Saturday, 15 May 2010

Before you blame the Equipment...

I've had one of those days: my network printer ran out of ink this afternoon (yes, I know!) and I remembered that I had an old hp Photosmart 7660 in a box upstairs.

I was confident that I could just plug the USB cable into the back of my Ubuntu box and get on with life because that's what always happens when I plug anything into Linux! However, after connecting it to the pc and wiping the dust away, I began to suffer an intermittent but persistent fault: after printing a document or test page, the printer would just hang and I would get a strange error message from my hplip toolbox if I tried to send anything else to the spooler. I could restart the printer by unplugging it from the mains and then print a new document, but after that, I couldn't get it to do a thing. I confess that my first reaction was to think that it was a hardware problem and that my trusty printer was destined for the local dump (I mean, recycling centre, of course!).

I've had the printer for years and only replaced it when it refused to play nice with Windows Vista (more accurately, Windows Vista refused to play nice with any of my hardware): it's always produced excellent quality print both for office use and photographs, so I was sorry to see it go. More to the point, it didn't consume huge amounts of resource on my old PC nor require the obscene bloatware that accompanied its replacement. The Photosmart 7660 also has an embedded card reader, so getting it to work would have been a seamless replacement for my inkless All-in-One machine and I really didn't want to run around on a Saturday afternoon buying overpriced cartridges from the local office supplies store. I tried everything that I could think of to get it to work: clearing the print queue, rebooting the PC, restarting hplip, having another coffee...

The only thing that didn't occur to me was to exercise the first lesson of PC maintenance: check the cables!

Yep, the USB connection on the printer was not pushed fully home: a small adjustment later and Ubuntu has once again demonstrated its superiority to anything Microsoft has to offer: much faster, up to date information and beautiful prints!

The only thing wrong with my Ubuntu box is the idiot on the other end of the human interface devices! The lesson (had I bothered to learn it way back when Windows 3.1 was my weapon of choice) is to check the cables and connections whenever you have problems with hardware: perhaps I've learned it this time.

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