That hunted look...
...that foretells of unhappy endings... and what a heartwarming illustration, are illustrations something we are going to see more of in the BOFH series?
Cthulu springs from desktop printer "This is exactly what I'm talking about!" I snap at the PFY. "Specifications created by people with absolutely no knowledge of what they need so they specify the absolute top-end kit just in case!" "What's that, then?" the PFY asks, looking up from his game disinterestedly. "The bloody …
.. sooo much opportunity for unscrupulous salesmen to take the wily procurement manager for a ride.
I particularly like the happy ending on account of having been there. One hopes that he/she who orders without consulting people that actually have the skill to assess a product beyond the price tag will get his/her comeuppance too at some point, mainly because that never happens in real life - they "save" money and get rewarded for it, where the IT department gets hammered going over budget as it absorbs the costs of trying to keep the pile of [deleted] going.
He got off too lightly....
Even the Devil would consider Multifunction Printer/Mopier service contracts as 'too cruel'...
And beancounter 'deals'...
I know of such deals that have ended up costing companies the double of what they were paying, with no improvement in service. (One who used to order a pallet full of toner cartridges in one go, ended up getting them delivered as separate items... )
Aargh, this reminds me of our multifunction printer - bought without IT department input - we were literally told when they engineer turned up and wanted to hook it into AD (the answer, you may be unsurprised to hear, was "no") - it took us about three years to get the bastard thing to work right and even then it was constantly experiencing jams and feed problems because the department that spec'd it hilariously underestimated the usage...
Oh God. The nightmares are coming back. Managing an education team that was run as part of the council, but was not a council office, and being responsible for the day-to-day IT work, with the schools' IT team, not the council's corporate team for back-up.
Our first multi-function printer/copier was fairly simple, but we couldn't get the go ahead from management to network it straight away. I don't know why, but I'm guessing that they just didn't understand the concept.The engineers from the copy company said it wasn't a problem, we can do that later.
There then followed about three years of me and the education IT team calling in engineers from both the copy company and corporate IT to come to look at connecting the thing to the network and going away again. But without ever connectiing it.
Eventually I got one to admit that it had been installed without a network card, and that would now count as an upgrade at some incredible cost. So we carried on printing from our various stand-alone inkjets, at ridiculous cost in ink.
Then we got a visit to ask our requirements for a new machine, on the new contract. I went through our needs with great care. All the cost saving and efficiency requirements like security ( we were working with reports on vulnerable kids) print on arrival and so on to be set up, staff trainning etc. All was agreed. The Education IT team sat in on the meetings with me so that we all knew what part of the set-up would be their's, what part the supplier's and what part would be mine.
And then the thing arrived. And someone in the council had decided that we didn't need any customisations, so the machine was set-up in a generic form, replicated for all council departments and totally failing to meet the requirements we had, in an off-site teaching service. Training consisted on a half hour with a rep, for a few managers and admin staff who happened to be around. Nothing about the advanced features that we needed, even if we'd been able to absorb them when we were still learning basic opeations. I tried to do my bit and set up the mail boxes, secure printing and print on demand codes. And none of it worked. For the next year we had our engineer from education IT liaising with the copy company, and and eventually finding a couple of work arounds to help slightly. But we never got any of the features we needed. Not even the print on demand, which was supposed to save the hundreds of waste pages per week and ensure confidential documents weren't lying around.
from the rest of us.
you specify components A, B & C, give them the part numbers, the supplier and even the costings.
What you get is
Z,Y & T because purchasing decided that they could save 0.000000001p per item.
No consideration was give to the people who carefully selected the components that would work.
When you go back complaining that Z,Y & T don't work, all you get is
"It is company policy to buy the cheapest parts available".
Then you spend another 100grand re-engineering the product to use Z Y & T. Sadly by the time you do all of that those parts are no longer available.
Not only are Purchasing living in a different Universe, it is probably the same one as all the people who decide IT Policy for HMG.
Can we blow it up please?
"I see you're wearing size nine shoes"
"Your shoes, they're size nine. Am I right?"
"Well, yes, they are, but what on Earth has that got to do with the printer I signed off on"
"Well you do know size nine is the most common UK male shoe size and due to the vagaries of legislation in the market, a shoe company MUST offer a range of sizes that also accommodates the extremes of the customer base"
"Well, err, no, I didn't"
"Those extreme sizes are the ones still on display at the end of the season long after the size nines have been sold, which means you can be assured a pair of size five's for a quarter of the price you paid for the size nines"
"I see, but why would I want to buy a pair of size five's? They wouldn't fit me"
"Ah, I see you're a bit of an expert on shoes"
"Well, no, not really, I just know only size nine shoes fit"
"Ah, so you're saying just because something is a lot cheaper, the fact it cannot fulfil its intended purpose means the price isn't the primary factor in your decision"
"Well, yes, I suppose so."
"so basically, your feet are specifying the requirements and your head knows better than to overrule them"
"Put like that. I suppose. Well. Yes"
"Now consider the printer I specified as a size nine shoe. The printer you bought a size five shoe. And consider me the huge foot in the opening sequences of Monty Python"
Or we couldn't supply you with those parts because of our exclusive supply contact, but we got something vaguely similar.
Speaking of purple cat 7 I was at a business recently that was using purple cat 5 to link two buildings, via a metal and concrete bridge, without any kind of surge supression. They just put it in, any bets on how long that lasts given the immense number of thunder storms we get here?
> When you go back complaining that Z,Y & T don't work, all you get is
> "It is company policy to buy the cheapest parts available".
"I know where you live. Nice house, it'd be a pity if it caught fire with your nice kids inside, wouldn't it? Especially when the investigations show that you've been using kiddyporn sites and making websearches on concealing arson"
He bought £500,000 worth of swanky office furniture for all the 5th floor executive suites, with built in power sockets, and from a non-EU country.
Needless to say none of it met UK or EU electrical safety standards, so I failed it during PAT testing.
They sacked me.
BTW, he had a degree in Electrical Engineering, but managed to wire his desk lamp with the earth and neutral swapped.
Multifunction X, just would not fricking work, any driver and OS first tried, after a very long time I discovered that all the common drivers print postscript and as the company accounts had haggled on the price (well office manager had anyway) the suppliers had removed the postscript option.
Later I decided it was just too stupid to have it fail if anyone looked at updating the driver so I found the details of the upgrade to postscript, had the part number etc. and asked for a price in UK. X told me it does not exist, there is no driver upgrade to PS.
I said what about this part number, what is this? Ooooh that is a postscript upgrade for your printer.
The give away to me about printers is the salesmen (for they are mostly men it seems) they move around, one even admitted it was quite an incestuous industry, I asked him if it would have been honest to have sold us the last brand he was selling as the best option for us, he looked genuinely trapped.
On the other had the X brand engineer who last visited did a cracking job, he even fixed an out-of-warranty printer too, that's the second time they have done that where the design was a bit weak in one part.
Just the sales people, live on small margins, driven from the top no doubt.
For some reason I can't get them on the same line.
And done that, selling copiers that is. In a distant past in the North Postals selling copiers that were OK but usually on a 5 year contract with finance, that gave us the best commission in those days and gave the customer a nightmare.
With a copier that would be obsolete and being 'fixed' by an engineer at increasingly shorter periods a DA contract (Duck's Arse, water tight unbreakable modeled on the original Xerox contracts which were generally held to be breakable only by parting with more money)
If you could get them on a combined Finance and maintenance/consumables contract for the full 5 years you would get commission payments each year even after leaving the company as well as an envelope full of Debenhams vouchers from the finance company.
Never deal with a copier salesman or an ex copier salesman, he will stitch you up automatically without thinking about it because of indoctrination in the original sales course, think A Clockwork Orange Aversion therapy.
> Why have we never heard of a denial of paper protocol? Endless form feeds interspersed with the occasional bum. Surely (don't call me surely) someone has some spare time on their hands.
If your printer supports PCL 3, 4, or 5 you can inject the following two byte command into the beginning of a print file (preferably a multi MiB series of images) to get your DoPP:
(Values are in hexadecimal)
This puts the printer into "debug" mode and tells it to print the raw PCL commands it receives instead of interpreting them. Since PCL line wrapping is typically disabled by default, you'll end up with page after page of paper sullied by a single line of PCL code across the top edge.
At my last place we had old HP laser printers.. the sort thats built better than the rest of the building. Managed to get 64bit versions of win server to finally see them and allow printing, but any issues with them generally where down to parts wearing out (and by wearing out I mean brass gears being so badly worn that they'd turned smooth, so you popped it out, turned it around and let it wear out the other side of the gear).
Then we got a said all singing all dancing printer with colour and everything. Bloodying thing only printed right half the time and looked fragile enough that it would never be allowed near the warehouse boys.
Agreed on the trusty old HP printers. Built like tanks, easily replaceable wear parts, run forever.
We're still using a 5Si that was pulled from the wreckage of a severe car accident (was on its way to be delivered when it was brand new, and the driver decided to turn his SUV into a subcompact car after an encounter with some ice, a guardrail, and a ditch). The car didn't survive (nor did a stack of hard drives picked up from the shoulder of the road), but the HP marches on.
Exactly. Many years ago the labs were upgraded from old PowerPC macs to PCs but no printer upgrade came with. So the wonderful old HP printers weren't going to fit well with the change from Appletalk to Ethernet and new printers (or JetDirect cards) would have busted the budget.
I converted a half-dozen of the old Macs to (headless) MkLinux which could be administered remotely, connected them to the old printers using the very fast better-than-RS232 serial interface, and shared them out using both Appletalk and SMB (via Samba). The CUPS interface was a bit of a bugger back then so I used LPR.
It all worked very nicely thank you, and the printers were still going ten years later!
I would say my birth certificate was printed on one LaserJet 4MP and wouldn't be surprised if my obituary was printed in one too.
No really, this thing is built like a tank, except it didn't shake the desk like the Epson LQ 1070+ that lived happily along with it, only because it could print 5-sheet carbon copy. Both when combined were nigh indestructible and unstoppable.
The noise from the Epson could drown out anything else, by the way.
I will NEVER buy another Epson product again, after dealing with fiddly print heads for a year, the waste tank was full, no problems I thought, just take and wash out like EVERY other inkjet ever made is capable of. Oh no, not with Epson, you have to BUY a code to reset the counter, Buy a code for what,to tell the machine something as simple as a waste tank being cleaned/replaced ? I mean really, WTF Epson. Long story short, found a bootleg engineer program that would do it for free, but this has soured me so much on Epson, they are persona non grata in anyplace I live or work now.
(more a staging post for when they fly people in from elsewhere for important meetings with people they need to impress than a place where anything of consequence is actually done) which came up with the delightful wheeze of allowing the PAs to spec their print requirements. I have to admit a degree of begrudging respect for the salesperson who clearly saw them coming and delightedly flogged them 20 desktop MFDs, 5 high-end MFDs and a full-blown production printer with all the toys, this last one alone rated at 75,000 impressions a month.
Seeing as there are a grand total of 12 permanent staff in the whole building, by the time somebody woke up to the fact that big multinational had been paying an absolute fortune for this huge amount of massively over-specced kit (2 years down the line, natch) that particular machine had just about crested 15,000 impressions in total. The contract is currently being "renegotiated".
Does anyone else have difficulties getting secretaries to give up their desktop children?
Some of our secretaries have LaserJet 1100s and 1200s!. Trying to point out that these things are many years past their sell by date is just about possible, until they realise that the replacement will be a network device shared between several of them. Then we get comments like...
"Mr A. wants his letters on green lightweight paper. Mr B. wants his on red and Mrs Z. wants hers on white."
First, these are multi drawer devices and can have whatever paper you need in.
Secondly, I have checked with A. B. Z.and all their colleagues. They either don't care, can live with whatever they get or even just want a .PDF but haven't persuaded the secretary to do them or sometimes even managed to get the need explained.
Thirdly, these letters are all filed anyway. If anyone needs to read them, they are all stored where they should be and have much more controlled access than that rank of filing cabinets.
They want to keep their printers because it makes them feel special. Some of them think that a shared printer is a sure sign of impending job cuts.
Public sector workers are the same. I used to work in a large hospital. At the time, it had around 2000 PCs and over 1000 printers. There were many rooms dotted about the place with more printers than PCs in them; a networked printer in the corner and a personal inkjet for every user. The IT dept had an entire room dedicated to the storage of HP cartridges and toners, which would be delivered a few times per week.
They didn't even have the prospect of impending job cuts to worry about. It was always under the guise of "oh, my work is important/ time critical/ confidential" (unlike every other department in a HOSPITAL, of course). But in reality it was purely because they couldn't be arsed getting off their lazy backsides to walk over to the shared printer, which was more often than not in the same room as them.
We had a similar problem. The solution was to ask them what they needed the personal printer for then allow them to keep it, but only on the condition that they stocked and supported it themselves as the moment it failed, we would remove it and would NOT replace it. Very few folk took us up on that one!
Actually is was easier than that. On the IBM card read/punch the motor that drove the read mechanism had a "variable" pulley. The motor was mounted in slots. With a quick "adjustment" of the pulley and sliding the motor to compensate the speed could be changed from stock 250 cards/min to around 375 cards/min (the new pulley "upgrade" was for 500 cards/min). On the punch side you could also upgrade as well, but we decided against it since the punch had more wear items. Yes, I personally participated in this, so I know all about it.
Simon missed the grand-spawn of Codethulu epic wretchedness that are printer drivers. They are more picky and recalcitrant than a bad date and require an impossibly delicate balance of printer firmware revision (220.127.116.11.r1), server operating system (Win2k3 r2, 32bit, must be connected to a domain controller), and possibly celestial alignment ("The house of Mars is in the ascension, and the Jovian meridian lies within the 7th cusp. You may run the installer now.").
It's like the electronic equivalent of those seemingly impossible, gravity-defying acts that Shaolin monks perform. The drivers will suffer naught but the most wizened and skilled grey bearded guru to successfully change their configurations. Only they know the secret lore, and have the strength of mind and clarity of soul to bend the rebellious drivers to their will. Those of us who have yet to attain this near-mythical apotheosis must struggle through the trackless fens of labyrinthine download sites, hidden options, incompatible/conflicting options, broken UI, and abysmal UX like a modern day Sisyphius.
- Want to use PostScript? Make sure you have firmware version 18.104.22.168 flashed on your controller and you use the 32 bit version of the driver. Otherwise you will not be able to call trays 1 and 3 and your media types will be limited to "vellum" and "waxed crepe paper".
- Want a newer driver that was written sometime this decade for an OS later than Windows 2K? Or even *gasp* a 64 bit version? Sorry! No can do! (Our last intern who wrote the drivers just graduated from community college.)
- Want to use PCL? Hope you have a Fiery controller with version 22.214.171.124-99h installed, otherwise the UEL will reset the printer to its default, factory state! Regardless of what you do, the driver will always rasterize every page and rip it as uncompressed bitmap scanlines or as a long sequence of HP-GL drawing commands, whichever results in the greatest file size.
- Linux? Sure we have a fully compatible, full featured driver for Linux. You'll have to compile it yourself using headers, libraries and compiler that we provide gratis. (By the way the code was written for System z9 and is in EBCDIC...)
I swear, given all the hassle and difficulties our company and our clients have faced with printers of all stripes, I could burn the regional distribution centre and head quarters of a certain printer manufacturer and not a jury in the world would convict me.
"Mister Ammabamma, the you stand accused of 37 counts of assault and battery with a printer fusing unit, 2 counts of grand theft auto, and 11 counts of arson. Do you have anything to say in your defence?"
"Yes your honour. Let it be known to the court that my accusers, Ute Osser, and Hugh Anchor, are service technicians for RICOH, the vehicles I stole and torched were their delivery vans, and the office park I set alight was RICOH's regional distribution centre and headquarters."
I'm going to go and relax with a nice pint or 7 of IPA before I give myself an aneurysm.
Ah yes, Ricoh drivers. Want to print in colour from Publisher (which is a nightmare on its own)? All those settings you carefully chose, pah, ignored. Here's your single black and white A4 print.
At one point we had to print to PDF and then print that to get it to print anything in colour!
Its a bit more reliable with the PS drivers, but even now it still randomly ignores things.
...they only printed formed characters that were on the type band/chain/drum spaced by the fixed print hammers. The only variable was the VFU tape that you had to use the magic punch (or wield an exacto knife) to make the proper holes. No drivers needed here, just a simple printer interface and printable characters sent to the printer (maybe an occasional control character).
Times were easier in those days.
Of course the solution to most printer problems is to use postscript.
I know that printer all too well. Had a few hundred of them (not a typo) that often had to be fixed via an AS400 command line interface with multiples of number driven menus and arcane commands by remote and that was just a few years ago. No ready list of network names or numbers either.
The loopback-auto-logoff HTML interface was heaven in comparison.
Sounds like I'm the only one here who hasn't had issues with these multi-function printers. Then again, we haven't had a new one here since I started. It took ages to get this one to print our certificates (on large, thick, plasticy pre-printed paper) without jamming. Now it's set up, we point-blank refuse the "upgrades" they keep offering.
I will come back to one point, and I will continue to make it until el Reg listen:
BOFH belongs on a FRIDAY!
Please move it back! As I've pointed out before, reading BOFH on a Monday morning makes it less amusing, and on a weekend even less. Friday lunchtime is the correct time for BOFH, please move it back!
... I used to be an HP certified tech. the 3si/4si, 5si/8000, and the Nigh indestructible 4/5 series.
About the onoly thing thatstill holds that mantle lately is the 4300s, one of which I personally saw go through over 2 millions pages in it's first year of service. (Yes, that's a maintenance kit EVERY OTHER MONTH. THe company I work for liked killing forests.)
Thankfully, we never got any ricoh(spit) printers in house; We've had to put up with a swap between Canon Imagerunners and some POS from Sharp that's the size of a Smart ForTwo that replaced an old IBM line printer only because that was the only thing that could keep up with it.
Even more thankfully, I'm not in charge of maintaining the damned things anymore.
that all of our 3600/3800/3505 HPs are to be replaced by a fleet of Samsung MFP/Copiers that take up two entire desk places, cost £5500 each which we have to pay for and can only be printed to via some esoteric accounting "walk-up" printing service tied into our ID badges and AD when we don't use AD for user login in the research departments.
But then when a 3600 died and I tried to get a new small workgroup printer, something buried in the small print said was possible provided it was a recommended Samsung model, they announced they hadn't actually picked any small workgroup models yet, could I wait until they'd looked at it? Wouldn't I like to spend £5,500 instead of £500? (thus taking money away from research on treating Alzheimer's) to get a whizzy workgroup printer more suited to 60,000 prints a month at 0.5p per click instead of a cheaper one rated at around 3,000 a month at ~5p per 4-click page? 6 months later they made their recommendation, when five and a half months ago I'd bought one with my credit card and claimed it back through petty cash.
And their latest trick? "We'll only support your PC, Professor X who has just landed a £1.7m research grant for high performance computing analysis of proteomic sequence mis-folding in Down's syndrome, if you bought it from Dell through us. We won't connect your custom built machine to our network and we won't install Office on it."
Please, feel free to visit our labs, Information Systems beancounter. Yes, top floor of the tallest hospital building in Europe. Through the red door at the end of the corridor. The one marked "Warning. Fall-arrest harnesses must be worn at all times beyond this point". Ignore the sign... Next Tuesday looks like it will be an exceptionally windy day. Lets make it 2pm then.