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User Journal

Journal Journal: Halting problem disproves deterministic universe?

If the universe were deterministic, then it must be possible to, given sufficient data about the universe and its current state, predict what the state of it will be at some point in the future. We shall confine our predictions for this purpose only to the outcome of a single experiment, and let us take a black box that can tell us what the outcome of the experiment will be. If such a black box cannot exist for any reason, then it follows that there are at least some factors in the universe that are non-deterministic.

The experiment is designed as follows: One first designs a deterministic system that outputs the opposite of its input. For example, let us say there are two switches labelled A and B, and if A is pressed then it outputs B and if B is pressed it outputs A. There is no reason that such a system could not be built. One then arranges for the input of this system to be the output of the aforementioned black box, which if it were possible for the black box to exist then there is no reason why this could not be done.

However, one quickly realizes in this experiment that a contradiction occurs, anything that the black box can possibly predict about the outcome of the experiment is wrong, and so either the black box cannot exist or else it is impossible for the black box to communicate to the outside world such information about the future state, which suggests that the universe is either non-deterministic, or else it may be treated as non-deterministic for *all* experimental purposes.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Steam for Linux? Can it succeed?

Valve seems to think so, with its Steam Box console, but I've encountered no small number of people in the gaming industry who practically consider Valve to be a laughing stock for even thinking of this.

I know the slashdot crowd themselves are going to be a bit biased, but I'm asking people here to think outside of their own domain, and think about what the general public is likely to actually want. Are these acquaintances of mine who work in game development probably right, or is there some practical reason to think that Valve's got their heads on straight with this idea?

Seriously.... does it have any hope?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Just a few words about voting...

Try to remember, before voting, that if the biggest reason you have to *NOT* vote for a particular representative is only because you feel you'd be throwing away your vote, and considering the fact that's the most significant reason that people do not vote for a lesser known candidate or independent, it's worth noting that if everybody who thought this way actually voted instead for who they would have voted for if they believed that they had a chance in hell of winning an election, they'd find that their so-called chance in hell might just actually be realized.

If you believe that the only way to prevent somebody that you do not like from getting into power after the election that you feel you must always strategically vote against them by voting for another candidate whose views aren't really any more representative of your own (but perhaps are just the "lesser of two evils"), then I believe that one of two things is happening.

1. You lack confidence in a democratic voting system to adequately represent the views of its population, or else believe that not enough people share the same values as you to make a difference. The former is only true when people don't vote in a manner consistent with their actual views (which is exactly what you'd be doing if the only reason you had to vote for "the other guy" was because you didn't want his opponent to win), and if the latter were genuinely true, then your vote would also not be able to make a difference either.

2. You are afraid of being wrong... or different.

Vote for the representative that most closely matches your own values and views. It's entirely possible that they may not have a hope in hell of winning any election, but at least if you do that, then at least you've tried to take a stand for what you value. Otherwise, you're just selling yourself out... for nothing that amounts to any *really* good reason.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Magic and technology.... how indiscernible are they? 1

Clarke's third law suggests that any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic.

The reverse might also appear to be true... that magic would be indistinguishable from a sufficienlty advanced technology.

So to that end, I've wanted to speculate on the manner of magic... I mean real magic. Is there anything imaginable that magic might be able to do, which could not be duplicated by any imaginable technology? In particular, if hypothetically magic could really exist, is there any possible way that we could really recognize it as such, or could we always fall back on the reverse of Clarke's Law, and assume that there must some sophisticated technology behind any otherwise apparent "magical" event? Is there anything, however inconceivable such a thing might be, that one could not possibly dismiss as a function of some higher technology, and genuinely be irrefutably compelled to acknowledge a magical origin?

What about hearing sound in space, for example? No atmosphere would mean that it's impossible for sound to travel in space... would the ability to hear the sound of something that happened where there was no atmosphere mean magic must be involved, or could some phenomenon that we can imagine that is consistent with the laws of physics be at work in such a case to produce that effect?

Here's another one to ponder: as a person speaks, everyone who can hear this person's voice, and without any additional technological apparatus, hears the voice in their own original language. Telepathy might be one possibility, but what if the person was recorded with conventional recording technology, and the audio on playback exibited the same phenonmenon? Even if the recording is further duplicated, the duplicates also exhibit the characteristic of anyone who listens to it being able to understand it.Some form of telepathy on the part of the speaker could probably be ruled out at this point, since the original speaker is not present, or necessarily even aware of evveryone who is listening. What hypothetical technology could such a speaker employ that might have those effects? Would that be magic?

I'm going to be adding to the article as time goes on, but anyone who reads my rantings is welcome to comment below.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Why anti-circumvention restrictions without exemptions for private use are bad

I support the notion of copyright, and I advocate paying for legitimate versions of a product instead of resorting to finding it from some source that may be illegally distributing it, in spite of how easy the latter can easily be done today. I find the concept of unauthorized file sharing to be nothing short of utter disrespect for the notion of copyright, and do not abide by it or tolerate it in my own household.

In an effort to try to take back some of their business model. recording associations have lobbied governments for stronger laws with regards to copyright infringement, and one of the things that strikes me in particular, and what I wish to talk about here, is the concept of anti-circumvention provisions in such laws.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, anti-circumvention provisions as it applies to copyright law refer to extensions to copyright that forbid the importation or distribution of any technology that could potentially be used to circumvent copyright.

Ignoring for a moment the fact that this would seem to mean that computers that are programmable by the end user might also become illegal, there's something even more serious at stake:

Human thought.

You see, when you remember something, you are, in a sense, creating a copy of that experience for your own private use... if the work happened to be protected by some sort of copy protection, that simple mental act would render one technically, albeit utterly unenforceably, guilty of infringing on copyright if there were no exemptions for private use copying.

Copyright *NEEDS* exemptions for private use copying.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Is sane copyright possible?

Here is a summary of what I would like to see in copyright.

  • It is useful to break up copyright infringement into two categories. The first is state of a copy, and the second is the actual act of infringement. The latter is defined in terms of the former.
  • A copy of copyrighted content is an infringing copy when it was made without permission of the copyright holder and the copy is currently not otherwise exempt from infringement. Note that exemption from infringement applies to particular copies, not to the individuals creating them.
  • The act of copyright infringement is the creation of an infringing copy.
  • The concept of fair dealings currently part of Canadian copyright law should remain and copies which meet those criteria remain exempt from infringement.
  • A copy made for the personal and private use of the person making the copy should be exempt from infringement. This exemption should apply to all copyrighted works, not just music. Optionally, a levy may be charged on blank media to compensate artists for this exemption.
  • The aforementioned exemptions to infringement should only apply as long as the copy from which a copy is made is not itself an infringing copy, or, if the copy from which it is made happens to be in another country, would not be an infringing copy if it were located in Canada (but still only remotely accessible to the person making the copy).
  • An exemption from infringement should last for as long as the criteria that allow the copy to be exempt from infringement holds to be true. If it changes during its lifetime, the exemption may cease to apply, and the copy becomes an infringing copy. The creator of that copy should in that case also be guilty of copyright infringement. This does not affect the status of any copies that may have been made from the copy of the work before it became infringing. Once the criteria for an exemption is lost from a copy, it cannot qualify for that exemption again later, even if it should once again meet the criteria for the exemption.
  • Transmitting, sharing, lending, selling, renting, leasing, or in any other way distributing a copy of a copyrighted work to anyone else, or merely offering to do any of these, irrevocably voids any notion of personal and private use that might otherwise have applied to that copy, and the corresponding exemption to infringement along with it. If the copy is then found to be infringing, the creator of it shall be guilty of copyright infringement. If infringing, the recipient shall also be considered to be party to the infringement if the recipient could reasonably know that that the content they are receiving is infringing.

    What this point means is that downloading copyrighted content via a peer-to-peer service that has not received any authorization to distribute it is illegal, since the copy that the service is providing does not qualify for a personal use exemption on account that it is being transmitted, that copy is infringing. And since one is making a copy of an infringing copy, the new copy is also infringing. It also means that lending your original CD's to your friends is legal. Although the personal use exemption won't apply to the CD's, the creators of those CD's had permission to create them in the first place and so they don't require a personal use exemption to not be infringing on copyright.

  • Knowingly possessing infringing copies of copyrighted content should be considered as being a party to the infringement, and may carry similar penalties. If one does not know that copies they possess are infringing, they shall not be considered guilty of this crime, but once such knowledge is gained, any infringing copies must be surrendered to the authorities upon request, and at their own expense, but without any further penalty. Copies so surrendered are to be summarily destroyed, just as counterfeit currency would be. If one discovers that they possess infringing copies that they did not formerly know were infringing, not surrendering such copies to law enforcement for destruction upon request, for any reason, shall be considered equivalent to the crime of knowingly possessing the infringing copies.
  • If a person creates a personal use copy of a work and this copy is misappropriated from him or her without their consent, explicit or implied, they shall not be considered to have committed copyright infringement, although the misappropriated copy shall be considered infringing. Anyone found to be possessing such a misappropriated copy, will be guilty of knowingly possessing an infringing copy of a copyrighted work and may be guilty of other laws as well (such as theft, unauthorized computer access, etc). A person who does not cooperate with law enforcement upon request in finding the person or persons who had evidently misappropriated the copyrighted content will be considered to have implicitly consented to these actions and the personal-use exemption to infringement will not apply.
  • The act of copyright infringement must be deliberate. If a person is found to be committing copyright infringement without intent, they must surrender all copies of infringing copyrighted works to the authorities, at their own expense, but without any further penalty, and shall be expected to immediately cease and desist from the activity that was causing the infringement. If they are later found to have not complied, they should then be considered guilty of copyright infringement. Neither ignorance of the copyrighted status of a work nor of copyright law itself should be considered acceptable reasons to be ignorant of copyright infringement.
  • Copyright holders may, if they desire, create mechanisms that make it more difficult or inconvenient for the end user to create copies that may be exempt from infringement. No legal framework should exist for preventing anyone from bypassing such mechanisms, however, unless the person can also be found to be guilty of infringing on copyright by creating an otherwise infringing copy.
  • Copyright needs to be of finite scope. The duration of a copyright ought to depend on the nature of the work, but no copyright duration should ever be greater than 50 years. Once a copyright expires, the work transits into the public domain.
  • Copyright law will not assist anybody in protecting any interests that they have in formerly copyrighted works that have gone into public domain. They may be freely copied by anybody. A publisher is not under any obligation to continue to provide access to public domain content, however... the onus for distribution, if any is desired, falls on the shoulders of those who desire it.
User Journal

Journal Journal: My ideal electronic reader

Here's a set of requirements I have for an ebook reader that I would find useful:

  • E-ink, e-paper, or some other passive reflective display. This makes not only for a device that is more legible in bright light than any computer monitor, but also means that battery life is determined by how often one turns pages, not by how long the unit is left on. In fact, such a unit would have no real need for an "off" switch at all.
  • Has a full 8.5 x 11" display. Not merely the form factor for the device, but the visible display must be capable of showing a full letter-sized page at one time without shrinking it at all
  • Utilizes a mini or micro-USB connector to charge the device and also to transfer content to it. The USB connection should appear like a removable storage device with a common filesystem to any operating system that supports usb-based drives.
  • Able to contain user content and display PDF's. I have many books and articles already in PDF form and can view them on my computer, but the ability to view them on a screen that's as easy to read as paper would be far preferable.
  • Able to use standard SD cards for content. Removable, replaceable, and an already highly recognized standard, SD cards would allow one to be able to expand their collection of electronic books beyond what might be contained within the device itself.
  • Replaceable battery. When the rechargeable battery finally does die, it's important to be able to replace it without having to go and buy a whole new unit
  • Touch-screen. Whether this is touched with a finger or pen is irrelevant, but a touch screen could eliminate the need for lots of controls on the margins and could enable the device to have an only marginally larger form-factor than its display area. A virtual qwerty keyboard could even be put on the display for user text input.
  • Priced at a level that is commensurate with consumer electronics. I don't want such a device priced at $1500 or so... for that price, I might as well just use a laptop. The above features must be packed into a device that can retail for under about $500USD.

The above items are all must-haves, and I will not even consider purchasing a unit that does not have all of these features. Although some (I suspect most heavily the last one) may seem far-fetched right now, I am inclined to believe that advances will eventually be made that could make all of the above quite achievable in the very near future. The first company to accomplish this in a reliable device will be getting my business and I have little doubt that such a feature set would grab the attention of a lot of other people as well.

And in order of preference, here is a wish-list of items that I would like in the reader. They will not affect whether or not I get one, but a device with these features is more likely to get my attention. I would also be willing to pay a bit more for a device with these features.

  1. Rugged. Able to withstand being dropped or possibly even stepped on without damaging the unit or affecting its usability.
  2. Waterproof. Able to be utilized outdoors even in inclement weather or possibly even while one is in the shower without damaging the device or its electronics. It should even be possible to accidentally drop in a bathtub, for example, and retrieve it and it continues to work normally. Obviously with this requirement, things like the aforementioned USB connection and SD card slots would have to be sealable inside a watertight compartment within the device.
  3. Color. Should be self-explanatory

The above requirements have been on my wish-list for an electronic reader for some time now, and I had actually originally expected to see such devices on the market in or around 2009, but in light of all the new readers have come out recently without one of them even sporting a real 14" diagonal screen, I'm suspecting it might still be another couple of years yet.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Speaking out on the subject of copy control circumvention

Not all that long ago, the governing party in my country (Canada) has reraised the subject of making copyright control circumvention on digital works illegal. Now while I do not for a moment abide copyright infringement, I find myself compelled to point out that this proposed law that would make virtually all copyright control circumvention illegal is an inherently bad thing, not only for consumers, but possibly even for the copyright holder. It even raises a question of the integrity of a governing body that would choose to bring such a law into existence.

A key problem with this sort of law is that if a blanket law is utilized making copy control circumvention on digital works illegal (even making certain exceptions, such as for security or law enforcement purposes), then one cannot legally obtain any tools to bypass such protection unless one is employed in industries that are associated with the exceptions, and from that it is almost inevitable that digital content producers will start putting digital rights management on all produced works from that point forward to lock down their works.

An advocate of the proposed law might wonder how this could be a bad thing, so I am compelled to point out that this sort of thing would mean that a user would not even be able to copy a song to his ipod, for example, unless the publisher of the work had specifically allowed it. Worse, the publisher might allow it to be copied to an ipod, for example, but not happen to allow it to some competing technological device. This is vendor lock-in at its finest and the only way it can be resolved is to not disallow any end-user the privilege of copying a work for their own private use at all. Making circumvention illegal would limit the availability of circumventing technologies, which would in turn deprive the consumer of the very ability to excercise what might have otherwise even been perfectly allowable by the copyright holder but the copyright holder did not have the ability or forsight to support.

Additionally, there is the issue of public domain. Although efforts in the U.S.A. have created a means of extending the duration of copyrights indefinitely, fortunately such mechanisms have not found their way into Canada. When a digitally encrypted work has its copyright expire after the requisite amount of time, if laws prohibiting circumvention were passed, then there would remain no legal means to access tools to decode the encrypted work at all, even though it no longer is protected by copyright! After all, if removing digital encryption on copyrighted works is to really be illegal, then any tools that one might use to defeat such encryption must also be illegal, even if the use of that tool would not in any way infringe on copyright in a particular circumstance.

Another problem with this sort of law is that it will, in the end, not be heeded by a lot of people. Just as certainly as people willfully and quite frequently speed in spite of laws against it, there will be a segment of people who will likewise disregard this law as well. Rather than controlling piracy, the people who are committing copyright infringement on a large scale will go on unhindered, while the private home consumer is metaphorically handcuffed, being legally prohibited from being able to copy any copyrighted works even for their own private use.

In a hypothetical scenario that can only be described as ironic, there is also the problem of a copyright holder who might have chosen to use encryption initially but then later changes his mind. The exact same laws which would keep the end user from copying such a work for themselves could potentially even prevent the copyright holder himself from removing the encryption! Not only do consumers face vendor lock-in, but copyright holders might as well, locking people into a decision that they have absolutely no legal means to back out of. Although admittedly, a copyright holder being locked out of being able to copy his or her own works as he chooses seems unlikely, it's still quite within the realm of possibility.

Of course, a supporter of such copyright control legistlation being in place might want to argue that if copying for private use is made exempt so that tools to bypass encryption are still legally available, then people will abuse that privilege to commit copyright infringement. I would put it to such a person that such infringement will occur regardless of laws put into place. While it may have the potential to create a perceived lull in the amount of piracy that appears to go on, in reality the people who would be committing the most copyright infringement would simply have to move their activities further below the radar to continue their practices. In the meantime, the average consumer is immensely affected, having absolutely no legal means whatsoever at his or her disposal to make a copy even for their own private use, which I might point out even has an explicit exemption to copyright infringement for music in the Copyright Act of Canada (as an aside, it is my own personal view that personal and private use should be an exemption to copyright infringement for all types of copyrighted works, not merely music).

Finally, and probably the biggest issue with this law is that it is largely unenforceable, except when a person may happen to have done something that makes their actions known to law enforcement. The law should, of course, apply equally to everybody, so it would seem strange for any governing body to want to pass a law that they not only know they cannot fairly and justly enforce, but actually cannot possibly even have the *intent* to do so, as the only way to fully enforce it would be to spy on people while even in their own homes. If there is no intention to go after the private consumer who is merely copying a work for their own private use, even if they are breaking copyright controls to do it, then why on earth should there be a proposed law that implies they would do exactly that? The only answer that I can think of that makes any sense is that the law is only some sort of hand-waving exercise to present the facade of the government trying to do something about what I do realize is a very serious problem in our political and social climate today. I would sincerely hope that our country would consider its integrity a higher priority than that.

I do not, as I said before, abide any form of copyright infringement. I fully maintain the position that people who commit copyright infringement of any work should face not only a civil suit by the copyright holder in cases where damages are applicable, but legal consequences as well (on the order of ever-increasing fines for repeat offenders). However, I cannot for any period of time abide our government wanting to enforce new laws whose ineffectiveness will only create far more problems than it attempts to solve.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Copyright infringemet *IS* theft

Yup, you heard me right... what is sure to go over like lead balloon with people who've persistently demanded that copyright infringers aren't actually stealing anything, I reiterate it again, copyright infringement is theft.

And I don't just mean by technicality, or even just legally, I mean quite literally... that is, utilizing the notion that whatever one steals from somebody else the original possessor no longer has, or has as much of.

No, I'm not going to argue that it's stealing the actual work, because the author still has that, nor am I going to argue that it's stealing because one is depriving the copyright holder of potential income, which is a tenuous argument at best and the exact same thing could be said of completely legal competition.

What one is stealing by committing copyright infringement is some measure of the exclusivity that the copyright holder was supposed to have in being able to copy the work. After all, since exclusive by definition means that nobody else is doing it, you cannot possibly argue that the copyright holder really still has exactly the same amount of exclusivity over copying their work if somebody else was also doing it without their permission, right? In fact, about the _only_ way exclusivity isn't really affected in some way by somebody else copying the work is either if one had explicit permission from the copyright holder to make the copy; or, simply by virtue of the fact that it wouldn't actually affect anyone else, if one happens to never share it with anyone nor offer to distribute the copy to anyone else in any way whatsoever, for the lifetime of the copyright. Now, with a file on that contains a copyrighted work that is on one's home computer, utilizing a mechanism that allows it to be accessed freely by other people who connect to one's home computer doesn't exactly fit the latter criteria unless one is also prepared to file charges against people who may be discovered to have accessed it for acts of computer trespass, so unless one had permission to do so from the copyright holder, then doing so deprives the copyright holder of some of his or her exclusivity on copying the work, and is therefore stealing.

By that token, therefore, it becomes likewise ethically questionable simply to download copies of copyrighted materials from sources that were not authorized to distribute such copies by the copyright holder in very much the same way that it is wrong to knowingly buy or otherwise obtain goods that were originally stolen.

One may be certainly welcome to have the opinion that there shouldn't be any sort of exclusivity with copyright, but that's not the way things actually are. In fact, without exclusivity, there's not really any point to having a "right to copy" in the first place, so copyright becomes moot.

It is at this juncture, I would expect that a person who still insists that copyright infringement is not ethically wrong would protest my points, by possibly arguing that this 'exclusivity' isn't anything real, and therefore the holder isn't deprived of anything, although the insubstantialness of something does not diminish its potential importance to some people. Who are we to decide what may or may not be valuable to some other person?

Om fact, about the only way one can sustain any sort of argument that this exclusiveness shouldn't matter is if they are to offer up the notion that copyright itself is a moral outrage, censoring the free exchange of information by persons who may choose to do so. That may be an argument for another time, but I trust I have made my initial point... that at least by the very definition of what copyright is supposed to be, infringing on copyright actually involves taking something away from the copyright holder. Something that we, as a society, continually grant him or her merely by respecting it.

Of course, there are doubtless people who would argue that because this exclusivity is intangible, it can't really be stolen.

But what if somebody is tapping into your internet bandwidth without your consent, or perhaps your power? Neither of those are tangible commodities, but the fact that somebody is taking away some of a finite resource without consent of the person who is responsible for it would seem to make that theft. Tangibility has nothing to do with it... the only thing that matter is that the resource is not infinite in supply.

And a copyright holder's exclusivity is *NOT* infinite... it is only as wide as their distribution capacity - if everyone within the copyright holder's distribution capacity were copying the work without permission, then the copyright holder would have no real exclusivity at all.

So what does this mean, exactly? Well, it means is that that actual damage to the copyright holder's exclusivity for any single copyright infringement is pretty tiny... probably imperceptible, in fact. It can reasonably be argued that this imperceptibility is why personal use copying should reasonably be permitted, since it has no real impact on the copyright holder's exclusivity to determine who is going to make copies. When one distributes an unauthorized copy to someone else, however... particular if they do it via a medium that permits theoretically unlimited copying, such as putting it in a folder on their computer that they knowingly allow everyone on the Internet to copy from, the net damage to the copyright holder's exclusivity starts to mount up... and becomes not just perceptible, but potentially causing measurable damage to the rights and reputation of the copyright holder.

Copyright infringement is theft... and in most cases, it is a very cowardly type of theft... being done in secret, where the chance of being caught is negligible. Teaching that it is not theft only gives people less ethical incentive to respect copyright - something that exists to promote the arts. Why should people who value that disrespect it?


Journal Journal: Economics of Home Colour Printing 1

Virtually all consumer reports on the subject of colour printing affirm that for high-volume printing, a colour laser printer is more economical to own than an ink-jet printer, owing primarily to the cost of consumables when evaluated on a per-page basis. But even knowing that information, most people look at the retail price difference between them, and find the expense hard to justify. Buying a laser printer can cost 15 times what one would pay for an ink-jet printer, and since many feel that their own at-home printing needs are not that high, if they print relatively infrequently, shouldn't an ink-jet be more practical for a person on a budget?

If all other things were equal, probably. But they aren't equal. The volumes of pages that are managed by each type of cartridge are vastly different. An ink-jet cartridge is good for perhaps a hundred pages or so, whereas toner cartridges are good for a thousand pages or more. Toner cartridges typically cost about 5 to 6 times what an ink-jet cartridge does, but the fact that toner is good for at least 10 times as many pages affirms that laser printing is certainly economical for high volume printing. But low to moderate printing volumes, which most home users would probably say they fit, wouldn't it take a very long time for the costs of cartridges to finally outweigh the enormous initial investment in a laser printer?

Well, consider that ink-jet printer ink is wet, and it will dry out eventually. This means that it can and will dry on the printer heads, clogging them. This phenomenon is familiar to anyone who has ever used a ball-point pen that is still obviously very full of ink but the ink comes out very faded or stops completely while you are writing because part of the ink inside the pen has dried out. Pretty much the same thing happens with all ink-jet printers. Most ink-jet printers come with a utility for cleaning the heads, but using this utility typically uses very large amounts of ink, causing the cartridges to be depleted that much faster, and quite frequently the results are less than stellar, requiring several re-cleaning attempts before the image quality is acceptable. Ultimately, there is no practical way to keep ink from drying on the ink heads other than either diligently cleaning them manually (which is a tedious process that may or may not produce results) or else fairly heavy use of that particular cartridge. Of course, if you are so constantly using ink, then in all probability, you are pushing into high volume printing, where it is virtually unanimously agreed upon that laser printing is more economical anyway.

Further, because ink-jet cartridges are not air-tight, ink can dry up while inside the cartridge... and that dried up ink still takes up space inside the cartridge. The life cycle of a ink-jet cartridge is reduced even further by this phenomenon, and in general, every ink-jet ink cartridge needs to be replaced at least a couple of times a year. In all fairness to ink-jets, however, proper* storage of ink-jet cartridges in sealed plastic bags whenever the printer is not in use can drastically extend the life of the cartridges. Ink-jet printer manufacturers often even recommend that consumers store their cartridges this way if the printer will be off for more than a few days, anyway. But even the most diligent and correct storage of unused cartridges cannot push an opened cartridge past about a year or so, and that's even if one doesn't already use up all the ink in the cartridge long before then. Even completely unopened cartridges cannot be used past approximately 2 years since their original manufacture date.

Toner, on the other hand, is dry. Toner cartridges can be used for many years with no perceivable loss of quality as long as there is toner in the cartridge left to print. So toner cartridges that are relatively unused have to be replaced that much less frequently. The impact of wet ink versus dry toner cannot possibly be overstated. Even for very low volume printing, the break-even point at which time running a laser printer would be more economical than using an ink-jet is far sooner than most people realize simply owing to otherwise premature replacing of ink-jet cartridges with dried-up ink in them. Even printing as little as an average of two colour pages a day, one will have spent more money in just one year on replacement cartridges for an ink-jet printer than it would have cost to initially buy an inexpensive colour laser printer, and in that same amount of time, the original toner cartridges purchased with the printer would still have considerable life left in them before they would need replacing,

Now of course, there are such things as dry ink-jet printers, which use solid ink blocks, and use heat to melt the ink before applying it to the page. These printers can be more economical over the long run than either ink-jet or laser printers, but they are much more expensive than conventional ink-jet printers and even some colour laser printers, and more importantly, the ink can melt and run after it is printed if it is left in a warm place, similar to how ink-jet ink will run if the page it is on gets damp.** Toner from a laser printer does not run, regardless of the environment the page is in.

There is one venue of printing that ink-jet printers absolutely excel in, and that is in the quality of printing colour photographs. Ink-jet printers are far and away better than virtually all home colour laser printers in this regard. There are colour lasers that do this job very professionally too, however... but they are prohibitively expensive for the home consumer, costing sometimes tens of thousands of dollars and although they may be practical for a business that does very large volumes of photo quality printing daily, they are not at all likely to be practical around the home. Most home colour laser printers do an adequate job of printing photographs, however, and although they are certainly not at the same level as ink-jet printers in this department, most are still very capable of producing very attractive photographs. As a final point, it is worth noting that ink-jet printers typically consume between 50 cents to a dollar worth of ink printing a whole page of colour photos (not counting ink that dries up inside the cartridge), where laser printers typically use about 10 cents worth of toner. One must weigh whether or not the costs per page issue is actually worth the extra quality for themselves before making a final decision.

**Addendum: June 6, 2008:

I've had the opportunity since I originally wrote this article to use an inkjet printer for some time now that utilizes so-called newer ink technology claiming to be more economical on a per-page basis than a laser printer and also claiming to not run on the page if it should get damp. An analysis of my experience with this type of printer follows:

The latter claim is truer than it used to be... that is, newer ink does not run *AS MUCH* when it gets damp as other inks do. This is true for HP's Vivera line of inks, at least. The difference is substantial here, so kudos to HP. If future improvement in this area is only half again as good as it has been, the next generation of inks may not run perceptibly at all.

The former claim, however... although there is a substantial improvement in this area over older printers, is still nothing but a pipe dream. In my experience, HP's Vivera line of inks can print roughly twice as much material as one could with other printers for approximately the same cost of ink, but this is still between half to one-quarter the amount of material that one can print for the same costs in toner supplies. I might speculate that the major problem that is driving costs up in this area is still ink drying up in the cartridges before it has a chance to be consumed.


*Proper storage of an ink-jet cartridge includes putting a piece of cellophane or scotch tape over the hole so that ink does not leak out, and putting it in zip-lock or other sealed plastic bag with as much of the air as possible removed and then stored in a cool, dry place.

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