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Computer Printer Experiences

Epson

These guys used to make a good printer.  They were the first real color printer on the market.  Expensive and clumsy but the price came down fast as did the size.  I sort of like the separate color cartridge idea.  They kept getting clogged and the paper jammed.  The world changed from printers and scanners to All-In-Ones.  So I left my old Epson behind.   I still have it and a dozen of the little cartridges.  I just hate to throw things away.  Maybe one one Megan's computer geeks can use it.

Lexmark

I always liked IBM. They make mistakes but in general they are innovative and worth looking at.  Their printer division made excellent printers.  Then they sold the division and the new company became Lexmark -- with no reference to their history as part of IBM. So Lexmark started as unbelievably inexpensive both for their hardware and their cartridges.  This was great.  But the world moved on.  Now you buy "All-In-Ones".  In other words the single device became so expensive to market and sell, they have combined features.  An All-In-One has a scanner and a printer in one unit.  With this combination you have many functions for which you do not need a computer.  For example: make copies.  Add a telephone interface and you have a FAX. Etc.

But then you want to interface with your PC and they add a suite of program functions and these functions interface to other programs.  For example, you may scan a page and import it into, for example, Photoshop.  Photoshop has an import function so that this Suite is unnecessary but it is once to have everything in one place.  Again a great concept.  You have an All-in-one hardware device and an All-in-One software interface.

The problem here with Lexmark is two fold.  Three fold:

1.   Their print spooling program aborts with the Windows message: "Time Executable" has stopped working.  This window appears in both Windows XP and Vista.  When you get this message you really do not have a problem unless your current file is not completed printed.  You lose what has not printed.  For two-sided, you lost all of your second side.  For a printer jam, you lose all of the pages not printed.  For me these are serious problems.

2.  The OCR program does not install even though it claims to have done so.

3.  Lexmark has not informed Windows of their spool program error and so when you take the Windows option of searching online for a solution, you do not even get a link to Lexmark support.  Without some serious investigation or just good luck, you do not know that the "Time Executable" message is even a Lexmark error.

These problems should be easily correctable with a couple of sessions with Lexmark product support (if you figure out it is a Lexmark problem).  Here is the bottom line: I spent over a year with many contacts with Lexmark support.  All references to the OCR problem were just ignored: no response at all.

The Time Executable problem resulted in a message that could have been generated by a machine: uninstall the printer and then reinstall it.  They procedure to do this gets more and more elaborate: go online and download a new set of software; download a "cleaner" program; various combinations of the two.

After a few interactions, you get a "survey" asking how they did. Stating that they did nothing does not get you increased support.

I have had this experience with multiple computers, one brand new off the shelf with no other software or printers installed.  The other computers several years old with other printers having come and gone.

My only suggestion therefore is for you to avoid Lexmark.  If you are a gambler and try one, great.  I know people who have had them and had no problems except a few months later asked me to buy them a scanner.  If you are the gambler and you run into the "Time Executable" problem, immediately take the printer back and demand a full refund.  You will not get a Lexmark or Windows resolution to this problem.  If you want to use OCR, do not even put Lexmark on your search list.

June 2011

I gave my Lexmark away to an RV park who used it for a copy machine until it gave up altogether.  They never did get the FAX feature to work.  I tried without any luck.  Mostly it would not answer the phone line.  THe RV park attendants also needed a simple operation.  The Lexmark was too complicated.  But it gave a year of service before it died.


HP Photosmart 4500

Talk about junk.  The print quality is good.  The scanning is good.  HP finally came out with large cartridges -- but they cost.  It is about time for large but I resent the high price.  The printer makes lots of noise and refuses to load photo paper.  The menu program says that you can damage the printer if you lie about the paper type.  I think this is a caveat: the printer damages itself.  Even using it as a copy machine with standard paper the printer makes a series of loud clicks every time it prints.  But it works.  I sold it for $30.  I was tired of trying to print pictures.  I have no idea how many hours I played with its menus and papers before I just plain gave up.

Kodak 6150

I have never liked Kodak but I thought it was time to try one of their printers.  They have a good advertising campaign: cheap printer cartridges.  The keyword is "cheap".  Everything about the 6150 reeks "cheap".  The print quality seems OK.  The scanner quality is not even close to that of the HP.   The WIA standard software defaults to 75 DPI.  Maybe the scan quality is OK but you must enter the advanced menu on each entry to increase the DPI to a usable density.

The machine itself is giant.  It is as big as my old Lexmark.  Maybe bigger.  I had seen a newer Lexmark at half the size of the original.  Lexmark learned.  I would have thought that Kodak would have figured it out.  Desktop space is limited.  Kodak takes its own path rather than learning from others.

Cartridges.  Why are they cheap?  HP started it and the others jumped on.  The HP cartridges come with electronics built into the cartridge to produce adjustable color dots.  The High Price you pay for ink cartridges is because electronics and the microscopic ink jets are built into each cartridge.   You want this because the ink jets wear out and, if they remained in the printer as originally done, the quality of your photos would degrade rapidly.

Kodak has beat the game -- sort of.  They have gone back to (or maybe never left) the concept of a cartridge feeding a sponge.  But instead of the print heads being part of the printer, they have an additional component: a separate print head.  This makes the cartridge cheap and when the print head wears out, you buy a new print head.  Great idea.  One of the old sponge problems was when the sponge got older, it hardened.  You could have pools of ink under your printer for a long time before you figured out that  the reason you frequently needed new cartridges was sitting on your table top.  And do not even think of tilting your printer.  Maybe Kodak has addressed this, I doubt it.

Why did I distrust Kodak?  Kodak had a monopoly for years on photo film.  Then along came Fuji giving you honest colors instead of the Kodak red pictures.  Red?  Originally the red made skin look better but as the cameras and the films improved, there was no need to bias the colors.  Fuji was cheaper to buy and cheaper to process.  Kodak had a hard time with Polaroid but it won.  It did not win against Fuji.  But Kodak really liked its monopoly and did not adjust to competition well.

Then along came the digital world.  Kodak was so slow off the mark that I thought they would just give up.  But no, they entered the field with their cameras.  But they used proprietary computer and printer interfaces.  You needed the Easy Share software to make things work.  Junk (the official generic word is "crapware").  All of the other digital manufacturers used standard Windows interfaces.  Their cameras appeared as hard drives and you could just copy or move pictures to your computer -- or back if you were so inclined.

The other venders supplied a software suite for those people who could not figure out how to use Windows Explorer.  The suite had software to support the printer features.  This meant that out of the box you could copy, print, scan, and maybe FAX.  Since I use Windows programs, programs I wrote myself, and Photoshop, I had little use for the camera suites.  But I installed them and tried to understand their features.

But Kodak.  Wow.  I have 4 million pictures on my computer.  When you installed their product, the installation went around making little index files wherever it found pictures.  I killed the installation after a day of figuring out what it was doing.  I was afraid it was damaging my computer or my files.  Kodak is not unique in this.  The Nero photo software suite does the same thing.

So now I have the 6150.  I have yet to see if its advertised paper sensor really works.  It had better.  I had to do a lot of rearranging to find a place to put the monster.  And I shall buy a separate receipt scanner since the location of the printer is outside of arm's reach.  But here comes the zinger: the Kodak software suite is still crapware.

The limited software that comes with the 6150 seems to work.  You get a DVD/CD with Microsoft Office extensions and templates.  Sounds good?  After messing with it for an hour and restarting the program multiple times.  Restart?  It would just start and then die.  Nothing spectacular.  It just quit and went away.  It left the setup installer running but it had quit doing anything.  I took the dog for an hour walk and came back to find no progress.  After a few more restarts it told me that my Office version was too old and that I needed a new version of Office.  I just installed Office 2010 last month.  If this is too old, then I have no idea what version Kodak wants.  Version 2011 of Microsoft Office has been recently released but I just spent money on 2010, I cannot afford to buy new software because Kodak cannot write for year old commercial software.  I called Kodak support.  The "complementary" Office Suite Software is not supported.  Go to a third party website.  No response.

To top off the stupids, there is this blue light that blinks on and off while the printer is searching for a Wi-Fi connection.  The blue light (K-Mart specials anyone?) stays on if a Wi-Fi is connected.  But you would think that if the printer is connected via a network cable or a USB cable, that the blue light would go away.  No such luck.  You live with a flashing blue light until you step through the menus and discover the entry that disables the blue light..

Oh.  And I received a software update.  Two parts: one to the driver software and one firmware upgrade.  Maybe they do not like customers complaining that their printer hangs Windows.  Only one problem.  The driver software installs just fine.  The firmware upgrade requires the printer to be online and at the same time be connected online to their Website.  eMail support? Why not?  You get the same "no response".  I used to think Kodak lived in an ivory tower.  Now I know that they do.  I do hope that the printer works with the original firmware and their new software.  I doubt Kodak even thought of this.  Requiring online firmware updates?  Unique since no one else would trust a data connection to directly download a device with data that if corrupted would cause total failure of the device.

Bottom line: Skip the Kodak.

Before Kodak I never heard of company support saying that the supplied software was "complementary" and with no requirement to support it.   My computer occasionally hangs before or after printing.  Until my Kodak, software hanging up Vista was unheard of.

I often criticize things.  I believe that criticism is good: it helps people improve their products.  The Kodak is so bad that I do not criticize it.  It will not be improved -- Kodak does not care.  I condemn the Kodak printer and the company that makes it.  I thought that maybe my USB ports had gone bad.  Maybe a bad hub.  Maybe even a bad disk drive.  No.  The Kodak printer can hang Windows Vista so badly that unplugging the device cables will not help.  Unplugging the printer will not help.  Restarting Windows will not help.  A force power off of the computer is the only resolution.  And then when you power back up you get the message that Windows wants to repair your system.  I always say no to this and WIndows comes up just fine.  You may get some strange printer operation but it goes back to normal quickly.  Normal is not good. 
Junk the Kodak and buy a name brand printer.  Kodak has a name but for an obsolete product: camera film.  The world has left camera film behind.  Kodak has not figured out the reason yet.  I doubt that it ever will.

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Written:  2003          Updated:  October 23, 2011          Back To Top