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Xerox Can Fix Number-Switching Scanners, but Not Altered Docs

Xerox Can Fix Number-Switching Scanners, but Not Altered Docs

Illustration by 731

Xerox (XRX) has released the first wave of software patches to fix its scanners that have the unnerving tendency to change numbers in hard-to-read documents. What the company hasn’t done, and can’t do, is fix the erroneous documents that its customers have already created on the faulty machines.

An Aug. 22 announcement from Xerox announced the availability of downloadable fixes for the Xerox ConnectKey family, WorkCentre 75xx, WorkCentre 57xx, and ColorQube 93xx. It said it aimed to have a fix for the remainder of affected products during the week of Aug. 26.

As previously reported, the problem came to light when David Kriesel, a German computer scientist, scanned a construction plan on a Xerox machine and noticed that the document that came out wasn’t identical to the one that went in: Numbers for some room measurements had changed.

Xerox first said that the problem occurred only when customers changed the factory settings, but later acknowledged that scanners could sometimes change numbers in hard-to-read documents even at the original factory settings.

There is no way to know how many documents scanned on Xerox machines contain altered digits. In an e-mail, Kriesel wrote, “Hundreds of thousands of devices are affected, and the bug has been there for eight years.” He added, “I think it’s way more serious than the legendary Pentium bug [in an Intel microprocessor], which was undiscovered for 1.5 years and not 8, and seemingly not nearly as all-embracing.”

On his blog, Kriesel credited Xerox for springing into action once it confirmed the problem. He wrote, “Thanks for Xerox for listening and even reaching out instead of making up some legal foo to shut the nasty computer scientist up.”

Coy is Bloomberg Businessweek's economics editor. His Twitter handle is @petercoy.

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