• Epson Intel, General 24.02.2010

    It’s been a while since I had a chance to sit and spend 5 minutes thinking, much less write about the situation with Ink Pad Reset (IPR) tools, but, here at last is a summary of the current situation.

    ? New to the topic of Waste ink counters, Service required or Ink Pad Resets ?
    You might want to read this article to get an introduction to these core issues before you catch up on the latest developments detailed below

    New printers, New protection

    Last year started with the PX700W, Artisan 800 and similar printers appearing and with them came the realisation that these printers waste counters could only be reset using specific adjustment utilities. Unfortunately it soon became clear that such a utility was going to cost you $50+ and couldn’t be shared.

    A few months later a new ‘volunteer’ appeared on the net with the ability to remove the protection restricting these utilities. Unfortunately there was some confusion caused by unlocked adjustment utilities being reported as infected/malware. Once that was cleared up, OrTHoTaMiNe, became synonymous with SSC for anyone with that generation of printers.

    Next generation protection

    Sadly, since then it seems that someone in the Epson camp has been paying more attention to the grey market of adjustment utilities.

    The proof?… As with new printer firmware and new cartridge chips, it seems that someone now considers waste ink resetting a serious enough threat that they’ve started putting additional protection into their adjustment utilities. Gone are the days where you could change the date on your computer and get a utility to work…

    T50: The Canary

    The first indication that something was different was when a utility was released into the wild for the T50. It was promptly patched using the same techniques that worked on the TX700W generation of printers so the assumption was that it would work for this printer too…

    …Then the reports of problems came rolling in… This time the utility failed with the now infamous error 21000068.

    It seems that the newer utilities were re-coded to wait until the correct printer was attached before it did additional checking. The reason for this was simple. You couldn’t expect anyone patching the utility to have every printer model to test against and the utility checks for the printer first anyway… Brilliant! (Well for the protection code)

    So, No Utilities?

    Unfortunately, for the general printer owning public, it seems the new protection approach has been extended to any new utilities including those for the Artisan 710, PX810FW and more.

    It’s worth bearing in mind that some eBay shops and auctions list the T50 utility, and the TX810FW as available resetting tools. To date the success of these tools is still very unsure so buyer beware

    An Alternative Approach

    One thing this tit for tat war has created is opportunities for thinking outside the box and there’s a couple of options that are now appearing on the horizon

    Remote resets

    One new service in particular has been making waves and this is a remote reset service provided from an individual based somewhere in Eastern Europe. Using a technique, that shares your printers USB connection securely over the internet, it is possible to get your printer reset without actually having to have the utility installed on your computer.

    This is definitely a new approach and initial indications are very positive. In particular this sort of service may actually help those less technically able who are very wary of the adjustment utilities rather unfriendly interface

    Of course the downside is that you have to pay each time you need a reset but at around $5 a time and no need to haul your printer to a service center, it’s considerably cheaper and easier in many ways to the alternative.

    The Service Center

    There are still many Epson service centres that will not help without doing a complete service at a very high cost (usually around £40+ an hour). However it can be worth shopping around as there are definitely signs that some service technicians and centres will do a simple waste counter reset for a nominal fee without opening the printer. Obviously such an approach doesn’t guarantee you that your printer doesn’t need some other part serviced (such as cogs greasing, etc..) but it does help if your printer only needs a reset and cannot be reset any other way.

    Winning Battles but what about the War?

    Anyone with any sense will recognise that what Epson are doing is protecting their income but the key problem here is that you’ve paid for a printer and you want to get your moneys worth which shouldn’t mean it’ll work for a few months and then demand a service.

    It’s common sense that people will get annoyed if, like the PX700W models you get this message within months of reasonably heavy use while older printer models can handle double the duty load without error.

    So this “war” (if you can call it that) is really about being able to use what you’ve purchased, it’s not like anyone purchased a printer lease. For Epson, obviously the key is income and profit, and to date they’ve protected that income by spending more on chips, firmware updates, new printer models, etc.. forcing third party consumable manufacturers to play a constant game of catch up.

    It seems that those making the decisions have now recognised waste ink kits and resetting as another front to wage war on. Perhaps, as with third party cartridges and CISs kits, there’s will always be someone willing to fight the next battle although it seems more likely to be altruists, instead of commercial interests, who will volunteer their time and services.. Time, will tell..

    The Outlook

    It’s worth remembering that groups like SSCLG, or individuals like OrTHoTaMiNe, have proved there’s always someone else out there who loves a challenge and can apply their skills to the problem so while there are additional obstacles to overcome they aren’t necessarily insurmountable.

    Looking around, it does appear that new approaches and projects will tackle the new problems, so the cycle of defence and counter-measure are still very much alive. What the future holds remains to be seen but I suspect the way this is going will depend largely on whether governments decides enough is enough and stamps on Epson as they have in the past.

    There are four things that I believe will shape the future of resetting:

    • North American customers questioning the lack of new IPR tools despite Epson America providing them in the past (Epson quietly stopped releasing new ones just before the Artisan, Workforce models appeared)
    • EU legislators looking hard at the contribution printers are making to the growing pile of electronic waste, never mind the waste in cartridges. They also need to question why the North Americans could have an IPR but somehow everyone else is considered too stupid.
    • Third party tools (like the now, discontinued, SSC and the unofficial versions of the IPR from Epson America) being developed to handle resetting directly
    • Whether printer firmware will also be updated to block third party utilities and just how far the adjustment utility protection will be taken to stop the public using them.

    It really is anyone’s guess where the future will take us but it’s pretty obvious nobody is going to be taking things lying down

    Posted by Martin @ 00:58

    Tags: , , ,

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.