Saturday, July 22, 2006

Thoughts on office printers

Not all printers are created equal. And in a particular brand, one model may be better than others.

But when you are an office worker, you do not have the power of choice. You get what the procurement unit sends you. Or in our case we have to make do with what our central procurement office sends us.

Ours is a government office. Procurement of anything is straitjacketed by the procurement law. One of the rules says you cannot specify the brand of the equipment you want to buy.

When it comes to printers, I personally like Epson for dot matrix models. The model I liked best so far was the LQ1170. The newer 2180 has some problems. At home I use the LQ300. I have garaged my 680 inkjet because of ink cost.

The Epson 600 inkjet was an excellent workhorse. I could print almost anything on it as long as the width fits. The 680 makes a lot of crunching noise and often crumples the paper. I miss my office Epson 600.

OKI dot matrix gets a passing grade from me. But it is a trouble when you print a stencil with it. The stencil has this thick paper at the top, with holes with which to attach the thing to the mimeographing machine. When you print you need to place the printer head at a certain place on the stencil or you will print outside the margins. To do that you need to line feed the stencil. This is where the problem starts.

It seems the OKI would count the line feeds and deduct it from your document page settings. There are only so much lines for a page. And when it thinks it has printed enough of lines for your document format, it ejects the stencil.

I found a workaround by setting the page length to 17. Othewise the Oki is a fine printer.

The present batches of dot matrix printers sent by head office is by Lexmark. This is one printer that gets me a lot of calls from endusers. That is because I am the unofficial computer nut in the office and anything that attaches to a computer is referred to me when they spoil the day of my office mates.

The Lexmark often misaligns a sheet. And the quality of the print makes you long for the 9-pin Epson. I am not familiar with the Lexmark inkjet models. But I presume it has the same problem as their dot matrix siblings. Most probably the reason why its ink is more expensive than the printer.

From the batch of 9 lexmarks we received early this year, 3 are already out of commission. They all don't load the paper correctly. The first one that developed the problem was brought out for repair by the authorized Lexmark shop; in this case Ng Khai (I know Wilson from way back in the early days of the internet). All they said was not to set the paper thickness lever to 1 so the sheet will engage smoothly. (The OKI does not have thickness levers. It sets the thickness automatically; and I loved that feature.) The next time the unit had the same trouble Ng Khai would not send their technician anymore; they wanted us to send the unit to them. We simply retired that one and replaced from stock.

I like the Epson inkjet way of printing paper. The paper follows a straight path. Insert at the back, paper goes out front. Insert at the front, paper goes out back. The HP way: paper begins at the front, it moves to the back, kicks and makes a somersault and often gets entangled among the guides. And the user, wondering where his paper went, calls for me. There goes my dogfooding ideas.

The Brother laserjet gets my vote. Except that it creases envelopes. But it is easy to set up as a network printer.

The next time my friend Joseph Pacheco at head office procures a printer I suggest the following:

For dot matrix printers (yes there is still a place for them in everyday office application) he should specify that it should print as good as the letter quality Epson (like my dear LQ300+). Then it should be easy to print a stencil with. Unless Joseph buys us the electronic mimeographing machines that creates a stencil on the fly out of a printed document.

For inkjets or laserjets, he should find one that has a straight path printing and won't crumple envelopes.

Just some thoughts for Boss Joseph. Of course, I understand his predicament with the procurement regulations. I think I need to say my piece about the procurement law next time. Next time would mean when I get to visit an internet cafe like what I am doing now. I am downloading the VB express. It takes about an hour here at the Netopia at Gaisano Tabunok.

Reeza and Joseph Lopez already have DSL. Boy Gacho also has the Smart wireless dsl. I've got only the PLDT saver that is always busy and makes a top speed of 37KBP. To think that I've been on the internet before they even heard of it. :-(