Public Service Announcement (Re: HP Multifunction Printers)

Thursday, 2005-08-18; 00:38:00

[UPDATE: Since this is a "high"-traffic page, you should know about follow-ups to this entry. Here is another entry bemoaning the sad state of scanning software on Mac OS X in general, and then here's an update on some good developments with regards to scanning software.]

If you have ever had even the slightest desire to buy an HP psc printer (i.e.: printer, scanner, copier all-in-one), please do yourself a favor: run as far away as you can from this PIECE OF CRAP PRINTER.

My dad bought an HP psc 1210 printer a couple years ago. He wanted it because we don't have a scanner in the house, and the copier thing is kind of cool -- basically he wanted it because of the multifunction-ness. But that is exactly what makes this thing a big steaming pile.

First of all, if you have an AirPort base station that has a USB printer port, forget about even using your psc printer with the base station. (Using the AirPort as a print server is great, because it means the printer doesn't need to be attached to any one computer -- which means any computer can be shut down without preventing others from printing -- and you don't need to have a dedicated server computer for the printer.) The printer just doesn't work when connected to an AirPort base station. HP officially says that feature is unsupported on these kinds of printers, but we tried to get it to work anyway. No dice. (According to HP engineers at MacWorld a year or two ago, the software that allows you to scan from it prevents it from connecting to the AirPort base station. I call bullshit. If the HP engineers were smart or wanted to actually make a good product, they'd allow it to appear as a normal printer when needed, and NOT USE SOME NON-STANDARD CONNECTION METHOD. If you have a computer with the scanning software installed, then great! But if not, the printer should gracefully fall back to normal printing methods.)

OK, so that eliminates using an AirPort base station to host the printer. What about a dedicated computer that's always on and uses Mac OS X's built-in printer sharing? Mac OS X is great -- you connect the printer to a computer, go into the Sharing preference pane, tell it to share any connected printers over the network, and then you can use another to print through that computer.

But guess what? The HP psc 1210 printer fucks that up too. So many times, for no reason at all, the printing queue just stops. There's no indication of such until you open up the Print Setup Utility (née Print Center) and see that it lists the printer as "Stopped." Naturally, you try to open up the printer meta-application and start the queue again but guess what -- and this is probably Mac OS X's fault rather than the printer's -- but you can't mess with the queue from a remote computer. So that means you have to go to the computer that's acting as a print server, and manually start the queue from there. Ergo, you have to always have a monitor/keyboard attached or close at hand to use with the server, or you have to have install some sort of software that allows you to remotely control the computer (e.g.: Apple Remote Desktop). But if HP had designed the printer driver correctly, this wouldn't be a problem. Oh, and even when it does print correctly, it sometimes takes a long time to do so.

And don't EVEN get me started on the fucking printer software. (OK, you've probably guessed that I'm going to rant about that anyway.) The software SUCKS! When you first install the printer driver on a computer, it constantly annoys you at startup to connect the printer and set it up. But what if I don't want to set up the fucking printer just yet? Well, it still annoys you. Better yet, it uses some kind of hidden login item (i.e.: it doesn't add the software to your account's login items) to bring up the application EVERY TIME YOU START UP UNTIL YOU SET UP THE PRINTER. There's no way to tell the application that you'll explicitly tell it to launch when you want to set up the printer. This fucking annoys the hell out of me.

Oh, yeah, and the scanning software sucks too. It's some proprietary bullshit software that HP cooked up, and it likes to save the files in some sort of HP iPhoto-like application that manages the documents that you scan or use in the HP software. I just want to scan to Preview, and be done with it, but noooo... I have to go through this shitty scanning software. (I'm pretty sure it's not TWAIN-compatible either, which means you can't use the standard Image Capture application in Mac OS X to scan.)

You know, it's sad. I remember when HP was the first company I thought of when going to buy a printer. Now, all I can think of is how crappy HP's printers are. Oh, and what the hell is up with their "Innovate" slogan? You call rebranding the iPod innovation? (Yeah, yeah, they terminated that, but whatever.)

That evil HP psc 1210 printer has sucked up hours of my life that I won't get back. It has crappy printing AND scanning software, and it doesn't play nice with AirPort base stations. Fuck that.

I can draw a few conclusions from this. First, the HP psc 1210 printer sucks. Second, ALL of HP's psc multifunction printers probably suck. Third, ALL of HP's printers probably suck, given the level of crappiness of the driver on this one. Finally, all multi-function printers suck. Oh, yeah, I forgot, HP sucks.

This is one thing that really annoys me about technology. Companies try to make their products do so many things that it just makes them do everything crappily. No, I do not want a cell phone that plays games or does web browsing or plays MP3s or takes SHITTY-ASS PICTURES. If I want a cell phone, I want to be able to store contacts (and sync with my Mac), I want to be able to make calls, and receive calls and voice mails. That's it! (Oh, and I DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO SIGN UP FOR A MONTHLY CONTRACT -- NEWS FLASH TO CELL PHONE COMPANIES IN THE U.S.: HAVE YOU HEARD OF THE WORD "PRE-PAID"?!)

Here's an article I wrote about the myth of convergence. I don't need to bother with any more of that here.

Anyway, I finally got fed up with it tonight, disconnected it, attached my Epson Stylus Photo 820 printer to the same exact printer cables, added the printer to our print server and guess what? First time I tried to print, it worked out fine. (We could attach it to our base station, but there's no point since we're using the server anyway for storage.)

Hell if I'm going to recommend any of HP's products anymore.

Rant over. Thanks for listening.

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