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Tech secrets: 21 things 'they' don't want you to know

Dan Tynan | April 1, 2010
Eavesdropping Webcams, spying ISPs, toxic PCs, and more: dangers the industry is hiding, and what you can do about them

The Fix: If you really want to browse off the record, use a proxy service, like Anonymizer or Tor, that obscures your IP address as you surf.

You're Spending Too Much on Printer Ink

If there was ever a business built around scare tactics, it's the business of selling inkjet printers. Try using a refurbished or refilled cartridge, and the printer maker may warn you that you're voiding your service warranty, putting your printer at risk of damage, or possibly ruining your printouts.

Nonsense, says Bill McKenney, CEO of InkTec Zone, which sells equipment for refilling inkjet cartridges to retailers such as Wal-Mart International.

"You won't void the warranty and you won't hurt your printer," says McKenney. "A bad refill job may leak ink inside your machine. Otherwise you'll be fine. And the savings are so significant, there's almost no reason not to do it."

In fact, PCWorld's own lab testing shows that while prints made with third-party, refurbished, or refilled ink cartridges aren't always as good as those made with the printer manufacturer's ink, the cartridges are safe to use in your printer.

The exceptions are so-called prebate cartridges, sold at a slight discount, that contain a chip preventing their being refilled (which should be clearly labeled as one-use-only products).

The Fix: Buying a refurbished cartridge can save you 10 to 20 percent off the price of a new one. Getting refills bumps that savings to 50 percent or more.

The drawbacks are that you may not get quite as much ink with a refill (the amount is usually at least 95 percent, McKenney says), archival prints may not maintain their color quality for as long, and you can refill each cartridge only three to eight times before you'll have to recycle it and get a new one.

End User License Agreements May Not Be Enforceable

It doesn't take much effort to sign an end user license agreement: Rip open a software package, or tick a box on a Website, and you're legally bound. But your obligations depend a lot on where you live, says Jonathan Ezor, director of the Institute for Business, Law & Technology at the Touro Law Center on Long Island.

"EULAs are contracts, and contract law is state law," says Ezor. "It's governed by the state where you live or where the company is based." For example, courts in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas) have found certain types of EULAs invalid.

Other factors include whether the agreement contains unenforceable restrictions, whether it gives consumers sufficient choice, and what method it provides for users to indicate agreement, Ezor adds.


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