Dueling Printers

Modern challenges. There are enough of those even without the onslaught that is 2020. Amidst the global and national turmoils, personal lives continue. Even with things locked down, change happens. Change is the only constant. Dealing with something as simple as office equipment has its own set of failures, struggles, and occasionally successes. Because of a job change, I had an office change, which meant having to change some hardware, which meant having to spend some money and some time, which is makes it handier to deal with working from home – and was possibly valuable because it provided a real though small personal success, some control in a life in a world that is otherwise seemingly out of control. All because I bought a printer.

Let’s get the career stuff out of the way. It may be the bigger issue, but as much as I want to concentrate on the small celebration, it also makes sense to pass along the background. I changed brokerages. I don’t expect banners or cheering bands. Simply, I moved my real estate license from a national brand to a local firm. Buy local, eh? Besides, I can bicycle to the office in less than an hour, now. That’s not the main reason (that’s a longer conversation that isn’t necessary to have on this blog), but it is a welcome benefit. I am now a real estate broker with Dalton Realty, Inc. a local firm with decades of history on the island. If you’re driving up from the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry, we’re 1.3 miles up the hill and on the left. Look for the historic yellow farmhouse.

The pandemic meant it made more sense to set up a better home office. Fiber-optic internet installed? Yep. Re-arrange the furniture? Done. Lots of stuff stuffed into the attic to make way for more paper. Stuffed. Set up the dusty old printers? Well. Huh. Hmm.

One printer was so old I saw a note that the company doesn’t want to make the ink anymore. Still seems to be available though, so that’s good – for now. I also have another printer that was gifted to me several years ago when someone retired. Amortize the one I bought over ten years and the purchase price comes down to about $20 per year, less than some folks spend on dinner. The other one is a bonus. Thanks, again.

About the ink, though. The ink can cost as much as the printer if the printer is used a lot, or the cartridges aren’t used enough to keep from drying out. This is no surprise to many folks. My solution was to print from anywhere else because using the ink was expensive and not using the ink meant having to buy new cartridges for just a few pages which is expensive. Thank you Sno-Isle Library System for letting me print stuff when money was the tightest. That’s also why I watch many people show up for work simply to use the printer. When I really needed good prints, I used professional services, anyway. (I shopped local for that, too. Fine Balance Imaging now known as Feather and Fox Print Co.)

Ah, but there are unofficial, supposedly generic, print cartridges that should work. A printer is a mechanical device with some logic built in. Why not go discount when trying to build a business and a career? The reason why not is that the companies making the printers can set things up that the printer may not accept the cartridges that aren’t theirs. So much for supporting small businesses. But, money was tight and risks had to be taken.

Something went wrong. First one printer, then the other failed. Help desks, forums, documentation, nothing brought them back. I won’t relay the details because there are too many, and why would I want to relive those anxieties?

A new set of full-price, official, company-approved, printer-documentation recommended cartridges bought and installed. No good. Even the new cartridges weren’t enough to appease the offended printers. Two printers out of commission while the pandemic arrives and emphasizes my need to print.

The total cost of buying ink to try to revive the printers was the cost of a new printer.

Wake up and smell the ink.

My main business computers are Chromebooks. They’re cheap, er, inexpensive; and do almost everything full-service computers can do – as long as the Chromebook is connected to the internet. Handy having that fiberoptic service, eh?

So, I took the risk and bought a new printer, something that is supposedly compatible with something as new as a Chromebook. About $260, with ink. I admit to being anxious about it. Would it fail, too?

The unboxing and the assembly went well enough. Whew. Now, to connect it to…what? Instead of a cable running from the printer to the computer, this one is so new it relied on wi-fi. Cool. OK. How do I type in a wi-fi password on a numeric keyboard? Ah. Lots of hit this button then hit that button while squinting at tiny characters in a dim part of the office. Ten tries later I gave up. Ten minutes later I tried again. Two tries later something, and I don’t even know what that something was, something worked. I sat back, stared at the innocuously correct printed page, and didn’t want to touch anything, not the cables, the buttons, the chassis. A half hour later I printed another test page, accumulated my courage, and slid the whole thing into its place in the furniture.

One way to fix a problem with an HP printer? Buy one from Canon.

That was celebration number 1.

That left me with two questionable printers and a desk at the office with no convenient way to print. They have printers, but sometimes it is very handy to have one within arm’s reach.

I was done buying more ink. If I could get them to work with the old cartridges, great; otherwise, off to the recycler.

One printer had unopened official cartridges. I broke the seal, cleaned and installed them, and got the same error message from before. After more than an hour I realized that the place where the cartridges lived was broken. I’d been spending money by following the documentation, help screens, forums, and whatever because they had a stock, default response. Buy more ink. There’s a good chance I spent over a hundred dollars trying to fix something that not only couldn’t be fixed, but that was incorrectly diagnosed by the official sources. Grumble, to say the least.

This did not make trying the second one very appealing. Set it all aside. Go away for a couple of days, then try again. At the start, no progress. Several tries, no progress. Then, I’ll give credit to HP for having an online app that could try to diagnose and fix this one, too. Success! Now, I have a printer by my desk that works as long as I can connect it to an equally old PC, which has to be balanced on my lap or a neighbor’s desk because the cords were short as if they were going to sit beside each other in some computer console.

That was celebration number 2.

Silly. Such a silly thing, to feel anxieties fade and possibilities open simply by having something work right. Expectations are so low when working with the options available to those with limited funds that simply working can be a surprise. Imagine how hard it is for some people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when first they have to be able to afford bootstraps, and then have the straps snap.

We’re in the midst of great and grand debates. (I just realized the VP debate is going on as I type. I’d rather be doing this.) The world must debate, and more importantly act on the global issues. Take your pick. I also think about kids that are trying to do schoolwork on bad internet connections on old equipment, entrepreneurs saddled with options that are efficient and unaffordable, people living in poverty who are trying to live in a world that requires logging in but who can’t afford electricity. Small celebrations multiplied by hundreds of millions would be considered a movement. How little it would take to make something happen that would be that great?

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: https://trimbathcreative.net/about/ and at my amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0035XVXAA
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