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The Courts Government Printer News IT

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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  • 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.
  • 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

  • Re:Modchips (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:32PM (#11750368)
    Oh and he forgot:

    4 - Get DMCA C&D notice from printer manufacturer
    5 - Hire a lawyer to fight ludicrous claim in court
    6 - Realize they have more money than you to throw at lawyers and give up the fight
  • by blueskies ( 525815 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:56PM (#11750631) Journal
    -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.
  • Re:Wow (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Koiu Lpoi ( 632570 ) <`koiulpoi' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:58PM (#11750656)
    Did anyone else notice it was from the tin-foil-hat-brigade dept? That means, quite possibly, this is not true. Of course, with all the tinfoilhattery going about on slashdot usually, this will get me modded quite down.
  • by achbed ( 97139 ) <sd&achbed,org> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:59PM (#11750662) Homepage Journal
    The difference there is that you are talking about a glucose testing system that can and is affected by moisture on the test strips. Do you know what happens if your testing strip is horribly out of whack and you're a severe diabetic? Death from over (or under)-use of insulin. I belive a wrongful death lawsuit is a lot worse than a DMCA lawsuit. (well, this is the US. this may or may not be true)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:00PM (#11750677)
    Products aren't licensed. They are sold. If you, say, buy a computer from Dell, do you expect them to have any right to make the computer stop working after the Warranty runs out? After all, they only guaranteed that it would work for 3 years. You shouldn't expect it to work after the warranty runs out, should you?

    Or, if you bought a gallon of milk...if it's still good after the expiration date, then good for you. There's a difference between not guaranteeing the milk, and purposefully sabotaging the milk so it spoils on the expiration date.

    A few people have claimed that it's for the consumer's "safety", so they don't accidentally make a printout with ink that may be suboptimal. I don't object to the printer making a warning message, but the user should be able to override it. Would you like your local dairy to put something in your milk that will spoil it for you on the expiration date? Or would you rather check if the milk is sour before you drink it, and decide for yourself if it is usable?

    If you bought it, it's yours. The seller has no right to put in planned obsolescence. The seller is obligated to work to make the product appropriate for the purpose they advertise it for.
  • Re:Proof? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by taylortbb ( 759869 ) <taylor,byrnes&gmail,com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:18PM (#11750851) Homepage
    I've had many (3) printers do that (1 HP, 1 Epson, 1 Lexmark) but there is something in common with all of them. They had all been turned off and not used for over 3 months.

    My conclusion was that the ink had dried/solidified. I don't think that is completely implausible, and probably much more likely than embedding expiry dates.

    Also, with my HP printers (2 multifunctions) it is possible to have it keep printing even with ink warnings, and I have always noticed that the printouts start to have gaps of fade right when it tells me its run out. It would be far too much work in my opinio nto program the printer to fade out blotches and signal low ink at an early date just to make you buy new catridges.

    I also examined the packing for my HP cartridges, the expiry date is 2 years after when we bought them, 2 years sounds like enough time for things to dry/solidify.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:29PM (#11750941)
    Wrong. It's a very legitmate reason. You can do something like this with most CAD packages, but what if you print/plot through a viewer that doesn't have this feature?

    Hard coding this in the printer or print server makes sure that every print has a date stamp on it. This is a great feature in places where you have a 24 hour expiration of drawings. Relying on headers/footers is 100% unreliable. Putting it in the driver or on the print server makes it 100% reliable.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:29PM (#11750944)

    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.

    Ugh.. what crap.
    Although it was probably a "difficult process" for the actual engineers trying to figure stuff out that doesn't necessarily translate into major expense.

    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.

    Why do they measure ink in kg?

    Pretty cheap. But that was the 'cost' of making the ink, not including all the $$ into research.

    Even if we believe that there was an upfront cost of 10 man-years of work on a color, that can't be much more than a bit over a million, which given revenues of HP and the like is a drop in the bucket.

    Most companies products require millions in terms of labor investment, it is called the cost of doing business. I believe that a company is entitled to profit. But, that is not a justification for charging insane amounts and then engaging in (what I and many others would consider criminal) anticompetitive practices.

    Looking at the HP balance sheet, you have no argument.
  • Re:Go Cannon (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @08:34PM (#11750981)
    Does Canon make a printer yet with:
    1. A flatbed paper input tray

    You don't need this.

    2. High res color printing capacity (aka 'photo quality')

    That's so vague it's impossible to tell, but I highly doubt that HP has unparalleled technology. Capitalism usually brings competition up to par in technology with each other.

    3. Both 802.11b and ethernet adapters built-in
    4. Multi-format flash card reader
    5. good quality flatbed scanner

    Repeaters, card readers, and scanners exist as separate products which don't charge me with never ending crippled cartridge fees. Somehow I doubt card readers would be necessary (how could a user own a digicam and not own a card reader already) or more convenient (as opposed to printing from a computer via LAN or USB).

    Last I knew I couldn't get all of those at once from Canon, which is why my last printer was an HP...

    You miss the point. Maybe you can with Canon, maybe you can't, and maybe the economics is best if you don't get the combo printer. The main point was that Canon's ink cartridges DON'T SUCK.
  • by algae ( 2196 ) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:04PM (#11751214)
    Reliable document date-stamps seem like a very good reason for the drivers of your (presumably) $X0,000 plotter to query the system date. However, this article is about a cheap inkjets with high-margin cartridges.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @09:14PM (#11751292)
    I'd pay MORE for a printer if the ink cost less. If they stop taking such a huge loss on the hardware (and perhaps, I dunno, make a profit), they could decrease profit magins on the ink and stop wasting money developing this insanity...
  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 23, 2005 @01:02AM (#11752666)
    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.

    the real truth is, HP started out having such a sterling brand-name that it's taken the Carly troops this long to completely and utterly cash in on it.

Someday somebody has got to decide whether the typewriter is the machine, or the person who operates it.