Kindle Fire root breaks video rental apps

Rooting the Kindle Fire has become a popular pastime for US hackers looking for a more powerful cut-price Android tablet, but it appears to come at a cost: it disables video rental.

While the big selling point of the Kindle Fire is its low price - selling for just $199 in the US, despite some impressive specifications - it also features heavy integration with Amazon's content delivery service WhisperSync, including the ability to watch films on a monthly all-you-can-eat basis.

The films are, naturally, slathered in a generous portion of digital restrictions management - DRM - technology to prevent them being copied from the device and played on other tablets, desktops or TVs.

The act of 'rooting' the tablet - analogous to 'jailbreaking' in the iPhone community, and a process that allows applications to access parts of the tablet usually locked off from the user - makes the Kindle Fire a whole lot more powerful, but includes the possibility that the DRM could be bypassed and videos whipped off the device.

That's something Amazon can't risk. According to Android fan site Phandroid, the company is looking for the 'su' - SuperUser - binary that allows a Kindle Fire owner to elevate their privileges to the 'root' account level, and disabling the video playback when found.

Thankfully, the enterprising hackers in the Android modding community have figured out a workaround already: a tool called OTA RootKeeper, which temporarily unroots the tablet and removes the SuperUser binary from its default location. With a single click, videos can be made to work once again.

It's likely, however, that Amazon will investigate the OTA RootKeeper trick - which copies the binary to a backup location so it can reverse the process after you've finished watching a film - and start searching for that location too, inevitably leading to a cat-and-mouse chase between the company and the hackers.

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