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HP Secretly Rendering Printer Cartridges Unusable? 565

Momoru writes "Looks like a woman is suing Hewlett Packard, claiming that their "smart chip" technology, besides giving information about ink usage, is also secretly programmed to not work after a certain certain date." From the article: "HP ink cartridges use a chip technology to sense when they are low on ink and advise the user to make a change. But the suit claims those chips also shut down the cartridges at a predetermined date regardless of whether they are empty." We've reported recently on printer companies making questionable business decisions.
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HP Secretly Rendering Printer Cartridges Unusable?

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  • Hack-a-do (Score:5, Informative)

    by fembots ( 753724 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:22PM (#11750242) Homepage
    Meanwhile, people may try this trick to hack expiry date on ink cartridges [], which might have been proven to work [].

    Do these cartridges have expiry date printed on them?
    • Re:Hack-a-do (Score:5, Interesting)

      by plover ( 150551 ) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:42PM (#11750501) Homepage Journal
      Easy to test, and maybe easy to fix:

      Take your computer offline, reboot, set your BIOS date forwards four years, bring it back up in Windows and try printing again. If it comes up bitching, take the debugger to their printer drivers and sniff out any Win32 API calls to GetSystemDate(). Patch according to taste (hardwiring a return value of 1/1/2000 should make their carts happy that they haven't expired yet.)

      I can't think of any legitimate reason for a printer driver to know the current date, so there doesn't appear to be an immediate reason why this wouldn't work.

    • Re:Hack-a-do (Score:5, Informative)

      by dfn_deux ( 535506 ) <> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:27PM (#11751417) Homepage
      The fix is quite simple for parallel based printers one simply has to turn off bidirectional comm for the parallel port. voila!
    • Re:Hack-a-do (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DogsBollocks ( 806307 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:07PM (#11751687)
      Panasonic laser copiers/printers have a trick that after X number of copies/prints the machine indicates that a new cartridge will be needed soon.

      If you keep ignoring it eventually the machine shuts down and asks for a new cartridge to be installed.

      On the side of the cartridge is a small plastic cover with a couple of electrical connections nearby, underneath the cover is a pico-fuse (small fuse that looks like a resistor) when you insert a new cartridge the printer detects the fuse, resets the counter and then blows the fuse.

      Replacing the fuse on one of these used cartridges will indeed give you a few more thousand uses.
    • Re:Hack-a-do (Score:5, Informative)

      by tropicdog ( 811766 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @11:00PM (#11752023)
      Yes they have date stamps on the cartridges. Where I work they have several HP 2000's that are affected by the expire date ink problem. I can't locate the info right now but we have it documented in our internal knowledge base. The expiry times are something like: 30 months after first install or 2 years after printed date on cartridge, whichever comes first. I can vouch for the validity of the claim that the friggin printer will just plain stop printing when ink expires. You can run the printer's self diagnostics and it will show the ink levels to be adequate and will print just fine. But go to send a print job to that printer, acts like it isn't turned on.
      • Re:Hack-a-do (Score:3, Informative)

        by SEWilco ( 27983 )
        I can't locate the info right now

        Well, you might search in Google for: 30 months after first install or 2 years after printed date on cartridge

  • Just... Wow. This is lunacris - first the good news that Fiona is leaving, now this? HP hass lost it in the modern market, and unless they wirry more about the customer and less about the bottem line than they currently do, let's just say the market will respond. (It has already to an extent)
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

      by bsharitt ( 580506 ) * <bsharitt AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:24PM (#11750270) Homepage Journal
      I guess now we know why printers are HP's last profitable division.

      • "I guess now we know why printers are HP's last profitable division."

        And, as soon as ink can no longer be sold for $8,000 per gallon [] (mostly cheap solvent, bought in tank car loads), HP will go out of business? (Also see this analysis about Epson ink: Comparison of ink in bulk to prefilled cartridges. [])

        If so, then HP has not been a real business for a long time, but has been merely piggybacking on the ignorance of its customers. And that means that Carly Fiorina was not a businesswoman at all, but merely good at giving the appearance of competence. And that, in turn means that people who write for the business press are completely incompetent, too.

        Slashdotters should have a mission in the world, to provide at least minimal education to their friends and family and neighbors and political representatives:

        Don't buy anything from a spam email.

        Buy ink refills from Costco and refill Canon cartridges. (See this comment: 54 cents per refill [].)
        • Amen bro. Canon is the easiest to refill. I've had one for over a year and have refilled each cart over 20 times. I have yet to buy a single cartridge. Dirt cheap to run. Never a single problem; not even a clogged head (my old HP and Epson printers constantly needed nozzle cleaning cycles even when I ran factory ink carts). I did buy my Canon new.
      • Re:Wow (Score:3, Informative)

        by MickLinux ( 579158 )
        Actually, the printers are symptomatic of why HP has gone downhill.

        Think Carly. The woman from lucent (of WinModem fame), hired to be HPs president, and (thankfully) now fired.

        Essentially, when you start thinking of your business as a scam, then people start avoiding you. As a techie, I was aware of the problems the moment she came in to HP, and the other management scattered.

        I therefore advised people not to buy new HP products. Shortly thereafter, HP quality *did* go through the floor, while their fl
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

      by Steffan ( 126616 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:29PM (#11750329)
      "Just... Wow. This is lunacris"

  • by Pvt_Waldo ( 459439 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:22PM (#11750245) just quotes people who sometimes have agendas.
  • Proof? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nuclear305 ( 674185 ) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:23PM (#11750249)
    Does this woman actually have proof of this or is she just angry about having to pay HP's prices for replacements?

    It wouldn't surprise me at all, but I'll believe it when I'm able to read the alleged expiration date off of my own HP cartridges. I've had an HP printer for 2 years--some of the cartridges are original and some have been replaced just once. I can't say I've ever had them stop working or falsely report empty. The nice thing is the cartridges are even a clear case so I can easily optically verify whether they are empty or not.
    • Re:Proof? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Stevyn ( 691306 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:26PM (#11750296)
      Since the article didn't back this up with any technical evidence, it's hard to tell if it's true. However, HP could have piggybacked this onto the low ink indicator, but only have it work like this 20% of the time. This would make enough people think, "hey, it doesn't happen to me so it's probably not true". However, 20% could still be a large enough percentage to make some money off this scheme.
      • Re:Proof? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rilister ( 316428 )
        I know a case where something a bit like that happened. In a previous job, working for some other company, I know of one product that was built to expire after using 1/3 of its ink supply.

        The ink was being used as a security marker and the business model of the company producing the hardware required that people buy three times as many disposables as they would if they let the cartridge run dry. The hardware company wasn't in the business of making print cartridges, so couldn't change the fill levels, so t
  • by ExMember ( 212079 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:24PM (#11750264)

    I'm sure dried ink can reek havoc on printer heads. This is not necessarily an attempt to screw over their customers

    • by SimGuy ( 611829 ) <kevin@simgu[ ]et ['y.n' in gap]> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:26PM (#11750298) Homepage Journal
      But the inkjet heads are in the cartridges.... If the dried ink destroys the head, you have to replace the cartridge anyway.
    • Umm the cart IS the print head you are talking normal inkjet printers/plotters.. so that isnt a valid argument.
    • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:37PM (#11750438)
      Firstly, the HP inkjet cartridge includes the print head, so no real damage is done if you run a bad cartridge.

      However, there are far more important things than exiry date for the useful lifetime. If you use the printer in a very dry area then the ink is far more likely to dry out quicker. If we're really to believe that HP is doing this to be nice to us, then I'd expect to see a humidity sensor.

      It might be OK to tell the user that their cartridge has expired and let them choose to use it or not. Surely the choice is the customer's. Analogy: Milk has an expiry date. If you use old milk, that's your business. The milk company don't prevent you from using milk that's a couple of days past expiry (though maybe if they could figure out technology to do this they would).

      • Analogy: Milk has an expiry date. If you use old milk, that's your business. The milk company don't prevent you from using milk that's a couple of days past expiry (though maybe if they could figure out technology to do this they would).

        The milk company (and the law) can prevent the store from selling it past that date.

  • Go Cannon (Score:4, Informative)

    by preatorian ( 778996 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:24PM (#11750265)
    Good thing my cannon cartridges come with JUST INK, no stupid electronics to get in the way.

    I know they say its good to replace the nozzles every once in a while, but with every ink tank???

    HP/Lexmark/etc. need to learn that consumers aren't willing to pay these taxes anymore.

    • I have repeatedly heard that Canon makes the best and easiest to refill inkjet printers/cartridges. Regardless, not every HP inkjet's print cartridges include the print heads.
    • Re:Go Cannon (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zakezuke ( 229119 )
      Good thing my cannon cartridges come with JUST INK, no stupid electronics to get in the way.

      The Canon's I've seen are nice in the fact that they use simple ink tanks and have a easily detachable printhead when the time comes to replace it.

      The Epson I own, the R200 doesn't look as easy as the Canon to replace the printhead.

      The HP PSC 950 I own takes a $30 black cartrage with an estimated yield of 603 pages. The print head is as usual onboard. About .5cents/page.

      There is another cartrage for HP ( 5164
    • by Webmoth ( 75878 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:58PM (#11751641) Homepage
      So, my Epson R300 has ink cartridges that are just ink. However, it meters use, and assumes that a cartridge lasts for so many seconds at such-and-such coverage. Therefore, the cartridge can still have a fair amount of ink in it before it tells you to replace it, OR it can go empty before it tells you to replace it. I'm guessing they build in a pretty good fudge factor to ensure that it never goes dry.

      Here's the stinker: most Epson printers will NOT let you replace the cartridge until it says it needs to be replaced. So if it tells you it needs to be replaced, and you just pop the old cart out and put it right back in, it will assume that a new, full cart is installed. Then when it DOES run dry, it won't let you replace it because it doesn't think that it's empty.

      There's a workaround though: turn off the printer. Then look under the printhead carriage, there'll be a plastic tab that prevents you from sliding the carriage out to where you can change the cart. Just flip this tab forward, and replace the cart. Slide the carriage back, and turn on the printer. It won't even know that you've just changed the cartridge.

      Since the cart is separate from the head, and the head isn't replaceable, it's probably a good idea to NOT let it run truly empty, as then you'll end up with air in the head that you'll have to purge.

      I've got another gripe about inkjets, and they all seem to do this. If, say, your cyan has a blocked head, you can't just clean the cyan. You have to clean them all. This wastes ink from colors that don't need to be cleaned!

      It's not cleaning the heads, it's cleaning out your wallet.
  • Bone dry (Score:2, Informative)

    by homerj79 ( 58075 )
    There arent too many details on this, but i ran the cartridge in my HP printer (Photosmart 1110) bone dry. This was long after their software was telling me my cartridge was empty.
  • Plotters (Score:5, Informative)

    by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:25PM (#11750287) Homepage
    I believe this issue previously came up with HP plotters. People were installing "new" ink cartridges in their plotter, only to discover that the cartridge had expired. HP's explanation was that old ink cartridges could cause expensive damage to the plotter by clogging up the ink system with deteriorated ink.
    • Re:Plotters (Score:3, Funny)

      by prockcore ( 543967 )
      HP's explanation was that old ink cartridges could cause expensive damage to the plotter by clogging up the ink system with deteriorated ink.

      Shouldn't this be modded funny? The plotters I've used didn't have an "ink system".. unless you count "markers on paper".
  • by Bionic_Baboon ( 684462 ) <> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:26PM (#11750292)
    HP and Lexmark are discussing a merger.
  • my experience is... (Score:5, Informative)

    by omahajim ( 723760 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:26PM (#11750293)
    ...that this is true. My trusty older HP2000C business color inkjet still sees regular use with both Windows XP and OS X. Anyways, the cartridges (HP 10, and also HP 11 which work fine) have an expiration date printed on the foil package. I had occasion to install one of these once and the printer configuration software told me it was expired and refused to use it, even though I could shake it and hear it was full.
  • by abelenky17 ( 548645 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:28PM (#11750321)
    Last Friday, Pres. Bush signed a new law changing class-action lawsuit rules, including forcing the suits to Federal Court.

    Since this seems to be the first major suit announced, it'll be interesting to see how it works under the new law. Will there be real limits on attorney's fees? Will it be tied up in Federal Court even longer than it would've been in State Court? Will customers see something other than a coupon to buy more ink?

    Stay Tuned to find out!

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:29PM (#11750331)
    HP Secretly Rendering Printer Cartridges Unusable

    and Canon, Epson, Oki, Brother,... They all slowly render my printers unusable by selling me ink at $38000/gal [], which slowly makes my wallet thinner and thinner until eventually I have no money left, I have to sell my home, put my wife on the street, dress my kids in rags and send them to beg at street corners, and get me a cardboard box to sleep in at night, and protect my (now useless) printer during the day...
  • Another class action (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Facekhan ( 445017 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:30PM (#11750345)
    Another class action lawsuit whereby the lawyer gets a third of everything plus expenses and we get a coupon or some vague opportunity to get a small fraction of the money we have been cheated out of. The RIAA was sued for price fixing and hence stealing about 500 million dollars. They only had to pay back about 40 million + another 40 million worth of CD's no one wanted to buy. If you factor in the tax deduction (approximately 35%) and their savings in warehouse space due to dumping a few million CD's they could not sell anyways they are basically out the cost of the plaintiffs legal fee.
  • That seems to be the CorpGovMedia theme.....
  • by purduephotog ( 218304 ) <hirsch&inorbit,com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:31PM (#11750359) Homepage Journal
    Inkjet was always touted as the 'razor' for any company coming up in the ranks. The problem is ... much much much research $$ goes into finding pigments and dyes that are permanent and light fast... as well as fit the receiver requirements.

    And companies want to recoup that cost as fast as possible.

    I worked on some yellow dyes and can tell you it's a very difficult process. Very expensive- you might have 6 months of failures.. and the floor lab might be stained a million colours.

    But when it's done (and your scale up engineers have done it right) you'll get the cost of your ink way down.... I seem to remember some were down around 30$/kg. Pretty cheap. But that was the 'cost' of making the ink, not including all the $$ into research.

    And being a chemist I can tell you inks in suspension aren't good after sitting for awhile. Yes, it's in a dark cartridge, but I don't know many people that will tell you it's safe to take a drug /pill thats been in a bottle for 4 years. Ink's not a drug (tho as expensive as cipro!) but it is used to print a photograph that will, if said photo should fade, be lambasted as a "cheap ass company" for producing a bad product (See [] ... mind you I dont have a very high opinion of his work... but it's still a consumer 'start' ... he'll be re-inventing quite a bit of knowledge because he's refused help)

    Anyways.... this shouldn't surprise anyone that works with inkjets. The high-volume people will never see the problem, only the low volume people. And those that know will probably do something like this instead gory=1246&item=6746041397&rd=1 [] - note I am not endorsing this seller or product, only that I'm currently contemplating buying it...)
    • by geekotourist ( 80163 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:35PM (#11750995) Journal
      Certainly the *manufacturers* of medicines will tell you to throw away all meds the instant they hit the expiration date (which is the lesser of the manuf.'s expiration date or 1 year from dispensing the med). The patient is the printer, the meds are the ink cartridge... But only a few medicines are known to actually expire, i.e. turn bad after time. Most slowly fade away.

      The US Army studied this because they were throwing away millions of dollars worth of medicines each year because of the expiration date. Results? They throw away far, far less meds now:

      "Data from the Department of Defense/US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Shelf Life Extension Program, which tests the stability of drug products past their expiration date, showed 84% of 1122 lots of 96 different drug products stored in military facilities in their unopened original container would be expected to remain stable for an average of 57 months after their original expiration date. Some US Army studies on Valium, for example, show that the drug is very stable and completely safe and effective for up to 8 years after manufacture.
      Tablets of ciprofloxacin, an expensive antibiotic, were found completely safe and effective when tested 9.5 years after the expiration date.

      A recent issue of The Medical Letter quoted not only the above study but others showing expensive medications like amantadine (Symmetrel) and rimantadine (Flumadine) remained stable after storage for 25 years under ambient conditions and retained full antiviral activity after boiling and holding at 65-85 C for several days. Theophylline, in tablet form, shows 90% stability even after 30 years beyond the expiration date. Such stability is not reflected in the manufacturer or pharmacy dating about when tablets or capsules must be discarded. In general, although published data are not available for all medicines, The Medical Letter consultants believe that most drugs stored under reasonable conditions retain at least 70% to 80% of their potency for at least 1 to 2 years after the expiration date, even after the container has been opened (nb: current US Pharmacopoeia [USP] standard is generally 90% potency).

      (From the cached version of Recycling expensive medications- why not? [])
    • by SpecBear ( 769433 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:48PM (#11751105)
      A few questions come to mind:

      If it costs so much money to create ink, then why are third-party ink vendors able to do it for so much cheaper?

      If there's really that much innovation going into the ink R&D, why not just patent the ink?

      Do ink formulations really change that much from printer to printer?

      • Reverse Engineering (Score:4, Interesting)

        by purduephotog ( 218304 ) <hirsch&inorbit,com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:30PM (#11751852) Homepage Journal
        It's not very hard to take an ink, purify it, dissolve it in Methylene Chloride, toss it into a powerful NMR ... and come up with a structure.

        Then quick jaunt to the patent literature will help pinpoint any patented routes that are 'protected' to produce similiar compounds.

        Finally, set up any graduate in chemistry to come up with a synthetic route.

        Retool a pharmco plant or use (*if you care about quality*) some form of purification (membrane, recrystallization, solvent exchange, chromatography) and you've got an ink with no upfront costs.
        • by Silicon_Knight ( 66140 ) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @03:52AM (#11753362)
          Yeah, right.... have you EVER used an NMR for ANTHING aside from what your instructor handed you, or tried making a sample yourself?

          I'll give you a hint - NMR solvents, such as CDCL3, are VERY high purity, because any contamination will show up on the NMR and mask the readings. Didn't air the sample tube out properly after rinsing with acetone? You'll see the acetone peaks. Drop of water somewhere because you didn't dry it properly? You'll get that big blob from the OH group.

          That ink is most likely a mixture of chemicals. Running it under an NMR will give you peaks. LOTS of peaks. Like - a solid set of spikes. You won't be able to read anything in there. Even if you were to run it through some sort of magical chromatography setup to separate out all the component chemicals, you'd still have to figure out stuff like particle size, mixing ratios, etc.

          -=- SK
    • ...I don't know many people that will tell you it's safe to take a drug /pill thats been in a bottle for 4 years.

      Well, a few years back, I happened to find a joint stashed among my old baseball cards (???) while visiting my parents, and let me tell you, the date of expiration had zero deterrent effect.

  • by bonch ( 38532 )
    Wow, a lawsuit said so? It must be true!

    Don't get me wrong, it wouldn't surprise me in the least. But this entire article is based solely on a "Yahoo! News" article saying a woman filed a lawsuit. Hardly up to the level of content needed for a Slashdot discussion. What exactly are we supposed to post about? "So, a lady is claiming this. It wouldn't surprise me if it was true. Um...yeah." It's just a lawsuit claiming this. There are endless lawsuits each year claiming all kinds of things.

    Come on,
  • If you don't take spoiled milk off the shelf, soon you won't have any customer....
  • Epson printers... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheAwfulTruth ( 325623 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:34PM (#11750389) Homepage
    Epson apparently does a similar thing with their printers as my brother fount out the other day.

    At a predermined time (On time? Date? Droplets fired?) the printer shut down with the equivilent of an "Engine Check Light" and refuses to print. The driver brings up a generic error message about "serviceable parts are past their usable lifetime" even though the printer was working perfectly.

    The printer is so old now that having it serviced is completely out of the question and given that new printers of much greater quality only cost $50, well...

    Welcome to the peak of the throw away society! You no longer have to wait till normal, planned, obsolesence kicks in, electronic devices are now programed to fail!
    • Re:Epson printers... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nogami_Saeko ( 466595 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:40PM (#11750469)
      Not exactly the same. Epsons will stop printing when the ink recovery pad in the bottom of the printer is saturated (according to whatever calculation they use). The upside of this is that you don't have to worry about ink pouring out of the bottom of your printer because the pad overflows.

      It's possible to reset the printer by pressing a combination of keys on the front panel. Of course, it's recommended that you remove and clean the ink sponge first (there are websites that show how to do this).

  • I thought I recognised this story. A quick google [] revealed this article [], the original of which this article is an effective dupe (along with a bunch of other slashdot stories about the long-standing axis of evil print cartridges that is Lexmark/HP/Epson.

    Me, I buy Canon inkjets. They've gone off in a completely opposite direction: Imagine a world where ink refill cartridges were little plastic containers that hold only ink, no 'chips', no replacing jets each time you run out of ink, no corporate attempt to dictate who you shall buy your ink and/or ink refills from. That's Canon Think Tank [].

  • If you don't like what the company is doing, don't buy their printers. Vote with your wallet; it's the democratic way to show 'em you are displeased. Lawsuits, on the other hand, are backed with guns, and are the way of tyrants. Take your pick.
    • -1 Inane

      Democratic way. How does democracy relate to our economy?

      If a company breaks the law and makes me lose money, I have no other recourse but to sue them to recover my losses. Why would you even think that I would buy the products if they are a dishonest company. Of course I would no longer purchase from them. But you haven't resolved with how to deal with them breaking laws and cheating me out of money.

      Asking for justice with in our system IS the democratic way.
  • Do all new and recent HP printers do this? I have a HP PhotoSmart printer (forgot the model number) that I got a few months ago.
  • can be justified (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mqx ( 792882 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:41PM (#11750486)

    If the vendor makes it clear on the product that there is an expiration date, then there would seem to be no reason that they can't also enforce it by technical measures. I mean, when you buy a one year license key for a software product, you read and agree to the license that says that it will stop working after one year. If the consumable actually says that it will expire and stop working after 2.5 years (or whatever), then that's what it'll do, and this is what you are cogniziant of when you make the transaction!

    There are some complications.

    Firstly, if the time-expiring consumable is tied to the product and not available from any other vendor, there may be some sort of anti-trust issue here with "product tieing"; i.e. the vendor is trying to control the market more than is allowable: this is anti-competitive.

    Secondly, if there are objective reasons for time-expiring, then the vendor may be okay: for example, if it can be shown that the the quality of the ink degrades to the point that after the expiration date, it would actually cause damage to the product it is used in. In this case, the vendor is making a fair and reasonable attempt to reduce damage caused by the item, which seems fair enough. Note again, there would need to be a provable reason for this, not just some kind of marketing spin.

    Thirdly, it's a free market: if one vendor wants to offer a consumable with time-expiration built in, then there's nothing stopping other vendors from offer non-expiring products. As the consumer, provided you are given the knowledge up front (i.e. product labelling), it's then your free choice about which product you want to choose. There's no reason for the government or courts to step in and regulate this behaviour.

    So without knowing a lot more facts, it's hard to understand what the exact position is here.
  • by karldavidson ( 187276 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:42PM (#11750500)
    I used to install HP Printers twice on machines. One for B&W and a second for color. HP drivers now prevent you from printing greyscale only. I spent hours on the phone with HP support, there is no way to do it on HP's newer printers. I am sure that this is to force people to use more expensive ink.
  • This is new? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NoseBag ( 243097 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:57PM (#11750643)
    The HP kill-the-cart.-after-one-year ploy bit a buddy of mine last year. Supposedly, the install date is burned into the cartridge chip when it is first used. Lexmark is rumoured to do the same thing. Changing the PC date won't work after the fact.

    My friend was furious as his cart. was still half full and (was) perfectly functional the day before. He called HP and chewed a$$ mightily, to no avail. Neither one of us will ever buy a HP product again.

    It was my understanding that the Lexmark lawsuite was peripherally in response to a 3rd party cartridge that had this feature bypassed or removed. Also - hacks do exist. Removing the offending system date calls from the driver (I think) is supposed to work.
  • by startling ( 717697 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:03PM (#11750701)
    They're doing what? That's an outra...
  • HP Laserjets (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:15PM (#11750812) Homepage Journal
    The older ( perhaps current ones too ) used to lock up with a 'service' error after a certian number of prints was reached.

    It could be cleared if you knew the codes, but thae were not given out to mere 'consumers'.

    Its still a scam, but its not new.
  • by Orion Blastar ( 457579 ) <> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:16PM (#11750829) Homepage Journal
    HP should label these things to say "Cartridge Expires 30 days after use" or "Cartridge Expires after 11/25/05" to meet the truth in advertising ethic. If not, they are being unethical.
  • by ciurana ( 2603 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:17PM (#11750841) Homepage Journal
    I experienced something similar with my Epson Stylus 9000 Color. The printer will report the cartridge as unusuable if you let it there for too long. Epson indicated that the ink degrades over time, yada, yada, yada. I discovered two solutions to this situation:

    1. Short term: remove the offending cartridge, wait about 30 seconds, then re-insert the cartridge and run the head cleaning routine. The cartridge will probably work fine.

    2. Long term: buy a printer that's on the Laser Monk's list ( I've been buying their ink cartridges for a couple of years without problems. I'm about to buy an Epson Stylus R200 -- but I didn't spring for it until I checked that the Monks have the cartridges.

    I hope this helps.


  • by humankind ( 704050 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:19PM (#11750852) Journal
    Consumers have a choice. They don't have to buy products that are engineered to prematurely become unuseable. Slashdot ran a similar story not too long ago about Monsanto offering seeds that were only useable for crops for a single season. If you want to become a subscriber/minion for a corporation, then you patronize their shit and their controlling schemes. Or you don't.

    I urge EVERYONE to make sure they see the movie The Corporation [] and everything is put in proper perspective. (Torrent 1 [], Torrent 2 [].)
  • by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:31PM (#11750958) Journal
    This evil device has 4 ink cartridges (black, cyan, magenta, yellow) and it will refuse to print if one of the cartridges is deemed empty. Now I never really print any color printouts, and yet, I keep running out of colored ink. I cannot seem to be able to print black and white without replacing the color. It goes through some sort of cleaning process every so often, and I think it just wastes the ink or something. Anyways, it claims these cartridges are empty even when they aren't! They haven't even been used to print anything! HP aren't the only thieves in the business. Something must be done, and I am glad to see this suit.
    • All inkjet printers run a cleaning sequence, generally when they are powered on and are 'initialising'. During the cleaning cycle they flush ink through the printhead to remove any potentially dried pigment which may have lodged there. This can consume a significant amount of ink.

      While I agree that they may have gone overboard in how they restrict cartridge usage these days, in part the reason is the increased quality expectations from consumers - compare the quality of output from an old Deskjet 500 serie

    • What I've found in my HP printers is that the colors are used to make smoother grayscales. Yes, it sucks. It sucks badly, if one of the color starts going dry. I always wondered why the greys never quite looked right, they looked a touch too blue.

      Short of buying a laser printer, I don't know what to do either. I really didn't like the ozone that I smelled around laser printers in the past, I don't know if they changed it. Inkjets seem to be maintainance nightmares, if you print too much, money is bein
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:34PM (#11751480)
    I used to work there, so I know a little something.

    The on-cartridge chip in question is internally called the Acumen chip. It's really just a tiny ROM + FLASH combo storage device containing a few dozens of ROM bytes and a few dozens of re-writable FLASH bytes.

    Encoded in ROM, among other info, is a "shelf life" or freshness date -- this is effectively the date of manufacture of the cartridge. If the cartridge is not unsealed and put into service within a certain number of months (something like 18-36 months I think), it will be deemed too old. The printer will refuse to use it.

    The cartridges' ink reservoirs do lose moisture over time (osmosis []and all that) and will eventually be unable to print as the ink's viscosity rises.

    In addition, as an in-service cartridge is used, its osmosis rate becomes much higher. (It's factory applied nozzle tape has been removed, it sits docked in a relatively more porous "garage" when not printing, it prints sometimes and the nozzle then contact open atmosphere, etc.) The freshness date is thus shortened significantly once a cartridge goes into service. This new info is written to Acumen's FLASH area and checked from print job to job.


    In HP's defense, it is possible muck up the print head if old or sufficiently dried-out ink is passed thru the nozzles. For printers with permanent or nearly permanent print heads (you replace the ink supplies only, not the print head each time), this is a real problem. Using sufficiently viscous ink will actually kill the printer.

    The reasons to do this on devices that use combo printhead+ink cartridges are less strong: you're typically not gonna kill the printhead (and thus the entire printer) because you throw away the printhead each time you run out of ink. You get a brand new printhead with each ink replacement cycle; this occurs [typically] well before the onboard ink becomes viscous enough to kill the attached printhead (unless your printer sits unused in an Arizona school house all summer...). You are, however, going to reduce the user's effective print-quality (PQ). PQ is something HP and competitors care dearly about. They basically don't want you to ever get a "bad" image. So they punt the cartridge when the ink is deemed old enough.

    These design requirements lead the manufacturer to "freshness date" cartridges. I'm pretty sure Canon, Epson, Lexmark, and Tektronix (oops, Xerox) do the same thing.

    • by dmaxwell ( 43234 ) on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @12:41AM (#11752575)
      That is no defense whatsoever. As the one doing the printing, I decide what is an acceptable printout. There are a million reasons why you might print something and not give a crap whether the the quality matches the printer's theoretical maximum or not. You certainly don't subject my wallet to additional assrape to get that theoretical maximum either.

      Incidentally, I've got a Laserjet 4M+ with more than a few miles on it. The last (used) cartridge I put in lasted three years before something failed in the cartridge and started dumping toner on the paper. I had another (used) cartridge handy and it has lasted over a year and a half to date. Needless to say, print quality (PQ) remains great.

      These shady inkjet printer manufacturers can take their $30,000/gal ink, their half-filled chipped cartridges, their plasticky disposable printers, their business models, the lawyers they use to enforce said business models, and shove them where the sun don't shine. Sideways.
  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:57PM (#11751636)
    I remember waaay back, looking at inkjet versus laser printers.

    I thought, "Wow. This whole thing is a big, stupid scam. I want a printer where I can buy straight ink and just re-fill the machine. Buying cartridges is for chumps. This is a big, giant rip-off and in a few years people are going to be screaming."

    Then I thought:

    "Of course, there are two levels at which people will put up with this bullshit; the business level and the personal level. --The business level is tighter; they can't afford to be pushed as far as individuals, and so they won't be. --The average office simply couldn't function if they had to replace ink cartridges every sixty pages! So it's better to buy whatever a medium-sized office would use rather than what Joe and Jenny Average want to put on their hallway desk. Spend the extra four hundred bucks and get a half-decent laser printer."

    Boy was I ever right on that count. I go through maybe one toner unit every two years, (2500 pages, approx). --This is still a stupid rip-off, but it's better than having to replace a thirty-five dollar ink cartridge every month, (before tax!)

    Back when the home office computer equipment market was still establishing itself. . . (Make good stuff to establish market share, then slowly start to suck.)

    The HP Laserjet II was one of the best pieces of hardware I've ever seen. I miss that indestructible, ultra-reliable monster. Sigh. Back when HP was a good company which had ethics. I'm sure glad I don't work for them now! Their Karma is sinking fast. Must be a misery to be there today.

    One of the worst things in the world you can do for your mental and physical health is to work for a company you don't respect. Imagine, a million people silently cursing you. . .


  • This is new? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tinik ( 601154 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @10:43PM (#11751927)
    I've been dealing with this problem for a while.

    Some of my clients (generally small to medium buisnesses) use HP inkjets. More then once they've called me saying that they had just opened a new ink cartridge only to be told by the printer that it is expired, and every time the cartridge in question had been one that was kept on hand for a couple of months.

    Also, this happened once with a computer that had the date set wrong. A perfectly working printer was plugged in and immediately the cartridges expired. Even setting the corect date wouldn't bring them back.

    This is something that HP put in to the cartridges to combat all the ink refill kits. It's a real pain, too, since it means you can't keep any extra cartridges around as spares.

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.