Friday, February 27, 2009

The perils of all-in-one devices

Wilson Rothman, one of the editors at Gizmodo, wrote this delightful screed about his experience with a balky Epson printer. He tried to print out 15 pages of black-and-white text, only to have the printer stop and warn him that he was out of several types of color ink. Replacing the ink cartridges didn't help and he was left with a printer that refused to print anything, even though the document didn't require any color ink. Rothman's problem reminds me of my own recalcitrant Canon all-in-one (scanner/copier/printer) inkjet printer. I bought the Canon MP500 all-in-one in August 2006 when I needed a printer in a hurry for a project. I did a little research, read a few favorable reviews, and found the printer at Best Buy for a decent price. It was fine for about 18 months and I especially enjoyed having a scanner at home again. I started the long (and as yet, unfinished) process of scanning my old photos. Someday I will get back to that project and complete it.

Last spring, my printer started having issues with the ink cartridges. For about a year now, the printer refuses to work, claiming that it can't recognize one or two of the color cartridges. The current cartridges are Canon brand, as I've read enough stories about printers having difficulties with third-party cartridges. My cartridges are also nearly brand-new, but the printer claims that they're either empty or unknown. For a while I was able to restart the printer several times and on the third or fourth boot-up it would recognize its own cartridges and start working. Since I moved to Brooklyn, the printer hasn't worked at all. It's become an extra-large paperweight in my bedroom.

The most frustrating aspect of this cartridge problem is that I don't need to print that often, but I do need to use the scanner. However, the printer won't do anything as long as it doesn't recognize the cartridges. There is no logical reason why the scanner can't continue to work when the printer part of the device is out of order. But the printer's startup sequence requires that all parts of the device be fully functional, so I'm left with a hunk of plastic and glass that is entirely unusable in its current condition.

The easy fix would be to buy another set of ink cartridges and hope that my existing set came from a bad batch. And given the cost of ink, that path would make more sense than buying a whole new all-in-one printer. I'm going to order another set of cartridges as soon as I can remember to check the printer to see which ones I need. But I'm going to want to punch someone if I go that route and then find out my printer still doesn't work. Canon, you're on notice.

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