Tag: Consumer Electronics

This is a Big F%$#ing deal

Hopefully this is the first of a thousand cuts that Amazon will die by:

Amazon was hit with a legal defeat this week after a California appeals court ruled that the company can be held legally liable for defective products sold on its site by third-party sellers.

In a unanimous decision issued Thursday, Judge Patricia Guerrero of the Fourth District Court of Appeals wrote that “under established principles of strict liability, Amazon should be held liable if a product sold through its website turns out to be defective.”


The case concerned a replacement laptop battery that Amazon customer Angela Bolger purchased from a Hong Kong-based company called Lenoge Technology, which went by “E-Life” on Amazon’s online marketplace. Bolger alleged in her lawsuit that “the battery exploded several months later, and she suffered severe burns as a result,” for which she argued Amazon should be held responsible.

Amazon had argued that it wasn’t liable because “it did not distribute, manufacture, or sell the product,” and that Lenoge was the seller.

But the court disagreed, finding that Amazon played such an outsized role in the transaction that it bore the responsibility for the defective battery.

Guerrero wrote that Amazon “placed itself between Lenoge and Bolger in the chain of distribution… accepted possession of the product… stored it in an Amazon warehouse… attracted Bolger to the site… provided her with a product listing… received her payment… shipped the product in Amazon packaging… controlled the conditions of Lenoge’s offer for sale… limited Lenoge’s access to Amazon’s customer information… forced Lenoge to communicate with customers through Amazon… “and demanded indemnification as well as substantial fees on each purchase.”

Jeff Bezos’ monster exerts a tremendous amount of control over its, “3rd party vendors,” and to quote Peter Parker Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”*

Doing things like stealing 3rd party data to develop competing products indicates that Amazon is more than just a simple store front.

“Whatever term we use to describe Amazon’s role, be it ‘retailer,’ ‘distributor,’ or merely ‘facilitator,’ it was pivotal in bringing the product here to the consumer,” she concluded.

The court also didn’t buy Amazon’s statement that it should be protected under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which shields internet companies from legal repercussions for content published by third parties on their sites.

It determined that section 230 didn’t apply because Bolger’s claims “depend on Amazon’s own activities, not its status as a speaker or publisher of content provided by Lenoge for its product listing.”

Pending the results of a possible appeal, Thursday’s ruling potentially opens up the online retail giant to significant legal exposure from other customers who could bring similar lawsuits for faulty or damaged products. It could also force Amazon to adjust its policies to more tightly regulate third-party sellers.

It does seem that the whole internet economy thing is increasingly just a mechanism for vendors to cheat people and avoid consequences.

*Peter Parker never said this, it was in the final panel of the first Spider Man comic book.

Silent Hypoxia

It turns out that a lot of people who have Covid-19 are suffering from what is called Silent (or Happy) Hypoxia, there they have dangerously low blood oxygen levels but are showing no symptoms.

You can get a finger-tip blood oxygen and heart rate indicator for about a sawbuck online, and I would recommend that you do so:

It is a mystery that has left doctors questioning the basic tenets of biology: Covid-19 patients who are talking and apparently not in distress, but who have oxygen levels low enough to typically cause unconsciousness or even death.

The phenomenon, known by some as “happy hypoxia” (some prefer the term “silent”) is raising questions about exactly how the virus attacks the lungs and whether there could be more effective ways of treating such patients.

A healthy person would be expected to have an oxygen saturation of at least 95%. But doctors are reporting patients attending A&E with oxygen percentage levels in the 80s or 70s, with some drastic cases below 50%.

Using the fingertip sensor takes less than a minute, and it is non-invasive and not painful, so checking yourself occasionally is a good thing.

The Joys of Technology

Bring good thing to life, my flabby white ass!

GE has an instructional video on how to reset the software on their light bulb.

You got that right, they had to release a video showing people how to reset the software on their light bulb.

Actually, they had to two versions of the instructions for different software versions.

This is a remarkably poor user interface decision:

How many lamp owners does it take to change a high-tech lightbulb?

Actually, it may be more complicated than you’d think — and make you miss the good old days when all you had to do was screw it in.

But rest assured that the people at General Electric have put together an instructional video to show you how to troubleshoot the C by GE lightbulbs, and all that’s required is knowing how to count.

First, according to the narrator, turn off the lightbulb for five seconds.

Then turn it on for eight seconds.

Then turn it off for two seconds.

On for eight more seconds. Off for two more seconds. On for eight seconds. Off for two seconds. On for eight seconds. Off for two seconds. On for eight seconds. (Gasp!) Off for two more seconds.

Now turn it on, and it should work.

If not, maybe you missed a second or two somewhere. It’s unclear how much of an effect that would have, but GE does recommend counting using the “Mississippi” method — one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi and so on.

At this point, you may be reaching a breaking point. If so, try a simple breathing exercise: Breathe in for four seconds. Hold your breath for four seconds. Exhale for four seconds.

The C by GE smart bulbs are Bluetooth-enabled, allowing users to set a schedule for their lights and control them with their voices, among other things. GE Lighting posted the tutorial on YouTube this year to show users how to troubleshoot by returning to factory settings.

But the three-minute video appears to have gained widespread attention this week after it was shared on Reddit and Twitter. It has since drawn hundreds of comments from people both mocking GE for its long-winded instructions as well as applauding it for its unintended comedy.

This (real) video from GE on how to reset their “C” light bulbs is the most incredible how-to video you’ll ever see.

They want to see how far they can push their customers before they snap. https://t.co/gbXOc543fy

— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) June 20, 2019


Thomas Edison may have just rolled over in his grave.

Thomas Edison is laughing his ass off.

Seriously, they couldn’t have a little hole that you insert a paper clip into?

Where Not to Shop for Consumer Electronics and Office Supplies

Office Depot and a partner company tricked customers into buying unneeded tech support services by offering PC scans that gave fake results, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers paid up to $300 each for unnecessary services.

The FTC yesterday announced that Office Depot and its software supplier, Support.com, have agreed to pay a total of $35 million in settlements with the agency. Office Depot agreed to pay $25 million while Support.com will pay the other $10 million. The FTC said it intends to use the money to provide refunds to wronged consumers.

Between 2009 and 2016, Office Depot and OfficeMax offered computer scans inside their stores using a “PC Health Check” software application created and licensed by Support.com.

“Defendants bilked unsuspecting consumers out of tens of millions of dollars from their use of the PC Health Check program to sell costly diagnostic and repair services,” the FTC alleged in a complaint that accuses both companies of violating the FTC Act’s prohibition against deceptive practices. As part of the settlements, neither company admitted or denied the FTC’s allegations.

The FTC filed its complaint against the companies in US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, while at the same time unveiling the settlements with each company.


“[W]hile Office Depot claimed the program detected malware symptoms on consumers’ computers, the actual results presented to consumers were based entirely on whether consumers answered ‘yes’ to four questions they were asked at the beginning of the PC Health Check program,” the FTC said. “These included questions about whether the computer ran slow, received virus warnings, crashed often, or displayed pop-up ads or other problems that prevented the user from browsing the Internet.”

PC Health Check “tricked those consumers into thinking their computers had symptoms of malware or actual ‘infections,’ even though the scan hadn’t found any such issues,” the FTC said in a blog post. “Many consumers who got false scan results bought computer diagnostic and repair services from Office Depot and OfficeMax that cost up to $300. Suppport.com completed the services and got a cut of each purchase.”

Of course, as a part of the settlement, “Office Depot neither admits nor denies any of the allegations in the Complaint,” which sucks wet farts from dead pigeons.

Seriously, it would be great if these settlement were required by law to have an admission of wrongdoing.

Burn Motherf%$#er, Burn

I was waiting for someone to sue Apple for hacking their iPhones when they crippled older phones with OS updates:

The saga of class-action lawsuits looming over Apple’s iOS battery management took a new turn last week – as the Cupertino giant was accused of violating American hacking laws.

A complaint [PDF] filed in the US federal district court of northern California lists a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act among the charges filed against Cook and Co.

The lawsuit, submitted on behalf of everyone in America who bought an iPhone or iPad that had been subject to performance throttling on devices that suffered from diminished battery capacity, accuses Apple of illegally tampering with devices, amongst other things.

The suit argues that the iOS update slowed down a device in order to preserve battery life. In doing so Apple intentionally “damaged” its hardware without user knowledge or permission, violation of the CFAA, the plaintiffs – Alex Rodriguez, of Alaska, and scores of pals – claim.

“Apple violated [the CFAA] by knowingly causing the transmission of iOS software Updates to Plaintiff and class members’ devices to access, collect, and transmit information to devices, which are protected computers as defined in [the CFAA] because they are used in interstate commerce and/or communication,” the complaint reasons.

“By transmitting information to class members’ devices, Apple intentionally caused damage without authorization to class members’ devices by impairing the ability of those devices to operate as warranted, represented, and advertised.”

I really hope that Apple gets hung out to dry on this one.

Apple’s view of iPhones seem to be that, notwithstanding the money that people pay for the devices, it is Apple, Inc. that owns them.

They need to be disabused of this concept.

The “Internet of Things” Enables Domestic Abusers

This is really not a surprise.

Any technology has a potential of for misuse, and internet enabled home devices have among the worst security of any tech out there, but still the stories abusers using connected devices are pretty disturbing:

The people who called into the help hotlines and domestic violence shelters said they felt as if they were going crazy.

One woman had turned on her air-conditioner, but said it then switched off without her touching it. Another said the code numbers of the digital lock at her front door changed every day and she could not figure out why. Still another told an abuse help line that she kept hearing the doorbell ring, but no one was there.

Their stories are part of a new pattern of behavior in domestic abuse cases tied to the rise of smart home technology. Internet-connected locks, speakers, thermostats, lights and cameras that have been marketed as the newest conveniences are now also being used as a means for harassment, monitoring, revenge and control.

In more than 30 interviews with The New York Times, domestic abuse victims, their lawyers, shelter workers and emergency responders described how the technology was becoming an alarming new tool. Abusers — using apps on their smartphones, which are connected to the internet-enabled devices — would remotely control everyday objects in the home, sometimes to watch and listen, other times to scare or show power. Even after a partner had left the home, the devices often stayed and continued to be used to intimidate and confuse.


Graciela Rodriguez, who runs a 30-bed emergency shelter at the Center for Domestic Peace in San Rafael, Calif., said some people had recently come in with tales of “the crazy-making things” like thermostats suddenly kicking up to 100 degrees or smart speakers turning on blasting music.

“They feel like they’re losing control of their home,” she said. “After they spend a few days here, they realize they were being abused.”


One of the women, a doctor in Silicon Valley, said her husband, an engineer, “controls the thermostat. He controls the lights. He controls the music.” She said, “Abusive relationships are about power and control, and he uses technology.”

This is really kind of horrifying.

Finally, Mr. Federal Trade Commission

Since the mid-1970s, it has been unlawful for a manufacturer to require that you use only their parts, and their repair shops when fixing their product.

It is called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and the FTC has finally issued guidance saying that this is illegal and deceptive:

It’s common for manufacturers of cars, video game consoles, and other products to insist that consumers will void their warranty if they use unauthorized repair services or unauthorized third-party parts. Some even insist that you’ll void the warranty if you break the “warranty seal.”

These policies are illegal, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

On Tuesday, the agency announced it had sent warning letters to six companies for violating a 1975 law governing manufacturer warranties.

Who does the FTC have in mind? The agency doesn’t name the six companies that were targeted in this enforcement action, so we don’t know for sure. But the FTC does provide examples of warranty terms that violate the rules, and with a little Googling it’s easy to figure out likely suspects:

  • Hyundai’s warranty states that “the use of Hyundai Genuine Parts is required to keep your Hyundai manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.”
  • Nintendo’s warranty states that “this warranty shall not apply if this product is used with products not sold or licensed by Nintendo.”
  • Sony’s warranty states that “this warranty does not apply if this product… has had the warranty seal on the PS4™ system altered, defaced, and removed.”

These exact phrases, with names of companies redacted, are provided as examples in the FTC’s release.


The FTC is demanding that the companies stop voiding warranties and remove statements from their websites and other materials threatening to do so within 30 days.

Of course, this raises the obvious question:  Why did it take them 40 f%$#ing YEARS to do this?

iPhone Design Fail

This kind of defeats the 2mm you saved in thickness

Apple has finally added a dongle with both a charging port and an earphone port, and it is ugly and stupid:

It took an entire year after the release of the iPhone 7 for Apple to start selling a dongle that lets you plug in headphones (or your car’s AUX cable) and charge at the same time. But now it’s here. Apple is just selling the thing, mind you — not making it. In September, Belkin quietly announced a new, second version of its “Rockstar” adapter that now includes both a 3.5mm jack and Lightning port. Last year’s version had two Lightning ports, so if you wanted to use wired headphones with it, you had to plug Apple’s own headphone dongle into another dongle. Going double-dongle is bad enough on a laptop, but on a phone?! Good grief.

Well, this is expected for iPhone users.

After all, you get your super thin phone, and then you put the delicate snowflake in a case that doubles its thickness because otherwise it breaks in a stiff breeze.

Throw Your Amazon Echo out the Window Now

Such a good idea to give access to every conversation in your room to Russian hackers:

The data is also kept in the event it’s request by law enforcement, however Amazon fought police over what it saw as an overly broad request for audio logs on a murder suspect last year. (The company relented in April of this year and handed over the logs when the suspect voluntarily said he was willing to provide them.)

Amazon does not hand this data over to developers, The Information says, because such a move would undermine Amazon’s commitment to user privacy. However, because Google, which makes the most popular Echo competitor currently on the market, does give developers access to this data, Amazon’s Echo and Alexa divisions feel they are at a disadvantage, the report states. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its data-sharing policies for the Home speaker.

For instance, some developers fear that without audio logs of requests, like those related to a food delivery order, they won’t know exactly what went wrong if the order is ultimately incorrect and the customer unhappy. According to The Information, Amazon does give some data over to a select few “whitelisted” developers, though how that system works is unclear. Amazon is considering granting third-party app developers access to transcripts of audio recordings saved by Alexa-powered devices, according to a report from The Information today. The change would be aimed at enticing developers to continue investing in Alexa as a voice assistant platform, by giving those app makers more data that could help improve their software over time. Amazon’s goal, according to The Information, is to stay competitive with more recent entrants in the smart speaker market, like Apple and Google.

Amazon declined to comment on its future plans for Alexa data-sharing policies. However, a company spokesperson told The Verge, “When you use a skill, we provide the developer the information they need to process your request. We do not share customer identifiable information to third-party skills without the customer’s consent. We do not share audio recordings with developers.”

As it stands today, Amazon records audio through Alexa devices like the Echo home speaker and the new Echo Look camera and Echo Show monitor, however only after a “wake word” like “Hey Alexa” is used to prime the software. These devices send these audio clips to an Amazon-owned server where they’re analyzed to produce a near-instantaneous response from Alexa, but where they’re also stored so Amazon can improve its digital assistant through artificial intelligence training techniques.


Amazon does not hand this data over to developers, The Information says, because such a move would undermine Amazon’s commitment to user privacy. However, because Google, which makes the most popular Echo competitor currently on the market, does give developers access to this data, Amazon’s Echo and Alexa divisions feel they are at a disadvantage, the report states. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its data-sharing policies for the Home speaker.

For instance, some developers fear that without audio logs of requests, like those related to a food delivery order, they won’t know exactly what went wrong if the order is ultimately incorrect and the customer unhappy. According to The Information, Amazon does give some data over to a select few “whitelisted” developers, though how that system works is unclear.

Yeah, throw out Google Home as well.

Orwell in a f%$#ing box.

Gee, Training and Valuing Employees Works

While many brick and mortar retail establishments suffering, Best Buy is thriving because it trains and values its employees:

Five years ago Best Buy Co. looked like a retail dinosaur, another victim of e-commerce juggernaut Amazon.com and other online sellers.

The big-box electronics chain was suffering dwindling sales and profits due in good part to “showrooming,” when shoppers would come in to a Best Buy store to check out televisions, computers and other items in person, and then buy them at cheaper prices at Amazon or elsewhere online.

Best Buy also was struggling with executive turmoil and facing a buyout threat from a major stockholder. The chain in 2012 named a new chief executive, Hubert Joly, but the Frenchman came from the hospitality field and had no retail experience.

His appointment stunned analysts, with one saying that fixing Best Buy was “a herculean task even for an accomplished retail executive.”

But Joly has proved up to the task so far. Under his turnaround plan, Best Buy has rebounded to remain one major U.S. retailer that’s holding its own in the face of Amazon’s relentless growth and the conventional retail industry’s slump.


That’s keeping the pressure on Richfield, Minn.-based Best Buy to keep wringing more profit from each dollar of revenue if it hopes to maintain its momentum. Joly (pronounced jo-lee) already has shown it can be done.

His first move was to match any rival’s prices, especially those at Amazon, so that in-store shoppers no longer needed to buy elsewhere.

“We had no choice, we had to take price off the table and match online prices,” Joly said.


The company plowed a chunk of the savings into better training its employees so that they can explain products to shoppers, which Joly believed was critical because new technology often is confusing to many consumers.

Best Buy, with 125,000 employees overall, “has done an excellent job improving customer service,” [Piper Jaffray analyst Peter] Keith said in a recent note to clients.

Juan Ortiz of Glendale, who was at the Atwater Village store to buy a Nest Cam security camera, noticed the difference.

“If I’m going to spend a few hundred [dollars] on a security system, I want to talk with the employees and make sure I’m getting the best one,” Ortiz said. “It also helps that they explain everything. If I got it on Amazon, I’d be on my own.”

(emphasis mine)

The complete unwillingness of American management to invest anything in training its employees has always baffled me, particularly in retail.

My guess is that managers have been trained to treat their employees like crap, so any training serves to give them other options, which they will take, because you treat them like crap.

The result is a race to the bottom, and the commoditization of retailers, which gives you the purgatory that is Amazon.

More News from the Internet of Things

In another episode of how manufacturers are f%$#ing things making ordinary objects around your house internet enabled, now hackers can take over your dishwasher:

Don’t say you weren’t warned: Miele went full Internet-of-Things with a network-connected dishwasher, gave it a web server, and now finds itself on the wrong end of a security bug report – and it’s accused of ignoring the warning.

The utterly predictable vulnerability advisory on the Full Disclosure mailing list details CVE-2017-7240 – aka “Miele Professional PG 8528 – Web Server Directory Traversal.” This is the builtin web server that’s used to remotely control the glassware-cleaning machine from a browser.

“The corresponding embedded Web server ‘PST10 WebServer’ typically listens to port 80 and is prone to a directory traversal attack, therefore an unauthenticated attacker may be able to exploit this issue to access sensitive information to aide in subsequent attacks,” reads the notice, dated Friday.


And because Miele is an appliance company and not a pure-play IT company, it doesn’t have a process for reporting or fixing security bugs. The researcher who noticed the dishwasher’s web server vuln – Jens Regel of German company Schneider-Wulf – complains that Miele never responded when he contacted the biz with his findings; he says his first contact was made in November 2016.

Appliance makers: stop trying to connect stuff to networks, you’re no good at it.

I would also add, regulators need to police this stuff, and civil liability law needs to be rewritten to ensure that the manufacturers, and perhaps senior management are explicitly liable for this crap, including punitively harsh mandatory penalties.

If copyright trolls can threaten 6 figure judgements against people’s kids who Bit Torrent a Nickelback song,* then these manufacturers need to face at least that much jeopardy.

*I will note, if your kids are downloading Nickelback, I do think that a visit from Child Protective Services (CPS) might be in order, because, well, it’s f%$#ing Nickelback.