Rant: Printers

Printers – second only to fax machines in the “technology that gives me hassle” category.

I needed to make a quick copy of a receipt, so I scanned it in then selected “Print”. A warning popped up saying that magenta was very low. This wasn’t a problem, because I only needed a quick black and white copy. I buried down in the printer settings, set it to grayscale then hit the button to start printing. The printer immediately jumped into action.

When I say “action”, I don’t mean actually printing. To be honest, I’m not really sure what it’s doing at this point. I think it’s cleaning the heads in preparation to print. The clunks and whirs coming from the machine indicate some kind of movement in the head vicinity, but it’s not reached for paper yet.

After a minute, it goes quiet. Too quiet. I lean around to see if anything’s flashing, and search the desktop for hints about what’s going on, but there’s nothing. Before I start pushing buttons, it suddenly starts moving again.

Two minutes in, and it still hasn’t reached for paper. I’m starting to wonder if that’s what some of the whirring is — maybe the paper is stuck or out of reach, but I don’t want to interrupt it at this point because for all I know, it could be about to spit out the page.

After nearly three minutes of teasing, the whirs and clunks subside and a message box pops up on the screen. During all this activity, the last bit of magenta ink has mysteriously evaporated, so it can’t possibly print my grayscale image, even though the two black cartridges are brand new.

Oh well, about time I inserted that replacement cartridge I bought a while ago. The box had been left on my bedside table by dearest daughter, and it had been living there for a couple of weeks. I went to fetch it, only to find it’s been moved. It’s literally been there for weeks, up until the moment I actually need it, and now I’m out of luck.

Back at the computer, I’m sure there must be a way of convincing it to continue printing in black and white. Sure enough, the empty ink error goes on to say that if I press continue, it will attempt to print without the magenta, but threatens me with damage to the printer. I’m a little dubious of this claim, but seeing as the image doesn’t contain any magenta, it’s not a problem. What is a problem is that there’s no continue button: the dialog has a “buy ink” button and a “cancel printing” button only. Maybe it means the button on the front of the printer with the flashing light? I press it, and the whirring starts again…

…then stops. And nothing happens. The printer queue window tells me my document is printing, but it’s telling lies.

Maybe the age old fix for everything will work. I turn the printer off, then on again. The printer whirs a bit once more, then claims to be ready for action. Unfortunately, turning the printer off caused the print job to be cancelled and deleted, so I track down the scanned image and select print again, making sure it’s still set to grayscale and all that. More whirring, then nothing.

After much swearing and threats, I resume the hunt for the replacement cartridges. I eventually find the box hidden at the back of the bathroom drawer. Obvious, really, when you think about it. I replace the magenta cartridge and try again. Still no luck.

I unplug the printer and reconnect it using one of the USB ports on the rear of the machine. I have a thumb drive I use for ReadyBoost, and Windows was only happy to use it when I used a rear USB port rather than one of the front ones. I’m not sure why there’s a difference, but it was worth a shot. Nothing.

It’s giving me a warning that the yellow ink is also low, so I try replacing that one, too. We’re long past the point of things making sense now. Still nothing.

In an act of half desperation and half clicking to do something while wondering what to try next, I click the troubleshoot button in the printer settings. Windows sits and thinks for a while, then decides the USB driver is at fault and restarts it, declaring the issue fixed. Yeah, right, says I, clicking Print again before watching the printer pick up a piece of paper and print out my document. Wait, what? The troubleshoot button actually troubleshot and fixed an issue? Apparently so, and that’s the first time I’ve ever seen it do that.

It’s times like this I wish I still had my old Canon BJ10ex. It’s relatively slow at the actual printing, and black and white only, but I seem to remember a whole bunch less lead-in time and general messing around.

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