The day after

… seems not to be today.

I was a bit of anticipating the Xerox number mangling concern to lose momentum today. This would have been okay, since it is not my goal to inflict any damage to Xerox. I really appreciated how they got in touch and listened, and this is why I tried to help as far as I could.

Only – the internet doesn't forget. Read the sometimes harsh comments below the Xerox statement! People do not seem to agree that some small notice in the web interface only shown when changing the compression level to “normal” (sic!) would make up for possible annual productions of subtly incorrect documents at what may easily be thousands of enterprises world-wide. As a result, and as a result of the mass media kicking in additionally, this web site runs on up to 160 hits a minute the whole day. A friend of mine condensed the issue in a wonderful way I do not want to withhold from you:

David, your're f*cked. It is stated MOST CLEAR in the Manual. Didn't you read page 107 of 328? – It's like if the brakes of a car do not work if setting the car heating to exactly 70 degrees Fahrenheit. After years of mysterious accidents, the manufacturer then would announce “yeah, it's a known issue, haven't you read page 107? We clearly stated there that if you want to brake, you shouldn't set the heating to exactly 70 degrees, mkay?”

Nicely put, albeit it neglects that if Xerox support had suggested at any of all its levels to just set compression to “higher” after I was telling them the signal words “character substitution” until my face was blue, I hadn't written my blog post in the first place.

One more, one more I got for ya: The hands-down best, deadpan, heckuva comment on the issue is to be found on Gizmodo, made by some user: “You had 1 Job, Xerox, 8 Job.” LOL

Hope to see you again at this place, and of course, I'm going to keep you posted on the Xerox issue. Thanks a lot for the support from places all around the world!

Edit: Another (more serious) thing I keep getting asked all the time. Might this be more than a Xerox problem? – I think so, yes. JBIG2 is a powerful compression standard, but it can be pretty dangerous when misused, as we see. The big deal is that users are unable to see that's something wrong, for the outcoming documents look perfectly fine. Using a non-patch-based compression, one might recognize badly scanned numbers by for example black spots or other artifacts on them, but here, they are replaced by incorrect, despite nice-looking numbers. This makes the error almost impossible to detect. The issue seems to have been existed for years in Xerox machines, and *now* that people are aware, they all of a sudden are replicating it across the planet. This might easily happen to non-xerox-devices as well.

As for Xerox, I agree with them it's not literally a bug (it's not a bug, it's a feature!!1 :-) ), but for sure it's a heck of a communication glitch that has exactly the same implications like the bug I was fearing in the first place.

Others don't see the world that nice. Several people mailed me stating, that the issue may have been a bug at all. When becoming aware of it, xerox, in an defensive act, might have just un-defaulted the “normal” setting and placed the notice next to it and somewhere in the manual. As patch based lossy compression can not really be applied to written documents in a senseful way, this hypothesis seems plausible.

See for yourself, what you think is true.


Because of caching, a comment can take up to two minutes until it appears.

Due to heavy spam, I need to block the comment feature for some time.

David… Thanks for this impressive & thoughtful analysis. To the comments of “bug or feature”, I'd argue that a “material change” in the document classifies this as a bug in the Xerox device, plain and simple. Here, we have numbers changing into other numbers. A compression algorithm was made available that should not have been on such a device. Clearly, we're not in a situation where a document became difficult to read due to poor resolution or compression artifacts–it definitely changed in an unexpected & undesired way. I'd argue the same for a scanned photo showing a blue section that should have been red… I don't care how it happened, it's just wrong.

Where I'm really concerned is on the lower end of the spectrum where customers don't have the level of support and maintenance that you received from Xerox for a device worth thousands of $/£/€… All-in-one printers like HP Photosmart or HP Officejets that are long out of warranty but still work, haven't received firmware upgrades in years (or ever), and/or don't offer compression setting options (e.g. hardcoded to use JBIG2), could be especially vulnerable… These are in common use in places like small offices, schools, law firms, and the like.

Along these same lines, will Xerox patch outdated & out-of-warranty devices that have this problem? How far back is “too old”?

I seriously doubt this ends with Xerox… Looks like my lawyer might be able to request documents be re-scanned, especially if opposing counsel can't answer if the documents were scanned using a Xerox product.

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Markian Zadony
| 2013/08/08 09:41 | reply