When I was in Beijing I went to a regular store to buy an SD card for my camera. I asked them to let me try the cards in my camera before purchasing, so I did that. As I put a card in, all looked well, however when I proceeded to format the card, the issues arose. Regardless of the size of the card, 2, 4, or 8gb, the card would then instead read as 128mb. I mentioned this fact to them and they said sorry and let me try a new card. About 4 cards later the owner was nearly in tears and I was very frustrated. At that point the owner went to the back stockroom and gave me yet another card. This time it formatted fine and I purchased that one.
It was such a sad experience. I felt very embarrassed and sorry for this owner. I don't know if the owner knew that they were scamming people, or if they were just being scammed themselves.
It wouldn't surprise me that if a shopowner _was_ eventually caught at this, they'd simply close up and just move somewhere else.
As a free market type, I have to admit that in those circumstances, I don't find this surprising. The "market response" here is for consumers to become more savvy and cautious, but the population posited here wouldn't have resources for that response. And they're forced to choose between wariness, and participation in this new economy with all this neat stuff. And that participation might be the only path out of poverty and ignorance.
It's a crummy choice, and one that is likely to lead to all sorts of bitterness and suspicion of the merchant classes. It founds a similar ethic in the buyers, once they figure out enough to become sellers.
The likeliest defense I can imagine for my free markets is, China isn't really a free market. Its development is artificially stimulated and guided by government policies, which are pushing investments at levels that aren't sustainable, and into projects that probably won't return. A less hyper development might give consumers more opportunity to get up the learning curve, and lower (and probably more realistic) expectations of what they can afford.
Wow, tldr: Govt. accelerated hyper-growth pushes innovation faster than the least informed consumers can manage.
There are folks who want to solve every problem with government-led solutions. They are often wrong. Then there are people whose response to everything is cutting taxes and privatizing institutions. They are often wrong. What you have in common (and lately I am beginning to think these two groups have a lot in common) is whenever anyone can name an example of your ideology breaking down in some way as it has here, your immediately come out with a No-True-Scotsman style of rebuke. Why is it so unacceptable that a pure free market might not work perfectly?
And, the typical consumer anywhere would fall for this. This isn't an example of ignorant Chinese being duped by unscrupulous merchants. If ignorance alone is the culprit then this should be happening everywhere. Want to take a guess why it isn't?
And if anyone here suggested that the best response to a badly designed system was some additional "bug catching" layer, or just tweaking all the details, well, it wouldn't go over well. Patches might do just to keep things running, but none would suggest that's the right way to build the thing in the first place. And the patching approach would be doubly suspicious if the same crummy programmers that had the bad design where then tasked with patching up the bugs.
And no, this won't happen here in the US. If you think the average US consumer is as ignorant as the average Chinese, you aren't thinking it through. Go look at what passes for a college degree in China, the government has massively expanded the "colleges" past all capacity to actually teach that many people. And the average US consumer has far better access to enough expertise to diagnose the problem. And US retailers make major investments in brand reputation, which they will not simply abandon. US consumers have far better resources for understanding fraud, and far better recourse against it.
Now, my "ideology" is founded in a lot of solid theory and hard evidence. It is a world view that explains a _lot_, and often in advance of events. If you think I'm walking from all that b/c of one unfortunate example, if you think I'm not going to look for some explanation that is consistent with what I already know, I don't know what to say. Here I admit that this cheating is what I expect in these circumstances -- not really a free market advertisement -- and admit that I'm looking for some consistent explanation. And you have a problem with that? My biases are right here on my sleeve, where I can keep an eye on 'em. Where are yours?
Not always, some times a wild market eventually results in some of the strictest standards which also happen to be self enforced.
I say sometimes but some economists believe, in the long term, this will always happen. I think reality is a bit more complicated, and in the very long term we're all dead. So for the duration of any one human life time, amazing self enforced standards sometimes arise form chaos. Those send to be far superior to anything government can do. But government is often quicker to come up with enforced standards.
I've seen that in works of fiction, where it seems to function pretty well.
I have yet to come up with any real-life example that stands up to scrutiny.
Apparently laundry detergent manufacturers kept on increasing the size of their standard detergent bottle without increasing the washing power in order to make it look more impressive on a shelf. This caused an "arms" race in detergents.
WalMart stepped in and refused to stock detergent bottles past a certain size. At that point, the manufacturers stopped making the large size bottles.
If there's a player with as much power as WalMart then they can dictate pretty much whatever they want - and sometimes their interests are aligned with the customer.
All in all, not at all unlike how government protection agencies work, but in this case entirely private and independent. The neat part is that, IIRC, their safety standards were mostly stricter than the US.
Probably the exception to the rule though.
The American Dental Association is another example. I do look for ADA-approved toothpastes.
How about the gold standard?
But I think the same principles would apply to for-profits.
The only other examples I have are anecdotal.
> The only other examples I have are anecdotal.
Are you serious? Competition for donations between non-profits in my experience is often even more extreme then between for-profits. Do you have any evidence for softer competition among non-profits?
Besides some non-profits are really phenomenally well functioning for-profits, which happen to have chosen a non-profit tax status.
For example, in the US the non-profit AAA will quickly drop any pick-up truck company known not up to its standards. Mind you, all that's needed if for the truck to show up roughly on time and be reasonably courteous. Still that is quite something when you're in a bad spot and need those kind of services.
And the AAA is popular enough that being on their shit list will cause sever financial pain to any pick-up truck services provider.
But to join the AAA you have to pay a regular fee and they have all kinds of tie-ins with piles and piles of 3rd party service and goods providers.
I don't begrudge them their non-profit tax status, but they are a damn well run and huge business.
Are you arguing that the trademarks are standards? They are completely owned by the company and follow no rule other than arbitrary decisions by one entity (Nintendo could sell Mario toilet paper tomorrow and it would be a Mario(r) product).
It's a fair point that there is a private entity that owns the trademark and can technically do whatever it wants with it. It doesn't just magically "emerge" from the market without any coordination - but then, nothing does. Market actors come up with mechanisms to communicate standards. Some of these mechanisms happen to be voluntary and reputation-based rather than enforced by law.
He was also selling (very clearly to me anyway) fake iPod Nano devices. Did he know those were fake? Maybe he's never seen real ones? To me the whole thing looked so cheaply made and the UI is incredibly ugly.
AVI: Index is at the end, so it might play fine in a tolerant enough player.
MPEG-TS: Headerless. Will play fine in any player.
MP4/MOV: Index is sometimes at the end; if so, it might play fine in a tolerant enough player.
MKV: Has a header and index, usually at the start. Probably won't play.
Ogg: Has a header, but is indexless; might play fine in a tolerant enough player. Probably not though, as both Vorbis and Theora (the only things Ogg supports that are ever used) both rely on custom Huffman tables in the headers.
Try it with some broken files sometime. It really is amazing. It may not be capable of seeking properly, but it will have a damn good go at playing the file.
Also - the frame index of an AVI file is at the end. It is only the headers which are at the start, and these are less important.
My friend said they're still trying to figure out how did the Chinese do that. Because the drive reports "correct" file sizes and disk-capacity. And the "overwriting" doe not touch the other files present on the drive.
I suspect they treat the first N megabytes correctly to preserve file system data structures. For anything above that (the remaining "capacity"), they just let it loop by cutting off the top bits of the offset.
He couldn't figure out why his files were not opening after saving them to the drive. The entire space on the drive was about 100MB but as with this article reported 10GB.
As always, China is great at faking stuff....I loved the line from Kung fu panda, I've only seen paintings of that painting....
For the price of the drive I thought it was a good business lesson. It implies the existence of an entire supply chain - crooked engineers/programmers, distributers, retailers, and maybe even government, manufacturers, building managers, etc. All to satisfy the market's "need" for the product to appear to work for longer than someone's visit lasts. An interesting/scary demonstration of total free-market capitalism.
The plastic casing if probably from a commodity supplier, who doesn't know or care what the buyer uses it for. The labels and manuel, likewise. The engineer, manufacturer, and distributer could be one hacker, a few mates flashing the drives, and a couple of drivers.
As for the retailers, building managers, and government, it's likely that you bought it in a tourist shopping area, probably near a long-distance railway station or a tourist attraction. Tourists (generally Chinese tourists from other cities) who shop in those places get ripped off, and nobody notices, because they never complain. They just fly home, and curse themselves for shopping in a tourist trap.
In China, you never shop in tourist traps. You don't eat anything unless its in a side street, where the locals (who prey on the tourists) eat. You don't even get a taxi parked in front of a 5 star hotel, or bus depot. Get a bus, walk out of the tourist zone, or flag a taxi that just happens to be passing by. (Note, the buses can be dangerous if they aren't local buses. Some special tourist buses disgorge the passengers into a small village, where taxi drivers insist on exorbitant fees to take you back to civilization).
Pretty much nothing but locals. If you wanted to buy a PC, they'd sit you down on a little stool and offer you a drink, then fill out a form with you in Chinese. (Surprisingly, it turned out the prices were within 10% of the cheapest Australian importers [MSY/CPL] for many things - even as I was walking away they couldn't go lower!)
I did buy it from a smaller stall similar to photo #6. But it was still quite surprising to find it was dodgy - the mall didn't even sell pirated software! Perhaps if they can tell you're not local they pull out the knockoffs. Good point about the lean manufacturing - although the number of people who've encountered this online is what implied to me that it's a reasonably large operation. Hard to say, really.
I guess you were just unlucky with the scam then.
Still, it's worth keeping in mind, "you don't get what you don't pay for". If the price is under 1/4 that of a reputable brand, there's likely to be some kind of problem.
As somebody who has taken a variety of buses in China, I have to question this. Do you have a source?
Sure sometimes it can get a little extreme (I'm looking at you McDonald's coffee) but in a lot of cases it's an efficient system that frees up your attention and focus on more important things then checking whether your milk contains poison.
Personally, I think this over protectiveness is actually a sign of an advanced economy taking specialization to it's logical extent. Not having it is an economic cost in the long term.
So yes, obviously, heroin is a good example of places where we have decided that the free market is a bit too free. This is another example of a place where the free market might be a bit too free. Is there anything wrong with that?
Recreational drugs are a place where I'd say attempts at regulation have extremely counter-productive. IE, look at the massive drug war in Mexico.
That could you buy tobacco/heroin/alcohol if you wanted it is the worst argument against a pure libertarian society.
The better argument against a pure libertarian society is that you might find heroin in your soup and your cough medicine even if you didn't want it.
What I claim is that making arguments about free market capitalism in light of behaviour around selling bogus USB drives is reasonable enough that it contributes positively to HN, and that while you or anyone else might disagree, such an argument does not deserve scorn.
Copyright and patents are intended to benefit the public by incentivizing creators to make more stuff. Whether that works is debatable.
But trademark is intended (or at least has the effect) of helping consumers identify a product's maker. If I buy an Acme Rocket Sled, it's because I've heard that Acme makes good ones. It sucks for me if I can never tell a real Acme from a fake one; I can't purchase with any confidence. And while maybe the blogosphere could help me find out where to get real Acmes, it really seems more efficient if we just outlaw making knockoffs and penalize those who do. If it's not Acme, I want it to have a different label.
Shonky hard drives are one thing, but dodgy climbing gear is another.
Even razor blades.
off topic, but there's an artist that exploits this to really good effect, really makes you think about what place 'the original' has in art especially for pieces that are entrenched in the public consciousness (i.e. mona lisa, warhol, etc)
But that sort of meta thing only works with art i think, not so much thumb drives! :)
I managed to get it exchanged (in itself a story: http://bre.klaki.net/dagbok/faerslur/1263420810.shtml), and got the feeling that the merchant herself didn't even know she was selling counterfeit stuff.
Again no receipt, this time because the person
selling it was avoiding tax...
If I was going to fight every single social problem I saw on that trip, I wouldn't have gotten very far.
And paying taxes into the pockets of corrupt regimes?
For the FAT to stay non-corrupt I would assume that Windows writes a full copy from its cache right after writing the file, that would not be an unreasonable assumption.
All in all: extremely easy to reproduce, no special controller needed. Probably just a guy that realized how Windows behaves after changing a couple bytes on the disk, and another that said "hey, we can make money off that!"
Now, OTOH, you could just mark the areas the FAT uses, and all their aliases as in-use in the bitmap, that'd prevent them from being overwritten (but chkdisk would notice). You could additionally put a file on all those sectors, then chkdisk would pass, but you'd show a fairly large amount used (for your large file).
They seem to format correctly but you have to copy that much in content to prove it's real.
Stick to newegg, etc. for that kind of purchase.
Linux has an implementation for a 'disk-on-key' (mass storage device). /usr/src/linux-*/kernel/drivers/usb/gadget/f_mass_storage.c
The sample can use both memory and a file as storage. You can easily make it fake the size and rotate around, skipping the first.. 64K or so (forgot the exact number) to prevent your FAT16 from spoiling.
Had my http://www.gumstix.com/ doing that for a while..not intentionally. (PS. I don't recommend that board !)
Well, it doesn't tell you how to do the fakery. But it does give you a good starting place for rolling your own mass storage controller.
It uses the awesome Teensy dev boards.
Home page: http://www.fourwalledcubicle.com/LUFA.php
Hardware support: http://www.fourwalledcubicle.com/files/LUFA/Doc/101122/html/
(LUFA is what powers the ATmega8U2 that replaced the FTDI chipset on the new Arduino Uno boards.)
Stuff something like a Minimus USB or Teensy into a usb stick case, and you're all set to cause endless fun for your coworkers. ;-)
Sadly, it seems like they really are making dumb laws in France.
Knowing nothing about how USB drive hardware/firmware works, I'm guessing we'll see mainstream Windows software for detecting real drive sizes soon (if not already), and then it'll be a back-and-forth between the two sides.
Ultimately (I hope), the costs of the forgeries and the time needed to verify drive size is going to even out, and you can be assured that even though you're buying a knock-off, it'll very likely have a certain amount of space on it and a certain minimum life span.
There's also a MAC address printed on that label.
and who would say after that that there is no venture investors in Russia? The guy took the risk and it just didn't pan out. :)
Then I looked at the number of bytes on the hard drive, and it listed as exactly 1,500,299,264,000 bytes, and I realized that computers and manufacturers use different metrics.
It's not about the Chinese magically managing to screw everyone: it's about enough people buying these fakes and not coming back with an angry look on their face and a pickaxe in their hands. That's what keeps this scheme profitable.
It could work by writing a specific pattern in the first few bytes of the device and then reading/writing in 2^n steps to check if the pattern cycles.
I think I have some counterfeit thumb-drives lying around. Maybe I will try writing something like that..
Using this approach, you can write arbitrarily large of data to a drive with very minimal storage requirements on your end (well within even modern-day embedded RAM availability), while still being able to demand any sector back at any moment and verifying it is correct. Theoretically your psuedorandom number generator ought to by cryptographically secure, and given that you're probably IO bound here and they aren't hard to come by, there's probably no reason to use anything less.
I'm pretty sure the only effective defense against that is to actually store all the data. If you issue a predictable read pattern, you open an attack. If linearly-sampling your previously written blocks turns out to be undesirable you could tweak the sampling distribution, but I bet you wouldn't get much improvement.
Also, come to think of it, if the drive is honest this could be done non-destructively (assuming the undo process is allowed to run to completion) by reading the sector and XOR'ing it, so you could then undo it by a second XOR operation. Further cleverness could even make this reasonably safe to half-complete the undo, then finish later, if you work at it.
head --bytes=your_card_size /dev/random > tmp
cp tmp /media/your_card
Also I'm sure this was a day's worth of work for one dude, and super cheap production. You can't build real hardware on those terms.
Sometimes the enclosure (SATA to USB converter) fails, while the drive is fine.