Making some noise: HP Printer problems…

All right – here’s another rant post. Our church bought an HP7410 All in One printer at the beginning of 2007 and prior to the purchase I wanted to make sure that any printer we got would be Vista compatible knowing that eventually the church would start using the new OS. Research indicated that this model would be Vista compatible. When we originally bought it the printer worked great and I never had any problems getting it working and working well (aside from the HP bloatware anyway their famous for…who designed their install program?).

Enter in my recent laptop purchase in August of this year which runs on Vista. I installed the correct Vista drivers as posted on the HP site and seemed to have no problems – but alas that was an illusion. For the past couple of months I’ve been experiencing the following problems:

  1. Duplex printing doesn’t work properly: The printer has an automatic duplexer but portrait printouts have the reverse side printing opposite to what it should be (landscape duplexes print correctly). Thanks to some help from an HP customer who discovered a unofficial patch (from Microsoft!) that “fixed” the problem I’m able to resolve this. But…
  2. Extra top and bottom margins: I’m not a newb. The same file printed from XP does not appear the same when printed from Vista with extra margins meaning some text gets cut off on the bottom of the page. I’ve played around with margins via the driver properties and in the word processor with NO success. In fact playing around with the margins appears to have no visible effect on the printout. This is a major pain and to date have found no resolution.
  3. Disappearing Printer icon/driver from system. Every few days the printer appears to uninstall itself and I either have to do a full reinstall or “add printer” in the OS itself to get the printer back. HP has posted a “critical update” on their site that supposedly “fixes” this but I can’t even get the update to run (keep getting the message “update failed”). Fed up I tried the online chat with HP technical assistance and it didn’t do nothing to help me out (more on that later).
  4. Intermittent scanner failure: Again on the XP machines the scanning to computer works flawlessly. On Vista I’ve yet to get it to work. I can start the scanner interface sometimes – and sometimes the HP solution center won’t even load up (requiring a full re-install of the drivers to get it to “work” again). This is simply unacceptable!

I decided I’d be a bit patient and see if HP comes out with a fix. However, it’s been two-three months since I first experienced the problems and after searching through the HP IT-support forums it looks like other users have been waiting far longer. The “up to date” printer driver on their website was released in March 2007.

When I had problems with installing the critical update patch I decided to give their online chat support a try. Here’s an excerpt from that chat (which wasted about an hour of my time)…

Darren Ethier: No. Let me explain further…
Darren Ethier: 1. I installed the software drivers etc.
Darren Ethier: 2. the printer disappeared
Darren Ethier: 3. I researched the problem.
Darren Ethier: 4. I discovered the patch – ran the unistall utility, reinstalled drivers and software then…
Darren Ethier: 5. Downloaded and tried to install the patch.
Michelle: Thanks for the information.
Darren Ethier: By the way I’m a “power user” i.e. I’m not a computer “newb” 🙂
Michelle: I appreciate your efforts.
Michelle: May I know how many number of computers installed in network?
Darren Ethier: 4 total. 3 on XP Home and using XP drivers. None of the computers are “sharing” the printer through another computer but are communicating directly with the printer
Darren Ethier: All the XP drivers are working properly
Michelle: Have you installed the full version of HP software in your Vista computer?
Darren Ethier: Yes
Darren Ethier: I’ve actually tried both versions
Darren Ethier: Same problem
Michelle: Is the printer icon present in printers folder?
Darren Ethier: Yes
Michelle: Please hold on a moment.
Michelle: Thanks for your time and patience.
Darren Ethier: If it resolves the problem it’ll be worth it..
Michelle: Iwill try my best to fix this issue.
Darren Ethier: 🙂
Michelle: Sorry for the delay in response, we are experiencing some technical issues at our end.
Darren Ethier: I’m searching the help forums while waiting your response
Darren Ethier: which is a chore in itself I might add…needs improvement
Michelle: Please let me know the sixe of ht epatch you downloaded.
Darren Ethier: 838kb
Darren Ethier: I’ve tried downloading multiple times in case I got a borked file…same size everytime.
Michelle: Thanks.
Michelle: You have the correct patch.
Michelle: Please follow the steps below:
Darren Ethier: ok
Michelle: 1) Click on the “Start Menu” icon on the bottom left corner of the screen , type “services.msc” in the “Start Search” edit box, and hit enter. This will trigger Vista to pop-up a “User Account Control” dialog to prompt for permission to continue. Click “Continue” to allow Vista to open the Services management console application.
Michelle: 2) The Services management console application is made up of 2 panels. The right panel contains a list of all services available on the system. Scroll thru this list and look for a service called “HP CUE DeviceDiscovery Service”.
Michelle: 3) Right-click on “HP CUE DeviceDiscovery Service” and select “Properties” to open the “HP CUE DeviceDiscovery Service Properties” dialog.

4) From the “HP CUE DeviceDiscovery Service Properties” dialog, click on the “General” tab. If the “Service status” shows that the service has started, click on the “Stop” button to force the service to stop.
5) Change the “Start type” to “Disabled” and click on the “OK” button on the bottom of the dialog to apply the changes.
Darren Ethier: trying now…
Michelle: Please proceed.
Darren Ethier: done
Michelle: Now try to install the patch.
Darren Ethier: Same message
Darren Ethier: There is a HP Network Devices Support…should I try stopping that service too?
Michelle: Darren, to effect the changes we ave made through the above steps we need to restart the computer.
Michelle: I recommend you to restart the computer and try downloading the patch.
Michelle: I am sure the issue should be fixed.
Darren Ethier: Okay I’ll restart…and try. Does the service need to be reenabled after the patch is applied?
Michelle: For your convenience, I am providing you the session id of this chat session: (–deleted–) . You can reach us with the session id as reference.
Darren Ethier: Thank you 🙂
Michelle: You are welcome.
Michelle: Thank you for contacting HP Total Care Real-Time chat support. If you need further assistance, please contact us again at: http://www.hp.com/support/chat. Chat support is available 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week.

Of course it appeared that Michelle was genuinely trying to be friendly – but I’m sure a lot of her questions/answers were canned. Her suggested fixes did not give me the ability to install the patch and upon my own tedious research on the net I discovered that the “solution” she gave me is apparently what the patch is supposed to do in the first place…Go figure. I decided I didn’t want to waste another hour of my time chatting with a “tech support person” after realizing that HP has “known” about this problem for at least 6 months and if there was a fix they’d have posted something about it by now – or at least their “support” people would know about it, right? Yeah…right.

Bottom line – I’m getting pretty fed up with HP and am making some noise here in the hopes that they get their priorities in order and either get a fix pushed out (come on…you can’t tell me it’s taking you this long!!), post something on their website that actually informs customers about this problem and that they are working on a solution, OR offer customers a refund or exchange for the defective hardware. If the Officejet 7410 had of been a cheapo printer I would have ditched it by now and gone for something else but since it was not cheap and still works well with the XP machines we’ll keep it for now. However, my opinion of HP at this point is pretty low and you can bet I won’t be recommending any of their printers to anyone (or any of their products for that matter).

Comments welcome.

Launch of vohzimbabwe.com

This entry is part 27 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

vohzimbabwe.com screenshotAs part of the team of men who went to Zimbabwe in June – I was amazed by the work being done to make a difference in the country of Zimbabwe by the Village of Hope and their work with children. One of the things that I discovered in working with them is that they don’t have a website to promote what they are doing and provide an information/communication portal for their current and potential supporters. I decided to donate my services to design and host the website because I believe so strongly in the work the Village of Hope is doing.

So without further ado, I’m announcing the launch of the brand new website for the Village of Hope in Zimbabwe (vohzimbabwe.com).

Coincidently, that is why there’s been some inactivity on this blog lately (and also why development of the Organize Series Plugin has been stalled)…

Organize Series 2.0 Roadmap

I just thought I’d write a little update about some of the things I’m working on for the next version of my Organize Series WordPress Plugin. As I’ve noted in my earlier post, the existing version of Organize Series will not work with WordPress 2.3 because of the way I had written the plugin to integrate with the category system of WordPress. The good thing is that if you upgrade your blog to WordPress 2.3 you can deactivate Organize Series and your existing series structure will stay intact because it’s based on WordPress categories. This means you can still blog using the series structure you’ve been accustomed to with one caveat of course – the “organize” part of Organize Series won’t be available…yet. The bad news is that although I am wanting to get Organize Series upgraded as soon as possible (because I use it myself and want the spiffyness of WordPress 2.3!) I am not able to work on the plugin full-time so – it will still be a while yet before the update is done.

That’s one of the reason’s for this post – I know that whenever I’m waiting for someone else to do an update/upgrade to a plugin or software I appreciate any tidbits of information the developer(s) release about the upcoming release in the interim as it helps me to understand what’s coming and if I want to wait for it.

I decided that the new changes in the WordPress 2.3 core afforded me the opportunity to do a pretty major rewrite of Organize Series – implementing things that I’ve been wanting to do for a while and so you’ll see some of those things in this list. Unfortunately, since this is turning into a rewrite rather than just an “update” it adds to the time before release. In the end though – it’ll be worth it. So without further ado, here’s some of the things I’ve added to the roadmap (Important Disclaimer: the following list is what I hope to introduce in Organize Series 2.0 and am working towards doing so. However I cannot guarantee that the final version will turn out that way…)

1. Integration with the new taxonomy schema in WordPress

Why is this important? Because integrating with the structure WordPress now provides for new taxonomies means that Organize Series can take advantage of the “built-in” goodness of the database tuning and coding that WordPress has. In theory it will save me some coding and limit the additional amount of queries made to the db. We’ll see how it actually turns out in practice. And by the way – the chaps behind WordPress have done something wonderful by adding the new system. It is now possible to create your own taxonomy – currently categories and tags are “built-in” to WordPress but through Organize Series I’ll be adding the “series” taxonomy.

Another important thing is that I’m being more careful to write the plugin so it uses many of the built in database access abstraction functions/class in WordPress so that it is better “future-proofed” against new WordPress versions. Translation: Organize Series 2.0 will less likely break with WordPress 2.4, 2.5, 2.6….etc.

2. Integration of “series” icons into the plugin.

Users of Organize Series will be familiar with the capability of having images, “icons” or logos accompany a series they write by virtue of another plugin not written by me, the Category Icons Plugin. In the upcoming version I’m going to create an integrated solution for series images eliminating the need for an extra plugin.

3. A “manage” series page in the WordPress Administration.

Will function much like the manage categories page – except it will be series of course 😉 I still haven’t decided what I will include information wise on this page yet…I’m open to suggestions in the comments…

4. Cleanup of Organize Series Options and implementing of a “token” system for customization.

The current options page is in my opinion messy and clunky. It does the job but is a bit confusing (of course that’s my opinion). I want to keep the ability to customize via the Organize Series options (and even add more customization tweaks) but make it easier to do what you want.

Enter in “tokens”. Some of you will already be familiar with this type of customization in other plugins. Basically you will be able to tweak the ouput of various Organize Series functions by writing something like, “This post is part %series-part% of %total-series-part% in the series, %series-permalink-name%” in the custom options field and the plugin will replace the tokens (words between the ‘%’) with the corresponding variable.

5. Write/Edit posts goodness…

Okay, you’re writing a post and in the midst of writing it you’ve realized that it would be a really good start to a series. Hey look, there’s a box where you can enter in the name of your new series right on the same page! And look, when you type in the new series name it adds it to the list of existing series. But let’s say you decide, “Nah, it’ll fit better with that other series I’ve started.” So you check the box for that series and whoah, now you can see the list of other posts in the series and the image associated with it as well. Want to change the image? Go for it…

Get the picture? I basically want to make it way, way easier to manipulate and organize (hmm…makes sense doesn’t it?) any series that you write, right in the midst of any new writing or editing you are doing.

Another thing I want to be able to do is give you the option to reorganize the order of the posts in the series. It will still automatically sort by the date the posts are written but you will be able to override that if you want by entering the order manually.

6. Import from earlier versions…

This is something that is high on the priority list for me as I personally don’t want to go through all the posts I’ve made a part of a series and manually add them to a new series when I upgrade to Organize Series 2.0. So…I’m planning on adding in importers that will auto-magically take all the posts you’ve written and convert the existing series structure you have into the new one used by OrgSeries 2.0 – will definitely save some work 🙂

7. Some things stay the same, some things change…

Many of the template-tags that are currently in Organize Series will stay the same (along with the default “styles”) but I will also be introducing some new tags and modifying some of the existing ones. Among the changes will be:

  • A “next in series/previous in series” tags. This is one of the most requested additions that I’ve also had a desire to implement. It will basically enable you and your readers to browse to the next (or previous) post in a series by just clicking the appropriate link.
  • An “in_series” tag. This will allow power-users to customize the style of certain posts/series archives pages look. For example, maybe you want a series on oranges to have an orange background and a series on apples to have a bunch of apples for the bullet-points…
  • A “list_all_series” tag. Want to have a handy dandy linked list of the series in your blog in your sidebar or somewhere else? You can use this tag and it will bring up the list.

Other changes I’m planning on implementing: a default “series.php” template for themes (currently category-xx.php); A built in .css style tag for the post-list-box so the current post you are reading in the series will be highlighted (and can be styled how you want); and much more…

Hopefully this gives you a taste of what’s in the pipes for Organize Series 2.0. If you have any suggestions or “gotta haves” that you want me to consider including leave a comment!

Oh, one more thing. If you really, really want to upgrade to WordPress 2.3 and simply cannot wait for me to get this new version done here’s some options:

  1. Deactivate Organize Series 1.6.3 (or older) and still use the existing series category structure you’ve been using for the time being until Organize Series 2.0 is released which will include an importer for updating.
  2. Try out Travis’s (aka Quandary) plugin called “In-Series” for managing series. Sure he’s competition but it doesn’t bother me if others find it more useful to them! (this will save you from having to put a plug for your plugin in the comments Travis… 😉 ) It appears that Travis is also a bit more of a seasoned coder than me and has devoted quite a bit of time to his plugin. If you have mission-critical uses for posts that are part of a series then you might find Travis’ plugin more helpful.
  3. Do both of the above.