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article imageEpson printers perpetually rebooting after Google code change

By James Walker     Dec 8, 2016 in Technology
Epson printers have been caught in a continual reboot loop after Google made a change to one of its cloud services. The crashes have affected scores of owners of the internet-connected printers. Epson has confirmed it's working on a fix.
Epson owners first reported the issue two days ago on the Bleeping Computer forums. Ars Technica reports it affects Epson's WorkForce, Work Force Pro and XP series of internet-connected smart printers. Owners can use Google's Cloud Print service to remotely send documents to the printer from their mobile devices.
According to the reports on the forum, users began to experience the problems on Tuesday. The affected printers turned themselves off as the issue hit. When powered back on, the printers shut down again after another 30 seconds. With the Wi-Fi turned off, the devices operated as normal.
All of the printers affected were connected to Google Cloud Print at the time the problems began. It seems as though Google made a change to the service at some point on Tuesday morning. This conflicted with the code in Epson's printer firmware, causing connected devices to shut themselves down immediately after starting up.
Epson has acknowledged the problem. It suggested customers turn off their Wi-Fi routers and then reset the printer's networking options to resolve the issue. The printer must not be reconnected to Google Cloud Print as this will cause it to shut down again.
Epson is actively working to develop a proper fix that will allow Cloud Print to operate normally. It needs to integrate the changes made to the service into its firmware so the printers are compatible with Google's online cloud. It said customers should check its website periodically for updates on its progress.
The sudden shutdowns highlight one of the major problems with the Internet of Things. As devices become more dependent on each other, a change in one could prevent others from operating. Google's modification of Cloud Print effectively locked Epson owners out of the service and their hardware, rendering it useless until the workaround was discovered.
Google hasn't commented on the issue. It's currently unclear whether it had previously warned printer vendors that it was planning to issue an update to Cloud Print. Epson may have failed to respond in time, leaving printers unable to connect to the servers.
However, it seems more likely that Google published a maintenance patch that unexpectedly conflicted with Epson's code. Larger changes are usually released to manufacturers ahead of deployment, suggesting a routine update gone awry is the culprit here.
Epson itself appears unsure of the nature of the problem. It told The Register that it's aware of "a situation" with some of its devices that appears to be linked to Google Cloud Print.
"We believe this is related to Google Cloud printing, however the Epson support team is assessing further," said Epson. "In the meantime, we are currently taking customers impacted through a temporary workaround to address the issue and we are working on a permanent fix."
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