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Hardware

Decoding the Inscrutable Logos On Your Electronics 140

Posted by samzenpus
from the be-sure-to-drink-your-ovaltine dept.
jfruhlinger writes "If you've bought a piece of electronic equipment — a computer, a printer, even a lowly power supply — you've no doubt noticed a host of inscrutable logos festooned all over it — UL, CE, FCC, TUV, RoHS, ENERGY STAR, and the like. What do they mean? Each of these compliance marks tell a story about your gadget's operation or lifecycle, and knowing what they mean can let you in on the hidden life of the gizmos you buy."
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Decoding the Inscrutable Logos On Your Electronics

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  • by NecroPuppy (222648) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @05:47PM (#36535978) Homepage

    They're stamped on there legitimately.

    For a while there, you couldn't go a week without seeing one story or another about some "UL certified" device blowing up... because the UL stamp was fake.

    • The devices didn't blow up because the UL stamp was fake. They blew up because they were cheaply built pieces of crap.

      The fake testing agency stamps were just the icing on the cake.

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        The devices didn't blow up because the UL stamp was fake. They blew up because they were cheaply built pieces of crap.

        The fake testing agency stamps were just the icing on the cake.

        Quite an interesting bit on the BBC a few weeks back (I'm sure it's in their archives) on "innovation" in China - Once a company has made a product on contract they would retain some of that technology to make extra runs of the product - even going so far as to brazenly and proudly show their knock-offs at trade shows, completely overlooking the matters of copyrights and patents.

        I recently acquired a set of Syma S107 helicopters (which are a ton of fun) and while reading a little bit more on them found ther

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          How much would it interest you to know that the Syma S107 is itself a blatant rip off a product that came before? Or that at this point in the timeline, it's utterly impossible to figure out who actually engineered these things in the first place.

          I have a small collection of these heli's as a result of my product research for my webstore. At least 12 different brand names, but only 7 different models. The other 5 are exact copies, with the only changes being stickers/paint/dye.

          Even more interesting, the

          • by KDR_11k (778916)

            Careful with that, I don't know about US law but here in Germany it's a crime to import counterfeit goods both for the seller and buyer so you could end up facing criminal charges.

      • The devices didn't blow up because the UL stamp was fake. They blew up because they were cheaply built pieces of crap.

        The fake testing agency stamps were just the icing on the cake.

        Are you sure it wasn't UL exacting revenge for stamping a fake logo onto the product?

    • Re:But only if... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:07PM (#36536188) Journal

      If a regulatory standard does not have a publicly accessible database to confirm conformance, it is useless.

      This includes the worst such standard of all: the self-certified. See also Ethernet over powerline, RFI and Ofcom.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If a regulatory standard does not have a publicly accessible database to confirm conformance, it is useless.

        This includes the worst such standard of all: the self-certified. See also Ethernet over powerline, RFI and Ofcom.

        TUV has an online accessible database: http://www.tuvdotcom.com/ [tuvdotcom.com]

        You just type in the certificate number (which is a tiny print under the triangle logo) and you can find everything about the test procedures and even see the signatures of the people responsible for the test.

        Disclaimer: I work in TUV.

      • yep, lots of tp-link routers from a major geek-from-an-egg online retailer that have fcc codes that don't match the fcc licensing database [fcc.gov]. They work more reliably in my experience than the "cisco" home wireless routers do though. I guess the regulatory body labels don't mean much whether they are fake or real anymore. *shrug*
    • Re:But only if... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:37PM (#36536434) Homepage

      Hardly. Getting UL certification, or CSA certification is stupidly easy. It all comes down to manufacturing and the quality of it and why 'shit blows up'. An example, back when I was working at a plant that made medium and heavy industrial equipment for the disposal of components of ICBM's, we had everything CSA and UL tested. This test involved a disclosure of the electrical device and how it worked. The CSA certification was similar. This was followed with a POTS test and we could slap the label on.

      Besides that we also shipped this stuff to europe, and it had to be electrically certified for Germany, France, and Belgium. At least the wiring codes were easy. I always did like their rubberized 'soft' wiring vs the hardcoat we used here.

      • by BBF_BBF (812493)
        Getting UL or CSA certification says NOTHING about the quality of the device. It's all about electrical safety.

        Basically, a certification means that a device won't catch fire if it shorts out and won't electrocute the crap out of you in certain short circuit cases.
        Plus the manufacturer submits all units for test, so it's up the manufacturer to ensure that "production" units are identical to the ones submitted for testing.
        • Re:But only if... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by postbigbang (761081) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @09:08PM (#36537570)

          No, tuffer than that.

          Dielectric strength is tested; mains separation from consumer touchable parts are tested; holes can't be big enough to stick a small screwdriver or knife into (something that conducts more than .25") into the chassis, and so on. Yes, electrical safety, but beyond first article inspection, there's a long list of details to keep an object "safe" for consumers so that liability can be reduced, and insurance costs go down.

          • by tibit (1762298)

            This can still be done with plenty of lip service. Just like building that's done to minimum code requirements is often a crappy place to live, designs done to minimum standard requirements usually suck.

          • Re:But only if... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @11:14PM (#36538212) Homepage Journal

            "holes can't be big enough to stick a small screwdriver or knife into (something that conducts more than .25") into the chassis"

            That only applies if you're going for an Ingress Protection rating.

            Disclaimer: I make dust and water-proof lighting solutions. I have to pass this with every single product revision I make for commercial use.

            • by Anonymous Coward
              My understanding was that the strictest requirement of all, is a boatload of money to UL. Recurring.

              True or false?
        • by Mashiki (184564)

          Yeah I wasn't exactly clear in my first two sentence. But I have been awake for nearly 30hrs so I promise NOTHING! HAHAHA!

      • You're glossing over an abundance of detail on UL/CSA listing.

        I work for a company that manufactures industrial particulate moisture sensors. Due to the location these are commonly installed in, we have been required to jump through a number of hoops (HazLoc classifications, etc) without first being told what hoops we'd have to be jumping through. (Perhaps this is easier at a larger company where there are personnel dedicated to reading the tomes of standards - literally 1000's of pages which cost $$$$).

        • by tibit (1762298)

          You're doing it wrong. Get in touch with a company that does consulting, contract with someone who has done hundreds of those devices. For $10k extra you'll pass. BTDT.

    • UL doesn't exactly staff itself with the best and the brightest, either. It's all about extracting as much revenue as possible from every company in an end-product's supply chain, while ultimately giving enough approvals to keep the companies from going to a competing service like CSA or TUV.

  • by Bongoots (795869) * on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @05:47PM (#36535980)

    I'll just move on, because I can't see anything here. If I wanted to know this I would've gone to Wikipedia.

    Somehow I thought this was a news site (maybe it says something about that in the tagline?), but I must have been mistaken. Silly me.

    • by Plombo (1914028)
      I wish you hadn't been modded down, because you have a valid point.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      yes, because everyone had the same interested and level of experiences as you do~

    • by Anonymous Coward
      This is what I'm hearing you say: "This article looks like shit! It's crap! Seriously, look!"
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      /. long moved from being a news site for nerds to a tech site for people who don't have a fucking clue years ago.

      • Nobody is an expert in everything. That's what slashdot is good at, bringing the occasional actual expert in particular fields to enlighten those of us who might be expert in other fields.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:47PM (#36536534)

      It would have been nice if they had a chart showing the logos and explaining them. Yes, we get it, most of those are there as proof of passing certification... but which ones mean what?

  • TFA total mess (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon AT gamerslastwill DOT com> on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @05:48PM (#36535994) Homepage Journal

    TFA is a convoluted mess of industry jargon and useless information.

    A useful article would involve the icons themselves and what they mean.

  • by pjbgravely (751384) <pjbgravely2NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @05:50PM (#36536006) Homepage Journal
    Was it just me or did the story actually say almost nothing. I was expecting a list of the syllables and what they meant.
    • by Relayman (1068986)
      There's a lot more to RoHS than "states that specified substances aren't present." I could write a whole article on that one alone. Oh, gee, somebody has: Wikipedia! [wikipedia.org]
      • You're right, especially the irony of RoHS trying to be better for the environment when RoHS-compliant gadgets are actually junked quicker and with greater frequency because RoHS solder joints are brittle shit. Red Ring of Death anyone?

        Take a look at the wiki link you posted. I love how the "Hazardous materials and the high-tech trash problem" section is right above the "Life-cycle impact assessment of lead-free solder" section. So we're giving the poor people much more garbage to wade through, but at le
  • Showing your product key on Slashdot is not a good idea !!!
    • Actually, /. is an reasonably safe place to let Windows 7 codes fly.
    • by cosm (1072588)
      He's right. Front page of the article. Article is a trap BTW, mostly wordiness with some acronyms. Sorry Daniel P. Dern, but whaaaaaaaa?

      Windows 7 Home Premium
      JYR76-C9WTK-T8G7R-4V9D7-TY32J

      And this generic fodder:

      Other certification marks confirm that the device has been tested in terms of radio-frequency (RF) and electromagnetic interference (EMI). This includes ensuring that RF from cell phones, WiFI routers, microwave ovens, cordless phones, etc. won't interfere with the device's operation. Similarly, devices have to be tested to make sure they aren't emitting a too-high level of RF that could interfere with another device (like airplane navigation, or a heart monitor). Any device with a "radio" (including WiFi, Bluetooth, cellular, WiMAX) emits RF, of course -- and just about anything with a microprocessor can be an "unintentional RF radiator."

      Was this written for People or was this written for folks in IT?

      • by nmb3000 (741169)

        JYR76-C9WTK-T8G7R-4V9D7-TY32J

        Ha. Sounds like a good tag for this story.

        Tagged: JYR76C9WTKT8G7R4V9D7TY32J

  • A series of "standards" designed to keep groups of people employed while producing more "standards" that contributes nothing to human civilization.

    • by Fnord666 (889225)

      A series of "standards" designed to keep groups of people employed while producing more "standards" that contributes nothing to human civilization.

      See also ITIL.

  • "hidden" (Score:5, Funny)

    by EdIII (1114411) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @05:59PM (#36536096)

    knowing what they mean can let you in on the hidden life of the gizmos you buy

    They tell you when you buy them.

    Don't feed them after midnight.
    Keep them away from water.
    Avoid sunlight.

    Thought that was common knowledge.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      knowing what they mean can let you in on the hidden life of the gizmos you buy

      They tell you when you buy them.

      Don't feed them after midnight. Keep them away from water. Avoid sunlight.

      Thought that was common knowledge.

      <pedantic_mode>These go for all mogwai, not only Gizmo [youtube.com].</pedantic_mode>

      • by EdIII (1114411)

        Isn't the fact that you bothered to create and close tags about being pendantic indicative of an extra level of pedantic behavior? :)

  • RoHS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Scott Kevill (1080991) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:03PM (#36536152) Homepage

    Rodents of Hunusual Size. I don't believe they exist.

    • by GrBear (63712)

      It's "Rodents of Human Size", and they're know to gravitate toward politics.

  • Windows Key (Score:3, Informative)

    by colsandurz45 (1314477) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:08PM (#36536200)
    Does this guy realize that he just published his windows 7 product key?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      haven't spend much time figuring out how the win7 licensing work but, isn't the oem licenses with computers from
      "the big guys" locked to specific hardware etc. So that key will only work for a lenovo pc and unless you call ms
      that specific lenovo pc?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Simple answer no. Long answer nooooo. Since the key information is stored either in the bios or in the first part of the boot drive, you can pretty much soft-hack it in if you understand the basics of how a PC works.

      • the system restore discs typically install a pre-activated copy of windows using a generic key and they are locked to a specific hardware configuration. the OEM key itself can be used to install windows on any computer if you have the generic installation media (like you get when you buy an OEM copy). also with Windows 7 there is no difference between OEM, Upgrade, or Retail discs. Previously with XP you couldn't install using Upgrade media with an OEM key. with Windows 7 the license type is solely depe
        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          It depends.

          If it's a Win7 OEM version, it'll go for a special BIOS license or other mechanism by default (the Win7 contents might be the same, but there's a slight difference in the discs).

          If you use that Win7 OEM key, Win7 won't actually activate properly - you have to call up Microsoft and do a phone activation. If you use the proper OEM key, then Win7 will use the SLIC or other method to get the license and auto-activate. If you buy an OEM copy, you can activate it normally as per retail copies.

          And you

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:12PM (#36536230) Homepage

    Crap article. You'd think there would be a picture of all the logos on something, followed by a close-up picture of each logo and its explanation . But no. It's pure did not do the research. [tvtropes.org]

    This looks like Demand Media content for a made-for-Adsense page. Probably paid the author about $10.

  • Decoding the Inscrutable Logos On Your Electronics

    Mine says "Don't forget to drink your ovaltine."

  • by deadhammer (576762) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:18PM (#36536282)
    Am I the only one who read the title as "Decoding the Inscrutable Legos On Your Electronics"?
  • by chill (34294) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:18PM (#36536286) Journal

    Where's the Kosher electronics?

  • The article is interesting and has a fair point. I have worked at three companies now where compliance was very much an afterthought and was charged at each company to get them over the line before the items went to market. Luckily I have been able to make various combinations of hardware and firmware meet C-Tick (CISPR21/22), A-Tick (S-001/2/3/4), IP-52, EN60950 etc.) with judicious application of capacitors to ground, sticky metal foil, clip on ferrites and firmware corrections. On the other hand, hard
    • by tibit (1762298)

      So you're saying there are idiots out there who do PCB layout without having all that put down in design rules that get automatically checked? WTF?! When I do layout, I first check what limits are placed by the board maker and assembly house, then applicable standards and good engineering practice, then everything gets put into the DRC rule set. From that point onwards it's easy sailing.

  • Article sucks (Score:4, Informative)

    by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:31PM (#36536388) Homepage

    Even Wikipedia has better info than that paid article :P

    UL: Underwriters Lab - a safety testing outfit
    CE: Conformité Européenne (french) - Europe's equivalent of the UL
    TUV: Technischer Überwachungsverein - German safety org like the above two
    FCC: Federal Communications Commission - they license, test and certify radio equipment (cell phones, wifi, etc)
    RoHS: Restriction of Hazardous Substances - a European law restricting hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, and a few others
    ENERGY STAR: A set of energy efficiency standards primarily featured in the US, British Commonwealth nations, and parts of Europe. They are typically much stricter than national requirements.

    At the end of the day though, most of these are just marketing stickers. Yes, they require some degree of certification, but it's kind of like getting your MCSE or A+. Not having the cert does not necessarily mean your device will blow up or pop breakers, it just means the mfg didn't pay their fee to get certified. For big mainstream appliances it's kind of dumb to not have it, but on most smaller gadgets it's a non-issue.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      >For big mainstream appliances it's kind of dumb to not have it, but on most smaller gadgets it's a non-issue.

      Until it sets on fire and:

      - Insurance refuses to pay up for the damage
      - You lose your home due to the above
      - The electrical supplier sues you for connecting non-compliant devices to their power grid

      It is against code in most places to use devices that didn't pass recognized safety standards (your relevant government will have a list of recognized testing labs they can prov

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Except that:

        - The insurance company doesn't care. I know my policy doesn't have any exclusions for nonstandard devices.
        - You lose your home from the fire, the insurance company WILL build you a new one unless they actually put an exclusion in your policy. And the "approved" devices start fires too.
        - The electrical supplier doesn't care either. I signed nothing agreeing to use only "approved" devices, they'd have a really hard time suing me for it.

        It's not against code most places. You don't even assume

      • by tibit (1762298)

        I think you truly believe what you say, but it's just FUD spread by certification agencies and standard body shills. I don't know if you're one knowingly or not. It's a bunch of BS. If something cheap and poorly done starts a fire, there's usually no way of telling what it was. It'll melt and you won't be able to even tell what the heck it was. Nobody cares, really. As long as it's not fraudulently done (on purpose to get insurance money), you'll be in the clear.

    • Of the ones you list, TUV is pretty strict. The rest are pretty much all self-certificates, though with UL you probably had to go to a third-party agency to give you your rubber stamp.

    • by bws111 (1216812)

      They are only 'marketing stickers' in the sense that it may well be illegal to sell the devices without the stickers.

    • For industry those are marketing stickers too... all but one.

      For the most part no one ever requests the certificates for the above. TUV on the other hand, when an item I buy has a TUV sticker on it I typically want to know absolutely everything on the certificate.

      It's not just the German equivalent of UL or CE. They do incredibly detailed conformance testing of equipment to strict standards. E.g. if one of the logic solvers in the control system fails, TUV are the guys who tell you how quickly you must fix

    • CE: Conformité Européenne (french) - Europe's equivalent of the UL

      Bzzzt! Incorrect.

      CE (it officially doesn't stand for anything) is a Manufacturer's attestation that they meet all relevant European CE-marking Directives.

      Legally speaking, the manufacturer (or their European agent) must have documentation backing up this attestation - Declarations of Conformity, Technical Documentation (probably including test reports); and most Directives require some level of end-user information to be provided with the apparatus.

      Interestingly, the "New Legislative Framework" (see Regs 76

  • This is complete garbage. We have to at least assume some sort of level of competency for the readers of this site. What are we trying to do here, be PBS for kids?
  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:46PM (#36536532)

    ...the article doesn't actually tell you jack about decoding the logos. Instead, the article can mostly be summed up with, "You have lots of logos on your electronic gadgets. They mean things, like meeting safety or RF interference standards! They cost money."

  • by joost (87285) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:53PM (#36536590) Homepage

    Okay, so I tried something new and went ahead and read TFA this time. Big mistake. For something supposedly about the icons on electronic you'd expect to see the icons with their meaning printed next to them, right? But not this article! It reads like an SEO meta tag, does nothing to explain what any of those icons mean, and is full of bullshit jargon. Save yourself the trouble and don't read it. As for the slashdot "editors": fuck you guys.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    A better article with photos of some of the logos is on Ars Technica at http://arstechnica.com/apple/guides/2011/02/ask-ars-what-do-the-symbols-on-the-back-of-iphones-mean.ars [arstechnica.com]
  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @07:00PM (#36536668) Homepage
    this thing is three fucking pages of high-level dreck about the labels the author saw and what they mean in general
    at the end of page 3 im told not to despair and keep the faith as the industry tunes its testing parameters to top notch standards!

    i did however get a nice bombardment of inline advertising for the site, side bar adverts for the sponsors,
    and enough fucking namedropping to fill a grocery cart with products tattooed in symbols and codes
    that by the end of the article i could only appreciate from afar.
  • The next Ask Slashdot article should be "How do we get those ridiculous laptop stickers off our palm rests?" and even from some desktops. 5 at last count: brand/model, cpu, graphics card, windows os and one huge sticker with the CPU, RAM, HDD, OS specs...as if you stole a display piece. /. covered how AMD hates them as much as we do [slashdot.org] but...what next?

    'festooned' is a popular word in articles on /. [google.com].

  • by flimflammer (956759) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @07:15PM (#36536788)

    You'd expect a chart or something telling you what they were.

  • I always see "NOM" on my electronics, and wonder what that means. An interesting read, but this article did not help me in my quest.
  • I don't understand why all brands have lots of logos whilst Apple has basically no logos on their devices.
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      I don't understand why all brands have lots of logos whilst Apple has basically no logos on their devices.

      Depends. The iPhone4 has them on the outside for the GSM version because it has to have those logos somewhere on the product the end-user can see (by regulation). Most cellphones hide those logos under the battery. The Verizon version, because it's US only, has no logo other than the Apple one on the back as the FCC one doesn't have to be shown (the FCC ID is good enough).

      For the computers, since there

    • by jeaton (44965)

      My MacBook Pro had a line of logos on the bottom which are now mostly worn off. The AC adapter has one side covered in them as well.

      My iPhone has a row of them across the back as well.

      The iMac, interestingly enough, doesn't appear to have any certification logos on it that I can see.

  • This just confirms to me the claim that government regulation is ubiquitous and expensive. According to numerous sources e.g. http://www.freedomworks.org/blog/jhammerton/the-hidden-cost-of-regulation [freedomworks.org] compliance with regulation costs businesses more that corporate taxes, roughly 12% of GDP. IMHO, not only is the U.S. economy dangerously heading down the road of selling far more in services than it does in tangible product, but the government is feeding itself through runaway regulation.

    Taking that a step f

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