Sometimes the Hardware is Willing but the Software is Weak

I’ve had an HP DeskJet F-something-or-other for a couple of years now. It’s a small grey thing, around the size of a shoe box that prints, scans and photocopies. At least that’s what it said in the brochure and on HP’s web site. It used to sit plugged into the USB port on my AirPort Express for easy wireless printing. Not that it actually printed mind you. 

I viewed this piece of hardware’s role in life as rendering documents from one of the Macs we have in the house, in full colour or black and while, onto sheets of A4 paper.

The DeskJet had other ideas.

It viewed its role in life as a source of revenue for HP to get me to keep buying ever more expensive replacement inkjet refills, by the cunning ruse of reporting the cartridge was empty when it was brand new, by refusing to print colour or black and white consistently and in the end, by just refusing to print, unless it was using invisible ink that it secreted somewhere in that grey shoe box.

The scanner was OK though but the photocopier functionality was somewhat hampered by the lack of being actually able to print what had just been scanned. The printer continued to not endear itself by refusing to be installed on my faithful and ageing PowerPC based iBook G4 running Leopard. Intel MacBook Pros running Leopard and Snow Leopard seemed to be fine but the iBook insisted the printer was actually another model entirely and just sulked.

So based on the premise that we wanted to print far more often than we wanted to scan, the HP DeskJet F-whatever-the-model-number-is has been retired and replaced with a gleaming, black, colour laser printer from Samsung. It’s a CLP-315W for those of you who like model numbers.

The hardware is very capable. It works and prints in black and white and in colour which is more than the HP DeskJet ever seemed to do. You can connect it via a USB cable, set it up as its own ad-hoc wifi network or add it to your own network where, for Macs at least, it broadcasts itself as a Bonjour printer and is perfectly happy to accept print jobs from my iBook and from my MacBook Pros. It’s now sitting on a shelf in the cupboard under the stairs minding it’s own business and in a state of slumber until one of my Macs sends it the right network incantation, it wakes up, prints and then goes back to sleep again. It just works.

Now granted, the supplied user guide said it supports Mac OS X 10.3 through 10.5, but a quick check on Samsung’s UK support site (before purchasing I might add), yielded a native set of 10.6 Snow Leopard drivers. And they work. But as I’ve mentioned before, applications which think they have a right to take over one of my machines and do things the way they want to do them without asking permission are one of the things that … irk me.

No drag and drop installation here. Not even a native Mac format mpkg installer. No, after some waiting and authentication I see the words “Installation powered by VISE X”; I’ve found in the past that VISE X installers, or rather the authors of VISE X installers, tend to see my machine as their property, to install and configure stuff with impunity. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt here.

Wait. What? You want me to shut down every single app just to install a printer driver? Oh, no, actually you want me to shut down every single app to install the printer driver, which then starts up Safari, gets me to configure the printer via a Java application which needs my firewall turned off in order to work and then you refuse to install the Smart Panel app because Safari, the one the installer started up in the first, is running.

So eventually we get there. The printer is installed, it’s printing over the network and all is well with the world. I can see the Smart Panel app is running in the menu bar and it’s only a glorified status monitor, which I can get through the printer driver anyway so I close it down. Meanwhile, Software Update is telling me there’s a security update waiting for me, so I install it, reboot and login again. 

Smart Panel is back with me.

Sure enough, a quick glance through my Login Items shows me that the installer has, without my permission, made a decision on my behalf that I’ll always want to run this app and has inserted itself into my list of Login Items. This is not a well behaved app. Well behaved apps, ask permission before doing stuff like this.

At least it’s not as bad as iPass Connect though, which reinserts itself into the Login Items every single time you run it regardless.

So, the Samsung CLP-315W; a great printer with weak software that just can’t be bothered to be good and takes the easy way out. Very poor as Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer used to say. But at least it prints.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous

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