Saturday 4 July 2009


I hate printers. I've always felt they're the weak link in personal computing. For the 10 years I've had a PC, my keyboard has never given me a moment's grief; my monitor has migrated from being fat and clunky to being a thin screen with never a day's cause for concern; the mouse has transformed to being cordless without a hint of bother; and the modem - well I've never been that sure what modems do - best not to ask - but it's always behaved itself. Even my joystick - my black man's cock as Carol calls it - consistently lands British Airways A320's in the stormiest of conditions (but not, intriguingly, Air France ones) In short, all these computer peripherals you can take for granted.

But not printers which have given me nothing but grief. They never live up to expectation in terms of the print quality they claim. It always seems a total lottery whether they will print anything at all. And if that weren't enough they demand vast quantities of expensive consumables such as paper and ink, large amounts of which can be wasted in futile attempts to "maintain" it if the bastard has decided it's not playing ball.

Early on I decided I was not going to feed the monster with genuine EPSON cartridges at £34.99 a go when I could get cheapo ones from at £2.99 for a pack of six. I was unphased by the on-screen threats: "It has been determined you are not using genuine EPSON ink - This could lead to your warranty being voided and your neighbour's grandmother dying - Do you wish to continue?" Hit yes and it follows up with "Are you sure? We can do the old bag, you know?" Anyway, Ink-U-Like's cartridges have worked well enough for three years (despite the threat being escalated to "Do you want the Prince of Wales being assassinated on a state visit to Panmunjon on your conscience?") until a few weeks ago when it gave up the ghost - pages coming out not just faint but pure white. For a while, it was still scanning OK but even that died after a few more days. ("Ha-ha - told you, loser!").

Time for a visit to warranty busting repair man in Santa Cruz. I better not mention his name but he's got a small shop in town which is waist deep in broken televisions, coffee makers, outboard motors, missile launchers, you name it.

Anyway, warranty busting repair man is phased by nothing except time deadlines. The conversation with him usually goes "When do you think you may be able to look at it?" To which the answer is invariably "At the beginning of next week". Which is Portuguese for "At the end of the week after that". And seeing as I speak Portuguese so well, I know not to bother phoning to enquire about progress until after another week. Net upshot in this timescale was that WBRM pronounced the printer dead. In fairness to WBRM, he refuses payment when he hasn't been able to fix something (and even when he has, his charges are absurdly low.)

So across the road to the Yellow Shop:-

It's actually called "Novo Era" but for some unfathomable reason we call it the Yellow Shop. Anyway, it had exactly one printer (inc. fax, copier, scanner, tea-maker) on sale so it wasn't hard to choose. Got it home, plugged it in, loaded the software, teabag, tried a test print and eff me if the swine didn't do what printers always do: produce immensely disappointing results - Carol's Scotsman crossword barely legible. That said, switching it off for 24 hours and switching it on again seems to have done the trick and it's now working as well as any printer I've ever possessed.

We're now at that critical phase in any printer's life - it's first re-load of ink. Lexmark's threats are slightly less menacing than EPSON's - Lexmark have merely been threatening to burn my house down for the last few weeks whilst still cheerfully printing off the crosswords. But on the other hand, this printer TALKS TO ME. I kid you not. In a sickly sweet mid-Atlantic accent it says "Printer ink is running low - please take a moment to order genuine Lexmark products - would you like me to go online for you now? If you wouldn't, I'm going to poison your dog."

Now, of course, the elephant in the room of this post all along has been about the picture of the Lexmark printer at the top - "Why does he have Wet Wet Wet, ER and Alan Partridge VCRs on his printer?" Answer - to keep the cat from sleeping on it. I can't be entirely sure that my over-indulgence in letting her sleep on top of the previous printer didn't lead to its demise due to cat fluff getting into its innermost workings. Mind you, if I leave the speakers on it might say "Cat, take a moment to order some genuine Lexmark ink and you can sleep on top of me ..."


Kathie said...

What kind of wimp-cat won't knock a few small inconvenient boxes off the top of a surface where s/he wants to nap? Haven't you heard? Dogs have masters, cats have staff!

Neil King said...

Wow, you're brave Kathie! Calling Carol's first born cat a wimp! I wouldn't be able to get away with that!

Kathie said...

It was not out of any irony that my husband named our second cat Bruiser. Among others, we later had a Sasquatch, also an alpha kitty. Come to think of it, nearly all our felines have been alphas. Video boxes on top of a printer in our house would have careened on the floor in no time at all, replaced by a snoozing cat (or two). They never let us forget who's the boss.