While offices are certainly not going paperless, more and more people are printing less and less paper from their computers at home. And I think most of the reason for that is that the printers available for the SOHO and home market are getting worse and worse to just "turn on and use", and are getting more expensive to use.
I picked up a Lexmark X4875 wireless network printer/scanner at the office supply store a few weeks ago, and finally set it up this evening.
My impression? Disappointed. They are full of fail.
There are times where I want to teach lessons to companies, project managers, and developers with a tire iron. This is one of those times.
Setting this thing up involved using a "Setup CD" that just installed a third of a gig of crap on my laptop. How much should it have needed to install?
The correct way to have done this should have involved merely turning on the printer, and then via its own buttons and screen, selected the local wireless network and entered the key. At which point it starts a completely standard IPP network print server, and advertises itself via zeroconf, bonjour for the mac users, and upnp for the windows users. Done. Zero footprint, anyone in the wireless network can immediately start printing to it.
What did it do instead? Installed a steaming pile of junk software on my laptop, as well as a host-side rendering driver (instead of having postscript in the printer). It asked for my laptop's root admin password. TWICE. And with all that, it still did not actually add the printer to the list of available printers. I have to manually do that, and in a manner that will, to use the standard phrase, confuse the heck out of Aunt Tilly.
Well, you ask, surely it needed to install software for the scanner portion? No, no it did not. The Right Way to do that would be to run a small web server on the device, and then just let me connect to it using the existing "Browse network scanner via Bonjour" software that is already part of MacOS.
Well, small favors, at least the installer and drivers are not Windows only.
Still, I'm angry. This could have been a literally "turn it on and go" device, that somebody's Aunt Tilley could turn on and use, and any guest in the house can use without special help. Instead they made it annoyingly complex, for no good reason, and didn't even do the few actually useful things they could have done when invading my laptop, such as actually configuring the local printer setup, or pulling the wireless key out of the mac's keychain.
It gets worse.
The printer driver it installed doesn't actually work with MacOS 10.5. And even tho the installation process could have looked up my laptop's OS version, and it knew my laptop was on the net, it never bothered to check that, or check if there was a new driver and possibly new firmware on Lexmark's website. And it never figured out while installing the non-working one that it, well, wasn't working.
And even tho the webserver that's running on the printer has a number of links into Lexmark's site, that have the printer's part number encoded into the URL, so that the site should know immediately what printer and what host OS is of interest to me, their site promptly forgot all that, and immedially demanded to know my language and country, which it can get from looking at HTTP headers and IP addresses, and then made my renavigate around telling it again what kind of printer and what kind of OS I am using.
Morons, but I repeat myself.
So now I'm downloading another 25MB dmg package. We will see what the next idiot indignity they heap on me is.
The indignity is, now when I try to print, the application I'm trying to print from crashes. Every time.
At least this thing has an uninstaller. I don't quite trust it, but it should clean some of this crap up. Not all of it, it left behind the “ABBYY Fine Reader”.
Let's see if I can set it up as a generic IPP network printer.
It’s not appearing on the browse list, so it must not be running zeroconf bonjour. Another serious disappointment. So I try it by IP number. It installs, I can read ink levels out, and so forth, which tells me that the network connection is good and it had a PPD and such. But when I try to print, no paper comes out of the printer, and the Mac printer queue dialog just says "Network host 'XXXX' is busy; will retry..."
Complete fail. I'm returning it to the store.
The ancient HPLJ with the old network print server stuck to it will be good enough for printing boarding passes,. And when I need to scan and fax a contract, I will just walk down to Kinkos.