Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Brahm's Yellow Dots" Blog Linked & Quoted in PC World!

A few years ago I learned about the secret matrix of yellow dots that colour laser printers embed on every single page you print on colour laser printers - even B&W-only pages. The key word here is laser - traditional colour inkjet printers don't do this (at least that we know of).

Don't believe me? Print anything from a colour laser printer. Scan it at the highest resolution you can. Now look closely. Here's what I found on my printer and here's some further analysis.

Anyway. I blogged, and I blogged, I wrote letters and made phone calls to Lexmark Canada until they finally admitted to making their printers include the secret yellow dot pattern. This pattern is unique to every printer and can be used to identify from what printer a document is printed - which is, in my opinion, a privacy issue. My motivation was exploring the issue from the consumer side and seeing how a company would respond to a consumer challenge of the technology.

Eventually I got a letter from the president of Lexmark Canada, offering me a refund for my printer. I didn't want the refund (I still liked the printer, despite the privacy issue), but in my mind the story was done. Mission accomplished - consumers who were willing to be vocal enough could at least achieve a refund. The blog didn't get any attention during my adventures, so I left it online for others to find... eventually.

Fast-forward to earlier this week. I get an email from a senior editor at PC World asking if they can link to the blog for an article they're writing on the yellow dots issue! I sent a reply back saying "absolutely" and some reasons why I left the blog online.

PC World published their article yesterday and even quoted my email! Here's an excerpt:
Consumers who discover the dots are understandably surprised. Brahm's Yellow Dots, a blog dating from 2008, chronicles the efforts of Brahm Neufeld, a student at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, to communicate with his printer's vendor, Lexmark, after a friend told him about the yellow dots. To Lexmark's credit, the company eventually acknowledged what was going on and even offered to refund Neufeld for his printer. Neufeld, now an electrical engineer, remains concerned about the technology and the extreme discretion that printer vendors are exercising around it. "My motivation was always to document my experience--as a consumer--trying to get printer companies to fess up to this somewhat-shady practice."
How cool is that! I am curious to see if this makes it to the print version of the magazine.

I took a peek at my blog's analytics and I've netted about 1,000 new hits from the article. Not bad!
(for the Yellow Dots blog, not this one)

Cheers to PC World who is keeping some momentum on this issue going!