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Ink Cartridges with Built-In Self-Destruct Dates 655

Posted by michael
from the you-have-ten-seconds-to-comply dept.
Linker3000 writes "The Inquirer has an article about HP ink cartridges having a built-in expiry date that can cause them to become unusable even if they aren't empty! Another twist on the 'chipped cartridge' stories--and also another kick in the teeth (and wallet) for the consumer methinks." This isn't really a new problem - here's a good piece about the problem.
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Ink Cartridges with Built-In Self-Destruct Dates

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  • by Lord Fren (189373) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:04AM (#5841833) Journal
    I don't have this problem, I'm still using a dot matrix from 1993! I have only replaced the ribbon once, and it still prints. (really light and grey/bluish)
    • by gentgeen (653418) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:24AM (#5841927) Homepage

      I agree totally. I have an old Okidata 380D that has outlasted 3 of those "fancy" printers. It always works, and does text just fine. Since I don't print pictures, it is all I really need.

      I just need to remember to print my work before the babies are asleep.

  • If you don't like it, buy someone else's product.

    • by rf0 (159958) <rghf@fsck.me.uk> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:13AM (#5841875) Homepage
      Problem is that once a company like HP sets a presidence like this others will think they can follow. These leave the cheaper refill type cartridges or 3rd party both of which invalidate your warranty. However TBH after 2 years you warranty will most likely of expiered anyway

      Rus
      • They will only follow if morons continue to buy their products. If you buy someone else's products, they lose money and stop doing it.

        If you continue to buy HP inkjets then you obviously don't really care and deserve everything you get.

        • by RoLi (141856)
          They will only follow if morons continue to buy their products. If you buy someone else's products, they lose money and stop doing it.

          This doesn't work because these tactics take effect a long time after the customer made his buying decision.

        • by lpontiac (173839) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @09:09AM (#5842200)
          They will only follow if morons continue to buy their products.

          And herein lies the problem. The "free market" is an economic model that makes many assumptions. In a "free market" the theoretical consumers make rational decisions all the time, and are perfectly informed.

          The fact that morons exist and are consumers is one of the uncountably large number of reasons that a pure free market will never exist in the real world, and therefore we can't magically expect the market's "invisible hand" to make things work well.

          • by maxpublic (450413) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:03PM (#5843713) Homepage
            The "free market" is an economic model that makes many assumptions. In a "free market" the theoretical consumers make rational decisions all the time, and are perfectly informed.

            Not so. This is a simplistic, 19th century model which has been improved upon quite a bit in the last century.

            Current economic theory does take into account irrational decisions, but on the whole individual irrational economic decisions do little to affect the economics of the entire population. There will always be some people acting irrationally, but on the whole most will make rational decisions most of the time, the end result of which drives the free market.

            Note that a 'rational decision' also requires accurate information. If the population is given incorrect information (either deliberately or otherwise) it will act irrationally because the information available tells it that the irrational is actually rational.

            The thing to keep in mind here is that there is no capitalistic model at work in any country in the world (with the possible exception of tiny places like Andorra - couldn't tell you about these mini-nations). Even the 'capitalist' economy of the United States is heavily socialized and government-controlled, although the government control often works opposite to that of fascism (i.e., instead of the government giving orders to corporations, it's usually the other way around). We have no idea - none whatsoever - how a capitalistic free market would work because we don't have any capitalistic free markets to examine. A socialistic, oligarchical corporate state does not a free market make.

            So it makes no sense to criticize capitalism or the free market. You do not live in a capitalistic country, and you don't have a free market.

            Max
      • by hendridm (302246) *

        > Problem is that once a company like HP sets a presidence like this others will think they can follow.

        And that opens the door for companies like XFX, Goldstar, Leadtek, et. al. to enter the market and make cheap knockoffs without these limitations. Companies like this feed off of higher priced competitor products.

    • by chamenos (541447) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:15AM (#5841887)
      the problem is that if having printer ink cartridges that self-destruct after a certain amount of time becomes the status quo, then pretty much -all- printer manufacturers are going to follow suit and consumers won't be left with any more choices.

      in an ideal world, consumers would vote with their wallet and such manufacturers would have to change their practices. however in reality, the large majority of consumers are not well-informed, hence they make wrong choices that ultimately put everyone at a disadvantage. to be brutally honest i think this would be rather inevitable, given the general knowledge the average joe or jane has about computers and its related peripheral devices. the manufacturers probably know this, and are likely to prefer to keep it the way it is.
      • by Shimbo (100005) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:22AM (#5841917)
        the problem is that if having printer ink cartridges that self-destruct after a certain amount of time becomes the status quo, then pretty much -all- printer manufacturers are going to follow suit and consumers won't be left with any more choices.

        They're playing with fire if they do that; printer manufacturers are already under investigation for anticompetitive practices by the EU. If they have any sense, they'll back off fast.
        • by chamenos (541447) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @09:03AM (#5842146)
          true, but they apparently think they're invulnerable. besides, the EU still won't have any judicial power over the manufacturers' operations in other regions of the world.

          in my opinion, this whole fiasco started due to bad foresight by a bunch of marketing guys. they tried to emulate the shaver business model, but failed to realize that brand recognition is not as important in the computer industry; people in general would be more willing to pay less for an X-brand printer cartrige that works almost as well as the original, but wouldn't be as willing to buy a Y-brand replacement razor for a shaver that might nick your skin when you shave due to poorer QC that manifests itself in more obvious and painful ways.

          now that they've set the standard for ridiculously low prices for printers, they realize their share of the profits of the ink cartridge business isn't as large as they anticipated it to be due to third-party manufacturers. unfortunately, they can't raise the prices of printers to the level they were once at to make up for this loss, since consumers would certainly cry foul and instead rely on older printers that are not fussy about ink cartridges. they've got themselves stuck in a rut, and they have only themselves to blame for it.

          now they've even implemented self-destructing ink cartridges....sheesh. i don't forsee this going very far.
        • by vsprintf (579676)

          They're playing with fire if they do that; printer manufacturers are already under investigation for anticompetitive practices by the EU. If they have any sense, they'll back off fast.

          Do you really think Carly cares about your silly rules? She is busy adding HP to her list of dying companies. As long as that rigged cartridge adds a nickel to her bonus, that's the way it will be.

        • by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @04:11PM (#5846748)
          They're playing with fire if they do that; printer manufacturers are already under investigation for anticompetitive practices by the EU. If they have any sense, they'll back off fast.

          But how can a judge indict them if they control the printers the indictments are printed with? ;-)

    • by AtariAmarok (451306) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:18AM (#5841902)
      It is not a free market, thanks to the DMCA. Without the DMCA, we'd have the freedom to hack and bypass these limits.
      • Buy from someone else.

        • by Adam J. Richter (17693) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @09:07AM (#5842178)
          "Free market" is not a boolean value. The market is less free due to the Digital Millentium Copyright Act. As a result of the Lexmark DMCA decision, the suppliers of toner and inkjet cartridges can be limited to the few companies that make printers and those that they authorize (presumably for fees that eliminate much of the economic advantage for consumers).

          Basically, companies that can manufacture ink jet cartridges (relatively small products) but cannot manufacture their own printers can be locked out of the market, eliminating consumers' ability to choose to buy from these smaller companies.

      • Who said it had to be an inkjet? Buy a laser printer. It won't have this tech and it has a much lower cost per page and is faster too!
    • Perhaps you're trolling, but it might help if you offer some suggestions. What printer manufacturers don't use this business model? I would be perfectly willing to purchase from a manufacturer from the light side, if I knew who they were.

      Any ideas?

      • by Niten (201835) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @09:22AM (#5842299)

        Try Canon, for one. The S750 I purchased last summer uses the same non-chipped ink tanks as most of their other new-line home and small office printers, so even though I don't see the S750 on their web site any more, I'm pretty sure that they will be making their ink this way for some time to come.

        (It's a very good printer, besides, if you were wondering for your own reference... Prints fast (I don't have a ppm count... not nosebleed fast, but notably faster than my roommate's HP), works well with the gimp-print drivers if you use Linux, prints photos well enough for my eyes, and has all sorts of other bells and whistles.)

        Offset by the cost of a slightly more pricey printer ($140), the ink is pretty inexpensive. The black cartridge will set you back $15; the full set of three color cartridges costs $30. Canon ink comes in transparent plastic "dumb" cartridges that are completely sucked dry when the driver tells you they're empty... the printer won't cheat you out of any of it, as it actually measures how much ink is left in the tank rather than using HP or Epson style guesswork.

        There are a few other non-evil printer manufacturers, I'm sure, but Canon seems to be the best as far as I've heard. Any other suggestions, anyone?

    • They're DMCA-ing the ink cartridge business. You can't buy a competing product.
    • by Karl Cocknozzle (514413) <kcocknozzle AT hotmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:32AM (#5841970) Homepage
      If you don't like it, buy someone else's product.

      This has very little to do with a free market. Even in a "free" market there are still laws... And the last time I checked, fraud was still illegal (at least where I live, the U.S.)

      And IMO, this is fraud. If I sell you a consumable product, there is a certain (reasonable, I think) expectation that the product will function until the consumable resource involved is exhausted. If this wasn't a "computer" product, and therefore affected people besides geeks--imagine the outcry!

      For instance, replace "ink cartridges" with "case of beer/pop." If you don't drink all the cans in your case before a certain date, they all automatically vent the CO2 and go flat so you have to buy more.

      Folks, there would be riots in the streets and the FTC would be all OVER their asses...
      • by Surak (18578) <surak AT mailblocks DOT com> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @09:58AM (#5842548) Homepage Journal
        Yeah, but you've gotta keep Joe Sixpack in mind here. Joe Sixpack *does* buy inkjet printers and printer carts. HPs often get a bad rap for quality of output and reliability because Joe Sixpack buys a cartridge and uses the same cartridge for 2 years, because actually most consumers don't print *that* often and HP cartridges tend to last a long time. My aunt's Lexmark (which uses an HP inkjet "engine") started printing all streaky a while ago. I asked her when the last time she replaced her cartridge was. Her response? "Never." She'd had the printer for about 2-3 years.

        HPs motives aren't totally evil here... they really *are* trying to inform the consumer that you have to replace your cartridges more often than 2-3 years.
      • Imagine this: you buy a prepaid card but only use your phone to receive calls. The phone company then decides you are not a good customer and disconnects you.

        Impossible? No: it actually happened in the Netherlands. And there weren't all that many cries of outrage - apparently people thought it was an ok thing to do. Some data: the offending phone company was KPN (the former state monopoly); 177,000 people were disconnected in a three month period (that's 1.1% of the entire Dutch population); even though t

  • by PFactor (135319) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:06AM (#5841840) Journal
    I bet some bright soul figures out how to patch a system to bypass this silliness. ...
    In other news, a bright soul has just been charged with a DCMA violation by HP.
  • Let's not forget... (Score:5, Informative)

    by byolinux (535260) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:08AM (#5841852) Journal
    That Lexmark are using DMCA [slashdot.org] against a company that sells chips that allow third-party cartridges to be used...

    This just adds to a list of reasons why I will never, ever, own a printer again [instructio...uals.co.uk]...
    • Old amstrad Printer (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rf0 (159958)
      Ah those old printers. I remeber I think I had a 2650 which took about 5 minute to print a page a letter quality. THe bumps of the back were a good replacement for brail

      Rus
    • Lexmark's [lexmark.com] claim is that their standard cartridge is refillable. They offer a discount for a cartridge which you agree to return to them when empty. Customers are violating the agreement that they made when purchasing the discount cartridge and selling it to refillers. This all looks reasonable, except how do you get stores to carry two identical cartridges, one of which costs more?

      Oh, they call this an "environmental" program, since they don't want their cartridges ending up in landfills. Heh.
  • Isn't this illegal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LorneReams (597769) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:08AM (#5841853)
    With cars, it's illegal to do this (Brady law I think). Why is any other hardware different? Car makers tried to get the monopoly on parts, and then got slapped down by laws to keep them from doing this. Can that be used as a precedent to prevent this?
    • by AtariAmarok (451306) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:21AM (#5841912)
      "With cars, it's illegal to do this (Brady law I think)."

      Does the Brady Law on cars mean that there is a 3-day waiting period if you want to buy a Chevy Beretta?
      • Does the Brady Law on cars mean that there is a 3-day waiting period if you want to buy a Chevy Beretta?

        Hey, tell that one to Ariana Huffington, a 3 day cooling off period for purchasers of SUV's!

        Could join it to Megan's law, force SUV owners to place a sign on their front lawn 'environmental disaster area lives here'.

  • That stinks (Score:3, Funny)

    by countach (534280) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:09AM (#5841855)
    I know what I'd do. I'd go down the shop and buy a new one. Then I'd return the old one with the receipt and explain that it's defective - full of ink but not working.

    • they come with serial numbers.

      Hell, even the organic celery in the local supermarket have their own serials. How far will this madness go?
  • Irony (Score:5, Funny)

    by PFactor (135319) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:09AM (#5841856) Journal
    Since I'm not a subscriber (I know, I'm a llama), I get ads in the stories. The ad for this story is for an HP handheld device.

    The tagline?

    HP- Invent
  • Time To Expiration (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:09AM (#5841858)
    The article says that the expiration date is 4 1/2 years after the cartridge is put into the printer. Surely, more than 99.9% of users will run out of ink well before the expiration date.
    • by mirko (198274)
      Nope, last week, I actually replaced a 7 year old cartridge from my HPDeskjet 510 (bought in Nov1993) : I don't print that often but I expect it to be possible at any moment.
      HP has sold me a printer for the last time, next one will be another brand... unless I find printer refills for my old ink cartridges.
      • But for such a small percentage of people who this would affect, I wouldn't have thought the cost of the chips could be justified..... Hopefully these companies will not be able to make it pay. I love it when people try to squeeze more money out of consumers, and it backfires mwahahahahahah.
    • by RoLi (141856) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:54AM (#5842094)
      First, it's 4.5 years after manufacturing date or 30 months in the printer whitchever comes first.

      That means if a store sells you a 4 year old cartridge, you only have 6 months left.

      But that doesn't matter, it's about principles. Where do you draw the line? If 99% of users are unaffected it's OK to purposely breake products? 95%? 90? 80? 60? By your logic, HP could dower these times a bit just for kicks and some morons would still defend their decision.

      Purposely breaking products is vandalism. And just because there are not that many affected, doesn't change a thing. HP is not better than somebody trashing public phones, smashing windows or keying cars.

    • So WHY do it then? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gosand (234100) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @09:20AM (#5842283)
      The article says that the expiration date is 4 1/2 years after the cartridge is put into the printer. Surely, more than 99.9% of users will run out of ink well before the expiration date.

      OK, I'll buy that. So why go to the expense of including an expiration chip in it then? Think about this for a second.

      This also begs this question - Have they been testing this technology since 1999? Not likely. It is most likely a programmable chip. So maybe in the next batch of cartridges, they can change the expiration date to 6 months, and make it behave like it just ran out of ink. The end user will just think they ran out, and buy another cartridge.

      I used to think I was a little paranoid, but then the DMCA gets passed, and greedy f'ing companies try to pull this kind of crap, and I think maybe I wasn't paranoid enough.

  • whats the big deal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kaltekar (464545) <kaltekar.gmail@com> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:10AM (#5841861) Homepage
    so you get 4 and a half years to use the cartidge after you buy the thing. if the ink hasn't dryed up by the time you get around to using it, the quality is going to be shit. expecally with those ultra high end ink jets from hp where you continually expect outstanding quality.

    • by hendridm (302246) * on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @10:51AM (#5842975) Homepage

      > if the ink hasn't dryed up by the time you get around to using it, the quality is going to be shit.

      What, do you work for HP? So HP is looking after my best interest to make sure my documents always look their best. How nice of them. Perhaps they should cut the expiration date in half just in case...

      Pffft. I'LL be the judge of when my cartridge is due to be replaced. If your goal is to truely make sure your customer's prints are quality, how about innovation instead of limitation. Try to figure out a way to make the carts last longer. If your printers have the reputation of "lasting forever", I gaurentee your sales will go up.

  • DANGER! (Score:5, Funny)

    by kinnell (607819) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:10AM (#5841863)
    THIS INK CARTRIDGE WILL SELF DESTRUCT IN 5 SECONDS...

    5...

    "err... does anyone know how to change ink cartridges? Please"

    4...

    "Ok don't panic. It's probably under this cover somewhere"

    3...

    "shit, only 3 seconds to find the bloody thing. Why oh why didn't I read the user manual?"

    2...

    "Aha - that looks like it"

    1...

    "Just about got it out..."

    BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP POP

    "eeewwwwhh"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:11AM (#5841868)
    Thanks to the DMCA, we are powerless to do anything to
    prevent this. A vendor can't sell after-market printer
    ink cartridges for some products as they would be in
    violation of the DMCA -- hence restraint of free trade,
    not the original intent of the DMCA. This only serves
    to keep prices higher and harms consumers, again not
    the intent of the DMCA.


    Can you purchase after-market products, new seats,
    new engines, new spark plugs, new oil and gas for
    your car? Imagine if GM did the following:

    • Built a car with major components on the car area
      network, all using encryption (seats, radio, engine)
    • Had a computer that would not allow
      the car to start unless you had all the original parts
    • Enforced the DMCA so you could only buy replacement
      parts from them
    • Sued all the after marketers for engine parts (no souped
      up engines, no customized or replacement seats,
      no super stereo).


    What's to prevent them from doing that?

  • by markov_chain (202465) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:14AM (#5841878) Homepage
    Is anyone selling a deliberately refillable inkjet printer?
    • by cnaumann (466328) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @09:05AM (#5842162)
      Check out the Canon S900 and S9000 and other Canon printers.

      Individual clear ink tanks, no chips, and the tank senses when it is empty with a little photocell (no ink counter). The printhead is user-replaceable if you really screw up. The printer was not cheap, but it has more than paid for itself by using cheap 3rd party inks.
  • by TheWanderingHermit (513872) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:14AM (#5841879)
    I learned a good while back (I think as long as 7-8 years ago) NOT to stockpile HP printer ink cartriges. I used to buy 1 color and 1 black cart at a time, but I found that the carts I bought and let sit on the shelf until I needed them often would not work if they had been on the shelf for a few months or so.

    I appreciate HP's support of Linux and would like to support them, but I stopped buying their printers a few years ago. There's just too many little quirks. The last one I had ran the paper through at a slight angle. I don't think I've seen an HP printer I felt I really trusted since the original Deskjet and Deskjet 500.

    Hal
  • by slashd'oh (234025)
    No customer likes surprises, especially after they purchased a high-end product. If HP or another manufacturer implements a policy such as this one, there should be full disclosure so at least people are aware of it. Plus, HP has the resources to research not only the financial aspects of such a plan, but also the impact on customer loyalty, etc.

    On a different note, I'd like to see a mechanism put in place to allow customers to "re-charge" their current cartridges - like a photocopier card - rather than
  • I'd like to see a consumers' group sue their arse off for this.

  • Cannon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:15AM (#5841889)
    I bought a Cannon inkjet recently precisely because they don't screw me for refills. There are no chips, prices for official cartridges are reasonable, and there is a large selection of 3rd party inks. Better yet there is one refill per colour so if I run out of cyan, I don't have to throw out my magenta, yellow or black.

    Of course, the printers are a bit more, but if you're doing a lot of printing, they're cheaper in the long run.
  • by rf0 (159958)
    Adverts at the top of the Comment Page. 3/5 for HP print cartriages :)

    Rus
  • by thogard (43403) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:23AM (#5841921) Homepage
    There are a few companies in Taiwan and China that are working on Point of Sale ink jet printers. These printers tend to cost a bit more than a typical home printer but they must be cheap to operate or the merchants won't buy them. That's why you still see so many old 9 pin impact printers out there in cash registers. The problem is merchants want full color for receipts but they aren't going to pay much for it so it has to use cheap paper and cheap ink and still look good.

    Once the POS market starts to take off again, these guys are going to ramp up their production and then its a matter of time before there is competition with larger bits of paper.

    Remember Epson started out selling receipt printers and then went and undercut Centronics by a 1/3. I gives these guys about two years and the HP/Epson/Lexmark ink jet cartridge business will be dead.
  • by Baki (72515) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:26AM (#5841939)
    Of course it is a scandal, however in practice it won't make much difference since HP ink cartridges have always become unusable when not used for too long: they dry out.

    I print only very occasionally, maybe a few pages per week or month, sometimes not at all for 1 or 2 months. I was tired to throwing away 90% filled but dry ink cartidges and therefore switched to a laser printer. They work even if you print a page after months without use.
  • by astrashe (7452) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:30AM (#5841959) Journal
    We've all heard and experienced horror stories with ink jet printing.

    But is there anyone selling a decent printer now that lets you refill the cartridges, a printer that's reliable, at a fair price?

    I'm not talking about a printer that can compete on price with the subsized prices that the ones with the expensive cartridges go for -- just a printer that's priced fairly, and cartridges that are refillable without going broke.

    Even a suggestion for old models to look for on ebay would be helpful.
  • by emptybody (12341) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:32AM (#5841961) Homepage Journal
    Expensive arrays from compaq and Sun have batteries that "expire" after two years. Wether or not they should. The batteries are cache batteries and once they hit the date they send alarms constantly. Do they really need changing? do you want to take a chance?
    As always, YMMV.
    • Bad comparison (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BoomerSooner (308737)
      The cost of a ink cartridge is 90%+ of the cost of owning and maintaining a inkjet printer. The battery in an array from sun/compaq is much less than 1% of the cost.

      Plus my bet is you'd put up with the cost of replacing cache batteries instead of losing whatever the battery is there to protect (transactions and such).
    • by SagSaw (219314) <slashdot.mmoss@org> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:35PM (#5844080)
      Lots of items have expiration dates. In many cases, it may even be illegal (or leave you open to a lawsuit) for a store to sell an item past its expiration date (think meat) or to use an item past its expiration date (think sterile medical products). The difference is that in almost every case, nothing is forcing the end user not to use the item past the expiration date. You can always put those expired batteries in your MP3 player if you only want a few hours use. You are also free to eat expired meat if you so choose. If you are crazy (or desperate) enough, you can even use expired medical products on yourself.

      HP, however, seems to have chosen to make the expiration date manditory. Don't care about degraded print quality? Too bad, buy a new cartiridge. In my mind, it would be perfectly ok for HP to do what you mention compaq and sun have done: Warn the user that the cartiridge has reached the end of its life-expectancy so the user can make an informed decision regarding whether to replace the cartiridge or to continue using it.
  • by GangstaLean (102189) <`gro.hsubehtnidrib' `ta' `naelatsgnag'> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:32AM (#5841963) Homepage
    Fished an 895cxi out of an unused room. Psych! Now I can print all my _work_ related documents in the privacy of my own room.


    Grabbed a cartridge from the storage room, as the one that was in there seemed to be out.


    Funny, it wasn't printing yellow. Ran some cleaning routines, still no luck.


    Then grabbed another cartridge.

    IT wasn't printing cyan.

    Then another cartridge.

    5 cartridges later, I got one that was printing all three colors correctly. Expiry date was Nov 2000.

    I didn't get any error messages about expiration dates on the computer, but seriously, these printer cartridges were sealed. They shouldn't be malfunctioning right out of the box.

  • by bdowne01 (30824) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:37AM (#5841993) Homepage Journal
    For those of you who aren't familiar with business practices, HP is following the Gillette business model in their printer division.

    This was thought up by Mr. Gillette himself (you know, the razor guy). He would sell razors at a loss, and then sell the refills at much inflated prices to make up the difference. Even today, a pack of 8 or so refills for a Gillette razor equals the price of just buying a new one.

    HP is trying to pull this off in the computer world, and I don't know if it's such a wise thing to pinch your customers until they bleed dollars. Look at recent history:

    1. HP inkjet carts used to be freely refillable, until HP modified the design to keep this from happenning.

    2. HP printers generally stopped accepting third-party cartridge replacements.

    3. Now the HP-only cartridges have a expiration date.

    Now, since the first two steps haven't gotten the average printer user keeping up with ink cartridge consumption to keep the stock-holders happy; I guess just make the things stop working after a while! Perfect business plan, guys.

    I really would love to see large companies use the good-ol sense of customer service to make a buck than bend-the-customer-over-because-we-can.

    I know I'm not buying anymore HP stuff from now on.
    • by CashCarSTAR (548853) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:49AM (#5842061)
      I always thought the "Razor model" analogy was a bad one. Why? The real engineering and difficulty in the production of razors is in the blade. The handle? Just some cheap plastic and rubber really. With most other things, that this analogy comes in, the more expensive part of it is the originial product, not the refills.

      Slight nit-pick I guess, but it has always bothered me.
      • [I'll assume you aren't being sarcastic...]

        No, you're wrong about that. The BLADE part is ancient technology -- it dates back literally thousands of years. (For that matter, so does ink.)

        Back before refillable razors and disposable blades, everyone used a straight razor, which they sharpened themselves, and had to find their own hand-angle to hold it at, to avoid cutting their throat along with their beard. BTW this is why there were barber shops -- many people got their daily shave there, rather than mes
  • by griffeymac (625596) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @08:51AM (#5842068) Homepage
    But the cartridges expired in more like 9 months to a year. The kicker was that I never printed many things using color. HOWEVER, if after several months the color cartridge decided that it had expired, the printer wouldn't let you print in plain black ink unless you changed the color cartridge. So even if you never want to use color, you still have to replace the color cartridge once a year in order to print black ink only pages. What a racket.
  • by bigberk (547360) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @09:11AM (#5842212)
    If you only need to print in black and white, you will likely be much better off with a laser printer anyway (i.e. better, faster, cheaper!). I did a quick calculation on my DeskJet 6xx series ink cartridge versus an HP LaserJet 1200 toner unit. The ink cartridge capacity is disappointing.

    laserjet: $100 / 3000 pages = $0.03 / page
    hp inkjet: $40 / 650 pages = $0.06 / page

    Pretty much all laser printers result in a lower cost per page than inkjet. Do a calculation with how many pages you print a year, and you may find that the laser pays for itself very quickly.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @09:12AM (#5842220) Homepage Journal
    Will the cartridge also be tied to the printer you initialized it in as well, or could you at least move it to another printer.. As long as your 30 day printing allocation hadn't been exceeded..

    For home users this will be totally nuts.. cartridges may last 6 months at home..

  • by abe ferlman (205607) <bgtrio.yahoo@com> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @09:16AM (#5842253) Homepage Journal
    Those of us who think occasionally were horrified at the idea that software and movies could be licensed rather than sold. You purchase the product, and should be allowed to have your own quiet enjoyment of the product, but the law doesn't allow this.

    Now that computers are about to be in EVERYTHING, expect EVERYTHING you buy to be licensed rather than sold. Expect to start paying a license to drive your car, to keep your tires inflated, etc. Not yet, but it won't be long, I assure you.

    Even worse, expect the same monopoly conditions that prevail in the software industry to prevail everywhere else, too.

  • by ites (600337) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @09:51AM (#5842494) Journal
    HP, Lexmark, et al. spend enormous amounts on research making what are, finally, very good printers that run on what is practically just dirty water.

    One way or another, the consumer has to pay for the real cost of the printer, which includes the cost of R&D. There are two ways: upfront, or indirect. Now, you can ask consumers: would you rather pay $499 for the printer and get ink for free, or would you rather pay $99 for the printer and pay for expensive ink? The market chose the second option some years back, which is partly why HP took so much of the inkjet printer market from its competitors.

    Now, having established that consumers prefer (and have chosen) to pay for the ink, HP is entitled to protect its ink sales. This just seems logical.

    Look at it another way: paying for the consumables gives consumers much more freedom. If they don't like the printer, they chuck it. If you buy a more expensive laser printer that runs on cheap toner, you'll save money, but only if you run the beast for three years.

    This is not a printer market problem. Do you buy regular lightbulbs or 'ecological long life' ones? Do you pay for your train and bus each time you get on, or do you buy a season ticket? Do you rent an appartment or pay a mortgage?

    This really is a matter of the free market. If printer R&D costs were negligible, we would have already seen an invasion of cheap printers along with cheap ink. Look at what happened to scanners. There is no ripoff here, only people unhappy with the bargains they made.

    This story keeps coming back to Slashdot, and every time it's "the poor consumer being ripped off by those bastard printer manufacturers." Does no-one actually bother to analyze the economics here?

    • by scottme (584888) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @10:42AM (#5842890)
      The market chose the second option some years back

      I don't agree. Sure, people were suckered into buying "cheap" inkjet printers but don't try to tell me they did this in the full realization they would get ripped off on the ink.

      Refusing to use a cartridge that is not exhausted is unforgivable. I'd have no objection to the printer (driver) complaining that the cart is old and advising me that the print quality may be less than optimal - in fact that would be a welcome feature. But to refuse to work? GMAB.

      I will not be buying an HP printer.
  • by codefool (189025) * <ghester AT codefool DOT org> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @09:53AM (#5842506) Homepage Journal
    As the (former) SW OEM account liason (for a computer company that is now HP) to (a printer company that used to be IBM), I learned quite a bit on this subject.

    First, printers and particularly inkjet printers, follow the Gillette 'sell razor blades, not razors' marketing model. They practicaly give you the printer as an ink burner. So they do all kinds of nifty stuff to make sure you have things to burn ink on, and you keep running down to CompUSA to plop down another $50 on an ink cartridge. The printer also comes with lots of nifty printing software to give you reasons to burn ink.

    In our printers, the cartridge was intelligent, and would keep count (yes, the cartridge did) of the number of individual dots of ink for each color of ink emitted. Knowing the average dot capacity of the cartridge (for each color), we could predict when the cartridge was running low and (kindly) tell the user to go buy another cartridge, and would even provide a handy hyperlink to our online store. Better, we would track the printer's average dots/page and page/day statistics to tell them they had x days of printing left. Buy now!

    So this comes to me as no surprise that they have put an expiration date on the printer cartridge. They will due it under the guise that its ensuring 'fresh ink supply' and to ensure 'highest quality printing'. But, in reality, its only another means to force the customer into buying yet more ink. Cha-ching!

    My advice, shitcan the inkjet printer, go buy a good laser printer. The total cost-of-ownership is much less in the long run.

    p.s. - giving the inkjet away is evil and rude [catb.org] and only perpetuates the problem.

  • by Tokerat (150341) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @10:41AM (#5842875) Journal

    The reason for all the ink cartridge price fixing is due to the fact that the printer companies want to have enough money saved up to defend themselves in court when the MPAA sues them for providing "devices which can be used for the piracy of a single frame of copyrighted motion picture material".

    Damn HP and their cirrcumvention devices.
  • by hklingon (109185) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @11:00AM (#5843064) Homepage
    Honestly-- the witch hunts!

    The ink has many chemicals in it, many that don't want to stick together. The lighter elements in the ink tend to evaporate, turning the ink into a thick sludge. The sludge, as you can imagine, has a hard time passing through the nozzles of the print head. This has always has been issue since at least 1996, when we got our first high-end inkjet printers. At that time, you could expect the shelf life of the cart. to be about 6-10 months. In fact, back in those days, stores would occasionally sell you old stock, and there were no date codes printed on the ink carts. You were SOL if you got an "old stock" cart, because HP said it was too old. At least now HP will warrany ANY non-empty ink cart that has a date stamp before the expiry date on the cart.

    Think about it-- faster evaporation times on paper mean the ink doesn't soak the paper as much. You can get brigher brights, darker darks, etc. These chemicals in the ink don't magically want to evaporate only once they hit the paper. They always want to evaporate. Remember the $800 inkjet from not so long ago that had a halogen heater? It was to speed up the chemical reaction.

    I could understand if the date codes started inching closer and closer-- to like just a month or two weeks. (Keep the ink in the freezer next to the t-bones, anyone? yeah, right)

    I don't believe the ink has been engineered to have a shelf-life. It may be that they're in no hurry to improve their shelf-life, but it is nothing new. The date code is to help prevent customers from getting old stock. There may be better alternatives to this kind ink out now, but they're building on their ink research from 10 years ago.. which means it is probably also the cheapest technology. So if you want to claim that for the last decade, HP has been plotting this scheme to get more ink dollars out of people, we'd better put on our tinfoil hats.
  • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2 AT earthshod DOT co DOT uk> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @11:18AM (#5843235)
    Under a proposed EU law (WEEE directive), this would be illegal -- manufacturers are specifically forbidden to comporomise the recyclability of products. Protecting the environment is more important than protecting corporate profits.

    Under UK law, it's already illegal. If I have bought an ink cartridge, I own that cartridge and I have the right to use, abuse, enjoy or destroy it. If the manufacturers, or anyone for that matter, do something to it to prevent me using it, then that is criminal damage. No need even to call a solicitor, since it's a criminal act you should just be able to dial 999 .....

    Changing the subject slightly now. Me and a mate fished an Apple ImageWriter out of a skip. We found a power lead, cobbled up a serial cable and got the thing to print. Bit faint, but we got a new ribbon (purple!) and wound it into the cassette (it split open easily enough and the old ribbon was unlikely to stain much). No manual, though. So I found an ImageWriter II driver for the Amiga, stuck my faithful Citizen 120D [now that really was an excellent printer!] into Hex Dump mode, and rattled off a document with various text effects in it. Even managed to suss out bit image mode, and in the end we used the printer to print forged bus tickets. We must have had the best part of £2000 worth of free travel. We had to stop doing it when the bus company changed all their ticket machines, but the printer does still print, if a bit faintly.

    Perhaps we should start a new forum for Printers We Have Known and Loved?
  • by dcavanaugh (248349) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @11:44AM (#5843515) Homepage
    Microsoft mice now to include odometer so users may not exceed the specified mileage limits as defined in the EULA.
  • Cameras expiring too (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sacrilicious (316896) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @06:06PM (#5848180) Homepage
    I tagged along with a friend this past weekend as he went to buy a sony video cam. On the way to the register, the salesman mentioned that the camera needed to be sent annually to the factory to get cleaning, for a $45 charge... and that this was enforced by a chip that prevented operation until this was done.

    Had it been me, I would have refused to buy this cam. (total cost was $600, btw, so $45/year equals about 8%, to say nothing of the hassle of sending it in and waiting for it.)

    My (non-technical) friend didn't seem to react at all. While standing in line I asked what he thought of the forced cleaning. His response was to ask whether I thought the salesman was giving correct info. I said "You bet. You'd be shocked at what companies are doing, and the reason is because enough consumers let them get away with it."

    Case in point: he shrugged and bought the camera.

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