion who broke into Lotus Notes in the 1990s is over, time to move on.  In the old days hackers did interesting things and gave corporations heads up that they had a security breach.  Currently?  Hackers are mostly script kiddies that like to think that they are performing a service.  The reality, is that they are simply annoying the people who want to use their purchased software for business or pleasure, OR, the hackers are breaking into the systems to steal information or IDs, which in many countries can lead to jail time, and jail time is not a good thing.

If you know someone who is a “hacker”: if they are “hacking” to test security leaks and make legal money doing so, then fine leave them alone.  If the hacker you know isn’t making legal money or no money, then you might want to talk to them about their purpose in life, point out that life is getting more expensive and that the world of software has changed.  If the hacker who isn’t making legal money or no money is attempting to change the world, ask them to enter the Imagine Cup ( for the United States, internationally).  Otherwise, would you really buy the Kinect sensor to run on your Windows Machine and use hacked software?

Seriously, Hacking Kinect or iPad: Does anyone really care?

Comments (12)

  1. TheAnyoneSoCalSamIsTalkingAbout says:

    I'm anyone, and I do care about these hacks, they use the technology in ways that may actually make a difference to companies who don't have the resources to research it themselves. Ironically, the time they spend making something (in their spare time) that may be of use to someone, is more worthwhile than you making a blog post trying to deter them from doing so.

  2. Surf4Fun says:

    Thank you "TheAnyoneSoCalSamIsTalkingAbout" for your comments.  And yes, I was a little worried about the "voice" that I used in this blog post.  However, I stand on the fact that the Kinect sensor is still and expensive sensor, you have to purchase it and then hack it.

    It appears that Microsoft corporation agrees with you, see the article at:…/windows-phone-7-jailbreakers

    Microsoft gives jailbreakers t-shirts and swag, not law suits!  Not sure where you are located, but if you are near LA let me know, I got some swag for you!

    By the way, I review posts before putting them up on the website (and only delete the ones that are spam).  As you can see I must not get very many comments.  So yours is appreciated!

    Although I agree with you as an individual, you might want to consider that most companies are not as nice as Microsoft about hacks and do pursue lawsuits.  Any entrepeneur should have a solid knowledge of Intellectural properties and attend seminars about intellectual properties (which can really boring but necessary).  Incorrectly using IP is definitely a source of failure if used incorrectly and a source of success if used efficently.

  3. Geoff says:

    You sir are a moron

  4. JoshB says:


    You say you are worried about the voice of this post, and rightfully so. It comes across as extremely condescending and uninformed.

    My name is Joshua Blake. I'm a Microsoft Surface MVP and founded the OpenKinect community ( There are over 1700 members of our mailing list who think that Kinect does in fact matter, and we have a very strong respect for intellectual property. You keep saying "hacker" and phrases like "purchase it and then hack it" and "use hacked software" as if we ripped software off Xbox or modified Microsoft IP. This is not the case, and I think that you do not understand what is going on here. Perhaps it is due to the multiple meaning of the word hacker. The one that fits "Kinect hacks" the best is the second one on this page…/Hacker (programmer subculture, not hobbyist or computer security.)

    The various people using Kinect on their PC have not modified their Kinect hardware or software in anyway. No intellectual property was cracked and no copyrights are being infringed. We simply figured out the USB protocol that Kinect uses to talk to Xbox and wrote our own drivers from scratch to support that protocol on Windows, Linux, and OS X.

    You should read your own executives talking about the open source Kinect software:…/microsoft-claims-kinect-left-open-by-design-with-bonus-hacked-vids.ars Alex Kipman, Director of Incubation – Xbox, says the USB port was left open by design. There was no encryption, no secret keys, no DRM.

    Perhaps more disturbing than your misunderstanding of the nature of what we did is the fact that you are an Academic Developer Evangelist but are discouraging students from learning, exploring, and being motivated by one of the more amazing products to come out of Microsoft recently. Your core premise seems to be that if you cannot monetize it, then it has no value and we better get our minds back in the box. Ignoring the fact that open collaboration and sharing of ideas increases the rate of innovation and creates value for everyone, that value (the new innovative ideas and the software implementing those ideas) can most certaintly be monetized.

    It's still very early, only about 2.5 months since Kinect launched, but many consultancies and design agencies are already getting inquiries and projects for Kinect (or similar sensors such as PrimeSensor.) Just because you can't imagine it, doesn't mean it isn't happening. Indeed, the large variety of applications using Kinect on PC has gone WAY beyond what I imagined. Sure we're not talking about selling a million copies of a Kinect PC app to consumers today, but that doesn't we shouldn't be exploring the possibilities and innovating so that when the Kinect technology is miniaturized even further and integrated into our environments we'll already know what to do with it.

    I hope this post was helpful and I hope that you will come to see the value in the Kinect innovations and the people participating in the open communities.


    Josh Blake

  5. Surf4Fun says:

    Thank you Josh, keep in mind that academics include students, professors, researchers, Deans, Administrators.  I respect your feedback.

    I still do not support hacks, unless the corporation or individual gives explicit permission via licensing or other methods.  

    As to the percentage of people who are interested in the outcomes of hacking (which is my point) is small, are there products out there that use hacks of intellectual properties or software that doesn't allow it?

    Finally, I did point out that professors might give a grade for an interesting hack, so I didn't indicate that the student couldn't learn, and as students may have some protection (but then again maybe not) against lawsuits for violation of copyright/mark protection.

    I also try to make the point: Would it be ethical to hire someone because they did a hack or reverse engineering of hardware?

    Finally, it is time for the concept of hacking to move on to building new and better software.

  6. Rich (exmsft) says:

    Wow. Things have certainly changed at Microsoft. I used to work there (1989 – 1999), and prided myself on the work that we did when Windows was really nothing more than a hack on top of MS-DOS (we had to ship the OS with early versions of Word and Excel to get folks to make use of the GUI). Yet, it succeeded, grew and matured into a very sustainable and stable OS (past tense). Hacking is a facet of software development: one of many. It's about discovery and understanding. Your arrogance on this topic suggests you have some discovery of your own to consider. Embrace the challenge. Do the hard work. Face the competition and learn from it. And be that person to inject this great desire back into the long hallways of Microsoft. It clearly needs it.

  7. Surf4Fun says:

    Rick exmsft, while I respect your points.

    Just want to be cleat here:

    If you are hacking MS-DOS to make Windows at Microsoft, then that hack would definitely be respectful of intellectual properties.  

    If you are using code at for instance, you might have to hack or read the code as it is complex and lacking in documentation, isn't just normal work for an app developer?

    On the other hand:

    If you are hacking software, hardware or other designs without clear permissive license or permission then that hack is disrespectful of intellectual properties.  

          Is that a good use of time?

          For what purpose?  

          Are US Companies going to hire you because you back engineered (Hacked)

              software or hardware without permission of the original creator?  

          What if you set up a company that utilizes software or hardware that isn't

              respectful of intellectual property, what is the basis of success

              for your company or consulting service?

  8. TheAnyoneSoCalSamIsTalkingAbout says:

    As a customer, Kinect is actually pretty cheap if you remove the cost of the Kinect Adventures game from it (probably a $20 reduction or so) compared to buying the components to make a single device for myself.

    I'm not in the US sadly, but thanks for the offer. Yeah, Microsoft is doing something great, but this kind of hacking (creating new programs rather than modifying existing ones) should be promoted by any company as it will attract more programmers, who may eventually become serious developers for the device.

    Anyways, thanks for your reply SoCal Sam.

  9. Surf4Fun says:

    After reviewing this with with one of my mentors, I have come to see that I was off in my comments.  

    Blogging at Microsoft is not a managed thing, I really do see how this post could have been misunderstood.

    It is better that a thousand flowers bloom  and that there be many ideas from multiple sources.

  10. JoshB says:

    Sam, I appreciate you admitting that your comments were off.

  11. JoshB says:

    Sam, I appreciate you admitting that your comments were off.

  12. Surf4Fun says:

    Thank you Josh for pointing out that I was not on the beam.  Hey it happens.  One of the nice things about being an employee of Microsoft (which many nice things for employees as well a company to be proud to work for) is that if you choose to blog, you blog about whatever you want to.  There is no approval of your blog, no editing by others, and so forth.

    Sometimes though, one does get a little full of themselves.  As I did.  What was I thinking about?  Oh well.  This is why comments from readers are important to me.  I do post every comment that isn't spam or has foul language (see George Carlins 7 Words rant).

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