The Latest in Tech: From Outages to Ink Wars


March 16, 2023

Staples-owned Essendant Faces Network Outage, Disrupting Operations, and Customer Service
Essendant Tackles System Outage and Strives for Swift Recovery

Source: HPhoto Credit, FLY:D on UnsplashP, Inc.

Essendant, a Staples-owned wholesale distributor of stationery and office supplies, is grappling with a multi-day systems outage that has disrupted its operations, freezing orders and impacting customers and suppliers. The Illinois-based company, which boasts over $5.4 billion in annual revenue and employs more than 6,400 people, has been unable to process or fulfill online orders since the evening of March 6, 2023. Consequently, freight carriers have been instructed to postpone pick-ups until further notice.

The "significant network-wide outage" was first reported to customers on March 7th. While the company has not yet revealed the cause of the issue, it continues to work on recovery efforts. During this time, customers have been unable to place orders or reach Essendant's customer care.

The outage, which has also affected the company's inventory of over 160,000 items, is likely to have a far-reaching impact on the supply chain. Essendant serves around 30,000 reseller customers with products ranging from traditional office supplies and furniture to janitorial, break room, and technology items.

With the precise cause of the outage still unclear, it is unknown whether it is the result of a technical glitch or a cyber attack. BleepingComputer has reached out to Staples and Essendant for further information but has not received additional details beyond the company's public notice.

More, here.

Adrienne Spear,  Industry Analyst

Do Your Clients Want a "Faster Horse"?
Information at Speed is Emptying the Cities of Tomorrow, Today


The famous architect from the 1960s, Le Corbusier, predicted skyscrapers would make us work less, and that offices would empty out by mid-day once information could flow faster. While he got the exodus right, he missed the mark on why it would happen.

Dror Poleg, an author and economic historian who studies the impact of technology on the workplace, takes a closer look at the evolution of the office and work. Through the lenses of Henry Ford, H.G. Wells, and Steve Jobs, he talks about how we got to where we are today and what the future may hold.

The pace of change in work technology is moving at breakneck speed, and predicting what's coming next is folly. But by looking back at the past 50 years, we can get a good sense of what to expect over the 10.

We all know, office technology isn't about speeds and feeds, it's about connections and understanding how and why people work, and how we can help them do it better. Steve said it best, "People don't know what they want until you show it to them."

Timeless advice. Check out Dror's cool article here.

Greg Walters, Head Writer

HP Toner Chips
Dynamic security: When protecting intellectual property means blocking every other property.

Source: Laura Ockel, Unsplash

HP has released firmware updates that prevent third-party ink cartridges from working with their printers. The measure, called "dynamic security," is designed to ensure the "quality of the customer experience", maintain the integrity of printing systems, and protect HP's intellectual property.

While HP claims that the measure is necessary to prevent potential functionality risks, counterfeit HP supplies, and warranty fraud, you can imagine the many accusations of the company monopolizing the market and limiting consumer choice.

This isn't the first time. HP has faced several class action lawsuits and regulatory fines in the past over its "dynamic security" policies.  The company reached a settlement of $2.27m based on the firmware acting as "malware" and rendering competitors' supply cartridges incompatible with HP printers.

Despite the controversy, HP has continued to release firmware updates that block third-party ink cartridges using non-HP chips or modified or non-HP electronic circuitry. The updates warn that "periodic firmware updates will maintain the effectiveness of the dynamic security measures and block cartridges that previously worked."

The implications of HP's "dynamic security" policies and the latest firmware updates are once again, significant for the printing industry and consumers.

The battle continues.

Greg Walters, Head Writer

Work Trends
Garbage In, Garbage Out: The Importance of Addressing Gender Bias in AI's Fuel
Will AI cross the finish line free from biases, or will it trip and fall with "garbage in, garbage out"? Only time and data will tell.

Photo Credit, Jennie Hinchcliff

Artificial Intelligence will make more inroads into the Office Technology realm much faster than anticipated.  It is happening now.

Besides the obvious technical and business workflow advances AI could improve and provide, the social and ethical impact of AI is beginning to be measured and appreciated - if not feared.

This is heady stuff, but quite possibly one of the most important issues to study.  Can AI be sexist, racist, or a hate monger?

One aspect is gender bias in artificial intelligence.  Knowing that AI is simply an engine and data the fuel, if the fuel is contaminated by water or other foreign substances, the engine will not perform as specified.  It breaks down.  Garbage in, Garbage out.

Amy at Workflow pens a great reflection on our current and future trajectory in the continuous journey toward Artificial Intelligence "Nirvana" and how AI reflects the way we see things and respond in the real world.  She illustrates the progress of AI and gender bias in the context of recent events, such as the announcement of Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik as permanent hosts of Jeopardy and the release of the OpenAI chatbot ChatGPT.

Despite the excruciatingly fast progress, gender bias can still be present in machine learning algorithms due to pre-existing biases in the data they are trained on.

Read how Amy checks ChatGPT's degree of bias and what is being done to address and reduce the possibility, here.

Greg Walters, Head Writer

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