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A More Unreasonable Take On HP's Laser Printer

Recently I wrote a blog entry about an HP laser printer that a user complained forced him to buy new toner cartridges even though the old ones weren't empty.
Recently I wrote a blog entry about an HP laser printer that a user complained forced him to buy new toner cartridges even though the old ones weren't empty.

In an effort to be reasonable (and you better believe that for me it takes a real effort) I concluded that the user, not HP, was at fault. A reader, Chris Tune, wrote to disagree with me.

"Despite the fact that HP has a provision for overriding the page count method of ink replacement this issue should never have arisen, even for the least astute of HP's customers. There is really no really good reason I can think of that HP printers should default to using the page count to determine if color ink is out."

His point is that HP's printer interface design may not have been evil, but was certainly incompetent. I'd love to hear from an HP engineer on this issue and kick it around a little more, but Tune's point is, I think, a fair one. A little more unreasonableness on my part was called for -- so I'll try to redress the balance."When using my Epson," writes Tune, "the default state is to see the printer and driver's best effort at determining actual remaining ink cartridge content. This occurs on a cartridge by cartridge basis, so if the Cyan cartridge runs out a great deal earlier than the Yellow cartridge, then I replace that one!"

I have a couple of Epson printers, and an Epson scanner as well. And I have to agree with Tune that in general, Epson does a much more intelligent job of designing the user interfaces for its products than HP does.

Example: an organization I do some volunteer work for has a couple of HP scanners because that's what they have to buy. I use them whenever I can't avoid it, and every time I do I am annoyed by them. The driver interfaces insist that their defaults are better than my preferences, and they revert to them every time I close and re-open them, which is frequently.

My Epson scanner, on the other hand, follows Fats Waller's famous advice to young ladies seeking the attention of the opposite sex: "Find out what they like, and how they like it, and give it to them just that way." Every time I hit the scan button Epson's driver opens up with its settings just the way I left them the last time I used it.

HP has pioneered a lot of PC peripherals -- its LaserJet and DeskJet printers and ScanJet scanners all defined their categories. But that was then, and this is now. The great lesson that Apple should have taught the computer industry by now is that the user interface is the product. And I think Tune would agree with that.