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3/30/2008
02:35 PM
Dave Methvin
Dave Methvin
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Printing Out Is Hard To Do

I used to have a wonderful printer. It was an HP Laserjet III, and it lasted me through about eight years and three Windows upgrades. Its black-and-white toner produced beautiful, sharp, smudge-free output. Eventually, though, it wore out and went to that great recycle bin in the sky; I had to face the loss and look for a replacement. That's where the trouble started.

I used to have a wonderful printer. It was an HP Laserjet III, and it lasted me through about eight years and three Windows upgrades. Its black-and-white toner produced beautiful, sharp, smudge-free output. Eventually, though, it wore out and went to that great recycle bin in the sky; I had to face the loss and look for a replacement. That's where the trouble started.Since then, I've been through four printers, all of them ink-jet models, but none of them have been abandoned because they broke. I took the first one out of service because its parallel port interface locked up the computer for about a minute whenever I would print. The next one lost its stripes because I could never get a reliable set of drivers. Then I moved to a multifunction printer, but its feed-through scanner turned out to be poor. Also, that printer constantly generated noise in the speakers, so I had to keep it powered down except when I actually wanted to print. Finally, I recently got a flat-bed multifunction printer that works decently.

I don't do a lot of printing nowadays, but when I do it seems even more destined to fail than when I had that old Laserjet III. This weekend I was finishing up some work on our taxes and needed to print out some forms. I had been editing the PDF forms using Foxit Reader on my Vista notebook PC. The first time I try to print, Foxit Reader just hangs for about a minute without any error message. On a hunch I go up and find that her Mac is sleeping, so I wake it up. The second time, the Mac complains that the print queue software has crashed.

The ability to print from a PC to a Mac was a feat in itself. Several months ago we actually were able to get the Vista notebook printing to the Canon printer connected through a Mac, but I wasn't in the mood to retrace those steps. If you're trying to reproduce this miracle, just be aware, for example, that you may have to re-enable UAC in order to set up new printers.

I decided to copy the files to my desktop XP PC and print from there. My XP desktop computer doesn't have a connection set up for that Mac printer, but that's fine because I had my own printer all ready to go. I happened to have Adobe Reader, not Foxit Reader installed, but they're just PDF files, right? Wrong. When I opened the PDF files with Adobe I got a few warning messages about document features being disabled, but they looked OK on the screen so I printed them. But the printed versions showed the most bizarre thing I'd ever seen. Every digit was one character higher than the value actually in the document. For example, 388 was 499, and 192 was 2:3 (the colon character follows 9 on the ASCII chart).

Finally, I was able to get the documents printed by installing Foxit Reader on the XP desktop and printing from there. Sure, I could have tried to install the printer drivers on the Vista notebook and print from there, but what are the chances of that working? I'm not even sure Vista drivers exist for this printer.

I wish I could say this was an exceptionally bad day for printing, but it was actually better than many days. The puny little paper tray actually held the four sheets of paper I needed, the ink cartridge didn't go dry in the middle of the page, and there was no paper jam. Typically, one of those things seems to happen each time I use a printer around here. That's one reason why I don't tend to do a lot of printing. I should have fixed that Laserjet III, I bet it has Vista drivers.

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