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posted by martyb on Tuesday January 11, @04:39AM   Printer-friendly

Canon can't get enough toner chips, so it's telling customers how to defeat its DRM:

For years, printers have been encumbered with digital rights management systems that prevent users from buying third-party ink and toner cartridges. Printer companies have claimed that their chip-enabled cartridges can "enhance the quality and performance" of their equipment, provide the "best consumer experience," and "protect [the printers] from counterfeit and third-party ink cartridges."

[...] Lexmark, HP, Canon, Brother, and others all effectively require users to purchase first-party ink and toner.

[...] "Due to the worldwide continuing shortage of semiconductor components, Canon is currently facing challenges in procuring certain electronic components that are used in our consumables for our multifunction printers (MFP)," a Canon support website says in German. "In order to ensure a continuous and reliable supply of consumables, we have decided to supply consumables without a semiconductor component until the normal supply takes place again."

[...] But Canon has been having a hard time getting chips amid the shortage, so the company is telling owners of its imageRUNNER large-office printers how to defeat its own protections against cartridges that don't have chips.

The software on these printers comes with a relatively simple way to defeat the chip checks. Depending on the model, when an error message occurs after inserting toner, users can press either "I Agree," "Close," or "OK." When users press that button, the world does not end. Rather, Canon says users may find that their toner cartridge doesn't give them a low-toner warning before running empty.


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  • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @01:33PM (9 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @01:33PM (#1211748)

    Are you kidding me? And they built up a story around this piece of super secret information?

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  • (Score: 3, Funny) by looorg on Tuesday January 11, @01:44PM (8 children)

    by looorg (578) on Tuesday January 11, @01:44PM (#1211749)

    Can you be to surprised tho? What did you expect for a printer? A biometrics solution? Super-elite-haxxor-skillz?

    • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Tuesday January 11, @02:51PM

      by Freeman (732) on Tuesday January 11, @02:51PM (#1211769) Journal

      One would expect to need to install a patch or something. Not do what normal people do. Which is read what it shows when you put a 3rd party cartridge in the device. 'cause I'm not paying their prices for a cartridge.

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @02:57PM (5 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @02:57PM (#1211770)

      My surprise is that this is a story. "If you press 'Ok' your printer will still work" sounds like a support forum answer. I suppose it is interesting that the chip shortage has this much of a trickle down.

      I'd actually be much more interested in some sort of in-depth analysis of the chip shortage. What chips. What industries. What are the real cause and effects? I have a hard time believing we were riding the bleeding edge of the Just In Time distribution all this time that this didn't happen before just due to random fluctuations. Or maybe it did. It's just when you hear these piecemeal stories you wonder if "chip shortage" is the default excuse to cover up other problems, much like if you ordered something and it didn't ship on time, the default answer is "global supply chain issues." Is that the real reason? I don't know, but it is a nice plausible excuse to cover up many other problems. In this case if Canon is selling toner without the chips, that would suggest they don't have the chips, but I'm wondering why these chips really aren't available. And don't just say 'supply chain issues'!!

      • (Score: 2) by looorg on Tuesday January 11, @03:42PM (1 child)

        by looorg (578) on Tuesday January 11, @03:42PM (#1211784)

        One does wonder what kind of bleeding edge chips (massive overstatement hopefully) goes into a printer cartridge "DRM" circuit. I guess the upside to this is that they really should just be doing away with that shit all together. It didn't use to be a thing, the cartridge then clearly works without so what the fuck is the point of it? Perhaps it's just better to go back to dot-matrix for the most part, cause you can't fit a DRM chip into a ribbon dipped in ink (that is not a challenge!). I guess you can put on to measure the level of ink in the tray or how moist the band is or something equally stupid.

        That said isn't the chips that goes into this something utterly trivial? There is apparently a shortage on all the chips then from the high tech to the very bottom of the barrel. I guess everyone does indeed do JIT delivery for all the crap. It's what made the world go around. Everyone drank that cool-aid.

        • (Score: 2) by tekk on Tuesday January 11, @04:39PM

          by tekk (5704) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 11, @04:39PM (#1211809)

          > One does wonder what kind of bleeding edge chips (massive overstatement hopefully)

          If the car manufacturers are to be believed, it's the opposite problem. Canon is probably using a tiny $0.02 microcontroller that's been around for decades in there. When the IC manufacturers spun down they cut off supply from the last profitable commodity chips upwards.

          It'd be pretty funny if their solution was to throw some super server-scale 16 core ARM chip with 32gb of ram into every printer cartridge though. Maybe that'd justify the expense.

      • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Wednesday January 12, @08:42AM (2 children)

        by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 12, @08:42AM (#1212051) Journal

        I'd actually be much more interested in some sort of in-depth analysis of the chip shortage. What chips. What industries. What are the real cause and effects?

        So would I - that is the sort of story we look for when processing the submissions queue! I take it you are preparing a submission now?

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        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @08:25PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, @08:25PM (#1212201)

          Sorry, forgive my lack of clarity. I wasn't bitching about the choice of posting the story here. I am actually a big fan of this site and the people who run it, and I do submit stories myself. I was bitching that it was worth a story for Ars, or at least bitching about the content of the story not matching the more sensationalized headline (hitting the "Ok" button is how to "defeat its DRM"?). If you can close a window and it keeps working, albeit not providing some sort of performance information such as the amount of ink available (which apparently is the whole purpose of having the chip there), that isn't DRM! If the printer refused to work at all, that would be a DRM issue. I was at least unrealistically expecting some sort of cleverness, like using a paperclip as a jumper, or overwriting an install CD with a Sharpie, but it didn't even have that.

          But I will take up the challenge tonight and see if I can find some sort of analysis of the chip shortage.

          • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Wednesday January 12, @09:46PM

            by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 12, @09:46PM (#1212222) Journal

            And I wasn't being critical about your desire for such a story. Don't worry, we seem to be on the same page. But if none of the technical sources has written such a report then nobody can submit it as a story. However, if you DO find such a story then by all means push it onto the queue - because, like you, I would love to read it.

            I wonder if that option was clearly explained in the manual for the printer? - it appears to have not been quite so 'obvious' to the owners. It might also be worth looking for the obvious way to circumvent the DRM on other brands of printer too.

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @03:53PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 11, @03:53PM (#1211787)

      Ok Canon