Bricking a perfectly good printer
EPSON ink tank printers are a ripoff. The particular printer that irked me is the Epson L382, but they are all a ripoff. The promise of ink tank printers is that you buy the printer at a higher price, but the ink is relatively cheap and lasts forever. However, Epson lied.
As part of the operation of the printer, it has to squirt ink about, and that extra ink goes into the waste ink tank, where it soaks into a sponge, and just sits there. There is a software counter that counts how many drops of ink have gone into the sponge, and when it deems that the sponge is full, it BRICKS THE PRINTER. The printer flatly refuses to do anything further. Nothing you do can make it change its mind. It mindlessly demands a visit to the “Epson service centre”, whatever that is. This is so that they can plug in a USB cable, and send less than 1kB of commands that will reset the counter to zero, while they take out the sponge, and put in a fresh one. This is the equivalent of your car refusing to start because it feels that the pollen filter might be a bit old – and then you put in a new filter, and it still refuses to start.
My printer stopped working, because the waste ink tank was full. Not a big problem: I can just replace the sponge, but the system will still refuse to work. So I looked around, and found that EPSON in the US says they will supply the software on demand to reset the stupid counters. So I mailed EPSON, with a detailed assessment of the problem:
L382, serial number X…
Hi there, Please send me the maintenance utility to unbrick my printer. The waste ink pad is full – that’s easy to fix – but the printer refusing to work, I need the secret software that you provide on request. I am rather displeased that I was not warned that this more expensive printer would permanently disable itself after just 25677 pages: it seems like the system was shipped with a deliberate and unnecessary latent defect.
Yes, I only got only 25677 pages out of the thing before it locked up. At current rates for new Epson printers, that’s around R0.14 (ZAR) per page. Anyhow, Remanov wrote back to me, explaining that my assessment needed to be followed by their assessment:
Kindly note that unit needs to be booked into Service Center for assessment, See Below Link
So I wrote to Remanov a little more directly:
Do I understand you correctly that you want to physically ship the printer to another town, in order for someone to plug in a USB for 20 seconds? I have a working USB cable, and I can spare 20 seconds of my time. All I need is the software.
And, completely understanding the problem, Remanov said that he was completely unwilling to help me. My printer is held hostage to EPSON’s money grubbing:
Kindly note that waste ink pads cannot be washed/cleaned out as this needs to be replaced, and a software change needs to be done on the unit, which can only be done at an Accredited Epson Service Center. Also note that there is no software available for users to do this as per EPSON.
So there you have it: EPSON is rubbish. They can’t even supply software to make their products work. In the 1990’s, all the inkjet printer manufacturers (starting with HP) sold cheap inkjet printers and then made money on selling tiny 1 millilitre ink cartridges for more than their weight in gold — and when they could no longer do that, EPSON changed their printer design to force me to buy a new one, or to pay them money for “service”, because they think that I have used my printer enough.
But that’s not the end of the story: when you search for “EPSON L382 Waste Ink” you find a slew of (identical) sites, which will fix this problem for just $9.99 (US). They will provide some dodgy software that sends the magic instructions to the printer. Once. Each additional “hit” costs another $9.99 (US). So now, I must rent my printer from random opportunists on the internet.
And then turn off your Anti-Virus
And after some more searching, I stumbled onto a random site that offered the same software, with a key generator, and the following completely reassuring heading:
Reset Epson L382 Tutorial – unlimited 100% virus free
No wait, that’s the $9.99 one again… is that the one with a free trial …? I’m only going to need every two years, if the printer lasts that long again.
Oh wait, I found it. At https://www.printerguider.com/epson-l382-resetter-adjustment-program/ Yes, that’s not a clickable link. Read on.
When I found this thing, it was in a ZIP file that wanted a password (12345) so that anti-virus stuff can not look inside, and inside that, a RAR file that wanted a password (and unrar-free can’t read it, some on-line nonsense did it, and who knows what that random site did to the insides of it). And the instructions said, “Disable your Anti-Virus software, and then run the .EXE”. How many clues does a man need to tell you that this software is designed to destroy my system? It’s a great strategy to hand over covert control of your computer to the makers of the software and random internet gangs.
It wouldn’t surprise me if this file is evil too, despite not having password protection:
Fri Mar 24 22:08:59 /tmp $ wget https://drive.printersmaster.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Epson-L382-L386-L486-Resetter.zip --2023-03-24 22:09:29-- https://drive.printersmaster.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Epson-L382-L386-L486-Resetter.zip Resolving drive.printersmaster.com (drive.printersmaster.com)... 126.96.36.199 Connecting to drive.printersmaster.com (drive.printersmaster.com)|188.8.131.52|:443... connected. HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK Length: 1963943 (1.9M) [application/zip] Saving to: ‘Epson-L382-L386-L486-Resetter.zip’ Epson-L382-L386-L486-Res 100%[==================================>] 1.87M 390KB/s in 4.9s 2023-03-24 22:09:36 (390 KB/s) - ‘Epson-L382-L386-L486-Resetter.zip’ saved [1963943/1963943] Fri Mar 24 22:09:36 /tmp $ unzip -t Epson-L382-L386-L486-Resetter.zip Archive: Epson-L382-L386-L486-Resetter.zip Keep Supporting: www.printerguider.com testing: Adjprog-esk.exe OK testing: apdadrv.dll OK testing: caution.bmp OK testing: EditText.dat OK testing: ErrorDetail.dat OK testing: F2_discharge.prn OK testing: headid.bmp OK testing: How to Use.txt OK testing: nw_resetdata.dat OK testing: prnerror.bmp OK testing: prnidle.bmp OK testing: StrGene.dll OK testing: Adjprog.exe OK No errors detected in compressed data of Epson-L382-L386-L486-Resetter.zip.
Then I copied this over to my sacrificial Windows virtual machine, plugged in the USB into the computer, and chose “Redirect USB to virtual machine” in virt-manager. And zip, zap it installed a vicious virus on the machine, and reset the printer waste counter for me. And the printer works (of course: there is nothing physically wrong with it: just a mental block). And then I turned off the VM (sorry virus, I know you tried).
And then I opened up the printer, took out the waste ink pads, and pressed them between some sheets of newspaper (with my foot). I should probably find some nice sponge to replace them with, but that should hold for now.
I also re-ran the reset, with usbmon and wireshark doing sniffing of the activity, but I don’t really know what I’m doing there, and the results are files that I don’t really understand (and which probably contain unrelated information I’m not happy to give away)
And going forward, the winner is …
I believe my next printer will be a Canon. Canon has this problem too (waste ink sponges that fill up), but you can reset the counter from the control panel. I believe I will never buy another EPSON (and we have two), until they fix their engineering, or stop gouging.
The only objection I had to this printer until this incident is that it uses dye ink, and dye ink smudges viciously when wet. I also don’t really like dye inks, because they dissolve into nothing when they are wet, so for the next printer, it’s time to try pigment ink.