Why Do Printers Still Suck?

The Installer failed and looped endlessly. You should be ashamed.

Recently I bought an HP Photoshare 7510, a pretty nice printer/scanner that brings me up to the wireless age.  I’ve had a few problems setting up the software though. My Mac had a few hiccups with the scanning from the printer feature, and Karey’s Windows 7 laptop refuses to have the printer installed. After spending an hour with it, I told her to simply email the printer a PDF to print, the software is just hopelessly broken.

Frustration © by music2work2

How broken? Well after downloading 3 different files from HP, the last being a wizard, the software just endlessly loops through the entire installation, saying “Downloading drivers”, then when that install fails, the same wizard picks up again and says “Downloading drivers” and launches the install all over again. This prompted me to leave the above snarky-yet-true quote on HP’s web survey. It didn’t help that pressing the “Details” button on the installer error page just brought up a dialog box that said “Installation Error”. Those are some deep details.

But the bigger issue – can anyone explain to me why in the last 10 years we’ve made enormous advances in all areas of technology except printer drivers? They’re still bloated and buggy, even as the hardware has gotten better. The software simply is horrendous.

Better yet, the companies are still in the mindset of “Bloat it on up, we don’t care if it drags the computer down”. Windows installers are horrible in this respect. The HP installer I just looped through 5 times required me to press a button to show checkboxes, which I could then uncheck, for a bunch of useless things I knew Karey wouldn’t want on her computer. It was purposefully built to be a pain to do.

Oddly enough, the Mac version of the same software had far less bloatware (i.e. nearly none) and all its optional stuff was “opt-in” (i.e. I had to check it to get it to install). All i can figure is that the Mac software is programmed by Mac users who think “I wouldn’t want this junk on my system” and disregard upper management’s “Make them opt out” cries (call it “corporate disobedience”). While the Windows software is programmed by someone who is an inch away from unemployment and will do whatever horrible thing upper management says. Reminds me of a car dealer mechanic once who confided in me that he felt horrible drilling holes in brand new cars just to screw on a dealer nameplate. He knew no one cared to advertise where they bought their car for free, but if he didn’t screw that sucker in, he’d be in the unemployment line. Probably the same for the Windows guys (since there are obviously more of them on the market than the Mac guys – something related to that huge number of people who use Windows over Mac OS)

In the end as much as I hate to admit it, I have to print things sometimes. I also have to scan things (a lot). I can’t get away from these monsters anytime soon. I just wish companies would get a clue about how to build decent non-dysfunctional software.

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