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Microsoft Puts Free Portable WiFi In Forbes Magazine Print Issues (designtaxi.com)
161 points by imwhimsical 1491 days ago | hide | past | web | 92 comments | favorite

I hate this. All the electronic waste, batteries and whatnot for a 15 day trial. I hope such a thing wouldn't be allowed in EU with the stricter waste laws

We better stop making many forms of new electronics then, to limit waste. Just imagine how many millions of USB sticks have been thrown in the trash in just the last year alone, as they become outdated by newer USB sticks that store twice as much at half the cost while wasting just as many physical resources!

Do you really need a new iPhone? No you do not. The iPhone 4 will do perfectly fine for now (according to some random bureaucrat), so the iPhone 5 should be illegal to sell until further notice.

While we're at it, we could also ban hyperbole.

The parent raises a valid point that shouldn't be dismissed simply by carrying an idea to a comical extreme.

Over and over, the comical extreme becomes the new normal. :(

This is a device that's designed to work for fifteen days and then instantly become garbage despite being perfectly functional.

Do you really have trouble understanding that part?

I'm a proponent of the idea that companies that sell you products should have to take them back at the end of their useful life. That is, Apple would take back your unwanted phone and be responsible for recycling or disposing of it, it would no longer be your problem. This would encourage companies to engineer products with longer useful lifespans, or to facilitate refurbishing instead of destruction.

This would encourage companies to engineer products with longer useful lifespans, or to facilitate refurbishing instead of destruction.

Or just bake the cost of disposal into the sales price of the item.

Apple could just throw away the product you return. That would not suffice.

Your arguments strike me as a good illustration of why we need more recyclable electronics and more recycling initiatives.

Recycling isn't much of a solution. It's like smoking filtered cigarettes vs unfiltered - it's better than the alternative, but you'll still end up dead in the long term.

Short of glass, most materials recycle with very low efficiencies. Even aluminium, which is often touted as being "highly recyclable" usually only reclaims around 85% of the input.

Alright, but realistically, I don't see "no waste" economies coming up and staying up for good. So, better work hard on those filters than shrug it off.

Isn't aluminum particularly profitable to recycle, even with a low recovery, since it requires absurd amounts of power to smelt the stuff in the first place?

Aluminum is incredibly abundant in the earth's crust, but from what I understand it is the poster-boy for recycling because of the extreme difference in power costs between melting it down, and making it in the first place.

I was going to mention that much earlier...aluminum/aluminium wasn't easily separable from bauxite until electricity could be generated at industrial scale. It also forms a protective oxidized patina very quickly so needs very little in the way of post processing to "clean it up" for re-use.

The difference is no one bought this electronic: it's advertising you have to swallow with your magazine.

Quit the hyperbole.

No more hyperbole than pointing out that if you want to be that extreme, then the magazine shouldn't have been printed at all. After all, the least damage to environment would have been to only have it available online.

And if you insist that it should have been printed, then what about leaving out the few hundred pages of advertising or sponsored content. After all, if they only printed the "real" content the magazine delivers, that would be minimally damaging to the environment.

If there's anything to complain about here it's that I doubt they made it easy or obvious to users that they couldn't recycle the whole magazine as you would normally. Instead, you'd need to tear off the electronics part and take it to an e-waste recycle and put the rest in a "normal" recycling bin.

Paper doesn't harm the environment. Most lumber from NA is carbon neutral at worst, carbon capturing at best

Paper may not, but what about all the machines to print the magazine, the vehicle to transport it, and the ink? The paper is just one tiny component.

still waiting for some of your insight here, but, hey, this is just a guess but i think you're full of shit... if not, please share how the US funds the world's drug research. 18 days and nothing... guess all your other posts are crap too. this one hasn't really changed any opinions

I also disagree with adventured here, but your response is not useful.

I'd suspect it would. I've received things like USB flash drives on Microsoft promos. I could be wrong but I think EU law puts the onus on the person disposing electronic goods rather than the producer. (Not that most people listen with anything small, it just goes in the trash.)

> I think EU law puts the onus on the person disposing electronic goods rather than the producer.

Nope, I'm pretty sure it's the opposite. At any point in time, if you want to dispose of some electronic gadget in the EU, you can send it to the manufacturer for disposal, and sue them if they refuse. If the manufacturer does not have a local branch, then the onus is on the importer/distributor down the chain.

Unfortunately, most people don't know or simply can't be bothered.

I used to just drop stuff at the local skip/recycling centre, where they keep electronics in a separate area, because I knew people would scavenge it for parts; a few months ago the skip changed their policy and now forbid people from picking up anything from the "electronics area", under some health&safety-touting rule. I bet it's actually because electronics disposal in the EU is now big business, thanks to the above-mentioned directive: producers are now under de-facto blackmail, so they pay specialised companies to deal with their waste, which in turn rely on local skips to pick up stuff. These companies need to get hold of waste to get paid, so they basically stop people from recycling at the source. Politically speaking it's mission accomplished (establishing a "green" economy etc etc), but in practice it's actually discouraging people from recycling among themselves, which is the most energy-efficient way to tackle waste; and recyclable electronics still show up in non-diversified skips across the African continent (or worse).

Retailers have to take the old gadget if you buy a new gadget from them.

Distributors need to provide centers to take stuff from consumers.

Consumers have a responsibility to look at the packaging to see if something can be thrown in the garbage or if it needs to be sent for special disposal.


afaik you can also just return it to the shop you bought it at?

at least that's how it works for bigger appliances (vacuums, washing machines), after all, you paid a separate "disposal fee" when you bought it.

i seem to buy a new one every 6 months

For better or worse, your sentiments probably place you outside the target demographic for Forbes magazine. I will add that many of the resources consumed in online activity, including my comment here, are largely wasted.

This is indeed absolutely disgusting. We should strive to build things that last people 15 years not 15 days, high-quality intelligently-designed devices that provide use and value for years, not planned obsolence, laptops with glued batteries, disposable routers. This is too much.

What waste? It's a few wires, a small chip, and probably a non-rechargeable/non-toxic battery that you can throw out in the regular trash.

Hate is also a fairly strong word.

You throw regular batteries into the regular trash?

We have special bins for any batteries. The bins are available in many shops.

All packets of batteries (here) ask you to not just throw them into the trash but to send them to the special bins. This is part of law.


This law is part of EU directives.

Regular batteries (alkaline - non-rechargeable) in the US are not recycled. There are no recyclers that will even take them (except a few that will just end up throwing them away, and a lesser few that will store indefinitely them).

These batteries are supposed go into your regular trash, and into the regular landfill, as they only contain trace amounts of any metals (too little to spend any effort extracting them out). And are considered non-toxic as far as I know (but don't eat them).

The other types of batteries, the rechargeable types, are mostly recyclable and are not supposed to be thrown away.

What kind of batteries do you have that do not contain toxic chemicals or heavy metals? Just because some people (countries?) let you put them in the trash doesn't mean they should go in the trash.


Read the article first. The battery is rechargeable.

My fault. I scimmed it twice, but did not see the part about it being rechargable via usb.

But there are still many types of rechargable batteries that don't require special disposal. I wouldn't assume too much about this.

I'm thinking if it says '15 days trial', then after the 15 days you could probably pay the service provider some $$ to continue using the service. hence it wouldn't be a total waste.

I could be wrong though.

agree. especially as it is likely that chips will become the biggest part of our waste.

* I hope such a thing wouldn't be allowed in EU with the stricter waste laws*

And that's why I'm happy I don't live in the EU.....too many people with this nanny-state attitude, who want bureaucrats managing every little detail of their lives.

The US has waste management laws too. Try throwing medical waste out with your trash sometime. Darn those meddling bureaucrats!

We all knew that as the cost and size of hardware decreases, in the future we would have computing and connectivity everywhere. What I never expected is that computing and connectivity would come hand-in-hand with advertising everywhere.

Today it's a magazine ad with 15 days of sponsored WiFi. At the rate we're going, it's only a matter of time before we have Free Happy Meals with hallucinatory ad-sponsored connectivity delivered over the network straight to the visual cortex.


Edit: corrected "15 minutes" to "15 days," which is what I actually meant to type. Thanks JimmaDaRustla!

I bought a book from Amazon couple of months ago - The envelope had an ad for a movie (forgot which one). For a second I thought, it was the DVD for the movie - but no, it was my order alright, except it had an ad for the movie, right on the packaging. This is after I paid for the book.

Advertising is everywhere :(

This might work? (for outdoor ads) - http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/73/Sao_Paulo_A_City_Withou...

There used to sometimes be ads in paperback books. In the middle of the book would be a thicker page, with a full color ad. I remember cigarette ads were common.

Here's an article about this: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/books/review/Collins-t.htm...

Terry Pratchett found that one of his publishers had actually changed the text of his books to insert Advertisements, something along the lines of "and at this time our heros enjoyed a hearty bowl of $SOUP"


This would be a terrible trend if it returned - even in ebooks. I imagine there would be some software that you could run it through to strip all ads though.

If the ad is on a separate page (both sides) we can tear it off. If it is part of a page, then :(

Internet has trained people not to pay for things, for more than a decade. Most people wouldn't think twice about dropping 5$ on a single cup of starbucks coffee, but would not spend the same 5$ for an email account (without ads). It's not going to be easy to change this behavior, especially on the net.

On one side, I'm not sure how to feel about such disposable electronics. How will you feel when you throw out a quad-core processor and the birthday card it's powering?

On the other side, I'm a little surprised nobody's developed a mini-quadcopter billboard yet. Think of an array of small flying devices, each hockey-puck sized device would hold a battery, 3-color LED, radio, and maybe a processor -- they would auto-arrange into a grid, and light up in patterns to make images when seen from afar.

(This should be possible with current technology, and the business applications are undeniable.)

I've fleshed out the details. It's not quite realistically feasible today, but this should be available in 10 years.

The biggest hurdles to overcome are:

-Creating the flight management software

-Networking 260,000 devices with wifi technology

-Getting 5-6 MWh into the air to charge these 260,000 devices each hour.

-Battery life expectancy.


Futurama: advertisements in your dreams

The worst offender I've seen so far was on Hulu I think. You could either watch the 1 or 2 minute advertisement, or type the company's slogan into a text box. That really weirded me out...

Ticketmaster just changed their captchas to this format as well, you enter a captcha like "Who's coming with me" while viewing an ad about their social features. Until a few months ago it was a normal, unrelated captcha.

Have you seen the Happy Meal toys & some of the boxes lately? With all of the various movie tie-ins and whatnot, it's only a matter of time before Happy Meals are completely subsidized by the toys included.

I'm sure they already are. They've been tied in that way for years and years.

When my kids were younger, it became a Disney tie-in vehicle. My all time favorite was one happy-meal toy line with each Disney character from an animated movie standing on a rollable (wheeled) video-cassette case for the movie.

I suspect the movie makes money from the toy's vs paying for that advertising. Plenty of kids will beg for a happy meal because they want that cheap plastic, and the parents eat where the kids eat.

FYI: 15 days, not minutes.

Imagine if drugs were legal and not bent by advertising laws. That would be a total nightmare, or a dream for some.

A few months ago there was a full Android phone in a magazine:


If you wanted to run a MITM attack against executives with high-value accounts, this would be a heck of a way to do it.

How would that work? Anything of value would be encrypted and out of your purview.

sslstrip attacks could be made to work, all sorts of things are possible if you own the network. If you have your target picked out, and know the stack he's using and what his home network policies are, you can flash an official looking help page with instructions for disabling specific security features "If you're having problems with your connection."

Well sure, but that's a lot different than just controlling the network (which someone else is always doing).

This is just a copy of the lame "cellphone in a magazine" stunt that happened not too long ago. Read the article closely and you'll notice that it says "a number" of magazines have this, not all of them. The number is not disclosed, but I'm betting it's very small. This says nothing about cheap ubiquitous hardware, the future of magazine publishing, etc. It's just an expensive publicity stunt.

I have a print subscription (needed to use up expiring airline miles), and my copy does not contain the hotspot.

I can't wait till the day that a magazine comes with a free portable 3D printer to print and redistribute copies of the magazine. That'd be a nice publicity stunt for the printer maker.

Edit: seriously though, I'd hate to be the unsuspecting subscriber who tries to bring his Forbes issue onto an airplane

Edit: if I were Microsoft and I wanted the most bang for the publicity buck, I'd sell these issues exclusively at airport newsstands

wouldn't a 2d printer be more appropriate for redistribution of a magazine?

obviously you'd use the 3D printer to print the 2D printer that prints the magazine

Obviously the 3d printer version would manufacture its own paper. :P

There's a glut of these devices on the market right now, someone must have accidentally added a zero to the order (there was a similar rationale for the Android phones included in EW a while back). Amazon used to have the Overdrive Pro for $100-250, and it was new a couple years ago.

Recently[1], there have been promotions for 500MB/mo free data, if you buy the hotspot for $50. One catch is they tack on $1/mo if you don't use it at all. Apparently the hardware is horrible, with crazy overheating problems; best usage practice is just to remove the battery and run from USB. You can get them attached to all sorts of carriers, but this one is Sprint; I figured it was worth a try.

[1] http://www.freedompop.com -- beware affiliate links

Thanks for the heads up on freedompop's $.99/mo 'Active Status fee'


  > If you choose the free Broadband Service and use less than 5mb in any 
  > given month, we'll charge you a $.99 Active Status fee to keep your 
  > account active.

We got an email from our security manager late last week: the current issue of Forbes is not allowed in any secure facilities!

They seem to have neglected to mention how many copies got this treatment. That would be interesting to know.

Next month: A free car with your print magazine*

*selected subscribers only

The following month will feature a free copy of the Oprah magazine*

*selected subscribers only

As a Forbes subscriber, my issue did not come with free Wifi. Needless to say, I'm bummed.

More bummed than getting Forbes magazine in the mail every month? Wow.

I bought 5 copies for vanity reasons at a local bookstore in Mountain View. None of them had the wi-fi hotspot. :(

This is perhaps one of the most awesome publicity stunts I've ever seen. I wonder if this type of tactic is going to catch on. Can you imagine if each copy of Wired shipped with 30 days of free wi-fi? Their subscriber count would shoot through the roof!

entertainment weekly shipped an issue with a full phone inside, a trend i've been hoping for since the first time a blinking LED was included in a cover as a promo.


Sounds like a terrible waste of our finite resources, actually.

I agree, but at least they made that issue slightly useful by including a phone.

I am still trying to get my head around talking greeting cards!

It would shoot trough he roof because you get more than what you pay for, and that is not economically sustainable in the long term. It's like saying: Imagine if the price of a new car was $200, they would sell millions!

Doesn't the magazine make a pretty poor enclosure for the electronics inside? I feel like people generally consider magazines to be disposable and mistreat them but it doesn't seem like a good idea to do that to what looks like a Li-poly battery.

Very clever, but I hope there is a way to make use of the electronics after the time when Microsoft wants to pay for the data have passed. Our ecosystem cannot sustain this short product life-cycles.

I imagine that one would merely need to purchase a T-Mobile "Data Pass" to maintain the WiFi connection.

This begs for a teardown for possible reuse after the 15-day trial.

Is this the modern day equivalent of the AOL floppy?

I take issue with the definition of "15 days free internet." I happen to own one of T-Mobile's "4G" mobile hotspots, and I pay $50 for a whopping 5 GB of data. The "Data Pass" I purchase from Team Mo' Bull is good for 2 months... As if anyone on today's internet could make 5 GB of data last 60 days!??? If I'm not careful I can go through 5 GB data in 72 hours. Thus, if a consumer with one of these magazine WiFi hotpots were to use, say 20 GB data in 15 days, will overage charges apply?

I wish I had a copy, I feel like the parts could be used for some fun hacking projects.

I think a better marketing gimmick would be to distribute these things to villages in impoverished nations and then to show the villagers logging into office 360. "If rice farmer mi ling from this is rural chinese village can use 360 out of the office, so can you!".

It would be great for the recipients as well, especially if lasted longer than 15 days.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the current Microsoft stunt is using a T-Mobile portable WiFi connection, so is only possible in the US. For any other countries, unless they'd tied up with a local provider, this wouldn't really be possible.

T Mobile operates in the UK. They have a number of mobile devices, including 4G mobile wifi hotspots.


I have T-Mobile in the US, but in practice I get a different T-Mobile prepaid GSM SIM when I visit the UK.

I haven't actually looked at what the international costs are, just heard enough horror stories that I take the US SIM completely out of my phone before takeoff.

can we get a number of these airdropped into North Korea?

T-Mobile's coverage there isn't very good.

I could see these going into a vending machine.

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