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  • HP’s Curious Printer Setup Confounds Devoted Mac User

    April 20th, 2007

    A long-time friend produces annual jazz concerts. He’s been using Macs for years, and stores his mailing list in FileMaker Pro. No, he’s not an expert at databases, but he has managed to put something together that works to his liking.

    That is, until his printer got in the way the other day.

    Indeed, he called me frantically, because he had to get his mailing out within just a few days, or he’d lose a lot of business. So I rushed over and checked out his configuration. He has an iMac G5 running Mac OS 10.4.9. There were no system add-ons, and aside from Apple Mail and Safari, he runs FileMaker Pro and Skype. He is definitely not the adventurous type, and only wants things to work reliably.

    Well, everything did work reliably, until his printer started delivering blank pages when he attempted to output his mailing list. Now, I didn’t immediately blame the printer as responsible, because all other documents printed perfectly, every time.

    The problem reared its ugly head just a few days earlier, all of a sudden, without any advance warning. One day it worked, the next day it didn’t. He hadn’t changed anything in his work routine to precipitate that nasty symptom.

    Well, the printer, an HP 6210 All-in-One multifunction model, indeed “seemed” all right, and I’ll leave that in quotes for you to ponder as I progress through the diagnostics that ensued. First, I checked the Printer Setup in FileMaker Pro and found nothing amiss. His simple mailing list and envelope designs were unchanged. Now understand that I am not an expert in FileMaker Pro by any means, so I did spend a little time brushing up on documentation, help menus and finally the troubleshooting information at FileMaker’s site.

    Basically, every single element of the setup was perfect. Indeed, I forwarded a copy of the database file to a FileMaker Pro guru, who had some minor issues with the way it was designed, but he failed to discover anything that could possibly impact the print process.

    It didn’t take long to rerun the 10.4.9 Combo updater, in case the incremental updater had a problem, nor upgrading the software for his HP 6210. The symptoms remained unchanged. Regular documents printed fine, but the ones from FileMaker Pro didn’t.

    Now early on, I asked the client if he had been replacing ink cartridges as necessary, although the printer’s LCD status screen didn’t show any problems. But that message, I soon learned, wasn’t accurate.

    Finally he remembered that he hadn’t replaced the color cartridge for quite some time, because he didn’t print color documents — ever. So he didn’t see the need to buy a product he wasn’t going to use, and there was no status message on the printer or on his iMac to indicate this oversight could possibly cause any problem.

    Indeed, my friend’s FileMaker Pro database simply contained black text, and no colors whatever. It was just a list of addresses, so why should that make any difference?

    Well, it did. After all was said and done, all he had to do was replace the color cartridge and everything worked perfectly!

    So why should printing function normally with other applications and not with FileMaker Pro? Why should it matter if the color cartridge was spent when the black cartridge was doing all the work? And why didn’t the HP 6210 display an error warnings to explain what was going on?

    Indeed, you’d think there would be some sort of status message received from the printer driver that something was wrong, but the printer’s Dock icon delivered nothing more than a bogus message that the print processing procedure was working normally.

    Now I understand there may be valid reasons why the manufacturer insists that both the color and black and white cartridges be filled with ink, because I suppose there might be the risk of damaging the print heads.

    What’s more, HP makes good stuff. They’re a huge, responsible company that’s attained number one status in the PC market across the planet; also-ran Dell only occupies the top position in the U.S. these days. What’s more, HP is the number one printer maker as well, and its products have consistently garnered top ratings for performance and reliability.

    Now I don’t pretend to know if the lack of a proper warning message is the fault of the driver, the printer, or both. But it all goes to show how even the little things can sometimes cause huge problems that aren’t always so easy to figure out.



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    17 Responses to “HP’s Curious Printer Setup Confounds Devoted Mac User”

    1. Dave says:

      Same thing happened here with an Epson I was trying to trouble shoot long distance. In this case, my sister on day 3, finally told me a red light was on. “But it indicates a color cartridge problem and I’m not printing with color.” For my next printer I want to check out the new Easy Share Kodak printers which are supposed to have much cheaper ink prices. They may be the nose under the tent of the practice of ridiculous ink prices at least for general purpose all-in-one printers which is what I use. I think BB is the exclusive distributor at this time.

    2. John says:

      If your client never prints any colour documents, and always prints black only, then your client should be using a monochrome laser printer. It’s cheaper and generally way more reliable than inkjet printers.

      As to why they do these things, well, money, what else.

      Check out this article:

      http://www.zdnet.com.au/news/hardware/soa/HP-offers-Australia-cutting-Edge-printing/0,130061702,339274933,00.htm

      When they make a printer that has a chance of saving the client money, they won’t sell the printer, they sell you prints. So it doesn’t matter how much ink costs, you would still be paying them a certain amount of money.

    3. rwahrens says:

      I hate printer manufacturers. Did you know that to fill the tank of your car at the same price as printer ink, you’d spend over $30,000.00?

      That is why they want your color ink cartridge filled even if you only print black. They also want to fill their bank accounts.

    4. KenC says:

      Yeah, I’ve gotten so mad at the high price of ink, I bought a color laser, the Samsung ColorPro at Staples. They had a couple coupons, making the after rebate price around $180. I calculated the toner cartridges were worth $250 (half-full), so I bought it. I’ve printed 1500 pages of black text and the starter cartridge is now done. $90 for that, and it’s supposed to be double the capacity of the starter, so hopefully I get 3000 pages of black text, or just over 3 cents a sheet. I don’t recall what I got for text with my Epson C80 or CX6600, but for a $30 hi-capacity cartridge, I’d have to get 900 sheets to equal the laser. I don’t think I got that many.

      So, if I can get past the high-barrier to entry with a full set of 4 cartridges costing close to $500, I may not go back to ink. So far, no ink-clogging issues, which is another infuriating experience seeing as how much ink costs.

    5. Yeah, I’ve gotten so mad at the high price of ink, I bought a color laser, the Samsung ColorPro at Staples. They had a couple coupons, making the after rebate price around $180. I calculated the toner cartridges were worth $250 (half-full), so I bought it. I’ve printed 1500 pages of black text and the starter cartridge is now done. $90 for that, and it’s supposed to be double the capacity of the starter, so hopefully I get 3000 pages of black text, or just over 3 cents a sheet. I don’t recall what I got for text with my Epson C80 or CX6600, but for a $30 hi-capacity cartridge, I’d have to get 900 sheets to equal the laser. I don’t think I got that many.

      So, if I can get past the high-barrier to entry with a full set of 4 cartridges costing close to $500, I may not go back to ink. So far, no ink-clogging issues, which is another infuriating experience seeing as how much ink costs.

      My main work printer transcends the laser and inkjet worlds. It’s a Xerox 8550DP, which uses solid ink. Pricing of consumables is comparable to the lower-end of what it costs to feed a color laser. And you save more with the third-party stuff — and you probably won’t see much of a difference with the latter. That’s quite unlike using third-party consumables with inkjets and lasers, where quality is inconsistent.

      Peace,
      Gene

    6. Jim Sheppard says:

      Dear Gene:

      Logic attack: If the person is printing in black only, why is the color tank empty? Obviously, they are printing “black” by combining CMY. Filemaker, while trying to follow instructions, failed due to an empty color cartridge. This situation was rather common back when inkjets were first introduced. One usually had to find the microscopic checkbox that set the printer to use the black cartridge preferentially. The problem is usually not the printer, but the program’s Print Setup dialog box settings. This is the result of these new-fangled devices, we didn’t have these problems back in the good old days of dot-matrix printers.;-)

    7. Dear Gene:

      Logic attack: If the person is printing in black only, why is the color tank empty? Obviously, they are printing “black” by combining CMY. Filemaker, while trying to follow instructions, failed due to an empty color cartridge. This situation was rather common back when inkjets were first introduced. One usually had to find the microscopic checkbox that set the printer to use the black cartridge preferentially. The problem is usually not the printer, but the program’s Print Setup dialog box settings. This is the result of these new-fangled devices, we didn’t have these problems back in the good old days of dot-matrix printers.;-)

      We also tried using the black and white only option (whatever it is called), and that made no difference. Is it the application, the printer, the driver, or a combination of the three? Good question, and one probably not worth worrying about any further, as the client understands that the color cartridge needs to be replaced when it’s empty and that is that.

      Peace,
      Gene

    8. If your client never prints any colour documents, and always prints black only, then your client should be using a monochrome laser printer. It’s cheaper and generally way more reliable than inkjet printers.

      As to why they do these things, well, money, what else.

      Check out this article:

      http://www.zdnet.com.au/news/hardware/soa/HP-offers-Australia-cutting-Edge-printing/0,130061702,339274933,00.htm

      When they make a printer that has a chance of saving the client money, they won’t sell the printer, they sell you prints. So it doesn’t matter how much ink costs, you would still be paying them a certain amount of money.

      There’s an easy answer and that is that he also needs the other features offered by the multifunction device, such as scanning and faxing. A laser equivalent would cost more, and, in the end, he doesn’t print enough of anything to earn the savings a laser would yield over its lifetime.

      If he didn’t need the latter two features, I would have suggested a simple $150 laser and that would be it.

      Peace,
      Gene

    9. Jeremy Gurofsky says:

      Gene:

      How would you rate the output quality of your Xerox printer, for photographic purposes, compared to that of a quality ink-jet?

      Jeremy

    10. Gene:

      How would you rate the output quality of your Xerox printer, for photographic purposes, compared to that of a quality ink-jet?

      Jeremy

      Read this story for the full particulars:

      https://www.technightowl.com/newsletter/2006/04/24/newsletter-issue-334

      In general, realtors use these printers because they do very good with photos. The best inkjet is better when used at its highest quality setting. But otherwise, the 8550DP is quite comparable, and cheaper to maintain.

      It’s still working beautifully, by the way.

      Peace,
      Gene

    11. Matt Carrell says:

      HP printers may be nice, but their Mac drivers are absolute junkware! It’s just as bad as the preloaded crapware that comes with most new PCs… bloated.. unreliable.. chaotic setup and workflow.. bad user interface!

      It’s the reason I switched to Canon.. and have had no trouble since.

    12. HP printers may be nice, but their Mac drivers are absolute junkware! It’s just as bad as the preloaded crapware that comes with most new PCs… bloated.. unreliable.. chaotic setup and workflow.. bad user interface!

      It’s the reason I switched to Canon.. and have had no trouble since.

      Matt, you’re preaching to the choir, but that’s what he bought, so we try to make the best of it, for now at least.

      Peace,
      Gene

    13. David K says:

      Give me a printer that works where I can easily fill with ink and the drivers that work with my OS and I’ll gladly pay $500.00. When you pay $150 for a printer that you have to buy ink for $35.00 a pop and works like the 6100 series this article is refering to then it’s nothing but pain. Wake up printer companies we’re tired of your lack of support and trying to back-door profits!

    14. Give me a printer that works where I can easily fill with ink and the drivers that work with my OS and I’ll gladly pay $500.00. When you pay $150 for a printer that you have to buy ink for $35.00 a pop and works like the 6100 series this article is refering to then it’s nothing but pain. Wake up printer companies we’re tired of your lack of support and trying to back-door profits!

      Canon makes some excellent printers, including the PIXMA MP830, which is the one I use for stuff that doesn’t output on the Xerox. It’s about as fast as their standalone printers (a surprise among multifunction devices), and does a great job scanning and faxing. Consumable cost is about $15-$16 per ink tank. It uses five, but you can buy four-packs (all but the non-photo Black) and save a few dollars.

      Peace,
      Gene

    15. glasspusher says:

      Thanks for the fine info, Gene. I’ve been looking to say goodbye to HP. While the print quality of my photosmart is clearly excellent, they seem to think I own a computer to use their printer, and their crapware mac drivers say so. I even was able to get in touch with the guy who is involved with writing the mac drivers, but he’s bound to do whatever HP tells him to do 🙁 I’ll be checking out that Canon you mentioned above.

    16. Thanks for the fine info, Gene. I’ve been looking to say goodbye to HP. While the print quality of my photosmart is clearly excellent, they seem to think I own a computer to use their printer, and their crapware mac drivers say so. I even was able to get in touch with the guy who is involved with writing the mac drivers, but he’s bound to do 🙂 whatever HP tells him to do I’ll be checking out that Canon you mentioned above.

      Just for your information: I ran into another situation involving an HP inkjet the other day. This time, documents created in AppleWorks failed to output completely. It would always stop halfway through the process. Again, it was an empty color cartridge that was responsible.

      Peace,
      Gene

    17. Matt Carrell says:

      I use a Canon IP5000 and it has given me consistently great results and works quite well with printer sharing connected to a Mac as a networked printer. Bounjour for Windows works quite well with it. No problems printing to it over a network from Macs or PCs. I have never been happier. It doesn’t have a built in scanner and all that, but I’ve found in the past every time I bought combined components like that, I’ve regretted it.

      I had an HP Office combo before, and when I had problems with it and its drivers, HP was really more or less not interested in providing customer support, nor taking it back and refunding money for something that more or less didn’t work right with a Mac from day one.. (And I love how HP hides several ancilliary programs in your Mac which rat to customer service about what you use it for for their marketing purposes and other nonsense I had to manually remove once I decided it best to relegate the HP to a stand-alone copier only)

      Sorry, I’m ranting, yes, but I see this guy’s experience, and it makes me remember my own likewise horrible HP experience.

      To be fair, the STAND ALONE HP printers which don’t have built in scanners work MUCH BETTER and don’t use a bunch of weird software just to print. I still use one older HP as a back up and I find it reliable, but yes, the ink is expensive, and the cartridges have a nasty habbit of lying about how much ink is left (always says empty when it’s not not not..)

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