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DRM Hardware

An Automated Cat Litter Box With DRM 190

HughPickens.com writes: Jorge Lopez had always wanted an automatic cat litter box, and finally found one called the CatGenie, a fully automated self-washing litter box connected to water, electricity and the sewer that cleans itself with water and soap. "It's the Rolls Royce of cat litter boxes, a hefty device that scoops, cleans, and disposes of the waste all on it's own. It's completely automated, even senses when a cat poops and cleans up afterwards." But there's trouble in paradise. "Life with the CatGenie was great, but not quite perfect," writes Lopez, after discovering that CatGenie uses a smart cartridge that is only available from the manufacturer. "I found that the "Smart" in SmartCartridge is that it has an RFID chip inside of it to keep track of how much solution it has, and once it runs out, well, you can't refill. I honestly did not believe this and tore one of the cartridges apart, and there it was, looking back at me, a tiny chip holding up it's little metal finger." Fortunately there are some amazing people helping the CatGenie community who have released products like the custom firmware CatGenious and CartridgeGenius, which allows you to use whatever solution you want. "The cost savings is great, but isn't the biggest driver for me, it's mainly the principle that I don't own the device I paid for, and I'm really tired of having cat litter everything in my home."
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An Automated Cat Litter Box With DRM

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  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @07:47PM (#48656723) Journal
    DRM-laden toilets?
    v1.0: Uses proprietary toilet paper and won't allow you to flush any TP that doesn't have the manufacturer-specific RFID tag in it.
    v2.0: You may only eat and drink foods specified by the manufacturer, which also contain microscopid RFID tags, which are biologically inert and pass harmlessly through your digestive tract and into your feces and urine. Detection of any other waste substances will result in Failure to Flush.
    v3.0: All RoboToiliet users must have an RFID tag implanted in their ass; others may not use the toilet. RoboToilet must be connected to AC mains power and a broadband internet connection 24/7/365, or Failure to Flush will not occur because end-user authentication will not be possible. Naturally there is an annual subscription fee, with complimentary membership in the RoboToilet Owners Club.

    I'll leave it up to you to decide what the 'owners club' is all about.
    • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @07:53PM (#48656749) Journal

      DRM-laden toilets?

      The purpose of toilets is to receive DRM. Not sure what TFS is complaining about: your cat comes along and deposits DRM in the litter-box; job well done!

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Doubtful, since Canada is one of the largest TP makers in the world there's no benefit in it for us. We have an entire industry built around cutting down trees, planting new trees, and making TP from it.

    • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

      And it flushes itself! Awesome, where can I get one.

    • by Aereus ( 1042228 )

      The Keurig 2.0 has the "only drink liquids specified by the manufacturer" part down already.

      • The Keurig 2.0 has the "only drink liquids specified by the manufacturer" part down already.

        Well, technically they only control the container which creates a solution from whatever liquid you put into the coffee maker.

        You would, for example, be perfectly free to put beer in your Keurig to brew coffee with.

        Or pee in someone else's.

      • by hawk ( 1151 )

        One of my partners bought one of these for the office.

        Then we found reusable filter canisters that we could load with better coffee.

        Then it broke.

        Our staff makes better coffee without having to clean several of those a day.

        hawk

    • And god help you if you buy the robotoliet model ED-209.

    • Welcome to the next evolution of the Internet, the Internet in Things, namely, large corporations shafting your ass with their DRM.

      And yes, that's going to be the future where the toilet won't flush if you're not using the correct brand of toilet paper. Or your toaster won't work because the brand of bread is wrong.

  • by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @07:57PM (#48656773)

    And to think week ago I thought that both Keurig DRM defenders vs hackers were making petty efforts over petty territories.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OhPlz ( 168413 )

      It may seem petty now, but if every device we use in our daily lives started doing this, it wouldn't so good. Keurig is a good example. You can still make coffee with a simple french press. Trouble is, the k-cups have taken over the coffee selection in a lot of groceries. Expand that into devices of all types and shopping for consumables becomes a total PITA.

      • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @08:13PM (#48656841)

        It may seem petty now, but if every device we use in our daily lives started doing this, it wouldn't so good. Keurig is a good example. You can still make coffee with a simple french press. Trouble is, the k-cups have taken over the coffee selection in a lot of groceries. Expand that into devices of all types and shopping for consumables becomes a total PITA.

        That's ok, the grocery store is the worst place to buy coffee anyway, buy it at a local coffee shop that roasts their own so you know it hasn't been sitting on a shelf (or worse, non air climate controlled warehouse) for weeks or months before you buy it.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I like my coffee like I like my women.... ground up and in the freezer.

          Just kidding, that's a horrible way to keep coffee.

          • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

            I like my coffee like I like my women.... ground up and in the freezer.

            Just kidding, that's a horrible way to keep coffee.

            And women.

        • by OhPlz ( 168413 )

          You're missing the point.

          • Keurigs are for people who fail at math. They cost roughly 75 cents a cup. It would be way cheaper to buy a good old reliable $30 Mr. Coffee, drink one cup from the pot, and throw the rest away.

    • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @11:40PM (#48657791) Homepage Journal

      Unless these schemes are proven to fail again and again, there will only be more of them. If you don't want every trivial device in your life to refuse to use anything but it's own overpriced brand of expendables, one would think you would at least encourage if not otherwise support efforts like these.

    • This is only the beginning.
  • I'm really tired of having cat litter everything in my home.

    There's an obvious solution this... Assuming you don't want a cat or a home...

    No? Can we assume this is the only product on the market (and before it was invented, cats littered homes with reckless abandon)...
    If in the end, this is your only solution, then make your piece with the DRM, or with bypassing it. Don't forget, you always have a choice..

  • sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @08:02PM (#48656799)

    "The cost savings is great, but isn't the biggest driver for me, it's mainly the principle that I don't own the device I paid for, and I'm really tired of having cat litter everything in my home."

    So exercise your rights as a consumer to research beforehand and not buy it. Or return it. Or modify it, as you have. Or, for god sakes, ask your vet or friends with cats or reddit for advice on having cat litter everywhere (I believe the most common solution is a covered box with fairly high side.) You can also teach your cat to pee/crap in the toilet, believe it or not. There are little "litter box" inserts that reportedly make it pretty easy; the cat goes "oh, another litter box" and uses it for a week or two, and then you remove the insert, and if the cat notices, they go *shrug* and still use it. No more litter, no more stink.

    But for god sakes....I was around on Slashdot when the fist inkjet printer companies started chipping their cartridges. I also learned about Gillette in...either middle school or high school. That was a century ago, if not more. The "handle is free, the blades are disposable and we have a very healthy profit margin on them" model is quite, quite old. Why are people surprised? Especially if you read Slashdot, why didn't you do research on it?

    Your robotic, do-everything catbox would've cost substantially more if the company were not figuring on a continuing revenue stream. In fact, it might have cost so much that nobody would've bought it.

    • So exercise your rights as a consumer to research beforehand and not buy it. Or return it. Or modify it, as you have.

      He DID modify it, as you noted. What's the problem?

    • Re:sigh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by RyoShin ( 610051 ) <tukaro@gma i l . com> on Monday December 22, 2014 @09:07PM (#48657109) Homepage Journal

      I believe the most common solution is a covered box with fairly high side.

      I volunteer at a cat rescue and sanctuary where the cats roam freely, and we use giant totes (>25 gal) in our main area filled about 1/4-1/3 of the way up. We still have some spill over because there are so many cats (mainly when they jump out, not from digging), but it's a sprinkling instead of a beach. High sides are a good way to go.

      Our smaller rooms use normal litter boxes, but again only filled about 1/3 of the way. Still not much spill over, but that could be because they're mostly kittens and don't have as much digging power. Most people that suffer from litter going all over are filling it too high, so it may be as simple as just putting less litter in the box at a time.

      The cover, however, might not help. The adoption counselors recommend against covered boxes: while it might seem useful to humans (between extra protection against spilling and odor filters that can be put in the top) it isn't that enticing to cats (I can't remember exactly why.)

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        you had me at kitten digging power

      • Before I had to put my best bud to sleep, I had bought a small piece of carpeting (2' x 1'?) with a moderate pile and put it in front of the litter box. When he walked over it after taking care of business the litter would fall on to this and every so often I would take this carpet outside and give it a good shake and a few smacks.

        Took care of 95% of litter trackage.

        As to covered litter boxes, I have never had an issue with any cat using a covered box. I just made sure there was plenty of light shining in

        • My family had a cat that was...well... As far as anybody could tell, he actively tried to track out litter, having tried all of the tricks mentioned. He's been dead several years, and we've still not cleaned it all up. High sides and a covered box were both no-goes: He took both as personal affronts and objected the way he objected to everything--by refusing to use it. He even contrived to spray urine against the wall, which we dealt with by taping up plastic tarps. He actually let us know he was ready
    • Re:sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @09:49PM (#48657319)

      You need to know before hand what the hidden features are though. Trouble is that you can't easily find it out. If you check customer reviews you will almost always find glowing positive reviews for things just dripping with DRM. Though to be fair, when I see a glowing review I almost always think that there must be something suspicious, because no one can get that excited about a mere consumer product. Plus these reviews usually get written long before the problems are discovered, which means you have to wait a year maybe before some more honest and objective reviews show up.

      People LOVE the Blu-Ray despite the horrendous DRM it has. People still buy Origin games. People somehow are quivering with delight at Keurig despite the alternatives that don't have DRM.

      The problem here is not the high margin on replacement parts, but on the DRM itself. I can make an adapter for a Gillette razor if I wanted to without breaking any DMCA laws. Inkjet cartridges did not originally have DRM but instead just some ominous "for best results please only official parts" warnings. And of course people figure out the do-it-yourself solutions pretty quickly, until the manufacturers figure out how to change software to prevent the DIY.

      As well, with the razors, the blade is the real product and the handle is merely a free accessory. The ink cartridges require a really specialized formula (easy to replicate from a third party of course). But for a cat box cartridge it's just a plastic container full of soap and water, there's nothing special going on there except the dimensions and interfaces of the container.

      For the profits, this may work out well at first. But after awhile people will stop buying them. Negative word of mouth gets around. Maybe they make less money overall than if they just raised the base price at the start. After all, there are a lot of people out there who are perfectly willing to buy the "official" replacement cartridges.

      • by hawk ( 1151 )

        > I can make an adapter for a Gillette razor if I
        > wanted to without breaking any DMCA laws.

        When I was in college, Safeway's generic/house brand used the same head.

        I bought those, and pulled off the heads to snap on to the better handle . . .

        (these were made with nice hard metal, unlike the bic disposables which would cut my face the first time I used them)

        hawk

    • So exercise your rights as a consumer to research beforehand and not buy it.

      Easier said than done. Did you google every CD you ever were thinking of buying to check if it contained a rootkit? Did you check with every printer if you were able to add after market ink?

      The problem with these DRM schemes is that someone has to fall victim to them at least once before that information becomes public because in very few cases are they required to explicitly state the use of DRM up front.

      • No but I also don't use my printer so much that paying the OEM price will break me. If you are printing that kind of volume, you probably should be researching better options than ink-jet.

        • I did. Aftermarket ink and an inkjet were the best price / quality point. Laser has quality problems, and opto/chemical processes are bankrupting for personal use.

      • Did you google every CD you ever were thinking of buying to check if it contained a rootkit?

        No, but 1) I do not buy a lot of CDs, mainly records and 2) I disable Autoplay/Autorun as part of installing Windows.

        Did you check with every printer if you were able to add after market ink?

        That's pretty much my main criterion for choosing a printer. That and how reliable it is. This is the reason why I use a 13 (probably) year old HP PSC 2500CM (that I got broken for almost free and repaired it myself) - the DRM does not work (as long as I do not download drivers from HP and instead use the ones that are part of Windows) and the cartridges are very easy to refill. After modifyi

    • by hymie! ( 95907 )

      Your robotic, do-everything catbox would've cost substantially more if the company were not figuring on a continuing revenue stream. In fact, it might have cost so much that nobody would've bought it.

      It is not my job to provide you with a "continuing revenue stream". It is your job to convince me that your product is worthy of receiving my money.

    • by jdavidb ( 449077 )

      So exercise your rights as a consumer to research beforehand and not buy it. Or return it. Or modify it, as you have

      That's what he did. He exercised his right to modify it, and he exercised his right to tell people what he did.

    • by jfengel ( 409917 )

      You can also teach your cat to pee/crap in the toilet, believe it or not.

      Yeah, you can try. Of my two cats, one would have nothing whatsoever to do with it, and the other one made it about a week before freaking out and peeing on the floor instead.

      Not everybody's cats are as dumb as mine (these are among the dumbest cats I've ever met), but at least anecdotally the whole cat-toilet idea isn't as easy as it sounds.

      • by hawk ( 1151 )

        >Not everybody's cats are as dumb as mine

        Yes they are.

        It is a Statistical Mystery as to how 99% of cats are it the bottom quartile of intelligence.

        It may have to do with having a brain the size of a walnut . . .

        hawk

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      I like hacking stuff like this, because it simultaneously benefits me but punishes the company trying to ram DRM up my arse. They usually go for the razor blade model, where the handle is cheap and the blades are where they make their profit. By not buying blades they at best break even, or maybe even lose money.

      Now I know these things can be hacked I'm thinking of getting one. Generally I don't buy stuff unless I know I can support it myself, because the chance of the manufacturer losing interest after a y

  • yeah, the summary has the typo, not the project.

  • by vettemph ( 540399 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @08:10PM (#48656823)

    ...But I am tired of this shit!

  • LitterRobot FTW! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Octorian ( 14086 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @08:33PM (#48656949) Homepage

    There are other options in this market, not all of which require proprietary consumables. We've been using the LitterRobot [litter-robot.com] which, while more expensive (~$300), requires no further financial commitment to the manufacturer. You just need to buy normal cat litter and periodically replace a normal garbage bag in the base.

  • by dfenstrate ( 202098 ) <dfenstrate@NOspAM.gmail.com> on Monday December 22, 2014 @08:35PM (#48656965)
    ...But turned away because not only was the machine expensive, but the hack was another $100. I highly recommend the Litter Robot (~$370). I've had one for a few years, and it works off of standard kitchen trash bags. I have two cats and I tend to it once every 7-10 days- I refill the litter and swap out the bags, and maybe do a thorough cleaning twice a year. No BS consumables.
    Another model, Litter Maid (~$120), uses custom plastic trays. It's cheaper, but it doesn't work as well as the Litter Robot. After a few months you'll find yourself tending to it every other day. The cost of the plastic trays added up over the course of a year, but it's a non-DRM receptacle, so you can hack a cheaper 'solution' at home with a small amount of craftiness. If you do go with Litter Maid, go for the cheaper one- it actually works better than the 'Elite' model.
    But really, go for the Litter Robot. I've had mine for two or three years and I love it.
  • How hard is it...? (Score:3, Informative)

    by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @08:50PM (#48657041) Homepage
    How hard is it for people to learn this ultra-simple rule. Sorry to be the grammar nazi, but every time I see this it drives my parser up the wall.

    all on it's own.

    Aaarrggh!!!!

    It's completely automated

    Correct. "it's" is a contraction of "it is".

    a tiny chip holding up it's little metal finger

    Aaaarrrgghh!!!! Doesn't make sense: "...holding up it is little metal finger".

    And to address the article itself, who even needs cat litter and all that nastiness in a house? Just let your damn cat out! They will never, ever soil in the house given a choice.
    • In an Information Age, like the one we are currently in, casual typed conversation DOES NOT have to adhere to strict grammar. Those rules were made for when comms were hard and expensive and the effects long lasting.
  • Give it a couple of years and if the market is big enough somebody will come up with a refill method, just like printer cartridges. I just hope they don't confuse ink with sanitizer though.

    • by torkus ( 1133985 )

      Already done. In fact someone made a $100 module that basically lets you override the controls. Reports have it that it works better without the soap anyhow.

      Basically they wanted to make a consumable so they could generate a perpetual revenue stream. It worked. For every person hacking this and that there's many, many more who just but what they need. Look at Keurig 2.0. Despite all the bad press they're sure selling plenty of 'legit' k-cups.

  • by paiute ( 550198 )
    damn it
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @09:29PM (#48657243) Journal

    "completely automated, even senses when a cat poops and cleans up afterwards."

    My 10 month old Irish setter does the same exact thing. The only downside is that her breath is not really kissably-sweet afterwards.

  • DMCA has got to go (Score:3, Informative)

    by denis-The-menace ( 471988 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @10:18PM (#48657459)

    This is all courtesy of US' DMCA law.

    DRM Ink and toner cartridges
    DRM Keurig 2.0 coffee makers

    It's only going to get worse without push back.

  • ...what kind of coffee does it make?

  • I've seen similar. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @01:52AM (#48658269)

    I own a product called a Flash Powermop. Here in the UK, Flash is a manufacturer of cleaning products. It's just a mop with replacable heads and a squirter in the handle that can deposit cleaning fluid when a button is pressed.

    It doesn't have DRM - it has old-fashioned mechanical limitations. The cleaning fluid comes in an official Flash powermop cartridge. Much old an ancient inkjet printer, the cartridge has only one port, and it's mechanically designed to only dock with the corresponding port on the mop. They really made it solid too, so you can't force it open to refill an empty cartridge. It's basically a rubbery window - the mop has two hollow needles that pierce it. One to let air in, one to get fluid out.

    So I cut a hole in the top of the bottle and silicone-sealed the screwtop from a soft drink bottle over it. Now I have a refill board, and an everlasting cartridge. I enough people do this, I'll expect the Powermop 2 to come with a chip in the bottle that records how much has been dispensed.

  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @06:05AM (#48658899) Homepage

    On a related note, he notes that the cat litter sticks to his cats paws, and he really dislikes finding cat litter particles on his kitchen counters, tables, chopping boards, etc.

    Ewww... Why don't people train their cats properly. It's not hard. My cats do not enter the kitchen, and all tables are also off limits. Teach them the rules when they are kittens. Afterwards, maybe once every year or two, you'll need to remind them that the rules haven't changed.

    How to train? You just let them understand that there is a really odd law of nature: going in the kitchen or hopping on a table causes them to get wet. Squirt gun, pans of water set back from the table edge, whatever. Don't yell or anything - you don't want them to associate the water with you, but with the location they tried to go. Easy, and well worth it...

    • by eam ( 192101 )

      Heck, training is even easier than that. Just install this in the kitchen:

      http://www.amazon.com/Scarecro... [amazon.com]

    • Sure they'll follow your "rules" when you are around.

      If you put a camera up when you are not around, your cats will be going to places where you don't want them to. They're funny that way.

    • Some cats are more trainable than others. My family's last cat was not trainable for anything but when food was about to be given him, but thankfully also not able to get on counters or tables what with having acrophobia. Clicker training is the only kind that might have worked, but that's not particularly useful when you want to train an animal to not do things.
  • All on it is own?

    I really wish that posts get automatically grammar checked. People who communicate with adults need to learn third grade English.

  • It's coming. The company would crash, obviously, if you could let your cat shit in just any old brand of litter. They have to protect their market share against interlopers!

  • ... to crowd source an alternative.

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