Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Another reason not to buy a Time computer

Via BoingBoing and Yoz Grahame is a guide to unlocking Time/Tiny modems (beware popups). Time and Tiny, those brands sold by ‘The Computer Store’ on the back of various newspaper supplements, now sell computers with built-in winmodems which have firmware which locks them into dialing only the number of Supanet, which is an ISP that, by pure co-incidence, happens to be part of the same company as The Computer Store.
Of course, you can get a CD to ‘unlock’ the modem, but only by calling a £1/minute support line and paying £60 for the CD (and let’s face it, you can buy a new modem for that price). But, as it happens, you can simply uninstall the modem driver and replace it with one from the manufacturer, thus allowing the modem to connect to whatever ISP you want.
Evidently, this is a tactic to try to lock people into using Supanet as their ISP, since unlocking the modem isn’t exactly trivial for most computer users – particularly those that would be pre-packaged systems from companies like Time and Tiny.
While us Brits are used to buying GSM mobile phones that have been locked to particular networks and the subsequent grey market in phone unlocking, this is the first time I’ve seen modems be locked. But then, I suppose it’s yet another reason not to buy a Time or Tiny computer.


  1. I have a time computer and though I admit that I was required to use the modem to dial up Supanet for a connection, once connected via Supanet, I waa able to change ISPs to both Freeserve and BTInternet.
    And I didn’t use the CDs (that come with either Supanet / Freeserve / BTOpenworld).
    Maybe this is a new practice?
    …of course, I don’t use the winmodem these days, but I was still using it when I switched to other ISPs.

  2. When I first read your entry, I just sat there with my mouth open. How can anyone just lock a modem like that? I have a very strong suspicion that they could be sued over this – okay, so you can ‘unlock’ it but it’s basically not allowing anybody to dial numbers other than their own, which is, quite frankly, ludicrous.
    I haven’t actually read any of the links yet, though, so I might have the wrong end of the stick totally – this is a knee-jerk reaction, so take it with a pinch of salt. 😀