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Inside the CueCat Hardware

CmdrTaco posted more than 14 years ago | from the eyeballing-its-innards dept.

Hardware 186

HaveBlue writes "Apparently not content to simply go after those writing software for the CueCat, Digital Convergence is now giving the evil eye to hardware hackers. I just got a letter via FedEx this morning almost exactly like the one sent to Michael Rothwell and other developers. DC just doesn't seem to understand that they can't control hardware that's given away for free..." The second link is an extremely detailed discussion of the internals of the CueCat. Mirror it while you can.

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Re:Excuse me? (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#743755)

Incase you don't believe me, the post is here [slashdot.org] . Yes, I really did take one apart... and yes I really *am* pissed they didn't send me a letter. I've taunted the RIAA, the MPAA, I've denounced the christian coalition, NOW (national organization of women), and I have yet to receive a single letter of reprisal. I'm really depressed. Even when I *try* to get in trouble I can't. I'm a miserable failure. *sniff*


Breaking News! (1)

iMox (238345) | more than 14 years ago | (#743763)

This just in! God claims that life was just 'on loan' to citizens of the universe. A "Home Life Kit" is now available to use the advanced features of life. They "will not have several billion years of work destroyed by hackers, nerds, and whizz kids like each of you!"


Re:Excuse me? (1)

McSnickered (67307) | more than 14 years ago | (#743765)

Hey Sig,

No matter how funny you and enoch_root thought this post was, it really falls flat at the end despite the profanity and poor use of the word 'sods'. So please ask enoch_root to kindly stop modding you as Score:5 Funny.

UPC database (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 14 years ago | (#743768)

All of the UPC barcodes have to be unique, don't they? It would sort of defeat their function if a package of chewing gum and a gallon of barn paint had the same barcode. My question is, how are they registered/assigned/whatever? With regard to the earlier discussion about DC going after that bloke for setting up a database of UPC barcodes and so on, I'm wondering how/where the "legitimate users" of the bar codes get their information? Does one of the stock boys at the grocery store have to scan and then register each new brand of peanut butter when it arrives at the store? Surely there is a central database and registration for this stuff....

Re:The letter I received... (1)

Delambre (237829) | more than 14 years ago | (#743769)

Grrrr, that is obnoxious. It's a little more sensical to be overly sensitive when protecting easily lost trademarks, but it is outrageous that they would come after you specifically. I think what we need is distributed protesting. You may not live anywhere near Trek, and I may not live anywhere near ::/Digital\::/Convergence\::, but maybe someone else does. Think how embarrassing it would be to invite the local media to a demonstration outside DC's headquarters. Maybe you could feature someone writing the decoder from memory, and make them look like an idiot on the evening news. And of course it goes without saying that any physical addresses found in spam would be submitted for immediate firebombing. Del

Where's the beef? (2)

rkent (73434) | more than 14 years ago | (#743770)

I just got a letter via FedEx this morning almost exactly like the one sent to Michael Rothwell...

Let's see a copy of that letter, eh? The only links in that post were to other, "similar" letters. If they really are sending letters to people for dinking around with their own hardware, that's a new level of ridiculous. But I'd like to see confirmation of that before I fly off the handle.

Re:Excuse me? (1)

Xerithane (13482) | more than 14 years ago | (#743771)

I thought the whole thing was pretty damn funny.
And besides, who are you to judge what obviously 3 (at min, 5-3=2(sig's default post)) other people deemed worthy and funny.
You must be God!
Please dont smite me oh Lord! I was wrong to question your powerful judgement.
Maybe you should realize that other people have different senses of humor, and you are not the judge. So, if you are going to request him to not get modded, I'll request for you never to post on slashdot again. In fact, please, never use a computer again. Better yet, the only form of communication you can do is smoke signals. Not even talking.
I think that's reasonable?

Re:Strange (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#743772)

Well, nothing is stopping D:C from sending these letters out, some people just need to get a backbone.

I wish I could.. but they never sent me one, so I can't complain yet. :/


Are these lawyers hired guns? (2)

intuition (74209) | more than 14 years ago | (#743773)

These IP lawyers at Kenyon & Kenyon, with offices worldwide, are probably pretty smart dudes. They probably have some idea that it could be postulated that they are threatening people without any good reason.

Can't they be sued for harassment, or wrongful prosecution if they ever did take action on this? What prevents a lawyer from being a hired gun to harass people? - it seems these days that your average slashdot user is running into more and more of these guys/gals.


British (51765) | more than 14 years ago | (#743774)

Can someone make a CueCat icon? I think it deserves its own topic heading now. That way, people can filter it out on their Slashdot prefs, and everyone's happy.

Slashdot effect is da house (2)

1010011010 (53039) | more than 14 years ago | (#743775)

geez, I saw this story the moment it was posted, and his site is already slashdotted. I'm trying to mirror it [flyinbuttmonkeys.com] , without success as of yet. Perhaps someone could email me a big, fat tarball of it?


while i'm sure all of us think this is quite funny (2)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 14 years ago | (#743777)

anyone remember that suck article from back then claiming geeks don't live in the real world and are forever destined to be defeated by lawyers? When the hell do we get a slashback that tells us the legal situation of everyone involved? (as in, actual legal findings in court, not hemos/tacos expert legal advice)
Lord Omlette
ICQ# 77863057

Be careful... (1)

2Bits (167227) | more than 14 years ago | (#743785)

Be careful, you guys hardware hackers out there. DC just raised $100M recently, so they have deep pocket to sue you to your last shorts...

Re:Excuse me? (4)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#743788)

Shoot, all you'd have to do is get bar codes from panty hose, barb wire, "C" batteries and tabasco sauce, glue them to the edge of a dinner plate, put the plate on a turn-table and set the CueCat up next to it so it can read the labels as they go by. I can see it now: "Damn, those 27-35 year old engineers are sure buying a lot of panty-hose, barb wire, batteries and hot sauce! Get those advertisers on the phone!"

enough already (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#743789)

jeez. come on. this is getting scary

Re:UPC database (2)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 14 years ago | (#743791)

Yes, actually, that's *exactly* what happens.

Now, with larger chain stores, I bet they now have somewhat centralized databases... however.

Having seen a spanky new IBM POS (point of sale, not that other term) installed in our family owned supermarket.... I know that some employees spent several weeks of large overtime scanning & entering in prices for every single product we carried.

This really is quite easy once the initial push is done.. adding a new item to the store takes only a minute. Of course, adding the first 500 thousand takes considerably longer.

Strange (2)

delmoi (26744) | more than 14 years ago | (#743792)

Well, nothing is stopping D:C from sending these letters out, some people just need to get a backbone.

Re:A patentable business process? (2)

pac4854 (130343) | more than 14 years ago | (#743795)

> They will be more profitable than most dot.com's

My kid's paper route is more profitable than most dot-coms.

Re:Strange (1)

JCCyC (179760) | more than 14 years ago | (#743797)

Glad to see that you have deep pockets for court cases. No matter how silly a case is, unless you pay for competent lawyers you are screwed. Also once you start to put in motion actions that would allow you to counter-sue for legal fee's, it becomes a double-edged sword because then they can take their multi-million dollar lawyers and include that in their suit (where they couldn't before)

You must be fairly young to believe that you can take on a company in a legal battle, without VERY competent representation. Even if you win, you are going to end up paying out lots of cash out of your very pocket. A company with millions of dollars can tie up a legal case for months... years... and you still have to pay your lawyer during that time.

Marketing opportunity for lawyers:

Set up a lawyer firm specialized in fighting frivolous lawsuits for people who can't pay. People go to the office and explain what kind of harassment they're being subject to, the lawyers examine the case and, if it holds the possibility of a profitable countersuit, they pick the case without the harassed person having to pay legal fees.

The firm's profits come from the countersuits and legal fees the other side has to pay if they win. Careful risk analysis has to be made, but I'm talking about a VERY professional enterprise. It should be possible.

Of course, IANAL and IHNBS (I Have Never been Sued), so if someone in the know spots some flaw in my reasoning, please point it out.

Re:Surprise (2)

LiENUS (207736) | more than 14 years ago | (#743798)

your alergic to white plastic ehh? are you also alergic to the little bit of solder that runs from the board to the little chip with the serialnumber?

Great! (1)

fjordboy (169716) | more than 14 years ago | (#743799)

Now I'll be able to turn off that useless red light thing....

Re:Strange (3)

Lxy (80823) | more than 14 years ago | (#743800)

I agree completely. Of all the letters I've seen from DC, they more or less say "stop doing this, or we'll stop being nice to you". I say wait til they take legal action and then humiliate them in court. DC hasn't said anything remotely intelligent in any of their letters. They're all very vague, and like to throw around the term "itellectual property" a lot. Until DC starts making specific demands and can back up their claims, let's just laugh at them!

"You'll die up there son, just like I did!" - Abe Simpson

For Those Who Can't Get To The 2nd Link... (2)

istartedi (132515) | more than 14 years ago | (#743801)

...I unscrewed my CueCat a while ago just to see what was in it: One Circuit board with a connector for the "tail". There was also a plastic piece that apparently served no purpose other than to help hold the light steady. Then when I snapped it back together, the little lense that focuses the light onto the sensor came out. So, it's basicly 3 pieces inside -- PC board, plastic retainer, and lens. The sensor is held to the PC board with a strip of copper tape. I did not remove the sensor or the copper tape, because I wanted it to remain intact.

As far as hacking stuff off the PC board goes, it's way beyond me, since there are a lot of tiny surface mount components, and I haven't dabbled with a soldering iron in years.

The lens assembly was intriguing. It got me thinking that perhaps you could turn this thing into a scanner that could scan more than barcodes. Maybe it could even scan text. Maybe somebody else can provide some insight as to whether or not retrofitting a bar code scanner to scan in 2-dimensions is practical or not.

Re:Slashdot effect is da house (2)

1010011010 (53039) | more than 14 years ago | (#743802)

Crapitty crap crap. Here's a link that works [flyingbuttmonkeys.com]


Slashdot DC icon (1)

Gordy (141822) | more than 14 years ago | (#743803)

So when are we going to see the DC logo with a dunce cap as a slashdot topic image? I am really looking forward to the next story. Maybe DC will get a clue and sue the lawyers they hired that are sending these wonderful letters and spending all there money. Ah... only in America.

Re:Hardware Hackers (4)

Accipiter (8228) | more than 14 years ago | (#743804)

The "On Loan" clause is a bunch of shit.


First, they changed the EULA when this stuff started happening. People were getting CueCats, and tinkering with them, and posting their findings. DC went apeshit, and modified their EULA to say "Well, we really didn't give it to you. It's on LOAN to you, and we can take it back whenever we please."

That doesn't work either. I dare them to try to "recall" my scanner. I have a legitimate receipt of purchase from Radio Shack that clearly lists the CueCat Scanner, as well as a barcoded catalog. Everyone should have gotten one of these receipts. The purchase price is $0.00, but so what? It's still a legal purchase, and I have my receipt to prove it. So if DC claims that these scanners are on LOAN, that would mean that Radio Shack is dealing in stolen merchandise.

Sounds like DC should be butting heads with Radio Shack's lawyers, and not the end users.

-- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

Cease and Decist (2)

levik (52444) | more than 14 years ago | (#743805)

I can see it now:

"New York, Sept. 28, 2000

Digital Convergence, a firm specializing in the manufacture and distribution of 'barcode' scanners called the "Cue Cat", has sent out cease and decist letters to the manufacturers of convinience and grocery store equipment. A 'barcode' is a series of parallel lines of various thickness that Digital Convergence has developed for the use of uniquely identifying an item.

"We have spent five years coming up with the idea of letting people identify an item by a 'bar code' printed on it", said the company's Vice President of Technology, "And now, these costly years of research are in danger of being wasted because of all these companies trying to profit from our great idea"

The official further noted that by allowing the scanning of these 'barcodes' by third party hardware, the manufacturers of these machines are effectively undermining Digital Convergence's revenue stream, and "stealing away [our] market share".

No comment could be obtained from the companies that received the Cease and Desist letters, and no request for an interview was answered by press time."

Re:Excuse me? (1)

wmoyes (215662) | more than 14 years ago | (#743815)

Of course its fake, it was a JOKE! If I really wanted to impersonate DC I would have not used my regular Slashdot account. But apparently it looked good enough to trick some people into checking it out ;^)

Re:UPC database (1)

desertfool (21262) | more than 14 years ago | (#743817)

The larger UPC's with 2 sets of numbers contain the company in the first numbers, and the specific product in the second. I thought, though I could be very wrong, that the first was assigned and the second was up to the producer. I don't know of what standards body assigns the first numbers, if that is in fact what happens.


Andrew_Kynde (233030) | more than 14 years ago | (#743820)

You mean "muzzled" for daring to criticize their highly suspect business practices.

Re:Another mirror up. (2)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 14 years ago | (#743821)

(I guess somebody should submit these cuecat-documents to the Swedish parlament :-)

Thanks for reminding me of that. Maybe I can take advantage of the large donations I give my congressbeing to get the CueCat info put in the Congressional Record. May as well add DeCSS while I'm about it ... :-)

Your sig.....OT (1)

Ruthless_Advisorette (137347) | more than 14 years ago | (#743822)

If somebody stole your sig, you might want to talk to CmdrTaco and the guys. Maybe slashdot's little haxx0r's took off with it. {} and what's-his-face seem like amiable chums, they'll probably be willing to tell you what they did with your sig and then return it, 100% intact.


Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 14 years ago | (#743823)

> Can someone make a CueCat icon?

Not without being sued by DC for violating their trademark...

Re:Hardware Hackers (1)

milph (96370) | more than 14 years ago | (#743824)

if you read the license agreement, it says that the cat is "on loan"

I wonder if they have any procedures in place to retrieve loaned clue:cat's. Sounds like a convenient fiction to me.

One Question (4)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 14 years ago | (#743825)

Just what the heck did those bozos at Digital Convergience think they were walking into? I mean, heck, if someone picks of these at a flea market five years from now, do they still have to worry about it being improperly used? Geez, why didn't they just include a little tag, like the mattress people use:

Failure to use this device
in the manner for which it was
originally intended will result
in us suing your pants off! So don't
even think about it! Bad! We really
mean it! Don't be naughty! Just
say No!

Also, removal of this tag will
result in a very stern letter to
your parents, dead or alive.

Where's a bowl of hot grits when you want to use something for other than it's intended purpose...

Chief Frog Inspector

Re:Isn't this obvious? (2)

TheReverand (95620) | more than 14 years ago | (#743826)

You know, it's not actually required that you post. I mean, if you have absolutely nothing to add to the discussion, you might as well not say anything. According to talk show host Jim Rome [jimrome.com] ,

Have a take, don't suck, or don't talk to me.

Just a friendly tip!

Re:Hardware Hackers (1)

technos (73414) | more than 14 years ago | (#743827)

Yes, but a lot of us recieved ours through the US mail, unsolicited. The Postal Code is pretty specific: They cannot dictate terms, nor charge money, nor expect it back. Many of those that snagged it from RS never got to read the license, because DC decided to put it in a Windows click-thru. If they do not provide me with a copy of the license, I am not bound to it. Their oversight, not mine.

Their attempt to enforce said license is, in many cases, criminal harassment, mail fraud, and is most certainly both a criminal and torte offense.

Re:I'm sold! (Its more expensive than stamps) (1)

intuition (74209) | more than 14 years ago | (#743828)

Its more expensive than just stamps silly. They are using fedex "to be absolutely sure" they will get tons of free publicity.

Re:laws, shmaws, how do you ensure them (1)

El_Koba (237483) | more than 14 years ago | (#743831)

It was Mao, and he said: "Political power grows fromt he barrel of a gun". Almost the same thing. Thank you and goodnight.

Re:Strange (2)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 14 years ago | (#743833)

Many lawyers in the UK so this. It's called 'no win no fee'. They examine your case, and if (as in this case it seems) the other party hasn't got a leg to stand on they go for maximum damages from the other party (including harassment, stress, anything else they can dream up) to pay their fees.

The disadvantage of this is that you rarely if ever get anything (except smug satisfaction) at the end, since it all goes on the remaining legal fees after you've won.


"Declawed" Page Mirrored Here (1)

connah (125251) | more than 14 years ago | (#743834)

Here are two links.

This one [connah.net] takes you to the "Getting Your CueCat Declawed" mirror. This one [connah.net] lets you download the whole thing zipped.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Like an idiot, I'm doing this on my home cable system. If I get slashdotted for more than a few hours, I'm taking it down. :) But I'll have it up for a while so you guys can grab it and mirror it. Have fun.


a mirror (1)

Cally (10873) | more than 14 years ago | (#743836)

Not yet, but within 24 hours this will be another mirror.

www.zpok.demon.co.uk/cuecat/ [demon.co.uk]

Did you just make this up? (1)

DzugZug (52149) | more than 14 years ago | (#743839)

I cant find a section 53 in the Ohio Revised code anywhere. You can find the ORC here [avv.com] . What copy of the ORC are you using? There is a title 53 but no section 12 and title 53 is about real estate.

This is not a troll. This is a quest for truth.

I know!!!! (1)

Duke of Org (147376) | more than 14 years ago | (#743842)

I know how we could give Cue-Cat a bad name.
Use their software and write a script to continually think it was scanning in (everytime it scans something it reports to their website) a bunch of Sex Toys.
That way when they look at their quarter reports or whatever they will get sued my every mother out-there who let little billy get a Cue-cat.
Just an idea

What about reverse engineering the hardware? (1)

ToddN (190561) | more than 14 years ago | (#743843)

How about constructing a schematic diagram based on R/E'ing the PC board and it's components, then putting that up on the mirrors as well?

Re:Are these lawyers hired guns? (2)

dillon_rinker (17944) | more than 14 years ago | (#743844)

The word "attorney" means representative. When an attorney takes action, it is on behalf of their clients. In the eyes of the law, the attorneys aren't really there, only the people who hired the lawyers. Attorneys obviously can't do anything illegal, but there is nothing illegal in writing a letter.

Re:Another CueCat story? (1)

MrSpinoza (238330) | more than 14 years ago | (#743845)

Troll? Perhaps to the humor-impaired moderator...

Why don't they just forget this? (2)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 14 years ago | (#743846)

Does anyone else think that if Digital Submergence would ignore all this activity, there'd be a lot less interest in it? Just the fact that they're blanketing the hacker community with their "cease and desist"s is getting my back up enough to put up a mirror site myself. Their struggles are just attracting more sharks, in my estimation. Anyway, when the CueCat becomes the obvious failure that is its destiny, DC isn't going to have any money left to pay a law firm to harrass a bunch of hobbyists, so this is a short-term problem for the tinkerers, in my opinion.

Not good; can we do anything? (2)

Tau Zero (75868) | more than 14 years ago | (#743847)

(The interesting-link site is slashdotted already...)

IANAL, so I would appreciate it if anyone with substantial relevant expertise could tell us:

  1. Are these actions of Digital Convergence perhaps in violation of the First Amendment?
  2. If so, is there a possibility of certifying a suit against Digital Convergence as a class action?
  3. Are there any statutory damages we could expect, or just a "cease and desist"? I know it would be nice to just take a company with a stupid legal-driven business plan and get them to shut up, but driving them out of business for trying to mess with people's free speech rights would be much harder for the rest of the business community to ignore.
Just my ruminations...
Build a man a fire, and he's warm for a day.

Re:here's an idea (5)

skroz (7870) | more than 14 years ago | (#743848)

To whom it may concern,
Our clients, the slashdot communicty, have recently made it clear to us that your firm has been partcipating in an unjustified harassment campaign against developers of open source CueCat software on behalf of your client, Digital Convergance. Despite repeated requests for clarification from the recipients of your requests, your firm has seen fit to persist with its harassment of developers working on legitimate hardware and software development.
This letter is being provided to inform you that persuant to section 53, paragraph 12 of the State of Ohio Revised code, you are hereby ordered to cease and desist all actions against the forementioned developers until such time as a complete list of specific grievances can be included with your request. Failure to comply will result in the filing of a civil lawsuit against your firm, digital convergance, and its partners.

Thank you,
Scott F. Crosby

Will that do?

Re:Hardware Hackers (4)

phil reed (626) | more than 14 years ago | (#743849)

... but if you read the license agreement...

As has been explained multiple times before...

In a contractual transaction, the receiving party has to be given an opportunity to read and understand and agree to a contract (which is what a license agreement is) in order for it to be binding. I've gotten two of these little scanners so far, and neither has come with any kind of license agreement that I could see. There might have been something on the CDs, but I didn't need them, so I pitched them. There certainly wasn't anything on the package telling me that the hardware was being given to me under terms of any kind of contract or license.

Therefore, it appears that there is no contract is in force between Digital Convergence and myself. Any hardware that was given to me freely, with no conditions stated, is mine to do with AS I WILL, provided I don't violate anybody's copyrights or patents. (Copyrights and patents are binding on me no matter if I've signed a contract or not. There is no doubt a copyright on any microcode contained in the processor of the bar code reader, but I'm not attempting to do anything with that code, so I'm OK there. There have been no indications of patent violations, so I'll continue to do as I please until notified that I'm violating a patent. Note that this is different from a trade secret, which requires a contract between the secret owner and other parties. Without a signed contract, I'm under no obligation to keep private any trade secrets that may belong to Digital Convergence.)

I also understand that there might be something on a web site somewhere that talks about restricting what I can do with something that was given to me freely. Since I have not had the opportunity or desire or obligation to go to the web site, any words there are hearsay as far as I'm concerned, which also means they have no legal affect on me. It's also hard to see how terms could be imposed ex post facto, and I believe a court would agree.

So. License? What license?

obDisclaimer: I am not a lawyer.


Re:One Question (1)

Sabalon (1684) | more than 14 years ago | (#743850)

And like the matress tag says..."blah blah blah, fire and brimstone to ye who removeth the tag, unless that person is the end consumer, who bought it and can do whatever the hell they want to it."

Though DC's not even that lucky...this is no different than me pulling something out of the trash and taking it apart.

cuecats and bungee cords (5)

jms (11418) | more than 14 years ago | (#743851)

I remember a story from a few years ago, possibly apocryphal. There was a bungee tower operator, and he went to the top of his tower to make a test jump. Apparently he first checked to make sure that the cord was securely fastened to the top of the tower, and did a back-dive off the tower.

Unfortunately, he had neglected to attach the other end of the bungee cord to his legs.

He apparently started screaming about halfway down ... presumably the point that he realized his error.

Evolution in action.

Here we have the corporate equivalent. In order for DC's business model to work, they needed to ensure that no one else could write software to use their hardware. Their entire business model is based on funnelling all cuecat scans through their web site. If you can use a cuecat without going through their web site, then their business model is destroyed.

Unfortunately, they failed to do that. They used a primitive algorithm, and they made the slightly scrambled string print out in a DOS window, making it extra simple to figure out. They have NO patents that cover use of the hardware, and all of their copyrights only apply to their software, which you don't need to install to use the cuecat. Their "trade secret" was easily reverse-engineered, which is completely legal.

The reason that their vague lawyer-letters don't actually specify any specific intellectual property violation, and the reason why people are receiving vague letters instead of cease and desist letters is quite simple.

They forgot to attach the bungee cord to their legs.

Those letters are the screaming.

Evolution in action.

Re:Are these lawyers hired guns? (1)

artg (24127) | more than 14 years ago | (#743852)

So if an attorney murders his client's husband, and claims that she asked him to do it, he gets off scot free ? Not even charged with conspiracy or something ?

No, I don't believe that. An attorney can't break the law on someone else's behalf. And harrassment is breaking the law.

Re:Strange (1)

MikeTheYak (123496) | more than 14 years ago | (#743857)

Not necessarily. Judges don't like frivolous lawsuits any more than anybody else. DC has yet to say what it is they want people to stop doing or what the legal justification is. The important thing is to know your legal rights. DC could have any case summarily dismissed and then find themselves on the wrong end of counter-litigation if they pursue this. For that matter, they might even be accused of harassment if they continue with the threats. The bad publicity wouldn't help, either. DC's lawyers know they haven't got a legal leg to stand on, which is why the C&D letters are so vaguely worded. I don't think it would take much time or money to fight off a legal case, and you may even be able to retain a lawyer simply by allowing them to represent you in a countersuit.

Re:Hardware Hackers (3)

irksome (106742) | more than 14 years ago | (#743859)

(copied directly from the US Postal service publication 201, Consumer's Guide to Postal Services & Products, available from the USPS at http://www.usps.com [usps.com] )

Unsolicited Merchandise
Federal law prohibits the shipment of
unordered merchandise. Such a practice
may constitute an unfair trade practice.
Merchandise mailed in violation of United
States Code may be treated as a gift by the
recipient without any obligation to the
The laws governing this practice are
enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.
If you believe that you have received unor-dered
merchandise in violation of federal
law, contact the Commission's Bureau of
Consumer Protection at:
WASHINGTON DC 20580-0001

(emphasis added was mine. Digital Convergence has no case)

sue DC (3)

troyboy (9890) | more than 14 years ago | (#743860)

Someone could sue DC to get a declaratory judgment that it is okay to reverse engineer and write software for the CueCat. The complaint would look something like this:

1. The CueCat is a bar code reader (explain it).
2. I would like to reverse engineer the CueCat and write software to intercept the data (explain how).
3. DC is sending out vague cease and desist letters (attach an example).
4. On information and belief, DC has no patent on the CueCat.

Then move for summary judgment asking the judge to rule that there are no patent or copyright rights in the CueCat and that you can reverse engineer it. The plaintiff wins (without having exposed himself to risk). Now, everyone can point DC to a legal decision.

Re:UPC database (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 14 years ago | (#743863)

That leaves the problem of how to deal with duplicate bar codes. If I, as a white lamb, decide to launch a new line of wool sweaters and I decide that the bar code on those sweaters will be 1234567890, and print tags and distribute the sweaters, won't I get a lot of complaints from the people who use the same UPC number to identify a six-pack of beer?

Mirror site (1)

Jeff Myers (70988) | more than 14 years ago | (#743865)

I've created a quick and dirty mirror of the second link at: http://www.gnusto.org/cat/ [gnusto.org] for all those tired of waiting for the page to load.

Hmmm (1)

CMiYC (6473) | more than 14 years ago | (#743866)

I guess they don't have a clue because if they did...it'd be called a Clue::Cat and not a Cue::Cat.....


Re:Hardware Hackers (2)

BeBoxer (14448) | more than 14 years ago | (#743867)

And what exactly does the license agreement have to do with anything? There is no evidence that any of the people getting the letters have installed or are using the software. Hence, the license agreement has no relevance whatsoever. Many of the cuecats were sent out as gifts via the post office. Attempting to attach a license onto these gifts is actually a violation of federal law. In my case, I went to RatShack and asked for one. I was never asked to sign anything, nor asked for my name. The clerk simply handed it to me.

At what point do you think any of us entered into a contract with Digital Convergence? That's what a license agreement is: a contract. Did people enter into a contract simply by removing the package from their mailbox? Did they enter into a contract by opening the package? Did I enter into a contract by asking the RatShack clerk for a free scanner? Did I enter into a contract when he handed me the bag? I was never asked for my name, and certainly never signed anything. None of us have installed or used the software. Why bother? If the license agreement said everybody born in odd years owes Digital Convergence a dollar, would that mean I owe them a dollar? Of course not.

So why exactly are any of us bound by the license agreement on the software? Did I enter into a contract when you read the license agreement? The simple fact of the matter is these lawyers are sending out scary-sounding but completely worthless letters. I don't think they even qualify as a cease and desist letter. There is no IP infringement going on. The lawyers know that. They are just hoping that they can scare everyone with their worthless threats.

Re:here's an idea (4)

andyh1978 (173377) | more than 14 years ago | (#743868)

These popped up with a trip to Google [google.com] :

Student's electrial engineering project [washington.edu] , includes schematic (scanner + RS232 interface)

And another. [umn.edu]

Can't be too hard to do anyway; just need an IR LED, IR phototransistor positioned to pick up the reflections, clean the signal up into digital and stuff it into a computer for processing.

Or the software way, if you've got a decent enough quality webcam, write some image recognition stuff to read the barcode off frame grabs.

Re:Excuse me? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#743869)

An old saying used to be "You couldn't get arrested in a whorehouse with a fistfull of fifties".

Re:I'm sold! (1)

pointym5 (128908) | more than 14 years ago | (#743870)

Well, yes, it sure has made the Cue Cat popular, but keep in mind that they're free. We didn't rush out and buy the things, we accepted them as gifts. DC has made no money from all this, nor has their consumer database grown at all (since the majority of /. readers who've picked them up are not running their software).

The only benefit to this is that it inflates the number of scanners in the hands of the public, which will be an important number for them to wave around when doing their IPO road show.

A patentable business process? (3)

RalphSlate (128202) | more than 14 years ago | (#743871)

I think that DC may have hit on something here.

1. Put out a lame device that's easy to take apart.

2. Record all such instances of "violations of IP".

3. Allow the "damages" to accrue.

4. Sue the IP violators for millions.

5. Patent the process and license it to other companies.

They will be more profitable than most dot.com's


Re:Hardware Hackers (1)

ConeFish (216294) | more than 14 years ago | (#743872)

"Sounds like DC should be butting heads with Radio Shack's lawyers, and not the end users." Exactly my thoughts - was just having a discussion today saying that at Rat Shack, they give you a cat and a catalog. No mention of it being on loan or no mention of being required to do anything with it. My conversation: Me: "I heard you had a promotion where you are giving away scanners?" Shack: "Yes - here they are. They will probably start selling them for $20 after X-mas, but they are free now. Would you like one" Me: "Sure" Shack: "What is your name? What is your mission? What is your favorite color? Who is your physician... ... ... ... ..." No mention of any licenses or restriction, just "Here's a free scanner, it will probably cost $20 later"

Re:Another CueCat story? (1)

Xenix (232152) | more than 14 years ago | (#743873)

no kidding...I'll grant you its a weak joke...the dirty pun being the lowest form of humor, but jeez...

Send a cease and desist letter to DC (1)

Argyle (25623) | more than 14 years ago | (#743874)

Since the letters they are sending have no legal weight, do the same to them. A C&D is no more than a way of showing that you are made aware of the company's desires.

Perhaps its time to call in a favor from my laywer buddies. DC's response to my frivilous cease and desist letter will cost a few hundred dollars in legal fees.

Perhaps I'll demand that they send no more cue cats to my house since I have severe cat allergies. All medical costs I incur will be forwarded to them as damages due to their unsolicited cat.

Re:Slashdot DC icon (2)

cswiii (11061) | more than 14 years ago | (#743875)

Absolutely.. only I think they need an icon a la The Microsoft [slashdot.org]
Bill Gates of Borg one.. Only instead it's a mouse with a red laser/LED eye

Re:here's an idea (3)

stienman (51024) | more than 14 years ago | (#743876)

It's not trivial, but there is enough information out there that a suitably proficient hobbyist could do it. I would if I had time.

If anyone REALLY wants this done, perhaps you can motivate me. Email me and ask me to do it. Send me money, a used laptop, or some other motivator. :-)

My website [ubasics.com] (electronics, PIC uControllers, etc)

Re:Strange (3)

InsaneGeek (175763) | more than 14 years ago | (#743877)

Glad to see that you have deep pockets for court cases. No matter how silly a case is, unless you pay for competent lawyers you are screwed. Also once you start to put in motion actions that would allow you to counter-sue for legal fee's, it becomes a double-edged sword because then they can take their multi-million dollar lawyers and include that in their suit (where they couldn't before)

You must be fairly young to believe that you can take on a company in a legal battle, without VERY competent representation. Even if you win, you are going to end up paying out lots of cash out of your very pocket. A company with millions of dollars can tie up a legal case for months... years... and you still have to pay your lawyer during that time.

Things like this should NEVER be taken lightly, it may be the stupidest thing in the world; but if it gets to court 5-10k for a fees, lost work, etc. is nothing to them but that can break a lot of people I know. The best thing to do is to contact your well paid lawyer, under their guidance they will tell you to respond or not to. If they tell you a response it necessary, they draw up everything and you just put your signature on it. More than likely they will tell you to do nothing, and laughing at them, is the quickest way to get yourself into a lawsuit.

Spelling & grammar checker off because I don't care

here's an idea (5)

mwalker (66677) | more than 14 years ago | (#743878)

can any hardware engineers out there write up a quick and dirty on how to build your own bar-code scanner? then you could base any of your software engineering on hardware you'd created yourself.

let's see em sue you for that.

p.s. since it's legal to send a cease and desist letter for anything, can we get a slash lawyer to write a cease-and-desist letter to DC that asks them to cease and desist being assholes? Then all of us can mail them a copy...

Excuse me? (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#743880)

Hey, I hacked the hardware of the cuecat and got it posted in a slashdot quickie. I was the first person to post the hardware details of the cuecat. Where's my f*cking letter, you DC bastards?

Christ, they don't get the internet, they don't get public relations, they don't get security, and now I don't get my letter. What kind of sods are running this show?


Re:Hardware Hackers (1)

Sax Maniac (88550) | more than 14 years ago | (#743884)

Maybe, but you could play one on TV!

I have a dream.. (5)

photozz (168291) | more than 14 years ago | (#743886)

Several of us at work here decided to write a little VB app that can catalog just about anything using the cue cat. We have not used any of the original code from cuecat, just the un-modified hardware. Are we going to get a rectal examination if we release this as freeware? what have we come to..........

Is it just me.. (2)

Xzzy (111297) | more than 14 years ago | (#743888)

..or are these people doing this just to make a joke of RIAA and MPAA?

Their case against people is so absurd, it almost seems like the whole CueCat thing came about to get the chance to prove in a court that, in the computer industry, IP means a very different thing than it used to.

I mean, even the timing of these guys is perfect to poke fun at the mp3 and DeCSS debate.

#include <stdIANAL.h>

And with that in mind.. would it be worth it to hurry up and push CueCat into a court so a precedent could be set? It'd be amusing to watch these guys lose. Then, turn around and use that against RIAA or MPAA.

A legal issue (2)

mar22 (145944) | more than 14 years ago | (#743890)

What is going to happen if somebody creates a mirror of these sites in a server operating outside the jurorsdiction of a USA court. What are DC supposed to do then? It is not a rocket science this bar code reader. Why making so much noise about this "technology"?! And how they imagine to stop all the web sites that can appear outside USA, if somebody decides to do this? Another question is: What is the harm to their technology if occasionaly I use the their bar code reader .... like a bar code reader?

Re:Surprise (1)

CMiYC (6473) | more than 14 years ago | (#743893)

Yeah... i better take that out as well... =)


Re:Excuse me? (2)

jbridge21 (90597) | more than 14 years ago | (#743894)

Signal 11 is funny. I like his humor. Unfortunately, what this story is about... is not funny. As such, I'm hoping a moderater will see this here.

mirror of the hardware site [firehead.org]

My .sig contains the mirrors of lots of things. Click it.


Someone should (1)

webrunner (108849) | more than 14 years ago | (#743897)

Someone should definately send a C&D letter to DC telling them to stop infriginging on your personal rights and postal regulations.


Newsgroup post? (1)

pointym5 (128908) | more than 14 years ago | (#743898)

Has anybody posted the hardware/software bundles to a newsgroup? Seems like that'd spread the stuff around pretty effectively. I'm not advocating spamming usenet, of course. (Is there an alt.hardware.cuecat yet?)

Re:Slashdot DC icon (2)

cswiii (11061) | more than 14 years ago | (#743899)

err, s/mouse/cat/. Long day...

Next week, DC sues... (1)

Private Essayist (230922) | more than 14 years ago | (#743900)

DC spokesperson: "And coming up next week, DC intends to sue Radio Shack for distributing their IP without permission."

DC flackey whispering to spokesperson: "Uh, actually, we partnered with Radio Shack. They're supposed to be giving it away."

DC spokesperson: "Retraction (damn PR people can't get anything right!) Instead, we will sue a World Wide Web page known as Slash/DOT or something like that for talking about our IP."

DC flackey, whispering: "Uh, I don't think we can do that."

DC spokesperson whispering back: "So what? This is fantastic publicity! Let's sue everyone! What's your mother's name? We'll sue her!"

Free publicity? Suuuuuure. More like seppuku. (3)

Tau Zero (75868) | more than 14 years ago | (#743901)

What they got is a bunch of pissed-off freedom advocates, a few hardware hackers and trolls having fun, and a whole lot of people who either have already or are about to:
  1. Go down to Radio Shack,
  2. Pick up a CueCat and lie about their name and address, and
  3. Either never use it with the Windoze client, hack the EEPROM before doing anything with it, or both.
All of these people are going to give DC no revenue for their outlay. The publicity alone has given DC a huge hit in their current expenses and future revenue, and frankly they're a bunch of morons to have bet their business on such a lousy business plan.

Let me predict the next cycle of the arms race.

  • DC produces a new version of the scanner which truly encrypts the scan output, and fails to operate if the EEPROM is disconnected or altered.
  • Some embedded hacker (like, maybe, me?) writes some code for a pin-compatible microcontroller to make their new scanner produce the same output (for ISBN, UPC, etc. codes) as the old CueCat... only without the serialization. Said code is distributed for free, or you can buy a pre-programmed microcontroller for a few bucks and an SASE.
Either way, Digital Convergence can kiss its corporate ass goodbye.
Build a man a fire, and he's warm for a day.

Re:Strange (1)

Scrag (137843) | more than 14 years ago | (#743902)

I'm waiting for them to send me one. After all the stupid sites they've gone after, I can't imagine them not coming after mine [virtualave.net] . After all it has pictures [virtualave.net] of their product.

If I get a cease and decist letter, there is no way I am taking my site down. I'm not worried about a letter from them.
What would effectively shut me down is if they told my isp/webhost that I was in violation of their agreement. They wouldn't want to be part of a legal problem, and would most likely pull the material. Other than that, I can see no reason why anyone should remove their CueCat site.

Re:Isn't this obvious? (1)

Johann (4817) | more than 14 years ago | (#743903)

Clones blowing up on /.!



Kenyon and kenyon on slashdot in 1999 (4)

hald (1811) | more than 14 years ago | (#743904)

Found a reference to Kenyon and Kenyon on slashdot [slashdot.org] in November of 1999. Two different opinions about them then

Hal Duston

Stop Immediately (2)

clinko (232501) | more than 14 years ago | (#743907)


I'm Ben Blonkey, inventer of the cue cat. I'm sorry, but talking about the cue cat is now illegal. Everyone who replies will now be scouted out by the cue cat mafia and sent a letter from fed-ex.

Thank You,
Cue Cat Inc.

I'm sold! (4)

rw2 (17419) | more than 14 years ago | (#743910)

Those guys are marketing GENUISES! They've gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars of free publicity out of a few pages of letterhead and some stamps.

I mean really what are we going to do, switch to one of the other bar code readers? Of course not, but we've all gone out and got a CueCat!

Whoever put together this plan has got to be sitting in his chair rocking back and forth laughing his butt off at how we fell for it hook, line and sinker! All the while churning out invoices to the CueCat enabled advertisors who signed deals at a rate of .10 per shipped CueCat for the right to use that TMed slanty barcode and logo!

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find out Taco was a principle over at DC!


Pope Slackman (13727) | more than 14 years ago | (#743913)

I would never [sausageparty.net] take apart a device [sausageparty.net] I was given...That's bad [sausageparty.net] . What's wrong with you nasty 'hackers'?!

Ok, I said it. Now where's my $50?

Hardware Hackers (1)

ConeFish (216294) | more than 14 years ago | (#743914)

Not that I agree with how this works, but if you read the license agreement, it says that the cat is "on loan" and like pretty much all things on loan (leased car, etc..) you cannot modify it. Again, I do not agree, but that is how their license explains this...

Why not grab all the freebies (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#743922)

Since RadioShack is giving them away for free. Why not just go pick up one per day from all surrounding stores. You can just give false name and stuff if you want, but this is one easy way to screw up their business model. All their investor will see they gave away 100 thousands of CueCats, but where are all the demographic info from all those alledge users... LOL And since the CueCat comes in a plastic baggie, why not toss out the CD ROM and pamplet that came with it, since the EULA is for the Software, if we don't use the software, we're not breaking any EULA rules. "And what EULA Agreement and pamplet are you talking about, we only received a CueCat thing in a ripped plastic baggies." :)

Another mirror up. (2)

villoks (27306) | more than 14 years ago | (#743925)

Well, it seems that some people will never learn one of the most basic rules of the net: more you fight, more mirrors will pop up. $cientology was the first organisation to have this experience, I guess their "secrets" documents are the most widely spread religious documents in the net (I guess somebody should submit these cuecat-documents to the Swedish parlament :-)... Anyone who has followed how the community works here should have learned the lesson up till now so it's a bit strange that it still happens.
Anyway, feel free to visit also my mirror, the address is the same as below...

My DeCSS archive:

Re:Strange (2)

Rader (40041) | more than 14 years ago | (#743927)

Why the hell would they care? All you did was give some free advertisement fo their product. With pictures. That's it.


Radio Shack no longer hacker friendly (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 14 years ago | (#743929)

Radio Shack used to be the hackers friend. Selling parts for the home designer to use. Giving the Cue-cat away but not allowing people to play with it seems to be against the philosophy I remember of Radio Shack.

Then again aren't most modern Shack store reduced to a single peg board of parts, common user small things like batteries and spare 8V supplies then the computer, toy, and stero section.

Intellectual Property Lawyers (2)

gailt (208796) | more than 14 years ago | (#743932)

We took the CueCat and a sampling of posts to the Intellectual Property Section of the Arizona State Bar, and when we read the "retroactive loan" EULA and Slashdot posts, raucous laughter ensued... they especially enjoyed the post on the toothbrush EULA [slashdot.org] .

Fun with Databases (1)

F.O.Dobbs (17317) | more than 14 years ago | (#743933)

After seeing the link [tuwien.ac.at] about reprogramming the eeprom I started thinking. Why don't we just create a script that randomizes the serial code for your cuecat everytime you use it, filling their database with junk.

Just a thought...
F.O. Dobbs
Portal-Potty.com [portal-potty.com] Founder and Mr. Brown drinker

Re:Excuse me? (2)

wmoyes (215662) | more than 14 years ago | (#743934)

The FedEx tracking number is 445668732675, you may track your letter at http://www.fedex.com/us/tracking/ [fedex.com] .

Digital Convergence

Surprise (4)

CMiYC (6473) | more than 14 years ago | (#743935)

I knew this was coming... I'm beyond glad I printed the page out a few days ago. I was really surprised they hadn't gotten a letter yet.

I think DC can make an argument that the software violates their IP (whatever that is, and however weak their argument is... i think they can make one). Now... I don't see anythign wrong with the hardware side of it.

I got my Cue:;'#$.,==+Cat before they changed their EULA, and since RS didn't get my name and address I feel I have no obligation to any changes they make. So, therefore...I can do with this little piece of hardware as I please. It just so happens I'm allergic to white plastic...so to use their wonderful product I removed it from its casing.

You know...whatever. If they want to waste their money on Legal crap that no one cares about, let them. Are we REALLY worth it? I mean, seriously. How many people have taken theirs apart? Is it worth the cost of all this trouble and bad publicity on their part?


I don't know (1)

Devil Ducky (48672) | more than 14 years ago | (#743940)

I certainly don't agree with what DC is doing. I believe since they are giving the hardware away for free and the service (on the customer side) is free then they should not gripe about a few people seeing what makes it all tick.

However, I do believe they have the right to gripe. It is still their "intelectual property" no matter what they charge you for it.

Yes, I believe in intelectual property (for the most part) and I believe in/practice open source. This does not make me a hypocrit(sp?) or flamebait.

Personally I feel what these people that DC is getting so pissed off at aren't doing anything that really makes any difference. No matter what your product is someone is going to take it apart [slashdot.org] . If DC just waited and kept quiet about it then it would go away, if they continue to make a big deal about it then it will keep getting on /..

Devil Ducky
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