back to article Patching Xerox's number-changing photocopy phlaw will take weeks

Xerox has told its customers that their copiers may continue churning out dodgy numbers for a few weeks unless they change the settings on their hardware. "To hear and see this frustration and confusion goes against all that's core to Xerox's heritage and future," wrote Rick Dastin, president of Xerox's office and solutions …

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Holmes

Who in his right mind makes a compression scheme with 'big' in the name, anyway?

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Anonymous Coward

Who in his right mind makes a compression scheme with 'big' in the name, anyway?

Because it changes 6's to 8's. When talking about positive integers* 8 is bigger than 6.

* To head off the pedants that cruise this forum.

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Bronze badge
Headmaster

Re: Who in his right mind makes a compression scheme with 'big' in the name, anyway?

Nice try, but actually 8 is bigger than 6 with negative numbers too...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who in his right mind makes a compression scheme with 'big' in the name, anyway?

Also, you had to get some apostrophes in there, didn't you?

Tip: apostrophes are not used to form plurals.

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Anonymous Coward

They must use compression to speed the process up, but when it does, then it should have been scaled back to a lower compression setting.

In the manual they say. Why not just say RTFM and how many users actually read the manual? What if this unit was at a FedEx Kinko's or the like? Does a user read the manual before using the machine? The expectation is that it just works.

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Anonymous Coward

"They must use compression to speed the process up, but when it does, then it should have been scaled back to a lower compression setting."

Your sentence does not make sense.

Is the 'it' in the second clause a different thing from the 'it' in the third clause? What is the implied verb that you have omitted from the second clause?

Tip: if you're going to take the time to comment, then try to make an effort to make it clear what your point is.

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Manual?

He told the BBC that Xerox has flagged the issue in the user manual

because clearly all the users of the equipment will have read the manual

many of them won't be able to read the manual at all because IT will have it locked in some safe in case someone nicks it, or tries to do something other than what IT want you to do

If they knew it was a problem, the software should have had a big flashing notice when you turned the highest compression on saying "warning: this may change random numbers on your document". Any other notice is completely irrelevant, as they have discovered.

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Silver badge

Re: Manual?

Or, you know, instead of labeling it "Normal setting", they could have labled it "Lo res" with a note that accuracy would be diminished.

Seriously, what normal Joe's going to be making a copy, and not figure that "Normal" isn't... well, normal?

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Silver badge

Re: Manual?

I've worked in IT for many years. Never ever locked a copier manual away. Usually they are in the plastic pouch attached to the copier. The one that's so old it is now yellow, and cracks when you open it because the plastic was never exercised by users in normal operation.

I will concur about the warning on the copier panel itself, and that the copier should not default to a setting where it could be a problem.

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FAIL

So "normal" is *no* "factory default."

And has known bugs with it's compression for years

""To hear and see this frustration and confusion goes against all that's core to Xerox's heritage and future," "

that sounds real good in a marketing seminar.

It'd sound better if you lived up to it.

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Bronze badge

Re: So "normal" is *no* "factory default."

Yep. Looks like the confusion is at the supplier end, not the customer end. As for the frustration, well... even I am getting frustrated without being even near a Xerox (long may that trend continue)!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: John Smith 19

As usual there is a generous helping of confusion at John Smith's end, as he has failed to spell the word "not".

Despite being told more times than I can count, he has still not learned that it's = IT IS.

And finally he demonstrates that he is not intelligent enough to understand the concept of adverbs.

You see, at el Reg they award people the highest commendation of a golden star, to those individuals responsible for the greatest volume of unintelligible drivel.

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Anonymous Coward

IT will have locked it away...

I work in IT.

I've never read (or I think even seen) a photocopier manual.

We have a load of one of the affected Xerox models, but thankfully I'm not in charge of the photocopiers!

As above, this should have been a big warning notice in the software or a more appropriate name at least!

I look forward to seeing the consequences. Impossible sized rooms maybe? Incorrect tenders? Quotes that don't add up?!!!

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Pint

Are we really sure this isn't a BOFH story that's escaped from the lab? I'm there's been one where they actually did this (may have been a fax machine)

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JBIG2

Just looked at the Wikipedia page for that compression method. It's no wonder this has happened. I guess we can tell from this that Xerox don't sell into Russia, since there's a lot of Russian characters that are really hard to differentiate and would have flagged up this issue really quickly.

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Alert

Re: JBIG2

Good Lord, you're not wrong. What a train wreck - the concept is intriguing for specific applications, but using it silently in a system whose purpose is to make a precise replica? Lunacy! And why is it even necessary in the first place? It's not like storage is required, and even if it was, it's so cheap both for mass and RAM that I can't imagine how you'd justify such risks for very little benefit. Why compress at all, for that matter? There's got to be something I'm missing here...

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RW
Boffin

Re: JBIG2

I wonder how it responds to other scripts with lots of hard-to-distinguish-by-the-uninitiated characters? E. G. Chinese characters (and the versions used in Japanese and Korean); nearly any South Asian script; Georgian, with it curlicues; the many extra characters added to the Roman alphabet for African languages. (Just browse through Character Map and look at all the wonderful scripts supported by Unicode.)

Sounds to me like Xerox is now rather like MS: too many people running around, nobody actually in charge, obvious design and engineering errors not having the whistle blown on them before they're inflicted on the hapless public. Surely someone should have said "our business is making copies of documents, not free variations on them.".

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From an Insider...

Greetings.

I worked for many years, until recently for Xerox as a technical support level 2. This means that when you called in and they escalated, you reached me. I did production software and machines. Here's the low down from someone that worked there many years. I've won numerous awards and was treated to paid vacation trips etc. My customers loved me and asked to talk to me directly. I did my utmost for them. Most of my colleagues were smarter than me and were very professional. Xerox has a lot of talent.

Ten years ago that bug would have been fixed within a month. And I mean fixed. They'd go to the source and improve it to get rid of the issue. Today, if your arm hurts, they'll cut it, and that's actually an apt analogy. Xerox used to have brains goddammit. We invented the GUI and a bunch of shit no one remembers. I used to work next to a goddamn Russian Nuclear Scientist. That guy could explain the machine down to the molecular dynamics. I myself often wrote the code for the patch and sent it to engineering to save them time. We were well paid, had great colleagues, safe jobs. These were the days. And then we got a CEO with no balls (literally and figuratively speaking) who gave up on our future and decided to go into Services instead.

Shit happens constantly. Because we're the best, people expect perfection, literally,and get all whiny and bitchy the moment reality creeps in. That's just human nature. That's fine. Its everywhere like that. Now, usually, the customer calls the sales guy to report his distress. Then the sales guys calls the analyst. That guy will usually go onsite. Then he'll call or tell the customer to call us. At that point, the customer lost a day at least in production just because he can't stand to call us. Now, remember, I'm just giving you the average customer.

Now the second level, us, we're the one doing what's called a SPAR (Software Product Action Request) which essentially tells engineering to fix the issue. To do so, we must replicate the problem first. Now that's when the ugly reality started sinking in around five years ago. You see, around five years ago, Xerox decided that they'd go in Services instead of Products. They started then to drastically reduce the R&D (essentially its done by Fuji now mostly) and started to slash support teams and equipments. So the brains in level 3, in engineering and the necessary hardware to replicate started to vanish. This happened globally. 2 years ago the Wide Format team got decimated from 23 support engineers to ONE. That's the level of destruction they inflicted on the quality of Xerox Support. Then, they outsourced software development to India and let's not forget patches started to get written there too. And the whole process got slower and slower.

Now, to get back to our customer, he usually can expect a patch for something that was SPARred around two to three months later for a sev 3. For a sev 4... good luck! A severity 2 requires critical functions to be inoperable. A sev 1, the whole machine is unusable. I pulled in all my career only one sev 1. It got fixed in 24 hours flat. Sev 2 will take around 2 to 6 weeks to fix. Sev 1 they're on it 24/7 and takes a week at most. These are guidelines of course, but they're pretty accurate with my experience.

What you must remember from all this is that Xerox is moving away from hardware. The quality of the support is not there anymore. The experienced folks have mostly been retired early. The machines are no longer there to replicate the issues. Patches are done in India. Tech support can escalate something they can't replicate. And they don't have the machines, most of the time, to replicate.

Xerox manages, since the analysts are usually pretty smart and can find workarounds. Ditto for tech support level 2 and 3. Same for onsite technicians. The parts supply is well managed too. In cases like the one we've just read, the word of a VP will make everyone shit their pants and get everyone to focus on the issue with overtime etc. Shit still gets done when required. Xerox is still a world class company, overall.

Over the coming years, the lack of real innovation due to the lack of serious R&D will erode Xerox. Moreover, the cuts made in support are making themselves felt by customers, and that will cost them too. The current CEO essentially gave up on Xerox's core and decided she'd go for Services instead. Do not make the mistake to believe that this decision will not affect the quality that Xerox ONCE had. I saw how bad it because from the inside, through all its grotesqueries.

Xerox is still the best in the production arena, in terms of overall ROI, reliability, support and quality. Sure. But when you sign a contract, make sure the SLA for SPARs are stated and compensation demanded if they take much longer. Put that on paper, and hold them to it. Also, CALL the hotline yourself. Don't waste time with the analyst. The second and third level will usually give you a workaround and create a SPAR if you ask them. They're good folks, and talented. But they're not GODS. Shit takes time to fix, in whatever industry you are. Shit happens, too. So be nice and take it easy. They'll do their best in any case. That's still the Xerox culture and you can still bank on that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: From an Insider... @Dragon Leaves

Where were you located? El Segundo? I was in XIG before they dumped my team into printing systems. When they shuffled all of us off to HCL, I took it as the time to bail out. Most of my team that remained left when and as they could.

Granted, part of the reason I left was because my choices limited my career: network protocols, and C/java. I hated the mess called C++, and brand X no longer needed comm protocol knowledge. Sad. Xerox could have been so much more.

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Happy

Re: From an Insider... @Dragon Leaves

Hi! I was your cousin way, way up north...

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One word: Pentium FDIV bug!

Someone needs to remind Xerox what happened to Intel with the whole Pentium division bug fiasco as their response is exactly the same and I suspect their customers response is likely to be the same to! Xerox seems to be doing slightly better and they are much luckier since it can be fixed in SW. What I cannot fathom is why this mode would be called "normal". Normal mode should be a reasonable tradeoff between file size, scanning speed, and fidelity, not "May randomly and invisibly change your document"

For those to young to remember, the original Pentium processor had a bug doing division which Intel downplayed by saying it was extremely unlikely to ever happen to anyone. That response blew up in their face and in the end they were forced to allow people to replace the processors (very expensive at the time). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentium_FDIV_bug and just like a CPU is supposed to be able to do one thing above all: arithmetic, a Xerox machine is expected to do one thing above all: copy things correctly!

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Re: One word: Pentium FDIV bug!

My mother told me the difference between an explanation and an excuse is that an explanation comes _beforehand_ ...

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Silver badge

How did that even get coded?

I mean, one person must have come up with the "great" idea, to store similar blocks of text only once... and nobody must have told him that this is an amazingly stupid idea since it would replace digits and letters with similar looking ones without the user knowing about this.

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